What She Wore: Warm Coat!

Winter has come way too soon in Georgia!  As a born and raised southern gal, I have had to educate myself about how to dress and stay warm.  Sadly, leggings from Target with a Columbia fleece is not enough to stay warm with these low temps.  

img_1380For so many years, I felt like I needed to buy a warm coat but they are expensive.  Plus, it doesn’t get cold in Georgia that much (haha). I kept coming up with reasons to not pull the trigger on a coat investment.  BUT, a trip to Alaska in October 2016 finally made me do it. The daily highs were scheduled to be in the upper 20s with lows in the teens.  I wasn’t going to Alaska to sit in a house or ride in a car.  I was there to be outside and experience all of it’s beauty.  Time for a real winter coat!

(Photo Cred: Jackie Padilla)img_0087

At first, I thought it was just going to be a bit of a waste, just a heavy coat for the Alaska trip.  But afterwards, I am SO glad I bought that coat it actually keeps me warm in Georgia too. I thought that everyone was just cold when the temps dropped, that was just a part of cold weather.  Well, it made being outside miserable because I couldn’t stay out there for long periods of time. Needless to say, my “Alaska coat” was life altering in Georgia too!

My basics of buying a coat for warmth:

  1. This seems obvious but the trick is buying a coat that is actually warm.  News flash- cute coats from Target, Macy’s and Old Navy are not warm. They are cute and maybe warmer than not wearing a coat- but most are made to be cute- not functional (aka keep you warm).  
  2. When trying on coats, take note of the arm lengths.  There isn’t much use in wearing a coat with short arms if you want to be warm.  Buy something with sleeves that are long enough for your body and preferably have a fitted wrist cover.  This will prevent cold wind/air from going up your sleeves. For me, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, and pea coats from Old Navy are short on the sleeves.  
  3. Consider buying a coat that is longer than your waist- mid thigh is better but knee length is best.  Yes, a coat keeps your upper body warm but also covering your backside and legs helps a lot with warmth too.  This usually costs a bit more but is so worth it.
  4. Purchase your coat from an outdoor company.  I like REI because they sell multiple brands of outdoor clothing- Including their own line (which can save a few bucks).
  5. Buy something with a hood.  This is so helpful to pull over a hat to help keep you even warmer.  It is also great for staying dry in case you get caught in unexpected rain or snow.
  6. Zippers are key- they bundle you up tight.  I like the ones with two zippers- especially when sitting down in fitted, knee length jackets.  Buttons over zippers are nice too for even more security (and a great back up in case of a zipper 911).
  7. img_0086Keep in mind of your use for the coat- generally, you will be wearing it outdoors.  If you are in lots of snow- you should consider something water proof or resistant. If you are going to travel with it, consider something that packs well.  
  8. Sizing is really important and different brands fit differently, so when trying on, don’t just wear a t-shirt, have on a couple of layers to be sure the fit is good all the time.
  9. Lots of expensive brands have low end jackets that are popular and “cool” but aren’t that warm (looking at you Patagonia and Marmot).  REI has tells you what the coat is best for in its description.

Remember that a good jacket is a fantastic, long term investment.  I bought so many lower end, “fashion” jackets that I probably spent WAY MORE than what I should have spent buying a decent jacket.  If you find a good jacket, you will wear it every year and be so glad that you bought it when you did!

Stay warm!


More info: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/insulated-outerwear.html

Christmas in the City: NYC

I just got back from a wonderful, whirl wind of a trip to visit the very festive, NYC!  This was a bucket list trip for me and it did not disappoint!

Some of our trip was expected but many stops were a surprise and blew all of my expectations out of the water (looking at you window displays and Theatre of Dreams!).  Keep reading to find out my top five festive spots!

5. St. Cloud Roof Top Barimg_3298

Located on the 17th floor of the Knickerbocker, this roof top location is an astounding bird’s eye view of Times Square!  The roof is draped in lights and trees but thats all a shadow of the bright lights of Times Square. As an added perk, the New Year’s ball is up on display which is a fun sight to see.  Definitely a great spot to grab a drink!





4. Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center

I am guessing this is probably the biggest tourist destination during December in NYC.  Well, it did not disappoint! That thing is HUGE. Plus, it stays lit all day, so no matter when you go, you can see it in its glory.  Be sure to walk around the entire block though because there are other beautiful sights to see!



3. Bergdorf Goodman’s Window Displays

For those of you that don’t know, window displays in NYC are a big deal.  They originally were used to showcase new clothing to potential shoppers but now have been transformed into pieces of art and a major source of free, holiday entertainment.  Each store has a different theme and experience so if you’ve seen one, you definitely have not seen them all!

Bergdorf’s was my favorite!  The giant window displays were packed with decor.  These were some of my favorites:


Here is a great guide to all of the NYC window displays this year: https://www.tripsavvy.com/holiday-windows-at-nyc-department-stores-1612956



2. Bryant Park Christmas Market

I was blown away by the offerings in this festive location.  Ice skate, grab a beer, shop, or enjoy lots of sweets in this Christmas market.  I can personally recommend the chocolate croissants and old fashioned donuts but the champagne, duck fat fries, s’mores waffles, and cookie dough all looked fantastic!



1. Saks Fifth Avenue:  “Theatre of Dreams”IMG_3398

I did not know that this existed so I had zero expectations but it was SO fantastic!  The front (several stories) of the store are decorated with lights that are in sync with Christmas music.  It gave me goosebumps to see something so festive, in a major city, and to realize that it has been going on for almost 100 years!


(the show starts at 7 minutes 🙂

What are you favorite Christmas spots in NYC?

love, brooke

Women Who Inspire: Amy

MERRILL-Amy-2015.11.16-683x1024Amy Merrill | Wife, Mom, Community Leader & Advisor at TrueWealth

Learning the Art of Business at a Young Age

As the owner of a production facility, Amy’s father mandated that all of his children know how his entire plant functioned.  Because of this, Amy spent her summers working at the plant and got to know many of the employees by sharing their lunch break together. Each day, the break whistle would blow and everyone would have 25 minutes to eat lunch before it was back to work again.  During her rotations at the plant and these lunch convos, she developed a deep understanding of how all workers and jobs were valuable for making the entirety of the company successful. She realized that each person’s job was important no matter if they were paid by the piece, made minimum wage, or were a manager.  Everyone’s skills were needed to build and ship their products, thus making the business a success.

When the bookkeeper unexpectedly quit, it was no big deal because Amy knew what to do in her absence and handled the company payroll that week.  Did I mention that she was nine years old at the time?  Yes, NINE. This overall plant experience, especially at such a young age, would be valuable throughout her life in numerous leadership roles.

An Early Intro to the Stock Market

Another pertinent part of her 1970’s childhood that would later affect her career was her parent’s investment club.  Several couples would get together monthly to invest in stocks together. They’d meet in her family’s living room with each couple throwing in $25 cash.  They’d smoke cigarettes and drink bourbon while discussing which stocks to buy and which to sell. Amy would absorb as much information from these meetings as she could and was fascinated by the whole club and experience (as am I).  Little did she know that the knowledge she gained from her parent’s investment club meetings would be so integral in her career life one day.

Amy’s Philosophy

Even though her resume says she is a Certified Financial Planner, Amy is really in the relationship business.  Her clients have become her friends and she values this trusted privilege. They call her with prayer requests, invite her to events, support her faith, and share so much more than just financial conversations.  She seems to have the perfect balance of love of people and knowledge of investments.

Amy is a big believer in being real and not living a facade.  As a result, she is open with others about her successes and shortcomings which in turn allows them to do the same.  Being understanding is so important as its the support of her team that helps make her successful. She believes in hard work and working as hard as you can, when you can, so that you don’t always have to be working.  This allows her to not hesitate about leaving work for a few hours one afternoon to go to a school performance, meet friends for lunch, or take her son to the orthodontist.

