Monthly Archives: September 2012

Highs & Lows

Before I moved to DC, I would try to go home every weekend for Sunday dinner with my family. Every weekend, my dad would wake up early to put the Sunday gravy on the stove and we’d spend the next few hours drinking wine, sneaking spoonfuls of sauce and filling up on bread and olive oil.

Around five o’clock, after the gravy had been simmering for at least six or seven hours, we’d gather around our old, worn dining room table and break bread together, telling my dad how he had managed to outdo himself again with the amazing feast he had prepared for us.

My favorite part of Sunday family dinner was when we’d go around the table and each share our highest moment of the week and our lowest moment of the week. Whether we had won an award at school or hadn’t done as well on a test as we had hoped, everyone around the table would share in each person’s triumphs and moments of defeat. With a heaping bowl of pasta in the middle of us, we’d create a circle of strength and support, sealed with Sunday gravy and a glass of pinot grigio.

While I may only make it home once every few weeks now, I still want to carry on the tradition of sharing my weekly high and low every Sunday. I figure what better place to share than this blog, where I can find support in friends, both old and new.

THE LOW:

My low this week was how beat up and broken down I felt after coming home from work a few days this week. The workload was at times overwhelming and left me feeling drained and defeated.

THE HIGH:

My high this week was the quality time I spent with Mike, which I do not do nearly enough. I’m incredibly lucky to have someone like him who gives me the space I need and understands and accepts that I am a bit of a workaholic. I tend to put him last way too often and this week we made time to go explore DC and go out for a romantic dinner. We are getting better every day at finding ways to make our relationship a bigger priority. I’m thankful for the stroll through Adams Morgan, the candlelit dinner and the nights curled up in PJs, watching a movie. Each of those moments far outweighed my “low” of the week.

What about you? What are your highs and lows of the week? I’d love to hear them!

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pinteresting projects of the week

As I’ve  noted before in my previous posts, I’m a bit of a Pin-a-holic. I used to just pin hundreds of cute DIY projects or yummy recipes, knowing that I’d never actually have the time to do any of them. As a result, I had developed quite an impressive array of pins and boards, and in my fantasy world I had the cutest, craftiest house that would put Martha Stewart to shame and cooked and baked way better than any Food Network star.

Cue more free time in my post-grad life (well…usually, I should say) and before I knew it, I had the money and the time to become the crafty baking goddess I had always wanted to be. (Sidenote, I’m not ashamed of how much this post makes me sound like a crazy housewife.)

So on Saturdays, I am going to start showing off the Pinterest inspired projects I have already completed and the ones I am going to work on for the week ahead.

Check out my cute new centerpiece that I finished up last week:

All it needs to be finished is a cute bouquet of pink gerber daisies from Trader Joe’s. What I love most about this project, is that it only cost me $7!

This week, I’m hoping to get at least one of the following projects done:

Make your own coasters- 4×4 tiles ($.16 Home Depot); 4×4 scrapbook paper; adhere to tile with Mod Podge and let dry; Spray a coat of clear spray paint and let dry; attach felt pads to the bottom

kitchen decor. make it more modern with simple sleek utencils and frames.

Spray paint coffee beans and use as a vase filler.

I’ll be sure to post pictures next weekend of the projects I get finished. Does anyone have any good Pinterest-inspired fall recipes to share? I’d love to hear them!

In the meantime, keep pinning everyone.

the power of “no”

People always talk about the power of “Yes.” There are plenty of movies (hey Jim Carrey), books (love you Bethenny Frankel), and motivational speakers (you’re my girl, Oprah) that are telling us how our lives can radically be changed for the better by adopting a “yes attitude.”

I agree that saying yes can open up several doors to wonderful opportunities. Being a “yes person” brands you as optimistic, open-minded, and great to work with. I’m the first person to say “yes” when a volunteer is needed to help with an extra release, or if someone needs an extra hand with their pitching, I readily make myself available.

Yesterday, I hit a wall. Actually, I think it would be more accurate if I said I crashed into a wall at full speed without a seat belt on, and I went flying through the windshield. As I sank in to my bed last night, the wreckage still smoldering around me from my mental breakdown, I suddenly became acutely aware of my limits.

As much as I had hoped I could be everything and do everything, I realized I wasn’t being of help to anyone because I wasn’t able to give each of them 100%. Plain and simple, I was burnt out.

So I’m calling this next chapter in my life, for lack of better words, “Yes, you can say no.”

