Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of 2009



I think many of us will agree that 2009 was a difficult year.  And it felt difficult while living it.  But looking back, I have so much to be grateful for and wanted to share some of the highlights with you.


FAMILY
  • I got married!  On February 27, 2009, I married the love of my life, Tim Long.  Just a small, simple ceremony with my sister, brother-in-law and parents in attendance.  It was the perfect way to start our life together.  I couldn't ask for a better friend, partner, cheerleader and coach.


  • My sister got married, too!  Her celebration was larger and more elaborate, but no less joyful.  So happy to welcome Brian to our family and see my sister so happy.


  • My parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary!  So, so grateful for their love and support.  And their genes--don't they look amazing?


    • My dad completed his first half marathon!  Our family trip to Kiawah Island was supposed to be my marathon debut.  Alas, it was not meant to be--a nasty case of swine flu knocked me out.  But it was a true joy to cheer on my father as he crossed the finish line--two days later, he was ready for more! 


    FRIENDS
    • My best friend Emily had another sweet baby boy, Samuel "Cutler," every bit as adorable as his big brother, Jonah.  Such a blessing to be able to spend time with the Hardings this year.


      • While the Country Music Marathon was my least favorite event of the year, I got to spend the entire weekend with one of my best friends, Angela Hansberger.  It was our third season training together, and collectively, we've raised over $30,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Angela had never even run a mile until her dear friend Kate was diagnosed over two years ago--what a joy to run all of those miles with her, and better still, to celebrate Kate being cancer free this summer.


        • The 4th of July!  It's my favorite holiday.  This year, I ran the Peachtree Road Race for the eight consecutive year with my TNT friends, my husband, my dad and honorary brother David Cordell, whose wife Sarah (my best friend from college) and son Nathan have started joining us for the holiday.  I love nothing more than a great run in the sweltering heat with 60,000 of my closet friends, followed by grilling out, fruity drinks and low-key times with family.


          • The Stupid Chickens!  Most Wednesday nights, you can find me, Tim and our neighbors and close friends, Paul and Sarah McKibben, plus others who joined us along the way, at Bone Garden Cantina.  No matter how packed our training and work schedules are, Wednesday night has become sacred time reserved for fellowship over cheese dip and margaritas.  Better yet, we managed to win four straight quarterly tournaments--earning us bar cash for even more cheese dip and margaritas!



          • My dear friends Jaclyn and Roger got married!  I met them through my very first Team in Training event, when their relationship was brand new, so it's been a joy to watch them fall deeper and deeper in love as the months and years have passed.  Mazel tov!


          • Twitter!  I heart Twitter.  Yes, not all connections on Twitter turn into friendships (see this recent blog post for more), but many of them did, particularly with my long-lost twin Gini Dietrich (whom I got to meet in Chicago in October), and the fabulously witty and wonderful Marisa Sharpe.  So blessed to meet so many amazing new people.


           FOOD 

          2009 was the year this formerly picky eater became a foodie.

          Highlights?
          • Meeting Jen and Ryan Hidinger of Staple House.  Fabulous people making fabulous food (and football fanatics).  You won't meet more real people in all of Atlanta, and Tim and I are happy to call them friends.  Can't wait for their restaurant to open!



            • Woodfire Grill.  I had four outstanding meals at Woodfire this year: Tim's birthday, a girls' night out with Angela, my birthday dinner with family and a serendipitous meal with my friend Chris.  All very sweet memories, made even sweeter by the company as well as the outstanding food and service.


            • Antico pizza.  I need a 12 step program for this pizza.  My best experience there was a private tasting in the kitchen, where we ate slice after slice of cheesy goodness.  While the place has lost some of its initial charm, the pizza is still heavenly enough to merit a weekly visit.


            • The Holeman and Finch burger.  It's legendary.  For those who don't know, they only make 24 burgers a day and only serve them at 10pm.  And on Christmas Eve, Tim and I FINALLY got to taste Atlanta's juiciest novelty.  We've decided to make it an annual tradition. 


            • Julie and Julia.  The ultimate foodie movie.  Several of us (including Patti and Kathianne, pictured below), got together to celebrate a friend's birthday, then went to see the movie that had all donning aprons and craving beef bourguignon



            FORTUNE

            While 2009 seemed challenging in the moment, as I look back, it was a year of huge growth.  For me as a person, as a runner and as an entrepreneur.  I can't say thank you enough to all of the people who made that possible and look forward to more amazing experiences, relationships and connections in 2010.


            Pass the champagne!





            Monday, December 28, 2009

            Shitty First Drafts


            As a writer, I’m both lazy and a perfectionist. I don’t want or think I have to devote a lot of time to writing, yet I’m frustrated when the outcome isn’t perfect. Not the best recipe for a
            successful blog.

            I’ve realized that both the laziness and the perfectionism are born of fear. Of failure. Of disappointment. Of disappearing. Of being misunderstood.

            "Writing is not, for us, an art, but breathing." -Anais Nin

            I’ve been a writer since my early years, when I scribbled stories in notebooks, poems in the margins of textbooks and entered every essay contest imaginable. I had no fear. I hadn’t learned it yet. Instead, I wrote because I loved it. Because I wanted to. Because I needed to.

