Beat the Heat: 5 Tips for Runners

A Guide to Running During the Summer Months

Here in North Carolina, it’s quite common for our summers to be very hot and humid. This summer in particular, we have had a record number of days over 90-degrees. It’s no secret that I love warm weather (And by warm weather, I mean that triple-digit temperatures makes me happy!) but even I struggle with enjoying outdoor workouts during this time of year. If you’re new to running, it’s usually the first week of consistently warm days that is the hardest, and makes you question if you want to continue running at all. PLEASE DON’T GIVE UP! Ask around and you will quickly learn that the most seasoned runners struggle in this kind of heat too. It’s harder on our bodies to adjust to warm weather, but with the right approach, you can beat the summer heat. Here are five quick tips that are sure to help.

1. Hydrate — Make sure that you’re drinking plenty of fluids. The recommended 64 oz of water per day won’t cut it. You’re going to need more. You’ll want more than just water. And you’ll need to drink more often than the day of a run. For me, I have found that during the summer months, I drink around 100 oz of water per day. Additionally, I drink a minimum of 16-20 oz of Nuun the night before a run, as well as immediately after a run. It is important to drink an electrolyte – Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium – replacement to replenish what is naturally lost when we sweat. I recommend Nuun because it has no sugar and no carbs. {Compared to Gatorade, which has over 20g(+) of sugar per serving!} Nuun is a gluten free, soy free, vegan, nonGMO, made in the USA tablet that you simply drop down into a bottle of water. The tablet immediately starts to dissolve, creating a fizzy, flavorful beverage. I love that Nuun is completely portable and can be adjusted to your liking. (I often break tablets in half and mix two flavors to customize my drink to the perfect taste.) If you’d like to learn more about Nuun, click here.

nuun1  nuun2

2. Clothing — I have known so many new runners who have rushed out to their local department store to buy running outfits. They’re excited to finally start running and want to look the part. I was guilty of it when I first started. How can you blame anyone? Have you seen some of the running clothes available? They’re so cute! But there’s a big mistake that many of us make: I didn’t like the way my legs looked in shorts, and I certainly wasn’t going to show off my jiggly arms! So, I bought clothes based on how much they covered and how well the outfit matched. What I ended up with was a dresser full of clothing that made me feel miserable during workouts. The material wasn’t moisture-wicking or cooling, and the capri pants were causing me to overheat. Did you know that when you run, you should dress for a 20-degree increase? That means, if it is 70 degrees outside… you should dress like it is 90! Although it was a struggle, I finally learned to put my self-consciousness aside and buy/wear clothing that is appropriate for summer workouts. Here’s a photo of a typical summer run outfit. It’s still cute, right?

clothes

I love the pop of color in my Nike shorts. Running shorts can be tricky. I highly suggest trying on several different styles to find the right fit for you. There are many different lengths and fits to choose from. In my three years of running with strangers, I can honestly tell you that I have never paid attention to anyone’s legs. Stop thinking that everyone will be paying attention to yours. They won’t. Do yourself a favor and buy shorts! They even make shorts with a skirt over them. I own two pair of those. Adorable, functional, and NOT form fitting. You have options!

The same goes for arms. I have never paid attention to, or even compared, others’ arms to mine. All it takes is wearing a tank top to one 90-degree run and you’ll fall in love. My favorite tank is this Brooks black and white geo print tank. The busy pattern camouflages and distracts, and is so much fun! This tank top is also quite long in length, which I love.

And friends, let’s not forget our feet! It is so very, very important to wear good socks to prevent blisters and provide support. I recommend Feetures! They’re a North Carolina-based, family-owned company that offers a lifetime warranty on their products. (Seriously… a lifetime warranty!) They’re the only sock that I wear in the summertime. I even recently wore them on vacation. I was the only person out of our group of six who did not get a single blister. Coincidence? Nope! That’s just how great Feetures! are. Click here to learn more about these great socks.

3. Sunscreen — It’s an easy oversight. When I first started running, I wanted to make sure that I had my earbuds, my cell phone, and my Garmin. Anything else was an afterthought. All it took was one 5K in early June to help me realize that there is more to summertime running than good music. I was sunburned! So now, before I even dress in my cute (yet weather-appropriate) outfit, I apply sunscreen. I personally use Banana Boat Sport 30SPF because it is water resistant… and I don’t sweat it off! I like to take the UltraMist in my bag for touch ups, especially since it also cools and refreshes.

sunscreen

4. Accessories — Sometimes, it’s the small things that can make all of the difference. Some of my favorite small items that help make summer running more bearable are:
A hat or visor
Sunglasses
Chapstick

accessories

And my all-time favorite accessory…. the Nathan Insulated Handheld water bottle. It slides right on my hand without the worry of having to grip it the entire run, and with one quick squeeze, I can have cold water at my fingertips. Literally. Nathan also makes waist paks, vests, and hydration belts, too. Check them out by clicking here.

nathan

5. Early Morning Workouts — Early birds will rejoice and night owls will cry, but the number one way to beat the summer heat is to get your run in as soon as the sun comes up. (Maybe even before, if you have a safe, well lit place to run.) Even on the hottest days, most morning temps are considerably cooler. For example, the highs for this week have been in the mid-90s but the morning lows have been around 68-degrees. Much better, right? You’ll have an easier run, and you’ll have your workout in before your day even gets started. Think of the extra time you’ll have in the afternoons, too!

