Public Relations & Customer Service – Don’t Get It Twisted

Hey friends, don’t mind me, but this post is yet again a school assignment. Please feel free to stick around and read my thoughts on customer/public relations. I’m considering creating another blog in the future about my professional interests. But I’ve been saying that for years. Anyway – disclaimer done.

The social space on the internet has finally become a staple for a lot of big (and small) brands out there. This is no secret. Companies and organizations are utilizing social media to generate interest for their products/services. But with this easy-to-get-attention machine comes the scariest thing to a company.

Quick and easy access to rate anything and everything.

And when people complain about your brand on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, or even LinkedIn… don’t you want to be the one to help ease the situation?

Before these incredibly powerful tools became accessible to the masses, customer service was something all together different from public relations. Even today, you have to really think about it to correlate the two. But when the consumer has the power, it’s best to make sure the customer is happy and helped

Ignoring a complaint today is damaging. Ignoring too many complaints becomes a crisis.

In case you didn’t know, if you want your business to succeed… try and avoid crises. 

When it comes to handling customer service in the era of real time customer reviews social media, my favorite brand to use as a benchmark is Wegmans.

Customer service has always (in my opinion) been phenomenal in the stores. Everyone is completely helpful, knowledgeable, and for the most part, quick. Because this foundation has been part of their customer service practice, it’s no surprise that they’ve translated this to the social space.

Wegmans has an astounding social media team that will answer in a flash. If you have a problem with a product, can’t find a product, or need to know specifics about products, there is a team there that will check into all of the above for you.

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I once asked @wegmans how big are their chicken breasts. Within five minutes, I was told they average 5-6 oz. When I was unhappy with a vegetarian noodle bowl I bought, they asked me for my address so that they could send me coupons to use in the prepared foods section. That coupon bought a Wegmans sub.

What you should take away from this is… I’m talking about them. And I would recommend anyone go to Wegmans.

Are the prices more than at comparable grocery stores? Well, probably no comparable… because it’s Wegmans. But yes, it is a bit pricer.
However, you get so much in that extra price. And I love Wegmans.

This is the power of word of mouth marketing. This is where their public relations pros are keeping an eye on customer service practices to ensure that the customer (me) is happy. I forgave the flavorless noodle bowl pretty instantly and still go there happily.

And when Buzzfeed published an article about why Wegmans is basically the best, you better believe I retweeted and posted that article to Facebook!

What happens when you turn this around though?

Oh… bad social media practices can cause a crisis. For instance, banks. Banks don’t have the best rap right now… but Bank of America showed just how bad customer service (social media common sense) can backfire.

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This is the kind of post that Bank Of America could have ignored all together and there would have been no ramification to them whatsoever. However, afterwards… this happened:

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After this, it was brought to light that BOA consistently uses generic tweets to answer to any message directed at them. And I mean anything:

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Engage in online customer service the way you would face to face. And if you don’t? Well…

I hope you’ve got a stellar PR team on hand. And even then… it doesn’t always save you.

Public Relations: Ethics and Crisis

Disclaimer to my regular blog readers – This is an assignment for school. You can skip it if you wish, however, I encourage you to read my thoughts on ethical public relations practices. You may disagree, agree, or completely not care about what I feel is ethical. Feel free to chime in if I’m way off base 🙂

At this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW – seriously, I need to get to this someday), BBH, a PR agency out of New York City had the idea that they would outfit 13 homeless people with shirts that say “Hi, I’m Melvin. I’m a 4G Hotspot.” The idea was make sure people attending SXSW had enough places where they could connect, and since the demand would be high for this connectivity, this idea was born. Each of these people, who happen to be homeless, were paid $20 an hour and were allowed to keep the suggested donation of  $2 for 15 minutes the agency said could be paid for via PayPal or cash. 

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Arguments against this case say that the company exploited these people’s precarious situation when they don’t care about their condition outside of the context of this SXSW stunt. Arguments in favor say that they have brought the issue of homelessness to the attendees of SXSW who would talk with them while using the wireless hotspots. One of the 13 people, Melvin, said this, “That’s a good side of it, too — we get to talk to people. Maybe give them a different perception of what homeless is like.”

So I’m posed with this question:

  • Is it an ethical PR tactic in your opinion?
  • Respond to the general idea that “all press is good press.” Do you agree or disagree.

