Sunday, August 29, 2010

I'm a Habitat Hero!

Normally, I'm not one to brag on myself.  I normally try to quietly do what I think is right, and go on about my business.  This week, however, I was thrust into the spotlight.  Well, maybe thrust into the spotlight a bit of an exaggeration, but I was recognized for charity work that I'd done.

This past Tuesday, I went to a Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis Homeowner/Sponsor Reception to help Crystel with the event.  At the reception, the future Habitat homeowners and their respective sponsors are recognized.  In addition, awards are handed out for the "Habitat Heroes" for July and August.  As I was sitting at the back of the room, my name was called as the July Habitat Hero.  I was recognized for my assistance at the Exotic Italian Car Show in June of this year.  I was shocked to be recognized, because I felt like I was just doing my duty at the car show by helping Crystel with a very difficult event. 

While I am very grateful for the award (it will be displayed proudly in my office), I feel that Habitat has already given much more valuable things to me in the two-plus years I have been associated with the organization.  See, I've never been very civic-minded.  I didn't grow up doing charity work or donating to local charitable organizations.  My involvement with Habitat has been my first real experience with volunteer work.

When Crystel accepted a job with Habitat for Humanity in early 2008, I didn't know what to expect.  What we did know was that she was facing a long commute from Collierville.  This prompted up to move into the city from the suburbs.  We bought a house in the High Point Terrace neighborhood in East Memphis, which was one of the best decisions we could have made. We love it here.  We'd probably still be living in Collierville if it wasn't for Habitat.  Don't get me wrong, Collierville is great, but Memphis has a lot more to offer a young couple.

Shortly after Crystel started her job at Habitat, she started telling me about all of these interesting people she was meeting.  Little did I know these people would go on to become dear friends.  As I started going to some of the events with Crystel, I too started meeting some great people.  I look back at our time in Memphis, and our list of friends would be much shorter without our involvement in Habitat.  It's true what I've read that the best way to meet people in a new city is to volunteer. 

While I haven't spent a lot of time at the build sites, I do spend a lot of time (and a lot of effort) at the Habitat fundraising events.  Volunteers don't just hang around at these events.  There is a lot of hard work to be done.  To see a group of strangers and friends come together in one day to pull off these events is amazing.  You can always count on leaving a Habitat event tired, but very fulfilled.  It sounds cheesy, but you often time come to the event as strangers and leave as friends.

I have learned a tremendous amount about Memphis through volunteering with Habitat.  I know about cool neighborhoods, events, organizations, and people that I never would have been exposed to without my involvement with Habitat. Just this past Friday night, we went to the South Main Trolley Tour and had a great time.  We were there to hand out Habitat information and try and spread the word about the Tool Box Bash (Habitat's biggest fundraiser, and a very fun event).  After taking in the scene, we will definitely be going back to South Main as soon as possible.

Of course, everything I have mentioned is a benefit that Habitat gives me as a volunteer (which is a very selfish view).  The best part about Habitat is the work they do for the very deserving homeowners.  Going to a home dedication and seeing the joy brought to the new homeowners is amazing.  There are many great, hardworking families that deserve an opportunity for homeownership.  Habitat creates that opportunity. 

So, if you feel down on your city, get out and volunteer.  Get out and try to make it better.  You might find that the volunteer work can benefit you as much as it does the people you are helping.  So many people tend to focus on the negative aspects of Memphis (or any city), and overlook many of the fantastic things this city has to offer.  When we moved to the Memphis area from Oxford in 2006, we felt like outsiders.  Thanks in large part to our work with Habitat, we feel like a part of this great city.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Little Change and Some Music Suggestions

As alluded to in my previous post, I am slightly altering the content of my blog. I decided to expand my writing topics beyond the world of music. While I will still write about music, I also intend to include posts about things I've discovered that bring me happiness, contribute to my health, help me save money, and generally any other topic that I think might be useful to others. I just wanted to give fair warning to the two people that read this blog so they wouldn't think they'd clicked on the wrong link when I post something seemingly out of left field.

Speaking of music, go listen to Mumford & Sons. One of my favorite musical discoveries this year.

Also, if you haven't listened to Justin Townes Earle, go ahead and do that too.

One last suggestion, if you miss quality country music from days gone by, check out Stoney Larue, and his cover of "Empty Glass."

Can you tell I've just discovered how to put links in my blog?

So you've been warned. Future posts could deal with any number of unrelated topics so don't be alarmed you two.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Living Simply: Is It Possible for a Music and Movie Addict?

If you've spent any time at all reading online news articles or blogs as we've progressed through our latest recession, then it's likely you may have run across the term "Living Simply." This afternoon, I read a great article on about how the economy has forced many people to downsize their lives creating an unexpected side effect...happiness. It seems that "stuff" really doesn't make you that happy at all. It's the experiences that make you happy. Vacations, time spent socializing with friends, taking a class, hiking, etc. are the things that truly create lasting happiness.

As I read this article, I couldn't help but agree with most everything written and I found myself comparing a lot of the suggestions and experiences to my own life. Crystel and I have made a conscious effort to try and live more simply over the past year or so. We've slowly downsized some of our stuff, limited our shopping trips (music and books for me, antiques and clothes for Crystel), and generally tried to put more thought into where our money goes. You know the funny thing? I've actually been happier, and I think Crystel has too. It's worth noting that our simple living wasn't forced by the economy, but rather a choice to try and focus more on things that truly contribute to happiness and less things that bring temporary happiness at best.

That brings me to the biggest hurdle for me. As long as I can remember, I've collected music and movies. My memories are full of tearing the shrink-wrap off of VHS tapes, cassettes, records, DVDs and Cd's. Listening to music and watching movies has long been my favorite hobby. So how does this obsession with music and movies fit into my new living simply lifestyle? Let's just say I am incredibly thankful for the internet.

For starters, I've been able to sell many DVDs and CDs that were just collecting dust via (an Ebay company). Next, I received a subscription (great gift idea)to Netflix for all my movies as a birthday present from my parents. The movie buying excuse was always that my movie tastes don't necessarily fit the Blockbuster inventory strategy, so I wound up buying countless underground comedies and concert films only to watch them one time. With Netflix, this isn't an issue.

Last week, I subscribed to Rhapsody; an online music service. Since Rhapsody released their Iphone app (Finally!), I have access to almost any music I can imagine for free (after paying the monthly fee). Again, with music my tastes are pretty diverse and with the exception of some of the shows on WEVL (especially Jukebox Graduate, my friend Kevin's show on Tuesday mornings), the radio is pretty useless to me. I would buy music just to try and discover new artists which is hit and miss at best.

Hopefully I can successfully continue to implement the simple living philosophy in all aspects of my life. I plan to blog more on this in the future. In keeping with the advice from the article I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I plan to blog more on experiences as well (since that seems to be the real key to lasting happiness).

Has the economy forced you to rethink where your money goes? If so, have you discovered other sources of happiness?

Here's a link to the MSNBC article that I mentioned.