When you walk into someone's home with a video camera, there's an instant level of trust that I do not take for granted.
You can help write these families stories too... by helping them find a cure.
One book every week. That was the challenge I set for myself on this day last year for my 28th birthday.
I walked off the plane today at Reagan National Airport and adjusted my baseball cap a little lower over my eyes. With minimal make-up, jeans and just a few hours of sleep, I was hoping to walk out of the terminal with very little eye contact with anyone.
I got as far as the first food kiosk before a man hollered my name, "Hey, Ellen!"
When I turned toward him (very self conscious of the fact that my short hair was spilling out in awkward places under my hat), he seemed to instantly realize I wasn't ready for any attention. So he leaned toward me instead and quietly said, "I love watching you on Channel 9!"
We smiled at each other, I gave him a very sincere "thank you" and we went our separate ways.
(Inserting the clip just in case you somehow haven't seen this movie as many times as I have. Go to :20 seconds into it.)
These last four months of trips and vacation time have been a blast. But am I ever glad to be home and ready to get back to a normal routine.
Doesn't it seem like summer always ends up this way? The packed calendars of reunions, weddings, showers, concerts, festivals and parties (plus the hot weather) makes this my favorite time of year.
But the best part might be all of this constant activity forcing you to live in the moment. Otherwise, it's all too overwhelming.
When April started, I looked ahead at the next 16 weeks and slightly panicked. My calendar was crammed. So I hung a quote on my bathroom wall to focus day-to-day instead.
One day at a time - this is enough... Live in the present and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering." - Ida Scott Taylor
I will tell you what, it worked. I'm sitting here at the end of a four month vacation marathon - and I don't regret a single day. Living in the moment, reconnecting with nearly everyone who made me who I am today - that's what made these last four months special.
Did I miss all of the latest updates on social media? Yes. Have I all but abandoned this blog? Yes.
But stepping out of the digital world to live in the actual one was more than worth it. Plus, I'm making up my blogging hiatus to you now, with a recap photo gallery below.
To my family and friends who made this spring and summer so memorable - thank you! As we said at our high school reunion last night, let's not wait too long before we get together again.
Every day for the last 17 years has been building to today - or so I've always thought.
17 years ago today, my 17-year-old sister Christina was struck by lightning while working on a golf course. In that moment, Christina went from deciding what college to attend... to fighting for her life.
Christina won that fight, but would never go back to the path she was walking down before June 13, 2000. In fact, her ability to walk, talk and control nearly all of her muscles would be taken from her completely that day.
I can guarantee Christina isn't sitting at home today dwelling on the "what if" scenarios. What if she hadn't walked outside after the storm? What if our family hadn't come home from vacation one day early to even be in town on June 13th at all?
Since the day she was struck, Christina seems to only focus on the future, on getting better one day at a time.
How many of us plan out our futures in our minds? We make vision boards and set goals for five, 10 and 20 years down the road. We hold onto those dreams - and the second they look cloudy, we panic and tighten our grip on them.
Worse yet, we create those hysterics just for a slight bend in the path - not a radically different path all together.
Not long after Christina was struck, Dad hung up a sign that said...
The hardest part about moving forward is not looking back."
As a family, we've all tried to embrace that quote. But no one is better at executing it than Christina.
Christina's life would have made an impact on people no matter what happened on June 13, 2000. She was bright, driven and would have left her mark on this world.
I suppose that's why today feels like every other day for the last 17 years. It's the life Christina has embraced and is living to the fullest.
Life isn't perfect. You might run into a detour sign on the path you're traveling. Scratch that. You WILL run into a detour sign. But it's not about the detour, it's about how you respond to the detour.
My running philosophy is to just finish the run. I don't time myself, I don't do sprints... I just run.
Honestly, for most of my life, I've dreaded running. It was never my chosen form of exercise. But that changed when my dog Crosby came around and we needed an outlet for his energy.
On the flip side, if I am not feeling my music that day - I will jog one mile, turn around and walk back.
I am also careful not to push myself too hard on a run because the second I start to aim for a certain time or get my heart rate into a specific zone - running loses the stress relief affect for me and I start to dread it again.
Which is why I also avoided interval training. Until now. I've found a song that is brilliant for pushing myself just enough on a run, while keeping the stress relief factor intact.
It's not your typical running song for sure. But it works for me, so maybe it will work for you too. The key to making this work is to just run to the beat.
Let me know if you try it and it works for you too. Even if it doesn't work for your intervals, it's a great song period. Happy running!
On this Memorial Day Weekend Eve, what are you most looking forward to this holiday weekend? Time with family? BBQ lunches? Sitting in traffic?
