Monday, May 30, 2011

I want to beeeee a paaaart of it....

In a very short time, Justin and I will be leaving the captivating, frenetic, magical, and exhausting city of New York for what I imagine will be a VERY different life. While we have a lot of traveling lined up for the summer, we plan to spend the first 2 weeks of July and our last few days in September doing a "Goodbye NYC Tour," visiting some places that have become near and dear to us, some that we've always talked about seeing, and some that just seem like a fun way to say goodbye to this crazy, crazy city. 

Christmas Lights
in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
Mermaid Parade
in Coney Island

Dale Chihuly exhibit
at the NY Botanical Garden
Our work-in-progress list is below. Any additions to suggest??

5 Pointz
American Museum of Natural History
Arthur Avenue in the Bronx
Baseball game
Blue Smoke/Jazz Standard (our 1st date!)
Brandy Library (one of our favorite bars)
Brighton Beach
Bronx Zoo
Halloween Costume contest
in Tompkins Square, Manhattan
Brooklyn Bridge (one of my favorite places, and where Justin proposed :)
Char No 4
The Cloisters
Coney Island
Concerts - Celebrate Brooklyn, Summerstage, picnicking with the Metropolitan Opera
Di Fara Pizza
Dinosaur BBQ
Cherry blossoms
at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Eldridge Street Synagogue
Empire State Building
Governor's Island
High Line
International Center of Photography
Kabab Cafe (amazing place by where we used to live in Astoria)
Katz's Deli
Mermaid Parade
National Museum of the American Indian
Old City Hall subway station 
Peter Luger
Staten Island Ferry
Statue of Liberty

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The word is OUT!!

It's official!! We have just announced to the world that we are joining the Peace Corps. 
It's very exciting to be able to tell everyone.

Here are our plans over the coming months:
- Now through end of June: We get our lives sorted for 2 years and everything packed up
- End of June: Justin finishes his job
- First 2 weeks of July: Our goodbye NYC tour, seeing as much as we can in NYC before we have to wave goodbye (more posts on this soon)
- Mid-July through early August: Exciting travels to Vietnam, Thailand, and Scotland
- Mid-August through early September: ROAD TRIP!
- Early to mid-September: Get everything wrapped up and have a big send-off party in NYC
- Mid-September: We're off to Morocco!

It's going to be a busy few months but all very exciting... and I'll be documenting everything on the blog, so hopefully a few people will start reading this thing soon :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Life is Calling*... Part Three

(continued from parts one and two - click back to read them first!) 

After the summer ended, Justin and I realized that our Peace Corps dreams would likely not come to a reality until the following summer, and as much as I wanted to stay in my volunteering bubble for a while longer, I thought it might be best to combine that with working full-time. So I started freelancing back in ad agencies to keep the paycheck coming in, and I continued my work with the Taproot Foundation as I mentioned in my last post… but alongside these, we had a lot of other incredible experiences, including:

Trips: Justin and I were fortunate to be able to take a massive amount of wonderful trips, both together and separately, over the past year. We traveled to destinations for friend’s weddings (Austin, Boston, Connecticut, Pittsburgh), visits to friends and family (Alabama, Memphis, Wilmington, Monroe, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Jersey), and some very fun travel experiences that also included friends and family (Baltimore, Santa Fe, Iceland and Scotland!). We were even fortunate enough recently to have the whole of Scotland come down to Brooklyn for my wonderful sister-in-law’s wedding (we’ll be traveling back to Scotland over the summer for more wedding shenanigans, so more on this later!).
A gorgeous wedding in Austin
with friends from Justin's law school
Running a 1/2 marathon with my bro
in Atlanta (I only joined in for 6 miles)
Visiting my sister-in-law and
now husband in Edinburgh
Snowmobiling on a glacier
in Iceland
Visiting our friend Sarah
in New Mexico
Visiting my parents in North Carolina
Looking out over the Ring of Kerry
in Ireland
Visiting my second family in Louisiana

