January 12, 2014

Bring on the Storms: Ode to Driving in Torrential Rain, Blizzards, and Ice

I have to admit, I kind of love storm systems. There is something in the air that makes them so electrifying and exciting. Granted, I only like them when I'm home and not on the road. I've had my fair share of being stuck in nasty weather on a commute. It's one of the reasons I moved to Georgia. Surely I wouldn't get stuck in snow or ice for three hours here.

Credit: Robert Cohen, STL Post Dispatch
I remember the winter storm of 2006 in St. Louis. That was awful! St. Louis got hit by a blizzard and ice storm. At that point, I worked in a not-so-nice area of St. Louis. I was stuck on a hill in North St. Louis. The police officer told me that I might as well plan on sleeping in my car. Needless to say he was an idiot. It took me about 4 hours to get home. I, like others behind me, managed to slowly make my way up the hill and across the river to Edwardsville (where I lived at the time). I vowed then not to ever go to work in conditions like that. I vowed that until five years later. It was March. There was freezing rain the night before, but  I decided to drive to work. It wasn't like I was snowed in. But my 45 minute drive turned into three hours of sitting on the highway waiting for the Jefferson Barracks bridge to de-ice. I had not anticipated that.  

And then of course there were those times when I decided to race a tornado home. I did that a lot. Driving in torrential rain became a norm come spring and fall in St. Louis. I remember one time when a huge tornado just left my neighborhood and was headed right up 285 right towards me as I was driving home. That was fun. My boyfriend at the time called me to tell me it was coming my way. My response was that I had it within sight. Like the others in front of me and behind me, I dared Mother Nature and played chicken.

Those moments were crazy. I survived, but my smartphones didn't fair so well. I went through one a year. They either were thrown on floorboard or got banged around my cup holder. I was lucky my screen didn't crack. But somehow my phone was slower and froze more frequently than before after one of those crazy weather incidents. I went through several smartphone car mounts before I found I really like. The iPhone car mount from MobiValet is a dream for my iPhone. I have yet to test it in the snow, but I have given it a test through torrential rain.  Needless to say, I'll stay out of bad weather scenarios. But if I do dare take on Mother Nature, my phone and ultimately my safety are in check.

December 2, 2013

#SpreadtheLove in #Atlanta this Christmas

It's no secret that Christmas is my favorite time of the year. It's the one time of the year that people stop to think of others. To me, it's the perfect opportunity to #spreadthelove. I've said this before on Smiles and Rants. Christmas, at it's very core, is about God's love for all of us..love so deep that He sent his own son to prove it. Christ's life was all about spreading the love. Being a Christian, in my humble opinion, isn't about being perfect and doing all the right things--although that helps. I see it as being a beacon of love...being an example in the human flesh of Christ's love for us in today's world. How we #spreadthelove is up to us. You  don't have to be a Christian to understand or feel that amazing feeling around this time of year. You know... that warm, cozy feeling you get just from smiling faces, walking around your office, the malls, and your neighborhoods. That feeling of pure happiness because for a month out the entire year, people (for the most part) are nice to each other.

Unfortunately, this is also the time of the year that many suffer the most. Families going through financial difficulties. Homeless families walk the streets trying to stay warm and trying to find food. There are over 21,000 homeless people in Atlanta alone! Most of those people are children under 9 years old. So while your enjoying your beautifully decorated, warm home full of the Christmas spirit, there are families who need help. There are children who need shelter, food, clothes, and yes toys! It's Christmas! Every child needs to believe in the magic and hope that things will bet better. I don't know about you, but that makes me want to #spreadthelove even more. We can't save every child from the streets, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. I'm aiming to help as as possible...even if it's with this blog post or tweeting live at #HolidayLove tomorrow night.

Normally, this time of year, I get involved with at least one nonprofit. On my birthday next week, I'm going to be visiting the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy and start 2014 helping the center increase exposure. I believe that we should #spreadthelove all year.

