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.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

My 22nd birthday year can beat up your 22nd birthday year.

Dec. 2005 with Mom
In Feb. 2005, Casey Turns 22.

My 22nd year of life was when I really began to make the turn into becoming the person I am today.

In the Spring of 2005, I was realizing the end of college life was near. About half of friends were graduating in May (while I had obtained more hours of credit overall, I needed another semester to graduate with the switch of my major). I began going to graduation parties with my friends (seen at the parents' house of my friend Lacy Davis below) and saying our goodbyes to those heading back home, overseas, or into the job world.

Those fun times of graduations would be short-lived for me. Soon after those graduations ended, I had one of the worst nights of my life.

It was May 26, 2005 and I woke up at my house and everyone in the family was out enjoying the day. I was home alone watching TV when I began to smell what seemed like a gas leak in the neighborhood, and while I no longer was wishing to breathe in the odor, I called my grandparents (Dear and Pops) and asked if I could come over and bring the dogs because we didn't want to get "woozy" smelling the gas. They were home and so I took our dogs Coco and puppy Cadi over and spent the whole afternoon hanging out with them enjoying the day. The past few years I had grown more and more intrigued spending time with the two of them, listening to their stories of decades past.

As the evening came upon us, I decided it was time to head back home, as I got word the gas leak had been resolved. I loaded up the dogs and was asked by Pops if I wanted to go with them to Steak and Ale for dinner, I said I had to get going because I had to drop the dogs off and drive down to Bricktown to watch my Dad throw out the "First Pitch" at some Redhawks game. Little did I know, that was going to be the last conversation I would ever have with my grandad - who I had become very close with and would end up wearing his wedding ring as my own years later.

I dropped the dogs off at the house and headed to Bricktown. As I exited and began to look for a parking spot, I got a call from my Dad, asking if I had parked, I told him I hadn't and he told me that was a good thing as Pops had just had a heart attack at dinner and was headed to Mercy Hospital. I turned the car back around and headed back out to northwest Oklahoma City.

After getting to Mercy and finding out the details that he had gone unconscious more than once and brought back each time, it was then talked about that if he "goes" again, he would not be revived. After hours at the hospital and all of us spending some time at his bedside, we were all told that he might/might not make it through the night, but that if anything happens, we will be notified. So, I headed to a friends house to "cool off" and would receive a phone call from my older brother that Pops had died and I should come back to the hospital. I broke down like I hadn't in years. My friends drove me to the hospital and dazed out for hours. Later at his funeral, I would break down again, and it would be 7.5 more years until I would cry again, my wedding.

Old photo with my little brother, Tristan, Pops and me on the right

After a few weeks, I was able to get back to my summer...trying to have normalcy again. I was practically feeling it to be my last "summer vacation" and was hanging out with my college friends now on a daily basis (whenever I wasn't at PCO being an umpire). A few of my friends bought plane tickets and headed to Barcelona and then on to Madrid to teach English and experience living abroad, that made me begin thinking of the plans I would need to make for the following January, after graduation in December. Then, August came...

This was by no means an ordinary August for myself or the City of Oklahoma City. Hurricane Katrina hit the City of New Orleans with a fury, and talks of the Hornets relocating to Oklahoma City became reality.

From 1999 to this point (2005) I had been a statistician for my dad as he called sporting events on Cox Communications, high school football, high school basketball, soccer, softball, name, we were there. As the Hornets made it official, and then made it official that Cox Communications would be the broadcasting partner for the team, I applied to be a "Stats guy" and with years of Cox Comm. sports stats, I got a nibble that I could be a "back-up runner" for the team...meaning that 3 or 4 games a year, I could have the job that brought stat sheets to the media during timeouts, end of quarters and (more importantly) transcribe player interview from inside the locker rooms post game. Holy cow, that sounded cool.

I was invited (along with every stats guy, fulltime and back ups) to the first preseason game to get everyone familiar with the job. I was hooked from the first time I walked in the building. I was there early, asked lots of questions and became as involved as much as they would let me...I didn't do that to try to impress anyone, I did it because I had grown up hoping for something like this to become available. I loved it, and at the end of the night, right before I was about to leave, I got asked a question that will go down as one of my all-time favorite moments, (from the PR Director in charge of the game operations) "So, will you be here next game?" "Well, I thought I was just a you need me for the next game?" "Yeah, we could use you for every game if you're willing." (I about fainted but calmly agreed to appear at all 35 home games (not 41, as 6 games would be played back in Louisiana that season). I would do this all season, asked to come back the next season and when the Thunder came to town in 2008, the Game Operations crew called the old Hornets stats guys back and we all came back again.

This was a much bigger moment for me than it sounds. It was much more than just a side stats job. I became enthralled with the behind-the-scenes look into this world-wide franchise. I became enthralled with the PR Director's role with the team (and the rest of his team of PR practitioners). This made me once again question what I wanted to do when I graduated. There I stood, 6 weeks from graduation (and in the middle of student-teaching) and had lost all desire to go fulltime into teaching and desperately wanted to learn much more about this "PR" gig I was seeing first-hand operated at its highest level. I was stuck.

