December 4, 2014

Living Justice with Peace, Love, and Acceptance

I have been unusually quiet about what's happened in #FERGUSON. Now the #ERICGARNER verdict is out and I can't keep quiet. I'm not here to judge anyone or voice my opinion on what I think what the right answers should be. Although despite my not being so blatant with my words, I think you'll know where I stand.

In 2001, I was a sophomore at Carbondale Community High School in Carbondale, IL. I was part of an Intergrated Youth Faith Council. Somehow, I was chosen to lead this group of peers. On October 1, 2001,  we held a #stopthehate vigil in the town square. The message:
It doesn't matter what color your skin is, what god you pray to or anything else. There are things we all have in common and we need to focus on those things and not our differences. We need to spread the love and not be hateful.
Little did I know that #spreadthelove would be with me my entire life. Because what it really comes down to ladies and gentleman, is being good and doing good. It's spreading love, not hate. It's being compassionate and undestanding.

Back then, I probably would have joined a protest. I was pretty spunky and so outspoken. I'm still outspoken, but more reserved now. I think that we can do more good in lots of ways besides protesting and rioting. The me of today sees how those events can quickly escalate into something that is dangerous. Yes, you may get media attention, but are you really solving anything? Are you making a difference?

There is a problem in the country with equality...for race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. I'm not at all dismissing protests. I'm just asking everyone to go above and beyond the protests and live by example.

Be kind.
Be accepting.
Be loving.

My heart hurts right now because 2014 has been a year where we're realizing the unjustices of our world. It's always been unjust. We're just now noticing. I personally don't understand how people can purposely chose to be hurt others in such horrific manners as to cause death. Isn't it easier to be good, to have a good heart and love rather than hate? I just don't get it. And I don't want to understand how being a killer is easy or how being hateful toward a group of people or person because of their skin color, religion,  sexual orientation or gender is easy.

Ladies and gentleman, I ask you to think about what you're doing. How can you make a positive impact in a world so broken? Is it with a protest? Or can you become a beacon of love, light, and acceptance with your actions? Can you live your life in such a way that promotes peace and love? I think you can. I think we all can.

September 11, 2014

Not Forgetting 9-11

I started my day as usual. I got up at 5 am, let the dogs out right as my kiddo woke up. I went to work, picked up the baby from school, and now I'm here. But we all know that today isn't just another day. It seems that so many didn't even acknowledge today's importance. Maybe their lack of acknowledgment is to show that life goes on, no matter how horrifying some experiences can be.

13 years ago today, I was in high school. My first hour English teacher had CNN on in class before school actually started. We were paralyzed as we watched planes make impact with the World Trade Centers. Like many of you, I cried, worried about what was coming next if anything. I was sad for those brave souls who lost lives and for their family members.  I remember being angry that poeple could be so cruel to go to such lengths to be evil.  It's one of those moments in history we'll all remember...or so I'd hope.

Cristian will learn about 9-11 in school. But he'll never really understand, just like many of us don't understand our parents' experiences as they lived through history. But as his mom, it's my job to teach him...teach him about love and accepting others. It's my job to teach him about looking past our differences and focus on what we have in common and not hate someone because they're not of the same race or religious affiliation.

For me, 9-11 is more than just a reminder of when we were attacked on our own soil. It's a reminder that we're never done ending hate crimes and tolerance. It's a reminder to make sure I'm living my life in a way that promotes peace and good will.

Tomorrow we'll go about our day and forget that today was indeed a day we lived through history 13 years ago. Maybe next year, we'll take a little more time to remember it.

June 21, 2014

Ignited Years Ago

It's been like what seems like forever since the last time I wrote a post on here. I forgot I wrote one in January. It's nice to give the very blog that helped me develop my voice for all you lovely dears some attention. I don't know if you all remember, but I started this blog in 2009. One major life event was the catalyst. Do you remember?

On April 2, 2009, I decided I wanted a divorce. Two weeks later, April 22nd, I told my then husband. We filed in May and by June 26th, 2009, we were officially divorced. I call that my "freedom day" and celebrate or acknowledge it every year. It's more of a celebration of finding my voice and becoming the woman that I am today.

