Introducing: ‘The Journey of a Baby Giraffe’ Podcast!

In order to stay connected with you all while not taking posts away from the annual bucket list project, “50 in 2015”, I have started a Podcast to discuss other happenings in life & my own observations of the world this baby giraffe lives in. Check it out:

http://kitkat1286.podbean.com/

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50 in 2015- A life unexpected

This year is going to be better. Not only does it end in a ‘5’, which is my favorite & lucky number- it is starting off on quite a different path for me as well. Nine days into the year I will be leaving a job that I loathe; twelve days into the year I will be starting a full-time graduate program at Cabrini College. For the first time in eight years I will not be employed with a 40+ hours a week job. It’s so exciting to be taking the next great steps towards the rest of my life, and yet absolutely terrifying.

This year I’m taking a more low-key approach to my yearly bucket list. For 2015, I have 50 list items I want to accomplish, while simultaneously working towards my Masters Degree.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my ’50 in 2015’:

1. Get healthy
2. Go to a farmer’s market
3. Grow the ‘Pink Giraffes’
4. Get my belly-button pierced
5. Buy copies of a book I love & give it to three friends
6. Pay Kevin back
7. Become debt-free
8. Work on my archery skills and get a bulls-eye
9. Run a 5k
10. Go with a friend to a painting & wine class
11. Get 6-pack abs
12. Go to Dave & Buster’s
13. Tour a vineyard/go to a wine tasting
14. Have a photo shoot done
15. Buy something nice for myself
16. Go to an opera
17. Take Kevin on an adventure
18. Throw an amazing birthday party for someone else
19. Ride in a hot air balloon
20. Have a weekend with my sisters
21. Go zip-lining
22. Go to a bonfire
23. Go apple picking
24. Visit an art museum
25. Go on a picnic
26. Do volunteer work
27. Learn to play poker
28. Go kayaking down the Brandywine River
29. Plan a big trip for 2015
30. See Britney Spears perform in Las Vegas
31. Enter a Halloween costume contest
32. Go surfing
33. Buy a homeless person lunch
34. Go to NYC
35. Make a wall gallery of favorite photos/art
36. Research & begin tattoo removal
37. Get a mani/pedi
38. Plan a big trip for 2016
39. Have a father/daughter date
40. Get my fortune told
41. Buy something in a vintage shop
42. Pet a giraffe at the zoo
43. Have a spa day
44. Carve a pumpkin
45. Go go-kart racing
46. Try a new food
47. Have a paintball battle
48. Make homemade smores over a firepit
49. Go skinny dipping
50. Plan a weekend getaway

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100 in 2014- A Year in Review

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I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see a year end.

This statement probably isn’t 100% true, as we all have years that can qualify as truly shitty. And by no means am I saying that 2014 was the most awful year- many good things came out of this past year. However, there were many hardships and trials that I went through, and a lot of bullshit. I can certainly point out many good things that happened- in fact, you probably read about them on this very blog.

Regardless, I am so ready for 2015.

2014 gave me some great things, like the ability to start paying down my debt and actually go on a real vacation. It gave me opportunities I hadn’t known in years, and for that I am grateful. It gave me a chance to work on the ‘Pink Giraffes’ and continue growing the team; it gave me the chance to make new friends, which I definitely did! I finally found my calling and in 2014 I was accepted into graduate school. Also, I’ve been lucky, there was no death this year; instead, there was new life born, a precious baby boy my cousin & her husband named Patrick.

It also gave me some major heartache & strife. This year I’ve said goodbye to some people, relationships that had gone sour or were not enriching my life anymore. I’ve had to deal with some very real emotions and make some very painful decisions. I’ve had to absorb, process, and act on information that shook me to my core and made me reevaluate where I was in my life, and if it was truly where I wanted to be. I had a serious health scare that landed me in the emergency room for the first time ever- let alone the first time I was a patient in a hospital in my entire life.

