Friday, October 31, 2014

Braving Ebola

Take a moment to absorb these moving portraits from the men and women braving Ebola at a treatment center in rural Liberia.

Today's New York Times features intimate portraits and stories documented by award-winning photojournalist Daniel Berehulak, who captures the physicians, nurses, microbiologists, sanitation workers, gravediggers and Ebola survivors who are on the front line of this health crisis.  


Remember to say a prayer for them and for all the families of the reportedly 4,900 people who have died from this devastating disease. 

Photos by Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Out with the old, in with the new

Sometimes you gotta let go. Yes, the two of you went everywhere together. You were inseparable. Good times were had. But you can't keep going on in this crazy manner. Someone is gonna fall apart. It won't be you. You'll be fine. The poor sneakers on the other hand; they were faithful but now is the time to say bye bye.

I didn't think this day would come so soon. But after our most recent outing to the lake, my trusty yellow Converse sneakers finally said, "Enough!" I came home from the beach that afternoon, my feet not quite feeling right. I surveyed the holes in the soles of my sneakers. Yep, clogged with sand. No matter how much I shook them out, I couldn't get rid of those tiny granules of annoyance.

Plus, years of constant wear had resulted in broken down canvas, dried out rubber, frayed edges and did I mention the smell? I can't tell you how many times I've thrown these puppies in the wash. Just can't get rid of that musty, not-so-fresh odor. Yuck.    

Well, I guess this means we're breaking up, I told the sneakers that night. Truth be told, I was a bit heartbroken.

You see, my sneakers kind of saved me. It was 2009 and I had just been laid off from a job I loved. I was completely blindsided. As an award-winning editor of a small, family-owned magazine I was sure the publisher would consider my position indispensable. But recessions bring out the worst in people. That day I worked 15 hours, making sure every story, every photo and every caption was edited at least three different times. I felt great about my team's hard work. The issue looked beautiful. 

Eight hours later, I got canned.

After the shock subsided (about a week later), I felt like the jilted lover. The girl who got sucker punched by her sweet, seemingly good-intentioned boyfriend. In short, I got dumped and I felt like sh*t.

So I sought refuge. I did what all sensible, intelligent women do after a break-up. I went shopping. It didn't make sense to buy something fancy since I wasn't going into an office anymore (and I wasn't going to be earning a steady paycheck for a while). Plus, losing my job meant more time spent with my toddler. I suddenly got excited by the prospect.

I saw those yellow Converse sneakers and it was love at first sight. Practical. Low-key yet stylish. Comfortable. I went everywhere in them. Explored new playgrounds and parks with my son. Went on road trips. Romped around the beach. Dressed them up with skirts and silky blouses. Dressed them down with t-shirts and yoga pants.        
The bright yellow represented happiness and hope (corny, but you should know by now that I'm a bit sentimental). The durability of the shoe symbolized adventures ahead. And my sneakers were kind of an F-you to what had happened at work. I will thrive, I said to myself and the world. Just watch me.  

And so my yellow sneakers journeyed with me through major life events. Childbirth for the second time. Career successes. Another job loss. Deaths in the family. New additions. A cross-country move. New explorations. Hitting the 10-year mark with my husband. Turning 40.

As you can see from the photo above, my sneakers took a beating. Look at them. Shapeless. They look deflated and exhausted. The life sucked out of them. So I broke down and recently got a new pair. Flawless and white. I wore them a few days ago and I was a bit embarrassed because they are so new. My old Converse was my badge of honor. These new ones kind of make me look like a poser.

I'm wearing them almost every day to break them in. The first few days they rubbed me (my pinky toes, to be exact) the wrong way. But they're getting to know me and I'm getting comfortable in them.

What happened to the old sneakers? Well, I didn't have the heart to throw them in the trash. They're collecting dust in my closet, a relic of the past. Perhaps they are a little resentful that I'm all about town with their newer, shinier cousins.

Actually, I think they are happy for me. We had a good run.      

An ode to my sneakers.
I wear my favorite things until they die.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Autumn leaves

The prized possession I received for my 40th birthday was a nifty new camera. Getting my first DSLR camera was a long time coming. After relying on my iPhone for photos, I felt like it was time for an upgrade.

