Author: Alley Plake

Thoughtful Thursday

img_3834“Learn to be thankful for what you have while pursuing what you want.”

2017 has been a year full of change. I set out with the goal to be humble and grateful regardless of the many changes I have been adjusting to. Without a doubt, this year I have been more aware of the need to voice my appreciation for the amazing people around me. I’ve done my best to be aware of the opportunities I’ve been given. Overall, I’ve made a conscious effort to be grateful of the daily things that make life so great. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily hustle. Doesn’t it feel nice when someone takes a moment to give you a sincere thank you for just being yourself?

I Like To Be Scared.

Weird title, right?

It’s true. Perhaps I’m just weird.

Being scared represents a lot to me. It means I’m out of my comfort zone. It takes a lot to make me feel like I’m outside of my comfort zone. I’ve never been in a “zone” long enough to feel comfortable. Perhaps some of you may understand it when I say that feeling uncomfortable makes me scared because I realize how much it takes to get me there.

The topic of my life right now is Uganda, Africa. I can’t explain why my heart was 110% there the moment the opportunity presented itself. The reality is that I can’t explain most of the amazing things that have happened to me the last 6 months. I’m just humbled.

Why do I want to go?! There’s this intangible factor that I’ll never be able to articulate. I just have to. This is something I can’t work hard enough on. I can’t talk about enough.  The potential impact we can have on the lives of the people we will visit is constantly on my mind. The collective group I’m traveling with have contacts and a platform with resources that can be used for so much good. It’s a sense of responsibility that I’m gladly willing to accept.

I’m scared. I’m scared I won’t make it back. I’m scared I’ll leave my son without a mother and he will forever wonder why children I had never met were worth the risk. I’m scared that I’ll be so physically exhausted from the 16 flight to Dubai, 24 hour layover, and another 6 hour flight, and the unknown ride from the Uganda airport to our destination that I’ll be worthless. That I’ll essentially provide nothing of value to those who will be chanting from afar in anticipation of our arrival. I’m scared that I come back only to realize I’m infected with some horrible disease that leaves me in a bubble forever. (Dramatic, right?)

I’m scared. I like it. I like that I’m doing something so out of my comfort zone yet I find it so rewarding that I’m doing it. I like that I have this much passion for something nuggetoutside of my daily life, my city, my state and my country. I like that I’m bringing awareness of the world beyond the beautiful lives many of us lead in Dallas.

I feel very responsible. I feel responsible to find a way to make sure the organization that provided the opportunity for this trip to be possible to feel as connected and involved as possible. It may not be easy to accomplish but I think about it more often than most may realize.

I’ll feel sick. I’ve been researching and talking to those who have made a similar trip. Thank goodness I have 4 months and 27 days until I leave. The immunizations required will likely make me feel like shit. There are multiple shots that have some rather unsavory side effects. Prophylactic drugs before, during, and after for Malaria. Typhoid and Hepatitis A for any disease spread through food or water. Yellow Fever that is spread through Mosquitos.  I still haven’t flenched. I’m going.

This evening there was a membership meeting with the organization that has indirectly afforded me this opportunity. As the Vice President of Philanthropy, during the meeting I speak for a couple of minutes to outline what events we have coming up and how members can become involved. It’s customary to mention donation sorting or a local soup kitchen. Doing similar events in our local community are crucial and deserve more attention than they receive. However, tonight was different. I’ve never spoken up to ask someone to stop me if I ran over my allotted time. I’ve never had ugkidmore conviction in the topic I presented. I have a tendency to not take compliments or praise very well. Yet tonight when I told the brief story about how the organization brought me to the radio station the day I heard the men from Uganda tell their story and how it has ultimately led to me visiting Uganda, I couldn’t help but encourage the excitement in the room. When I finished the sentence, “So I’m going to Uganda for 10 days in November.” the group began to clap. It was so incredibly unexpected and warm.  I couldn’t believe it. I really felt in that moment how proud everyone else was that we were able to do this. WE. Rather than clap, we could have given each other a high five and had a dance party. For once I didn’t shy away from it. I actually said, “YES! Clap! This is worth celebrating! It’s amazing!”

Mom, the risks are there. I know.

I’m with incredible people. Our safety is priority. We are going about this in the best and safest way possible. I’m so proud of what we are doing. I’m so proud to have an opportunity to show my son what giving back means on a global level. I am so proud that I have a seven year old son who is irritated that he can’t go help his mommy in that country that “starts with a U.” I’m not just talking the talk. I’m walking the walk. I can’t think of a more meaningful life lesson to give him.

