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Archive for August, 2007

Work should never feel like work.

To pay my way through college, I labored long summer hours for a moving company owned by my next door neighbor. It was the dirtiest, hottest, most physically challenging work I’ve ever done (far more difficult than completing a sprint triathlon). For $6.25 an hour I worked 70 hour weeks during my summer breaks hauling pianos and boxes filled with books and sofa sleepers and, my favorite, the family deep freezer up basement stairs and into a moving van. That, my friends, is labor. I would wake up hating my work. Understandably.

Flash forward 20 years and my life’s work is quite the opposite. After obtaining that degree in corporate communications from Buena Vista University located in toney Storm Lake, Iowa, I have been practicing my first choice in a career field, public relations, ever sense. I love my work. But more than practicing a craft that I was well-educated and trained to do, I’ve found the place to do it where I really make a difference. Don’t jump to conclusions, I’m not changing how PR is done, because like most career options, there are very few original PR strategies. But I’m practicing a craft that I love for a company that, at the end of the day, does amazing things. The work I do ultimately impacts the lives of millions of people and that makes work not seem like work at all.

It’s cause to whistle…not while I’m working, but out of amazement to my fortune.

One’s life work can be filled with despair or boredom or a lack of direction. For me, though, I found my strengths early, honed those skills carefully and the result is in working for a company where what I do matters.

I don’t work. I don’t toil. I don’t labor.

I just do…happily.

Have a great Labor Day everyone!

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Silversun Pickups

“Lazy Eye”

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Games We Played 

When I ran across this list of childhood games – adjusted for those of us now crossing over into adulthood – I couldn’t resist posting them here:

1. Sag, you’re It.
2. Hide and go pee.
3. Twenty questions shouted into your good ear.
4. Kick the bucket
5. Red Rover, Red Rover, the nurse says bend over.
6. Musical recliners.
7. Simon says something incoherent.
8. Pin the toupee on the bald guy

Growing up, we had a neighborhood filled with kids of all ages. At dusk throughout the summer, we met on the lawn at the house on the corner and played Kick the Bucket until parents whistled us home for bed.  I can’t imagine letting my kids play outside after dark today.  Just another proof point as to how times have changed.

I am laughing with the rest of the world at Senator Larry Craig’s predicament. The CraigIdaho legislator backed himself into a bathroom stall at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport and proceeded to get himself into a major pickle with local undercover law enforcement.

Seems there are laws against lewd behavior such as tapping your foot and waving your hand under the wall of the bathroom stall and into the stall next to the one you occupy – obvious signs that you want to engage in some sort of sexual behavior with the guy who’s urinating next to you.

Craig, of course, said he pleaded guilty because he wanted the whole mess to go away quickly and quietly (probably the only truth he’s uttered on the topic since it happened). Now, he’s claiming he’s not gay (not sure anyone jumped to that conclusion in the first place).  

We all know how stressful being a senator can be. But when will politicians realize you can’t have a private life and serve in a public fashion. If you need to relieve stress, go to a gym, watch an episode of Three and a Half Men, or learn to swing dance. Just don’t get busted flagging down a blow job in the men’s room at the airport.

After Lewinski-Gate, one would think politicians would stop letting it all hang out publicly period. Why is this such a difficult concept to understand? Luckily, for Americans, it makes for good stories on “The Daily Show.”

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New Ulm, Minnesota

Aug. 25, 2007

New Ulm Sunset

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I’m not ashamed to say that I work for a large corporation. The company makes about $12 billion a year and continues to grow. Its world headquarters sits right here in Minneapolis, about 13 miles from my home. The company employs 38,000 people around the world and its products enhance or save the life of someone every five seconds of every day throughout the year.

Working for a company that does so much good for others enables me to drive home at night and sleep well. Even in my own distant way, the contributions I make at work five days a week have a small impact on the lives of other people. The information shared through the corporate communications office that I’m a part of ultimately helps people (physicians and consumers) make good decisions about life-enhancing and even life-saving medical technologies.

PawlentyWith that little preamble, Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota’s Governor, stopped by my company this week to say farewell to our outgoing CEO and welcome the newly elected CEO to the company. As a Republican, Pawlenty has long been a friend of corporations of all sizes that call Minnesota home. It’s hard for him to ignore a milestone happening at one of the largest businesses and employers in the state.

So during an employee event mid-week, the Governor made his appearance, shook a few hands, said a few words of encouragement and congratulations, then continued on his important schedule.

