Thursday, December 19, 2013

Education System Woes

I can't imagine how dumb our next generation would be if the Internet did not exist. With the many restrictions on our school systems, rising student/per teacher ratios and lowering budgets on education - we are also seeing dramatic rises in college tuition but a lowering in salaries in regards to inflation (going back 50 years).

Because of all this, students have less one-on-one time with teachers, teachers don't get paid enough to care (unions keep many employed anyway), and the restrictions on what can/can't be taught in school is so limited that there is little time left for creative thought or communications building amongst peers. Even if students do make it out of school (with less knowledge than previous generations) they head into college where the average cost of a 4-year university has doubled (in just the past 15 years, meaning more students are going in debt for higher amounts just to obtain a degree for them to stand in line with the other students who now have an overpriced/under-delivered education - where many now have degrees in dying industries.

So again, I go back to my original statement. the Internet may just be saving our next generation. People are free to learn what they want/when they want it, all for the price of $39 a month.

Do I think the Internet is better than one-on-one learning? Absolutely not. But if we don't stop this decline of our standards in our Education system, it may turn out that way.

(Do I have a solution? No. But isn't that why we pay our Congressmen/Legislators?)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Social Media Strategist - Job Opening

Monday, September 9, 2013

Social Media Stats to Show Your CEO

This blog by Belle Beth Cooper shows off 10 stats that will more than likely surprise you. You probably won't even click on the link to read them (although I encourage it) so let me give you the bullet points:
  • The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55–64 year age bracket.
  • 189 million of Facebook’s users are ‘mobile only’
  • YouTube reaches more U.S. adults aged 18–34 than any cable network
  • Every second 2 new members join LinkedIn
  • Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the web
  • LinkedIn has a lower percentage of active users than Pinterest, Google+, Twitter and Facebook
  • 93% of marketers use social media for business
  • 25% of smartphone owners ages 18–44 say they can’t recall the last time their smartphone wasn’t next to them
  • Even though 62% of marketers blog or plan to blog in 2013, only 9% of US marketing companies employ a full-time blogger
  • 25% of Facebook users don’t bother with privacy settings
While all 10 of these statistics should raise a few brows, I want to comment on three in particular - let's start with the first one:

"The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55–64 year age bracket."
Twitter is for the socially obsessed, right? Those who need attention and feel the need to share every moment of every day with the world as if there is something special about the moon that THEY are seeing (as if nobody else has stepped outside that evening). My 21,000+ tweets certainly suggests that I am pointing this all-judging finger at myself, but if this is all Twitter was, would it still be around? I mean, how many "socially obsessed" people are there in this world? The answer seems to be more than the 500 million that Twitter already has, people just don't know it yet. Twitter is about as good as it gets for socially connecting online with people on a one-on-one or group-on-one basis. Twitter is more than sunsets, full moons and home-cooked meals, and it sounds like an older demographic is about to find that out.

"189 million of Facebook’s users are ‘mobile only’"
Mobile ONLY. I know I use mobile quite a bit (more than I'd like), but I also use the desktop for Facebook - yes, my job actually pays me to do's a pretty sweet gig. This number '189,000,000' just blew me away. I think it says quite a bit about not only how people are using Facebook, but also about how people are consuming media in general. Does your business run commercials? If yes, that's great - but do you have a second commercial geared towards an online audience specifically? People unconsciously think of TV viewers as one set of people and online viewers as another set of people, and that just isn't the case. The same people that watch TV also get online. The same people who watch the news on your local stations more than likely ALSO have a social presence online as well. Are you reaching them offline AND online, or are you continuing to only reach them in the most expensive places (TV/Print)? TV stations and newspapers are great sources of media - but if they are going to survive (and I believe many of them will) they will need to move fully online in the next 5 years.

Target them specifically on mobile/social (by gender, by age, by interests, by habits) and pay for only the impressions that you want. Sure, 'impressions' is probably not how you should judge success of your campaign, but it would help if you knew the 1,000 impressions you paid for was to reach the 1,000 people most interested in your product.

"YouTube reaches more U.S. adults aged 18–34 than any cable network"
You should probably read that again, so here, "YouTube reaches more U.S. adults aged 18–34 than any cable network." First thought, wow, and second thought, that's a HUGE segment of the population! Every business needs to ask themselves something after reading a stat like that, "Is that age group likely to expand, or will this just be a fad and it will go away?" I am no soothsayer so I will not bet my home on it...but I'll bet my '03 Honda Civic that this new online audience will not decrease and that the amount of audiences watching/receiving content online (more than cable) will expand pass that 34 year old age group quickly. Netflix? Amazon Prime? Hulu? Apple TV? Facebook News Network (ok, that Facebook part is made that up...but what if?)? Many options are already available on the cheap and this is not a "fad" looking to leave. 

So, what is YOUR outlook on reaching a customer base in the next 12 months? 24 months? 5 years? In 5 years, people will either say about your business, "I love doing business with _______." or they'll say, "Remember when we did business with ________?"