Enthusiasm and her zest for life draw people to Amy.  She is always smiling, nodding and laughing with everyone she encounters.  She has learned that excitement can be contagious. If she is excited about something, she wants to share it with others because they will often become excited too.

Last fall, she put this realization to work to build a team for the Atlanta 2 Day Breast Cancer Walk.  She had recently lost one of her best friends to the nasty beast that is breast cancer and was ready to do something about it.  Her first year was a huge success but she took that momentum to a new level this fall with a team of over 60 women raising $140,000 of which she personally raised $42,000!  Her passion, energy and sense of camaraderie brought so many women together to walk, raise money, and put so much positivity into something that started in a dark, sad place.

Leadership Characteristics

Amy is a natural leader in her workplace, community and church.  In these roles she has witnessed other leaders: both strong and weak.  In her opinion, good leaders are “credit givers, not credit takers.” They take the time to pour into others and are more focused about the end game than about themselves.  Solid leaders see life about doing for others versus being focused on what others can do for them. A prideful leader sticks out like a sore thumb. Instead, good leaders are self effacing and handle a compliment by saying thank you, but this wasn’t possible without  _______ (insert others). Amy credits her success to leaders like Mose Bond, Jim Heard, and Zoe Hicks.

Foundation Built on Faith

I’d be remiss to not mention Amy’s solid faith.  When she began growing in her faith after college, she went from “knowing about God” to “knowing Him”.  Overall, her faith has become “less about Sunday and more about how I live my life.” This tweak in perspective caused her to not keep track of wrong doings and made her less ruffled.  She is quick to point out that she still has her faults but that her relationship with God has a strong impact on her priorities.

Cheers to you, Amy!

Thank you for being a well respected leader who lifts up others and is a constant source of encouragement to everyone you encounter.  Congratulations on your many successes in life and for praising those who help make them happen. Thank you for inspiring me to bring people together, keep a positive attitude, and remembering to spread excitement.  I am grateful to know you!

For more info: Amy’s Business Profile


Atlanta StartUp Battle for $100,000!

Tech Square Labs was the host of the Atlanta Start Up Battle tonight in Midtown.  Over 500 companies applied, 18 were selected for mentoring, and that number was whittled down to the top 5 to pitch their company tonight!  The competitors had 5 minutes to pitch their company to a room cram packed with people. Each was welcomed to the stage with a blaring rap song of their choosing.  The whole thing wrapped up with a roof top party!

In general, the competition was SUPER impressive.  I was blown away by the caliber of the presentations, the core team member resumes, and that most were collecting revenue.  It was also cool to see that a few of the companies were front outside of Atlanta, which means the footprint of this competition is getting bigger and bigger.  Without any further adieu, I present the five finalists…

Rayka (Charlotte, NC) Social Recommendations for Travel

  • An updated approach for getting travel recommendations
  • 40% of reviews on yelp, tripadvisor, other sites are fake or paid for
  • Most reviewers on these platforms are not experts and the average age of users is 53
  • This app allows you to set your parameters as to who you want recs from- other parents, people your age, well seasoned travelers, etc
  • App is currently in beta testing at Vanderbilt and plans to go live in January
  • They plan to monetize through sponsor experts, affiliate fees (user/booking) and display ads.
  • Size of the travel review market is estimated at $8.59B

 TheoraCore (Austin, TX) Platform for Alzheimer’s Patient Support

  • About 5.5 million people have dementia/Alzheimer’s disease in the US
  • This app serves as a way to connect healthcare professionals and family members to coordinate health information
  • Patients wear a watch that is constantly collecting data- GPS, heartrate, and allows for 2 way voice connect in case of incident
  • They’ve been in beta testing for about 18 months and will have about $100K in revenue this year
  • Currently partner with Texas A&M, Emory, AT&T and hospitals

