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WOMEN WHO INSPIRE: MEET KELLY

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


Welcome, friends! I'm so thrilled you're here for the third installment of the Women Who Inspire series. If this is your first time popping over, in August The Lucky Lifestyle kicked off a monthly "Women Who Inspire" series featuring a profile of a different woman every month who is -- you guessed it! -- inspirational (and really, what woman isn't? But these ladies are extraordinary!). 

Today I'm SO happy and excited to introduce you all to October's feature woman, Kelly. I have known Kelly since middle school (remember those fun years?), and she is just as much fun and just as hilarious today as she was all those years ago. I've always admired her wit, but these days what I admire most is that she's not ever afraid to stand up for what and who she believes in, as well as the unique combination of strength and vulnerability she possesses when it comes to facing one of her biggest challenges: she recently tested gene positive for Huntington's Disease.

This woman is dynamite. Read on to to find out why, and be prepared to experience all the feelings... and to laugh. You'll definitely laugh.



1. Let's start with the basics! Tell us a little bit about yourself -- where you call home, what you do for a living, and who makes up your family.

I live in Washington, DC with my husband Scott and our dog Margot.  We love being here, it's a thriving city that negotiates power during the week and settles into a cluster of unique self contained neighborhoods during the weekend. There is always something new to learn, cool art to see, and delicious food to eat.

Since moving here in 2011 I’ve had a few jobs, but for the last 5 years I’ve been working in government affairs in the Agriculture sector. Exciting stuff, huh?  Its good work that provides me the freedom to pursue the fun stuff with the remaining 128 hours of the week.


(Photo credit: Oliver Vignola)

2. You are a potter -- so cool! How did you discover your love for making pottery?

In high school I fell in love with the idea I had of going to college to study Fashion Merchandising-It was business but glam! I quickly realized that it was way less interesting and way less glam than I had hoped. I transferred into a smaller school with an arts program and flourished. I was given the opportunity to explore different mediums including clay. I loved the way that I could just transfer my imagination into this lump of goo! It was so fun! Then I spent a few years working in arts administration which gave me a broad view of the pottery process so when I got the chance to take a full blown wheel class, I jumped at it! I ended up taking classes for 3 years and then became a Community Artist at District Clay Center where I keep my studio today.

3. What has your career path looked like thus far? Are you where you thought you would be ten years ago?

Oh man, no way.  I thought I’d be in New York running a gallery and living in a sexy high rise apartment that’s all windows or something. At the time, that mindset was common among my peers, so I kind of just adopted it as mine. After that big change in college though, I just started following my heart all over the damn place! I worked in arts programming and studio management before I moved into government affairs. In the meantime I took up every opportunity for education of any sort that came my way. I’ve taken a ground school class for pilots; a college workshop about the science of electric kilns; and a one day class called Women Run Campaigns, among others.  When you think trajectory-you think flying through the air bypassing all the obstacles on the ground. I used to really just want to fly straight to the top, but now that I’m in it, I love zig-zagging around those obstacles on the ground.

4. Three years ago you tested gene positive for Huntington's Disease, a disease that has taken the life of your great grandmother, both of her children, and five of her grandchildren, including your father at the age of just 48. Can you share what Huntington's Disease is for those who aren't familiar with it?

Huntington’s Disease (HD) is a genetic brain disease that stays dormant until mid-life when memory, cognition, and motor skills begin to diminish. Every offspring of someone with HD has a %50 chance of inheriting it. It is rare and only about 20,000 Americans are diagnosed in some way, but that means an estimated 250,000 others are at risk.

The diagnosis process for this disease is different from many others. If you wait until you show symptoms a test is almost unnecessary, but if you get tested before the symptoms come you just kind of sit in limbo wondering when the symptoms will surface. I am in that limbo right now; I’m gene+ but not yet symptomatic and do not have a clinical diagnosis.

Because researchers have identified the gene, you can be tested any time after 18 years of age regardless of symptoms. I am of the first generation that could utilize this test as they only identified the correct gene in the 1990s. Getting tested might sound like a no-brainer on paper, but there is not yet a cure, nor are there any viable treatments on the market, so knowing the results can be really scary.

