This blog is interrupted...

This blog is being interrupted by Summer Vacation.

Between the pre-vacation lazies and the perpetual To Do List that is looping in my head right now, I can’t focus on anything else.

Any pithy, witty, insightful blog-thoughts are being drowned out by the drumbeat and panic of last minute chores and trips to the store. You may be thinking I never achieve those goals, but I like to think most weeks I hit in the zip code. 

I mean come on, you know you loved last week’s post about ice cream.
If not, you’re a communist.
Sorry to break it to you, but only communists don’t like ice cream blogs. 

Back to my brain block.

I can’t pack yet because I haven’t reached 99% Laundry Phase.
Not familiar with this concept? That’s OK, it just  means someone else packs for you. 99% Laundry Phase is when almost all of my laundry is clean. When everything but what I am wearing is clean, folded and put away... I can begin packing.

I have tried 90-ish% packing in the past. It does not work.
Inevitably I leave my favorite outfit at home, in the dirty clothes basket. This is upsetting and disconcerting. Almost to the point of vacation-ruining. I mean think about it, this is the one week of the year where everyone is together, relaxing, catching up, laughing and snapping pictures left and right.

These photos will be forever floating around on social media, framed on a desk or even the occasional family wall calendar... so you want to look your best. You need to look your best. And where is your favorite outfit? At home, awaiting your return, wondering what it did wrong and why it missed the trip this year.

So sad. This is why I now insist on 99% Laundry Phase before packing. It is the only way to go.

And don’t get me started on the shopping. Oh the shopping. I have all my necessaries, but the groceries are another last minute item. These perishable goodies can’t be purchased and shoved into a cooler with tons of ice until the night before.

Oh wow. I think I am hyperventilating. Deep breaths. I have to go now.
Think I will skip the gym today and just go straight to grocery store. 

The consolation prize for all this stress?
A fantastic time with those I love the most and I get to work on my tan.

‘Nuff said!

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream!

I live in the South, so at this point of the year the temperature outside feels like the inside of a ceremonial sweat lodge.

If you walk outside and feel like you’ve just been wrapped in a wet wool blanket while simultaneously swallowing fire... it must be August in Virginia.

I know temperatures go higher in Vegas, Phoenix and other desert-like locations, but there is something unique about a Southern Summer. If you have never experienced the phenomenon we call HHH, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. 

What is HHH, you may ask. Hazy. Hot. Humid.
This is a special form of torture that is almost certainly why Jefferson got such a deal on the Louisiana Purchase.

Forget Survivor, The Amazing Race or even Naked & Afraid, book a family vacation for August at the theme park of your choice anywhere in the South. If you survive without heat exhaustion, sunburn or killing each other,  you will have serious bragging rights.

The other day the new DJ on my station of choice led the forecast with “Wow, its going be a hot one today. The High will be 87º”. I laughed out loud. 87º in July? That’s what we call a “cold snap” baby. 

There is something about this oppressive heat that makes me crave cold, melty things.

My favorite food group swiftly becomes Ice Cream. Yes, it gets its own group.
For the Summer? Yes. It. Does.
There is nothing like the sight of a perfectly swirled cone coming my way. YUM!

Let’s be honest, I go to the gym solely to justify a stop at Chick-fil-A for my Icedream® cone.
It is my bae, my boo, my love. 

I really try to stay away from ice cream 10 months out of the year, but in July and August?
Oh, it’s on like Donkey Kong.

Just when I start feeling like a wilting pansy on the surface of the sun, this tasty treat comes into my life and whisks me away. Away to a land where the air is fresh and cool and the ambient temperature is not directly conducive for baking cookies.

In my research for this blog, I discovered an amazing website: Check it out.
Tons of fun facts. But one very disturbing fact. 
Join me in toppling New Zealand from the #1 spot. This is America people! Let’s do this!
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! 

Oh, gotta run, I hear the neighborhood ice cream truck...

Made to Move?!

Is it me or is that post-workout, full body sweat with jelly legs and aching arms the best feeling ever? 

No, I’m serious. 

And this is not just the endorphins talking.
OK, maybe a tiny bit of this blog is the endorphins, but for the most part, I really believe it is!

Today, I pose an hypothesis to you: We were made to move.

In this society we no longer hunt and gather for survival.
The closest we get to this nowadays is when Target moves your favorite peanut butter to a different aisle.

As you may know from previous posts, I was downsized from “my day job” in April and am now building up my freelance business. Meanwhile, I have joined a gym and am spending long weekends at my parent’s home helping out on a few home improvement projects.

