A Little of This…A Lot of That..

My husband noticed I haven’t blogged in several days. This reminder almost (but not quite) felt like a boss nudging me to get a job done. There’s been a lot of this and that going on. Doug was away on business in China for 11 days. These long absences give me outrageous respect for single parents. While there is just one son to shuttle around and oversee, there are always days when extra hands would help. Those days got in the way of blogging.

Spring semester at Rutgers got underway last week. I now have 42 kids..I mean students. Unlike last semester, I don’t have single parents or students who have children in this class. I do continue to have students who are working their way through school; some have two jobs; a few are helping support their families; about 15% are from other countries. I did a great thing. I decided there was no way I would ever remember 42 names. I made terrific name plate for each student in a large font. They keep the name plate with them and put it on display for each class. It’s amazing how I am getting to know their names. It’s really fun sharing experiences with the class. They are starting to come out of their shell and realize that I really am there to help them..not lecture to them. The students who stand-out (in a good way) always show themselves first. Their hands go up answering questions or making comments and they seem to stay alert for the hour and twenty-minute class. Now, I have to work on reaching the ones who seem to hunker down in their seat and hide.

Their first writing assignment was to introduce themselves to me and explain how the course will help them. I really enjoy reading their pieces. There are students who have rarely written before. One student talked about his job on a road work construction crew. He mentioned the swearing goes on as part of the “business communication.” Such a hoot. Several students wrote about working toward their degree so they can begin their career in their family business. Other students wrote about their journey toward their education in the U.S. from another country. Fascinating to get just a glimpse of the stories

Joanne & Ryan - We'll miss you!

among 42 students.

The other journey beginning is of my friend Joanne and her son. She is a lieutenant colonel in the army and shipped out to a base in Germany this week. We went to their farewell party last weekend. Joanne is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. She is a Presbyterian minister, the head chaplain at Ancora State Hospital where the most deranged, criminal mental patients are housed. She is a single mom with two teenaged sons. She’s served two tours in Iraq; in her earlier life she was a champion swimmer; she counsels grieving families and listens to the family problems of soldiers and their families. Joannedoes all this with a personality and demeanor that is always bright and happy. She is so loved and respected, it fills me with joy that she is part of my life in some small way. I will truly miss seeing her face over the next 18 months.

My son is preparing for his first semi-formal event. The sophomore cotillion takes place soon. The three of us went to get him a suit, shirt, tie, shoes – the whole package. As I watched the salesman measure Adam for the suit and then the shirt size, I did get a little weepy remembering buying his first pair of sneakers when he could barely walk. WHY we spent $36 for those shoes still boggles my mind today. Now, we hope the nearly $200 we spent on his entire ensemble will fit him for more than a week. The gal he is going with to the cotillion is a friend from church. She asked him. Sweet. He’s also found out that another girl wanted him to ask her to the dance. He’s learned, it’s nice to be wanted.He also took the written NJ driver’s test at school today. He says it was easy. Just wait until he gets behind the wheel. Brace yourself!

As we face another winter chill, I’ll work on trying to keep my posts more current. So much to do; so little time – and that time is so very precious.

It’s like brushing your teeth

It’s tough enough to keep a commitment to go to the gym a few days a week. To commit to keep a journal, online or otherwise, every day, is nearly impossible. While my career has changed in the past year, I get to do so many new and different things, that there are days I simply run out of hours. I could sit at my desk for hours and get a multitude of things done. The next thing I know, it’s 2:30 and I haven’t had lunch.

Tuesday, I heard a report that you shouldn’t sit at your desk more than 45 minutes or face the problems of being overweight along with other health issues. That apparently applies even if you regularly exercise. The rule of thumb, the report says, is get up every 45 minutes and get that blood going.Not much moss grew under my feet Tuesday. I was out of the house at 9 a.m.; driving to a client meeting and stopping on the way to pick up a gift for some friends; took some photos for the client; the meeting in Ocean County at 11 a.m. lasted until 12:15; I made a few stops on the way home; downed a quick salad for lunch; got ready for the first day of teaching business communications at Rutgers-Camden; left the house at 3:45 to stop to drop off the gift for the friends; got to class just before start time at 4:30; taught until 5:50 p.m.; answered some students’ questions; talked with the next teacher in the room; motored back to Cherry Hill to pick up my son from his bowling match; got home; stir-fried dinner I had prepped the day before; grabbed my Sustainable Cherry Hill notes and got to an executive committee meeting a couple of minutes after 7 p.m.; the meeting lasted until 9 p.m.; collapsed at home by 9:30 p.m.