            As you get older, you learn fear. You learn excuses.

            I’ll write more when…

            I have more time.
            I have a better (or any) blog design.
            I get more followers.
            I have better ideas.
            I’m in the mood.

            Which basically means, you’ll never write.

            A few weeks ago, I realized that I needed to embrace the fear. So I did what I always do when I need inspiration. I turned to Anne Lamott. She describes the process perfectly. The excuses, the rituals, the bargaining, the terror. And then she introduced me to something powerful: the “shitty first draft.”

            I’ve tried everything to circumvent the shitty first draft. Not writing one. Writing and not revising. Writing a draft and abandoning it in frustration. Writing at 2am and blindly praying for the best.

            But there’s no avoiding the shitty first draft. It’s part of the process.

            And Jon Morrow’s blog a few days ago drove that point home.

            Writing is work.  Hard work.  And necessary work.

            So, I’m embracing it all—shitty first drafts, the fear, the anxiety, the perfectionism. How about you?

            Saturday, December 26, 2009

            Are You My Friend?


            One of my favorite childhood books is Are You My Mother?  In this endearing tale, a lost little bird wanders around in search of his mother.  He happens upon planes, cows, trains and other random objects, asking plaintively, “are you my mother?”  It’s a really sweet story about finding your tribe, about belonging, and I think it is similar to situations some of us encounter online.  We all want to make friends.  We all want to connect.  Belong.  But to what extent are we building friendships and lasting relationships?  And how much of it is white noise?

            I have a tendency to call everyone a “friend,” with no distinction between those I just bonded with about Glee on Twitter and those who knew me the first time leggings were popular.  My husband recently questioned my overuse of this word, saying [insert your social media guru and/or popular blogger of choice here] is NOT your friend.  Which, of course, prompted me to craft a smart-ass DM to one of the aforementioned gurus/bloggers, who replied that he did, in fact, consider us friends.

            “But there’s a difference between ‘friends’ and ‘friendly,’” my husband insisted.

            And he has a point.  Yes, I’m accessible and witty and occasionally overshare, but the several hundred people I know solely through the magic of the web aren’t all the same category of “friend.”  Only a handful of us have shared deep secrets and belly laughs over a bottle of wine or held each other in moments of grief.  To those special few, I am eternally grateful.

            But what does it mean to be authentic--to be real and engaging and sincere--in a space in which public and private are so blurred?  To want people to know those things that make your heart soar (for the record: running, Anne Lamott, Manhattan, naps, wine, amazing food, Don Draper, show tunes and shoes), but without them thinking I’m wasting time (naps, running, the contents of my DVR), money (wine, travel, the shoes) or influence (talking about all of the above instead of super-important industry facts and trends).  What’s the difference between things I endorse and products and people I represent?  How do I use these tools effectively to promote myself and my business?  And do so with personality and grace?  And yes, maybe even find a few friends along the way.

            Wednesday, December 23, 2009

            Taking the Plunge




            I've always had an identity crisis when it comes to blogging.  This is my fourth blog to date, and while it's the first one to bear my real name, I've realized that I'm still a bit intimidated by the blogosphere.

            In person, I think I come across as poised, confident--a leader.  But when it comes to writing, at least publicly and especially when it comes to thought leadership, I am shockingly meek.  I thought because I've established this blog as a personal, confessional space, it wasn't the place to explore more weighty topics--particularly professional ones.  But I'm realizing now it's simply fear.  Because I don't have all the answers, and the questions change daily. 

            I've been guilty of the same timidity when it comes to business.  Second-guessing myself.  Undervaluing my work.  Giving things away.  Fearing risk and failure.

            No more.  If I'm serious about my dreams--writing, speaking, connecting with amazing people and promoting the heck out of my clients--I need to jump in the deep end, feet first, eyes wide open.  

            Or, as some of my wise friends have written in the past few days: Strike while the iron is hotBurn the ships. Fight like hell.

            2010 is my year. Stay tuned.

            Monday, December 21, 2009

            December 17, 2009


            A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about serendipity and perseverance.  How if you just make the effort and take baby steps (again, "bird by bird"), good things will come your way.  Little did I know that that particular bout of perseverance was coinciding with the swine flu--so perhaps, a little rest would've been in order.

            And then, approximately two weeks later, I had a very similar day (sans swine flu), on a much larger scale.  So big, in fact, that I sent this email to a good friend:

            Do you ever have one of those days when it seems like everything--every idea, dream, connection, thought--comes together?  Today is that day for me--put it on the calendar.  December 17, 2009.

            And little did I know what was to follow.  So many amazing connections and opportunities and experiences that made every little misstep, every dead-end job, every ounce of blood, sweat and tears I've poured into this business worthwhile.

            2010 is going to be a huge year.  Bring it.

            Wednesday, December 16, 2009

            Bird by Bird


            It's December 16, and nothing this month has gone according to plan.

            I was looking forward to December.  My birthday, my first marathon, my first real vacation of the year.

