From the view of a 20-something dream chaser.

Lost Generation

Friday, December 14, 2012

This video was showed in one of the last classes I took at George Mason and I seize every opportunity to share it. Without a doubt, you'll enjoy it. Not only that, but it will make you think. So think! And do.

Chase Dreams, Not Boys

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I'm trying to get my life on track. Who isn't? And since I love to read, I've recently begun keeping up with the following blogs. A friend of mine put me on to the first one on dating in the Christian world; and although she borders on vanity in some posts, I rather agree with most of what Heather Lindsey says on her blog.

A former Miss America posted a link to this blog post, The Christmas Conundrum, about the true meaning of Christmas. After reading it, I thought becoming a regular follower could only enrich my life. What I loved most from that particular post was this gift-giving policy the author and her husband put in place for their children:

Something you want
Something you need
Something to wear
Something to read

And that's it. Can I just tell you how much I love that? And she and her husband don't exchange gifts for Christmas at all. I fully support this. And someday, when I have a family of my own, I want to adopt this policy. The season just means so much more and I want it to continue to for years and years to come.

Finally, I discovered Smart, Pretty & Awkward a few months ago and I check in every so often for a little inspiration. I find it can be well-received by both men and women, but the target audience is most certainly women. Otherwise, they need a new marketing strategy that doesn't involve a girly layout, font and colors. And you can't really tell a man how to be prettier, can you? But anywho, it offers tips on how to be smarter, prettier and less awkward. Really, great stuff.

So I shared all this with you to say I love being a woman. Furthermore, I love being a lady. And I doubt anyone would disagree that we need more of them today. These women have enriched my life and the lives of several thousand women through their blogs. They've shown me that there are other women out there (besides my friends and me) who still have conventional values when it comes to living life, being a woman and serving the Lord. I hope my own blog does that for other women out there like me.

I'll get to my point now. My rage began with a photo on Instagram. It read:

"Dating in the 21st Century is by far one of the most ridiculous processes ever. People are so complicated. You must play games. You must lie. You have to act like you don't care even if you do. You must date multiple people to keep the attention of that one because it's generally just casual. You must be unavailable. If you're too available, people get turned off. You have to ignore calls even if you want to pick up. Essentially, if you're a true lover, you have to resist everything that comes natural to you and play this f*cking "game" you f*cking idiots love to play. It changes everything for to pretend like I don't care. I actually stop giving a f*ck."

Minus the expletives, yeah...pretty much. I really don't get it. Oh, but then again, I do.

I came across this article posted in the New York Times and realized why. From my understanding, the Gaggle founders condone a lifestyle of hookups and the lowering of standards simply because times have changed. They say use every man in your life to find love. Umm maybe I just read what I wanted to read, but the founders say that since times have changed, dating also should change. Ok, but men and women haven't. Not really. Find me a woman who will tell you she doesn't want a fairytale romance, that she doesn't want to be pursued as if she's the only woman in the world, that in the end, that what she really wants is a slew of meaningless relationships with men who foresee no future with her, and I'll show you a woman in denial.

And find me a man who won't go as far as a woman will let him just because he wants to be a gentleman and I'll show you my collection of chick flicks via websites that allow me to watch them free.

I think we've forgotten that we possess the lucky charm. And forgetting that is what's gotten us into the mess we're currently in. I'm not saying we women don't need to change our ways, because we do. But we absolutely do not need to lower our standards. Ever. I'm a firm believer that the right guy will rise to meet them. And if he doesn't, then obviously he wasn't/isn't Mr. Right.

If no one is behaving as a lady should, surely no one will behave as a gentleman should. Excuse me while I channel my inner Meek Mill and Wale: These men be actin' up and we women be lettin' em. Don't let em. Dare to be different and to set yourself apart from every other run-of-the mill, Instagram-model, ambitionless woman who says she's waiting on Mr. Right. She'll be waiting a long time. Shoot, I may be waiting a long time, myself, and I'm none of the above.

A couple weeks ago a friend of mine asked if I moved to New York to find love, like on Sex and the City. I said, "Of course not!" I actually couldn't believe that was a real question, but hey...you never know. On her blog, Heather Lindsey (the first blog I posted) said that Eve didn't go looking for her Adam. He woke up and found her. I have no choice but to believe that's not how it will happen. I'm not saying align yourself with the likes of any Disney princess or other damsel in distress that we loved throughout our childhood, but do something that matters with your life. Meet new people. Go out on dates and allow men to wine and dine you. Because they should. You are beautiful and you deserve nothing but the best. If a man wants you, nothing can keep him away. If he doesn't want you, nothing can make him stay.

