Tears at the Office: Missing Amber Morris

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Amber MorrisI awoke this morning and learned, via Facebook, that a friend and former colleague at Standing Partnership passed away over the weekend. It’s not the ideal way to learn of the death of a friend, but with the way news travels and the speed of social platforms, it’s become more common to find out from Facebook first. Yes, it was sudden and unexpected and it is not an understatement to say that there are many people in St. Louis and Orlando, Fla. and elsewhere reeling from the shock.

Amber Morris was a fellow vice president at Standing, where I worked with her for more than five years. I remember when I interviewed with Amber for the job at Standing thinking how impressive she was and how pretty. (I also remember noticing her tiny diamond nose ring and thinking she must be the rebel of the office!)

I learned from Amber and loved being part of a team that included her. I watched her very capably tackle and manage big clients and dive into social media with a personal blog to help her learn from the inside out, what she could to inform clients about blogging and social networks. I liked to think of Amber as one of my “blog spawn” — yet another person I pushed into launching and enjoying the blogging life. Her posts about cooking and crafts are inspirational, but as a long-distance coworker, I especially liked learning about the animals Amber fostered (and sometimes adopted). The best, however, was learning about Amber finding the love of her life in Shane, someone she waited a long time to find. It was so good to know she’d found so much happiness with him.

Not only did I work with Amber, but her mom, Sharon, worked with us as well. Sharon isn’t just Amber’s mom, she’s been kind of the office mom. I am always delighted and cheered to hear her voice answer the phone when I call the St. Louis office. My heart just aches for Amber’s parents, her boyfriend Shane, and all of our colleagues and friends at Standing. I can’t imagine how they will endure the silence from Amber’s office and the hole left in the team, that empty chair at the table. I wish that I could be there now to give whatever comfort I could possibly impart. If you knew Amber, or any of my teammates at Standing, keep them all in your thoughts and prayers today and in the coming weeks. (If you’d like to leave a note of condolence for the team, you can do so at )

I find it ironic that one of Amber’s last blog posts for Standing Partnership was called Tears at the Office — and was about communications work done in the interest of unwanted pets. Amber was a total softie when it came to puppies and kittens. In fact, one of my first thoughts on learning of her death was how much her pets will miss her, as well. There are sure to be tears in the office today.

To readers of this blog — I’m sorry for the dramatic departure from the usual content, but sometimes life overtakes work and in these cases, there’s nothing to be done but honor the moment and share what’s foremost on my mind.

On Writing, Blocks, and Pushing through the Pain

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I don’t get writer’s block. I know people do, but that’s not ever been a problem for me. Sometimes I’m paralyzed in the writing process because there are topics about which I want to write, but can’t, due to confidentiality issues, or inappropriateness or the fact that it’s just not blogworthy. That doesn’t happen often either, but sometimes what’s weighing heaviest on my mind is exactly what I can’t share online.

Today I have a client situation that is bothering me. It will work out, I’m sure, but when I’m concerned about a client’s success or when I feel they are at risk, that overtakes the focus of anything else.

The other day I was headed to my umpteenmillionth physical therapy appointment and subsequent workout and a friend reminded me to “push through the pain.” I did, and have been, over and over.

Pushing through the pain is beginning to reap rewards — no one said it would be easy; we’re not pretending it doesn’t hurt, here (my knee lacks the appropriate amount of cartilage and grinds upon every weight-bearing movement.) I am working to strengthen what’s above and around it, to release the pressure, and lessen the grind.

So today I’m thinking about my knee, and the physical work I’m enduring, in an effort to distract myself from my client worry (about which I can do little at the moment). I’m thinking about how even with client work sometimes we have to push through the pain; about how sometimes focusing on the other work, work that surrounds the particular issue, strengthening it, flexing those muscles, may help the situation that at the moment, seems quite impossible.

I can’t write about what’s on my mind, but I can write about the block, and getting through it.

