One of my greatest joys, and also one of my greatest sorrows, was liberating Mom from routine. Indeed, this experience might have been easier had she not held on so tight to the daily grind for so many decades. Most likely, this tedium is the ultimate backlash of aging-the longing for the ordinary and an often-fearful flight to the frenzy of new experiences. Things that had value at one time were stacked high in the basement and in every cupboard. Each called out to be set free-free to be re-purposed, free to be honored by someone else, free to be in the light, free to be enjoyed once again. The noise was deafening. A tough order of business, a project managed only by those who are bold and courageous. Fifty years of clutter and accumulation were banished from her kingdom within weeks.
I remember the day I walked into the facility. The residents were putting up the Christmas tree. The interior was warm and inviting; the staff friendly and in the holiday spirit. All the bells and whistles concurred that ‘this was Mom’s next place’. And so, it was.
In her new place, Mom learned to return to a minimalist lifestyle from her Depression era days: use what you have and enjoy what you have. Simplicity was restored. Mom had what she needed and a bit more to share on occasion. Yet, there it was: a prime-connection revisited to those who always had much more and much better-transporting her back to the high school mentality of ‘the pecking order’. Nonetheless, she learned that game but with a very different methodology. Her smile was genuine as was her concern for so many other Seniors transitioning into an independent living facility. Women had nice clothes, beyond the traditional sweat pants. Residents were well groomed, presentable due to the judgmental eyes of a select few. Indeed, some of the women went to a local clothing shop and modeled outfits for enjoyment but also to secure a discount. Mom needed a makeover in the clothing arena-to fit in. I began to frequent this same clothing store and both of us were delighted to find some treasures. Mom was thrilled with her new outfits and those ‘in the know’ noticed her attire. I coached her how to bring about conversation towards her wardrobe so that this simple aspect might gain her acceptance among her peers. Indeed, soon enough, Mom was the among the in-house fashion statements and truly, she enjoyed posing in front of her mirror in admiration!
Many of those clothes were left behind at her last place of residence for others to enjoy. Today, two remaining boxes were given to the consignment shop and a few remaining articles were given to a local nursing home. Full circle. The joy of giving these gifts to Mom has been revisited. For the last few months, these items were set aside in my basement, shouting to me and at me every time I opened the door. Each article of clothing was carefully reviewed, folded and boxed. Each item has been set free-just as my beloved Mom’s spirit has been set free and now lives an abundant life in the heavenlies.
I was gifted with courtside basketball tickets. I must say, the prime-connecting perspectives from courtside were impressive and rich! The game was tied at half time. Players entering in and periodically stepping off court to take the bench. The crowds were shouting, coaches’ voices were raised with their arms flailing and fingers pointing to identify best practices of each of their respective players.
What was most impressive was the reactions and the responses of the players from both teams, who lined up for the foul shots, each side of the basket, with every other member being an opponent. I listened throughout these foul opportunities which were not foul at all. Rather, opponents encouraged each other to make the shot and take the rebound! Several congratulated their rivals on plays well-done by extending their hands-a quick pat to the shoulder or backside, and then off to fight for the ball with the intention to score. Some had clear shots, making 3 point shots often. Others had that same opportunity, but passed the ball to another to take that very same shot. Additionally, coaches were making individual player corrections which were responded to with nod of respect and affirmation of the message received, with appropriate actions following.
Collaborative prime-connections demonstrated by both teams raised both scores to well over 100 points each and the game went into overtime. Although some players may have had more opportunity to score than others, each of the players’ names on both teams were mentioned often and no one name was mentioned particularly more than any other. Each player on each team shared the glory throughout the game, although both teams rivaled hard until the very end.
When I reflect on this example of sportsmanship, this is the kind of team I want to be a part of – at work and at play. Prime-connectors that value their team mates as individuals, know each other’s skills, cheer each team member on to success, and who share the loss together or celebrate the win together. Yet, this is no easy endeavor. Surely, connecting to this level takes coaching, practice, discipline and repetition, but what was most appreciated and evident by each player was the gratitude of being able to play a game each one loved.
Indeed, the love of the game was the prime-connector among all the team members which fueled all other these other positive behaviors. The courtside lesson I take from these players is: Redefining where my ‘love’ lies in any activity? And yours? When life gets muddled, revisit the former ‘loves’ of your life. Dare to get back into the game! Purpose will be renewed, new prime-connections will be made, old prime-connections will be made new, and joy will be restored. Take a shot-find your love of ‘the game’ again!