So in honor of the first birthday of an organization I joined during undergrad of the same name chase dreams, not boys. Visit the Chase Dreams, Not Boys website and get involved in any way you can.

I am chasing my dreams. How can that not be what dreams are made of?

Furnish a Room on a Budget

Monday, December 10, 2012

I moved to New York in September. It is now December and the furnishing of my room is finally complete. And guess what: I did it all on a budget! You should be proud. I always start with these huge ideas and I keep at it until it becomes a reality. That's what happened with my room. At first, all I knew was that I wanted it to be classy. Well, of course. This is me we're talking about here. But there had to be something more...

Black and white have been my favorite colors for quite some time because I think they are just the epitome of class, so that was the "theme" I gave my bedroom. I shopped around and rummaged through my parents' home in Virginia until it all came together. I can't take credit for it all, because my mother helped me quite a lot. Her design sense (and cents) is incredible and I couldn't have done it without her. I know they say bedrooms are intimate and blah blah blah but I'm an open person and I like to share. Plus, the vast majority of you reading this will probably not get the chance to see it in the flesh anyway. So here go the photos. Enjoy! And if you have any questions, please do ask!

Dresser - Craigslist, came with a chest of drawers for $160 total

Headboard - Groupon, $80

Mattress and box spring - Ashley Furniture, originally $2500, got it for $750

Comforter - Target, $19.99

Yellow pillows - Target, $14.99ea.

Black and white pillow - IKEA, $12.99

Desk - IKEA, $119

Desk chair - Mom found it at a beauty shop, $20

Curtains - Walmart, $14.99

Rug - Walmart, $39.99

Floor lamp - IKEA, $19.99

Audrey Hepburn wall decor - gifted from a close friend

As you can see, I didn't really splurge on anything except my mattress (and boy, let me tell ya, it was worth it!). It didn't come together all at once, but it came together quite beautifully, if I do say so myself.  It's my own little corner and I adore it. This is what dreams are made of.

P.S. I'll do a post on my living room another time.

10 Things I Love About My Internship

Thursday, November 15, 2012

One thing is certain: when you're an intern, you have to work twice as hard to do everyone's grunt work in the office and still somehow manage to get valuable experience, make connections and contacts and get maximum exposure for your work. And let me tell ya, it ain't easy. I spend most of my days...dun dun dun...doing mailings. That means I'm tasked with packaging and mailing books to bloggers, TV and radio show hosts and the likes all across the country, in hopes that they will review said book on their blog/website/show. It isn't always easy, but I actually don't mind it that much. I'm just being dramatic.

And since my time at Simon & Schuster is drawing to a close at the end of this month, and it's nearly Thanksgiving, I figured it might be a good idea to think back on all the things I've loved about working there.

10. Everyone's door is always open. Literally. From the senior vice presidents to the senior publicists to the directors of marketing, not a single door is closed. That was the first thing I noticed on Day 1. And since I love to ask questions, I've continually taken advantage of this. It's a great way to meet people. And to learn.

9. I'm never counting down the hours (or minutes) until I get off. That's because they keep me busy. Remember how I mentioned mailings earlier? I've sent as many as 500 in a single day. And that's just for one book. Crazy, right? But in addition to those darn mailings, I'm also able to research trends in readership based on a certain author's audience and write press releases to send out to the media.

8. It's at Rockefeller Center! I know this has nothing to do with the work I do, but being at a great location boosts your morale, in a way. Plus, it adds to the cultural experience of living in NYC. If you aren't really sure what Rockefeller Center in all its grandeur is, check out the link I posted. When I don't pack my lunch (which should never, ever happen, given I'm on a strict budget), I venture down to the underground concourse and choose from a wide selection of restaurants. Outside my building, there are also great places to shop, like H&M and J.Crew. I try my best to stay in the building. Oh! And once I get on the train in the mornings, I don't even have to go back outside to get to work. I just take the escalator all the way. This especially comes in handy on super cold, rainy or snowy days. And I've experienced all of them in my short time here.

7. Speaking of Rockefeller Center, the discounts! Just by being an "employee" of Rockefeller Center, I was privy to early-bird discounted tickets to see...wait for it...THE RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR! It really doesn't get much better than this. When I first saw the ads, I thought Dear Lord, please see to it that I am in the number to see those glorious Radio City Rockettes this Christmas season. Then I went online to view ticket prices and my mouth dropped: dream was too shattered. But won't the good Lord make way? He ain't nothing but the dag on truth. He may not come when you want Him, but golly He's right on time. And I thank Him.