After 15+ years of sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours a day, this being physical thing is like an elixir to my body and soul.

Even beyond the initial endorphin spike, I feel fantastic when I can step back and see the
direct results of my labor:

    • A T-shirt drenched in sweat means calories were burned in a blaze of elliptical trainer glory

    • My favorite socks ruined by dripped paint means a 400 foot pier was powerwashed
       and stained (And boy does it look good!)

    • Shorts thrown away because the grime they are covered in is unidentifiable means that
       old tree was cut into firewood and loaded onto the truck for delivery.

I really do think we humans were made to be active. To move.
To use those muscles for more than walking to the water cooler and then to the bathroom an hour later.

Not only is sweating and using muscles long neglected great for my body, but I am also becoming aware of what this activity is doing for my mental well being. 

I am invigorated.

Not to worry, I am NOT about to shut down my one-gal shop to audition for any DIY shows, but I am having the best time this summer and I know all this work is making me a better designer and writer.

The afternoon “BLAHS” are nonexistent these days and spending time in the open air is feeding my creativity. I had forgotten how awe inspiring nature can be!

When was the last time you stared at cumulus clouds and saw a puppy chasing a duck?
I did today.

Give Me Encouragement or Give Me Death!

OK, so not really. 

I don’t want to put my life on the line in exchange for you to be nice to me and others.
I am NOT that brave. 

The idea here was to be dramatic and grab your attention.
I guess my Mass Communications major is paying off...

I’m sure you, like me, studied the American Revolution in grade school. I still remember having to memorize and present the last paragraph of Patrick Henry’s impassioned “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. 

Perhaps it is the recent 4th of July holiday that has me waxing philosophically on this subject.

I’m not sure if it was the fact that I was raised within 25 minutes of the site of this speech, or that Henry was born in the county I grew up in or merely the fact that the concept of freedom spoke to my soul, but his words moved me and informed me.

My point here is: just like in the time of Patrick Henry, we are in a time of turbulence and change where opinions and passions have a polarizing power.

The difference is that Henry made his declaration face to face to his opposition, but now we have the power and anonymity of social media that serves to embolden us all. Within seconds we can splatter our thoughts and opinions on any subject across the nation and the world. Often without research or regard for the person on the other end.

While we will never agree on everything, we seem to have increased our ability to say mean things. We say things on social media that we would never say to someone’s face. 

Bravado behind a nondescript icon is a growing phenomenon in our society.

Naturally, we have a kaleidoscope of emotions and opinions surrounding a variety of topics, and the fact that we can freely express them is a foundational element that makes America great.

However, it is with as much passion as Henry, that I implore us all to pause before posting. 

Keep in mind: cruelty is crippling.
To the person. To the cause. To the society as a whole. An overarching atmosphere of negativity has a paralyzing power. 

My proposition is that we all endeavor to encourage one another. Even in the midst of conflict and disagreement, we can choose to be kind and to lift each other up.

Listen. Share. Uplift. Encourage. 

(Colonial Williamsburg’s site is a great resource for background on Henry's speech as well as a dramatic reenactment of it:

I Got My Muggle On!

Ok, so it has been a while since I posted a new blog. 21 days to be exact.
Wow! Really? Has it been that long? Yes. Yes it has. 

21 days without my sharp wit and tactical abuse of the Queen’s English. I do hope, dear reader, that you have not suffered in the silence. I apologize for my lackadaisical treatment of this blog and by proxy, your loyalty. 

I have a litany of excuses I could list here, but the most direct and honest one is: I was busy getting my “Muggle” on! 

I spent 4 days in Universal Orlando. Home of fantastic fun, 4-D altered realities and magically manufactured realms.

It was wonderful! 

So wonderful in fact that it has taken another 17 days to get refocused on the real world. 

For those of you who have been there, you know what I am talking about. If you have not, imagine the best theme park in your hometown and jack it up on steroids... no... steroids on gamma radiation!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was all the reviews claimed and much more. Even this moderate fan, or Muggle, was captivated. 

They spared no detail. The rides are not just rides, they are escapes into an alternate world where good triumphs over evil and dragons breathe fire every 15 minutes simply for your amusement.

I cannot stress to you dear reader, how enthralled I was by these parks. Early access, Express Passes and strategic shade placement make for an incredibly enjoyable visit. 

It was not long into the first morning of rides, fantasy and fun that my inner kid chromosome re-engaged. 