Sandy: This is by far the highlight of my last year. Probably even my last 10 years. Justin and I decided to temporarily foster a dog, since we both wanted to have a dog together and as I was freelancing, I had far more time than ever before. So we found Sandy, a stray from the south, who had been brought to New York by a foster organization. We spent 4 months with this sweet, amazing dog who we opened up our hearts to. We fattened her up (from 52 to 68 pounds!), taught her tricks, and generally just gave her lots of love and affection. After we launched an intense marketing campaign in the spring that included YouTube videos, a Facebook page, and lots of emails, we found Sandy a wonderful new home and had to say goodbye. It broke our hearts to part with this dog who truly became a part of our family, but we know that we did a great thing for her and that she will have a wonderful life!

When we first got her (very skinny)
Justin gives Sandy a big hug
How can you not LOVE that face?
Family portrait
So there you have it. I summed up an entire year in 3 blog posts which isn’t too bad. Now we are spending our time planning for THIS SUMMER which I’m sure you will be reading more about soon:
  • A trip to Vietnam, Thailand, and Scotland
  • A road trip across the country to say farewell to friends and family
  • A goodbye NYC tour of all of our favorite places 
  • And packing up our lives for the next 2 years… OY!
* Footnote: In case you are wondering, “Life is Calling” (also in my header on top of the blog) is the current Peace Corps motto.  The whole thing reads “Life is calling… how far will you go?”

    Life is Calling*... Part Two

    As I said in my last blog post, the summer after I quit my job was confusing, exhilarating, and eye-opening all at once. It passed by quickly in a blur of volunteering, meeting new people, and doing lots of self-assessment. But it took having these new experiences to really start to understand what excites and inspires me. Here are some of the things that I spent the summer doing:

    The Cut to Clean flyer
    that we gave to salons
    who agreed to be involved
    Cut to Clean: The Gulf Oil spill was continuing to worsen every day at this point and those who know me, know that I have an intense love for the New Orleans area. Along with some friends, we started an organization that we called “Cut to Clean” in which we canvassed local salons to donate their hair to Matter of Trust, who then took donated hair and weaved them into what they called “booms” to help soak up oil. Unfortunately, after getting a few salons signed up, we learned that Matter of Trust would soon no longer accept hair donations. It was short-lived but I was still happy to be doing something to help. 

    Taproot Foundation: I left the advertising world but I didn’t lose a love for branding and marketing that drew me to the industry in the first place. So I signed up for the Taproot Foundation, an organization that enables business professionals to donate their skills to help nonprofits that often do not have the resources or money to improve and grow the organizations. I went through the application/interview/training process over the summer and began my first project last fall. Over the fall and winter, I worked with Young Audiences New York, a local branch of Young Audiences National, which is a top provider of arts education programming in schools. Their mission is to engage, educate and empower young people through learning, creating, and participating in the arts.  I conducted a variety of internal and external research that led to recommendations for their new strategic plan. Now that this has been completed, I have started work on a branding and key communications project with Cool Culture, another education-focused organization that empowers low-income families to teach their children by giving them access to and resources to take advantage of New York City's cultural opportunities. I’ll be continuing work with them over the summer so I’m sure you’ll be hearing more on this!

    Helping teens paint a mural
    at a community center
    New York Cares: I became a volunteer with New York Cares, a fantastic organization in New York City that mobilizes over 50,000 New Yorkers to aid 1,200 nonprofits throughout the 5 boroughs. I got involved in multiple projects so that I could get a taste of different approaches to service. I painted murals at elementary schools, taught art to middle schoolers at a community center, cleaned up parks, even played bingo with elderly residents at a nursing home. And one of my most meaningful experiences grew out of my involvement with New York Cares - I signed up and was trained through Kaplan to become a volunteer SAT Tutor for underprivileged high school seniors throughout the New York City area. These are seniors who don’t have the money or the means to afford SAT classes but are driven and motivated to change their lives for the better – often the first in their families to try to go to college. I was paired with 5 students in a school in Brooklyn and worked them up until 2 weeks ago when they took their SAT Exams. In my year with them, I helped to increase their practice exam scores by over 20% so I am waiting on the edge to find out their final scores!