            Instead, I got the flu (on my birthday), missed my first marathon after months of training (again) and spent most of my vacation sick with hives (and watching other people run the marathon).

            Needless to say, I've been a little blue.  Maybe a lot blue.  And no amount of peppermint bark or wrapping paper or Christmas music was easing the pain.

            At 2 this morning, two weeks deep into my personal pity party, I turned to an old friend.  As I picked up my worn copy of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and read the words that inspired its title--"bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird," suddenly, the path became clearer.

            It's not about the grand plans--the marathon, the business empire, the book I've yet to write--it's about the steps in between.  Getting out of bed.  Running a few miles.  Writing a few paragraphs.  Responding to a few emails.  Connecting with a few friends.  Sharing a few great ideas.  

            The rest will come... 




            Thursday, December 3, 2009

            Serendipity


            Today was a quintessential weary publicist day.  I woke up slightly hungover from family visits, marathon training, birthday celebrating, good food and yes, perhaps too much tequila.  It was once again monsooning in Atlanta (seriously--when did this city turn into Seattle?), running on maaaaybe four hours of sleep and nursing some pretty nasty hives.  All I really wanted to do was go put on my flannel pajamas, curl up under the warm blanket and make it all go away.

            But I fought the urge.  I promised myself I could take a nap once I finished up a 3pm call with a potential new client.

            And then amazing things started happening.  Seredindipidous things.  The details of which aren't important.

            The important thing is that I got out of bed.  I tried.  I strove.  I persevered.  

            And the universe listened.

            Wednesday, December 2, 2009

            Dreams



            January used to be the dedicated month for resolutions.  But it seems now that December is en vogue.  I've read quite a few blogs this week encouraging people to use the holiday season for self-reflection, planning and strategizing.

            Maybe it's because my birthday falls at the beginning of December (I'm currently celebrating nearly 24 hours of being 34!), but this is also a natural time of year for me to ruminate and dream.

            Note my use of the word "dream."  Substitute "vision," if you must.

            Because I'm not a fan of resolutions.  Big lofty plans just seem destined to fail.  Maybe it's the free spirit in me, but I don't like to put boxes or limits or black ink on dreams.  Conceive them, believe in them and nourish them, but don't get bogged down by lists and tasks and metrics.

            Dream big and dream often.


            Monday, November 30, 2009

            Tradition




            I hate Thanksgiving.  I have nothing against thankfulness (something I try to practice daily), but as someone who has always struggled with food and body image, an entire day devoted to gluttony is definitely not on my list of favorite holidays.

            For 32 years, I conformed.  I suffered the turkey, the congealed salads, the endless hours of preparation and cleanup, the excess, the obligations.

            But not this year.  I threw out all the traditions and did Thanksgiving MY way.




            Half marathon and pizza.  And I was happy.  And oh so grateful.


            Thursday, November 19, 2009

            Love Letter


            Two years ago tonight, I fell in love with my husband.

            I didn't intend to fall in love, and I certainly didn't know I was falling in love at the time.

            How did he win me over?  What was so sexy, seductive and special about this man?

            He listened.  

            And who doesn't want to be heard?

            Tuesday, November 17, 2009

            It Hurts to be Fabulous

            I've recently taken steps to upgrade my wardrobe.  Because shockingly, pajamas are not appropriate attire for public places (though if you wore them to brunch at Rosebud this weekend, you got a free mimosa)!  

            While I generally consider myself a fashionista, lately, fashion has taken a back seat to business.  So, now, when I look in my closet, things are all.wrong. Forget my cute shrugs--it's all about maxi sweaters now. Out with the trouser jeans, in with the skinnies, which of course means boots, boots and more boots.  And don't get me started on leggings (ick!), plaid shirts (double ick!) or the combination of the two (triple ick!).

            Earlier this fall, I did finally give in to the skinny jeans and oversized sweater look, but I'd been resistant to the piece that pulls said look together--the big belt.

            Until tonight.  I was invited to a restaurant opening, and thought I would look oh-so-chic in my wrap cardie sweater, skinny jeans, riding boots and belt.  Oh yes, the epitome of chic. 





            And discomfort.

            Did I mention that said restaurant specialized in MEXICAN food?  Fatty, salty, yummy goodness completely inhibited by the aforementioned skinny jeans (made even skinnier by an overextended stay in the dryer) and corset-like belt.  I seriously contemplated whether or not two weeks shy of 34 was an appropriate age for unzipping one's pants in public.

            No wonder I do most of my eating at home in my yoga pants.

            Monday, November 16, 2009

            Sound of Silence




            I'm not good with silence.  Or stillness.  I'm the girl who nervously figdets during meetings, giggles inappropriately during Christmas services and babbles right through that awkward first kiss.  I can't stop moving, thinking, planning, dreaming.  In the ten minutes since I started writing this blog, I've checked my Twitter feed twice, looked at a friend's photo album on Facebook, read a restaurant review, turned on the iPod and coveted a pair of leopard print heels online. I don't think I need to elaborate on why I rarely drink coffee! 

            The one exception to my inability to sit still is my weekly restorative yoga class.  For those magical 90 minutes, I'm able to calm my body and my mind--to relax into the present and just BE.