It wasn’t a record, but I certainly wore a lot of hats yesterday, leaving me with hat-hair. Wonder why I didn’t get to write a blog post?

Today, I caught up. I’m getting some great media exposure for Sustainable Cherry Hill and efforts to link the suburbs with Camden and the Center for Transformation. Cross your fingers that you’ll be seeing the story on TV – soon. Don’t want to jinx it.

Just Passing Through

“We’re not owners here; we’re just passing through.” In the outstanding Academy Award-winning film, Out of Africa, Denys Finch Hatton (played by the wonderfully photogenic Robert Redford) is dancing with Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) and laments to her that our possessions and our lives are fleeting. http://www.spike.com/video/out-of-africa-out-of/2324400

Imagine the despair and hopelessness felt by the tens of thousands of Haitians affected by the earthquake. Their lives were always difficult. Haiti is among the poorest nations in the world. Formal education is rare; illiteracy is the norm. But, this was their normal. The happiness experienced in the past, friends, family and day-to-day tasks will likely never be the same. While we are so very resilient as a species, lives in Haiti have been cut short; those who have survived may be suffering for an incredibly long time with illnesses, injuries that never heal properly and the loss of loved ones.

The 11 year-old girl who ws a miracle just the other day; pulled from the rubble in Port-au-Prince died. http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/01/17/haiti.earthquake.girl.funeral/index.html?hpt=C1

Anna’s life was fleeting. She did not own her life; she was just passing through.

As our nation honors Martin Luther King, Junior with a day of service, we remember to help those in our communities. This week, Sustainable Cherry Hill (www.sustainablecherryhill.org) and the Center for Transformation in Camden are presenting “The Poet of Poverty.” The documentary profiles Father Michael Doyle, a long-time advocate of Camden, its people and what is good no matter where you live. The event also includes a panel discussion led by Father Doyle and other local community leaders. The event itself is a sell out, but the message is: take your passions, your knowledge, your strength to other communities that need your help. Rutgers-Camden is also planning an event the end of the month to inspire the campus community to help in its host community.

While an earthquake of the magnitude that struck Haiti is never like to strike in our region, there is poverty and hopeless people within a few miles of you. We can help in many ways large and small. What is important is that we try to help.

“When you think the gods are punishing you, they answer your prayers,” said Karen Blixen in Out of Africa. We can help answer some prayers..every day.


It’s Really January

I’ve  always loved the smell of laundry dried outside in the fresh air. Here in the Delaware Valley, we have enjoyed a January warm up. Except for the holiday lights, the outdoor decorations are down. This morning I hung out the laundry to dry and not burn up the gas and electric bill by running the clothes dryer. We got another $400-plus electric/gas bill today, so drying the laundry outside is yet another way to save.

It’s great to see how the neighborhood comes out of hibernation when the days warm up, even if it’s only temporary. Moms and dads push their little ones in strollers. The neighbors across the street (who have three young kids) come outside and rake up the winter debris while the kids get out their bikes. Our neighborhood guy I affectionately call “golf club guy” does his evening walk in the warmer weather. (He walks with a golf club in his hand – always.)

Since my husband is out of the country on business, he has missed this respite from winter. Good thing, since I truly believe he would want to fire up the boat or at least start cleaning it. For now, we have enjoyed sunshine and 50 degree weather. Sunday – rain and January gloom is back.

The Wait – Finding Hope

Can you imagine being in the shoes of a person who has loved ones in Haiti and you can’t reach them? For as much communication and connectivity we have in our lives today to not be able to reach someone on a cell phone or by email must be incredibly horrifying. Even as the Red Cross and other agencies populate their special pages and web sites to help find victims and survivors of the earthquake, the agonizing hours and days of waiting are anguishing.

The searches are continuing; there are some miracles as an 11-year-old girl is pulled alive from the rubble with a badly mangled leg. Doctors Without Borders are setting up portable hospitals somewhere near Port-Au-Prince. Aid is beginning to flow into the devastated area, but roads remain blocked and survivors are living in the streets and the few open areas that remain. Families and children are helplesshttp://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/charity-news/devestated

These facts from a CNN report before the earthquake are stunning:

Athena Kolbe of the University of Michigan did a survey last summer of nearly 1,000 households in three highly populated neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

Just over half the people in those neighborhoods had access to electricity — when it was available at all — the survey found.

Most used public or private water kiosks as their main source of drinking and cooking water, and most used shared pit latrines rather than bathrooms, Kolbe found in her study for the Small Arms Survey. Few families had water piped into their homes.

More than nine out of 10 used charcoal for cooking; the others used gas.

