The Curse of Mississippi

Mississippi is the worst state. Let me give you anecdotal evidence to scientifically prove my point.

Every time my team went to Mississippi in college, something bad happened.

In January 2010, we came back to Berry a few days before the semester started, so we could travel to Jackson, Mississippi for the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon. To date, this is the coldest race I’ve ever run. This is what I wore to packet pickup the day before:

It was 18 degrees at the start, and many of us pulled something during the race just from our muscles’ inability to warm up. Volunteers were furiously sweeping up the cast aside water cups on the course water stops since any remaining liquid immediately froze once it hit the ground, creating an icy patch for runners to cross. Teammates finished with their sweat frozen to their faces and had icicles in their hair. We huddled together wrapped in space blankets, happy to head back to the motel for hot showers.

Unfortunately some of the doors wouldn’t open when we got back. The rooms that were closest to the pool were the least protected from the cold temps, so the doors were frozen shut. This delayed our departure as it took maintenance almost an hour to get all of those doors open.

When we finally got on the road, we started planning activities for that evening. It was our teammate Taylor’s birthday, and Jackson back to Berry was only about 6 hours, so we had plenty of time for birthday festivities.

After some time on the road, there was some traffic on the interstate. I’m not sure how long we sat completely motionless on our Leisure Time charter bus before someone started investigating (this was pre-smartphone for me). There was a jackknifed tractor trailer a few miles ahead, and the whole interstate was shut down. With a wall of cars in front of us as well as behind us, there was nowhere to go.

We spent 3 hours sitting in the same spot. Despite the fatigue from the half marathon, knowing that we couldn’t move resulted in a fair amount of cabin fever. During those 3 hours, we fit Michael (a tall skinny runner, who would imagine we had one of those?) into the overhead baggage compartments, had a dance party, and wrapped Jacque up in toilet paper like a mummy (I decided against photos to protect the innocent).

All in all, we made it home, no one was hurt, and we were able to celebrate Taylor’s birthday the next day. This trip did make all of us a little suspicious of Mississippi, though.

The nail in the coffin for Mississippi came the next school year in the fall. We were going to a new cross country meet – the Brooks Memphis Twilight. This was exciting because it was a night race, and my aunt and uncle were living in Memphis at that time, so they could come to the race.

To get to Memphis, you have to go through Mississippi. We were in the middle of the state when the bus driver put on his hazards and pulled over to the shoulder of the interstate. Apparently some part of the roof of the bus near where his sun visor attached was broken. I to this day don’t believe it was stop-worthy, but safety first, I guess.

It quickly got very warm on the bus, so a lot of us ventured outside, just hanging out on the side of a major interstate. Thankfully it was wooded for the inevitable needs of well-hydrated runners.

After an hour or so, the bus driver let us know that another bus was on the way, and he needed to take this bus to a mechanic. We had to unload all of our stuff and watch the bus drive away (cough, fully functional, cough) and look like a group of matching homeless people.

Thankfully, our coach had the infinite wisdom to plan for an extremely early arrival, so we would have time to explore the city a little bit. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, we knew we should still make our races.

Finally, after another hour, a new bus showed up! Instead of the usual charter bus, it was a tour bus, and it had (allegedly) shuttled Jason Mraz around the night before. Happy to have a new means of transportation, we crammed into the new bus. Rather than the usual rows of seats, this bus has a few leather bench couches, so it was a tight fit for a group our sized with each person also having a duffle bag.

We made it to the race venue in just enough time to drop our stuff and get in a warmup. We cut it close for sure, no thanks to the traffic we encountered once we got into the city, but the night races were a success!


While these stories both have (eventual) happy endings, I still believe this offers definitive and objective evidence for Mississippi being the worst.



One Year at Praxis

A little over a year ago today. Isaac Morehouse turned my life upside down by sending me an email: “Got ten minutes for a quick phone call?” That quick phone call led to me giving notice at my job – my first job out of college where I had been for 4.5 years – and embarking on the new adventure of working for Praxis. Here are some of my favorite memories from the last 12 months:


I dove straight in by getting to know the product better, getting to know the team better, and getting caught up on the implementation of Salesforce and Hubspot. I found Hubspot to be very intimidating since I had never worked with a marketing automaton software before but I quickly became a fan. Anything that gives you stalker level data (page views, email opens, etc) is fascinating to me.


