So long, farewell, Au’voir, auf wiedersehen

•July 26, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Well, my friends, I have some news about the IGNITE blog.  At the decision of the writers of the blog, we have decided to take a brief hiatus from writing.  Life has gotten busy and the blog (as I’m sure you have noticed) has fallen a bit to the wayside.  We have decided that that is unfair to our readers – a blog with no regular content is not a very good blog!

This being said, we have decided to take a break and re-group.  The IGNITE Blog will continue on in the near future, but for now, we need to hit the pause button and get back on track.  When we are able to confidently hit play again, we will provide all sorts of great blog posts that are new, interesting and life changing (okay…. well, maybe not life changing…. but new and interesting for sure.)

We appreciate your readership and hope you understand our need to step back.  After all, it’s always better to take a moment and regroup rather than continue on with something that isn’t going well.  That’s always been my theory anyways.

So, this blog will be quiet for a short time.  Until then, I wish you well.


The Value of a Thank You

•July 12, 2011 • 2 Comments

Column: Finding the Good
by Caitlin Ludwig 

My mother is a firm believer in hand written thank you notes.  Every year as kids, we were expected to write out thank you notes anytime we received any sort of gift.  This usually resulted in thanks you on our birthdays and at Christmas.  Unfortunately, my birthday falls only a few short weeks before Christmas so to my 9 year old self, it seemed the thank you notes were absolutely endless during the month of December.  Oh the agony….

Now, looking back on the horrendous task of sending thoughtful, well written thank you notes to my family and friends turned out to not be so bad.  Dare I say, the habit of sending thank you notes has even served me well during my professional years.  I guess I owe my mom a thank you… (perhaps I’ll send a note… in the meantime, THANKS MOM!)

I can’t believe how overlooked the power of a thank you note is now a days.  Despite my memory of thank you notes taking hours, days and weeks to complete, I can now crank out a good old fashioned thank you (yes, on actual paper with an actual pen) in only a few minutes.  What amazes me is that this small habit has set me apart from many of my peers. During second interviews for jobs, I actually received comments that I was the only applicant to send a thank you note and that was a huge reason for me being asked back.  Thank you notes have opened doors for me and made a lasting impression with those I have worked to create a professional relationship with.  Thank you notes have become a way to stand out rather than the norm.

So I have to ask… Why the lack of manners?  Are we ask young professionals so busy with our own lives that we can’t be bothered to fish out some nice stationary and a stamp?  Sure, email thank yous are great but nothing says “I really care” more than actual ink to paper.  In a world of flooded inboxes, hand written thank you notes stand out.

So when to say “thanks!”?  Perhaps someone has given you a lead that turned into a great business opportunity; maybe you heard a speaker at an event that really inspired you; perhaps a leader took the time to offer advice or mentor you on changing careers.  All of these are “thank-you” appropriate.  Trust me, the 44cents you spend to send the letter will pay off oodles in your professional career.

In today’s age, it’s all about setting yourself apart.  Whether you’re on the job hunt or are just looking to make a name for yourself, don’t forget the basics.  Manners will help propel you above your competition.

If you didn’t have a great mom like mine, feel free to ask for advice on how to write a good thank you.  I’m happy to share the wisdom my mom gave to me.  To get started, grab some good blank, professional looking thank you notes and keep them in your desk drawer at work.  You never know when an extra personal touch is exactly what you needed.


Hidden In Plain Sight

•June 28, 2011 • 7 Comments

Column: Finding the Good
by Caitlin Ludwig 

I would consider myself a knowledgeable Rockford girl.  I frequently dine in local restaurants and try to avoid the chains; I love a good show at the Coronado Theatre or a good laugh at Sullivan Theatre; I’ve even been to an IceHogs and River Hawks game or two.  I can travel the back roads to avoid E. State at all costs and I can usually understand where something is when people give me directions filled with statements like “next to the Old Venture” or “behind the Ground Round.”  But, this Rockford-loving girl had no idea what to expect when her boyfriend suggested they go paddle boating in Rock Cut State Park this past Sunday.  That’s right, this Rockford girl had never even BEEN to Rock Cut let alone knew there were paddle boats ready and waiting for her!!

Needless to say, I was completely thrilled with a sparkly red paddle boat, a huge lake and the gorgeous summer sun to keep my occupied on what has been the most beautiful summer day to date in 2011.  But what baffles me is that I’ve been living here as an adult for almost 4 years (never mind the 18 years I spent growing up in the area…) and had never ever given second thought to the State Park right in my own backyard.  Boy, was I missing out.