    Girls Incorporated: My final experience over the summer was also one of my most meaningful. I have thought for a long time that I wanted to get involved in an organization that celebrates and promotes the empowerment of women. I spent 7 years of my life in an all-girl’s school growing up in Memphis, TN, and I am certain that I would not be who I am today without the amazing environment, structure, and support that this school provided (shout-out to St. Mary’s). Anyway – so I came upon Girls Incorporated and I signed up to be a full-time volunteer in a summer workshop that they provide for students at a school in Brooklyn. I was involved in a number of different activities (theater, art, chorus, homework help) but the most impactful activity for me was what they called the “Bridge” program, which was geared towards incoming freshmen and taught them all about the Girls Inc mission and philosophy through a variety of classroom exercises and projects.
    This is what Girls Inc is all about – truly an amazing community to be a part of and to pass on their teaching to others.

    I guess that’s about enough for this blog post – in the next one, I’ll wrap up what I've been doing over the last year!

    *Footnote: In case you are wondering, “Life is Calling” (also in my header on top of the blog) is the current Peace Corps motto.  The whole thing reads “Life is calling… how far will you go?”

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Life is Calling*... Part One

    I mentioned in my last blog post that the last year has been quite a journey for me. I’m going to spend the next few blog posts talking about some of those experiences.  But first, where it all began. Starting last summer when I

    My 1st billboard, in Times Square (the Nokia one).
    One of the sexier parts of the job!
    Yes that’s right. I said goodbye to my 15-hour work days in the flashy, sexy ad world to spend the summer volunteering, reading books about my Briggs Meyers personality, and generally exploring new paths in which I could take my career. I said goodbye to some of the very good things about the advertising industry – an amazingly creative environment, some incredibly smart and talented people, and the excitement and satisfaction of seeing my work on TV or on a huge billboard. I also said goodbye to some of the very bad parts of the industry – a 24-hour work environment, high stress and insane deadlines, and most importantly, the feeling that I was not contributing as best as I could to the world.

    Quitting was very out character for me, given that I started working 3 days after college when the rest of my friends were taking the summer off to relax (those 3 days, by the way, included packing up my life and moving up the east coast from New Orleans to NYC). And I pretty much kept that pattern throughout my ad career, working long days/nights and taking very little time off.

    And quitting was absolutely the hardest thing that I have done in my life – just the scariness of leaving the comfort of a job, leaving a world that although wasn’t right for me, was still very much what I was used to, and attempting to embrace the unknown of what would come. But I didn’t have the time while in my job to really figure out the path that was best for me. And since I supported Justin while he was in law school (both financially and emotionally), I decided that it was payback time!

    Speaking of Justin, just a quick shout-out... I am incredibly fortunate that he was my ROCK during this time, supporting me in whatever I needed to do and nudging me when I started to falter or lose my drive.

    So May 21, 2010. This is when it all started! To be continued in the next post…

    *Footnote: In case you are wondering, “Life is Calling” (also in my header on top of the blog) is the current Peace Corps motto.  The whole thing reads “Life is calling… how far will you go?”

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    We have lift-off!

    It only took me about 6 months but my blog is now up and running, with a VERY exciting announcement... Justin (my husband) and I have accepted an invitation to join the Peace Corps as Youth Development volunteers in Morocco, leaving in September 2011!! We are both so excited about this new step in our lives. 

    I thought that having a blog would be a great way to keep in touch with friends and families, and also to connect with other Peace Corps new and returned volunteers. 

    For those of you who don't know, I left my full-time advertising agency job in May 2010 to pursue a new path that allows me to contribute to the world in a more meaningful way. Since I've stayed a little quiet over the past year, I plan to use the next few blog posts to talk about these experiences. It has been an exhilarating, confusing, overwhelming, exciting, eye-opening year and I look forward to sharing with all of you :)