Seven Questions - From That's What She Said

Wine Bottles Adorn the Window Before the Show

A couple weekends back, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a unique performance - That's What She Said - a venue of speakers and musicians - women sharing their stories and finding connection through those stories. Most of the speakers were local and the topics ranged from the familiar, funny elements of motherhood, to the heartbreaking account of watching a loved one die.

The organizers also posed seven questions to numerous local people (including my good friend, Lisa) and published their responses in the program. I thought it would be fun to answer those same questions here.

1. What are you grateful for today?
I am grateful for the incredible abundance in my life. I have so many wonderful people in my life who love and support me. I have a healthy mind and body that can do incredible things. I am surrounded by beauty and bounty.

2. Tell us about one of your friends and what you love about her.
Lisa, who I mention above, is one of my neighbors and a dear friend. I still remember the first time we met - it was Halloween in 2002, my family had just moved to Illinois and were trick-or-treating in our would be subdivision. Lisa was visibly pregnant and exuded hospitality and kindness. After meeting her and feeling immediately like family, we knew we had chosen the right neighborhood. Lisa is always there to help a friend out, lend a compassionate ear, and if needed, a swift kick in the butt.

3. Describe one of the best days of your life.
I have to choose just one? The day my daughter was born - after 13 hours of labor, there emerged this perfect baby. And then there was the birth of my son, who popped out 20 minutes after I walked into the emergency room at the hospital. If it hadn't been for my husband insisting we leave for the hospital, he would have been born on the highway. In both cases, the growth and emergence of new life was such an incredible experience - that my body knew exactly what to do, regardless of the number of books I had read educating myself on the topic.

4. What’s the best lesson you learned from your mother/grandmother?
Be disciplined and work hard. Be independent and strong. Sounds like a typical Chinese mother, right?

5. We’re all unique. What is your special gift?
I think I am able to capture the beauty right in front of us, through my camera lens.

6. What could women be doing to make their community a better place?
Support, encourage and uplift each other! Let each person know how important they are in their situation.

7. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
I would leave the comfort of my home and embark on some sort of adventure involving my camera, running shoes and yoga mat.

How would you answer these questions?


Lace and Snow

What I captured while waiting several hours during yesterday's horse show: a lovely patch of Queen Anne's Lace.

Biding Time #fence #horsefarm

Field of Lace

I thought this single bloom looked like a snowflake on a stem:
Above the Crowd

Lace and Snow in summer!

Delicate flower
White lace, waving in the wind
Beauty Stumbled upon


Happy Friday


Blowing in the Wind

Plans for the weekend include a trip to the farmer's market, hanging out with hubby Scott and a horse show!
Wishing you a great weekend!


Wings of a Different Kind

Last week, I mentioned I had been listening to a new recording artist, Jasmine van den Bogaerde, who goes by the stage name 'Birdy'. I meant to include a snippet of her song Wings in my dragonfly post, but decided it deserved its own post.

Wings is my favorite song from her Fire Within album. The song has a sweeping, lush, almost cosmic quality about it - I imagine being enveloped in its chords while driving along the prairie on a cool summer night, top down on the convertible, the wind in my hair, laughing with friends.

You can listen to the song here:

Lyrics below:
Sunlight comes creeping in
Illuminates our skin
We watch the day go by
Stories of all we did
It made me think of you
It made me think of you

Under a trillion stars
We danced on top of cars
Took pictures of the stage
So far from where we are
They made me think of you
They made me think of you

Oh lights go down
In the moment we're lost and found
I just wanna be by your side
If these wings could fly
Oh damn these walls
In the moment we're ten feet tall
And how you told me after it all
We'd remember tonight
For the rest of our lives

I'm in a foreign state
My thoughts they slip away
My words are leaving me
They caught an aeroplane
Because I thought of you
Just from the thought of you

Oh lights go down
In the moment we're lost and found
I just wanna be by your side
If these wings could fly
Oh damn these walls
In the moment we're ten feet tall
And how you told me after it all
We'd remember tonight
For the rest of our lives

If these wings could fly

Oh lights go down
In the moment we're lost and found
I just wanna be by your side
If these wings could fly
Oh damn these walls
In the moment we're ten feet tall
And how you told me after it all
We'd remember tonight
For the rest of our lives


Wings To Fly

I spent part of Sunday morning weeding the garden [Yes, I was really doing the hated chore that is called Yard Work], noting the heavy prevalence of thistle, crabgrass, prickly lettuce and other undesirables in the lawn, when something buzzed near my head.