6. My co-workers are awesome. I mainly work with a cool chick named Jill. She's just as preppy and chipper as I am, so we get along great. She used to work as a production assistant for CBS before she switched over to publishing and I've learned so much from her about what it's like working in both industries. And my other co-workers are equally amazing and accomplished in their fields. And they always thank me and tell me how much they appreciate my help. It's inspiring to hear stories about their careers and lives because someday when I have an intern, that will be me.

5. I'm able to learn a lot about the entire publishing process and not just the publicity aspect of. So much goes into writing and publishing a book from start to finish! You have no idea. And then to get it placed in exactly the right mediums is an art of its own.

4. Sometimes, I get to work on top-secret projects that I can't talk about because they haven't been revealed yet. Who wouldn't feel special with that kind of knowledge?

3. There's a "Brown Bag Lunch & Learn" every week. All the interns from across the company come together for lunch with full-time employees of the company. One week, my own boss, the publicity director for our imprint was a guest. Another week, a senior editor was. They are always open to the many questions we interns have and it's amazing to see how so many of them had no interest in book publishing, yet here they are.

2. FREE BOOKS! I debated whether this should be my number one reason, just because I love books so much. Books can take you to places near and far, past and present. I love that. And I love how I'm able to expand my mind and views on things like politics (currently reading 50 Things Liberals Love to Hate by Mike Gallagher) and cooking (just finished Angelina's Bachelor's: A Novel with Food by Brian O'Reilly) and even poverty (also read An Angry-Ass Black Woman by Karen E. Quinones Miller). And I don't have to beg for an endless supply of Barnes & Noble gift cards in order to do it.

1. I enjoy getting out of bed each morning to go to the office. That's what's most important, right? If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. As I set out to find a full-time job in the coming months, it is my hope that this feeling remains.

This place has truly been what dreams are made of and I am going to miss it so much.

The Jar of Life

Friday, October 26, 2012

I wish I could take credit for this, but I cannot. I stole it. But I thought you'd enjoy it.

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 Beers.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class ...
began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.

The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was

They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.

Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full..

The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.

The students laughed..

'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things---your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car..

The sand is everything else---the small stuff.

'If you put
The sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children.

Spend time with your parents.

Visit with grandparents.

Take your spouse out to dinner.

Play another 18.

There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter.

Set your priorities.

The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented.

The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked.'

The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.


Monday, October 8, 2012

I was invited to be the honored guest at the Matoaca Fall Festival this weekend.
That's right, little old me, an honored guest.

Right now, I'm curled up on a northbound Amtrak train, new book courtesy of Simon & Schuster in hand. I am homebound (New York home, that is) after a weekend in Virginia filled with time for community service, family and friends. It has dawned on me that I am now an adult. Sigh. Gone are the days when a trip to Forever 21 or H&M didn't require much thought before proceeding. I turn off lights as soon as I realize I no longer need their source. And I don't send my clothes to the cleaners nearly as often as I used to. In essence, I've learned (or am learning) to conserve.

My princess, Abigail, and me with some local heroes

Flowers with Style so graciously gave each of us a bouquet

You would be right to assume my parents have taken care of me the past 22+ years. Sure, I spent my undergraduate years two whole hours away from home and worked part-time jobs and had to do my own laundry; but I was still largely dependent on my parents for financial support throughout those years. I didn't have a want or need for a budget then. Boy, do I now!

I am now at least seven hours away from their tender loving care and having a ball, while they worry night and day. Yes, my father actually said that this weekend. Since I moved to New York about a month ago, I paid my own rent, cable and electric bill, and sent my laundry out. (Ok, maybe I'm a little bougie for sending my laundry out, but it's so convenient and it really didn't set me back much at all.) I've even managed to excel in all my classes thus far and I'm beginning to find myself in this city I now call home. So I am happy. And I am blessed. Very.

I have become very practical and sensible in the past few weeks. I guess it comes with the territory. Having a Zara practically next door to my campus and a J. Crew around the corner from my internship doesn't help much, but I've learned that if I don't walk in the door, I won't spend a single cent. I just have to ensure I don't walk in those revolving doors. You wouldn't believe how hard a thing that is not to do. I like to spend just as much as the next girl, but I've realized I just cannot spend freely or there will be severe consequences.