The statement they choose to say is up to you.

Monday, April 15, 2013

NBA Player Power rankings

Photo via Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Heading into the final week of the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder look to win the exclusive "60-Win Club" - a winning percentage that has improved every single season since the relocation to Oklahoma City in the summer of 2008.

Player Power Rankings are always a fun thing to read and debate, and no better blog breaks down the Thunder and better than Royce Young's Daily Thunder blog.

Check out his rankings here: NBA Rankings - April 15, 2013.

Do you agree with these?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Prop 8 and DOMA, What are we really arguing about?

1st Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion

Everyone giving a religious reason to why the law should be a certain way, in my opinion your argument is invalid.

Church does not make laws. They did at one point - and even through force gave the world the crusades...not exactly a highlight for humanity. The church (and religion in general) can be a beautiful thing (and in many cases, proves this daily - especially in Oklahoma), but when it comes to making/setting/influencing laws history has told us that is not smart. That is why those smarter than most decided we were to have a separation in Church and State.

Considering the idea of marriage as an official sanction derived from the Church/religion I have absolutely no problem in the Church standing behind their beliefs - stand behind them 365 days a year - you have the freedom to and that's what makes America great. Shout it from the Church rooftops that you want marriage to be a man/women union as it relates to your congregation. But from a legal standpoint, let America do its thing.

What this should be is a discussion on what the country deems acceptable as it relates to citizen equality and the benefits (taxes included) that should be given to those who choose to love each other and provide for each other throughout the rest of their lives - it does not take religion to tell us that is a wonderful thing.

Maybe the problem is in the wording. Maybe the government should stop calling it marriage - and continue to harp on branding it a Civil Union - as that actually is MORE of what it truly is from a legal standpoint.

I am not smart enough to break down the tax system of the United States government, but I do know that I am smart enough to know that if I can be recognized as being united in a Civil Union by my government (and receive financial benefits from my government) and my friends (and your fellow Americans) are not legally allowed to do so - that is wrong. I think it's time we officially stop making our neighbors drink from separate water fountains.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Who Saved Whom? Blog vs. Micro-blogs

It was 2004 and unless you were in your 20s (or an enormous geek in your 30s), you considered blogging to be solely an online diary for those wanting attention. How did bloggers get the attention? Through their Juno or AOL accounts? Word-of-Mouth ("Hey, checkout my blog on the Interwebs! It's! It's the greatest!) - Not too effective.

Time Magazine 2004 Best Websites List
A look through Time Magazine's 2004 Complete List of Best Websites, you'll find sites of Christmas Past like, and - a look through the "Communities" list and you'll probably only recognize 2 or 3 from the 8 listed (Craigslist, of course and maybe Friendster).

What was the future of Blogs (or "Web logs" as Time Magazine helpfully points out)? What would have happened if that Zuckergeek hadn't been coding his college experience away during those long nights in 2004? Thankfully, we'll never know. What we do know, is that sites like MySpace, Facebook and eventually Twitter would come to not only change the world offline - but online as well.

Blogs now had a separate community and audience to say "Hey, checkout my views on why Bush deserves a second term!" or "Here's my movie review on why the new Tom Hanks film, Ladykillers, will be his best ever!"

People no longer had to ask what blogging platform someone was writing on and then use non-helpful search boxes to search for a specific Web log. They would go to Facebook and see it posted on their friends' Facebook accounts as most of you have undoubtedly done today. Thus, blogs live on. They give the microsites, that you're now more familiar with, content and people to truly be personal journalists. Which begs the next question...who will save whom next?

Will micro-blogs save or hurt professional journalism? Only Time (Magazine) will tell.

Facebook 2004

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How to Dominate NYC in 3 Days or Less

I recently went to a B2B Conference in NYC by the American Marketing Association - led by Dana VanDen Heuvel  - for a few days. I was lucky enough to have a few things happen: 1. The Thunder dominated the Knicks and I was able to see it, and 2. I got to see NYC covered in snow.

To catch everything in between, checkout the blog from that wonderful wife of mine: Marek's Musings.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Top 10 comments/questions I hear when speaking about Social Media

  1. "I'm really good at Linkedin."
    - That sentence doesn't make any sense.
  2. "Why should I care what everybody else had for breakfast?"
    - Sounds like you follow the wrong people.
  3. "My employer won't see that post because I have my account set to private."
    - riiiiiiight.
  4. "When will Facebook have a 'Dislike' button?"
    - Never. Advertisers would hate it.
  5. "I really could just 'pin' stuff all day..."
    - Me, too.
  6. "But, it only takes me 5 min. to write a good blog."
    - You're doing it wrong.
  7. "How do I get more followers?"
    - Stop being boring.
  8. "You tweet a lot."
    - You should hear what I don't tweet...
  9. "But, we're a non-profit. None of this really applies to us."
    - I'm about to come head-butt you.
  10. "Are you a social media guru?"
    - Don't ever ask me that again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

