Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Revelation Whilst Antiquing

Last weekend I went antiquing. I know, after the revelations of my Senior Moments, it almost seems a natural progression to antiquing as a weekend activity, but this particular episode was entirely coincidental and unplanned.

LB and I plan a Saturday afternoon of fun in Shorewood. Saturday arrives, and we lunch at City Market, and head down to Lake Drive for a walk filled with snide comments and inventive back-story of the mansion inhabitants.

On our way to Lake Drive we see a shop called Chattel Changers, but which will now be referred to as The Store That Changed Our Lives. Allow me to elucidate.

Chattel Changers is your garden-variety antique store with a delightful array of green Depression glass and two lovely embroidered chairs in the window display that work together to grab your attention and reel you in for further exploration.

In the case of LB and I, it worked beautifully.

We enter the store expecting high-class antiques at high-class prices (this is Shorewood, after all). However, we are pleasantly surprised to see delightful old crap (one man’s trash…) at reasonable prices.

As we explore the store (rhyme unintentional), we begin with our usual commentary, discussing the antiques, the former owners of said antiques and the like, sprinkling in a heavy dose of sarcastic and witty remarks. One piece, in particular, grabs LB’s attention.

“Ms. Quarter, I’ve found the perfect set of dinnerware for you!” LB excitedly exclaims (because really, is there any other way to exclaim), holding up a fabulous 70’s Swank teacup in a shade of butter cream, decorated with orange and green flowers.

“I’m sorry,” I sarcastically reply, “but I unfortunately do not have wood paneling in my house and so the set does not match my d├ęcor. Shame.”

After this exchange we hear a set of low snickers, and as we look around for the culprits we notice a middle-aged couple hiding their giggles behind their hands. It seems they overheard our exchange and appreciate our brand of humor.

Awash in this newfound information and what it means to our future, LB and I pay for our purchases (LB with a set of madrigal-worthy goblets, me with a set of sherbet cups) and head back to the car.

The moment we are outside, LB turns to me and says, “We’re totally as funny as we think we are!”

I reply that I was just going to say the same.

We chuckle and enjoy this new revelation.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Senior Moments

Lately I have been experiencing what I will call “senior moments.” When one happens I try to write it off as a byproduct of exhaustion or distraction, but the frequency of these moments belies a more serious cause. The question is what could that cause be?

Perhaps I should explain.

Last week I was driving home from work when I came upon a major intersection. Not your typical four-way crossing, this intersection boasted five separate streets converging through one set of traffic lights.

As I made my typical left-hand turn I thought naught was amiss, that is, until roughly five blocks later when I realized that my blinker was still blinking. It’s flashing green arrow on my dashboard cruelly reminding me of all the times I accusingly labeled a fellow driver “Senior Citizen” simply because they had done the same.

Forgetful moment? Temporary deafness (in all fairness, how can anyone hear that pitiful clicking noise over Green Day)?

In shame I clicked off my signal light, and slouched down in my seat, silently apologizing to the driver behind me for committing my faux pas. For if there is nothing else that annoys me about today’s drivers (and there is plenty), it is the glaring lack of turn signal usage that plagues our streets.

In another, seemingly unrelated incident, I went to the store to buy a battery for my malfunctioning garage door opener. On my way back I was singing along to my iPod (Hawk Nelson this time), when a sign on the right caught my eye.

“Sheepshead Tournament,” it proclaimed, and I got excited at the prospect of playing an old family favorite card game.

No doubt, when members of my extended family get together Sheepshead is known to take us into the late hours of the night. Many a hospital waiting room has seen us counting trump, and airport lounges are excellent places for our own rule-breaking versions of the game.

I do not know many folks my age who even know of the game, and so I was intrigued at the prospect of trying a hand or two. Wanting to know more, I quickly scanned the sign for dates and times, only to find that the sign was outside the local VFW.

My interest waned as I pictured myself in a room full of grandfather-types who smoke Marlboro’s and drink High Life whilst calling me “Girlie” and teasing me about not having a “fella.”

