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Archive for November, 2009

Well right now it’s 5:30 P.M and I am plumb stuffed! After three platefuls of turkey and gravy, mashed sweet potatoes with brandy sauce, cranberries, mashed potatoes, rolls, peas, carrots green beans, stuffing, oyster dressing, pumpkin cake, and pumpkin pie all washed down with white wine, the tryptophan effect is in full force. But before I pass out in a food-induced slumber, I want to make sure that I adequately count my blessings on this day of thanks. I have so many wonderful things to be thankful for and want to share just a few with you. I hope that you will also take some time to give thanks for all the wonderful joys in each of your lives.

I am thankful…

  • For God who stands with me each step of the way in my journey through life, who always listens when I want to talk, and who always knows what’s best for me – even if I haven’t recognized it myself.
  • For my loving and supportive parents who have been there for me through thick and thin and who have always encouraged my sisters and me to express ourselves and to relish in our uniqueness. For that, I am so thankful.
  • For my two wonderful older sisters who laugh with me, cry with me, smile with me, and just feel it all with me – I couldn’t ask for two better women in which to experience all facets of life.
  • For my niece and nephew who have validated the concept of unconditional love and who have helped to rekindle in me the simplicity and innocence of childhood.
  • For my fabulous, crazy, inspirational friends who are never too busy to stop by my apartment with cheese dip during a break-up, never too tired to play wingman all night at a party, never too nice to not tell me if my shoes don’t match my dress, and the list goes on and on. It’s so true – a good friend is like good wine – she/he only gets better with time.
  • That I am spending this holiday with the people I love most (all those I described in the bullets above 🙂 )
  • For the opportunity to follow my dreams.
  • That within this last year, I have come into my own and really discovered who I am and what I aspire to be.
  • For all the kindness that flows through this world and all those persons who take the time to spread love and happiness to others whether they know them on a personal level or have never met them.
  • For my blog readers and all the support and feedback you’ve provided – you make this hobby so worthwhile. Your positive comments and kind words solidify the reason I created this blog, and I hope you know how much you all inspire me.

Okay, I’m starting to fade and the couch is looking real cozy right about now…Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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We all know that work, no matter what kind of work you are involved in, can often be tough, draining, and burdensome. There are some days that you just want to throw in the towel and head home to enjoy a long bath and a glass (sometimes a bottle) of wine and look to tomorrow as a fresh start. But even if you are up to your ears in emails, client requests, and deadlines, there are always those bright spots at work to look out for. Eventually, all your hard work will pay off, even if it feels like you sometimes get lost in the shuffle.

This morning, I came into work and found a bright spot sitting right in my inbox. Smushed in between my daily Ad Age and a few other client emails was an email from Audrey – a graphic designer who is employed by one of my agency’s clients that I had recently started corresponding with. Audrey had taken her personal time to send me an inspirational, encouraging, and thoughtful email that further proves how hard work and a good attitude can really reward you in the end. Although Audrey’s email was only a few short paragraphs, her kind words (and I think we all know by now what a big fan I am of kind words!) warmed my heart and pushed me to not only continue to work hard, but to keep being nice to all those I come in contact with. A smile directed towards the grocery store checkout boy, a “Have a great day!” to a telephone customer service rep, a friendly email to a SEO Specialist you’ve never met but occasionally work with – this is the small stuff that not only brightens up other people’s day, but also your own day. The wise romantic poet, William Wordsworth, got it right when he said, “The best portion of a good man’s life – his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.”

Audrey’s kind words 🙂 :

Thank you, Courtney, for your expertise and recommendations for this part of <insert client> – leaving out for privacy purposes>. There is so much (logical) sense to this technology and it’s so helpful to have your guidance.

The reason I’m writing directly to you and not the group is that I appreciate that you are a very dedicated person who clearly has enthusiasm for your work, and that’s a rare thing to come across these days! You are informed and bright, but also go further by corresponding in a friendly and thorough way that truly helps. A positive tone in a sometimes stressful world!

Have a nice Thanksgiving Day and will stay in touch again when <client contact> weighs in as we proceed with the project.

Audrey

Thank you Audrey for helping me savor the small stuff and bringing sunshine to my day on this lovely Thanksgiving eve!

