Category Archives: Fascinating People

A Recent Conversation With Mama Moo Moo

The other day I stopped by to chat with Mama Moo Moo DSC_0061It can take awhile to catch Mama’s attention with all that grass out there. But Baby sees me.DSC_0077Yes, Mama Moo Moo. Come on over here. I want to talk to you.

Wait a second, Baby says. Where are you taking Mama Moo Moo and my milk supply?

DSC_0080Mama decides she’ll come over for a chat. Baby doesn’t move.DSC_0083We discuss weekend plans, the coming snow, and since it’s rather obvious – that very full udder.DSC_0075Mama Moo Moo and I would sit down with a hot cup of tea, but you know, this fence isn’t something her or I want to attempt to climb over.DSC_0090We go back to discussing her milk supply. “Girl, I’m just so full of milk! I jingle jangle all over the place!”DSC_0123 Which prompts Baby to high-tail it over here. Milk? Milk? Are they talking milk?

DSC_0095 Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmmm. Mama Moo Moo’s milk sure is good.DSC_0092 I know.

DSC_0096 Why she’s looking at me, Mama?

DSC_0098I gotta go, Mama says. We’ve got to get this nursing thing done cause he’s just gonna want eat in an hour again!DSC_0104 Mmmmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Milk, glorious milk.

DSC_0114 I try to be sneaky and go to the other side but I can’t get any closer or it distracts Baby and makes Mama mad.DSC_0113 Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Milk.

DSC_0120 Excuse me? She’s there again. Watching me.

Okay, okay. I say good-bye for the day, tell Mama we’ll catch up again soon.DSC_0110 Mama trots off when Baby’s done. Sometimes a mom just needs a little alone time.

moomoo Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Graaaaassssss.

grass So much glorious grass! Gotta eat it up before it snows. Like, tomorrow.

photoIsn’t she a beautiful Mama? And can you see? I caught her mid-sentence!

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The Incredible Matt Nathanson’s Benefit Concert for Uganda

DSC_0925 The guitars sat quietly, waiting for the masters to start strumming their strings

DSC_0712When Matt and Aaron (childhood buddy and bandmate) take the stage, the storytelling begins. I’ve never seen anyone engage an audience the way Matt does.

DSC_0884Matt had just arrived from New York City. He was on campus to sing a benefit concert. All the proceeds from ticket sales are going to Uganda to help build a well, a project Gregor and his social entrepreneur class spearheaded after we met the inspirational Andrew Briggs, President of Freedom in Creation, and Peter Odoch last year. It’s really, really exciting to think of a village finally getting fresh drinking water – that we could rally and be a part of that.DSC_0716 In one night we raised over $18,000! DSC_0850 Matt and Aaron brought the house down!DSC_0835 DSC_0837 Raise your hands and get ready to clap for hit song, Faster!DSC_0889 The woman I sat by flew all the way from Houston by herself to see Matt up close! DSC_0907 The other very exciting part of this night was that I shot all of these photos in Manual mode (yes, I got off automatic!) It’s very difficult to shoot in the dark with a moving rockstar. Luckily, a camera pro (Taylor!), switched my settings and explained light and ISO (which is like speaking to me in Russian). Amy must take baby steps…DSC_0904 DSC_0917 DSC_0894 DSC_0922What a show! I’ve seen Matt perform many times, starting almost 20 years ago in college when my soon-to-be-fiance introduced me to his childhood buddy, a budding rockstar. It’s been amazing to watch Matt pursue his dream, to hear his voice, lyrics, and musical talent grow.

At commencement a few years ago, (he’s an alum) Matt “implored us to do the work it takes to achieve dreams. Our culture, he observed, celebrates mediocrity. We must not settle, however, for anything other than our personal best. Fear stifles the creativity and motivation needed to excel; we must learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable!”

Want to hear him singing last night? Hashtag Matt Nathanson or Proctor Academy on Instagram (including mine!) So fantastic!

After the concert Matt and Gregor had a near-midnight swim at Elbow Pond where the waters were so high it came through the floorboards of the dock. Of course they used Dr. Bronner’s pepperment soap!

I could not be convinced to take the plunge into a New Hampshire river in the middle of the night in October. Not even for a rock star.

