Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Mixed Bag: Runner Lauren Fleshman, Running Gear, Thoughtful Consumerism, and Mt. Etna

Lauren Fleshman is my new running inspiration. She wrote this amazing opening post in her new column on Runner’s World.

I’m checking out her company Picky Bars; and the company who sponsors her, Oiselle. The Oiselle brand seems geared to elite women runners, or women with the body type of elite women runners. For example, their running bras don’t provide support for anyone over a C cup (that’s me). If you’re searching for a great sports bra and you’ve got some great body to work with, check out Moving Comfort’s Fiona model, I love it.

I’ve recently been struggling with my spending choices – the Bangladesh factory collapse reminds me why I avoid consumption of mass-made goods as much as possible. Yet, a lot of my running gear, including specialized running fuels, are part of that mass-made industry. I’m still struggling with that one – if you have insights or recommendations, hit me up in the comments.

I am contacting Picky Bars for the details on where they buy the ingredients for their gluten-free, dairy-free, preservative-free bars, I’ll let you know what I hear. The ingredient list includes which ingredients are certified organic (it’s most of them), but as my good friend Megan recently reminded me – the organic certification does not indicate anything about the labor practices of a farm, orchard, or other food-producing entity.

Oiselle puts these details right out there on their FAQ page:
“Where is your apparel made?
Everything you see on our website was designed and tested by real women athletes in Seattle Washington. 80% of the spring 2013 line is USA made! The other 20% is responsibly manufactured elsewhere. Each product page will tell you where that particular product was made.”
My brief shopping experience brought up several pairs of running shorts made in china and all the t-shirts I clicked on made in the usa. Neither ensures great labor practices, but the usa is a better bet.

Otherwise, enjoy this photo from Mt. Etna’s most recent eruption, last night:
April 27, 2013
Mt. Etna Eruption
Acireale, Sicily
from our terrace

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Filed under Awesomeness, Running

When it Rains, it Pours

Unfortunately, this week, when it rains it pours meant that death and devastation ruled the headlines, followed up by missed opportunities in Congress, and accompanied by historical anniversaries of tragedy at home and abroad.

Here in Italy, they say “Piove sempre sul bagnato” (It always rains on the wet).

But I say the rain is finished for now! Next week will be different! Stories and attitudes already show the resolve and power of responding positively in solidarity with Boston. Runners are a tough crew and I repeatedly read the same thread of steely determination that I feel in my heart in their comments and actions. Find strength within the running community. Get out on the road and run despite the rain. These are things we do while training, and it is part of the allure of training for long-distance runs – there is some urgent, instinctual need to push yourself and discover the hidden capabilities within you, both physical and mental. Push a runner to her edge? That runner will extend and redefine her edge.

“Are we saddened, and am I personally crushed by what happened today? Absolutely,” Havens said. “It would be easy to lose all faith in society and mankind and ask ‘Why did this happen?’ But I’m not going to change who I am, and all these people aren’t going to change who they are. People who do harm, one of the things they want is for people to become low and morose, and if you let them do that, they’ve won. We still have to service the customers, the runners, and we can’t put on a sad face for them.”

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Filed under Adjusting, Running

Sunday Gratitude

Living simply is a goal of mine since my young days of wanting to live off the land. During my consumerism teenage years, I let those ideals fade in the reality of cheap jewelry and clothes that let me mimic fashion trends on a part-time job budget. I loved pretending that I was developing skills to one day put into use on designer clothes with a professional career budget. Life gave me a few twists and turns along the way, and after befriending a wonderful family during my sojourn in Ecuador in 2003, my worldview was never quite the same.

Since that time, I have been working to draw back my consumerism, and to explore my desires: desires to buy more, to fit fashion trends, to buy cheap products, to consider the labor practices that support such low prices, and more. Without having the same motivations, many of us are trying to simplify our lives – for a plethora of reasons. If you seek simplicity, I recommend you check out the blog “Be More With Less.” It is a low pressure sell on simplicity and it features frequent guest posts, in a series called Simplicity in Action, so you can get a sense of the wide range of approaches out there for striving for a more simple life.

Here’s a great post on Be More With Less, the Simplicity in Action series, Simplicity in Action, and my favorite quote:

“If I’m going to be extravagant, I want it to be in my giving, not my possessions.”

A little Sunday Gratitude for ya.

Ciao

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Happy Tax Season 2013 Mom!!!

My mother grew up on a farm. She did chores, missed out on social outings, and was in the middle of eight children who were all trying to hoe a row of their own in this crazy world. She happily said “no pets” while we were growing up (i.e. no pet related chores) and my allergies to anything with fur helped keep that policy in place.

She was slow to warm to the furry family members Dave and I added when we adopted Maki and then Panther. But now she loves them like they are her grandchildren. Just ask her!

Mom, this post is for you. Maki is showing you how to relax, just in case you forgot during tax season.

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Get out the door: Where to Run in Sicily

Running in Sicily is a lot like running in the U.S., except when it’s not. First, you have to decide where to run: by the sea? up the mountain? in the river valley?