There are some amazing trials happening in the UK and Canada with what they call “Gene Silencing.” Everyone has the Huntington gene, but HD+ people have a mutated version. While a normative functioning gene makes proteins that send instructions to your brain, an HD+ gene cannot properly create those proteins. The proteins it makes cannot be interpreted by the brain so it confuses its signals causing uncontrolled movement and clouds cognitive functions. Gene silencing switches the gene off so it stops making proteins entirely. Again, it sounds great on paper but there is still a lot of research (that needs a lot of funding) to be done.

5. In what ways has Huntington's Disease changed your outlook on life? What would you want other people to know about your experience?

Even though it is a rare disease, it has a heavy presence in the families it affects.  HD has been discussed in my family since I was a child, we’ve lost a lot of loved ones. I think that made my own diagnosis digestible for me, because I’ve seen it.  The biggest impact, even bigger than my personal test results, was seeing the way it affected my dad.

When he lost his big brother he came unglued by the reality that it could be his fate, too. By the time he received his own clinical diagnosis 6 years later he had already started showing symptoms-and was working very hard to hide them. He was someone who believed in hard line gender roles, so being “the man of the house” was fused with his sense of self. So when his abilities to be decisive, to lead, to provide all began to fade away he viewed himself fading away, too.

That has colored my outlook for my future, and taught me to view things for what they are now, rather than what they’ll be in the next 5-10 years and beyond. For now I’m rolling with the punches and doing my best to appreciate the bomb ass gifts in my life right now. There are dark days, for sure but they’re manageable because of the awesome support system I have.

My loved ones rallied behind me so hard when I told them my results and have stayed there ever since. Some of my friends got together and made ham sandwiches and raised $400 for research by selling them. Can you believe a ham sandwich could hold so much power? I never could’ve imagined. A different friend joined the Huntington’s Disease Society of America’s NYC Marathon team, and she’s raised over $4000 and will run on November 4, but can fundraise through December 31. You can find her fundraising page and donate, if you'd like and are able to, here.
 
While the disease itself invokes fear, I know it’s superficial. I have such warm giving people in my life who are helping me through this stage and I know will be there for me in the next one.

6. Where can people learn more, and what can they do to help (what questions to ask/not ask, where to donate, how to take action, etc.)?

The Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA) is the best resource I’ve found for information on the latest studies/medical trials. Annually they award grants to HD Clinics across the country under a program called HD Centers of Excellence. They do a great job of stretching the resources to serve the most people in need. If anyone would like to donate to fund that program, the link above for Mallory’s marathon is doing just that. You can also donate directly through their website www.hdsa.org.

Another great way to help is to find a HD clinic near you and ask if they need any control subjects for any research they’re working one. That’s one of the hardest parts about a rare disease is that everyone with the disease wants to get in on the trial, but they can only do it if they have a pool of people with normative brain function to compare to them. Time commitment can vary from once a month or once a year depending on the program, and they just might even pay you! HDSA.org has a tool where you can search on a map by zip code to find the closest HD clinic near you.

By now I sound like a broken record, but HDSA is a great organization. It was founded by Woody Guthrie’s widow Marjorie, after he died from HD. She started it with an ad in the paper inviting other families who have experienced HD to her kitchen table to talk. It is a grassroots movement and continues to operate as a cluster of symbiotic chapters that work with the families in their region. Full disclosure, I am a former President of our Washington DC Chapter and know first hand how impactful their work is.

So for you, the reader who wants to help, you can check out your local chapter, they can always use reliable volunteers. In most regions there are 5k walks/runs, Educational Panels, Galas and brunch events taking place all year round.  HDSA has 4/4 stars on Charity Navigator, including a 100% score on transparency so should you choose to donate money, time, etc to this you can feel good about it.

7. You're currently working on writing your first book. What has that process been like so far? Any tips for other aspiring writers?

I’m writing this book for myself first, it’s a memoir because I want to have my memories documented before they slip away. It has been an emotional process for me so far. So For this specific writing, I’ve found that starting broadly with the Ws of each piece then going back to really dig in on a specific issue is the best way for me to stay focused without forcing it. Even though some of it is pretty heavy, I’m having so much fun remembering things on purpose! It’s still in its infancy though, so I might have to amend this in a few months.

