Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Tom T's Hat Rack" ~ My First Book Signing!

February 16, 2013 ~ Well, today was the big day... it was my first book signing! I was excited and nervous as I didn't really know what to expect. When I first became public with my book I was approached by Joe and Renee with Stoney Creek Inn-Columbia, MO. They wanted to host my book signing and I was extremely happy to have them involved and be the first place to debut my brand new book! Of course I couldn't have a book signing without my wonderful Chamber Ambassadors friends.... what an amazing group of people I call my extended family! Love those guys and gals!

I was really surprised to see Don Laird show up! Since his retirement from the Chamber of Commerce I didn't know when I would get to see him again and it made my day when he showed up! Thanks Don! (Yep, he even bought a book and was going to read it to his grandchildren.... or will his grandchildren read it to him??)

I was very thankful for Jim Robertson (he originally wrote the article for Boone Electric Rural Missouri magazine, Dec 2012) as he was the awesome photographer that captured this exciting yet whirlwind day for me! Once I sat down and started signing autographs (along with Tom Trabue and Peggy A. Guest) we didn't get up until about 4 pm! (The book signing was from 2-4 pm)

It was an amazing day for me. Taking my dream of wanting to write a children's book and making it a reality. Being able to hold my book in my hand was an incredible feeling.... a since of pride. But the moment I saw all the people waiting in a long line to not only purchase one of my books but to get it personalized and signed by me.... I can't even tell you how proud I was. When you take a leap of faith and do something you've never done before not knowing what others may think is scary. I'm not going to lie... after I signed the contract to self-publish my book I had a moment of  "Should I really do this?" but I knew that everything with all of this, from the title of the book to the story line to how fast the book was wrote, was too perfect. By perfect I mean it happened perfectly. Once I included Peggy A. Guest in as my illustrator the story came to life. It still had many "Michele-ism's" in it and those of you that know me can hear me throughout the book which is how I wanted it.

Peggy is an amazing artist and someone that has been a part of our family for years. She was working on multiple projects and somehow made time to work on my book. I'm pretty sure she didn't sleep for a couple months just to keep everything moving forward and I know I couldn't have made this possible without her! Joe and Peggy are also the ones that made the red hat rack for me in the ribbon cutting picture and the picture you'll see in a moment!

Then we have Tom Trabue (aka: "Mr. T"). What an inspiration! I have had several people I know go through cancer but there was something about Tom and his journey that would forever change me.... for the better. When he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in May 2012 I watched a man who normally was more reserved become very public. He was scared and so were we, he didn't know what to expect and nether did we but we did know that he wouldn't be alone on this journey. To watch Tom remain so positive (when he was almost stage 4) and leaned on his family, friends and many people he had never met before to help him was very real. You just don't realize how in a moment your life can change and a lot of it depends on your attitude and the people you have around you. I am proud to say that Tom is currently cancer-free and this whole experience has changed him... for the better.

There were so many adorable kids that came through to get their own autographed copy of "Tom T's Hat Rack" and it was so fun to talk to them! Loved to see them get excited about reading the book or to hear about what they thought if they have already read it!

Loved having the support of my Partner in I mean my Partner in Education, Tanya Alberty and her son's Brendan and Owen there with her and they got books signed for the girls! (Love those Alberty kids!) Also had Angie Gerzen and Janet Swope there too! Thank you!

It was also fun seeing people I went to school with and their kiddos! I am really proud of the community I live in and the wonderful lasting friendships I have made throughout the years. Although we don't have a picture I was able to meet some of Tom Trabue's family including his mom and grandma! Truly makes me smile!

Truly was a wonderful day and I know it wouldn't have been possible without Stoney Creek Inn-Columbia, MO, Village Books, Tom Trabue, Peggy A. Guest, Jim Robertson and the many people that came to show their support! We had between 150-175 people come to our book signing....You all make me smile bigger and I have so much to be thankful for.

 (We found our "Shelby"!)

Remember.... everyone has a story to tell and if you don't start it today then when will you?

Jaxon's 2nd Birthday!