What is it about raising your arms on a roller coaster that makes you feel radically brave? 
Why are 3-D glasses and seats that bounce and vibrate so enthralling?
I’m not sure, but I enjoyed the heck out of it all.

It was 98º with a heat index of 105º but I didn’t care. My cheek muscles hurt from smiling.

What I discovered, or I guess rediscovered, is letting go and just having fun is not just for those 48” and below.

Sometimes it is cathartic for us to raise our hands while traveling 70 miles per hour and just trust the lap belt to do it’s job.

Let go. And smile.


The Attitude of Gratitude.

I am always looking for my next blog. As I move through my week, I jot down concepts and themes. I even have strategically placed post-it notes full of unpublished ideas. One reads: “the beauty of post-it notes”.
(I love those little magical neon life savers! Life would be a dark cave of scribbled notes on my hands and tiny “soon to be lost” slips of paper without their beautiful existence.) 

But I digress. That is for another blog.

My point is: there is much to prattle on about, but this week I found myself uninspired. So I decided NOT to write this week. But how can this be? I mean you’re reading a blog right now... aren’t you?

I decided to focus on other things. Nothing felt right, why force it? So, I launched iTunes, finished a friend’s resume, dove into Twitter and then a Seth Godin book. 

As I listened, designed, read and Tweeted, I became aware of a theme. 

Gratitude. Like the steady drumbeat of an advancing ancient army, this theme kept getting closer and closer until I could no longer ignore it.

The happiness that a friend trusted me to design her resume.
The chapter conveying that the best leaders are grateful for their role.
The financial guru’s Tweet about entitlement vs gratitude.
The lyrics of songs about the beauty and bravery in surrendered thanks for blessings.

BAM! It hit me!

I remembered that my 2015 mantra was “The Attitude of Gratitude”. How could I have forgotten?

The plan had been to celebrate every blessing. Take the time to stop and acknowledge the wonder in everyday. The striking palette of sunrises, the joy in a child’s giggle, the generosity of time with family and yes even the bugs that come with the warming days of Spring. Everything.

I had written this mantra on a neon green post-it note, placed it on the edge of a 27” iMac that sat proudly on my ergonomically designed desk overlooking a stunning, tree lined office park.

So, how could I loose sight of it? 

That desk was stripped of my personal things in April. Sixteen years packed up into two boxes. One filled with mementos and memories too precious to let go and the other filled with items someone at Goodwill would no doubt love. My “day job” had been outsourced. 

At first I celebrated this opportunity. I couldn’t wait to follow a new path, slay new dragons! I had been freed to chart my own course. Sail my own ship. Then it happened.  I stop being grateful. Grateful for the challenges of this new opportunity. 

I began to focus on the problems: Building a portfolio and website. Opening a new bank account.
Self-employment tax. Affordable health insurance. Cost of equipment and software upgrades.
Oh! and the clients! The clients!!!

Just when I was preparing to raise my white flag in surrender... my 2015 mantra smacked me in the face. Time to refocus.

I'm writing this blog in a coffee shop where the staff welcomes me with genuine smiles on a seven year old MacBook Pro that is still sweetly chugging along. The sky is filled with Bob Ross worthy white clouds while the buzz of activity around here inspires and focuses me.

Properly humbled by weeks of turmoil focus, I pause to be grateful and refocus.

Gratified that I didn’t outsource my dreams today!

I Got My Butt Kicked by a Granny

I joined a gym and get my butt kicked on a regular basis. Don’t worry. I didn’t join a Fight Club, just a normal, everyday gym. Or so I thought.

Imagine my joy when, on my initial tour, I noticed the median age of the gym is well over 55. Perhaps it is the gym’s proximity to a 55 and older community, but I admit I was feeling cocky as I looked around.

No half naked hotties prancing around showing off their tight thighs and buff biceps. I could come in with my “I sit at a computer for 8 hours a day” body and hold my head high. No more self-imposed body shaming.

My tour guide and trainer is young and handsome, but so friendly as he assured me that I would love the members because they are so welcoming and helpful to the newbies. Oh and the classes! So many classes, all day, everyday. Pilates. Yoga. Body Training. etc. etc. 

Cue the boys choir “Hallelujah” in my head. 

Surely if these seniors could do this, I would crush it. 
(Note to self: be humble about crushing it, don’t want to embarrass any of them with my youth and vitality.)

My tour ended with a year paid in full, free tanning sessions and a smile on my face. This would be good. No better than good. It would be GREAT as I reclaimed my fitness and inspired a few seniors along the way.