My sister sees me as ‘Wonder Woman’. Imagine that!
Truly, my life is full, mostly with educational endeavors with adult learners and with the care-taking pursuits of two elderly Moms. Although my profession is an adult educator, I find, my life these days is as a learner. As such, life take the form of a self-propelled boot camp with many forks in the road, few of which are pleasant. Taking the road less traveled , I become the leader of those yet to experience these life issues. One foot in front of the other, learning from these difficult life problem-solving opportunities, then encouraging those who are just beginning this arduous journey provides additional purpose.
Exhausting work that might be better equipped by embodying a super hero physique with great accessories.
Selfless work that is rarely recognized by others. I often wonder, to what end? When will it all end?
But my focus is not on the exact end time or place, but rather how it will end.
And the ending will be as best as it can be if I enact my superpowers to intervene and advocate.
Indeed, I have learned to behave like a super hero-one win, no matter how small, is a win.
Life issues are not resolved in a day. Rather, small victories are won daily through small well-planned actions, plans and to-do lists. Indeed, superheroes do not route out all evil in one encounter. Just as one villain is arrested, another crops up-more sinister than the last. Each foe is studied to create strategy towards defeat.
Nevertheless, superheroes also know their kryptonite. Superheroes rally other super heroes, discovered through taking the time to research and to develop these prime-connections before the onslaught. Fighting issues through working collaboratively with every super hero focusing on their best selves/skills as part of the endeavor, fuels the hope of success.
Action is applied, results are analyzed, weapons are identified and sharpened. The tool box for the next encounter continues to grow. Surely, we superheroes will live to fight another day, win these battles one victory at a time!
Are you waiting for ‘a sign’?
In Biblical days, people put out a fleece looking for a sign to determine purpose and direction. From my perspective, few truly arrive at a set point created by the self. The path is often not clear. People, places and things can either clutter, or can pave life’s pathways. For some, the road is decisive: full speed ahead! For others, life occurs with happenstance. Serendipity, or the road less taken, defines the journey.
Those of my prime-connections who are on the direct path arrive sooner; achieve their goals quicker and often times with more monetary gain. But, few stay satisfied. They wonder, ‘Is this all there is’? The serendipitously connected find joy in the journey but are left wondering, ‘Did I achieve my purpose’?
On a recent vacation, the plaque ‘Give the dream a wake-up call’ grabbed my attention. Is this a sign for me? If not a personal sign, then surely over 100 new readers to the prime-connections.com website within the last few months (without a new blog in several years) certainly is! I remember the dream I had when this site was created. The dream was to acknowledge, appreciate, and applaud the purposeful prime-connections in my life and to serve as a reflective guidepost to enlighten and to renew the human spirit of the reader.
As a major life shift is rapidly approaching, ideas of possible next steps are swirling about. This next piece of the adventure will embrace uncharted experiences at a new pace based on former familiarity. What are the next steps in the journey? Will I achieve my purpose?
My husband wisely advises ‘stay quiet and wait for a sign’.
As an employee of ‘The Premier Career College’, our students and graduates depend on the community to host them as interns and hire them as graduates. Outside academia, businesses and other entities depend on a multitude of marketing and public relations gurus to usher customers to their doors in order to stimulate, catapult, and drive sales. These entities can drive traffic through their doors, but cannot keep customers from returning.
What is the surefire vehicle for growth? Rarely is the vehicle self-promotion. There is no real power in the number of the alliances, but clout comes from the quality of relationships and the wiliness to connect others through experience. Instead, consider connecting through partnering. Partnering endeavors to produce mutually beneficial outcomes. Partnering with your community may begin in multiple ways: a phone call, a referral, a personal association, networking opportunities and meeting your next door neighbor. Building one trusted relationship is often the catalyst for another.
Relationship building is not linear, nor are the sturdiest ties built from ease. ‘Resurrecting a project from trenches of despair’ as a joint venture can build camaraderie and solidify the alliance. Partnering with others takes energy. It takes guts to experience the glory. Creating steadfast and sturdy associations often creates the willingness to collaborate on future ventures.
Build your community and sphere of influence one person at a time. Focus and grow your community deliberately. Those who share deep connections with you may become your best connectors to others! Watch your list of strong, cohesive relationships flourish beyond your imagination!