But more immediately, I've teamed up with Atlanta's premier matchmaker-- Heartbeat Matchmaker. Tomorrow is #HolidayLove at Livingston Restaurant & Bar at Georgian Terrace in downtown #Atlanta, 7-10 pm. This event is the perfect #spreadthelove event because it benefits the Nicholas House, a nonprofit in the Atlanta area that helps homeless families. This event truly is a #spreadthelove event because we're helping others find hope. We're raising funds and awareness for an organization that will help them make this Christmas special for families in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Those of you who come to #HolidayLove will be part of making Christmas miracles happen for people you're not even aware of. You're encouraged to bring unwrapped toys. All proceeds will go to Nicholas House. That to me, is the most precious way of being that beacon of hope for those who need it the most. All it involves is mingling, drinking, and being merry with others who want to make a difference.

What makes this heart of mine smile are the amazing sponsors who are making this even possible. Blackstone Restaurant has delicious food and still scheduling holiday parties. Jeff McGinty with Massage Envy and The Joint, Mindy R. Smith Attorney at Law, Stein Mart in Kennessaw and so many others have already pledged to help make #HolidayLove a success! Our long list of sponsors will be there along with me (tweeting live) and the rest of the Heartbeat Matchmaker team and Miss USA 2010, Jessica Black as the hostess. We will all be spreading the #holidaylove tomorrow night.

I ask that you think about how you can #spreadthelove this holiday season. What can you do to make a positive impact on someone's life? Can you make a Christmas miracle happen for someone in need? I just gave you one way you can do just that.

November 28, 2013

Something to be Thankful for

I was going to write this after my family ate, but since the house is quiet, I'll write it now. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 pretty much sums it up. But we shouldn't need a holiday to celebrate everything we're thankful for. We should be thankful everyday. It's so easy to be negative and think about everything you don't have, but somehow hard to see all the amazingly beautiful things in our lives. It's always best to Be joyful always! (1 Thessalonians 5:16). 

What I'm thankful most for is my son. Sounds cliche but it's true. This amazing little person is a gift. Most of you know the story. I was told I was never going to have a baby naturally.  But God sure had other plans. And as scared as I was when I first found out, I am so thankful for the opportunity to be Cristian's mom. The fact that he's here after having contractions on the road home Christmas of last year, a fall, and a car accident is pretty amazing. He is healthy and happy. God gave me this little guy for a reason. I'm not sure why. But I think he's going to grow up to be an amazing man of God-- an anointed follower of Christ and protector of mankind. His name has a lot of meaning and I pray it motivates him to be amazing.

Took a break from cooking Thanksgiving to give #SmilingBaby a hug
Recently, I connected with Heartbeat Matchmaker, the premier Atlanta matchmaking service that really does make happy ever after happen for so many. They are hosting #HolidayLove, an event at Livingston Bar & Restaurant in downtown Atlanta to benefit the Nicholas House, a nonprofit that helps families in Atlanta. Unlike other organization, they keep families together. And let's face it, when something as traumatic as being homeless is something you deal with, being together as a family makes all the difference. I will be tweeting live for the event. The reason I got involved, dear ones, is because homeless--much less homeless that involves children, is not acceptable. I figured even something as tweeting for #holidaylove to help raise awareness and funds will make some sort of positive impact. So I'm thankful for a cozy, happy home. I know that over 21,000 in Atlanta don't have that.

God puts us where he wants us and introduces us to people who enrich our lives. I am thankful for each and every new and old friend in my life. I've met some amazing people this year. I am lucky to be part of their lives in the tiniest of ways. There are so many to list, but these people know who they are, or at least I hope they do.

And now I have "Thankful" by Josh Groban stuck in my head. It's such a beautiful song and perfect for the day. Be thankful for what you have. Spread the love and do something amazing to make other's life just a little more special. Do something amazing and make the world more beautiful.  

November 25, 2013

#HolidayLove Event Helps Homeless Families in Atlanta

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this blog post. I write it with a heavy heart because the subject is not at all pleasant or happy. The topic, ladies and gentlemen, is homelessness. Now, you know that in the past, I’ve worked with the Salvation Army of St. Louis to raise awareness and funding for homeless programs. I do it because I don’t think anyone should ever go without a warm place to call home and plenty of food to eat. I do it because I’m thankful for what I have. This week, we will all be all cozy in our homes with family and friends, not worrying about whether or not we’ll have a home. We should all be thankful for having the means to provide a home for our family.

In 2009, there were over 21,411 homeless people in Atlanta.  There are more homeless 9 year olds than any other age group. Sadly, Atlanta also is known as one of the poorest for children. You can look at statistics all day. That won’t solve the problem. It may seem like a daunting task, trying to rid this amazing city of homelessness, but we can do something to make a big dent.