Usit (Atlanta, GA) The On Demand Babysitting App

  • About $100B is spent on childcare each year in the US and $10B of that is spent on last minute child care
  • The app connects parents with local college sitters.  Parents set the rate, responsibilities and location then are connected with pre-verified sitters.
  • Their competitor, Care.com. requires parents to fill out long information and is best used for long term caregivers but Usit is perfect for short term jobs.
  • Usit provided 370 sitters last month and has an 80% customer reuse rate
  • It takes about 1 minute to post a job and you are able to see the ratings and reviews of sitters who apply for your job posting.
  • Usit charges 17% commission plus a $2.99 service fee.
  • They are projected to be at $1M in revenue by the end of 2019

Top Pick- Automation Platform for Recruiters

  • Recruiters spend 60% of their day doing administrative work.
  • This program automates the admin work to free up recruiter’s day.
  • The goal is to expand recruiting automation like sales automation has (SalesForce).
  • Recently signed deals with Manhattan Associates, Coca-Cola, and Pandora
  • Cost is $300/mon per user (minimum of 5).

Socionado- Marketplace of Social Media Managers

  • Connects small or medium sized businesses with vetted social media managers.  This set up is more cost effective than the business owner hiring their own full or part time social media coordinator.  
  • They have over 2,000 vetted media managers that are matched to a company after completing a questionaire, being matched with 3-5 socionados and then choosing from their proposals.
  • Currently at $324,000  in Annual Profit Revenue with plans to hit $1M in March of 2019
  • Customers are being acquired through email marketing and channel partnerships.
  • They charge a 10% monthly business fee plus 15% in commissions.
  • Most contracts are renewed every 3-6 months and businesses are seeing results in the first 1-2 months.

After the pitches and a few questions from the judges, everyone headed to the roof top for a party.  There were two food trucks, a DJ, lots of wine, and a drummer to keep the party going while the judges deliberated.  Then came my favorite part, Paul Judge taking the stage to announce the winners. Paul is one of my favorite speakers. He has so much confidence, swagger, and humor while being in front of a crowd.  The man eats Toastmasters for breakfast.

img_2873The winners were… Socionado and Rayka.  Both companies took home a (giant) check for $100,000!  Can’t wait to see how much they grow with that kind of capital under them!  Congrats!

learn, brooke

Women Who Inspire: Katrina

Who: Katrina Todd- Wife, Mom, and LMFT, BCBA, MT-BC

Working Hard Can Start Young

Katrina has embodied the definition of hard work since becoming a violinist at the age of two.  Two. As in, two years old. I don’t even think I was potty trained until I was three, but Katrina was playing the violin.  As she got older, her first job at the age of 13 was working a paper route. At 15, she had the super sexy job of stocking raw chicken at an Air Force Base commissary.  Throughout college, she worked as a waitress. She thinks everyone should wait tables because it teaches you to multitask and work with all types of people while completing a goal. The more I talked with Katrina, the more I realized that efficiency is very important to her.

It’s Ok to Change Directions

Remember how Katrina starting playing the violin at two years of age?  Well, fast forward to her college years and of course, she decided pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Music (Violin) at Pacific Lutheran University.  But, she realized rather quickly that sitting in a practice room for 6 hours a day wasn’t her thing.

At the time, Arizona State University was one of only five schools offering a degree in Music Therapy.  Katrina flew to Tempe, auditioned for the program, was accepted, offered a scholarship, and of course said yes to move from the damp state of Washington to the desert of Arizona.  Throughout college, she worked in various therapy locations, including speech therapy clinics, mental institutes, an early intervention program, and schools.

After college, she moved to LA and interned in developmental hospitals and psychiatric settings. Here she learned the value of staying calm as the patients could sense any apprehensions you may have.  In general, this is probably good life advice. After her internship, she began work at a practice geared towards autistic children.  She filled many roles including clinical coordinator, play therapist, behavior analyst and music therapist all while working on her masters degree in Counseling.  After working her butt off for five years at the practice, she realized she was burnt out and needed a change of scenery, so she and her husband moved to San Francisco.  This change of pace and location allowed her to slow down and figure out what was next… wrapping up her Masters degree and becoming a mother.

