Glenn

I always see posts on Facebook that people claim will “restore all hope in humanity,” but I had the chance to experience my own yesterday.

IMG_8042I had an interview in downtown Dallas and after driving around in circles through the busy one-way streets looking for the parking garage (I admit…I’m a little directionally challenged), I decided to park at a meter since I wanted to make sure I had enough time to make it to the correct floor. As I parked, I grabbed two quarters out of my cup holder and realized that was all the change I had with me. Anxiously I started weighing my options because I didn’t want getting towed to be one of them.

A man walked past me on the sidewalk and I asked him if he had a spare quarter. No luck. I looked around and saw a car had pulled up about 100 feet behind mine. Approaching strangers in their vehicles is not a habit of mine, but I just needed a quarter! I walked up to the car and asked the man in the driver’s seat if he had any change and explained the circumstances. He pulled two quarters out of a bin on his dashboard and handed them to me with a smile. As he reached for the coins, I couldn’t help but notice an I Am Second bracelet on his wrist.

“I noticed your wristband,” I said. “I’m a Christian too!” He smiled and said he would pray for my interview to go well. I thanked him and walked inside. Everything went well during my interview and I left the office excited about the possibility of working for the company. When I arrived back at my car I saw a white piece of paper on my windshield. I immediately feared I got a ticket, but when I got closer I could see the imprint of handwriting on the folded page.

Here is the note he had left on my windshield:

How cool is that? Whether you believe in God or not, I think it’s amazing how the littlest things can encourage others and how helping someone else can brighten even the darkest of days. It’s funny to think that if I would have found the parking garage like I was intending or if I had two more quarters with me that this wouldn’t have happened. I’m thankful for the little moments that remind me that God is in tune with every detail of every minute of every day.

I aced the interview, by the way 🙂

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The Cuban Five: Rediscovering Cuba

This year I had the opportunity of a lifetime. It all started with one question my grandmother asked, “Will you go to Cuba with me?”

Ready for Cuba!

Ready for Cuba!

My grandmother is basically Wonder Woman. She has been to all seven continents and wrote two books about it. The first one, Around the World in the Middle Seat talks about her many adventures as a group travel leader and the second one, Seven Before Seventy, is about reaching her goal of traveling to Antarctica, her seventh continent. I’ve been blessed to have her as a role model and I couldn’t be more proud to follow in her footsteps as a writer.

Of course I said I would go with her to Cuba. In case you are unfamiliar with tourism in Cuba, not many Americans are able to travel to Cuba. In fact, only a few travel agencies have the certifications to bring American tourists to the island. Because of this reason, I had never really thought about Cuba as a place I’d ever have the opportunity to visit. I savored each city we visited, knowing I was extremely fortunate to be on this trip among 27 fellow travelers, which by the way, I was the youngest by about 45 years. If you know me, you know I can talk to anyone/anything, so it was no problem and I enjoyed learning about Cuba with each of them. Many of the group members were alive during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the issuing of the Embargo, so I learned a lot about the relationship between the United States and Cuba just by talking to them.

While Cuba was an amazing historical journey, I loved experiencing the culture first-hand. Here are five of the attributes I wanted to take home with me:

 1. The weather

When I left Dallas early March it was cloudy and windy. When I arrived in Cienfuegos, the sun was shining and the palm trees were swaying in the breeze. It rained once while we were on the road to Havana, but the weather quickly cleared up and resumed its beauty. Although it’s spring in the United States, we were in Cuba during the middle of winter. I’m glad we didn’t stick around for rainy season, but I wouldn’t mind having such a mild winter here in the States.

 2. The cars

Back in the 1950s it was common for Americans to travel to Cuba on a ferry. Our local guide told us that many came to gamble in Havana and after one too many mojitos I assume, many bet their car. This explains why so many Chevys and Fords can be found speeding through the streets in Cuba. Our guide Ari said, “There are no mechanics in Cuba. Only magicians!” This is certainly true, as many of the old-fashioned cars are still up and running even though they’ve passed through many generations. Not all the cars have the antique charm only the 50s birthed, but these gems that do make Cuba such an exciting place to venture. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to ride around in a red convertible for an hour the last night we spent in Havana. By the end I was wishing I hadn’t taken the time to do my hair, but it was certainly a memorable experience.

