Storytelling Through Songs

September 24, 2009

Tuesday evening as part of a MeetUp for a local writers’ group, I had the opportunity to listen to Amy Kelly, reporter for Amy has a very positive and energetic demeanor, and she uses words like “passion” and “fired up” to describe her motivation for writing, especially for writing about music. She shared a piece she wrote from a recent interview with jazz musician Lonnie McFadden, which appeared in the September 23 issue of  If it’s not clear in the article, Amy was genuinely impressed by Mr. McFadden and his stories about his life as a musician.

Sometimes the most pronounced differences between the generations are in the soundtracks of the time and place in which we are born and come of age. At times, however, music brings generations together to celebrate a shared appreciation and understanding of the craft of storytelling through song.


Working on My EQ

September 4, 2009

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last blogged. This month I’ve been busy coaching and conducting assessments and debriefing on emotional intelligence and personality type, two of my favorite topics. I’ve also been busy consulting on assessments and test construction for a large corporation.

This afternoon I found my way to a small and comfortable neighborhood coffee shop, with jazz playing in the background. It’s one of those rainy days in Kansas City. My hot ginger lemon tea tastes wonderful and has helped to motivate me to pick up with blogging again.

I love rainy days like this where it’s not so cool outside that a jacket is required. The rain is more than a trickle and far less than a torrential downpour. I have some time to think about the events of the past month, to just reflect on my experiences debriefing emotional intelligence assessments to individuals.

I’ve administered and debriefed on the BarOn Emotional Quotient Inventory (BarOn EQ-i). Among the five scales measured by the BarOn EQ-i is General Mood, which encompasses Optimism and Happiness. What happens when an individual’s results return showing low optimism and happiness? Some people are surprised by their results. Others are not and tend to agree and self-validate the assessment results. It can be a sensitive subject for people, and sometimes seeing objective and valid assessment results will lead to action.

Developing an action plan and writing in a journal are at least two methods for improving emotional intelligence competencies. Once an action plan is developed, weekly action steps may be implemented. It’s also important to have an accountability partner, a person who holds you accountable for taking the action steps needed to reach short term and long term goals. A coach is one person who makes a great accountability partner, since sometimes those closest to an individual have a vested interest in seeing that the individual does not grow or learn.

Journal writing as another method to improve emotional intelligence competencies allows for reflection, which may lead to self-awareness. Keeping a gratitude journal, recording those things for which you are most grateful, helps put everything in perspective and can improve happiness. A friend once shared with me that if it was really difficult to think of anything, being grateful for clean, running water was a place to start.

This afternoon, I’m grateful for the rain drops, the jazz music, and the hot ginger lemon tea. I’m grateful for the opportunity individuals gave me this month to assess areas like personality type and emotional intelligence, and to put their trust in me to give them strategies to move forward with an action plan to build on their strengths and improve on their areas of enrichment.

I know I have a lot to be grateful for, and I also have a lot to learn. I’m still working on my EQ and probably will be for the rest of my adult life.

Summer Reading List

July 15, 2009

Am I the only one who seems to have more time to read during the summer months, with the daylight lasting longer into the evening? Maybe my summer reading list is a habit from being in school for so many years, when summer was the time I could read for pleasure and entertainment instead of just for homework assignments.

This evening I enjoyed dinner and a walk around the Plaza with friends. I headed for the Kansas City Public Library Plaza Branch on Main Street, where lawyer and crime historian Laura James would be discussing her book, The Love Pirate and the Bandit’s Son: Murder, Sin, and Scandal in the Shadow of Jesse James (Union Square Press, 2009).

It had been a while since I’ve visited the Plaza branch library, and I had to take in the new surroundings, moving toward the Truman Forum in the downstairs section, one of the renovations. Rainy Day Books hosted a small reception and sold books for Laura James to autograph.

Included in her book discussion, Laura James gave a slide show presentation “On Gold Diggers, True Crime, Librarians, and Jesse James,” with photographs of Zeo Zoe a.k.a. the love pirate, and also those taken of Jesse James Jr. a.k.a. the bandit’s son.

Although I haven’t yet read the book, after the discussion and presentation tonight, I’m looking forward to learning more about the fate of Zeo Zoe Wilkins, who moved to Kansas City in 1921.

This book has made my summer reading list.

Last summer I joined a book discussion group in Overland Park, Kansas, which happened to meet each week at a wonderful place called Like a Day at the Beach. I also attended a visioning workshop at Like a Day at the Beach, where participants practiced visualizing goals and developing a vision board.

The décor and the mood offer an oases of relaxation at Like a Day at the Beach. Comfy chairs are in the center of the room where you can rest your feet on an electric foot massager, while sipping on tea or filtered water, and watch a virtual vacation DVD from PowerFloe. Within the private alcoves are the Silver Cloud AE and NugaBest Thermal Jade Acupressure/Massage beds. The beds provide a hands free and oil free alternative to traditional massage, and meld aspects of massage, acupressure, spinal traction and far infrared heat.

Like a Day at the Beach is located at 11032 Quivira, in College Square near the Hen House at the intersection of College and Quivira, across the street from Johnson County Community College.

