Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Camping Trip Day 1

Friday, May 27th Part I

It was either the dumbest thing I'd ever done, or the bravest. 

I had signed us up to go camping with my girls' newfound group of friends from Sarabande, a reasonably priced, not-at-all snooty horseback riding school.  

The operative word here is camping.  I had never been camping.  

Two crucial family members would be absent:  my oldest son with years of Boy Scout skills under his belt - including camping.  He is thirteen, full of teenage angst and feels everything his siblings say, do, or even think is embarassing.  The younger siblings, tired of his eye-rolls when they did anything silly, were perfectly happy to go without "Squidward".  It was my husband's absence we all quietly worried about.

I am fortunate to have a husband with the patience of Job.  With our family, he needs it.  But, sadly, he had to work Sundays so weekend trips of any sort are virtually out of the question.  "Job" also had the camping experience from going with Squidward.  He also posessed the required tent assembly skills that I lacked.  He patiently tutored me through the process while my youngest daughter videotaped on my iPhone in the event I couldn't figure it out.  My youngest, "Blondinchka" narrated, explaining what she thought I was doing and noting how different it was from what Job explained.  Later, she turned the camera on herself and said matter-of-factly "we're going to die."

My younger daughter, Blondie and her older sister, "The horse whisperer" took lessons at Sarabande most Saturdays, and we were meeting up with a group of other barn moms and their daughters similarly obsessed with horses.  I had tried for months to get my youngest son to go, as he loves animals.  I think horses are too big for him.  He likes animals he can hold.  The only way I could persuade him to go camping with us was to tell him about the pond at the campsite that had frogs in it.  "Frogboy" was game.  And so, together, the four of us, completely inexperienced campers drove north toward Prescott, the car groaning under the weight of every camping accoutrement we could think of.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Audience Cultivation

When it comes to social media, there are two things a small business owner, practice or non-profit must take into account:

1.  Are you a host or a guest?

2.  What do you want to give and receive from the exchange?

First, a social media presence you are nurturing is like hosting or going to a party.
If you are the host, it is your job to fetch your guest the proverbial drink, (needs assessment) introduce him or her to someone who they would enjoy knowing, and touch base with them from time to time when you find other like-minded individuals to acquaint them with (who have different levels of experience with your brand).  This gives roots to your audience and helps you know who your influencers are so you can give them extra love.

If you are the guest at the party, your role is to be the most fascinating person in the room.  Say very little, but see if you can pick out positive energy people who are not affiliated with the brand.  Ask them questions.  Thank them for their insight.  Make them feel as though they are the most fascinating person in the room.

Now, as for goals, before we go anywhere, repeat after me:   "I will not be obnoxious on Social Media and alienate my Friends, Fans, and Followers.  Social Media shall be consensual with my customers and prospects & is to be used for their benefit."

Next time: Goals.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Bridal Affair

The Arizona Daily Star just hosted its twice annual fair featuring products and services for couples planning weddings and for families planning for their daughters turning 15, a 'quinceniera' which is like a southern cotillion.  

As I am new to the Star, this was my first up close and personal experience, which was a nice change from two recent events which had rocked our collective worlds:  on Thurday, January 6th, our VP of Sales resigned, and two days later, six people were gunned down in the worst mass shooting in our town since...well, I'll have to check the news archives.  Shootings in the old west were a hazard of the locale, as were stage coach robberies.  We will be covering this all year in our centennial celebration events.  (More on that later.)

Today was a balm of healing, a day meant for joy.  Nervous brides.  Overprotective fathers.  "Yes, Dear..." from the fiances.  So many decisions.  I tasted so many cakes my sweet tooth ached.   I saw so many limos I thought I was at the Oscars.  And I remembered as we planned and financed our own wedding, hopelessly in love, poor as church mice, having no idea that happily ever after would exceed our wildest dreams.  Not the way we thought when we first got married, but through our kids, the greatest joy in the world.   To get to 'Happily ever after' there were bumps in the road, detours we didn't plan, and it couldn't be rushed.  But 'Happily ever after' can be if you just let it...be. 

My job today was assisting the models in the dressing room.  SpeedBrides!  For the pre-fitting,  I helped them choose their gowns, adjusted them with pins if they were too large, took photos for their moms, and befriended many of them.  During show time, I unzipped/zipped them while they balanced on one stiletto heel and held onto me for dear life so as not to puncture the silk train and undo the elaborate veils.  One beautiful blonde from Scottsdale had just broken up with her boyfriend and vowed celibacy for a year and just treat herself right.  Well spoken and very intelligent, she set a goal for herself to write a best-selling novel.  I believe she'll do it!  Another Latina beauty, somewhat more experienced and with an artistic spirit, clearly covered her bases with a number of jobs and skills.  She clearly took nothing she has been given for granted.  I admired her work ethic and fortitude.  Another 19 year old Nicole Kidman look-alike (I swear she must have been a size zero) was majoring in psychology and minoring in marketing.  We talked about sales - she is interested in pharmaceutical sales because it is a recession-proof career with good benefits.

We had two shows, one hour each, three hours apart.  Each dress was more beautiful than the last... But the last ones for some reason weren't as comfortable and the models were in a frenzy to get them off, taffeta and sequins flying, tiaras and hairdos now hair don'ts, stilettos swapped for flip flops, and comfy sweats donned for the ride home.  I turned around... Where had my models gone?  My impish teenagers and twenty-somethings stood with duffel bags over their shoulders, grinning sheepishly.  It was hard to say goodbye.  So, we whipped out our cellphones, connected on facebook, exchanged hugs and kisses and they were gone.  