Circa 2009 working on my MBA at my parents' property in IL. Loved that summer!
I remember signing the papers. He wanted to give me a hug. I thought he was ridiculous. He still loved me. I didn't want anything to do with him. My ex-husband is not a terrible man. He just wasn't the right man for me from that point moving forward. I wanted a career change...a change he would not accept. It meant more money for us as a couple. That was part of it. We started fighting a lot when I went back for my MBA the year prior. We couldn't get pregnant. I felt like our lives were stagnant and not moving forward. I was then a different person that I was when I first met him at 17. I am a different person now at almost 30. What young people (and I say this as I'm facing turning 30 this December)...correction...what people in their 20s don't realize is that who you are at 21 is not the person you will be at 25 or even 30. Life changes and you change. I'm sure I will be different at 35 and 40. You adjust with the times. Now, ideally your partner changes with you. My ex-husband and I didn't change together.

So what even spurred this blog post to begin with...and on here for that matter, was realizing moments ago that this upcoming week, this Thursday...marks 7 years divorced. And in my true fashion, I'm reflecting. I look back at that young woman with pride. And I look at her slightly disappointed. I am proud of what I've done and who I've become. I look around my home and see kids toys, pictures, and two dogs waiting for the baby to drop food. I smile at the small things that make me happy.

I did not envision the life I'm living now 7 years ago. For starters, I thought the rest of my days would be lived out in St. Louis. Atlanta was not on my radar. I am so happy I took that leap of faith and moved here though...One of the best decisions I've ever made. Now I do envision the rest of my life in the metro Atlanta area. But realistically, I could move anywhere as long as it meant mild winters and sunshine.

A year after my divorce, June 26th, 2010, I graduated with my MBA. I am super proud of that. It has served me well. Back then, I was tired and burned out. Now, I'm tired and burned out working on my PhD. The difference is that I have way more schooling to go before I finish. And to be quite honest, I'm not sure how I'll pull the strength to keep going another 4 years, but I know I will and that I have to.

At a brewery in Grafton, IL June 26th, celebrating my MBA. Mom made my favorite lemon and chocolate cake. 

Seven years ago, I was starting my career. Now I'm midway through and proud of every accomplishment.I love what I do even more now. It's helped shape who I am. After all, I am the Smiling Marketress. My career goals have changed. My vision has changed and molded to the life I think I'll live in the future.

And what's helped me grow the most are my relationships. I surely thought I would be married already. I did almost got married...several times. Thank God that didn't happen. I made some really stupid choices with men over the years. Although I am thankful for each man that I have had the pleasure of getting to know because each of them taught me important lessons and helped me realize exactly who I want in my life. Am I with someone now? Yes. I care very deeply for him, although I'm deathly afraid. I'll be very candid. I love deeply and give my heart to someone gladly if they have my "must haves." But over the years, I've developed this fear of being hurt, so although it seems like I'm  "all in",  it's more like big toe is in and I have one eye open, one eye closed as I move forward on tip toes. I will run the minute I think I'm going to get hurt. I don't want to feel that anymore. I keep moving foward, praying for the best. And until this amazing man who is the Mr. Keeper of My Heart for now reads this, he probably doesn't realize how many times I almost ran. But things have changed a bit. A previous relationship left me with this amazing little boy who has the most the angelic blue eyes. I can't keep running because I need and want to give him a family. And yes, I want that forever love. I'm pretty confident I can have it. And Mr. Keeper of My Heart will have my heart for now.

Before the divorce, I was okay with the statusquo. I wasn't nearly as ambitious as I am now. I was okay living the same life as other Midwesterners. Go to college. Get a job. Have babies. Work a 9-5 job. There is definitely nothing wrong with that. But something inside of me wanted more. And more is what I'm living now. I'm more outgoing, more free spirited and open minded than I was back then. I'm far more expressive and more my true self . I dance randomly and bake for the office just because. I sing while I'm grocery shopping and speak my mind more than I ever did back then. June 26, 2009 was more than just the end of my marriage. It was the ignition of the amazing life I was meant to live.

By the way, I'm barely on here. You can keep up on Facebook or Smiling Marketress Mama. Later loves.

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 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.