My first trip to Charleston! I witnessed a Ceterus vs. Praxis basketball game and burned more calories from laughing than I would have if I played myself.

I got to meet some team members in person, and Isaac asked me to do a presentation on Salesforce for everyone. I was extremely nervous for this (funny looking back how nervous I was about literally everything), but it went well! I love Salesforce, and talking about something you love and use for 90% of your job is fun, not scary.


January was an exciting month because it was a fresh start in terms of data for the year. Since we got Salesforce in November, I spent 2 months importing and organizing all of the past customer/applicant data. When you import hundreds of new leads one week, it kind of throws off your lead capture tracking! January marked a month where all of that was finally over, and we could have consistent metrics going forward.

January was a lot of dashboard building. I had experience building reports at my old job but never dashboards, so that was a new project to tackle. Having visual representations of our data is incredibly useful for team members who want the “at-a-glance” summary of what’s going on.


February had a very memorable phone call. Accepted applicants typically set up a time to talk with me about tuition questions or start date questions while they’re making their decision. An applicant scheduled a call with me and let me know his dad was joining the call. I had never spoken with a parent before and immediately feared the worst – he was going to think we were a scam or not the right path for his son (aka not college), and he was going to take out his doubts and frustrations on me.

In reality, the call was fantastic. Yes, they both had some logistical questions, but the dad was on board and a huge fan. He was one of those parents who say, “I wish this had been around when I was younger!” I left that call feeling on top of the world.


March was a crazy month for the team because Isaac went on Fox Business News, and our website traffic (and every other metric) blew up. Everyone on the team went into recon mode, and we were working around the clock to keep up with all of the emails and calls and applications. It was managed chaos that had moments of stress but was mostly a blast – that sweet spot of having a full (and interesting) plate without being detrimentally overwhelmed.

March was also our second team get together in Charleston! This trip was centered around a Rugged Maniac race – a 5k course with 25 obstacles along the way. Some of us enjoyed it more than others.


I started this blog! Since our participants build a website and blog for 30 days during the bootcamp portion of the program, I thought it was probably time for me to get on board and tackle the challenge on my own. My coworker Chuck built my website and I got up 30 blog posts over the next month.

I kept telling myself April was a terrible time to start since we bought a new house, did a week’s worth of renovations, sold our old house, and moved during that month, but it actually provided some good material for writing.


May started our first discussions on upgrading our Salesforce from Professional to Enterprise level. I visited the Salesforce office in Buckhead and had a meeting with our account’s team, and then we had many, many meetings over the course of the month. While I was eager to get the functionality of workflows back in my life, in the end we weren’t able to justify the huge jump in cost (for now – keep reading!). It was a good exercise for me to quantify the benefits rather than just be excited about “all the cool things we could do!”


In June I created my first custom object in Salesforce! With our program growing, it became more important to have an accessible record of what all of the participants are up to. I created a simple object where advisors can log their notes as well as the advising session date, so we could track sessions by date. I also had to make a new user profile for advisor permissions – more new territory in customizing Salesforce.

June is also when FEEcon happened! It was a fun mix of my past FEEple and current Praxians, and it was the first time I met many of our participants and alumni in person.


I further delved into the customization of Salesforce and built my second custom object. Our participants complete deliverables each month, and I worked with Chuck to make the submission forms and mapped all of the information into the new Deliverable object in Salesforce. Since each deliverable has different fields, I made a different page layout for each deliverable record type and then created a report to show participants with and without deliverables, so our Education team can easily see who has submitted what.

When your job doesn’t consistently create a tangible product in the same way a carpenter or a painter does, it’s incredibly fulfilling to build something new.


Praxis came to Atlanta! We had about 70 participants, alumni, advisors, and staff gather downtown for a Praxis Weekend. I gave a talk for the first time in my life (not counting being a moderator or running an activity) and enjoyed meeting people in real life as opposed to conversing over chat or email.

We also made a huge change in August: we switched our marketing from Hubspot to a mix of Salesforce (upgrading to Enterprise, reuniting me with my one true love – workflows) and MailChimp. We had to remake our entire marketing and sales funnel by the end of August before Hubspot turned off on September 1st. Chuck, Brian, and Derek flew to Atlanta and stayed at my house, so we could grind through the 12+ hour days together. I was insanely excited to move to Enterprise and work with Salesforce workflows, but there were certainly some frustrations along the way (like how formula fields and workflows can’t kick off other workflows and how annoying it is to design HTML emails inside Salesforce). We made the deadline, though, and successfully transitioned into a new marketing funnel and application process.


