For Hire

First, no, I didn’t get fired.
Second, yes, I’m still working with Lemonade Day.

So what’s up then?

Today marks my last day as a salaried, full-time, employee. For years I’ve watched friends, colleagues and strangers start their own business. My dad has owned his own business for … as long as I can remember. I’ve always had dreams of, “One day …;” one day I’ll open a vineyard … one day I want to run a B&B … one day I’ll run my own business … one day. “One day,” when I have enough savings … one day when I get a business plan together … one day when I get my website up. So it’s funny that one day is tomorrow, and I have none of those things. Sneaky that little “one day,” ain’t she?

It started over Thanksgiving. I had fallen into a “blah” over several months. So I took my first week long vacation … to do nothing. I ran everyday. Sat alone with my thoughts.  Tried to figure out just what I wanted to do. What was missing? People kept asking what I wanted to do with my life. And my answer never changed, “I have no idea.” What motivates you? “I want to do something that matters. And makes me happy.” Hello, Captain Vague.

I still have no idea what I want to do.  A little of this, a little of that. But when I think about figuring it out this way, it gives me butterflies in my stomach. It gives me thoughts. My mind starts racing. I start to daydream. [and the terror of all those things I don’t have ready just yet sets in]

My dad called me last week after seeing an ad online and said, “Hey! I know what you can call what you do – Media Services.” …plus, you know, other stuff. A short list of stuff I want to do and I think I’m good at: business development, hospitality, event/conference management, writing, online engagement, marketing and media services.  Oh, and anything involving dogs. And arts.  Anything that helps make the world a better place.

Now my motivation for living on less, probably makes a lot more sense.



What’s up 2012? More nothing. And everything.

A year ago, I promised a year of Champagne & Labradoodles: I’d blog more, celebrate myself with champagne more often & get a labradoodle. And? I got my furry best friend. I moved. I paid off my car. I drank champagne prosseco. And I fell in love with college football [as I do every year.] I’ve only blogged twice – both were either trashed or still in draft mode.

So what’s up 2012?! What can you possibly hold that can top that?! <insert pendulum swing> Did you see this segment on the Today Show – one family lives on $20,000/year?

My resolution …
To embrace the simplest things … walks, bike rides, park visits, road trips to nowhere, semi-successful home cooked meals for less than $2, imperfect DIY projects from found goods, books I’ve stockpiled for years, and maybe, just maybe, blogging.  After all, it is about the journey.

I’m not being naive but my glass is always “half full” [or I’m just thirsty]. I know this will be hard.  I think about the times friends have given up all alcohol for Lent. Or meat. Or shopping.  While I don’t live an extravagant life – I enjoy my box wine, farmer’s market Saturdays followed by bacon at my little diner, thrift store treasure hunts and Threadless $10 sales.  2012 won’t be without indulgence but isn’t a Saturday morning at the dog park just that? Or hours spent lost in a good book? An evening of conversation in a friend’s backyard over a fire pit? Not “off-the-grid” by any means,  just conscious.

In preparation, I’ve googled “How to eat cheap and healthy” and stockpiled recipes of lentils, legumes and other awesome foods; I’ve switched to a cash-only operation … and, of course, I’m telling you so you can remind me of this promise during my “moments.”

The most exciting and terrifying change … things 2012 will not include: cigarettes.  Well, I guess I should say, “Things 2012 will not start with” …? If successful, that’s a massively expensive and disgusting indulgence crossed off the list.

Today, I’m putting these words on my wall [quite literally]:
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

So it you have suggested indulgences in simpler actions, I’m all ears. I’ve got 365 days to fill with free happiness. Words of encouragement also welcome.

UPDATED: first DIY project failed. Words not quite literally applied to wall. But they’re there in permanent invisible ink for now.

