The Coincidental Table

Mandarin

“If there’s no coincidence, there won’t be stories*.”
(*If Google Translate is right…..)

I heard the Chinese saying above this afternoon on This American Life. The entire show was about coincidences, and this particular saying (often said in a corny context but not intended that way by me) reflects the fact that a life devoid of funny, uncanny, or otherwise startling coincidences is a life whose stories are muted or nonexistent.

I have been peeling my Camp Gordon Johnston “onion” for several months now. (One of my life goals is to write a book about Camp Gordon Johnston.) After my “30 Days of CGJ” ended, I have kept tweeting daily about Camp Gordon Johnston. I am going through the unit rosters, tweeting the name of one soldier per day and sharing the tweet on Facebook, for example:

AlBassoAt first that felt like a very lazy approach: all I have to do is click on the roster, cut and paste the name, click “tweet” and do a screen capture to have a Facebook post. It’s not the most labor-intensive research that will take place for this book, by a long shot, but the five minutes I spend every morning on Edsel Lucas or Charles J. Smith or Leroy Tedlund (spelled Tidlund some places) bring them alive to me for that moment, and keep the memories of these men who rotated through Camp Gordon Johnston and served in World War II from completely washing out into the Gulf of Mexico.

One day when I added my day’s tweet to my Facebook feed, my friend Lea commented on the post (paraphrasing here): “Did you know our dining room table came from Camp Gordon Johnston?” I asked if there was a story behind it, and she graciously invited me to share lunch on the table and hear the story (side note: this woman makes a mean hummus wrap — she should be a Pinterest poster woman). Was it a coincidence that Lea saw my post and that led to the sharing of a story? Let’s go with “yes”!

I’m going to have to improve my data-gathering techniques as this book development process continues as my tendency to get caught up in the story leads to me neglecting any precision note-taking:

table notesBut the general point is: Lea’s table originated at Camp Gordon Johnston (the family’s beach house also sits on land that was originally CGJ property). There were four of these tables in all that came into the possession of her grandfather’s building supply business. The particular one that she owns came to her via an aunt, a long stint in storage, a close call with Goodwill as that aunt began paring down her belongings, and a frenzied drive to rescue it from a thrift store ending.

Table Green Pen

The Camp Gordon Johnston museum curator said she can’t find any documentation of this table in her database, but surmised that perhaps it was in a mess hall. With 8 leaves per table, I think her educated guess may be correct.

One thing Lea and I discussed over lunch was the fascination of “furniture with a story” (her NASA desk is a whole blog post unto itself!). I can’t help wondering:

  • Did Edsel Lucas reminisce about his hometown at this table?
  • Did Charles (Charlie? Chuck?) Smith brag about a girl waiting on him back at home at this table?
  • Did Leroy Tedlund fight as gargantuan a battle against his fear of the unknown from his seat at this table (or one like it) as he and his fellow soldiers would fight in the amphibious landings that lay ahead?

The number of Camp Gordon Johnston WWII survivors is dwindling, an obvious consequence of time’s refusal to slow down. I may never know from a first-hand account what was said, eaten, promised, joked about at this table.

I am pretty sure that the men who sat around it would be glad that a vibrant, happy, filled-with-life family uses it daily in 2014. This piece of furniture was clearly built to withstand a lot of wear, and seventy years later it may have a few scratches and nicks but it is as solid as they come.

Kind of like these guys…

1057th Engineer Port Construction and Repair

Credit: State Archives of Florida
Second row: Richard Thomas, Edsel Lucas, Wm. Edwards, Richard Mueller, Leroy Tidlund, Peter Hauser, Harris Boatwright.
Third row: Melvin Blackstone, Ray. Murphy, Chs. J. Smith, Edwin Caplinger, Maurice Franceau, Wm. Evans, Wm. Mikita, Warren Kelly.
Front row: Phil. Pritchett, John Gazdik, Chester Maciejewsli, Leonard Werth, John Nye.
Camp Gordon Johnston originally opened as Camp Carrabelle and was later named to honor Colonel Gordon Johnston in January 1943.
Back row: Geo. M. Esser, Phil. Karsted, Gordon Stark, Roy Briar, William Viglianco?, Merle Averill?, Geo. Kubik.

And that’s no coincidence.

