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The Generosity of Others-Keeping My Spirits Up

When I was laid off over 9 months ago, I wondered what in the world I was going to do with myself. I did the usual-cleaned the house, learned to cook better meals, exercised- but I also immersed myself more fully into a sport I really enjoy-NASCAR.

Through Twitter, I began interacting with other fans and even race teams on a regular basis. A few knew what I went through, and we bonded over the experience of job hunting as well as our favorite pastime. I won a couple of neat contests-I got to drive a Mustang convertible in the Parade of Power at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and I got to attend a Kevin Harvick press conference.

But I had yet to fulfill my dream of actually attending a race, in person.

That changed in April. I responded to another Twitter contest-and this time was rewarded with four tickets to the Camping World Truck Series race in Rockingham.Those tickets were courtesy of the Richard Childress Racing #2 Truck team, driven that weekend by Tim George, Jr. I had an absolute blast.

After that race, I began to get discouraged about my lack of progress on finding work, and sought more ways to keep myself occupied. In May, Doug Rice of PRN radio, gave away some tickets to the Sprint Cup Pit Crew Challenge-a unique event that showcased the skills of the driver’s crew. I was able to get tickets to that event from him, and rushed to Charlotte to spend the evening in awe of the precision and ability of these teams.

Just a week later, I won tickets to my first NASCAR Nationwide Series race. I know, you’re thinking “Boy, does she spend ALL her time on Twitter?” The answer is no, not really, but I seem to have been able to make good use of the time I do spend there.I won those tickets from Brian Scott, a Nationwide Series driver. As I was getting ready for that race, someone introduced me to another Twitter friend who was GIVING tickets away to the main event-the Coke 600 in Charlotte. We got together, and I was able to attend all three NASCAR major series events in a little over a month.

And just yesterday, I won tickets from John King, the Truck Series driver who won his first race at Daytona this year, not to a NASCAR race, but to an NHRA race at Bristol. I will get to check a new experience off of my list as well.

In addition to the teams, there are individuals out there-other FANS, who are giving of their time, energy and resources to make the interaction fun. People give away die cast cars, clothing, and even signed memorabilia, often at their own expense. I’ve come to realize that NASCAR, it’s teams, and especially it’s fans are probably the most generous I’ve seen in any professional sport.

If you are one of those people who have in some way helped me achieve my dream, thank you. You’ve given a down in the dumps fan a chance to have some fun and keep her mind off of the tough times.I hope to be in a position to do what you do in some way.

Even if you aren’t a fan of the sport, interaction with some of these folks could make you one, easily.

Again, thank you!

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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Back to the Books

As the months of my unemployment seemed to get longer and longer, I began to get more and more bored, not to mention discouraged with my inability to move forward. I explored many options, applied for many jobs, and tried so hard to come up with something to do.

Then my husband showed me an online degree program that looked very appealing. Eastern Kentucky University has an online Master of Science in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management. Having spent several years working and volunteering in disaster services, the degree sounded like a good idea to expand my horizons and perhaps improve my marketability. I have a BA in Speech Communication and an MA in Mass Communication; adding the MS in Emergency Management might give me an edge in the growing field. We both enrolled.

I grew increasingly nervous as we spoke with our adviser over a conference call, trudged through the financial aid process (hello, loans!) and enrolled in classes. After all, it had been eight years since I was in any kind of academic environment. How was I going to do with a degree that was entirely online?

As it turns out, I’m doing fine. Better than fine, in fact. I have only been at it a week and a half, but I have gotten a perfect score on every assignment I’ve turned in for my two classes. In addition, the feedback that I have been given has been extremely positive, leaving me with no doubt that I can do this.

With the lack of progress in my employment search, this has been a tremendous boost to my confidence. I finally feel a sense that I am accomplishing something worthwhile. I am enjoying researching and writing about subjects that interest me. (Which is something that I struggled with as an undergrad.)

It helps that I’m no longer spending the better part of my day searching for something to do. But I that the more time I invest in my schoolwork, the better I will feel. Hopefully I will be able to translate my new-found confidence into a winning career.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

My first NASCAR experience

Yesterday, I got to do something that I have wanted to do for a long time. I attended a NASCAR race. Well, I attended a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, but I’m not being nit picky. For one thing, it was a blast. For another, I won the tickets, so it was free.

As a long time fan, having never had the opportunity to attend a race was a source of frustration. For several years, I worked in emergency services, and taking time off to travel to a race would have been difficult at best. This fall, I was laid off, and so I have plenty of time to attend races, but no extra cash to do so. Winning the tickets was a stroke of luck, because the track, Rockingham Speedway, was close enough to drive and not have to stay overnight.

The fact that this race was being held at Rockingham also made it special. Eight years ago the track was closed, and the races were no more. Getting to be a part of the return made me feel like I was truly a part of history. And I was so excited just to be there, my husband started taking pictures of me grinning, while I took pictures.