Fortunately, not a wasp (I really don't like wasps, especially after several nested in the back of the mailbox and went after me when I reached in to pull out the day's mail - I think I ran screaming around the cul de sac - and yeah, I got stung twice).

It was a harmless dragonfly, flitting around our fish pond - I watched the buzz of his wings as he circled around - at the high frequency of flight, his wings appear to be a blur of blue. The he grabbed one of the Iris leaves and settled into stillness. To my surprise, its wings weren't blue, but clear with black and white spots.

And so the yard work was abandoned for a few minutes because I had just found my newest photo shoot subject...

Keep Me Hanging On

He was a bit skittish - if I got too close, he would take off, circle around, but then find purchase again on the same branch or leaf. I was able to get several decently detailed photos before relinquishing my camera for the garden gloves.


After some web research, I learned my subject was a male twelve-spotted skimmer. Although this dragonfly is fairly common, I was glad to have captured its amazing transparent wings. And with these photos, I've hit 10,000 uploads to my flickr stream.

Yup, I take a lot of photos.... because I really need an excuse to get out of yard work every now and then....


For Today | Doesn't Feel Like Summer

Outside my window…my goodness, it is absolutely gorgeous outside! After a crisp, cool morning, the abundant sun is shining down from blue skies punctuated with puffy white clouds. The temperatures will climb to 70 degF today, unseasonably cool for mid-July. With low humidity, I am not complaining.

I am thankful… for my great friends – they have served as a pillar of support these past months.

From the kitchen… I’ve been in a cooking rut recently, so simple fish tacos is what we’ll have for dinner tonight.

I am wearing… black pants from Athleta, a striped racer back tank from Lululemon and a periwinkle sweater from LOFT. Summery and totally comfortable.

I am creating… I’ve started writing some poetry, but not ready to share.

I am going… with my daughter on her first college visit, in Ohio. Should be exciting!

I am reading… I'm still trying to get through the epic novel, Shantaram. I had to put it down for a couple months, but found myself reading it again last weekend.

I am hoping… my left ankle and knee pain goes away – soon! The ankle appears to be much better today. Foam roll, stretch, repeat.

I am listening to… an artist who goes by 'Birdy' and her Fire Within album. Her music is considered to be “alternative”, not my typical genre, although I tend not to be influenced by labels. It’s definitely not mainstream pop. Birdy’s voice is beautiful, the music simple and sparse sometimes, other times rich and ethereal. Her music has been used in recent yoga (Body Flow) classes and is featured on the Fault In Our Stars soundtrack.

Around the house… Louie has been sneezing and coughing for two weeks now - the cortisone shot the vet gave him last week helped a little bit, but his symptoms don’t appear to be waning. Another trip to the vet might be in the cards.

One of my favorite things… a silver running charm necklace. The rectangle charm is stamped 'run', the other, circular disk is embossed with ’26.2’ – nicer than a 26.2 decal for my car and less showy. I may add a green crystal / emerald to the mix.

A few plans for the rest of the week… simply work, a whirlwind college visit, a concert in the park, running, yoga and enjoying this wonderful weather while it lasts!

A picture to share - A typical barn / prairie scene I captured today on the way to work. I took a slight detour down a country road to find the barn.
Took a Detour From my Normal Route This Beautiful Morning #prairie #clouds #farm


Flower Friday

A quick post of some flowers around the house - these make it feel like summer!