What I would so desperately like to spend my money on freely:
  • Dresses (long-sleeved, peplum, LBD, you name it);
  • Pumps (actually on the lookout for a nice, black patent leather pair at the moment);
  • Wine (future connoisseur);
  • Broadway shows (I'm in NEW YORK CITY!);
  • Dominican blowouts (I whip my hair back and forth);
  • Fancy events (what kind? you may ask. I'm not sure, but ones you must dress up to attend)
  • Manicures & pedicures (even full-body massages); and
  • Groupons (for the aforementioned items, of course...and getaways)
What I am instead forced to spend money on:
  • Food (a very odd thing, but my body requires I consume it every day)
  • Rent (a killer, especially here in NYC)
  • Cable (a necessary evil if I am to keep up with what's going on in the world; oh, and watch movies)
  • Electric bill (Fridge, among other things, wouldn't work without it)
  • Subway pass (and I'm actually saving money by purchasing an unlimited monthly pass for $100)
Needless to say, there exists a very real need to conserve, to save money any and every way possible. I read this article, which talks about the importance of having a budget and sticking to it in order to reach your goals, and I have since strived to have as many $0 Days as possible. Believe you me, it's no easy task. And you can't dwell on achieving it. But when you do, boy is it thrilling!

Keeping track of your daily spending enables you to have a record of exactly where your money is going. I feel empowered knowing there is a plan for what little money I have. Sticking to it will only enable me further, because I can save up for my first big purchase. I have yet to decide what that is, but something tells me it will be something very practical--like paying off my student loans--and not something fierce, like buying my first Mercedes. But someday I will, and that's what dreams are made of.

And this.

30 Things...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She's 30

By Glamour Magazine

Ok so I've yet to even reach my mid-20s, but I came across this list and found it to be great for self-reflection and evaluation, no matter what age you are. I like to take time to think about what I'm really doing here on earth and I figured I'm not the only one. Sometimes your life, relationships and career and personal goals need some revamping. This might help.

By 30, you should have:
One old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come.
A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in your family.
Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour.
A purse, a suitcase and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying.
A youth you’re content to move beyond.
A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age.
The realization that you are actually going to have an old age—and some money set aside to help fund it.
An e-mail address, a voice mailbox and a bank account—all of which nobody has access to but you.
A résumé that is not even the slightest bit padded.
One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry.
A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill and a black lace bra.
Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you
deserve it.
The belief that you deserve it.
A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don’t get better after 30.
A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship and all those other facets of life that do get better.

By 30, you should know:
How to fall in love without losing yourself.
How you feel about having kids.
How to quit a job, break up with a man and confront a friend without ruining the friendship.
When to try harder and when to walk away.
How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next.
The names of: the secretary of state, your great-grandmother and the best tailor in town.
How to live alone, even if you don’t like to.
How to take control of your own birthday.
That you can’t change the length of your calves, the width of your hips or the nature of your parents.
That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over.
What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love.
That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs or not flossing for very long.
Who you can trust, who you can’t and why you shouldn’t take it personally.
Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault.
Why they say life begins at 30.

Someday when I'm 30, I hope to have and know each of the articles on this list. And I hope that my life will still be what dreams are made of.

Why Not?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A good friend of mine, Isaac, came into town this past weekend for work, so we planned to meet up. After my class, we met at Times Square and asked two policemen where we should go. Isaac said asking policemen is always a safe route because they have to know the city. They told us we should find Restaurant Row, so we did and ended up at a French restaurant called L'Ybane. I ordered the seafood spaghetti and a glass (ok, maybe two) of sparkling Moscato. Mon dieu, c'est trés bon! Had the leftovers the next day for lunch and it was even better the second time. The spaghetti, not the wine. But this is not a review of this restaurant (although I will most certainly go back), so moving on...

As Isaac and I we were talking about how I was adjusting to life in the city, my love life (and lack thereof, in case you're wondering), and being a graduate student, he said something to me that began a conversation and series of thoughts that I will never forget. It began when he told me how proud he was that I decided to venture out of Virginia, that he wished he had the balls to do that when he was 22. He said, "If there's an opportunity to study abroad, GO!" and reminded me that there is a world of opportunities here that are at my fingertips, from networking events to modeling opportunities to community involvement. He then asked me what really made me feel compelled to move to New York City, in the end. Without even thinking, I replied, "Why not?"

Isaac and me at my college graduation

And again I say, "Why not?" It makes me think of the Hilary Duff song lyrics:

Why not take a crazy chance?
Why not do a crazy dance?
If you lose a moment, you might lose a lot.
So, why not?