Now, I can rattle on and on for this entire blog post about how much fun I had, how beautiful the lake was and how it felt like a vacation far away from the hussle and bussle of my every day life because all those things are true.  But, my loyal blog readers, that’s not my point – not my main point anyways.  My point is, it’s amazing in life what’s hidden right there in plain sight.  For me, this past weekend it was a giant lake inviting me to get away from it all but other times it’s something even more simple staring us down as we blindly go about our business.

We’re lucky we live in Rockford because this city is full of hidden gems.  Sure, we may not be the flashy and loud type of city but we are definitely a subdued type of awesome.  Ever corner of this city boasts a great gem of it’s very own.  From the award-winning Coronado to the nationally renowned Anderson Gardens, Rockford is one pretty awesome city.

But, alas, I will be the first to admit – there are places here I have not explored.  It’s absolutely ridiculous that I’ve been here as long as I have and I had never been to Rock Cut until this past weekend.  I’m ashamed to admit, but I’ve still never toured Anderson Gardens but merely admired the view from the old restaurant’s windows.  This Rockford girl has missed all sorts of great gems in our awesome city just because I haven’t opened my eyes to see them.

Let me tell you this, I will be back to Rock Cut.  There are plenty more paddle boat rides in this girl.  Now that I’ve found what I’ve been missing, my curiosity is peaked and I’m excited to see more of this great city that I’ve apparently been missing.  So, open your eyes people!!  There are gems everywhere!  Which ones are your favorites?


Who Hid My Fun?

•June 21, 2011 • 2 Comments

Column: Finding the Good
by Caitlin Ludwig

Fun.  A little three letter word that is actually quite odd if you say it over and over again.  (Fun. Fun. Fun…. weird, isn’t it??)  This little, tiny word seems to define the main goal of most of our lives.  Whatever we are doing, we just want to be having fun.  Fun at work, fun at home, fun in relationships, fun in the sun… We want to find fun in every single crevice of our lives.  And if we aren’t having the loud, outrageous fun we see on TV and in movies??  We’ll then apparently, we aren’t living or at least we aren’t living up to our true potential.

So, I have to ask IGNITE members… are you having fun??  Well, I guess we first have to figure out what the heck fun is!  I’ve often ponder this – am I having enough fun?  Fun on a 5 year old is obvious.  It’s written all over their faces.  With little care, they whole heartily enjoy life to the absolute fullest.  They laugh until they can’t breathe, they run around the room with their hands waving over their heads and they cover themselves in dirty and sticky stuff and just love it.  It is all just so much obvious fun.  Well, I don’t know about you, but running around with my hands waving above my head just doesn’t seem to happen as much any more.  So… I am no fun?

Well, I would like to think I’ve still got a few good years of fun in me.  Okay, scratch that.  I’m hoping for plenty more decades filled with fun!  Maybe fun isn’t as obvious as it was when I was five but I think it’s still out there.  Fun now consists of curling up with a good book on a cold night with a warm fireplace.  Fun consists of finding the perfect heels and the perfect dress to match both 75% off.  Fun is baking chocolate chip cookies and dropping them off with a friend just to reminder her how fantastic she is.   Fun is laying by the beach for the day while listening to the waves crash on the ocean shore and letting your soul wander for a while.

I think the 5 year old in my would be upset.  Actually, I think some of the 20somethings in my life would be too.  This isn’t the riproaring, can’t stop screaming, adrenaline rushing, time of your life fun that we’re supposed to be having!  Where’s the adventure?  Where’s the risk?  Who hid the fun???

Well, my friends, I can tell you this.  What I’ve come to realize is that fun changes throughout life.  For some, fun is staying out all night long and dealing with the repercussions later.  For others, fun is relaxing in a bubble bath with candles.  At the end of the day, all that matters is how it makes your soul feel.

I received a piece of wisdom last night while driving home and stressing about a concert I am singing in tonight that I would like to share.  His words to me were, “I’ve found that I stress the most about things I forgot were supposed to be fun.”  Hmm.  How about that.  Underneath a few layers of stress there was a whole pile of fun hiding!  Now if I only I would remember that more often.  Maybe fun would find its way into my life even more.

So, the pearl in this blog post is this: don’t hide your own fun.  Whether it be the quiet solace of your own company or the loud, jamming sounds of nightlife, make sure you let go of some of the barriers we put in front of fun.  Let go of the stress and remember that, it’s quite possible, underneath all the stress, the hussle and bussle of the day, the chores and  the have-tos there may just be some fun hidden under there.. no matter how loud and outrageous or quiet that fun may be .