            In a way, writing is like that.  It's an art that requires stillness, mindfullness and discipline.  Qualities I think we could all spend a bit more time cultivating.

            Wednesday, November 11, 2009

            Confessions of an Over-Committer

            I have a commitment problem.  I'm a habitual over-committer.

            I come by it rightly--my mother is a serial volunteer.  She doesn't just join committees--she chairs them.  And while she hasn't had a full-time job since I was born, the woman logs more weekly hours than a Fortune 500 CEO.

            As an entrepreneur in the business of public relations, the commitments can be overwhelming.  I feel obligated to say yes to every opportunity--every lunch with a new friend, every charity event, every PR committee--not only because they could lead to new connections and new business, but also because I love meeting interesting new people (free food and drinks don't hurt, either)!  While an endless stream of networking events, parties and restaurant openings, workshops and conferences may sound glamorous to some people, when they're sandwiched in between client meetings, conference calls, marathon training, being a wife and--oh yes--doing actual work for my clients--they can be exhausting.  And for those of you in the business of self-promotion, you know that while a non-stop agenda can be extremely energizing, even the most extroverted people have difficulty being "on" for extended periods of time.  By the fifth meeting of the day, I'm dying to ditch the heels, scrub off my makeup and slip into a pair of flannel pajamas, curl up with the remote and catch up on Mad Men (and no, I haven't finished watching Season Three, so please, no spoilers)!

            So this week, I'm on a detox program.  Other than meals with dear friends and essential clients meetings, I'm staying home.  Spending quality time with my husband.  Resting up for my 20 mile run this weekend.  Keeping my long overdue date with Don Draper.  Dreaming and conserving energy for the next phase of this weary publicist's crazy life.

             
            <---P.S. Dear Santa: I'd like these for Christmas.  xoxo, TWP


            Tuesday, November 3, 2009

            Gratitude

            I joke a lot on this blog that my life isn't glamorous.  And yes, some days, when I'm still unshowered in my PJs at 8pm, noshing on cold pizza and having pitched the same story for so many hours I feel like a used car salesman, it can seem very mundane.

            But in reality, I live a charmed life.  At a time when so many of my friends are struggling, I'm even more keenly aware of my blessings: a loving, supportive husband; a great network of friends and fellow dreamers; clients who believe in me and have amazing gifts to share;  as well as health, happiness and a home.

            It's far too easy to become complacent, to envy the paths of others.  Today, I'm going to try and be grateful and positive in the present.


            Wednesday, October 28, 2009

            A Walk in the Clouds





            Sometimes, if you spend too much time in the weeds--in the mundane business of paying bills, returning emails and relentlessly pursuing an ever-expanding "to do" list--you forget to look at the sky.  To remember your passion, your direction, your dreams.

            So today, I made a conscious decision to spend some time in the clouds.  To plan, to dream, to luxuriate in possibilities.

            I highly recommend it.

            Wednesday, October 14, 2009

            Eating Frogs

            Every morning, I try to eat a frog.  The earlier, the better.

            I'm a procrastinator by nature.  I will do anything to avoid a task I find less than stimulating, whether it's crafting a difficult email, taking the car to get the oil changed or putting away my laundry.

            I'm the same way with running.  I'm usually good about getting my runs in, but I purposely avoid certain routes that I know are challenging.  Namely, Bohler Road.

            In the past two years, I've come a long way with my running and have learned to tackle some pretty substantial hills.  Cardiac Hill?  Easy.  Johnson Ferry Road?  A breeze.

            But Bohler Road has been my nemesis.  A half mile of pure, inclined hell.  The last time I ran that route was back in June, and I bonked so hard I walked the two miles home and seriously contemplated calling a friend to pick me up.  Granted, I was hungover and it was 88 degrees outside, which probably contributed to my struggle.  But mentally, I couldn't bring myself to conquer it again, for fear of failure.  Until today.

            You see, three weeks ago, a friend of mine was hit by a car while out for her morning run.  The same breezy routine repeated by thousands of runners across the country, but with a nightmarish ending.  Two weeks in a coma.  Still unable to speak or eat or walk. Months, possibly years of rehabilitation ahead of her.

            It makes me scared, sad and hopeless.  What can you say or do to possibly heal that type of wound?  To try to make sense of such a random, senseless occurence?

            For me, the only thing I know how to do, the only thing I can do, is run.  And run with a vengeance.  Safely and alertly, but with strength and purpose.  

            And run I did.  Up that damn hill.  It wasn't fast, and it wasn't pretty, but I did it.  And was grateful for the opportunity to do so.

            Wednesday, October 7, 2009

            Insomnia



            It's 4:29 a.m., and I've essentially pulled an all-nighter.  I think it's been a decade--at least since graduate school--since I've done this, and well, I'm not as young as I used to be.  It's enough to make this weary publicist even wearier.