One of my graduates posted on Face Book that his father had undergone surgery hundreds of miles away and was having a very difficult recovery. I watched for my friend’s Facebook posts and messaged encouraging words of support for several weeks. Finally, his father, Papa Frank, was able to return to his hometown and we rejoiced! However, his recovery was short lived. Shortly another post announced that Papa Frank had passed away.
I attended the funeral Mass which was held in our hometown’s biggest cathedral. Upon entering, I was comforted by the peace of the church and the beautiful but profound aroma of abundant Easter flowers. It was a small gathering of family and friends. From the homily and from the stories from the grandchildren, I felt that I knew Papa Frank, but alas I had never met the man! These stories were outpourings of bittersweet experiences of a very robust life of an Italian immigrant. How strong were these bonds formed by taking the time to create prime connections through story telling! The grandchildren had never ventured to Italy, but through Papa Frank’s mentoring, cooking and storytelling, these youngsters inherited quite a legacy!
As the Mass ended, I was approached by another attendee. This person and I had a tumultuous relationship that ended badly. We chatted briefly offering and accepting each others’ heartfelt apology. Indeed, it had been 7 years since I had seen this person, but I had thought about this person and the situation many times over the years. What an amazing day! I went to connect with a friend in grief and I left without the grief of a relationship that went wrong. Connecting during an emotional time which seemed rather inopportune, created an opportunity for one prime connection to heal another!
Building a solid volunteer base is one of the greatest challenges volunteer-based efforts confront. Get off that roller coaster ride of prospecting, recruiting and retaining volunteers! Consider influencing participation through creating prime-connecting conversations with perspective volunteers on an individual basis by using the SMILE method: Stimulate, Manage, Involve, Lavish and Encourage!
Stimulate: Be enthusiastic about your organization! Share information and compelling stories about how the organization benefits others or how the association has benefited you personally. Ask the candidate why they considered joining your agency. As a leader, communicate how you can help the perspective volunteer meet their goals.
Manage: Most volunteer projects involve project management. Be honest about how much time and what skills might be required from the perspective volunteer. Create and furnish each candidate a job description of the required task or title of the position. Whereas volunteers often are very willing to share the time and talents with an organization, these same people appreciate organization and a fair assessment of what the organization requires.
Involve: It is wise to conduct a critical conversation to establish ‘good fit’ at the onset of the relationship. Does the volunteer’s skills match the task? Will the candidate work solo or with others?, Will training be required? Who will mentor or oversee the newbie’s progress? How does the volunteer manage their own time? Where does the person see themselves in your organization?
Lavish: Lavish means giving bountifully and freely of any good thing. Spending time with volunteers and giving praise are two things that all people crave. Be sure to see the volunteer in action often. Ask how they are doing and if any questions exist. Note their progress and give thanks for their support and involvement on a personal level and with group recognition events.
Encourage: Be open to listening when difficulties arise without going into ‘fix-it’ mode. Allow the volunteer to talk about the issue, allow them to offer creative solutions and empower them to move forward. Confidence-building, as well as skill-building, will help retain volunteers who believe their work is adding value to the organization. Happy volunteers often recruit others.
Take an honest look at the prospecting, recruiting and retaining efforts of your volunteer organization and make adjustments accordingly. Are you smiling?
Professional development is a great activity that spurs action. Often employees sit for long hours attempting to absorb best practices presented by key leaders. Participants leave with a full to-do list, promising to incorporate these nuggets into daily practices on the job site.
Making prime-connections through networking, connecting to the topic of the day, and planning for implementation is all well and good. At an all-day conference, the mascot from the Rochester Red Wings baseball team named Spikes, reminded me of how to spice up this long day of learning. Laugh, have some fun, joke around a bit! Do something crazy! Release creativity by letting all those brain chemicals connect with one another through laughter. Allow the prime-connections of ideas and learning strategies to morph into implementation through the sheer joy of silliness. Relax, let those innovative ideas flow. Inspiration beats perspiration any day!
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Prime-Connections: What is ‘Cindy Magic’?
People have asked me to define what I call ‘Cindy Magic’. Cindy Magic is the ‘thing’ that makes me unique or special. I just couldn’t put my finger on it until my grandson-want-to-be bought me a book from one of his school’s book fairs. The book is Cindy Moo by Lori Mortensen.
