Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A real mission that has nothing to do with mission statements

Last week, Jeanine Gajewski, my favorite reporter (other than my brother anyway) interviewed me about mission statements for an article she is writing for SmartCEO Magazine. What are your clients doing, she asked? What is their process? Do they find them effective?

Mission statements? Girl, I said, I haven't thought about those babies in at least five years and as far as I know, my clients haven't either. Mission statements went the way of swoosh logos (grace of God, people finally stopped asking me for swoosh logos ala Nike!) and three-word taglines (you know what I'm talking about: STRENGTH INTEGRITY TRUST... or... SMELLY STINKY MALODOROUS).

Mission statements were all the rage during the dot com days when companies bathed in money and paid PR consultants big bucks to examine their corporate navels and spin up carefully worded and completely meaningless drivel that they plastered on their websites. No one ever read that crap except for job applicants who dutifully memorized it and blathered it back to the jean-clad interviewers in HR. Eventually, during the much-needed redesign of the corporate website, I suggested to the CEO that company ditch the damn thing and that was that.

I jest. But I do believe that the silly days of PR and marketing consulting are over and that companies now insist on real-world value for their money. ROI is the name of the game and let's face it: mission statements don't return jack.

So don't waste your money on elucidating corporate values for a mission statement. Instead, figure out how those values influence your brand... and if your customers would never, ever associate strength, integrity, or trust with your company, give me a call. We've got some real real-world work to do.

Friday, April 25, 2008

My field of sorrow hard frozen


This morning I am finding comfort in my favorite poem.

SOMETIMES

Sometimes things don't go, after all,
From bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
Faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
Elect an honest man; decide they care
Enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they are born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
Amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
That seemed hard frozen: may it happen to you.

- Sheenagh Pugh

On her page dedicated to the poem, "The Dreaded Sometimes," Pugh states:

"It was originally written about a sportsman who had a drug problem and it expressed the hope that he might eventually get over it - because things do go right sometimes, but not very often... But it isn't anywhere near skilful or subtle enough and I would cheerfully disown it, if people didn't now and then write to me saying it had helped them. By the way, you might also care to know that I originally wrote "the sun will sometimes melt a field of snow" (the sportsman's drug of choice was cocaine). But I mistyped "sorrow" for "snow" and then decided I liked that better. I believe in letting the keyboard join in the creative process now and then."

My field of sorrow hard frozen has begun to thaw - my panic abates. Thank God for spring - the world's and my own.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another Great Depression?

Four dollars for a gallon of milk? Almost $50 to fill up my VW Beetle? And today there is a report that Thailand, like the rest of Asia, is restricting rice exports like OPEC limits sales of oil thereby driving up prices, increasing food shortages, and guaranteeing starvation.

I don't know about you, but this is horrifying. Someone needs to do something! But who is in charge? George Bush, the lamest lame duck of all time. Mr. 28-Percent-Approval-Rating has nothing to do but dance - over and over again. You never see Bush give a policy speech; the only reason he makes the news is because he struck some lame dance pose.



We're also victims of an unending presidential primary. I am not advocating for the coronation of Barack Obama; like Hillary, I think the votes for Florida and Michigan should be counted (how can it possibly be constitutional or morally right otherwise?).

But I don't care who wins at this point, as long as it is a Democrat who will get us out of Iraq in the next ten minutes. Why are we wasting billions of dollars on a horrendous situation we cannot change? We need an international Serenity Prayer here, people: God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. The only thing we change change is ourselves. Bring those dollars home. Now. So we can buy oil and rice.

Jesus, I'm depressed. Yes, this is the Great Depression. We should all be depressed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How do you eat an elephant?

Perhaps as a child you heard this riddle: how do you eat an elephant?

One mouthful at a time.

This contemplation is on my mind this morning. One day at a time... one step at a time... one moment if necessary.