If the thought of waking up early to get your run in is absolutely against everything you believe in… there’s always an indoor run on a treadmill. But where’s the fun in that? 😉

Are you new to running? Comment below if you’ve found these tips to be helpful. Are you a seasoned runner? We’d love for you to comment below with any additional tips that you may have to share. Happy Running!

 

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I did not received compensation from, nor am I affiliated with any company listed. All products were purchased by me, including giveaways. Opinions expressed here are my own and were not influenced in any manner.

Kayaking Adventure

North Carolina is a wonderful place to live. (If you don’t live here, you should really consider a visit!) We’re blessed with so much in this state; from the highest peaks to the islands on our coast, there are a lot of places to see and things to do. So much so that I have barely scratched the surface myself, and I am a native Carolinian. I’ve decided, in my quest to visit all 50 states, that I would also make an effort to explore more of my own home state.

One adventure that I recently took was a river tour via kayak with Yadkin Riverkeeper. They’re a fantastic group of avid paddlers and environmentalists who have committed to promoting clean, healthy rivers… particularly the Yadkin River. The Yadkin is one of the longest rivers in NC, and is the northernmost part of the Pee Dee Drainage Basin. Most of their events take place in the summer, and are often relaxing, family-friendly journeys. If you don’t own a kayak/canoe, you can rent them from the organization for a minimal fee. (Roughly $30-40) The registration fee is $20.

[Side note: A coworker recently took up paddling. It sounded like something I would be interested in, since I always enjoyed white water rafting in my younger days. The idea of taking up paddling as a hobby piqued my interest, so I quickly considered purchasing my own kayak. In less than one week from making that decision, my neighbor (whom I didn’t even realize had a kayak) was selling his Pelican Vortex 80x for a very reasonable price. It was affordable. It was convenient. And it was blue… my favorite color. So I bought it!]

My coworker and I registered for the next available river tour and started planning our adventure. Two days before we were scheduled to leave, I realized that my kayak had a weight limit, and I was dangerously close to it. I started asking friends who paddle if I should be concerned but everyone seemed to think I would be fine. I even asked one of the outfitters on the day of the river tour, and he seemed to think I would be fine too. He did tell me that he would make sure that I looked safe before I launched though. He was kind enough to offer a rental kayak or even shuttle me back to my car if he felt I couldn’t make it down river in my own kayak.

All seemed a go when I climbed inside my boat, and we decided that he’d give me a push. I headed out into the river… and within three paddles, I immediately felt uneasy. I didn’t feel like I was going to sink, which was my initial fear. The Pelican Vortex was too fast, turned very quickly, and was unsteady for me. My experience on rivers had been in larger boats, longer and wider. I had never maneuvered something this small, and I was all over the river! And that’s when I realized, out of the 60+ paddlers in our group on the Yadkin at that moment, I had the smallest kayak. Even the professionals were in longer kayaks.

I basically had to let the water carry me (the river was low and the current wasn’t very fast for the most part) and I only paddled when I needed to over correct or stay upright. Despite traveling about 1/3 of the way trying to relax, I was overexerting myself. My muscles were tense and I was beyond thirsty… all because I was in a poorly sized kayak.  About that time, a guide – one of several scattered throughout the course to ensure all paddlers are comfortable and safe, came up from behind me. He apparently could tell I was struggling. After a short chat, he asked if I wanted out. I wasn’t sure if he meant ‘out of the river’ (which I didn’t want because the adventure was really cool) I replied, “I would like to be out of this kayak. I’m too big for this boat. I need a bigger one!”

Without hesitation, he made a quick call and within 60 seconds (or less), I was being circled by paddlers and a raft was on the way. As a runner, I have always bragged about how incredibly helpful and motivating that community is, but I have to admit that this community of paddlers were equally, if not MORE, supportive. I was so impressed with their care and concern, as well as their encouragement.

When the raft arrived, several paddlers cornered my kayak against it with theirs. It steadied my boat enough for me to be able to climb into the raft. Since there were no access points on the river for me to unload my kayak or get a bigger one, we ended up having to tie mine to the raft. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed to not get to experience the entire adventure in a kayak… but I still was able to see over 10 miles of the Yadkin from the river itself. (And Justin, who was rowing the giant 150lb raft – with two heavy objects in it, a full Yeti cooler and me! – couldn’t have been more awesome. We chatted, we told jokes, and we may or may not have sang a little too.

Despite the river tour not going completely as planned for me, I still strongly recommend it. You will be safe because you are surrounded by some of the best people I have ever met, and you will have a great time. Just make sure you have the properly sized boat. If you’re unsure of what style/model/size boat that you need, please go see the folks at Great Outdoor Provision Co. They have locations throughout NC. They’re located in Thruway Shopping Center in Winston-Salem, and in Friendly Shopping Center in Greensboro. Each location will hold a Demo Day where you can get expert advice on the right boat(s) for you, and then try them out before you buy them. (You can bet that I will be at the next one. Let this be a lesson learned… do not buy your kayak from a yard sale if you have never owned a kayak before, even if it is your neighbor selling it!)