Nicholas House is a special organization that helps homeless families. Traditional shelters separate families (fathers can’t be with their daughters and mothers can’t be with their sons). Nicholas House keeps families together. They’ve helped over 100 families. That’s about 300 people (230 of whom are children). They provide shelter and services to help families get on their feet and off the streets. In order for Nicholas House to do more good and help homeless families in Atlanta, they need people to be generous and give out of the goodness of their hearts.

I recently connected with Atlanta’s number one matchmaker, Heartbeat Matchmaker. On December 3, they’re hosting #HolidayLove. It’s an easy way to help Nicholas House help more families by having a fun night out at Livingston Restaurant & Bar. There will be a silent auction along with great food and drinks. Guests are encouraged to bring unwrapped toys as a donation to help make this Christmas special for kids who don’t have a place to call home.

#HolidayLove is a special event. You can make a positive impact and help fight homelessness in Atlanta. When I moved here, all I saw was how beautiful this city was. I didn’t know it was the poorest city in the U.S. for kids. As a parent, I want to change that. It breaks my heart thinking of kids on the streets. We need to do something to help. Join Heartbeat Matchmaker December 3rd. Come for great food and drinks and meet new people. If you’re single, you may just meet that special someone you’ve been looking for. Dejuan Miller, CEO of Heartbeat, has a reputation of making ‘happy ever after’ a reality for all her clients.

If you’d like to be part of #HolidayLove and make an impact, we are still looking for sponsors. Message us on Facebook for details. Either way, please get involved. Come to the event. Tickets are now on sale. Let’s do what we can to help Nicholas House help the homeless families of Atlanta. The children need us. 

September 22, 2013

Make the World More Beautiful

You know, sometimes I have to just laugh. Sticking to my true nature, of course I have maybe a few too many blogs. So it looks like Smiles and Rants needs an update. When I do have time to write a blog post, it's or Smiling Marketress Mama.  Well, I promised my facebook peeps a blog post here. So...let's catch up, shall we?

I dream. But I go above and beyond dreaming and work my butt off to make those dreams come true. Cheesy? Yes, of course. But you shouldn't be too surprised by that by this point. Everything I do, everything I put any energy into, is calculated. Sometimes I take risks because I feel a "calling" to do so. For the most part, those have paid off.

Darlings, those risks have paid off. I think September is a special month for me. Last September, the 15th to be exact, I found out the impossible happened. I picked up a pregnancy test at the Walgreens on Whitlock Ave in Marietta, GA on my way out of town. I stopped at the rest area on I-75 North. Thinking for sure that this test would be negative, I got the shock of my life. I just signed the lease on my house. I was about engrossed in my doctoral program. I did not expect to find out I was pregnant.

The rest of this time last year was spent packing and moving. I moved to Atlanta on a gut feeling--a leap of faith. I prayed all summer about this move before I made it. And everything kept pointing to this beautiful southern city. I took that leap and trusted that God had some reason for me to be in Atlanta.

Funny how a year later, I see His plan unfolding. Besides my new role as a mom, I have two big passions. One is driven by a book my pastor gave me when my entire world was falling apart as a teenager. It was one of those moments that we look back and realize that it was that moment that would catapult and shape us forever.  Miss Rumphius is a book about making the world more beautiful. My pastor's message to me is to do just that. I didn't realize that I was slowly working towards that. It didn't really "click" until now. Sure, I've worked with lots of nonprofits over the years. But actually making the world a more beautiful place? Yes, I recycle. But there had to be a bigger way of doing that.

I accepted a job this week that will let me do just that. I jokingly call myself a tree hugger. I recycle everything. I believe in working towards reducing our footprint. The company I will be working for is a for profit company working with to improve energy efficiency and to help utilities and consumers reduce their energy consumption.

My other passion--my career. Marketing is more than just a profession. I say that a lot because it's second nature to me. So really, I get to make the world a more beautiful place by using the talent and skills God gave me. Yes, I'm known for making big things happen. But I wouldn't be able to do any of it without God's guidance. It's almost as if God and I sat down and wrote the story of my life....including foreshadowing and so many other literary elements. I"m just so tickled that I can do both. Stay tuned for more on #gtenergy.