I’ve loved, missed, despised, forgave, cared about, forgotten, angered…. I’ve truly lived this year. A whole range of emotions, both good & bad, was felt. I’ve been so happy I could fly, so ecstatic my face hurt. I’ve been so sad and hurt that my heart was in pain for days, unable to keep up with the burden sadness brings. I’ve been so angry I could’ve punched a wall, even though physical violence is not in my nature. I’ve become at peace, forgiving what I could and letting go so much that just didn’t matter anymore. I’ve loved as I have always loved, with a full heart.

This past year I turned 28 years old. Inarguably closer to 30 than 20 now, it is an age that makes you question where you are, what you are doing, and where you are going. I developed some healthy new habits and ditched some bad ones where they belong- in my past. I’ve learned to embrace the life I have, cherish the good people in it, even if they are few. I’ve learned to stick to my guns and follow my gut…. That it’s my own life and no one else’s to live.

Now it is time to stop reflecting, time to leave 2014 where it belongs. In the past.

Goodbye 2014- you were definitely a strange one.

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#37- Plan a date with my mom

My mom is a busy lady- she works insane hours at her job, and then takes time to take care of the house & spend time with her family when she’s not in her office. So sometimes she isn’t always 100% prepared for the holidays, or knows exactly what to get you as a gift…. It happens, I’m difficult to shop for. This time, I got the best gift of all because of that- I got a date with my mom to go shopping at the Philadelphia Premium Outlets and dinner, just the two of us.

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We decided to venture out to the outlets in Limerick the Sunday after Christmas. We started at the Coach store, since my mom had wanted to get me a new purse as a Christmas gift. As we entered the store, we were immediately handed a coupon for 50% off by a sales associate. YEA! We smiled at each other as we began to browse, coupon in hand.

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I have really wanted a quality cross-body bag for a while…. I like the idea of being hands-free & not having to worry about my bag being too big to carry or falling off my shoulder, especially while shopping. Since I always usually have a piece of black clothing on somewhere, I was looking for one in black, preferably without the Coach logo all over the bag. We found a beautiful leather bag with an adjustable strap; I tried it on to make sure it was long enough (a definite CON of being six feet tall- some things are just too short for me). We had found my new purse!

As we continued to browse, my eyes fell on another cross-body bag, this time brown & tan, in the classic Coach ‘C’ fabric…. It matched the outfit I had on perfectly. Since we still had the 50% off coupon, my mom said she’d buy both bags for me as my Christmas present. I thanked her profusely as we stood in the long, snaking line to check out. In the end, she purchased both purses for less than the price of one! Go mom, sales, and coupons!

After the Coach store we started our loop around the outlet mall. We stopped in any stores we thought looked interesting, picking up stuff for ourselves that we liked. I helped my mom choose a new pair of jeans at Levi’s and a new fleece jacket at Merrell. She helped me pick out some new long sleeved tops & sweaters at Rue21 and a gift for my cousin’s new baby, Little P(atrick)!

After our loop, we stopped at Ruby Tuesday to grab an early dinner, hoping to beat any shopping crowd. We obviously think alike, as we both sipped on Ruby Relaxers & ordered the Herb Crusted Tilapia for our entrees. We were able to talk about all sorts of subjects, having more than a couple hours of quality time for the first time in…. a long time. Too long.

We then left the outlets- it was chilly and looked like it was about to rain any minute! Not wanting to end our day out, we stopped at the King of Prussia mall so I could pick up my present from my grandmother, a new black fleece jacket from North Face. We also browsed Nordstrom, each picking out some sweaters from the sales racks and trying them on. We left the mall with a couple more purchases and headed home.

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Both being busy adults, my mom & I don’t get to always spend as much time together as we’d like. I think the stress of our schedules also makes us butt heads more often, especially when we don’t get any quality time in, so it’s always running around crazy and nothing else. I’m so glad we got to have this mother/daughter date and spend some real quality time together, and more than just a couple hours. I think we needed it, to be able to talk freely and kind of get to know each other again.