3. The architecture

Because of Cuba’s history, there are so many types of architecture in Cuba. Some buildings had regal columns and others resembled brightly colored boxes. Each city we visited had a different style and even some neighborhoods were distinguished by particular architecture styles.

My favorite was Jose Ramirez Fuster’s neighborhood. Fuster is a Cuban artist whose style can be described as a hybrid between Picasso and Dr. Seuss. Each house in his neighborhood had elements of Fuster’s mosaic style and then BAM! Fuster’s house is an explosion of imagination and creativity. I would’ve been perfectly fine if my group left me behind.

4. The music

I grew up around music and although I thought I enjoyed music a lot, I quickly realized that Cuba is on an entirely new level when it comes to enjoying music. A mariachi group, acoustic guitar duo or percussion ensemble serenaded nearly every meal and a few of the musicians even asked me to join in! Music is not just in the background in Cuba. In many places there were musicians playing in the street or at markets. Wouldn’t it be nice if every meal were accompanied by music?

 5. The outlook on life

Most of all, I loved the laid-back, easy going way of life the Cubans enjoy. In the countryside and even in the large cities, I saw families sitting together on their porches or congregated by the fences talking to their neighbors. Most houses and apartments had all windows and doors open, partially because it’s so hot and humid, but mostly because the people see their neighbors as family. The thought of even leaving my door unlocked is frightening. It’s hard to imagine living life with an open-door policy like the Cubans do.

Needless to say, our countries have had their differences, but I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to explore Cuba and I hope someday I can take my grandchildren like my grandmother took me.

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Anyone Can Be an Alchemist

I visited an agency about a year ago and met an insightful account executive who recommended Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist when I asked her for reading recommendations. I finally had time to read it during my time off from school and work during the holidays and I’m glad I did. Although it didn’t directly pertain to PR, it provided inspiration that easily applied to my career and life in general.

The Alchemist is a story of a young boy, Santiago, who embarks on a mission to find his treasure. Along the way, he falls into snares and consequences of naivety, makes immense sacrifices, finds and loses love, and learns life lessons from an infamous alchemist.

As I read The Alchemist, several major themes kept returning:

1. Find your Personal Legend

This book placed an emphasis on chasing after your dreams.  Santiago was on a mission to find his life’s purpose. As many others can relate, Santiago didn’t always know his personal legend and reason for life. If you don’t know, that’s okay. Part of the fun is discovering that one thing that makes you happy and makes you different from anyone else on earth. Are you hoping to discover your personal legend this year? The beauty of this concept is that making a decision is only the beginning of a lifelong journey that can be extraordinarily rewarding.

What are you most excited about in life?

2. Don’t fear the desert

In The Alchemist, Santiago took a journey through the Sahara Desert to go to the pyramids, where he believed the treasure was buried. This was an apprehensive time in his journey. The caravan through the desert was long and dangerous and at times Santiago was tempted to give up.

Sometimes your life’s calling will require you to take a detour. Instead of feeling inconvenienced by these perceived setbacks, see them as opportunities– even in the midst of suffering. You might be thinking, “That sounds a lot easier than it is.” Coelho cleverly wrote, “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself… No heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” You’re not alone in the desert and when you reach an oasis or your final destination you will be reminded of life’s blessings and be thankful for life in and of itself.

What are you most afraid of? Why?

“Immerse yourself in the desert. You don’t even have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a single grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation.”

3. “Where your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” 

During Santiago’s journey, he finds a beautiful woman and falls in love. She tells Santiago to follow his heart and find his treasure, and then he can come back and they will be together. I admired this selfless aspect of love because she wanted him to pursue his dreams enough to let him go.

As Coehlo wrote, “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

How can you do a better job of loving your family, significant other or coworkers?

Life is Golden 

The alchemist book

Add this one to your booklist.

I admit… when I picked up this book I wasn’t really sure what an alchemist was, but now that I’ve finished this book I understand that life is less about a treasure hunt than transforming what you see as lead to gold.