8. You aren't afraid to stand up for what you believe in. Tell us which issues you are most passionate about and what you do to work toward change.

I’ve been a feminist ever since I had to say the word chauvinist in a school play when I was 8. My mom politely corrected my pronunciation, and diplomatically answered my question about what it meant. To which I replied “Who says!?  Who says girls aren’t as good as boys!?” and my balled up fist has been perched on my hip ever since.

I’ve also learned a lot since that day about how it’s not just SOME boys not liking SOME girls, but that there are systems in place at every level of our country to hinder women and girls from excelling. Then I uncovered that systems just like that are in place to disadvantage non-white races of every sex.  

I am always uncovering new context that I had been shielded from during my white suburban upbringing. To support this I’ve marched in protest. I’ve amplified voices of people who are black, gay, disabled, anything that is a perspective I personally cannot have. And mostly I listen to and believe my sisters and brothers when they say they don’t experience the freedom of which America is so proud.

9. What would people be most surprised to learn about you?

I’m actually a lot of fun! I know that a loud and proud feminist with ticking time bomb of a terminal illness doesn’t sound like the life of the party, but it’s true. I love meeting new people and dancing around and just learned how to play bananagrams!

But yes, I try to approach everything with a strong sense of humor because everything in this world is absurd and it is not fair to only give credence to the serious parts!


(Photo Credit: Sarah Schu)

10. What would your ideal day look like, from start to finish?

Wake up with the sun, and snuggle up in bed for as long as I feel like.
Flesh out some ideas for whatever I’m working on and jot down a few new ones.
Go to the dog park and hang with Scott and our great neighbors while Margot gets some relief from our apartment.
Head to my studio to throw some new work, and surprise it’s someone’s birthday and they got one of those cakes from Milk Bar Bakery and they want to share it with me! Make some work, and move some other work along in the process.
Come home and play with the dog and give Scott a TedTalk about the process of the pieces I brought out of the kiln at the studio.
Then I shower and actually use all of the dumb products I own, and get dressed to go out to dinner with Scott, and friends.
We have a reservation (no waiting!) at a new restaurant where I can order whatever has goat cheese on the menu, a bottle of wine for the table and some type of brownie/ice cream dessert to split!
Then get to bed at a reasonable time, and remember to take off my makeup first.


Kelly, thank you so very much for sharing so much of yourself and your life with us! You have no doubt inspired many. If you have any questions for Kelly, feel free to ask them below (and to just say hello!), or send them to helloluckylifestyle@gmail.com.

A Rainy Weekend + This Week's Menu + An Important Announcement

Monday, October 29, 2018

First, I need to acknowledge the horrific shooting that occurred over the weekend at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA -- the state where I am from. So many lives lost to such senseless hate and violence. I just don't understand it and never will, but I hope to always be a source of love and light and teach my kids, our next generation, to be the same.


How was your weekend? It was pretty dreary weather here, which fit perfectly with our plans to do absolutely nothing. Haha, but really, we mostly stayed in and relaxed and our colds are all feeling much better so I'd count a low-key weekend as a win!

Saturday we played, got some things done around the house, made chili in the crockpot and the girls made some cornbread to go along with it, and during Hadley's nap I made a quick run to Trader Joe's (which, by the way -- TJ's on a Saturday afternoon is a little brutal). I did find some yummy new things to try, including these iced coffee dessert bars. Yes, yes please. Sign me up!




Saturday night after the girls were in bed I took out the Christmas gifts I have for them so far to sort through and get a handle on things. I started picking up a few things here and there really early this year, as I don't want to be grabbing things last minute if possible and would just like the holiday season to be as stress free and FUN as possible. Have you started any holiday shopping yet or are you thinking... this lady's nuts!

After that, Steve and I started the new season of Making a Murderer. Have you seen it? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Yesterday we did even more playing, more cleaning, Steve painted the ceiling in Hadley's room, I placed a grocery order for pick-up this afternoon, and Carrington and I played Candy Land. When we first started, I was winning and she nonchalantly said "Mom, I think we should just play without these silly cards. I don't care for them." I had to laugh, but then we had a little talk about being a good sport, and not a sore loser. ;)

Layla has the right idea for a Sunday morning.

