Category Archives: Inspiration

Lessons in Investing from Miss Sandra

14th February 2016

During my sophomore year at UGA I mustered up the courage to step away from the University meal plan. It only lasted four days.

While I’m certain I was one of the very few on campus who took advantage of prepared dining hall meals past my twenty-first birthday, the food wasn’t the only perk. There was the omni-present offer of lunch dates, the late night cereal runs and of course, the staff.

Last month, I stumbled upon a blog post from Yik Yak with a familiar face who I hadn’t thought of in quite some time: Miss Sandra. You can read the Yak’s story for yourself, but if you aren’t familiar, Miss Sandra works the checkin counter at Snelling, UGA’s most centrally located and 24-hour dining hall.

Miss Sandra sees thousands of students every week and she’s been loving on them for years. While the hugs are fantastic, I never considered that she actually remembered each one she dole out.

Today, P and I celebrate our second married Valentine’s Day and in 2016 we’ll celebrate a decade since we started dating. After a lengthy breakup our sophomore year, Miss Sandra was the first to notice when we passed the card swipe station in Snelling together.

A different kind of smile spread across her face and her greeting was new, “oooh ya’ll are dating again aren’t you?” She didn’t just recognize us, she remembered us, together.

I’d like to think we could walk in today and she’d still remember us, though it wouldn’t matter if she didn’t. Miss Sandra hasn’t just mastered kind, she’s mastered what it means to invest in being kind. And according to Yik Yak, she’s still at Snelling, investing in each student who walks through her door in the same way, almost a decade later.

P and I shortly after our first Valentine’s Day in 2007


The Treasures in Our Pockets

18th January 2016

I hate the cold. I despise it. My body despises it. As a measure of precaution, I live in the South, where we list our wintry sixty degree days as a perk. So this morning, when I checked the weather to find it felt like a balmy 20 degrees out, I went to work from the comfort of my down comforter.

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As the hours passed and the guilt rose, I got up the courage to head to the closet and pick out as many layers as possible, determined to keep my word to myself to lace up for five miles.

At the back of my closet, I stumbled upon the Better Sweater. A few winters ago, I saved up to buy this cozy little vest. While its name should ring full of blissful adventures, over the years it has become my last ditch resort for keeping warm on a chilly morning run. I zipped it up, put my hands in its fuzzy pockets and found a single stick of chapstick.

As a kid, I would hide little trinkets in the pockets of my winter coats. Barbie shoes, a dollar, a 25¢ ring, it didn’t matter the value, but more the reminder. It was as if some brilliant figure from the past had sent treasures into the future to say “I don’t care how miserable it is out there, look at these awesome things we used to have!” Those Barbie shoes had been gone a year, so naturally this was a sign of something good to come. The treasures were my way of reminding myself that it wasn’t going to be all doom and gloom for the next four months.

In this scenario chapstick is grown up treasure, until it isn’t. Chapstick means I probably I went for a run, my nose tried to fall off and I couldn’t feel my face for three days. This is what we have to look forward to, Better Sweater, Chapstick and I, no noses and sore faces.

I begrudgingly laced up my shoes, zipped up the Better Sweater, took one last deep breath and zipped out the door.

I’m home now, five miles faster, and while my nose did try to fall off, the Chapstick was a true treasure. It’s a reminder that when you get your butt out the door, the miles aren’t nearly as bad as you make them out to be. As an extra perk, Chapstick does soothe red lips and sore noses miraculously fast, and I don’t know how it does it.

Next time your brain tries to trick you into thinking treasures are for suckers, remember someone in your past put them there for a reason. Oh and Spring, you can come any time now.

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The Problem with Fear

20th November 2015

Growing up, my parents taught us that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. With four kids, all of which seem to have inherited the quick and occasional Irish temper, it was repeated with a relentless fury in our household.

When that advice didn’t stick, it was usually thanks to the screaming of the “s word”, a reigning master insult we would each throw across a room more than our parents would have liked. For the record, the “s word” was likely defined by the atrocities of “stupid” or “shut-up”.

On the upside, it turns out calling my brother Erik stupid approximately a bazillion times didn’t change his upbringing by so much as a fraction. Of my three siblings, Erik is my closest in age and, statistically speaking, probably received the highest frequency of this foul language. Today, Erik is an astrophysicist and possibly the most rational and humble human being I have ever met.

In the days that have followed Paris, my mom’s voice has been on repeat in my head with each media report, Facebook post and sideways comment. While I’d like to respond to each and every post fueled by hate with a retaliation of more than scary s-words, my experience thus far has proven that it’s likely not very conducive to getting anything accomplished.

So as I sit here, trying to decide whether it’s more productive to open my mouth, or not say anything at all, I’ve reached this conclusion: hateful comments aren’t at fault for or a solution to what’s unfolding in the world around us.

Here’s the thing about hatred, negativity and tempers: we control them. Individually. Erik did. Which is why my words didn’t inhibit his ability to turn out to be a stable, loving and brilliant brother later in life, despite my best efforts.

The outside world, myself included, doesn’t have the power to control our reactions. When you take a step back and consider this human superpower to self control emotion, it’s a pretty incredible gift. It’s why above all of the heartbreak you’ve stumbled upon breathtaking stories like this in the days since Paris.

We were designed by our Creator to think, to love and to act individually. So what if instead of channeling our actions into an influenced spirit of hate, we sought to better understand what was causing it to rise up inside of us in the first place?

We can blame hate on the actions of others, but if I categorize hate as an emotion I control, then I’ve made the conscious decision to allow it to control me. If hate is a conclusion I somehow reached, then there must also a way I can reverse it.

It starts by understanding that hate is simply fear, dimensioned.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of hearing from professional Red Bull kayaker Steve Fisher speak at an Atlanta Creative Mornings event on the topic of action, and subsequently, of fear. If you think you understand fear, pause now and watch the trailer for Steve’s last project here.

While the rest of us may deem him insane, Steve breaks down what he does for a living quite simply.

Fear is an assessment of risk.

Fear is subjective.

Fear isn’t calculated.

Risk is calculated.

We assess risk by understanding it; breaking it down into statements, actions and the likelihood of a particular outcome. By understanding risk, we grant ourselves the permission to dissolve fear.

Ultimately, like hate, we individually have the power to control fear. We grant fear the power to inhibit us from taking action, or in the case of those horrific actions take in Paris on Friday night, to succumb to it. We can’t change someone else’s fear, the same as our inability to dissolve their hate. We can however choose to dissolve our own fears and fight for their opposites.

I know from experience that someone else’s hate cannot control my happiness, the same way my hateful words couldn’t control Erik. In the light of the what’s unfolded in the world around us, I refuse to succumb to fear. I refuse to share an emotion with a group of individuals who haven’t taken the time to calculate, understand and connect with what’s driving their own irrational emotions.

I choose understanding.

I choose curiosity.

I choose conversation.

I choose community.

I choose faith.

But not fear. Not isolation. And most certainly not hate.

We have a long, and very hate filled, road ahead of us. I’m certain our superpowers of emotion will be tested again and again in the days to come. If we control any of what the world throws our way, let it be how we control our fear. Let it be that we face our fears and channel them into a search for more ways to help, not hinder. Let it be that we open our ears to new conversations, not hide in old ones. I’m hopeful in doing so, we may collectively find a power and resilience to fight for good, together.