Friday, May 31, 2013

Mrs. Harvey

Happy Birthday to my big sister Liz.  While we clearly don't resemble each other, I have tried to copy you for a lot of years now, mostly without success.  You have very special talents and are truly one of a kind!  I enjoy our phone convos so much and I look forward to celebrating with you this weekend!

Thursday, May 30, 2013


I received a gift recently from my DIL2B and I just loved the way it was presented.

Looking to wrap a gift in a unique way?  Take any square scarf that will hold your gift and create a gift bag!

Here's how to do it:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Card Me, It's My Birthday!

For this anniversary of my birth, I received many treasured treats and gifts and calls.  I love all the birthday attention and value the sentiments of the cards - a real gift on my 19,723 day of life!
Mom, MIL2B, Sister, Sister-in-Law, Daughter, Friend!

From my very cool bro

Surprise visit from VA and Lynnette
Goddaughter-sponsored coffee

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Day

Happy birthday to my original BFF - that girl I treasure more as every year whirs by.

I trust her thoroughly and depend on her and value her so much so that I've made the radical move (not one I've done before):  I'm not working on May 21.  It's my damn birthday and as my friend Virginia said, "No one is going to spoil you at work!"

I may have cried on my actual birthday, but since then, every May 21 has been a certifiable celebration, often driven by my desire to hang up the plans, the worry, the concerns - for just a day.  A day for me, to ponder the meaning of life, or a day to just let go.  More than cake and presents, I so enjoy the calls and cards and FB love - the reminder that I'm connected, that I matter, that someone has remembered me. 

I will get up early and quietly and hopefully do some writing and then start sweetly the day with my beloved, walking and talking and getting coffee.  I plan to ride the day away, doing just what I want to do, and not really caring for the constantly running faucet of email that is pouring in, not having an agenda, not being on guard, not being on stage.

For a little while, it will be all about me and affirm what I've always really known, in between my doubts and insecurities - I'm surprised it's not a national holiday, May 21, as it is the day that this pretty cool person I love came into the world.

“The cake had a trick candle that wouldn't go out, so I didn't get my wish. Which was just that it would always be like this, that my life could be a party just for me.”

Janet Fitch, White Oleander

Sunday, May 19, 2013


I've always like Brad Paisley's song, "Celebrity":

but I'm not really a celebrity-watcher and figure there are only so many hours in a day - I'd rather focus on real people, real victories, and my challenges.

Even so, I sat up straight, so impressed with Angelina Jolie's op-ed piece in The New York Times and also the subsequent published journal posting.

Each woman's situation is different and there are no wrong answers here, but having a celebrity lead the way in something other than fashion, something as life-and-death as health (unrelated to weight loss and fitness) is a major cool thing.  This pretty much wipes away any Brad/Jen pain she imposed, in my little book.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I'm Not Average

So I'm really enjoying my "Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle" class, and it is going well! 

My new favorite website, full of tips and tools, is here:

The first week we learned a lot about dietary guidelines.  These are guidelines that are updated every 5 years, and have been since 1894.  That's how much perspectives on what constitute a healthy diet are evolving.  The idea is that the USDA looks at the science and provides guidelines to Americans that promote health and reduces the risk of chronic diseases.  For examples, we learned a lot about protein, carbs, fats.  Baked goods contribute in a hugely bad way to fat intake, mostly in women's diets.  (Guilty!)

This week we are learning about food labeling.  We are focusing on the Nutrition Facts panel in an effort to better understand why things are listed, and why the order of items is important.  For example, did you ever notice that there is never listed a % Daily Value for protein?  The average American is not in jeopardy of having too little or too much.  Not so for

Did you know the average American eats 29 pounds of french fries a year?

Here's more info about food labeling:

Friday, May 17, 2013


In Kate's blog today, in her interesting person interview, RAKs are mentioned, as in random acts of kindness - as in, things we should try to fit in at least once each day!

It's amazing what a big aromatic handful of stolen lilacs, strategically placed as a surprise at the end of the day, can mean to a stressed out working girl.  Thanks, sweets!  And then, just when my spirits are swallowed up by a four-hour facilities meeting deciding induction loop zones and recording panels when I would rather be walking with my Friday friends, I am greeted back in the office with a surprise batch of my favorite herb, ever...sweet Basil!

