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Ignite Phoenix

Day 90/90 – Atticus’ Memorial

Day 90 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? We celebrated the life of Atticus VanSlyke as a community.

Photo by Amy Donohue

Photo by Amy Donohue

Literally hundreds of people followed this family’s journey as their little son Atticus battled cancer. He battled it while spreading joy and love everywhere he went. I loved seeing the photos of Atticus walking the halls late at night and looking up at the light displays in the lobby with wide eyes and his jaw dropped with wonder. Our collective hearts broke when we learned the news that Atticus passed away.

We came together as a community to support this family and remember Atticus. The church was packed with all walks of life from people in suits to people wearing jeans and “Team Atticus” t-shirts. I wore a yellow cardigan and my dress with the pleated skirt that makes me want to twirl. (I may have twirled a few times when I put it on that day.) It seemed appropriate.

The service was beautiful. It was filled with images of Atticus from his too-short life and some of the most gorgeous music I’ve ever heard – especially the performance of Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone). Krys and Melissa planned to sing this song when Atticus was cancer-free, but they played it here because their son was free from the chains of cancer in a different way. I’d never heard this variation of Amazing Grace before, and even though I’m not a religious person, I bought the song on iTunes when I got home. Listening to it still makes me cry.

Atticus' Balloon Release

Atticus’ Balloon Release

Krys and Melissa both spoke at Atticus’ memorial. I don’t know how they did that, but they each spoke from the heart and with such openness and love for Atticus and their family, sharing stories that few people know. I was in awe of their grace and how openly they shared what was in their hearts while the rest of us soaked tissues and handkerchiefs with tears.

The service ended with a balloon release. (Yes, I know we engaged in communal littering and it’s bad for the environment, but shut up – it’s what this family wanted.) I hope it helped give them a sense of peace and the feeling that they are still connected with their son and brother.

I hope the VanSlykes know that they are surrounded by love. Even though the rest of us will get on with our lives while they are deep in their grieving process, we will be there in a moment’s notice if they need us. And as time passes on and they re-experience their grief as they celebrate holidays and milestones knowing that Atticus is missing, I hope they know that we’ll be thinking loving thoughts for them.

In case you missed it: Day 89 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I registered the trademark for this blog!

Day 76/90 – Dinner at Oden’s

Day 76 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got to have dinner with friends at Oden’s house.

Love this photo of Oden and me (Photo by Sheila Dee, used with permission)

Love this photo of Oden and me (Photo by Sheila Dee, used with permission)

I know Oden through Ignite Phoenix and Improv AZ. She’s freakin’ awesome. She is a self-proclaimed “Jewish mother” and somebody I can always count on. With one friend visiting from out of state and another friend recently moving back to the Phoenix area, Oden had a group of us over to her house for dinner.

It was a fantastic evening filled with good food and laughter. Oden cooked up a storm, including pulled pork, cheesy polenta, and homemade white chocolate ice cream for dessert. Everything was so good, and it was so great to see so many of my friends.

I also fell in love with one of Oden’s cats. His name is Broken – because he has a crick in his tail. He is an attention-loving talkative older cat – complete with a deep loud old-cat voice. He was so cute.

I left feeling stuffed, happy, and lucky to have so many awesome friends in my life.

In case you missed it: Day 75 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I got a tour of the Fox 10 Phoenix TV station.

Day 45/90 – Oden’s Happy Hour

Day 45 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got to see a lot of my friends at Oden’s Happy Hour.

Hanging with Oden - Love this Lady!

Hanging with Oden – Love this Lady!

Oden is one of my closest friends in Phoenix. We’re both organizers for Ignite Phoenix and co-founders for Improv AZ. She’s genetically awesome . . . like me!

Oden decided she wanted to see her friends, so she declared a happy hour! She gave us a date and time and we all showed up at Angels Trumpet Ale House. I love these casual chill no-agenda gatherings – just good friends and good conversation.

It seems like all of my friends and I are so busy that we have to schedule fun or it won’t happen. I’m so glad she organized this – it was wonderful to catch up with her and so many of my other friends.