Later after nap we went to Red Robin for dinner. The girls are at an age where eating out is actually relatively easy again (I totally just jinxed it), and it's just so much fun to be out in the world doing our thing with these two little people by our sides. Not to say that they don't still have their moments out and about -- because they definitely do -- but it just feels a little easier right now. Oh, and in honor of Halloween week, I found this gem of a picture. Third grade me (I think?) was beyond excited to be Kimberly.




On to this week's menu (and don't miss the important announcement below!):

Monday - Chili and bread leftovers

Tuesday - Taco bowls (ground beef, rice, roasted corn, black beans and cheese in a tostada bowl)

Wednesday - Homemade pizza (with garlic and herb crust from TJs!) and salad

Thursday - Pesto pasta with chicken sausage and a side of sautéed brussels

Friday - Tomato soup with bread/spanakopita (because the craving struck at TJs)

Saturday - Leftovers

Sunday - Out


And, an exciting announcement: Stay tuned tomorrow for the October "Women Who Inspire" profile -- I can't wait for you to meet her!

 Happy Monday, friends!


Five on Friday: 5 Recent Outfits (+ A Bonus)

Friday, October 26, 2018

TGIF! I'm not too sorry to bid farewell to this week, since 3 out of 4 of us came down with a yucky cold. The weather was beautiful but chilly -- I would've loved to get outside to enjoy it more, but hopefully next week we'll be up and running! What are you up to this weekend? We had some ideas for plans but we're just going to take it easy and see how the girls are doing. It looks like it will be pretty rainy here, anyway! I am never sad about a relaxing weekend. :)

I thought I'd shake it up again format-wise for today's Five on Friday! Today I'm actually sharing six recent outfits (let's call it five and a bonus!) I've worn in these transitional fall weeks. It can be hard to find the right thing to put on when the weather and temps are all over the place, can't it? So I've been trying to get use out of those in-between pieces -- long sleeves, vests, jeans and leggings. Easy peasy! PS - Everything is linked (or something similar is) in case something catches your eye.

1. Vest + chambray top + leggings



 You can't go wrong with this combo. It's comfortable and looks put together without trying basically at all. ;) The light chambray shirt is old Target (similar here), the leggings are BP, the sneakers are from Target last year but here's a similar pair, and the vest is from Target this year. I clearly love me some Bullseye!



2. Tank + long cardigan + leggings




Tell me I'm not the only one who occasionally eats cereal from a giant mug for lunch or dinner? This is another no-brainer featuring super-comfy leggings, a striped tank from (you guessed it!) Target, and an ultra soft long cardigan (comes down to almost my knees -- I'm 5'2 + 3/4" ;)) from Nordstrom. Same three brands as the first photo! I know what I like.

3. Sweater + (stretch-waist!) jeans

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I got a couple of new things for this fall/winter season, and I think this sweater is my favorite. Yep, it's from Target, and it's so cute and warm. The back has a cable detail going down the back and I think it looks a lot like some other more expensive options. And these jeans... I shared these recently, but they have a stretchy band inside the waistband (look for them at your local TJ Maxx/Marshalls).

4. Tie sweatshirt + jeans + leopard flats


This top was $20 on crazy sale at J.Crew Factory and I think it could take you from office meeting to lunch with friends to running around with the kids (I wore this to the birthday party we went to at Chuck E. Cheese, ha!). These Lucky brand jeans are my favorite and another steal from TJ Maxx, and my leopard flats are super old from Target but I know this looks is everywhere (like these and these, both under $40). Also, I'm dying because of that pull-up box in the background that we need to recycle, haha! These pictures were taken a day apart. It's recycled now, I promise! 

5. Button down plaid + jeans


Same Lucky jeans as the photo above, but this time paired with a casual plaid button down. I like that this plaid is large and the colors are a little different - burgundy, cream, and camel. Dare I say it almost reminds me of a Burberry print because of the large plaid, but it's a couple of years old from Forever 21. Yep, that's right! Here's a similar top from this season.