One year ago today, this happened

This was originally written last summer for our wedding blog (, but considering it has now officially been one year ago (TODAY) since I proposed to my amazingly beautiful bride-to-be, I felt the need to repost this here.
Casey’s side of things.
Of course, if we are talking about my side of the proposal, it has to begin back when “ring shopping” began. First off, I remember telling Marek a year ago about my ideas on proposals in regards to ring shopping. I told her (upon hearing another couple’s “story”) that I didn’t agree that both people should be looking at rings together because I felt it took the surprise/excitement/sentiment out of “the biggest moment” in that couple’s young lives. I know that bigger moments will come (days kids are born, etc.) but up until now, days don’t get any bigger than asking someone to spend the rest of their life with you. So, she knew that if we were ever going to get married, we wouldn’t go ring-shopping together. It would be me, with almost zero fashion sense (so I’m told), buying something that my soon-to-be bride will wear for the rest of her life and hopefully passed on to future generations…
Knowing that I was about to take on this adventure, I began my ring-shopping adventure at (where else?) Samuel Gordon Jewelers. I met up with Dan Gordon immediately after walking in the store and sat down with him for nearly an hour, going through all the options on settings, diamonds and bands. I began to narrow down my options and when I left the store I felt that the ring I narrowed it down to would look amazing on Marek’s finger. Now, I hadn’t purchased anything yet, I just had in my mind my favorite ring from Samuel Gordon and went home to do some more research. After another hour at home browsing online prices and checking other stores in Oklahoma for anything that would catch my eye, I closed my computer and just decided I would take a week or two and think about it more and decide on a later date (trying not to buy something so important) on an impulse.
Fast forward to one week later. Marek decides to start talking about what her perfect ring would look like. Me, pretending not to care and acting like that was another year or two in the future, mindfully took notes on settings/diamond cuts/ring sizes. At the end of the fun/awkward/ironic conversation…Marek had basically describe the ring I picked out for her at Samuel Gordon Jewelers. Now, feeling as nervous as ever, I knew my search for “the perfect ring” could end. I was going to buy the ring immediately, have it resized…then wait for it to snow.
If anyone knows Marek at all, they know that Marek’s favorite thing in the world is snow. I had played out 100 different proposals in my head and settled on the one I thought would be the best for her. A proposal that she would remember. One that would be at a place she could revisit decades from now, point out the place for her grandkids and once or twice a year (when snowy flakes hit her face) would bring her back to the time when she felt as much joy as she had known. I chose to take her on a walk through the Myriad Botanical Gardens, when the gardens were white with snow.
The one downfall with this idea is that the timing wasn’t really up to me. It was up to Old Man Winter to bring me some fresh powder. It didn’t help my day-to-day nerves that we were going through one of the hottest winters in Oklahoma history. A daily watch of the 7-day forecast kept me on edge for about 2 weeks until Lord Gary England began tempting the city with a 1″-2″ of snow.
Sure enough, Sunday night, Feb. 12 (shout-out to Abe Lincoln’s birthday) it began to snow. As I imagined, Marek ran outside about every 20 minutes to see/feel the snow come down. I just kept telling myself that we’ll only get an inch of snow and it won’t stay on the ground, not even over night. I was completely wrong.
I woke up the next morning, looked outside, everything was white. I checked the forecast, high of 40 expected…this might be my only chance for a snowy Oklahoma City proposal this year. I planted the idea of going on a walk in the Myriad Gardens (not the the most unusual idea, we do sporadic things like this all the time) and she happily accepted. I then grabbed the ring (hidden in my easter basket in the closet), grabbed my video camera (I had just shot film the previous week and told her I was going to upload it during my lunch break) and headed out. That morning I called my friend Doug Vrooman to make sure he was available to follow-through with our plans to have him film the engagement…he was still onboard.
I tried to get Marek to join me for the walk at lunchtime (trying not to let the snow melt), she was pretty busy though as it was her second to last day at her job (leaving United Way to go work at Koch Communications) and she would be tied up until about 5:15…5:15 sounded good to me. I had Doug meet me at my office at 4:45 and we drove over to the Myriad Gardens. We mapped out where Marek and I would be walking from (entering NE corner), walking across the Gardens and down to the pond, stopping across from the stage and between the bridges…then, I would take the knee. After Doug dropped me off at work and headed back up to the Gardens, Marek pulled up and parked a few minutes later. We would walk to the Gardens. We would talk about things I can’t remember. My heart racing and mind flooded trying to take mental photos of everything around me. With the snow 90% melted and not a single person in sight (Doug is hidden), we make out way across the Gardens. We made our way down to the pond. We made our way to the “kneeling spot” and we stopped. We made chit-chat, and we made an announcement. It was time to plan a wedding.
Marek’s side of things.
Monday morning, we awoke to a yard full of snow. While eating the breakfast in bed Casey had made, he suggested we go on a snowy walk through the Myriad Gardensthat afternoon. If there’s anything you should know, it’s that I love snow. It’s serene, pure, beautiful. Walking through the newly redone Myriad Gardens with the love of my life sounded like a fantastic plan, especially in the snow. As the day went on, the snow began to melt. After lunch, Casey texted to see what time I could meet him for our walk. It was my 2nd to last day at United Way, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to leave at 5. However, I was pretty dead set on seeing what snow was left in the Gardens, so I was able to leave at 5.
I pulled up to Casey’s office, and he was standing outside. We started our walk. The entire time, Casey is being overly sweet. Gushy, even. As we walked through the north side of the Myriad Gardens, it was a walk like any other. We talked about the new Devon Tower, how great the city is becoming, how iconic the Gardens are going to be in the future. We talked about how much we wished there was still snow on the ground. We talked about how much we like each other.
Casey suggested we walk down the path opposite of the Water Stage. As we walked down the stairs, Casey kept mentioning how much he wanted to do this more. When I asked how often, he simply answered, “forever.” He told me how much he loved me and that he didn’t want me to think it was just because it was close to Valentine’s Day that he was saying this. At this point, we had stopped on the path, and we just kept talking. At one point, Casey mentioned that he wished we could have played in the snow while we were there. Obviously, I started doing air snow angels. And that’s when it happened.
He grabbed my right hand, kissed it, put it down. He grabbed my left hand, kissed it, held it. Then he said, “When I went to dinner with your parents, it wasn’t just to eat dinner,” and then he dropped to his knee. “Will you marry me?” And then I cried. I was shocked. So very happy and shocked. “You haven’t said yes yet…” “YES!!!!!!” He stood up and we kissed. And we hugged. And I looked at my ring a hundred different times. And we kissed. And we told each other how much we loved each other. And we kissed. And then he told me that the video camera he had taken to work that day had captured the entire walk through the Gardens. Once I saw our friend Doug standing above the Water Stage, I was so happy this moment had been captured!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