Why not? There was absolutely nothing holding me back. I didn't win Miss Virginia so promoting my personal platform, as well as the Miss America Organization and its platform, the Children's Miracle Network, as a full-time job for the next year was no longer an option. I didn't have a job or internship or even living arrangements in Northern Virginia, where I went to undergrad and where many of my friends still are. And although I love my little town of Louisa and my parents and brother very much, what on earth would I be doing there right now? Looking terrible, I bet (my signature phrase). The reason I moved here and the reason why I do so many of the things I do (which is the same reason my parents worry so much about me), is because I was born without fear. For as long as I can remember, I have had a healthy disregard for the impossible. I awaken from my big dreams in the morning and begin to prepare for my future full of them. No one can make them a reality but me and God.

So that's what I'm doing here. I have set out, not to change the world, but to make a difference in it. And I believe I have chosen the best profession in the world for that. When done properly, public relations seeks to educate people, to motivate them and change public perception without misleading people. Public relations is centered on ethics, and since ethics play such an immeasurable role in my personal life, it's only right that the consistency spreads across my professional life, as well.

I know so many people take pride in my accomplishments because they feel they have helped me succeed in some way. They are correct. No man (or woman) succeeds on his own. I learned that from Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers. I know that some people are counting on me to fail and run home crying to my parents. Tell them not to bet their bottom dollar. I know that there are still others who would like to do and be more than they currently are. They can. They just need to ask themselves, "Why not?" If that question goes unanswered, they'll know it's time. I hope I can inspire them in some way, even if I never know. That's what dreams are made of.

My (New) New York

Saturday, September 15, 2012

They say you aren't truly a New Yorker until you've lived here consecutively for ten years. Bump them. I've been here a little over a week and I'd like to think I'm already a New Yorker. I have yet to master the subway, I forget to close my curtains sometimes and I still walk around in awe as a tourist would, but who cares? I'm an explorer.

And my apartment--OUR apartment--is the best thing since sliced bread. My roommate and I lucked out in getting a newly renovated place with all new furnishings. Unfortunately, that also meant we were without a kitchen sink and cabinets for almost a week. It was tragic. All those meals I had imagined myself cooking had to be put on hold. The horror. Yet, somehow, I managed.

For making this move alone to a brand new city, I have been called brave. I have been called crazy. I have been called amazing. In reality, I am probably a bit of all three, with an emphasis on the crazy. Let’s face it: I’m a southern country gal. There are farms and llamas and dirt roads in Louisa, Va., where I’m from. We just got a Wal-Mart. Our biggest attractions are Lake Anna and our Friday night football games in The Jungle. This is a big change for me. My parents are worried sick and in constant prayer. And so am I. 

On my first full day as a New York resident, my father texted to ask if I was yet homesick. I told him I wasn’t, which was and is true. But as the week progressed, I learned that the city can be quite lonely. At times, I felt so small in this immensely populated and big place. New York City is my ocean, and I believe I will always feel small standing beside it. I have certainly found my comfort zone and vow to stay out of it in exploration of something more. 

In my first week, I noticed quite a few things. For starters, New Yorkers stare. And not just the creeps you see hanging out in dark alleys (not that I've ever been in any other than in my nightmares), but even the fairly normal-looking people. It may be because I have a smiling problem and they don't. New Yorkers don’t smile enough, so naturally they’re surprised when I smile at them. They probably think I’m crazy. Ask me if I care. The world needs a lot more love.

I also found that everyone here is always in a hurry, even when they don't have to be. It seems they have become so accustomed to the rat race that even when they have time, they don't stop to enjoy life. I hope that doesn't become me. I want to always make time to soak in life's sweet moments. The other night on the train, I was thinking about my freshman year of undergrad and the good times I had with the friends who became family. I will never get those moments back, but I so wish I could sometimes. Someday, I may say the same about the time I spent here in New York. So my days here will not be wasted.

Now, about grad school: it's a lot like undergrad. You have the slackers and the overachievers, the invigorating and mind-stimulating professors and the ones who drone on and on. (If you're reading this, Prof. Breakenridge, you are most certainly the former.) And we can't forget the group projects and presentations and seemingly endless reading assignments. What's different is, of course, the content and discussion thereof. We examine many more case studies than I did in undergrad, which I find extremely useful for practical application. Everyone knows you can't learn everything you need to in a classroom or from a book. But you can learn from the past and from your professors and peers. I can honestly say I am impressed with my fellow classmates and their accomplishments, as well as with my professors and their teaching styles.