Here’s the deal, I don’t agree with what they did because I agree that they’ve gone ahead and exploited this situation. It makes them look as if they care, but beyond this one single instance, they clearly don’t. I would have agreed with this situation if, in fact, BBH devoted time or money into battling homelessness. I perused their website (though it is a very nice website, neither here nor there right now) and did a quick Google search to see if there had been any charitable efforts following SXSW and no go. Giving these people preference for this kind of job is nice and all… but it’s not helping to battle the root problem.

BBH could have easily gone to an Austin-based not-for-profit who works with people who need a home and have hired through that effort while simultaneously doing actual good. While the people who worked for BBH got a little reprieve, it’s unlikely that there were any long term benefit to. That’s a problem.

The long-term benefit here is in the hands of BBH because I’m talking about them. I’ve visited their site. BBH has been mentioned in more of the articles written about this situation than Melvin, the man wearing the Hot Spot tee.

So no, I do not think this was an ethical PR tactic. Exploitation is never ethical.

Next topic…

All press is good press.

All press is good press… if you know how to handle it when it’s actually negative press.

Crisis communication plans need to be solid, every member of the team needs to be well acquainted with protocol, and for the love of all that is good… please, please, please, never say “no comment.”

All press is good press in the sense that you have the opportunity to start a real conversation. You have an opportunity to right a wrong. Not dealing with the negative correctly is pretty detrimental…

For example? Last September, Paul Frank hosted… a Dream Catchin’ Pow Wow party. Native American cultural appropriation was en masse at this party and it didn’t particularly paint Native culture in a very good light. For instance, they had three signature cocktails that were labeled, “Rain Dance Refresher,” “Dream Catcher,” and “Neon Teepee.”

Credit: Native Appropriations Blog (Adrienne Keene)

Credit: Native Appropriations Blog (Adrienne Keene)

Here’s the rest of the shit storm that was this Pow Wow themed party:

  • Plastic tomahawks
  • Fake headdresses
  • Glow in the dark war (face) paint
  • Plastic bows and arrows
  • Antlers

What the actual fuck?

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Indian Country was enraged. I was enraged. You are not honoring a group of people by deigning to emulate a fictitious caricature of a very real, and very still alive, group of people. Paul Frank was DEAD WRONG for doing this.

Thankfully, the writer of Native Appropriations and Harvard PhD candidate, Adrienne Keene (Cherokee), had the wherewithal to email Paul Frank’s PR company about this. And the backlash that Paul Frank got was enormous enough that the President of Paul Frank reached out to Adrienne in response. They immediately admitted to wrong-doing, scrapped the 1000+ photo album off their Facebook, and here’s the kicker, offered to allow real Native artists to come in and design outfits and accessories with the fashion company.

Here’s the letter from President Elie Dekel of Paul Frank Industries to Adrienne:

Dear Adrienne K, 

My name is Elie Dekel and I am President of Paul Frank Industries LLC. I am writing to see if you would be willing to speak with me regarding the recent Paul Frank event. While we have not yet received your letter [AK note: I only had emailed it to the PR company], we have seen the copy online and would like to address your concerns directly. This is something we take very seriously, and since the event, we have begun to take numerous steps to address this regrettable and unfortunate situation. I’d like to talk with you so I can update you on what we’re doing as well as hear more from you, so we learn from this mistake. If you would be interested in speaking with me, please let me know how best to reach you and when you might be available.

Sincerely,

Elie Dekel

 

Keene and Paul Frank worked in conjunction with the Native boutique store, Beyond Buckskin, to create a line of clothing that was made by Native fashion designers and artists from around the United States and Canada.

I actually already bought a pair of Candace Halcro (Cree/Metis) sunglasses. Aren’t they just dazzling?!

glass2_case_RSWhat did Paul Frank do here that makes this good press?

  1. The addressed the problem head on.
  2. They took the photo album down from their Facebook.
  3. They requested to speak to learn from their mistake.
  4. They made it up by featuring authentic Native designs that aren’t superficially made.

It’s terrible it had to happen this way, but because Paul Frank did the right thing in response, I now own Paul Frank accessories. And I’d encourage you to get some of these sunglasses as well. Halcro/Paul Frank just came out with beaded rimless sunglasses like the one pictured above and I think I just have to have them.

Now if only Victoria’s Secret had done a little more like this… I’d probably set foot back in their stores.

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2012. Granted, they didn't air this outfit when the show televised... but more could have been done.

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2012. Granted, they didn’t air this outfit when the show televised… but more could have been done.