My politics are middle-of-the-road. But I voted for Mr. Pawlenty and I can say that his “no new tax” policy was one big reason he got my vote. My decision is based on the enormous misappropriation of state funds that occurs in Minnesota. Until legislators and the administration can fix the problem of flushing money down black holes and instead putting it into the right places, I’ll continue to appreciate politicians who are adamant about NOT raising taxes.

This is the second Governor of Minnesota that I’ve stood within a few feet of. The first was Jesse Ventura, who in person was actually a kind guy and quite articulate…a freak of nature who had no business running state government, but pleasant nonetheless.

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Chris Matthews, host of CNBC’s “Hardball” program, may not be anyone’s favorite political pundit, but as a guest on “The Tonight Show,” Aug. 22, he explained in under five minutes his views on both Republican and Democrat options for president as well as what’s wrong with Bush and his love affair with the Iraq War.

C MatthewsMatthew’s picks for the Dem and Rep nominations for president are Hillary and Guiliani, respectively. He recommends people sit back, close their eyes and picture the first thing that comes to mind when you hear each candidate’s name. With Guiliani, he said people will see someone who takes charge (9/11/01 still carved into the minds’ eye).  With Clinton, he said the majority of women voters will see a female who can lead (I’m SO not convinced of this assessment of Clinton). But who votes in primaries and caucauses? Women!

As for the War in Iraq, Matthews says Bush and the current administration have “snookered” U.S. citizens from the onset. With the WMD search to today’s “surge” plans (which if it fails, Bush will only call for even more troops to be deployed to Iraq), this administration clearly has a penchant for engaging in fruitless matters.  Matthews said there’s no way to withdraw and no way to win in Iraq.

His appearance was enlightening and entertaining…as pundits go.

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There are three actresses who can’t be ignored on television. I admire them for their body of work (cough) and depth of their abilities.

First, Kyra Sedgwick. As star of “The Closer,” it’s great to watch a female detective solve crimes again. Not since Angie Dickinson has a female cop really captivated TV audiences. I also have a friend who looks like Kyra, so it makes it all the more interesting.

kyra.jpg

Second: Mary-Louise Parker. I loved her role on “West Wing” and hear that she’s even better in “Weeds.” This recent photo of Parker and a boa constrictor is too good to pass up.

mlp.jpg

Lastly, Holly Hunter. From silver screen to television, she’s got skillz. Her new role on the show “Saving Grace” is perfect for her.
holly-h.jpg

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I sweat. There. I admit it.

I’m not a heavy sweater (thank God). A little anti-perspirant/deoderant every morning under the arms and I smell like a tulip all day. Not so for lots of folks.  Take Kevin James for example (co-Kevin Jamesstar of the recently released movie, “I Now Prounounce You Chuck and Larry.” That man is a heavy sweater. OK, he’s also obese, and fat people tend to push out the perspiration in mass quantities.  More mass, more water to expel.

I do like to work up a good sweat when I bike, run or do some other form of physical activity. It’s a measure of my ability to exert myself. But when I dress for work or a date or any other casual event, I’m blessed with sweat glands that don’t make me kin with the likes of Kevin James, Rodney Dangerfield or any number of political wannabes who can’t manage to keep their core temperature under control in public.

It’s rare to see a woman who persistently sweats. Females don’t seem to be capable of sitting in an air-conditioned room and perspire profusely – unless they’re running on a treadmill at the gym. I’ve known a few who can work up a nice glowing sweat given the right circumstances. It’s not the dripping kind of perspiration, rather just the surface layer that is almost sensual in nature.

These observations base themselves on an opinion piece published in the New York Times recently.  Here in Minnesota, it’s unusual to see people who just live in a quagmire of flop sweat year round.  As opposed to say, Atlanta, where the population spends nine months of the year surviving in temperatures above 80 degrees.  Atlantans, though, have perfected the art of looking cool. They’ve adjusted to their climate. Still, the rare street crossing at high noon can produce a lot of water in their city streets.

In Minnesota though, where temps only surpass 90 degrees twice a year (usually when I’ve reserved a spot to go camping) the more hearty of us tend to bask in the rare heat that visits the state.  It’s so infrequent that working outside becomes its very own mini slice of heaven on earth.

Sweating has its bodily purpose and I’m thankful our systems know when it’s time to ooze some water. But please, pay close attention to those stains forming under your arm pits and follow proper hygiene. Once done with your sweat session, don’t sit next to me before you’ve had a cool shower.

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The Great Minnesota Get Together starts on Thursday and runs through Sept. 3. This year I’ll find myself at the fair. Last time I strolled the Fairgrounds along Snelling Avenue in St. Paul was 2005 and my head wasn’t in the game, so to speak. I’ve always liked a good fair. The sights and sounds — the carnies, the corn dogs, the cacophony from the inaudible loudspeaker systems — take me back to my hometown, which was host to the World’s Greatest County Fair.