In case you missed it: Day 44 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Hanging with the Cool Kids at Startup Grind Phoenix.

Day 29/90 – Indie Week Lunch at Fez

Day 29 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I had lunch with a new friend at Fez during Independents Week (not a typo).

Photo courtesy of Fez on Central

Photo courtesy of Fez on Central

I received a request to meet with a fellow lawyer who is new to Arizona and starting a solo practice. He wanted to hear about my experiences starting a firm and marketing myself with social media. It’s always fun to chat with receptive lawyers about what’s working for me with social media. This guy was brand new to the valley so I got to give him an overview about networking in the Phoenix area.

We met for lunch at Fez. I picked this restaurant for several reasons:

  • They have awesome food.
  • They’re on the light rail – which would give my friend a chance to try public transit.
  • They’re members of Local First Arizona – great way to introduce this organization to him.
  • And they’re accepting Golden Coupons during Independents Week so we got 20% off our bill.

I enjoy Independents Week. It’s a week to focus on spending your money at locally-owned businesses so more money stays in the community. It may seem strange that I (an aspiring minimalist) get excited about a consumerism-focused event. But there is method to my madness.

  • Carter Law Firm and Venjuris are members of Local First Arizona, and I believe in keeping my money in my community.
  • Although I’m not a recreational shopper, I do buy things.
  • I’m frugal.
  • Shopping during Independents Week with the Golden Coupon to buy things I’m going to buy anyway lets me get them at a discount.
  • Everyone wins!

With nearly 3,000 businesses belonging to Local First Arizona, it’s hard to keep track of everyone. Seeing the list of companies that are accepting Golden Coupons is a reminder of some of the awesome local businesses in this state.

In case you missed it: Day 28 of the 90 Days of Awesome was Less than Awesome.

I’m Having Fun This Spring – Who’s In?

One of the challenges of being a business owner is your days are unstructured except for the structure you impose on them yourself. And since there’s always something that needs to get done in the business, it’s easy to get trapped behind my laptop for hours on end, even on the weekend. I realized that I need to schedule in some fun so I get a much needed re-charge at time and enjoy all that the Phoenix area has to offer.

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams - used with permission

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams – used with permission

I’ve decided that I’m going to have more fun this spring and make an effort to get out to more events. Here’s what’s on my to-do list this spring.

I also want to learn to do some new things this year. I think I’ll sign up for some lessons this spring.

  • Skateboarding – I have a feeling that I might be good at this.
  • Golf – I want to learn how to hit a golf ball so I can go to the driving range without making a fool of myself.
  • Trapeze – Santa got me two trapeze lessons. This is going to be awesome!

There’s one more thing I really want to do this spring – take a day trip to Jerome. I’ve heard it’s a charming place. I think it would be fun to go up there for lunch and to wander around the shops for a few hours.

So that’s what’s on my fun to-do list for the next few months. If there’s anything you want to do with me, let me know!

My Favorite Things 2013

Oprah used to do a “My Favorite Things” show every year so I decided to do the same, but without all the freebies. Sorry.

I reviewed my calendar and Yelp reviews from the past year and here’s my list of my favorite things. Everything on this list is something I use or do and enjoy. I’ve not been compensated in any way for including anyone in this post.

Working Out
2013 half marathon pre raceFavorite Phoenix Area Race: P.F. Chang Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Favorite Place to get Running Shoes: Runner’s Den

Favorite Place to Work Out: Arizona Canal

Favorite Device for Sore Muscles: The Stick

Favorite Place to get Fixed when I Break Myself: Endurance Rehab

Favorite Doughnut: Buttermilk bar from BoSa Donuts (open ‘til 10pm)

