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Archive for June, 2007

My Learning Edge

Today I caught up on a little blog light reading. Before I knew it, I was suddenly motivated to uncover or rediscover or kindle anew my learning edge.

The Communicatrix is just starting her trial, based on hypnotherapy, to not eat the flan. Juxtaposed around this, she has posited that we all have learning edges, which obviously go stale at times.  It’s time to amp up my learning edge. Way past time, actually.

Earlier this year, I enrolled in a training course – something about the 7 Habits of a Highly Effective Manager.  Not taught by Covey, but some lesser-known management guru based in Minneapolis, I thought what the heck, I’d give this course a try. Yawn.  Yep. That’s my learning edge.  Seven habits no matter how pithy they seem, are about as helpful as an electric can opener on a camping trip.  But I will not be dissuaded. 

Side note: I love dissuade and assuage as words in general…the latter reminds me of sausage and you really can’t go wrong with suade anything.

So what is my learning edge if not a 7 Habits knock-off presentation? One project I’ve taken on involves expanding my work role beyond the parameters of my work group to encompass an entire department of communicators with the goal of enhanced communication. We all know, as professionals in communications, that when it comes to sharing among each other, yep you guessed it, we’re the worst at it.  This is the case 10-fold in a large corporate setting.  So my pitch to my VP was to enlist me in improving communications within the communications department. I’ll be cross-promoting the various initiatives underway among the PR, brand, web, and internal comms groups as well as establishing a resource library of materials and reducing the duplicitous activities that we all seem to find ourselves doing. 

That’s my learning edge at work. 

Outside of work, however, there is this innate urge to take a class and connected with smart people who are making attempts to be even better.  I’m thinking a college-level course on communication strategy or an advanced writing course with a literary group. Perhaps that learning edge activity will prompt me to write the first chapter of the novel that’s in note form inside my BlackBerry.  It’s research time for me, I think. Just as soon as I finish writing this freelance piece on how to green up large events and meetings.  By this time next week, I’ll be all edgy on “green” concepts.

The journey begins…

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It’s a sure sign that summer is in the upper midwest when fruit stands overflow with rippened peaches, strawberries, plums and watermelon.  Oh, and grapes can be had for 99 cents per pound. That’s a bargain considering the $3 or more per pound we pay in the off season (October – April).

So summer is here and I just polished off a plum thinking to myself how plums must be one of the tastiest fruit treats on the planet – as long as they’re not too ripe or soft.  A good plum is hard to pass on and can serve as part of a good breakfast or a great afternoon or bedtime snack equally well.  I try not to think of plums as prunes, however, because that would make me feel old. The mere thought of prunes is all it takes to make me regular, so I tend to think of the non-dried version of prunes – the tasty, appealing, juicy, delectable plum.

Furthering my previous blog entry about family reunions, I learned last weekend that my cousin, Keith, is running for Mayor of Hobart, Indiana. Keith has served his community for 20 some years as a police officer and chief of police. When he and the current mayor disagreed on certain key philosophies, he stepped down as chief.  Soon after, friends suggested he run for mayor…and he recently won the primary election.

I’ve always looked up to Keith. Since the time I can remember visiting his Dad’s cool split foyer home in Hammond, Indiana, where he grew up with his older brother and sister.  When my family made those visits we would play pool and ping pong, and play jokes on each other until we laughed ourselves into hysterics. He is someone I admire. I don’t know what his mayoral platforms are for the City of Hobart and it really doesn’t matter. All I know is that he’s a genuine guy who will do what’s best for his town. He won’t play the games of politics and he will put residents and the needs of the community first. So vote for Keith (if you live in Hobart). Otherwise, just wish him well.

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Last weekend I attended my family reunion in bustling West Frankfort, Ill. More than 60 relatives showed up at the big event, held once every two years. As it happened, this was the first reunion since my divorce, so there were the occasional awkward silences and moments when a cousin unknowingly asked where “she” was and why didn’t she come?” But everything was handled with grace and understanding.

Reunions with my family are known for the talent show put on by kids and some adults. The kid portion is, of course, filled with song and dance and performances that are worthy of “America’s Got Talent.” The adult performances are usuallySong at Reunion dedications. Some bring tears, like the song my cousin wrote for her grandfather who will be 87 this year. A World War II vet, my uncle was moved to tears hearing his grand daughter sing this dedication. Then there’s always the “wild” cousin, niece or nephew who gets up and performs a song with questionable lyrics or innuendo that offends the oldsters and makes the rest of us refrain from all out laughter.

The best part of the reunion for me is seeing theSnedecors smiles that cross my mom’s face when her surviving brother and two sisters are together telling stories of their childhoods. As children of the Great Depression, they know what having a “hard time” truly means. They lived through the hardest of times. And they appreciate every day that they get. A closer group of siblings, I’ve never met and even today they all live within a few miles of each other and talk daily. They are each other’s support network. They are family and so grateful for one another.

I’m proud to call them all my family.

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It’s summer and with it comes the real concert season in Minnesota.  It’s tough to beat an outdoor concert of almost any kind.  Heck, I’d go sit on the grass after work and listen to a clarinet sextet as long as the weather is good. There’s just something about being outdoors and enjoying music that brings a smile to my face – and the faces of hundreds of others who stumble upon this treasure.

 

Music is something my daughter and I share a tremendous interest in. Since she was able to read and started piano lessons, we have talked about, listened to and analyzed music of all genres. As a family in Iowa, we enjoyed concerts in the park when she was just a toddler. Several years ago, I took her to her first real rock concert, and we’ve kept going back.