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Southern Charm: High on Themselves in the Low Country

southern charm image

Who are these self-absorbed people and why should I care?

“These self-absorbed people” are the cast of Southern Charm, a Bravo TV docu-series that follows the lives of six Charleston singles who are from “aristocratic” backgrounds . When offered an opportunity to live-tweet the April 13 episode via Sverve and #SverveChat, I jumped at it. After all, I know the Cooper River Bridge (from running it); I’ve wandered the City Market a fair share of times. I’m no stranger to the best seafood, most beautiful architecture, and most delectable red velvet cupcakes ever!

These people, though, travel on a different trajectory than I ever have as a Charleston visitor.

They hunt (boars, for example), drink (from sweet tea to screwdrivers), and sleep with each other (not in that order).

Does that jive with my experience of Charleston? No, but I am now at the point in my life where I’m the friendly visiting aunt/godmother. These men in Southern Charm especially make me think of David O. Russell telling Terry Gross about trying to be a preppy kid when he was in actuality a scholarship “ethnic” kid at a toney private school. He said, “That [preppy] guy’s like down to the toes. He’s got the real thing going – like three generations deep. I don’t think you’re going to carry a candle to that guy. So then you give up on that.”

Will I ever meet these people on one of my forays into Charleston? Probably not. You’re more likely to find me in my Target/consignment ensemble, tagging along with nieces and nephews or poking around the Maritime Museum.

But for an hour tonight I had the fun of seeing the city through a different set of eyes.

Eyes which saw things to shoot, conquests to be made, rustic cabins to inhabit, and “lots of eggs.”

By “lots of eggs,” I don’t mean these:

eggs of many colors

I mean “Kathryn’s” eggs:

kathrynIn closing, one thing I was taught as a Southern Girl was to be discreet. I’ve seen and heard a lot of cattiness conducted discreetly but never have I heard a proper southern lady say, “She’s got lots of eggs.” Southern Charm is about a different breed of southerner than I am accustomed to but for entertainment value, say “bless your heart” Southern Charm and thanks for a fun hour!

Click here to visit Southern Charm’s website and learn more.

Sunrise over Marion Square -- Charleston (SC) July 11, 2012

 

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Lightening Up

Creamer

I have been drinking coffee with creamer for decades. View my twitter stream and you’ll deduce what a big fan I have been of Coffee-Mate Peppermint Mocha Creamer. When this creamer went from “seasonal” to “year-round,” I was one happy consumer.

Things have changed in my caffeinated world, however. I have been logging my meals on LoseIt (again — it had been a while) since February 27. I began logging my meals when Coach Kristie got added by Coach Jeff as co-coach. (Jeff added Kristie because he will face certain demands on his time and energy as he receives treatment for his prostate cancer.) I had had a block against talking nutrition with Jeff, for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons had to do with his virtually crystal-clear nutrition choices (no dairy, for one thing …. I couldn’t envision life without that creamer in my coffee). I also had trouble explaining the emotional triggers behind some of my eating choices. It’s not good or bad, it’s just one of the parts of my coaching relationship with him that had not gelled. In late February, I gathered my courage and started logging honestly and sending my logs to Kristie. She wisely didn’t say “oh my God you drink milk and eat a cookie before bed every night? NO WONDER YOU HAVEN’T ACHIEVED YOUR GOALS YET!”

Instead, she gave me honest feedback (much of it dealing with what I could do better, the things I was doing well, all undergirded by the understanding that food/calories are more than food and calories (if you’ve ever crammed your face during a study session just to stay awake, you know what I mean)).

That’s a very long way of getting around to saying … I haven’t had creamer in my coffee for weeks now.

AND I HAVE SURVIVED!!

More recently, I dropped the piece of sourdough bread I was having with my lunch every day (as well as the sodium-filled frozen lunches, which have been replaced by salads).

AND I HAVE SURVIVED!!

The great thing is, this is showing up on the scale. This lifetime Weight Watchers member (not currently at goal but still a lifetime member) is remembering what it feels like to be fueling my body more efficiently. That impacts my weight as well as my energy level.