I thought about every one of them as I drove home.  These weren't empty-headed beauties who only had their looks to provide them with a career. These were formidable young women who will be running the world someday.  It's comforting to know our future is in such beautiful, capable hands.  I just want to thank their moms and mentors who raised them up to be such exemplary role models.  If you could have seen the way they carried themselves backstage and in public, they would have made you proud.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

When the kids came to visit the paper

It's a slow-ish day here at the Star (it feels SO much better to call my work by the brand everyone knows!).  Everyone's off tomorrow, the ad insertion deadlines have passed, so those of us on duty are simply here getting ahead for next week (also will be slow).

I invited my husband and kids to come down for lunch in the cafeteria.  This is the second time they've visited.  There are so many cool things for them to see and experience - the presses running, the art department ("This is where art HAPPENS!" squealed my daughter, the artist.  And, of course, the newsroom, where you can feel its very pulse. 

We were lucky to run into a reporter friend of mine.  I've known him since I was in high school and he had a profound impact on the course of my life, by virtue of his being in the right place at the right time and taking me seriously about a story.  Doug Kreutz is his name.  He's tall, lanky, older and writing as much as he ever was.  He's less hard news and more features now.  Today he was writing a story about easy hikes in the Tucson area.  The kids got to see his story and photos.  He told them it will be in this Sunday's paper.  They were awestruck.  We also got to meet the newly appointed editor, Bobbie Jo Buel.  My oldest daughter commented loudly after meeting her that "I didn't know ladies got to be the BIG boss!"  Oh, my...  I worked with Gloria Steinham back in the day at AOL, and we got "Take our Daughters to Work Day" off the ground online.  Looks like I may need to do that here as well.

I was hoping to run into Dave Fitzsimmons.  He is our paper's award winning cartoonist, and has a wicked sense of humor and talks like Robin Williams on crack.   He wasn't in, but I know my youngest son would have wanted to be his best friend.  Dave is so important to our paper's brand, and is a great ambassador for news with the younger generation.  His personable demeanor and high energy level makes you want to drop everything and join the circus paper.

Between the press room, the art department, the news room, the technology support and development, and advertising and marketing, there is something to appeal to each of my kids.  I love that they can all envision themselves working here.  Maybe I will have fourth generation newsies after all...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Virtual Focus Group - for Southern Arizona parents

Ok, moms. Here's your chance. I got the green light to develop a product for moms in Tucson. Next week I am hosting four focus groups. Here are my demographics:

- New and first time moms
- Moms of multiple children
- Moms of special needs children
- Single moms

Bear in mind that we can utilize online and mobile applications (possibly print) as distribution vehicles and have the entire driving radius of your house to work with, along with the finest minds on it. (Yours!)

No wrong answers.


An all-hands meeting: a change in leadership

I think, in some respects, my eyes may be bigger than my stomach.  I've taken on a lot of things that may be above and beyond the job description, and smaller things keep getting pushed to the back burner.  Long story short, but something I considered small didn't get address fast enough, but it turned out to be a very big deal to someone else.  It was apparent I hadn't connected the dots, and I had egg on my face in front of a client.   

If you have a job in sales, it's easy to prioritize.  If there is money attached to it, do it.  The amount and the effort to get it should determine where the task falls on the priority list.  Low-hanging fruit first, keep the big deals cooking, and handle everything else when and if your boss reminds you about it.  Hopefully, if she's a good boss, she'll see your cash cow potential and remove obstacles, cheer you on, with course corrections as needed.

Today, I sat down with my boss and 'fessed up that if I had to grade my performance as of late, it would be 'needs improvement'.  I'm over the honeymoon period when I didn't know how much I had to learn.  She affirmed my strengths, confirmed my areas I said needed improvement, and, once again, reminded me I'm still learning.  I confessed I had thought that, compared to other challenges I'd faced, this would be easy.         

On a positive note, a new CEO was promoted from within, and his first act was to appoint a very deserving woman to Editor/Publisher.  I think so highly of them both.  I can't think of a time when I had more respect for people at all senior levels across an organization.  It really makes me want to aspire to their vision and makes me proud to work here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A chance to breathe

I have been neglecting you, dear readers.  I have not even had time to come up for air.  9 to 5 really amounts to 7 to 6:30, and whatever time I have left I try to spend in precious allotments to each of my children.  My husband has been gracefully, adeptly taking up the slack I am evermore conscious of, and I thank him and try to show my appreciation.  He is a rock and a saint and I could not do this without him.

My email is backed up, 3 accounts worth, Christmas cards yet unwritten, presents ordered by Amazon.  Calls I need to make, friends I've neglected, organization projects in disarray pile around me like old newspapers.

I need to breathe.   My husband is off with the kids next week, and he suggested we go to our cabin for a few days.  So, we packed up, drove through the high desert and forests to the Mogollon Rim, and arrived close to midnight at our cabin in Pinetop-Lakeside.

I awoke to 6-story tall Ponderosa Pines dusted with powdery snow after the best sleep I've had in years.   The air is chilly so we congregate around the fire.  The dogs pile on the kids, each being grateful for the other's warmth.  We consider the options of the day's activities, but already I can tell it will be a lazy day with time stretching in all directions.  Perhaps it is something about the old trees, which make me feel child-like and feel more than I reason.  Distances challenge me here.  I am always surprised by how long, how far, and how slow a walk can be.

2 or 3 summers ago, before I resumed my Russian degree and Peter was finishing his Master's degree, we took the kids and had the luxury of staying here for the whole summer.  The kids learned how to bike, fish and swim in our town which some say is like "Mayberry".  It was the most beautiful time of my life, and whenever I am stressed, I return here, if only in happy memory.

I think about the tradeoff of time vs money.  How much we give up of one to have the other.   I realize, sadly, that our blossom time as a family is behind us, and now we are, each of us, caught up in the schedules and musts as we race toward our respective futures.

But here in our lovely cabin, time stops.