Category Archives: Awesomeness

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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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.



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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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Maratona di Roma in my Soul

The Rome Marathon weekend is a little ways behind me, here is the recap.

Due to the conclave at Vatican City, and the timing of the marathon coinciding with St. Patrick’s Day, and an Italy-Ireland rugby game, and myriad other events happening that weekend, Rome was a complete madhouse when we were there. It was great! Dave and I stayed in the Trastevere neighborhood, just across the Tiber River (tras = across, and “tevere” is the Tiber) from Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus). We had easy access to the start and finish of the race, which are based at the Colosseo (The Colosseum).

We arrived on Friday and dined at one of several cute and well-regarded restaurants in our neighborhood, Taverna Trilussa.
Dave Taverna Trilussa












One of my all-time favorite Italian pasta dishes is Bucatini all’Amatriciana, and lucky for me, it is a Roman specialty. Bucatini is the name of the pasta, which is a dried pasta along the lines of a thick spaghetti that is hollow like a straw. The Amatriciana sauce is made of tomatoes, guanciale (a fatty bacon made of cured pork cheek) and pecorino cheese; I prefer versions that also include garlic and onion, which I saw in the three versions I have eaten in Rome. The dish does not need much cheese though, so if you try it and you are usually a cheese-heavy person, I recommend taking several bites before asking your server to add more cheese. Adding some spice with red or black pepper spices is also common and is the best way that I have enjoyed bucatini all’Amatriciana.

On the Saturday before race day, Dave and I traced our path from our Trastevere apartment to the race start, and then joined our friends on the trek to marathon village. We registered and got our swag bag, signed the marathon wall, and carbo loaded.
Jill and Dave_Marathon Wall Rome












That night, we met up with other members of Dave’s command for another pasta-rich dinner. We had several experienced marathoners in the group, so we all ate pretty lightly, and enjoyed the camaraderie of sharing our race histories, theories for success, and pre-race jitters.

Race day came quickly enough and we set off without a hitch. About 16,000 runners, walkers, and wheelchair/hand-bikers participated in the race, and you can imagine the porta-potty lines! It was a wonderful atmosphere, and as total amateurs, we were deep in the pack of the final group to launch. We crossed the start line about 10-minutes after the gun start, and with the beeeeeeeeeep of our chips engaging, our Maratona di Roma start was official!

Dave hung in with me for the first 5k and then headed out with a bit more speed. My body was dragging, and I settled into making my goal of running the entire first half. I made it to the halfway point with my wits about me, took several walk breaks to accept that my time was going to be pretty far off my personal best, and then re-engaged with vigor. As I got rolling into the second half, I faced many of the demons that plagued me during races when I was more strongly positioned to perform – panic attacks, sudden surges of emotion, and balancing the pain and anger I felt as the race progressed. Dave coined this stage “painger” and you know when you’ve entered the zone because you transition from thinking “Thanks crowd” to “F**K off, and stop smoking in the street!”

I practiced some coping strategies and though my time was a half hour longer than my Lago di Garda marathon, I feel like I learned lessons that will carry forward into my physical, spiritual and professional life.

We re-connected after the race, showered and scavenged our neighborhood for food. Luckily, we were right by a bread shop/pizzeria La Renella, and we quickly had bellies-ful of freshly made pizza. Our apartment was equipped with entertainment features, so we watched Ghostbusters and settled into our post-race stupors.

As I reflect on my third marathon in six months, I find myself asking more questions than anything else. How did I maintain mental focus? What am I running after? How will I know when I really come to my physical capacity edge? What is next? Some of these musings lead to deeper philosophical questions, like how much more do I have to give? And, from what springs my desire to find my edge?

From among bloggers I follow, I found this article to be an interesting entry into seeing how other exercise enthusiasts are trying to answer these questions in more urban settings: Is this a rave or a race? Intriguing fitness trends.

