Friday, December 31, 2010

Tribute #20: Mike Gold

Friends that have known me awhile don't always believe me when I say this, but in new situations I'm an extremely shy person. When I was starting out in Atlanta it took me awhile to open up to my classmates. In group settings I tended to be the quiet one, and I'll always remember Mike Gold as one of the people who helped me come out of my shell. 

An extremely intelligent person, Mike is the kind of guy who takes the time to learn what makes people tick. Since our very first conversation I have always found it easy to open up to Mike. He goes out of his way to be a great friend and once you're his friend he's in your corner no matter what. 

Mike, thanks for being one of my first and best Circus friends. You're one of the most genuine people I know, and the devotion you have to your friends and family is amazing. I'm excited to see what the future holds for you and Jaime, and wish you both a world of happiness.    
Today's Musical Selection >

 A One-of-a-kind Guy

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tribute #19: Kristin Butler

One of my favorite jobs in college was working as a barista at a coffee shop. I loved getting to know the regulars and having their drinks ready the minute they stepped through the door. One of these regulars was a very creative woman who would come in to enjoy a latte (I want to say a decaf mocha, but it's been awhile) and work on her art. As it turns out, this awesome woman happened to be the mother of Kristin Butler. 

I felt like I knew Kristin before I even met her. Her mother talked about her with such pride, beaming about what a smart, creative, and hard working daughter she had. Kristin and I ended up attending the Creative Circus around the same time, and though parents can be a bit biased now that I know Kristin I can attest to her mother's claims.

Kristin, thanks for being a great example of where hard work can get you. You seem to excel at whatever you set your mind to and that's a great quality to possess. Hope you're doing great and congrats on your recent engagement!  

Today's Musical Selection >
She's Going the Distance

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tribute #18: Lori Hartlein

A few years back I ventured to Boston to meet up with my Dad for a wedding weekend. It was a rare opportunity to see him, and I'll always be grateful we got to spend that quality time together. I remember when I first arrived, in the midst of the wedding festivities, I felt out of place as I hardly knew anyone. However, throughout the weekend I became more at ease as I got to know the family and I'm very fortunate that I got to meet the groom's cousin Lori Hartlein.

There are some individuals whose positivity and warmth radiate from the core and Lori is definitely one of them. She's someone who's genuinely interested in people's stories and experiences, and wants to learn all about you instead of talking about herself. From what I did learn about Lori, her adventures far outweigh mine and she makes life a constant exciting adventure.

I greatly admire Lori's take on life. She left the corporate world to move to a small town in Georgia. There she lived on a lake and could paddle boat to her heart's content. Living simply and making a living through her art, she seems to have the recipe for happiness. 

Lori, thanks for being an excellent role model for leading a creative, free-flowing life. I really look up to your carefree spirit and hope that you're living life to the fullest. When you get a chance please give your Aunt Sandy my love. 

A Role Model for Happiness

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Big Hips. Big Thanks.

Every Thanksgiving we go around the table and say what we're grateful for, and every year I go with my standby of "friends and family." This answer is entirely true, but in deep thought on my commute I decided I should find a reason to give thanks for the things I typically view as negative, such as my hips. 

Last week I came across a homeless man digging through some dumpsters. My first reaction was to keep walking, but then I remembered I had a Special K bar in my bag. I turned around and asked if he was hungry. He shook his head yes, and I handed him my bar. I don't bring this up for praise. On the contrary I actually felt pretty horrible.

Here was a man, practically starving, and all I had to offer him was a 90-calorie bar. 90 calories! That wasn't enough to last him through the morning, let alone all day. I wish I could have given him something more substantial. 

This encounter made me realize that my constant struggle to keep my weight in check is a problem that some people in this world wished they had. I'm not saying it's bad to be healthy, it's just important to give thanks for our living, breathing, beautiful bodies no matter the size. For those who go hungry on a daily basis my hips are a sign that I am blessed. I think I'll start viewing them that way, too. 

