My previous two posts in this series, May I present to you, have been about people I admire. Like people that live in the world of robots and airports. It goes without saying, that this is a series near and dear to my heart. And with my heart, and laptop, I am slowly writing my third post. A new entry devoted to the extraordinary Casey Mullins. An unlikely friend, collaborator, and unbeknownst to her, a bit of an inspiration.

One of Casey's pics - we both like reflections

I’m part of an incredibly thoughtful celebration of Casey and her family and soon to be bigger family – Mozzi, due just in time for the month of May. How fitting (vroom vroom). Casey’s friend Emily Elling (DesignHer Momma) organized a 15-week celebration of the Mullins family. I’m honored to fill in a day of that with this post. It’s straight from the heart, yo.

Several years ago, I started hearing about this Moosh person. I researched, read her blog and was instantly intrigued. She was everything I was not – open, expressive and unabashed when it came to an online persona. I remember meeting her at a conference briefly and being bedazzled by her personality. She left an indelible impression.

Last year, in a new job at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I looked her up again. I was thinking of local, creative people that could offer a different perspective on the Indianapolis 500. She obliged. I remember talking with her at the track and in the media center. I was pretty busy so I didn’t give her as much time as I had wished. She was confident, asked the right questions and obviously not shy. I felt bad I couldn’t give her more insight into the month of May madness. But of course she didn’t need it.

Apparently it's rare to see the trophy without the top. So, you're welcome?

Noticing what you don't see

I read a lot of racing stuff now. To this day, Casey’s written experience of the Indianapolis 500 remains one of my most favorite pieces. I once wrote that her writing had given me goose bumps. It was this piece. Here’s the deal. This is why writing is tied to photography, or vice versa, can be so transformative. Casey took something historically sacred to Indiana, and with ease, captured what it’s like to live the Indy 500. Her images from the day could stand alone and tell the story. But combine them with her words, and you have something truly meaningful. That’s rare. That’s a gift. And she did this by exploring and absorbing. She humanized the experience so anyone (race fan or not) could connect to this event. I was so proud of her work.

National Anthem.

Casey absorbing the Indy 500

Right after the big race, we met for lunch. I wanted a creative project to pursue outside of work and I really wanted to collaborate with Casey. I already had tremendous respect for her. And I knew she would push me. She would challenge my many issues – some of which involve expressing thoughts, opinions, feelings. Our project was born in June. She said something about us having an internet baby. Funny. It’s given me a closer connection to her and offered me an unexpected outlet for creativity, thoughts, memories and more.

Casey probably has this figured out, but through our project, I’ve written about things I would never have expressed otherwise. She’s been a constant source of inspiration. She’s an open book. We know her struggles. We know her ups. Her downs. In many cases, I relate to a lot of what she chooses to confide. I internalize. She doesn’t, and as a result, I look up to her. She knows some of this. I’ve told her things that I’ll probably never write about. Sometimes when she writes, it hits pretty close to home. So somewhere in this process, she also became a friend. Friend, collaborator, inspiration. Check. So thank you for that Casey.

So I rank Casey right up there with airports and robots. Can there be any bigger compliment?

Today I celebrate Casey, her family, her friends, her work, her photography, her writing and her Mozzi. It’s an honor and pleasure.

This wouldn’t be a May I present to you series without some Q&A. So I end with questions and Casey picks up with answers.

What drives you? My brand new 2011 Chevy Traverse from Hare Chevy in Noblesville, tell Brian Eybel Casey sent you. Swell guy.

What’s with this internet thing? I’m not sure. But I’m pretty happy it exists. If you could see my query of recent google searches you’d understand why. Yesterday while I was downtown at the Farmer’s Market I ran into four people that I knew, then later at the Children’s Museum I ran into four more people that I knew. One of them being my very best friend. If it weren’t for the Internet I would have never had any these people in my life. The Internet makes a big scary world seem a lot more cozy, I mean, if you use it right. Use it wrong and you’re a Dateline special.

Why are you so likeable? *ehem* Well, to be honest…I was never a very good friend growing up, especially through high school. Which also meant I didn’t have very many friends, let alone good ones. As I grew older and wiser that old adage “you have to be a friend to have a friend” finally made sense. The nicer I was to other people and myself, the nicer my group of friends became. I’m absolutely blown away by the brilliant, kind and talented people I am privileged to be surrounded by. However I’m not completely jaded, I know there are people who don’t like me, and people I have been rude to whether intentionally or unintentionally, I’m really trying to rectify those mistakes because that’s not who I want to be.

You remind me of an open book. ‘sup with that? Is it a good book? Like when your sister leaves her journal open on her bed and you’re simply forced to read it because there’s no way you could go on if you don’t? I mean, she MUST have left it there for SOMEONE to read. If not that, I sure to hope it’s a book full of lovely pictures. Think of it this way, would you live your life differently if you knew you couldn’t lie or fabricate the truth about any of it to anyone? There’s no sense in hiding the parts of my life that have made me who I am, however it makes perfect sense to tell my story honestly so others aren’t left feeling alone. I love Mary Schmich’s view on advice…”Dispensing it [advice] is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

Coolest thing that’s happened as a result of this internet thing? My friends. I could go anywhere in America and have a friend there. It’s a very comforting feeling. Plus they know where all the good BBQ joints are. (I’m looking at you Jack’s BBQ on Broadway in Nashville.)

If you had to give up writing or photography, what would it be? Air.

Aisle or window seat? Am I pregnant? Is Addie with me? How tired am I? How long is the flight? Does it help that whenever I’m selecting a seat I can’t pass over the ‘window seat’ option without thinking of you?

3 pieces of advice to someone visiting Utah?
1. Get thee hence into a canyon. I don’t care which one. Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood, Parley’s, Provo, Millcreek. Once you’re in one. Pull off the side of the road, get out look up and smell the air. I just got weepy writing that. 2. Dig your bare toes into the sand while hiking the fiery furnace in Arches National Park. Bonus points if you can get your toes in the three different kinds of sand…shady sand…hot dry sand and wet sand. 3. Eat at one of those 24 hour Mexican places that are all over Salt Lake. My favorites are Beto’s (get extra tortillas) and Molcasalsa (Taquitos with guacamole.) Then get a white cake donut with rainbow sprinkles from Banbury cross (Cody would argue a chocolate dipped chocolate and I would have a hard time disagreeing with him.) Then have a Crown Burger with an orange bang, large fry and Orange Bang.

If you could ask yourself any question, what would it be? And what’s the answer? What could you do RIGHT NOW that would make someone happy? The answer? I’m going to call my mom, she’s been visiting my elderly grandparents for the last week, and well. I mean, they’re on Skype now so I’ll just end the answer here because if my 91 year old grandpa can figure Skype out? I’m pretty sure he’s close to overtaking the Internet. Watch out Pete Cashmore.

Say hi to Casey Mullins. Need to know more about her? Visit HERE.