#3- Get into grad school

After my emergency room visit at the end of October and the subsequent days spent resting in bed, I decided it was time to make a change in my life. I knew I would have to quit my miserable job and find a new path to making life what I wanted it to be- and I finally knew what that path was. A new passion had emerged in my years of leading the ‘Pink Giraffes’, that of non-profit work. So I made an appointment with the Graduate Admissions office at Cabrini College to discuss their Masters’ of Science in Non-Profit Leadership program. After discussing the course requirements, my educational & professional history, and my goals, I completed my application in the director’s office and took a campus tour.

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I went home, filled out my financial aid paperwork, and waited…..

…..And waited.

……..And waited.

Okay, I didn’t wait that long- after about 10 days of filling out my application, I had received my acceptance letter! Even though I was pretty sure I would get in, it was so wonderful to actually have my acceptance in my hand… I was finally moving towards making the life I’ve always envisioned for myself.

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I am officially a full-time on-campus Cabrini College graduate student, and will begin my classes on January 12th. As I sit in my office, finishing the last six days of my two-weeks’ notice, I can’t help but feel the anticipation & butterflies in my stomach just thinking about my fresh start just around the corner.

I got into graduate school. In two years, I will have a Masters Degree.

So, even though it took some time…. I DID IT!

#5- Have the ‘Pink Giraffes’ participate in another charity walk

For my longtime readers, you will remember my formation of the ‘Pink Giraffes’ last August and the team’s participation in the American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” walk in October 2013. The team’s success and my newfound love of non-profit fundraising brought me to the conclusion that the team was not a one-and-done thing, but something I wanted to continue for years to come- perhaps even turning it into an actual non-profit!

While I originally had sights on the ‘Pink Giraffes’ participating in a Thyroid Cancer walk in 2014, the organizers of that walk did not hold one this year. Instead of not participating in anything, we signed up for our second year of the American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides” walk, taking place on Saturday, October 18th. We started out with an initial fundraising goal of $1,000….. and as you’ll see, we raised above & beyond this number, thanks to our supporters, communities, and dedicated team members.

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Earlier in 2014, for reasons I don’t feel like elaborating on, the team had to change its logo. Knowing quite a few graphic designers, artists, and people with raw artistic talent, I set my feelers out for new logo design ideas. Eventually, I worked with Kevin and he created what is now the ‘Pink Giraffes’ officially Copyrighted logo:

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Designed by Kevin S. Martin; Copyright Pink Giraffes 2014

 

It was an absolute hit! Everyone, team members and supporters alike, loved the new design and clamored to purchase team t-shirts and hoodies. I placed an initial order with Spirit Gear Plus in Downingtown so that we would have the shirts in time for the team’s first fundraiser- an “Eat Wings, Raise Funds” event at Buffalo Wild Wings!

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“Eat Wings, Raise Funds” at Buffalo Wild Wings- September 29, 2014

Our first fundraiser was an “Eat Wings, Raise Funds” event at Buffalo Wild Wings in Downingtown. After working with their wonderful management & staff last year, we thought it would be a great place to host an event once again!

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An all-day event, anyone supporting our team could just show our flyer to their server and the team received 10% of all sales to go towards our fundraising goal! Several members of the team arrived around dinnertime to set up a table with team information, our raffle basket, and our eBay auction links. We spent the evening circulating, visiting with all our wonderful supporters who came to enjoy a delicious dinner & raise money for our cause, as well as meeting members of the community who wished to learn more about our team & our work with the American Cancer Society.

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Team members (L to R): Kimberly Johnson, Katherine Ensell, Janell Dyitt, Carly O’Neill

We had a great time and once again wish to thank the hard-working management & staff at BWW Downingtown for all their help & enthusiasm!

