MEET THE BLOGGERS: THE WRITERS BEHIND THE CHOICE BLOG
Since launching the Choice blog, you’ve been hearing from our whole team on topics ranging from work/life dynamic, to experiences in problem-solving, to our favorite finds of the month. Today, we are giving you a peek into the personalities behind each of the distinct perspectives driving what you read on this blog. We are loving writing about these topics for you, and we hope you are enjoying it too!
Hails From: Marietta, Georgia/Cobb County (home of “The Big Chicken,” Travis Tritt and America’s Sweetheart Julia Roberts)
Everyday Life: Look, I’m a Christian. A boy mom. A devoted wife. A Southern hostess. A sorority adviser. And a CEO. So, my everyday life involves rising early so that I can fit everything in that I have prioritized for that particular day. Taking the boys to school, running Choice and developing those women who work with me, intentional time with Matt (cozying up on Thursday nights with a glass of wine to watch TV – a must), running one child to hitting lessons while Matt stays with the other at basketball practice, meeting with my AOII women to discuss recruitment, the latest breakup, or why the kitchen is a mess…again, sharing my deepest prayers with our life group (or just laughing together because our children are killing us), flying to NYC for a client press tour, or entertaining close friends for dinner – y’all it’s all packed in there. And one week never looks like the next. Staying organized is crucial. So is a lot of therapy and exercise when I need to let it all go. And I do both regularly.
What I Watch: What don’t I watch is a better question. I watch entirely too much television. It is my form of relaxation – a mind-numbing way to settle down. “Madam Secretary,” “Suits,” “This is Us,” and “CBS Sunday Morning” are some my favorite shows, but I haven’t missed a single episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” since it debuted. I always have a teenage girl drama going. My currents are “Younger” – Gen Xers and Millennials combine in the publishing world for all out drama, “Riverdale” – dark, moody, mysterious and “The Royals” – highly inappropriate, British candy. I’m a fan of “The Real Housewives of the OC” as well as Beverly Hills. And, our entire team has weekly discussions surrounding the current season of “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette.” But, my hands down favorite show of all time is “The West Wing” – Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn – puhlease. I’m still rooting for a reboot with Rob as President Seaborn. I would die. Rob talked about the possibility last week on “The Today Show” and I screamed “YESSSSSS” at the television.
Where I Travel: Spending time resting and restoring is critical to my overall well-being. I also want to raise young men who know and have experienced the world and many of its cultures, so traveling is a priority in our family. Every year, we always make time for at least one beach vacation. There is nothing that heals my soul more than being near the ocean and listening to the crashing waves. Our favorite beaches are of course in the southeast, predominately Florida: 30A and New Smyrna Beach are the usuals. We always travel at least once a year, too, to Amelia Island. Since Matt and I were married there 15 years ago, it holds a very special place in our hearts. Our annual voyage to Amelia traditionally falls in October when the Georgia Bulldogs are playing the Florida Gators at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. Aside from the beach, we love taking the boys to new destinations. For Dixon’s 10th birthday, I took him to New York. It will always be a cherished memory. Since I travel to New York all the time for work, it was fun to be a total tourist and take in the city through my child’s eyes, while still knowing a lot of the best places to visit (and of course eat!). Thackston doesn’t know it yet, but we are planning his 10th birthday adventure with his Daddy which will take him to Miami. Shhhhh! The boys having global adventures with us is something I look forward to, so we’re working on a European vacation and I’ll be sure to share all the details/lessons learned. For now, though, our next trip, which we actually booked today, is for Matt and I to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary in Napa. I am counting the days (and worrying over my wardrobe, of course).
Favorite Ways to Spend My Time: If you haven’t been to Athens, Georgia on a Fall football game day, then you haven’t lived. My husband and I stay married because he adopted my beloved Dawgs for his team too. Needless to say, rooting on the Dawgs between the hedges is a favorite way to spend my time. But, it really depends on the season. In the summer, I love casual days boating on Center Hill lake, or reading a good book with my toes in the sand and waves crashing nearby. During Spring, I wouldn’t be anywhere else but on the sidelines of my two dudes’ baseball games. Shopping alone is a luxury I enjoy. And, filling my home with laughter and love by gathering people around my kitchen table builds community and energizes me like nothing else.
Favorite Purchase: When I graduated from college, my beloved Aunt Margie gave me a gold charm bracelet. I added every childhood charm that I had to it immediately. And since then as I’ve traveled or experienced a special life moment, I’ve purchased a charm to commemorate. It has a lighthouse from Amelia Island for our wedding, the boys’ profiles with their initials and birthdates for when they were born, my AOII disk from my Big Sister in the chapter, a crawfish from a trip to New Orleans, the locket my Daddy gave me to match the one he gave my Mother the day I was born. My most recent addition came from the boys this Mother’s Day when they gave me a little bat and baseball to symbolize my two ballplayers and all our times together on the field. It is a treasured possession and one that continues to grow and change as I travel through different seasons of life.
