Up a really big creek without a paddle…

I do not even know where to begin with this one. I’ve spent the last few days processing everything that happened in the half hour period it took to complete this challenge and I can honestly say I have never experienced anything like this in my life. I am sorry this post is WAY late. I’ve been traveling for my first event with my new job and didn’t anticipate the lack of Wi-Fi and free time I’d run into.

Challenge #24:

“Complete the Great Ohio River Swim on September 29th, 2013.” – from Bill Keating, Jr.

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The Keatings and the Haydens have a multi-generational history of friendship between our families, and while I will go into greater detail in a few weeks, I will give you a brief background now.  He’s just one of those genuinely good people and has subsequently raised his children to be equally genuinely good people. He has a little project of his own that arrives in my email inbox every morning. After turning off my alarm, I start each day with Mr. Keating’s Thought of the Day email, which has actually grown into an incredibly long list of email recipients.  It now reaches well over 14,000 people. His emails provide me with little tidbits of inspiration every morning before I start my day. Sometimes they are irrelevant to me, but still positive and thought-provoking. Other times they are exactly what I need to hear to motivate me to tackle certain obstacles in my life. The point is, I have come to rely on them every morning. And even though my parents know that I subscribe, they continue to forward the important ones my way – so on extra special occasions, I receive 3 thoughts of the day…

Mr. Keating also has two daughters. Liz, who is a good friend of mine, and Caroline, who was the inspiration for Learning to Hit the Curve. She completed a challenge project of her own awhile back called the Caroline Challenge. Inspired by what I saw her do, I asked to spin off of her idea and create this weekly adventure you all have come to know.

So the Great Ohio River Swim is an event put on by the Cincinnati Triathalon group and for some reason, 200 plus idiots decide to swim across the Ohio River at the crack of dawn on a random Sunday in September. Super exciting, right? ….right?

There are several reasons why this adventure was completely, utterly, undeniably the worst thing I will have to do in these 52 weeks and, quite possibly, my lifetime.

1) Um. It’s in the Ohio River. At the end of the summer. In the middle of the city. Where boats have been cruising up and down the shore line pretty consistently for the last 130 days, not to mention the year-round barge traffic and variety of other items, critters, bacteria, etc. lurking beneath the surface.

Well. Actually that pretty much sums it up. IT’S DISGUSTING.

So here’s the deal.  I have swum competitively since I was about 5 or 6 for my country club, the Anderson Barracudas and in High School for St. Ursula Academy. I wouldn’t say I was ever like Olympian-potential, but I really enjoyed it. The camaraderie of a swim team is different than any other sport. Well, any other sport that I have played. I’d guess gymnastics, track and field or tennis are fairly similar. Your events are mostly individual, but you spend a LOT of downtime at meets just hanging out, your scores affect the success of the entire team and the competition is really with yourself to beat your own times.


As you can see, I’ve maintained my girlish figure…and the hand on the hip…


All the cool kids wear a pin with their own face on it…all of them.


I had every intention of spending this summer in training for this event and for next week’s challenge, as well. If anything, I’d say I untrained.  I did the exact opposite of what I intended to do and was in absolutely no way, under any circumstances, physically prepared for this.  Worse than the physical was the mental. I’d taken walks down by the river to kind of psych myself up for it. All it did was freak me out. Then I started reading. Reading about swimming in open water. Reading about rivers. Reading about the Ohio River.

Then Shark Week happened and I found out sharks can survive in fresh water beause they have a gland in their bodies that puts saline into the water that makes it seem like salt water enabling them to thrive in rivers, lakes and streams. What.

While researching whether or not this was accurate I came across several stories of people dying from acquiring flesh eating bacteria while swimming in freshwater. Then I read about an amoeba that gets sucked up through your nose when swimming/breathing and eats away at your brain because that is its first source of nutrients it meets upon entering your body. You don’t know you have it until 2 days later when you’re a vegetable on life support and it’s too late to save you. THIS REALLY HAPPENS!!!!

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The overactive imagination I was blessed with has taken me to some really incredible places. Design school, acting camps, imaginary wonderlands as a child. And now, imminent death in the Ohio River. I couldn’t shake it. I discussed this with Liz who decided to get us nose plugs for the adventure.

So first, the fun part of this weekend… A couple of months ago I was talking to some friends at a dinner party about my blog. My friend Kenneth found this particular challenge so grotesque that he felt I deserved a reward. MidPoint Music Festival was this weekend and, well, you all know how much I dig music festivals…He hooked me up with two VIP passes to the festival and I bopped around taking in the sights and sounds with friends on Friday. The Head and the Heart performed in Washington Park and it was AMAZING!!! We caught the show from the VIP area and back stage.

For those that are into indie bands, MPMF is a fabulous opportunity to check out some new acts – both local and from afar- in one small radius. A bunch of local bars open their stages to these performances, drawing in a wide variety of concert-goers. There is an area called Midway that aims to tap into other areas of artistic expression. The street is lined with yellow box trucks and inside each one is a different activity. There is a poetry truck where they have set up tables and couches much like a living room. A group of writers patiently await your entrance to the truck so that they may converse with you briefly, pull some creative inspiration and draft a lyrical masterpiece for you to retrieve 15 minutes later. Naturally, I was intrigued.

I climbed the steps and entered the truck. I met a lovely man named Ben and we sat down to talk. He asked me what some of my interests were and I mentioned photography, writing, cooking – the usual things that pop into my mind like I’m writing a personal ad. Then I told him about Learning to Hit the Curve and he thought that was super cool. We also talked about my volunteering and stuff. Another writer on the couch adjacent to us (who actually wrote my friend Blair’s poem) chimed in and said, “Haha how do you feel about world hunger?” We had a chuckle. He asked what I hoped to achieve from this poem and I said that I wanted it to be “both hilarious and inspirational” and left him to his creative process.

Some of the other box trucks featured “decorate your own koozie” projects, some sort of fine arts creative outlet or photo booths. We took in a show and returned to retrieve my poem from its clothesline.

It read:

“How do you feel about world hunger?
I would like this poem to be both inspirational and hilarious. Nailed it.”

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Well. Who can top that!? I was very excited with my results. This pretty much summed up our interaction perfectly. Good job, Ben. We called it a fairly early night because I didn’t want to be tired. Same thing the next night, as well. Had SUCH A great time!! THANKS KW!!!!


Back to the swim…

I remember I started swimming for the Anderson Barracudas in elementary school and I was beyond thrilled when they’d bribe us with pizza parties and candy treats for goals met and jobs well done. My mother had a fundamental issue with this, but who cares. TREATS! I recognize these same instincts in my cousin, Bella, as she begins her own competitive swimming career. I asked her if she’d like to swim with me and received an immediate, “NO.” Regardless of my bargaining techniques, the child relentlessly declined my offer. It worked out in the end because she’s only 9 and was unfortunately too young to participate in the GORS with us.

So Liz has purchased nose plugs. Mr. Keating has purchased ear plugs. My father has let me listen to his voicemail from Mr. Keating – sharing bits of advice from his prior experience with the GORS. I have rented a wetsuit (not sure that’s any better) to protect me from the elements (and critters) in the river. Turns out you can’t wear them…I am still nervous as all hell. There is really no other way to describe it. My intention was to spend the summer training for this event and for my next challenge coming up. Incidentally, I actually un-trained. I did the exact opposite of what I’d intended. I have been living it up and now immediately regret that decision.  Saturday night I went to bed at a decent hour since I had to be at the Public Landing at 7:15 Sunday morning.

So I went to bed, got very little sleep as I tossed and turned restlessly while visions of horrible river amoeba and school-bus sized fish crossed through my mind. Eventually I laid out my stuff for the race, took two Benadryl and knocked myself out so I could get just a little bit of sleep before the big race.

I woke up and it was still dark. Unmotivated and incredibly unexcited for the morning ahead of me, I changed and dragged myself to the car. Upon exiting my garage I realized that the sun was just starting to come up and it was incredibly beautiful. I haven’t caught a sunrise in a long time and this did not disappoint. It made me feel a little bit better about the day. Funny how looking at something pretty just relaxes me.

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I immediately called Liz to see where she and her Dad were. I then discovered the line about 200 people long. Now, logistically, this event is not that complicated. It’s been going on for several years. People sign up, people jump in, people swim, it’s over.  What is the point of having me pre-register online if you’re just going to make me stand in this line again? I had brought with me some lovely iridescent goggles and a gold swim cap to match. Much to my disappointment, I was forced to wear the swim cap they had provided for me. It was yellow and did not go with my outfit as I had intended.  Yes. I coordinated my goggles and my swim cap for the Great Ohio River Swim. Do you expect anything less of me? I didn’t think so.  They also wrote my contestant number REALLY large in Sharpie on my arm. I also wore my GoPro camera on my head for the swim in hopes of getting some good shots of the whole event. I have some editing to do and will add it eventually, but I have been busy with work (!!) and must regrettably inform you that it is not finished yet. However, upon reviewing the footage, I had to relive what happened. I’m not sure if it was harder to watch or actually experience.

Dad and I before the race!

Dad and I before the race!

Father daughter duos before the race!

Father daughter duos before the race!

Me and Mr. Keating before the race!

Me and Mr. Keating before the race!

So we finally got through the line after the sheer brilliance of breaking it into two groups finally occurred to the people running the event. My dad and I are using this as part of his challenge to me so the winner of this was crucial. He received approval from his doctor, after receiving a hip replacement just over a month ago, and agreed to do the swim with me! We headed down to the serpentine wall where we would be pushing off from. By this point, my support crew was in full force. My best friend Christy, cousin Jenny and her daughter Bella, my Aunt Tessie and Aunt Debbie and my Mom were all there to cheer me on. Aunt Tessie was vital in calming me down as I had entered full on irritability and panic mode.

I must also commend my mother on her unwavering patience with me. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, whenever I find myself in high-pressure situations, my mother seems to receive the full brunt of my anxiety, anger, stress, whatever it may be. She takes it in stride and handles it like a champ, though there is no reason she should have to put up with it. I love you and am forever grateful for this, Mom. And I will apologize until the end of time. While it may not always seem like it, you keep me grounded.

My Dad was sitting on the steps looking out at the water so I went down for a quick father-daughter pep talk – he’s great at those! He and Mr. Keating got ready and hopped into the water. Liz and I would start two minutes after the men. They blew a whistle and off they went. I headed down to the water and had to talk myself into jumping in. In the midst of screaming I kinda just threw myself in. And then flailed about trying to scare off any potential creature that might be lurking beneath the surface. I was trying to prepare myself when all of a sudden people started swimming. This was it. I checked the GoPro and pushed off.

About 2 minutes in the worst thing I have ever experienced in my life happened. I somehow took on a huge mouth full, nose-full and lung-full of water. The amoeba immediately entered my mind and I was completely paralyzed with fear. I had an asthma attack which led to an all-out panic attack. Like dangling in the water, screaming for help, couldn’t move panic attack. I honestly thought this was the end. I was going to drown in the Ohio River. That is how unbelievably terrified I was.

A woman blew her little whistle and came over to me in her kayak. She instructed me to climb on the back so they could take me back in. Holy cow I’m having shortness of breath just thinking about this moment again. I informed her that I had to keep going and that stopping was not an option. I cried, I swore, I freaked out.  I asked if she would stay with me the whole way and she told me she couldn’t, but then called someone else over to paddle alongside me the remainder for the swim.



Flailing about...

Flailing about…

Me and Chris before the race

Me and Chris before the race

This is where Dave comes in. Dave saved my life. Dave was the man in the metal canoe that stayed with me the entire remainder of the race. He was there when I needed a minute to breathe or encouragement. I never regained my breath for the rest of the race. The next 20 minutes felt like the most miserable eternity in all the land. At one point I thought I lost him. I began to panic again…when I heard a reassuring “I’m right here, Katie!” and all was right again. I am not sure if Dave knows what an important part of that experience he was for me, but he literally saved my life and made it possible for me to accomplish something I never dreamed I would.


That man it that little cowboy hat in the kayak saved my life. Thanks, Dave. I owe ya one.

I continued on, face up out of the water for the remainder of the race, around the green buoy on the Kentucky side and headed back north to the Ohio riverbank.  I flipped over and started doing backstroke. This took the strain off my neck from holding my head out of the water and allowed me to relax. I watched the clouds and mentally coached myself the rest of the way. I used the Bridge as a gage to make sure I stayed straight. I realized I was getting close and rolled over onto my stomach. I was almost there.

I looked up to Dave and said, “Thanks Dave!! Couldn’t have done it without you!” He returned the gesture with a smile and a big thumbs up and I kicked my way into the shore. I started to hear the cheers of the crowd and suddenly felt incredibly motivated. I gave it everything I had left to beat two other women into the shore, but didn’t make it across the finish line on land before they did. I climbed out of the water, ripped off my cap and camera and pushed myself across the finish line where I immediately collapsed to the ground. I was shaking and breathless.  I thought for sure I was last and that feeling sucked a lot. Then I looked up. There were still like 30 people in the water coming behind me. Though I had not fully regained my ability to breathe, that made me feel incredible. I almost drowned and I still wasn’t last. Awesome.

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Christy sat down beside me to congratulate me and bring me down to center. I sat there staring at the water and the people that continued to come in. And then I started crying. I was crying because I was happy it was over, terrified from what I had just experienced and proud of myself for continuing even though I didn’t think I could do it. And she just sat there with me, talking me through it.  She and I lived together for three years and, during this time period, she developed the ability to tolerate my crap and bring me back down to level, much like my mother does. She knows exactly what I need when I’m in a tizzy and sits quietly with me until I regain my composure. I think having her by my side is the only thing that fully helped me catch my breath. Love you, Chris. Thank you so much for getting up early and coming to cheer me on.

Liz joined me as well.  They gave me water and as I drank it my hands shook violently, making it difficult to get the bottle to my mouth.  I kept replaying the moment where I flailed about over and over in my mind. I survived and I honestly thought I never would. The rest of my family congratulated me and told me how proud they were. Aunt Debbie was totally jazzed and that really helped a lot. I saw her hop up and down and clap her hands and it made me smile, something I desperately needed. I feel terrible because Mr. Keating came over to congratulate me and all I could think was that I had literally almost died. Sure, I’ve had that fear before, but I have never ACTUALLY narrowly avoided drowning.  That keeps crossing my mind and keeps shaking me. I’m very proud of what I accomplished and I’m still very surprised I did it.

In the end, all of the gross things that were freaking me out were the least of my worries. I saw not one single other life form while I was in the river. Hell, I couldn’t see anything at all. Not even my own hand a foot in front of me. The water was a “lovely shade of brown.” The problem here is that no amount of preparation could have made me comfortable with this challenge. It is literally the hardest and scariest thing I have EVER DONE IN MY LIFE.  I watched the footage to decide whether or not I should add it to the blog.  Upon reviewing the footage, I had to relive what happened. I’m not sure if it was harder to watch or actually experience. The shortness of breath, the panic, the feelings I experienced during that moment of sheer panic when I couldn’t breathe – couldn’t move, dangling helplessly in the middle of the Ohio Freaking River. I never want to know that feeling again. When I watched it, it all came back.

I haven’t been that uncomfortable or scared in a long time. That just made me realize something. I am actually sitting on my plane on my way to my first event in Philadelphia for my new job and it just occurred to me how much more comfortable I was when I was literally about to jump out of a plane a couple of weeks ago than I am at this particular moment.  As we cruise through some cumulus clouds, causing the plane to jerk with turbulence, I grip the arm rests, stiffen up into the back of my chair and search for the reassuring smile of the flight attendant. This smile is usually accompanied with an extra package of biscoff cookies…I have no shame. They’re delicious.  I was in a place of total peace right before I cruised at 120 miles per hour toward the ground. Right now, same altitude, no comfort. Swimming – something I am more than familiar with – total panic.   I wonder what this says about me…

Mr. Keating with his fellow Bearcat Alumni!

Mr. Keating with his fellow Bearcat Alumni!

Mr. Keating and I at the Finish line!

Mr. Keating and I at the Finish line!

I went home and took three showers and a fabulous bubble bath to reward myself (and relax after tumultuous morning) and still didn’t feel clean, though the river authorities SWORE we could drink the water…not buying it.


Mr. Keating, I must thank you for extending this challenge to me. While I hated almost every last second of it, it pushed me to the limits. It was easily the most difficult, most trying and most thought provoking challenge I’ll complete this year.  Thank you for participating with me. And finally, thank you for providing me with your daily bits of inspiration. They are the absolute best way to start my day.

(If you’d like to be added to this list let me know and I’ll tell you how to get in touch with him.)

Here are the race results:

The times came in and Mr. Keating beat Liz and my Dad beat me. We now owe them breakfast and breakfast dessert, per our usual tradition.

Bill Keating, Jr. 8th place overall, first in his age group. 12.40.8

Caroline Keating, 14.06.9

Liz Keating, 14.46.6

John Hayden, 22.24.2

Katie Hayden, 22.35.8

I may have lost amongst the five of us, but I’m just thrilled I wasn’t the last person in the river… Although, Dad, I did have that whole near-drowning incident which I’d guess took up AT LEAST a minute of my time. I’m gonna say I beat you. Rematch? In a chlorinated POOL?

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?


I’ve been nervously awaiting this week’s challenge for quite awhile, not entirely sure whether I’d be able to complete it. I instead found it to be surprisingly refreshing and liberating!

Challenge #23:

NO SOCIAL MEDIA FOR A WEEK!” – from Nadyne Hayden

Nadyne is one of the many delightful cousins I was blessed with on the Hayden side of the family. She is a few years younger than me, but we spent a lot of time together growing up. She is notorious for giving hugs and loves the entire world. She’s just one of those genuinely good people and I absolutely adore her. She also just recently made a career change and has entered the wonderful world of Brand Building with LPK! Congrats, babe!!


