December 30, 2009

Train to Averageville is Leaving – Are You On It?


I was recently introduced to a web site created by Chris Guillebeau.

It has a wonderfully great title: "The Art of Non-Conformity ... Unconventional Strategies For Life, Work and Travel." 

AWESOME!

I'm still familiarizing myself with the site, but I stumbled upon his "manifesto" – "A Brief Guide to World Domination."

Here are some highlights:

• Main Concept: If you want it badly enough, and are willing to make some changes in your life to cause it to happen, you too can take over the world.

• What you'll learn: How your own personal goals can be directly related to helping other people.  While you are pursuing your big ideas, you can also make a difference in the lives of others at the same time. 

• His list of "11 ways to live unremarkably average" is eye-opening.

• He poses two questions that will put you on the path to world domination. (I'm working through them.)

If those four bullet points aren't enough for you to click on the link below...tell everyone in Averageville that I said hello.




December 28, 2009

Family Continues to Create Christmas Magic

Leading up to Christmas, it didn't really feel like...Christmas. 

The Christmas tree went up and our stockings were hung with care, but something was missing. Christmas cards started arriving and people in our neighborhood did their best impression of Clark Griswold with their Christmas lights...still nothing. 

Even after I wrapped a couple of gifts, the holiday spirit just wasn't there.

Then I started thinking about traditions – specifically all the wonderfully great traditions we have in our family.

I thought about all the "kids" taking a group photo before we all hustle down the stairs to see what Santa brought us (right). I also thought about the amazing breakfasts Mom makes after we open gifts.

I ranked each tradition in an unofficial Top 10 list and shared it on Facebook and Twitter. The Christmas spirit was coming alive before my eyes.

When I started thinking about our tradition of making homemade Christmas gifts – No. 1 on my list – I was dancing around, wearing nothing more than an elf hat and Frosty boxers. (Not really...but you get my point. I was officially ready for the holidays.)

This tradition – which we started 11 years ago – makes our family Christmas extraordinary. 

The week leading up to this Christmas, I thought about all the great things we've created, how many tears we've generated, and how we continue to stretch our creativity.

I started to get excited to see what everyone made this year.

Like usual...
the gifts were AWESOME! 

I want to share some of our homemade
Christmas "masterpieces" of 2009:


DAD: Hand-crafted YoYos – he always creates something light and fun. 

SUSAN (my younger sister): Personalized stationery 

JAKE (my 18-month-old nephew): Christmas ornament with framed picture of him and the family dog, Maverick.

MICHAEL (my brother-in-law): I was the only person who received a legitimate homemade gift from Mike. He took a family cedar chest and turned it into an amazing toy box for Baby Crash. He used Texas Ranger baseball cards – new and old – to cover the top of the chest.

ALLISON (my littlest sister): Creatively designed desk calendars 

MARY GRACE (my four-year-old niece): Hand-painted flower pots with planted herbs

MOM: Customized frames – she used some of my great aunt's linen to make a unique and meaningful keepsake.

KoKo (sister-in-law): Made delicious chili and gumbo – complete with Fritos and rice for the fixin'.

My wife and I joined forces this year. The first time in 11 years that I've done this. I had to, though. This year's gift was WAY outside my comfort zone – specifically since it involved power tools.

TK and I created "Hilltop Grove" on my parent's property. We "planted" six bottle trees – one for each branch of our family tree and one for our friends. 

Special shout out to a couple elves: Greg (for helping dig the holes) and Chris (for donating most of the bottles.)


We wrapped one bottle for each person and put it under the tree. When they placed their bottle on the tree, they said one thing they were grateful for. Mary Grace said, "Love." Most people said, "Family." My brother-in-law said, "Dirk." (Yes...as in Nowitzki)

I didn't hang a "gratitude bottle" on a tree, but as I made this year's gift – sawing, drilling, pouring cement – I constantly said a prayer and expressed my gratitude for this tradition. I'm firmly convinced that 11 years ago that God whispered to my mom and gave her this crazy idea.

Christmas morning has never been the same.

Hopefully it never will. 

October 8, 2009

REMINDER: Life Has No Rewind Button –
You Might As Well Live 'Full Throttle'

I'm starting to fall in love with the term "full throttle."

It has come up a couple times this week – the most impactful being at my men's fellowship class. Our pastor talked about loving more deeply, laughing more often, giving more generously, and living more boldly.

I LOVE IT!

He encouraged us to "untie our ropes" and live with no regrets.

Easier said than done, right?

Well, he also addressed the issues that keep us from "throwing off the bowlines and sailing away from the safe harbor," as Mark Twain so poetically put it. Those deterrents included:

• Lies (e.g. the assumption that there will be a tomorrow – "I'll start that next week.")
• Guilt
• Anger
• Pride
• Self-pity

As our pastor closed us in prayer, I told God that I feel like I AM living "full throttle" and I expressed my gratitude. Thanks to my faith in Him – I'm able to live boldly without any fear. (Not reckless...just boldly.) I'm able to take risks. I'm able to chase my dreams. I'm able to love with all my heart. I'm able to be the best husband, brother, son, and boss that I can be.

Is that too prideful? Definitely no self-pity, huh?

Anyway, I've already had the opportunity to spread the word about living "full throttle."

Some family friends have a 12-year-old granddaughter going toe-to-toe with Leukemia. She is so brave and strong – a true inspiration. (I kind of feel sorry for the cancer – Ms. Presley is a tiger.)

I wear a bracelet on my right wrist to let her, and her family, know that they're constantly on my mind and in my prayers. Her grandparents, who I know very well, have requested time and time again for photos of people wearing the bracelets.

ME: "Oh...I'll do it tomorrow"
and/or "I'll get around to it." (see lies above)

I was dropping the ball and finally said, "ENOUGH! It's time."

This is where it goes "full throttle" – instead of simply e-mailing Presley's grandmother a picture of me wearing the bracelet, I found EVERY picture I could put my hands on with the bracelet on display. I took those photos, added some music, and turned it into a short video.

The title (appropriately enough): "Going Full Throttle: Adventures of the Bracelet"

I also included little life lessons on each picture – specifically for Ms. Presley.

As I uploaded the video to YouTube and sent the link to Presley's family, though, I quickly realized that I was preaching to the choir about going "full throttle."

If there is ANYONE in this world doing that...it's Presley Boydston. Not only is she kicking the crap out of cancer, she is designing T-shirts, going to school, updating her blog, and loving the hell out of her family.

Through the e-mail updates that I receive – I know she has rough days, but I also know that she is loving deeply, laughing often, giving generously, and living boldly.

FULL THROTTLE!

I wanted to share the video with everyone.

Reminder: This is not about me – I just happen to be acting like a moron in every picture. This is about Presley and her courageous fight against Leukemia.

Keep your eye on the baby blue bracelet and let the life lessons sink in. (NOTE: You may want to make the video full-screen in order to read the life lessons.)





October 5, 2009

WHY IS EVERYTHING 'WONDERFULLY GREAT'?

I constantly use the phrase "wonderfully great."

I LOVE IT!

I wanted to remind everyone – including myself – of its origin.

This blog post was from November 9, 2008:
I was checking in at the Pittsburgh airport recently, I heard a conversation between a customer and a ticket agent that stopped me cold.

The customer was a middle-aged gentleman with a mental disability. When the gate agent asked how he was doing, he responded in the most genuine tone you can imagine. “Wonderfully great,” he said with a proud smile. (It was almost like he was thrilled she actually inquired.)

I couldn’t help but smile, too.

When the ticket agent was assisting me, we briefly discussed the dialogue between her and the gentleman. We both agreed that if anyone asked either one of us the rest of the day, we’d both be “wonderfully great.”

As I walked away from the ticket counter, I wondered why everyone can’t always choose to be “wonderfully great.”


October 4, 2009

DOES ANYONE HAVE A RAZOR I CAN BORROW?

No Shave Month – No. 101 on My 101 List – is officially marked off.

I documented the uncomfortable/itchy experience using Daily Mugshot. You know what's funny, my mountain man look was a huge conversation piece at all my business meetings.


Daily Mugshot
(Can't see slide show? Refresh your browser)

October 3, 2009

1-MINUTE COMMERCIAL ABOUT E-PARTNERS

At a recent Meetup Group, I "won" the opportunity to give a one-minute commercial about e-Partners in Giving to other entrepreneurs. Instead of focusing on the partnerships in our targeted industries – death-care & non-profit – I decided to put an emphasis on our brand of giving back.

I typed it up and wanted to share it here:
I used to be a “holiday volunteer” – you know...go down to the local homeless shelter on Thanksgiving and Christmas – maybe Easter...spend a couple of hours so I didn’t feel guilty about gorging myself later that day 
with turkey and dressing.

Now I live by the mantra “Never Stop Giving Back” and spend anywhere from 25 to 30 hours a month volunteering.

Why...because I finally found my passion, and I completely blurred the lines of my life – business and pleasure, free time and work hours.

A little over one year ago, I took control of my life, quit my job in college athletics and started my own company – e-Partners in Giving, which is a web site that makes online giving as easy as possible.

Going into this, we were very aware that web sites like this already existed, but we felt like there are several things that separate us – the No. 1 thing being our dedication to walk the walk. We aren’t just encouraging people to give back – we are actually doing it.

Whether that’s spending time with my Little Brother through Big Brothers Big Sisters or staying up all night at Relay For Life event.

I have been gloriously ruined to take action, and I have found several causes that eat at my soul.

So I ask you...“What tugs at your heartstrings?” Once you find it, we encourage you to “Never Stop Giving Back.”

e-Partners in Giving can help you do that.


September 22, 2009

HELPING KIDS – ONE NICKEL AT A TIME

I need to share a VERY quick story, and I have a VERY small favor to ask. (I know what you’re saying... “Drew is on the giving back war path again!” This time it’s VERY 
painless and it will only 
cost you $4.)

As most of you are aware, I used to be a “holiday volunteer” (You know... I’d go to the homeless shelter at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas and serve food for a couple hours so I wouldn’t feel guilty about gorging myself later in the day.) But most of you also know that a little over a year ago my life completely changed.

When I launched e-Partners in Giving in May 2008, I realized very quickly that I need to do more than “talk the talk” in regards to giving back.

That’s when I became a Big Brother through Big Brothers Big Sisters. For the last 16 months, I have been a mentor to a wonderfully great young man named Anthony. We’ve done so many fun things – from waterparks and Frisbee golf to the final Dallas Cowboys game at Texas Stadium.

In a short amount of time, Anthony has changed my life. More than anything, he has made me realize that every single person deserves a fighting chance to be successful. Anthony’s story is tragic, but that doesn’t diminish his HUGE heart and his AMAZING sense of adventure. His home life might be a daily struggle, but that doesn’t deter his inquisitive nature and passion for fulfilling his dreams.

Again...

EVERYONE DESERVES A FIGHTING CHANCE TO BE SUCCESSFUL.

Well...we need your help putting five more kids right in the middle of this fight!

I’m not asking you to become a Big Brother or Big Sister (not right NOW, at least) – I’m simply asking for a $4 donation to support our Bowl for Kids’ Sake team. This is Big Brothers Big Sisters’ largest fund-raising initiative of the year and we’re making a push to get FIVE KIDS OFF THE WAITING LIST – one nickel at a time.

One nickel? Actually, 80 of them.

We’re asking people to pay 5 cents for every pin that we knock down during the BFKS bowling tournament on Saturday. Since we’re all AWFUL bowlers – we figured our average score would be around 80.

80 pins x 5 cents = $4.00!

Through a MASSIVE social media blitz, we’re trying to raise $5,000 for our bowling team. That would ensure that FIVE KIDS would get matched and that match would be sustained for one year.

The process is super simple and there are NO additional fees. Simply visit:
http://www.epartnersingiving.com/bowlforkidssake

We’re trying to pull this off in 72 hours.

We encourage you to forward this e-mail to family and friends as well. (Don’t worry...nothing bad will happen to you if you DON’T, but if you DO...I would be forever grateful.) Other ways you can help – post on your Facebook page, Tweet about it, put it on your blog. Spread the word anyway you can.

Just think about it...if all of my Facebook friends made a $4 donation – we’d be well on our way. If all of THEIR FRIENDS made a donation – we’d start making a difference.

This is your chance to help change the lives of five kids AND change the lives of the five adults who will get the opportunity provide them a little time and a lot of love.

Thanks in advance for your support!





NEVER STOP GIVING BACK


September 13, 2009

BLOG FODDER: Screaming Kids & Fried Butter

I have a file on my computer, entitled “Blog.” This is where I keep all my fodder – which is anything and everything that I think will make a decent blog post.
 
I get ideas from anywhere and everywhere – books, magazines, TV, friends, family, experiences, and of course Facebook.

My only self-imposed rule: Try to stay within my parameters – “Life, Business, and Giving Back.” I do this for the simple fact that it's blazed across the top of this web page. (Actually, I try to abide by that policy because nobody wants to read about my thoughts on politics, reality television, or what I ate for dinner.)

Here are some examples from that file on my computer (and a brief description on the possible focus/point of each post):

NOTE: Whether I ever get around to actually writing these is HUGE question mark.

• “Prayer for the families”

My new company partners with funeral homes to make memorial giving as easy as possible. This can be extremely sad. Even though we are providing a quality service to the families, they are still going through tremendous grief and heartache. Recently, I’ve been including these families on my daily prayer list.

Personally, I don’t handle death very well (another possible blog post) – and I’m sure I’m not alone. I just hope my prayer helps those families lean on God a little to get through the grieving process.

• “Am I REALLY ready to be a dad?”

This summer I went to Florida on a family vacation, which included my sister and her two children (a 4-year-old princess and a 16-month-old mama’s boy). I thought this would be a tremendous test for me and my expecting wife.

ME: “Bring it on!”

RESULT: Fail.

Without writing the whole blog post here and now, I’ll sum it up in four words: A LOT OF CRYING.

Needless to say, my life flashed before my eyes a more than several times on the trip and the anxiety level of being a daddy-to-be was ratcheted up a couple notches.

• “News story: Investor response”

Way back in March, e-Partners in Giving received some exposure in a local TV news feature. (see video here)

The story was tremendous for our young company, but it was a simple response by one of our investors that highlighted the 2-minute spot.

After watching the feature, he said, “I’m proud to have my money invested in this company.”

When things get rough – and I don’t know which way is up – I think back to that statement. It reminds me that even though our revenue stream is not where we want it OR need it to be – our brand and mission of giving back is strong.

• “The List”

My 101 List is ALWAYS combustible
fuel for my blog fire.

Example 1: Right now, I’m in the middle of no-shave month. (No. 101) What is that, you ask? Ummm...for one month, I don’t shave. Duh! I’m doing it in conjunction with the Rangers’ playoff push – in honor of the Wolfpack bullpen. (see my "Mugshow" to date)

Example 2: The State Fair of Texas is right around the corner, which means I have a golden opportunity to cross No. 78 off my list (“Eat a ‘fried concoction’ in front of Big Tex at the State Fair”). The featured fried fare this year is....butter. Yum!

• "Online fodder"
I also Bookmark online features that I’ve stumbled on – mostly having to do with business and entrepreneurship. Here are a few of examples:

• The Pleasure of Being an Entrepreneur 

• What's Your Brand U.0? 
• 20 Tips for the New Entrepreneur – from Savvy Auntie 

Again, when I actually expand on these subjects and dedicate a entire blog post to each one is up in the air. Every day I tell myself, “I need to be blogging. I need to be blogging.”

Hey...wait a second...

SUCCESS!

August 2, 2009

LIST UPDATE: Trying to be 'a one man wolf pack'

NOTE: This part three in a three-part series updating the status of my 101 List. These are brief little nuggets on things I’ve recently crossed off and/or about to conquer.

COMPLETED ITEMS
No. 62 Go See a Movie By Myself
Date Completed: July 23, 2009

Details: This is one of those simple tasks that can get lost in the shadow of items like “Take a Self Portrait in Every National Park” (No. 81). I think it’s these “little things” that make these lists special.

I like going to the movies by myself – and I probably take doing it for granted. Same with eating a double scoop of ice cream (No. 47) and making Christmas cookies for my neighbors (No. 36).

Sadly enough, if I didn’t have these things on my list, I might not even think about doing them in the heat of the moment.

• Nobody to go to the movies with: “I’ll just rent something from Blockbuster.”

• Mid-December: “Wow! I love laying on my couch in my underwear, drinking eggnog and watching ‘Christmas Vacation’ for the 76th time.”

Anyway, I went and saw “The Hangover” by myself. It was a perfect evening – TK was out of town and the Rangers were off. I sat in the dark, enjoyed the hell out of my buttered movie popcorn, and laughed uncontrollably.

Cross it off!

No. 74 Start a Customer Service Blog
Date Completed: July 27, 2009

Details: All of this is laid out in a blog post all its own. (click here to read)

I will say this, though: Please don’t settle for poor customer service. If it’s bad – say something, AND if it blows your socks off because it’s so good – say something, too.

DONE!


UPCOMING ITEMS
No. 41 Break 4-hour mark in a marathon
Projected Date: November 15, 2009

Details: Already started 16-week training program for this 26.2-mile achievement. Running the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.


No. 63 Attend a Book Signing
Projected Date: August 10, 2009

Details: I actually set this up for my kick-butt author friend Shauna Glenn. (I’ve doing a little PR/marketing for her) We scheduled her on a “Texas Swing” of independent bookstores across the state.


No. 88 Be the Mascot at a College Football Game
Projected Date: TBD

Details: I can’t really provide any particulars on this – it’s a covert mission inside the game-day festivities of an unspecified collegiate athletics department.


No. 98 Buy a T-Shirt from Threadless.com
Projected Date: Sooner than later

Details: I’ve added some “spice” to this task – I want to purchase a T-shirt that I actually voted on AND it got printed. I could easily go on there and buy a kick-butt shirt like, “When You Think About It, All Galaxies Are Far, Far, Away.” (visit Threadless.com by clicking here)


101. Participate in a "No Shave" month
Projected Date: September 2009

Details: I had a mock two-week run earlier this summer and I think I’m ready. I’m going to do it in conjunction with the Rangers’ postseason push.

In honor of the Rangers’ Wolfpack bullpen – which was inspired from a monumental monologue from “The Hangover” – I will let it go for 30 days. (I plan on documenting it using Daily Mugshot)

“I tend to think of myself as a one man wolf pack...”


July 27, 2009

CRUSH MY EXPECTATIONS:
Let the Customer Service Revolution Begin

Customer service is now officially on alert!

After months of discussion and planning, I have launched a blog that makes companies accountable for the most important component of business – customer service.

If they fail – we will call them out.

If they crush our expectations with great customer service – we will sing their praises.

Without further ado, I introduce the CME* Revolution. (*Crush My Expectations)

Now, I am looking for foot soldiers to provide traction for this movement.

Your mission is simple: When you have a significant customer service experience – tremendous or awful – you give the manager/owner a pre-printed CME* card, and then you make a blog post acknowledging your experience.

The cards are simple and directs the individual to the blog – there is one card for a quality experience and a card for a negative one.

Examples:



We have also made posting your experience on the CME* blog as simple as possible. There is an online form that you simply fill out and submit.

There are only two rules to joining this movement:

1) You cannot use this blog as a means to get free goods or services,

2) You cannot use this blog as a personal vendetta towards a particular company or business.

We simply want to recruit an army of like-minded individuals – who are sick and tired of settling for crappy customer service.

Again, our society is too content with poor customer service and it is about to stop RIGHT HERE. We also have to stop taking quality customer service for granted and putting convenience and price ahead of it.

If you are interested in joining this revolution, simply click here to make $15 donation. (This donation covers all of our printing and shipping of our CME* cards.)

Once we receive your donation – we will forward you specific instructions and the links to your positive and negative surveys.

Once you receive your cards in the mail – you’re an official foot soldier in the CME* Revolution.

CUSTOMER SERVICE BEWARE!

July 21, 2009

YIPPIE! YIPPIE!
If a Child is a Blessing, Put Me Down For One

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a three-part series, updating the status of my 101 List.

Almost a year ago, I wrote a blog post about a family trip I went on with one of my co-workers/friends.

It was one of those trips that could easily be a public service spot on birth control. There was a leaking bag of throw-up, skinned body parts and several comments like, “Can we pull over? I need to poopoo!” 

Needless to say, there was a lot of chaos. (click here for original post)

It was perfect.

In that particular blog post – I announced to the world that I thought I was ready to be a dad.

As soon as I clicked “POST,” I heard the giggling from my friends and family around the country. Some of it was outright laughter.

Well...don’t pee yourself from laughing this time around....TK and I are pregnant. The first week of March, I’ll get the chance to mark No. 2 off my 101 List.

I’m going to be a dad!

YIPPIE!

I was on a mental-health trip to West Texas when I found out. I drove out the day before and TK flew to meet me Saturday night.

Saturday morning in my hotel room – before she had arrived – I read my Bible (something I’m trying to do more regularly), prayed, and wrote in my new spiritual journal.

Since we had been diligent about getting pregnant, a baby had become a constant on my prayer list. The wonderfully great thing about that morning, I actually wrote the prayer in my journal.

“My prayers today...for a baby.”

Less than 12 hours later, TK delivered the news.

“I didn’t know how to tell you,” she said. “I took a test last night – I’m pregnant.” (TK was little embarrassed she didn’t “drop the bomb” in a fun and unique way – I didn’t care. I was going to be a dad. She could have sent it to me in a text message as far as I was concerned.)

YIPPIE! YIPPIE!

We gave each other a big hug and a kiss, but quickly put together a game plan about telling the world. The emotional carousel of her miscarriage almost two years ago forced us to gently tap the brakes. We both agreed it was best to wait.

Once we got home from our weekend get-away, we scheduled a doctor’s appointment to see the heartbeat. We were told that once you see that little “flutter” on the sonogram machine – you have a 90 percent chance of carrying the baby to term.

We decided that would be the defining moment – when we could make it official and tell the world (a.k.a. Post it as our status on Facebook).

There was another reason that doctor’s appointment was so meaningful, though. That was the exact same visit – to see the heartbeat – when our world of being parents quickly came to a tragic and temporary halt during our first pregnancy.

Needless to say, there was enough anxiety in the doctor’s office to last a lifetime.

As the process began (no gory details), the anxiety and tension reached an all-time high.
I stared a hole through the monitor and held TK’s hand.

Finally, the doctor pointed out the heartbeat, the room completely decompressed. It looked like a peanut floating in space to me, but I didn’t care. His confirmation was like someone opened the airplane door at 40,000 feet.

YIPPIE! YIPPIE! YIPPIE!

A lot of people asked me if I cried. I didn’t – came close, but no tears.

I equate it to when I asked TK to marry me. There was a sense of confident happiness, but no crying.

NOW... I did cry like an infant during the actual wedding ceremony, so I’m anticipating myself being a fountain of emotions in that delivery room. (Hell, I’ve almost lost it a couple of times while writing this blog post.)

Thanks to everyone who has kept us in their prayers for the last couple years, and thanks to everyone’s kind words and congratulatory wishes since we made it “official.”

I ask all of you to keep those prayers coming – the primary one: That TK can actually make it 9 months without drinking a beer.

I just want to reiterate how excited we are, and how blessed we feel.

Now...back to my 101 List. I totally understand that Baby Crash/Baby Ily could completely derail my mission of pulling off this project.

Ummmm....I don’t care!?!?!

Whatever I don’t cross off in these 1001 days – I’ll roll it over into OUR list and try and tackle it together.

YIPPIE! YIPPIE! YIPPIE! YIPPIE!


Our little "space peanut"

July 20, 2009

List Placed Back into Spotlight; No. 65 Gets Axed

I’ve started to put an emphasis on my 101 List again.

Unfortunately, death is the catalyst. It has recently reminded me over the last couple of months how short life really is. I had a loved one pass away (my Aunt Edie), and I have a half dozen friends who recently lost someone close to them. (That’s not even mentioning Michael Jackson, Walter Cronkite, and Steve McNair.)

Reminder: I consider my List as a road map to living life to the fullest, and a working thank you note to God for allowing me to wake up every morning.

Needless to say, I decided it was time to start marking some 
things off.

I wanted to share some recent “cross-offs,” and provide an update on other tasks that I’m hopefully about to accomplish. This is the first in a series of three blog posts bringing everybody up to speed on my List (not to mention reminding myself to keep it on the front burner of my grenade-juggling life.)

NOTE: There is one upcoming event that could jeopardize the entire project. Stay tuned for that wonderfully great post (it will be No. 2 in the three-part series).

RECENTLY COMPLETED ITEM:
• No. 65 (Plant a tree):

To honor our five-year anniversary, I planted a tree for my wife, TK.

Over the last five years, I’ve stuck closely to the recommended anniversary gifts – traditional AND modern. I try to add a little twist of romance and surprise to each present – and I’ve definitely used some artistic license through the years.

Here are a few examples:

FIRST ANNIVERSARY
Traditional Gift: Paper
Modern Gift: Clock

DETAILS: I gave her a sundial (a.k.a. Clock Gift) for her garden, which she didn’t have at the time. We were living in an apartment. But the Paper Gift was the completed mortgage paperwork for a new house and, of course, a new garden.

THIRD ANNIVERSARY
Traditional Gift: Leather
Modern Gift: Crystal/Glass

DETAILS: I bought her a baseball with the NY Mets logo on it (Leather Gift) and a shot glass with “I Love NY” on it (Glass Gift). Here is that before-mentioned artistic license...those gifts represented the trip to New York that I had planned for us.

Here is the breakdown for this year:

FIFTH ANNIVERSARY
Traditional Gift: Wood
Moderns Gift: Silverware

INQUISITIVE NOTE: Who came up with this list? (click here to see it)

DETAILS: I planted a Magnolia tree in our front yard (Wood Gift). I thought it was appropriate on several levels – the main one being the fact that Tanya wanted a new tree in the front yard.

I specifically chose a Magnolia, though – that was the tree that greeted us every time we visited our Great Aunts, four of my grandmother’s sisters who all lived
together in Dallas. They were like 
“extra” grandparents to me 
and my cousins.

This particular tree was on my mind, because of the recent death of my aunt Edie, the last living sister. (FYI: I stole the idea to honor her memory from my cousin, Christine.)

Anyway, I thought planting that Magnolia was a PERFECT way to say,
“I love you” to my wife.

For the fifth-year Modern Gift – I got extremely “poetic.” (Reminder: 
Silverware)

I definitely wasn’t going to buy my wife a fork, but we were in dire need of a new silverware caddy – a little sexier, huh? (Silverware caddy? You know the thing that sits in the drawer and organizes your utensils.) The one we received for a wedding gift bit the dust after 4 ½ years. (How do these things wear out?)

I wrapped the new silverware caddy and attached a note for her to replace the broken one “Right Now!”

In the drawer where the “crappy caddy” once lived, I filled it with baby utensils – the kind you use to shove stewed peas and creamed carrots down an infant’s throat.

Confused?

Oh, yeah...TK and I are having a baby. We found out last week and we are SO EXCITED! (Ironically enough...having a child is No. 2 on my 101 List and the one item that could derail everything – again, blog post coming.)

Does that make more sense?

At this point, you can scroll to the bottom of the blog and tell me how sweet I am. Actually – instead of that solicited compliment – can you give me some ideas for our sixth anniversary? Candy/Iron (traditional) and Wood (modern).


July 17, 2009

STUNNED SILENCE:
Giving Back on a Whole Different Level

The scope of some people’s generosity continues to blow me away.

In a good way.

You constantly see the “me, me, me” of our society, but there are still A LOT of people stepping up to the plate and graciously giving back.

It’s so refreshing to see.

Here are a couple wonderfully great examples that I recently saw firsthand.

We were finishing up our Adopt-a-Client initiative, when I got a phone call from one of my former co-workers at TCU, Alex Cunningham. He wanted to support our efforts of helping our shelter friend, Cole, get back on his feet. (original blog post here)

We were still searching for some miscellaneous items to help get Cole settled in his new apartment (e.g. bookcase, end tables, lamps, etc.).

ALEX: “I have this gift certificate for some custom-built furniture, would you like to use it?”

ME: “Are you sure?”

ALEX: “It’s some pretty high-end stuff and I wouldn’t waste it on my crappy bachelor pad.”

ME (laughing): “That would be awesome. Thank you.”

ALEX: “You should be able to get something pretty decent for $1,000.”

ME (not laughing): “HOW MUCH!?!?”

ALEX: “$1,000.”

ME: stunned silence

What I wanted to scream into the phone was:
• “You’re a stud!”
• “You rock the house!”
• “Are you kidding me?!?!”
• “Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!”
I played it cool, though. Once the shock wore off, I simply expressed my appreciation and enthusiasm with a heartfelt, “Thank you so much, Alex.”

I quickly reached out to Techline – the company who issued the gift certificate. This is where the story gets even more wonderfully fantastic.

I explained to the members of the Techline team what we were trying to accomplish. 
They picked up the ball and ran with it.

You see, I didn’t realize that $1,000 at Techline MIGHT get you a simple nightstand. Reminder: This is high-end customized furniture.

TECHLINE SALES REP (Jennifer): “Don’t worry about it – let’s see what we can do for you guys. Let me talk to our owner, and we’ll see if we can hook you up.”

ME: stunned silence

That’s when Jennifer and the rest of the Techline team (Jerry, Carol and Carl – pictured right) elevated themselves to all-star status.

Jennifer called me back 48 hours later and let me know what our $1,000 gift certificate would get us. (Reminder: Normally, that amount would buy you a very nice drawer.)

The items being furnished for Cole’s apartment:
• Entertainment center, with bookcases on each side
• Bookcase
• Two end tables
JENNIFER: “I just sent you the photos.”

ME (looking at the images): more stunned silence

JENNIFER: “Drew....are you there?”

Techline recently delivered the furniture to Cole’s apartment. In the 103-degree heat, Bradley and Mark (also members of the all-star team – pictured right) hauled the furniture into his second-story abode.

They gently put the furniture in its appropriate place and added the hardware.

Cole wasn’t there – he was working – but his girlfriend, Adrianne, sat in stunned silence watching his new house become a home right before her eyes.

I would have given anything to see Cole’s expression when he walked into that apartment after a long, hot day at work. Just imagining his face makes me smile. I bet you anything he let out a “HOLY CRAP!” or something with a little more pop.

Here’s a little more pop, 
compliments of me:

• Alex, you are 
a bad ass!

• Team Techline, you guys are the shit!

Seriously, just thinking about how all of this has played out takes my breath away.

Thanks again to EVERYONE who supported this incredible project. A very special expression of gratitude to Alex and Team Techline – you guys are officially rock stars in my book.

July 9, 2009

TEACHER FOR A DAY:
Shaping Young Minds & Crushing Dreams

Right before school got out for summer break, I was asked to speak at a local middle school.

My friend, Jessica, was teaching a career investigations class, and she thought I could provide some insight to the 7th- and 8th-grade students she was molding.

HER: "Please help! They're tired of listening to me!"

ME: "Seriously? Career investigations? I've had seven different jobs and five career changes since graduating college."

Then it hit me like a inside fastball.

ME (quickly changing my tone – almost excited): "Yeah, I'll do it."

I realized my career path – one that has taken me from the newspaper biz to the football field to the wild and crazy world of entrepreneurship – was the best guidance/advice I could provide a 14-year-old.

THE PREFACE: Whatever your dream job is right now – it WILL change. 

THE MESSAGE: That is perfectly fine. (Actually, it's normal.)

I started each presentation by having the students tell me what they wanted to be when they grew up. We had  doctors, lawyers, a PR rep, and a graphic artist; there was one missionary; a couple pro athletes (obviously), and a whole lot of "I don't knows" (which I said was OK, too). 

I did a little demonstration by having everyone stand up. I walked around the room, tapping each one on the shoulder and having them sit down. When I was done, there was one student left standing.

ME: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

STUDENT: "Fashion designer."

ME: "Congratulations. You're going to be a fashion designer. Out of every student in this classroom – your dream will come true."

The rest of the class looked defeated – especially the future NFL stars.

ME: "For the rest of you...your dreams will come true, too. They'll just be different dreams."

I quickly reinforced my point.

ME: "It's perfectly OK to change your dreams and do something else with your life and/or career."

Then I shared my story.

In college, I wanted to write for Sports Illustrated – but went into newspaper design instead. Abandoned that after two years and a 1,900-mile move to Oregon. Worked in college admissions for two more years, before deciding to be a football coach. That got me to TCU, but made me hang up my whistle after three seasons. Then I was climbing the administrative ladder in collegiate athletics....insert crazy business idea.

ME: "See I turned out OK."

I couldn't tell by their stares if they understood or thought I was a loser for switching jobs every 2.35 years.

STUDENT: "You mean I don't have to be a nurse because that's what I told my parents when I was seven years old?"

ME: "Nope."

STUDENT: "Good – I don't like blood or urine."

I think they understood.

Other discussion items: (BTW: 50 minutes goes slooooowwww when standing in front of 20 prepubescent teens.)

• I made them write "MONEY" and "FAME" on another sheet of paper. Then I had them wad it up and throw it in the trash can.

POINT: If these two things are your motivation – you will NEVER be happy. Do something that you love and these things will come.

• I asked them what tugs at their heartstrings. Some said underprivileged kids, had a few abused animals, a couple said homelessness.

POINT: Never stop giving back.

• I told them the story about the salesman who heard his alarm clock go off for the first time in years, and how his boss told him it was time for him to get another job.

POINT: If you don't love what you do – something that makes you jump out of bed in the morning – DO SOMETHING ELSE.

When it was all said and done, I had given my presentation three times, sweat through most of the clothes on my body, and gained a new appreciation for middle school teachers.

Of course, I internally critiqued every performance. I was really questioning my "teaching methods" until I received the homemade thank you notes from all three classes.

I know. I know. My friend, Jessica, MADE the students write them, but there were a couple that stood out and the entire experience worth while.




Time for another career change? Professor Myers? 

July 3, 2009

Giving Back Helps Define 'Independence Day'

When I created my 101 List, I thought to myself, "I'll just put some interesting things on here and have some fun with it." (click here to see entire list)

It has grown into so much more than that, though.

Every time I scratch something off – it turns into this powerful experience. (Even eating a double-scoop of ice cream – No. 47 – which I shared with my Little Brother Anthony.)

My most recent "cross off" could end up being the most powerful experience on the whole list: No. 30 Adopt a Client.

The initial subtext on The List read: "Program through Presbyterian Night Shelter – helping a client make the transition into mainstream society."

That was accurate, but words could NEVER completely capture that experience.

On July 3, 2009, we officially adopted Cole Searcy and helped turn his new house into a home.

With the help of some wonderfully great friends and family, we were able to provide a hand up to Cole as he continued to put his life back together and get off the streets of Fort Worth.

We received a futon and TV (thanks, Connie & Raymond), bed and dresser (Christine & Travis), chair and ottoman (Kenny & Arlene), lamps and picture frames (Kelly), kitchen supplies and toiletry items (Denise). My sister Susan even collected items in lieu of gifts for my nephew's first birthday.

We had a tremendous response and I can't express my appreciation enough.

When we were initially gathering the items, however, we were going to drop them off at the PNS warehouse and let them distribute them to the appropriate client(s).

We were giving back, but doing it from afar.

Then I got a call from the shelter volunteer coordinator, Heather White. She informed me that one of the residents, who I had come to know and love during my weekly trips to PNS, was moving out. She asked if we specifically wanted to adopted him.

ME: "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

On the morning of the 3rd, we pulled up into Cole's new apartment complex and he was waiting on his stairwell like a little kid on Christmas morning. He quickly informed me that he chose to sleep on a pallet in the empty apartment the night before.

COLE (smiling ear to ear): "I didn't want to accidently over sleep and miss this."

With the help of The Bulldog and her husband, Matt (both all-stars), we hauled Cole's things up the stairs. With each load, you could see Cole's appreciation.

