Hope and headbands

Despite still fighting a nagging ankle injury, I signed up for a cross-country 5K that was this past weekend: the Sweat Hope 5K. One of my dearest friends agreed to run it, too, and because it raised money for a great cause and promised to be my last race in my hometown for awhile (and because of its spectacular name, especially appropriate for me), I wanted to have as much fun with it as possible.

The fun started a day early.

I picked up my race packet Friday afternoon, and, having just come from a Girls on the Run (GOTR) event, was sporting my GOTR coach’s t-shirt. When I arrived, several folks greeted me with enthusiasm and remarked on my shirt. It turns out that the race organizer (Jessica Ekstrom—also the CEO/Founder of Headbands of Hope) and her sister had been in the very first Girls on the Run.

The very first season! The one that started it all. Both girls are grown now, and they were both at packet pick-up Friday. They joked that they must have been the reason GOTR kept going. I walked away wondering how many other success stories such as theirs had come out of GOTR.

SweatHope_2014FT

My new “Sweat Hope” headband with a sticker from Saturday’s race. I thought my happy Fall mum was the perfect place for this shot.

On Saturday, the fun continued. Although I didn’t run as well as I had hoped and had to walk the big hills on the course, it was a beautiful day and a good excuse to spend time with my friend and her husband.

I emailed Ekstrom after the race to congratulate her on such a great inaugural race. This was a great race, in large part because it was so well organized. The race started on time (yay!). It had great volunteers along the course and at the finish (yay!). There were great sponsors who were present with goodies for all of us (including a yogurt parfait station complete with dairy and vegan yogurt — double yay!). There was even a sack race for kids after the main race wrapped up.

I don’t know if Ekstrom plans to organize future Sweat Hope races, but if she does (and I hope she will), you runners out there won’t be disappointed.

Ekstrom kindly agreed to share a little about her experiences as a founding member of the GOTR family and in her role leading her own company. Headbands of Hope makes and sells fantastic headbands (seriously, runners, these things do not slip while you’re running). For every headband the company sells, it donates a headband to a girl with cancer and also gives $1 toward cancer research.

Ekstrom is gaining national attention for her work, and I wanted to know more of her story. Continue reading

Falling leaves and felling trees

As you probably know by now (especially if you saw yesterday’s post), I’m excited about the start of Autumn. So, let me wish you a very happy season! (And for those of you reading from the other side of the equator, happy spring!)

I love this time of year when cooler weather returns. Where I live, cooler weather has come along with cold, steady rain. I won’t complain, but after a few dreary days in a row, I’m looking forward to a clear weekend that includes sunshine without the heat of summer tagging along.

Falling leaves
The only leaves that have fallen so far dried in the late summer heat. Most leaves are still green, although I’ve noticed a few with just a hint of red to them. Giddiness! That tinge of red makes me giddy.

What makes me a little less giddy is the knowledge of the coming onslaught of falling leaves. We have lots of trees in our yard, and while I wouldn’t trade them for anything, that means lots of raking soon. And with our house on the market, my husband and I will have to tackle that chore more often to keep the yard looking tidy and inviting. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a yard without so many trees and therefore so many leaves to clear in the fall.

Felling trees
I’m grateful that our home’s builder decided to leave so many trees in our yard. So many developers in our area clear out beautiful old growth trees to make construction easier. It strikes me as a lack of imagination or vision to clear everything away.

Near my neighborhood, a developer has just begun clearing land. Whether the final result will be new homes or offices, I don’t know. What I do know is that the usual peace has been drowned with constant machinery chewing up a forest of trees.

Fellingtrees2014_FT2

Where there were trees …

Now there is mud and debris where once so many trees grew, an ugly scar where there was once so much natural beauty. I’m sad to see them all go, and I feel bad for the neighbors whose houses back up to this property, especially those who didn’t realize this development was coming soon to their backyard.

Fellingtrees2014_FT3

Small tree protection areas such as this one make me cringe.

I’m relieved to see a few spindly trees with the orange protection fence around them. Even those may not survive, given the small area protected and the heavy machinery that can damage the trees’ roots growing outside of the protected zone, but at least there’s some attempt to save a few of the trees.

Maybe the developer plans to plant new trees once the buildings are done, and maybe someday this space can be beautiful again. It may be years, though, before this space experiences a beautiful Autumn again.

Without trees, could Fall be as beautiful? I don’t think so. A pumpkin spice latte and a burgundy scarf are fun, but nothing can trump (for me anyway) nature’s color palette this time of year.

Aside from the trees and the aforementioned latte and scarf, I love the crisp feel of the air, the clear sky, football, happier morning runs, the pumpkin patches and kids searching for the perfect jack-o-lantern pumpkin, pie, apples, Halloween, …

So what do you love most about Autumn? I know it’s not everyone’s favorite season, but there must be something for everyone to love about this time of year. So let’s hear it. What makes you giddy about this new season?


P.S. I learned something new today and wanted to be sure to share it with you. Google keeps an archive of its doodles. So if you missed one (like yesterday’s) that everyone at the office was talking about, you can browse through them to your heart’s content. The archive also provides a great way to see what the rest of the world is celebrating.