Nelson gladly gave up his room for the man. The next morning Matt was mobbed at breakfast and lunch, from giggly girls wanting autographs, and a student who had his beautiful guitar signed with a sharpie 🙂 Yes, my friends, dreams were fulfilled this morning.

photo (1) My kids got into the spirit of things, asking for their own autographs…photoI found Paige tonight, taping hers onto the wall (she’s being a witch in a play.)

Matt is now off to London for a week “to write.” Dreamy. His new album with hit single “Headphones” (oh, I LOVE this song!) is being released in January and he’ll be going on tour next summer. If you get the chance – go. Matt Nathanson is a one-of-a-kind artist, a storyteller with a killer voice, some dance moves, and he knows how to strum a guitar!

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D.C. in Pictures & the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Fifty years ago this year, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed. President Kennedy was assassinated before he saw the day come, but when Lyndon Johnson signed the act, he said their was no better tribute to our fallen president.

Many of my personal heroes come from the civil rights era, and though a quick trip to D.C. came at a terribly busy time, I was easily talked into accompanying my husband.

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Our 4:30 wake-up call was worth this picture of the sky guy.

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Before meeting with kids at schools, we stopped in at the offices of Foulger-Pratt. These boys are Gregor’s former college roommates at BYU. We love these good boys. It’s been years and years since we’ve seen each other, but time had hardly seemed to pass at all. They said we looked exactly the same, but I wonder, are we getting older?

That night we went to a school to speak about Hogwarts. This admissions trip is vastly different than NYC. And it has everything to do with culture, family, and money. I felt so incredibly blessed to have good schools for my kids, that I’m not attending school fairs to get my child out of a terrible district with underfunded schools that don’t even have paper!

I love Hogwarts with all my heart and I wish everyone got a howler – but wouldn’t it be better if every single community made education a top priority and no one had to go outside their community to get a top-rate education? Sigh. School systems are tricky and sticky.

The next day was one of my biggest motivations for traveling to D.C.: A National Mall tour where millions of tourists visit to commemorate past presidents, iconic symbols of america, and to celebrate our veterans.

Beware: If you go to DC, don’t follow my route. It’s rather erratic. Go Here to get the full experience.

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We had a few hours, so to get around for our tour, we put on our running shoes. Armed with ipods, and me with my iphone for pictures, we started off.

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My tour guide was a little…fast. My tour was more like an interval sprint as I kept stopping to take pictures of what could be a once-in-a-lifetime-moment(!) and then had to sprint back up to my tour guide who was still running! I needed to work on speed anyway.

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So much history in this place. It took me a few trips to enjoy NYC, but I loved D.C. right away. Of course I was in a very clean and well-kept area, but the city had a clean, cool vibe.

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We didn’t stay long to chat with the IRS!

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At every street corner there were suits

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The architecture was incredible

IMG_5649 The Red Cross, inscribed with: “In Memory of the Heroic Women of the Civil War.” Love that.IMG_5653 Wicked CoolIMG_5657 IMG_5661 IMG_5668 The Washington Monument was built to honor George Washington, the first president of the United States. It’s a 555-foot marble obelisk tower overlooking D.C.IMG_5674 Found this in the middle of the National Mall. Made me feel right at home.IMG_5636Department of Commerce

IMG_5645 IMG_5643 The White HouseIMG_5647And bomb-sniffing dogs. Are they always around or just this morning?

Next we ran (sprinted) to the WWII Memorial. IMG_5712

From the Pacific the Atlantic…all the states are honored with the fallen

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I’ve observed: Musicians, songwriters, photographers, and writers find inspiration in sacred places.

IMG_5741 IMG_5735 The work of this artist is stunning, detailed, and poignantIMG_5733 IMG_5732

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I imagine this monument would mean that much more if I was sending my son or daughter into combat.

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From there we ran to the Lincoln Monument:IMG_5679

And I stood where Martin stood:IMG_5696This is where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. The next year, the Civil Rights Act was passed. Five years later he would be assassinated.IMG_5688The Lincoln Monument. We arrived sweating and tired from running up the stairs. It’s worth all the steps you’ll ever have to climb.

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In the middle of a work week in the middle of October, hundreds of tourists were taking pictures. It was striking – most were foreign speaking. Of all the places they could go on vacation, they came to America, the capitol of the United States to take pictures of the symbols and monuments we have built to represent freedom and equality.