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After my weekend full of wine, sushi, fried ice cream, nachos, Blue Moon, and PB&J, I decided it was time to hit the gym yesterday afternoon. I was sick of my usual Party in the USA Miley Cyrus pump-up hit (Who am I kidding??? No I wasn’t, but I did want a few other tunes to balance out my workout so I wouldn’t fall off the treadmill while ‘movin my hips like yeah…’). I downloaded Leona Lewis’s single, Happy, off of her new CD, Echo, which debuted last week. There are certain songs, like Miley Cyrus’s single I referred to earlier, that you just enjoy for the beat and the fun factor. But most of the songs that are on my timeless list of favorites, are songs I love because of the words, not just the sound.

Throughout my entire adolescence and into college, I expressed myself – my inner thoughts and feelings – through poetry. I have a binder chock full of my original poems that I still pull out from time-to-time when I’m in need of some passion and inspiration. I have always said that if my apartment was on fire and I could only grab three things (assuming all humans and pets were safe), my poetry book would nab a spot on the list. As dramatic as it sounds, leaving that book behind would be like leaving a part of my soul behind.

Because I have a fondness for writing poetry and representing my life through quotes, I have always listened intently to the words in music to gain inspiration. When a song resonates with me, I will listen to it over and over again, gleaning all the personal meaning I can from it. I may identify with the song differently each time I hear it – but if it’s truly poetry in music, I will connect to it in one way or another.

I’ve digressed, so let’s return to yesterday afternoon, where I sat cross-legged on the couch, propped up with my laptop, perusing the latest iTunes downloads. As I stated before, Leona Lewis’s new song made it to my “Workout” mix, and I headed to LA Fitness ready for a run. Before Happy made its way to the top of my playlist, I listened to some other random tunes (Shout out to Pink’s So What!), warming myself up to what would hopefully be a successful 3-mile run. About 12 minutes into my run, Happy finally came on; and I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was, but right as the chorus began, this surge of adrenaline overtook me and I felt so empowered, so motivated, so…happy. Lewis’s words, her voice, my mindset – it all just came together. I opened up my mind and heart and allowed her words to seep in, and with each note, I pumped my arms harder and harder, running faster and faster. All of a sudden, I began to grin from ear to ear, for no apparent reason. I just kept smiling and smiling and couldn’t stop. It felt great – much better than my usual gym scenario that I’ve described in previous posts (you know, where I’m slumped over the hamstrung machine dreaming of margaritas and cheese dip…). Yesterday, I completed a fantastic run and held high spirits for the rest of the day.

Songs really are just another form of poetry and can speak to us on a whole other level. I love that feeling of hearing a song and thinking it was created to mirror a time in your life or to echo your current situation. It just speaks to you, and the songs that really have an effect on us, are the ones whose power is unexplainable. So today, I want to share the words of Leona Lewis’s song with you, and I hope that at least once a day, you find words in books, poetry, music, etc. that empower you; and that someday soon, you have a random smile moment on the treadmill, or wherever you may be – cause in the end, we’re all just “trying to be happy.” 🙂

Leona Lewis – Happy (I bolded the chorus – it’s my favorite part):

Someone once told me that you have to choose
What you win or lose
You can’t have everything

Don’t you take chances
You might feel the pain
Don’t you love in vain
’Cause love won’t set you free

I could stand by the side
And watch this life pass me by
So unhappy
But safe as could be

So what if it hurts me?
So what it I break down?
So what if this world just throws me off the edge,
My feet run out of ground
I gotta find my place
I wanna hear my sound
Don’t care about all the pain in front of me
Cause I’m just trying to be happy

Just wanna be happy, yeah

Holding on tightly
Just can’t let it go
Just trying to play my role
Slowly disappear, oh

But all these days
They feel like they’re the same
Just different faces
Different names
Get me out of here

But I can’t stand by your side
Oh no
And watch this life pass me by
Pass me by

So what if it hurts me?
So what if I break down?
So what if this world just throws me off the edge?
My feet run out of ground
I gotta find my place
I wanna hear my sound
Don’t care about all the pain in front of me
Cause I’m just trying to be happy

Oh, happy
Oh

So any it turns that I can’t see
Like I’m a stranger on this road
But don’t say victim
Don’t say anything

So what if it hurts me?
So what if I break down?
So what if this world just throws me off the edge
My feet run out of ground?
I gotta find my place
I wanna hear my sound
Don’t care about all the pain in front of me
I just wanna be happy
Oh yeah
Happy
I just wanna be
Oh
I just wanna be
Happy
Oh Happy.

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[Pre-post Note: I strongly encourage you all to read this entire post so you, too, can can be blessed with the opportunity to be inspired by Dax and his family and friends.]