Her intentions with this challenge were to make me focus on more purposeful communication, more phone calls, more one-on-one interaction. During my time of unemployment, a lot of my outside interaction took place via social media. While all of you lovely people were working you little hearts out from nine to five, I was usually doing stuff by myself. That’s actually one of the reasons I started this whole blog in the first place. I came to depend a lot on social media for communication with the outside world.

1) I keep up with what people are doing. I have friends that are now spread all around the world and Facebook is one of those convenient little things that keeps me in touch with them. It has reconnected me with childhood camp friends, friends made on vacations and friends of friends met in passing whom I simply adore. It also provides me with the every day musings of one Ms. Haley Elkins who cracks me up on the regular. I need that.

2) Any important happenings in the world come to me via Facebook and Twitter.  (I don’t watch the news as I find it incredibly depressing. If it’s big enough and important enough, (or funny enough) it finds its way to me via social media.)

3) I keep track of pictures. – My iPhoto is a disaster and I can never find anything. On Facebook and Instagram, I always know right where they are.

4) When I encounter something I find amusing, important, celebratory, etc., I share it. In case you haven’t realized through this blog, I’m kind of an open book. I share a lot of things.

5) It entertains me. Specifically, I F*cking Love Science.  While it seems offensive, it teaches me so many fabulously amazing things. I smiled proudly when the world found out the mastermind behind this Facebook Page was a woman. Shock and Awe in nerdland.

6) Don’t act like you don’t use it more than you should…

The problem is I became too attached to these methods of communication. My iPhone became an additional appendage to my body. Nadyne, since she is so perceptive, noticed this and decided it was time for an intervention. So, with that, we decided that at 7:00 PM last Wednesday, I would cease to exist on the Good Book, Instagram, Pinterest, FourSquare, WordPress, etc. for 7 days. As I knew I could not be trusted, I gave her all of my passwords so that she could lock me out of the interwebs.

Day 1: I began with one last check-in to get my nails done with Megan at Nailtique.

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Ugggh this pains me because I just now noticed the typo.  (I cannot STAND typos. Which reminds me…I’m looking for an editor…email me if you’d like to apply. The gig pays in hugs and first glance at the blog before anyone else gets to see it…lucky dog.)

Between the hours of 7:00 PM and 11:45, I tried to pull up Facebook 19 times, by subconsciously clicking on the little blue icon in my Social Media folder on my phone. Only to be met with this lovely blue screen. I kept a tally to get a real evaluation of how addicted I really am to Social Media. Gaaaaaaah.


I also discovered how many things I have linked to my Facebook. Sorry Aunts Tessie, Debbie and Ann, as well as the many other Words With Friends game opponents that fell by the wayside this week… It wouldn’t let me play because it said my Facebook password was wrong and I couldn’t change it because Nadyne locked it. In retrospect, that was probably a form of social media, as well.

Day 2:

I usually start my day by turning off my alarm and browsing my news feed and my twitter feed to see what’s happening in the world. This was not possible. Instead, I watched the news. Mistake. Mistake. Mistake. Not only did I have NO idea what was happening, it ruined my good morning mood.

On Thursday, I would have normally checked in at several places I visited, specifically bookclub at The Banks, which is really just Wine Club when you haven’t read the book…sorry, Jenna. For those that are in book clubs, you may find this amusing. I was not permitted to pull it up on my phone, but was shown it via another person. That’s not cheating. I was helpless.

After book club, I practiced doing Jenna’s hair for a wedding on Saturday. This is normally something I’d have Instagrammed, because well, I know how you are all dyyyying to see what I do with my every waking moment.

Lovely retro waves!

Trial run on Jenna's retro waves! Gorge.

Trial run on Jenna’s retro waves! Gorge.

I tried to pull up Facebook 24 times today, Instagram 3 times and Twitter 4. Yikes.

Day 3:

I was greeted with an email along side my alarm. Cruel torture. Every morning for the rest of the week. Gaaah.

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This was the hardest day. I had a job interview. My 4th interview with this company to be exact. Two of my would-be teammates took me out to lunch to get to know one another on a non-interview level. I was informally offered the position and walking on cloud nine. And I couldn’t tell anyone.

A few members of the family and close friends received excited phone calls and text messages so I got to celebrate. However, this has been a relatively public job search for me and I wanted to tell all that have helped me of the exciting news. Megan and Nadyne offered to update their status with the news and tag me, but I decided that’d be cheating and resisted the urge. SO HORRRAAAAAAY!!!! I HAVE A JOB!!!!!!!!!

I am the new Director of Events for Prolanthropy, a for-profit company that manages the foundations for professional athletes. I start TOMORROW and my first event is in Philadelphia on the 3rd. I am beyond thrilled to be turning two of my greatest passions into a career – philanthropy and event planning. I’m finally getting paid to do something I feel I was born to do and have been doing pro bono for most of my life.  I cannot wait to see what kinds of things we can accomplish and where this company is headed. It’s relatively young and the potential for growth is endless.

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I will be traveling a lot, which will make some of these challenges impossible to complete, but I vow to stick with this to the very best of my abilities. It has become one of the most amazing adventures I’ve ever been on and giving it up would be very disheartening.

I had the pleasure of hearing an extremely impressive speech given by my cousin Tanner as he campaigned for Student Council President at Mercer Elementary. That kid never ceases to impress me. It was better then most speeches I’ve heard from actual US Presidential candidates. I then had a lovely celebratory dinner and headed down to the Moerlein Uberdrome for Oktoberfest Zinzinnati with the Pottschmidts. Another collection of items I’d have LOVED to have instagrammed…


Jenna’s lederhosen she worse as a 12 year old. Yes. That’s right. 12.


Tanner speaking so eloquently and purposefully. You deserved it, bud.


Me and Dirty Wally, Jenna’s dad at Oktoberfest!


JPo and Natalie in the Uberdrome!


I tried to pull up Facebook 11 times today.

Day 4:

Saturday. The rest of the world joins me in my permanent case of Saturdays. The temptation was there, but I actually did pretty well today. At this point, I’d seen the blue screen enough times to have almost broken the habit. I ran some errands and managed to almost completely detach myself from my phone until the late afternoon. I think the carpal tunnel is healing. I did Jenna’s hair for the wedding and sent her on her way. I did a better job on Thursday so I’m sorta bummed that wasn’t the day that counted, but she still looked beautiful!


We went out to Oktoberfest, El Coyote and Scene that night. I took far less pictures than I usually do. I also found that I was much more attentive. I wasn’t constantly reaching for my phone to look things up or figure out where people were. I actually found that I really enjoyed being disconnected from technology and enjoying the company of those around me. I must admit, it was pretty superb company!  Latergrams from the evening:

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And I only took one dumb picture of the sky. And I was immediately called out on it.


I tried to pull up Facebook 4 times today.

Day 5:

I had a baby shower in the morning for my friend Michelle that I used to work with. I hadn’t seen her in so long and it was great catching up! (I’M SO EXCITED FOR YOU GUYS!!!!)

Me and the happy Mama-to-Be!

Me and the happy Mama-to-Be!

Cleaned up in the prize department. Baby shower games are my jam.

Cleaned up in the prize department. Baby shower games are my jam.

I went home to spend some time with my parents and made dinner that night. Mom was having her final surgery on Monday so I wanted to give her “one last meal!” (haha kidding!!) I like cooking for them and have thoroughly enjoyed actually having them in town so much lately.

I only tried to look at Facebook ONCE today!!!!!

I spent the day listening to music and observing things around me I hadn’t noticed before. Several things amused me and normally I’d have taken a picture and shared it on the Good Book, but I didn’t even feel the need.  I did however take a picture of the dinner I made because it was yummy. Although, the eggplant tasted a little weird to me. Dad seemed to enjoy it. Must be old tastebuds…

Roasted Eggplant with fresh basil and sage, Honey-Ginger Pork Tenderloin, Lemon-garlic brocolini, and mashed sweet potatoes with caramelized shallots.

Roasted Eggplant with fresh basil and sage, Honey-Ginger Pork Tenderloin, Lemon-garlic brocolini, and mashed sweet potatoes with caramelized shallots.

Day 6: NO FACEBOOK! Not even once!! I’m pretty proud of the progress I made. I can’t even remember what I did all day…but Beryl came over to watch the Suits finale and the New Girl premiere (talk about a let down…) that evening. Gus misses his friend. I made dinner and she brought dessert. Nice little Monday.


At this point, I think I have completely overcome my attachment to social media. I’ve had more person-to-person interaction this week than I have in a long time. I found myself seeking it out as I wasn’t being fulfilled by hearing everything from friends via FB/twitter/social media. It was glorious.

Day 7:

I had the opportunity to attend an incredible event, the Impact 100 Awards dinner, as the guest of the president, my friend Stacey’s mother-in-law, Sharon. For those of you that aren’t familiar, Impact 100 is a group of women that have come up with something super cool! Each member that joins contributes a $1000 membership fee. This is then pooled with all of the other members’ contributions and 100% of that dollar value is then divided up and given as grants to local nonprofits. There is an application process to be considered as a recipient of these grants and the five finalists spoke to the membership, who then voted and awarded the grants right there on the spot.  I immediately joined. I have never been a part of an organization where ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of your contribution goes directly to the agencies changing this community for the better. The grants were not awarded to the two agencies I would have appreciated, but they both went to worthy recipients.

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The finalists:

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I ran into my friend Tara who made an interesting comment, reminding me just how much I use Facebook. She said, “Ohhh! That’s right! You’re off social media this week! I was wondering why it felt like I hadn’t talked to you in forever…”

See!!! We all use it for updates on how people are doing! But this stuck out to me and I will use it as a little reminder to not let interpersonal connections go by the wayside just because someone’s news popped up in my news feed and I liked it!!


The day I get it all back. Last Wednesday I would have thought I’d be dying to log back in and update the world on all of these things that have happened to me this week. Right now I’m considering removing all of this because when I look back at it, none of it was really all that necessary to publicly share. This has given me a new found perspective on the kinds of things I update daily. I enjoy hearing about things my friends’ kids do, funny Buzzfeed links, interesting news articles, etc., but what quality information would my picture of the tree have brought to the recipients of my updates? Nothing. They can go outside and see how gorgeous it is for themselves. That being said, I do love taking pictures and will probably continue to do so, regardless of whether or not you like it.

I think to really test me I should have eliminated Google from my fingertips as well. As noted in my previous letter to Google, I use them dozens of times a day. I didn’t try to limit that at all, but because I was using my phone less, it in turn, limited itself. I did however play a loooooot of Candy Crush this week.

At 7:00, Nadyne informed me what my passwords were and I returned to the wonderful world of time-wasting…

When I finally logged back in I had 6 messages (which is fine because I really hate Facebook Chat…) and 173 notifications. Like um. WHAT!? How is that possible? I didn’t look at them all. If you said something important to me this week, I apologize. I also didn’t browse through what you had all been up to. Hope it was fun…

My return to social media post was this:

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I must admit, while the gauze was a little dramatic, I was by myself and I was grateful to share the misery of the moment with someone.  And I super love my newly reupholstered chairs and stools….

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Totally worth the injury…it does, however, put a damper on next week’s challenge. Looking for work arounds. Stay tuned!

Cheating Death

This week’s challenge is one I’ve been wanting to do for a VERY long time, but have never been able to force myself to do it. Finally, like many others, I’ve been given no choice. It’s go time.

Challenge #22:

SKYDIVING!!!!!!” – from Jamie Humes

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Jamie is a friend of the family that I met many, many years ago. Our fathers are both members of an organization called YPO and have our mothers were in Junior League together. They are great friends of the family. Jamie and I have grown close through our community involvement and many other activities. She’s a brilliant young woman that chases her dreams. This was numero uno on her bucket list so she went with me!

Jamie has tried to go skydiving multiple times, each time ending in cancellation due to weather. My first thought was, “Maybe this some sort of divine intervention and you’re not supposed to do it.” Her thought, this simply fueled the fire and made her want to do it more.

Let me preface this with a little story. When I was younger, maybe 8 or 9, my parents packed my family into a caravan and drove us around the country for 3 weeks in a big circle. We stopped at many popular tourist attractions, including the Cheyenne Rodeo, an Oregon Trail adventure and the St. Louis Arch. Upon arriving in St. Louis and being told we’d be riding in this little contraption (from my memory, much like the egg that Mork arrived in on Mork and Mindy) to take us to the top of the arch, I got a little excited. My family boarded our little carton and began the 630 foot climb to the top. And then we got stuck. For 2 hours. There were college kids singing songs either above or below us and my mother tried to entertain all of us with a crossword puzzle. This is the moment we discovered that I was claustrophobic. Eventually our little carton of hell started to move again and we finally made it to the top. Upon exiting the “elevator,” I ran out and took a look out the window looking down over the river, that had flooded everything in site. I immediately backed up to the exact center of the arch and refused to move until it was time to leave. This is when we discovered that I am afraid of heights. Big time.

So. Neither of these things make me a good candidate for riding up in a tiny airplane and launching myself into free-fall 13,000 feet from the ground. Regardless, I’ve always wanted to do this and test my fears. I expected more than one of these to end up on my challenge cards and was surprised, but delighted, when this was the only one I received.

We both talked with our parents about it and neither were particularly keen on the idea of us throwing ourselves out of a perfectly good airplane. I asked my parents if they’d like me to call them before or after the jump. They said both. Jamie and I scheduled our jump, accidentally, for Friday the 13th. We were filling out our paperwork upon arrival and I said “Jamie…do you know what day it is?” She replied, “The 13th!” and I said, “I know.” I’m pretty superstitious so this wasn’t exactly our brightest idea.

We went through the video and signed our life away. Do you have any idea what they have you sign at those places?! Basically, no matter what happens, plane failure, manufacturer defect in the suit/harness, what have you, you, your heirs, or anyone representing you is not permitted to sue under any circumstances. If you DO sue, you have to pay the court costs and all other fees endured of the company. That’s. Crazy.

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Signing my life away...

Signing my life away…


Jamie and I then headed over to the hanger where we proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait. And then we waited some more. Turns out you’re not allowed to jump through clouds. This was devastating for me because, for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to know what it felt like to go through a cloud. Big, fluffy, cumulus clouds.  I wanted to know if the Care Bears were on to something spectacular. Can you bounce around on them like big pillows of cotton candy? I mean physics tells me that no, that is not in fact possible. Looks like I’ll never know…


So we sat on the tarmac of the airport for 6 hours waiting for the cloud cover to dissipate. One group went up in the plane finally, only to return back to ground, disheartened that they could not jump. Several people did what’s called a Hop and Pop. This is at 5,000 elevation and you pull your chute the second you jump out of the plane.  I was freaking out for the better part of the day. Repeating “OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod” and “Holy Sh*t!” and “WHAT ARE WE DOING THIS IS CRAZY?!” I spoke with many of the instructors, made new friends, and asked as many questions as I could. Many of them do it for a full-time job. It’s tough because they get paid per jump and if you don’t jump due to weather, you’ve made no money that day. We talked to a guy named Gila and a guy named Lonnie. Lonnie was very helpful and positive. I kind of wish I’d requested to jump with him since he knew how nervous I was the day before.

During a conversation with Gila I had mentioned how scared I was on Friday. He said “Being scared is perfectly acceptable. It’s the people that aren’t scared that really freak me out. If you think about it, humans weren’t meant to fly. There is nothing normal about this.”  Totally stuck with me.

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I think this was actually truly beneficial to me because of the way the rest of this adventure pans out. It came down to like 5:00 and Jamie and I gazed out at the sky. We realized these clouds weren’t going anywhere and had to make a decision. We scheduled ourselves to come back at 5:00 the following day to give it another shot. At this point, Jamie has been turned down 3 times because of weather. I’m not feeling good about this fact. Feeling a little let down, we headed back to Cincinnati.

I woke up Saturday morning incredibly excited. The feelings were totally different. I was surprisingly comfortable with the idea of skydiving. I picked Jamie up and we headed back to Middletown (www.startskydiving.com) where we repeated many of the previous day’s steps. They called us just before we left to inform us they were running on a two-hour delay so we knew we weren’t in any real hurry.

I kept waiting to freak out. It never happened. My instructor’s name was Dave and my videographer’s name was Hannah. They were scheduled for a jump right before mine so they had to suit me up early. Jamie didn’t get pulled in for prep until at least 20 minutes after me. Thankfully, her videographer got some shots of us together. We both bought Rockstar packages to document every minute.

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As I sat there all suited up in my harness, I felt at peace. I kept telling Jamie that I was “cool as a cucumber,” waiting to freak out. It never happened. We sat and watched other jumpers deploy their chutes and float gracefully to the ground. It looked SO easy. I wished that my instructor had been there before the jump though. I would have liked to have gotten to know him a bit better and get comfortable with the fact that we would be strapped to one another while plummeting toward earth.  As most things go with me, this did not happen. It is so typical of this little adventure that I’m on.

Finally, at about 7:10, it was time to board the plane. We started to walk toward it and my stomach started doing flips. We hopped on and Dave was pretty quiet. I kept asking him questions and we discovered that his GoPro did not have an SD card in it. In retrospect, after having seen the footage, I wish we hadn’t located one. No one told me to “smile as big as you can otherwise your face flaps in the wind.” Lesson learned. I also didn’t know that you could remove your goggles after the free-fall. Bummed about that one.

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So Dave went through his safety checks and reminded me of what I was supposed to do. Left knee up, right knee down, hands on harness, head back, hold on until the double tap and let him do all the work. We reached our cruising altitude and scooted our way down the bench. The clear plastic door on our plane opened and I had my footing all wrong, per usual. I’m incredibly uncoordinated. I was so worried about being in the proper position that I forgot to look down. I’m sort of glad I did because moments later we were barrel rolling through the sky, flipping and turning at over 120 miles per hour. A slew of profanities flew out of my mouth and I edited them out of the video. I do apologize, but it didn’t feel right to show them.