If you would like to take up paddling but need to learn the basics, you can also find classes and meetups through your local Great Outdoor Provision Co. or contact the awesome folks at Yadkin Riverkeeper.

Paddling the rivers of NC is a unique way to experience this state. It’s a great alternative to a more expensive (and often less adventurous) vacation too. If you have any questions, please comment below or reach out to me on Facebook or Twitter. I hope I see y’all out on the water soon!

[Click here to see a video, courtesy of and copyrighted by Justin.]

Go Red, for the Love of Your Heart!

Today is the Friday before the biggest game in professional [American] football. Typically, I would be decked out in my favorite team’s colors… not just because they’ve been in the Super Bowl the last two years, but because every Friday is Blue Friday to a 12. (Go Hawks!) This year, though, I’m wearing a different color and it has absolutely nothing to do with football.

While my Facebook feed has been inundated with turquoise and black or orange and blue today, a group of my friends and I decided to wear red. February 5, 2016 is National Wear Red Day – a campaign started by the American Heart Association to raise awareness for heart disease; particularly heart disease in women.

I spent the morning at the Go Red for Women breakfast, hosted by American Heart Association – Triad. I was invited by someone special, my friend Amy, who was named a 2016 Go Red Ambassador for Forsyth County after being nominated by Coach Stacie at Fleet Feet.

Those of you who are familiar with me know that I joined my local Fleet Feet in 2013 as a participant, and now am a Certified Mentor with them. I applied to become a mentor after I had the best experience with my own mentor during my first training program. The experience changed my life, and I promised myself that one day… I would pay it forward.

Amy’s story is pretty incredible. She is a spunky soul with an infectious smile. It is hard to believe that she was once so depressed that she couldn’t get out of bed. I met Amy during Fleet Feet’s Fall 2015 No Boundaries training program. I couldn’t help but to see a little bit of me in her. She doubted herself because, like me, she had zero experience running when she joined No Boundaries. I wasn’t sure what my body was capable of when I began running – I was 40lbs overweight with bad knees – and I knew she didn’t know what her body could do either. (She actually told me that she had never exercised before; she had not even played sports!) I remember struggling in the beginning, and I remember the turning point for me… the day that I accepted the title of “runner” …and I knew this was my opportunity to share my story with Amy in hopes of her having a similar a-ha moment. She would say at the beginning of practice, “I think I will walk today.” and I would reply, “No! Run with me.” What I didn’t realize during our months of training together was that it would all lead to today.

Heart disease has taken a toll on my family most of my life. My maternal grandfather died of a massive heart attack in his 50s, before I was born. My dad had two open heart surgeries only six months apart. My brother is an aortic dissection and stroke survivor. Many other family members suffer with cardiovascular problems like CHF or hypertension. And heart disease scares the daylights out of me. I worry for my family, and I worry for my own health.

Between family history, my turning 40 this year, and hearing the statistics this morning that 1 in 3 women die from heart disease, today has hit me pretty hard. Yes, today is a day of celebrating. I love that Amy has drastically reduced her risks of heart disease and can encourage others to do the same. I am beyond grateful that God allowed my father and brother to overcome their heart surgeries so that they can have opportunities to be advocates for heart health. But today is also a day of awakening. Ladies, we need to fight this together. Heart disease is 80% curable with proper diet, exercise, and screenings.

I am not here to body shame. I have been overweight my entire life and know all about the struggles with self-esteem. What I can’t reiterate enough, though, is that we have to get past our appearance! Let me explain. I get what people mean when they say to be confident no matter your shape. I understand that many factors play into obesity. But this isn’t about our outer image. This isn’t about looking good in your skinny jeans. This is about health! I don’t care what body type you are, you can still be at risk of heart disease. You can be a size 2 and appear healthy, but suffer from high blood pressure or high cholesterol. So please, no matter how confident you are in how you look, don’t neglect your heart health.

A woman’s heart is such an important organ. Think about it; not only is it the engine that runs our body but it’s the place that stores our dreams, often the director of our decisions, and the generator for all of the love that we give and receive. We have to treasure it! We need to treat it well so that we can change these alarming statistics.

Diet and exercise can seem overwhelming and time consuming, but heart health is quite simple. Follow these basic steps to help reduce your risk of heart disease:

1. Move. The goal is 4-5 times a week for 30 minutes. Can’t afford a gym membership or devote time to a Zumba class? No worries! All you have to do is take a brisk walk. If your schedule doesn’t allow 30 minutes, break it into two 15 minute walks. Take the stairs. Park at the back of the lot when you’re shopping. Just start moving more!

2. Make better choices with food. Don’t consider it a diet, just be conscious of what you’re putting in your body. Healthy food actually does taste good! You’ve seen some of my recipes here on my blog. They’re quick and easy. Eat more veggies. They’re a great substitution for chips. Want something sweet? Try fruit instead of cookies. Select food options with as little ingredients as possible. Watch your sodium intake. Drink plenty of water. Small changes make a big difference, so don’t feel like you have to take drastic measures.