Favorite Beverage: I’m obsessed with LaCroix (specifically lime), but I also love Tazo’s passion tea (hot in the winter, iced in the summer). And, a really spicy zinfandel pairs well with anything in my book!
Favorite Place to Shop: e. Allen boutique
Life Mantra:“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell
Director of Publicity
Hails From: Knoxville, TN (and therefore born and bred with a love for East Tennessee, the mountains and the University of Tennessee)
Everyday Life: I have a sweet husband, Jake, and a sweet, neurotic dog, Lola. We also have 16 goats.
What I Watch: SEC football is my true passion (#VFL). My favorite shows are “The Bachelor,” “Riverdale” and “Gilmore Girls;” I’m basically a 16-year-old. I also love “Parenthood” and “Friends.”
Where I Travel: My family has visited the same small beach town and stayed in the same home for more than three decades. Sunset Beach, NC is my second home. We visit Asheville 5 or 6 times a year, and camping at Elkmont in the Smoky Mountains is my favorite spring and fall activity.
Favorite Ways to Spend My Time: I love to cook and find cooking for the people I love life-giving and calming. I love to unplug by visiting the mountains. I love to read, and I stay up way too late most nights with my nose in a book.
Favorite Purchase: I am obsessed with all things beauty, and the employees at Sephora and Ulta know me by name.
Favorite Beverage: I love wine. I love coffee.
Favorite Place to Shop: Target
Life Mantra: Nothing changes if you don’t change.
Devin Lee Duke
Hails From: Pittsburgh, PA (where I developed a love for pierogies and french fries on my salad)
Everyday Life: My jolly husband and I are proud parents to a cuddly goldendoodle named Wagner! We recently bought him a backyard and I’m loving decorating and cooking in the house it came with.
What I Watch: My favorite show is “The Bachelor,” which I watch weekly with my girls group. I also admit to buying most products that appear on “Shark Tank.”
Where I Travel: I’m a city girl (and a northeastern girl) who loves Boston and New York City. If I could convince my southern husband to move I’d start packing immediately. Recently, we traveled to Jamaica and I foresee many more Jamaican stamps in our passport.
Favorite Ways to Spend My Time: Spending time with family and friends always brings me joy. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are my favorite days of the week because I have girls’ night every Tuesday and date night every Wednesday! I also love going to the movies and sneaking in my own treats because I’m penny pincher. Walking my pup around the block is the perfect break when I work from home and watching a Nextflix show while cooking a meal is my ideal evening.
Favorite Purchase: My parents bought me UGG boots in 8th grade (for a good report card) and I still live in the same pair. #BootsWithTheFur
Favorite Beverage: My dad is obsessed with Coke so that always reminds me of my childhood. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to switch to Coke Zero for my waist line’s sake. If I’m at happy hour you’ll find me with a Whiskey Sour or Gin and Tonic in my hand!
Favorite Place to Shop: The UPS man knows me by name because of Amazon.
Life mantra: Always be super jazzed.
Hails from: Nashville, Tenn. (born with a love of all music, barbecue, sweet tea and southern hospitality)
Everyday Life: I lived in Alabama for four years when I attended Samford University for undergrad. There I developed my southern roots even more and inevitably had to choose a SEC football alliance. War Eagle! My everyday life involves keeping up with all of the new health trends, taking a CrossFit or HIIT class and always ending the night with an episode of “Friends” or “The Office.” I love being with people, so most nights you will find me at a bible study, movie or dinner with my friends. I also volunteer at Young Life and have a huge passion for mentoring high school girls! After work, I always love being with my family, cuddling with my beagle Chloe and going on dates with my fiance, Raleigh.
What I Watch: “The Bachelor” and “The Office” are my favorite shows of all time (“Friends” is a close tie), I watch every Red Sox game and on Saturdays in the fall, I only watch football! I also am a movie addict so I try to watch them all!
Where I Travel: I go to Boston every summer and visit 30A in Florida a few times a year. I also love the mountains. I don’t like to sit still for long so I take quick weekend trips often.
How I Spend My Time: Taking hikes on the weekends, spending time with my family for endless cookouts and game nights, working out with friends, constantly listening to podcasts, investing in high schoolers, worshiping at my church, Church of the City, having dinner dates with my best girl friends and cuddling with my beagle are some of my favorite ways to spend my time.