Fast forward to my first Pilates class... I arrived early and was indeed welcomed by the regulars who assure me a spot up front was where I needed to be so the I could see the leader better.
(I now know it is so they can all smirk at me as I struggle to hold the various poses.)

Well, 15 minutes in I am sweating like a pig in August. I look around as I collapse from another tortuous plank and see that they all are still holding their’s. OK, this is my fist class, it will get better right? 


Week after week, I am still the slacker. I no longer hurt for 3 days after, but I am still the only one breaking pose after pose for the entire 45 minutes of hell. 

As if that isn’t humiliating enough, I hit an all new low this morning. Today’s ego smack-down came on the back of an Elliptical Glider Thing-y Machine. (Yes, that is the technical name, thank you very much.)

One of the gray haired regulars made it look easy... so, why not? I jumped on and began “gliding” too. (Gliding in the way a manatee in a kayak glides over a dried creek bed) Very early on my thighs began to burn and 5 minutes in, I lost feeling in my biceps. 

Meanwhile, this silver fox is about to break orbit as her legs and arms fly back and forth at a blurring pace. Alert OSI! I’ve found Jamie Sommers!

I am awed as she freely chats with other regulars, showing no signs of fatigue, but after a mere 10 minutes, I have had it. I push the STOP button and pout off to the locker room to grab my purse and keys. 

Stupid machine. Clearly mine was malfunctioning. Yes, that’s it. I had the broken one.
(Next time you're going down Silver-Fox, you're going down!)

Thusly soothed, I bee-line it to Panera for a Muffie and free Wi-Fi. 

Words vs Pictures - A Timeless Tale

For over a century we’ve heard the old adage, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. But we’ve all known it was true well before that.

Since the dawn of cave drawings through The Renaissance all the way to the 8 mega-pixel iphone in your back pocket, we humans love the visual reference.

We use visual clues everyday. The forlorn face of a friend or a toothy toddler’s smile conveys a message in nano-moments. 

A photo of a sand ladened tropical beach immediately relaxes me whereas photos of 9-11 instantly transport me back to that day and all the fear, anger and utter desolation.

So, the adage is true. 100%. 

However, as a lover of the language and purveyor of published prose, I am here to advocate for the written word  (and apparently single-handedly bring back the art of alliteration).

We still love words. We’re not a totally visual society... yet. 

I postulate to you that it is Instagram’s ability to balance the optics with the supportive message that has catapulted it over Twitter’s restrictive 140 character limitations. While the photos take precedence, their significance is further underscored by adjectives, explanations and hashtags. 

Perhaps now more than ever, we desire communication and information. Visual and verbal. Sure in brevity but also in accuracy and convenience. 

So, while a picture is STILL worth a 1,000 words... we crave the written word. Picture-less books still fly off the shelves every year by the millions. The publishing industry yields BILLIONS of dollars in revenue annually.

Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to Tweet, if for no other reason than I like the challenge of sounding informed and somewhat brilliant within 140 characters but I must confess that I feel the pull of the Instagram platform. 

As a Graphic Designer and Writer, I think it will be a cozy fit for me. I envision my creative soul nestled nicely between the vibrant photos and the pithy euphemisms. 

We humans long for communication. So, keep Tweeting, posting, tagging, blogging, reading and expressing. #encourage #uplift #motivate

Communication is my soul food.

As you have probably discovered by now, I love to communicate. Whether it be visual or verbal, I thrive on communication. It nourishes my soul. It feeds me.

I actually still write notes. Yes. Yes I do. Ask my family. If they can make it through reading my handwriting, they actually like getting them.

It's so old-school it's cool. Like Chuck Taylors.

I honestly believe that if we all sat down and listened to each other and determined to actively HEAR the other person, side, point of view that the world would be one long Coca-Cola commercial.

All you kids of the 70's are humming "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" right now.
It's ok. Admit it. This is a judgement-free zone.

Seriously. Communication could be the cold-fusion of our time.

Not in the way that it is elusive and most likely fictional. But in the way that if actually achieved, no one would ever be cold, in the dark or without nearly limitless power.

Food for thought. Something to chew on.
OK, now I am starving.

A quick thought for you as I plan a drive-through stop on the way home...

Try it.

Handwrite (yes, with a pen) a thank you note this week.
Or try calling your mom instead of texting her. She likes the sound of your voice.
Or have coffee with an old friend and let him talk about what's going on in his life.

You may find you benefit most of all.