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Flash Zumbathon at Summit Fitness Club- October 4, 2014

The ‘Pink Giraffes’ second fundraiser was less than a week later, a “flash” Zumbathon at Summit Fitness Club in Chester Springs. I worked with my awesome Zumba instructor Julie & the gym manager Grace to plan out the event- times for each set, where we would set up the raffles, and discussing any other logistics for the day. Julie and my friend Shannon graciously donated their time & skill to lead the Zumbathon, and Summit Fitness Club allowed us to use their facilities for free. We also had Shannon and Julie’s husband, John, taking photos of the event.

The ‘Pink Giraffes’ spent the next few days sending out our informational flyer to drum up interest & more participants for the Zumbathon, which would be held in two 45-minutes ‘waves’ to accommodate everyone who would be attending (the Zumba studio is a little small to hold a large event in.

Once Saturday arrived, the entire day sped by! I started the day by setting up the team’s table, complete with pretzels donated by the Philly Pretzel Factory, three raffles, snacks, and over a hundred free water bottles for all participants. Grace had made a beautiful sign that was displayed in Summit’s lobby all week to advertise the event- I had no idea how big it would actually become.

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As team members began to arrive & assist with the set-up, the first wave of the Zumbathon was about to begin! As supporters streamed in, signing in, reading the waiver, and buying raffle tickets, our team members worked as a solid unit, directing everyone to where they needed to go and happily answering any & all questions. Soon it was 10:30 and the lobby emptied as fast as it filled up only minutes earlier, as participants found their places in the studio to begin the Zumbathon!

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The next 45 minutes were spent shaking booties to energetic music, with smiles & laughs and a positive vibe I’ve never felt before in such a large crowd. Each team member jumped into the festivities for a bit, while the others manned the tables in the lobby. We twirled and danced to end breast cancer, in a sea of pink!

Both waves of the Zumbathon were full, and as they wrapped up we pulled the raffle tickets and finalized any last minute t-shirt and hoodie orders. As we packed up, the ‘Pink Giraffes’ decided to go to On the Border for some lunch, celebratory margaritas, and team bonding.

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Team members (L to R): Kimberly Johnson, Katherine Ensell, Janell Dyitt

As Kim, Janell, and I counted the raffle & shirt order money, we added that to our previous total and excitedly figured out that we had raised over our initial $1,000 fundraising goal! We clinked our glasses together for a cheers towards the ‘Pink Giraffes’ accomplishments. The next two weeks until the walk were about to bring even more success than we hoped for!

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The two weeks following the Zumbathon were filled with more team shirt orders, donations, and preparations for the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” walk on October 18th. I took off work on Friday the 17th to pack up all our supplies and my suitcase, as once again the team was staying at Ieva’s house near the walk site (in Fairmount Park) the night before. I picked up Carly after she got out of school and made our way to Philly! We scooped up Stacy from her apartment and all arrived at Ieva’s around dinnertime. We picked up some food and settled in, first toasting our team & it’s hard work with pink sparkling wine (for the adults) and sparkling grape juice (for the under 21 members). Carly, Stacy, I’Ajah, Ieva, and I spent the evening talking, laughing, and watching a movie before turning in for the night- we had to get up early for the walk the next morning!

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“Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” walk in Philadelphia- October 18, 2014

Finally, the day we had worked so hard for arrived. We awoke and got ready, putting on our team shirts and decorating ourselves in pink! Janell met us at the house, and we rode over to the park early to find decent parking. Even though it was early in the morning, our spirits were high as we walked over to the registration tent. As team captain I checked-in the team, handed in our cash & check donations, and handed out the “Registered Walker” stickers to each team member.

We then had time to kill, so the ‘Pink Giraffes’ browsed the merch tent and found a good spot to view the warm up presentations before the walk officially began. Soon enough, it did!

