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Friday, June 28, 2013

It's Friday, Love

{ I'm a terrible bowler }
I got nothin.......I'm introspected (is that a word?:)) out......... probably because I'm feelin mighty happy today. Have a great weekend!

{ Austen Hill birthday celebration }
{ With my Goddaughter Carolina }
{ On the way back to my hotel in DC }

{ Included this for a friend because there's pictures of know who you are:) }

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Ballgame

I don’t like sports, I’ll be honest. Well…let me clarify. I don’t like watching sports on TV. It feels hollow. Sort of like a scary movie that you watch at home. It can still be a frightening experience, but nothing compares to the moments when you’re holding your breath in a darkened room…..watching a story unfold on a screen three stories high…..feeling like you too could be chopped into little pieces by a masked man.

Then there’s that nanosecond when you think you’ve won. You’ve beat him. Outsmarted him to die another day (sorry I’m a huge James Bond fan). Deep down though you know you’re fish food. Then he strikes…. and your heart leaps out of your chest and you grab the arm of the (hopefully devastatingly handsome) man you’re with….the contact bringing you back to earth.

Watching sports live can sometimes be like that. That’s what I enjoy, the shared emotional experience. The human condition so blatantly displayed. Sounds a lot like life hmmmm? I recently found myself at a game for our local baseball team. What are they called do you ask? Well prepare yourself to be scared again. To be so frightened by the name of our team that Zeus himself would fall from Olympus and the beams of the The Coliseum would tremble. Our local team is called The Flying Squirrels. I know….it’s bad. It’s really bad. And that was actually the best name out of all the ones they considered. I don’t meant to be down on the fellas. I’m sure they’re lovely, talented guys. But yeah…the name sucks.

You realize much later in life what playing sports teaches you when you’re little. Teamwork, practice, triumph, dealing with disappointment. I actually played baseball for a while. In California they didn’t have a girls team so I actually was the only girl on an all-boys team. I wore pink pants to every practice.

Anyway….I was at the game with my great friends Miranda and Jeff. Miranda and I have been friends since 9th grade Earth Science and she knows every horrible thing about me and still loves me, a miracle within itself. Jeff is really hot so we let him hang around us because it helps our street cred (that’s short for credential…all the kids are saying it these days).

Jeff and Miranda bestowed a great honor on me when they asked me to be their daughter Carolina’s Godmother. I will endeavour to try and teach her something useful about life. I keep thinking they will rescind the offer when they realize this is all of the wisdom I actually have to teach her…

1. How to make the perfect dirty martini.
2. An appreciation for Christopher Guest movies.
3. Never date a man who says the phrase “I work hard and play hard”.
4. Pay attention in math. Your Godmother didn’t and now has to count on her fingers when she adds the tip.
5. I have become death, the destroyer of worlds…..even Oppenheimer paid a price.

Her life will inevitably be a ballgame. She’ll need to learn the rules, but I have no doubt she’ll bend them to her will and take this world by storm. Love you baby girl. 

{ The one's for you Kathy! Although I greatly enjoyed taking the shot. }

Monday, June 24, 2013

She's Becoming Gold: Meet Julie

And now we've come to the end.....make it one for my baby and another one for the road. That's how Frank would have said it. In our case it was desert and coffee. Today is the last installment of She's Becoming Gold. This series has been such a gift. Not only did I have the opportunity to feature four amazing women on Austen Hill, I learned so many lessons from them that I will never forget. If you missed the first three you can read Leslie, Andrea and Karen's stories for inspiration and some fabulous girl talk.

Today, I'm so happy to introduce you to Julie! She's ridiculously intelligent, but balances that with a passion for life that actually makes her a bit of a rebel in my estimation. Take it away Julie!


1. When you were a little girl what did you wan to be when you grew up?

I always knew I was going to be a scientist of some kind. I remember thinking this in elementary school while looking at the stars through my telescope on the picnic table in our back yard in Texas. Before that I was going to be a princess.

2. What expectations were placed on you growing up regarding your eventual professional and personal life? In retrospect, did they inspire or stifle you?

There were expectations for me to do my best. I didn't always feel the pressure of these expectations, but at the same time I have always been a people pleaser, so I probably put expectations on myself. I think it was assumed that I would go to college, but I wanted to go. I really think that most of the expectations I have encountered eventually came from within. But I have let these expectations stifle me to a point. When it becomes too much, I tend to rebel and do unexpected things (which were not always healthy as a teenager). I have done that a lot in my life growing up, so I think that my family is always waiting for the next big move from me and nothing I say or do really surprises them.