The chute opened and honest to goodness it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life. Like a child, I pointed at the sun and gasped “Look at that!” The frustration we experienced the day before resulted in us jumping at sunset. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. You all know how I feel about photography. I wish I’d had a camera up there. I could see for miles and the sky was filled with pinks, oranges, yellows, blues and purples with a bright golden sun in the center of it all. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Speaking of breathtaking, humans, as a second nature, tend to hold their breath in situations of stress or panic. I’m not sure I breathed at all during the 40 second free fall. It looks like I did in the video, but I can’t confirm.

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Dave had me control the chute at one point, and I wish I’d known that part was coming. I would have been better prepared and more eager to take the reigns. In Jamie’s video you see her steering it and I’m jealous I didn’t get to experience that feeling. I held myself back from it. I didn’t want a gust of wind to come knock the air out of my chute and send me straight to the ground. Next time. Dave steered us in a few little spirals and tilted us back and forth. I was content with that. The fact that we hadn’t conversed much made it difficult for me to fully trust him and put my life in his hands. Again, next time.

We landed and I have never been so full of OHMYGOD in my life. That’s the only way I can describe it. I was proud of myself for doing it. I was proud of myself for being so calm. I was shocked with myself for that, as well.  It was absolutely, without a doubt, the craziest experience I have ever had in my life. And I highly recommend it to everyone.  They asked me if I’d do it again. I said I would. Maybe not right away, but I would.

Jamie landed and we ran to each other across the field. After a big hug and shared excitement we marched back into the hanger, adrenaline rushing. I decided it’d be a good idea to call my parents and let them know I had landed.  It was cool to recap all of the feelings and emotions that I had just experienced. I’m so glad we didn’t get to go on Friday because there is no way I’d have traded that jump for anything in the world. Sadly, I fear the next time I go skydiving will never compare. Funny how things work out for you…

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So I edited mine and Jamie’s videos together so you could see both of our experiences. Without further ado: Katie and Jamie Rule the Sky.

Jamie, thank you for extending this adventure my way. It pushed me in ways I didn’t expect it to, conquered a huge fear of mine, checked off a huge goal of mine and you made the experience that much more enjoyable. I know it wasn’t as “smooth sailing” as we’d hoped it would be, but I’m glad we did it together! And I’m so very glad you finally got to go skydiving!!!!!!! You rock!!!

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My very first Bible Study…

This was quite possibly the hardest challenge I’ll go through on this entire adventure. I’ve been both dreading and looking forward to it since I opened the envelope. I knew that it would force me to take a look at some things I have pushed down for quite some time and I also knew that it might open my eyes to something I hadn’t previously realized. I had a feeling Claire would send something like this my way when I mailed out her card, I just didn’t know it would affect me this much. This was a deeply personal experience for me and I’ve struggled with how much of it to share. I am omitting some of my own reflection from this post, but as I vowed to do when I started this whole thing, I will be as open as I can.

(Warning: Christy, there aren’t a whole lot of pictures this week.)

Challenge #21:

…I had a really hard time coming up with a unique challenge. Then, yesterday, I was reading and it came to me! I would love to take this opportunity to share with you the place where I’ve found the most encouragement and inspiration. Ephesians is my favorite book of the Bible and I would like to challenge you to read one chapter from this book every day. But what’s the challenge in simply reading? 

When you are ready to do this challenge, shoot me a text or an email and I will send you related questions to consider/journal about and devotions to make it apply to your day. Think of it as intentional reading for inspiration! 

You’ll notice there are only 6 chapters in Ephesians…Well God rested on the 7th day for a reason. On day 7, take some time to rest and reflect on your week. If you feel so inclined, check out a church or join me at Crossroads. I’d love to go together.” – from Claire Hayden (I will refer to her as CB – Claire Bear- throughout the post).

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Claire is one of the many cousins I have on the Hayden side of my family. She is the baby of the family, but has proven to perhaps be more mature than any of us. (Though we don’t set the bar real high…) We have been through a lot together and, as I mentioned in previous posts, are incredibly close. Claire has lived her life through faith unlike anyone I’ve ever known so closely. She lives “through Him, with Him, in Him” all the time. It’s very admirable, though I’m not sure I’d ever be able to commit myself as fully as she has. She takes it into consideration in every aspect of her life and I’m very proud of her. Claire is also one of the funniest people I know. Her timing and wit are so finely tuned that she sits quiet through most of what we joke around about and at just the right moment, hits you with a zinger. I greatly enjoy being around her whenever I can.

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On my first challenge, I mentioned that I have a general aversion to religious preferences. In order to fully understand why this challenge was so tough for me and why that is the case, I have to go back, 12 years ago, to the time when everything I thought I ever knew started to change. I find it extremely coincidental that I’m writing this on 9/11 as that is when much of this aversion to faith began. I grew up attending St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Anderson. We went to church most Sundays, unless one of our various sporting events got in the way, and attended Sunday School through much of our childhood. I always kind of went along with what they said and enjoyed the projects we worked on, never really understanding what it was we were doing. I was a kid. I didn’t know the difference. As I grew up, I began to question things. You see, I am scientifically oriented. I like to know why things work the way they do when they do.  I like to have proof of existence of things. That being said, I also habitually make wishes on shooting stars, eyelashes and every day at 11:11 when I catch it. I can’t explain it…


I went to public school through elementary school when I switched to St. Ursula Villa, a private Catholic school, for Junior High. I then went on to St. Ursula Academy, an all-girls Private Catholic School, for High School. I had to attend religion class. In my formative years where I began to develop my own (strong) opinions on things, I began to question everything I had ever been told about God. I had a fundamental issue with the fact that everyone says the same things during mass and reads the same things, sings the same songs, etc. because half of the people surrounding me had absolutely no idea what any of it meant. They were simply reciting words they’d been told to say.  What’s the difference between that and a cult? And then on top of that, because I’m not Catholic, I was not permitted to take communion. But then they tell me that God loves everyone, no matter who they are? So you love me, but I cannot worship you in the same way others do? K. Cool.

I have always believed in some sort of higher power that makes things work.  I also have a very difficult time believing all the walking-on-water, dying and rising, water into wine mumbo-jumbo.  And I spent much of those 6 years of religion class challenging my teachers to provide evidence that these things they were telling me were real. They would say I just had to believe it. Well. No I don’t. That’s why I am asked the questions. All I know is that I can’t explain it. No one can prove it, it seems unfathomable and I cannot suspend my disbelief long enough to fully comprehend it.  I’m not sure what my higher power is that I believe in, but I know that when I say something or do something I shouldn’t, I silently apologize to the sky and whatever might be watching from above.

So, 12 years ago…

September 11, 2001. I remember sitting in my art class in the Fine Arts Building my senior year of high school when the news came over the speaker that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Our teacher then turned on the TV and we sat there, mesmerized, eyes glued to the screen, speechless. We had these tall wooden desks with cold, black laminate desktops. Girls crowded around, sitting in chairs, on top of the desks and I myself was crouched underneath, arms wrapped around my knees tucking them in close to me. Curled up in my little ball, I sat there and thought, “How in the world could this happen? If God exists, how could He possibly let this happen?”  I wanted my family. And I was full of questions. What faith I had left came into serious jeopardy.

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A little over month later, October 17, 2001, I headed home from school early because I was not feeling well. I was driving up Salem, a road that winds through the woods with a pretty serious S curve, and there were wet leaves scattered everywhere. My car skidded and I went off the road, through a fire hydrant, ricocheted off of seven or eight trees, then spun around and slammed into one at the bottom of a ravine. My car was completely smashed on all sides except for where I was sitting. The driver’s seat was completely unaffected. I walked away without a scratch. I climbed to the top of the ravine and the firemen informed me that there “is no way in hell I should have made it out of that alive, let alone unharmed.” I began to consider the idea of guardian angels. Maybe, just maybe, there is a small possibility, that God exists. There is simply no other explanation.  I asked fewer questions in religion class and began to accept that they could be onto something, though still not fully convinced.

Fast forward to May 8th, 2002. My mom and I had been driving to soccer practice and noticed that Beechmont Levy was abnormally crowded with traffic. We had determined that there must have been an accident somewhere and traffic was diverted. Thinking nothing of it, I went to soccer. My mom picked me up and asked me to quickly get in the car because she had something to tell me.  I, instead, stood there and demanded that she tell me immediately because I could tell that something was wrong. She informed me that there was in fact a car accident and that my cousin, Page, had been killed. My knees buckled and I fell to the ground in tears.  My siblings didn’t know yet so we had to get home quickly to tell them. We sat in our old family room, crying, and hugging one another. Same question came to mind again. “How could this happen. If God really does exist, how could He let this happen?” She was 22 and just starting to really live her life.  My family was shaken and so was my faith.

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I immediately decided that I was done with religion. I was done with God. I was done with believing in something bigger than myself. Bad things shouldn’t happen to good people. And in my mind, we were the best people. Our family grew incredibly close – closer than we already were, if you can believe that. I spent as much time as I could with them. Every single phone call, goodbye at family gatherings, email, etc. ends with “I love you” and always will. I carry this into relationships with many of my friends, and though they don’t always say it back or use the phrase as comfortably as I do, I will continue to say it every time I speak to them. Deal with it. Should something happen, my last words to you will always be “I love you.”

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I spent the next few years hating Him. Constantly struggling with the fact that my parents wanted us to go to church on major holidays, though they didn’t force us to go in between.  I would go and listen, just to appease my family, but I didn’t make the slightest inclination of an effort to participate. Then some things happened and I had this revelation. If I don’t believe in God, then Page is just gone. If you don’t believe in God, then there is no Heaven and that means she’s just. gone. Not willing to accept this fact, I started to explore my options in faith again. I went to some nondenominational churches and had extensive conversations with people about my faith, their faith and what it means to them.  My dad is strong in his faith and, at his request, I considered the idea of letting it become a part of my life again.

Fast forward again. April 27, 2012. I was at the airport getting ready to board a plane to Minneapolis for a final visit with John and Becky before Belle arrived. My cousin Terri called right as they announced that my zone could board. I picked up and she asked where I was. I informed her I was at the aiprot and she said she needed to call me back. Something was wrong. I’d had this feeling before and my gut said don’t get on the plane. I begged the gate agents to give me a minute and wait for Terri to call back. They graciously obliged and I sat there for what felt like an eternity, though was only about 3 minutes. Finally, she called back and, just as I suspected, something was wrong. She informed me that my Uncle Bill, Page’s father, had died in a plane crash. Again, knees buckled. I fell to the ground, right there at gate B16, in uncontrollable tears. The same question, only this time it was less confusion and more rage. And followed by an “ARE YOU *$&@!?* KIDDING ME!?” I gathered myself and my belongings, asked them to remove my luggage from the plane, and headed to baggage claim. When I got there, I kid you not, there was a group of 8 South American nuns standing at the counter, dressed like Mother Theresa.  One reached out with a tissue and assured me that whatever I was going through, it would be alright and that He would see me through it. This infuriated me.  To have something so tragic happen to the same family TWICE is incomprehensible to me.  I feel for my cousins and my aunt as they continue to live their lives without two of the most important people they’ve ever known. I feel for my father who lost a niece and a brother, for his parents who lost a child and a granddaughter, for the rest of my family for having to lose an uncle, a brother, a niece, a cousin.

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At this point, I’m done. I know that people all over the world experience terrible loss and stay steadfastly devoted to their faith. I’m not one of them. It shook me to the core and I’m over it. I have since had more conversations with people in regards to their faith. My dad and I have discussed this many times and he truly wishes that I can find some way to let faith back into my life. When my Mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer this past February I felt helpless. Then suddenly, I found myself praying. I was literally laying there in bed, thinking about my mom, our family, what would happen and all of a sudden I realized I was praying.  I had asked others to pray for my mom for me because I didn’t know who to pray to and I didn’t know what else to do. And there I was. Praying.

My friend Megan, among others, shared with me that they focus on all of the blessings and are grateful for the wonderful things in their life as opposed to blaming Him and hating Him for the bad. (BTW, I hate that I’m capitalizing these H’s right now. But I’m trying to get past that. I also just silently apologized to the sky.) They also don’t see that He has caused them, but that He provides them the strength to get through them.  Well if He brought you the good things then why isn’t He responsible for the bad? This is all so inconsistent.

This past May, John and Becky asked me to be my niece Belle’s Godmother.  The first thing I said was, “Are you sure? I’m not a very Godly person.” They informed me that they hoped I would explore my faith with this newly appointed responsibility. So I placed my hand on their shoulders at her baptism and agreed to the things I thought I could live up to, remained silent during the parts I fundamentally could not comprehend, but in the end I vowed to guide her through her spiritual journey as she grows up.  If anything, she can come to me and ask questions because Lord knows I’ve asked plenty myself.


So here we go. I’m keeping an open mind. Claire, I read the Bible this week. Not because I wanted to, but because when I started this project I told myself I had to complete each and every challenge extended to me, no exceptions.  Alongside these passages, I worked through the questions and reflections you sent my way.  I’m going to say right now that I did not agree with some of what I read, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I woke up each morning to an email from Claire. They included the following:

  • an amusing opening greeting/video/picture/quote
  • a link to that day’s chapter of Ephesians
  • a breakdown of all of the “Christianese/Biblical Mumbo-Jumbo”
  • a series of “Light bulb questions” to help me reflect on the reading
  • a “So What” section with a variety of thoughts and correlations between the passage and Claire’s reflections
  • and CB’s response to the reading that day

Claire, forgive me if I get any of this wrong. It was a lot to process.

Day 1:


Woohoo, today you begin your challenge from me! First of all, let me say I’m really honored to get to contribute to this awesome journey you’re on this year, and it has been such a pleasure reading along! Also, I want you to know that this week, you actually aren’t doing this challenge alone. Everyday, I will be reading Ephesians, journaling about it, and taking the passage into my life, right with you. So, maybe you’ll be getting a text from me one of these days about some sort of funny “coincidence” God sends my way….feel free to do the same to me 🙂 Oh! And, you said that with your impending (yes, “impending” should make you think of doom) challenge coming up it “may be good to have God on your side”…But my hope is that if you get anything from this challenge, it’s realizing that God is always on your side–always has been and always will be!

Alright, since this is one of my favorite books to read through, I have gathered a lot of notes and such on it. So, I thought I would share the information and questions I like to journal about as I read through Ephesians. The resources will be included in every email, and–of course–it’s up to you if/how to use them. I tried to come up with a unique application to daily life for each day/chapter; I hope it helps draw a connection to what you’re reading. And hey, you’re a Hayden…I know I don’t have to tell you this, but don’t be afraid to challenge what you read and be honest with your thoughts/convictions, but be open-minded too. I really think discernment is a great gift God’s given our family 🙂


Ephesians, Chapter 1.


So. Paul’s first letter to the people of Ephesus essentially breaks down the blessings that Paul has for God, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He also  says that God made an investment in us as a people because He had us in mind even before he created the earth or the universe or whatever.  Why we were picked over the other species is unbeknownst to me. It also includes his prayers for the people and for their enlightenment –  that they may seek to understand and know God more fully.

Lightbulb Questions:

  • Why does Paul begin his letter with praise to God?
  • Verses 4-6 say that God chose me before He even created the world. The Message translations says: “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.”
  • God chose me and adopted me…What does it mean to be personally adopted by the Creator of the universe? (Think adoption…heirs/inheriting His purpose…Princess to the King)
  • What does this say about my self-worth and the value I have in God’s eyes?
  • Do I believe I could be worth a plan God had to watch His holy, righteous, and perfect Son brutally die on a cross, so that I can have the opportunity to be closer to my Father in Heaven?
  • According to verses 13-14, because of whom do we have salvation? How do we go on to receive this redemption?
  • Christ’s death was a “deposit,” an investment in the promised inheritance of our eternal life with God. What are you investing in (beyond finances…because Lord knows we have no idea how that works in our family) that’s significant to you? What comparisons/contrasts do you see in these investments?
  • Verse 18 talks about an eternal hope God offers us. What are some things you place your hope in?

Then the So What and her response:

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I thought about many of these things. It was hard for me to comprehend, but the question about the investment, (and she also tied it back to things like my relationship with Destiny through BBBS) really stuck with me. My investment of time, energy, care and concern for her. Why do I do it? Because I want to see her grow and flourish into a productive, happy, healthy member of society. I want to help her learn and become the person she’s capable of being. I guess, according to this chapter, that’s the same thing God did with us.

I drafted my own responses every day, but have chosen to keep those private as this is, in fact, an exploration of my faith and it is a very personal journey. And Claire is also MUCH better at it.

Ephesians Chapter 2:


I think this one was largely about the fact that God freed us from sin and made us alive in Christ. He also made it so the Gentiles and Jews could set aside their differences and worship together as one. Though, if I’m correct, I don’t think it continued that way…

Lightbulb Questions:
  • What are my “cravings of the flesh,” or the parts of me that don’t seem to align with God’s plan for me?
    • Why do these desires and giving into them anger God?
  • What are some ways in which I have personally experienced glimpses of the “incomparable riches of God’s grace?”
  • We live in a society that is all about “earning your way.”  How does the concept that God offers new and eternal life as a free gift (verses 8-9)–despite my work–challenge my typical perspective?
    • Can I ever “earn” what God is providing/offering?
  • How can the belief that God has already planned “good works” for me to do help calm my worries about determining my future and where I devote my time?
  • In comparing verse 3 with verse 10, I find we should be objects of God’s wrath (cue the lightning strike), but He sees us as his “handiwork” intended to fulfill a good–no, great–plan. What does this say about my identity/worth and the things to which I am intended to strive for?
  • In times when I feel aimless and alienated, how can I find hope in belonging to the “citizenship of Christ” (verse 12) fully accepted as I am, where I am?
  • How does the previous point unite me with others in such a divided society? 
    • How can this change the ways I judge others who are different?
  • How can I let Jesus be my cornerstone, and the foundation by which I live and evaluate my life?
So What?:
  • Think about things in your life that you worked your butt off for.  Obviously you earned bragging rights after all that hard work, correct? But what if it was God that gave you the strength, skill, perseverance, etc. to reach your reward? 
  • Today, every time you’re tempted to talk about a personal success or achievement, stop and consider what “natural” (perhaps God-given, or grown through the influences God put in your life) skills helped you reach this goal. Then, try giving the bragging rights to God…and instead of boasting in yourself, boast in what you’ve been given.
    • Boast about who/what you believe brought you to said achievement.
  • On the flip-side, think of something you’ve placed so much of yourself into, only for all of your efforts to result in no avail (not to rub in job/internship hunts…I know I can relate to that). What kind of peace can you find in the belief that God has a plan for you (verse 10) to do great things? 