Some of my interests, dare I admit it, are more of the “senior set” than others. I need not mention the golf league I am joining, nor the quilt I am stitching, but I will anyway for argument’s sake.

My latest senior moment happened just this morning. Yesterday, in a show of productivity, I cleaned my humble, dust-ridden apartment, and ithe process of cleaning my coffee maker, I left the filter basket to dry next to the kitchen sink. This morning, bleary eyed and zombie-like, I readied the coffee maker for my usual four cups of brew.

In went the water. In went the cone filter. In went one large scoop of Starbuck’s Breakfast Blend and one large scoop of decaf.

The minute I pressed the on switch, I heard the sizzle of water under the carafe. I realize that I put the filter in the coffee maker, but forgot the filter basket underneath. The coffee was subsequently dripping everywhere, and coffee grounds were escaping into the carafe at an alarming rate.

Turkish coffee, anyone?

All of these senior moments have one thing in common: they have happened within the last month. The month that just happens to lead into my upcoming birthday, whereupon I will officially leave the first Quarter Century of my life.

Perhaps, in preparation for what is to come later in life, my brain is giving me a taste of what my senior citizen days (daze?) will be like. In this way I will get used to the forgetfulness, being hard of hearing, and also learn to enjoy pursuits previously labeled Geriatric.

Perhaps I'm merely losing my mind. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A First-Timer’s March Madness – The Results Show

For those of you who watch Dancing with the Stars (I’m talking to you Drew Lachey) you know that they devote a full hour of prime time to what they call The Results Show.

For those of you who read this blog (you know who you are), you know that I recently joined the Hoops Hysteria that is March Madness for the first time ever.

“How did it go?” you anxiously ask.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Well, I am glad you asked, because let me tell you it was a feat to make my momma proud.

No, I did not win my bracket, but I beat out eighteen (18) other folks to take 5th place. Furthermore, I was one of only two people to pick Kansas to go all the way, the other person winning first place.

I also took 3rd place in my Facebook bracket group, the winner being my cousin who happens to be a professional ball player, thus cancelling him out and making me the 2nd place finisher. This group, however, did not have any money on the line.

After this experience, I have decided that they (whomever “they” may be) should have bracket groups categorized by skill and interest level with novices (me) competing against novices, whilst veterans compete against veterans.

My other cousin’s bowling league is organized like this, and I don’t see why a CBS Sports Bracket cannot be also.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On the Subject of Branding

No, I am not talking about your garden-variety cattle prodding. I’m talking marketing. Specifically, organizational identity as affirmed through a strong brand awareness (garnered by use of logo, color scheme, mission statement, etc).

Mayhap I should explain.

In addition to my full time job, I volunteer my services to some local nonprofits. I sit on the Board of Directors for one in particular, and this local nonprofit is part of a larger national organization.

This weekend in Chicago was a conference for board members of all local chapters for this national organization. We met. We conferenced. We work-shopped. In all it was a productive sharing of best practices across chapter leadership.

I co-led one of these workshops, our topic being the development of a successful marketing strategy. What steps do you need to take before jumping in the deep end that is graphic design, logo standards, and shades of Pantone color processing? Well, our chapter had been through just that and we thought to help others strategically think through their plan.

In outlining these steps, a disturbing line of questioning rose to the surface. Is there a national brand all chapters must follow? How do we keep our local individuality while also adhering to the national standard? How do we balance creating a strong local brand and awareness while also contributing to the national organization?

At these questions we waited patiently for the national cohorts to pipe up and explain their stance. Cut to blank stares all around.

Apparently, the national branding of our entire organization has never before been addressed in the four years that National has been in existence.

The latest success for National is the roll out of a new technology for our online presence integrating Web 2.0. In the planning stages for this new website, I can imagine all were excited to roll out a new website for our organization, yet they never questioned if that website should have the same look across all chapters. This would have been a convenient time to have the branding discussion.

Four years ago, while establishing an entire organization (National), they never even took the time to develop a clear mission. This also would have been a prime time to discuss branding and logo standards for the entire organization.