3. Monitor your health. Seeing your doctor regularly allows them to monitor your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels, etc. and assist you with keeping everything in check.

4. No smoking! If you smoke and need help stopping, there are many avenues available. You won’t have to attempt to stop alone.

Easy enough, right? Let’s promise to take heart disease seriously. Together we can encourage one another to take steps toward a healthier lifestyle. To learn more about heart health, check out the American Heart Association website here. To learn more about Amy, click here. If you need encouragement, want to congratulate Amy on her journey, or just want to chat, please comment below. We would love to hear from you.

Congratulations, Amy!

The Upside of My Day

Today, our local Christian radio station hosted Chris August in concert. Chris released his sophomore album, The Upside of Down, yesterday. Thanks to my pal Bonnie – who often lets me work these type of events – I sold merchandise for Chris at this show. It was a free concert that drew a pretty large crowd, considering it was held at noon on a Wednesday. Chris is a super-talented songwriter with an incredible voice. He is also very kind and wonderfully funny. What a blessing to get to experience this today!


Merchandise Table


Jotting down his playlist before his performance.

“To the one and only and best merch girl ever!!” – I’m still giggling over this. 🙂

You can check out Chris’s website by clicking here. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.


What’s All the Buzz About Burt’s Bees?

Burt’s Bees is a company headquartered here in North Carolina. They describe themselves as an “Earth friendly” company, specializing in 100% natural personal care, health, and beauty products. I can remember the first time I purchased their Beeswax Lip Balm. I was in high school and working at a drug store in Winston-Salem when this item was new. The packaging was simple but eye-catching. Burt’s Bees Beeswax wasn’t in a tube like similar lip balms… it was in a tin. And I loved that about it. It was easy to apply, had a pleasant taste, and made my lips so smooth! I was hooked from the beginning.

A few years later, I found a wholesale company down the street from my college in Greensboro. They offered several other new Burt’s Bees products that were difficult to find in average stores. I immediately fell in love with the Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream. It, too, came in a tin. The Sweet Almond Oil and Cocoa Seed Butter left my cuticles soft, which also seemed to nourish my brittle nails. And the smell was unbelievable – fresh lemony goodness! – unlike similar products that had either strong chemical or perfume-y smells.

It makes me happy to now see a large selection of Burt’s Bees products in many types of stores here in NC. Their products now range from toothpaste and throat drops to sunscreen and bug spray. And everything is still 100% natural! I have never used any item from Burt’s Bees and been disappointed. I am a huge fan!

My newest addiction is their Nourishing Lip Balm with Mango Butter. I can’t stop using it!! Do you know how some lip balms drag across your lip and you feel like you have to cake a lot of it on to achieve any amount of smoothness? You won’t find that with Burt’s Bees. This is the easiest applying lip balm ever. It doesn’t gloss over the problem, it truly moisturizes your lips with a sweet tropical flavor.

If you’re interested in checking out Burt’s Bees, visit their website www.burtsbees.com for a store locator or to purchase online. Be sure to check out the Wild For Bees tab too. There are some enjoyable educational videos there. 🙂

Summer Safety

I read tonight on Facebook where two people were arrested for breaking and entering. Do you know how they picked their houses?  The lady in the operation would check her Facebook friends status to see who was out of town!!  Yup, Facebook scoping!  I try to refrain from posting on Facebook when I’ll be out of town. Of course my house is Fort Knox with a monitored alarm system including 8 video cameras that record every movement outside. I’m not really worried that someone would break in but I do get nervous at night if I’m here by myself!

My husband owns his own alarm company with his brother.  They do alarm systems for homeowners and businesses.  They also do a number of other things such as mounting flat panel TVs, hooking up audio-video components, and PC networking.  (That explains why we are Fort Knox around here!) I tell people all the time that they need an alarm system and the response I can’t stand the most is, “I have a 4-legged alarm system.”  Really?!  I don’t care what kind of kill ‘em, chew ‘em up dog you have, if someone comes in with doggie treats, some raw hot dogs, or bologna and throws it out the door… there goes your 4-legged alarm system!  Don’t be that person and don’t kid yourself!

Here are my suggestions for keeping your house summertime safe while you are out of town:

1. Have an alarm system installed & monitored.  You know I had to plug that in there!  But seriously, shop around and find a subcontract company for one of the big names and hire them to do it.  It will be less expensive, trust me!

2. DO NOT post on Facebook or Twitter that you are going out of town!  I don’t care how jealous you want to make your friends and co-workers, someone could be stalking your house! Especially since you bragged about the nice 52″ flat panel 3D TV that you got for Christmas!

3.  DO NOT post about your nice 52″ flat panel 3D TV you got for Christmas!  I know its so easy to brag but you are just feeding the criminal all the information they need!

4.  Have a family or close trusted friend stop by your house at least once a day to turn on a light in the house.  Make sure they turn on a different one each time.  Or have your home automated so the lights come on and go off at certain times of the day.  For more information on Home Automation, contact CommTech LLC or your local alarm company.

5.  Consider adding motion sensor lights to the exterior of your house.

6. Make sure your windows are locked and deadbolts are used on the doors.

7. Have a family member or neighbor pick up your mail & newspapers.  A sure sign that you are out of town is piled up newspapers.

