Monday, March 28, 2011

The Next Generation

How many friends do you know with a job that can invite you in for a day to watch them in action and actually lend a hand?  I only know a couple, and they are all teachers. 

I had the chance to see Melissa command a classroom in her Nashville "office" during my trip and wouldn't be writing about it if I wasn't truly inspired.  She is one of the few people I know who doesn't loose a bit of herself during her work day.  Perhaps she swears a lot less, but she utilizes her humor, kindness and intelligence to gain the students' trust instead of becoming a different person at work.  Her relationship with her students was simply amazing.  And, the fact that she manages to actually teach them something daily, despite their fondness for stretching, passing notes and harassing each other, is amazing.  It's no surprise that she was recently awarded with a teacher of the year award.  Many congrats for my talented friend.

She asked me to speak about working in PR, explain how I got my start, and tell the kids what it's like to work in an office environment, live in NYC and balance everything out.  I've spoken to corporate boards with stronger ADD than these kids, but I've never had to lure them in with Jay Z sightings and break down the reality of a 10-hour work day.  We had fun.  And, although I think they'll remember me as the white girl that lives in Harlem I hope they actually learned something from my presentation.

Here's some things I spotted in her high school classroom, which I assume are in classrooms all across America:

  • Bedazzled cell phones
  • Pink converse sneakers paired with hot pink nails
  • Fake wedding rings
  • Hand painted water bottles
  • Heart shaped purses
  • Oversized backpacks and bags
  • Colored hair
  • Strick dress code (no blue jeans, and limited colored shirts), which is actually enforced and followed by the students
  • Star shaped post-its
  • Birthday stickers (which were received with great fan fare)
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Hand wringing

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Favorite Photos...

You know that feeling that you get when you look at a photo of a good memory or event in your life and you can't hold in a smile.  Sometimes it's a photo from 20 years ago, other times it's a photo from a few hours ago but it's almost always a photo including you or someone you adore.  I found one of those photos tonight while I was uploading my photos from my Nashville trip.  It's a photo of Jerome and I at the Cliff House in San Francisco enjoying a quick drink and a chat before dashing off to the airport.  I can't remember what we were discussing but I do remember laughing so much my stomach hurt and catching the amazing view of Seal Rock and Kellie's Cove on the way out. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nashville, TN Favorites: Franklin's Cajun Steamer Review

"Let me out of here...."

I just returned from Nashville, TN and enjoyed a full 5-days of music, laughter, drinks, divine food, and lovely new experiences.

My absolute favorite part of visiting Nashville is always catching up with my friend Melissa.  I've described our friendship in the past as invincible.  Now, I'd like to add that we are also confident and hilarious together.  She's kind, giving, hilarious, and beautiful - which is perhaps why we're able to have a good time anywhere we go.  We'll talk more about her later.

I would love to discuss all my favorite parts of Nashville in a single post, but then I'd never catch up on life back at home.  So, I'll take some of my favorite picks from the long weekend and share them with you individually.

I heart seafood and have been wanting to attend a Crawfish boil ever since I missed my friend Alyson's wedding in Louisiana a couple of years ago.  So, when Melissa and her wonderful friend Ashley took me to Cajun Steamer in Franklin, TN, just outside of Nashville, I couldn't resist.  The Crawfish were meaty and flavorful and the portions were extravagant and robust.  And, if you're feeling a little out of sorts, there's even directions for peeling and eating Crawfish at each table.  I'm having a bit to much fun with my descriptors here but, I think you get the point.

The setting is festive and colorful, with long basic tables and sweet, kind-hearted waitresses.  The long bar and tall metal staircase at the entrance set the scene as a more popular and cramped space than most local restaurants.  The excessive amount of televisions around the restaurants tuned into whatever college basketball, baseball, or football game is on is suggestive of a sports bar, but leans towards the Cajun theme.  The food is what really makes this place memorable.  Tall glasses or bourbon drinks or sweet tea, appetizer options like alligator (which tastes like chicken) and big platters of steamed seafood or southern chicken are all pretty amazing.  I'd personally suggest a half order of the Crawfish, which Melissa and I shared, the Melvin's Blackened Chicken (which Ashley ordered) and any of the numerous Po-Boys which all looked delish and juicy enough to handle their thick bread wrappings.