I have a tough time with this one. If I worked my butt off for something it’s because I worked my butt off for something. I give thanks when thanks is due, but He didn’t sit down and write all of these cards that I sent out to you. He didn’t write this for me. I agree that I have been blessed with certain talents and skills. I’m grateful for those, but I always assumed they came from my parents and encouraging camps and classes they sent me to. I have a feeling my teachers might be a little upset if I don’t give them any credit for my sheer brilliance. As for the job thing. I found out last week that I didn’t get the job I’d been dying to have. I literally cannot think of a more perfect position for me. I’d really like to know what He has in store for me that’s better than that. I find peace in the fact that maybe, JUST MAYBE, He knows what he’s doing. But I’m still really bummed out.

Ephesians Chapter 3:


Lightbulb Questions:
  • How would the world–or even our society–look different if we all truly received the message Paul shares in verse 6?
  • What is God’s plan, and what is the purpose of it?
    • How does this “promise through Jesus” impact me and my life?
  • Paul seems confident of his purpose in life, where is he finding this courage, despite his current troubles/sufferings?
    • Where do I find my courage/confidence, and how does that impact my response to struggles?
  • Paul offers a powerful prayer for us in verses 16-19, do I really desire to have this prayer answered in me? 
    • What does it mean for me to grasp the love of the God who created me? 
    • How do I respond to this extravagant love expressed in these verses? 
    • Do I believe that is the character of Jesus/God?
So What?:
  • Do you ever feel “less than the least of all the Lord’s people?” What are some ways God has equipped you to face life with the confidence of Paul and fulfill the purpose for your life? 
  • According to Paul, God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”  Today, challenge this trust by asking God to reveal His true character to you, personally. 
    • Whether you go on a drive down an aimless road, or sit on the porch swing enjoying your yard, spend some time in silence to confront God with your doubts and ask Him what it would be like for Paul’s prayer to be answered in your life.
    • I come back to this chapter so often when I am struggling to let God in because I doubt His goodness, but these times of solitude (which often begin with a lot of pent-up rage) always result in reassurance and peace, in an acute awareness of God’s presence in my life.

This particular chapter stood out to me in a way that I didn’t expect it to. As you can tell, I doubt God’s goodness a lot. A lot. I can’t understand why so many things happen in this world. I get that people veer away from His path and that we are all our own person with the power and will to make our own decisions. I do not, however, understand why events completely out of the control of human beings happen. Like natural disasters. If God exists, why do people get hit by tornadoes? To me, that is easier explained by weather patterns and science. It can be proven. I am willing to accept that good things happen to good people and that the work that you put in produces the result you get out of it. There could be some sort of divine intervention that I’m not completely comprehending, but perhaps the part I’m missing is that it’s not meant to be understood. It is meant to be accepted. Believed. Followed. Trusted. I feel hypocritical when I say things like, “It’s in God’s hands now.” But then at the same time, how do you explain medical miracles? Every day people survive things that they truly just shouldn’t. There is no explanation for it. And this is why I’m so confused.

Ephesians Chapter 4:

From CB’s email:  
Nothing says “Get yo Jesus on” like a morning wakeup call from Friends, so Good Morning!”
Needed that one today 🙂
While I was researching this one, I came across a summary that says

"...they are to speak with truth and 
grace, work hard to help those in need, and be kind, tender-hearted, 
and forgiving just as God has forgiven them in Christ."
I can get behind that. Everyone should live that way.
Lightbulb Questions:
  • What are the three character traits listed in Verse 2, that Paul says we should possess? How would these help us to carry out Verse 3?
  • What is the purpose of the repetition of “one” in Verses 4-6? What does this consistency reveal?
    • How would churches be different if there were no more divisions/denominations, but we adhered to the unity of one hope?
  • While we are all God’s children, as a good parent desires healthy growth in his/her child, so does God seek to see us mature. Apparently, eating crayons and glue is no longer acceptable after a certain time…what does it look like to grow up in the ways God desires for us?
    • How does He help us mature?
    • How does it help to know we are not in it alone, but we are “built in love” together, as a body/church/family/community?
  • What are traits of my “Old Self” and what would it look like to be completely anew, allowing God to “reproduce His character in me” (Verses 20-24)?
    • The good news is that we are not on our own. The more we desire relationship with Him, the more we allow God to transform our hearts, which changes our attitudes and actions.
  • What does a Godly life look like according to Verses 25-32?
So What?:
  • Just as our parents expect us to live a certain way according to how they raised us, and we choose to live in that way out of our love for, and trust in, them; so does God expect us to live a certain way when we come to trust His faithfulness. Think back to values/lifestyle traits your parents instilled in you that continue to influence your life, how different would your life look if you neglected to live in the way they desired for you? How does this impact your understanding of God’s desires for your lifestyle?
    • For all the times you want to go against your parents’ will (hello adolescence!), how often do we find they were (once again) right? Yet, how did you benefit from their good parenting allowing you to make mistakes? 
    • Our parents always seem to know better, because their perspective/experience are broader than ours…What does this reveal about how/why God speaks in our lives when we may not agree with Him?
  • What does it mean to speak the truth in love“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34b).
    • What do my words say about my heart/beliefs?
    • Today, how can I be more thoughtful in the words I speak, and ensure my motives are genuine?
  • How often do we allow anger to get the best of us? How much more at peace would I be if I just forgave whoever my anger is directed against, and trusted God is in control?
    • How can I flick that devil off my shoulder and let go of any anger festering inside? Why would this be helpful?
    • How can remembering that God continually forgives me help me to forgive others in day-to-day life?

I understand “speaking truth in love”, but I struggle with some of this one, too.  I’m not sure I understand why He is continually forgiving people. I guess that’s why He’s God and I’m not. Now, I can let go of whatever it is that was done to me, but that doesn’t mean I have to forgive them. I don’t think everyone deserves forgiveness. I think there are things that happen and sometimes, you don’t get an “It’s ok, I forgive you.”

There are also things I’ll never forgive myself for. One of the last conversations I had with my cousin Page before she died was a stupid argument over a dumb ex boyfriend. She said he wasn’t good enough for me and I disagreed.  In retrospect, she could not have been more right!! But I can’t take back that conversation or even apologize for it. I can’t thank her for looking out for me. I can’t change any of it. And I’ll never, ever forgive myself for that.

It might not be right in His eyes, but sometimes I hang on to anger for certain things because it reminds me of the lessons learned during those circumstances. I have a ridiculously good memory and for some reason, allow certain things to linger. In most situations, I forgive those that have done wrong to me, hurt me or whatever.  I don’t have feelings of rage or hatred toward people. That’s just a waste of time. But sometimes, I just keep my experiences as a reminder. I certainly don’t forgive them, but I have learned and grown to be a better person through those experiences.  And I’m ok with that.

Ephesians Chapter 5:
Lightbulb Questions:
  • Notice that Paul shows the reasoning for all of the holy conduct he goes on to describe is rooted in love. How can the belief that I am a beloved child lead me to want to demonstrate that same love in all my actions?
  • What does it mean to be a “Child of Light” vs. one in the dark?
  • What are some practical ways you can “live a life of love”? 
  • Verse 22-24 taken out of context can lead to some pretty angry women (even God doesn’t want to fuel the wrath of an ardent Feminist…or anyone on their period), but consider how we have seen this kind of healthy submission in marriages around us? How does submission lead to greater trust, commitment, and love when practiced appropriately?
  • How does Christ being the head of the church reflect a husband-wife relationship?
So What?:
  • Paul is adamant in this chapter about living intentionally. Today, think about ways that you can be more purposeful in your living.
  • Does anyone actually understand love? I sure as heck don’t, but I am extremely encouraged and humbled when Paul relates to this in Verse 32. Spend time with a married couple today, and observe/reflect on ways that you can better understand God’s intentions in marriage having specific roles but being mutually fulfilling.

I can support this perspective, as well. I totally get living with intention. Living with a purpose. I’ve been doing a lot of searching lately to figure out just what that purpose might be. I try to do things the way I think they should be done to and for others. I try to live with the ideals that I have set for myself and stay true to my value system. Every now and then I get off course, but I understand that.

I actually spent time with my friend Megan and her husband today. In observing their relationship, though as with any marriage, the give and take isn’t always the same, their mutual love for one another is beyond apparent. They are currently expecting their first child and the excitement within both of them is clearly evident.

I cannot however get behind the “obey your husband” bit. I know that’s not his direct message, but come on. It’s beyond dated. It’s anti-feminist. It’s degrading. I understand that husbands and wives should cherish one another, but in my perspective, it is an equal cherishing.  I went to a wedding once where this was the reading they did and I about fell out of my pew.  It did however make me think about a few things. Back when the Bible was written, did people really marry for love or were they marrying for other purposes? Efficiency? Property? Betrothals? Is the idea of loving the person you marry different from the original purpose of marrying? I hope not, though according to some of the scriptures I’ve read over the years, it is. Just a thought…

Ephesians Chapter 6:

In CB’s email…there was a video. About a very intense Hayden family discussion of Toilet Seat up vs. Toilet Seat down. I love being a Hayden. For the safety of Claire, I will not share this video with all of you.


Lightbulb Questions:
  • What do you think is meant by Verse 3, in relation to obeying/honoring our parents? How can we do this as adult children?
  • After all we have read in Ephesians, what does it mean to be “strong in the Lord” (Verse 10)?
  • Who does Paul say in Verse 12 stands up against us?
  • What does Paul describe are the elements of the “armor of God” (see Verses 14-17)?
  • What do Verses 18-20 reveal as the strongest weapon God gives us?
    • What does Paul tell us about prayer?
  • Why do you think Paul said he should declare the gospel without fear?
  • In what ways can prayer be both a preparation for battle, as well as the battle itself?
So What?:
  • Verse 7 discusses serving wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord. How could this mindset help you through completing seemingly monotonous tasks in various settings? Next time you’re ready to pull your hair out over the work you’re doing, remember these verses and consider how your task can help serve a greater purpose. 
  • How can you grow to feel empowered by the “armor of God?”
    • Reflect on past struggles that have challenged your faith. How would your experience have been different or could you have found more peace/hope in those times if you were more firmly equipped with each of the elements of the armor of God?
  • Maybe you’ve been doing this already…but today, say what’s on your heart in your own words to God. Talk to Him, and consider sitting in silence a bit and listening to what He has to lie on your heart.
After having made it through all six chapters I had a lot of different thoughts. I understand the purpose with which we are supposed to live. I understand being kind to one another, honoring your parents and your family, forgiveness and so on. I would agree that had I had a better foundation of faith in my life I might have had an easier time dealing with and accepting some of the events that have occurred. I don’t know whether or not that’s accurate because it simply isn’t the case. Everyone feeds you the “Everything happens for a reason” line whenever something goes wrong. I hate that. I’d really like an explanation for some of these things because I’m lost. And it makes me really, really mad.

I think that the biggest realization for me throughout this week’s challenge is that I’ve been asking the wrong question in trying to process my thoughts about faith. I’ve been asking “how?” when I should have been asking “why?” How can people believe in God when bad things happen? How can people stand strong in their faith when adversity hits them left and right? I should be asking WHY they stand strong and WHY they believe. Without having to ask, CB filled me in. She left me with this note on my final day:

I hope that this has been a unique challenge for you and that you have benefitted in some way from this week. As your Challenge Card says, tomorrow is your day of rest.
Let tomorrow be a day of reflection and quiet entertainment with some of your favorite activities. Spend the day enjoying what you love to do and maybe thanking God for giving you those things. Perhaps journal a prayer or conversation with God to consider how you’re growing and what you’re learning. Normally my “Sabbath” day of rest falls on Sunday, so I’ll be attending Crossroads this weekend if you’d like to join me 🙂
I hope you don’t feel like I’m trying to shove some belief system on you. That was anything but my goal.  You asked for a challenge, and I chose to send you the thing that has challenged me in the toughest and most beautiful way over the years.  Katie, pardon my French, but our family has gone through some real shitty circumstances in the past (yeah, your little cousin finally cussed…you should see the prayer journal I keep and some of the things I’ve said to God in the height of those circumstances).  I’m not gonna tell you all that feel-good crap that everything happens for a reason and Jesus will give you all the warm-fuzzies you need…please punt anyone who tries to tell you it’s that easy. This life is hard, but I have to believe we’re given it for a reason and that there is a purpose in all we experience. 
God is a big and complex dude, but the good news is…what he calls us to is simple and freeing. All He asks of us is to get to know Him more and live a lifestyle that celebrates Him and the blessings He gives us. After MUCH contemplation, frustration, doubt, distrust, fear, and heartache…I have come to believe that we aren’t always going to know the “Hows” and “Whys” in life, but ultimately, it’s for our benefit. The only “Why” I have found that I need to know is that this world is broken, and it hurts God even more than it hurts us…death wasn’t a part of His plan in the beginning. 
But I believe God works all things out for good…I see that in my life…and I see that in your life. 
Would our family be half as close had we not experienced loss together? Did God have to use that means to bring us closer together? Maybe not, but we also don’t know the other circumstances that led to this event. God doesn’t create pain or death…He has to let it happen because of His nature. He is a good and loving God who desires relationship, but who gives every individual the power of choice.
When you really think about it, if I knew why Page and Uncle Bill died, what purpose would that really serve? But…I have a lot to celebrate (in all circumstances). I mean look at the family He’s given us; personally, I feel no logic or simple science could explain that bond.
What you’re doing with these challenges and getting outside your comfort zone is really inspiring.  Seriously, it’s an encouragement to me as I go into the field in my Social Work Internship and doubt myself. I love you and am so grateful for you, Katie. When it comes down to it, I hope maybe what you have gathered from this week is that you don’t have to have faith in God for Him to have faith in you.  But in receiving and leaning into the relationship He desires with each of us, we may actually learn to be grateful for each of life’s curveballs.
I love you, Claire Bear. Thank you for putting so much time and effort into this challenge. Your thoughtfulness, hard work and dedication are unparalleled. It helped me to know that you get mad at God sometimes. That surprised me because I didn’t expect that at all. Knowing that you were doing it right along side me helped me feel connected to you throughout this period of reflection and for that I am grateful.  I am so very, very proud of you.

I took some time to myself, took a drive and thought about all that I’ve read and considered this week. I have a new perspective on some of this faith stuff after reading through Ephesians. I’m not quite ready to say that I’m all for God yet, but I’m open to the idea and I want to learn more. This past Christmas Eve, my family and I went to church, as we always do for the holiday. Only this time, I was present. I knew that my uncle had passed away, but it didn’t really hit me until that night. Almost 8 months later. Til I was around my family for Christmas Eve. Til I was sitting in that pew seeing everyone with their loved ones.  Til I realized Christmas would never be the same again. Not the Jesus part of it (The reason for the season), but the family part of it.  And it hit me and I missed him. I was pissed sad and angry and full of disbelief.  And then I cried. I cried throughout the ENTIRE service. Not just quiet tears – like, legit sobbing for an hour.  Aside from a few weddings, I haven’t been to church since. Claire is taking me to Crossroads with her on Sunday and I’m hoping for a different outcome.

That being said, I still believe in The Big Bang and Evolution. I often wonder if there are other planets in the universe thriving, just as we are. In the grand scheme of things, we’re just a mess of tiny atoms that happened to hang out close enough to one another to take on the form of human beings. That has been proven. I can support that. However, maybe God knew that’s how he wanted to make us. Though according to the Old Testament, I came from a rib bone. Or something. I dunno. I feel like I’m starting all over again and maybe that’s the best way to look at it. Maybe I need to forget everything I already know about religion and start over. I should also let you know that I realized when I pray, I don’t pray to God. I pray to Page and Uncle Bill. If there is a God, then they are angels and they are watching over me and they’ll deliver my message safely.
If anyone else would like to discuss this with me, share their thoughts and feelings about their faith or learn with me, I welcome the conversation and the company.  
I will close this by saying that I am incredibly grateful for the family with which I have been blessed.  Even if some were taken too soon, I’m so lucky that I had to opportunity to know them. They are the single greatest thing in my life and if God did that, then I owe Him a really big, huge thank you.  This one is for you, Page and Uncle Bill. I love you very much and there isn’t a single day that passes that I don’t think of you. xo.

Ms. Cake, Influencing Bright Young Minds

Shortly after I lost my job last August I began toying around with the idea of going back to school to become a teacher. My sister-in-law, Becky, is a teacher and thought that maybe I should give substitute teaching a try, to see if I like it, before I invest my time and energy into a degree. Naturally, I put it off until she gave me no choice! And just as I expected to, I really, REALLY loved this week!!

Challenge #20:

Volunteer at an inner city elementary school for a day.  Shadow a teacher for an entire school day. Choose a school, not in the burbs, where 1 day of service can mean the world to those kids. Who knows, you may like it enough to eventually go in once a week :)” –  from John and Becky Hayden (And my sweet little niece, Belle.)