All in all, the marathon is a wonderful event and Rome definitely puts on a great show. We tracked along the Tiber River for much of the race, and passed so many notable piazzas and historic sites that I cannot begin to mention them all here. Noteworthy to my Roman soul were running through Piazza Navona, around the neighborhood where we stayed with my parents in October, and running past the Trevi fountain and throwing my coin from the race route. Finally, at the end, we received lovely medals, which I wore all night.

Rome Medals













Ciao a Roma, and Ciao to you!


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Three coins in the fountain

Roma Maratona 2013

roma maratona 2013

Loyal followers may have noted my prolonged silence – I was busy, just like you! I’m trying to look forward and forget about my desire to catch you up on my recent adventures. There will be time for all that later. This weekend, I am heading to Rome to run past several historic monuments, to feel the Catholic vibe (the run is the same day as Pope Francis’s enthronement), and to spin my legs for fun!

This is the third coin I’m throwing into the marathon fountain here in Italy, which brings to mind a lovely song for the movie “Three Coins in The Fountain.” I saw this film when I was on the plane to Rome, with my great friend Ashley, who re-shaped my plans to spend a month in Paris and instead nurtured my long-standing love for Italy. We made it to Paris, but not before Rome and the rest of Italy stole my heart. I always get a bit nostalgic when I think of the Trevi Fountain and this song. I am looking forward to running past it on Sunday and yes, I’ll probably shed a tear!

(Song starts around the 1:00 minute mark)

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A Night at the Bellini Opera House

I recently spent an evening enjoying a symphony performance at the Bellini Opera House in Catania.


Every seat is a good seat here, we had the best view of the ceiling from our vantage point.


Pretty chandelier.


The piazza outside the old building was a bit bare when we went in at 9pm and more abuzz two hours and change later. It was shaping up to be a busy Friday night in downtown Catania. Moments like these are friendly reminders of the universal desire for beauty and community through the shared experience of music. And, of course, the community of the passersby on the street – off on errands, to make appointments and meet friends and lovers.


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Top Top Lists

I love the end of year “Top X” lists.

HuffPo put out a list of the top 25 Articles Women Should Read from 2012, and I’ve copied the list below. You can check out the original article here. I read all 25 articles and chose my top five, noted at the bottom of this post. Enjoy!

Happy New Year’s Eve!

1. Why Women Still Can’t Have It All
Anne-Marie Slaughter

2. Can Modern Women Have it All?
Rebecca Traister

3. The Ripped, Bikini-Clad Reverend (Wisconsin shout-out!)
Reverend Dr. Amy Richter

4. Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship
Emily Rapp

5. At the Pinnacle of Hillary Clinton’s Career
Rachael Combe

6. Ashley Judd Slaps Media in the Face for Speculation Over Her ‘Puffy’ Appearance
Ashley Judd

7. All the Wedding I Have Ever Been to, as I Remember Them
Jen Doll

8. It’s Different for ‘Girls’
Emily Nussbaum

*Jill’s note: Read 9 & 10 back-to-back
9. Being Mean to Fat People is Pointless: A Good Old-Fashioned Plea for Civility
Linda West

10. I Know Why the Fat Lady Sings
Caitlin Moran

11. Seeing Nora Everywhere
Lena Dunham
*Dunham’s second presence on the list, and a nod to the late Ephron.

12. Ann Bauer Looks Beyond the Mirror
Ann Bauer

13. Dear Sugar, I Could Really Use Your Help Here
‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ Cheryl Strayed
– by Anna Holmes
*Jill note: Cute, poignant; but overkill.

14. I’m Letting Go of My Pregnancy Dreams
Emily McCombs

15. Why Photoshop Isn’t As Big Of A Deal As Everyone Makes It Out To Be
Amy Odell
*Hilarious read and has a priceless Bill O’Reilly reference!

16. Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Wives
Mimi Swartz
*Unfortunately, you have to register to read this article. It is a free registration.
**Also, the account is probably the best example of the dangers of ignorance in legislation and a very worthwhile read.