As the engines fired and the trucks roared to life, I even had goosebumps. By the time that the pace truck pulled away and the green flag dropped, I was on my feet with the rest of the crowd, feeling all my months of frustration melt away. For the first time in months, I was able to just completely immerse myself in something I truly loved. I felt the sunshine on my face, the wind in my hair, and the rumble of thirty-six engines under my feet.

The race did not disappoint. There was plenty of action, three wide racing, and fortunately only a couple of minor incidents brought out a caution flag. And no commercials…haha. I enjoyed watching Kasey Kahne race his way from the tail end of the field to win the race, even though I usually dislike seeing Sprint Cup regulars in t Nationwide or Truck Series.

I hope that I am lucky enough to get to do this again someday soon. Thanks to track owner Andy Hillenburg and his staff for an amazing event. And thanks to the #2 team of Richard Childress Racing for the tickets that I was able to win-you all made a fan’s dream come true.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
Aside

In 2004, I became a fan of a sport that I never thought I would pay attention to- NASCAR. I grew up puzzled over why anyone would want to spend hours watching cars turn left. I knew who Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt were, and that was about it. One Sunday in 2004, I was watching with my in-laws, and something happened that caught my attention. It was a race at Talladega, and it was nearing the last few laps. There was a crash, and the yellow M&M’s car went airborne, then rolled several times before coming to rest in the grass. I was horrified, since I was pretty sure I had just seen Elliot Sadler die on live television. But before I could really grasp that thought, the driver was not only out of the car, but WALKING AWAY!

I have been hooked ever since, amazed at the athleticism of the drivers, the ingenuity of the crew chiefs, and the teamwork that takes place. However, in 8 years of being a fan, I have only ever watched a race on TV. I’ve lived in Boone, NC, for almost two years, a stone’s throw from several major tracks-Charlotte, Bristol, Martinsville-but have not had the opportunity to attend.

That is about to change, thanks to a Twitter contest sponsored by Richard Childress Racing Truck Series #2 team. I won four tickets to the Camping World Truck Series race this Sunday at Rockingham Motor Speedway. This is a very exciting opportunity, not just because it’s my first race, but also because it is the first major series race being held at Rockingham (aka The Rock) since 2004.

Since I was a fairly new fan when The Rock closed, I am fuzzy on the details of what exactly contributed to the closure. I have been paying a little more attention as this race draws closer, and I sense that many people are very drawn to the track. This adds to my sense of excitement, and I am honored that I will get to be there for this part in NASCAR history.

As a side note, I drove from my parents’ home in Ohio back to Boone today, and the seven hour drive gave me time to think. I turned off the radio, and wrote my own song (ok, well, I wrote a chorus), as a tribute to The Rock. If you’re a country music fan, you may realize that it’s set to the tune of Tracy Lawrence’s “Paint Me a Birmingham”. Maybe once I’ve gotten the race under my belt, I can write the verses:

Let’s go racing at Rockingham

I hope it looks just the way I planned

Lot’s of folks spread all over town

Trucks racing all the way around

Put me there in a front row seat

Lot’s of action, won’t that be neat?

For awhile we’ll be young again

While we’re racing at Rockingham…

An upcoming adventure

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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There’s sunshine in a smile

It’s January 23, and I’ve already broken a New Year’s resolution. Ok, if we’re being honest, I’ve broken more than one, but who really keeps the “no soda” resolution, anyway? But I digress…
I had noticed over the last few months that I have a tendency to give in to negative thinking. I tend to put myself down, especially when I think about my job prospects, my lack of progress with my workouts, gray hair-well you get the idea.
I applied for three jobs over the weekend. It’s 4pm on Monday, and I’ve already gone crazy checking my email to see if I’ve heard anything, or my phone in case I’ve missed a call. Each time I get no results, my heart pounds a little. What if they didn’t like my resume? What if I’m not what they’re looking for? What if I am what they’re looking for, but they don’t hire unemployed people? Am I ever going to find a job again? Why would anyone hire me now? And on and on…
I’m not proud to admit that I’m overly negative towards others, sometimes, too. Take a certain political stance? Moron. Beating me at Words with Friends? Cheater. (Just kidding.)
I also keep picturing worst-case scenarios over and over again, in my head. What if I don’t get a job? Will we lose x,y,z? What if one of us gets sick while we don’t have health insurance? What if the car needs expensive repairs? What if the landlord wants to sell the house we’re renting and we have to move? What if ALL this happens at the SAME TIME?
I hope to figure out how to take a deep breath and not worry so much. But I think it’s going to take time to figure out how to do it. I’m trying to focus more on the things that I do well and the things that bring me joy.

I’d like to share a little of that with you. Here is a poem by Helen Steiner Rice that I like to turn to when things look a little gray or overwhelming.