Today's Musical Selection >

Happy Thanksgiving 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tribute #17: Cooper Smith

Having no clue where I was headed after The Creative Circus, I'm fortunate that I ended up in NYC as a decent amount of Circus grads settled there, too. On a daily basis I found myself surrounded by millions of strangers, but was comforted to know there were friends nearby. Among this wonderful Circus crew was the one and only Cooper Smith.

As unique as his name, Cooper adds a positive spin to any situation. He always seems genuinely happy and when he's around the mood is lighter, the jokes funnier and the hugs are free flowing. I think it's safe to say Cooper holds the distinction as best hug giver ever.

Cooper, thanks for always making me laugh and for your stellar hugs. I'm glad I got the opportunity to get to know you better these past few years. Keep holding Brooklyn down. I hope to visit sometime soon.

Copywriting Even Off The Clock

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tribute #16: Josh Clark

My 10-year high school reunion is just around the corner and that means I'm getting old. It also means that it's been a decade since I've seen many of the faces that I used to pass in the halls on a daily basis. I'm looking forward to catching up with everyone, and I hope that Josh Clark changes his mind and shows up.

I got to know Josh through my friend Adrienne, and it quickly became apparent that he shared our sarcastic sense of humor. I've always appreciated Josh's quiet wit. He may not be the loudest in the room, but he's most likely the funniest. Another thing I appreciate about Josh is his love of music. I pride myself on the number of shows I've been to, but Josh has probably gone to that many this year alone. He lives and breaths music. 

Josh, thanks for being such a good person. You may not realize it, but you truly inspire us all. I hope that life in a new city is treating you well, and I'm serious about the reunion. At the very least you should come to make us laugh. 

A Heart of Gold

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tribute #15: Monica Toth

I spent most of my childhood in the Lansing area, but I made my debut in a suburb outside of Detroit. Bulman Elementary, St. Valentine's Church, and 14801 Woodworth all seem like distant memories. Though over the years I've forgotten some of the details of my life in Redford, I will never forget one of my closest childhood friends, Monica Toth.

Monica lived directly across the street from us, and I still remember how excited I was to learn that there was a girl my age moving in. We quickly became friends and bonded over important things like Disney movies, and deciding who was the cutest of the New Kids on the Block. Monica's older sisters had first pick, so we were left with the rejects, but somehow we made do. 

Being one of five kids (at the time) wasn't the easiest, and I would often escape from the craziness of my home and run off to the Toth's. Swimming and sleepovers helped me get through many a summer, and I was blessed to have such a good, positive friend nearby. 

Monica, thanks for being my Redford buddy. I can't think back to Woodworth without thinking of your wonderful family. It's hard to believe it's been nearly 20 years since we've seen each other in person. Now that we're in the same city we really should try to meet up. Just think, this time we'll have first pick of the NKOTB boys. 

Today's Musical Selection > 

My Little Friend Monica

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reincarnating Myself

Watching a YouTube video made me realize how badly I've neglected music as an expression of my creativity, which led me to make the statement that I want to be reincarnated as the singer Feist. Subconsciously, I must have felt that there was no hope for such an expression in this lifetime, and I would have to wait until the next one. Then something changed.

I've wanted to learn piano since I was probably 4. It sounds strange, but it's something that I feel I was born to do. Just a few weeks ago I finally bought a piano. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to realize this dream, but now that I've started, my musical flood gates have opened. Although I'm just beginning, playing Mary had a Little Lamb with two hands is, at the moment, extremely rewarding.

No matter what you believe will happen in your next lifetime (if you believe there is a next one) I hope that in the here and now you tap into the things that make you feel alive. Don't leave your hopes and dreams for the do-over. What if you come back as a rock?

Martha Graham puts this thought much more eloquently, so I leave you with her words:

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open."

Today's Musical Selection >

Reincarnate in the Incarnate


Monday, October 18, 2010

Tribute #14: Mary Wilcher

The size of The Creative Circus allows you to get to know everyone pretty well. For better or for worse, the people that you start ad school with are a part of your daily life for the next 2 years. I feel I lucked out as my quarter was filled with some fascinating people. Mary Wilcher happened to be among that group.

Mary's path to the Circus was more interesting than many of our own, moving from California where she worked as an actor (starring in Buffy the Vampire Slayer) to Georgia to explore advertising. My first impression of Mary was that she was a badass. Her great personality made it easy to like her, and as I got to know her better my first impression was confirmed- she is a badass. 

Mary, thanks for bringing a breath of fresh air to many of our classes. Your laid back attitude was refreshing and much needed. I was excited to see that you and Alisa are engaged and I wish you all the happiness in your marriage.  

Cool Mary

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tribute #13: Megan Kost

In high school I went through a ton of different phases. Like any teenager I was trying to find myself, or at least create who I thought I was. I looked up to the girls in my class that were true individuals, the ones with a unique point of view. One such classmate was Megan Kost.

Megan has a wonderful outlook on life along with a great sense of humor. In high school she always found a way to make any situation fun, and she has one of the best laughs I know. Though we haven’t seen each other in nearly a decade, from the look of her pictures she has carved out a beautiful, happy life out West.

Megan, thanks for showing me that life’s too short to be anyone other than myself. To this day I remember the card you got me for my open house, and as I’ve made my way through life I often think of it and smile. On the front it read, “Some people will say you’re going the wrong way, when it’s simply a way of your own.” 

A True Individual

Friday, October 1, 2010

Tribute #12: Keith Davenport

Yeah, I was a band nerd. Luckily a few hundred other Holt high schoolers were too, so I was in good company. Sophomore year I went to New Orleans and Orlando on our band trip, and it was one of the best times ever. I attribute a large part of that fun to getting to hang with Keith Davenport.  

From our friendship spawned during those high school days, I have seen Keith go from being a student at Ferris, starting his career in Chicago, getting married to my best friend Adrienne, moving to El Paso to head up a huge project, and becoming a Dad to my favorite baby, Collette. Each and every step of the way, Keith has proceeded with a confidence that few possess.

Sometimes I think Keith was born in the wrong era. A true pioneer with a cowboy spirit, he constantly seeks new horizons and has a strong sense of adventure. Living in the 21st century must not be the easiest for someone born to run free, but Keith does a great job of venturing between the charted and uncharted territories of his life.

Keith, thanks for being an amazing husband and father to two of my favorite ladies. I have been blessed to see you evolve and grow over the years. In all of your future endeavors may you continue to use your climbing skills- simply trust your grip and rise. 

One Amazing Climber

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Love is Watching Someone Die


For one who watches with too little rest
A body rousing fitfully to its pain
- The nerves like dull burns where the sheet has pressed -
Subsiding to dementia yet again;
For one who snatches what repose he can,
Exhausted by the fretful reflexes
Jerked from the torpor of a dying man,
Sleep is a fear, invaded as it is
By coil on coil of ominous narrative
In which specific isolated streaks, 
Bright as tattoos, of inks that seem to live,
Shift through elusive patterns. Once in those weeks
You dreamt of your dying friend hung crucified
In his front room, against the mantelpiece;
Yet it was Christmas, when you went outside
The shoppers bustled, bells rang without cease,
You smelt a sharp excitement on the air, 
Crude itch of evergreen. But you returned
To find him still nailed up, mute suffered
Lost in a trance of pain, toward whom you yearned.
When you woke up, you could not reconcile
The two conflicting scenes, indoors and out.
But it was Christmas. And parochial school
Accounted for the Dying God no doubt.

Now since his death you've lost the wish for sleep,
In which you might mislay the wound of feeling:
Drugged you drag grief from room to room and weep,
Preserving it from closure, from a healing
Into the novelty of glazed pink flesh.
We hear you stumble vision-ward above,
Keeping the edges open, bloody, fresh.

Wound, no - the heart, His Heart, broken with love.

An unfamiliar ticking makes you look
Down your left side where, suddenly apparent
Like a bright plate from an anatomy book
- In its snug housing, under the transparent
Planes of swept muscle and the barreled bone - 
The heart glows, and you feel the holy heat:
The heart of hearts transplanted to your own
Losing rich purple drops with every beat. 
Yet even as it does your vision alters,
The hallucination lighted through the skin
Begins to deaden (though still bleeding), falters, 
And hardens to its evident origin
- A red heart from a cheap religious card, 
Too smooth, too glossy, too securely cased!

Stopped in a crouch, you wearily regard
Each drop dilute into the waiting waste.

-Thom Gunn
The Man with Night Sweats 

Today's Musical Selection >

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tribute #11: Angelica Madero

“Life is too important to be taken seriously” is one of my favorite quotes. I can bust out my irreverent side every now and then, but the majority of the time I make rationale, calculated decisions. I strive to be more spontaneous, to not worry about tomorrow, and to just have fun. One of my mentors in this pursuit is Angelica Madero.

I met Angie through my friend Courtney, and she quickly became a weekend staple on our futon at 286 5th Ave. I’ll always have fond memories of us venturing across the Manhattan bridge, flashbulbs flashing through the darkness taking mandatory backseat cab pictures. No matter what the night held, we knew we’d have fun.

In addition to her carefree side, Angie is a strong, passionate woman, driven by her love of family. Although the youngest of 4 girls, she often times fills the caretaker role, looking out for others needs and wants before her own. She never does this begrudgingly. Angie treats her friends like family and is the most amazing best friend to one of my favorite people- Courtney Rohlk.  

Angie, thank you for encouraging me to be more spontaneous. I will never forget our America’s Next Top Model photo shoot at Montauk. Totally out of character for me, I had so much fun working those fierce poses on the beach. You bring out the best in people, and I can’t help but take life less seriously when I’m with you. 

Montauk's Next Top Model

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tribute #10: Jonique Hewitt

Anyone who attended The Creative Circus would probably agree that the art directors worked just a bit harder than the writers. Ok, a lot harder. They were the ones camped out in the computer lab while us writers slept soundly in our beds dreaming up headlines. I had a lot of respect for the art directors, especially Jonique Hewitt.

When panel time rolled around Jonique was a staple in the lab. She worked on campaigns until she got them right, and wouldn't settle unless they were. I'm sure she was extremely tired and stressed, but she always had a great, positive attitude. In the end, her hard work paid off with a gig in the Big Apple.

Jonique, thanks for being a listening ear. I always felt that you understood exactly where I was coming from with my ad rants. I think the last time we saw each other was on the B train which seems appropriate as from ATL to NYC we were on the same track. I hope in the future our paths cross again. (All puns intended.)

Stylish City Girl

Friday, September 17, 2010

Death & Wisdom

My favorite movie characters tend to be of the wise old teacher variety. Obi Wan from Star Wars and Rafiki from The Lion King are definitely two of my favorites. I guess it’s only natural then that the bird I’m drawn to the most is an owl. 

In early folklore owls represented wisdom and possessed powers of prophecy, traits I definitely respect. Oh yeah, owls are also associated with -thunderclap- death! Maybe it’s my Italian heritage, but I tend to be a bit superstitious. I used to be afraid to embrace my love of owls. I thought maybe it would bring on bad luck, or possibly even death. As irrational as that sounds I think it was simply the manifestation of my deeper fear of death.

Now that owls are considered kitsch, and on everything, I’ve lightened up on my ominous view of them. I have swung the pendulum back to seeing them as the wise creatures they are. However, that got my thinking about the middle ground. There is a vast range between wisdom and death. Death is the ultimate mystery, and no one here on earth, no matter how wise, can fully grasp it. 

Though I’ve just dipped my toe into the ocean of reflecting on death and dying I’m excited to venture out a bit more from shore. I invite you to come in with me. The water's fine.  

Today's Musical Selection >

Life's a Hoot

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tribute #9: Courtney Vanderbilt

There was one thing I was sure of in high school. I was going to an out-of-state college. In the end I did end up going miles away from home, 10 miles to be exact. Determined to still get the “college experience” I lived in the dorms my freshman year, and it was in Wonders Hall that I met Courtney Vanderbilt, though at the time she was still Courtney Smith.

I liked Courtney the second I met her. She was friendly, outgoing and warm. She also had a quiet confidence that I really admired. Courtney was truly a ray of light my freshman year, and as I got to know her it became clear that she drew strength from God and family- particularly her mother Marsha.

After college Courtney and I lost touch, but thanks to Facebook, reconnected. I was able to virtually celebrate her accomplishments- a Master’s degree, a happy marriage, but I also got a window into her hardships. When I learned Courtney lost her mother my mind raced back to freshman year and all the wonderful stories I had heard about her mother.

During times of loss it’s easy to lose faith, to be mad at God, to question why. Though I know losing her mother was probably the most difficult thing Courtney has ever faced, her faith never once faltered. She continues to draw strength from God and family.

Courtney, thank you for providing me with an example of living faith. You inspire me with your devotion. I am saddened that your mother is not physically with us, but to borrow a sentiment from one of my favorite songs, “She lives in you.”

Today's Musical Selection > 

Courtney shines light everywhere she goes

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tribute #8: Norm Grey

I have no clue when or why I decided to pursue a career in advertising, and to be honest I’m still trying to figure that out. At any rate, it’s the path I’ve been on for the past decade and one that led me to The Creative Circus in Atlanta, Georgia. Norm Grey is one of the founders of the Circus, but it wasn’t there that I first met him. It was on a snowy night back at Michigan State.

I learned that someone from the Creative Circus (an advertising portfolio school) was coming to speak, and figured I should hear what they had to say. I remember it was in the middle of winter and that particular night was one best spent inside watching TV. Unlike my typical behavior I actually forced myself out the door, and I’m very fortunate I did.

I’m not sure who I was expecting to meet that night, but Norm was the last person I envisioned. He was both gentle and kind. Not the typical in your face, fast talking ad guy one would expect. He wore a baseball cap with an embroidered circus ball on it and spoke with his hands. Norm didn’t romanticize a career in advertising; he was clear about the pluses and minuses of choosing such a path. I think he even mentioned God.

Norm Grey is a legend. He has touched thousands of lives through his work and teachings. He taught me a great deal about advertising, but the most beneficial lesson I learned from Norm was how to be a better person. It’s easy to get caught up in our careers, especially in advertising, and to be defined by our job title. However, like Norm, I don’t want to be remembered for the number of awards I’ve won, but for the number of lives I’ve touched. Like Norm, I want to lead a spiritual life- not encroaching my beliefs on others, but inspiring through example. Like Norm, I want to leave this world a better place.

Norm, thank you for showing me the ropes. Though I’m not sure how long I'll stay in this crazy industry, I know that for now it’s the path I’m meant to be on. You inspire me to use my talents and I thank God the ad world has you. 

Norm at my Circus Graduation

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tribute #7: Anna Grace Irons Brennecke

Those who have ventured to live in a new city are probably all too familiar with craigslist whether for finding a place, a roommate, or both. It’s a crapshoot at best. However, when it works out, it tends to work out in a way that’s easy to chalk up to fate. With over 8 million people in NYC my friend Kiki could have ended up with a number of crazies, but was fortunate enough to live with Anna Grace Irons Brennecke.
I only hung out with Anna a few times, but from the beginning I could tell she had a great outlook on life, not to mention a really cool style. Anna’s one of those girls that you’d see on the subway and think, “she totally belongs in this city with her effortless, unique style.” As Kiki and I have both left the city, chances are I may not run into Anna again, but I believe there are no chance encounters in life.
Anna, thanks for being such a good friend and roommate to Kiki. You prove that it’s possible to be both a free spirit, and really down to earth.  

Today's Musical Selection 

Kiki & Anna

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rot & Regeneration

Have you ever read your horoscope and been eerily amazed at how accurate it is?
I give you my horoscope from last week taken from
Each one of us is a blend of life and death. In the most literal sense, our bodies always contain old cells that are dying and new cells that are emerging as replacements. From a more metaphorical perspective, our familiar ways of seeing and thinking and feeling are constantly atrophying, even as fresh modes emerge. Both losing and winning are woven into every day; sinking down and rising up; shrinking and expanding. In any given phase of our lives, one or the other polarity is usually more pronounced. But for you in the foreseeable future, Aquarius, they will be evenly balanced. Welcome to the Season of Rot and Regeneration.

This horoscope hit home, as just last week I cast my blog about celebrating life and death out into the universe. More than that though it got me to reflect on Rot and Regeneration.

Autumn is upon us which makes me think ahead to the beautiful changing colors and the leaves that will soon fall. I've observed that some leaves are trailblazers, tailspinning happily to the ground, while other leaves cling to the branch, afraid to fall.

I am more of a clinger than a trailblazer. I tend to mull over the prospect of change instead of spontaneously letting go. I tend to hang onto the safe branch. This past year I have made a conscious effort to trust in the power of change. I have done better at letting go. This year I have found the faith to detach a bit sooner.

It's important to remember that each of us deals with change and loss in our own time. We should never try to talk someone off the branch. They will come to terms with what's before them in good time. However, we should all remember that it's the fall that spurs new growth.

In the end, when we reach our ultimate end, I like to believe we all find the faith to fall. 

Trust the fall

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tribute #6: Melissa Bowen

City life can be wonderful, but it can also be hard. What I learned early on is that in order to not get swallowed up and lose myself I had to surround myself with good people. I've been fortunate enough to have Melissa Bowen as a good friend in NYC and now in Chicago, too.

Those who know me can attest to my weird sense of humor, and those who first meet me don’t always get it. When I first met Melissa she not only got my sense of humor, but dished it right back in my face. It was a sarcastic match made in heaven. The times we hang out are often filled with good food, great drinks and a few delicious hookahs. Melissa has such a positive attitude and zest for life that you can’t help but be happy when you're with her.

Melissa is driven to be the best personal trainer ever, but that doesn't mean she has no life outside of the gym. Melissa works hard and plays hard, finding the delicate balance between each. For someone who is admittingly lame, I admire her for never passing on an opportunity to be around friends and fun no matter how tired she may be.

Melissa, thanks for being awesome and encouraging me to get out and let this Windy City whip through my hair. You definitely make life more fun and I promise to try my best to not be so lame and to take you up on more of your invites out. 

Melissa = Fun

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tribute #5: Liz Ribby

If Liz Ribby were to be persecuted for being a saint I'm pretty sure she’d volunteer to be burned at the stake, or maybe even choose the rack just so she could cry, “More weight!” To put it simply, Liz does well, and I mean really well, pushing through pain. I dare say she even thrives on it.

As one of my oldest friends, I’ve had the privilege of seeing Liz grow from a tiny little third grader all the way up to a Clerk at the Supreme Court of Michigan. Throughout the years we’ve experienced a lot together. Some of our best-shared memories include being partners during drivers ed (we named our car “Lucille”) our hysterical prom picture, and running cross country together. During sophomore year Liz finished as one of the top regional runners, which is impressive unto itself, let alone the fact that she ran the entire second half of the season with a stress fracture!

The will and determination that Liz showed during high school carried her all the way through MSU and onto Cooley Law. Ask anyone who’s been through law school and they’ll attest to the sheer hell of it. There were more times than not that Liz seemed overworked and rundown, but she pushed through. In the end my little Liz not only excelled, but graduated #1 in her class. Even today, working for the Supreme Court, Liz continues to drive herself. Setting personal goals that seem impossible until she squashes them.

I admire Liz for her ability to push through pain, but more than that I look to her as an example of how to love. The woman who fights her way through life took off her gloves when it came to finding love. For I would say that loving Brian is the easiest thing I've ever seen Liz do. No pain, no effort, just pure happiness.  

Liz, thanks for proving that there are some things in life worth pain and suffering, however, when it comes to love, and finding true love, you’ve shown me that it is meant to be the easiest, most painless experience in the world. 

Today's Musical Selection 

Liz & her Betrothed Brian

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tribute #4: Nancy Quasarano

Few people warrant being described as “Larger than Life.” My Grandmother, Nancy Quasarano is "Larger than Life."
Maybe it’s because she was born in the midst of the Great Depression, or maybe it’s her feisty Sicilian attitude, but my Grandema (as her grandkids lovingly call her) has a fighting spirit unlike anyone I know. Grandema doesn’t waste time on attempting the possible things in life, as she tends to show us that doing the impossible, although challenging, is much more rewarding.
I could go on and on about my Grandema’s magnetic personality, her boundless energy and beauty, her sense of humor, or her amazing strength to battle cancer head on and come out on top. I could also write about her musical talent and how she can bring people to tears when playing the piano. However, what I want to let Grandema know today is that as a woman navigating my way through corporate America I often draw strength from her.
Grandema never had the privilege of graduating high school, but that didn’t stop her from using her intelligence and wherewithal to start and run her own very successful company. (Did I mention this was in the midst of raising 6 kids?) At a time when women were just starting to break out of their traditional roles and fighting for equal rights, she was burning her figurative bra by entering a business world ruled by men.
One story that illustrates the inequality that my Grandema experienced was when she attempted to apply for a corporate American Express card. When asked for the owner of the company’s name she replied, “Nancy Quasarano.” The person on the other end asked again, thinking they had misunderstood, and when they got the same reply simply said, “I’m sorry we don’t issue cards to women!” Because of women, like my Grandema, who paved the way for me, I am happy to say that would not fly today.
Though I don’t yet have a family of my own I hope to one day. I know then I will gain a whole new understanding and appreciation for just how amazing Nancy Quasarano truly is.
Grandema, thanks for showing me that although at times it can still seem like a man’s world, that doesn’t mean a woman can’t rule it. Because of the example you’ve shown me, I intend to do just that.

Today's Musical Selection 

My Red-Haired Beauty

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Laughing at Death

I have always loved art associated with Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). I think the juxtaposition of morbid skulls and vibrant colorful patterns is really amazing. I knew a bit about the origins of this holiday, but when I learned about the meaning behind the iconography, I appreciated the art that much more.

My Mom explained that the reason the skulls are so fun and playful is because death is not something to fear, yet something to laugh at. Various faiths teach that life here on earth is not the end, and the best is yet to come.

In contrast to this outlook on death, our culture brings us up to fear it. We dress ourselves in depressing black to attend funerals. We don’t like to talk openly about the dearly departed as if somehow death is contagious. And more often than not our reaction to death is sadness, not joy.

Though I’m definitely not at the point where I feel I could laugh death in the face, I hope to be one day. If on the other side there’s laughter I think I may be less afraid to get there. In the meantime I intend to live, love and laugh my ass off here on Earth. 

Shiny, Happy, Laughing Skulls


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tribute #3: Thelma Kynalis

Blood is thicker than water, and I’m pretty sure Mediterranean blood is the thickest. Maybe that’s why Thelma Kynalis and I felt so close right away. She was one of my first friends in NYC, and our friendship only grew stronger over the years. She was the grigio to my pinot and is someone who I fondly referred to as my wing bitch. (Think wing man for guys.) 

Don’t let Thelma’s good looks fool you into thinking she’s a girly girl. She played hockey in college (and still does) and on more than one occasion I saw her throw a good ‘bow when making her way through a crowded bar. As someone who can definitely be a pushover I respected this aggressiveness and would happily follow in the open path she created.

Thelma, thanks for teaching me that it's ok to push through the crowd if it means standing up for myself, and for proving that you’re never too old to make a lifelong friend. Oh, and for turning me onto the magical healing power of Schweppes. Miss you, wing bitch. 