            I didn't intend to stay up all night (or morning--I'm confused).  It all started yesterday morning, when my husband's alarm went off at 4:45 a.m.  I managed to go back to bed until 6:30 a.m., when his taxi driver called and apparently couldn't get in our gate.  And called and called and called, all while poor Mr. WP was walking around the community trying to find the wayward taxi.  Meanwhile, the dog was already stressed out, needed to go out, was blocked from the stairs by the cat, and gave up and puked all over the floor.  By 7 a.m., I figured sleep was futile.

            So, I wandered down to my computer and started working.  And with the exception of a quick four mile run, I worked straight through to 7pm, when I left for an amazing night of music--U2--with 75,000 of my closet friends.

            I left super keyed up, so what did I do?  Worked some more.  Until 4 a.m.  And here I am, at 5:17 a.m. and unable to fall asleep.

            Did I mention that this weary publicist is supposed to run eight miles today?

            Logging off and hoping sweet dreams find their way to me!


            Monday, October 5, 2009

            Growing Pains

            I'm an accidental entrepreneur.  I never had intentions of building an empire--I really just wanted to make enough money to justify not needing a "real" job.

            Fast forward two years, and well, here I am.  Working and networking non-stop, with a full roster of fabulous clients.  I feel incredibly blessed.  And slightly overwhelmed.

            Enter the cash-strapped professional woman's solution to work overload--the intern. 

            I've managed interns before.  I've managed staff before.  But it's an entirely different thing when your name and your brand are on the line.  I spent 45 minutes crafting the email with the first assignment for my intern--practically hypeventilating at giving up control.

            And it wasn't so much about the intern or that particular assignment (which she completed flawlessly), but about all that that "needing help" implies.  That my business has grown large enough that I can't do it on my own.  Which means I may one day need a staff.  And have to manage that staff (gasp!).  And trade in the kitchen table for an actual desk (in an office?!?!) and ditch the pajamas for professional clothes (double gasp!).

            I'm trying to take it day by day, but that "what ifs" are intriguing...


            Monday, September 28, 2009

            Full Disclosure

            When I started blogging about two years ago, I chose a pseudonym--partly because it seemed literary and cool, partly to protect my privacy, but mostly because I was a tentative writer--scared to expose the real me to the big, bad virtual world.

            So, no surprise that two years have passed, and two pseudonyms and three abandoned blogs later, I'm still using the same crutch.

            I initially started this blog as a way to vent my frustrations about the crazed, unglamorous life of a publicist. I wanted a place to talk freely about my annoyances, grievances and failures--anonymously, of course, so as not to incriminate myself or my clients.

            I initially shared my blog with a select few--an "easy" audience of very close family and friends. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and so I shared it with a few more people. And they shared it with others. And people kept saying "I thought your name was Laura. What's with this Carrie business?"

            And then I realized it was yet another mask, an artificial layer to buffer me from potential criticism or commentary. Which is pretty much the opposite of what blogging--what writing, really--is all about.

            As E.B. White wrote, "writing is both the mask and unveiling."

            So I, Laura Scholz, am unveiling myself to you and committing myself fully to the words I'm putting out here in cyberland.


            c'est moi

            Friday, September 25, 2009

            The New Media Revolution



            I'm attending the New Media Conference today in Atlanta, and the irony is that I've neglected one my favorite social media platforms--this blog. And now I've been challenged by none other than the fabulous Chris Brogan to write a blog--today. Before he speaks. In half an hour. No pressure.

            But here's the reality. When I joined MySpace back in 2006, I was simply following the pack. My sister had it, my friends had it, and well, I was between projects, and it was a great way to kill some time. Plus, you had to love the voyeurism--nothing like confirming your decision 20 years ago to break up with that high school boyfriend was a good one.

            My ex, then a security analyst for a very conservative bank, hated MySpace. He thought I shouldn't be sharing ideas and pictures and personal information with strangers. He wanted me to delete my account.

            I'm so glad I didn't listen to him.

            It's now 2009, and while MySpace may be so three years ago, the principles that made it such a breakthrough medium are as popular as ever. The ability to form and build relationships with new people, to engage in deeper conversations about products and ideas, to have access to customers and influencers and all-around cool people you wouldn't otherwise have a chance to meet--this is what social media is all about. Sure, you can use it to stalk the mean girl from high school or watch the latest funny video on YouTube, but when you're willing to tranform yourself from passive bystander to engaged participant, it's revolutionary. And today's conversation with Chris Brogan is proof of its power.

            Monday, September 14, 2009

            Mind Your Manners

            No less than a week after I posted my ode to my home state, it made national headlines. Again. Thanks, Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina (though at least he doesn't represent my former Congressional district!).

            What is it with celebrities and their manners (or lack thereof) this week? Jon Gosselin publicly declaring his love for the latest 20 something trollop before his divorce is finalized, Serena Williams threatening a line judge with obscenities and a tennis ball, Kanye West injecting himself into someone else's acceptance speech--when will it end?


            Unfortunately, this behavior isn't limited to politicians and celebrities. Right now, our country's discourse--political and otherwise--is totally lacking in grace, dignity, civility and respect.

            I'm all for Voltaire ("I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."), but it doesn't extend to bad manners. So, let's lose the senseless epithets, ditch the profanity and brush up on Emily Post. Please? And thank you.