I am nine pounds lighter. Research proposes that when you lose weight, you run faster. That makes sense to me. Losing your sombrero may give you an edge too:

cropped sombrero with text

What are your thoughts on the correlation between weight loss and running speed?

photo by: richmooremi
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Taking A Shot At Indifference

Measles Crying Child

Health worker Ronnie Tut prepares to administer a measles vaccine to 1-year-old Jessica María Pop, an indigenous Mayan girl sitting on her mother’s lap, at a health centre in the community of Sacanillá, in Cobán Municipality in Alta Verapaz Department, Guatemala.
Credit : © UNICEF/NYHQ2012-2218/SUSAN MARKISZ

I never seriously want a child to be as distraught as Jessica María, pictured. But the momentary discomfort of an immunization is worth it to keep a child from suffering a vaccine-preventable death. Through my role as a Shot at Life Champion, I am joining with other Champions in an initiative called “Advocate to Vaccinate – a Coast to Coast Challenge for Global Vaccination.” During Advocate to Vaccinate, which leads up to World Immunization Week (April 24-30), Shot@Life supporters in communities across the country are raising their voices to advocate for sustaining U.S. government support for global vaccine programs.

If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you have seen the basic facts of global immunization issues among my posts before. The most basic fact is this: Every 20 seconds, a child dies of a vaccine-preventable disease. (For more details about the global health threats of vaccine-preventable diseases, visit this link….) As I have said before, I know we face serious issues here in the United States, and those are not lost on me as I advocate for children across oceans. Children here on our shores, however, are affected by global immunization deficits. For example, there have been  106 confirmed cases of measles here in the United States since January 1, 2014.

I was struck by this passage from an article by Andre Picard that I read recently about measles in Canada. The article was an interview with Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance:

(interviewer) You visit parts of the world where mothers walk for days to get their children immunized and in Canada, where it’s easy, it seems [some people] can’t be bothered.

(Dr. Berkley) The difference is that in the places where they walk for days they’ve seen their children die. They know all too well how deadly these diseases are. Parents all over the world want to help their children. If Canadian women were living in a community where, God forbid, they would see the graves of small children who died of measles every morning, they too would be clamouring, they would be doing everything in their power to get vaccines. Here the problem is invisible.

Print

To treat a heavy subject slightly lightly for a moment, I am also a southerner, and those of us participating in Advocate to Vaccinate are engaged in a healthy competition to be the region that does the most (including in-district meetings with our congresspeople, letters to the editor at our newspapers, community events, digital events, and blog posts, to name a few). Honestly, I want the south to win, so I am giving it all I’ve got!

Andre Picard’s article was entitled, “Indifference Leads to Outbreaks.”  I would love your help in eradicating indifference and, ultimately, eradicating vaccine-preventable diseases. Here are some ways you can help:

Visit www.advocate2vaccinate.org for more information.

Join my Twitter party which is being cohosted by @PamLovesBooks (please!) Wednesday night, April 9, from 8-9 p.m. Use the hashtag #adv2vax: Amended Adv2Vax Twitter Party Logo

Become a champion yourself! Email champions@shotatlife.org for more info.

Advocate with your elected officials to continue support for global vaccine programs (they are a fraction of our national budget and they make such a difference). Shot at Life does most of the work for you! Click here to get started.

Make a donation. A $5 donation can protect a child from polio and measles for his or her lifetime. Donate via this link.

Yes, indifference leads to outbreaks. It makes me feel like this little girl at the top of this post. Join me in eradicating indifference in order to have a healthier world. Let’s give kids a shot at life.

three women

With my fellow champions (and Florida moms) Nicolette Springer and Sili Recio in Washington, DC, advocating for Shot at Life. March 2014. We want YOUR company!

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Books, Shams, and Beauties

Hello everyone!

My “main” post for this week will run tomorrow. It has to post on April 7 or later.

However, I haven’t missed a Sunday in years so will share a couple of quick updates and ask you to come back and visit my Shot at Life-related post tomorrow.

It was a frenetic week for the Spin Sucks Ambassadors and me as we supported Gini Dietrich in her efforts to get Spin Sucks (the book) onto the New York Times Bestseller list. We won’t know the results for a week (at least) but it’s so much fun to be “with”  (virtually, not in person usually) enthusiastic, energetic, bright people working together for a shared goal. Click here for one of the book’s many reviews (by Adam Toporek) or here for my Amazon review.

The proud author with her creation!

The proud author with her creation!