The beginning of September was juggling practice as I had August applicants in the old application process who needed certain emails manually and September applicants in the new application process who were in automated workflows. It all worked out fine, but I was counting down the days until everyone was successfully transitioned to the new system!


I started advising sessions with participants! I’ve been interviewing applicants since I began working at Praxis but have had little involvement in the education experience. Isaac asked all staff to be open to advising sessions, so I set up my calendar and got a booking! Even though I was nervous about the new territory, all of my sessions so far have been a blast. I leave the sessions with energy and excitement for what the participants can accomplish. #thePraxianeffect


It’s been an awesome year, and I can’t wait for what’s next! Here’s to 2018.

Someone on the Internet was Wrong!

Normally I ignore and archive the news-related emails from LinkedIn, but last week an article caught my eye since it was about the sharing economy in China. I was surprised that type of business would thrive in China – a country that isn’t known for its appreciation for capitalism or economic freedom – so I clicked on it.

I was immediately disappointed. Near the beginning of the article, I ran into this gem of a quote:

“After all these years, China is finally embracing its communist roots,” said Andy Tian, an entrepreneur and co-founder of Asia Innovations Group in Beijing. “That’s the essence of communism: communal sharing.”

Being a lover of economics, I’m used to people not understanding the subject very well and posting articles full of fallacies on the internet for all to read, but confusing communism and capitalism is impressively bad. It’s also baffling to me that “entrepreneur” and “communism” were used in the same sentence in that way.

The sharing economy is capitalism. The business owners own their resources – whether it be basketballs or umbrellas or bicycles – and charge users to rent them. If they don’t charge enough to cover expenses or if there isn’t enough demand, they will go out of business. If there’s a demand, they meet the needs of consumers and are rewarded with profit. The author even later explains the companies as such:

In its latest iteration, the sharing economy in China has evolved into something like an internet-enabled rental business. Unlike Airbnb and Uber, which provide a platform that connects users to existing resources, the latest sharing companies in China own the product and rent it out to users.

Communism would be if the government owned the businesses and their resources and shared (rather than rented) the basketballs, umbrellas, etc with the citizens…which would mean that there would be no more umbrellas at the kiosks within a few days.

but you stand in line so long for milk that it’s sour by the time you get it, if there’s any left

In fact, the “sharing” economy is actually an inaccurate and confusing name since renting and sharing are completely different. You don’t talk about how a coffee shop shared their coffee with you, and you in turn shared your money with the coffee shop (as my boss joked after I shared this article with him), so we also shouldn’t use the word share when we really mean rent or purchase. “Share” does not have the moral high ground, and there’s nothing exploitative about entrepreneurs trying to solve a unique problem in exchange for money.

Nomenclature aside, it’s still not an excuse to confuse capitalism for communism.




Reading Makes Me Dramatic

I read All the Light We Cannot See this weekend. It’s been a long time since I read a fiction book, and it reminded me how much I love reading.

I spent much of my childhood reading. I was all about Accelerated Reader points in elementary school, and my sister and I took part in our local library’s summer reading program. I grew up with Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield of the Sweet Valley High series, the Animorphs, and of course Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Reading before bed was my nightly routine, I’m sure well past my bedtime on occasion. Family road trips included a “book box” in the back of the van because we could never fit as many as we wanted in our backpacks (this was before kindles and smartphones and tablets). I was surprised how many memories came back the first night I laid in bed, unable to put my book down.

When I read a lot, I tend to get dramatic. I’m pretty sure everyone narrates their life in their head as they go about their day, but my narrator gets far more interesting when I’ve been reading. I imagine my life as a story and wonder what intricacies I can create to make the story more interesting. It’s certainly not that I do anything out of the ordinary, but I feel like part of my imagination that has been dormant comes to life.

The material I’m reading either increases or tempers the narrator. I don’t feel any change when I read nonfiction. I enjoy finding ways to relate what I’m reading to my life or personal development, but there’s not an emotional response like there is with fiction, and I supposed heavy fiction intensifies the emotion.