8. Make sure your neighbors know that you are out of town. Ask them to keep an eye out.  And let them know if you have someone set up to stop by your house and what vehicle they might be in.  There is nothing like having the cops called on cousin David because you didn’t inform your neighbor that he would be stopping by!

These are just a few things that my family does when we go out of town.

And if you have an alarm, please use it.  Even if it is not monitored, if a burglar tried to break in the sound alone will frighten them off!

Now go have a Happy Summer!


(Photo credit.)

 

Go Meat!

I had the privilege of participating in my very first Relay For Life in 2007 as a member of the Parrot Heads of the Triad, a civic organization made up of avid Jimmy Buffett fans. We gathered in High Point, NC for an overnight event filled with celebrations, remembrances, and the drive to fight back! All participants shared one common bond… to find a cure for cancer.

Five years have passed since that first Relay. In those five years, I feel like 20 years of changes have taken place. Relay For Life of High Point changed locations and times. (I enjoyed walking overnight, and they now choose to hold their event from noon until midnight.) That same year, I was contacted to walk in an impromptu Extreme Relay For Life for the local Extreme Makeover: Home Edition new home recipient, Tricia Creasey. That cold, rainy night in November, I was reminded that Davidson County was “home” and that I should join its chapter from that point forward. Within two months, I had not only transitioned over to Relay For Life of Davidson Co. but I had formed a team, joined the planning committee, and was asked to be the Publicity chair. I recruited new committee members, helped develop new teams, earned awards for my marketing and fundraising efforts, endured devastating losses of Relay family members to this terrible disease, taken a job at the local cancer center, and eventually stepped down in my volunteer leadership roles.

I questioned if my heart was still in this battle. Five emotional years will take a toll on even the most passionate advocate. I just wasn’t sure I could handle another Relay For Life. Shortly after making the decision that I was finished with this chapter of my life, my friend/neighbor – Gina – told me that she was interested in putting a team together. She had filled my position as Publicity Chair (wonderfully, I might add) and wanted to see what she could do with fundraising. I offered to be a silent team member to help get her team started. Little did I know how that decision would change my life.

About a month after our conversation, Gina was invited to be a member of the previous year’s up-and-coming super team, BHLs – Team 217. She accepted and encouraged me to join as well. I declined at first. After all, I was only planning to be a silent teammate. If she wasn’t going to form her own team, I wasn’t needed. But after meeting with co-captain, Rebecca Sink, at her home one afternoon… I realized that I needed to celebrate my 5th Anniversary with her team.

BHLs – Team 217 was formed in 2011 by Rebecca and her friend, Kara Cody. One of Rebecca’s best friends, Jenny, had been diagnosed with bladder cancer the previous year, and Rebecca was determined to share Jenny’s story while fighting for a cure. The team was named BHLs, taken from the Hillshire Farms commercial for Beef Hot Link, and Team 217, from a number that both Rebecca and Jenny oddly loved.

The team had a great first year. They raised over $5000 and were ranked in the Top 10 as an All-Star Fundraising Team for Davidson County. This year, I am completely blown away at the growth of this team. Countless new member have joined me in becoming a BHL in 2012. Rebecca’s personal total alone exceeds the teams entire total from the previous year. The team is currently ranked in first place for fundraising, having exceeded our $17,000 goal. These guys and gals have more determination, more passion, and more hope than any other team I’ve seen in my five years with Relay For Life. There is something unbelievably special about this group. I am honored to be a BHL, I am humbled to be among such selfless souls, and I am blessed to call them all friends.

What makes BHLs – Team 217 stand out in the endless sea of inspiring teams that make up Relay For Life of Davidson County? We have an eclectic mix of teammates. You may even call us a bit eccentric. We are a force to be reckoned with. We are convinced a cure will be found. And we aren’t afraid to show our true colors!! One of the many reasons I adore the BHLs is because we will stop at no expense to spread cancer awareness. As we quickly approach this weekend’s event, cars are painted, hair is dyed, and nails are manicured in every shade of purple… hoping that someone, somewhere will stop and ask us what it all means.

I would like to invite all of you to attend a Relay For Life event in your area. To locate an event, click here.

The Davidson County chapter will hold our Relay this weekend, May 18-19, 2012 in Lexington, North Carolina. Ceremonies begin at 6pm. There will be entertainment, food, games, raffles, and more. It is truly one of the most incredible celebrations you will ever experience.

If you are unable to attend, but would like to see an end to cancer, please consider supporting our fight for a cure. Click here to make a monetary contribution. No donation is too small.

It is about being a community that takes up the fight! Together, we we can create a world with more birthdays… and no cancer!!

 

Never Forget: What Were You Doing on 09.11.01?

I have always had a fascination with ships and planes. I think mainly because they both seem far too large to float and fly. My father worked for a Ford dealership near Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTI) in Greensboro, NC. As a child, I can remember visiting him at work, but being more consumed by the airplanes taking off and landing than with anything he had to say. Even as a young adult, I attended college in that area. During my photography courses, I always hoped for an assignment that would give me an excuse to drive to the airport. I had never been on a plane (or ship) and always anticipated the day that I would have the chance.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I drove into work at Carolina Envelope & Printing in Lexington, NC. I had been there just over a year, and had worked my way up from a plate maker to graphic designer. I worked with two other designers, Melody & Sharon. It was our responsibility once a month to clean the film processor that we used. The room was painted black, like most darkrooms are, and even with the lights on it was very dim.