Post-A-Week 2011: Labradoodles, Champagne and Football

I always wait to post something here til it’s significant … perfect … something that to contributes the world … or my “personal brand,” which is still in the strategic planning process. I wanted to participate in #reverb10 – you know, once I redesigned my blog to make it something not embarrassing. And then I just lost track of time. So much has happened this last month. But today, I read a post about WordPress’ #PostaDay2011 … I’ll observe the Weekly Post challenge. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions – why put off til tomorrow, what you can change today? But here ’tis.

Their suggested topic was “Who deserves more credit.” We’ll get to that in a second. First though, WHO DOESN’T WANT A DOODLE?! My adopted puppy recently relocated and I’ve had an ache in my heart similar to when Gilmore Girl’s season finale’s credits rolled. This morning I spent 2 hours searching for how to adopt Labradoodles, Shepadoodles, Goldendoodles – DEAR GOD JUST GIVE ME A LARGE, FURRY, HYPO-ALLERGENIC DOG.  New rule: 2011 will be the year Mandy – possibly irresponsibly – gets one. [ Side note: it’s irresponsible because I live in an apartment and don’t have a yard – not because I’m a bad person or anything. Thanks for the vote of confidence.]

2nd rule: 2011 will be the year of Champagne. Or rather Prosecco because champagne gives me indigestion. Champagne = celebration. And I’m a firm believer we don’t celebrate enough. I’m not advocating irresponsibility or alcoholism. But next time you’re at happy hour order champagne and have a toast. Toast to a successful conference call. Or a new friend. Or even for keeping up your weekly blog posts. Champagne – it’s not just for brunches and wedding receptions. And neither are celebrations. Celebrate yourself e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y [with or without champagne]

My 3rd rule is more of a wish. Today pretty much marks the end of my favourite time of year: COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON! #BOOMER! I wish college football was a year round season. Saturdays without football are just sub-par. My life [and conversation] is lacking without common bonds over the BCS inefficacy; the Big 12 v PAC 10 rivalry – and this year, controversy; the Official’s bad calls; … and always the underrated Sooners.

So, now back to the topic at hand, who deserves more credit? The Oklahoma Sooners, my mom, George Bush, Barack Obama, single mothers, our military, and those working tirelessly to make the world a better place. And you. You probably deserve more credit.

A season of change

Three years ago I moved back to Houston to take a post at Fresh Arts Coalition that would prove an extraordinary opportunity and a ride like I had not anticipated. I’ve met the most amazing, passionate and humble people, thrown some offthehook events, seen more amazing plays, dance, art, film, and amazed even myself at proving the impossible. Houston’s art scene is big y’all. And it truly stole my heart.  I’d never been to Main Street Theatre, or Mildred’s Umbrella. I never created an opera in a bar.  I’d never been to an independent film. I’d never been to an art opening.  I didn’t own any art from local artists I had met. Before Fresh Arts, most of my art consumption had been within the Theater District [save a few moments at Country Playhouse in my youth and Stages Theatre] and big museums. I HAD NO CLUE WHAT I WAS MISSING. And beyond the product, the people behind these little and not-so-little institutions became my mentors, role-models and colleagues. I was among Houston’s most talented and underappreciated rockstars. And I am forever indebted to them for welcoming me to their community.

Two and a half years ago, I also made some new friends. I met them in many ways that none of us can usually remember so we just say twitter. But I met them through friends-of-friends, community events, NetSquared, art events, conferences, AND twitter. They taught me about social media. They taught me about WordPress. They taught me how to make a change in the world through social media. We rallied causes. We geeked out over talk about the shift in communications and marketing. We drank lots of wine. And beer. They didn’t shame my music decisions [too much]. Or my change of hair color every few months. We hunkered down together. We ate entirely too much crawfish together. I have no idea why Houston’s social media community took me under their wing but I am so very thankful to each of them as well.