By the sea:

Very few established paths, and none that link up to create a run of a distance over 6 miles, unless you drive down to the beaches south of Catania. For me, I either have to run down the mountain to the sea (which means running back UP the mountain on the return), or drive up or down the coast to reach the sea.

Up the Mountain:

Great options, as long as I am willing to work for the views…I can go for miles and miles and never get bored with Mt. Etna on the west always beckoning me higher and the Ionian Sea on the east flirting and winking at me until I return home.

In the river valley:

This essentially means running on base or near base to me. Both options are great – on base, there is a loop that can be modified to make a 5-mile, 6-mile, or 7-mile loop. Running along the highway by base is pretty much an out-and-back situation, at least of the routes I know now. On the weekend mornings, there are always packs of bicycles whizzing by and giving friendly encouragement; umbrella girls dot the highway; and Italian drivers whiz by as well.

I find running on the roads here to be slightly more nerve-wracking than in the states, but only by a fraction, and part of that might be due to my perception of safety.

Drivers in the U.S. go out of their way to show you that they see you:

US Drivers_Running

Drivers on Sicily are typically very aware of their surroundings, including just how close they can get to any other object without striking it (the narrow roads, and closely parked cars offer lots of opportunities to learn this lesson), so they don’t bother getting so far away from you:

Sicilian Drivers_Running1

Sincerely, I am more comfortable with a Sicilian driver passing me so close that I could reach out and touch the vehicle. For all the pazzo (crazy) in the driving over here, Sicilian drivers act predictably and they are much more aware of their surroundings and aware of the size and capability of their vehicle than the average U.S. driver. But, it took some getting used to!

As I adjusted to the Sicilian drivers, I became more comfortable on the roads, by the sea, up the mountain and in the river valley. And, as Jenny Barringer Simpson says, “If you just give yourself a chance and get out the door, your mind and body will surprise you most of the time.”

Happy running!

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Finocchietto Selvatico and frustrated cats

Finocchietto Selvatico is wild fennel – a wonderful Italian addition to the vegetable palate. Say it with me like you say pinocchio “finocchi-et-toe” “sell-vah-tee-koh” – then get ready to say “Mmmmmmmm.”

Tonight, we prepared finocchietto selvatico in a cultural hybrid recipe – incorporating Calabrian sausage, fresh ricotta, and (for me) Sicilian oranges with the fragrant wild fennel. The cultural hybrid was the grain – quinoa. The recipe that sparked this dish called for pasta, but we substituted quinoa and used about half of the recommended meat portion.

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Fresh bundle of finocchietto selvatico, wild fennel

I washed the fennel and snipped the ends of the stems before throwing the fennel into a pot of boiling water for ten minutes. The delicate anise-fennel scent that arose from the snipped ends was intoxicating.

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As I removed the fennel from the water (reserve the water!) – Dave was browning the Calabrian salami (a fresh salami, akin to sausage), and mincing the cooked fennel. In the meantime, I measured out the reserved fennel water for cooking the quinoa (and did the dishes). The quinoa calls for a 2:1 water:quinoa ratio. Eventually, we mixed it all together for a final mesh of flavors in the cast iron – only 1-2 minutes for that final flavor mesh.

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I opted to add a few bites of fresh oranges, too.
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As you might have noticed in the photo above, we also had fresh ricotta on hand – go ahead, hate me now…I will be reading this in two years and will probably shed a tear for the ricotta!!! Anyway, so we added the ricotta tableside.
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It turned into one of those – “uh, yea, let’s go ahead and try this…” dishes into an “oh wow, I’m full but I want more” dishes in the amount of time it took me to chew halfway through my first bite. We managed to set aside enough for lunch tomorrow, but it was tough! Another wonderful gift from the Sicilian countryside – finocchietto selvatico. Yummmmm!

For anyone who is still waiting for a laugh at this point, check out the link below…
While I was typing this post, Dave was giggling at this:

This is Why the Job Search Sucks.

Buona sera a tutti!

Ciao,
Jill

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In Gear Career Sigonella

In Gear Career is a non-profit created by military spouses to benefit career-minded military spouses by promoting military spouses’ professional development and employment.  Recently, I partnered with military and civilian spouses in Sigonella to stand up a local In Gear Career chapter.  The idea sparked with my Wittenberg Weiner Consulting (WWC) supervisor almost immediately when I began work in late 2011.  She and I chatted about ideas, set schedules for connecting with the national In Gear Career director, and ultimately brought together like-minded colleagues and professional acquaintances to kick-off a local Sigonella chapter.  Here’s a little more of that story…
in gear logo
After we arrived at our most recent duty station in Sigonella, Italy (Sicily), I struggled with unemployment as a military spouse; I was talking with people on the ground at Sigonella, and I often heard the rumor that the chances of finding professional employment were slim to none.  Writing a daily blog offered me a rhythm to fall back on as I searched for employment, so I started The Cinquecento Project. Oh sure, I also used it as a way to keep in touch with my mom; a way to share travel stories with my friends and family; and a way to share food experiences with my foodie friends.  Yet, the commitment I made in August 2011 to an activity that required me to create a product on a daily basis also provided me the mental and intellectual stimulation that I was missing.