It’s the latter, isn’t it? I bet you just can’t wait to throw your hair in a ponytail, pack your bags and then sit on interstate for endless hours of bumper to bumper traffic.
Here’s what I should have told Andrea and Brett when we were deciding what time to leave D.C. for the Midwest:
Here’s my hope for tomorrow: traffic doesn’t follow the traditional Memorial Day patterns.
Do I have some inside research or knowledge that it won’t? Nope. In fact, the AAA report makes it sound like this will be a very popular travel weekend. But until I’m sitting in gridlock traffic, I will hold onto hope that AAA is off this year and people have decided to grill out in their own backyards instead.
Good luck to all of you fellow travelers! Be safe.
If you are waiting to start something until you think you're "ready," you're going to be waiting a long time.
It's a fitting name for this particular group of women. They're fierce in entrepreneurial spirit and have thousands of social media followers backing their fashion brands.
My favorite part about my company is they give us a "big picture" direction and then leave the creative details up to us. I love that I can make this blog my own, but so far, I've been feeling like an imposture without a starting point.
Then throw me into a room at the "Strong Women in Fashion" with women where my social media following and blogging experience is just a drop in their bucket - and watch my confidence shrink even more.
I'll tell you though, this group of women started laying the bricks for my blogging confidence foundation.
Ironically this is the same advice an author once gave me in middle school. She said, "If you want to be an author, you must write, write, write and read, read, read."
Look, in life, we're never completely ready to start something new. Too many people let the fear of a new challenge stop them before they ever start.
Today is the day to jump in both feet first. You can't wait for tomorrow anymore.
I have a problem.
It happens in the grocery store frozen food aisle. See, my cart gets stuck in front of the frozen yogurt section. It get stuck. Seriously! The only way to get the cart moving again is by throwing a package of yogurt bars into the cart.
For two years now, this has been my routine. I love yogurt bars, two brands in particular, but I'm an "all are welcome" kind of yogurt bar eater. If it's in the freezer sections, I've probably tried it.
Here's the other non-revolutionary fact about making homemade frozen yogurt bars. The types of fruit are very flexible. I'm even planning on trying to replicate my favorite coffee chocolate chip yogurt bars next.
If you try them, let me know! I would love to see your photos and recipes.
Encouraging more women to become CEOs, teaching women how to invest their money... Own It by Sallie Krawcheck examines many important topics. But to me, the most gripping sentence in her book was this one:
Research indeed shows that one of the most important relationships in determining a woman's success in the workplace is the one with her father; his support gives her confidence." - Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest
(I've personally loved having all sisters because I think it erased any boy/girl division in our house. We were side-by-side with dad taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, building houses for Bryan Building Corporation... Plus, who can forget dad declaring we had to catch the softball 1,000 times in a row before we went in for supper?)
My parents built in us a "can do" attitude, regardless of whether you're male or female, especially when it comes to our careers. They instilled in both my sister, Andrea, and me the courage to move to new cities and chase our dreams.
That might not sound impressive unless you know the hours I've worked in the news business. In Kentucky, those calls were after midnight - he still answered. In Texas and now D.C., those calls are around noon - he still picks up the phone.
I realize this post is more appropriate for Father's Day, but an email at work today reminded me of this quote from Sallie Krawcheck, and suddenly this blog started writing itself in my mind.
Yes, my father's belief in me has been instrumental in life.
Then mix that fact with one of my many favorite lines from Tim Russert's book Big Russ and Me:
There's nothing worse than disappointing your parents, and nothing better than making them proud."
So now you have child who wants to make her/his parents proud, plus parents who fully support her...? That's a recipe for success.
I thought I knew what I was getting into with this story. When I called the organizers of Together We Bake, I imagined going to shoot video of women baking and exchanging tips on how to make the best chocolate chip cookie.
Sure, I knew this story also had a serious side: women coming straight from prison or homelessness to this bake shop in Alexandria looking for a second chance at life. But I never anticipated just how honest these woman would be with me or the tears they would shed during the interview.
Up to this point in the interview, they hadn’t told me anything I didn’t expect to hear, especially since most of what they told me I had also read online in research.
Colida was just as honest when she told me about her felony embezzlement charge that happened years ago. When I asked if she was the same person today that she was five years ago, Colida said, “No, no. Not at all.”
The problem for these women is that no matter how much they change, their pasts never will.
While learning to bake for a living, these women started a friendship with an unspoken pact: to push each other to move forward and never look back.
For more information on Together We Bake, visit their website: https://new.togetherwebake.org/
Also, on Wednesday, April 5th, they will be selling their baked goods at Port City Brewing in Alexandria for Spring2ACTion Day.
From my TV high heels, to the baseball cap I wear nearly everywhere else... I'm finding my voice in this blogging world.
"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson