Thursday, May 29, 2008

Who Needs Sleep When There are Events!

Going to events makes me happy. I like being social and I like meeting new people (we deem this "networking" in the PR world). So even though I have little time to myself and people **cough MAL** ask me why I go to events after work, I get more enjoyment from those events then going home and plopping in front of the TV (after all, Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives and American Idol are over..what's left to watch?!) So here are two upcoming events I'm quite excited about.

First off (and thanks to L-Pan's graciousness for giving me the last ticket!), I'll be going to the kick-off soirée next Tuesday evening, June 3, for Chocolate: The Exhibition at The Henry Ford. Museum visitors are asked to "immerse yourself in the story of chocolate." OK, who seriously doesn't love chocolate - or at least have a craving for it every so often? This exhibit is sure to be successful due to its uniqueness and the pure curiosity it will pull out of people who have no idea what the history of chocolate is all about (such as myself). Presented by none other than Panera Bread, the exhibit runs May 31 - September 7. The exhibit is free with general admission to THF. What better excuse to indulge in a bit 'o chocolate coupled with the perfect dose of history to compliment the tasty treats. I'm sold.

The next event I'm quite stoked for is the Metromix Detroit launch party June 5 at the Fillmore. I do heart Metromix and BJ the editor for hooking me up with the Date Night Adventure (MAL and I had a BLAST, check out the photos here.) Metromix Detroit credits itself as "your new daily ritual -- a buffer from the mundane and a guide to the utopia of post-work release." Love the word selection! I'm looking forward to the complimentary drinks, tapas and red carpet photo opps...and hopefully meeting new, fun people.

Did I mention I'm in L-Pan's wedding in two weeks and have another handful of events to attend with the bridal party between now and June 14 (including an 80s-themed bachelorette party in Canada, and no I'm not joking). And exhaustion takes me over...:)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Triple Dose of Inspiration

"Life is not about you -- it's about what you can do for someone else."
- Johnnie Bass, program director at The Salvation Army of Washtenaw County's Staples Family Center

I had an extremely long and busy week, but what made it meaningful is that I attended three events that were both extremely motivational and inspirational. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm an empathetic sap and it doesn't take much to put a lump in my throat! But, the events I attended confirmed the old cliche that love really does make the world go 'round.

My first inspiring event of the week was the Washtenaw Community College Foundation Women's Council luncheon in Ann Arbor. The annual luncheon honors three local "unsung heroes" who quietly add to their community with a "can do" attitude, hard work, creativity and intelligence. Two of the women honored this year, Johnnie Bass and Ginny Johansen, have put forth much time and energy throughout the years to serve The Salvation Army of Washtenaw County. Johnnie has spent the past 12 years of her life helping women and their families who have encountered difficult situations get back on their feet as program director at the Staples Family Center, a 90-day homeless shelter operated by TSA-WC. Ginny spent years on the advisory board of TSA-WC and has dedicated her life to providing education and help to those who need it most. These two women were so humbled and gracious for these awards. They do what they do because they are truly passionate about serving those in need, so listening to their words as they accepted their "unsung hero" awards definitely brought a majority of the audience to tears. It was great to witness a community come together to honor and celebrate the selflessness and hard work of these women, and I was proud to be there on behalf of TSA-WC to celebrate with them.

Event number two -- the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus presents Bellobration. Yes I know, it's the circus..and how the heck can the circus be inspiring? Let me explain. L-Pan and I had the opportunity to travel to Columbus and see the Bellobration circus event (work-related, not purely for our personal enjoyment!) After the show, we got to chat it up with some of the performers in the show. Lauren and I sat with Tina and Brian Miser, the human cannonballs who literally end the show with a bang when they shoot out of a ginormous cannon. What I found to be most inspiring about them is that they are raising their four-year-old daughter Skylar at the same time as they are performing 50 weeks out of every year in the circus. The best part is that they absolutely love it. Most people would find it really difficult, and even somewhat strange, to want to raise children while touring with a circus. But Tina and Brian are no different than any other family. In fact, they have the privilege of spending more time with their daughter than many parents who work 40 plus hours a week. It was amazing to listen to this couple share their life story with us and show us just how normal and genuinely happy a circus family can be.

Final inspiring event of the week -- Forgotten Harvest Comedy Night. The mission of Forgotten Harvest is to relieve hunger in the Detroit metropolitan community by rescuing prepared and perishable food and donating it to emergency food providers. Check out this link for some staggering statistics about hunger in our area. Panera Bread donated more than $56,000 to Forgotten Harvest this past year (as well as a ton of leftover goods) and was also a presenting sponsor of Comedy Night, so I got to sit front and center at the event. There was a silent auction during the event, and if my memory is correct, I believe the auctioneer stated that 95 cents of every dollar donated during the auction would help provide meals to hungry people in our community. I couldn't believe how many people did not hesitate to bid and overbid on items! There was also a portion where the auctioneer invited people to join him on stage and simply donate different levels of money. After 10 minutes, the stage was full. All of those big-hearted people who donated their dollars will have the satisfaction of knowing that every dollar donated that night will provide six meals to our hungry neighbors. Now while my bank account and salary didn't quite allow me to contribute the type of money being donated last night, the graciousness of the audience inspired me.

I've said this before and I'll say it again -- I will continue to play my small part of helping those in need (volunteering, helping students/friends with resumes and finding jobs, ringing bells and donating to The Salvation Army's red kettles). And one day when I'm financially stable enough and student loans aren't hanging over my head, I will contribute even more. Things are rough in our community right now, for many reasons. It's a great thing to be able to say you've helped someone in need -- whether through monetary donations or by volunteering your time. Because as Ms. Bass so eloquently stated, life really isn't all about you -- it's about what you can do for someone else.

Monday, May 12, 2008

My Ode to Mother's Day

There's a part of me that lives at the opposite end of the world -- in southern Chile. My whole entire life revolves around Michigan, but a huge piece of my heart resides in that skinny little country on the western side of South America. I made one of the best decisions of my life during my senior year of college and decided to step out of my comfort zone and study abroad in Valdivia, Chile for a semester.

In honor of Mother's Day yesterday, I really felt compelled to share a part of this experience that truly changed my life forever. I unfortunately have not had the joy of celebrating Mother's Day in the past few years with my real mother, but the day did make me think of my Chilean mother and my second family that lives oh so far away. Viviana, Pedro, Sebastian and Robin...they are as much a part of my life and my family as my real dad and brother are. It's days like Mother's Day that I really miss my Chilean family and wish that I could be there to celebrate holidays with them.

There used to be a fifth member of the family -- Don Robinson, the father of the household. Robinson was someone who you couldn't help but to like. He wasn't very outspoken and was really rather shy most of the time. But he would jump through fire if you needed him. And he loved his family and friends more than anything. He took me in and accepted me as part of his family without thinking twice, and in four short months, I had grown to admire and respect him. Then suddenly, abruptly and without any sort of warning, his life was cut short by a heart attack a few months ago. Viviana and the boys were left without a husband and a father. I felt like I had also lost a father. I was heartbroken that I couldn't make it to the funeral (flights to Chile cost about half of my savings!), and my heart still aches when I think about him. I choke back tears now writing this because I still can't comprehend why he was taken away from this world so quickly. Robinson's death is only about the second time in my life that I've had to question God's reasoning for why life plays out the way it does. But he's gone, and life must go on.

Viviana is doing better as each day goes by, and the boys are getting stronger and learning how to function without the solid rock they always depended on. It's amazing to me that it's almost been two years since I first left for my adventure in a "different land." And when I talk to my family, it's like I never left. They still tell me they miss me and love me. They ask when I'm coming back to visit. Pedro wants to know when we are going to carretear (party!)

So while Mother's Day conjured up somber memories of a time when I used to happily celebrate the holiday, it also gave me the chance to reminisce about the mother and family that's patiently awaiting my return to Chile. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my life here and work that I go weeks without talking to them -- and it kills me when I realize how long it's been since we've exchanged life stories. I'll never forget them -- the way they opened their door and arms for me, the enormous impact they made on my life, the way they sobbed when I left and the way they waved white tissues as my bus pulled away from the city I grew to love. I hope Viviana had a happy Mother's Day, even though it was her first one without her soul mate.

Love really is an amazing thing...especially the kind of love that stretches across two continents.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Birmingham Welcomes Panera Bread

Panera Bread, best known for its artisan breads and scrumptious baked goods, will officially open its first bakery-cafe in downtown Birmingham at 100 Old N. Woodward on Tuesday, May 6 at 5:30 a.m. (check it out on WDIV during the morning!) To celebrate the opening of this new cafe, Panera teamed up with Children's Charities Coalition of Birmingham. Panera will host a benefit night for the coalition on Monday, May 5 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. It's not technically open to the public, but interested passer-bys will not be turned away! Panera will also donate 10 percent of sales to the coalition during the week of May 6-13, so your money will go to a great organization.

So be sure to stop on by the new Birmingham location! Oh, and don't forget to try one of Panera's new breakfast sandwiches! In all honesty (and not because it's my job to do this), the new b. sands (as I like to call them) are far better than any breakfast sandwiches I've tried in the past. And I have been known to love the Egg McMuffin! :)