The owner of Like a Day at the Beach, Joann Atchity, R.N.,  B.S.N., wrote a piece titled, “Are You Addicted to Stress?” for the July 2009 issue of Evolving magazine. (Psst . . .  Joann doesn’t know that I’m writing this blog about Like a Day at the Beach, and I’m sure she’ll be pleasantly surprised.) From the tone of her article on stress, and the atmosphere she has created at Like a Day at the Beach, it’s easy to see that Joann really cares about her clients and creates an affordable way to relieve stress through the benefits of acupressure and massage.

It’s not difficult to visualize yourself at the beach, even in Kansas, when you are comfortably lying on a thermal jade massage bed, with headset on listening to soothing ocean waves and music and wearing a lavender scented eye pillow. It’s Like a Day at the Beach. Visualize it.

I was thrilled to learn that Bravo would be starting a new season of Top Chef, my favorite reality TV show. The show, Top Chef  Masters, premieres June 10 at 9 p.m. Central Time and will be hosted by Kelly Choi.

The premise of Top Chef Masters is different from the other Top Chef competitions. The contestants on Top Chef Masters are already famous in their own right, like Emmy-award winner Michael Chiarello of NapaStyle. I am already secretly hoping he wins the competition since I am a huge fan of his Food Network show Easy Entertaining.  Regardless of which chef wins the coveted Top Chef spot, the prize money will go to a worthy charitable cause.

In the fifth season of Top Chef: New York, I watched each week as contestants lost the competition and were told by host Padma Lakshmi to pack up their knives and leave. Judge Tom Colicchio usually provides valuable feedback to the contestants who are sent to the judges table after preparing and serving a meal that was found to be lacking.

At the simplest level the competition is won or lost based on how the main dish of meat or fish or poultry is cooked (or not cooked enough). If the meat, for example, is too tough or too raw, then that chef is usually the one to go. The next level seems to be difficulty or simplicity in the meal preparation. The judges want to see that some risk was taken. Finally, the presentation must be a winning one. How the food is presented on the plate is important.

Probably one of the reasons I enjoy watching Top Chef is remembering my most favorite times spent in the kitchen with my family preparing meals.

I also enjoy the analogy of the competition between the chefs and what sometimes happens in the workplace or in personal relationships. Usually the contestants already know when they go before the judges table what mistakes they have made. However, some contestants border on arrogance and argue with the more experienced judges. Other contestants know when to fight and defend their place in the competition without stepping over the line. Watching the process take place at the judges table is just as exciting as observing the chefs prepare meals.

In the new season of Top Chef Masters, I’m looking forward to learning whether or not the professional chefs maintain their composure and defend themselves properly at the judges table. I’m also hoping to pick up some great recipes and cooking tips.

Earlier this week I was invited by my friend Jennifer Niehouse, owner of It’s So U! wardrobe consulting, to attend a networking event sponsored by the KC Women’s Network. At first, I was skeptical about attending any event with the word “networking” in it. I’m just as skeptical about attending “singles” events, but that’s another blog.

The presenter, Greg Furstner of Salezworks, discussed tips and techniques for productive networking. When he was finished speaking, I had to ask him, “Isn’t networking really just using people?”

I have been in situations where it’s obvious a person is only interested in talking to those in the room who can do him some good, or help him accomplish his own agenda. I’ve also seen and heard friends of mine who are work-from-home moms feel dismissed by people when they don’t have a “business” to discuss. That can be a huge mistake, from my perspective.

Greg Furstner clarified for me the difference between effective networking and just using people in a calculating way. As one strategy to getting to know a potential referral source or point of contact for networking, Greg suggests asking questions, which really just shows your interest in the other person. For example, asking a person, “What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession through the years?” would probably not make anyone feel used.

10,000 Steps

May 1, 2009

This week I purchased a pedometer, which tracks my number of steps. The American Heart Association recommends taking 10,000 steps a day for health benefits.

I started thinking about how and why it’s become a challenge for people to find the time to walk.

I thought about my grandfather, my Papa Joe, who died at the age of ninety-nine in fairly good health, when I was sixteen-years-old. Papa Joe came to the United States from Italy in the late 1800s. (Yes, that’s right. I’m a Gen-Xer, and I’m still old enough to have a grandfather who was born in the late 1800s.) My grandfather didn’t drive a car. He walked every day, sometimes to the store or the bakery, and sometimes just to visit neighbors. He kept a garden in the backyard, and maintained rose bushes and a fig tree in his front yard. I can’t help but think his daily activities and functional fitness kept him young.

As much as fast food and convenience stores might save us time in the short term, our modern communities are designed around long commutes. Most houses are built with decks instead of front porches, where neighbors used to congregate and visit and watch their kids play.  Most people don’t plant vegetable gardens in their backyards. Maybe we can all take a cue from the White House, and their new vegetable garden. I look forward to hearing more about the garden’s progress.

In the long term, we may not be saving as much time as we think with convenience stores and fast food restaurants.

According to my pedometer, today I walked 9,046 steps, which is about 90% of my goal. I’m just going to keep taking those steps each day until I reach 10,000.

What steps can we all take today to reach our goals in life?