I also reviewed another fantastic book, The Idea Driven Organization, by Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder. Click here for my Amazon review of it.

idea driven org

The saga of the sham ended!!! Thanks to Linda MacLeod and several dedicated SteinMart employees, Tenley now has a completely matched bedroom linen set. Thank you, SteinMart!

sham

Tenley went to her Leon High School Senior Prom. It took everything I had not to come home from the send-off and post sappy, sentimental quotes all over social media, but I (mostly) refrained. She and her friends seem to have moved warp speed from elementary and middle school little girls to self-assured, beautiful young women. They all make me proud (and wistful).

TK Prom Solo

Senior Prom
April 5, 2014

 

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Tutus, BS, and Crisis Management (A Book Review)

monika tutu

Monika Allen (right) and her friend run as superheroes.

My social media stream was flooded Thursday (3/27/14) with the story of how Self Magazine offended a runner (Monika Allen) by putting a picture of her, running in a tutu, in its “BS” section which ridiculed the growing number of tutu wearers in races. Self had secured her permission to use the picture, but had not explained that the picture was being used in a piece that derided her choice. The final straw on the back of this ill-fated situation was the fact that the runner (who creates tutus as her business, Glam Runner) was wearing it as part of a Wonder Woman costume to demonstrate an intent to vanquish her brain cancer.

Having recently reviewed Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation in the Digital Age as a “Spin Sucks Ambassador,” (my review available here) I thought I would see what principles I learned in the book that could have made a difference in this Self Magazine situation.

To skip ahead to the “punch line,” Self wouldn’t be in this position had there not been a lack of understanding of the magazine’s mission among the staff who prepared the “BS” piece or perhaps Self simply didn’t have a clear mission at all. As Gini Dietrich writes when discussing the ways in which communication has changed:

“In the good ol’ days … every person inside your organization was trained to say the exact same thing when talking to anyone about what you do. Your customers believed what you had to say about your product or service because you were the only one telling your story. Now all it takes is for one person to have a bad experience doing business with you, and you’re finished. No amount of PR messaging can counteract that one person’s negative experience.”

It’s good that a staff member contacted Monika for permission to use her picture but what about the internal climate, mission, and vision at Self led anyone to believe that a runner would willingly let her picture be taken to make fun of runners who love running (in tutus, in fishnets, in military fatigues, in whatever the heck they want to run in?).

In the case of the Self/Tutu issue, it wasn’t just one person having a bad experience. It was one person with a legion of fellow runners racing rapidly and vocally to her defense. What could Self do?

In the chapter on Crisis Communications, Spin Sucks details tips for managing a crisis. Gini Dietrich writes, “When the media finds out about your issue and they tell your story, you almost always end up with a crisis.”

Act Swiftly I saw the story early in the morning of March 27. I did see an apology the afternoon of March 27 (maybe six hours later?). Although six hours is better than six days, the preponderance of coverage I was still seeing 24 hours later was the accusation, not the apology.

Address The Problem The first “clarification” I saw regarding the tutu crisis stated, “we didn’t know Monika was doing this for her health” (the original text ridiculed runners who “think tutus will make them run faster”). Ultimately, the editor’s apology was longer, clearer, and announced that Self Magazine was making a donation to Monika’s charity. The editor’s announcement itself was, I thought, well crafted.

Back Down When You’re Wrong Self was wrong with the choice to publish this picture, in this way, in this magazine. They did eventually concur that they were wrong. Time will tell whether or not their readership embraces that.

In Spin Sucks, Gini Dietrich writes, “Customers are now in control. They control how they interact with your brand, what they tell their friends and families about your brand, and even how they give you information about their experience with your brand. Sometimes it’s annoying , and other times it’s pretty enlightening.”

In the case of Self, a legion of worked-up runners rose up almost immediately to control the message: Ridicule a runner for her choice of costume, especially when she is doing it in support of the disease she is fighting (and when she is donating her profits to a good cause) and lose subscribers. Were there annoyed Self Magazine staff when the pushback started occurring (and the “tutu” issue was uniformly plastered all over their Facebook page)? Probably. That annoyance was a warning flag. Is Self now enlightened enough to avoid a similar situation in the future?

Time will tell. Self hasn’t cleared all the hurdles in this race yet.

Have you ever been responsible for responding to a communications crisis? What would you have advised the Self management?