Favorite Purchase: Investing in Fab Fit Fun boxes has to be my favorite purchase lately. Every three months it is like Christmas at my doorstep. I have yet to be disappointed by any of their products!
Favorite Beverage: Coffee!!! Dark roast coffee with a splash of almond milk, I have too many times in a day.
Favorite Place to Shop: All of my lululemon, it is quite the obsession and have multiple drawers dedicated to these items. I promise you, it really does change your life.
Life Mantra: Don’t give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you.
Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today. (pretty much any quote by John Wooden)
Business Development Manager
Hails from: Murfreesboro, TN (Fun fact: Just south of Nashville, Murfreesboro is the fourth fastest growing city in the nation!)
Everyday Life: I have one son, James, and one husband, Mark. When I’m not at Choice, I am busy being Momma to our two-year old little boy. This typically involves playing with “diggers” and trying to teach him primary colors by feeding him way more M&Ms than any toddler should consume at night. Right now, everything is still “yellow!” so that hasn’t been a raving success. It seems I’m almost always training for a race with my group of running friends (I’m there for the socializing rather than the exercise). Once a week, we go to a local chicken finger basket joint named Toot’s with a group of friends in the same life stage as us. We have a party of four adults and three highchairs, some meltdowns, and lots of laughs.
What I Watch: Do Trolls, Cars 3, and Curious George count? HA! My most recent grown up obsession was “New Girl” and I’m not quite ready to talk about how the series is officially over. My all time favorites include “The Office,” “Friends,” and “Parenthood.”
Where I Travel: My husband and I claim Tybee Island, GA as “our place.” Something about that part of the world makes me feel tranquil, closer to the Lord, and at peace. Tybee is so close to Savannah, while still remaining uncommercialized. I very much so love the amazing seafood at Stingray’s, fantastic pizza at Huc-a-Poo’s, and a great iced coffee at Tybean.
How I Spend My Time: Strolling around our downtown square’s Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, doing life closely with the women in my small group, running with people who inspire and encourage me to go the extra mile (that was cheesy, sorry), worshiping at our church, New Vision, as well as meal planning and adding just about everything to my planner, which is one of my love languages.
Favorite Purchase: My most recent favorite purchase is a pair of leopard print leather teardrop earrings made by my friend Heather with Studio XXI. I wear them with everything from stripes to my favorite white tee. I love them! Plus, I love knowing I supported a small business by buying them at The Exchange Boutique in downtown Murfreesboro.
Favorite Beverage: Hands down, without question a medium Dunkin Donuts iced coffee with almond milk (no flavors). I even get them in the wintertime!
Favorite Place to Shop: Oh, Target. 100%. I can get everything from my favorite Method soap to trendy tops for date night. It’s all about one-stop shopping with a two year old, people!
Life Mantra: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:10
Hails From: Sarasota, Florida (home of Siesta Key, previously ranked No.1 beach in the U.S. and No. 5 in the world!)
Everyday Life: Outside of the office, my world revolves around my horse, Eli. I have been riding since I was five years old, I don’t think I could imagine my life without the sport and the companionship horses have to offer.
What I Watch: This is a difficult question to try and narrow down. I love it all, drama, comedy, reality, you name it and I’ve probably watched it! I am slightly embarrassed for how many times I’ve rewatched entire series on Netflix like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Gossip Girl,” “Friends” and “Friday Night Lights.” Currently, I am probably most invested in “This Is Us.” There has not been an episode to date that hasn’t left me in tears; needless to say I am counting down until the next season’s premier.
Where I Travel: By the end of 2018, my KIA could probably drive itself between Franklin, TN and Auburn, AL. As a new alumna of Auburn University, I am very dedicated to our football season and will be spending the majority of my weekends traveling to cheer on my Tigers! The only other traveling I do is for our family “staycation” on Siesta Key Beach in Florida. For the past 18 years, we spend the week of 4th of July in a beachfront condo with family friends.
Favorite Ways to Spend My Time: I may seem redundant but spending Saturdays tailgating and cheering on Auburn is my favorite thing about Fall. My parents love hosting tailgates for all of my friends and we always have the best time enjoying each others company and eating good barbeque. It doesn’t get much better than family, friends and football!
Favorite Beverage: Sangria. Now I am not talking about just any old sangria, I am talking about my mom’s special recipe that her and her friends have concocted over time. Depending on the mood, she uses a red or white wine base that also includes fruit such as apples, peaches, oranges and pineapple. Her sangria has become quite popular and is frequently requested at tailgates.
Favorite Place to Shop: For someone that doesn’t spend too much time in the gym, I sure have a substantial amount of active wear from Lululemon.
Life mantra: There is a reason for everything.