All the Light We Cannot See is a great book that I would recommend, but it is not a light read. It’s historical World War II fiction, and if living during the 1940s wasn’t bad enough, there’s the horrific addition of the war.

[light spoilers & heaviness below]

I tread carefully through the book waiting for the inevitable rape scene I had heard was coming. Page after page, and I didn’t see any scenario where it would happen. Monday evening as I neared the finish of the book, I started to feel hopeful that what I had heard was mistaken – maybe about another book. Then there it was. A few brief paragraphs, thankfully not graphic, but still awful.

They don’t teach you in school that armies would go into cities and rape the women and girls. Upon Googling it (which I don’t recommend), apparently it was very common on both sides of the war. It reminded me of the time I learned that David cut off Goliath’s head after knocking him out with his sling shot. They don’t tell you that part in Sunday School.

[you can come back now]

I think it’s ok to spend some time ruminating what makes you uncomfortable if for no other reason than to make you thankful for your current life. How privileged am I to use my imagination to create dramatic plot lines when I live in the age of the internet and general abundance and [mostly] peace?


“Is it right,” Jutta says, “to do something only because everyone else is doing it?”

PSA: Don’t Honk at Runners

There are many uncomfortable things that can happen while you’re out running – needing to use the bathroom, chafing, the weather being miserable, etc. not to mention the outside influences like getting honked or yelled at. I consider honking to among the worst.

The definition of running is that both feet leave the ground during your stride. This is the differentiation between walking and running. Meet officials at race walking events are constantly scrutinizing the stride of the competitors to make sure they always have one foot on the ground. So – while you’re running – there is a moment where your entire body is suspended in the air for each stride. Unless you’re purposefully bounding, you probably don’t even notice this.

You immediately notice when you get honked at, though. Imagine going from a casual stride to a jolted painful one. That’s what getting startled in mid-air does to your form. I’m not expecting to be honked at. All of the other drivers have managed to drive past without honking, so I expect that pattern of behavior to hold.

When someone honks at me, it feels like every muscle in my body contracts simultaneously for a split second. It’s impossible for me to continue running smoothly once I land for my next stride, and the jolt of adrenaline speeds up my heart rate and makes me more out of breath than I already am. Multiple honks are even worse. Even though the shock/jolt lessens with each one, it’s still like being zapped over and over.

To know when it’s acceptable to honk at a runner, I made this helpful chart.












30 Days of Blogging

Today marks my 30th post. I only missed 1 day in the last 30, and I double posted 2 days later to make up for it. The perfectionist in me is disappointed, but I’ll survive.

I definitely enjoyed some posts more than others. There were days that I knew what I wanted to write about, didn’t struggle to get the words out, and eagerly waited to see if I would get any engagement from sharing the link within the Praxis community. These posts held more of my personality and sense of humor, and I reflect on them with the smirk of satisfaction you get from thinking you’ve been clever.

Then there were days where I literally typed “writing prompts” into Google. Two to be exact and that doesn’t count the days I pestered Josh for topics. I allowed myself to give into any distraction and put off writing. Even when I did get something down, I was bored with it and convinced no one cared what I was writing about that day. The funny thing is, looking back at my posts, I can’t pinpoint those days. Maybe one, but I’m not sure.

I certainly could have made this easier on myself. The Praxis participants are a great resource for writing tips since they have the challenge to blog every day for 30 days during month 2 of the program. Most of them post a reflection similar to this at the end of the 30 days, and I read quite a few of them. They had great advice such as setting aside a specific time to write every day and not waiting until the evening. I don’t think I had a single post finished before 8pm! Like I said, I could have made it easier on myself.

Now that the 30 days are over, I plan to continue blogging but without the pressure to do so every day. I look forward to more days of excitedly typing away at my keyboard and maybe even a few days of grinding out a post I don’t necessarily love during the process.

Hermione is the Best of the Harry Potter Trio

There was a Harry Potter movie marathon on Freeform (previously ABC Family) this weekend. It brought back great memories since there’s always a marathon around finals time in college, and my roommates and I would spend many study breaks re-watching the movies (even though we had all of the DVDs). Seeing pieces of them again this weekend was a reminder of how great a character Hermione is, and honestly how terrible Rob and Harry are.

I related to Hermione growing up since we were similar. A book-smart girl (at times a know it all) who doesn’t know how to control her hair? Check.