4.1.1

Spin Sucks is available at Amazon (via this link) among other book retailers. If you buy the book by April 5, send Gini Dietrich your receipt (gdietrich (at) armentdietrich (dot) com) and you’ll receive free content such as eBooks and webinars)!

There’s also a great giveaway going on until April 5!! Click this link for the opportunity to win fab prizes including a 1 hour consultation with Gini Dietrich, a free webinar, and other Spin Sucks swag!

The proud author with her creation!

The proud author with her creation!

Note: I received advance galleys of this book for review purposes. The opinion here is all my own!

 

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Guts, Glitter, and The Birdcage

la cage banner

Over the past three weeks, I have seen Theatre Tallahassee’s production of La Cage aux Folles four times, including opening night and the closing performance. And I am happy to announce that I have finally figured out how to pronounce the title!

That’s enough, right? Goodbye.

…..just kidding….

I don’t know how I missed watching The Birdcage in my lifetime. Because I had not seen the Birdcage, the storyline and music were all pretty much “new” to me. I found myself repeating to people “I didn’t know there was so much life wisdom in La Cage aux Folles/The Birdcage.” It’s really not that complex:

RESPECT (Look Over There)

There is a point where Jean-Michel is explaining to his father the many disappointments of life with Albin as his other parent: the school shirt request that resulted in a blouse, the beatings from those who looked down on his parents’ lifestyle, the “lack of respect.” How many of us can look back at a time in our lives when we felt disrespected by someone who actually had only our best interests at heart?

How often is someone concerned
With the tiniest thread of your life?
Concerned with whatever you feel
And whatever you touch?

GUTS

I (as the Optimism Light) ended up using this lyric as a hashtag in a tweet congratulating Theatre Tallahassee on its sold out final weekend:

GutsGlitterThe only thing I would change is: I saw a lot of guts (not just a little) displayed over the course of this show. Actors who brought everything they had (and more) to the stage. Legions of people behind the scenes who brought the show to life. A storyline that reminds us that it takes courage to stand up for being exactly who each of us is meant to be.

We face life though it’s sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter;
Face life, with a little guts and lots of glitter.

THE BEST OF TIMES IS NOW

Admittedly, I have been struggling with embracing that this is “the best of times.” The demands of parenting, caretaking for an elderly relative, finding myself at a professional crossroads, and life in general have threatened to erode my usual optimistic outlook. All I can say is that four 2.5 hour shows gave me a total ten hours of powerful reminder that I am indeed fortunate to have the opportunity to keep forging ahead, and to remember that “now” is not something to take for granted. It is, for all its imperfections, “the best of times.”

Because the best of times is now,
Is now, is now.
Now, not some forgotten yesterday.
Now, tomorrow is too far away.
So hold this moment fast,
And live and love
As hard as you know how.
And make this moment last,
Because the best of times is now, is now.

I AM WHAT I AM

If there is just one thing I want my children to take away from a lifetime of being raised by me, it is to be happy with who they are, and to respect who everyone else is. These lyrics speak for themselves ….

I am what I am
I am my own special creation.

**

There’s one life, and there’s no return and no deposit;
One life, so it’s time to open up your closet.
Life’s not worth a damn ’til you can say,
“Hey world, I am what I am!”

Lyric hopping aside, a few more thoughts:

There may be other “show must go on” moments that I was not privy to, but I give the maddest of props to J. Brown, the actor who took over as Jean-Michel on less than 8 hours notice for the closing weekend. I know that can’t have been easy, but he pulled it off well. And displayed why it always is a good idea to be prepared to learn something on very short notice — you never know when your perfect opportunity may present itself.

Lastly, I am so thrilled that Tenley (my daughter) had the opportunity to work with this phenomenal cast, and the opportunity to hone her acting skills in the company of these people. The minute amount of acting I have done has convinced me that being in the company of others doing what they are passionate about is an energizing and affirming place to be. I have to admit that try as hard as I could to keep my mouth shut when I was seated next to someone I didn’t know, I usually couldn’t resist sharing “that’s my daughter.” Mom’s prerogative, right? Just proud and happy, that is all!

after la cage

Kudos to Director Naomi Rose-Mock, and all the cast and crew for a wonderful run. It may be a while before I can get this earworm out of my head … and that’s just fine with me!

cagelles

The Cagelles
Photo Credit: Caroline Sturtz Photography

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Getting (and Giving) Pneumonia Like A Champ

cropped pneumonia

Immediately upon approaching the registration table at the Shot at Life Champions’ Summit last Monday, I got pneumonia. Having pneumonia throughout the end of the summit on Wednesday afternoon didn’t slow me down, though. In fact, I was a party to the spread of pneumonia,  polio, measles, and diarrhea all over Capitol Hill before I left.