Right now, I have a lot of free time on my hands, but in a couple weeks I will begin an internship with Simon & Schuster, a top publishing company. When I tell you this opportunity of a lifetime fell into my lap, I mean it. And that’s why I think it was sent from above. I believe in signs like that. What's meant to be always will be. And I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be now.

I feel blessed to be who and where I am. This is what dreams are made of.

A Place to Call Home

Friday, August 10, 2012

If you are a real adult reading this post, you have probably hunted for your first apartment. You feel my pain. In my first experience finding a place to call home (apart from the one I have with my parents), I was scammed. When someone tells you they are out of the country for business and can't meet you to view the apartment, KNOW that something is up. When they then proceed to request that you wire them funds for the first month and security, CALL THE COPS. Ok, maybe there is no need for you to call the cops, but in no way should you communicate with them further. DO NOT wire them money but DO share your experience online via the hundreds of forums set up just for that. You'd think people would have some decency and not scam innocent movers just looking for a place to rest their heads at night. Wrong!

After I conducted my own research and realized I had almost made a very bad decision, I began my search again for the apartment of my dreams. In New York City. Yes, I know I'm a tad optimistic, but I warned you. I contacted friends I knew who had gone through an apartment hunt in NYC and they suggested sites for me. I then received a text from a friend from undergrad who was also planning to move to New York. We figured it could only save us money, so we decided to be roommates. And this is where it began to get crazy again.

So Deena (that's my friend's name) had a classmate from grad school who was apartment hunting, too. She became Our Third Roommate. After deciding on our musts--three TRUE bedrooms, two baths (yes we were ambitious), reasonable closet space and pets being allowed (for Our Third Roommate), we searched every site we could, called every Realtor in New York (or so it seemed) and made appointments. After getting to New York, we realized how much of spoiled brats we were coming from Virginia. If it had two baths, one of the rooms was the size of a highschooler's locker. If it had a huge kitchen, there was only one bathroom. If it had three bedrooms AND two baths, we heard shooting outside (KIDDING!). Needless to say, we weren't very impressed with what we saw. This was much to each Realtor's surprise after having worked with New Yorkers for so long. And this was only Day 1.

I was pooped. I had never done that much walking in my life! All I could think of was how I wouldn't really need to work out all that much (not that I ever did haha) if I decided to compete again. Right before I went to bed, I received a Facebook message from Hilary, one of my MVO sisters, saying she, too, was apartment hunting in the city. I figured since we hadn't accomplished all that much the first day, we might as well let her join our troupe for the second day. Our Third Roommate had to get back to work in Virginia the next day, so we promised we'd find a four-bedroom apartment that was absolutely perfect for our many needs.

And we did! Hilary, Deena and I fell in love with the first apartment we viewed the next day and knew it was The One. We then learned Our Third Roommate and her dog would actually no longer be moving to New York and we needed to find our second fourth roommate. You might not believe this, but before the day was over, we did. And the next day, we lost her. And we gained another, lost her, gained another, lost him, and finally decided maybe it would be best if there were only three of us. And so there are.

Or so there wereAfter what seemed like eons of searching (it was only about a month), in the end, Deena decided to room with another friend of hers and Hilary and I settled on a 2bed/1bath on the Upper West Side that we couldn't be happier with. Having one bathroom will be a challenge, but we're not complaining. We're actually relieved. This stuff sure can be stressful. We've been through who-knows-how-many applications, ridiculous brokers fees and upfront costs that we're all just glad it's over. Deena isn't too far from us so there will be plenty of opportunities for her to visit and vice versa.

We are happy. After all, it is OUR FIRST APARTMENT. We love saying that. We sign our leases soon. Here's to our New York minute!

Stay tuned for more updates.

Chick-fil-A dustup shows there's no escaping the way you were raised

Saturday, July 28, 2012

By Terry Dickson on jacksonville.com

BRUNSWICK, GA. | You would think that only PETA would have a bone to pick with Chick-fil-A. Or a broccoli stem to examine, depending on your viewpoint.

Not anymore. Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy stepped in the political equivalent of chicken droppings when he said that marriage should be like it says in the Bible, between a man and a woman.

He wouldn’t have raised a bigger stink if he had said he likes to relax on weekend by stomping a few puppies.

If you eat at Chick-fil-A, someone is hoping you choke on your waffle fries. Rosanne Barr went farther, saying anyone who eats at Chick-fil-A deserves to get cancer. She backed off later, saying she wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone.
Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton said, “I heard Chick-fil-A gives you diarrhea.”