Boundaries and limits are important to establish early on as a professional, otherwise people will quickly take advantage of your generosity to help without realizing that they are one of many people coming to you for assistance.

First and foremost, your own work comes first. Yesterday I had to put a pitch I was responsible for on hold because my boss came to me asking to help out a colleague. I wanted to respond to her and let her know I was busy with my own overwhelming workload, but I didn’t want her to think I wasn’t being a team player. So instead I said, “sure” and as a result, bit off more than I could chew and didn’t get my pitch done for my own story until early this morning. Being a team player means helping the team achieve success…and instead I was only chalking up a loss by putting my own work off to do someone else’s.

While PR is a profession that is known for always being on the clock, there needs to be boundaries established forwhat this actually means. While I have zero qualms with taking my work laptop home to finish up things I wasn’t able to get done in the 9 to 5 parameters of office hours, there also needs to be a stopping point where you power down and say “this can wait until tomorrow.”

Lastly, as per the blog of one of my best friends today… it is also imperative to speak up when YOU are the one who needs help – something I fail miserably at. Everyone needs to recognize they are human, and as hard as we may try, we are not perfect. We have limits and breaking points…as I quickly realized last night. Let someone else return the favor occasionally. It will not make you any less of a person. Rather, it will make you a more mature professional for being self-aware and honest.

Cheers to the end of the week everyone. Find time to power down and say “yes” to a big dose of pajamas, cocktails, and enjoying the beautiful fall weather. I know I am.

the pursuit of happiness

“It was at that time that I thought about Thomas Jefferson writing that Declaration of Independence. Him saying that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I thought about how he knew to put the ‘pursuit’ in there, like no one can actually have happiness. We can only pursue it.”

— Will Smith, Pursuit of Happyness

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the word “happiness.” What it means to different people. How some people seem to have too much and others seem to never have any. Why we spend our entire lives pursuing it, in the hopes of finding our “happily ever after.”

When my alarm goes off at 6:30 Monday mornings, I can certainly tell you I’m not hitting the snooze button out of joy. There are times I find myself drifting through my days, as if I am a shadow version of myself, going through the motions of mundane routine. Wake up, shower, brush teeth, watch Boy Meets World while getting ready (what can I say, I need my daily dose of Feeny), drive to work, yell about the traffic, spend the next 8 hours in my cubicle, only leaving for the occasional bathroom break, stumble out into daylight at 5:15, pick up the fiancé from work, drive home, yell about traffic, make dinner, watch TV, pass out by 10.

While I understand, and for the most part accept that work life isn’t always glamorous, I guess you can also say I wasn’t so prepared for how dull the lull of a routine can feel after a while. We spend the majority of our lives at work… anywhere from 40 to sometimes 60 or even 80 hours a week – more time than we spend with friends, family and loved ones. So if you’re not happy with the way things are going, you better figure out how to fix it.

I realize I am the creator of my own happiness and that I need to take matters into my own hands, rather than whining about a situation that will remain dull and stale if all I do is complain about it. So I’ve decided to do a few things to add some spice into my spice-less daily routine.

  • Change my surroundings. If you sit in a small grey cube long enough, there is no doubt you will lose your sanity. Aside from bringing in some personal mementos, like pictures of my cats, cards from friends and inspirational quotes to get me through the day, I’ve also decided as fun as I make my cubicle, I still need to escape from it every once in a while. Which is why I am mandating that every day, for at least 30 minutes, I find somewhere else to do my work. With the ability to take my work laptop virtually anywhere on my organization’s campus, I’ve decided I’m not going to let this beautiful weather go to waste and will find time to do some work from the picnic tables outside. Sometimes all it takes is a change in scenery to spark your motivation and creativity.
  • Cultivate a new skill. While I absolutely love writing and actually enjoy creating press releases and editing op-eds, it isn’t the only thing I like to do. Job descriptions do a great job of telling you what you’re responsible for, but it shouldn’t limit you from learning something new. I’ve always been interested in learning more about website development so I volunteered my first week to manage our news archive on the website. I have also taken the time to introduce myself to our website developer who was thrilled to hear about my interests. As a result of my introduction, we are planning to find a time to sit together so she can teach me more about what she does and how to build and maintain a website. Make time to learn something new every chance you can.
  • Make a list of everything I’m grateful for. Whether it’s that I’m lucky to have a job in my chosen field or that I’m at an organization whose mission I am passionate about – I need to remind myself daily why I wake up every morning to come to work. Sometimes I get caught up in writing and editing so many releases that I need to take a step back and realize the work I am doing has a direct contribution to saving the lives of millions of animals around the world – something I have wanted to do since I was a child. When you’re feeling extra stressed or down, pull out your grateful list to remind yourself not to get caught up in the little things.
  • Pay it forward. Doing a selfless act for someone else in need of help always makes me feel good inside. I’ve already become an active volunteer with a local animal rescue, picking up dogs and walking them during adoption events in the hopes of finding their forever homes. However, I’m also enjoying lending a helping hand to students who have been reaching out to me for help on job/internship advice or making their resumes and cover letters really shine. I wasn’t able to make it to where I am today without the guidance of a few mentors along the way and I thoroughly enjoy being able to help others after so many have been kind enough to help me in my own journey. If you continue to pay it forward, it will eventually make its way back to you tenfold.

