No 59: David Korins

I, along with my mom and brother, watched the Academy Awards this past weekend. I’m betting a bunch of you didn’t know this, but guess who designed the stage for the show? Okay, the title pretty much gave it away, but yes, it was Hamilton’s own set designer: David Korins.

David is an amazing set designer: Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Passing Strange, Grease: Live, and he also does so many other cool things including concerts with Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars and the revamped NYC restaurant, Bond 45. And that’s only naming a few.

What makes David really special in my opinion, though, is his love of connecting with his fans. Imagine how ecstatic 2015 Natalie was when the set designer of Hamilton commented on my Instagram post from September of that year, “I love how much you love theatre and our show”. Yes, you read that right. He literally commented on my Hamilton post. What other Broadway designers have you heard of doing that? I think I had just died and briefly gone to heaven in that moment (true story).

All joking aside, I’m grateful for the David Korins-es of the world: those remarkably talented people who make such profound artistic experiences, and yet never hesitate to connect with their fans.

Thank you for your art, David, and also for your heart. The world is a better place with people like you in it.

No. 58: Excellent Customer Service

I once read a rave review of a small little boutique located in the state of New York. As someone who has worked a customer service oriented job, I always take such things pretty seriously and let me say, this review really piqued my interest in the boutique: Linsey Layne.

My curiosity also couldn’t have come at a better time because, just as I’ve lately been working on my mindfulness skills, Linsey’s store has these beautiful pieces of jewelry called “power beads”. I decided on three which I believe represent my journey for the time being: Rainbow Moonstone, Beryl, and Amazonite (all of which you can read a brief description in the below picture).

I went ahead and ordered the three bracelets on Saturday night, and the first surprise: free shipping. Always. And if that wasn’t good enough already, I was notified I would also be getting one of the moisturizing lip balms Linsey throws in with every purchase anyone makes. Perfect for the windy, winter season right now.

I received my order today, which was remarkably fast given the free shipping cost, and as soon as I saw Linsey’s name on the label, I couldn’t wait to open it. It felt like a small treat from my hard workout at the gym earlier this evening. I opened the package to find a cute, white box containing the following elements: the three power bead bracelets, the free lip balm, three sheets explaining the respective stones’ meanings, and a beautiful note from Linsey herself thanking me for my purchase. I was beyond stunned at the level of care she put into this small package.

I only ordered three items, but with those and the other miscellaneous freebies, I also got an amazing customer service experience full of integrity and charm. Thank you, Linsey, and to the many other customer service representatives out there who make shopping feel like a true luxury. (Now go check out Linsey’s site if you have a moment!: https://www.linseylayne.com )

No. 57: Bells

I had one of those moments today when things are just perfectly-timed.

As I’m walking from the PATCO station up toward Rittenhouse Square, I’m searching through my music to find a song I’m in the mood for. In my search, I come across “The Bells of Notre Dame” from one of the most underrated Disney films of all time, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I listened to it for about fifteen-ish seconds, debating back and forth whether I actually wanted to listen to the whole thing, but then silently say to myself something along the lines of, “eh, let’s just skip it for now”.

But fate had other plans. Right as I was pulling my phone out to change it, the bells of the church I pass on my daily walk on Locust Street start chiming in perfect synchronization with my music. It was even the same exact starting note.

And from there, I knew I had to listen to the full song.

Call it a coincidence, a sheer stroke of serendipity, simply a chance moment, whatever. I live for those moments where, even though it might seem like a total coincidence, it’s as if there’s some sort of meaning in the act, even in the most mundane such as listening to a Disney song. I’ll admit, most of the time I don’t actually have a justifiable reason when the moment happens as to why it’s happening, but still I always cherish them. They make me believe in the notion there is a purpose to this life, and most of all, they give me the utmost confidence that life truly is extraordinary.

I’m grateful for those moments: those I have already experienced and those I will, however inexplicable they are.

No. 56: Fitbit

In a moment of sheer impulsiveness today, I bought a Fitbit.

I’ve heard and read from a variety of people how important their own Fitbits are to them. In fact, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen wearing one. It’s a phenomenon I’m just now taking part in, but I’m grateful to be taking part at all.

I’m grateful I was able to buy one, mostly. It’s not a small purchase, so hopefully I can see the return on investment over the course of the year. I mentioned my goal to exercise more and live a healthier lifestyle on the blog a little bit ago, so it’s my hope this Fitbit can help me monitor my progress and keep me on track.