In my quest to write and illustrate this blog entry, I found this lovely elephant image and the following prayer, which I most sincerely now say:

May Lord Ganesha,the leader of Shiva’s retinue,whose very thought ensures success,who carries on his shoulders the head of a beautiful elephant,who is a repository of wisdom and an abode of blessed qualities, shower us his grace.

Amen.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wacko pugs, installment 1

I once edited Wacko Pugs, an online photo album of pug mutts. I posted pictures of pugs who had been purposely or inadvertently been bred with some other sort of dog. For example, many folks like puggles, or pug + beagles.


Well, over a couple of months, my Wacko Pugs site spread like the flu in a February kindergarten class. People from all over the world visited the site and 99 percent of them thought it was great.



And there there was the other one percent who believed I was:

1. Stealing pictures of their beloved pugs
2. Making fun of their beloved pugs
3. Purposely breeding their beloved pugs with other dogs (?!)


So these numbskulls started sending hate mail to me and to each other. That sure whipped them into a frenzy, so they posted my site to the dog rescue message boards and OMG! They were a pack of ravenous dogs and I was the limping gazelle. They called me every name in the book and threatened my life and guaranteed eternal damnation and ensured all manners of punishment until I finally called uncle and just shut the whole damn site down. Which was really a shame because all it was was just a bunch of pictures of really cute dogs.

Being the contrarian that I am, I am reviving Wacko Pugs in this forum for your and my enjoyment. I'm going to post these pretty pooches when I get tired of pouting everyday and don't have anything nice to say (like today - like lately!). I hope they make you smile.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Remembering Michael Bjerknes

Today I mourn Michael Bjerknes, my friend, confidante, business associate, compatriot, and soulmate. He died Monday of colon cancer. He was only 51.

Michael was a giant of a man and of life. I've never known anyone with such a perfectly bifurcated brain. Half was devoted to the arts; from his early teens, he was an avid ballet dancer and served as the principal dancer in the Joffrey Ballet, among other companies. Agnes de Mille even choreographed a part for him!



The other half was pure business and technology. After retiring as a professional dancer, he earned his MBA from the University of Maryland and went to work as a business consultant. That's when I met him. I got a call from his boss to come in and talk about doing marketing for the small technology company for which he was working. He and I instantly connected - and were in complete agreement that his boss was a consummate idiot. We were wonderful pals ever after.

When that unfortunate venture inevitably went south, Michael partnered with his wife, Pam (also a retired professional ballerina), and founded the American Dance Institute. He called me as soon as they got started and asked me to build a brand. He gave me free reign and all his confidence. To date, it is still one of my favorite logos. Michael obtained a long-term lease on a building in Rockville and built an entire studio based on the periwinkle ribbon in the logo. It is one gorgeous building for a terrific staff that teaches dance and Pilates to dozens of children and adults alike.



Michael and I remained friends throughout. He was always a long-suffering business coach and offered cogent, free advice about how I should best run my business. We'd regularly meet for breakfast to discuss business, life, and love. He always had a patient ear and a kind heart.

When I left my husband and my life started to tilt, he understood. By that point, he was ill and had some perspective on his plight, I think. He told me that in all the time he'd known me, I'd always looked for validation from the outside. When we first met, I sought approval through money and success. Then I had the weight loss surgery and looked for validation from men. He challenged me to validate myself from within and to accept what he knew all along: that I was terrific just as I was.

I will never forget this.

Nor will I forget the companion conversation Michael and I had the last time I saw him in February. Wheelchair bound, he questioned who he really was since he was no longer the strapping, 6-foot-four dancer of his youth. If he'd lived his life through his body, who was he now that his body had deserted him? His sister had tried to reassure him that as long as he had his brain, he would still be himself. But I saw this differently. To me, Michael was Michael because of his esse, his soul, his being. You can't take those things away from him. His body is gone, and that magnificent brain has passed. But Michael will always be Michael. He lives on within me, giving me the approval I so badly need. How ironic.

