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.]

Hello, NCBN friends!

Y’all… I am so excited to be a part of the NC Blogger Network. I wanted to send a quick hello to any new friends who may stop by and check out my [somewhat recently neglected] site. I am looking forward to getting to know you all, and meet my fellow Triad bloggers. I would love for you to leave a comment to let me know that you’ve stopped by! Thanks 🙂

NCBN

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!

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!

Country Showdown, Cornhole Throwdown 2011

A young mother is fighting for her life. She is battling aggressive squamous cell carcinoma.

Jamie Berrier Crutchfield, 26, has a rare form of skin cancer. Though most skin cancers are caused by over-exposure to the sun, Jamie’s is located on her tongue.  What started as a sore in her mouth three weeks after giving birth to her son, Landen (now 11-months old) she is now unable to speak after having the tumor removed. Her husband, Eric, has become her voice. Jamie also struggles with the inability to care for her child, due to ongoing pain and complications caused by treatment.

Doctors do not know what caused the cancer. Although the tumor was completely removed from her tongue, the cancer came back in her spine and lymph nodes. She maintains a strong faith that she will beat the cancer. Her story is that of inspiration.

Earlier today, I witnessed the amazing support of her community at a benefit called Country Showdown, Cornhole Throwdown. The event – held at North Davidson High School in Welcome, NC – drew a crowd of nearly 1000 people. Local country artist Katelyn Marks, Chris Lane Band, and Ross Coppley Band performed nearly three hours while participants competed in a cornhole tournament. Area businesses donated prizes for the raffle, and tshirts were available for purchase.

I had the pleasure of once-again joining my friends with Relay For Life of Davidson County in an effort to help promote cancer awareness and support at the event. The volunteers did a fantastic job promoting the Prishope campaign, made famous by fellow Relayer and Cancer Warrior, Tim Davis. Prishope is an acronym for Pray, Wish, Hope – and has become a popular prayer-request group on Facebook and within the local community. RFL volunteers asked guests, participants, and the local celebrities to sign a giant card for Jamie. I also assisted in taking photos of the attendees signing the card and holding signs sending Jamie well wishes.

img_2127img_2114 img_2120 img_2123  img_2166 img_2192 img_2212 screen-shot-2011-08-14-at-10-21-14-pm

Proceeds from the event are going to Jamie’s growing medical bills. If you’re interested in donating to Jamie’s Journey, please contact me for more information.

My Name is Jenn, and This is My Ah-ha Moment.

What an honor it was last month to receive an invitation to participate in Mutual of Omaha’s Ah-ha Moment campaign. What a surprise to find out the campaign’s tour would be scheduled in Winston Salem on June 10th, my 35th birthday. Without hesitation, I quickly accepted the offer with both gratitude and enthusiasm. This would certainly help make my day memorable.

What exactly is an Ah-ha Moment?
Mutual of Omaha describes it as:

It’s a moment of clarity, a defining moment where you gain real wisdom – wisdom you can use to change your life.

Whether big or small, funny or sad, they can be surprising and inspiring. Each one is unique, deeply personal, and we think, worth sharing.

Mutual of Omaha celebrates and honors these moments and the people who act upon them. We’re proud to have the products and services that can help people insure their possibilities.

A few weeks after accepting the invitation, it started to sink in that this was really going to happen! I needed to prepare. I researched the campaign, and debated which of my life’s many ah-ha moments would I choose to share. The more I anticipated this somewhat surreal situation, the more nervous I became. Am I really worthy of this invitation? What IS my ah-ha moment? Does anything I say or do really inspiring others? Finally remembering that I also had to renew my license on June 10, I considered contacting Mutual of Omaha and gracefully stepping down.

How many invitations were given out? Would backing down from this opportunity be a huge mistake? I continued to review my life, searching for something that would be meaningful. I knew that I had many moments of clarity in my life, but one alone just didn’t seem to hold the value of all of them put together. Then it hit me. There is something pretty amazing about my journey. It is like a giant puzzle. Could this realization be the ultimate in ah-has?

I started to make note of my time line:

  • At age 4, I decided I wanted to be an artist.
  • Age 18, I entered art school.
  • Age 22, I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
  • Age 24, I was victim to my first layoff.
  • Age 26, I fell victim again.
  • At age 30, I was burnt out. Tired of ‘corporate America’, I desired a job that meant something. I wanted a job that made a difference. I looked to the medical field for a solution, and enrolled in nursing & coding courses. In September of that same year, I had officially retired from Graphic Design and was employed in a medical office.
  • At age 32, I realized that even a job in medicine doesn’t always make your life fulfilling. That, and I really missed being creative. I looked for opportunities to freelance, but I still sought something more. I dove into volunteer work with well-known charities. Although I gained a lot of knowledge working with these nonprofits, I was heartbroken at how some ran their organization like a corporation. Yes, a corporation – the same thing I fled from two short years before.

 

I had spent the better part of the past three years fine-tuning my freelance business into JennB.Creative. I wanted my creativity to be used to a maximum, while assisting nonprofits and start-up businesses. I wasn’t in it to become rich; I just knew the struggle of wanting to get a business off the ground. I aspired to give them the opportunity to have professional marketing material on their budget. I did all of this while working full-time for a local hospital and searching for the right nonprofit that best suited my beliefs.

As you read last month, my search is over. I am now happily involved with Invest Hope, a faith-based mission seeking to end poverty in Haiti by providing means for Haitian businesses to get off the ground. I never saw the entire correlation between my life’s desires and Invest Hope until I was forced to search for my perfect ah-ha moment. I think it’s pretty awesome to see things come full circle. It reminds me that there IS a purpose to my life, and it is unfolding at just the right speed.

Today, after renewing my license, I pulled up to a Silver Stream travel trailer parked outside of the Old Salem Visitors Center. Still a bit nervous, I walked up to a petite blonde sitting under a canopy, and introduced myself. It was time to share my moment with the world. I was still very nervous… okay, beyond nervous. Even with words of assurance from the Mutual of Omaha crew, I could feel my chest turning red with anxiety. I was escorted to a bar stool in the front of the travel trailer, and prompted to tell my story. I was probably too enthusiastic about it, but the emotion overwhelmed me. Anxiety turned to appreciation, and I was overcome with happiness. This experience was, in fact, my biggest eye-opening moment. Ah-ha!

I was told the video should be posted on Mutual of Omaha’s YouTube channel in roughly 14 days. Although I’m a bit embarrassed to see my video, I am really looking forward to it, checking out the other videos taped in Winston Salem, and to see where the tour stops next. I am forever indebted to have had this experience. Happy 35th to me!

PHOTO SHOOT: The Everhart Family

After the winner of our B.Pretty contest (March 2011) shared her photos with her husband, they decided to schedule a second photo shoot with me for family portraits.

Tim, Beverly, and Bailey joined me at Reynolda Gardens in Winston-Salem, NC for a fun afternoon. This may have been the easiest photo shoot I have ever done. The family worked well together, are extremely photogenic, and had great ideas of their own. I am very pleased with the outcome of this photo shoot, and hope that the Everharts will be as well.

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Jessica & Chad – Engagement

With chances of snowfall lingering in our North Carolina forecast, the beautiful blue January sky over Old Salem welcomed today’s photo shoot. Aside from a chilling wind, the historic town nestled within the city still proved to be a stunning backdrop for Jessica & Chad’s engagement photos. The photogenic couple made this shoot extremely effortless. What a pleasure it was to work with them.

Jessica & Chad are planning an April 30, 2011 wedding.

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