I have written about my big brother, John, in previous posts so I will focus mainly on Becky’s intro.  Becky became a part of the family long before she and John actually got married in 2010. My whole family has been vacationing at my grandparents’ house in Boca Grande, Florida since before I was born and because of these trips, our family is incredibly close. We also all grew up in the same neighborhood, so that helped. Our cousins are really more like siblings.  Like new additions to any family, one must experience the “first impression” to see if they “fit in.” I have seen my cousins mercilessly ridicule “outsiders” on their first (and sometimes many, many more) introduction and I was quite nervous for Becky as she joined us on our first family vaca to Boca.  Much to my delight, she fit in immediately! She cracked jokes, was perhaps a little surprised by some of our activities, but nonetheless, fired back whatever was thrown her way and was a welcome addition to our motley crew.  I often joke that Becky reminds me of a Disney Princess and that I was waiting for woodland creatures to appear and make her a dress on her wedding day. This is partially because she sings and dances, but mainly because she’s just so sweet and legitimately looks like one.

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Becky is also one of the best mothers I’ve ever known. She and my brother have done an incredible job raising Belle. She is independent, brilliant and super cute and I think much of that can be attributed to the fact that Becky is a teacher. I’ve never seen her in the classroom, but I’d imagine she’s just as patient, understanding and caring as she is with everyone else.

John and Becky know that I’m trying to figure out what I want to be “when I grow up” so giving me this challenge is perfect for what I’m going through. It’s a trial run of one of the many, many ideas I’ve been tossing around.

I put out a feeler message on Facebook a couple of months ago to see if anyone had any connections to the Cincinnati Public School district and could help me out with a future challenge. My friend Sarajane, whom I met in college, immediately replied, eager to help in any way she could.

Sarajane is a preschool teacher to 3 and 4 year olds at Woodford Piedia Elementary School in Kennedy Heights. This is, coincidentally, the age I was interested in teaching so it worked out perfectly.  Rather than just do it for a day, (and since I have so much free time these days…) I opted to do an entire week.  I wanted to give this a real run through to see if it was worth pursing for a career.


In order to volunteer in the CPS district you have to pass a background check, get approval from a residing principal and get a badge. I went to meet the principal at Sarajane’s school, get my form signed, visited the Hamilton County Justice Center for my $5 background check and off to the district offices I went for my badge.



We decided I would volunteer from Thursday to Thursday as this week was the Labor Day holiday and a special visitor was scheduled for Thursday that would be beneficial for me to experience.

I woke up Thursday morning and could not have been more excited. I seriously felt like a little kid on my first day of school. I even made my roommate take my picture before I left for the day. I walked into the classroom and met Ms. Campbell, Sarajane’s Paraprofessional, or teaching assistant. They showed me the lay of the land and a few moments later the children started to arrive.

First day of school!!!

First day of school!!!

Pete the Cat. You'll hear more about this later...

Pete the Cat. You’ll hear more about this later…

Sarajane's classroom just so happens to be my favorite number :)

Sarajane’s classroom just so happens to be my favorite number 🙂

Breakfast is all set up!

Breakfast is all set up!

Sarajane MADE all of these little seats for her students! Cushions and all!

Sarajane MADE all of these little seats for her students! Cushions and all!

A typical day in the classroom follows a pretty consistent routine. Weather and guests can sometimes rearrange Ms. S’s schedule, but for the most part, it’s as follows:

The children enter the classroom at 9 and go through health check. This is to see if there are any physical symptoms of illness, new cuts/bruises/etc. and confirm that overall appearance is good. This also ensures that both teachers and parents are aware of the physical state of the child and are on the same page before school starts each day.

Breakfast: All of the children are provided with breakfast upon arrival.

Pledge of Allegiance and School song. The children all stand for the pledge, any announcements and the song. I love this part because the kids know all the words and the message behind the song.

Woodford Spirit Song

My life is what I make it, who I become depends on me.

Every morning is a blessing filled with possibilities.

Every morning when I wake up I see the bright sunshine

I’m so glad to be at Woodford. I’m so glad to be alive.

Then Ms. S gives out jobs and each child gets one every other day.

  • Attendance
  • Door holder
  • Calendar
  • Weather
  • Breakfast Helper
  • Lights
  • Lunch Helper
  • Caboose
  • Line Leader

IMG_1437 IMG_1438

The kids get really excited and enjoy the responsibility that comes along with their job. They also have the opportunity to “clip up” or “clip down.” This is a method of evaluating their behavior. If you clip up, you’re doing something good, and vice versa if you do something bad.

Then attendance is delivered to the cafeteria and front office before the kids head outside or to the gym to play.

After play time, Ms. S teaches the lesson and the kids have centers. If there is a daily project the kids will take turns completing it and playing on either the computers or in the kitchenette, reading or doing something else inside the classroom.


Ms. S teaching the kids about weather!

Reading Pete the Cat with Erriana, Jade and Zuri.

Reading Pete the Cat with Erianna, Jade and Zuri.

Circled up for their lesson.

Circled up for their lesson.

Playing with baby dolls is a favorite class past time for both boys and girls. That was quite refreshing. DakAra loves his babies!

Playing with baby dolls is a favorite class past time for both boys and girls. That was quite refreshing. DakAra loves his babies!

They also have 4 computers in the classroom. They visit a website (www.abcya.com) that has educational games for all grade levels.

They also have 4 computers in the classroom. They visit a website (www.abcya.com) that has educational games for all grade levels.

There is usually a bathroom break and a trip to wash hands at some point between play time and lunch. They have to go as a group as the regulations for teaching have deemed it necessary to have at least one teacher for every 10 kids.

Lunch is brought in and they dine, family style, together at the tables. This is to ensure that the children eat and get to experience what it is like to have a family meal. This is not to say they don’t have it at home, but to make sure that if they don’t, they’ll know what it’s like at school. It’s also easier to feed a bunch of 3 and 4 year olds in your classroom than to let them carry their own tray…

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After lunch they play outside and go down for nap.

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Nap time!! The best time...I wanted to take a nap, too...

Nap time!! The best time…I wanted to take a nap, too…

After nap is a snack and then their parents come to pick them up.

Each child must be signed in and out every day so they meet the parents on the playground for dismissal. For the most part, this is the daily routine.

Now, I LOVE kids so I began interacting with them the moment they started to enter the classroom. Day 1 was different than pretty much every other day.  At this point, I was still caught up in how adorable they all were and how I just wanted to pick them up and play with them.  I let them read to me and was completely blown away by how much they knew!  I later discovered reading simply meant reciting the words they had memorized as a result of hearing them so many times.

Elizabeth, MiNaya and Erriana reading to me.

Elizabeth, MiNaya and Erianna reading to me.

This week they were learning colors. They have a book called Pete the Cat that all of the children absolutely love. I have now grown tired of this book as I think I heard it at least 23 times this week. I get it. He loves his white shoes, red shoes, blue shoes, brown shoes and wet shoes. That’s fantastic. On a more serious note, the message from the book is that no matter what he steps in, he doesn’t let it rattle him. It’s a great way to deliver some important lessons. But I never need to hear it again.

They went down for naps that afternoon and a woman named Jackie comes in to help during this time. This gives the teachers an opportunity to take break or get some work done. I began tucking the kids in like little burritos and Jackie asked if I would be coming back every day to do that because her back cannot do it. I laughed, but am pretty sure this was her way of saying please stop.  Lesson learned the next 3 days when all of the kids begged “to be made into tacos for nap time.” It gave me a chuckle.

There are several kids in the class that tend to throw temper tantrums, disobey the rules and have a bad attitude. At first, I handled this by coddling them. Being that I have no professional training on handling these types of situations, I tried to calm them down by speaking to them calmly and trying to reason with them. Sarajane has had several of them in her classroom before and knows that this is repetitive behavior. I quickly learned that this not only validates their tantrum, but it teaches them to use them as manipulation for attention. In short, I now understand why the United States does not negotiate with terrorists. It was very difficult for me to hold back and not pick them up to figure out why they were so upset. Sometimes a stern voice and a confirmation that their behavior will not be tolerated are all that are necessary. There is also the threat of being taken to see Ms. Pierce, the disciplinarian of the school, if they do not clean up their act.  By day two, I was on board with this plan. Hands on my hips, staring down at the little monsters in the midst of their outburst. I also took to reasoning with them. Metaphors, such as three strikes and you’re out, came in handy, and threats of missing out on special activities go a long way.


We celebrated Steffon's 4th birthday with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Cake.

We celebrated Steffon’s 4th birthday with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Cake.

Donte reallllly liked it.

Donte reallllly liked it.

Then there are the hugs. SO many hugs. They would get up in the middle of what they were doing and come give you a hug, for no reason. So many hugs that at one point, Ms. S had to say “Ok, kids I love the hugs, but let’s save them for later.” A lot of these challenges have been, and will continue to be, child-related. I can confirm that there is no better feeling in the world than when a small person throws their arms around you and looks up at you and says “I love you.” Their sweet innocence and ability to care about everyone they meet is unparalleled in the adult world. I think that, as adults, we are too absorbed with our own lives that we don’t tell the people closest to us just how much we care about them. Now, obviously, these kids only knew me for a week and I wouldn’t go up to every stranger on the side walk to tell them I loved them. But you get my point. People should give more hugs. (Right, Nadyne Hayden?)


Hugs from Erianna. I got lots of those 🙂

I’m truly amazed by how much these kids retain. Sarajane has a way of relating to the children that I have not quite comprehended. She gets through to them and they remember what she tells them. We did projects to help the kids learn their colors, like coloring rainbows and gluing the appropriately colored Fruit Loops in place.  We also used watercolors to show what happens when you mix colors. Sarajane instructed me that some of these projects are multi-purpose. While learning what the colors do when they mix, we also learn whether or not they can properly hold a paint brush or comprehend shapes and follow directions.

Fruit Loop Rainbows

Fruit Loop Rainbows

When they are walking through the halls they do what is called “holding their bubble.” This means acting like they are holding an air bubble in their mouths. It’s a way of teaching them to be quiet and not interact with other students. They also hold their elbows with their hands so that they don’t touch things in the hallway. If another teacher or administrator of the school compliments the class on their hallway behavior, the entire class clips up. There is an elevator in the hall that they walk past all the time. Every trip to the cafeteria, to the bathrooms, to go outside – they go past this elevator. The kids always reach out and touch it. One of the trips past the elevator Ms. S stopped in front of it and explained to the kids that elevators go up and down and we have no need to go up or down. She also explained that only people with badges can open the elevator. After some repetition and extensive explanation, the kids understood not to touch the elevator. It was incredibly effective.

Sarajane gave me the chance to plan and teach my own lesson on Wednesday. She generally reads a book and then creates a project based on the book. I selected A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni. This is a book about a chameleon that gets upset because he changes colors every time he moves and he wants his own color like all of the other animals. He tries out lots of colors and eventually comes across another chameleon experiencing the same thing. The two decide to go everywhere together so that no matter where they are, they will always be the same color together. It teaches a variety of colors as well as  the fact that companionship is more important than having his own color. Basically I just picked it for the color lesson.


I searched pinterest and found a way to dye rigatoni noodles with rubbing alcohol and food coloring. I dyed 6 different colors and had the children create noodle necklaces, naming all of the colors as they put them on their strand of yarn. In addition to this, I thought of something one of my teachers had done for me when I was little. I was an advanced reader in preschool and my teacher, Mrs. Sieber (who just so happens to be my best friend Megan’s mom…who know that would happen years down the road!?) created a key ring of note cards with words on each of them for me to learn. This was my first set of flash cards. I used that as inspiration to create color books for the kids. I made one for each child to take home and practice. They loved them!!

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While teaching I realized that it’s a lot more complicated than I thought. I tried to stick to the routine that Sarajane goes through with the kids, but found that I was more focused on remembering the way she did it than really delivering the lesson. I also think I read the book too fast. Commanding the attention of 20 three and four year olds is tough, but I got through it.

On Thursday, a group called Books in Action came into the classroom. They are a program funded by United Way that sends actors and actresses into the CPS classrooms to read a book, act it out, engage the children and create a learning experience unlike many others. It was a very entertaining afternoon and the kids seemed to really like it.

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Now, from some observations I’ve made myself throughout the week I have determined that teaching can often be a thankless job. Some parents don’t appreciate all that teachers do for their children.  They can blame the teacher if they’re child misbehaves. I have also realized Sarajane has to pay out of pocket for much of what decorates her classroom. She is given a small (read: very small) budget, to work with, but it really doesn’t cover much. This comes through an Early Childhood grant and from Crayons to Computers. The higher grade levels are not given the same stipend.  There is also a SIGNIFICANT amount of paperwork that comes with EACH child. Most important of these forms is the ASQ. This evaluates whether or not children need an IEP or Individual Education Plan. She must also track if anything is given to the families to fulfill a need that she notices, which is also helping them out of her own pocket. There are monthly and quarterly evaluations, conferences and benchmarks for every single child.
One of the best things I learned that Woodford teachers are told to do is encourage the students to make “good choices.” If a student is misbehaving, Ms. S says things like “I don’t like the choices you’re making right now. Make better choices.” or “It makes me very sad to see the bad choices we’re making right now” instead of saying that they’re behaving badly. She also encourages children when she sees them behaving nicely. “DakAra is making great choices right now, boys and girls” or “friends making good choices will be asked to line up first.”  It was one of the first things that stood out to me and I think it is an excellent way to redeliver the message of the school song “My life is what I make it, who I become depends on me.” I also love how when kids answer a question correctly, Ms. S says, “Kiss your brain!” Then the kids kiss their hand and pat themselves on the head. They grin from ear to ear and that is exactly the kind of positive reinforcement preschoolers, and students of all ages, need.  When Sarajane must be stern with a student, she always makes sure to pull them aside later and remind them how special they are, how important they are and how much she cares about them.


They’re so creative! They have all these baskets that they pretend are steering wheels and the Oven/Stovetop is the car. They all seem to know this game! Shortly after this Jalien said “No texting and driving.”

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I hate to say it, but I definitely had my favorites in the classroom. I tried not to, but I know I interacted more frequently with some of the kids than others. There was one child in particular that really stood out to me and I really connected with him and that had a tremendous impact on my experience as a teacher. I will miss seeing them every day, but am grateful for the lessons they have had on me. I am having a difficult time processing the fact that you cannot get attached to the kids. They have their own parents and will move on to different teachers as they continue to learn. I was very impressed with the amount of patience Sarajane and Ms. Campbell have for these children.  I have a new found respect for every teacher I ever had.  And I apologize immensely for misbehaving. Ever. You all are saints.

Erianna, my little shadow :)

Erianna, my little shadow 🙂

I have since filled out an application to become a substitute teacher for the Early Childhood division of the Cincinnati Public School District. Should I decide to pursue my teaching degree, which is sounding more and more likely by the day, I hope to be half the teacher that Sarajane is. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to come into her classroom, observe her and interact with her students. Thank you also to the parents for allowing their children to participate in Learning to Hit the Curve. I had such an incredible time this week and hope to go back and visit my new little friends in the future.

I had a picture where most of us were actually looking at the camera, but felt this was much more descriptive of our time spent together!

I had a picture where most of us were actually looking at the camera, but felt this was much more descriptive of our time spent together!

I found out on the last day that half of the class thought my name was Miss Cake, not Miss Katie. I thought I was hearing them wrong all week, but it turns out I was correct. I had to inform them that I was not, in fact, named after dessert. I also wish I’d kept track of how many shoes I tied this week…

Creepin’ People Out

Since last week’s was so heavy I thought that this week’s challenge should be lighthearted. We filmed this in July, but I haven’t posted it yet as I was waiting for the video editing from my cousin and his paying clients must come first. I had a lot of fun with this one and though I didn’t expect to, I actually learned a lot about myself.

Challenge #19:

“Speak to strangers through spoken song lyrics!” – from Debbie Hayden

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Aunt Debbie is one of the first people I told about my project and she’s been incredibly supportive of it from the get go. Both she and her daughter, Amy, have been helping me throughout the process and have come up with some pretty fun challenges for me. Aunt Debbie and I are also working on getting through the AFI Top 100 Films and I’m thoroughly enjoying the time we spend together getting lost in classic films. She’s one of my biggest cheerleaders and I’m so blessed to have her in my life.


This challenge is inspired by a stunt they did on Ellen. You can find that video here:

Naturally, I was psyched! Not many people would willingly put themselves in this situation. Though I didn’t have a choice, I was still incredibly excited!!

My cousin Mike, Aunt Debbie’s son, and his girlfriend, Rose, joined in on this adventure, as well. After college and a stint with NFL Films, Michael moved to LA and started his own film production company, Bon Lavi Productions.  He graciously agreed to film this challenge for me, edit the footage and create a masterpiece of discomfort.  He makes me so proud and lives the COOLEST life. I’m always hearing about people he’s met, fun things that he does, and on the rare occasion when he’s home, trying some of his “California cooking.” I have yet to make it out to visit, but I promise I will soon, cuz!

Mike and Rose

Mike and Rose

Amy, Mike and Aunt Debbie

Amy, Mike and Aunt Debbie

Me and Mike

Me and Mike

Here are some teasers of the other projects he’s put together:

We selected Findlay Market for the location of our activity. We figured it was the perfect location since it is a bustling metropolis of local shoppers on the weekends. For those that aren’t familiar, Findlay Market is a large open air market where local retailers and farmers can sell their products. It’s like a really cool grocery store!

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I also really enjoyed this because I got to wear a microphone and everything! Amy had to follow me around and stay within 15 feet of me so that the the receiver for the mic could pick up the sound. After I’d walked away, she also handed out little cards I had created thanking my “victims” for their participation and explaining what had just happened to them.

Ok so Aunt Debbie and I selected “Hello” by Lionel Richie, and “Wanna Be” by the Spice Girls.

They lyrics utilized were as follows:

“Wanna Be”

Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really really really wanna zigazig ha.



Is it me you’re looking for?
’cause I wonder where you are
And I wonder what you do
Are you somewhere feeling lonely?
Or is someone loving you?
Tell me how to win your heart
For I haven’t got a clue
But let me start by saying I love you

We figured one would really amp up the creep factor and the other would confuse the strangers!