6. Bonus! Colored denim + chambray popover 


If you have a favorite pair of colored denim, don't think you have to put them away once the cooler months hit. And I don't think they need to be dark, either. There's a place for light denim in the fall/winter... even white. Above I threw on my favorite pair of seafoam-colored stretchy jeans with a basic chambray popover. If you need another layer for warmth, I think a faux fur vest like this one (under $40) would look really cute over this!

There you have it! Six easy outfit combos to easily throw on (and mix and match) during these transitional months. What is your go-to, easy outfit?

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! PS - STAY TUNED! October's Women Who Inspire profile is coming early next week. I can't wait to introduce you. :)



101 in 1,001

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Hey friends! How is your week going? Ours has been a little off, since Hadley came down with a yucky cold at the beginning of the week, then I caught it, and I think Carrington might be coming down with it now. It's never fun to be under the weather, but I'm just hoping this means that we'll all be healthy and good-to-go for Halloween week next week! My priority is that the girls get to enjoy themselves, participate in school parties and activities, and of course go trick-or-treating. 

One of the bloggers I love to follow along with, Zelle at A Southern Style Blog, recently posted a 101 in 1,001 list outlining 101 goals for the next 1,001 days and I thought it was a fun way to write down all of the things that I'd love to accomplish in various areas of life within the next few years. So I borrowed her template and made my own! Yes, several of them are lofty goals (I mean... write a book? And look at my travel list -- I'll have to win the lottery, lol!), but I figured might as well get it all down. You know how I love lists! ;) 

I would love to see your own 101 in 1,001. If you make one, be sure to tag me in it (or message me to let me know!). I'm always inspired by other people's aspirations! xo


Start Date: October 15th, 2018 - End Date: July 11th, 2021

Personal
Read a new book per month
Take a flower arranging class
Write a book (or at least start it!)
Volunteer
Clean out my camera roll on my phone + print pictures
Develop and stick to a skin care routine
Write and submit 10 articles
Find 5 new favorite podcasts

Health
Try a barre class
Try one month of clean eating
Stick to 1 small cup of coffee per day
Drink 60 oz. water per day for one week
Try a dance class
Go to yoga
Get back to my goal weight
No looking at phone for last hour before bed
Go to bed by 10, wake up by 6
Work out 4-5 days a week
Quit night snacking

Motherhood
Do a "yes" day with the kids
Volunteer/do something to help fellow moms
Get in the pictures with my kids
Try a family game night
Host a pizza party with our friends
Write down the funniest/best lines they said at the end of each day
Interview my mom
Try doing one fun craft with them per week
Read something new/inspiring on motherhood

Blog/Professional
Take a class/course in my field (SEO, social media?)
Attend a women's/leadership/networking event
Interview a new women per month for "Women Who Inspire"
Do five guest posts for fellow bloggers
Organically grow The Lucky Lifestyle's presence and readership
Continue to develop and grow reader engagement
Learn how to use the Canon and use it more often
Attend a blogging conference

Marriage
Have one date night/day every month (date night in counts too)
Go away overnight one weekend per year
Plan 10 year anniversary (May 2020)
Show the girls my wedding dress
Get more pictures together
Write an article/blog post on love/relationships/marriage
Write notes back and forth
Take time to connect at the end of every day
Renew our vows
Throw a party for Steve's 35th (February 2021)
Try something new together

Home
Clear out clutter -- donate, sell, trash
Paint/decorate office
Repaint/renovate upstairs hall bathroom
Repaint/update downstairs bathroom
Hang new lighting in the kitchen
Get a porch swing or rockers for the front porch
Paint the back landing
Spruce up landscaping
Create a play gym in the basement
Finish decorating the playroom
Print and hang more photos/canvases
Try one do-it-yourself project
Get new floors in the kitchen
Paint/upgrade kitchen cabinetry
Upgrade kitchen counters

Hometown
Take the girls on a tour of where I grew up (neighborhood, town, etc.)
Eat at the Pancake Farm one last time
Visit the wildflower field
Try Fox Meadow Creamery