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Team members (L to R): Ieva Blackshear, Katherine Ensell, Stacy Stackhouse, I’Ajah Blackshear, Carly O’Neill, Janell Dyitt

As we wound around the 5k path through & around Fairmount Park, our team members talked, laughed, reminisced about the 2013 walk, and even spent some quiet moments in solitude & reflection. I purchased two pink ribbon signs at the Garden of Hope, to commemorate two brave women very close to my heart- my grandmother, who is a breast cancer survivor; and my friend Marcy, who is a breast cancer fighter!

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We crossed the finish line with our arms linked; continuing a tradition the team began the prior year.

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After we completed the walk, we took team photos by the fountain in the park– serious then silly, they reflected the mood of the day. We were fighting a very serious disease, but did it with hope & lightness in our hearts.

All starving after our early morning walk & no breakfast, we skipped the cheesesteaks of the year before and feasted on giant breakfasts at a local Ihop. With our bellies full of food & coffee, we started to go our separate ways, with hugs and promises to start planning the team’s next steps after the upcoming holiday season.

The week after the walk, the ‘Pink Giraffes‘ were featured in an article in the Daily Local News! Featuring a picture from the walk & our team logo, the article/press release I had worked on with the paper was in their annual Breast Cancer insert, as their spotlight “Grassroots Support”. It was such an honor for the team to be recognized for all we have done & will continue to do!

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Scan of our Daily Local News article!

I am so proud of the ‘Pink Giraffes’ and what we have become. This year brought many positive changes to our team, which made it all the better. We have evolved and grown from the 2013 fundraising season & walk, and have become a stronger unit. This year we raised over $2,000- which is over 200% of our goal! I cannot wait to see how far we go in the next 365 days….Our next steps are certain, however; now that our logo has an official copyright, I will work on trademarking the team name & registering to become an official non-profit.

I also continue to be forever grateful to our wonderful supporters- the individuals & businesses within our communities that have stuck by us through this entire process, and continue to be the best ‘Pink Giraffes’ cheerleaders we could ever ask for!

The biggest thank-you, however, goes to the amazing ‘Pink Giraffes’ team members- I’Ajah Blackshear, Ieva Blackshear, Janell Dyitt, Kimberly Johnson, Carly O’Neill, Stacy Stackhouse, and Andrew Wisniowski. Our team would not be what it is without them- our success reflects how much heart they put into our team this year. Thank you to all of you, I can’t wait to get started on our next project with you!

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Stay up-to-date by following me here, or on the ‘Pink Giraffes’ website. For 2015 we are registered to participate in the American Cancer Society’s “Relay For Life” in May!

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Our team’s favorite quote

 

#53- Dip dye the ends of my hair; #79- Get my hair dyed professionally

This was something I have wanted to do forever, but was either deterred by my own worry or employer requirements that I could not have unnatural colored hair.

But this year, I threw caution to the wind and did it anyway- I thought the upcoming “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” walk with the ‘Pink Giraffes’ was the perfect opportunity to take the color plunge!

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After perusing Pinterest for ideas on how I wanted to incorporate the color into my natural hair, I decided to do a pink ombré with purple pieces. I made an appointment at my salon, Pulse Beauty Academy, and waited for my transformation to begin!

My appointment was with Tori, the owner of Spirit Gear Plus– the company that was printing our team t-shirts and hoodies for the walk! We discussed what I wanted and got to work. First she bleached out the bottom few inches of my hair, rinsed and dried it. Then she & Jenna (another Pulse student who helped me fix my hair after the colors had faded!) began to apply the pink & purple dye to my hair. Being as excitable as I am, it was killer waiting for everything to process so I could see the final results!

The next day I had to work…and since I work at a pharmaceutical company, having my newly colorful hair is a big no-no! So I had to get creative with covering it up for the duration that I sported my new look:

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While I only kept my colorful locks for a couple weeks (due to fading & getting fed up with having to find ways of covering it up five days a week), it was certainly a fun & pretty adventure while it lasted! I got so many compliments and was excited to finally do something I had dreamt of doing for years.

Who knows, maybe my colorful hair will show itself again someday…. Never say never!