I cannot possibly describe what I experienced before you watch it, so without further ado: Singing to Strangers

Sing to Stangers from Mike Hayden on Vimeo.

So there’s that. Haha

I was super nervous at first. I didn’t know how to approach people. My parents were there to observe and my dad made the suggestion to find people that were sitting down. This made them a sitting duck/captive audience and they couldn’t escape the impending awkward situation if they wanted to. The other problem is that my nerves were so bad that I couldn’t remember the lyrics and that kept throwing me off my game. After about a half hour in, I finally got comfortable and it just game naturally to me. In fact, Mike said that we had enough footage and I wanted to keep going because I was having so much fun with it!!


Get out of my own head. It’s not ever as bad as I think it is.

Suck it up. Sometimes you have to do hard stuff. Might as well have fun with it!

Stranger Danger is definitely real.

If you see a small elderly man sitting at a table alone and he asks you if your name is Karen, don’t say yes. He could be waiting for his long lost granddaughter and this will make you feel very bad for the awkward scenario you have no made him a part of.

I get way too much sadistic pleasure out of making people feel uncomfortable.

It’s all about being comfortable in your own skin. Once I stopped caring what other people would think of what I was doing, I had an absolute blast!!

The more familiar I am with something the more comfortable it becomes.

And finally, breathe.

Aunt Debbie, thank you for making me step out of my comfort zone on this one. I spend a lot of time worrying about what kind of impression I’m making, what people think of me and how other people feel about our interaction. Once I let it go, I had so much more fun! I have taken this into my social environments and have realized how much more enjoyable life can be when you stop giving a *bleep* about how others perceive you!

Many thanks also to Mike, Rose, Amy and my parents for coming out for the afternoon. And a very special thank you to Mike and Bon Lavi Productions for shooting, editing, producing, creating, etc. the video. You are amazing!!  I owe ya one!!

Til next time!


My Favorite Little Miracle

A lot of thought went into this week’s challenge and Candice knew it would truly test me. We’ve been practicing and prepping for months and I’m so glad it finally happened!!

Challenge #18:

Switch-Hit. Switch lives with me and take care of 2 kids…one with special needs awaiting transplant.” – from Candice Sheppard

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Candice and I had the chance to meet when we both worked at Powers Agency. She came in a few months after me and served as one of my superiors in Account Services. We worked on a few projects together, but mostly, we built an incredible friendship. She is a great role model, confidant and friend. She has also helped coach me through my job search, served as one of the best references I’ve ever had and vented with me about our year of co-unemployment. She’s one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met.

My favorite picture! Anticipating Alice's arrival :)

My favorite picture of Sophia and Candice! Anticipating Alice’s arrival 🙂


Halloween 2012


Summer vacation 2013!


Summer vacation 2013

Candice is also one of the strongest people I have ever met in my life. Shortly before she began working at Powers, Candice found out that she and her husband, Chris, would be welcoming a beautiful little bundle of joy in the spring. I was beyond excited when she shared the news and couldn’t wait to meet Baby Sheppard. On May 22, 2012, Baby Alice graced the world with her presence bringing their family to a total of five, including step-brother, Blake, and sister, Sophia.  Her arrival was no small feat and came with many complications. Since then, this sweet little angel has fought, day in and day out, to survive.

Here is a little bit of the back story, taken from the “I Heart Alice” Facebook page:


Alice Mae Sheppard came into this world fighting on May 22, 2012. Upon birth, a previously undetected heart murmur was found and over the course of two days, it began to become louder and more pronounced. Ready to leave the hospital in which she was born, Alice’s parents were told to place Alice in an incubator for transport to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center after an echocardiogram discovered she was born with three major heart defects: severe Aortic Stenosis, Mild Pulmonary Stenosis and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. All of which would be fatal if left untreated. Shortly thereafter, Alice was diagnosed with a genetic mutation of her PTPN11 gene causing her to have Noonan Syndrome (NS).

Sweet little Alice...

Sweet little Alice…post first surgery – 4 days old.

Candice and Chris with baby Alice shortly after their arrival at Cincinnati Children's.

A heartfelt moment at just 4 days old. Minutes after Alice was baptized and minutes before her first surgery – a balloon valvuloplasty to try to force open her narrowed Aortic and Pulmonary Valves. It is EXTREMELY rare for a person to have both of their major valves affected – even with NS. Aortic Stenosis is not necessarily a common defect with NS and the fact that Alice has this and it was considered severe makes her One in a Million.

Daddy with his girls, Sophia and Alice.

Daddy with his girls, Sophia and Alice.

Noonan syndrome (NS) is the most common syndrome you have NEVER heard of! NS is a variably expressed, multisystem disorder with an estimated prevalence of 1 in 1,000 – 2,500 births. People with NS may experience bleeding issues, congenital heart defects including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart muscle that forces the heart to work harder to pump blood and if untreated leads to cardiac arrest) and/or pulmonary valve stenosis (narrowing of the valve that controls blood flow from the heart to the lungs) lymphatic abnormalities, small stature/growth issues, feeding and gastrointestinal issues, failure to thrive, hypertelorism, learning disorders, unexplained chronic pain, chiari malformation, hypotonia, ptosis, skeletal malformations, chiari malformation, laryngomalacia, tracheomalacia, opthamology issues, orthopaedic issues, oncology issues and much, much more. Because of the variability in presentation and the need for multidisciplinary care, it is essential that the condition be identified and managed comprehensively.

Alice has endured multiple surgeries to repair her heart issues including an open heart procedure at just four weeks old on June 21, 2012. During this painfully long 9-hour surgery, all three of her defects were addressed. Her native Aortic Valve was removed and a human donor homograft piece was attached to the roots replacing her diseased valve. Her Pulmonary Valve was repaired by way of a Transannular Patch and lastly, her thick, dysplastic heart muscle was trimmed back to alleviate the pressure for the heart to more efficiently pump blood to her other vital organs. Alice recovered remarkably well, but with minor complications including a blood clot formation in the right atrium of her heart and the inability to thrive and gain weight. She returned to the hospital several times throughout the first few months of life.

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Due to NS-related feeding difficulties and delayed gastrointestinal motor development, Alice was given all of her nutrition through a feeding tube. Infants with NS often display issues with eating due to sucking problems because of weak muscles in the mouth and sometimes a high-arched palate, a weak chewing action that can mean mealtimes take longer than expected and projectile vomiting during or after meals as a result of severe reflux and motility problems. Initially Alice was released home with an NG tube (Nasogastric tube): A tube that is passed through the nose and down through the nasopharynx and esophagus into the stomach. After several months with an NG tube the risks and complications such as irritation of the esophagus, sinus infections and interference with the lower esophageal sphincter which cause reflux of stomach contents, often leading to aspiration pneumonitis became evident. Not to mention… a very curious 6-month old baby can pull the tube out herself! After extensive research, GI testing and with the recommendations of Alice’s team, everyone decided it was best to switch her NG tube to a more permeant solution since she was not making little if any progress eating by mouth. Alice arrived for gastrostomy tube (G-tube) placement on November 16, 2012. This procedure was a simple and routine one requiring anesthesia and a 48-hour stay inpatient, but in true Alice fashion….things became complicated quickly after she went into her second cardiac arrest upon intubation. She was unresponsive for over 10 minutes and doctor’s feared the worse. Once they revived her heart, they began damage control putting her into an induced hypothermic state to attempt to preserve her vital organ function of the kidneys, liver and brain. She was quite literally freezing when miraculously she began to move her fingers and kick off blankets just as she normally would! As they warmed her body back up and began testing her brain function for seizure activity, the medical staff were reassured that she had not suffered any life-threating damage…to her brain or other organs. Her heart, however, took the worst of it. The function of her heart was severely decreased and to this day it has not fully recovered.


And this is where our new journey begins….

Alice is listed for full organ replacement. She is in need of a new heart. One must understand, that all of the surgeries have been and will continue to be palliative, meaning that they seek to relieve the symptoms of her disease without ever providing a cure. Simply put, there is NO CURE FOR HER DISEASE.

So, now that you’ve got the background on Alice’s situation, you can understand why this challenge is so different from any I’ve had before. There is literally a small person’s life in my hands and I was BEYOND terrified that I’d screw it up some how.

Candice and I have spent time over the past few months practicing and prepping for this week. I have learned how to administer Alice’s medicine, read up on infant CPR, learned how the machines work and familiarized myself with all necessary information. I have also spent time with Alice as she has a level of discomfort with “stranger danger” and making her as familiar with me as possible was really our only hope. On previous visits, Alice would begin crying the moment Candice left the room and it was just me and her. But this time, I was greeted with a big, beautiful smile the second I walked in to see her.

Hi, sweet girll! I'm happy to see you too :)

Hi, sweet girll! I’m happy to see you too 🙂

Alice also has a big sister named Sophia. Soph is 3  (going on 13) and is a ball of energy. She is incredibly smart, incredibly sweet and loves her little sister like crazy. She is currently in “word police” mode so I had to be VERY careful about what I said. For the record, God and Shoot are off the table. She picks out her own clothes, loves shoes, and doesn’t hesitate to provide you with instruction if she thinks you’re doing something wrong.  But it’s all soooo adorable. She reminds me sooo much of Candice.

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I would be responsible for these two for the day while Candice and I traded lives. Now, I thought about booking a Pure Barre class, or having her spend time with Gus, but this was a challenge for me, not Candice. I decided that instead of all of those things, I’d give her a break. I also knew that if I didn’t give her a reason to, she might not leave the house. I booked her a massage at Mitchell’s and sent her off for a day of relaxation and personal time. I got this.

Alice is hooked up to a G tube through her abdomen. This is a blessing because before it ran through her nose and down her throat. She would rip it out from time to time. This one goes directly through her belly and doesn’t seem to be as uncomfortable. She also has the largest accessory I’ve ever seen for a baby. This lovely wheeled pole follows her around, with the exception of four-hour breaks between feedings, every where she goes.


Candice and I went over the meds right when I got there. She receives three different medications via syringe through her G tube and they go directly into her stomach. She gets blood pressure medicine, acid reflux medicine and heart rate monitoring medicine to ease the every day stress required for her heart to function. She also receives a flush of water to push everything through her system.

Three medicines and water flush.

Three medicines and water flush.


The next step is to clamp up Alice’s feeding tube. If you do not properly clamp these before opening or closing a port, both the contents of Alice’s stomach and the food entering it will pour out through the tube. I did pretty well the first time, but learned that the hard way upon closing her back up. Whoops.

So…Clamps closed. Syringe Inserted. Clamps Open. Push Syringe. Clamps closed. Remove Syringe.  Repeat until all medicine has been administered and tubes have been flushed.

Clamps closed. BOTH of them.

Clamps closed. BOTH of them.

Syringe inserted.

Syringe inserted.

Clamps open, push meds.

Clamps open, push meds.

Clamps closed, remove syringe. Repeat.

Clamps closed, remove syringe. Repeat.

Sophia was coloring and having some breakfast so Alice joined her at the table for some rice Krispies. I’m so excited that she can finally enjoy solid food, within reason.


Her monitor beeped and she could be removed from her feeding tube around 12:30. From the moment of that beep, Alice gets a 4 hour break where she can roam free from wires. At this point, Candice usually takes them to the park, for a walk, runs errands, etc., but she has not always had this opportunity. For awhile, Alice needed to be connected almost all the time. The family had spent the previous day at King’s Island for Andy Dalton’s King for a Day and the girls were wiped out.  Alice went down for a nap and Sophia and I prepared to play outside on the swing set. I braided her hair and got her dressed and ready to go.


I carried the video monitor with me, but it really didn’t provide me with much comfort. You can’t tell if a baby is breathing through a small video screen.


Sophia showed me the ropes around the new play set. She’s so cute! I was terrified she’d fall and hurt herself while doing pretty much everything. I’m going to have to work on that before I have children of my own or they’ll all end up encased in bubble wrap for extra protection.

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Sophia wanted head in after awhile, deciding it was “too hot to play outside” (debatable). We watched some alphabet movies, made lunch and Alice joined us for a “picnic” in front of the TV.


At this point, I’m thinking the day is going realllllly well. Everyone is full, happy and safe. Sophia went down for a nap and I spent some time with Alice, cleaning up and playing with her toys.

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And then this happened:



Alice began crying out of nowhere. A lot of crying.  If I put her down or stopped moving – crying. I had a flash back to babysitting Belle when this exact thing happened. The only difference there is that feeding her eventually made her stop crying. I couldn’t just feed Alice. She’s on a schedule and there is a machine that feeds her with a set dose at a set rate. We were still an hour away from when feeding time could begin again. Do you know how hard it is to unload a dishwasher with a crying baby on your hip!?  They say sometimes you’re supposed to just let a baby cry, but it doesn’t feel right when it’s not your kid. So essentially, I never “just let them cry” as I do not have children of my own.  Eventually, after pacing around the room and talking to her softly, I got her calmed down. She napped on me while I watched Orange is the New Black. (You were right, Candice. I’m hooked.)


Success!! Crying stopped! Sanity resumes.

She woke up after about a half hour when it was time for her to feed again. Candice left me very thorough instructions and walked me through the process before she left, but I was still nervous. I had to clear out the rate and dose and input them to the new numbers. It took me a minute, but I figured it out. I also remembered to clamp and unclamp the tubes properly this time, thank God.

Thorough Instructions.

Thorough Instructions.

This thing is confusing.

This thing is confusing.

I put her down for another nap with her feeding tube and she slept for almost the entire feed. Sophia and I played memory and then began making dinner so it would be ready when Chris and Candice got home.

Sophia was VERY helpful. It was actually very nice having someone to talk to that understood what I was saying and could respond. She is so very polite. She knew the answers to the questions I had about Alice so I actually only had to call Candice once for something little.  We laughed a lot and it made my day each of the 50 times Sophia told me she loved me. Heart. Melted. After a nice family dinner I headed home and crashed, completely exhausted, but inspired. That little miracle has beaten the odds, literally died TWICE and pushed through SO much. And she’s only 15 months old!


I was a difficult kid. The ADHD made it nearly impossible for me to regulate my volume, temper, anxiety levels, thought processes, patience- basically everything that keeps a kid composed in any way, shape or form. I used to fear whether or not I’d be able to handle it if my children were born the same way. I never even considered the other possibilities that could happen until I met Miss Alice.

She is making so much progress every single day!  She has biweekly speech therapy and physical therapy at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.  Speech therapy consists of a therapist teaching her how to swallow, drink from a cup, taste new flavors, and work on sensory issues and aversions to food taste and texture.

Physical therapy is generally working with sounds right now. It is a series of cognitive and physical development through activities, like playing with toys and stretching, that encourage fine and gross motor skills. Developmentally, from a physical standpoint, she is that of half her age. She can sit up and skate, but cannot crawl or bear much weight on her legs and is nowhere close to walking. Many kids with Noonan Syndrome have this issue due to early surgeries and problems developing as well as low muscle tone which is associated with the disease.

She also goes to the hospital for a 24 hour inpatient stay once a month called IVIG.  This is a blood byproduct that is given to her via a 12 hour IV infusion. As the product goes into her body it attempts to find and destroy any of her built up foreign antibodies. She has an astronomically high number of these foreign antibodies due to the fact that she was given a human donor aortic valve at four weeks old as well as about 10 blood transfusions from her various surgical procedures. The problem with finding a new heart for her is that she cannot accept a heart to which her body has built up antibodies against. This could lead to serious rejection issues. More importantly, if her antibody levels do not come down then they will not be able to find a negative crossmatch heart for her. We have to find a positive size and blood type as it is. If they can’t get these things under control, there is a good chance that Alice’s body will reject the transplant she is given, thus defeating the purpose.


I learned a lot about myself. I am more patient than I thought I was. I’m not sure if that’s something I’ve learned in the last few months since I babysat Belle or if it’s just a sense of comfort and confidence I’ve developed, but I am pretty proud of myself. Both kids survived. No major issues. Brilliant. Obviously, I only had the girls for a day. I didn’t have the full experience of countless hospital stays, extensive surgeries, watching the heart monitor and listening to the doctors explain what they think might happen. I don’t have the endless medical bills or biweekly trips to Children’s for therapy. I also didn’t have to do daily chores while making sure Alice doesn’t miss a feeding or dose of medication. That being said, I also don’t get to wake up to that little miracle to remind me how lucky I am, every single day. A few days have passed since I watched the girls and this has really stuck with me. I cannot get her out of my head. I can’t help, but think about all the time that I’ve spent with her and how inspiring she really is. It’s kept me up at night that there is literally nothing I can possibly do to change the situation and I’m not even family.  I am however honored to say that she is no longer afraid of me 🙂 Little victories, right?

Well...almost not afraid of me...

Well…almost not afraid of me…

I have asked Candice to contribute some of her thoughts on raising Alice, as there is no way I can possibly explain it through her eyes. Careful, it’s a tear-jerker.

“In a normal day I use Alice’s breaktime to go to the YMCA to swim, the Zoo, the park, meet with other Mom’s who will accommodate our crazy schedule. It often sounds like the BEST JOB EVER. I have been home with my kids (not including multiple hospital stays) for 15 months. But…you have to understand that we are “living it up” this summer since we spent last summer hospitalized and Alice’s health can really become compromised during flu season, which spans from October – April! A simple cold can and did land in her in the hospital and lead to a respiratory/cardiac arrest during a routine procedure last year! Also next summer (it is so unknown) we may be back at Children’s again post-op from Transplant. The future is so unpredictable so one thing Alice has taught me is you have to live every day to the fullest and never take little moments for granted. Chris and I have focused more on her quality of life than anything and that is subjective…yes. However, we know that Alice thrives at home surrounded by family. This environment provides lots of natural light, a nice comfortable crib as opposed to a hospital bed and we can hold her all day when we can. Hospital life is not like that. The CICU rooms are probably the cleanest I have ever seen in my life, but you just feel dirty there. The air is dry and cold. There is a tiny window that sometimes you don’t even feel like opening since you are stuck, missing out on fresh air and sunshine with your baby who deserves to see and feel that. Nature doesn’t surround you, but rather beeping sounds and alarms for heart monitors and oxygen and children that have coded in the room next door.