I don’t know about you guys, but I always get annoyed when stores (department stores are usually the first culprit) start adorning their window displays with snowflakes, bells, and balls and begin dragging in vibrant fake present displays to disperse throughout the floors. It’s as if they have forgotten that Thanksgiving exists and isn’t a holiday characterized by red and green lights and fir trees. Now, I’m not knocking Christmas decorations, because I’m the first to admit that I absolutely LOVE Christmas and all the decorations that accompany the magical holiday; but there is an appropriate time to begin tree trimming and wreath decorating. That time is the day AFTER Thanksgiving, not the day AFTER Halloween. My mother taught my sisters and me that the Christmas season begins when Santa rides down on his float “Ho Ho Ho<ing>” at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, so, for me, that will always signify the start of the Christmas season. Once you see Santa’s jolly face on NBC parading down the streets of NYC, you can crank up “Deck the Halls,” dust off your holiday-themed sweater, pop Love Actually (one of my favorite movies) in the DVD player, and start stringing lights. For the average layperson (I’m talking to you Dillards, Belk, Macy’s, the random guy down the street who has had lights up outside his house since July, etc), I think this is an adequate rule.

Well, there are always exceptions to the rule, and for 2 year-old Dax Locke and his family, friends, and neighbors, these rules go right out the window and rightfully so. Dax is losing his ongoing battle with acute myeloid leukemia and, most likely, only has a few more weeks to live. Sweet little Dax is mesmerized by glowing things, so around Halloween, his parents, Austin and Julie, put up Christmas lights and decorated the outside of their home. Each Day, Dax opens up a present under his family’s Christmas tree that has been up for weeks. The Locke’s wanted to ensure that Dax enjoyed all the magic of Christmas in case he doesn’t make it to December 25th.

[Another Note: This is already a very difficult post to write which is why I tried to slightly lighten the mood with my first paragraph. I am actually trying to hold back the tears as I continue to write about this precious little boy and his courageous and loving family. I am going to continue to summarize the CNN article in which I first learned about Dax, but I strongly encourage you to read the article yourself. This article may just change your life, as it has for me, and I hope it will help remind us all, as we go into the holiday season, what Christmas is really all about. The content in this article epitomizes the true meaning of Christmas and, once again, shows us how one little act of kindness on our part can mean the world to someone else.]

When the Locke’s Washington, Illinois neighbors learned about the family’s efforts to show Dax a bright and glowing Christmas, they began to decorate their own houses and spread the word from household to household. Before long, the entire block was lit up with Christmas lights for Dax to enjoy. The news of Dax and the community’s efforts continued to spread and a website now exists in Dax’s honor where people from allover the world can upload pictures of their own light displays, send cards to Dax, and donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where Dax has spent much of his life. Dax loves to go on car rides to see all the lights around him, and the family plans to create a book out of all the photos that people upload and send so Dax can continue to see all of the Christmas lights if he is too sick to go outside.

Trish Hurtgen, neighbor and family friend, says that the silent show of support for Dax works well for the community, because Dax needs to rest and the family needs their privacy during such a difficult time. She says that she hopes people in the community will see this odd display of early Christmas lights and wonder what is going on. Hopefully, they will pause for a moment to think about Dax and what they can do to help. The family is asking people to make donations to St. Jude. Hurtgen is absolutely correct when she so poignantly says that “That’s what Christmas is about, giving and not needing to get in return.”

As the holiday season approaches, I encourage all of you out there to please remember Hurtgen’s words and to selflessly give back to others in one way or another. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen, visit Decorate for Dax and upload your own picture for Dax, spend time with an elderly person who doesn’t have his or her own family to enjoy the holidays with, donate to a charity, offer to babysit your busy neighbor’s kids for free, etc. The possibilities to help and to give back to others is endless. As we are continually inundated with gift requests, invitations to parties, shopping chaos, etc., please don’t lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas – to celebrate the miracle of the life each of was given and to spread holiday cheer to family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. Not one of us is above anyone else, so this Christmas, let’s all come together and give love as often as possible. This holiday season, instead of wishing for a miracle, become a miracle for someone else.

[Last Note: I found these pictures on CaringBridge which is nonprofit organization that provides free websites to connect family and friends during a serious health event, care, and recovery. If you are looking for a way to give to others, definitely consider CaringBridge.]