How to Run a Successful Practice

Ever since first grade, when she got in trouble for trying to help a classmate with special needs understand the teacher’s instructions, Katrina has realized her strength in communicating.  She has an innate sense to pinpoint quickly and exactly what someone needs who is struggling emotionally. I have since nick named her the “Therapy Triage Queen”. This talent is a huge gift that very few therapists have.  Many will try to treat the symptoms but Katrina’s approach is to get to the core of the child. Thus, this is where the name of her practice, Core Therapy, gets its name.

Core works to normalize therapy for it’s kids by calling group sessions “club meetings” which allow children to openly share their feelings.  They offer music therapy, play therapy, lego activities, gym time, group and individual therapies, cognitive therapy, parent classes, and so much more to help their patients be as successful as possible.  Summer camps are a huge success as each week offers a theme complete with crafts, science, snacks, play time, time outdoors, and music. It’s a beautiful thing to see typical children and those with special needs spending time together having fun throughout the summer.

The Goal: Efficiency

Her mom gave her some great shoe advice as a teenager, “quality over quantity”.  Katrina definitely takes this advice to heart when it comes to buying shoes, but also translates it into her work.  She works to build a strong, committed team of therapists and admin to keep Core solid. She recognizes that efficiency is key to keeping therapists, patients, and parents happy.  Children need stability and commitment from those who provide them care in order to feel safe, understood, and supported. Katrina also recognizes that providing mental and emotional support for children can be taxing, but her team is able to rely on one another to get through difficult days.  This level of efficiency and support is key to continuing to make Core Therapy a reliable source of care for its young patients.

To you, Katrina

Today, I raise a glass to the community you have created, the many families who you have supported, and the positive energy you put into this world.  Thank you for inspiring me to work hard, focus on my strengths, and always be willing to make a change. You are an inspiration to me and so many others!

For more info: www.mycoretherapy.com

Skin Cancer: No Trick Nor Treat!


Over the summer, I noticed this odd “bump” pop up where my hairline and forehead meet.  I didn’t think much of it, though, because I randomly get acne. Fast forward to early September, and that spot started bleeding after I accidentally scraped it while combing my hair.  A red flag went off in my mind as I’ve heard stories of people with unusual marks that would bleed and turned out to be skin cancer.

The next day, I called my dermatologist’s office to schedule my annual skin check (only 9 months late- whoops).  The fastest I could get in for a full body scan was at the end of September.

At the appointment, the Physician’s Assistant was also concerned with the spot and took a biopsy of it.  She told me about two types of skin cancer- basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Both types are a slow forming cancer that untreated could metastasize (aka spread) throughout my body.  Melanoma is another skin cancer but she did not think that was what was on my head (thank goodness).  Thankfully, the rest of me checked out just fine.

A week later, I got the call that I was expecting:  I had a basal cell carcinoma that needed to be removed.  The only way to remove it is surgically… with a scapal.  Due to the location, MY FACE, the surgeon would use the Mohn’s procedure.  This process is done by cutting slivers out of the cell/area then looking at them under a microscope. This process allows you to get clean margins before you are sewn up and get to leave the doctor’s office.  Almost 100% of the time, the cancer never returns to that spot. But the trick is, the doctor doesn’t know how big, deep, or wide the cell is until the surgery begins.


Four days later, I was at the dermatologist’s office for my Mohn’s surgery.  I brought my husband along for emotional support and I am glad I did. The procedure was much more intense than I was expecting.  

The nurse shot my forehead up with local anesthesia (ouch), trimmed the hair along my forehead and covered my hair/face with gauze.  Then the doctor came in to begin the procedure. He was teaching another doctor about the experience and through their conversation, I learned that I was very young to have this skin cancer 😦 and that they had to do special cuts due to my skin’s young age.  Thankfully, they were able to get clean margins after only one round of cutting which meant that it wasn’t too big. Thank goodness I caught this early.