From a Pro Marriage Guy to the Overly Pro Marriage Legislator

I came across this article today in The Oklahoman today:

There is currently a bill in the Oklahoma Legislature that is aiming to make it more difficult to get divorced. I think the only thing the bill's author and myself have in common is that we both want strong marriages and families, however, we both have very different viewpoints on what the real issue is.

 In Oklahoma, it is quite common for people to get married at a real young age. The national average for males is 29 years old and the average for females is 27. Averages in Oklahoma? 26 for males and 23 for females. Why the big discrepancy? Good or bad, it is likely related to social pressures / social norms in our state.

Getting married young isn't necessarily bad and by no means does it automatically mean you will end up in divorce, but knowing we are in the top 3 states of "Youngest to Marry" (with Utah and Arkansas) we are also in the top 3 for most divorced adults (with Nevada and Maine) and we are #1 in this great nation for those who have been married THREE times...there is something in the water that makes the State of Oklahoma (a prominent resident of the Bible Belt) one where people tend to say "I do (but I don't mean it)" at an early age. -

Just the facts, ma'am.

The Oklahoman legislator, Mark McCullough, believes the answer to our rising divorce numbers is just to make people stay married - especially if they have kids... What if the parents are always yelling at each other? What if peace and stability will be achieved after divorce? What if keeping people physically binded in the "failed marriage" leads to alcoholism? What if they made a stupid decision when they were young and Mr. or Mrs. Right is out there to improve both of their lives (and the kids)? Perhaps the real issue is not forcing people to stay married...and the actual issue is how easy it is to get married in the first place (OR) the reasons some get married - public pressure, tax benefits, etc.

Let's take a step back and get to the heart of issue before things get out of hand and let's stop legislators from trying to "put a band-aid" on someone who needs a heart transplant.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Confession Time

I once had a fun argument with my friend Tyler about who was the better actor, Jeff Bridges or Tom Hanks.

Naturally, I went with all-time great Mr. Hanks. The Gump himself.

The biggest counter-argument came from when Tyler said Bridges wins based solely on his role in The Big Lebowski. I told him he was wrong. I based my judgement on him being wrong on that I had seen the movie...Turns out, I hadn't.

Why am I writing this? Because it's 11:35pm and The Big Lebowski just came on TV - and I feel like clearing my conscience.

This movie, so far, is pretty awesome. I mean this cast can almost not be beaten.

Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turtorro, Philip Seymore Hoffman and Sam Elliott. Wow.

I don't think The Dude wins the argument, but at least now I can say that I know for sure.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Returning to the "Get Off Your Ass and Get Into Shape Club!"

I am pleased to announce my triumphant return to the "Get Off Your Ass and Get Into Shape Club!"

It has been a 2-year hiatus, but now after 5 recent visits to the tennis courts (3 of which I lost to the old man) and being set for a run tomorrow morning with Marek downtown...yes, I said the words "RUN" and "MORNING" - two words you won't often find me using with any sort of positive attitude - I am ready to take on the world. 