Halloween 2014

Do you know how many times Harry would have died if it wasn’t for Hermione? He wouldn’t have made it through the first book! Her logic and quick thinking get the trio out of countless binds, and she handles the teen angst far better than the boys. The closest Hermione gets to being dramatic is when Ron dates Lavender Brown (for literally no reason), and she doesn’t feel like being around their constant snogging.

Compare this to Ron – who pouts when Hermione goes to the Yule Ball with Vikor Krum and does his best to ruin her evening out of spite. Ron also can’t handle the thoughts played out in his mind regarding Harry and Hermione, and it drives him to completely abandon the quest to destroy Horcruxes. Boy can’t hang.

Harry gets a bit more leeway since he’s had a rough life and was forced into limelight and danger since he was 11, but the amount of angst he deals out in The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince is almost unreadable/unwatchable.

Hermione doesn’t let her feelings get in the way of her greater mission. When Ron peaces out, Hermione stays the course of searching for Horcruxes and keeping Harry from the Death Eaters. Not to mention she gave up her entire family to do so – wiping their memories, so they wouldn’t ever remember their life with her in it.

Finally, Hermione is the only person besides Dumbledore to figure out that Harry is the 7th Horcrux. Even if Snape hadn’t been able to give Harry his memories before he died, Hermione had the ability to pass along the message. Besides Harry, Hermione is the most essential character to the series. The difference is that Harry is central because of his circumstances and Hermione is because of her abilities.

Becka’s Birthday Blog Post

My sister turned 30 this week. The milestone birthday plus the overall impressiveness that embodies who she is warrants an entire post dedicated to some of my favorite memories.

Growing up, I always wanted to be just like Becka. I mirrored my interests after hers from loving to read to wanting to take music lessons to sports. We had active imaginations and spent countless hours creating lives for our Barbies and other toys. I learned later in life that Becka played Barbies much later than the “expected age” and probably past her interest simply because I wanted to, and I’m thankful for that.

When I played rec league basketball, Becka taught me how to post up and drop step to the basket. (Side note: I used to be tall and play down low. This is now laughable as I haven’t grown since middle school.)

Becka and I would jam out to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack while driving to church on Wednesday nights, attempting to harmonize and hit the high notes.

Sometime in late middle school or early high school, Becka and I started a Thanksgiving tradition where we run through the neighborhood in Christmas clothes and decorations. I think we have only missed 2 years in the last 13.

Becka introduced me to Ender’s Game which is still one of my favorite books today.

When I was a senior in high school, Becka took me on a road trip to see one of her friends who lived in Canada. She had the 7th Harry Potter book with her (neither of us had read it yet) and whoever was the passenger had the task of reading out loud to the driver.

Becka is my best cheerleader. She’s made me smile during painful races with her shouts of, “Be the cheetah!” and “That’s my sister!”

Becka is the best person to visit or accompany a trip. She spent the summer in Ecuador a couple of years ago, and I got to experience so much of the country thanks to her planning. She is a bus navigation expert and will find the best hikes or adventurous excursions in the area.

She is a great dance partner, especially when your husband is less than fond of weddings. And dancing.

Just a few months ago when I got sick on a family trip near Christmas, Becka literally picked me up off of the bathroom floor and let my feverish head lay in her lap on the plane ride home.

She’s a beast! Becka’s goal was to do 5 pull ups in a row (actual pull ups – not chin ups and not only going down to when your elbows are 90 degree angles – all the way down), and I was able to witness her meeting this goal for the first time a couple of months ago.

Those are just a few memories of many. I am very blessed, and Becka being my sister is certainly one reason why.

April is Almost Over

April is almost over. The month I spent most of March fretting over. The month where we bought a new house, embarked on the adventure of making repairs and improvements, moved, and sold our old house. When it was still March, I kept thinking ahead to April and planning everything that had to happen, usually ending up overwhelmed. I felt like April would never get here, and now it’s almost over.

I certainly had some moments of feeling stressed where time seemed to move slowly (the day I was sure the painters were behind on the job). Now as I look back on April, it’s like a blur. All of the repairs (that require professionals at least) are done, moving was far easier than I imagined, and we no longer own two houses.

Time moves forward whether you’re ready for it (or stressed about it) or not. We are only 2 days from being 1/3 of the way through 2017! I hope to spend the rest of the year using my time better than worrying about the coming weeks.