So yeah, sorry I couldn’t give a straightforward answer on the all press is good press debate. But it really does depend on how the press is handled. People will mess up, people will get mad… it’s a matter of dealing with the situation at hand.

Now comment below and tell my professor that I need an A 😉

 

He put a ring on it.

Today is my first day back at work since we’ve gotten married and I’m dragging! So bad. I just turned on the Keurig and watched coffee stream out of it into… nothing. I watched it brew coffee into a non-existent mug. Today is my Monday and it trumps most Monday’s to date.

But I’m not here to talk about my mild brain deadness. I’m here to give a tiny recap on what was our “perfect special day.”

Let’s start off with how I totally kept true to my promise (and my overall self) by not being the least bit “bridezilla.” Not once during the two-months we planned, during the bachelorette, the night before, or the day of.

The morning of, in fact, I think my two best friends, Natalie and Jen (who flew in from California for this day ❤ ) were more nervous than I was. I was told by Natalie, who did my hair; Nereyda, who did my make-up; and Jen that I was being far too calm. Everyone kept asking me if I needed anything and I think the most elaborate answer I could give was “water?”

We got ready at my house where we drank some mimosas, had fruit, and laughed. And possibly choked on the copious amounts of hairspray it took to hold the curls in my hair together. Mark got ready in about 15 minutes, which really peeved me because I was at least an hour away from being ready. Normally, I’m a shower/eye-liner/spritz of perfume kind of girl. The fuss, though allowable for such an occasion, is not me. We topped it off with Mark zipping me in my dress and then running around like chickens with our heads cut off because we realized “oh shit, we’re going to be late.”

Though I was much calmer about not being on time. It’s our wedding. They’re not going to start without us… Which was a good attitude to have since I had left the money for the judge in my wallet at home. Mark, my road-ragey driver, got the peeved feeling in return when we had to go around and pick it up, but he calmed down. He always does.

Then it was time. We made our way downtown and met with my grandmother & grandfather, sisters, sister’s boyfriend, friends, and my new in-laws at the Fountain Square in front of City Hall. After about twenty minutes (thankful for a patient judge!), everyone was finally ready, settled, and had a pretty orange rose boutonnieres pinned to them.

We listened to this guy tell us everything we’re entering into… and in true Sam fashion, when it was time to for me to say my vows, I mustered out a incredulous “oh fuck.”

I’m telling you, my mom and dad must be so proud.

"Oh fuck."

“Oh fuck.” #prayformarkdos

And the rest is the beginning of our future. We are wife and husband. Ms. & Mr. Sam.

And we’ve been saying “We’re married?” and “Ew. Husband; Ick. Wife,” all weekend/week.

<3

Our small wedding was perfect. Eighteen people plus the couple. Purrfect.

I love that we could fit everyone who witnessed our wedding into one picture :)

I love that we could fit everyone who witnessed our wedding into one picture 🙂

Then we went to dinner and it was fantastic. And Mark’s best friend gave a really beautiful speech and hit the nail on the head when he mentioned, “you can see the love between Sam and Mark… every time they fight.” Yeah, pretty much. We are newlyweds going on 50 years together with all the bickering.

And my sisters went up to give a small speech. And man, I saw them standing up there and that was the first time all day I had really thought about my Mom and Dad. And it brought me to tears. Thankfully, it wasn’t that ugly cry meltdown I had suspected I’d have. But it was a cry. And my little sister mentioned that she doesn’t consider Mark a brother-in-law, but a brother. And happy tears happened. And then I realized I had a least a pound of make up on that I had to consider and shut that baby right up.

After dinner, one hour and two glasses of wine with Jen and my baby sister on my porch later and it was finally time for our reception at JP Bullfeathers. And this might have been the number one time I utilized the “my special day” bit… so that I didn’t have to go to the bar for a drink. I sat at the table with all my friends, friends I’ve known since high school and even before, and we wondered where time was going. I’m married. Natalie and Julie are next. What’s. Going. On?

We laughed, we hugged, we reminisced. I finally took a tequila shot with my new mother-in-law. Tequila, 7-up, and a splash of cranberry might have to happen in my life a little more. We danced a little.

And it ended the way I love for most events to end. At my house, with more drinks, more dancing, and more time with friends/family.

Ok, so we didn’t have a million dollar wedding. We didn’t even make the “average” $10K for a wedding (puke). But it was perfect. It was us. Intimate, fun, and we were able to spend more time with those we really love.

And all weekend I’ve been saying, “I cannot believe we were getting ready to go ahead with the October wedding.” That probably would have killed me.