Friend Lisa is such a sweetie - she bought me flowers yesterday! Lovely ivory roses....


I hope your world laughs with flowers today - consider being a sweetie to someone and buy them flowers - for no reason at all. It will make their day and bring a smile to their face.



I'm way behind on photos from my Big camera, so these are over a month old, back when I visited Massachusetts in June. We took the boys to Lexington - Concord and visited some of the Revolutionary War Sites. I felt we had to give the boys exposure to the history that shaped this Nation. Now that I am older, I find these places fascinating - I know I didn't appreciate them when I younger. Maybe the boys felt that way, too, but we went anyways.

I've previously posted the historic significance of these sites when I visited in 2011, and that post can be found here:
A History Lesson - the Start of the Revolutionary War

Our visit to the Old North Bridge in Concord, and the surrounding grounds:
Feeling Revolutionary

Old North Bridge


The Boat House


Fireworks, Turtles and Bears, Oh My

aka, what we encountered last weekend!

[OK, I'm kidding about the bears - it just sounded catchy]

Coming into the start of July with no definitive plans for the 4th of July holiday weekend, I was expecting a low key, slightly boring long weekend. I wasn't even sure if I wanted to schlep out to see the local fireworks (sometimes I don't like battling the throngs of people).

Enter in friend Jill - we made last minute plans for each day and it turned out to be a great holiday.

On the 4th of July, we went to the city pool. We had expected the place to be swarming with people, but it wasn't crowded at all. The air temperatures in the mid 70's might have kept people away, so we enjoyed lounging (and not overheating) on the pool deck. In the evening, we stumbled upon the best vantage point for viewing fireworks, close to the launch pads, on a great expanse of lawn that wasn't teeming with people. It was sweatshirt weather, just perfect.
Waiting for #Fireworks #4thofjuly

For those viewing on apple devices, the following is a flash video snippet of the fireworks (sorry). You can also view from my flickr stream.

We started Saturday with an outdoor Yoga Session - right on the prairie. I attended the same session two weeks ago and loved it. Jill and Amy joined me and I think we'll be back next Saturday.
Saturday Morning #yoga on the #prairie. Total Bliss. #shirleyyoga

After yoga, we drove to the Farmer's market and picked up some great produce - zucchini, kale, herbs, peaches. It was my first trip this year and I love that the market continues to grow with vendors, musicians and food trucks. I stumbled upon a jewelry stand and was smitten with the artist's simple, personalized pieces. Those who know me know I'm not really into jewelry - I wear my wedding rings and maybe a simple necklace - that's it. Here is what I bought:
Better Than A #26point2 Car Decal #shirleyruns #bling #selfie

For Sunday, we went kayaking on the Middle Fork River:
Tally Ho! #kayaking

Even though our group included six boys, I was still able to find some solitude along the way. That is the beauty of kayaking - you can always linger behind or go ahead of the group.
Found Solitude #kayaking #water

One of the boys found a baby turtle which catalyzed river wide treasure hunt for more turtles. All and all, they found three turtles and this trip will always be remembered as "kayaking with the turtles"

Day of Turtles

So while we didn't encounter any bears this weekend, we enjoyed the company of friends, enjoyed the glorious weather and created memories to fondly remember.


Along My Run | 5 - The Rest of June

I'm back on the prairie, and think this June exhibited a wider gamut of weather conditions - we've had beautifully cool temperatures, torrential rains, fog, and the typical heat and humidity. I tried to remember past years' June weather, then realized I hadn't run much the past two Junes due to injuries.

The Rest of June's Runs
1. Sunday Morning Walk - Run , 2. Every Run Is A Gift , 3. Let The Rain Come Down Make A Brand New Ground , 4. The Trail Imparts A Different Mood Even Tho I've Run It a Hundred Times , 5. Don't Pass Up The Beauty Along The Road of Life , 6. Out in the Country #rural, 7. Post Run selfie, 8. Welcome to Summer , 9. The Woods are Lovely Dark and Deep, but I have Miles to Go Before I Sleep - Robert Frost , 10. Hazy Shade of Summer, 11. Two Pairs #ducks , 12. Reflect on The Day Ahead #run

Stats from June: I logged 112 miles with an overall average pace of 9:10 minute / mile.