Come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination

•June 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Column: Live It Up
by Karissa Kienast

This weekend Rockford will take you back to your childhood as Friday Night Flix Shows “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

To start your Friday off right, head to the Rockford City Market located on Water Street in downtown. The city market runs from 3-7 p.m. and features local vendors, activities, and live music. This week the Jodi Beach Trio will fill the market with jazz music, and Capri Restaurant will sponsor cooking demonstrations at 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at the Learn Great Foods booth. To view the weekly specials for this week (The Sweetery will have Chocolate Strawberry & Red Velvet Cake Pops for $1.00 each…YUM!!) , visit

Once the sun starts setting, head over to Davis Park for Friday Night Flix.  Make sure to bring your lawn chairs and blankets! Movies begin at sundown, and the admission and popcorn are free! Food and drinks are available for purchase from on site vendors at the park.

As I mentioned, this week the movie is “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” And in true Willy Wonka fashion, 1,000 Wonka bars will be given away with numbered golden tickets inside. Winners will be drawn at random with prizes ranging from Volcano Falls gift certificates to four-packs of IceHogs tickets.

The forecast for Friday is partly cloudy and 81 degrees, which means it will be a perfect day to enjoy the city market and the movie. So head downtown and check out two great events that are making downtown the place to be Friday night.

Life Down South

•June 14, 2011 • 2 Comments

Column: Finding the Good
by Caitlin Ludwig 

Last week, I had the great opportunity to spend a relaxing 7 days in Myrtle Beach, SC.  The biggest decision I had to make all week was if I was going to the beach or the pool first.  There were no taxing decisions on what I should wear that day because I was going to wear my suit!  I didn’t bother with my make up and I quickly dried my hair and threw it up in a pony tail every day.  Talk about total relaxation!  Everything seemed to move slower down south – my cares and stress melted away in the hot sun.  Rarely did I look at a clock because it really didn’t matter what time it was.  I lounged around and took pleasure in the simple things – the bright sun, a good book and some delicious ice cream.

During a few nights, I decided to actually look presentable and wander into public.  During my trips outside off the sand and outside the pool I noticed something – life down south moves a whole lot slower than it does up north even when you’re not in relaxation mode.  This laid back beach mind set translated to every part of life – from traffic to the lines at the grocery store… everything was going at about the pace of a snail.

I couldn’t believe it.  Actually, I could because this wasn’t my first trip down south but somehow, I always forget.  Life down south moves at about half the pace than that of life up north.  So I pondered this.  Which is better?  The slower southern spirit or the hurried, hectic attitudes of the north?

I’m sure there are advantages to both.  I know that I’m used to running 10 million miles a minute to cram everything I need to/want to do into my day.  I pack far more into my day than it seemed most people I ran into down south did in a week.  But those people also seemed to be less stressed, smile more and take in more of their surroundings and really enjoy life.

So where’s the balance?  How do I keep the great southern attitude about life and what’s important while continuing to get everything I need to done in a day?  I guess that’s what they call finding balance.

After a week in the south, I still don’t have it figured out.  I admire the southern attitudes and hope to bring some of that into this northern girl’s life.  So, as I jump back into my stressful and hurried life, I’m trying to channel the ocean and the sunshine.  If that doesn’t work??  I guess I will just HAVE to visit again!!

Just my thoughts for the day!


Half Birthdays

•June 7, 2011 • 3 Comments

Column: Finding the Good
by Caitlin Ludwig 

Today is a very special day… okay, I take that back.  Today is a day that’s not that special but does always hit my radar.  Today is my half birthday.  Now, before you dismiss this post entirely, don’t worry – I don’t celebrate the day I would my normal birthday.  I don’t bake a cake and I certainly don’t think it’s a present worthy kind of occasion.  But, I do think half birthdays are a good day to stop for a few seconds and give attention where attention is due.

I know a lot of people’s half birthdays come and go without a second thought.  Many of you may not even know, off the top of your head, when your half birthday is!  My half birthday is easy – it’s the day after my brother’s real birthday.  Somewhere along the line during my childhood, this fact was brought to my attention and ever since, I can’t but wake up on June 7th with a little smile on my face.  Quick – figure out when your half birthday.  Got it?  Okay good.  Onward.

Now, you may be wondering: what, exactly, do you do on a half birthday?  Well, I don’t think there’s any official traditions out there so. as an official half birthday celebrator, here’s is my two cents on the matter. Continue reading ‘Half Birthdays’

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