Now it's my turn to give...hmmm...a random act of kindness.  I can't make a meal for someone in need tonight, I just can't, and I don't have the energy to help anyone in any big kind of way as this work day winds down.  Maybe I'll just focus on a smile, just patience and kindness, underrated and so appreciated.

Bathroom Bouquet

Basil Surprise

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Excuse Me. . .

Interruptions - I've been thinking about them a lot lately, in between rethinking my lists and attending to the many distractions that comprise the work day.  As we near the end of the fiscal year and the planning for new computers is really revving, more and more I see co-workers fighting the noise with headphones on and glazes intent on double and triple monitors.

Switch:  How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath - a good read that addresses, among many other things, the value we place on multi-tasking and how we should rethink our work.  The authors contend that if a change is needed in the workplace, we typically focus on changing personnel when really, the easiest way to implement a change is to change the environment.  When you go to the library, you very often, and automatically, lower your voice.  If you are at a concert, you join the throng of screamers.  You can use the environment to change behavior and the workplace is no different.

I've been thinking about how valuable it would be to institute quiet hours in the office, likeI had during school nights in the dorms so many years ago.  An established time dedicated to coding or concentrating - time that wouldn't get derailed by interruptions. 

This is a common practice in the airline industry.  Since most accidents happen during take-off and landing, the rule of the "sterile cockpit" dictates that no conversation is permitted in the cockpit anytime the aircraft is below 10,000 feet, either ascending or descending, unless it is directly related and necessary to the task at hand.  What if we instituted this in the workplace?  Maybe a quiet hour for the first hour and last hour of the work day.  Not only would we get more done, we might just get it done completely and accurately.

Switch is an interesting read that addresses the war between our emotions and our rational self,
both at work and at home, and demonstrates how to change our patterns to achieve results.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Nearlywed Game

We had lots of fun at the bridal shower hosted last Saturday for Kelly by Kate.  It was a treat to have people attend from Minneapolis, Dubuque, Bettendorf, Des Moines, and Chicago.  Kate devised "The Nearlywed Game" - a video Q&A (thank you iMovie) with the groom that, during the shower, the bride had to also answer - very entertaining!  Kate gave bath bombs as party favors to our dear guests as they said their goodbyes.
Even my apple tree cooperated

Cake and Candles poem gift from MOG

Sisters + Champagne = Shower!

MOB, Bride, Bridesmaid

MOB, Bride, MOG

Rank women!
With my beautiful mom and her punch bowl

Ring Bearer's mom with the Bride

Bath Bombs...from Lush

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Gifts

Honestly, this will sound really cheesy, especially since I consider my children as some of my most devoted blog readers.

But I can't stop myself.

On Mother's Day, my children always kick in with calls and cards and gifts and visits.  And every year, I want to give them something.  Truly.  What a gift their being is to me.

Parents are supposed to be children's first teachers, right?  I'm sure I was that, but seriously?  They taught me.  Again and again, they taught me.  I learned who I wanted to be by becoming their mother.

With parenting, I finally grew up.  I got patience and perspective.  It's fairly humbling when your little girl whispers, "Mom, be nice!" when you want to settle the score at the Customer Service counter.  It's fairly awkward when she mimics you and  you hadn't thought you even found your voice or learned your worth.  Her admiration, today, of me is palpable and slightly unwarranted but so very valued.

And with my boys, geez!  They so honestly and completely depended on me for all their basics, like food and fun.  They taught me that enthusiastic eating isn't gluttony, that running hard and beating out the competition is just good clean fun.  That being organized with attention to detail and being manly are not mutually exclusive choices.  That growing up a boy and being a man isn't a free pass, that it has its own challenges, and that those hurdles are different than mine, but real and constant.

On this day, I'm grateful for my beautiful mom and I'm so overwhelmingly emotional when I consider the blessings that are my perfectly wonderful children.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saturday Shower

It may be a shower, but these are tears of joy.  My thoughtful and loyal daughter, hosting a bridal shower for my kind and generous DIL2B, attended by my wonderful sisters and mother and nieces.  Not to gush, but it's just hard facts that I scored in the lucky department.

Sure hope there's dessert!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Steps to Today

Happy birthday to my very sweet stepson, Austin.  He has shown up here in this blog often.