While happiness may not be an inherent right, we certainly have the right to pursue it. And while life is full of peaks and valleys, and the climb can often prove difficult – I know the view from the top will certainly make it all worth it.

adventure is out there!

If your day is looking anything like mine, then your nose has been glued to your computer screen, fingers typing furiously as you push your way through the 3 o’clock mental fog.

Which is why I don’t have the energy or mental brain power to dedicate to dig up some inspiration for a thoughtful post.

Instead – I thought I’d share something cute and fun as a mid-day pick-me-up.

For those who don’t already know, Mike and I are getting married next year on September 20, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. I’m beyond excited to marry my best friend and partner of nearly seven years and can’t wait to share our special day with our closest friends and family members.

Before Mike and I got engaged this past Christmas, we joked around about what our perfect wedding would be. As an untraditional, quirky couple, we knew that a traditional ballroom wedding full of cake cutting and boring readings wasn’t meant for us. So we started thinking about our favorite love stories of all time. After sorting through the typical picks like The Notebook or Casablanca, we came to realize none touched our hearts quite the way that Carl and Ellie’s love story did from Pixar’s movie, UP.

Full of laughs, love and adventure, Mike and I realized it was the perfect fit for our wedding. I’m excited to share our own lighthearted and fun-loving story with everyone, using a little bit of Pixar magic and a few balloons to help us along the way.

In case you haven’t seen the movie UP yet, I’d suggest checking out the below clip. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful and poignant scenes in the history of film animation and is certainly my favorite as far as love stories go.

I hope everyone is having a great Tuesday. And remember, “adventure is out there!”

our mistakes don’t define us

I can’t believe it’s been almost four months since I started my first job out of college and how so much has changed in such a short period of time. In these past four months I have learned more about my industry and about myself, and I have made more mistakes than I thought humanly possible (or would like to admit).

To back up and put things in perspective – Mike and I visited DC for a spontaneous, let’s get out-of-here, weekend trip in March. We always joked about moving here and starting a new life for ourselves but it had never been anything more than talk. There was something about that trip. Everything just felt different. As we sat on a park bench in the National Mall sculpture garden, sharing an ice cream cone and enjoying the first signs of spring, I looked up at him and said, “why not?”

He must have been thinking the same, because his immediate response was, “we can.”

And we did. It wasn’t easy… as nothing worth it ever is. Trying to coordinate the search for two jobs and a new apartment all while three states away and finishing up my senior year in college made for its fair share of headaches and mental breakdowns, for which I still owe a great deal of gratitude to my friends and family for talking me off the ledge several times. But it all became worth it the moment I heard the words, “We’d like to offer you the job.”

So the day after my graduation, we packed up our lives into a 14’ UHaul and began our new chapter. I kissed my mom and dad goodbye, chowed down on some pizza and began the arduous task of assembling way too many pieces of IKEA furniture.

I started my job a week after my move and for the first week struggled with the idea of my new role. I was sitting through benefits trainings, submitting my insurance paperwork, attending meetings with my assigned campaigns and spending hours working on releases, media lists and follow-up pitch calls. I was overwhelmed and I was terrified. People with decades more experience than I had were looking at me to direct their PR strategies. Reporters from all over the world were calling me, asking questions I didn’t have the answers to.

Four months later, I’ve helped secure great coverage and generate unique story ideas for my campaigns by trusting my instincts and having confidence in my creativity. I have been fortunate to have stories placed in some of the largest outlets in the U.S. including the Washington Post and the LA Times. I’ve arranged press conferences and successfully landed editorial board meetings. I’ve accomplished things I never thought I’d be able to at such a young age, and I’m incredibly proud of myself.