We typically cleaned the processor by 7am. For some reason, we were cleaning it later than usual that day. It was a very meticulous procedure since we dealt with chemicals in a closed environment. We all took precaution, but sometimes the fumes were still overwhelming. I remember joking about who would call in the event of an emergency, should we all pass out from the smell. I specifically recall making the statement that “today is 9-1-1 after all.”

Sharon had to excuse herself from the area. She was already battling a sinus infection and needed to step out to her desk. We would often listen to music throughout the day on an old radio. She hadn’t been at her desk long when she came running back into the processor room. She said “a plane has hit the World Trade Center.” My heart immediately sank. Planes do not fly low in that area. I knew something was wrong. As a matter of fact… that is all that I could even say… “Something is wrong!”

Melody & I asked Sharon to keep us posted, should she hear any further information. We finished up the work on the processor and headed back to our desks. Just as Sharon had begun to share information, we all heard the announcement on the radio… “A second plane has hit the South Tower.” The look on Melody’s & Sharon’s faces must have mimicked my own. We were in complete disbelieve. We sat silently for what felt like minutes – but what was probably only second – before we started to voice our concerns. Sharon was afraid that every state would fall victim. Melody wondered when the military would get involved. I thought about Dad.

Situated a few short miles from the end of one of the runways at PTI is one of Colonial Pipeline’s Fuel Farm. Colonial supplies fuel primarily along the east coast but stretches from Texas to New Jersey. I feared the farm would be a target for attack, which would ultimately affect the businesses around it… like Dad’s. While these thoughts were going through our heads, some of the other office staff were setting up a TV in the upstairs boardroom. Melody, Sharon, and I made our way up to watch. By this point in time, reports were airing of a third plane crash… this time into The Pentagon. How could this be happening? When would it end? I literally had become nauseous as I watched people who were trapped in the World Trade Centers jumping out of windows. I remember that all of us were huddle around the TV, coming up with our own reasons it was happening and solutions to make it stop. We didn’t know what to do, other than pray.

…and then, the unthinkable happened… while most of the world watched LIVE on CNN, the South Tower of the World Trade Center (2 WTC) collapsed. What a horrible site. How could anyone survive? I remember being so confused, so upset, and so scared. The dust from 2 WTC slowly filled the streets of NYC when reports of a fourth plane had crashed in Pennsylvania. Was this plane headed towards our Nation’s capital? Had it been shot down by our military? Had it been been purposefully downed in a field to avoid anymore casualties on the ground? Was Sharon right… were we being invaded? I ran back downstairs and picked up the phone. I called Mom to see if she had heard from Dad. I wanted him to leave work immediately. I wanted to be with my family. As I was on the phone, I was told that 1 WTC had collapsed. I physically couldn’t take any more. Shortly after that, my boss encouraged those who wanted to leave, to go. I remember going home early that day.

My parents’ house is situated under two flight patterns. From what Dad and I can best guess, the primary pattern is to Charlotte/Douglas (CLT) in Charlotte, NC and somewhere further off, perhaps Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) in Atlanta, GA. We have always studied the skies together, pointing out military planes on their way to Uwharrie or the Goodyear Blimp leaving a Panthers’ game or NASCAR race. On September 11, 2001 around noon all air travel had been suspended and the airspace over the continental US was free from commercial and private planes. I remember sitting in my parents’ yard behind their house – an acre of open field that was once used for farming, but now resembles a golf course fairway – taking in the silence. For the first time in my life, no planes flew overhead. No exhaust trails painted the skies. It was an eerie peace combined with a world of uncertainty.

The next few days were filled with everything from speculations of rumors to news reports of confirmation. It consumed the lives of Americans, while we struggled to get back to our usual routine. We celebrated Mom’s 58th birthday that Thursday, September 13. I was coaxed by friends on Friday, September 14 to join them for a weekend in Myrtle Beach, SC. It seemed as though my life would go on as scheduled, while I remembered every detail of the events I had witnessed the week before. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I will never forget.

The Downside to Social Media

I sat down at the computer tonight to blog about Social Fresh and the tiny couple of seconds it felt like I was involved in the two-day conference, when I noticed a Tweet in my stream that stated, “All: @NBCNEWS was just hacked. DO NOT RETWEET THEIR TWEETS. They are FALSE…” I stopped in my tracks and went straight to the NBCNews Twitter account. What I found were Tweets from a band-of-idiots who had illegally-accessed the account and stated an attack had been made on Ground Zero.

This being the weekend of the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, I immediately became disgusted by the hackers, their comments, and sadly, yes… social media. Who finds it comical to make such terrible accusations? Who has so much time on their hands that they sit around guessing the password to accounts? And why is social media such an open target for these opposing situations?