0702131205Favorite Mexican Food: Jordan’s

Favorite Greek Food: Greektown

Favorite Indian Food: The Dhaba

Favorite Dessert for Lunch: Yogurtland

Favorite Food Truck: Jamburritos

Favorite Dessert Food Truck: Mamma Toledo’s

Favorite Ice Krem (Phoenix): Churn

Favorite Ice Krem (Scottsdale): Sugar Bowl

Favorite Place for Late-Night Eats and Work: Gay Denny’s

0511131339Favorite Dog Park: Margaret T. Hance Dog Park

Favorite Place for Shirts with Custom Verbiage: Brand X Custom T-shirts

Favorite Site for Shirts with Original Artwork: Threadless

Favorite Snuggle Wear: REI Yoga Pants

Favorite Person for Fixing my Sore Body: Thomas Porter

Favorite Shop for Music Geeks: Central Music

Favorite Bookstore: Changing Hands

Favorite TV Show: The Big Bang Theory

Favorite Reality Show: Deadliest Catch

Favorite Place to Go When I Really Need to Escape: Firefly Room at the Phoenix Art Museum

No Pants Ride 2013 - Photo by Joseph Abbruscatto from Flickr (used with permission)

No Pants Ride 2013 – Photo by Joseph Abbruscatto from Flickr (used with permission)

Favorite Webhost: Dreamhost

Favorite Social Media Platform: Twitter

Favorite Podcast: Savage Lovecast

Favorite Online Cartoon: Foamy the Squirrel

Favorite Site for Travel Suggestions: Roadside America

Favorite Site for Everything Else: Reddit

Events and Activities
Favorite Flash Mob: Improv AZ’s No Pants Light Rail Ride

Favorite Community Event: Ignite Phoenix

Favorite Place on a Friday Night: ASU Women’s Gymnastics Meets

Favorite Phoenix Geek Event: Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown (PUGS)

Favorite Place to see Who’s Who in the Local Zoo: Local First Arizona Fall Festival

I hope you’ve enjoyed my list and perhaps it’s inspired you to try some of my favorite things. 😉

My Tattoo Process

I’m a big proponent of the idea that when you turn 18 you should do something to celebrate the fact that you’re an adult. I went skydiving. I don’t support 18 year-olds getting tattoos as their I’m-18-I-can-do-what-I-want experience. And here’s why -they’re permanent!

Foot tattoos Ruth Carter

My Awesome Tattoos

If I got a tattoo every time I thought I had a good idea for a new piece, I’d be covered in ink and probably regret most of it. A tattoo should be something that you love and holds as much meaning on the day you got it as when you’re 85 years old with saggy skin.

I’ve been tattooed five times and I love my work. But I have a process for getting a tattoo that has to occur before I climb into the tattoo chair.

It’s so important to pick something that is meaningful and timeless so that you’ll love seeing your tattoo every day. I think a lot of people pick something that’s meaningful for a limited time and so over time their tattoo loses value. Once I’ve decided on a design that will be meaningful for the rest of my life, then I have pick a good location for it. This wasn’t a struggle with my foot tattoos, but it has been with my latest idea of getting a variation of the Ignite Phoenix bird tattooed on my body. I initially thought I wanted it between my shoulder blades but now I’m thinking I want it on my left rib cage.

Once I decide on what I want and where I want to put it, then I have to wait for “the sign.” There isn’t one sign but more of a gut feeling that it’s time to get the work done. With my first tattoo – the double shooting star on my right foot – I talked with my artist about my plan and I asked her to give me the weekend to make sure it was time to have the work done. That Saturday I was cater-waitering and I taped up my foot because we were working on rough terrain out in a vineyard. When I took the tape off at the end of the night, a big chunk of skin off the top of my foot came off with it – right where the tattoo was supposed to go. That was a sign that it wasn’t time to get the work done.

The Steam Crow Ignite Phoenix Bird I'm contemplating for my next tattoo

The Steam Crow Ignite Phoenix Bird I’m contemplating for my next tattoo

With my Libra tattoo, I knew it was time to have it done when I put my feet up on the recliner one night and I did a double-take because I didn’t see the tattoo on my foot. My brain had already put the design on my body. I had that tattoo put on my body within a month of getting that sign.

I’m still waiting on the sign to get the Ignite Phoenix tattoo, and my brain is still trying to figure out if I want black and gray with touches of color or full color for this one.