Thank you to all the tech devices out there that encourage us to live healthier, but especially thank you to the Fitbits that many cherish. I’m excited to immediately put you on my wrist when your package arrives and to wear you for many days to come.

No. 55: Duke Basketball

My mom is and has always been a big Duke Blue Devils fan. By extension, that means I am one, too. So, I’m definitely grateful they won last night and rebounded from their loss to UNC on Wednesday (pun totally intended).

Our reasons for loving Duke are far from arbitrary. First, my mom loves the school: an 11.4% acceptance rate and 94.8% graduation rate. Second, she also loves Coach K. If she could meet Coach Krzyzewski, her life would be made. Third, Duke basketball is just always amazing. Blending those academic and athletic traits, Duke is our number one college basketball team and always has been.

But the thing is, I’m not necessarily writing this post just to say I’m grateful for Duke and all the school and basketball team offers, which I definitely am grateful for. I’m writing it because I learned a pretty obvious, but important lesson on Wednesday night. You see, I actually drafted this post prior to last Wednesday night’s game to be posted on Thursday morning with the presumption that since Duke was ranked #1 and UNC #8, Duke would win.

Was I wrong or was I wrong. *(Notice the lack of a question mark here)

Let’s just say I’m glad I caught it before it was actually published, because that would have been pretty embarrassing. That lesson? Well, life certainly almost always never goes how you want or expect it to. Underdogs win sometimes and surprises/upsets happen. That’s life; you just never know.

So I’m grateful for those reminder lessons, those much needed lessons that pop up every once in a while in the most peculiar ways, even sometimes via an elite college basketball team. Thanks Duke for reminding me of that and also for being flat-out awesome.

Oh, and I guess thanks for winning against Syracuse on Saturday night, too.

No. 54: Water

If you read my previous post about rain a while back, then you’ll have heard me briefly mention my love for water. Well, I figured there needed to be a full-out post about it anyway- so here we go!

I love, love, love water. I love the way it looks, the way it feels, the way it moves, and everything about it. It tastes wonderful and feels fantastic. I love showers, baths, the rain, the ocean, rivers.Honestly (and I know this is kind of gross, so bear with me) but I love when my hair is wet, too.

And I love water in Disney movies: Pocahontas, The Little Mermaid, and the best of all, Aladdin. You probably didn’t know this, but one of my favorite aspects of the movie Aladdin is how the water is animated. First, you have that beautiful, beautiful azure blue fountain in the film’s exposition. Then, that scene in “A Whole New World” when Jasmine runs her fingers through the water as her and Aladdin are flying on the magic carpet. And then when Aladdin is almost killed by Jafar’s trying to drown him.

Sorry for the spoilers if you haven’t already seen Aladdin (but seriously, get out from under that rock and watch it now if that is indeed the case).

In all seriousness, I’m really, really grateful for water. I’m grateful for the calmness it gives me, for it’s cleansing powers, and for everything it provides. It’s something many of us, me included sometimes, take for granted, especially when there are communities like Flint, Michigan that do not have clean drinking water. It’s a gift that we have water in this world, and it’s one I do indeed treasure to an extent that definitely classifies me as crazy.

Image result for aladdin fountain
(But seriously, just look at that gorgeousness 😍)

No. 53: Cake

You know what’s been cool about every nonprofit I’ve interned/worked at?

I’ve always managed to get free cake. Best of all? They’ve all been amazing. Like literally, amazing.

Yesterday, I volunteered to go pick up a cake so that we could celebrate two of my coworkers’ birthdays. I chose to go to the local Whole Foods and, not knowing everyone’s taste preferences or allergies, chose a simple vanilla buttercream cake. I didn’t have high expectations, especially since I’ve never had a cake from Whole Foods before, but I figured I had made a decent choice in that my anxiety wouldn’t be heightened by my tendency to worry over whether I picked the right cake.

When I got back to the office, however, everyone was thrilled. Beyond thrilled, actually. First, unbeknownst to me, apparently Whole Foods has amazing cakes and I made a good decision to go there. Second, buttercream is apparently a favorite amongst all of them. And third, one of the birthday girls loved the frosted sunflower that was etched on the top.

Whether it be an eccentric flavor, like that delicious mint cake that sent me on my way from the Orchestra, or a simple one, like yesterday’s vanilla buttercream cake, I’m grateful for this common theme in my career. Here’s to hoping that streak continues (fingers crossed).