A Zebra Loses His Stripes and Discovers his Brand

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Daniel Rothamel is a real estate professional in my community. He is/was the Real Estate Zebra, a brand he developed because of his history as a basketball referee.

In recent history, Daniel was sued for trademark infringement by another firm using the zebra brand 3,000 miles away.

Because Daniel is a blogger and an active social media user/connector in our community, many came to his defense, blasting the frivolous lawsuit and even generating a Facebook page to demonstrate support.

Today, Daniel shared the letter he sent to the attorneys who filed the suit and explained his reasons for deciding, ultimately, to let go of the zebra in his branding.

The conversation will, no doubt, continue as some agree or disagree with Daniel’s decision (let’s remember that it’s a personal decision based on someone with a personal brand.) I’m sharing this story and the example of it as an excellent example of the use of social media in a variety of ways:

  1. The brand exists and has widely held support because of the blog and the relationships Daniel has nurtured through social media
  2. People know and follow Daniel — not a zebra — and because of those relationships, Daniel had tremendous support while enduring a hardship
  3. Daniel used his blog and specifically video to share his story and his final decision, an excellent choice to share the news in a personal, meaningful way

What I love about this the most is that Daniel has learned through all of this that he is the brand, that Daniel Rothamel is the brand — he doesn’t need the stripes or the zebra look, name or identity to be the real, caring professional that he is.

Hats off to you Daniel, for a job well done — you’ve impressed me with your work ethic, your use of social media and the man you are behind the stripes.

Watch Daniel’s video below, but make sure you read the post as well.

32 Small Things we like About Charlottesville, Va.

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I was inspired by my friend Melissa Gilliam aka MilliGFunk, and this post, Grace in Small Things, sharing what readers love about St. Louis, Missouri. I decided to put the question to my own community of Charlottesville, Va.

Here are some of the small things we love about Charlottesville:

  1. Marco and Luca dumplings
  2. The view coming down 250 from Pantops
  3. Beer Run
  4. The Whale Tails
  5. Walking on the grounds of UVa
  6. Number 904 at Saigon Cafe
  7. Seeing people you know
  8. Dogwoods in the spring
  9. Connecting with dogs’ siblings via social media
  10. Dog friendliness
  11. Being able to pick apples, ride a horse, float a river or hike the Appalachian Trail within a short drive
  12. Outdoorsy feel
  13. Big city offerings in a quaint small town
  14. Azaleas in full bloom in May along the 250 bypass
  15. The hike to Bear Fence Mountain in Shenandoah National Park
  16. Walking the downtown mall
  17. Having lunch (or even better WINE) outside on the downtown mall
  18. The fact we still have bookSTORES
  19. The independent coffee shops
  20. The Festival of the Book
  21. Pie Fest
  22. The VA Film Festival
  23. The Chocolate Festival
  24. Knowing the name of your mailman
  25. Food: specifically tons of amazing local restaurants, local farms and farmers markets and CSAs, most of the population loving local and shunning chains… I don’t know what I’d do without Spudnuts, Bodos, Beer Run, Mas, The Nook, Sticks, Christians, Horse & Buggy, Relay Foods, the Saturday market…all our awesome, awesome local businesses
  26. Iconoclastic bagel shops that won’t slice more than 3 bagels per order and will look at you like a space alien if you mention the word “toasted.” 🙂
  27. Any given day of the week, half the town is in a coffee shop. Love a bustling morning office
  28. Local eggs and other great local groceries
  29. Support for entrepreneurs. This town makes most things possible!
  30. That despite the first snow of winter there were musicians playing outside at the Downtown Mall
  31. Public observation night at UVa observatory
  32. Cafe Con Leche from Cafe Cubano

Another reader had a “like,” and a question: “I like the fact that, even in the midst of a traffic jam, it is a custom in Charlottesville to let somebody else merge into the stream of cars from the side, ahead of you. This little piece of civilized, polite behavior makes me feel good about my city. Tell me, is this common elsewhere, or is Charlottesville unique in this feature?”

What do you think?