Would you say your life is more like lead or gold?

Although life will never be perfect, it’s rewarding to follow after your personal legend even if it means you’ll have to travel through a desert for a while. You have everything you need right now to see your life as the sparkling gold it is.

“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”- Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist

Icepocalypse 2013

It’s rarely very cold in Texas, but this winter is off to a chilly start. Last Thursday was the beginning of what UNT students called the “Icepocalypse” in Denton. I was cooped up in my apartment for several days and campus was closed for nearly a week, but the ice is finally starting to melt away.

Fortunately my power didn’t go out, but a few friends in Dallas weren’t so lucky. My old roommate and close friend, Nicole Bell, told me she was stuck in apartment without power. My roommates and I invited her over and after battling traffic and icy roads, she finally arrived with a bridesmaid dress and suitcase in tow, a little disappointed that her flight to North Carolina for her best friend’s wedding had been postponed.

Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 10.34.06 PMTwo nights of movies, laughter and failed attempts to drive on the ice passed and she was finally on her way to the airport. I checked with her later that day to make sure she made it to the airport safely and she had big news. She was asked to film a video diary for ABC News! The reporter had found her on Twitter and after she filmed some of the airport madness her clip was played on Good Morning America that night! Her hashtag #NicoleStranded2013 made for some good laughs and it was cool to see one of my best friends in the world on the news! I thought this was also a great example of how being in the right place at the right time can have its perks, even if it’s a life-giving-you-lemons kind of situation.

(Side note: People’s flights were canceled so they brought in some clowns? Uhh…)

As for me, finals week was condensed into three days (That’s another story for another day) and all of my finals were on the same day. It’s good to be done for the fall and even more strange to be registered for my last semester as a college student. For now, bring on the Christmas cookies!

Lessons from a Former Secretary of State

ImageOne of the major advantages of being a college student at a large university is the opportunity to hear world-class speakers on campus at no charge. Tonight I had the opportunity to hear Condoleezza Rice, the United State’s 66th Secretary of State and the first African American woman to hold this position. She shared a little about her experiences as Secretary of State, but I loved the advice she offered to UNT students most of all:

 1. “Find your passion while you’re here in college. If you don’t find it, it just might find you.”

 Students often come to college clueless of which major to pursue and spend a lot of time going from one thing to the next, but it’s important to spend time developing dreams and making them come to life.

2.  “Seek out different opinions. You can never defend your own position until you seek out the other side.”

There are a multitude of perspectives on just about anything you could possibly think of. What one might see as the only answer might not even occur to another. It’s important to take a step of courage to see what the other side sees. Who knows; you might find that you like the other side better.

3.  “Trying hard things is more fulfilling than doing things that come easy to you.”

Although we gravitate toward things that come naturally, sometimes it’s the most rewarding to break out of that comfort zone. The most successful people are often the most well-rounded and courageous. Plus, if you’re constantly challenging yourself, you wont fret the challenges you face because you’ll be more prepared to facing them head-on.

4. “Study abroad!”

There are so many different cultures in this world. For some, college is the best time to explore and even work toward their degree. Traveling helps diversify education and inspires a new sense of wonder.

5. “The best way to be optimistic is to help others that are less fortunate.”

Our culture feeds into materialism and the idea that more is better. With this state of mind, no sum is great enough and you will always find yourself longing for more. Helping others loosens the grip of materialism and tightens the bonds that only compassion can build.

“Helping others changes our mindset from ‘Why don’t I have…?’ to ‘Why do I have so much?”” -Condoleezza Rice

6. “Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand.”

As citizens of this country it’s important to enjoy the freedoms that have been bought with a price, but it’s also important to remember our duties. We should constantly strive to leave a legacy and for things to be left better than when we found them.

7. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, but where you’re going.”

We have all faced hardships, but true leaders overcome these obstacles and focus more on the future rather than the past. Come to terms with your circumstances and understand that surpassing them will only make you stronger.

Thank you Condoleezza Rice for sharing your words of wisdom and thank you, UNT for having speakers that help us learn and grow.