No. 52: Les Miserables

If there’s one thing you should know about me, you should know that my favorite musical of all time is Les Miserables. Why is that? Well, aside from being just absolutely phenomenal in the first place, it’s the musical that got me into musicals. And for that reason alone, it distinguishes itself from all of the other musicals in the canon for me and will always hold a special place in my heart.

You see, musical theatre has been my passion ever since I was first introduced to Les Mis. Musical theatre is what I go to when I need some emotional catharsis, or when I need a different viewpoint to consider. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve looked around my room at the various musical posters I have hanging on my walls in search of the perfect song to sing or listen to. It’s my thing.

I’ll never forget being introduced to Les Mis by my voice teacher when I was around nine years old. She had given me a song, “Castle on a Cloud”, to prepare for my next lesson the following week. I went home and listened to the demo CD she provided me, and I was hooked by the melody. Though the recording was simply her playing the piano, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “I have never heard music like this before”. It had this distinguishing characteristic of being both haunting, yet comforting at the same time, as if it were a mystery waiting for me to discover it.

I rehearsed the song that whole week. At my next voice lesson, I remember how much I took on the character of Cosette. It’s so crazy how vividly I remember that moment, me going so far as to sitting on the floor pretending I was scrubbing it in my favorite brown babydoll top and long sleeve white shirt (hello, 2004). From there, I would ask my mom for extra computer time to listen to the album. I would watch the 10th Anniversary Concert on PBS whenever it was on. I was hooked.

Years went on, and my love for the musical has never diminished over the years. In sixth grade, when everyone was getting new bikes and purses for their birthdays, I was getting the Les Miserables Complete Symphonic Recording performed by the international cast. In high school, I would literally walk around with my copy of Hugo’s book in my tote bag, whip it out, and tell people it was my Bible (yeah, I was that kind of obsessed, wacky kid). I’ve transitioned from loving Cosette as a young girl, to wanting to be Eponine as a teenager/young adult, to now admiring Fantine more and more every day. Greta and I literally spent an entire car ride singing along to the cast recording with no reservations whatsoever a couple of weeks ago. I’m literally listening to it on my phone as I write this post. It never gets old and it never fails to be my friend.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve transitioned from solely loving the music to treasuring more so the story of redemption the musical tells. I love how much it teaches us about the power of forgiveness and of second chances. The musical does an exemplary job at conveying this story, but the book does more so with so much added nuance. It teaches us we are not perfect; we are human. As someone who was raised Catholic and is indeed spiritual, I deeply admire the way the novel tells this story by doing so within the context of those Christian tenets. It’s a beautifully crafted story, and I wish Victor Hugo was still alive today so I could go to him and tell him how much I love his metaphoric language, imagery, and plot.

Les Miserables will always be the musical and story I go to in my lowest of lows. It’s helped in more ways than one; as I’ve mentioned, it introduced me to the musical theatre canon, to my best friend, and to a faith in which I see profound beauty and grace, despite some of my personal reservations. It will always be with me, proving the unconditional loving relationship I have with it, and which is much needed and appreciated. I am so grateful to have been lucky enough to live in a time and place where I have Les Mis to look to for guidance and to cherish, and I know it will remain a significant component of my life forever.

No. 51: Snow Days

Last night, I got the alert we all pray and wish for: “due to the anticipated winter storm, all classes are canceled and offices are closed”.

Snow days are awesome. Do I really need to explain? I don’t think so, but I will anyway. First, I love waking up later than normal. I love not having to set my alarm. I love having plenty of time in the morning to drink my coffee and make breakfast. I love eating the signature grilled cheese and tomato soup. I love looking out the window and feeling like I’m in a snow globe.

Snow days just rock. I’m grateful I get to have snow days, and I’m very much grateful to all the people who make snow days possible. Your tireless work does not go unappreciated, and it truly means the world to all of us.

To snow days, and to all the people who make them possible, thank you for all the joy you bring.

No. 50: E-ZPass

I was given the task of driving into Philly tonight. It was a remarkable feat for me, as I’ve never done it before. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, but neither the willpower nor the occasion seemed to arise until tonight.

While I’m grateful for finding the newfound courage to do it, I’m really grateful for how easy an E-ZPass makes the whole experience (hence the name, I guess). No having to scramble for money for the toll, no digging through for any coins. Just get in the clearly marked lane, wait your turn, and drive right along through.

Thank you, E-ZPass, for making life much more convenient and easy.