February 16, 2013 ~ Happy 2nd Birthday Jaxon! It's hard to believe this little boy made his arrival into this world 2 years ago weighing in at 9lbs and 22" long but I can't imagine what I did in life without him! It's been kind of fun watching him grow up. He does a great job of throwing fits when something doesn't go his way, he plays favorites based on who will give him what he wants and trying to figure out what his momma and daddy are feeding him... this kid is huge!

I went over around 9:00 am to spend a little time with the little stinker and took him a basketball and a football. He was in heaven! He is certainly all boy and I was afraid he would throw one of them and break stuff in their house... luckily we were able to keep him contained a little and under control!

He loves Emo and wanted to touch his cake. His patience skills are like his Aunt Shell's.... but he did really good. They let him touch/taste the icing on the back side so he didn't throw a complete fit! It was a great time getting to celebrate Jaxon's birthday with family and trying to get him to hold still for pictures is almost impossible... but thank goodness he's at that age where you can bribe him! Love that little guy so much just wish he wouldn't grow up so fast!

Happy 37th Birthday Brandon!

February 15, 2013 ~ Wishing this handsome guy a Happy 37th Birthday! Even though my hubby will be older than me for 6 whole months I am taking this time enjoying being his younger wife! Ha! It's been 21 years since we started dating and I love this guy more and more with each passing year! I tease him that he is like a 90 year old trapped in a 37 year old body (because of his back pains, hip pains, etc.) but no matter what age he feels or what age he really is I love this guy to the moon and back! Happy Birthday Brandon Gene Spry! I love you and can't wait to see what adventures we get to experience together in 2013!

Friday, February 15, 2013

An Inspiring Day ~ Hannah Cole Primary School!

February 12, 2013 ~ I had a wonderful opportunity to speak at Hannah Cole Primary School in Boonville, MO today. My friend Jennifer Schenck connected me with Cindy Spaedy to coordinate this day. This week was "Kindness Week" at Hannah Cole Primary School and they wanted me to come talk to the 334 students (Kindergarten - 2nd grade) about my book, "Tom T's Hat Rack", and about the message of "Paying It Forward" to tie into this week. I learned a lot about this wonderful school yesterday and want to share some of this with you before going on....

Hannah Cole Primary School was built in 2009 and currently serves students from Kindergarten to 2nd grade. Normally each school year they have done "Pennies for Patients" and raised money to give to Leukemia patients and the Relay for Life. This year marked the 1st year of "Relay Recess" which encourages kids to be healthy. (They are the only school outside Kansas City and St. Louis in the state of Missouri to put this program in the school) They also show a video called "Why Charlie Brown Why?" which one of Charlie Brown's friends at school is diagnosed with Leukemia. You can watch it here or search YouTube for it. (It's almost 23 minutes long but great to see but be warned it will make you cry!)

A little girl held the door for me as I entered the school and I was impressed with this kind gesture. I could tell this school was different (in a good way of course) from other schools. It was very welcoming and friendly. When I had talked to Cindy Spaedy she had told me one of the students was currently going through chemo. I didn't ask questions about this child and last night I went to the store and purchased a hat and superman t-shirt for this child. When I arrived and made reference to what gift I brought (to make sure it was OK) she told me they had 2 Kindergartners going through chemo. One was a little girl and one was a little boy. (I stressed for a moment because I wanted this little girl to have a gift too and I would be speaking to the first of 3 classes in 10 minutes!)

The first group of kiddos were the 2nd graders! I talked to them a little about their "Kindness Week" and then incorporated "Tom T's Hat Rack". Cancer was not something new to these students and it was pretty awesome talking to them about my friend, Tom Trabue, who the book is dedicated to. (I even took a few pictures of Tom and Kim to show the kids what he looked like which they thought was pretty cool.... Tom had his Fedora hat on in these pictures) I than began to read the first 3 chapters of the book. Once I was done I got some great questions from them. Like "How did you come up with the characters in the book?" or "How long did it take you to write the book?" I had several questions on how did we make the book or how did we get the picture on the hard covers. It was great talking to them and they were a great group of students. I spent about an hour with them and it was so rewarding to have several the kids come up and tell me thanks for coming to read to them. Oh and I got a few hugs too!

