30 Days of Thanks: Siblings

Jane Austen once said, ‘What strange creatures brothers are!”

Well, she was right.

My brother, Andre Ricardo, was born on October 3, 1993 in Denver, Colorado. I remember the first time I laid eyes on him. He was a little red baby with a bunch of brown hair and all wrapped up in a blanket.

We didn’t get along for the first few years of our lives as siblings. Andre was probably the most annoying little brother on the planet. It was terrible to sit in the car next to him, and it was even worse to sit next to him on a plane. I remember one time, my cousin, my brother, and I were in the back seat of a car. My cousin and I were huddled on one seat as my brother was holding a booger he had just picked from his nose, threatening to wipe it on us.

When Andre was 12 and I was 17, we went to a sailing camp for three weeks. He was on a different program, so I barely saw him. He spent the summer doing water sports and snorkeling, and I spent the summer learning how to scuba dive. When we both got home, we had so many experiences that we could relate on, that I remember thinking, ‘So my brother is actually kind of a cool person.” We could finally bond, and it helped strengthen our relationship as brother and sister.

My brother has been not only my sibling, but also my friend. He is a source of endless entertainment and good old-fashioned unconditional sibling love.

As a big sister, I naturally want the best for my little bro, because he is truly one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever had the chance to meet, and for that I am thankful.



30 Days of Thanks – Thankful for hardships

Choosing just one topic to write about for this post was very difficult. I am thankful for so many things in my life. I have wonderful friends, an amazing husband, a great family, a roof over my head, a sweet dog, a working, albeit old 1997 Toyota Corolla, & an overwhelming amount of love & grace in my life. I do not take one of these blessings for granted because I know all too well how rare & precious of a gift they are.

My topic may seem odd to be thankful for, but I am thankful for the hard times, because without them, I would have never learned that you can go through hardships & come out stronger. Without the hard times I & my family have been through, I would not be who I am today. These hardships have given me character & a strength that I never could have imagined.

I have been blessed with some of the most integrous people I know & these people are my family. They have taught me the value of hard work & to appreciate all that we have been given. One of the most amazing examples of love & integrity I know is my grandfather.

This amazing man worked hard every day of his life & never once complained. He loved my father, grandmother, & us grandkids with a rare tenderness that I will never forget. He went through so much; sacrificing his dreams to provide for his family, but he was always there for everyone & he was greatly loved. He is a shining example that you can through hardships & still choose to love & be kind.

My next example is my father. If I wrote everything this man has taught me, this post would be a book series. Both he & my mother sacrificed everything for us. From us being homeless when we were young & doing everything in his power to provide a roof over our heads, to small things like not drinking milk in his cereal so us girls could have milk to drink.

I have seen my parents overcome so many obstacles; mountains that seemed insurmountable, yet they came out the other side & still chose to love, be humble, & forgive. My dad is not perfect & he will be the first one to tell you that, but his humility & kindess to any stranger, makes him loved by everyone who knows him. Despite every disappointment & hard time he has been through, he still chooses to love without reservation.

On those days where I am frustrated with an obstacle that is in my life, I stop & think about the incredible examples I have had. Any obstacle in life is overcomable, & if I allow it, not only will I overcome it, but I will be a better person for going through it.

When I was young I wished so many times that we had been wealthy & that I could have had all the things that other children had, but now I am thankful that I did not. It taught me that I do not need those things to be happy. The things in life that last beyond when I am gone, are how I loved & served while I was here. I pray I will be able to be as kind as my grandfather, or that my friends & family will say of me that I was humble & loving like my father.

These gifts are what I will always cherish & be thankful for. Never be upset when you go through hard times; allow them to teach you & make you better, not bitter. My family is the best example of this that I have ever known & that is what I am most thankful for.


30 Days of Thanks – Boston Terriers

 For 90% of my life, I have been a self-proclaimed “cat person”. However, on July 25, 2011 everything changed when my boyfriend and I spied a little Boston Terrier puppy (Franklin!) all alone in a little dog carrier. From that day forward, I went to the dark side and transitioned into the dog person I am today. Purchasing dog costumes, researching about potty training, learning the lingo, mapping out the dog-friendly restaurants, and instagramming like crazy – I’ve done it all. I’m so thankful for the lessons this tiny dog has taught me over the past year, and can share with you some of my favorite Franklinisms here:

“When things get difficult, just keep your head up and keep paddling.”


“Always stay classy.”