3. Describe your mentors and how they have affected you?

I remember people asking when I was in high school about who inspires you most. I never really had an answer for this. I think my early life was spent without any obvious mentors. It was not until getting my master's degree that anyone had a profound affect in my life. My college advisor has been my most influential mentor, and he continues to be to this day. I remember leaving the graduate program a year into it and he sent me an email that said I was one of the most talented graduate students he ever had and to never doubt my abilities. This was very important to me. I eventually came back to the program and received both a master's and PhD with him. Four years after graduating, we were married and I continue to learn from him every day.

4. What was your first "grown-up job" that you landed after college and what did it teach you?

I had a grown up job during college as an assistant manager in a retail store. That taught me to value people and to be a good role model for others. It also taught me a lot of the politics about who gets raises, promoted, etc.. I left that job to go to school full time. After my 10 years in college, I took the job that I am now in permanently. It has also taught me a lot about dealing with other people/personalities, that networking is key to success, and that I want my work to influence lives more profoundly.

5. What was your worst job and what did it teach you?

My best job is also my worst job. It has taught me patience, how to be creative, and to keep working towards my ultimate goals when the end does not look like it is in sight. It has also taught me what I believe in, what I value, and that I want this to reflect in the work that I do.

New Directions

6. You decided to forge a new path by taking a different direction in your career and/or creative life. Describe the moment you knew you were going to pursue your passion and why?

I believe I have always been pursuing my passion, but I am now in a place where I must move on and take risks to keep pursuing it. When I took my current job, I viewed it as a stepping stone; it was useful for many reasons in helping me develop my career and to have independence in my life. But over the last year I have recognized that it is time to push myself and not fall into the rut of "comfortably complaining"- that is, things are known and therefore comfortable, but complaining about how I don't like them without making a change. I have been hearing myself say it is time to move on, but I have come up with many excuses as to why I can't yet. Fear is what has kept me from taking a leap and I can't let it win anymore. 

7. Tell us about your new venture.

I am in the process of transition so my ideas are not fully formed yet. I am stepping away from guaranteed pay to create something new that blends my interests and allows for creativity to flow. I am trained as a plant scientist, and I am good at it. But that is not all there is to me. I create. I want to inspire other women to be bold and express themselves. I want to integrate my interests into my research, and most importantly, I want my research to be important to a larger community. 

I am going to start a blog to document my transition, but in this I want to highlight strong women of science that may be overlooked. In my profession, accomplishments are notable (i.e. grant funding, publications). But I think there is more to being a successful woman in science. Many of us are mothers, artists, volunteers...we have more to us than our jobs. We impact lives beyond our work accomplishments but this often goes unnoticed. I want to help provide a new paradigm for how we view women scientists.

8. Any new step is a risk. How do you stay motivated during the difficult moments?

This is tricky. I have a mind that likes to tell me I can't do things. My husband and good friends have been the most important in helping me to keep my motivation. But so is reigning in my thoughts. I meditate. I do yoga. I read books that have positive messages. And now I am reaching out to other women who are also making bold moves and listening to their stories and experiences. It inspires me to keep moving forward.

The Fun Stuff

9. Coffee or tea?

Definitely tea. There is nothing better than a well balanced cup of tea and a good friend to share it. 

10. What do you do to unwind after a hard day?

A good book and a bath with the best bath salts ever (MindSoak by Biggs and Featherbelle)

11. If you could have dinner with any woman throughout history who would it be?

This is a tough question because there are so many fascinating people whose stories I would love to hear. I am always fascinated by women who were in roles outside of the norm. I think I would choose Rosalind Franklin. She was a scientist whose work contributed to the understanding of DNA and was betrayed by a colleague who showed photos she had taken (without permission) to Watson and Crick....who came up with the model of DNA upon seeing these photos. I would like to know how she dealt with this betrayal. But I know there is more to Rosalind than the story involving the controversy and this is the side that gets overlooked. 

12. If you could give any piece of advice to yourself at 20 what would it be?

Trust yourself. Always. And stop thinking. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Happy Birthday


I wrote this last Sunday. I arbitrarily looked at the calendar and realized it had been a year since I started this blog. I wasn't having a good day, as you'll see, I'll say that right of the bat. Do I feel this way now? No. Today is a better day. But I wanted to honor what I felt and what I wrote. So here goes....