We had about 30 minutes before the next group came in so Jennifer Schenck and I ran to the store to get the little girl a Hello Kitty Fedora hat and super-girl t-shirt. I can't do for one and not the other right?

When we got back it was time for the 1st grade class to come in. This was the biggest class of the school with 7.... yes 7.... first grade teachers! They were so sweet and I decided to read the first 3 chapters of my book then tie everything else in. (This seemed to make it flow nicer since they understood the story line) Those kids were like little giggle-boxes when I showed them the pictures. It worked much better and their questions were pretty good! They asked me if I was going to write other books, what would they be about, will they always be chapter books, how did we get my writing and drawings into the book and a few more. They were a fun group of students and I got lots of hugs from these kids!

It was then time to talk to the Kindergarten class. They were adorable and probably the best class at sitting still and listening. (It's so hard to sit still... even for me!) As I started to talk about what I do and my book I told them it was written about a good friend of mine that had cancer. The most adorable, sweetest little boy raised his hand (I knew which one he was because I talked to his mom who is the art teacher at the school and on this very day he began wearing a hat to school... how cool is that!) and I looked at him and nodded for him to say something. He said "I'm a cancer survivor" and I looked at him with a big smile and said "and I have something special for you in a few minutes if that's ok" he just smiled and seemed a little shy but nodded "ok". I finished talking about why I wrote this book and just before reading the first 3 chapters to them I asked that adorable little boy to come forward as I had a gift for him.

 This is Carter. Carter is the most adorable, cutest, sweetest young man who totally inspired me! (Natalia was the other Kindergartner that was currently going through chemo but wasn't at school yesterday) After giving Carter a "Mr. T Inspired Hat" and a Superman t-shirt (I tried to find a superman hat for him but they didn't have one) I asked Carter to sit next to me while I read "Tom T's Hat Rack". I even gave him the big chair with a cushion on it while I sat on a smaller chair.... he thought that was pretty cool! He gave his new hat to his mom to hold for him.

Told you he was cute as can be! 

I let Carter see the pictures in the book before showing the other Kindergartners and he thought that was pretty cool. At the end I let him help pick people to ask me questions which he loved! He told me that he had cancer when he was 3 and now he is going to fight it again. As we talked about kind things we can do for each other one of the sweetest little boys said "I know what you can do for someone else" then went up and gave Carter a big hug. (So sweet!) These kids asked some great questions and even stumped me on one.... "How many words are in your book?" I didn't know! I had so many comments on how they liked my book so far but wanted me to tell them what happens in the rest of the book. I told them all that Mrs. Schenck had purchased a book for their school library and they could check it out if they like. 

I got lots of hugs from the sweetest kiddos!

You ever get the feeling you are meant to be somewhere? I had this feeling and it was perfect... everything happened for a reason and I was so proud to come to this school. I met some of the greatest kids but one little boy made my whole day. Carter was amazing! He was so kind and understanding and I know he is going to fight with all his might and beat cancer again! I am so proud I had the opportunity to meet him and just wish I could have met Natalia too. I'm sure she is an amazing little girl and hopefully I get a chance to meet her one of these days! Thank you to Jennifer Schenck, Cindy Spaedy, staff and kiddos of Hannah Cole Primary School for letting me come speak to you..... you have an amazing little community!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Alex George & Eleanor Brown Author Talk

February 7, 2013 ~ I had met Alex George almost 4 years ago and have witnessed all the great things he has done in our community. He is an attorney,  served as a Board Member for Voluntary Action Center, volunteered within our community and is a published author. "A Good American" is his 5th published book and one I noticed most.

Since I became a self-published author I have been paying a little more attention to author's in general. I try to think outside the box and do things a little differently to allow myself to stick out a little more.

Alex sent an invite via Facebook to come to Barnes & Noble at the Columbia Mall in Columbia, MO tonight at 7:00 PM. As a great surprise he brought Eleanor Brown who has published "Weird Sisters" as a guest. It was a great turnout and they did something a little different where they had a conversation between them focused on their books. It was really fun listening to them talk about writing, publishing and all things in between. Once they were done talking and allowing the audience to ask questions they did book signings and of course I had to have one! (Crazy little thing I have been collecting for awhile is autographed books.... I don't have a ton but I do have a nice little collection that I started several years ago). Listening to them talk about their books certainly makes you want to read them and I will!