So, my favorite restaurant award in Franklin, TN goes to Cajun Steamer.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What to Do with Happiness

Most people who know me, and I repeat most, know that I'm a pretty happy person.  I love so many things about my life and feel proud that I've built the type of relationships and environment that keeps me on the sunny side of life.  My relationship with Jerome makes me smile inside out, my friends couldn't be stronger and my family couldn't offer any more emotional support and confidence than they do.  Some days I feel like I have a full team of cheerleaders on my side.  Of course, everyone who knows me well also knows that I have my complaints and problems but I'm going to ignore those for today since I'm feeling particularly chipper this afternoon.

But, what do you do with excessive happiness?  Smiling like a drug addict on the street seems like a bad idea.  My kindergarten teacher, Betty, would say to spread it around, making sure you share it with others.  My brother, Brian, would probably say to keep it going and hold onto it till you pass out.  So, I looked into it in the only place anyone seems to research anything these days: online.

Quote yourself:  

Charlie Sheen, who says he's HAPPY not CRAZY (as I believe), he spouts his "knowledge" and "life lessons" through quotes and videos to the world.  For some reason everyone is listening.  I'd like to say I'm above it all and don't participate in the media frieze that is Crazy Sheen but it's just too funny to let go.  There are a ton of websites compiling quotes from his latest rants but this one is by far the best.  You even get to click on a graphic of his head to keep him talking.

Then, there's people who compile quotes about happiness from the likes of Ben Franklin and Mark Twain. 

Get a Tattoo:

Perhaps you'd prefer to express your happiness with body art.  A quick search on Google Images for "Happy Tattoos" came up with a Hello Kitty tattoo of the famous cat ridding a bike and two different colored horses having sex.  Hilarious.

Make others see the world through your eyes: 

This group says, "damn I'm happy, what the hell is wrong with you?"  This group includes anyone who is egotistical about their happiness and has the balls to hold seminars about how happy they are.  They claim to be teaching others how to achieve happiness, but appear to be nonsense about how people don't look at their "inner self" enough.  Crap.

And, my personal favorite, break it down and teach teach others how they can tailor happiness to their lifestyle:

"THE HAPPINESS PROJECT is the memoir of the year I spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier – happily, it was a #1 New York Times bestseller. As one of the hundreds of experiments I've conducted, I started this blog. Here, I recount my daily adventures in pursuit of happiness."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Soak it Up: An Online Version of a Southern Front Porch

Meeting fellow bloggers is always an eye-opening

Claudia and husband, Mike, on her grandfather's
farm in college
and fun experience. I particularly love it when a
writer is willing to open up a bit about their blog practices and inspirations. I met Claudia D'Avanzo last year at a PR gathering and started reading her blog shortly after. Similar to my blogging practices, she aims to keep friends and family updated on her life and projects. She also aims to give readers a place to stop by, read a little, smile, laugh a little and go on about their day. As she so eloquently stated, "it’s the online equivalent of southern front porch, where friends stop by, have a chat, swap stories, and then head on into town. Even if no one reads it, it’s just so relaxing to post ideas, experiences and materials, and it takes me away from the harried life of a being a 'mom-preneur' for little awhile."  