I've officially started the 16 week training program that culminates in October's Chicago Marathon. The good - I've got enough of a base that I could really "skip" the first two weeks. The bad - I'm currently nursing a bit of Achilles soreness in my left ankle, so I need to rest up a bit (super hard for me to do). Hopefully, I'll stave off any injuries, as I am targeting a 4:00 marathon this time around. With the right training and race day conditions, I believe it's achievable.

Some running / inspirational quotes I've come across recently:
Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you're young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don't let worn-out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself. - John Bingham

Now bid me run, and I will strive will things impossible. - William Shakespeare

The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life. - George Sheehan

Running isn't the only activity that can draw the best out of you - anything you are passionate about will do the same. I hope you let those things you love guide you forward.


The Fault In Our Stars

I went and saw "The Fault In Our Stars" last Friday. This was a last minute, serendipitous outing - my son and his friends made plans to "go to the movies" and I assumed they were going to see "Transformers" (a group of teen boys - seemed logical to me). An hour before the movie's start, I learned they planned to see "The Fault in Our Stars", so I decided to join them and friend Jill, who was the evening's chauffeur.

Of course, Jill and I sat far away from our sons, and thus started the biggest cry-fest of my movie-going career. Wow, I could have gone through an entire box of tissues...[Instead, I found myself wishing I picked up more napkins from the snack bar]. Words cannot describe the gamut of emotions that coursed through my brain, heart and soul. And I was glad to have experienced it. The movie made me think and ponder - what actions I would take if I were faced with the inevitability of a young death? I would certainly take more risks, speak my mind more, after all what would you have to lose? But why should our actions be any different because of our "normal" lives? Aren't all of our days numbered? What should I be doing differently, right now? Something to think about.

I subsequently found the movie's soundtrack, downloaded it and cried some more. The title track, All of the Stars by Ed Sheeran is simply beautiful, haunting and heartbreaking. The official video features inspirational sayings that compliment the song.

Because I'm a glutton for punishment, I am considering reading the book now, just to take in the wonderful prose and yes, to cry some more....

It's just another night and I'm staring at the moon
I saw a shooting star and thought of you
I sang a lullaby by the waterside and knew
If you were here, I'd sing to you

You're on the other side
As the skyline splits in two
Miles away from seeing you

But I can see the stars from America
I wonder, do you see them too?

So open your eyes and see
The way our horizons meet
And all of the lights will lead
Into the night with me
And I know these scars will bleed
But both of our hearts believe
All of these stars will guide us home

I can hear your heart on the radio beat
They're playing "Chasing Cars" and I thought of us
Back to the time you were lying next to me
I looked across and fell in love

So I took your hand
Back through lamp-lit streets and knew
Everything led back to you

So can you see the stars over Amsterdam?
Hear the song my heart is beating to

So open your eyes and see
The way our horizons meet
And all of the lights will leave
Into the night with me
And I know these scars will bleed
But both of our hearts believe
All of these stars will guide us home

And oh
And oh
And oh whoa
I can see the stars from America

If you don't mind crying during a movie, I recommend seeing it. You'll remember what it was like to fall in love again, that fear should not transcend action, and even amidst a season of loss, life goes on.


July 2014 Desktop Calendar - Free Download - Roatan, Honduras

This month's desktop calendar comes from the island of Roatan, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras. We visited the port of Coxen Hole during a cruise three summers ago. Located near the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean and second only to the Great Barrier Reef, visitors can experience amazing snorkeling and scuba diving adventures. During our day's visit, we had fun zip lining in the rain forest.

To Download the above file, click on this link at --> July 2014 Calendar - Roatan Honduras



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