Adults had an average of just over two and a half years of formal schooling.

Eighty percent of Haiti’s 9 million residents live under the poverty line. More than half — 54 percent — live in abject poverty, according to the CIA Factbook.

Now, factor in a disaster of this proportion, and you’ve probably seen Haiti fall 50 years behind where the nation started. Whatever we can give, however we can help, we must try. I’m going to the Red Cross web site:  http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_main&s_src=RSG000000000&s_subsrc=RCO_Donate_OnlineGiving

Dig as deep as you can.

100,000 and counting in Haiti

The death toll in Haiti will likely top 100,000. That’s like wiping out all of Cherry Hill and Haddonfield in one fell swoop. The photos and video this morning of the president’s house were remarkable. It’s hard to imagine the White House being similarly devastated. It could have happened September 11, but that would have been man-made.

Just the other day I was thinking about how San Francisco recovered after the October 1989 6.8 earthquake. The Marina district was devastated. The 101 freeway collapsed on itself crushing motorists. Remember Al Michaels switching from World Series play-by-play to disaster coverage? That earthquake struck just before the digital age. Cell phones weren’t big and computers were just starting to become mainstream. Even in Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world, cell phones, texts and emails to the outside world were possible so many families could find out how their loved ones fared in this disaster.

Being in the news business for so long, as I saw word of the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti Tuesday night, I knew the disaster would be widespread. A hospital collapsed, bodies are in the streets, the bone-crushing injuries others are suffering – it’s heartbreaking. Now, the tent cities will rise from the rubble. People are already camping out awaiting help from around the world.

The faces of the survivors will be filled with shock and grief for days to come. People who have tried and failed to get word from their loved ones in Haiti will get devastating news in the coming days. Some lucky people will find out their loved ones did survive, but have lost everything, or worse, are tragically injured.

For most of us, we do what we can: we donate blood, write a check to the Red Cross or other relief organization. Still others who are specially trained, will be heading to Haiti to help the stricken people in any way they can. So remember the victims, the survivors and those relief workers as well as the search and rescue workers who have so much to do for months to come.

One thing we know: people are resilient. We find a way to start again. No matter how horrible the crisis, we dig deep and look to find what it takes to move forward. Bless the children, their families and all those stricken tonight.

Making Progress

Winter can be a dark hole. The daytime hours are so short. before you know it, you’re looking out the kitchen window into the black hole of winter. Now the holiday lights are just about gone, it feels as though it’ll be dark until the end of March when daylight saving time kicks in again. So, how do you get through these short days and long nights? Plan for something — anything. Maybe it’s a great work project you’ve been putting off or something fun like a party or better yet, a vacation.

It seems we always plan our vacations in the winter. It’s very smart, because we always have something positive to thing about and look forward to. Not only is there vacation to get ready for this year, but the launch of our unofficially named vessel, “Mid-Life Cri-Seas.”

Mid-Life Cri-Seas is wrapped up for winter

(Doug had better come up with a better name, because that one is really starting to stick.) I have promised Doug I will get my boating license so I can help him navigate the boat when he wants to water ski. That’s on the winter to-do list for the coming weeks.

I’m also on a mission to stay fit and gosh is that getting more difficult. It seems as though my body wants to fight me every step of the way, but I’m kicking and screaming back at my body every step of the way. My lousy left knee and funky right hip (especially the hip) want to ache and moan as I get on that elliptical two or three mornings a week, but I won’t give up. When I had some personal training sessions for a birthday present a couple of years ago, he recommended this sort of massage gizmo that you use to massage out your muscles. I pulled my quadriceps  last week and thought between that and my right hip I would be on crutches the rest of my life. Well, I used that massage gizmo and “poof” – my quadriceps is better and my hip is not bothering me.

What’s next? Well, the What’s Next Productions, LLC web site is finally up. It’s nothing fancy, but the basics of my consulting services are there along with success stories I’ve managed to carry out for clients in the past months. I also put up a What’s Next Productions Facebook page. Thanks to the “fans” for checking out my page.

Now, if I could only kick my craving for those holiday cookies I baked. Heck, I’ll just have some of that sweet cantaloupe in the refrigerator. Healthy means happy!

Are we ever organized?

Do people admire your sense of organization? Do they tell you they wish they could be organized like you? Bless them. From where I’m sitting, I need a wife; someone to support me and ask me if I have everything together and pick up the proverbial slack sometimes. I could use someone to back me up in keeping me organized. I just went through a lot of my Rutgers material in preparation for teaching the same course for the spring semester. I seemed as though I was organized, but now, I’m organizing my material even further. The good news is, I won’t have to create everything from scratch; From lesson plans to understanding the text book, now, the course is not new to me (thank god!).