To the rest of our journey!

Ew. Husband!

He put a ring on it...

He put a ring on it…

The week that ends in wife.

It’s been a while since my last post. And I’m sad that they might really start becoming more infrequent with the semester rearing its ugly head. Alas, when I return to more regular blogging, at least I’ll be a master. Just call me Master Sam when I return.

The wedding is finally (almost) here! After all these different plans (wedding planning has made me finally realize that I may be one of the most indecisive people EVER), we say “I Do” at City Hall. I never used to like the idea of a City Hall wedding, but now? I adore it. Easy breezy and not to mention that our City Hall is probably one of the most gorgeous buildings in the area.

And I stayed true to the one thing I really wanted to maintain. Our wedding day will be simple and relaxed. The ceremony itself has no frills and is being administered by a judge. The 20 of us from the ceremony are headed a relaxed dinner together. Because we have SO many people in our families who are the pickiest people ever, it’s a dinner at Casa Di Pizza/JJ’s. And my sister’s eyes lit up when I said that dinner would be simple and have two of her favorite things, chicken fingers & pizza! Afterwards, we’ll venture over to another of our favorite Elmwood Ave. staples, JP Bullfeather’s, for an open bar reception with more of our friends!

My bachelorette followed that “simple and relaxed” as well, which was nice. Now that my friends and I are all older (I’ve known a good chunk of my friends since at least Freshman year of high school. My best friend and I have known each other since 5th grade!), any time we take to just get together, chat… and maybe play a couple rounds of pong… is a good night in my book. My mom used to tell me that sometimes friends from high school just don’t stay friends (in her attempts to make me realize that my studies were more important than hanging out) and it apparently isn’t true. Look at me, ma! A master in the works and still laughing at our lives together. So we did dinner at Duff’s (which now I can answer the quintessential Buffalo question – Duff’s is absolutely better than Anchor Bar) followed by a few too many wine spritzers at my house and a tipsy sing-a-long to Glee songs. We’re a wild bunch, let me tell you.

My dress is fun. I may or may not have put it on several times at this point. Generally, I forget what I look like with it on, so I put it on to envision accessories. But then I kinda just enjoy being in it. Mark has already seen me in it and is even the designated zipper-helper on the day of. He’s really my best friend so I couldn’t help but share with him what it looks like.

And of course, the one thing that is the most bittersweet detail, my parents’ memories are making me a little weepy leading up to the whole event. I’m actually pretty terrified of having an ugly cry meltdown and I’m more terrified that it’ll be during the ceremony. I’ve never really been a one to dream up my perfect wedding, but anytime I had thought about it, my parents were part of the picture. Them not being there absolutely kills me. And yes, “they’ll be there in spirit” and “they’re always part of your heart,” are nice sentiments, but it doesn’t change anything for me. It hurts like hell. I’m sure I’ll have fun and it’ll still be an amazing day. It won’t be perfect (namely because of the aforementioned), but then again, whose wedding day is really perfect? Imperfection usually makes for a better story anyway…

And true to form… our wedding day is actually on the first weekend of classes. I mistakingly read the undergraduate start date (pro tip: don’t plan a wedding when your brain is pretty much mush from graduate school) and set our wedding date for our actual start date. SO, I will be going wild on my last night as a single lady on Friday… by introducing myself to my new professor on the Hilbert campus. As I’ve told Mark, as my new ball-and-chain, he’s already cost me half a letter grade by getting married on a class day. Just kidding of course, I take full responsibility for my mistake. But I’m not apologizing for missing class. After all, I’m finally getting married!

The stress of this pretty simple day is more than enough for me. I can’t believe we were getting ready to take on this whole big shebang out in Allegany. I probably would have been a true-to-form Bridezilla. Those of you with 150+ people weddings… that’s quite a feat. Because me? Hell no. Our 20 person ceremony/dinner and 40-person reception is more than enough.

So this week’s hump day is a little unusual for me. At the end of this week, I’ll be a wife. I won’t be the world’s best wife, but apparently I’m at the least the best one Mark could have hoped for. Sometimes I wonder why he loves me because I can be pretty flighty, kinda forgetful, and some would say stubborn and not ashamed to say what’s on my mind.

But that’s why I’m cool with marrying him, too. Because he loves me despite these things.

