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Monday Musings: The bucket list…to have one or not to have one?

3 Mar
Do you have one?

Do you have one?

Do you have a bucket list?

I don’t have one, but I’ve been thinking a lot about them lately.

I know a lot of people keep lists of things they’d like to do and I know that the term “bucket list” has to do with things you wish to do before you die, or “kick the bucket.”

Whenever I think of making such a list however, I can’t think of what to put on it. At the moment, I’m pretty happy with where I am right now, and I tend to prefer to live in the moment and enjoy where I am rather than thinking ahead to all the things I haven’t done yet, all the things I might do if and when I have the time, all the things I may not ever get to do or know that currently I don’t have the resources to do.

I remember a movie I heard about recently where two men are in hospital beds, side by side, and one tells the other about his bucket list and then dies soon afterwards. The second man goes all over the world, trying to finish off the first man’s unfinished bucket list for him, in his honor, after he’s already died.

Is that the kind of list I want? A list of unaccomplished things? I think not.

And yet, I often consider all of the things I’ve already done, and I feel like I should make that list instead, that it’s so much more special to me than a list of things that might or might not happen. I have a wonderful husband, three amazing daughters, jobs I absolutely love. I’ve been a teacher, which was my dream profession when I was a child. I owned a business which incorporated a hobby I love and taught me about a profession I never dreamed I’d have as a business person, for more than a decade. I won awards, took trips and mentored others during that decade. I author a blog. I have written two books, I’m working on a third. I’ve won multiple awards as a journalist. I’ve met the President, the First Lady, Miss Universe, two Olympic medalists, and all the way on down the line to all of the politicians and decision-makers in our hometown. I’ve eaten in the White House. I’ve been on TV. Most recently, I’ve auditioned for a live performance taking place in my state later this year, and although I don’t know if I’ll make it or not, just auditioning would go on my list.

I think it’s more a list of things I never imagined I’d do, and have done, risks I’ve taken, opportunities I’ve said yes to, that I never thought possible or ever imagined would be in the realm of me or my life. Had I had a bucket list, not one of these things would I ever have thought to put on it, but yet here they are on the list of things I’ve done.

Sometimes, when I consider whether or not to take a particular risk or seize a particular opportunity, I think of the ongoing list that is running in my head of all of the incredible opportunities I’ve already had, things I’ve said yes to, and I think of how great it’d be to add whatever this latest opportunity might be, to the list in my head of things I’ve done.

I feel like that is the list I should be keeping on paper, at least for now. I feel like living in the moment and not having any regrets now, is what means more to me. I feel like I want to spend my time now loving what I’m doing today, and not spend today worrying about tomorrow.

I think I’ve decided.

The list of things I *have* done before I die, rather than the things I hope to do, the list of things I *have* accomplished, stepped up to the plate for, taken a risk for, learned from, seen and done will be my list. I think that list is the list that I want to be known for, and to be motivated by, and to tell my children and grandchildren about.

And as life goes on, as opportunities present themselves, I’ll have to decide whether they will be added to my list.

To me, it’s not about what I might do, it’s about what I’ve done.

That’s what’s on *my* list.

Monday Musings: Seize Every Opportunity

18 Mar
Hearing Olivia Culpo speak in July 2012 had a lasting impact on our girls.

Hearing Olivia Culpo speak in July 2012 had a lasting impact on our girls.

Last summer, we had the opportunity to meet Ms. Olivia Culpo, who was then Miss USA and is now Miss Universe, also an alum from my high school. The girls and I went to hear her speak, they stood with me while I interviewed her for the newspaper, and then we  stood in line for an hour for a quick meet and greet and an autograph.

On the way home, we talked about what we’d just experienced and the girls talked to me about which parts of her speech had an impact on them, as she was such a candid, animated speaker. They laughed about some of her funny stories, but we talked more seriously about one of her messages: don’t be afraid to take a risk.

Having never been a “pageant person” before, Olivia entered Miss USA despite her family’s hesitations, and won on her first time out there. A year later, she was winning Miss Universe too, and it was all because she wasn’t afraid to try something, to be a leader, to take a risk.

One of my favorite photos from our day: Caroline meeting and shaking hands with President Obama.

One of my favorite photos from our day: Caroline meeting and shaking hands with President Obama.

At the time, we didn’t know if Caroline was going to win the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge contest. We were awaiting notification, due the following week. What we did know however, was that Caroline had hesitated in entering because her sister was entering also, and she knew that only one of the two of them, if either of them, could win, and she was afraid of that. We talked that day after meeting Olivia about the fact that this too was a risk, and we’d wait and see what happened, but that at least she’d put herself out there, taken that risk.

