Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday thought

"To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven." -- Johannes A. Gaertner


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dignity in photos

Cochabamba, Bolivia -- November 2012
From my Bolivia files:
I started this post in November 2012 after I returned from Bolivia but got sidetracked. I think this is a good time to finally finish the post. :)

I learned an important lesson about photographs while in Bolivia seven months ago through Compassion International: when taking pictures, show children in poverty at their best instead of at their worst.

It seems like a common sense concept. But that's not what often happens when you see television commercials imploring viewers to help needy children in developing countries...or when I've written stories in an effort to draw attention to the plight of others.

Don't get me wrong. There is a place for heart-wrenching photos. But I think those of us in first-world countries often forget about the humanity of those in developing countries because we are so bombarded with photos or commercials of children and families with bloated bellies and flies in their eyes. We don't see their story. We don't see their dreams.

During my time in Bolivia, I received the gift of entering the lives and homes of poor children and families. What stood out to me was not the fact that they were surviving on a few dollars a day or that some were living in squalid conditions. I saw something you and I often don't take the time to recognize: hope. The hope of parents who desired a good life for their children. The hope of children who dreamed of becoming doctors, farmers, teachers, students, moms and dads.

"We market hope," said Greg, one of our trip's team leaders.

As a parent, how would you want people to view your child? Most would want people to see their children at their best not at their worst. Compassion takes that approach when it comes to photographing children and families.

"We want to preserve their dignity in photos," Greg said.

This mindset is one of the reasons I love and appreciate Compassion. It is changing the way I tell stories, too. After all, virtually all stories have at least two sides, right? I want eyes to always see -- and the courage to tell -- both sides of a story.

This got me thinking of pictures I've taken of children during my travels around the U.S. and the world. Here are a few of my favorites of children doing what they do best: being children.

Ogbomosho, Nigeria -- September 2008

Nairobi, Kenya -- July 2008
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -- July 2008

Kansas City, Mo., March 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Megan + Bryce

Megan & Bryce arrive at their reception
I kicked off wedding season this weekend when my good friend Megan got hitched, Kentucky-style.

After a beautiful ceremony punctuated by tears and much laughter, we sashayed on over to her parent's home for a backyard reception. All I can say is wow! Megan is super creative and her personality was infused in every food, decoration and table setting.

One of the poignant moments of the church ceremony was when the pastor asked for letters written by Megan and Bryce as well as their parents. Those letters were placed in a box and they were to be opened on their anniversary. They also were to be read if there comes a time they forget why they fell in love.

I got to know Megan after she came to work at the Knoxville News Sentinel, my former employer. We sat across from each other and had our share of giggles and deep conversations. A lot of our hanging out was done outside of the office, which was pretty cool. I also hiked Mt. LeConte for the first time with her.

I'm so thankful for our friendship. It was a joy to celebrate her special day with her and Bryce in her hometown of Crestwood, Ky.

I **love** this girl. You know how I know? I stayed up waaaaay past my bedtime to see her and Bryce off around 11 p.m. (Our friend Lydia kept asking me, "Lola, are you awake?" "Are you hanging in there?" Yep and yep.)

We all lined up along the driveway with sparklers as the happy couple ran through. Fun times.
I wish them every blessing as they start their new life together.

For more pictures of the day's festivities, visit my Flickr account.

CrossFit Diaries -- Class # 36: Man makers

Today was one of those hellish (read: fun. Ha!) mornings at CrossFit.
We "warmed up" with an 800 meter run in drizzling rain and finished with three rounds of 10 kettlebell swings (think lateral raises) and 10 sumo deadlift high pulls (think upright rows) with a 35-pound kettlebell.

We then did deadlifts and worked up to our max (165 pounds for me.)

We rounded everything out with 50 man makers (I used 20-pound dumbbells.) All I can say is: sweet mother. I. was. destroyed.

Don't know what a man maker is? Here ya go:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bling x 2

There's no turning back now, y'all. I'm officially official.

I received my actual 2nd degree black belt tonight. (The test was almost a week ago.) I missed this evening's main belt ceremony because of another commitment but my master instructor James Rich waited for me. By the time I arrived, everyone was gone but Mr. Rich gave me my own private ceremony. And then he tied on my belt, which is a big deal. Why, you ask? The 1st degree black belt ceremony in the Taekwondo journey is the only one during which the master instructor ties the belt on you.

Now as a second degree, I'm on my own. BUT! I begged and gave Mr. Rich a pretty-please-with-a-cherry-on-top smile and he violated his policy and tied on my belt. (Deep down, I think he enjoyed it. Ha!) It meant so much to me to have him tie the first knot of my new rank.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

La pizzeria de Lola

I try to write substantive and thought-provoking blog posts whenever I can. So here goes: I MADE MY FIRST PIZZA! :)

Exciting, isn't it? I'm more thrilled that it turned out ok and it was edible and rather tasty.
The idea to make pizza took root after I got an Earthfare email coupon last week for $1 pizza dough, $1 tomato sauce and $1 mozzarella/provolone cheese blend. I thought, "What the hay? Why not?" I had chicken, peppers and onions at home so my toppings were all set.
On Sunday afternoon while a monsoon hammered Knoxville, I diligently rolled my dough with a bottle, piled on the goodies and popped it into the oven. About 18 minutes later, voilĂ ! I made a side salad and lunch was served.
I ate two more slices for lunch yesterday and finished the last two today. Turns out $3 plus tax was able to buy me three meals. Way to eat on the cheap.
Too much dough at the edges so my friend Kristen suggested I roll it in...

Glad I listened. The crust was yummy, as was the entire pizza!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

2nd degree black belt!

Sparring during testing today. Photo courtesy of Stephen Strouss

I'm now a second degree black belt in Taekwondo!! Those words still feel a bit foreign in my mind and mouth. This news is about 12 hours fresh.

I tested this morning at my school and it went well. It's funny though, as excited as I am about this new chapter of my Taekwondo journey, I've been pensive about it all day. It wasn't my best test as I felt like some of what I did was a little sloppy. I broke all three of my boards and I did my pattern correctly. But some of my techniques could have been smoother. (Sparring was super awesome, I think, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.)

I now feel this grave sense of responsibility toward my fellow classmates and particularly toward those who are still coming through the color belt ranks behind me. I want the way I train and improve my skills to challenge and encourage them to do the same. When they look at me as a 2nd degree, I want them to think, "that's how I want my patterns and kicks to look!"

When I passed the test for my 1st degree black belt 14 months ago, I was so overwhelmed. Attaining 1st degree black belt felt like the holy grail of martial arts. But I quickly realized the journey had really just begun. I had been learning and adding building blocks to the basics of Taekwondo during the three years before 1st degree.

Now in my fourth year of training and a 2nd degree black belt, I recognize that I'm still very much a learner, not an expert. And I love it. I always want to be teachable and I look forward to continued growth. I am so grateful for my master instructor James Rich and the other instructors at our school who are helping me along in the journey.

I also want to give a special shout out to my friend Kristen who traveled from Franklin to spend the weekend with me and attend my testing to cheer me on.