 “Haters gonna hate.”


 “Nothing lasts forever. Especially chew toys.”


 “You can be friends with others who might seem a little different from you.”


“Be a patron of the arts & experience new things.”


 “It’s sometimes hard to try to stand out be different from the crowd.”


 “Don’t be fooled! Superheros come in all shapes and sizes.”


“Good hygiene is CRUCIAL. Especially when fleas are involved.”


“Always dress your best.”


 “You won’t get along with everyone. Just agree to disagree.”


 “The world isn’t in black and white.”


 “Facial hair doesn’t look good on EVERYONE.”


 “Sometimes the best adventures are right outside your backyard.”


“Mornings aren’t always easy.”


 “It’s fine to dork out. Don’t let anyone judge you for being a little geeky.”


…and like you can see, I dork out on Boston Terriers… A LOT!

 All in all, looking back I’m so thankful for Franklin, Boston Terriers, and just pets in general because of the love they show us and the lessons they teach us everyday.

30 Days of Thanks – Loved Ones and Life!

When I look back at this last year and think about everything I’m thankful for, there are so many images that flash through my thoughts.

I envisioned my best friends who’ve always been there for me through the years; through thick and thin.  When I got new jobs and left old ones, they were there to listen to me freak out about the next phase in my career.  When I moved across the country, or even the world, and I had to make new friends, they reminded me that old ones are never really that far away.


I envisioned my family.  I’m so grateful to have such a caring support system in my life.  We definitely lean on each other in this journey called life.  Even though my family drives me bat crazy sometimes, I know that no matter what I do in life, they would always accept and love me just the same.


I envisioned my fiance and my extended family of kitties! They always bring a smile to my face after any stressful day.

And of course I’m grateful for my health, my job, the great people I work with on a daily basis, and life.  Everyday is a gift and I’m grateful for it all!

Here’s to wishing you a wonderful November and all that you are grateful for in life!

30 Days of thanks 2012 – Day 1

Since I work at a web marketing / technology company the first thing you might expect me to be thankful for might be my iPhone, wireless internet EVERYWHERE, downloading 10 megs of data in less than a minute (as opposed to over an hour when I was a kid) and stuff like that. I’m taking a different approach.

I’m a blessed guy. I know this, and I’m very thankful for it. I wake up every day, my legs work, I can breathe without pain, I can see clearly, I have food to eat whenever I want (so says my scale), I’m employed, married to a gorgeous woman who is WAY out of my league and a nerd to boot, and so much more.

I realize that much of the world doesn’t enjoy the simple luxuries I take for granted. It’s a wonderful and fragile thing. That’s another thing I’m thankful for: the life I live and the things I enjoy are so accessible to me remain so. I’m thankful I was raised by and around people who instilled values in me that have helped me make the best decisions I can so that I am where I am today.

I have a Pastor friend who says “Anyone is capable of anything at anytime.” I like to keep this thought in the front of my mind because it helps me remember that I’m just a few bad decisions away from losing everything important to me. Which brings me to the one thing I’m most thankful for: Even though I don’t deserve it I’m thankful I’ve been given mercy and grace in my life so that I can try to be the best person I can and love people the best I know how.

Photo by Brian Potter

Persuasion in Marketing: 5 Secrets to Human Behavior

This past week a group of Schipulites invaded the Interactive Strategies or ‘IS’ Conference  at Rice University.  This year, the IS conference explored the reasoning behind human behavior and decision making.  Understanding people and why they do what they do is critical for marketers.

Beverly Flaxington

One speaker who stood out to me was Beverly Flaxington (@BevFlaxington) from  The Collaborative for Business Development, Inc.  and author of  Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior. She unlocks the 5 secrets for us to provide an understanding on the different ways humans look at the world, and she had some fun videos to drive home the point. Knowing how humans filter information, assume and judge different things is crucial in the marketing process. When you step back and think about it, everything we do in life is either selling or buying something (a lifestyle, an idea, a place to eat dinner on Friday night). So how do we use this to our advantage? Read below… I’ve saved her wisdom.

Pandora’s Box: 5 Secrets to Human Behavior

1. It’s all about ME – We each have our own filters and way of seeing the world.

As marketers we need to focus our energy on the listener more than the product or service. Doing so requires active listening and avoiding using the phrase “I know what you mean”. Try lead in phrases such as “In other words”, “Let’s see if I have this” and “If I understand you correctly” to indicate that you really DO understand what they are trying to communicate to you.