Thoughtful Thursday

Summer is here and I love it! More than anything I enjoy being more relaxed in the evenings with my son. I’m not stressed out with the hustle from work to pick him up only to rush home to realize I have nothing to cook for dinner. On a school night, this is when I realize we’re now an hour behind schedule if we expect to get homework done, play, shower, prepare for tomorrow and read a book all before waking up to do the same thing all over again.

Our evenings during the summer leave me feeling much more like the mom I dream of being. A mom who always lives in the moment. A mom who seems to exude joy while picking the few weeds in her immaculate yard and waving lovingly to each passerby.

I seem to hear his giggles more clearly and the hugs are a bit sweeter. There are games on the patio, hanging out with neighbors, swimming, biking, ice cream and staying up too late. Summer is filled with all of the moments we hope our children will replay in their minds as they remember their childhood.

I’m guilty of filling my plate too full more often than I’d probably like to admit. And I’m certain I’ve missed an extra hug here and there with my son. However, others in our lives that are incredibly important need us to slow down for them too. It may be a friend, a neighbor, or a co-worker who is stressed out from the daily happenings that can wear us down. You never know when slowing down for someone and simply asking how they are could really change the momentum in their life.

XO
Don’t forget to submit your warm thoughts and questions to info@adventureswithalley.com to be featured on Thoughtful Thursday!

Popsicles & Pillow Forts

This morning I woke up with a first grader. By lunch I had a second grader. In between the carpool lane and the chair in my office, I teared up. It wasn’t because I’m worried I didn’t take enough photos or didn’t attend a field trip. It’s because I’m just so damn proud. I’m proud of both of us. 

Our faces should be the number one image when you google “resilience.” We’re a team. I’m the ketchup to his nugget. The ranch to his pizza. What an incredible year we have had! I can’t be more thankful for the village of people in our unlikely yet magical bubble in Dallas. People can be amazing. 

My goal this year is to remain humble and grateful. At the halfway mark, I feel on target! I love our life and the people we hold close to our hearts. I’m proud of how we’ve navigated this year. I’m humbled by how much grace has been shown. So many of you who barely know us have individuality and privately reached out to show your love, concern, and generosity with your heart and we cannot begin to thank you enough. 

Life is amazing, full, warm, and just blessed in infinite ways. My life is so busy. When my son falls asleep, I always sneak in to just look at him. In those moments my life slows down and I’m in absolute awe. It’s those beautiful moments where a sleeping little boy is capable of showing me a world of love that no one else can. If anyone deserves a superhero cape, it’s him. 

This summer I’m looking forward to sleeping in on Friday, too much time at the pool, lots of orange popsicles, pillow forts that take over our house for days, staying up too late, and being guilty of too many snuggle parties with one very cute little boy. 

I really love summer.

I like to be SNEAKY.

This pet peeve bothers me the most. It’s the one that shows the true colors of someone’s heart. I feel sad when I see people who are ungrateful, entitled, or unforgiving.

I am not perfect. I have very bad days. Even days where I fall into one of those categories. I can’t point to a day in my life that I could label as perfect. (Well.. with the exception of any moment with my son.) I wake up trying to be better than the day before. I usually fall short in some capacity and I’m okay with that.

The only thing I can confidently say is that I’m always trying. It’s not enough for some. But for the people who know me, it is.
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Something that brings me a lot of joy is doing something to pay it forward. Out of nowhere. In secret and for the fun of it. Can you relate? Do you think about how fortunate you are and have the intention of giving back?

Our hectic daily lives can get in the way and cloud our minds. I’m so guilty of this. I have so many wonderful people in my life. In 2017, I’ve done my very best to keep a sense of gratitude at the forefront of my mind. There are days I have to write a “pro-con” list to get my mind right.

I want to share something that always brings me back. It’s sneaky. It’s a deck of cards. It’s exactly what I need. img_0400-2

Sneaky Cards can engage anyone. You. Your significant other. Your child. Co-workers. Sometimes we need a reminder to find the bright, lighthearted side of life. This is a good start.

Isn’t it fun to be a little sneaky?

For less than $10 on Amazon you can lift your spirits, set a good example for your family,  and do something good for a stranger.  That means giving up your Starbucks for two days. Just do it.