And it turns out, she won.

With that, she’s had some of the most amazing experiences of her life, all in the past year, all because she wasn’t afraid to take a risk, to go out of her comfort zone.

She often gets asked to speak to groups of people, both adults and kids, and two of the messages that she always makes sure to emphasize when she speaks, are not to be afraid to take a risk and to always put in 100% effort into all you do.

After she won, a friend said to me,  “Your motto should be ‘Seize Every Opportunity’ because you’re always trying everything. If there’s something out there to do, you’ll do it.”

And she’s right. I think it’s important to reach for the stars, even if you miss on occasion. Most likely you won’t miss every time.

When I was in high school, with my parents’ help, I applied for a grant. I put in a proposal to go to New Zealand to study reading instruction. At the time, New Zealand was tops; on the forefront of reading and language instruction. It was a big risk, a scary thing to apply for, and ultimately, I did not get the grant. But, I’ll never forget applying for it, and receiving that letter stating that even though my proposal wasn’t chosen, it was a strong one, and one of the runners up. That gave me confidence to try again, to take a risk when another future opportunity arose.

Since that high school grant opportunity, I’ve taken on many challenges, reinventing myself in my careers again and again. Sometimes those challenges came through in my favor, and sometimes they didn’t, but each risk and result has made me stronger and more confident. As a journalist, each time I’ve won a New England or Rhode Island Press Association award, I’ve had to take a risk by submitting what I think is my best work, to be judged by others. It’s risky putting myself out there, and sometimes I win and sometimes I don’t. But I never say, “Oooh that’s too scary, I’m not even going to try,” or even “Yikes! That’s a lot of extra effort.”

This week we received notification that a grant Elizabeth had applied for, the Disney Friends For Change grant, a proposal she’d submitted on behalf of her class, was not going to be given to them. She was so disappointed. She and several friends had started a school newspaper, and this grant was going to improve what they’d begun, take it to the next level. However, the notification didn’t just say that she didn’t get it, it said that her efforts and dedication in applying for the grant were to be commended and that she shouldn’t give up on her particular project.

It was positive reinforcement, recognizing the fact that she took a risk, went the extra mile, seized an opportunity that not many would take the time to do. The very first thing she said was, “I think there’s another one. We can try again.”

I love that.

Congratulations to Alexandra. She took a risk, entered a contest and came in second place!

Congratulations to Alexandra. She took a risk, entered a contest and came in second place!

On Wednesday night, Alexandra competed in a cooking contest of her own. She had entered the recipe for her Sunshine Salad into the Sodexo Future Chefs competition in our city. Out of 17 elementary schools, ten students were chosen to compete, making their salads and having them judged by real chefs from our community.

She took the risk, entered the recipe in February and was chosen to compete in March.

She competed Wednesday night and took Second Place. Second, out of ten, in our whole city, at seven years old.

That’s taking a risk. That’s seizing an opportunity.

And that’s a memory she, and we, will never forget.

Childhood is a journey, as is parenthood. I hope that we are teaching our kids to be confident, to be leaders, to try everything and to take risks. I hope that the bursts of success that they experience  when they take the risks will encourage them to keep going and trying again when they don’t necessarily see that success. I hope that they learn that putting in the extra effort, taking the extra time, going the extra mile, really does all pay off in the end.


New England Newspaper & Press Association Awards

12 Feb

Tonight was the night I'd been looking forward to for a month now, and I was so happy it didn't snow!

Last night was the 2012 NENPA Awards Banquet. Awards were given out to nominees from Maine to Connecticut in a wide variety of categories. The awards are based on your work from the 2011 calendar year. The event is held at the historic Park Plaza Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts each year and if I had to guess, there were over 600 nominees at the dinner ceremony. It’s quite an honor to even be nominated, an honor to know that you rank up there as a writer or photographer with the top journalists in all of New England. In 2010 I attended and placed second for Education Reporting for my 2009 work. I was thrilled!

Our company, Beacon Communications, has several different newspapers: The Cranston Herald and The Johnston Sun Rise, both of whom I write for, and The Warwick Beacon. This year there were six of us nominated for awards, four of us attended, and my husband Don. Our company allows each of us to submit our best work in three categories if we’d like to be considered for an award by NENPA. This year I had submitted one in Education Reporting, one in Religious Reporting, and one Educational Series. You submit in August and you hear back from NENPA in January, with the award ceremony in February.