Lately I have noticed an increase in negativity via social media. Let me be more specific; this isn’t the hate that an angry teen posts on her Facebook status about her cheating ex-boyfriend. The conflicts that I mention are those that impact society on a far wider scale; conflicts that are created by malicious hackers, devious businesses, or even so-called-gurus. Although we all see the potential that social media has, we cannot lose sight that it is simply a FREE, open forum with no real rules, just waiting to name its next victim.

Don’t get me wrong. From a marketing and customer service stand point, the world has really struck gold with social media sites. It allows us to engage with our audience of clients and potential customers in a quick and cost-effective way. Yet, I feel the industry is largely, if not solely, relying too heavily on these sites. I’m not saying those of us who use social media for the good are at fault, but we have to question if we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

What are some of the problems that we face by using these free, open sites?

  1. Although some of us use social media from a business standpoint, there are plenty of folks on these sites, bored and ready to cause problems. Take for example, the hackers who compromised NBC’s Twitter account. We cannot take any material on social media sites for more than face-value. You may ask, “Doesn’t this contradict using social media to promote the validity of a business?” Yes, to a degree. This is why we shouldn’t depend solely on Twitter, Facebook, etc. until there are ways to control them.
  2. Prior to social media, businesses primarily gained visibility by means of radio spots, television ads, or print space in a magazine. All of these marketing efforts cost a significant amount of money, required skill to execute, and were heavily managed. It made retaliation difficult, which made a business really “think before they spoke” negatively. Although word-of-mouth cannot be regulated, it takes a great deal of time for your opinion to reach an audience of 100 people. An individual or business can now say whatever they want about a business to a broad audience, whether their statement is true or not, changing the actions of their peers almost instantly.
  3. Some self-proclaimed social media ‘gurus’ have a tendency of sharing information, often aggressively, in an effort to sway friends, followers, or clients into believing that their way is the “right way” to use social media. The only right way to share in social media is with effectiveness and etiquette. After all, the last time I checked there is no written rule of how Twitter must run, or how often a business (or individual) MUST use their accounts. We should share why it would benefit an individual to use social media etiquette – i.e., too many similar posts will look like spam, avoid language that could be offensive, etc. – or how effective it can be for a business to engage with their followers. There are many people who are still unsure about social media and someone coming across as the Twitter or Facebook police, only looks arrogant.

Social media makes it very simple for an average Joe to express their opinion and influence a large crowd. What once took organizing a rally in a large area with a p.a. system (and guts) now only takes 140 characters and the click of a mouse. We are a far braver society now that we can voice our opinions while hiding behind our computer screens, smart phones, and tablets. We need to be reminded, as professionals and as humans, that our words can be hurtful when presented irresponsibly. I am just as guilty of this. Who hasn’t had an email they’ve written be misinterpreted? Who hasn’t Tweeted bitterly about poor service in the midst of disappointment? Who hasn’t told a little white lie as a joke, not considering the consequences?

I will find myself, at times, being disgusted with social media. The term alone “Social Media” can turn my stomach on certain days, like today. Why are so many people comfortable with it? …so reliant upon it? …completely fascinated by it?

Then I have to remember, this is all still relatively new… the businesses and even the social media professional are still learning. Sure, the shiny-new has worn off to some of us but others just created their account last week. There are even businesses who jumped in, completely oblivious to social media and struggled, and left their accounts dormant while re-evaluating their decision. For myself, in just two short years Twitter alone has brought me so many positives to my life. I have met so many terrific people, learned so many wonderful things, and been a lot of great places because of it! However, I once abandoned my account too. It was the encouraging words of my brother, not a series of aggressive or negative Tweets, who coaxed me back on to use the site to it’s full potential. Had I received from him the response of “You’re doing this all wrong. You suck. You’ll never get it.”, then I would have missed out on a lot. There is no capacity for social media. We shouldn’t try to scare off people who aren’t as knowledgable as we are, we should help them.

…which brings me back to Social Fresh. It’s a conference spear-headed by some of the most helpful faces of social media. You can truly see the real professionals shine during conferences like this one. They stand out.

Although I was offered a free ticket by one of social media’s brightest stars, DJ Waldow, I regretfully still wasn’t able to rearrange my schedule on September 6 & 7 to attend. Instead I waited patiently on Tuesday for the first Tweets to start popping into my stream, and shortly after lunch, I was already recapping the events from earlier that day. Around 4:30pm, I left work and headed to Charlotte. I had planned to meet my dear friend, and social media’s most sparkly star, Stephanie Wonderlin (whom I hadn’t seen in nearly a year) for dinner. We were joined by my brother, Dean, and a table-full of outstanding folks from Justin Levy and Carly Durham to Eric Boggs and David Horne. As I sat across the table from Stephanie, catching up on [and giggling about] real life, I wondered what my life would be like had I never started using social media. I hope that the positive impact Stephanie and some of the others have made on me, I am making on someone else. I really love to learn but I equally love sharing my knowledge with others. There is no reason to be negative in life… and certainly not in social media. If you have time to hack into an account and Tweet poorly-executed jokes or blog about how terrible someone is for not being as cool (i.e.; knowledgeable) as you are on Facebook, then perhaps you should step back and re-evaluate yourself. The time you spend being negative could be spent, instead, teaching others about social media, offering your time to show someone how Twitter or YouTube works, volunteering your time in the community, or spending time with loved ones. There is always a handful of positive options to counteract one negative effort, even in the midst of social media sites not having sufficient rules to keep others from being negative. Thank you to the crew of Social Fresh for pulling me out of my disgust and allowing me to see the good in social media often outweighs the bad.