Perhaps I should explain. My “pneumonia” (above) is actually about 3 inches high. So were the other plush diseases we passed out on Wednesday. Each of them represents vaccine-preventable diseases that causes the death of one child every 20 seconds.

I have been involved in Shot at Life for a little over a year. As I told the congressional staff with whom I met on Wednesday, the first and foremost reason to become involved in this particular cause is that I am a mom. I am a mom who does not want any mom, anywhere in the world, to know the pain of losing a child. Secondly, over the course of a career in a State Child Health Insurance program, I have seen the indisputable cost effectiveness of prevention over treatment. Although my experience is domestic, the same concept extends worldwide.

I had the opportunity earlier this week to participate in the Shot at Life Champions Summit in Washington, DC. I stand humbled and incredulous at the depth of intellect, commitment, and originality of the 130 Champions who were present. We learned facts about global immunization efforts, strategies for succeeding as teams, and ways to approach our elected officials to advocate for sustained funding and support for critical global health and global vaccine programs.

Rather than regurgitating 2 1/2 days worth of material for you in one blog post, I’ll share this infographic for the time being:

Vaccines and Economics

A few closing thoughts for this post (although there will be more to come on this topic!):

Teamwork Is Good

I woke up in a panic Wednesday morning, blanking on the fourth of the four “vaccine preventable diseases.” I thought, “gosh if I can’t even remember the fourth disease, how on earth will I make a finely articulated and researched point to Senator Rubio’s aide in three hours.” With the exception of the visit to Senator Rubio’s office, I had other Champions with me. If something slipped my mind, Nicolette or Sili could chime in. It’s not necessary to carry all the weight solo. (And when I was solo at Senator Rubio’s office, there was a Shot at Life staff member with me who could have helped if I had gotten stuck and it turns out the staffer went to Ethiopia last year on an awareness trip so she was exceptionally well prepared to discuss global health issues!).

Different Audiences Need Different Messages

I suppose this is obvious. It’s true in every area of my life. But this training helped me be more acutely aware of the different angles from which an elected official sees an issue. Anyone who knows me even casually knows I am a causes/save the world kind of girl. But it takes more than that to convince someone who may need a more nuanced presentation than “it’s the right thing to do!” I focused on the cost effectiveness of global vaccination programs, because I know our elected officials face a constituency who wants every penny accounted for. I learned, for example, that the United States recoups our total expenditure on smallpox eradication every 23 days, because we no longer have to vaccinate against the disease.

Diseases Don’t Carry Passports

Our world is big and vast physically. We have institutional structures set up to regulate who goes where. Germs really don’t care about those institutional structures. That’s why the fact that there is still polio in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan means that we are all still at risk.

I learned more, of course: that my visit to my Representative’s office will be just a drop in the bucket unless I follow it up with a letter delivered to his district office (preferably); that there is a national security tie-in for immunizations (because extremists can take advantage of weak government health systems by providing health services themselves to establish their credibility); that most discussions of the need for global vaccine programs will take a detour through the current domestic trends which find families refusing to vaccinate their children because of misinformation they have received.

I learned that there is a place for me in the creation of a healthier world by encouraging immunization of children in developing countries.

I learned that when you hand a little plush polio, diarrhea, measles, or pneumonia to a legislative staffer that everyone may giggle but no one will walk away uninformed.

A few pictures of my time at the champions summit:

dennis ogbe

Dennis Ogbe is a Paralympian, Polio Survivor, and UNICEF Polio Advocate

three women

We were told we’d be more effective if we “sounded like a team.” That team thing came together pretty seamlessly; these fellow Florida moms (Nicolette Springer and Sili Recio) rock!

I find it impossible to be cynical at times like this.

I find it impossible to be cynical at times like this.