Dallas Life: Giving Life back to Dallas

This year I’ve had the privilege of working with numerous organizations that give back to our community. The best part for me aside from the act itself, is learning what led people to work so closely with a particular organization. Knowing the right questions to ask can give you amazing knowledge. 
This past weekend I volunteered at Dallas Life. Along for the ride were several members of the philanthropy committee we started this year. And let’s not forget my seven year old son who joined in as well. I’m so grateful I have such a phenomenal group around me this year. I know we wouldn’t be able to accomplish half of what we have without each of them.
Our task was simple. Sort the donations. We entered a giant warehouse like room. It was nothing fancy and filled with clothing and shoes for men, women, and children. We spent close to two hours removing the winter clothes from the hangers and tossing them into large bins. Where do the clothes go from there?
Our chatty and gracious guide, Tammy, thanked us repeatedly for coming out. I had more questions however. Where do the winter clothes go? I assumed they stored them in a room in the building only to pull them out next winter. I was wrong.
Tammy took us to the next room where hundreds of plastic bags sat waiting for a truck to haul them off. I couldn’t believe how many bags were there. Tammy explained that once the season was over, the clothing gets sent to another part of the country or world that needs them. The shoes specifically are sent to Africa. The clothing could go to Memphis or Mexico. It’s really about who is in need at that moment. 
From there she toured us around the basement of the facility showing us the supplies for the shelter. The toiletries, diapers, books, socks. All things we take for granted. The holiday supplies got to me. Can you imagine spending Easter at a homeless shelter with your small child? Tammy spoke of a little girl who was 4 years old. She currently lives at the shelter and is so tiny she needs 2T underpants. While Dallas Life is blessed with donations, most donors don’t consider a need for 2T underpants. Most two year old kids would have a greater need for pull-ups. This sweet 4 year old girl just wants underwear that fits her petite little body. And you could see the heart Tammy had for this child without her even saying a word. During our conversation Tammy also mentioned she had graduated from the program at Dallas Life. I have a feeling she’s a very strong woman with a big heart trying to give back to an organization that was there for her during a very tough time.
My son helped a lot that day. He was patient and willing. At the end of the day Tammy, offered to let him pick a stuff animal from the hundreds they’ve had donated. At first I was reluctant because after all, another child surely needed it more. After Tammy insisted, I backed down. Tammy was right. My son did need that stuffed animal. Only not in the way another child might. It was has been a reminder of how fortunate we are. On our way home, I asked him how he felt. He replied, “Happy and Sad, Mommy. I feel happy I was able to help. But I feel so sad that anyone has to go there.” I could see him processing his conflicting feelings as he looked out the window. 
I know it’s called Dallas Life. However, they are reaching a lot further than Dallas. The shoes are sent to Africa. The unused clothing is sent anywhere in the world there is a need. It has put my life into perspective and hopefully yours as you read this. In the few hours I was there I saw many people in and out of a chapel to pray, people walking into an AA meeting, and men receiving haircuts from a barber. They’re simply giving life back to many people in Dallas. 
For more on how you can help Dallas Life, Click here. 

Salon Avalon: Aveda Product Review

I can’t say enough wonderful things about Aveda products! I’m convinced I’ve tried everything at least once. Of course I jumped at the opportunity to attend Salon Avalon’s invitation to attend their “Blogger Soirée” event! As I entered a host of people with the most enviable hair greeted me with smiles and wine. (….well played, Salon Avalon!) I had the opportunity to enjoy many great products. The swag was amazing and I can’t wait to give you the scoop so that you don’t end up with drawers full of unused products. 

I used to hesitate at the thought of using hairspray. I need it but picking up the wrong bottle can leave you smelling like cheap a fragrance or feeling like helmet head. Gross. Aveda’s witch hazel hairspray smells amazing! It’s so perfect you’ll wish it was a perfume! 
What’s even better is it gives you the perfect look by taming those pesky flyways without your hair feeling “gunky.” It never fails to give me the perfect texture and make me feel like I’m having the best hair day. 

The product claims to “provide light hold, reduce static and eliminate fly-aways.” and “provide the tonic quality of witch hazel while boosting shine.” Its true! It’s the best $22 spent. Don’t forget to follow Adventures with Alley as I review the rest of the swag bag!

Sip, Swab, & Save a Life with the DJCC!