Interestingly enough, it was our special connection to each other and the partial title of the book ‘Cindy’, which spurred him to surprise me with both the gifts of the book and a private reading. Basically, the book was about a cow named Cindy Moo was inspired to jump over the moon after hearing the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle-Diddle read to one of the farmer’s children.
Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon!
The little dog laughed to see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon!
Cindy Moo thought that if that other cow could jump over the moon, then so could she! After several valiant attempts resulting in utter failure (no pun intended), she paused to rethink the entire problem. Then it dawned on her! Cindy Moo saw a reflection of the moon in a puddle! It was an ‘aha’ moment! She got up, gathered some running speed and jumped over the puddle and simultaneously, over the moon! She continued to ‘jump over the moon’ and then invited everyone else to do the same! Cindy Moo delighted in solving the problem and shared in the joy of her barnyard friends as they took turns jumping over the moon!
My prime connection with my grandson-want-to-be and his opportune connection of finding that one special book at a book fair was just a small part of the magic. The story of Cindy Moo solved my dilemma of how to define ‘Cindy Magic’. I learned that ‘Cindy Magic’ is my special gift for explaining complex concepts. As an adult educator, these explanations generate new ways of thinking, learning, and problem-solving.
Recently, at a job interview, I was tasked to create a presentation on the topic of Compton’s Effect or Compton’s Interaction, which is, in essence, quantum physics. Many believe physics concepts are beyond their capacity to learn. Other learners’ eyes generally glaze over with sheer boredom when the word ‘physics’ is mentioned. Instead, I likened Compton’s interaction with matter to a game of billiards commonly known as ‘eight ball’.
Thankfully, I had a pool shark in the shark tank of interviewers. The lesson was clever and thoroughly enjoyed by all! Cindy Moo brought moon jumping to the other barnyard animals. As an educator, I bring often difficult material to learners who have preset notions of abilities. Like the animals in the barnyard who would not even entertain the venture of jumping over the moon, as an educator, I make inspire others to take a risk, take a leap of faith, and just jump into a new adventure of learning!
Success is a ladder that cannot be climbed with your hands in your pockets.
Is this all there is?
Congratulations! I thought I had arrived! I worked diligently to complete multiple college degrees to help land my dream job! I believed that obtaining my Doctorate in Education would land a role in Higher Education that would be remembered as the crowning jewel of my educational and professional experience! I put in countless hours of study and preparation to be qualified for a great opportunity! Then the economy crashed! I found myself unemployed and underemployed! As I moved along in my new journey, I asked myself “Is this all there is?”
Taking Control of My Professional Life
Quickly, I learned that I am responsible for my own success! It was very difficult to create strategic and imaginative answers to the question “What will I be doing in the next 3, 5 and 10 years beyond?” This was a tough order when the economy was sluggish. I discovered that book-learning is very different than learning new skills! It was a scary and often overwhelming time! I also learned that by focusing on college studies and the job that previously held, had made me very vulnerable. Because I was so busy, I had no time to cultivate relationships! Many of my former prime-connections had move away, retired, or just plain vanished into thin air!
I looked around. There were many others in the same predicament! I joined several networking groups and began meeting with people for various reasons: some for comradery, some for support, and some to help create prime-connections towards identifying new career possibilities. I met so many ‘strangers’ who assisted me in my journey towards enlightenment and onward to career prospects. It was a truly humbling experience!
I created an inexpensive business card and began to trade them like baseball cards. These cards were my reward for an excellent networking opportunity and quickly my LinkedIn contacts grew. I began to create prime-connections for my new acquaintances with others I met along the way. Soon, these folks were doing business together and I found great joy connecting and promoting others as they promoted me. These prime-connections provided advice to improve or clarify next steps current role and these same people can provided both leads and opportunities that were quite exciting!
During an entrepreneurial pursuit, it was suggested to list all of the people I know and provide these people’s contact information. Fine. Then I was encouraged to contact them and tell them I was unemployed! Ugh! Lastly, ask them for leads and ask them to connect me with their prime-connections! On my list was someone I hadn’t seen in 10 years. I mustered up all of my courage and she hired me! Three years later, I have a different job, but I continue to create prime-connections everywhere I go as well as to pay it forward to those who are in need. I am much better prepared, more confident and much more skilled than I was when I first lost my job. Indeed, I took a road less traveled, and like Robert Frost said in 1920 in his famous poem The Road Less Traveled, ” I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference!”