COLE: "It's almost overwhelming."

When he sat in his "new" chair for the first time and put his feet up on the ottoman, you could see the pride in his eyes.

He loved the TV.

He was thrilled to have his own bed.

He appreciated that we thought of the little things, too – like the liner to the shower curtain and some coat hangers. (All things we take for granted.)

COLE: "I'm going to have trouble sleeping tonight."

ME: "Why is that, Cole? Did you have trouble sleeping here last night?"

COLE: "Last night, I didn't have all this stuff."

I had to make one more trip to the apartment later in the morning. (Had to pick up some items that fell through the cracks – broom, trash can, etc.)

As I was saying good bye one last time, Cole handed me a homemade thank you card.

On the inside, he wrote: "I'm blessed to have angels like you in my life. You all are so special. You don't know the positive impact you have on my life and the lives of others. Keep up God's work."

I stuck out my hand for Cole to shake, he pulled me in for a hug.

When I got back to my truck, I said a short prayer and thought back to something Cole's girlfriend, Adrianne, said earlier in the day, "This gives a whole new meaning to independence day."

Cue the fireworks going off in my heart!


May 10, 2009

HOMEWARD-BOUND:
Items Still Needed to Help Turn House into a Home

You can call it "stuff."

You can call it "crap."

You can call it "gently used crap."

WE NEED IT!

We've had a solid response regarding our assistance with Presbyterian Night Shelter's Operation Move Out, but we still have some work to do in order to make a house a home for one of Fort Worth's homeless residents. (Original blog post here)

I asked PNS to share the story of one of their clients in the program – someone who has picked themselves up, are standing proudly on their feet, and ready to get off the streets of Cowtown.

Hopefully this story inspires you to help us with this endeavor:

Melissa Bertrand has never had a home to call her own.

The 44-year-old has never had the chance – until now.

Melissa, who has been homeless on and off since she was a child, came to the Presbyterian Night Shelter about one year ago after being released from prison. Now, Melissa is one of 65 homeless clients participating in the Shelter’s Operation Move Out, a project where PNS is helping 65 homeless move out of the Shelter and into their own homes through funding from the city of Fort Worth’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. The project kicks off in mid-May.

“This will be the first time ever that I will have a place to call mine,” Melissa said. “I am so happy – I’ve been dreaming about this apartment for a long time.”

Melissa, who grew up in Iowa, ran away from home when she was 10 years old because a family member was abusing her. Determined to escape her abuser, she hitchhiked more than 1,000 miles to California.

Because she was too young to work legally, Melissa worked odd jobs such as mowing yards, cleaning houses and working in the fields. When she was 17, she began working as a stripper.

“My life wasn’t great in California,” she said. “I hitchhiked again to Texas a few years later to start again, but it just got worse.”

Melissa, who was 29 when she arrived in the Fort Worth area, was homeless. She began taking drugs and entered into prostitution. For the next 14 years, she lived on the streets and in and out of motel rooms.

“I was addicted to heroin and doing every kind of drug I could get my hands on,” she said. “Everything changed when I went to prison.”

Melissa was arrested in 2007 on burglary, drug and prostitution charges and spent one year in prison.

“I prayed every day I was in there,” she said. “I just asked God to get me off drugs and change my life. And God answered my prayers.”

When she was released in 2008, Melissa came to PNS and met with a case manager who helped her enroll in Project WISH, an eight-week job-preparation and work-placement program at the Shelter. She graduated with an A in the course and moved on to computer courses at the Ladder Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works with shelters and other agencies to teach clients computer skills and how to seek employment. Because of her success, Melissa was offered a part-time job at PNS as part of the Hope, Opportunity and Accountability (HOA) program doing sanitation and janitorial work.

“I’m so glad I came to PNS,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d ever get a second chance nevertheless a job, especially in this economy. I’m so grateful.”
Melissa is now taking classes to earn her GED and wants to become a social worker.
“I want to be a case manager so I can help people just like they helped me,” she said. “I can definitely say that I know where they’re coming from and I can help them through it.”
And the question you're asking yourself right now – "How can I help?"

Like we've said before, we just need your "crap." (Again, I'm just using "crap" to get your attention – we are simply gathering items to help someone like Melissa get back on her feet.)

One more time...I’m asking you to open the garage, crawl around in the attic, delve into that hall closet and help us personally adopt one client. (If you have a lot of stuff you need to get rid of….I promise that it won’t go to waste.)

Here is the list of things we need (already donated items marked off – thanks to those individuals who have already stepped up to the plate):

• Mattresses, box spring, bed frames (twin size)

• Sheets, pillows and pillow cases (twin size)
– Sheets (still need more, though)

• Furniture including chairs, table, couch
– Living Room Chair
– Coffee table
– Futon 


Alarm clock

• Toiletry items such as shampoo, soap and toilet paper
– Toilet paper (still need more, though)

• Towels and washcloths
– Towels (still need more, though)

• Cleaning supplies including brooms, mops and cleaning sprays
– Cleaning supplies

• Laundry detergent

• Microwave

• Toaster

Television

• Vacuum

• Kitchen items such as paper towels, rags, hot pads, measuring cups, etc. (We have a little bit of stuff like this, but we need more)

• Monthly bus passes
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