I grew up on The Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa. Each year, this rural fair draws CCFhundreds of thousands to a town of less than 12,000. It was the main event – the one thing every resident planned for and participated in either as an attendee, a worker, a consumer or people watcher.

Several moments from my fair days as a kid still mark my brain (maybe scar it).

The first and most dominant scar caused by the fair happened when my Uncle Earl took me there to wander the grounds. Uncle Earl was my “rich” uncle. He was rich in a way that surpassed money. And while he always drove a nice new Buick and made half dollars fall out of my pockets when he lifted me by the ankles, he never bragged. His presence in a room, advice, spirit and belief in God made Uncle Earl revered.

So on that day when we wandered the fair grounds, Uncle Earl was most interested in poking through the cow barns and striking up lengthy conversations with livestock owners who were showing off their best Holsteins or Herefords. I was 10. Bored with conversation and wanting for the Midway where I could quickly blow the half dollars that had magically appeared from my pants pockets. Naturally, when I spied I large pile of hay I had to take a running leap into it. Mistake. As I later learned when Uncle Earl smelled me and realized I’d jumped into a pile of used hay – manure filled.

We stopped by an ice cream stand and I wiped myself down with napkins. But the cloud of manure hung over me, not to mention the embarrassment of having to take off my pants before my uncle would let me into his Buick sedan. This story continues to get much laughter at family events, so I can proudly tell it here. Rest assured, I have not ventured back into hay pile jumping since that famed day at the fair.

Part Two of my fair remembrance deals with my dad’s booth at the fair that he managed and staffed until I was in my early teens. Dad owned his own business called Spencer Radiator Works. We called it “The Shop” and it blossomed as a business in my pre-school years. He worked it hard and expanded it, selling anything with a small engine as well – primarily lawnmowers but including chainsaws, generators and other two- and four-cycle things.

The Clay County Fair was the perfect demo ground for the latest in riding lawnmower design and Dad cleaned up during fair week. It was like getting an extra month’s income each year. But the hours were long and sometimes frustrating. By the time I was four or five, Dad would take me with him, usually in the afternoons, to hang at his booth outside and watch him sell lawnmowers. It was exciting just to be on the grounds, but watching Dad in action as a salesman was riveting, too. He was engaging, knowledgeable and could tell a looker from a buyer almost immediately – a critical skill when investing time in a sale.

I’d help him in the booth, serving as “runner.”

“Butch,” (his nickname for me and I have no idea why), “run and get me a coffee.” Or, “Butch, why don’t you go get yourself a corn dog and bring back a turkey drumstick for me.” Sometimes he’d leave me alone at the booth while he went to the bathroom or found a pay phone to check with the boys at the Shop. When he returned he’d bring a treat – a slushy lemonade or ice cream bar.

Those days in Dad’s booth at the fair were bonding days for the two of us. He probably didn’t know that he was giving me some of my greatest and fondest memories by taking me along. But thinking about those afternoons I spent with him during a week each September always make me pause. For a father-son relationship that was far from perfect, we shared many perfect days — common ground on the grounds of The Worlds Greatest County Fair.

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Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s approval rating has skyrocketed recently. Why? In the aftermath of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 people, his face, name and voice have saturated the media. The Republican, now twice elected as governor, has stepped up, admitting some of his own short-sighted thinking about passing legislation that would have increased the gas tax a year ago. These funds naturally go toward funding for roads, highways and bridges – something the entire U.S. has discovered gets sorely under-funded.

But the PR machine for the Pawlenty camp has done an admirable job since the bridge fell down. The Governor has drawn favorable reviews following appearances on the national morning news programs, local radio and newspapers. And even though partisan politicking egos continue to exist in Minnesota, it’s tough to blast a governor for doing his best in bad circumstances.

Unlike the Bush situation in which the general public is not only sick and tired of hearing his excuses but have, at last, peeled back the rose-colored glasses when it comes to Iraq and our country’s foreign policy.

These serve as case studies, proving that any leader has only a short time to carry out effective leadership directives. Getting a major interestate highway bridge built in 18 months sounds accetable to the average Jane or Joe. I think we all would have been amazed if we could have liberated Iraq, established some peace initiatives and gotten the hell outta there in three years time. We may have applauded Bush for that accomplishment. But six years?

Not saying a bridge and war are good comparisons, but it does highlight the style differences between Bush and Pawlenty. On one hand, the President knows how to wear out his welcome versus the Governor who simply wants to get something done right in a timely fashion.

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