So, wish me luck as I attempt to turn this tubby 173 pound body into a 163-pound dominating clothes-fitting square jaw double-chinless carb-burning machine. Those at Shape Your Future would be proud.

Bring it on.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Turning 25 - 2008. Italy, Alaska and my first big-kid job.

Well, I took a couple days off for many reasons...but I'm back to this blog idea to get blogs that capture the 10 years leading up to my 30th birthday.

February 0f 2008, I was halfway through my second semester of my Public Relations degree (which only left me with 6 more credit hours scheduled for the fall). My last "Spring Break" I would begin following through with that promise I made myself have the year before, "Go travel."

Vatican City / Rome at St. Peter's Cathedral

So, during spring break I would catch a plane ride back to Madrid for a couple days, then take another plane to Rome, train to Florence, train to Venice and then train to was a beautiful trip with monuments and thousands of years of historical art. I would stand in the Colosseum. Look up into the Oculus of the Pantheon. Smell the inside of the Sistine Chapel. Envy the Statue of David. Go photo crazy on the canals of Venice and gawk at the fashion of Milan. Italy was cool to say the least, and a place I can't wait to go back and visit again. From an older and more appreciating stance. Now, back to reality of school.

(To view photo sets of my travels in Europe)
Me and Travel buddy/great friend Doug Vrooman

One of my last assignments in one of my classes would go on to shape my next few years - Interview a public relations professional about their Crisis Communications plans. Well, considering I was practically a fresh PR student (but felt confident to take on the world) I naively had the idea that I wouldn't interview one person...I would interview three.

I wanted to meet more people in the profession. I was tired of reading about it and hearing about, I wanted to experience it. This school project interested me because I knew that I was about to throw myself in some unfamiliar settings.

So, instead of interviewing just one person and set on interviewing three people, I called up 3 agencies that I had heard of at that time. I called on based in Edmond (Gooden Group), I called one in NW Oklahoma City (Saxum Communications) and I called one downtown (Jones PR). I know what your thinking, "But you only need to turn in one report over one person...what are you going to do with the other two interviews?" My answer, "I don't know." That wasn't really too important to me. What was important was getting into the offices of PR agencies, shaking some hands, introducing myself, talking to them in a non-job interview setting (so that when I would be seeking a job, they would already know me).

Wearing a shirt I just bought at a Venitian "yard sale"

My first interview was with Brent Gooden. My second interview was with Renzi Stone and my third interview was with Brenda Jones and Sam Sims. On that last interview (Friday, May 9) I brought up the idea of an internship for the fall semester (as I still had to take 6 hours) and was going to need to fill a lot of extra time and I wanted hands-on experience.Brenda's response, "In the fall? Well, what are you doing this summer?" What I was thinking was, "Nothing. I'm not doing anything this summer. It's my last 'summer break' of my life. I'm going to sleep in every day and do nothing and it is going to be glorious." BUT what I actually said was, "I don't have any plans. Would be open to me having a summer internship? Like, something around 20 hours per week?" (I was really hoping to get up to 20 hours and hoping it wasn't going to be a little 8-10 hour internship). Her response, "Yes, we could wait until the summer...but, what are you doing next week? You could start on Monday if you want. You could take on more hours too, if you wanted. Something around 30-40 hr a week if you could handle it. for that many hours, it would be a paid internship, of course."

There I was, trying not to pick my jaw up off the floor. I went in for a faux school paper interview (not really a fake interview, but I could have potentially handed in a report on one of the other interviews) and possibly looking for a fall 15-20 hour internship...I left there with a 40-hr job beginning Monday.

"Yes, I can be here Monday."

So, that's the story of me getting my first big-boy job. I began working fulltime for Brenda in May of 2008. Sam Sims made me join Twitter immediately and would love it, all of PR, downtown and my co-workers immediately. How dare I even consider sleeping in during the summer when opportunities like this were available.

Before I left Jones PR that day, I did leave with one amendment that I would go on pre-determined/paid for cruise to Alaska with my family. So, one week at Jones PR. One week to Alaska. then, back to Jones PR.

In Alaska hanging with Reindeer. Notice the Hornets jacket?

My internship/full-time job would count towards 3 hours of that 6 I had left, so in the fall, I only had to take one class (in the evenings) and everything seemed to work out perfectly. Holla.

Now at the time, I still lived in Edmond and was no longer a fan of that. After about 5 or 6 months of having that drive from Edmond to downtown everyday (before the construction began on I-235), I was ready to move. So, in November of 2008 I moved to Regency Tower in downtown. The only great spot in Oklahoma City where you can have a high rise WITH a balcony. Glorious.