Claudia's blog, Our Green Acres, includes stories and adventures of renovating a family farm in Alabama alongside tid-bits and information about life in Atlanta as a PR practitioner, mom and overall happy Southerner. I've been compelled by the similarities in our blogs, despite the differences in our geographic locations and daily lives. Here's a bit more about Claudia, her travels and her blog - I encourage you to check it out when you have a moment:

Claudia's Green Acre

Our Green Acres, written by Claudia Brooks D'Avanzo, chronicles the D'Avanzo family's weekend adventures in rural Alabama, where they bought and are renovating their very first farm. Our Green Acres is a "feel-good life blog," where Claudia not only talks about her experiences and the contrasts between city and country living, but she also tries to share positive aspects of simpler living. Claudia and her husband spent over 20 years traveling the U.S. and the world for work at an incredibly, and sometimes unhealthy fast pace--not unlike many others. Now, they try to live more slowly and soak up each day's beautiful moments.

Claudia's boys at their family farm

Claudia and her husband Mike have traveled to almost every state in the union, and have loved almost every place they've been to. In her own words, "I adore being in a new place and immersing myself (even if just for a little while) in local places and culture. Also I've traveled to 17 European countries, Thailand, Canada, the Caribbean but there are sooooo many more places we hope to get to, still.

And, of course, my traveler questionnaire -

Top International Travel Destination?:
Bangkok has been the most exciting and exotic

Favorite U.S. spots?
Montana, NYC, SanFran, Seattle, New Orleans and the Florida Keys.  And Georgia and Alabama. We love big cities and small towns. And we love the country. High-brow to honky-tonk is perfectly fine by me.

Family Travel Memory?
Mike (my husband) worked for a Japanese company for 9 years and often traveled to Japan for work, where he would spend 2-3 weeks there at a time. He fell in love with the country and two years ago, he took our son, Adrian, to Japan for a “boys trip” that they still talk about. It was a fantastic adventure for them, hop-scotching through Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka and the countryside.

Some of the beauty of the countryside

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bri and Elena's Wedding: Top 5 List

I just returned from a trip to San Francisco, where I attended a good friend’s wedding. Brian Ringseis has been a surrogate older brother to me since….well since at least I was 4. Although I don’t hold him responsible for how I turned out, I will always think of him and now his awesome lady Elena, as family.

Top 5 list for Brian and Elena’s SF Wedding:

Drag Queen convention next door – I wish I had a photo of this, but somehow I missed all the potential photo opportunities while I was staring at the commotion. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that the Drag Queens who strutted through the hotel lobby toward their convention next door to the wedding were stunning, amazing and awe-inspiring. It was a perfect mix off 200+ wedding guests and dames filtering into the ballrooms. I’m pretty sure no one mixed the events up, but that story could still be floating out there.

Mike and Marlis, getting ready
Reasonable rooms available for guests – Finding the right space for a wedding in a big city must be difficult enough on it’s own – but finding one in a hotel that can offer reasonable hotel rooms for guests must be near impossible. But, the Hotel Whitcomb, offered Bri and Elena’s guests rooms for under $100, a short elevator ride away from the wedding. It was nice to get ready and sip on pre-wedding cocktails at the hotel before walking down to the ceremony.

Grand ballroom/Grand Crowds – The massive ballroom played its role as ceremony space, reception hall, dance party venue, and restaurant awesomely. It’s hard for one room to play all these roles and pull it off for a party of more than 200 people, but this one did it perfectly – Jeff Bridges style.

Cake – I’m a sucker for wedding cakes with style. So, a wedding cake in the shape of a building blew me away. Check it out.
Photo booth – I’ve become a bit of a sucker for photo booths at weddings and this was no exception. Although I didn’t find the booth until shortly before it closed, I had a few moments of fun with Jerome, my brother and my mom in the tiny booth and have the photos to prove it.

Marlis and I, not in a photo booth

Music – The selection for the bride’s walk down the isle, It Had To Be You by Harry Connick Jr. was simply perfect. And later, when the dance floor needed some spice, the DJ knew how to build it up. While the music wasn’t the star of the event, it was a beautiful compliment to the other elements.
Jerome, Marlis and I, still not in a photo booth but acting like it