With that, I have also made some painful mistakes. Mistakes that made me feel incompetent, incapable and quite frankly – just plain stupid. I’ve sent out a press release with a typo or two in it, and despite it going through several rounds of edits, the blame still ultimately falls on me. I called a reporter on the west coast at 6 AM (whoops… there’s a thing called time zones Niki, haven’t you heard of them) because I was eager to return her call from the night before to land the story and forgot to stop and think 1. It’s way too early over there and 2. It might be her personal number (oh yeah – it was. I called a reporter’s cell phone at 6 am and woke her up). I have sent things out before they should have gone out, blasting off a release to 700+ reporters when it should have been held for another 20 minutes due to an embargo.

After each mistake, I felt like a failure. I was beyond embarrassed. I wanted to bury my head between my legs and hide in my cave of shame (that’s what I call it… no judging). But I couldn’t – because I had work to do. And I didn’t have time to sulk (I’d give myself a 5 – 10 minute rebound period to get my act together and figure out how to fix it).

That release with a typo? I’d send out a correction. The reporter I woke up at the crack of dawn? I wrote her a sincere apology email and got a response back, telling me how much she appreciated my note (I was able to fix it and get the story put together in the end). The embargoed release? I called the reporter we promised to hold off for and explained the situation – he appreciated the notice and wrote a stellar story, still breaking the major announcement.

It is not our mistakes that define us; rather it is how we deal with them.

While at those moments it may have felt like the end of the world (and my professional career) I am grateful for each and every one of them. Those mistakes have made me  a better professional because I refuse to make the same mistakes twice.

I have grown immensely as a result of each mistake I have made and I am proud of every scar each mistake has left. You can’t become a seasoned professional or a better person without gaining a few battle wounds along the way.

a note to the anti-special crusaders

I’ve been seeing a trend develop lately…one that’s gained a flurry of articles, blogs and talk show topics.

I’ll call it the, “I’m Average Movement.”

My generation gets a lot of flak, from not only our elders, but from our own peers as well. We’re told that we’re self-entitled. Or that we’re lazy with no real drive. But most often of all, we’re told we think we’re special, when we’re not.

I don’t know about you – but I think I’m special. In fact, I think most people are. I’m not talking about the “everything should be handed down to me on a silver platter” kind-of-special, but rather the intrinsic self-worth of knowing you’re not ordinary. That you’re inherently unique and nobody else in the world is like you.

I’m very lucky to have the parents I have. Growing up, I was always encouraged to be whatever I dreamed I could be. Over the years, I have gone through my phases, like every other child. From astronaut and ballerina, to archaeologist and veterinarian – my parents gave me the encouragement and support I needed every step of the way. They told me I was special, and they also told me that dreams don’t come easy – they come with a lot of hard work and due diligence.

It was with their help that I was able to take risks, make mistakes and fall. I’d try something and realize it wasn’t the right fit and then move on to accomplishing my next big dream. I knew there were things about me that made me different from everyone else…things that made me special that would allow me to find my niche and blossom.

Webster’s defines special as:

spe·cial [spesh-uhl]

adjective

1. of a distinct or particular kind or character: a special kind of key.

2. being a particular one; particular, individual, or certain: You’d better call the special number.

3. pertaining or peculiar to a particular person, thing, instance, etc.; distinctive; unique: the special features of a plan.

4. having a specific or particular function, purpose, etc.: a special messenger.

5. distinguished or different from what is ordinary or usual: a special occasion; to fix something special.

With so many variations and understandings of one word, it’s hard to imagine how each and every person isn’t some kind of special. I’m not condoning the whole, “let’s give every kid a trophy, even if they lost” trend – but I am saying that each person should feel they are capable of achieving their own personal idea of greatness and should not ever settle for being mediocre.

Just as special comes in many forms and packages, so does greatness. You don’t need to be a Nobel Prize winner or the next president of the United States. My dad always says to us that his greatest accomplishment was having three kids with the courage to pursue their dreams.

Whether your idea of personal greatness is raising a family in a small suburban town in Pennsylvania like my dad, or traveling to central Africa to educate impoverished children like a friend of mine did, or finding a career where you can advocate on behalf of animals around the world like I was fortunate enough to – I am a firm believer that we are the creators of our own destiny and fully believe that with hard work and a never-accept-defeat attitude – we can make our dreams a reality if our dreams are based in reality.

So I’m choosing to ignore the anti-special crusaders who have accepted defeat by choosing mediocrity.

I am a certain-kind of special. And so are you.