I’m really excited to be in Ithaca on Sunday, too. We’re leaving extra early for my favorite spot along the Finger Lakes. It also happens to be where this whole engagement started anyway, which is a nice touch. I’m excited to finally go to Taughannock Falls (how have I never been there?) and be able to drink wine this time! (I was 20 years old last time we were there. How was I such a baby and still proposed to him?) I’m excited to visit my absolute favorite campus in the world, Cornell University! I loved my time at Buffalo State and now with Bonaventure, but if I had to choose what school I loved the most, Cornell takes the cake. And I didn’t even formally enroll there, I took a semesters worth of classes over two summers.

Ithaca should be pretty pretty interesting and vibrant as all the students will be back for their first week of classes! I’m kinda hoping there will be an interesting lecture we could agree on going to. A lecture on your honeymoon? Ultimate nerd couple.

Back to work for me now! I can’t wait to be a married woman 🙂

 

(Special shout out to Alyson at Rust Belt Love who designed our special invitations for the people coming to our ceremony! She make the most beautiful invitations for any event. Check out the details in the drawing of City Hall. I highly recommend her. She’s also a riot, fun to work with, her house, which is her studio is amazing; and she named her daughter Samantha. So she clearly has good taste ;] lol.)

Our custom made invitations for our guests to have as a keepsake for our very special day!

Our custom made invitations for our guests to have as a keepsake for our very special day! City Hall is outlined in copper ink. The entire invitation is housed in a box meant for putting any relics of the day inside to keep 🙂

Dog Days of Yore… Growing up and Learning Some

I remember when I was a senior in high school and I was applying for this fantastic opportunity for a full ride through college. It was some sort of program (and I knew quite a few of the students that ultimately got it) that was pretty competitive. It was also one of my first interviews for pretty much anything. My first job as a housekeeper at a church in downtown Buffalo was kind of grandfathered to me because my mother had previously held the position.

The program was set for Canisius College, which I had already committed to go going to, so being invited to interview was a big deal for me and, especially, my mother.

I was coached to the best of everyone’s ability on how to handle interviews. What to wear, how to dress, mannerisms, and why I thought I would be a great candidate for such a prestigious award.

Then came the one question I’ll never forget… and the lamest ass answer in the history of “Describe yourself in three words.”

1. Loyal

2. Kind

3. Fun

After listing off these Lassie-like answers, I followed it up by chuckling and telling the interviewers (there were four), “Boy, I sound like a dog, don’t I?”

Silence.

I didn’t get it. I didn’t even get the 50% scholarship they were offering. And following a series of events (& one full year at Canisius) afterward, I’m actually really glad to have graduated from Buffalo State instead (the communication department just fit me better). I’m sure it’s not wholly based on my canine attributes that I didn’t get the scholarship, but boy was that one stand out facepalm, eye-roll of a moment.

Which is pretty much the reaction I got out of my mother when I told her about how the interview went.

Potentially long story, short – I noticed how far I’ve come since that day. I just filled out an application that asked me to describe myself in three words. This time?

1. Passionate

2. Critical

3. Ambitious

I’ve come to terms with a lot in the years in between moments, faced some adversities, and more importantly, overcame them. And I took kind of a “it is what it is” stance on number 2. I hmm’d at the word choice. Does it come off like I’m some judgmental biotch? Because I’m not. Gay, straight, bi, polygamist? Great. Atheist, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu? Great. Full-time Working Mother or Stay At Home Mom? Great. The list could go on.

Anyway.

I expect certain things, and when presented with ideas, suggestions, etc., I like to analyze and make sure the right things are being done to implement. Basically, I know critical has a negative/positive connotation:

Adjective
  1. Expressing adverse or disapproving judgments: “critical of many US programs”.
  2. Expressing or involving an analysis of a creative work or performance: “she never won the critical acclaim she sought”.

But there it is.

I didn’t mean to get all “coming of age” on you… but I really have come a long way. I can’t wait to see how I evolve as the years pass.

3,000 confirmed Indian residential school deaths

Thought provoking!

lara trace hentz

Residential School classColin Perkel, Canadian Press, Feb 2013

At least 3,000 children, including four under the age of 10 found huddled together in frozen embrace, are now known to have died during attendance at Canada’s Indian residential schools, according to new unpublished research. While deaths have long been documented as part of the disgraced residential school system, the findings are the result of the first systematic search of government, school and other records.
“These are actual confirmed numbers,” Alex Maass, research manager with the Missing Children Project, told The Canadian Press from Vancouver. “All of them have primary documentation that indicates that there’s been a death, when it occurred, what the circumstances were.”
The number could rise further as more documents — especially from government archives — come to light. The largest single killer, by far, was disease. For decades starting in about 1910, tuberculosis was a consistent killer — in…

View original post 583 more words

A Month and a Day.