THERE’S SUNSHINE IN A SMILE

Life is a mixture of sunshine and rain, Laughter and pleasure, teardrops and pain. All days can’t be bright, but it’s certainly true, there was never a cloud, the sun didn’t shine through.

So just keep on smiling, whatever betide you, secure in the knowledge, God is always beside you, and you’ll find when you smile, your day will be brighter, and all of your burdens, will seem so much lighter.

For each time you smile, you will find that it’s true, somebody, somewhere will smile back at you, and nothing on earth, makes life more worthwhile, than the sunshine and warmth, of a beautiful smile.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Please Help the New Opportunity School For Women

I’m taking a different tone with today’s blog. Yesterday, something terrible happened to an organization that is near and dear to my heart-the New Opportunity School for Women. I am blogging about the incident in the hopes of raising awareness and helping the school to overcome this difficult situation. Please share…

In 1987, Berea College first lady Jane Stephenson saw an urgent need to help the women of Appalachia become better educated and better employed. She created the New Opportunity School for Women, based in Berea, Kentucky, to help meet these needs. The school’s mission became ” Improving the educational, financial, and personal circumstances of low-income, middle-aged women in Kentucky and the south central Appalachian region.” (NOSW website, http://www.nosw.org)

Twice a year, in the spring and summer, the New Opportunity School hosts women on campus for three weeks at a time. They get a chance to explore career options and leadership development. They are placed in an internship on campus or in the community. Individual counseling takes place, job skills are identified,and resume writing and other practical skills are taught.

In addition, the participants are able to participate in some cultural and social events, such as trips to museums. The women are also given health screenings, such as mammograms, and invited to have a “career makeover” that helps them learn to apply makeup for the business world and obtain business appropriate clothing.

The Berea campus is no longer the only site that hosts the New Opportunity School for Women. In 2005, Lees-McCrae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, became the second site.

I am a 2003 graduate of Berea College, and so I’ve known about the program for several years. My boss on campus is a board member, and we always had a participant working with us in the library. I enjoyed working with these women-they seemed to blossom under the program, and many of them that I knew went on to further their education.

My senior year, I had the privilege of having a class with one such woman. An eastern Kentucky native, she spent most of her adult life in and out of abusive relationships. One day, she had the courage to get away to a shelter, where she got back on her feet a little. She was then introduced to the New Opportunity School for Women, and attended one of the residential sessions. She then became a student at Berea College, and even helped her daughter escape an unhealthy relationship, hopefully ending the cycle for that family. Barbara had the courage to document her journey on film during our class, and the short film made its rounds at several conferences and festivals. I lost touch with her when I graduated from Berea, but I had heard she graduated with a 4.0.

More than 700 women have been touched by this program over the last 25 years. I have been in awe of what it has been able to accomplish, and what it has meant for so many.

Yesterday, someone broke into the building that houses the New Opportunity School in Berea, stole money from the cash box, and set the building on fire. The building was destroyed, along with all the donated clothing, supplies, and records. For full story, please read: The Richmond Register http://richmondregister.com/localnews/x941118973/Burglary-arson-suspect-sought-in-Berea

and the Lexington Herald-Leader: http://www.kentucky.com/2011/12/13/1992140/womens-school-destroyed-in-berea.html

For more information on the New Opportunity School for Women, or to find out how to help, please visit http://www.nosw.org

 

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Be Someone Else’s Blessing Today

Last night, I read a book that made me think. The book is called “Why Wait?” and it’s by a man I met on Twitter named Rob Quillen. I don’t want to spoil the whole thing, because I think you should read it, but it’s about Rob’s chance meeting with the man who would pilot Flight 93 on the morning of September 11, and the lengths he went to to do something spectacular for the pilot’s son in the next few weeks.

While the surprise that Rob pulled off is probably out of reach for most of us, the idea of doing something spectacular for someone else shouldn’t be. I went to bed last night thinking, “What can I do to be a blessing to someone else?” I don’t know if I can make someone’s dreams come true, but I’d like to think that I can make someone smile.

I feel particularly challenged because since I got laid off, I don’t get out much. I run errands, go to church, go to Ohio and visit family, and that’s about it. I’m currently searching for ways that I can reach out to others. That was the best thing about my job; I got to serve people on a daily basis. I think that I even took that for granted-when it doesn’t take any effort to help someone out, does it have as much meaning? I don’t know. I think I’ll have to ponder that one for awhile.

I think, though, that I’m going to try my best to be a blessing to someone today-even if it’s just sending a quick email to say ‘thank you’ or an encouraging note. I challenge everyone who reads this to do the same-do a favor for your neighbor, do your spouse’s least favorite chore-or think bigger. The possibilities are endless.

What has someone done for you recently that’s made you feel blessed?

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Uncategorized