Also in November, the Oklahoma City Thunder was beginning its franchise in Oklahoma City. I resumed the stats position I had for the Hornets and watched game by game as this team would almost set the record for the worst team in NBA history. It was a long opening stretch, watching the team start out 3-29. Those were some upset locker rooms and it was about the time I actually got to see first hand just how much teams hate to lose. A lot of people (without first-hand knowledge) like to say that players just play for the money and that they really don't care if they win or lose...I am here to tell you that is completely wrong. they care, and they care a lot. happy locker rooms are the ones that win. If they lose, you don't want to be in that locker room anymore than the players want to answer questions about their poo performance.

Like I mentioned a few blogs ago, I went back to school for the opportunity to work in Public Relations for the NBA. Turns out, the NBA would come before I graduated. Before I had any experience and before I was ready. It no longer mattered to me. I was loving life. Living downtown and working full-time for a downtown PR firm. What more could I ask for?

How about...more travel? Yes, that'll do. But it'll wait until I turn 26.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

(VIDEO) Engagement Photo Shoot Montage

We had a few different engagement photo shoots with Todd Scott Balje (from Beautiful Day Images) last summer/fall. One of my favorite moments in recent years was spending time with Marek up on the old I-40 right before it was set for de-construction.

We woke up really early, met Todd at SW 3rd and Harvey and just walked up the ramp at approx. 6 am. We spent about 30 minutes up there walking around and taking photos. Some of them were featured in this new incredible video along with a couple other shoots we did with our dogs and one shoot in an alley in Bricktown.

The entire video (below) is great, but Marek and I "take the stage" from 3:52 until the end of the video (5:30).


epoch from todd scott ballje on Vimeo.

Monday, January 28, 2013

2007, Turning 24 in Sevilla - Moving back to the US

For my 24th birthday, I spent the drizzly weekend in Sevilla (Seville), Spain, with my roommate/best friend Jason.

We almost didn't catch the bus leaving Madrid to get there. It was a midnight departure (took 5.5 hours to get to Sevilla) and we realized the Metro/Subway was not going to get us to the bus station in time when we were about 1 mile away. We exited the Metro, ran outside and grabbed a taxi to the bus station, jumped out ran to find the bus and saw it pulling out of its stall and started driving away. Just like I had seen in movies and TV shows my whole life, I ran after it. Caught up to it about 30 yards from where it took off from and started hitting the side of the bus over and over until it stopped. We apologized, got on...and began my 24th year.
Out of breath after barely making the bus to Sevilla

Kind of hectic, but hey, we were in Spain on my birthday. Hard to complain. Sevilla was gorgeous even though it rained in and out during our visit. They have the world's largest Gothic Cathedral (which has Christopher Columbus' tomb/casket) and some of the prettiest gardens you'll see.

While Sevilla was great, it was not the highlight of my 24th year of life, so let's move on. Just after my birthday, I began realizing that I was not going to live in Spain for multiple years like my friends had/were going to, and I knew that I needed to get back to the U.S. and get that second bachelor's degree, this time in Public Relations. The fact that the Seattle SuperSonics had been purchased by an OKC group stirred lots of buzz about the possibility of a relocation sometime in the near future to OKC (possibly by 2010), and I knew that I wouldn't be a top candidate even if I could finish my degree by that time, but it was a big enough dream that I wanted to get back early and try.

I decided that I would travel throughout the summer as most Europeans do. I wanted to go see Italy, France, UK, etc. throughout the summer and head back home in August and start school again. This was my plan and I began to look/enroll into classes at the University of Central Oklahoma.

I was actually really excited for this next chapter in my life. It gave some closure and "end goal" to my AMAZING experience in Spain with my friends. I was preparing to wind down my last 8 weeks of English classes and have one long "goodbye" to Madrid. until I received an email from the States.

Some friends of ours work(ed) at The Oklahoma Foundation for Digestive Research, and throughout the last 2 years of SNU my friends and I were "guinea pigs" for money - health studies/trials where we have tubes down our noses and determine which form of Prilosec was better, liquid or pill (good question). Of course each study was a little bit different and with each difference came different pay. The pay ranged from about $500 up to $2,000 and to a college kid (and most adults for that matter) that was a large sum of money. Now, back to that email I received...I got an email from our friends stating that a new medical study was coming up at the end of April that was quite substantive: $8,300. Now, that's a lot of money, but was it enough money to leave Spain and say goodbye to all the traveling plans I had for the summer? Turns out, yes it was.

With college looming and not having a job in place on my return home, I made a promise to myself (one that I most definitely kept) that if I left Spain early and went home without traveling Europe that I would return back to Europe and travel some. So, I left Spain mid-April.

Arriving home, I moved back in with Mom and Dad. The summer was a speedy blur and after the medical study was complete, I ended up moving in with my friend who I had known since I was 6 years old, Derek. Derek went to UCO and since I was about to attend, it just made much more sense.