 

So when I learned a few months ago that Ben Folds was touring with John Mayer, I had to get tickets.  Folds has long been one of my daughter’s favorite artists. She has most, if not all, of his songs on her iPod. And Mayer is hard to ignore as a musician. Someone so young can’t really be that talented when it comes to singing and, even more so, playing guitar with such ease!  The only downside was this duo would NOT be touring through Minneapolis. In fact, the closest venue was in Des Moines. That was not going to stop us, however.

 

Last night was concert night and my daughter, her best friend and I trekked to Des Moines, just four hours due south of Minneapolis, for the show. We were not disappointed.

 

Folds opened with “Trusted” and continued for nearly an hour playing seven or eight of his most popular songs. “Landed” and “Bastard” were crowd favs and he brought the hour to a finish singing a cover of “Such Great Heights,” a song from the “Garden State” movie soundtrack.

 

Mayer was all about the guitar – something I truly enjoy hearing him play. His solos, along with a great backup band including two additional guitar gurus, make songs like “Gravity” and “Belief” so much more enjoyable than the pop versions that were originally written. Mayer gives it up for his fans and the 8,000 of us listening and swaying could have stayed planted on our feet for another hour had he played on.

 

But the most enjoyable sight of the night was finding my daughter and her friend (they had floor seats and I sat upstairs) standing, singing loudly and dancing in the aisle without a care in their world as Folds then Mayer did their thing on stage.  Their smiles were huge as the two sixteen year olds were in the moment, listening and watching favorite artists that they’ve grown up with and will continue to appreciate for years and years.

 

That scene alone, made the journey to Des Moines so worthwhile!

 

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Wordplay – Vesuvian

I’m all about building vocabulary. It’s something I stress with my kids regularly – in addition to just pure enunciation when they speak. There will be no mumbly mouths under my roof!

The word “vesuvian” caught my attention today. In modern day terms, vesuvian refers to a slow-burning match used for lighting cigars.  Kind of like a fusee, which I used to play with when my cousin visited during the summer.  On hot nights, we’d go outside, light a fusee, throw it on the sidewalk and watch as bugs and moths dive bombed to their deaths into the fire – not unlike the way Kamikaze pilots dive bombed ships at sea during World War II.  Those fusees, wrapped in red paper and covered with what seemed like a thin coating of wax to make them burn longer put off an odor that smelled like fireworks. I love that smell.

But vesuvian also means marked by sudden or violent outbursts. As in, “…his vesuvian-like behavior erupted whenever life failed to go his way.” This use comes from Mount Vesuvius, the only volcano on the European mainland that has erupted in the past century.

Vesuvian.  It rolls off the tongue.

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As a kid, the “Andy Griffith Show” was my all-time favorite program on television. Better than “Gunsmoke” or “The Rifleman,” better than “Rawhide” and much much better than “Happy Days.” The Fonz was okay, but he had nothing over Sheriff Taylor’s wide smile and ability to run Mayberry without a gun.

On most days during my elementary years, I’d walk two blocks home for lunch (by myself), grab a sandwich from mom (egg or tuna salad or maybe left over roast beef, made with WonderBread, of course) and eat in the TV room, watching another episode of Andy, Barney, Opie, Gomer, Aunt Bea, and Helen Crump. They were my TV family. I was a surrogate Opie Taylor. When I looked at my Dad, I saw Andy Taylor…although my Dad was a mechanic, not a sheriff.

Why the trip down black-and-white TV memory lane? Well this morning I heard a riotous joke on the radio (www.kfan.com). These radio hosts were doing a skit based on Carnac the Magnificent. You remember Carnac, right? Johnny Carson’s mystical wise wizard who would hold an envelop up to his head, say three words and then read the question in the envelope. 

So the radio guys were doing this and it was only so-so on the humor front, until the following:

Show host playing Carnac: “Oral B.”

Others in the studio repeating: “Oral B. Hmmm Oral B.”

Carnac: “Yes. Oral B.  There seems to be an echo in the studio.”

Sound effect: Ripping envelope

Carnac: “And the question is: What did they call Aunt Bea during her crazy college days.”

Sound effect: Much laughing and gaffawing.

I laughed out loud.

Aunt Bea was my Grandma Clara. She baked. She kept a clean house. She doted on her nephew. She gossiped about the neighbors. She talked in a sing-songy voice that grated on my nerves after five minutes.   I believe the long-standing success of this ’60s TV program was because the writers and producers managed to find in each character a way to relate to just about everyone on the planet.  From the dopey car mechanic who had no common sense to the bungling deputy who wanted to be a star in the FBI. Even Floyd the barber, a character who epitomized ALL barbers in small town America! We can still relate to each character in some fashion.

Of course when I was in grade school, I never imagined or considered that Aunt Bea would have experienced crazy college days.  Nor do I want to imagine that as an adult (shiver)!

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  1. I prefer cats more than dogs. I can cope with other peoples’ dogs. Just don’t think for a second I’d ever adopt a dog as my own. What’s worse than dog breath and freshly wet dog smell?
  2. I’ve lived in the Midwest my entire life. Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota: the trifecta of the central U.S.  Nebraska wins the title for flattest and most boring.
  3. I’m in a career in which I received my degree – corporate communications – and have my Aunt Dorothy to thank for it.
  4. I’m happiest reading a real newspaper at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning…with fresh coffee that I ground and brewed myself.
  5. Music is a life necessity. I can’t imagine not having music in my life. I get amped finding new up-and-comers. Check out this band: www.quietdrivemusic.com
  6. I’ve worn glasses since eighth grade.
  7. I haven’t balanced my bank account since March (and no overdrafts either!).
  8. Nothing quite compares to a campfire and tent camping on a mild summer night under a full moon…unless, of course, you have access to a luxury hotel suite with room service.

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