Soon after, we were running again, me taking a photo and then sprinting…”Wait up!”

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The sprint was worth this photo. It was a gorgeous day.IMG_5751

Eventually we ran by the Smithsonian Castle and museum. By this point, 10 a.m., I was starving, my blood sugar low from lack of breakfast.

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But there were still photos to take. Like our nation’s capital…

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There was a ceremony taking place

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The view from the opposite end of the mall

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Like NYC, but to a lesser degree, souvenirs for sale. I just wanted food, not a shirt. Wait up, tour guide!

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Thankfully, 7 miles later, he found me an apple in the hotel gym. And I lived another day.

From there we headed to another part of D.C. where our “contact,” was.

While waiting, an old man came out. His name is Walter Ray. He was “just writing down some song lyrics.” And this guy, he’s like 80-years-old and he’s got civil rights history! He’s written songs for “I don’t know who all,” including the The Manhattans .

“Do you all like to write?” he asked.

Husband pointed to me, “She does.”

He shakes my hand and says, “The thing is, you gotta have ambition! You just gotta keep at it.”

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And I said, “Sir, I need to get your picture (even though I really hate my hair right now).” He obliged and after, showed me two of his published books of poetry.IMG_5816

I was sufficiently inspired.

IMG_5818 Walter’s walls were covered with memorabilia, including this picture. “That’s me with the man right there,” he says.

Walter Ray has two children, Roz and Walter Ray Jr. They are both lawyers. Roz has represented Bill Cosby, Kris Kross, Johnny Cochran – there was an entire wall of autographed photos, including Roz and Hilary Clinton.

Walter Ray jr showed up and we went for crab cakes and talked “business.” IMG_5814Walter looks like this laid-back, casual guy who you may not glance twice at. But he runs a non-profit to help kids go to school. When he starts talking I start taking notes. He knows every basketball stat there is, and connections to everyone in the city.

He hints at political “rats” and scandals, of people who are “distractions to the kids who could actually be somethin’ and you guys is the problem! Masquerading like you’re all that. Rats!” He says, “Satan has a team!”

He says that the best don’t always rise – “most of ’em are in the pen.” Kids, he says, need someone to believe in them. And this of course is where strong families come in.

Walter is working on a documentary of his uncle, Sam Jones, who won ten NBA rings for the Celtics – the second most EVER in history.

We could have listened to Walter all day, but when he writes his book, we’ll be first in line.

After that we headed to Virginia to meet kids at a school.IMG_5833 I took pictures of the art on the wall – how cool is this? It was done by artist-in-resident Stephen Parlato. I was so inspired, again wishing that all kids could get an education with an artist like this.IMG_5834

And then it was time to say adieu to D.C.

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We raced to the BMI, stopping to drop off our car rental, take a shuttle, grab some dinner, get through security, shove dinner in mouth, and hop on a plane for an hour and a half. We landed in Manchester NH at midnight and drove an hour home. We were greeted by dear grandmother who had watched our children for two days, played chauffeur, fed darlings, AND kept the house clean. I tell ya, we’ve got it good.

The next morning was a full day at Hogwarts as it was parent’s weekend. I walked around campus with my daughter, thinking of this opportunity she has. Not only is there magic, spells, and arithmetic, there are people who love her, take care of her, encourage her “to rise.”

Fifty years ago the civil rights act was passed, and though we still have problems and society isn’t perfect, we’ve come along way, haven’t we? I’m optimistic for the future. As Walter says, “the best don’t rise unless there’s someone tellin’ ’em what’s up.”

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Bright Lights, Big City: NYC 2014

A whirlwind weekend has come and gone, with the husband and I jetting off to NYC for our annual admissions trip on behalf of Hogwarts. Last year’s photo shoot is HERE. Hogwarts does not send an owl – they send us! Lucky us.

We left the darlings in the capable hands of Grandma who was making faces at our requisite green breakfast smoothie. Which was more brown – but tasty! We are incredibly fortunate to have a Grandma who will become MOM for the weekend and drive everyone to games, birthday parties, and school, and still get them to bed with brushed teeth AND chores done. Does it get any better?

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Five hours later we were driving under the George Washington bridge.IMG_5300 IMG_5302Entering the big, big city.