            Friday, September 4, 2009

            Carolina in My Mind


            Even though I live only one state away, I still get homesick for South Carolina. Yes, Civil War, Mark Sanford and endless fodder for late night jokes notwithstanding, I love my home state.

            I recently started reading Pat Conroy's South of Broad, and I'm savoring every flawed character, every nuanced turn of phrase, every classically picturesque setting. No one evokes the spirit, the essence, the guts and soul of South Carolina and its people like Pat Conroy. Throw in a peach (say what you will, but South Carolina is the true "peach state"), James Taylor (even if he did sing about the wrong Carolina), the movie Shag (Skyview Drive-Inn!) and some beach music (Carolina girls ARE the best in the world), and I'm goin' to Carolina in my mind.

            Thursday, September 3, 2009

            City Mouse, Country Mouse

            I love Aesop's popular fable, City Mouse-Country Mouse. It's been told a thousand times in a thousand different ways, but the fact remains that we all have very different ideas of what's home. As a former "country mouse" (or at least a "small Southern town mouse"), I now live in a wanna-be "city." If I didn't hate cold weather and were independently wealthy, I'd move to New York City in, well, a New York minute. I love the grit, the energy, the community of urban living. I love masses of people of all generations, affiliations and persuasions living on top of one another, eating and living and moving together and tripping over one another in the streets.

            One of my favorite memories of city life is from a trip to Madrid, when I was strolling down a street near a park early in the evening, and I watched elderly couples in elegant suits walking hand in hand, doting parents ushering uniformed children home from school, young boys engaged in a boisterous game of soccer, tourists looking befuddled at city maps, all mingling and enjoying the same summer air, then coming together later for fellowship over food and wine and post-dinner gelato. To me, there's something so powerful and rich and alive about being one of many, of living and breathing and mingling in such proximity to neighbors and strangers alike.


            While it's unlikely that I will leave Atlanta and even less likely Atlanta will ever grow up and evolve into a real city, I still long for the day when I won't need a car, when I can wake up in my aparment upstairs and wander downstairs to my storefront office to work, breaking occasionally to purchase fresh produce from the local market, snatch up that cute dress from my neighborhood boutique or share a good meal with a friend at our favorite local restaurant, while stopping to chat with shop owners and neighbors along the way. I'll end my day with a long run in the park with my husband and our dog, then watch the sun set over the orange-kissed skyline of this beautiful city I call home.




            Wednesday, September 2, 2009

            Summer Lovin'


            It's the first day of September, and this little cold front we're having here in Atlanta is sending people into a fall frenzy. Everyone has football, sweaters and soup on the brain. And while I'll admit that running in 70 degree temps is a nice change of pace, can we just pause for a minute and celebrate all things summer?

            Beaches, swimming pools, sundresses, cookouts, dining al fresco, corn on the cob, berries from the vine, flip flops, pedicures, longer days, sunshine, sand in your toes, fireflies, summer storms, rainbows, lemonade, ice cream, convertibles, fireworks, outdoor concerts, baseball, white pants---see, don't you want it to last just a little bit longer?

            Monday, August 31, 2009

            This Woman's Work


            As I was scrubbing our stairs yesterday as part of my marathon cleaning session, I started to sing "The Work Song" from the Disney movie Cinderella. You know the one:

            Cinderelly, Cinderelly
            Night and day it's Cinderelly

            Make the fire, fix the breakfast

            Wash the dishes, do the mopping
            ...

            Quite catchy, isn't it?

            I was having a brief moment feeling sorry for myself for a) not keeping things tidy enough to avoid spending four hours on an otherwise glorious Sunday afternoon cleaning and b) having so many rooms to clean (wouldn't wish 2.5 baths on three different floors to my worst enemy), when my mind wandered to some of the books I've read recently. Vivaldi's Virgins, about an 18th century violin virtuoso and Church ward who searches for her birth parents; A Thousand Splendid Suns, about strength and friendship amidst tragedy in Afghanistan and The Girl Who Played with Fire, about a lonely Swedish hacker who has been used and abused by all the men in her life, including the ones meant to help her.

            No coincidence that I gravitate toward books with strong female characters (I'm definitely not one for moony teenage drivel like Twilight), and what struck me reading these books in succession is how similar these characters really are, in spite of generation and location. How women continue to be defined by their gender, by their relationships with men, by their sexuality and by their predetermined roles in life. And it made me extremely grateful to be scrubbing my own stairs, in my own home, knowing that I am neither confined nor defined by it.


            Monday, August 24, 2009

            Closing Time

            As I sat at the bar on Saturday at what was previously one of my favorite restaurants, watching an aged frat boy juggle a margarita in one hand and a baby in another while a gaggle of shrill, slurring women cackled at his every word, it hit me--I'm old. The music at my favorite coffee shop is too loud, the acoustics at my favorite trivia locale make me want to invest in a hearing aid and in general, drunk people are not amusing unless you are one of them.

            My husband and I tipped our favorite server well, while she rolled her eyes in acknowledgement, and we retreated for the quiet environs of home and hoped for a quiet nightcap on our rooftop deck. Which was interrupted by a neighbor's noisy bash, complete with more squealing drunk girls and booming music.