That had to hurt coming from someone like Hilton. He thinks it’s hilarious to draw mustaches and blackened teeth on celebrities’ photos and then and post them on his blog with some catty remarks.

The man’s a true artist.

Some mayors and councilmen around the country are vowing to block Chick-fil-A’s plans to open restaurants in their cities, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.”

I’m afraid that’s just going to make people eat more chicken.

But look, it’s not really Dan Cathy’s fault. He was raised that way.

His father, company founder S. Truett Cathy, has made no secret that he runs his Chick-fil-A on biblical principals. They’re even closed on Sunday when Baptists love to eat chicken.

Truett and Jeanette Cathy founded the Win Shape Foundation in 1984. It provides college scholarships, has a marriage program and operates camps for kids. In politics, we seem to be hung up on “choice.” Well, there are some people in the world who don’t have a choice. They are kids who have no parents, at least none who care for them.

The Cathys established 12 foster homes on the campus at Berry College where 24 full-time house parents care for children.

The Cathys visit the children often to show them that someone loves them deeply. There are 150 people who call him grandpa.

Locally, Chick-fil-A restaurants have spirit night in which they give part of their profits for causes. Thursday night on St. Simons Island, a group raised money at Chick-fil-A for a young girl who needs heart surgery.

Shortly after Dan Cathy’s remarks, Melissa Browning blogged on Huffington Post that she would bypass her beloved Chick-fil-A meals “I won’t eat at Chick-fil-A on any day of the week because I can no longer be part of these contributions that fund hate,’’ she wrote.

Hate? I don’t think so. Dan Cathy wasn’t raised that way.


I posted this because I believe there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying that marriage should be like it says in the Bible, between a man and a woman. If it were open, I'd eat at Chick-fil-A tomorrow. (I love that it's not, though.) It's a shame people can't even voice their calm opinion without others feeling targeted. Just because you don't support same-sex marriage doesn't mean you hate that group of people.

Life Lessons

Friday, July 27, 2012

"When someone believes in you, it moves your heart." As a result, you can then literally (ok, maybe not literally but you sure feel like it!) move mountains. Without a doubt, that is how I have felt in the year 2012. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends who truly believe in and support me. And it comes in handy.

Since my last entry, I have accepted plenty of losses and experienced some disappointments; made some decisions that I didn't think through and some that I am most proud of; and I have held firm to my belief that everything happens for a reason.

To give you an example, on my third attempt at the Miss Virginia crown, I failed to make the Top 12 after making it last year. Was I disappointed? Sure. Did I accept my loss at the hands of twelve very deserving young women? I sure did. Was I defeated? Absolutely not. You can't keep a good woman down and I'd like to think I'm a good woman. With a different panel of judges on a different day, the results could have been completely different. I realize that. So I moved on. I know who I am, where I stand and for what I will take a stand. If I had to define confidence (which I'm skeptical to fully believe in anyway), that's how I'd define it. Plus, I know several people who believe I could have (and maybe someday could still be) Miss Virginia.

They also believed, like I did, that I could be accepted into New York University for graduate school. And I was. I also received a partial scholarship to help cut the cost of tuition. I couldn't be happier. The market for public relations in New York is huge and I knew that moving there would definitely benefit me professionally in the long run. For that reason, a large part of me wanted to go to New York this fall, no matter how badly I wanted the job of Miss Virginia. Now, all of me is going! God sure knows what He is doing, that I am sure.

Back in April, I went to New Orleans for an alternative break. At night, each team member shared a "high" and "low" moment of that day. I now write down my highs and lows each night (that I remember), and I've found it increasingly hard to choose just one high. My lows are quite often as silly as missing the first five minutes of Wheel of Fortune or my ice cream cone melting. This has shown me that there is truly so much to be grateful for, so little to cry over and a whole world that is waiting to be explored. My exploration of this world will continue in New York City this fall. Where will yours?

Even the Undertaker will be Sorry

Monday, April 16, 2012

Midway through this semester, as part of my special occasion speaking course, I was required to present a eulogy to my class. Oddly enough, it was my own eulogy. Talk about an eerie presentation. I did find, however, that such a presentation is good for the soul. It takes quite a bit of evaluation and projection to give such a speech, but more than that, it makes you think of the impact you are making and the lasting impression you are leaving on the world around you.