If you’re going to get a tattoo, do your homework on your artist in advance. You’re buying custom artwork so get someone who can execute your idea. Good tattoos are not cheap so plan to drop a buck on the endeavor and tip your artist well. When you go for your first tattoo, make sure the artist understands that it’s your first tattoo so they can walk you through everything that’s going to happen. My artist offered to do the first little line without ink just so I could experience how it feels, which I declined but I appreciated the thought.

And yes, getting a tattoo hurts, especially when tattooing over bone like on your ribs or foot. I got light-headed during my first tattoo session and the artist asked if she should stop. I said, “No. Keep going. It’ll hurt less.” I’ve had five tattoo sessions on my feet, including painful re-coloring, and I only had one time when I had to tell the artist to stop because I needed a few minutes’ break from the pain.

If you’re 18 years old and want to do some type of body modification as a proclamation of your status as an adult, get a piercing. I’ve had fourteen. They’re awesome. And they’re usually cheaper than a tattoo and relatively easy to reverse if you decide you don’t want it anymore.

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A Year Without Holidays

When I was looking back at 2012, I noticed I didn’t celebrate many holidays last year. It made me realize that holidays serve as anchors and when you don’t celebrate them, it’s harder to notice the passage of time. Instead, the weeks just blend together.

In school, our lives were filled with anchors – the start of the semester, due dates for papers, exams, mid-semester break, between semester breaks, internships, and the holidays acknowledged by the school (Martin Luther King Day, Labor Day,  Thanksgiving, etc.). These somewhat continue to influence your life when you have kids. When you work for a traditional company where you work in an office, the days the company is closed for holidays are the anchors (Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s).

I work for myself so I declare the holidays the company celebrates with a day off. In my first year of business, the main weekday I didn’t work was my birthday. That is a tradition I intend to continue. When I did a summer internship with the Army JAG, the commanding officer in the office required his people to take off their birthday if they were single or their anniversary if they were married. I thought that was a great rule.

Captain Kirk Birth StoneI recently realized that most holidays aren’t important to me, and thus, I don’t celebrate them. I don’t drink, so the traditional drinking holidays do nothing for me (New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo). I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because I don’t need Hallmark to tell me when to tell someone I love them. I’m not religious so celebrating Easter seems sacrilegious. I enjoy my friends and family so I’ll use Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day to hang out with them – but even then I prefer low-key celebrations. I do send Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards to my parents and call them on these Hallmark holidays. I’ve never been into Halloween so I tend to ignore it unless I’m attending a costume-required event. My family Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations are awesome, but even then I like that they’re mellow occasions. If I’m surrounded by too much fanfare, that’s not really fun for me.

I like my smaller dorky celebrations – like visiting an outer space themed restaurant on the Future Birthdate of Captain Kirk and getting together with people to eat pie on Pi Day. The other big events on my calendar are things like Ignite Phoenix and flash mobs with Improv AZ. These aren’t really anchors because their dates aren’t fixed, but those are probably the closest things to anchors I have.

Sometimes I wonder if not celebrating holidays makes me a scrooge, but I think it makes me an introvert who doesn’t need Hallmark, calendars, or societal pressure to know what days are important to me. I don’t mind if you celebrate holidays; they’re just not for me.

Backstage at Ignite Phoenix

I had the pleasure of speaking at Ignite Phoenix #5, and I fell in love with the organization. My role at Ignite Phoenix has always been backstage. I was a runner at Ignite Phoenix #6 and I’ve been the assistant stage manager since Ignite Phoenix #7. I’ve volunteered at every Ignite Phoenix event since 2010 with the exception of Ignite Phoenix After Hours #2.

One of the few pictures of Andy and I holding still at Ignite Phoenix #12; photo by Devon Christopher Adams

I love working at Ignite Phoenix. Andy Woodward is our stage manager and we have running the show down to a science. The show starts at 6:30pm which means the core team has to be at the venue usually by 3pm to start setting up. Andy and I spend most of that time in the theatre. We draw a box on the stage in tape so our performers know where they have to be seen by the video camera. We set up the confidence monitor – a screen that shows the performers what’s on the screen behind them. We work with the venue’s crew to set the lighting and sound levels and to determine which performer will use which microphone. We also set up the area backstage so our performers are comfortable when they’re not on the stage.