Congratulations to Alex and Eleanor on your books! Sounds like you both are well on your way to being very successful and I am very proud of anyone taking a chance to write a book.... we all have a story to tell and if you don't start your story today when will you have time?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

DECA ~ Highschool Judging

February 6, 2013 ~ This year marks my 5th year for judging for DECA. For those of you that don't know what DECA is it is a great program offered in high school and college. DECA prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe. DECA enhances the co-curricular education of members through a comprehensive learning program that integrates into classroom instruction, applies learning, connects to business and promotes competition.

Today I judged at the Holiday Inn in Columbia, MO and recruited 3 friends to help out.... Thank you Cheryl, Shelly & Suzie! Judging at these events is always interesting as you get students that really don't want to be there but were encouraged by their teachers to participate and then you have students that totally get it. Today I judged the written events. The students prepared a binder with 11 pages of content on marketing. Then I have 5 different advertising competitions to judge. I was impressed with all of the students and their knowledge on an advertising campaign and how creative they are.

I was so proud of a set of girls that presented to me. Without giving too much detail about their advertisement (because they use real businesses to come up with these ad campaigns and marketing strategies) I was very impressed with both of them and their ideas. They took an idea on marketing prom items. They had a fashion show with all proceeds going to one of their classmates that could not afford a tux and presented a check for $260 that will be used to rent his tux, a boutonniere and possibly dinner. My heart was beaming with joy hearing this coming from two seniors that were awesome in coming up with this idea. They had a well thought out plan, it was successful and now I can't imagine what that young man is going to feel like as he goes to their prom. If their classmates would take note of what they have done and see that these girls got great recognition (they were the MC's for the event) and didn't really focus on that aspect of this project. Well done ladies, well done!

I had another set of students that presented to me and although their presentation was good I feel they didn't put a lot of thought into what they were presenting. For example: The promotional items they were going to offer didn't add up to the total they gave even when you multiply it by 12 (months) was still only $20,000 and their number was $35,000. The thing I questioned them on was this.... They said they were trying to increase the sales for this business from $20,000 to $30,000. The ad campaign they were pitching was going to cost $40,000+. My question to them was this.... If you are only increasing my sales from $20,000 to $30,000 (+$10,000) why would my ad campaign be $40,000+? Wouldn't I be loosing money? I know I caught them unprepared and they didn't have an answer. I was very nice to them but my point was as a business owner having an ad campaign of $40,000+ on a business that only brings in $20,000 is a lot of money. Even as a small business owner that makes just a little more than $20,000 it's a lot of money to get $10,000 in potential sales.

I give all the students props for putting all of this together including making phone calls, personal visits and e-mails to the various business owners to obtain information needed for their presentation. They all did a great job with speaking and everyone was pretty fluent with what they were talking about. I am so thankful for this opportunity and try to give feedback when I can. I want all of these kids to be successful into the future. As a student myself I remember going through DECA in high school and just wished I had applied myself a little more. I know I could have went to nationals and possibly inter-national but I didn't so what I can do is to keep judging and encouraging these students to do the best they can.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Teachers ~ A Great Gift!

February 5, 2013 ~ Teacher's are vitally important in our society. They teach, encourage, challenge and care deeply about our youth yet their pay isn't that great. They don't do it for the pay. They do it because they enjoy working with students and those precious little stories and smiles are what it's about. As each year passes they watch each child enter their classroom not knowing several things about this new grade level and leave with a wealth of knowledge preparing them for the next grade level. Some days are hard, some days are heart wrenching but mostly the days are rewarding. Next time you see a teacher... thank them. I can remember how kind, caring and loving many of my elementary teachers were and love walking through the halls of the very elementary school that helped shape me into who I am today.

I was reading Facebook this morning and ran across this story. Take a moment to read it as it is empowering, uplifting and true. The next time you judge someone for the way they look, act or dress just remember that you may not know the whole story. Many of us go through things that no one else will understand and when you "label" someone you are giving up on them. Sometimes the smallest things can truly impact another in great ways....

Although this story is fiction the message is something we can all learn from.....