My world is a sadder, smaller place today. But as I told him 400 times in the past few months, I love Michael Bjerknes. What a giant among men. What a blessing to have known him.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Before and after



Since I talked about my weight loss surgery in my previous post, I thought I'd post a before and after picture I've sent to some friends. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say. These photographs show my best friend and RA from college, Judy, and me five years apart.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Tom's sweater

I went down to Tom's on Friday and finally got a picture of him in the sweater I made him for Christmas. I'm particularly proud of this garment because it fits him so well. He's tremendously tall and has these crazy long-ass arms, so I was was afraid the whole thing would ride up and look dorky. Worried, I had every tall dude I know try it on while I was making it. Smart idea, because it fits him like a glove. I knitted it in Patons SWS which is strangely 70% wool and 30% soybean! It's nice and soft though.



It was a great day down in Southern Maryland, as you can see. I made dinner for Tom and Michael, creating to-die-for fajitas with all-fresh ingredients and homemade guacamole. OMG. That's all I can say, it was so good. Better than any Mexican restaurant by far. The only thing missing was the pitcher of margaritas. Next time...

Moose enjoyed his day in the country. I hope he didn't come home with fleas - I ordered the Frontline but it hasn't gotten here yet. Moose the Apartment Doggie likes being able to run around on Tom's property without a leash. I never thought he'd ever be a farm dog, but given how much fun he had today, I think he might like playing one on TV!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Congratulations, Brad!

I'm so proud to report that my favorite nephew, Brad Matthews, got straight As for the first time (in high school anyway). I've got three other nephews who have at one time or another been my favorite, but none of them enjoys hearing how much I love him as Brad does.

Brad is the spawn of my brother, John. I wish my mother hadn't died 30 years ago for a million reasons, one of which is that she would never stop laughing about how much John's kids are like him - a just revenge, of course!

Brad possesses an amazing intellect and a near perfect memory. You can't help but look at this kid and wonder where life will take him. He's pondering the sciences as a vocation, possibly genetics. I can't wait to see what he does in this world.

No matter how wonderful Brad's brain is, however, his heart is even more remarkable. He may be 14 but he's never disdainful of his adoring aunt, and I love that. I love him! Congratulations, Brad, for being both smart and loving. I am so proud of you!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Have you ever heard a pug say "I love you"?

Now you have!

A divine template?

I am the proud owner of a perfect pug named Moose. Or I should say that Moose is the proud owner of me, because he's definitely the one in charge around here.

I got Moose six years ago after my gynecologist announced that I not only would never get pregnant (despite years of expensive and fruitless fertility treatments), but that I also needed an immediate hysterectomy. Her nurse then suggested that my more-than-apparent misery would best be cured by getting a dog. I have three cats, I replied. She averred, "You need to get a dog."

So I did. Boy, did he cure me of any need for an infant. It was tough enough chasing around after an errant pug. What would I have done at 42 with a baby? Coped, I guess. But I still took it as evidence that sometimes God smiles on you and doesn't give you what you pray for.

Anyway, I love this dog more than life. He is my constant companion. During the day, he snores quietly beside me. He doesn't sleep on the floor like any other canine. NO... he sleeps up on an upholstered pedestal of a desk chair. What do you think he is, a dog?

Moose is a dog, but is certainly not a Moose, although that is his name. Which is sort of why I bring all this up. Today there is an interesting story out about an entirely new species that is somewhere along the evolutionary scale between fish and humans. It's got legs, my friends, and eyes that face forward like a person. It doesn't swim; it crawls.

And I think it looks remarkably like my dog - if you squint or something. You may not see it, but I think if you took away the zebra stripes and gave him some hair and removed his gills, you'd have Moose. Sort of anyway.

And then I started thinking about baby seals and how they look like Moose. What? Did God use a template here? I'm a designer; I know all about templates. It seems to me that God just adapted his pug design for other species. Cut and paste, make the change, save as. Story of my life.

As further evidence of my divine template theory, I think my dearly departed cat, Pachelbel, looked like an owl. See what I mean?