Then came the hard part, stitches.  For some reason, stitches were not on my radar for this procedure.  I was expecting some bleeding but assumed a bandaid would do the trick.  The Physician’s Assistant said it would be a little more intense of a procedure than the biopsy.  Man, I should have googled that to truly prepare myself. The dermatologist had to cauterize my blood cells to get the bleeding to stop then did several internal stitches followed by external whip stitches (about 12) to close up the whole incision.  There was a lot of pulling and pushing involved too.  Yes, it doesn’t sound like much to you but it was a lot more than the bandaid I was expecting.


The procedure caused lots of soreness that afternoon and in the days to come.  Even icing it was painful due to the pressure of the ice on my head. It was also really annoying to have a bandaid on my hairline for a week not to mention aquaphor in my hair.  Washing my hair was really painful too as the weight of the wet hair pulling on the incision hurt. Combing it also hurt.

But, they got all the cancer out and didn’t have to go back a second or third time for more.  The location wasn’t really ideal for the procedure, but it’s now a perfect place for the scar!  So, it’s hard to complain too much.

What You Should Know

Get your skin checked annually AND wear sunscreen!  I am hopeful that this is the end of skin cancer concerns for me but realistically, due to my age and that I have already had it once, I am concerned that it may strike again.  I am much more diligent about sunscreen now and even though it’s close to my hair, being sure that the area is covered well.

Interesting info from my Dermatologist:

  • I have family members who have also had basil cell carcinoma’s removed.  Because of this, I thought it might be genetic. It’s not but the factors around our lives are very similar- sun exposure, skin type, geographic location, and sunscreen usage.  
  • Sunscreen:  Every two hours that sunscreen is exposed to the sun, it’s effectiveness (SPF) is cut in half.  So if you put on 30 SPF at 8AM and immediately are in the sun until 10AM, then your sunscreen is at a 15 SPF.  BUT, if you put on sunscreen at 8AM and do not enter the sun until 2PM, it’s still at 30 SPF.

It was a painful process, experience, and procedure, but I am grateful that we caught it early, that more deeper cuts were not needed, and for great health care.  

I hope my story will help you be more diligent with your own skin. We only get one set of skin- so let’s work to take care of it the best we can!

live, brooke

Dear Mom, Thanks…

Dear Mom,

Thanks for birthing me, your first born baby girl (that was supposed to be a boy) via emergency c section.  I am glad dad could be there too.

Thanks for the (almost) mullet haircuts as a child and teen.  Thanks to them, I have only kissed two guys.

Thanks for making sure I always had my white gloves for Social.  Those damn things were hard to keep up with.

Thanks for teaching me to cook for a crew.  To this day, it is still hard to plan a meal for only two people.

Thanks for watching my long, drawn out tennis matches and sacrificing your nails as a result.

Thanks for being here when I had JB.  Although, I am still upset that you left three days later.  Why couldn’t you have stayed for six months?

Thanks for taking me to play at Warren Road park while you walked laps on the trail.  I will always remember you picking up a piece of pine straw for each lapped walked so you’d remember them all.

Thanks for teaching me how to write a letter whenever you saw injustice.  You taught me that change is possible and I still remember that daily.

Thanks for teaching me how to drive a stick shift at sixteen.  I will never forget stalling out 46 times on that hill on Christmas Day.  I am glad you finally switched seats with me as traffic backed up behind us.

Thanks for loving Myma so much.  Even though she rarely told you, she called you “the best friend she ever had” in secret.

Thanks for driving me back to middle school to get my books three days in a row because I forgot them and needed them for homework.

Thanks for always letting my friends come over to hang out.  I thought it was because you were cool but now I know that you liked to know who was important in my life.

Thanks for always buying me those super expensive Hanes “Quick Silver” panty hose for FCCLA.  They always completed my flight stewardess uniform perfectly.

Thanks for giving me your legs.  So far, so good.

Thanks for taking me to Roses to buy those knock off brand brown suede shoes.  They made me more confident in 5th grade than you will ever know.

Thanks for always setting an alarm so you wouldn’t oversleep from your nap to pick us up in time from school.

Thanks for being my mommy, loving me always, and always cheering for me.

Happy 60th!