As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.

It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners... he is a joy to be around.."

His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."

His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."

Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class."

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper That he got from a grocery bag Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume.. But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to." After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets.."

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling* her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer.... The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."

(For you that don't know, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.)

Warm someone's heart today. . . pass this along. I love this story so very much, I cry every time I read it. Just try to make a difference in someone's life today? tomorrow? Just "do it".

Random acts of kindness, I think they call it?

"Believe in Angels, then return the favor."

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII

February 3, 2013 ~ Well it's that time of year that many have waited for.....Super Bowl! Brandon and I weren't going to any parties but we wanted to watch the Super Bowl at home. I was excited to cheer on the 49er's because Sarah Dubbert's brother, Justin Smith, was playing in the Super Bowl. (I met Sarah back in Leadership Columbia in 2010 and we connected right away and have since went through Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge in 2012) I really was excited to see the commercials! My favorite are as follows.....

"God Made A Farmer"
Chrysler Ram Commercial
(click on above link to watch)

"Brotherhood" ~ Extended Version
Budweiser Commercial
(click on above link to watch)

"Coming Home"
Jeep Commercial
(click on above link to watch)

"Viva Young"
Taco Bell Commercial
(click on above link to watch)

I'll have to be honest.... I wasn't a fan of the half time show. Don't get me wrong... Beyonce is beautiful, amazing and talented but I wanted to hear more of her voice and less of the dancing all around. (I know many of you enjoyed it.... sorry for being honest!)

It was crazy when the lights went out. It's what the 49er's needed to re-group however it wasn't enough. I will have to say the Ravens played well and deserved the win. Awesome these two teams had the opportunity to play and what a great thing for the brother coaches. 49er's I was rootin' for you until the very end.... Dang!

Happy Retirement Day Momma!

February 1, 2013 ~ Well today is a special milestone for my momma.... today she retires! She has worked at Cornerstone Insurance for 15 years and it was certainly a bittersweet day. She is excited to be able to stay home and piddle in the yard and around the house and have the ability to go anywhere she wants to go but she is going to miss many of the people she worked with.

Dad isn't going to retire until February 22nd (he turns 62 the next day) so mom is going to take advantage of relaxing and doing a few things she wants to do before dad is home full time! Starting in March she is going to watch Jaxon 2 days a week.... Don't think he's going to be spoiled at Granny and Papa's house do ya??

It will be nice to have them around all the time however I have a feeling they'll take a few rides in the country once the "new" of retirement wears off! At least Spring is coming so they can get outside and enjoy!

Congratulations momma.... you have worked very hard and now it's time for you to do whatever you want! Hey what's for lunch today in Momma's Kitchen? (Just kidding!) Love you mom!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tom T's Hat Rack ~ A Book Interview!

January 31, 2013 ~ I was approached by Kim Beasley to be interviewed and talk about "Tom T's Hat Rack" via a Google+ hangout. It was today at 2 PM and I was excited! You know writing and publishing this book has been an amazing adventure and allowed me to be involved in some great opportunities such as this! This interview was possible because of Google+ and their hangout feature which I love. (You can have up to 10 people in a hangout which is awesome!)

I first met Kim Beasley through Sarah Hill when she was using Google+ hangouts in the news at KOMU 8 and have had many great conversations as well has hanging out in real life with her. It was a lot of fun to answer the various questions she asked and it was fun to see Kempton Lam (who I had met via a Google+ hangout and met in Las Vegas in 2012) come onto the interview and ask me about the illustrator and if I had input on the various artwork throughout the book. So good to see a familiar face who supports things I do! Huge thank you to Anthony Ramos for his work on making this interview smooth and creating my "lower third" for my name!

If you have 30 minutes or so I would encourage you to watch the interview and understand why I wrote this book, who inspired me, what I would like to do in the future and what it's been like since I have publicly introduced "Tom T's Hat Rack". You can click on the following YouTube link....

It was a wonderful opportunity and one that I am glad Kim asked me to be a part of. This is just the tip of the iceberg and we are just getting started! Thank you all for your support and encouragement along the way.... it's been very humbling to hear your thoughts and comments after reading my book which makes my heart happy!