Luckily for me, opportunity and preparation met up and I gained a job with WWC after two months in Sigonella. I specifically mention ‘opportunity’ because the Sigonella rumors are not based in hyperbole; there are not enough opportunities available for all of the spouses who are qualified to perform and also interested in performing professional work in Sigonella. Thus, timing and luck are unfortunately a key part of finding a professional opening here. Yet, timing and luck are also a key part of finding any job, even in CONUS (Continental United States).

I also mention preparation because I had been networking, revising my resume, and staying on top of my interview skills since April 2011. That preparation led to my resume landing in the right person’s hands; it led to me being prepared to talk about myself professionally during an impromptu phone interview when “the right person” called me out of the blue; and it led to me using my intimate knowledge of my employment and volunteer history to provide evidence that I had the knowledges, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that the position required. Even for a contractor in the government workplace, this is important. If I were applying for a Government Services (GS) position, being able to express my history in terms of KSAs is even more important. Just because I lived through my employment and volunteer experiences, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I would have been able to communicate my history to the job description on the spot. This is where preparation is key. I have been under-prepared in the past, and it has hurt me. Fortunately, my preparation paid off and I have been employed as a contractor since October 2011.

My employment led to standing up the local chapter of In Gear Career because of the incredible people I met along the way. All the members of our contracting team are also enthusiastic In Gear Career members, and we all bring different passions to the group. The intersection of those passions ensures that we attract new spouse members from across professional specialties, across education levels, across services, and across socioeconomic backgrounds. In Gear Career provides free programming, available to anybody who self-selects to attend our events. In Sigonella, we coordinate monthly Coffee Talks, Lunch and Learns (or Learn and then Lunch, sometimes), Networking Socials and more. At the Coffee Talks, we start the conversation with an article about professional work, whether it be how parents deal with childcare costs, or a new article about leadership from LinkedIn, and then let the conversation follow the interests of the members present. The Lunch and Learns are geared more toward professional development, such as updating resumes, creating and using a LinkedIn profile, and public speaking. Our Networking Socials encourage spouses to interact and build the network of professional contacts that are key to maintaining a career arc while married into the military life.

Networking is a key piece of every profession and we welcome spouses at any point in their professional career. We welcome spouses who are current students, spouses actively working part-time or full-time, spouses who are taking a break from a career to be a stay-at-home parent or for any other reason, and even active duty military members who are about to transition into a civilian career. By meeting each other and learning about the professional communities in our midst, we magnify the power of the military network. Already, I know my husband’s colleagues in bases from Europe to Japan, from the Bremerton, Washington to Newport, Rhode Island. Just think how powerful my own professional network would be if I knew professional spouses in all of those locations. Next, think how powerful a military spouse professional network would be if I could share my network with you, and vice versa. THAT is the goal of In Gear Career, and that is why we are focused on outreach in Sigonella.

Last Thursday, March 28th, we had a Networking Social at Sigonella. We had a great turnout and the post-event buzz seems largely positive. A local photographer, Ed Lucio, provided a studio for complementary headshots. Ed volunteered his services and even provided touch-ups without being asked. His professional photos are a great resource for a professional blog, LinkedIn profile, and more. Here is the headshot Ed provided me two days after the event:

Jill Headshot

 

The event also featured a keynote address by WWC President, Lauren Weiner and WWC Chief of Staff and Director of OCONUS Practice, Heidi Snell. Lauren and Heidi talked about what qualities they look for on military spouse resumes; as of March 2013, WWC hired 121 military spouses in Sigonella and Naples, Italy since it opened its doors in 2004. The crowd of about 35 community members responded with enthusiasm, curiosity, and anecdotal contributions to what worked for their resumes.

Jill ActionMe, introducing In Gear Career to the attendees.

Mar 28th Net SocialFrom left: Lauren Weiner, President WWC; Jennifer Simpson, WWC Sigonella Supervisor, In Gear Career Sigonella Events Coordinator; Jessica Lewarne, WWC Sigonella Senior Analyst, In Gear Career Sigonella Public Relations/Marketing Director; Debra Gray, WWC Sigonella Analyst, In Gear Career Sigonella Membership Coordinator; Jill Warning, WWC Sigonella Senior Analyst, In Gear Career Sigonella President; Marta McClintock, WWC Sigonella Analyst, In Gear Career Sigonella Executive Treasurer/Secretary. Not pictured, Katharaine Walton, WWC Sigonella Senior Analyst, In Gear Career Sigonella Member; and Elizabeth Osborn, In Gear Career Sigonella Executive Vice President.

Our plank owners feature many WWC employees, and that has worked well for the intensity that starting a new organization requires. Other active In Gear Career Sigonella members include spouses seeking employment, other contracted (not WWC) employee spouses, GS employee spouses, and entrepreneur spouses. All in all, the work that goes into promoting and developing this organization is demanding and creative, and very rewarding. Please contact IGC.Sigonella@gmail.com with any questions, or talk to us in the comments section.

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