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I spent some time reading about other people’s engagement stories, including one of my favorite bloggers engagement story, and I felt compelled to come back and write a little bit about my own engagement. Indeed, at a month and a day until we finally become wife and husband, it’s a good time to look back at it all.

Mark and I had been dating for a year and a month when we got engaged. I was basically a baby at 20 years old (and had just gotten my license the day before!) when I asked him to marry me. Yep – I asked him!

I was raised to ask for what I want, because the answer is always no if you don’t ask. I’ve taken that to heart at everything I do, be it scholarship money, raises, job inquiries, or services. So, if I wanted to spend my life with this guy who proved to be an AMAZING person over those past 13 months, why the hell not just ask him? I’m pretty sure if I waited for him… I’d still be waiting. Not for his lack of wanting commitment (clearly he said yes), but I think he would’ve just waited even though we just celebrated being together for four years in June.

And it just happens to be a Nephew woman kind of thing as my mom asked my dad to marry her back in 1982!

So what would compel a 20 something to ask her boyfriend of 13 months for his hand in marriage?

After being together just 7 months, Mark stepped up his game and proved just the kind of person he is, the kind of heart he has. My mother died unexpectedly in January, and he was with me (he had spent the night at my house) when we found my mom. He took care of my sister to the best of his ability in the first couple of hysteric hours while I dealt with it all. Doctors, hospital administrators, funeral home directors, EMT’s, 911 dispatch, and calling family members and friends, letting them know what had happened. My inconsolable sister was in his care, as much as he could (and after only really knowing her for about 6 months, this was incredible to me).

This man takes care of the people he loves, and he did everything he possibly could for a very long time after that whole ordeal to console me. He never made a cringing face at probably one of the ugliest cries on the planet (of course, one that only I can produce). Bless his soul, he is not a merry person if he’s gotten very little sleep, but he woke up with me multiple times at night if it was one of those nights without complaint.

And in the months following, when grieving is especially difficult, he watched me fumble trying to put my life together again, never once sneering. To be real, I made choices involving the estates that I might regret a little now. I got fall-on-the-floor-and-not-move-again drunk (not proud of this). And he never got nasty with me when I got especially nasty with him and my sisters around the holidays (grief is a funny bitch, let me tell you).

I was sure I wanted to marry him from the months following this whole ordeal. After all, as I was putting my life together again, he was being built into it as well.

Finally, we went for our first vacation together in Ithaca, NY – one of my favorite places in the world. And on the 24th of July, under the stars at this beautiful B&B on Lake Cayuga, I asked, “What would you say if I asked you to marry me?” (So I skirted around actually just coming out with the question – I chalk it up to being a 20-year old baby!)

After that, we planned on getting married after I graduated from undergraduate. Then things got delayed when I announced plans for graduate school. And earlier this year we planned for that October 2014 wedding. After a lot of talk and budgeting, we realized that a big fancy wedding just wasn’t for us. The show that is a wedding spectacular felt like what we thought we had to do, instead of what we wanted to do.

And here we are, four years together, a three-year engagement as of tomorrow, and finally getting married next month (on the 24th! I’m a sucker for patterns).

Before meeting Mark, I thought I’d be that single, career-focused woman (no negative connotation but my career was always a priority) who didn’t get married until her 30’s. I’d be the anomaly that didn’t have kids (if at all) until late 40’s. And now, I’ll be married two months shy of my 24th birthday and I can’t wait to have kids.

Here’s to having a more unpredictable life that I ever imagined having in my short few years on this earth. And to many more, hopefully the unpredictable surprises to come will be more positive than anything. I’ve had enough of the sad surprises that my heart can handle for quite a few years.

Holy shit. I’m getting married.

What I learned in105 degree heat

Last night, I went to my first hot yoga class at Evolation Yoga here in Buffalo. It was a 90 minute yoga class taught in 105 degree heat. Snap, it was rough! I have never sweat so much in my entire life. By the end, I couldn’t really hold a pose like I’d like because… well, everything was slippery! Gross, I know… but it was a HUNDRED AND FIVE DEGREES. I immediately went home and went vegetable in front of my a/c (after showering because did I mention that it was the sweatiest I’ve ever been?).