Chapter 1

Happy Birthday to Austen Hill…..

My little project is officially a year old next Friday. I actually can’t believe it. I can’t believe I stuck with it, I can’t believe how happy it makes me, I can’t believe what it has become and I can’t believe all of the good things that have come from it.  I also can’t believe that I just typed believe wrong four times and auto correct fixed it. I don’t think I’ll ever learn. 

I’m writing this on my back deck. It’s warm out but I’m underneath an umbrella. I’m also a little sad. I find myself in a couple situations where life offers no road maps. I'm trying to navigate them as best I can, but the heart is a funny thing. I hope it knows best. I don’t know what will happen. I guess time will tell.

It’s also Father’s Day and I’m missing my Dad. It’s been a few years, so while I think about him every day, I don’t get as sad as I used to. That’s because of the body and mind’s amazing capacity for healing. But days like today are tough. Everywhere I look there are Fathers with their families and it feels like someone is taking a stick and poking me in the side with it. It hurts. I miss him. I miss saying the word Dad.

So why is any of this relevant to a birthday or a blog? Shouldn’t I be celebrating? I am. Despite what makes me sad today, more than any other time in my 34 years …..this year ……I have LIVED MY LIFE. It hasn’t all been perfect. There have been some amazing moments and some distinctively not so amazing ones. I’ve had major triumphs and firsts……low moments and dark days. But they have been mine. This is my story, no one else’s. It’s not my job to make other people happy and its not my job to make sure other people agree with what makes me happy.

Writing, taking photos, telling my stories - these are the things that in a very real way have finally made me whole. This week I’ve looked back through every post I’ve done and believe me there are some that make me cringe. In the beginning I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t. If you thought I did forget I said that and keep reading. Post something every day! Not too deep, keep it light! Nobody reads anymore just post your pictures or they’ll get bored and move on! These are the things I told myself.

Then day-by-day I got more confident. I found myself wanting to not just capture moments with my photographs, but use them to tell a story- communicate the essence of something. Then I realized I had words inside of me that wanted to get out. My first post of the year was the catalyst for that.

I’m actually most proud of the posts that came from heavier moments like the Boston marathon bombings, getting a spring back in my step after a trip to New York, or thinking back to my first day of school. When I write about these things it feels like a weight has been lifted and I have room to fill up again.

I said to a friend recently that I’ve been safe all my life and I don’t want to be safe anymore.  This blog has helped me get there. Today, I finally have the courage to not be safe…… to reach for the unknown and hopefully move forward with a wild abandon that will make for even greater stories in the future. For the first time in my life I know that I will not get to the end and say I wasted any of the time given to me.

For this…and the part Austen Hill has played in it…I am grateful. Today I celebrate. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Year In Pictures

I had no idea when I decided to go back through this year's posts to select my favorite pics that I would get so emotional. Mostly because of all the good times and memories I have because of them. It's amazing how one photo can put you back in a moment. Like it was happening right now. That is the power of photography and I hope I have the chance to grow and learn in this space for the rest of my life. 

These are my favorites.......

{ Photo by Jeff Clark }

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Let's Smash Some Plates

Today's post is in honor of my friends Alex and Dawn. Alex is half Greek, half Russian, and one hundred percent Cypriot. I hope I got that right and didn't create an international incident:). He also happens to be very lucky and married to my good friend Dawn. They met in a bar here in Richmond many years ago when Alex casually strolled over and introduced himself by his full name "Alexandros". It was really loud and Dawn couldn't hear so after trying to impress her a few more times with his international intrigue he said just call me Alex. 

I owe Alex a mea culpa because he's put up with my teasing for many years. I like to ask him if all of his friends growing up were goats or doesn't he have a red phone in his pocket with a direct line to the President of Cyprus {since there's only like 10 people that live on the island so they must be close}. I also do a mean impression of him. It generally consists of me lowering my voice about eight octaves and mumbling something incoherent about international trade agreements. Anyway...Alex you rock and I love you man.

We celebrated my mother's birthday a couple weeks ago at the Greek Festival and got to see Alex, Dawn and their little boy Stefan for a bit there as well. As we get older and life takes over there never seem to be as many hours in the day as when we were younger and could go out for drinks at a moments notice. So here's to old friends and making time for new laughs. Let's smash some plates people! OPA!