That brings me to this next part … life is, afterall, what happens on some random Tuesday when you least expect it. I’m leaving my post at Fresh Arts and embarking on a new adventure with Lemonade Day. I’m just as excited as terrified of this change. I don’t think I’ll melt when I leave the arts but … well … after 10  years of working only in the arts, I just might. I’m leaving in hopes of changing the world. Cheesy? Definitely. But true? Equally definite. Of course, this entire post was to say I’M NOT LEAVING THE ARTS. Jeeze, I suck at blogging. What I’m trying to say is just that I’m not going to get paid the big bucks to work in the arts anymore. Now I’m just gonna do it for free. I’m still going to drag everyone to a play put on in an alleyway. Or a gala that has you dressing like a bald Brittany. Black Ball anyone? I’ll still maintain that there’s no better place on earth for live music but Orange Show. Or that my favourite Friday’s are those that begin at DiverseWorks. And my favourite films are always at Aurora.

So that’s it. That’s all this was about.  A little nostalgia. A lot of thanks. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. I have more than my fair share to be thankful for … and you’re a part of it. Thank you.

It’s the most wonderful time of year …

NCAA Football is in high gear, even if my boys aren’t going to be Big12 Champs. BOOMER! I can totally get away with wearing boots because it’s just shy of 80 degrees. And Christmas is just around the corner – Thanksgiving, of course, this week – which mean CHRISTMAS MOVIE MONTH-LONG MARATHON!

My list of Holiday flicks in no particular order:
Miracle on 34th Street [classic, not remake]
Love Actually
The Holiday
Bad Santa
Bridget Jones Diary
Nightmare Before Christmas
Christmas Story
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Charlie Brown Christmas
Christmas TV Classics: Rudolph, Frosty and Santa Clause
White Christmas
National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
Grinch [animated, not Jim Carey version]

And, OHMYGOSH, there’s a movie about Santa Claus and Martians?!

Adding for this year: Polar Express, We’re No Angels [Humphrey Bogart], Joyeaux Noel, Shop Around the Corner, The Bishops Wife … inspired from this Movifone list.

And throw in for good measure: It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas Carol. For some reason, I just can’t watch them anymore. When Wonderful Life comes on TV, I actually change the channel but I usually get sucked into Christmas Carol.

P.S. How about 101 Christmas Videos? Thanks FanPop. I started with Rudolph from 1948.

Bust out the hot cider or plug your ears because I’m going to bring out the Holiday music, too, and I sing along. Happy Holidays, y’all. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

It’s called a pangobachen

I think I’m spelling it wrong but its a traditional German Christmas cookie that is so hard it almost breaks your teeth. It’s also tradition in the Graessle family to bake a boat-load of them and give them to everyone – postman, hairdresser, landlord, etc. You can’t find the recipe anywhere on these crazy worldwide interwebs – which is just ludicrous – so around this time there’s a string of emails from cousins frantically seeking out Grandma’s famous cookie recipe.  I was the guilty party this year. And to prevent that in future years … here, I present you, Grandma’s Pangobachen’s [or A German Christmas Cookie That Will Break Your Teeth But Is Totally Worth It]. …and yes, I know its a simplest recipe ever.

1# sugar (2 to 2 1/4 cups)
1/2# butter (2 sticks)
3 eggs
1# flour (4 cups)
1 tsp vanilla
Mix.  Make into stiff dough.  Roll out very thin on floured board.  Cut into forms and bake until light brown.  350 degrees about 12 min.

You’re Welcome Future Mandy.

um. errr. ya. UPDATE

I honestly have no idea what I’m doing here. On this blog. I started a little over a year ago as a diary of Daily Thank You’s and Inspirations. How very narcissistic, right – I mean, isn’t that what twitter is for? Then I shared information on my adventures thru Houston’s art scene.  Then I got really lost and random. Then I went to this really awesome conference-thinger where I was re-inspired to blog. About something. And I’ve thought about it in the weeks following and I still have no earthly clue what I’m here for. BUT I will make time once a week [lofty goals, I know] to blog. About something. Until I figure out what that something is … well, just bear with me.

In other news, very excited about my Laura Holt Halloween costume. Ok, so maybe it was more about getting to watch 15 million episodes of Remington Steele. Tomato. Tomato.