I am not afraid to take chances or push myself. I’ve never taken yoga classes beyond the BAC or practiced yoga outside of my iPad app at home. I stretched my poor hamstrings and pushed my hips out as far as I could, and held them as long as I could. I failed in comparison to the seasoned yogis in the room – but they’ve got 3-infinite more years on me.

I am getting better at channeling my competitive spirit and internalizing it. In high school, I was super competitive in everything ranging from academics to athletics. If I got a 99% on my report card, but my adversary classmate got a 98%, I’d berate my teacher as to why the extra point from perfect was taken from me. Thankfully, some years later and some life-changing events later, even though I can still be competitive with some things (sorry, Mark!), I’m getting better at just challenging myself. Which, won’t this work out to my benefit later? I’m pushing myself at weight lifting, challenging my time in a 10K (hopefully a half-marathon someday), and now — purposely working out in higher heat (and I HATE heat).

I can channel my “do it because it needs to be done attitude” beyond school. Honestly, my mother always said that to me about things that I didn’t want to do but needed to do. And I applied it to extra curricular activities, leadership programs, and tutoring sessions, but it never seemed to translate into the physical. This was a 90 minute class. I’ve only done 45 minute classes before (in regular room-temperature classes), or 30 minutes at home. The last 20 minutes of class, I almost curled up into a ball in the corner to just watch everyone else do their thing. But damnit, I paid $12 for this single class (student rate) and I was going to get my $12 worth and stop being a wuss about 20 minutes. I had already done 70 minutes, the final 20 is just something that needed to be done. So it was done.

Going along with channeling by “needs to be done” attitude, I don’t “do the newbie dramatics.” This was said to me at the end of class after asking me how I liked the class. Apparently, a lot of 90 Hot Yoga newbies grunt and do other “dramatic” noises during a yoga class. I appreciate not being “that guy.”

Despite not acting like a newbie, I definitely was. I think I really like yoga practice and I like how I feel afterwards even more. I’m thinking that once or twice a week would be a good place to start. I’ll need the practice in meditating especially as I come closer to IMC campaign defense time!

A week in review: a Friday muse.

{Image via Google}

{Image via Google}

 

This was a pretty eventful week in a lot of different aspects. The political events that unfolded this week were among my favorites to keep an eye on.

SCOTUS overturns the Indian Child Welfare Act and awards custody of a young girl to her adoptive parents, overriding the rights of her Cherokee father. I heard about this quite a few months ago and I sadly lost track of the proceedings. I’m also slightly hazy on the whole story (for shame on me) but I am aware that this ruling has set a precedence for future cases of young Indian children and their parents. When I get the fuller picture on it, I’d love to explore the topic even more. Unfortunately, even with my resources like Twitter and Google, I was unable to come up with a clearer understanding of what the said precedence even is. So even though I don’t have a well-informed opinion yet, I know that I’m interested.

SCOTUS rules DOMA unconstitutional and overturns Prop 8. The thirteen states that have legalized gay marriage will continue to recognize those unions as full legal and binding. These couples will maintain the same rights that Mark and I will come August. They will enjoy the same financial and legal benefits of marriage that we will. And you know what? I don’t view our impending marriage as lessened by this ruling. There is still a lot of fighting to be done for true equal rights for those in the LBGTQ community, but this is an incredible step forward for them. Love is love, people.

WENDY FREAKING DAVIS. A thirteen-hour filibuster in defense of a woman’s right to choose, only to be ended by the petulant naysaying of Texas Republicans… just wow. I don’t think I ever understood just how BIG Texas was until this came to light earlier this week. But to close all but five abortion services in the State of Texas really is the same as banning the practice altogether for some most women. Wendy Davis spoke from experience, spoke from the heart, and really stuck the proverbial middle finger up to the Republicans who tried to squander the rights of women.

An article that I read on the topic said it best. This is why people like myself, an advocate for minority and women’s rights were so thrilled with Davis this week.

Women, people of color, gay people — anyone who’s underrepresented in national politics — are so desperate to see ourselves reflected and our interests voiced in real-time. Not by a small throng of protesters outside on the capitol steps or by an encampment in lower Manhattan, but in the center of the action, by a credible and even-voiced and authoritative representative, someone who actually has the power to change things. This isn’t to say that straight white men never speak up for our interests. But there is a level of comfort in knowing that the person speaking has lived your experience. And shared experience is also a galvanizing force.