IMG_5320I immediately felt right at home when the horse stopped at the red light.

IMG_5305We stayed at the Hudson, a sheshe hotel with shoeboxes for rooms. It was swanky fun! Unfortunately, it started to rain. And you know…my hair. IMG_5310

Luckily there are many CVS stores with umbrellas. We trotted down to John Jay, College of Criminal Justice and set up our admissions booth. This seemed like the perfect time to wear my pin-striped seersucker pants:

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The Professor in his element.

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After the fair, which was great, with so many motivated kids and parents hoping to get a better education than the one they are offered, we went for a night-time run in Central Park. We ended up at the Apple Store, which carried a greater risk of a mugging than the park. We were so worn out we skipped the restaurant and ate take-out Asian noodles and New York cheesecake.

DSC_0005 The next morning I went stalking. This man sits at the base of Christopher Columbus.DSC_0012 We went hunting for my brother, Peter, and wife, Allison, but alas, this was not the right location. This is the NYC LDS temple, built right on the corner and blending in with the city. It’s gorgeous.

DSC_0027Sunday was a perfect weather day. I imagined how many New Yorkers live for Sunday strolling and leisure. I had to snap the above picture as I watched this mother hurry her children to string lessons.DSC_0010 Perhaps we’ll have time to watch a show someday?DSC_0033 There were SO many crowds of police officers! Is this normal?DSC_0029 I liked this woman in purple. Not so sure this woman in red liked me:DSC_0032

So many great looks!

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Soon, we were in great need of food before check-out

DSC_0038 Hark! Whole Foods. I could live there.DSC_0040 DSC_0043 DSC_0021 I always feel some guilt when eating so well in NYC. When others, don’t.DSC_0008 DSC_0026 Gregor, headed toward CNN.DSC_0016 Fancy shmancy workout attire. I didn’t even go in.DSC_0079

What a headache it must be to move, in NYC!

DSC_0067 DSC_0009 Lots of dogs, but huge sanitation and recycling initiativesDSC_0061 On the corner of Central Park, Columbus AveDSC_0007 DSC_0050

We ate an early lunch and watched a race going on. Love the bicycle tours – what a workout!

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Enormous trees shedding their bark by Riverside Park

DSC_0099Our next event was a basketball showcase where we watched kids play, pass, and run drills. This was part of an incredible organization called Inspiring Young Minds. Love these kids.DSC_0101 DSC_0083 And then it was time to leave the city.DSC_0130We finally found my twinner, Peter, and Allison. Poor little Charlie-barley was sick with a fever. Sydnie was looking for a squirrel and her missing mermaid. Oh, I adore these four! Peter is in his last year of surgical residency (hallelujah!) and is Chief this year. Allison is due with their third baby (a boy!) in January. It’s been a long road, but they’re almost there. Here is what medical student housing looks like:DSC_0125Let’s just say Allison can’t wait to be done

And then we were off, headed north to New Hampshire.IMG_5353

But first, Pepe’s. So good.

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And we’re back, and it’s always good to be home.

Hope you had a grand weekend, too!

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Olympian Nick Fairall – The Boy Who Wanted to Fly

Yesterday I caught up with Superman:

photo credit: All Right Sports 2000, courtesy of Nick Fairall

photo credit: All Right Sports 2000, courtesy of Nick Fairall

Meet Nick Fairall, 2014 Olympian.

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photo credit: All Right Sports 2000, courtesy of Nick Fairall

On December 29th, 2013, Nick Fairall won first place at the at the ski jumping olympic trials in Park City, Utah.

Nick is headed to Sochi, representing the United States as one of four ski jumpers on the Olympic Ski Jumping Team. Yea!

As it so happens, Nick lives in our little New Hampshire town.

You can imagine the great excitement. The cow tippin’, the chicken chasin’, the riots at our local piggly wiggly.

Actually, this little town knows a thing or two about olympic development. Nick follows in the footsteps of three other Andover Outing Club kids: Jed Hinkley (two-time olympian), Carl Van Loan (two-time olympican), and Kris Freeman (three-time olympian).

From a young age, all of these superior athletes were coached by Tim Norris who started the Andover Outing Club in 1976. Coach Tim just so happens to live up the hill from me, past the show donkeys and water buffalo. There’s a story there.