And quality of life also means being able to eat and move. These are two things Alice cannot do. It didn’t seem quite as hard to accept that she was “behind” even 4-5 months ago. She still seemed average size and despite all she had been through, was really doing quite well! Now that she is 15 months, I feel pangs of hurt that she looks half her age and cannot even crawl – let alone stand or take steps. Nor can she enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures – food! She has so much trouble eating and drinking and it’s frustrating to put that spoon up to her mouth 1,000 times and never really see her be capable of finishing even a quarter of a baby food jar. But that is also what makes her “little victories,” as we call them, so special. Even big sister Sophia gets in on the action. She cheers her on right along with us while she helps to try to feed her and show her how to drink from a sippy cup. It’s amazing.

What I really have come to appreciate with Alice is how unknown all of our futures are. I am sure you can relate. One day things seem like they couldn’t be better and one doctor’s appointment can turn your world upside down.  It is universally true that people are so lucky to have their health. There are so many things in the world that money can buy, but it can’t buy health and happiness. It rolls off the tongue so easily when talking about the impending birth of a child – “I will be happy so long as it’s healthy.”  I don’t think I ever knew what I was saying. I got caught up in the gender game, too – hoping for this ….wanting that. You never consider what that means until your baby isn’t healthy. The thought of saying goodbye to your child at a young age is excruciating and knowing it’s a real possibility will keep you up at night. I haven’t slept in 15 months and I mean that. My mind races. I have had panic attacks for the first time in my life. I have cried myself to sleep on a weekly basis. The hardest part is waiting. Waiting for bad news – waiting for good –-waiting for a life changing surgery – waiting for that phone call – waiting in a waiting room – waiting to say hello again – waiting to say goodbye. But what is so different for me – for you? None of us know what the future holds- nobody. Life is so precious and I am so happy that Alice reminded me of that. You have to LIVE. I suppose I thought I was living before, but now I know that I wasn’t because I didn’t appreciate life in the same way. And some days I am truly just surviving…others I am conquering the universe. I never said it was easy or glorious, but it is real life and I will never regret a single day I spent living for my girls and for myself. And I have a lot of help. One thing that Alice does best is bring people together. People have come out of the woodwork to write, call, cook, visit, support and love us. People I never imagined. One little being who cannot say more than two words did that! She resurrected friendships and connected me with moms all over the world on the NS Support Group on Facebook. If I could take all of the pain away from her – of course I would. If she didn’t have to be sick of course I would want that for her, but then she wouldn’t be Alice. She is just Alice. The girl has died twice in year and came home in 3 weeks each time. She shouldn’t be gaining weight and thriving, but she is. She wouldn’t be waiting for a heart at home on limited medication and no oxygen, but she is. She shouldn’t possibly be this happy, but she IS! Expect her to throw you the change-up. Every. Single. Time.

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Alice's 1st birthday in May!

Alice’s 1st birthday in May!

If you’re interested in contributing to the I Heart Alice Fund, donations can be made here:   https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=ELV5UF8UKL9KJ

If you’d prefer to send a check, it can be contributed to the I Heart Alice Mae Foundation through WesBanco.

If you’d like to reach out to The Sheppard family personally, contact me and I’ll provide you with their information.

Candice and her family have worked tirelessly to research, discuss and prepare for every possible scenario. I have had many conversations with her regarding Alice and what could happen down the road. Every single time we speak about it I am completely amazed. I walk away with the same exact thought. “I do not know how she does it.” She keeps a positive attitude and makes sacrifices every day to make sure that her children are in the best possible hands. She doesn’t let the circumstances change her outlook on life and she doesn’t ever seem to break. Sure, they’ve cried and grieved over the possibility that Alice might not make it, but I truly feel that their unconditional love is saving this child every single day. That’s why Alice Mae Sheppard is my favorite little miracle.

How beautiful is that face!!

My favorite little miracle!

Dog About Town

This week’s task was more of an adventure for Gus than it was for me, but I enjoyed it just the same. My mom playfully filled out a challenge card from my beloved little rescue pup so that he could be a part of the project, too!

Challenge #17:

Take me for a walk in a different neighborhood every day so I can explore all of Cincinnati!” – From Gus Hayden


The day I met Gus!

The day I met Gus!

He's always been a happy dog!

He’s always been a happy dog!

Gus is my three year old yellow lab mix. I got him in August of 2010 and he has completely changed my life. He has lots of personality, loves everyone and follows me around like he’s my shadow. He puts up with me mildly tormenting him and gets into things every now and then, but he’s the best dog in the whole wide world.

Happy Birthday, Gus!! Don't mind the hat!

Happy Birthday, Gus!! Don’t mind the hat!

Me and Gus at Walloon Lake last Labor Day

Me and Gus at Walloon Lake last Labor Day

He did a little light reading while I went to the gym...

He did a little light reading while I went to the gym…

Sleeps like a person...

Sleeps like a person…

He smiles whenever I take his picture!

He smiles whenever I take his picture!

It is important to note that Gus HATES riding in the car.  He does all that he can to hide his eyes from windows and shakes uncontrollably at the mere mention of getting into a vehicle. It’s actually kind of funny because we go to my parents’ house fairly frequently and when it’s time to leave, I ask him “You wanna go home?” Every time I ask the question he runs and hides because he knows what that means.  I was somewhat surprised to see he “selected” this challenge as it requires extensive car travel and unfamiliar territories. Way to step outside of your comfort zone, buddy. 😉

Doing everything he can to avoid looking out the window.

Doing everything he can to avoid looking out the window.

HATES the car. Must say something about my driving...

HATES the car. Must say something about my driving…

Hiding in his cage so that he doesn't have to get in the car.

Hiding in his cage so that he doesn’t have to get in the car.

In effort to make this more pet-friendly I did some research on pet-friendly environments for Gus. Outside of Hyde Park and a few OTR spots, there aren’t too many establishments in Cincinnati that publicly state they accept dogs. I did however find that if you show up with your dog, they don’t always turn you away.

One of Cincinnati’s best features, in my opinion, is the fact that there are dozens of little villages scattered around the tri-state area. Each one, lined with sidewalks, offers a different atmosphere with a variety of restaurants and small businesses adding their own little charm and atmosphere. Gus and I strolled through Mariemont, Old Montgomery, Newport/The Banks, Ludlow/Clifton and Over the Rhine. This will likely read like a visitor’s bureau brochure, but I assure you, Gus had a great time!

I would be doing a disservice to my sweet little neighborhood if I didn’t brag about it first. I live in Hyde Park. We typically stay pretty local whenever Gus and I go on walks.  We are familiar with the Area and Gus loves to see all the sights. He is not, however, a fan of school buses and trucks. They send him running, tail between legs, clear to the other side of the sidewalk.  When I was a child I remember I always wanted to live in a place that had side walks. It seems silly, but growing up in Anderson, there aren’t many places that actually had them. Now, I am surrounded by them. And they are constantly packed with locals running, walking their dogs, riding their bikes or simply enjoying the weather.

Hyde Park Square

Hyde Park Square

Hyde Park Farmers Market

Hyde Park Farmers Market

Hyde Park Square

Hyde Park Square

Tellers - killer everything - specially brunch!!

Tellers – killer everything – specially brunch!!

Indigo - lovely Italian!

Indigo – lovely Italian!

Dutch's! Bottle shop is walk-up and Thursday's are Burger Night, featuring a specialty burger every week! yummm!

Dutch’s! Bottle shop is walk-up and Thursday’s are Burger Night, featuring a specialty burger every week! yummm!

Some of our favorite pet-friendly hotspots are the patios of Dutch’s, Indigo and Cock and Bull.  The lovely firefighters of the Hyde Park Fire Department always have a large bowl of water and a plethora of dog treats ready for passers by. Like owner like dog, Gus likes to look at his reflection in the store windows. If you are out for a stroll, most shop owners will let you bring your pooch pal in while you shop. It would be silly for them to discourage it as there are so many dogs in tow.

Places like Arthur’s, The Echo and Teller’s are also restaurants and bars I frequent. They are all in walking distance from my house and serve up delicious bites!  I’d also like to point out that rumor had it Hyde Park Meats was closing. It did in fact close, but has since reopened under new ownership. Stop in!! If they don’t have something they used to carry, the new owner is taking suggestions to satisfy the clientele!

Onto the challenge…

We’ll start with Mariemont.  Gus and I parked off of the square to that we could walk around and do a little exploring. The architectural style is one of the things that I love most about the area. The square is surrounded by tudor styled buildings that house specialty shops, cafes and a quaint little movie theater. The National Exemplar is a little restaurant in the Mariemont Inn that has been around since the early ’80s. They have a delightful Sunday brunch and I have never had better French Onion Soup in my life. Seriously. It’s amazing.

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The Mariemont Movie Theater shows old classics and some new releases.

The Mariemont Movie Theater shows old classics and some new releases.

Dilly Cafe and The Quarter Bistro are two of the other fabulous restaurants in Mariemont. With fantastic menus, outdoor seating and great wine selections, they are the perfect place for delicious evening out!  Tucked in between are shops like Pomegranate and Lime,  a great little gift shop, or The Top Drawer, a needlepointer’s paradise.

The patio at Quarter Bistro

The patio at Quarter Bistro

Dilly Cafe and Wines

Dilly Cafe and Wines


We just so happened to arrive on the day they host a little farmers’ market in the parking lot! An organic pet food store gave Gus a treat, but he didn’t seem to enjoy it.

Next we will visit Old Montgomery. It’s a smaller area and if you blink, you’ll miss it, but it boasts a sense of familiarity and longevity, welcoming all who come through. The streets and brick-paver sidewalks are lined with lamp posts and hanging floral baskets that make for a pleasant backdrop to a stroll through the neighborhood.  Restaurants like Montgomery Inn (the original location) and Germano’s have been delighting the tastebuds of locals and visitors alike for decades.  Just outside the village is Carlo and Johnny’s, part of the Jeff Ruby’s family of restaurants.  The European Cafe has a patio that is in fact pet friendly, but if you’d like to grab a coffee to-go, you must leave the pooch outside. Lesson Learned, haha.

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For baseball lovers, a members-only museum called The Green Diamond Gallery offers some incredibly rare and highly coveted memorabilia in a place where “baseball heroes never grow old. ”

The Green Diamond Gallery

The Green Diamond Gallery

Montgomery is also home to one of my favorite places in the city, The Woodhouse Day Spa. As a connoisseur of spas around the world, we are lucky to have one of this caliber in Cincinnati.  Woodhouse, a favorite amongst my friends, offers a variety of treatments that are sure to make your stresses drift away. If Gus wasn’t with me I’m sure I’d have dropped in for a visit. Sadly, it is not a doggy spa.



On Sunday, my Aunt Debbie and her dogs, Bonnie and Clyde, joined Gus and I for a three-hour tour of Newport, Kentucky and The Banks of Cincinnati. Both she and my parents have recently taken up residence in the SouthShore condominiums and we thought it would be fun to do a little exploring. We strolled along the river bank, across the Purple People Bridge, through Sawyer Point, up to Smale Riverfront Park and onto The Banks.

Our route

Our route

Bonnie and Clyde, on a mission. Gus, distracted, per usual.

Bonnie and Clyde, on a mission. Gus, distracted, per usual.


Gus in front of the Ohio River


The Purple People Bridge was redesigned as a pedestrian path across the Ohio River.


Gotta love that skyline! I’ll be in that river come September…ick.

Sawyer Point and Yaetman’s Cove, recently host to Bunbury Music Festival, semi-weekly Party in the Park, and a variety of other pubic events is a mile-long stretch with tennis courts, volley ball courts, playgrounds, stages and Serpentine Wall.  There is literally so much to do there you can’t accomplish it all in one visit.

The pups on Serpentine Wall

The pups on Serpentine Wall

Sawyer Point

Sawyer Point

Smale Riverfront Park is part of an ongoing project to spruce up the Cincinnati Riverbanks, one of our greatest assets. Due to the effort of many private donors and LOTS of hardworking people, especially the Women’s Committee, this place is really taking shape. Here’s a flyover of the Smale Riverfront Park vision:

They have recently added large swings for relaxing and taking in the view.


Gus having a leisurely swing!

Gus having a leisurely swing!

After that we headed up to Wine Guy at the Banks. They do not regularly accept pets on patio, but since we were there and it wasn’t very busy, they let us come in for a beer and a flat bread! Jenna joined us briefly for our break before we headed back to the Southbank.

We spent a day alone strolling around my old stomping grounds in Clifton and Ludlow. I spent 5 years here while I attended University of Cincinnati and the growth the area has seen since 2007 is insane.  They recently constructed U Square at The Loop between Calhoun and McMillan. This is home to apartment buildings, restaurants, bars and shops. UC is really turning into a fantastic place and I’m quite jealous we didn’t have these amenities when I was a student there. Naturally, we walked past Uncle Woody’s (my very own Cheers during my undergrad years) and Gus tried to go in. Closed and not pet friendly.


Gus wanted to go to Woody's. Sorry buddy, they're closed.

Gus wanted to go to Woody’s. Sorry buddy, they’re closed.

We strolled past Tri-Delt, my old sorority house. He tried to go in there, too. It’s like he knows the places I love 🙂


Gus visiting T-Delta!

Gus visiting T-Delta!

After that we headed down to Ludlow. I know there are so many eclectic shops so I thought I’d see who would let us in. To my surprise, none of them open until noon! What is that about!? But since we were in the area we walked around anyway. If you are looking for foreign cuisine, this 4 block stretch has more to offer than any other area in the city.

I mean like wow. We’ve got Indian, Mexican, Thai, Ethiopian, Mediterranean, French and the list goes on. They also have Skyline and Graeters, two Cincinnati staples.

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Sorry kids. They turned The Golden Lion into a hookah bar...

Sorry kids. They turned The Golden Lion into a hookah bar…

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My favorite aspect of the Ludlow area is the Esquire Theater. If you want to see an indie film, something completely obscure, a good viewing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show or a small handful of new releases, you should check it out. They offer a full bar and a wide variety of snacks. It’s owned by the same people that run the Mariemont Theater and the Kenwood Theater.  It’s old and doesn’t offer new high-tech reclining seats, but it’s awesome. Sometimes you can even bring in carry out from local restaurants.

The Esquire Theater

The Esquire Theater

On Tuesday, Aunt Debbie and the pups joined us again as we ventured to OTR.  If you’ll remember from one of my previous posts, I loooove Over the Rhine.  It is also one of the most pet-friendly areas of the city. Washington Park has created a dog park specifically for Gus to run around and play in. He absolutely loves going down there and exploring. Many of the shops will let you bring your (well-behaved) dogs in for a quick browse. Not likely to turn away business, most patios will let you enjoy a quick bite, as well.  My favorite hot spots are Lackman, Rhinehaus, A Tavola, Bakersfield, Anchor and Senate.

The Washington Park Dog Park

The Washington Park Dog Park

There is a shop called Pet Wants on Vine Street and it is awesome! They make all of their products, especially organic canine cuisine, in-house and have a shop at Findlay Market.  Also, their sidewalk is actually painted to look like wooden planks! Check ’em out!!

Gus wants Pet Wants: The Urban Feed Market

Gus wants Pet Wants: The Urban Feed Market


OTR Storefronts

OTR Storefronts

They have all kinds of shops like Switch ( a high-end lighting store), Mica (a fun gift shop mostly consisting of locally handcrafted wares) and Joseph Williams Home (a furniture and decor wonderland) that draw in a variety of customers.

Mica 12/v on the corner of 12th and Vine.

Mica 12/v on the corner of 12th and Vine.

Joseph Williams Home

Joseph Williams Home

My favorite hot spot in the city, also notoriously known for their acceptance of the canine crowds, is Neon’s, or The Famous Neon’s Unplugged. They offer craft beers and very creative cocktail specials. In the winter, they have fire pits and hot apple cider = heaveeeen. Gus also loves going to Neon’s and he just so happens to be a dude-magnet. Thanks, pal 🙂

The Famous Neon's Unplugged outdoor beer garden

The Famous Neon’s Unplugged outdoor beer garden

Gus has gotten SO good at walking that I no longer need to hold his leash. I simply wrapped it around his collar and he walked himself.  I’m not sure if it’s because he’s terrified to leave my side or if he just knows that’s what he’s supposed to do.

Gus walking himself.

Gus walking himself.

He came home completely exhausted every day, but I think he really enjoyed his little tour of the town. Now go visit all of the places I talked about because they’re FABULOUS. Many of the masterminds behind these small businesses are friends or friends of friends that took big risks. Buy local! Support them!

Clean Eatin’

This week’s challenge was two-fold and while I was not exactly looking forward to it before, I’m very glad I did it now that it’s over.

Challenge #16:

Wake up every morning and say something positive about yourself. Spend the week eating like Jen!” – from Jen Jura


As mentioned before, Jen is my personal trainer turned friend that I’ve been working with for years. She’s been trying to get me to read this book, The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder, for as long as I can remember and take on the lessons and teachings it delivers. I have downloaded the audio book and am listening to it, bit by bit. This chick’s voice is relatively (read as incredibly) annoying so I might just buy the actual book.

This involves eating clean foods, nothing processed and mostly vegetarian. Let’s get one thing straight. I like meat. Like could be a full on carnivore for the rest of my life and be completely content. I am not an herbivore. If I was meant to consume only plants, evolution wouldn’t have given me these delightful teeth intended for chewing. That being said, I accepted the challenge as I had no other option.

The first portion of this challenge was to say something positive about myself at the start of every day. I gotta tell ya, starting your day with daily affirmations or positive thoughts, alongside the expressions of gratitude I’ve carried over from The Secret, make for a fantastic mood in the morning, regardless of when you wake up.

This video circulated around the internet a few years ago and I immediately thought of it when I was beginning this challenge. Now, I was not exactly standing on my bathroom counter singing about all of the wonderful things about myself to my reflection like Jessica does, but you get the gist. Take a look:

I strongly encourage you to give this a try. I am fortunate to have many people in my life that constantly remind me of how “awesome” I am and how much I am capable of, but sometimes fail to see these same things in myself. I needed this especially this week as I was waiting to hear a response to a very exciting job interview. After a few days of the phone not ringing I got a little down and this positive thinking helped me turn things around. Whether it was about how much I like my eyes or my intelligence or my hair or my laugh or my kindness and thoughtfulness or my sense of humor, it tuned me in and made me think about the good things as opposed to the fact that 29 year old Katie does not look the same as 23 year old Katie.  C’est la vie…

That being said, I can confidently say that 29 year old Katie is way more awesome than 23 year old Katie.

Ok. Onto the food. So Jen and I went to Whole Foods to get the ingredients needed for the menu that she had put together. I also purchased a Vitamix as most of the items I would be eating can be quickly made in this magical high speed blender!

Jen picking out assorted organic produce

Jen picking out assorted organic produce

I had several options to choose from to hold me over for the next 7 days.  I thought I’d provide the recipes in case any of you want to try them yourselves!!

Green Drink:

  • 1 handful power greens
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 whole lemon
  • 1/2 head romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 slice ginger
  • 1 and 1/4 cup water
  • 1 handful parsley
  • ( I added a squeeze of local organic honey, don’t get mad Jen. It fights allergens.)
Green Drink

Green Drink

Blueberry Smoothie:

  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 scoop Vega One vegan protein powder
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp Almond Butter
  • 1-2 cups 365 Vanilla Almond Milk

Hemp Seed “Cereal“:

  • 1 cup hemp seeds
  • 1 tbsp Chia seeds
  • 1/4 Goji Berries
  • 365 Vanilla Almond Milk to your heart’s content
Hemp Seed Cereal

Hemp Seed Cereal


  • 1 head of butterhead bib lettuce
  • 1/4 Red Beet
  • 1/4 Yellow Beet
  • 2 radishes
  • 1 avacado
  • 1 tomato
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper


Equipped with all I needed to get me through the next 4 days I went home, Jen and I cleaned my veggies and did some prep work to make assembly of the recipes easier. I started with the green drink the following morning. Now, I wrote the recipe down wrong and accidentally put blueberries in instead of pineapple which made it look like this…

not green drink.

not green drink.

Into the Vitamix!

Into the Vitamix!

All the ingredients for my Green Drink!

All the ingredients for my Green Drink! (except pineapple…not blueberries.)

This drink is really not that bad!! I did add the honey though to sweeten it up a tiny bit. I put too much ginger in it so it had a little kick to it that I wasn’t prepared for. Jen eats/drinks this for breakfast every single day.

I chose between either the smoothie or the hemp seeds for lunch each day. I was definitely hesitant to try this, but I was incredibly surprised to find that it is actually really, really delicious!!  You get the Hemp seeds and Chia seeds from the grain bins at Whole Foods. You serve yourself and can take as much or as little as you’d like!

Serve yourself!

Serve yourself!

I tried the salad for dinner, but found myself starving so I added raw almonds or almond butter in as a snack. Justin’s makes these little almond butter packets that make the perfect snack to carry in your purse.


I have also discovered that my new favorite mid day small meal or snack is an avocado. I cut it in half and eat it with a spoon, like it’s green yogurt.

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Now I ate most of these things every day, but I needed a change of pace. Over the weekend I spent time at my best friend Abby’s and didn’t have time to put together a clean meal. I did, however, try to pick a healthier option for dinner than usual. We had Jimmy John’s Unwiches (a sandwich wrapped in iceberg lettuce as opposed to bread) and while I know the deli meat probably isn’t anywhere close to clean, it was better than like pizza or something. I realized that this challenge forced me to really think about the kinds of foods I’m ingesting and what kind of effects they’re really having on my body.

On Sunday, I visited the farmers market for some fresh, handmade pasta. Jen said this is ok to eat so I jumped on the opportunity! They have all different kinds, but I got basil and whole wheat. I paired this with some homemade cilantro lime pesto and cilantro lime shrimp.

http://www.ohiocitypasta.com/retail.htm is the website for the company that makes the pasta!

Cilantro-Lime Pesto: 

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, trimmed stems/roots
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (more if it’s too thick)
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp lime juice

Combine in Vitamix and blend!

Cilantro Lime Shrimp:

  • 1 lb shrimp, deveined and peeled
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp fresh minced garlic
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • olive oil

Sautee the garlic in the pan, then add shrimp, when it’s almost pink add crushed red pepper, black pepper and cumin, stir til fully cooked. Add cilantro, lime juice and chopped tomatoes.

I put the pesto on the pasta and the shrimp on top of that! SOOO delicious.

Lime Cilantro Pesto Shrimp Pasta

Lime Cilantro Pesto Shrimp Pasta

Pesto in the Vitamix!!

Pesto in the Vitamix!!

I also acquired a new temporary roommate this weekend! A coworker of my friends Braden and Sofocles just got transferred from Gillette in Boston to P&G in Cincinnati.  Her apartment isn’t ready for another month, but her job started this Monday! I had an unoccupied guest room and she had no where to live so Braden put us in touch with one another and she’ll be living with me for a month! Her name is Beryl and she’s super sweet! I wanted to give her a little welcome dinner, my best friend Courtney was in town and I got tired of eating clean alone so I had some of the girls come over for a lovely meal! I also wanted to use my new grill! I put together a completely organic menu.

We had grilled marinated locally raised flank steak, tricolor roasted potatoes, quinoa and heirloom tomato salad and balsamic glazed grilled asparagus. The marinade requires raspberry vinaigrette and I usually use store-bought but this time I made it from scratch. It looked like pink runny sorbet because of the raspberries. This makes me wonder what’s in the stuff I usually buy that has a more clear consistency. I also made the balsamic glaze reduction with local honey and organic balsamic vinegar. Delicious!! Jenna and I have decided this will be a more frequent thing since I love to cook so much!

Grilled marinated locally raised flank steak, tricolor roasted potatoes, quinoa and heirloom tomato salad and balsamic glazed grilled asparagus

Grilled marinated locally raised flank steak, tricolor roasted potatoes, quinoa and heirloom tomato salad and balsamic glazed grilled asparagus

This made for great leftovers, as well! I started sprint training with Megan’s husband, Drew, last night and the asparagus and a couple of slices of flank steak made for the perfect post-workout dinner.

After it’s all said and done, I fully intend on continuing to eat clean. It’s actually really easy. With a few exceptions, I discovered that I generally prepare clean meals without even knowing it. The smoothie is delicious and kind of reminds me of blueberry pancakes! The green drink is not delicious, but it keeps me full for HOURS.

I lost 6 pounds in 1 week! I’m sure it’s all water weight, but still!! I have so much energy, my body feels better and my skin is softer!  I have no plans to become a vegetarian, but I will definitely be limiting the amount of meat I am eating.

Next up on the menu…I’m making my own almond milk!!! I told Jen and she said “Who are you!? What have I created?!”

I’ll let you know how it tastes!!

Interested in trying your own clean-eating challenge? Check out these sites for more tips:





An Eye-Opening Experience…literally.

I have been looking forward to this challenge since I first opened up the envelope. It is one of the more unique challenges I’ve been given and I was incredibly anxious to do it!

Challenge #16:

“Lady Kathryn, I would like for you to go to a public place (with a buddy) and blindfold yourself. Navigate the space (with the buddy close by) for 1 hour.

Since my mom is blind I feel strongly about people understanding this disability and how folks manage with it.” -from Meredith Comin


Meredith is another friend of mine from Junior League. We had the pleasure of meeting when she stepped in to fill a roll in a fundraiser we were planning, Cinsation 2011. We became friends pretty much from the moment I met her. But how could I not? This girl is the sweetest southern belle, both inside and out. I bet she bleeds sweet tea. 😉 And we wear the same size shoes. And she has awwwesome shoes. Bonus. I can count on her for level headed advice, a great laugh or just plain pleasant company.



Meredith’s mom, Peggy, is blind. I asked Meredith to provide me with some background on Peggy so that I could share the experience with you.

She was blinded at the age of 2 in a horribly unfortunate accident. Some people would let this define them. If anything, I’d say she defined it. She attended public school until 9th grade, when she enrolled in a private HS and learned to read and write Braille beginning in the 2nd grade. Throughout her childhood, she had several attempts at a corneal transplant which were unsuccessful.

When Meredith was 1, Peggy gave the corneal transplant another go and it gave her back the ability to distinguish between light and dark and very bright colors. Then, about 5 years ago, she had another transplant that provided a great deal more vision. Meredith has told me this before and it never occurred to me to that body language was so visual. She explained that she thought people spoke like porcelain dolls – that only your mouth moved. She had no idea how animated people are or that you use your hands, your head moves, your eyes blink, etc. Her incredible independence can be attributed to Meredith’s grandmother raising her as though she did not have a disability. “Plus, Peg is just as fierce and motivated as can be :)”

Speaking of motivated, let’s talk about all that she has accomplished!! She received her undergraduate degree in English from Florida State (GO NOLES!) and Master of Elementary Guidance Counseling, Master of Rehabilitation Counseling from Georgia State University. She is currently expected to complete her Master of Creative Writing in 2013 from Kennesaw State University. She works as a Rehabilitation Counselor for the Georgia Department of Rehab. She is a long-standing member of the Junior League and has been a Sustainer in the JL of Atlanta for over 20 years. She has been married to her husband Bill for 36 years and raised two incredible children. I mean. WOW! Talk about impressive!

mere mere2

I also asked Meredith to tell me what it was like growing up with a visually-impaired mom.

“Growing up, I certainly had to do things such as read the mail, double-check the stove and burners, help coordinate outfits and act as a chauffeur. However, I don’t know any different so while I understand this is not what most people experience, it’s all I know. You learn to keep floors and hallways clear, though my beloved mother is forever misplacing her shoes and sunglasses! She’s never had a guide dog and has always done it on her own. She is truly my hero and I feel as though I’m a better person for having her as my mom.”
Well, she raised you so I’m darn glad she was your mom, too!
So I have been thinking about this challenge on and off since February. It was one of the first cards to come back in and I’m so glad it happened when it did. July has been an exceptionally gorgeous month. From the sunsets over Walloon Lake, to the fireworks on the 4th of July and the splendor that is the Missouri country side, I’ve been in awe for the past 31 days.
Jenna and I just came back from an incredible weekend visiting our best friend Courtney in St. Louis. While we were there, we took a party bus around to a bunch of different wineries in the area of Augusta. I am not exagerating when I say this. It literally could not have been a more perfect day. Blue bird sky, scattered with a few clouds, 75 degrees. Perfect. Jenna and I drove home on Sunday through the hills of the midwest on another equally gorgeous day. The thought that I was returning to Cincinnati to complete this challenge never left my mind. The beauty of everything I saw was a constant reminder of how lucky I am to be able to see it.
wine1 wine2
Meredith and I decided to complete this challenge at Washington Park, a newly renovated green space in the heart of OTR. I headed down early to snap some photos and reacquaint myself with the lay of the land. They host a farmers market on Mondays and I thought this would be the perfect spot. It would have plenty of people, I could buy something, I was familiar enough with the area that it made me feel comfortable, it is full of commotion and, finally, the sounds. There are so many sounds. Every time I’m there I notice all of the different things going on.
Meredith did what is called “Sighted Guide” with me around the park. I held onto her arm, based on which side was more comfortable, and she walked around the park for about an hour and a half. Christy was with us for most of it, as well. We ran into people I knew, but I could not distinguish who they were. One gave me a surprise poke on the rear end and scared the living daylights out of me.
I brought my GoPro camera to record the whole experience, but the footage didn’t turn out so great. I had it positioned on my head, but it was facing the sky most of the time. Also, just to prove how bad I am at being blind, I thought I turned it on, but I didn’t. Hahah…big surprise there… In another example of my undisputed brilliance, I forgot to bring a blindfold. Thankfully, Christy just happened to have one in her office that was a block away. We went to 3CDC, got situated and headed back out to the park.
I decided to test my strengths and see if I could manage enjoying a frozen treat from Gerry at Chill, an organic shaved ice vendor at the farmers market. Meredith read the flavors to me and naturally, she ordered the Georgia Peach. Sadly, they were out of it so we both settled on Strawberry Limeaide. Eating without being able to see is difficult and relatively messy. I couldn’t find the straw with my mouth and kept missing the cup when I tried to jab at it to break up the chunks. I guess I need vision for depth perception. The most interesting part about this experience was paying. I realized that I had no way of distinguishing which bill was for which dollar value. Thankfully, Gerry was very nice and told me, but I can see how people could get ripped off all the time. After that, we tried to wash my hands off in the fountain. Thankfully, Meredith was great at directing me and I didn’t get soaked.
We went up and down the steps of the bandstand, crossed intersections, and wandered all around the park and surrounding areas. We met people, played with dogs, purchased some local honey (the best medicine in the world for allergies or a cough), and even spoke with some local press. A guy from Local 12 was interviewing park visitors on their thoughts on NSA. I promptly said, “No I don’t want to answer your questions. I’ll end up on Jimmy Kimmel Live in the segment about people that don’t know what they’re talking about.” He asked about my blog too (maybe because I was standing there with a bright red blind fold and a GoPro Camera on my head). Maybe they’ll call and want to do a segment! Who knows…
I noticed a few things in particular and some others that Meredith pointed out to me. The rest of my senses became significantly stronger. I was hearing things I’d never noticed before. I enjoyed trying to identify them, as well. I also noticed that people really do treat you differently. For example, whenever anyone would approach us to see what was going on, they would always ask Meredith what was happening instead of talking to me. I just wanted to shout “I’m BLIND not DEAF!” Also, my sense of direction was totally thrown off. As we wandered through the park I listened for familiar sounds, felt around and checked out the grounds to try and evaluate where I was or what direction I was facing. I was wrong 99% of the time I checked for clarification. When talking with people, I had to ask Meredith for confirmation that I was, in fact, looking at them or at least in their general direction. People generally moved out of my way and a lot of interest was generated in what I was doing. One little boy was, however, incredibly disappointed that I was not actually blind. Sorry to let you down, dear…
To accompany the physical portion of my adventure, Peggy sent me a little package! Enclosed were my name typed in Braille, the Braille alphabet and a little message for me to translate. It took me a little bit and I made it through the first half without peeking, but admittedly cheated on the second half. It was unintentional, but I had to know if I was right!! I believe it says “Have a marvelous summer and stay cool…try swimming.”
braillemessage image-1 braillealphabet
I’ve been anticipating this adventure for awhile now and in the last few weeks I started thinking of all the things I would have missed out on if I weren’t able to see. I would have no idea what my niece looks like. I wouldn’t be able to get myself ready to go places. I happen to love doing my makeup and I attempted to do it without opening my eyes. Let’s just say that was a disaster and leave it at that. And while this may sound fairly narcissistic (because it is), I LOVE looking at myself in the mirror. Not every one, specifically every woman, can say they look in the mirror and like what they see. I happen to enjoy it. I like to know that things are in place and that I look presentable. Sue me.
Beyond that, I am a very visual person. Specifically, I am a visual learner. I like to see things to understand them. I imagine things in my mind that I never would have been able to imagine had I never seen them before. I never would have gotten through high school. I pictured the loose leaf pages of paper that I’d scribble notes all over every time I took a test. I could tell you exactly what they looked like and where everything was written. I remember what people were wearing or what their faces look like. I don’t know how I’d ever remember who anyone was if I couldn’t see them. Meredith said something to me that struck me the other day. She said that her mom doesn’t know what she looks like. It broke my heart. I cannot imagine what that must be like.
Most importantly to me on a personal level, my love of photography would be non-existent. I absolutely cannot imagine living life without the ability to capture it on film. I get a lot of grief for how many times I snap photos of things on my phone, but that is because the moment meant something to me and I wanted to share it with the world. I wish everyone got as excited as I do about clouds and sunsets and flowers and trees. In fact, I can’t understand why they don’t. It’s magnificent. Nature is really freaking awesome. And I want to take pictures of all of it. All of these breathtaking adventures I’ve been on would have been a whole lot less enjoyable without my sense of sight…
Here are some of the photographs I’ve taken along the way…
A bee pollenating some Alaskan Fireweed

A bee pollenating some Alaskan Fireweed

A Bald Eagle perched on some old pylons

A Bald Eagle perched on some old pylons

Alaskan fireweed with Saginaw in the background

Alaskan fireweed with Skagway in the background

A Bald Eagle in flight

A Bald Eagle in flight

Humpback Whale breaks the surface

Humpback Whale breaks the surface

Sunrise over the boundary waters in Canada

Sunrise over the boundary waters in Canada

A glacial melt waterfall in the Tracy Arm Fjord

A glacial melt waterfall in the Tracy Arm Fjord

Sunset in Boca Grande, FL. Easily my most favorite thing to watch in the world...

Sunset in Boca Grande, FL. Easily my most favorite thing to watch in the world…

I'd never know what this beautiful face looked like.

I’d never know what this beautiful face looked like.

My sister, Abbey, paddle boarding into the sunset

My sister, Abbey, paddle boarding into the sunset

Walloon Sunset

Walloon Sunset

Walloon Sunset

Walloon Sunset

Walloon Sunset

Walloon Sunset

I learned some pretty valuable lessons on this little excursion! I will never again take advantage of my ability to see. I am clumsy enough as it is. I’ll leave you with a quote…
“I hope I never become so used to the world that it no longer seems wonderful.”
Open your eyes. Take a look around. Really enjoy what you’re seeing because not everyone can.
See you next week!