I took my Canon Rebel T5 out for a spin for the first time last week. I've already taken some 400 photos. Most of them are crap to mediocre. But then I got a few gems, like these of my kids frolicking in the autumn leaves.

Here's my daughter, who is obviously very comfortable in front of a lens. What a cutie! 

And my son, who earned extra allowance raking leaves. Go Caden!

Enjoy the outdoors, everyone. Happy autumn!

It's starting to get cold here in Cleveland and not quite ready for this.

This is NE Ohio (LeBron!)

LeBron and the Cavs open the season tomorrow night. Everyone here in Northeast Ohio is buzzing with anticipation. My 8-year-old son, who lives and breathes NBA stats, couldn't be happier with the fact that we're in Cleveland right now. I can't imagine how excited all the kids are in Akron, where LeBron grew up.

Good luck, LeBron and team. Go Cavs!!

LeBron on "coming back home." (Sports Illustrated)
If you wanna know what Cleveland is all about, click here. (Nike)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ballet at 40 (the feet)

I'm Week 9 into ballet and my feet certainly don't take a beating like dancers who wear pointe shoes. Yes, my toes feel cramped in my ballet slippers and my pinkies are a bit chafed after class. But the seasoned ballerina? All those years of jumping and turning, twirling and bending. Countless hours perfecting all of those demanding moves with the pretty French names. Imagine the stress put on those toes, arches and heels.

"A ballerina's feet may not be the most attractive thing to look at," says Natasha Kusen in The Australian Ballet's En Pointe! mini-documentary. "All the calluses, they may look ugly. But it protects your feet."

When a ballerina prepares her pointe shoes, it's often a meditative process. I never realized all the work that goes into it. The sewing, the gluing, the tape, the shellac. It's quite intricate and reflects the personality and discipline of each dancer. 

"Sometimes I think our feet look worse than what they actually feel," Principal Artist Amber Scott says in En Pointe! "A lot of people can be quite horrified. They think it looks torturous. But it's sort of like someone who works with their hands. The joints become a bit bigger over use, the skin gets calloused. But they're doing a job and they're adapting to that job. Yeah, I kind of like them."

Watch and see, and appreciate this enduring art.  

My love-hate relationship with the leotard.
Why ballerinas are way more hardcore than you. (BuzzFeed)

Friday, October 24, 2014


For your Friday viewing pleasure. Watch these guys from UC Irvine dance to Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda." Best choreography I've seen for this song. A-ma-zing.

This dance will make you happy, too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

This week's obsession: mad about plaid

Plaid will never go out of style. Thank goodness the Scots created this unique cloth pattern to help them distinguish one clan from another. Because some 500 years later plaid is ubiquitous (lumberjacks, punks, grunge, preppies, hipsters, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, etc.). 

I think what I love most about plaid is its association with rebellion. In fact, in the 1700s tartan was illegal in Britain (Brits were forbidden to wear it because of the Scottish Rebellion of 1745). Plaid is badass.

Show me a girl who likes plaid and I'll tell you she has an inner wild child. Here are a few of my favorite plaid finds this season:

What's not to love about a red plaid scarf? I love this cashmere number from J. Crew.

I recently added this to my wardrobe: a cute shirtdress from Madewell (which I was delighted to find in a post from one of my favorite blogs). I usually wear mine with a belt and if it's cold out, I'll pair it with my favorite jeans.


And this pump! I can see it with cuffed boyfriend jeans and a crisp, white button-down shirt. Or black skinny jeans and a black body-conscious turtle neck.

The best thing about plaid: there are no rules. Find your rebel streak and have fun!

Top photo by Julia Robbs for A Cup of Jo.
A brief history of plaid. (Bustle)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Under the weather

I feel like this today. My head is so heavy on my shoulders I fear it might topple. My body aches. My throat is scratchy like sandpaper. 

Airborne, peppermint tea, olive leaf throat spray and lots of sleep are my best friends right now. How about you? What are your cold remedies?  