I got in touch with Nick when he was flying half-way across the world, and I thank him very much for taking the time to sit down with me. I love talking to people about habits, goals, and perseverance. Nick has some great things to share.

Here’s Nick, talking about chasing dreams, hard work, and of course – flying.

Hi Nick! “Hi.”

How old are you now? “24.

Isn’t it cool that I get to interview you? YES!

How long have you been chasing this dream?  “I started jumping at age 6, at the Andover Outing Club at Blackwater. I began thinking competitively at about age 14, sophomore year at Proctor Academy.”

What was high school like? “I was traveling all over the world. 2005 was my first junior world championships. Weekends were jumping at Lake Placid or Lebanon.” By high school, Nick had already out-jumped the high school team, but helped coach the other high school athletes.

Tell me about your coaches? “Tim Norris was my coach, now a good friend and mentor. Even now I’d still say he was my coach.”

How did you qualify for the Olympics? “This winter I was jumping well so I had already set myself in a good position (from the World Cup and Continental Cup), but I still had to compete at the Olympic trials. On December 29th I was able to win that competition and guaranteed a spot on the team.”

Let’s talk about setbacks and failures. What happened in 2010? “In 2009 I was skiing well, competing well. I was in 1st position to make the 2010 Olympic Team and then I was the first person out.”

What happened? “I think I let influences, forces, that I had no control over, bother me more than I ever should have…I was flooding myself with too many negative thoughts and emotions that really pulled me down.

What happened next? I was depressed, feeling very very crummy, felt like I had let myself down, my family, everyone and anyone.

As luck would have it, in the spring of 2010, Nick went to the dentist.

Nick’s dentist was Colonel Lisa McManus, founder of Military Arnis at Norwich University and a leadership and personal development coach. “She gave me more mental strength internally. I learned that I can’t let people bring me down without my permission. There’s lots of visualization, keeping things in perspective, and having a positive attitude. But you know, there’s always going to be setbacks that come along. I try not to make small setbacks big problems.”

“Assuming that everything happens for a reason, I learned to use setbacks as set-ups for success.”

The power of family

In 2008, Nick lost his mother (a most wonderful woman). “My mom taught me so much. She was always backing me and pushing me. Even now I feel like she’s always with me. I’m at peace with that.  My family (dad and two sisters) has always been so supportive. When I won the spot for the Olympic team at Park City I think they were more excited than I was.”

Financially, it’s very difficult for athletes to compete nationally and internationally without sponsors. Most have to rely on family help. The Wall Street Journal covered national champion Kris Freeman’s troubles with health insurance, here and here.

“Never have your memories be greater than your dreams”

How do you set goals? It’s best to break down your goals…have your ultimate goal, then smaller sub levels, then daily goals like, ‘get out of bed and go to the gym.’ The key is to set goals that excite you and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Friends and family mean well but sometimes they can be the most deterring. One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Ford – ‘whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right.'”

“Knowing you’re working towards something already sets you up for success.”

Let’s talk about training: “It’s frustrating for personal trainers because you want to be really strong, but really light. We do a lot of plyometrics, technique, lots of explosive reps, but low weights, low reps. Fat don’t fly. Anorexia was a big problem in the sport (for men) until the 2000 Body Mass Index Rule (21 with equipment). We have strong cores, strong balance.”

Do you have to be careful with your diet? Yes. Basically, if it’s healthy you can eat it. We aren’t a sport like cross-country where diet is a huge portion of training and determines whether or not you can go 95% at 10 kilometers versus 90% or 85%. Ours is only a seven second sport. I try to keep things in moderation and have the carbs, proteins, and fats at a reasonable portion size.

I’ve heard you say ski jumping is the closest thing to flying: “Yeah, it’s just excellent. I’m not a dare devil or anything. Sky diving wasn’t that exciting for me.”

Longest jump? “The longest jump is 2 1/2 football fields at 246 meters. My longest jump was 208 meters last spring, that was awesome, in Slovania.”

Do people get hurt? “Yeah, but not often, especially at higher levels. It’s not like soccer or basketball…there’s much less injury absolutely.”

Does anyone try to cheat? “All the time. Like any sport, you’re always trying to find those grey areas. How can suits be manipulated? You find little advantages where you can.”

Banned substances? “Not really a problem. Before the diuretic rule, there was a big problem with weight, but drugs aren’t really big in our sport.”

When will we know the three other members of the USA Ski Jumping Team? “This weekend, hopefully.”

Any hopefuls? “Chris Lamb! (another Andover, NH boy!) He’s a great athlete, a great person with tons of skill. I’m hoping – expecting it! There’s also Nick Alexander from New Hampshire. It would be so cool to have three members of the team all from New Hampshire.” (indeed!)

When will you be done jumping? “It’s crossed my mind (to retire) but I haven’t taken it seriously. It’s difficult because you have to find your own sponsors and donors.” Donate HERE.

Nick, what’s the competition in Sochi look like? “Oh, it’s big. Austria, Norway, Japan. We’re definitely the underdogs.”

We like underdogs, don’t we?

The difference between a big shot and a little shot is that the big shot was a little shot that kept on shooting.” -Zig Ziglar

Nick, I love that you always come back home and help out – like coaching our little middle school team: “I noticed that the more I help people, the more I influence, the more I grow.” Here, Nick speaks at Proctor Academy, his alma mater.

What will you do when you’re done jumping? “Aviation of some sort. Commercial or military, I don’t know. I’ve just always loved flying.”

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photo credit: All Right Sports 2000, courtesy of Nick Fairall

Thank you, Nick! We are so proud of you and can’t wait to watch you fly in Sochi! NBC Olympic schedule HERE.

post edit: Kris Freeman, age 33, was officially nominated for his FOURTH olympics today, Jan 22, 2014 – wahoo! Read this incredible story from Sports Illustrated about Kris, racing and dealing with diabetes. Inspirational.

Sadly, Andover’s Chris Lamb narrowly missed making the ski jumping team, but NH’s Nick Alexander will represent the U.S. in Sochi – congrats!

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Fascinating Person #1: An Interview With Katrina Kenison

Today marks the debut of a new blog series entitled, 


Fascinating: A Charming and Captivating Person Who Piques Our Intellectual Curiosity by Making the World a  Better and More Beautiful Place.


And today, friends, is a our lucky day (including books to give!)

Fascinating Person #1 is mother and author, Katrina Kenison.  Katrina is one of my heroes.  She is a wise and deliberate mother who champions living with purpose.  Oh, and she can write.

Imagine my extreme delight to discover that not only is Katrina publishing a third book, but also lives in New Hampshire – I had to find her!  In between Katrina’s book signings and tour, she said yes to an interview.  Yes, I am very honored to have her here.

Katrina is the author of multiple books, including, MITTEN STRINGS FOR GOD: REFLECTIONS FOR MOTHERS IN A HURRY and THE GIFT OF AN ORDINARY DAY: A MOTHER’S MEMOIR. 

Katrina’s most recent book, MAGICAL JOURNEY: AN APPRENTICESHIP IN CONTENTMENT recently hit #1 at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire. 

Katrina, thanks so much for taking the time to be here today. 

Your books are very, very wise. Can you tell us how you went from being an editor (with John Updike!) to an author and champion of motherhood? 
I spent many years ushering other writers’ works into the world, and I loved doing it. It wasn’t until I had children, and left my job in publishing to raise them, that I began to write. And really I wrote as a way of working toward becoming the mother I aspired to be: fully present in my life, not rushing, not overscheduled, not so caught up in the “doing” of each day that I missed the simple pleasure of “being.” 

Writing was a way to slow down and pay attention. It was also a way to capture the fleetingness of life while we were living it, and the more I wrote the more aware I became of the beauty of each ordinary day. Motherhood gave me my subject, the spiritual work of mothering became both my challenge and my theme, and with each book I’ve become more open, more willing to trust my readers to venture with me even into the dark places. 

It must have been very rewarding to have your book, THE GIFT OF AN ORDINARY DAY be so successful and resonate with so many mothers. 

I’ve been both honored and humbled by the response. When I was writing, I often wondered if anyone would read it. I feared people would say, “Why does this woman need 300 pages to work through her feelings about her kids growing up and leaving home?” So it was a great surprise to start hearing from readers, many of whom said, “I was sure I was the only one who felt this way.” 