Pinot & Grigio

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tribute #2: Allison Hicks

During high school I remember seeing Allison Hicks quite a bit during marching band season. While plodding around the field in my brown polyester playing Fleetwood Mac I would often stare at the color guard team and watch their graceful movements. The poise and grace that Allison displayed on the field shone through later in life, too, but during a much harder time.

Through facebook I learned that Allison lost her Mother to Lupus. As we hadn’t talked since high school I felt funny about reaching out and sending my condolences, and I’m sorry about that. We should never pass up the opportunity to let someone know they are in our thoughts. I can’t even begin to imagine what Allison went through and I know it wasn't easy. However, in keeping up with her posts I see a woman determined to live life to the fullest.

Allison, thank you for showing me what grace looks like. You are an amazing example of it to all who know you. 

Allison honoring her Mom during the Lupus Walk

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tribute #1: Annie Weaver

As a kid I loved listening to the Annie record and would always sing along to The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow. Being 4 I had no idea what optimism meant, and probably figured only orphans were the ones down on their luck. Many years later I understand the challenge in believing in those lyrics, and I feel nobody more appropriately embodies the spirit of that song than Annie Weaver.

Annie is the type of person that always sees the glass ½ full, and her huge smile makes everyone feel at ease. Annie had the dedication and smarts to pursue a million career paths, but now that I know Annie works with college student organizations I can’t imagine a better career fit. It’s not the easiest to motivate and organize any group, let alone one comprised of coeds. I’m sure her great sense of humor helps in that arena, too, as laughter can unite everyone. 

Annie, thanks for reminding me to look on the bright side. Too often a cynic, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will strive to see that glass as ½ full, or at least slightly less empty.

Annie's Electrifying Personality 

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Happy Reaper Cometh

Two of the books I read this past year dealt with death and dying.

Chasing Daylight, by Gene O’Kelly, is a biographical account of being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor at 53. Gene was the CEO of one of the Nation’s largest accounting firms, and at the top of his game. That all changed when he was told he had less than a year to live. Reading his account of coming to terms with this death sentence was transformative. It taught me that if there’s something important that I want to accomplish in life I must, “Move it up!” I’ve moved up quite a few things in 2010. Leaving Brooklyn and venturing back to the Midwest to be closer to my family being the most important.

Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom, is the true story of Mitch’s relationship with his beloved professor, Morrie Schwartz. Morrie suffered from ALS and during the last few months of his life Mitch met with him once a week for an invaluable course on life and death. This book taught me a lot, but one story in particular spoke to me. Morrie recounts a story he had heard about a small wave seeing the waves ahead of him crash on the shore, disappearing into nothingness. He suddenly brims with fear upon the realization that he too will soon 'crash on the shore' and die. This little wave confides his fear in another wave who comforts him with the news that he will not crash and die, but will instead return to become a small part of the larger ocean.

Both books drove home that life is fleeting. We need to celebrate what we love and appreciate about each other now. I believe if you have something nice to say, say it.

The culmination of these reflections on death pushed me to start “The Happy Reaper.” Each day, or so, I will randomly select a facebook friend (by literally drawing a name out of a hat) and eulogize them on my blog. I’ll throw a few other names in there, too, as some that I love i.e. Noni aren't necessarily chatting it up on fb. I’ve been reluctant to jump on the blog wagon, but I feel that this venue gives me the best way to share my living eulogies.

Death is a topic that many people are uncomfortable with. I’m not trying to make you come to terms with death. I’m just letting you know that in this life you mean a lot to many people, me included.

Why this sudden pull to face my mortality head on? Maybe it’s because unlike Kurt Cobain, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the many other cursed 27-year-old rock stars I made it to 28. Or maybe it’s just my attempt to better understand life.

Stay tuned, The Happy Reaper is coming for you.

Today's Musical Selection

Morrie enjoying life to the fullest