17. Numbers About My Mother
Melissa Chandler

18. Boys On The Side
Hanna Rosin
*Does anyone else think of that Drew Barrymore movie when they hear this title?

19. The Mom Stays In The Picture
Allison Tate

20. How To Be Friends With A Congresswoman
Erin Gloria Ryan

21. The “F” Word
Jennifer Weiner

22. Free To Be
Dan Kois

23. I Once Was Obese
Shannon Chamberlain

24. The Great Pretender
Jenny Zhang

25. She Who Dies With The Most “Likes” Wins?
Jessica Valenti

Jill’s Top 5:

Jill 1. Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship
Emily Rapp
A touching account of the writer’s hindsight of women’s relationships in her life; especially traumatic as she is struggling to come to terms with the fatal diagnosis of her toddler son.

Jill 2. Ashley Judd Slaps Media in the Face for Speculation Over Her ‘Puffy’ Appearance
Ashley Judd
Sometimes I like Ashley Judd’s performances, other times I find her acting a bit stiff, but this article convinces me that her intellect is a force to be reckoned with, and my respect for her is secured. Plus, she used the word otheration.

Here’s my favorite excerpt:
“That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.”

*Ironically, the day I read the article, a suggested “You Might Also Like to Read” was a headline about Kate Middleton’s weight. UGH!

Jill 3. Seeing Nora Everywhere
Makes you feel good.

“She explained that being a working mother will never be balanced, so we just need to get over that and try to do the best we can.” (Jill = YES!)

Jill 4. The “F” Word
Jennifer Weiner
“Does she need to know, now, that life isn’t fair, or can she have a few more years of thinking that it might be that way? I feel her eyes on me, waiting for an answer I don’t have. Words are my tools. Stories are my job. It’s possible she’ll remember what I say forever, and I have no idea what to say.

So I tell her the only thing I can come up with that is unequivocally true. I say to my daughter, “I love you, and there is nothing you could ever do to make me not love you. But I’m disappointed in you right now. There are plenty of reasons for not liking someone. What she looks like isn’t one of them.””

Jill 5. She Who Dies With The Most “Likes” Wins?
Jessica Valenti

“The truth is that we don’t need everyone to like us, we need a few people to love us. Because what’s better than being roundly liked is being fully known—an impossibility both professionally and personally if you’re so busy being likable that you forget to be yourself.”

A worthwhile read with questions to ask yourself about why you care if others like you.


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Buon Natale

Buon Natale from me!


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First Lady Mail Call!

A big Thank You to my friend Erin, who thoughtfully sent me this recycled shopping bag featuring a likeness of Michelle Obama.

It is fabulous!


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So…what’s a Brony?

a guy who loves My Little Pony in the 2010s

Still confused? Take about three and a half minutes to find out (last 1 1/2 minutes are on other topics):

I have to admit, I feel like I am missing out. I absolutely loved My Little Pony when I was little and I am excited to revisit it now.

On this same topic, check out JeongMee Yoon‘s exploration of blue and pink. She is documenting the obsession small children sometimes have with pink (girls) and blue (boys) and how it relates to the marketing and consuming done all around the world. She mentions the ponies and how even though girls and boys may outgrow these preferences as they age, they tend to maintain their original associations with the color code.

As someone who chose blue as my favorite color when I was about 8 or 9; and threw pink and purple to the wind, I have thought a lot about femininity, masculinity and the expression of these themes in modern culture. I chose blue as my favorite color, “chose” it – didn’t “like” it, because it was a “boy” color. I wanted the opportunities available to boys. Although my parents, teachers, media, and others told me I could be “anything [I] want when [I] grow you” – I wanted the automatic preference, the automatic deference, and the automatic approval that I saw boys receiving in all the scholastic, familial, and social scenes surrounding me. Or, at least that is what I remember. I had a great childhood, but I understood angst early on!

What about you? Do you remember your favorite color as a child? What’s your favorite color now?

Time to try to turn Dave into a Brony!

Ciao, ciao

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