 BUT it is important to remember the goal, protecting someone like this:

Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson

Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson

Do you have an interest in getting involved? There are many ways to be a part of Shot at Life:

Website:     www.shotatlife.org

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/shotatlifecampaign

Twitter:       @shotatlife

Fund polio vaccines by running, walking, cycling using the Charity Miles App: www.charitymiles.org.

Become a champion by applying at:  http://shotatlife.org/about-us/champions/.

Yes, we all chuckled a bit as we bid goodbye to the aides at the offices of Senator Rubio, Senator Nelson, Representative Southerland, and Representative Grayson (Sili/Nicolette) and “gave” them polio (in the form of a 3 inch piece of fluff). But the lack of access to life saving vaccines and immunizations against some of the most deadline diseases that children throughout our world face is no laughing matter.

Instead of “giving” them polio, measles, pneumonia, or diarrhea, let’s give them a Shot At Life.

Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson

Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson

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For This Customer, A “Sham” Would Be Relevant (A Book Review)


blasingame

Jim Blasingame has news for businesses: it’s a new age in the business world. Control in the marketplace is shifting from the seller to the customer. In “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance,” Blasingame stresses that timing, access, and convenience are prime relevance expectations in the new customer-driven age.

In January, I received an item I had ordered from a retailer. Well, I didn’t receive the item I had ordered. I had ordered a pillow sham and ended up with a throw and socks. The package included this lovely note from the CEO:

steinmart

Although I am grateful for the note, I’d be more grateful to get the right product, and this vendor’s timing, access, and convenience have been lacking.

The Email Exchanges with SteinMart

1/13/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

Questions & Comments:  I received an entirely different item than the one I ordered (I ordered a pillow sham and got a throw/socks) :-) . I would like to get the item I ordered originally, and can I return the throw to my local Steinmart (b/c I don’t want to spend $7.50 to ship it back to you …..). If you could let me know how to handle, I’d surely appreciate it!! Thanks.

1/14/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Dear Paula,

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the recent difficulties you have experienced with your order 0004100004687701.  A prepaid return label will be sent to your email address within 48 hours, so the throw may be mailed back at our expense. Please print this label out, and affix it to your package. Items can be returned online for a refund within 60 days from date of purchase. Once received by our warehouse, the credit for the order will be issued back to your PayPal account within 5-10 business days.

In order to receive the Luxury Sham – King, a new order will have to be placed. We will be more than happy to provide free standard ground shipping on the reorder. to take advantage of this offer, please contact us at 888-STEINMART (888-783-4662) for assistance with replacing the order. We are available Monday-Saturday 8:30AM-Midnight EST and Sunday 12:00PM–9:00PM EST for your convenience.

Unfortunately, the land based store will not be able to accept the return for the throw due to the item not being on the invoice.

Again we would like to apologize for any inconvenience you have experienced. We greatly value all of our customers and look forward to our next opportunity to serve you.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

This is not a pillow sham!

This is not a pillow sham!

1/31/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

I appreciate your help.

However, I am still having difficulty.

I got the prepaid label so I will return the throw for credit — thank you.

However, I can no longer find the sham I originally ordered online.

Can someone check and see if it is still available somewhere?

I know this is kind of a “first world” problem but having a complete set was important to my daughter; it was the main part of her Christmas gift.

Thanks,

Paula Kiger

2/1/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Dear Paula,

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

We apologize again that you did not receive the sham you ordered from order 0004100004687701. Unfortunately, we are sold out of that sham on our site. We regret that we cannot check store inventory, however you can have a local store check for you. Please click the link below to view our store locator.

http://www.steinmart.com/storefinder

Our retail stores can check the inventory of all Stein Mart stores for the item you are looking for through their merchandise locator. Our retail stores also have the ability to bill and ship most items directly to you.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

2/1/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

Guys, I am sorry to be a smart aleck about this because again, I know it’s a small thing in the scheme of things but of course I know where my local store is (so I don’t need the store locator) – the whole reason I ordered the sham in the first place is because it was not AT my local store — where we went ahead and bought the rest of the set.

Thanks for the help; I wish I could say I was very very pleased but I’m honestly not at this point.

But I do appreciate the prompt response.