I’m a big fan of the mantra “Be prepared,” so my bag backstage is full of all kinds of stuff I or a presenter might need like my clipboard, pens, highlighters, Sharpies, mini flashlight, safety pins, caffeine, ibuprofen,  Kleenex, my lucky handkerchief, and my Swiss Army knife.

A little over an hour before the show our performers arrive and we take them through their orientation. We want them to be comfortable with the stage, backstage, their green room, and we tell them for the first time what order they will be in during the show.

During the show, Andy is at the edge of the stage making sure that each performance goes well and he does the final prep with each performer right before they go on stage. I’m in charge of most of everything else backstage. It’s my job to put the microphones on and take them off of each presenter and to keep track of everyone when they’re backstage.  I’m constantly counting heads, making sure I know where everyone is.

It’s my job to be there when presenters need me and to stay out of their way when they don’t. I respect each person’s need to do their own thing when they’re nervous. It’s fun to watch who paces, who reads through their notes, who brings their laptop to go through their slides, and who hangs out in the presenters’ green room downstairs. I want each presenter to feel excited and secure when they step out onto the Ignite stage. I try to instill a sense of calm confidence when I’m putting on their microphone and congratulate them when they finish.

I’m really looking forward to Ignite Phoenix #13. We have an incredible cast, an awesome team of volunteers, and amazing people at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts who help make it all possible.

I Want to Wear Your Art

In case you didn’t know it, I love wearing custom t-shirts. I see myself as the lawyer who wears t-shirts. I think it works when it comes to working with entrepreneurs. I have quite a few shirts that were made at Brand X Custom T-shirts in Tempe.  They make the shirts for Ignite Phoenix and they’ve made quite a few custom pieces for me.

Ruth Carter at Phoenix Comicon, Photo by Devon Christopher Adams

Speaking at Phoenix Comicon – Photo by Phoenix Comicon and Devon Christopher Adams

Brand X has made me spoiled when it comes to my shirts. They carry the super soft American Apparel shirts. I rarely buy a t-shirt if it’s not as soft as the Brand X shirts. I had trouble shirt shopping at Phoenix Comicon because most vendors use cheaper shirts which are somewhat stiff and itchy compared to Brand X.

I have quite a few ideas for verbiage for shirts. I think my next custom shirt will be hot pink and have my Twitter handle on the front (@rbcarter) and say “Do Epic Shit” across the back in white lettering. (Thank you to Charlie Gilkey for inspiring this shirt.) I also want to have a running shirt made for my next half marathon that says “Masochist” on the front and “Run Bitch” on the back.

I want to expand my shirt collection to include more shirts with artwork on it. I was recently in San Francisco. I saw a craft booth near the Ferry Building where a vendor was selling shirts with original artwork on them. I saw a tank top with a line drawing of an octopus wearing glasses on it. It was so random and wonderful. If I had more disposable income, I would have bought it.

I would love to have more shirts with original artwork in it, but I have no artistic talent when it comes to drawing, so I invite all of my readers to send me artwork that you think I should turn into a shirt. Please send me your line drawings of pictures or patterns that would only require 1 color to put on a shirt, in PDF form, to

Legal Disclaimer: There’s no guarantee that I’ll have every shirt made, but I promise if I have a shirt made with your artwork that I’ll attribute the art to you and publish a photo of the shirt on this site. By sending me art work, you attest that the art is your original work and that I have permission to put it on a t-shirt and if I get sued for copyright infringement because of what you send me, agree to indemnify me against all claims for copyright infringement and to pay for all my related legal expenses.

Brand X is always on my wish list for my birthday and Christmas. This year instead of asking for gift cards, Brand X is letting me build a registry of all the shirts I want to have made which will eliminate all the guesswork. I hope some new original art will be added to my wardrobe soon!

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