One of the best indications I ever got of the impact I was making was a couple summers ago when I volunteered as a Patriot Leader for freshman and transfer orientation. We were finishing our week-long summer training and it was tradition to take part in an activity called "Touch Someone." How it works is everyone sits around a circle with the chairs facing outward and their eyes closed. You can only open your eyes if you are chosen to enter the circle, and if you are (everyone had a chance), you touch someone on the shoulder if something the announcer said applied to that person. "Touch someone who always smells nice" or "Touch someone who has been a good friend" were options called out, among others, as inspirational songs played in the background. Yes, it may sound a little cheesy, but it's a brilliant way to demonstrate that people really are good at heart. I'm a firm believer in that.

Anyway, when I heard, "Touch someone who said the right thing to you at a time when you needed it most," I thought I've never done that. Surely no one will touch my shoulder. But much to my surprise, someone did. I'm not a big crier, but I must admit that touch opened the floodgate of my tears. To think that my words of encouragement, or maybe just words of endearment, meant that much to someone was heartwarming, to say the least. What's even more beautiful is that I will never know who that person was. It could have been any number of my fellow Patriot Leaders and that still gives me chills to this day. Just imagine the number of people you encounter who never mention that you have impacted their life in such a way that is unforgettable. That's what makes me tick. If I consciously make an effort to be a beacon of hope, to leave this world better than when I entered it, I figure my impact will be eternal. That's really the honest-to-God reason I want to be Miss Virginia and Miss America.

What I love about the Miss America Organization is that we are all young women seeking to make this world a better place. We set aside our pride and ulterior motives for the greater good of our communities. One of my favorite quotes is, "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry." That is what we seek to do, and I am so proud to be a member of the Miss Virginia Class of 2012. This past weekend we all gathered together in Roanoke for Workshop and I can say that I am impressed by and see Miss Virginia in each of my lovely sisters. I wouldn't trade these experiences for the world.

Someday when my eulogy is given for real, I hope the contributions I have made to society don't stray much from the ones I intend to make. If they do, I hope they far exceed my wildest dreams.

Miss Virginia Class of 2012

A Week to Give

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I will search no more, for I found myself in New Orleans a couple weeks ago during my spring break. What was I doing down there? Well, I was giving and the funny thing is I found myself by losing myself in the service of others. Gandhi coined that phrase: "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." And that I did, because for quite some time, I have been pondering what on earth the dream job is for a girl of many interests like me. But in keeping with my own motto for life (which I borrowed from the late, great Whitney), "Each day I live I want to be a day to give the best of me," my dream job is simply: a day to give. Or days, rather.

I decided to venture to the Crescent City for various reasons, but the biggest being that I wanted the final spring break of my undergraduate degree to be about something and someone other than me. So often, we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and forget to slow down and enjoy it while we can. We're all guilty of it and we all can do something about it, so I did. I spent a day hanging sheet rock, another visiting the elderly, another assembling bunk beds at a homeless shelter, two more removing debris from a store badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and a week with some of the most amazing people you'll ever meet, all with the same mindset: a week of selflessness. I can't even begin to tell you how exhausted we were at the end of each day, but that exhaustion brought us happiness and peace of mind knowing we made a difference.

Although we were able to make a difference and change people's lives, our own lives did not go unchanged. Immersion in a culture quite unlike our own, complete with gumbo, jambalaya and po-boys, not to mention street musicians and even a night of Rock 'n' Bowl all really granted us perspective, which we all too often need. And I had more fun than I'd had in a long time, yet I'm usually having too much fun. That should tell you something. Grateful was our word for the week, and we all took turns writing down what we were grateful for each night in our shared journal: newly formed friendships, our physical ability to help others and the impact we could all feel, among other things. Without this time of reflection, I don't think we would have been changed as much as we have.

They say you should give until it hurts and then you give some more. Well, I'm living proof that it's frightening, yet incredible how true that is. And that is why (in a perfect world with a rich husband or an uncle who leaves me in his will or by stroke of luck, I win the lottery) I would spend my days giving back to those who so desperately need the beacon of hope I am sure I can provide. However, in this crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful beautiful life, I have been granted such an opportunity that is arguably better. That is the opportunity to compete for the title of Miss Virginia and travel the state promoting my personal platform Communication 101: Creating a Lasting Impression and the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, the platform of the Miss America Organization. It is a job that would require great sacrifice, drive, independence and a great deal of travel, but it's certainly one that would be worth it.

I think my alternative spring break in New Orleans is the best preparation I could ever get for such a role. In fact, it's the best preparation for leading a life free (or mostly free, who am I kidding?) of material desires and full of all that matters so much more. For all this, I am eternally grateful for my week to give.

Life is Deleesh. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.