Paula

2/1/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

We apologize that we did not have the information you needed regarding the sham. Unfortunately, we are not able to check store inventory, as they use a different ordering system than the online store. If the item is not available at the local store, they can check all of the stores, nationwide, to see if any store has it. They can then place the order for you and have that sham sent directly to you.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

Subsequent Activity Post 2/1/14:

I did call my local store (Tallahassee). They were very helpful and gave me phone numbers of several stores that appeared to have the sham still in stock. I called a store in Jacksonville and the representative asked me several times what color I wanted (I replied that it is only available in one color, and what that color combination is). The representative kept asking about the “Mandala” sham and I kept repeating “Magnolia.” I eventually came to the conclusion that they didn’t have it. Then I tried the Ocala store but it appears to close around 8:30 p.m. so I couldn’t speak to them. Then I gave up, returned again to the state of having no time to resolve this, no access to the solution, and the utter inconvenience of having to make all these calls myself.

Is this a routine customer service gone wrong story, or is it an example of the switch Jim Blasingame describes from the age of the seller to the age of the customer? I still have to believe Steinmart can send an email blast to all their stories to see who has this in stock (technology) and combine that with old fashioned customer service to delight me and maintain a forever customer. That would be a highly relevant solution, if you ask me.

Jim-Blasingame-Headshot-243x300

 

Jim Blasingame is one of the world’s foremost experts on small business and entrepreneurship, and was ranked as the #1 small business expert in the world by Google. President and founder of Small Business Network, Inc., Jim is the creator and award-winning host of The Small Business Advocate® Show, nationally syndicated since 1997. As a high-energy keynote speaker, Jim talks to small business audiences about how to compete in the 21st century global marketplace, and he talks with large companies about how to speak small business as a second language. A syndicated columnist and the author of three books, including Small Business Is Like a Bunch of Bananas and Three Minutes to Success, which have sold almost 100,000 copies combined; his third book, The Age of the CustomerTM, launched on January 27, 2014.

**I was provided a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

EPILOGUE:

The sham was delivered to me on March 31! Here’s my Facebook screenshot thanking Steinmart!

sham

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3.57 Miles To Remember Our Heroes

Five Hundred Miles.

Five Hundred Miles in Nine Months.

The “500 Mile Runniversary” of my relationship with Gareth, the child I run for through I Run for Michael, will happen on Thursday.

And on Thursday, Gareth and I will be doing a run “together.”

Here’s the bib:

run to remember bib

On Thursday, I am running my “usual” run as assigned by my coach. The run will probably be somewhere between 4.5 and 5 miles, but 3.57 miles of that run will be heroic (not my heroism, someone else’s). I’ll be:

  • Crossing the 500 mile mark for Gareth
  • Running the virtual “A Run to Remember,” which honors the memory of our fallen military heroes
  • Accruing miles for the ASPCA via Charity Miles in accordance with Matthew England’s love of animals (Matthew is specifically one of the fallen heroes who is being remembered)
  • Running “with” Gareth even though we are separated by many miles and state boundaries (look! it says it right on the bib!)
  • Running as number “357,” a number chosen by Gareth in honor of his dad
  • Helping build the Matthew J. England Memorial Scholarship Fund via my entry fee

Having grown up a military kid, and having the interest in World War II that I do, as well as a true concern for the treatment our veterans receive, I can think of no better way to celebrate Gareth’s and my 500 mile mark than honoring our fallen heroes. At Charity Miles, we have a habit of saying #everymilematters. No time has that been more true than when the miles are run by more than two feet and more than two hearts.

For more information on Matthew England, please visit this link and this link.

AND it’s not too late to join the virtual 5K/10K/Half Marathon (or, in my case, 3.57 miler!). It ends on March 16 (kind of ….. the organizers would be happy to accept your $15 donation at any time as well as your miles!). You can get all the information you need by clicking this link.

Lastly, on the virtual races for heroes front, there will be other events in the future. According to Matthew England’s mom, some people who are going to be running in April, maybe near Matthew’s birthday. The 2nd Annual Matthew J. England Memorial Run will be held this year in November again; it is held in Matthew’s hometown but people can also run anywhere (last year’s event had people in 15 states and also Afghanistan and Germany).

Okay, Gareth, get out your virtual safety pins. We have work to do on Thursday. The ASPCA, Matthew’s Mom, and families of many other soldiers who deserve to be remembered are counting on us. At least 357 of them!

matthew england

Pictures of PFC Matthew J England

 

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