Today’s Google doodle

Just a quick post a day early because I didn’t want you to miss today’s Google doodle. Not sure why the original leaves are blue, but it’s a fun way to usher in the first full day of Autumn.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more about the general giddiness of this season, with the promise of cooler weather, colorful leaves and pumpkin everything. Happy first full day of Fall!

On finding new trees to love

I hope you won’t mind a shorter-than-usual post today. Between trying to sell a house in North Carolina and buy a house in California and finalizing my manuscript to publish my first book, my 24-hour days seem even shorter than usual.

Last week brought a whirlwind house-hunting trip, but I had a few precious hours while my husband worked, and I found a new tree or two that would make my new home feel more like … well, home. Surprisingly (given that I love to support local coffee shops when possible), these particular trees live at a Starbucks in what will be my new hometown. This Starbucks has quite possibly the most beautiful outdoor seating area of any Starbucks I’ve seen:

Twofairoaks_2014FT

Just one side of the outdoor seating area; two stately oaks

Look closer, though, and you’ll see the effects of Northern California’s severe drought, browning leaves and an early leaf shed so the trees can protect themselves.

Dryingleaves_2014FT

I’m not quite sure how I’ll adjust to such a dry environment. Do you think it’s odd that I’m already praying for rain in a place where I don’t yet have any roots?

I’ll leave you with this map of all the trees in the contiguous 48 states (how I wish they had included Alaska and Hawaii in this). How’s it look where you live? If I visited, would I find plenty of new trees to fall in love with and sit under while I drink tea and write? And finally, if I may ask a favor, would you share a kernel of wisdom about uprooting gracefully and moving to what feels like a faraway land?

The art of hand-lettered words

Several years ago, I took an introductory calligraphy class with calligraphy artist Don King. He was a great instructor, even for as poor a student as I was. Watching him create calligraphic letters was nothing short of mesmerizing, and he occasionally brought in beautiful pieces he had done to illustrate particular techniques.

From him, I learned that calligraphic art is equal parts engineering and artistic talent. This may seem a contradictory combination of science and art, but King’s life may also seem a contradiction. He served in the US Army’s Special Forces before deciding he would prefer to take orders from himself. There’s no gruffness left over that you might anticipate from a career military man, only discipline.

Along with that discipline—he constantly told us to practice, practice, practice every day to improve—and his artistic talent, he generously shares his gift for encouraging and teaching budding calligraphers, sometimes leading multiple classes in a season.

DonKingwithhisart_2014FT

Don King with some of his artwork

Don sent out an email recently announcing an exhibit of some of his 2D and 3D work, and unlike my usual procrastinating self, I didn’t wait until the end of the exhibit to rush over. (Facing a cross-country move has made me carpe diem more often than usual of late.)

The exhibit is at a local church and is only open to the public when the church holds services. But two other times each week, Don has agreed to escort visitors through his works. If you’re in Raleigh, NC, and love this kind of beautiful work, make sure you see it (more details at the end of the post).

He graciously agreed to let me photograph his work and even him, asking afterward, “Did that look as unnatural as I felt?” I laughed. I’m also one who feels about as unnatural as possible when someone asks me to pose for a photo. Some of us prefer to create and let the light shine on our creations rather than on ourselves.

Don’s work does shine. Some of it literally, with metallic paint and even costume jewelry pins he inherited from his mother and is now using to inspire unique works of art. There’s one of these pieces I would buy in a heartbeat if it didn’t mean one more thing to wrap up for the move. (Most of what he is exhibiting is for sale.)

These photos provide details of some of the pieces on exhibit. You can visit Don’s website to learn more about him and his works, but nothing beats seeing them in person. Go if you can. The exhibit runs through October 30.

DonKingJohn'sRevelationdetail_ 2014FT

A detail from John’s Revelation. Many of Don’s works incorporate Scripture, his favorite source.

DonKingWhyNot_ 2014FT

A 3D piece called Why Not?

DonKingJoyfulNoisedetail_2014FT

A delightful piece called Joyful Noise

DonKingBeginningdetail_ 2014FT

A 3D piece Beginning inspired by the turn of the millennium and 9/11

The story behind Beginning is an intriguing one, and in case you don’t get to hear Don tell you about it himself, I’ll share a bit of it with you. He was creating a piece for the new millennium and came into his studio one morning to find that the easel had fallen and dashed the work into little pieces. He saved them, not suspecting the tragedy of 9/11 that would inspire this work and enable him to put his own rubble toward its own new beginning.

As I looked at piece after piece, I was reminded again: we lean increasingly on computers to produce calligraphy and lettered “art,” but simply nothing beats what an artist can do with a real calligraphy pen.

More on the art and cost of letters
Learn more
about the exhibit. I’ll try to post here as he announces days and times he’ll escort visitors through the exhibit. This week, he’ll be there today (Wednesday, Sept. 10) and Friday, September 12, from 4-6 p.m. both days. The church is Crossroads Fellowship, located at 2721 E. Millbrook Road in Raleigh.

See some of the “hands” (we might call them fonts in our modern age) Don uses in his work.

While we’re talking about hands and fonts and why sometimes computers aren’t better, check out this Huffington Post article about the cost of the font Comic Sans.

I’d love to hear what you think of Don’s calligraphy, whether you view it on his site or get to visit his exhibit. Maybe you’ll be inspired to sign up for one of his classes or find a local teacher near you.