I have a couple of piles (OK, maybe three piles) around my office. There’s the “pending” pile, the “to-be-filed” pile and the “I’m-not-sure-what-I-want-to-do-with-this” pile. Every once in a while, I go through these piles and do something with the material. Why is it that there is ALWAYS a pile?  Probably for the same reason I haven’t finished hanging art/photos up in my office. I’m waiting for the mood to strike me. At some level, I realize THIS is the way I work. If I have everything put away, it looks as though I have nothing to do, which is never the case.

I just found a note I made to myself to call someone who may need PR help. You see? Had I filed that note where it belongs, I would have forgotten completely about it. It just showed up in one of my three piles (the pending pile).

Today, finally, I published my basic web site. It’s up and running now and this begins my constant tweaking and revising process. It’s the same thing I’ve done with my resume for the past year. I update and tweak when I get spare moments. It’s also good to clear your head in between these intense writing situations. I have spent weeks agonizing over the web site. I decided, less is more. I needed a web presence and the site is there. I have a Facebook page for the business as well. (That reminds me, I need to put the Facebook icon on the web site — see, some tweaking already!)

In the end, we’re never as organized as other people think we are, but we’re probably better than most when it comes to getting through the day without a meltdown. Excuse me now, while I go hunt for the piece of paper I was looking for before I started writing this.

Birds Bust

McNabb: Is that all there is?

When will the Donovan McNabb era end? Number 5 is now, what, 9 and 7 in post-season play for the Eagles with not much to show for it. Certainly no Superbowl ring. Granted, I’m not one of the rabid, die-hard Eagles fans, but watching that do-or-die game against the Cowboys, should certainly be enough for the rabid, die-hard fans to realize McNabb is past his prime. Late in the game, he was trying to run for the first down when he couldn’t find a receiver (again), and he looked as though he could hardly trot off to the sidelines. There was no effort there. Perhaps he was spent, but he is a professional athlete with top-notch trainers, nutritionists and coaches. He’s been knocked around and hurt so much over the years, it’s time to say, “Thanks, we need a go-getter.” The sportswriters in Philly will have much to opine about. Andy Reid will take most of the blame, but the players are the ones who must execute. Today, all I can say is: 38 days until pitchers and catchers report. Woo-hoo!

Did I forget a day already?

January 6th slipped away. I did very well keeping a written log of business that I took care of yesterday, but when it came to remembering to blog. Duh! I did, however, have a V8 today, so my brain is back on track.

With all the business I completed yesterday, I had five hours blocked off to judge a high school regional business competition. I had judged a high school business student event at Rutgers-Camden last summer, but this is the first event of this kind I judged. The teachers are all overworked and trying to coordinate hundreds of students and dozens of judges. My guess is half of them were like me and stepping up to help for the first time. Organized chaos is the best they could hope for, and that’s what happened. When I was finally taken to the area where my category of business students would be judged, we were told they already had enough judges. But the teacher in charge said he’d be happy to work two of us in so things would move along more quickly. Turns out the five judges who were already there had done this before, so they side-stepped all the preliminaries and just found their judging area, which is why our section was overstaffed.

On to the students: These hundreds of students from throughout the Camden County area (and I believe into Gloucester County) had about 30 minutes to digest a business scenario. Some of the situations were for teams of two, other scenarios were for one person to solve. I had no idea what school the students were from or what grade they are in. Every student was dressed in business attire and looking quite uncomfortable. (I did notice something I now realize my mother was ALWAYS correct about: when girls are wearing a dress or skirt you MUST wear a slip under the dress or skirt! There was a lot of static cling going on in the cool, dry venue, and a lot of skirts were very clingy – and not in a good way. No lives were lost; no blood was shed.)

The students did a very good job at coming up with marketing and promotion solutions for their scenarios. I was a little surprised as I was working with students who had a scenario about a pizza shop that needed low-cost ways to step up its profile. Of the 7 or 8 students I heard from, only ONE mentioned Facebook, Twitter and My Space as a marketing option. Not ONE student mentioned a web site for the pizza shop. I was floored. When I came home, I posed the scenario to my 15-year-old son, who is NOT a business student. Right off the bat, he said the pizza shop could create its own web site and include a coupon for customers to print out. BINGO!

Now, granted, the students had just 30-minutes to come up with innovative, creative and doable business plans; they were incredibly nervous and as judges, we were perfect strangers to these students adding to the stressful situation. The best are going on to the state competition in February. We wish them well!

It was an honor to help both the teachers and the students.