Photo from Flowers Magazine.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Little foodies

This happens when you invite six 2nd graders to try a seven-course tasting menu at one of New York's fanciest restaurants.


How to get your kids to eat everything, the French way. (Parenting)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


I have never known how to explain my feelings about animals. Until I read this quote. Pretty much explains with 100 percent accuracy my horrible ambivalence.

I do find baby animals pretty cute. (BBC)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner

At 17, Malala Yousafzai becomes the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner for her work promoting children's rights. Sharing the prize with fellow activist Kailash Satyarthi, 60, of India, Malala pointed out the significance of the occasion.

"One is from Pakistan. One is from India. One believes in Hinduism. One strongly believes in Islam. And it gives a message to people," she said in her acceptance speech. "It gives a message to people of love between Pakistan and India and between different religions... It does not matter what's the color of your skin, what language you speak, what religion you believe in. It is that we should all consider each other as human beings."

Malala has been fighting for a young person's right to an education since she was 11. It started with a blog for the BBC in which she chronicled the Taliban's systematic reign of terror in her childhood home of Mingora, Pakistan. Malala and many other girls risked their lives to attend school.

On October 9, 2012 the Taliban tried to stop her. She was shot in the face on her way home from school. "They thought the bullets would silence us," she said at the UN on her 16th birthday. "But they failed."
Malala's voice is only becoming stronger. Her Nobel Prize is a testament to that.

"Through my story I want to tell other children all around the world, they should stand up for their rights," she said today. "They should not wait for someone else, and their voices are more powerful."

Watch Malala's entire Nobel Prize speech here. (Digg)
Photo by Antonio Olmos for Parade Magazine.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Week in review

President Obama as a historic success, what kids around the world eat for breakfast, and why Jennifer Lawrence says the publication of nude photos of her are "a sex crime." 

Food for thought this weekend. Have a great one! 


Can wanting to believe make us believers? (The Opinionator Blog)

The athlete who made LeBron James possible. (The New York Times)

A big win for same-sex marriage. (The Washington Post)

24 surprising things about parenting in the US. (A Cup of Jo)

Even techies limit their kids' screen time. (NPR)

Millet-seed porridge, mush of plantains and pickled tofu: what kids around the world eat for breakfast. (T Magazine)

Jennifer Lawrence fights back. (Slate)

Nobel Prize-winning columnist Paul Krugman, once one of Obama's most notable critics, is now calling the president a historic success. (Rolling Stone)

Why do we re-elect them? (The Opinion Pages)

Watch these two adorable kids act out the audio of a senior citizen couple arguing about dishes. (Senior Snippets)

Photo by Hannah Whitaker for The New York Times.

Worth a hundred words

This happened last night.

Photo by bessmihyun.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

This is 40

At 40, I reflect on all the things I am grateful for
and look to the future with great anticipation.
Illustration by Phoebe Thomas for love, -j.

Before I was knit in my mother's womb, when I was in God's imagination, he jotted down the following notes about me:

She will have shiny black hair and almond-shaped eyes; she will be small in stature but strong in heart; she will have big dreams and at times get her head stuck in the clouds; she will sometimes think everything is way too complicated but know in her heart that the important things are actually quite simple; she won't take no for an answer; she will mistake accomplishments for significance (but her kids will teach her better); she will do things that surprise her; she will hate green olives, bad manners and injustice; she will love beautiful things; she will write because she wants to taste life twice; she will overuse the F word; her heart will break and mend; she will love and be loved; one day she will turn 40.

When I was a little girl, celebrating a 40th birthday meant you were older than dirt. Oh the things children think! Because this morning I woke up forty and I can tell you that I do not feel older than the earth. In fact, I've never felt more alive than I do right now.

I like to think of my forties as the beginning of Act II of my life's narrative (of course this all depends on me living well into my 80s -- which is what I'm hoping is written for me). The first Act was so full. So much love. So many memories. Beauty and imperfection. Joy. Heartache. Perspective. Gratitude. What a damn good adventure it's been so far.