Since my blog took a turn from it’s original path, please take the time to visit the Social Fresh Facebook page to read more about the sessions that took place on Tuesday & Wednesday in Charlotte. Hopefully you will take from this blog, and their notes, the positive impacts that social media can have in our society if we choose to share it.

SoGeeky South

I wanted to take a quick moment to share with you three upcoming social media/technology conferences that you may find worthy of attending:

SOCIAL FRESH Charlotte 2011
via www.socialfresh.com

During Social Fresh Charlotte’s two days of training – September 6-7, 2011 – our educational track can be broken down into a few core focus points:

Training Topics — Social Fresh is adding more and more training opportunities. Our sessions focus more on teaching actionable lessons and less on broader strokes or concept discussion. Attendees told us they wanted more hands on training, so now we have including training topics for teaching tactics and strategy throughout the entire conference. We avoid talking ABOUT social media and focus on showing you what you can do today.

We select the topics and sessions we think you will learn the most from. We include brand lessons that will teach you. Attendees from Social Fresh can hit the ground running after the event. They take away tons of notes and insights that can be implemented right away.

Better Speakers — I don’t know of a training event that can say they have the experience that Social Fresh has with finding the right social media speakers and topics for an audience of marketers. We have hosted hundreds of top industry speakers. The best speakers are one part high level insights, one part first hand knowledge, and one part not boring the attendees to tears.

We know who can convey the best social media lessons and brand lessons. We know who is rated the highest by your marketing peers, event after event. And we know which speakers can actually send people away inspired and more confident, as opposed to more confused and wanting more.

Our Charlotte conference has the best line up of smart speakers that we have ever put together. These thought leaders get it and put this stuff into practice for clients and big businesses every day.

WHY IS SOCIAL FRESH DIFFERENT?

Focus on Networking
Focus on Fun
Focus on Actionable Content
Focus on Case Studies

Hosted by Jason Keath and Corey Creed. Please visit the Social Fresh Charlotte website to read more about the event and speakers. Click here for ticket information.

ConvergeSouth 2011
via www.convergesouth.com

ConvergeSouth is the annual tech users conference held in Greensboro, NC. Entering our 7th year, the conference is organized completely by volunteers. Originally based on the “blogger-con” concept, ConvergeSouth has grown as technology has developed and has tried to meet new needs of our community via Social Networking, Social Media, App Development and more without ignoring new users’ needs – that’s why there will always be a “101″ or Beginners Track at ConvergeSouth.

Mark your calendars for October 6-7, 2011 in Greensboro!

ConvergeSouth has also added a one-day Nonprofit Track this year to draw in tech-savvy nonprofits who do so much for our communities. The three special sessions are designed at the introductory (101) level to assist nonprofits move deeper into the tech world.

Thursday’s keynote speaker is a globally-recognized blogger, educator, business consultant, and author who blogs at {grow} — one of the AdAge Top 50 blogs of the world, Mark Schaefer. Mark has worked in global sales, PR, and marketing positions for nearly 30 years and now provides consulting services as Executive Director of U.S.-based Schaefer Marketing Solutions.

He has advanced degrees in marketing and organizational development and holds seven patents. Mark enjoys teaching social media marketing courses at several colleges and is a faculty member of the graduate studies program at Rutgers University.

Mark is the author of The Tao of Twitter and has a new McGraw-Hill-published book arriving spring, 2012.

Please visit the ConvergeSouth website to read more about the event and speakers. Click here for full-event ticket information or here for Non-Profit Day registration.

GEEKEND 2011
via www.geek-end.com

Geekend is the interactive conference phenomenon you have been waiting your whole life for. It is your chance to interact with people taking the tech and creative industries by storm.

Geekend is the annual gathering of the geek tribe. Geekend is what you might call an interactive conference with some truly awesome parties. It’s the kind of event that you’ll be texting, Tweeting and Facebooking from, while making all your friends back home super jealous.

Geekend is a mashup, a meetup, and a Tweet-up all mixed together in a delicious Low Country boil of innovative ideas. It’s networking, Savannah style. It’s a veritable supermarket of fresh thoughts and delicious camaraderie. To sum Geekend up in one word is really quite impossible, but we tend to use this one: Fun.

Join us this October and November as the brightest geeks, designers, developers, artists, and social media mavericks flock to Boston and Savannah for several days filled with cutting edge speakers, fun-filled after parties, and amazing networking opportunities.

Go to our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter for all the Geekend details and updates.

Our Mission:

To bring together the brightest geeks, designers, artists, social media mavericks and forward thinking entrepreneurs.

Founded by Miriam & Jacob Hodesh and Sloane Kelley, you will be blown away by the events Geekend 2011 has in store for you. Visit Geekend’s website to checkout the schedule and list of speakers. Please click here for ticket information.

You will not want to miss these three conferences. Why are you waiting? Get your tickets now! Comment below if you already have your tickets and plan to join me. See you there!