When I think about my life's "wins" - Austin gets more than an honorable mention.  Yes, it's true, I met him when he was very young, only five, so that improved our chances of bonding.  He wasn't too baked.  And there wasn't another active mother in the mix, so that didn't hurt either. 

We all know that parenting works best when the adults involved are in agreement (duh!).  Raising five children together, Shawn and I had many hearty discussions and never left the closed-door bathroom until we were united on whatever the current crisis was with any of them.

I'm not saying it was always The Brady Bunch, but honestly, I also can't imagine one scene during their growing up years that couldn't have been recorded.

I saw my time with Austin, in the early years, as a vocation, not unlike getting called to religious life.  Like that - a lifelong choice with tons of sacrifices.  But I underestimated the joys, the juice, that would come my way.  I was able to avoid the step traps, like coming on too strong or bribing with gifts, because, frankly, that wasn't my role.  He needed a mother, not a friend. 

And that's what he received.  Overnight, almost, he got a stepmom, and stepsibs, and visits with his bio mom, but he also got a huge dose of good ole-fashion family time and values, mostly void of video games and full of structure.  On family outings, he was always relegated to the back of the mini-van, not because he was a step, but because he was the youngest.  But he also received the most love, the most allowances, the most privileges . . . because he was the baby.

Contemplating marriage with Shawn was easy, deciding to be a stepmom was much, much harder.  Austin, solitarily, decided I was a good thing, that this was a good thing, and for his acceptance and devotion I will always be grateful.  He recognized my stepmom sincerity and accepted it, and me. 

I had read all the books before we blended.  I was braced for the refrain, "You're not my real mom!" 

It never came.  In fact, just the opposite.  I can hear his confident voice right now.  "This is my mom, Jenifer, and she is my real mom!"

Thank you son.  I wasn't there 23 years ago, but thank you for letting me in for most of the rest of it.  It's been a true honor.  Happy Birthday Austin.  xoxo, mom

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Chaos and Opportunity: Friends for Life

The River is Wide, the Currents are Messy, but all the Water Ends up in the Ocean
- author unknown

Today I took a class called "The Driving Forces of Change" and it is one of the many staff offerings at the UI to keep institutional inertia at bay.  I spent the morning talking with strangers from other offices in other buildings in other places on campus and we all had one thing in common:  we want help with initiating and leading change.  Best practices for change management, I found out, can't really be put on a 3x5 index card and stored in your pocket.

It's a little more complicated than that.  People are involved.

When you want someone or something to change, you really have to look at the situation through their lens.  Consider what you are demanding people give up - their daily habits, loyalties, personal identity, ways of thinking, comfort zone, well as sometimes, control and power and their personal future.  Sometimes it's not this dramatic, but maybe that's just your point of view.

As a leader, you need to really reflect on the following four areas, from their POV:
1.  The benefits of the change (good part of changing)
2.  The barriers of the change (bad part of changing)
3.  The benefits of not changing (good part of inaction) - this one is huge!
4.  The consequences of not changing (bad part of inaction) - this can be a motivator!

People shy away from change for many reasons, but often because of fear, because there is no visible crisis, because we are stressed and busy.  Check, check! Guilty here!  Also, happy talk from management doesn't usually help. 

So how can you successfully lead change?  You have to recognize the key players who can help you with influencing the others.  Next time you're in the shower, think about:  Who are the champions around you?  Pay attention to "what's in it" for the people you need to influence.  And approach the inevitable resistance with this pointed question:  "What would it take for YOU to accept this change?" 

Change is scary and laced with uncertainty - so meet people "where they are" and acknowledge that they are probably focused on "What's in it for me?" and also "What will I lose?"  This is where the 4 Fs are important, so let this be your next meditation mantra:  Feelings First, Facts Follow.  Treat the past with respect while you acknowledge the other's loss.  Accept the grief that follows.  Give information again and again.  Mark the end and connect to the vision for the future.  And then, expect the chaos and see it for what it is - a chance to achieve something even better than any of you had imagined.

For more on this topic, as well as a plethora of interesting career development tools, go here:

or read this:

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Arts Fest 2013

Shawn and I strolled around Arts Fest this weekend...he liked the Metal Arts and Sculpture. I think the 3D printers and graphic design exhibits are cool.  Here are some of my favorite student posters: