Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Color wonderful

I am giddy just looking at these vibrant, festive frocks. Can you imagine how it would feel to slip one on? I would twirl and twirl and twirl...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Missing you

Today was a busy day at work. In some ways that's a good thing. I wasn't allowed to really dwell on what this day means. But I also didn't have time to visit the cemetery, which I feel a bit guilty about. Not really guilty I guess, I just wanted to go. But I know Jeremy wouldn't mind. He would understand.

Today is the 10th anniversary of my brother's death. I've talked about it on here before and I know it is not exactly a happy topic, but I can't let the day go by without acknowledging it somehow.

Even though it is just one day, I've been thinking about this day for several months. I've long been aware that this would be the 10-year anniversary. It is hard to believe it has been that long. When I mentioned it to my best friend last week, she couldn't believe it either.

But more than that, I've also long realized that this year I would turn 26. I am the same age my brother was when he was killed. It's a bit surreal. I try to imagine myself in his place and I can't. He always seemed so much older. Now that I am his age, I can't comprehend it. I feel like I have just started to live my life and there's still so much more I want to accomplish. I guess it just reaffirms what I've always known. Jeremy was taken far too soon. He had so much potential, so much more to do and give and see and be. But the unpredictability of life stepped in and his time here was cut short. I'll never understand why, I've accepted that. It is what it is and you can't really find meaning in it. You just have to learn from it, grow from it and move on in the best way you can. And I think I've done that for the most part.

But no matter how many years are put between then and now, I'll never stop remembering. And I'll never stop missing my big brother. My goofy, good-hearted brother. It's funny, most times I feel "fine" about the whole thing. I think of him with only joy in my heart. It has been a decade after all. But then there's those other times that startle me with a whoosh of emotion-- sadness, of course, and a longing to be able to change the unchangeable. Times like right now, when I'm trying to fight the tears. I should just let them fall.

Jeremy, I'm sorry I wasn't able to visit you today. I was going to bring you a beer this year instead of flowers. I thought the rebel in you might appreciate that. Maybe I'll come out to sit with you this weekend. It's hard for me to do, but sometimes it's good to just feel it. Until then, know that you are in my thoughts today and every day, and everyone down here misses you. A lot. I love you forever.

Your little sis,

P.S. I'm disabling comments for this one. But if you got this far, thank you so much for reading.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Adore Adele

About a week ago, I was strolling Barnes & Noble. On the store's radio was none other than the uber-talented Adele. They were playing her whole new CD, song after song. Each track I fell more in love.

I only recently discovered Adele. I had heard her songs on the radio, and I'm sure you have too-- the powerful "Rolling In The Deep" in particular-- but I didn't know who the singer was behind them. But once I found out, I wanted to hear more.

So back to Barnes & Noble. After hearing her voice while perusing the magazine racks I quickly made a beeline for the music section. There I found her first and second albums- titled 19 and 21, respectively. I hardly ever buy CDs anymore-- the last one I purchased was Kaleidoscope Heart, from my other musical girl crush Sara Bareilles, and I only bought that to get early access to concert tickets. No matter, I picked up both of Adele's CDs. I had to have them immediately.

Since then I have been listening to 21 on repeat. I can't get enough. I'm a little obsessed but I'm OK with that. Her voice is simply amazing. No tricks, no gimmicks, just pure artistry and emotion. I love that. My favorite song by far is "Turning Tables." (Though "Someone Like You" comes in at a very close second.) Adele's voice is beautiful but the piano is, too. Man, I wish I could play. Still, I love to sing it and I'm sure my family heard me belting it out from my room this weekend. Oh, Adele-- you make me happy.

If you haven't heard the British songstress yet, I encourage you to take a listen. You may just fall in love too. May I suggest this wonderful live version of "Turning Tables" as your introduction?

Or this rendition of "Someone Like You" at the 2011 BRIT Awards? (Side note: I am loving her makeup here. So pretty!)

Do you adore Adele too? Have you found a new artist that you just can't get enough of? I'd love to hear!

Album cover via Adele's official website

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Good news

Hello everyone! I have some good news to share! While being a journalist can be super stressful to say the least, it is times like these when I truly feel like all the hard work and time and effort that I put in really is worth it.

This past Saturday, I-- along with a few editors, photographers and the publishers of the paper I work for-- attended the California Newspaper Publishers Association's awards show and luncheon for its 2010 Better Newspapers Contest. (That's a mouthful, huh?) Last month, I found out that one of my stories had been selected as a first or second place winner in the Feature Story category for weekly newspapers with circulations of 25,001 and above-- the largest weekly category.

Well, when my former editor called me with the news I was pretty excited but I didn't want to get my hopes up. See, they don't tell you if you got first or second because they want you to come to the luncheon to find out. But the last time someone from my newspaper group won first place in feature writing was some 13 years ago! It was my now-managing editor, who back then was just a young "cub" reporter like myself. So you can see why I was a bit nervous, too. I thought, just tell me straight out the gate if I got second, don't make me wait only to find out I was second best!

Anyway, I went to the luncheon and the salad was delicious. Oh, you don't care about that? Well, when they began announcing the winners in the weekly division, my heart started going pitter-patter and my stomach was churning! The anticipation was killing me! I had to wait through 15 categories (general excellence, public service, investigative reporting, sports coverage...) until they got to me.

All of a sudden, my photo and story flashed on the screen and the announcer said my name. I WON FIRST PLACE!!! My table cheered, high-fived and was all sorts of inappropriate but it was great. I had the biggest smile on my face. I couldn't believe it. Even though I finally had the answer I'd waited weeks for, my hands wouldn't stop trembling for a good 15 minutes.

Though I would have been thrilled to have won in, say, the local news category, the fact that I won for feature writing truly means the world to me. That is where my passion lies-- sharing other people's stories, connecting on a human level and moving the reader, to action or to tears.

The award-winning (!!!) article is one that is particularly special to me. It is about a little boy named Cameron who even at 5 months old had a tremendous spirit and will to live. I was honored to talk to his parents and tell his story, and I'd love for you to read it if you have a minute. I've pasted it below as it ran in the Simi Valley Acorn on Feb. 5, 2010 (minus the address to send donations at the end).

Cameron's story: Growing up with a broken heart

Sitting in the living room of their Simi Valley home, Mike and Sandy Nash share snapshots of their 5-month-old son, Cameron.
In one photo, the infant’s fuzzy head peeks out from a bundled blanket. His blue eyes seem to sparkle and he is giving the camera his best toothless grin.
They say pictures speak a thousand words, but this image is deceptively adorable. For a baby with a broken heart, Cameron Nash looks like one happy little boy.
The truth is, his story has been marked by struggle. Born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), Cameron has endured more pain in five months than many people experience in a lifetime.
“People say to me, ‘I can’t imagine what you go through every day,’ but I look at my son and I say, ‘I can’t imagine what he goes through every day,’” Sandy said. 
She and Mike learned something was wrong with their baby at her first ultrasound in March 2009.
“We found out we were having a baby boy and then about five minutes later we found out that he’s going to have a heart defect,” Sandy said.
“We should have known it would be a rollercoaster right then,” Mike said.
Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is a congenital abnormality in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped, causing it to not pump blood as it should. Without treatment, the defect is usually fatal within the first week of life.
According to the American Heart Association, about 1 percent of babies born in the U.S. have congenital cardiovascular defects.
Because of the challenges that go along with a child who has a heart problem, the doctor asked Sandy three separate times if she was sure she wanted to continue with the pregnancy.
With a vision of Cameron one day running around with his big sister, Akina, now 2, Sandy’s answer was always the same: Yes.
“I didn’t think that it was my choice to take my son’s life away from him,” she said. “In my and my husband’s mind we have to do whatever we can to give him the best possible life.”
There are two major treatment options for babies with HLHS: a three-stage surgical procedure that reconstructs the child’s heart so that it can work using only two of the heart’s four chambers or a heart transplant.
On Aug. 14, when Cameron was born, he was taken immediately to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Mike didn’t even get a chance to hold him. After a series of tests, the doctors decided the newborn needed the three-step surgery.
So at just 4 days old, Cameron went under the knife. The surgeons reconstructed his heart so that the right side would pump to both the lungs and the body.
“You can’t fix the anatomy so you fix the plumbing, so to speak,” said Sylvia del Castillo, a pediatric ICU doctor at Childrens Hospital who has cared for Cameron since he was born.
Cameron remained in the hospital for two months. His recovery was slow going as he had trouble learning to breathe and eat, and he battled acid reflux and a blood clot.
On Oct. 14, the Nashes’ little boy was finally well enough to come home and meet his big sis. But a month later, Cameron went into cardiogenic shock. His heart was failing and he had to be rushed to the Simi Valley Hospital emergency room.
Sandy and Mike thought they were going to lose him.
Cameron pulled through but he had to return to Childrens Hospital.
Mike said it’s been difficult to not have his son at home and to have to visit him at the hospital, especially during the holidays.
“You want to be in the spirit but it’s hard to get to feel that way when baby’s first Christmas is in the ICU,” he said.
There were good days and bad days, Mike said, and though Cameron made some progress, it was “torturous.” Each setback felt like he was “socked in the gut.”
After Cameron endured a seizure, dialysis, a metal stint put in his aorta, and a ventilator, the doctors started to talk heart transplant. But tests revealed the infant had too many antibodies and would reject a new heart.
So instead his parents looked toward the second step of surgery, which is typically performed at 6 months. The surgery was their only hope for Cameron to improve because his heart was simply working too hard—like running a marathon all day, Sandy said.
It’s a risky surgery, del Castillo said, especially for young, underweight babies like Cameron, but the procedure is critical because it takes the load off the heart.
After overcoming an infection, Cameron finally had his surgery last Friday at Childrens Hospital. Though he had a 50-50 chance of surviving, he went through it like a champ, del Castillo said, adding that many in the hospital never thought he’d make it this far.
“He’s a trouper,” she said. “He’s going to take some time, he’s teaching us patience. But we have a much better feeling . . . that he will be okay. He’s totally battled the odds.”
Though he’s still in the hospital and has at least one more operation in his future, Sandy said the successful surgery has given her family renewed hope.
The last five months have been stressful and heartwrenching, as Sandy and Mike juggle full-time jobs—she at Trader Joe’s in Simi and he at the Department of Water and Power—with being at the hospital and parenting Akina.
And the costs add up, too. Mike said Cameron has accumulated more than a $1 million in medical bills. Though they have good insurance, it doesn’t cover the expense of driving to downtown L.A. six days a week or keeping Akina in daycare.
Family friend George Annino, who met Sandy 10 years ago when they worked at the Westlake Trader Joe’s, is collecting donations for the Nashes.
“People can always use help, we all realize that, and Sandy, she is just a sweet person, she’s a great mother,” said Annino, an Oak Park resident.
In the face of adversity, del Castillo said the Nashes have shown amazing resilience and positiveness—just like their little boy.
“Until the doctors tell us we’ve done all we can do, we’re going to keep fighting, too,” Mike said.

Sadly, a little more than a month after this story ran, Cameron passed away. I did a follow-up story at that time. You can read that article here.

Even though more than a year has passed, reading these stories still brings tears to my eyes. But that is exactly the kind of affect I want my stories to have. I want them to pull at readers' heartstrings and make them feel, even if those emotions aren't always easy. No matter what, Cameron's story is an inspiring tale of perseverance and love and I hope Mike and Sandy know that their little boy had an impact-- probably on more people than they will ever know.

P.S. I wasn't the only award winner at work! My colleagues won top honors too!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Little Miss Four Eyes

Some of you may not know this, but my vision is not exactly 20/20. This could be applied figuratively to my life but at this moment I mean it in the very literal sense. In fact, much to my chagrin, I recently had to get a stronger prescription. (My mother, although she can see, is "legally blind" and I dread the day that my own eyesight gets that bad.)

Many people, outside my friends and family, likely don't know I wear glasses because I very, very rarely wear them out in public. My purple Ray-Bans-- although not as hideous as the tiny, angular, librarian-esque frames I donned in middle and high school-- are primarily reserved for use at home, specifically late at night when I am in my pajamas in bed. They only grace my face outside if I have slept one too many nights in my contacts (a very bad habit of mine, I have to admit) and my eyes simply won't have it.

However, I would most certainly wear my glasses more often if I looked as cute as Anne Hathaway, who was the most lovely four-eyed creature on-- surprise, surprise!-- the red carpet for the Los Angeles premiere of her new animated flick, "Rio."

I mean, this is just not fair how adorable she looks! It's kind of gutsy wearing glasses on the red carpet, but she pulls it off gorgeously.

Granted, the overall aesthetics may not just be because of her natural beauty. Those tortoise shell frames got it going on, too.

Which reminds me that I've been wanting to purchase a new pair for myself, ones with a bit more vintage flair and personality. Mine are slightly dated, going on four years now I think, and the lenses are scuffed and scratched.

If I did treat myself to some eye candy, the first place I'd look is Warby Parker. Have you heard of them? You likely have since the company has been a darling of the blogosphere, but in case you haven't here's the scoop.

Warby Parker is a collaboration between four friends who wanted to provide an alternative to the overpriced and bland eyewear available today. Their fashionable frames retail for just $95-- a steal when you compare them to my pair, which cost upwards of $300. Plus, for every pair purchased, Warby Parker donates glasses to someone in need. How amazing is that?

I'm partial to colorful frames rather than basic black, so I'm loving:

Miles, in amber or sandalwood matte

(or, if you really want to get some stares, in tangerine!)

Which frames do you like best?

And for all you girls with glasses, check out... The Girls With Glasses! (They've been a bit quiet lately but they've promised to be back in full force soon and I bet you'll love 'em. One half of the duo is Brooke White, who is one of my favorite American Idol finalists! I was rooting for her all the way on Season 7! :)

Hope you're having a wonderful week!

P.S. If you didn't see my last post, check it out. I have a fashion dilemma and I need your help! :)

Anne Hathaway image via Glamour

Friday, April 8, 2011

Crazy Little Things

Of all the seasons, spring is my favorite. The warmer weather, cool breezes, chirping birds and blooming buds-- what's not to love, right? And it is just about this time of year when you can dig into your closet and pull out all those cute sundresses you stashed away during the chilly winter months.

It's also about this time that I start thinking about getting myself some new sundresses to fill my already overstuffed closet.

What can I say? I love dresses. And online shopping. It's an addiction. Moving on...

This all leads me to Threadsence. A few weeks ago they released their new Spring Lookbook (Vol. 2) titled "Crazy Little Things." Well, it sure made me crazy. Crazy in love. With about every single item, on every single page. Flipping through the virtual catalog, all I could think was, "Threadsence, why oh why are you doing this to me?" as I simultaneously imagined my bank account slowly (or quickly) draining. Ha! I'd already bought myself a few new things for spring so I felt a tad guilty lusting after more. Never satisfied, I am!

Well, somewhere the fashion gods are smiling on me. Somewhere, someone in the universe wants to fuel my online shopping and quest for the perfect-go-anywhere dress. Yes, I am a lucky girl because this week I found out that I won a $75 gift card to-- where else?-- Threadsence!

I entered a giveaway on Aimee's beautiful fashion blog, Song of Style, promptly forgot all about it because who really thinks they are going to win those things, and then, out of 285 people, I was randomly chosen!

That was most certainly the best email I got on Tuesday!

So, now the difficult task comes of choosing what to get with my prize. This is where you come in! I've collected a few of my fave pieces from the spring lookbook for your browsing pleasure. Tell me which ones you like best! 

I'm looking forward to reading your picks! And I'd also love to hear, what's your favorite thing about spring?

Happy weekend!


Friday, April 1, 2011

In Flight

I am loving these photographs by Michael Light. Aren't they extraordinary? The light pouring from the horizon in each shot is just breathtaking. Both are of my fair city Los Angeles. I'm claiming it for the moment because these were actually taken above the San Fernando Valley, which is just a hop skip and a jump from my home. What a beautiful perspective of a town that, in all honesty, isn't necessarily known for its beauty.

This is what the 20x200 newsletter that introduced the editions had to say about the sister prints:

A pilot himself with a lifelong love of flight, Light hired a helicopter pilot to lift and roam with him above Los Angeles so he could hover over a rare sort of 4x5 camera—a Linhof Aero Technika—which uses roll film, allowing Light to shoot continuously without constantly reloading single sheets. Over the course of the project, he shot 900-some photos of the lights, the buildings, the streets, the trees and river below. On the ground—in the darkroom and on the computer—Light combined traditional film processing techniques with post-production work. Turning his negatives into digital files, Light smoothed out the film grain, moderating its interference with the haze and particles of light that you see glowing around the horizon.

If you don't already, I highly recommend signing up for the 20x200 emails... It is like getting a mini art tour in your inbox a couple times a week! Even though I can't buy all the prints that capture my heart, like these ones-- I simply don't have the space!-- I love being introduced to new art and new artists, and stealing away a few minutes from work to see the world through someone else's eyes, lens or paintbrush.

Hope you are having a wonderful Friday! The sun is shining and it has felt like summer the past few days... I can just taste the weekend!