With the $8,300 in the bank (and a litte bit more, considering I wasn't really spending much in Spain) I paid for my first semester, textbooks and had enough for a couple months of rent and got a scooter...but I knew I had to get a job, and I found one in the most humbling profession one could ask for: waiting tables at Chili's.
On my scooter - School photo project, "Photo encompassing 'me'"

I had a few friends throughout high school and college who were waiters but I had no experience. Turns out the GM at the Chili's in Edmond was the dad of a kid I used to babysit in middle school so that worked out. Waiting tables is a beast. It was one of the most eye-opening experiences I've ever had. I literally had a few nightmares that woke me up in the middle of the night due to the constant rush and stress I felt at the job. Crazy crazy crazy, but it did get better after a couple of months.

That first semester, I took 15 hours and since I already had all my core classes completed, I took all PR/communications classes that went directly to my major. I was even able to have a couple communications classes from my education degree carry over (and I didn't have any problem passing a couple Spanish CLEP courses).

Towards the end of that 1st semester, I also started volunteering at the OU Children's Hospital near downtown. I was in charge of going room to room, saying hi to the kids and asking if I could bring them something from our "play room" area. After all, teaching and kids were still a passion of mine. I would volunteer there for about 8 months before I got too overwhelmed with other work-related stuff that we'll get into in tomorrow's blog.

Anyways, at the end of that 1st semester, I had 6 hours carried over from SNU, 6 hours CLEPed and took 15 hours in the fall = 27 of the 45 hours needed. My spring enrollment was pretty light as a class I HAD to have was not available until the next fall so I knew that my class load did not need to be maxed out in the spring. I enrolled in only 12 hours that spring (a piece of cake considering I took 18 each of the last 5 semesters at SNU). I worked more at Chili's and tried to pay down some debt from the new classes and really began to re-establish myself back into OKC. I constantly though of Spain/Europe (and still do) but I knew being back in OKC is where I belonged and PR was where I needed to be headed. Life, for the most part, was pretty good.

Tomorrow, the experience of my 25th year of life.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Turning 23. 14,500 miles in a van and Europe. Beat that.

Retiro Park, Madrid.
Turning 23 wasn't the most memorable day in my life, but the year that followed will not be forgotten.

In Feb. of 2006, I was a recent graduate of Southern Nazarene University with an Elementary Education degree. Due to a new side job working on the Stats crew (led by the PR staff) of the Oklahoma City/New Orleans Hornets (which in the past couple days announced their new name and logo next season, The New Orleans Pelicans), I was having so many dreams and thoughts of actually trying to do something in PR, but with a degree in Education, I knew that I had some tough decisions ahead of me.

I had taken on some substitute teaching jobs at Kenneth Cooper Middle School (where I had my student teaching) and kept on umpiring at PCO, and kept on planning a summer road trip that in our minds was unstoppable. Our original agenda was to take off at the end of May (after my older brother, Mike's, wedding) drive all around the country and stay with anyone we met or sleep in the car. It was the perfect beginning to any 20-something's dream of "getting away."

This idea would be refined several times over the course of spring and by the time May rolled around, we were still onboard. After so many nay-sers and tips from others, we wrote out our "plan" that amounted to a whole lot of improv. We would only have two dates throughout the summer we had to schedule around: a flight back to OKC for Ford to attend the wedding of Blake and Holly Jarolim, and a July 23 flight for me back to OKC to vote in the Congressional election where my Dad had just made it public that he was running for the seat.
Back of van for the road trip

The road trip, which consisted of 14,500 miles (for perspective, OKC to NYC is 1,450 miles we would drive 10 times that) would never have happened without the blessing from my mom, allowing us to use her minivan. We took all the seats out of the back and just kept the front two seats. The back, we replaced with a futon that fit perfectly and placed a down-comforter on top of it with a fitted sheet...road trip like kings. On one side of the van we would place our bags (which contained little more than 3-4 tshirts and some socks/underwear. The other side of the van was cleared out for a passenger to recline in the back during the long drives, equipped with pillows and blankets and a mini 10" battery-powered fan we got at Walmart that fit perfectly setup between the two front seats and aimed into the back.

Rooftop in downtown Chicago for 4th of July
Throughout this trip I journaled everyday, on paper...Myspace and Xanga were at their height for blogging purposes but finding random Internet driving across the country was I wrote down everything and a couple years ago I began transcribing them into full blogs, I didn't end up digitizing them past Day 9, but if you want to read more detail about this trip, start with Day 1:

The overall Cliff Notes version: 68 days, 14,500 miles. Not $1 spent on lodging (except 3 days in Vegas - I'm mean, come on, you have to stay in the hotels there). The other 65 days, we would stay with friends, relatives, complete strangers and even 11 scary nights in the van, parked in driveways/streets/parking lots. We got in about 7 bodies of water, including the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, we visited 5 Canadian cities, the Keys in Florida, Tijuana Mexico, we were on MTV's TRL, stood with girl scouts in the background of Good Morning America, had border patrol issues a couple times, Couchsurfed in 3 different cities (Bozeman, Vancouver, and San Diego), attended the Spoletto Festival in Charleston and saw baseball games at Fenway, Yankee Stadium, PacBell in San Francisco and snorkeled in Key Largo. It was pretty intense and I really hope to transcribe the rest of it, but the first 10 blogs of that trip are a pretty good read.
We were on TRL

On this trip, when we were in D.C. (2nd week in June), I made up my mind that I did not want to start a teaching profession in OKC in August. I knew that if I began teaching in August that I would eventually feel trapped and not fullfil my new desires to go into PR. When I finally made that decision I was much more relieved and knew that I needed to begin planning for what I would do when I returned in the beginning of August. Go back to school for a PR degree? Try to get a PR internship? Anything else? Yes, there was something else. More photos of the trip: here.