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It’s that time of year in which we are, once again, faced with the decision to either set our alarms at 3:30 A.M, drag ourselves out of bed, and shlep our way to Best Buy or Target, or…keep on sleeping and possibly miss the “deal of the year.” Yup, we are only 9 days away from Black Friday. Every year, as Black Friday approaches, I always tell myself, “this is the year I’m gonna do it – this is the year I’ll stand in line, glue myself to the sliding doors at Best Buy, and bound into the store with the rest of the herd. Because I am not yet a mother who must get my child a Wii before they sell out in 3.7682 seconds or run the risk of ruining Christmas, it has never been absolutely imperative that I brave the elements (weather and mean mommas) and venture out on Black Friday. This year, however, I am in desperate need of a laptop (I don’t have a personal computer right now) and a new T.V (and I promise this is a necessity – my T.V is so old that I have to smack the side of it at least 5 times during a show so the picture won’t go out), so I am truly contemplating living out the Best Buy scene I described above. Luckily, I will be spending Thanksgiving with my family back in Roanoke, Virginia, so I won’t have to deal with the “big city” Black Friday back in Atlanta where you have to park in the next city just to find a spot “close” to the mall.

For all of you out there who are vacillating on the decision to celebrate Black Friday or not, I have found an article with a “sneak peak” to the best Black Friday deals to watch for. If you are hoping to obtain one of the hot items mentioned on this list, you may want to seriously consider hitting up the mall. Obviously, arming yourself (and in many instances, you really do need to arm yourself!) for a Black Friday adventure may not be worth it if you are only saving an Alexander Hamilton ($10) on a new microwave, but saving $400 on an LCD T.V is a whole other ballgame. Check out the top 10 Black Friday deals to look for which will hopefully help to solidify your decision to either engorge on leftover turkey and pumpkin pie all day or to power walk your way through aisle after aisle of toys and gadgets.

P.S – I’ll get back with you shortly after Black Friday to let you know if I actually did make it out to Best Buy or if I was still suffering from a food-induced coma and slept through my alarm. If I did make it out, it may take me a few days to recover so bear with me if my post is slightly delayed…

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We’ve all had that one teacher that we remember as the greatest teacher we ever had – the teacher that cared about each of us as both as a student and as a person; and as cliche as it may sound, the teacher who actually made learning fun. My such teacher was Mrs. Henderson, my first grade teacher at Fishburn Park Elementary School. She epitomized the role of the perfect elementary school teacher, and I loved bounding into her class every morning at 9 A.M, wide-eyed and eager to learn. I can say with conviction that my classmates and I loved to learn because Mrs. Henderson loved to teach. Children are perceptive, curious little beings and absorb their surroundings often to the chagrin of their parents (yes, your sweet-as-pie 4 year-old did yell “f***” on the playground at school after observing your 4-letter-word utterance upon dropping the grocery bag with the eggs in it…it’s okay, it happens). As children, we could sense that Mrs. Henderson truly enjoyed teaching – that it was her passion and she seemed rather content to fulfill it on a daily basis. She took pleasure in all of her students’ successes and was there to encourage us amidst our letdowns. Almost every day after school I would come home, race to my bedroom, and play “Mrs. Henderson” for hours, utilizing my green class roll book, gold star stickers, and old workbooks.

Just this past spring, I was spending my last weekend in my childhood home of 20 years. I was sorting through various school papers and projects that I had collected over the last two decades and came upon a collection of unit workbooks I had completed in Mrs. Henderson’s class. As I flipped through them, all of the smiley face drawings, “Great job” stickers, and “I’m so proud of you” and “You are such a bright young lady” messages sketched in the page margins, popped out at me and I couldn’t help but smile thinking about my magical first grade year. Mrs. Henderson was one of those few adults that knew how to communicate with children on their level and she could encourage even the most down-and-out student to overcome his or her hurdles.

I was reminded of Mrs. Henderson when I came across an article last week about eighth grade teacher, Dan Stroup. Like Mrs. Henderson, Mr. Stroup isn’t just any teacher – he is THAT teacher – that teacher you will never forget; and even after 30 years of teaching class after class, you can bet that Mr. Stroup hasn’t forgotten his students either. Every year, Mr. Stroup writes each of his students, past and present, a handwritten, personalized birthday card. If you think it’s time consuming writing, individualizing, addressing, and postmarking annual Christmas cards to your family and friends, imagine sending yearly cards to more than 2,500 people. Mr. Stroup takes his personal time, sometimes 2.5 hours a night if it’s a busy birthday month, to send encouragement and warm wishes to all those students who passed through his classroom. Although laypersons like myself may be shocked at Mr. Stroup’s dedication to keeping in touch with his past students, his kind gesture isn’t surprising to those that know him. Tony Dever, Mr. Stroup’s former student of more than 20 years, lost his father last year and wasn’t at all surprised by the encouragement in Mr. Stroup’s annual birthday card to him. “That’s Mr. Stroup. Always thinking of someone else” Dever says.  In discussing his former students, Stroup says that “for some of them, I haven’t seen them for a while, I still think of them as an eighth grader. It’s like your own children: they grow up, they’re adults. But they’re still your children.”