I am definitely a word-of-mouth writer. My books make their way in the world because of women who read them and then wish to pass them on to other women. To me, there’s no higher compliment than a reader who buys five or six copies to share; who says to a friend, “Here, I’m sure you’ll like this, too.” And now, with Magical Journey, I am hearing from many women who say, “I’ve been with you all the way, ever since I read Mitten Strings for God when my own children were young.” I never planned it this way, but I’ve written my way through the seasons of a mother’s life – and now there is this body of work, something to speak to a woman whether she is parenting small children, or contemplating her empty nest. 

The most rewarding thing of all is realizing that these three books have cleared a space in which women feel safe sharing their own stories and their own feelings. They are popular book group books, and I think that’s because they foster a sense of connection between women. One thing I’ve learned is that even though our lives may look quite different on the outside, inside we are all more alike than different, and we have a lot to share with each other. 

Why a memoir versus a “how-to” book for mothers? 
I am not comfortable giving advice, or saying, “Do it my way.” And how much better it is to learn to trust our own hearts, to honor that quiet inner voice that resides in each one of us, rather than to constantly seek the wisdom of “experts.” 

When I read your books, they feel very “quiet” and yet the message is very bold for this day and age. Is slowing down such a novel idea? 
Slowing down can feel extremely radical. Almost counter-cultural in this fast-paced world we live in. It’s not that it’s a novel idea; I don’t think I say anything that hasn’t been said before. We all know, already, that if we race through lfe, we miss it. And yet this seems to be a lesson I need to learn over and over again. Perhaps that’s true for all of us. So we turn to the books that speak the truth we already know. 

We commit to practices like yoga and meditation and walks in the woods, to keep us grounded and on the path we wish to travel. We seek friends who support us in our desire to be present. And then, moment to moment, we make our choices. Life can’t always be simple, some days are just crazy busy. But we can build in interludes of quiet, of rest, of reflection and repose. We can learn to take care of our own souls. And in doing so, in taking time to replenish our own depleted reserves, we discover we have more to offer our loved ones, too. 

There is absolutely nothing to be gained by running ourselves into the ground. And so much to be gained by claiming time that is just for us, time to stretch and wonder and rest and heal. 

On Motherhood: When you had children at home, was there one moment when you realized you needed to enjoy the “ordinary” or was it more of an overall gut feeling? 
It was really my dear friend’s cancer diagnosis that served as a wake-up call for me. My friend once said, “My greatest wish is to wake up one morning and not have the first thought that comes into my head be the fact that I have cancer.” 

Those words seared themselves into my heart. Because of course, I suddenly realized that I took for granted the very thing she wished for more than anything. 

I couldn’t write about my friend’s journey in The Gift of an Ordinary Day, because she was in the midst of it as I wrote that book, but the title came directly from that realization that every day is a gift. Each morning we are lucky enough to wake up and swing our legs over the side of the bed and put our own two feet on the floor is cause for gratitude. 

When my friend realized she wasn’t going to have her miracle after all, and that she wouldn’t see her daughter graduate from high school, or her children get married, or ever meet her grandchildren, I resolved to live my own life from the awareness that it could all turn on a dime. 

Suddenly, even a task like folding the laundry became infused with grace, because I realized that any one of us might be next, and that life’s great tragedy is not death but the fact that we so rarely appreciate what we have until it’s taken away from us. 

Did you act on that instinct right away or are many of the lessons in your books something you wish you had done but didn’t? 
Awareness isn’t something that we can nail once and for all. Like gratitude, it is a practice, something we can choose to cultivate in our lives. So the answer is, I learn it, and then I forget it — over and over again. 

But I keep coming back: to that choice of being present, being grateful, living in the moment, rather than regretting what’s over or worrying about what might happen next. 

You strike me as a mother who never loses her patience ☺ I find it’s definitely easier to be patient when I’m less hurried and “Busy.” Did you have that experience? 
Of course! I have definitely had my parenting “lows” – just ask my kids. We all lose it sometimes. Fortunately, our children are resilient, and willing to forgive our transgressions as readily as we forgive theirs. There’s a great opportunity, as parents, to model the beauty of a heartfelt apology, to use words like: “I’m sorry. I lost my temper. Let’s start again.” 

Feeling overwhelmed and being impatient go hand in hand. So, yes, we have a much better shot at being the kind of parent we aspire to be when we aren’t overscheduled, when we are rested, when we have taken good care of ourselves and meet our own needs. Everyone benefits! 