If my 20s were about finding myself and figuring out what I wanted in adulthood (independence, new experiences, a meaningful career), my 30s represented a season of firsts -- getting married, starting a family, going through an identity crisis upon entering motherhood, trying to get settled into a writing career, and seeing how "leaning in" plays out in real life.

At 40, grace abounds. I forgive myself. I feel comfortable in my skin. I trust myself more. My accomplishments have more to do with the inner workings of my soul than my to-do lists. I don't care as much for people's approval and have way less time for the petty. 

Turning 40 makes me reflect on all the things I’ve done with my body (the greatest being birthing two beautiful children!). I'm so grateful for what it can do (hike to the top of Half Dome, scale an ancient samurai castle with a baby strapped to my back, run a 5K). And because my body is my temple, I will treat it with care so I can sit here in another 40 years and say, “Wow! Look at all the things I did! I took ballet! I wrote a book! I learned how to fly! I traveled to every continent on the planet! I went to space! I have grandchildren!”

There's great satisfaction in the number 40. Maybe it's because I’m exactly where I want to be. It's not so much about where I've lived or the jobs I've had or how many goals I've checked off my list. It has more to do with the immaterial: the sacred history I'm building with my husband; watching my children grow into caring, thoughtful human beings; nurturing relationships with those dearest to me and leaving room for new friendships to blossom.

In my 20s and 30s, I wasn't OK with not knowing exactly where I was going. Back then, it was all about the destination. But at 40, I'm OK with not having all the answers. I'm OK with figuring things out as I go. I like mystery. I’m willing to bend, take bigger risks and go on crazy adventures because wisdom has whispered to me, "Time goes really, really fast as you grow older. So do it now!!"

I still have so much to learn. I have a long way to go. And I'm excited by this because I know it's not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on and on. My life is a great and continuous unfolding.

I read this and I think it perfectly describes the next decade: "These are the in-between years, the thick, hot heart of life's grand pageant, busy and rich and exhausting, overflowing with demands, responsibilities and love."

What will happen in Act II? God only knows the beginning and the end but I'm writing the stuff that happens in the middle. I look forward to filling that notebook of his with lots and lots of pages.      

Thanks once again to Phoebe Thomas for her lovely original illustration for this post.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A ballerina's farewell, but not the end

This month, Wendy Whelan will leave the New York City Ballet, for which she has danced for 30 years. 

What I find most remarkable about Ms. Whelan is the fact that, at age 47, she continues to enjoy a fruitful ballet career. "In ballet, if you're over 40, you're a dinosaur," she says in an interview with The New York Times. "[But} I still have so much dancing in me, so much to say. It's not an end."

Her tenacity, perseverance and passion is inspiring. Especially for this almost-40-year-old aspiring ballerina.   

Photo by Josef Astor.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

This week's obsession: ruby red lips

I am completely obsessed with Fresh's Sugar Lip Treatments. Every tube I've owned (Rose, Cherry, Passion, Plum) has been depleted right down to the nub. I'm such a fanatic I'll use a lipstick brush to scoop out the last bits. It would be a sin to let a drop go to waste!

So imagine my delight when I found out the good folks at Fresh added a new color to their collection. Ruby has a gorgeous shimmery rouge tint. It looks really good when layered with MAC's Viva Glam Rihanna lipstick.

Try it and let me know what you think.  

Lipstick 101. (Lipstick History)

Monday, October 6, 2014

To tuck or not to tuck

How do you style your shirts? The half tuck and front tuck seem to be everywhere right now. I'm noticing them in magazines, in catalogs and on my favorite blogsI'm personally loving the front tuck. The half tuck not so much. 

How about you?

Photo from Josefin Dahlberg.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Autumn is here

Hooray! Autumn is here!

It's chilly outside. The hats and scarves and heavy jackets are getting pulled out of the closet. Pumpkins are appearing on my neighbors' doorsteps. Golden leaves are falling to the earth's floor. Apple everything headlines at cafes. This is my favorite time of the year.  

Have a wonderful weekend!

Why autumn is the only season with two names. (Slate)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Literature rocks

Four reasons why books are good for the soul. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Be bold