Mr. Stroup’s selfless, repeated acts of kindness have, once again, solidified the reason I started this blog – to “savor the small stuff.” Mr. Stroup realizes that “everybody likes getting mail,” and he goes out of his way to provide the small stuff for others to savor. Something as small as a personalized, handwritten card, can restore the faith in a lost soul or brighten up the day of a disappointed friend. I think this story really struck a chord with me, because I have always believed in the power of a handwritten card. I must admit that I actually save almost every handwritten card I have ever received – whether it’s a birthday card, a get well card, a Christmas card, or just an out-of-the-blue “thinking of you” card. When I’m feeling down and dejected, I often grab my box of cards and read message after message; and before I know it, my smile has returned and my spirit is lifted.

Mr. Stroup’s dedication and thoughtful devotion to his students evokes a quote I’ve known for as long as I can remember: “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints in our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” Although the majority of his students were only in his class for one full year, Mr. Stroup has “stayed for a while” in their lives, and I hope that they are “never, ever the same.” Every time I write a card for someone or commit a small gesture of kindness directed towards another, I will think of Mr. Stroup and his humble persona and warm heart. His actions have not only positively affected his students, but also all those persons who have been blessed enough to learn about his no-strings-attached benevolence. We should all aspire to follow in his footsteps and to, one day, leave footprints in the hearts of those around us. True kindness is the greatest legacy one can leave – just ask Mrs. Henderson and Mr. Stroup’s former students.

Read more about Dan Stroup and discover the special way his students thanked him for all of their birthday cards.

Dan Stroup

Dan Stroup

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friday-the-13thSo, as I thoughtfully write this post, I fully expect for some dude with a mask and a chainsaw to come up behind me with a cheesy grin whispering some sinister words like “say your prayers cause you’re about to die.” Okay, not really, but my peripheral vision is in overdrive and I have looked behind my shoulder once or twice now and I’m only on sentence two. Hmmm…maybe these kinds of thoughts are why I don’t watch scary movies and am still haunted by an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark I saw as kid (Okay, it’s pitiful enough that I was afraid of Are You Afraid of the Dark but it’s even worse that I’m now admitting that the actress in the episode was Melissa Joan Hart – I mean, who could be afraid of Sabrina the Teenage Witch or Hart for that matter – now just a poor, innocent castoff of Dancing with the Stars???). Nonetheless, scary movies (or scary T.V shows, or scary books, or scary <fill in the blank>) and me just don’t mix.

Since I have already made myself look like a loser, I might as well continue revealing my vulnerabilities and fill you in another one of my fears – I am phasmophobic – I am afraid of ghosts. I have been afraid of ghosts for as long as I can remember and, as a child, I would often urge my mom to stand at the top of the stairs to make sure I didn’t get snatched up by a ghost as I ventured into the deep abyss – the basement. Okay, I’m obviously not THAT freaked out now that I’m older (and hopefully a little more courageous), but you can bet your bottom dollar I would still not step foot in a place if I knew it was supposedly haunted.

So in honor of Friday the 13th (imagine you just heard a creepy “mwahaha” echo in the background), I am honoring all of the crazy phobias in the world and urging everyone to come out of the woodwork and not only acknowledge, but also delight in, your fears and phobias. Do you have a common fear like aviophobia (fear of flying) or are you one of those strange people that has appeared on on the Maury Povich Show to be tortured by bundles of yarn in an effort to overcome your linonophobia (fear of string)? Whatever your phobia may be, I say that today, you embrace it! But first, check out this comprehensive list of phobias so you are well-informed of the actual phobia name when you tell your first (and last) date that you are a philematophobic (have a fear of smooching)…yeah, that may be a good one to go ahead and try go get over…

*Disclaimer: If you are phobophobic, I apologize for this post…

Fear of People with Phobias

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