When it comes to these issues, I am so glad that I live in New York State where my autonomy as a woman is mine, and mine alone. From the state’s perspective, to my future husband’s, to my own perspective… everything involving my body is my own. I feel for the women who felt undermined by male legislators at the Texas capitol, and other states who take the same stance for that matter. I know women from these states. How dare anyone play with their rights like these people tried to do? Also, for damn shame on Rick Perry in the aftermath and the legislator who called the crowd of mostly women showing support at the Capitol during Davis’ filibuster “an unruly mob.” Guess some of these legislators need a re-up on what a democracy is. For the people, by the people. That was not an “Occupy Wall Street” tactic but true democracy at work.

President Obama visited Africa this week. I can only imagine why (sarcasm) his foreign diplomacy outreach with African has been far and few in between since taking office (Hint: That’s how racism works). But this week, President Obama went on a much anticipated three-country tour to Africa, first to Tanzania, then to Senegal, and capping it off in South Africa. This is his first visit to Africa since his reelection. And just yesterday, he visited Gopee Island, or the “Door of No Return.” In one of the most poignant images I’ve seen this week, President Obama stands in the doorway where Africans were handed over to slave traders, never to return to their homes. And the article that I read said this about the picture:

 Unlike those slaves, he will turn around and leave the House of Slaves the same way he came in. He’ll get on Air Force One and fly back to the White House, the most powerful man in the world.

Image via Time

Image via Time

There have been a lot of mind-boggling moments as well as uplifting and hopeful ones this week. I’ve been glued to the evening news and to NPR, the AP wire, and Politico this week on everything from Snowden (interesting that US allies are refusing to extradite…), Syria, Obama’s trip, Mandela’s health, the Texas legislature, SCOTUS rulings, and the George Zimmerman trial. I’ve also been watching all kinds of documentaries, like last night we watched the documentary about Dr. Jack Kevorkian. I’ve also been catching up on happenings in the Middle East the last few years via documentaries.

And all of this information has been on super overload because this is the first week in a very long time where I’ve had no school work to consider having done before the weekend.

I cannot imagine what the first few weeks of my life will be post-graduation. I will probably geek out much more than I ever thought possible (which is frightening considering this peak into it based on this last week).

 

Oh yeah, and we got our marriage license. Also, Arrested Development Season 4 is much funnier the second time around. GO FIGURE.

That’s my water cooler talk for this week. Any of this catch your eyes and ears this week as well? What did you find interesting?

I will leave you with one of the most bad ass quotes of the week, brought to you by Texas Senator Leticia Van De Putte:

“At what point must a female senator raise her hand or voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”

Marriage for All // Licensed to wed

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, as well as Proposition 8. Gay marriage will continue to be legal in the states that recognize same-sex marriage, entailing those people to the same benefits of heterosexual married couples.

And even though it was in no way planned this way, these decisions put the cherry on top of a pretty fun morning for Mark and I. As we waited at Buffalo City Hall to present the necessary documentation and we obtained our marriage license, as well as got a judge to marry us on August 24, 2013! We are expecting a small crowd of around 15 for the ceremony itself, followed by dinner for us and them. We are now looking for a place that is big enough to have a cocktail party for the rest of our friends in celebration!

And as a fun fact, because I love patterns apparently, I’m really excited about landing the 24th for our wedding. We began dating on June 24th, 2009, got engaged on July 24th, 2011; we are now getting married on August 24th, 2013! So now we’ll have every summer month stocked with anniversaries. (He asked me what will we do for September 24th? I told him, “Watch, that’ll be the day our first child is born.” Hey, you never know.)

Our rings are purchased. My dress is on its way. Accessories are being searched for.

Have I mentioned that this was the best wedding planning endeavor? It’s been fairly easy (with the two hardest parts being finding a dress and now finding shoes) and largely stress-free.

I do feel slightly bad that the first couple of months of our newlywed-ness will be spent with my face in front of a computer screen working on my IMC defense book for my master’s degree. But he was shockingly very okay with this and will continue to support me as I wrap this baby up! He’s already a pretty good husband.

As we sat in the hall waiting to see who we needed to see for our license, we read the SCOTUS decision and it became an even happier moment for me. As you might have all caught on to by now… I’m a major proponent for equal rights for all people. Simple as that. I do not believe that a certain book dictates what is right for all people. I found it incredibly uplifting that any gay couple in New York (and other states) could continue to be married if they choose. The choice is theirs. And when people have the choice to do what will make them happy, well… it makes me happy. I’m happy to have shared this day with the strike down of DOMA and Prop 8.

Holy shit. I’m getting married.