Local
Attend one local street fair
Find a new hiking trail
Support a local business
Explore a new part of town
Eat at five new-to-us restaurants
Take the girls to Philly for the day
Visit a local winery or brewery

Family & Friends
Host a get together with all our friends
Take a girls' weekend trip
Continue to host Christmas dinner

Travel
Go on at least one anniversary getaway
Visit Quebec
Go to Disneyworld
Go somewhere tropical
Visit the Grand Canyon
Take the girls to NYC at Christmas
Take the girls to the Inner Harbor
Visit Washington DC with the girls
Visit Chicago
Go to Boston with the girls
Travel to Lake Tahoe
Visit a friend who lives far away

All the Fun
Take a cooking class (date night?!)
Try skiing for the first time
Go to a country concert
Do a video interview with the kids
Take a Christmas train ride
Take the girls on a boat
Go to a comedy show
Host an ugly sweater party
Serve the girls breakfast in bed (they will get such a kick out of it)
Surprise pick up the bill for someone
Send handwritten letters to faraway friends & family
Start a new 101 list

Weekending + This Week's Menu

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Happy Tuesday, friends! This post is coming to you late because, as I shared last week, it's been so tough to get a Monday post up lately. And yesterday was the Mondayest of Mondays. 

First, I just wanted to thank you all for your amazing support of last week's post about Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. The post had more views within a couple of hours of posting than any of my other posts and is one of my most-viewed posts ever. What that says to me is that 1. You all appreciate and resonate with the "real" posts -- about life, loss, challenge, triumph. And I love that about you. 2. You are such a supportive group and wish to help and do good in the world. You are my people! 

How was your weekend? Ours was a busy but good one. We spent Saturday morning at a birthday party for one of my best friend's little girls. It was C & H's first time at Chuck E. Cheese and they had a great time! It was so much nicer than I remember -- I think they've upped their game over the last couple of decades. ;) And I'm just going to put this out there... their pizza is delicious. No denying that.



After we got home, Hadley went down for a nap and that evening after dinner we carved our jack-o-lantern! C chose a "spooky" face -- it looks like it's wearing eyeliner but, hey, we gave it our best effort. After pumpkin carving (it was the perfect cool evening for it with a bright moon) was bath and bedtime for the girls! After they were in bed, I got to work packing and preparing for our road trip the next day.



Sunday we took a day trip to Long Island, NY. Fun fact: I was born there! My mom and my dad grew up there, met there, married there, and I still have family on both sides that live there. We had a chance to visit with some of my dad's side of the family on Sunday (thanks to my Aunt Mia and Uncle Henry for hosting at their house!) and it was so much fun. We don't get to see them often (in fact, they hadn't met Hadley yet!), so spending a whole day together was really special. They are so warm, fun, loving and close. 


While we were there, some old photo albums came out. I could've flipped through them for hours! Here are some gems I snapped pictures of; the first photo is of my grandma, Aurora (my dad's mom). She was a talented seamstress, devoted mom of seven, loving and generous grandmother, and so much more. She called me "mi chiquita" (my little girl) or "chickie" for short and always offered us a ham sandwich within minutes of arriving at her house. When I was very little I would convince her into trying to talk my mom into letting me get my ears pierced. She always sent us home with money shoved into our pockets. I loved to sit next to her on the couch and just hold her hand -- she was always a good shoulder to lean on. She passed in 2007 and I think of her all the time.


Below are my grandmother and grandfather with their four oldest children in Cuba. The year was 1951, about one year before my dad was born. The little girl on the right is my godmother.


And this one is my family: my mom, dad, brother, and me. My little face reminds me SO much of Hadley, it's uncanny!




On to this week's menu:

Monday - Rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans

Tuesday - Kielbasa, macaroni and cheese, roasted brussels

Wednesday - Chili in the crockpot with corn muffins

Thursday - Leftovers

Friday - Pesto pasta with a side salad

Saturday - Out (maybe pizza delivery?)


Anything that requires a recipe is linked! I'm really excited to try the dumpling soup on Sunday and hoping its leftovers take us into Monday. ;) 

Have a great Tuesday! 


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