When I heard from my editor that I’d won again this year, it was in the Religious Reporting category. She mentioned that there were still several categories whose judges had not reported back. Education was one of those categories. By the time February came, I hadn’t heard anything else about winning in another category so I assumed I was only nominated in that one.

We arrived at the Park Plaza hotel with plenty of time to spare so we walked into the room where they post all of the nominated work, separated by category and class. (Class is determined by your newspaper’s circulation.) As we walked up and down the aisles looking for the Religious Reporting category, we walked past the Education Reporting category and I sadly said to Don, “Awww…there’s Education.” That’s what I had won for in 2009 and I was bummed out that my piece I’d submitted hadn’t won again. Suddenly though, I did a double-take because hanging on the board in front of me, covered by another entry, was my Education submission, nominated for an award. I was so shocked and I was thrilled!! Now I knew that not only would I be recognized in one category, but two, and that my area of expertise, Education, had in fact, been nominated for an award.

There, sticking out from behind two other entries, was a Cranston Herald nominee, MY nominated work! I was so surprised!

Dessert was delicious!!

Dinner consisted of salad, chicken, veggies and some sort of green rice.  Dessert was delicious and well-worth the wait. It was a chocolate mousse served inside a hard chocolate shell, shaped like a pyramid. There was whipped cream and half a strawberry on the plate, along with some sauce drizzled on the plate as well.

After dessert and coffee, they began announcing the nominees in each class for each category, in alphabetical order. It’s grueling to sit through and wait for your category to be called, then your class in that category and then your name to see where you placed.

During the weeks leading up to the event, I had hoped and prayed for first or second place and the other day when I was at the hairdresser for an appointment, I said to one of the stylists, “I only want first or second place. I’ll be so disappointed if I only get third.”

She asked me how many people I had been up against, to even be nominated at all, and I said I wasn’t sure, maybe hundreds since the competition encompassed all of New England. She was shocked to hear that, and she said, “You should be thrilled no matter WHAT place you get! Think of your daughters and the lessons you want to be teaching them. You don’t want them to think it’s about the winning or what place you get,” and at that point I thanked her for bringing me back to reality. She said to me, “I’m going to pray that you get third place and that you’re able to be happy with that.” I hugged her as I left, and I thought about what she said from then on.

I placed third in both categories, actually tying with another journalist for third place in the Education Reporting category.

I also found out later, that there were 3000 entries into this year’s competition. Although not all 3000 were in my two categories, it does show just how tough the competition was overall.

I’m thrilled that I have been recognized yet again for my contribution to journalism here in New England, and in my city and state. I’m thrilled to have a job I love, and that I can be proud of the work that I do. I am glad my daughters can be proud of me and I need to be better at accepting less than first place! I don’t want them to ever think that third isn’t “good enough,” because it certainly is. To be in a room filled with almost 1000 New England journalists, knowing that you’re one of them and you all make up the cream of the crop, is quite a feeling, and I can’t wait to do it again!

I can now say I am a FOUR TIME award-winning journalist!!

Here are a few more photos from last night’s event.

Beacon Communications was well-represented at the NENPA Awards!

Education, I couldn't believe it!

It's great to have Don there with me when I get these awards. He often makes it possible for me to do the jobs I do, by taking care of the kids when I'm out on nights and weekends, so having him share in the limelight is nice!

Bonus Post: Exciting News!!

11 Jan
NENPA Awards 2009

This was me at the NENPA awards banquet in 2009 when I won for my Education Reporting.

I just got the most exciting news!!

I have been nominated for another New England Press Association Award, this time in the area of Religious Reporting!!

Would you like to read the article I’ve been nominated for? If so, click here.

The ceremony will be held on February 11 and at that time I will find out where I’ve placed. I’m *so* excited, I can’t wait!! There is also a slight chance that I may get nominated in another area as well, since they have not finished judging all of  the entries yet. We were each allowed to enter three entries. I entered a series in education, a single article for education and the religion article.

Last time, we found out that we were nominated in November and had to wait until February for the ceremony. At least this time, the wait isn’t as long. It’s already January 11th!! So everyone only has to put up with my excitement for one month instead of two.

If you’d like to read the stories that won the 2009 New England Press Association and Rhode Island Press Association Awards, click here, which will bring you to my old blog, After the Deadline.

Now…the most important question of all: what to wear? And: what will be for dessert that night??

I wonder….

Rhode Island Press Association Awards 2009

In May 2009 I won the RI Press Association Award for my Environmental Reporting.