Thursday, February 14, 2013

Nick Has a Blog! (And it's V-Day!)

Yes, this is my shameless plug for my fiance's blog. I've been encouraging him to start one up (writing is awesome, no?!) for a while now, and he just got going this week. It's going to be a little controversial at times, a little heady, but definitely worth the read.

You can click the cool graphic above, or here to follow along!

Also, in other news, allow me to take this moment to say Happy Valentine's Day to all of you lovely and wonderful people who stopped by my blog! And to share this cute Valentine-y picture of my kitty, Jade, who would also like to wish you a happy day!

What are you doing for this day to celebrate love? (And if you're anti-V-day, don't bother. Around these parts, we like this day a whole heck of a lot, even if we're just celebrating with kitties.)

Tonight is a surprise date with Nick (same guy as above!), so I have no idea what's coming. I'm sure it will be good, because whenever Nick plans something, it's always good.

Most of my fondest memories of Valentine's Day originated during college. My freshman-sophomore year RA's favorite day was V-Day, so we organized a "wear pink for Ashley" day. She later got engaged on V-Day, further solidifying it as her favorite day. Another year, I had two guy friends take me out for dessert at the Cheesecake Factory. Talk about feeling special! It's hard to top two well-dressed dates carrying roses!

Do you have any fond memories of this day? Or maybe another day when someone showed you just how much they care about you?

Happy Love Day, lovelies! xoxo

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Of Newspapers and Awards and Things

Do you ever have those times where work feels like a monotonous drag of day upon day, week upon week, while you're struggling to surface from a never-ending stream of assignments and deadlines? You lose sight of the end goal, simply trying to make it through another string of days until you can breathe again. All the while, you know you need something, a kick-start, a reset, something to help you focus again.

Thursday brought my much-needed reset. We set off early in the morning for Des Moines, and the Iowa Newspaper Association Convention and Trade Show. It was to be two days of newspaper bliss--awards and prizes, networking and connections, sessions and speakers, food and fun. Some people probably don't feel refreshed after such a busy weekend, but it really was just what I needed.

My name tag at INA. :)

I got to listen to talks by Pulitzer prize-winners, other tech junkies, giants in the field of journalism. I got to lose myself in epic story telling, soak up tidbits of knowledge, and focus on that end goal all journalists should know. And I got to celebrate with the greatest newspaper writers/editors/designers/publishers in the state of Iowa as they stepped forward to claim a prize for a year's worth of excellent work.

It was just the weekend any journalist would covet, and I especially needed. For me it also represented a personal accomplishment as my newspaper, the Clinton Herald, received an award in the category of Best Newspaper Website.

Since August 2011, I have been essentially the sole updater/maintainer/overseer of our site, and it's become something of an obsession. Every day I post stories and photos, manage our social networking sites, and try to come up with new and better ways to do things. I also work on special projects, monitor and collect stats, and occasionally act as tech support to our online readers. And did I mention I obsess?

When the time came to submit entries for the Iowa Newspaper Association awards, I submitted our website with little hope. Because of the category divisions in the INA, we're grouped with the biggest papers, the ones who have multiple people working on their websites, the ones who have control over how their sites look, the ones who always come out on top. We're one of the little guys, a newsroom of seven (not including sports), a web staff of one. And yet, because we have over 10,000 subscribers, we face the giants.

Nine other newspapers in our category submitted their sites and somehow, we beat six. The little old Clinton Herald, which through the years has faced harsh criticism from the community it serves and fought to give our town the best news coverage possible, was listed with the likes of the Des Moines Register and Quad City Times. Yes, my friends, the little Clinton Herald held its own. And though we didn't place first, but third, all I see is victory and accomplishment.

A clip from the INA winning entries book detailing the Best Newspaper Website winners in our class.

For me, this represents so much. It represents accomplishment I couldn't have achieved on my own; without the support of my family and friends, I wouldn't be where I am today. It represents grace, that God has given me the gifts and abilities and opportunities I have, and for that I am thankful. It represents the faith that my bosses at the Clinton Herald put in me when they asked me if I wanted to do this job. It also represents the trust that they have given, and in so doing, allowed me to take this project and run with it. It represents a work ethic that was instilled in me by my father at a very young age. And it represents perseverance and dedication, even in the face of negativity, opposition, and resistance.

One small thing can represent so much, and that for me was this award.

We also received some other awards, from the INA as well as the Associated Press, six in all. I am so proud of my co-workers who strive every day to do their best, to tell the stories of this little river town, and to represent a news organization which is committed to real journalistic truth-telling.

My co-worker, Scott Levine, and the Young Iowa Journalist award he received.

The week is done and all that is left are the memories, some mementos, and a reminder of what we're working for. We're working to offer our community something it can't get anywhere else: professional and accurate news coverage of Clinton, Iowa, and the surrounding areas. We're working to provide services, information and a place for the community to connect and discuss important issues. We're working to stay on top of developments and demands in technology and the sharing of information so that readers can get the news where they are, whether that's at home or on the road. We're working to be better at what we do, all the time.

And in the end, perhaps that work will be recognized.

You can check out our award-winning website, as well as articles by our award-winning staff at

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Whole30: [Belated] Wrap-Up

No, I have not fallen off the face of the planet. Yes, the Whole30 is officially done and I have some looking back to do.

Before I start, if your jury is still out on whether or not to try the Whole30, let me encourage you to give it a shot. Everyone I know who has tried it has loved the results. (Including me!) I fully recommend it, not only for the weight loss, but for the healthy, cleansing factor. Doing something good for your body is always a good idea.

Personally, I noticed several changes. First, my sleep was better, deeper (REM every night and I knew it because I had tons of lucid dreams), and very "regular." I would (and still do) get tired around the same time each night, and wake up about the same time each morning (generally without my alarm).

Second, I felt healthier, thanks to cutting out tons of bad foods and empty sugars. That translated to overall physical health for the duration of the Whole30 (minus the very end when I caught a slight cold), and no food-related sickness. I used to get fairly regular stomach aches from certain foods I ate. That never happened on the Whole30.

I also had no trouble transitioning back into the gym with strong workouts. I mostly ran and did weight training. Because of the regular weight training, I didn't expect to lose much weight since, as we all know, muscle weighs more than fat.

The day following the conclusion of the Whole30, Nick and I participated in our first-ever race, a local 4-mile. We didn't run the entire distance, but we were happy with our finishing time and are planning to participate in another 5K in March.

All ready for the B-rrry Scurry!
Anyway, other benefits I noticed were clearing skin, stronger hair (I am assuming this is related to my vitamin D levels; I used to lose a lot of hair each day), lack of general aches and pains, and regularity when it came to going to the bathroom. (TMI, I know, I tried to phrase it nicely. :P)

I lost about seven pounds, which I thought was good considering the weight training, and I also lost about seven inches total from various parts of my body that I measured before and after the Whole30.

From here, my plan is to continue to use the Whole30 as a base and guide for what I should be eating--more fresh fruits and veggies, meats, and less sugar, grains and processed foods. I have also decided to cut out all soft drinks at least until I get married, if not beyond. The Whole30 helped me get off them, and so far I've found it easy to stay off them. I'm also choosing tea with fresh fruit as a sweetener over coffee most days. In these ways I hope to continue cutting out excess sugars.

If you have any questions about the Whole30, comments or input, I welcome your feedback!
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