Click here for original publication by the Dallas Junior Chamber of Commerce

For our March Happy Hour we had the honor of working with DKMS, an international non-profit organization with the tagline “We Delete Blood Cancer”.
DKMS partnered with the DJCC Happy Hour to provide the opportunity to swab members’ cheeks to register into the DKMS bone marrow registry.

“It’s not everyday one gets presented with an opportunity to potentially save a life, let alone with such ease. The swabbing process was surprisingly fast and far from inconvenient. I have to say, I felt very proud knowing that I would potentially make an invaluable difference in a person’s life someday”.
-Derek Brisson

The Dallas Junior Chamber of Commerce had the honor of partnering with DKMS at our “Sip & Swab” event during our happy hour at Mac’s Southside this past month. When partnering with an organization with such an amazing cause, it’s easy to become consumed with the idea of saving a life. The philanthropy committee worked for weeks to ensure all of the details were taken care of. We’re incredibly proud to say our hard work paid off! The Dallas Junior Chamber of Commerce registered a total of 22 bone marrow donors!

I cannot say enough wonderful things about the DKMS organization. More specifically, our event representative, Judith Garcia, is top notch. She walked us through the process from the very beginning. Her passion for her work is unmatched and contagious.
A big takeaway for me personally was seeing the uneasiness of some of our guests when chatting to them about donating. We registered 22 people as bone marrow donors, but we raised awareness to so many more people that evening. Many people I spoke to that evening knew very little about the process and what it can truly do for someone in­ need. It was incredible to see so many genuine and surprised faces when they learned the options for being a bone marrow donor.


Spirit Person

I love a picture that can make me feel reflective, free, and just happy. In this new age I hear people refer to their spirit animal. I think I have a spirit person. Do you have that one person that no matter where you are in life the second you share airspace with them you just feel better? Even if you thought you felt great before, they make you feel better. It’s so great you may think it’s too good to be true. 
A heart of gold. A friend who truly brightens up inside when they see you happy is priceless. I’m 32 and I think I just now have that. Having a friend who makes you have the kind of fun where you feel half of your age while doing nothing at all.  

The timing of life events can be quite comical. My “spirit person” recently had the most amazing thing happen at the time my life was falling apart. As much as I wanted to feel sorry for myself I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the true joy I had for her. The joy for her overshadowed any self pity brewing. I know what she’s been through, how hard she has worked, and how much she deserves every single good thing life can offer her. 
It’s sometimes difficult to not let the dark clouds engulf you. But rising above it all is so much more rewarding. And it’s simply just a happier place to live. 

The Accidental Blogger

I never thought I’d be asked to be on a panel of bloggers. Life has been quite interesting lately. Quite honestly… life is exciting! 

When I was asked to be part of the panel I thought, “Wow! They must be pretty desperate.” The more I thought about it the more it actually made sense. I believe I fall into the category of the “accidental blogger.”

My reason for blogging started solely for the purpose of healing myself. I knew that in order to heal I had to face some very personal and painful realities head on. What better way to be accountable than to make it available for the world to read?

My experience as part of the panel was all positive. I was by far the most amateur blogger. This meant I was able to learn a lot from my fellow panelists. It was interesting to hear their process of making their thoughts come to life. I quickly realized my initial reason for beginning my blog was different than theirs. I was able to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. While my intentions for sharing my experiences are pure and simple, I have room for improvement if I hope to reach more people. Truth be told I figured out how to properly hashtag about 6 months ago. I often publish posts that aren’t categorized meaning I haven’t attached a hashtag and no one will ever find my post. I also realized the value of releasing posts on a consistent basis. Having readers who can rely on getting the goods on a particular day can foster their loyalty to you. 

I’m glad I was involved in the panel. Most importantly, I’m thankful I was able to learn from others on how to be a better blogger. I respect the opinions of the other bloggers. We all have reasons for what we do and things that matter to us. I did have a different opinion than a panelists and I wish we had time to explore that. We were asked what tips we had for those just beginning to blog. A panelist explained that she felt you should know yourself, your brand, and what you stand for before beginning your blog. My experience has been the exact opposite. I feel like the niche that I’ve found myself in is owning the fact that I have nothing figured out and that life has low points and we’ve all been there. I’m being vulnerable by letting the world know that I’m figuring out this next phase of my life one moment at a time. 

The event was well organized, lighthearted, yet informative. It was great seeing the different motivators and stages in the process. It was a great night with great people!