2. Behavioral styles come between us.

Think about it… dealing with different behavioral styles is like speaking different languages.  As humans we do a lot of observing and judging of others’ behavior that differs from our own.  Only 7% of what we “hear” during communication is from the words used by the speaker and everything else is from body language… from their pace, tone, gestures, etc.

Bev talked about identifying our DISC Behavioral Styles

  1. Dominance: They are concerned about Results
  2. Influencing:  They are concerned about Communnication
  3. Steadiness: They are concerned about Relationships and Process
  4. Compliance: They are concerned about Quality and Accuracy
What do we do with this? Pay attention to styles! Become aware of your own and others’ styles. Practice matching their style without mimicking.

3. Values speak more loudly than words.

What really matters to people? Everyone has their own value set and we try to persuade through that personal value set. Try to include multiple value sets in your messaging.  Remember that not everyone will care about the same things… and that is okay. Just respect all sides of the spectrum.
What I think is important may not be important to everyone.
 4. Don’t assume I know what you mean.

Context is key in communicating.  Learn to think in terms of “why”… Why is this project so important to me?  Others may not know what you know… Make it clear for them.  Connect what you do with why they care.  Change how you look at the situation. Can others understand what you do and why it matters?  Assumptions cause break downs in communication.

Don’t let this happen to you.

5. Focus on THEM. I’m okay.

If you think you’re right – it’s time to reconsider!  Re-think your communication approach.  How can you persuade on their terms?

Bev also provided us with some keys to confident communicating!

1. Know why – what is the point of this communication? 2. Know who – who am I talking to, my audience? What do I know about them? 3. Create flow – how do we segment the mass amounts of information available to us out there? Have to find a flow, grouping, segments to divide the knowledge and work with all styles. 4. Provide context 5. Establish a next step – leave them with an action item, pulling from your “know why” you had the conversation and persuaded someone.

She closed with a quote, encouraging us to take these gems out into the world and apply them to our every day happenings.

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Kooza! Cirque Du Soleil Opens in Houston

This week started off by cleaning popcorn and  confetti  out of my camera bag and uploading photos because last week we had the  privilege  of attending the opening night of Kooza by Cirque du Soleil. Having never had the chance to see Cirque du Soleil in person but only hearing good things, I had no idea what the shows were all about but jumped at the chance to go find out.

Kooza is described online as, “An adrenaline rush of acrobatics in a zany kingdom” and definitely lived up to the hype. Exiting typical Beltway traffic, arriving at Sam Houston Race Park, parking in the giant lot, then walking in to the tent is really like entering another world.

From the minute you take your seat the fun is already beginning with a cast of characters working the crowd until the show gets rolling. From there it is act after act of not only exciting but funny performances. And not just funny… pretty hilarious. At one point my wife turned to me and said, “my face actually hurts from laughing so much“. What a great problem to have.

Among all of the balancing chairs, contortion, high wire, and trapeze acts what really stood out to me were the Wheel of Death and the routine by The King and the Clowns. I won’t spoil their acts but just leave it at saying they are probably worth the price of admission alone.

Then it was intermission, a champagne toast (not sure if this happens every night or if we were just spoiled), a trip to the port o potties (which there seemed to be plenty… and they were nice), and back in for the rest of the show.

A few photos from the night:

Courtney and Derek taking photos
Courtney and Derek taking photos
Cirque du Soleil - Kooza
Cirque du Soleil - Kooza
Wheel of Death
Cirque du Soleil - Kooza
The King and the Clowns
Cirque du Soleil - Kooza
Cirque du Soleil - Kooza





























Want even more photos? View the full album of Cirque du Soleil Kooza photos.

Two “know before you go” tips:

  • Parking is $10 and cash only (there is an ATM on site but also hits you with a $3.50 fee).
  • If you would like to enjoy the show with a couple beverages, plan to bring plenty of cash (around $10/drink if I remember correctly).

Short version of the story: we had an absolute blast and could not have enjoyed the  performance more. Now I’m looking forward to catching a show next time Cirque du Soleil is in Houston.

Or maybe a Vegas trip is in order…


Special thanks to Elmore PR for making us feel special with official media passes.

Tickets for upcoming Houston shows are available from the Cirque du Soleil website.

Photos by Courtney Pemberton and Derek Key. All photos are Creative Commons  Attribution. You are free to use for promotional purposes with “photo by Schipul” next to the image.