            So we walked down the stairs, shut the windows, brushed our teeth and crawled in to bed. At 9:30 p.m. This my friends, is the real life of a weary publicist:

            Sunday, August 16, 2009

            Morning Grace


            I HATE mornings. Even as a baby, I slept until 9 a.m. Throughout my school years (and this includes high school), my mom literally rolled me out of bed onto the floor to get me moving. In college, I rarely took a class before 10 a.m. Even now, getting out of bed by 9 a.m. is a challenge.

            So, of course, I had to pick a hobby (running) that requires me to get up at an ungodly hour every Saturday morning. I usually set my alarm to go off about an hour and half before I need to leave, in the hopes that I may actually wake up and get out of bed on time.

            Yesterday morning, the alarm was set for 6:30 a.m. I was meeting my friends at 7:45 a.m. The alarm went off as scheduled--and I promptly turned it off, pulled the covers over my eyes and went back to sleep. Until 8:05 a.m.

            Like most mornings, it was tempting to sleep in. To shade my weary eyes from the sun, to leave my tired limbs--already aching from 12 miles run in the previous four days--where they were. I really, really didn't want to get out of bed, let alone run 12 miles. And then I looked down at the pink bracelet on my wrist, and I bounded out of bed, threw on my running clothes and was out of the house in under ten minutes.

            I'd worn this bracelet for two years and one day--starting the day of the Team in Training kickoff meeting for the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon, and the day I met Kate. This bracelet--worn by not just by me, but my my teammates and dozens of Kate's family and friends--is inscribed with the words "Kisses for Kate," and is our way of showing solidarity and support for Kate and her family.

            And yesterday was the day we were celebrating the fact that Kate--at the tender age of seven--had survived two years, two months and three days worth of chemotherapy to kill the leukemia that ravaged her little body. And survive, she did. With grace and strength and charm beyond her years.

            It was not a day to sleep in, but to celebrate Kate, her journey and her triumph. And for me, that meant running 12 miles--gratefully, joyfully, humbly--in her honor.

            Tuesday, August 11, 2009

            Who Needs a Corner Office?


            Last week, Del Jones wrote a great piece for USA Today about female executives and their mentors. 33 of 34 women interviewed said that a male mentor had made the biggest impact on their career. Not surprising, really, given the numbers (even today, it's rare to find a woman in the executive suite, so how can a woman champion you if she's not in a position to do so?), so kudos to those brave men who bucked the system and gave women a seat at the table.

            I'm lucky in that I've had a number of male mentors in my career--a manager who took a chance on a fresh-faced graduate student, an SVP who gave me the opportunity to write for the very accounts I managed, the journalist turned firm partner who told me my writing was on par with the best in the business. Meanwhile, the majority of my female bosses seem to have taken a page straight from The Devil Wears Prada-autocratic, demeaning, bitter and threatened.

            I know it's been a tough road for our foremothers in the business world, so I'm willing to cut them some slack. But I can't help wondering if they have been striving for the wrong thing all along--now that we've made it to the corner office, is it what we really want?

            The corner office--along with the power suit, the expense account, the personal assistant and lavish pay--are symbols of a soon-to-be bygone era where individualism, greed and deception reign supreme. A hollow existence, if you ask me.

            So, if not the corner office, then where to? How about the home office, the virtual office, the shared office, the neighborhood office? Places where you can connect and collaborate with likeminded individuals, pursue work that simultaneously challenges your intellect and feeds your spirit and have a direct and positive impact on your community. I'll take that over a gold name plate any day.

            Sunday, August 9, 2009

            A Place Where I Belong

            My friend Laura Benjamin is an amazing songwriter (shameless plug alert: check out her music at www.lbcollective.com), and one of her many gems is a song called "Yankee Girl." In it, she sings about her journey from suburban New York City to Atlanta, and it contains two of my favorite song lyrics ever, "It's been a long, long time, but I think I've found my voice" and "I've finally found a place where I belong."

            I was pondering both sets of lyrics on a ten mile run yesterday. I think most of us search for that place where we belong. In high school, I was the shy, smart music geek who secretly wanted to be the pretty, popular cheerleader. In college, I was still--quite shockingly--the shy, smart music geek, and spent entirely too much time trying to fit in with the "right" sorority and the "right" people that I missed out on some great friendships and experiences. And while I found moments of belonging in graduate school, Ohio isn't exactly where I wanted to put down permanent roots.

            As I was running along the Chattahoochee yesterday, it hit me: I was at home. Not necessarily in that location (though it's one of my favorite places to run in all of Atlanta), but in the act. Running is my home, my community, my passion and my joy. Whether I'm nodding to a new mom pushing her baby in a stroller, waving at but secretly hating that 60 year-old guy with the beer belly whizzing by me or screaming "Go Team" at other purple-clad people at races around the country, I feel like I'm surrounded by family. Crazy people like me, who find abundant joy and happiness in the ritual of simply putting one foot in front of the other.