Remember in yesterday's blog when I mentioned I had some friends graduate and head off to Madrid to teach English? Turns out that they were going to stay another year...I also found out that two of my other friends were going to join them this time around...turns out, that sounded perfect to me...

I would work out what needed to be done to get my passport ready by mid August, and bought a one-way plane ticket to Madrid. I was being completely reasonable in my head and completely ridiculous to 99% of the other people I knew.

When I returned from the greatest road trip of all time, I started to pack to leave for Spain.
Out our apartment balcony in Madrid

Full disclosure: I didn't necessarily have a work permit to be employed in Spain. I heard that since we were Americans (spoke English) that there were plenty of English Academies and families willing to pay for part-time work: paid in cash. People often ask me, "Which Study Abroad program did you work for?" and my response usually catches them off-guard...."I didn't work for any program. I just bought a plane ticket and moved. I sent my resume to 21 different English Academies for part-time work and I got responses for interview setups from 19 of them." On my 4th interview, I found the hours/pay that I was looking for...I worked from 1pm to 5pm on Monday-Thursday...yup. 16 hours a week and a 3-day weekend every week. Hello Heaven.

I would get paid 15€ per/hour, 60€ per day x 4 days a week = 240€ per week...approx. 920€ per month ($1300).

Me, Tonio (co-owner), Jason, Tyler at "Paco's"
My bills (with a total budget of 920€): 250€ apt rent per month (my room was a cozy 6' x 8'), 35€ Subway/Metro/Bus pass...and that's about it. The remaining 635€ each month was set aside for eating/going out every day and night...the Spanish culture is amazingly open/friendly and very cheap. We frequented a place we called "Pacos" about 5-6 times a week for drinks/tapas and of course for Paella on Sunday afternoons. A whole night's worth of Drinks/Tapas ran a bill of about 10-12€. That's about as good as it gets.

We would spend time at the Museo del Prado (classical), the Reina Sofia Museum (modern, Picasso, Dali, etc.) and many warm nights in Retiro Park to hear the djemba drum lines. We would watch sunsets at the Templo Debod and walk/shop down Gran Via. The Spanish lifestyle consists of a very healthy Mediterranean diet and LOTS of walking...I somehow ended up losing weight and becoming in much better shape, despite pretty much eating and drinking whatever the Spanish "bars/restaurants" offered that day.

Castle in Toldeo
Our 3-day weekends were filled with traveling around Spain, going to Toledo, Segovia, Granada, Sevilla and Barcelona and even spent a week in Greece, going to Athens, Korinthos and a day island hopping. It was perfect for the young adventurous traveler. If you ever hear of anyone in college/post college thinking of spending time abroad...encourage them.

I got to come home for Christmas (thank you Grandma) which was perfect for me after 3 months in a country to which I didn't speak the language...yet I was learning quite a bit. On my return back to Madrid (Dec. 30), the plane I was on began its decent to the Madrid Barajas Airport yet was unable to land on time. The pilot came on the speaker and said that there had been an explosion at the airport and as everyone bagan looking out the windows, the smoke was becoming easy to see. Basque Nationalist and Separatest organization ETA claimed responsibility for the bombing/attack. To read more about the incident:

In Athens
Being that close to "Ground Zero" in a foreign country was a surreal feeling. Reports of terrorism around the world are reported nightly in America with very little emotion from Americans. This one brought quite a bit of emotion for me, this was not just any foreign land, it was my home.

It was about this point that I began seeing Spain as much more than a long vacation, as it had surely felt up until this point. As the 5 of us Americans living together in a small apartment in the quiet inner city Vallehermoso neighborhood, we bagan to really embrace the people around us and began to have friends outside of our little group. This embracement was typical of Spaniards, and it was that embracement that kept me going back year after year. I would head back to Spain for at least a visit in 2008, 2009 and 2011, to see old friends and to see one of my (then) roommates, Tyler, who still lives there (you might remember him as Waldo at my wedding)...he came back for it.

I took plenty of photos throughout my stay in Spain and even some video. I took this video of my daily walk from my apartment to the Metro to get to work For some reason, it has nearly 5,000 views on YouTube. Enjoy.

To end my 23rd year, my friend (and later groomsman Jason) and I took a trip down to Sevilla for my next birthday. More on that and my 24th year tomorrow.