Even before the Hornets came, I was not sold on taking on a teaching job in Jan. '06, right after graduation. I didn't want my very first class to be sought out halfway through a school year...I wanted to start out fresh, with a fresh class the following August...this meant I needed to plan out my spring/summer to take on something different. Adding to that thought...I no longer felt the desire to teach (due to wanting PR)...I was stuck. Stuck in a good way though.

Due to going an extra semester and taking on extra expenses associated with more school with it, I had decided to move home with the parents for the last 1.5 years of college to help with finances. So, without a mortgage/rent to pay, and already had paid off my 12 year old Honda Accord, bills were at a minimum...and that's a good thing for a new graduate with conflicted options on a future. In Jan. I would have a discussion with one of my best friends (future usher at my wedding), Dave Ford Johnson. We talked about how "crazy" it would be to go travel for the summer. Not just any normal traveling...a two-month + road trip around the country...was that possible? Just pack up and go? I had never been away from home for more than 10 days for a summer camp.

Regardless, we were set on doing it. That would happen when I was officially I won't write more on that today...tune in to tomorrow's blog, where the adventures get really adventurous.

(SIDENOTE: I would also be the QB of the championship flag football intra-murals team at SNU, photo below...this story didn't really fit into anything, but it was a lot of fun and since I had photos from it, I thought I'd share them.)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Casey turns 21

I turn 30 in 9 days. To say goodbye to my 20s, I will write a blog each day highlighting a year of my 20s leading up to big number 30. Today's blog, Casey Cornett at age 21.

When I turned 21 years old, I was living in an apartment for the first time (with my best friend/future best man Dr. Trey Hickson), and I had just begun the semester where I officially became an Elementary Education Major. Making the switch 2.5 years into my degree meant that I was going to have take on extra hours in school. I took 18 hours each semester beginning with this one until I graduated.

As I switched majors from Theology to Elementary Education, I switched "jobs" going from an internship at Crossings Community Church into (wait for it) Crossing Christian School, I know, I really branched out. :) Crossings Community Church had launched a new private elementary school just a couple years past and it was an easy transition to relocate to the "After Care" program.

This program called for me to be at the school from 3:00pm to 5:30pm on school days to help with the students who waited for their parents to pick them up after work. I worked in this program for 9 months, only leaving it as the classes I was taking began to demand more of my time, and in the fall I had to take a class that took up that time slot. Bummer.

While I was working form 3:00 to 5:30 daily, I would leave at 5:30 and drive over to PCO baseball fields as I had started umpiring baseball games. This was an experience that "developed" me a lot more than I imagined it ever would. For the first time, I was having to verbally confront upset adults in some situations (as they assumed I missed a call) or upset that I called strike 3 on their son while the kid stood their frozen in fear at a ball going 42MPH went by right in front of them at the plate. It was quite difficult to take on this now authoritative position, but I learned if done so properly and professionally, this job would prove to be very rewarding (especially as I got better at the job). I loved baseball, and played it all I could growing up, so the rules were almost all known by me, but baseball is strange and comes with a lot of strange rules...and the worst time to "learn" these rules is to make a call that is opposite of the rules and have people yell at you...but when they yell at you, you quickly learn the importance of being prepared.

I turned 21 in February of 2004. This month might not stand out in most people's life but to me and my family, it was a game-changing month. On February 24, the citizens of Oklahoma City elected my dad to become mayor of Oklahoma City (sworn in on March 2) and this brought with it a whole other perspective to having a publicly noticeable dad. I grew up with my dad being on TV every day as he was a sportscaster for KOCO for (I think) 16 years and became a newscaster for 3 years, going off the air in 1999. The majority of my life he was on TV, although I was usually in bed for the 10pm broadcasts and out playing sports or with friends during the 5pm and 6pm broadcasts, I didn't see him on TV much. Now, I saw him on TV even more, and mentioned in the newspaper daily and had people coming up to me saying, "Tell your dad...(blah blah blah something political). It was very strange at first but overtime I would get used to...who am I kidding, it's still pretty weird.

Now, turning 21 to most would signal the moment they can now legally drink. But this didn't really matter to me much. I was one of those weird kids that literally never had a drink of alcohol, never had a fake ID, never went to many "drinking" parties in high school and SNU had/has it against its rules and that was fine by me. But, that year did open my horizons to what that atmosphere/lifestyle was like...I could now go to places I couldn't before. I was no longer told to get out of a restricted area at Chili's or other restaurants, I could join friends or peers when they went out and it didn't really matter where we went because it was a new place (and I'm quite adventurous)...I now had a lot more freedom and that was always something I desired, the ability to have a drink was a side-note to turning 21 for me...and I was just fine with that.

Tomorrow, I turn 22. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

20 years old, going in circles

February 3, 2003.

20 Years old.

When I was 20 years old, I was halfway through my sophomore year at Southern Nazarene University. My declared major was Theology. Yup, that's right, Yours truly was in school to become a pastor (of some sorts).

I grew up going to Belle Isle Community Church and in high school they moved its congregation to a new building and renamed it Crossings Community Church. I loved it. I loved the people there (adults and peers) and wanted nothing else to do but remain in the church on a more permanent basis. Theology intrigued me.

I had always been somewhat a fan of history. Learning new stories and how we all got to be the way we are now, was always quite interesting. That's another reason church (and Theology in general) enticed me as much as it did. It was thousands of years of stories, which were all quite easily debated (strange that "facts" can be debated, but spend an hour in a philosophy and you'll see what I mean). It was all fascinating.

All that being said, I was an intern at Crossings in the Middle School Ministries ever since the summer after I graduated from Putnam City North (2001). Coming to a close on my second year of interning, I was beginning to doubt my desire to stay in the church from an employment stance. Working for a church was quite a different experience for me than I expected it to be - I was so used to being in the church from a congregation standpoint...that being on the other side really changed my thoughts. And, that was a pretty hard realization for me. I fought it pretty hard. A lot of my friends were fighting it as well. As more and more of them were leaving Theology for other majors, it made me take a look at my life and I began to really start having self-awareness and self-thought....for the first time ever. I started thinking on my own and questioning a lot more, not necessarily questioning other people or their motives...but for the first time, questioning mine.

I'm sure that's quite common for most at that age. You're 20 years old, away from the house you grew up in, surrounded by new people, paying for bills you didn't expect to be and making decisions you didn't think you were old enough to make.

So, I decided to make some of my own decisions and stand up for myself just a little bit more. I realized that I enjoyed communicating with people, debating ideas, working in groups and being involved, but not necessarily working in a church or even Theology...Theology just happened to be a religious-studies major...and since coming out of high school I wanted to be involved in church it made sense in my 18-yr-old brain to study Theology...oh well.

Now that I look back, I wish someone would have helped me with knowing my options (for instance, I couldn't have told you one thing about Public Relations or even name one person working in a Public Relations field). So, I did the best I could at the time (as most people two years into college do).

In the fall of 2003, I decided to officially quit interning at the church and officially switch my major to Elementary Education. It seemed to fit perfectly. I enjoyed being around youth, coordinating groups and teaching different thoughts and ideas. There really is something special about sitting down and talking with someone and teaching them something new and seeing that "Ah ha!" look on their face.

Anywho, I better stop here. I turn 21 tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Sidebar:  I now realize how much the internet has become the only source for photos. I guess we'll have to wait a couple years/days until 2005 when I actually start having access to photos.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

10 Years in 10 Days

On Feb. 3, I turn 30.


My 20s have been pretty incredible and to think back on who I was at 20 years old and to compare that person to who I am today, wow, what a transformation.

I wanted to take a year-by-year look into it; really reflect back on the years that, by all accounts, will go down as the most adventurous, free-willing and irresponsible decade of my life (if I had to guess). That is not to say that my future will not be adventurous nor free-willing...just not as much as my 20s as a whole.

Tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 24, I will look back on being 20 - where I was, who I hung out with and what I hoped to be like at that time. The next day on Jan. 25 I will move on to being 21, and then 22, etc.

I will end this 10-day blog-a-thon on my 30 birthday. Looking into why what I hope to see (or not see) in my 30s and what my life is like now.

20s, it's been nice and it's time to send you out with style.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My return to SNU - professor style

How strange it is to be a professor.

I have spoken to many classes over the past few years, thanks to requests by former professors and also thanks to unique position I have being a fulltime social media professional. While social media can be an intriguing profession, it is my roots in public relations that I feel is the biggest strength for me to succeed at it.

Many of you know that I have a public relations degree (from UCO), that I worked at Jones PR downtown for nearly 4 years and that I have now been at VI Marketing and Branding (in the PR department - although full-time at Social) for about a 1.5 years, but did you know I also have a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education? 

I graduated in December of 2005 from Southern Nazarene University with a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education (I originally went to SNU for Theology - changed majors after 2.5 years). SNU is where I had my "college experience" and feels like forever since I had walked on the grounds.

Over the holiday break I received an email asking if I was interested in filling in for a professor all spring (who now had to potentially cancel the class for other reasons). It didn't take me long to know I wanted the opportunity. The only catch was the timing, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11:00 to 11:50. This would have to be discussed with multiple people as I know leaving work for an extra hour in the middle of the day could cause an issue at the office and considering Marek and I went down to become a single car family in November, having the car in the middle of the day (when she needs it to drive to work) will take some major coordinating.

Thankfully, I surround myself with people who "get me" and know that this is something I wanted to pursue. The potential hurdles and issues could all be resolved with some sound communications and planning. One week into the class - so far so good.

None of the 14 students skipped class Monday or Wednesday...I'm guessing it's because of the good-looking professor.

Our Championship Intramural Flag Football team

Group of friends at graduation party
At SNU circa 2005