Been away too long …

It’s been a very long time since I posted anything on this blog. Part of that is because of professional obligations that have taken over my life and part of that has been a lack of energy when it comes to topics. Lately, I have been thinking about getting back into writing — whether that be blog posts here or something more creative, I don’t know yet. I do know that there are a lot of things floating around in my head that I want to get out on paper. Not sure if anyone will read them or not but that’s OK.

It’s the beginning of my vacation for the holidays and I am thinking about so much for which I am thankful. I have a wonderful, supportive husband. My life is full of amazing friends. I have a family that is healthy and happy. I’m professionally blessed with a job I love and volunteer efforts that provide fulfillment. Take a few moments over the next few weeks to think about all that you have in your life and not worry so much about what you don’t have.

In the last week, there have been several unexpected deaths in my circle of friends. All young. All taken far too early. Their deaths have made me think about those things that are truly important — family, friends, faith, etc. Spend time with those people who are especially valuable to your life. Step away from those who bring you down and add unhealthy habits to your life. Life is too short to spend with people who don’t add something to your world.

You’ve Got Us All Wrong

When you hear that I live in Oklahoma, what comes to mind? Cowboys and tee-pees? Flat terrain and pickups? You’d be right on some accounts. But you’d be wrong on others.Oklahoma Buffalo

I’m not a native Oklahoman. Born in Texas, I moved here in second grade. I left for college but chose to return after graduating because I love this state. I actually fell in love as a kid. I was fortunate to be raised in a home where we traveled a lot. I wrote about some of my favorite places here. My dad is a professor at Oklahoma State. Because of his work, we visited state parks, landmarks and tourist locations all over the state. Everywhere from the Black Mesa area in western Oklahoma to the rolling hills of the eastern part of the state. From the tall grass prairie of north central Oklahoma to the Quachita mountains in south central. Beautiful each and every location.

And the best part of Oklahoma in my opinion? The people. Without a doubt in my mind, we have some of the most caring, generous, friendly people anywhere. Some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met live in Oklahoma. People who put in a full day at the office, take hours of their personal time to give to local charities and churches, spend weekends at the ballpark or soccer field with their kids. I live in Tulsa, and we have a reputation for being unbelievably generous.

Over the past few years, I’ve worked for and with companies based on either coast. During this time, I’ve noticed a misconception about Tulsa, and Oklahoma in general, that I believe needs to be corrected. When dealing with Oklahoma and its’ people, it’s not uncommon for east and west coast business people to look at us simply as “flyover country”. People wonder why we choose to live in a state that’s difficult to get to. Perception is that we are a group of unintelligent and backwards people.

If that’s what you think, you’d be wrong.

We choose to live in a state where southern grace beats out back-stabbing competitiveness (in most cases). Oklahoma is a state where numerous large companies are based, and thousands of talented, smart people live. We’ve been rated by Forbes as a “recession proof area”, with Oklahoma City leading the way. Tulsa was rated the top place to relocate by Relocate America. Our colleges are some of the best in the country.

Don’t overlook the heartland.

Make Time for Volunteering

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

Ten years ago I started working for a fantastic lady named Melissa at a local public relations agency. She is an amazing woman who taught me a great deal about PR and the industry I have chosen as my career.  She is much of the reason I am the professional I am today and I thank her for that.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from her is the importance of giving back to your community. From that point on, I’ve made an effort to continue that trend in my life. It’s also the one piece of advice I try to share with new professionals when given the opportunity.

If you weren’t aware, I live in one of the most generous cities in the United States. Tulsa has a reputation for giving and giving, even when the economy is suffering. This includes both corporate and individual donations. But it’s not just financial giving. People give of their time and talents, just as much as their treasures.

Finding the right organizations with which to volunteer can be daunting. There are hundreds of organizations out there looking for volunteers. I recommend stepping back and considering a few things.

Where does your passion lie? Are you a sucker for kids? Do you prefer working with the elderly? What about health issues? Take a long, hard look at exactly where you think you can provide the most support and look for organizations that serve that population.

Over the years, I’ve worked with organizations that serve children, elderly and everyone in between, but I started seeing my dedication dry up. I realized that I wasn’t working with groups that truly held my attention. The passion wasn’t there. That’s when I sat down and thought about what mattered most to me. I realized that my family comes first, and I wanted to figure out ways to best help people in my life directly. My mom has lived with Multiple Sclerosis for more than 15 years now. My grandmother passed away a few years ago from complications of Alzheimer’s after living with the illness for more than a decade. Multiple people in my life have faced diagnosis of cancer — some of survived, others have not. I realized that my time and efforts were best spent focusing on organizations serving these people and I have narrowed my non-profit organizations to the MS Society, Alzheimer’s Association and several cancer organizations. I found my passion.

Set up an informational interview. Once you’ve selected the types of organizations you wish to work with, set up time to visit their facilities and speak with the executive director. Find out how the money raised in this area actually helps the local organization. How are funds raised? What’s expected of volunteers? Some organizations expect board members to pay annual dues to maintain involvement, but not everybody is aware of this until they receive the invoice in the mail. Are their target amounts set for each volunteer for fund raising? Ask these questions up front so you’re not surprised down the road.

Then, get involved. If you’re going to commit to an organization, follow through. Non-profit organizations depend on their volunteers to thrive so to have someone join their forces and then not complete the task at hand is a let down for both the organization and the other volunteers.

Anything to add here? I would love to hear other feedback on volunteering.