            Tuesday, August 4, 2009

            My Legacy

            As I was writing the story of my parents' lives to submit to the local paper (they'll celebrate 40 years of marriage on Sunday--congrats, Mom and Daddy!), I thought about what my own life might look like 40 years from now. I've always heard that it's a good exercise to write your own obituary--sort of the ultimately in visioning, if you will--but I have always avoided the task. Maybe because it's slightly morbid, maybe because I'm scared of failure, maybe because I have no idea where this journey called life will take me. Or perhaps all three.

            After struggling with the details surrounding my death (we all want to die in our sleep--so far, my Grandpa Andy was the only one lucky enough to draw that card) and whether or not my husband would still be around (Dear Lord, can we both just die in our sleep? Together?), I got down to the facts. Well-respected publicist, author, avid runner (Boston Marathon finisher--a girl can dream!), volunteer, animal lover, mother of two fabulously named and fabulously talented children. And then I realized that I was getting bogged down in accomplishments. Will it really matter fifty years from now what books I did or did not publish or which races I did or did not run?

            So, I decided on this: Laua was beloved by friends and family for her laughter, wit, compassion and generous spirit.

            Monday, July 27, 2009

            Getting Crafty

            When my friend Kathianne suggested we meet for a "nourishing craft project," I'll admit that I was skeptical. I don't do crafts. I can't cut straight lines, my stick figures are unrecognizable and I'm too impatient to properly frost cupcakes or wrap presents. I'd like to say I'm lazy and impatient, but in all honesty, I'm a perfectionist--better not to try at all than try and fail.

            But I love Kathianne, so I figured it would be fun girl time, if nothing else. That, and you have to admire a woman who keeps an entire craft store in her one-bedroom loft apartment!



            She asked me and our fellow Launching Lady Angela to make signs for our mirrors and scales. The idea was to write affirming messages to remind us of our inner worth and beauty. At first, I had trouble deciding on my message. And then I realized that today is the first official day of marathon training, so I decided on "You can do 26.2!" I decorated my sign in TNT green and purple, with an extra dash of glitter, just because it makes Kathianne giggle.



            We also did on-air interviews with Angela's new Flip phone (so adorable--totally coveting it now, in spite of yesterday's post!). I just love how Angela was able to extract so much meaning from this simple project--the importance of nourishing your spirit and creativity, the connection between creativity and entrepreneurship, the joy of connecting with girlfriends. Plus, we even had snack time (though fresh berries and goat cheese, rather than graham crackers or goldfish)!

            I definitely left Kathianne's feeling calm, refreshed and inspired. Who knows--maybe there is a craft goddess lurking inside of me! ;)


            Sunday, July 26, 2009

            On Becoming a Grown-up

            As I spent my entire evening sitting at the kitchen table, paying bills, budgeting and finishing up work for a client, it hit me: I'm a grown-up. I gave up bar-hopping a long time ago, but in recent months, I've given up the seemingly inconsequential things--eating out, fashion magazines, bottled water, cute shirts on sale, drinks, dinners out with friends--in the hopes of better, more meaningful things to come. At first, it felt like nickle & diming. Does that $5 In Style magazine really make a difference? What about that $20 pasta dinner when I was too tired to cook? Certainly I deserve indulgences every now and then. Such an insignificant amount of money can't possibly be that meaningful?

            Yes, it can, and even more than monetarily. Because these things are fleeting, momentary gratifications that indulge my child self--the ever-petulant teenager who wants what she wants and wants it now.

            But the things I want now are much simpler--cheaper in cost, more difficult to find. Sufficient sleep, engaging conversation, like-minded friends, nourishment of body and soul, stolen moments, whole foods, time for reflection, openness to grace--these are life's real treasures.



            "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." -Matthew 6:21




            Wednesday, July 22, 2009

            Shoot Me Now


            I've always feared doctors. When I was younger, if I got wind of a doctor's appointment.,I would go to our backyard and climb the highest tree and stage a sit-in until I got too hungry or tired to protest any more. It once took four nurses and a doctor to hold me down for a single shot (and yes, I'm still very proud of this feat!). I even went 16 years without a tetanus shot before anyone noticed. That's how much I hate needles.

            Luckily, I had no idea what was in store for me at the orthopedist's office last Friday, or I would've never walked through the door. I was told prior to my visit that I would have an EMG test, but I was too busy to google it--a good thing, because as we all know, even reading about the slightest sniffle on WebMD will have you convinced you are dying a slow, uncertain death.

            When I arrived in the exam room, I was given some information about the procedure:

            An electromyogram (EMG) is a test that is used to record the electrical activity of muscles...blah, blah, blah...a needle is inserted through the skin into the muscle...

            NEEDLE???? Into my muscle?!? Without moral support or Valium?

            And that's not even the worst part--ELECTRODES! Up and down my right shoulder, arm and hand, followed by a series of electric shocks that broke me faster than Jack Bauer can extract information from a terrorist. I felt wave after wave of nausea, broke into a cold sweat and seriously contemplated crying out for my Mommy. I would've confessed to anything--that jelly bracelet I stole from the grocery store when I was eight, the unpaid parking tickets at Furman, the two Blockbuster movies I never returned...

            Only the music of Celine Dion could've made it more painful.

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