Many mothers (including myself) recognize the need to SLOW DOWN, but we still don’t do it. Why do you think that is?
Fear? I think it’s easy to fall victim to a nagging fear of falling behind in some great nameless, pointless race. “The race to nowhere” is a phrase that comes to mind. We set a pace and then we start running, afraid that if we jump off the treadmill, the world will just pass us by. Well, of course, I think the opposite is true. But it takes a certain amount of faith and courage to say “stop” when everyone else is saying “go.” 

Did you always work part or full-time when you had children at home? 
I did. I had a great job I loved, editing The Best American Short Stories series, which I did for 16 years, all through my sons’ growing up years. It was part-time and flexible and a way for me to have a steady income and a professional identity while still making motherhood my top priority. 

I was incredibly lucky and I knew it. 

And then, out of the blue, I lost that job, during a time of reorganizing and budget cutting at the publishers. It was devastating. But I don’t think I would have written these books if I hadn’t suddenly found myself out of work. 

So now I can look back and say it was all for the best. 

Would you do anything differently? 
I would have worried less. 

When your kids were younger, you made a conscience decision to cut out a lot (birthday parties, extravagant crafts, even TV!) How did you say no?
My husband and I were a team on this, and what we were attempting was not to say “no” so much as to create a way of life that felt good and sustainable and joyful to us. We chose to do the things that gave us true pleasure, rather than the things that everyone else was doing. 

And I read enough about the negative effects of TV and media on young, developing imaginations to make that one a no-brainer. There is a wealth of information about the impact of media on children; it all made sense to me. I felt that the greatest gift I could give my children when they were young was to build protective walls around their early childhood; to give them time to play and time to get bored, time to develop their own inner resources. It was a challenge, but I knew I’d rather have my sons playing in the backyard or putting on a puppet show, then sitting in front of a computer screen or the TV. 

We weren’t fundamentalist or punitive about it, we just worked hard to create a life that was rich and full without those things, knowing of course that the time would come when we wouldn’t be making those choices for them anymore. 

Quote: “Ours is a society that places high value on achievement and acquisition. The subtle rewards of contemplation, quiet, and deep connection with another human being are held in low esteem…as a result, mothers are constantly pulled in two directions:” 
The idea that we can have or do it all is a fallacy. I love, instead, the notion that what we have is enough. That who we are is enough. That our children are enough. That our lives are enough. The best thing we can do for our kids is figure out how to be content ourselves. For some moms that means a career outside the house. For others, it is staying home with children. And for some it’s a juggling act of both. Well, there is no one right way. There is a way that’s right for YOU. And so, again, this is where listening to your own heart comes in. I am a homebody by nature, so being home was deeply satisfying for me. I’m not saying it was better, it was just better for ME.

A note about why Katrina wrote, MAGICAL JOURNEY:  An APPRENTICESHIP IN CONTENTMENT.
I began this memoir as a way to wrestle with some of my “what now?” questions as my sons Henry and Jack came of age and I left home.  I missed them terribly and, even more, I missed the day-in, day-out tasks of motherhood that had given shape to my days for decades.  Writing was a way for me to meet all sorts of midlife challenges – grief at the death of a dear friend, changes in my marriage, even the realization that although old dreams and roles may be outlived, new ones can be slow to take shape.  My hope, of course, is that by sharing some of my story, I’m also giving voice to others’ experiences.

“No longer indispensable, no longer assured of our old carefully crafted identities, no longer beautiful in the way we were at twenty or thirty or forty, we are hungry and searching nonetheless.”

Thank you so much, Katrina!  You are a beautiful and wise writer and I’ve learned so much from you.


Giveaway!  Please leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Katrina’s newest book, Magical Journey. Two winners announced FRIDAY morning, March 15th.

Will you share the Katrina love with me?  Authors share their words through us, the readers.  Word of mouth is the most effective way to help an author.  Thank you!


All of Katrina’s books are for sale on Amazon.  Her newest book, MAGICAL JOURNEY:  AN APPRENTICESHIP IN CONTENTMENT is for sale on Amazon, HERE

Magical Journey Video HERE.

Ordinary Day Video HERE.

Katrina’s website/blog: http://www.katrinakenison.com
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