Need I say that the lack of vision and strategic planning concerns me? I come from a marketing background and, as such, I realize I am biased toward the marketing issues, but how can you build a strong, cohesive organization without having a clear mission?

Much of the conference time was spent discussing how this national nonprofit and all of its chapters can take on the mantle of advocacy for the nonprofit sector. Nevermind that, even with all chapter membership combined, we only represent 10,000 clients. Regardless of our small numbers, how can we be an advocate and approach policy makers without having a clear, unified voice (aka: brand)?

It boggles this marketer’s mind.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Voter Apathy

I despise voter apathy.

In a country that brags about its democratic tendencies, and pushes that same agenda on to other countries (sometimes with limited success, see: Iraq), it’s rather disheartening to see a WI Supreme Court candidate beat by another with a 411,272 to 391,549 spread (note: figures taken 4/2/08, article linked 4/3/08).

Do the math.

That is a total of 802,821 votes…for the entire state of Wisconsin. The estimated population for Wisconsin, as of 2006, is over 5.5 million people (according to the U.S. Census Bureau). An estimated 23.6% of that 5.5 million are under the age of 18, thus unable to vote. Of the 4.3 million adults, those 802,821 votes represent a measly 19% voter turnout.

For a country so proudly democratic, that 19% is rather pathetic.

And potentially damaging when you consider the 10-year term granted to a WI Supreme Court justice, and the power said justice has in interpreting the law through his or her decisions.

I used to live in Hungary, and was told by my Regional Coordinator and sponsoring organization not to get involved in anything political. Unfortunately, the national presidential elections took place that year, and my kollegium was a voting station. I had Hungarians lined up outside of my apartment door (I was located on the first floor – sometimes bad, sometimes awesome), for the entirety of the day. I couldn’t leave my apartment without slamming the door into some poor Hungarian voter.

The Hungarians took to voting like moths to flame, and I wondered why most Americans do not. “I Voted” sticker not enough incentive? No Chipotle in his or her neighborhood to offer a free burrito to anyone who votes? No interest in which politician decides this country’s future?

My theory is that, quite simply, Hungarians love to exercise their democratic rights by taking part in the election process, while Americans largely remain apathetic. We must remember that Communism is still quite recent (circa 1990), and fresh in the minds of anyone over the age of 25. Many older adults remember, painfully, living in a country where they were not allowed to vote for their leaders, yet were subject to those same leaders’ whims. They now eagerly anticipate voting – the right to choose – and do so in droves.

Thus it is my opinion that we are simply spoiled. The old adage that you do not know what you have until it is gone. We do not realize the privilege we have in being allowed to vote for our leaders (electoral college and all of it’s issues aside). Until that privilege (yes, it is our right, but it is also a privilege in the sense that not everyone in the world has it) is threatened or taken away, we will never fully understand just how good we have it. And that, I believe, is the real travesty.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Observations of The Line

“Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”

I think I must be asked this question at least once a month, which is quite often when you consider how rarely I meet somebody new AND spend enough time getting to know him or her in order to feel comfortable talking about this topic.

I have met my share of men in these twenty-five years - some charming, some not, most married or taken, a few not for painfully obvious reasons, and the select few who were great and not already taken (a rare find). Such Rare Finds either became my boyfriend, or most often, my friend.

Regardless of the outcomes of my few relationships, throughout my quarter century of life I began to take notice of a certain phenomenon. This phenomenon began to assert itself in my teen years, most often in observing my friends’ dating experiences versus my own (read: them = plentiful, me = scarce).

The observations continued in college and beyond, the intensity increasing with the advent of engagements and marriages amongst said friends and acquaintances. What is this phenomenon? The difference between my friends and I in the dating game?

I call it The Line.

You know about The Line.

It is the divide between the friend and the girlfriend (or boyfriend in the dude’s case). It is what determines whether you will be in the Girlfriend (boyfriend) category or Friend category.

My friends were usually in the Girlfriend category while I languished in the Friend.

Why this difference? I am sure there are innumerable answers to this riddle – several factors that make up the whole, yet the answer is probably simpler than we think. The answer, of course, is the same one that will satisfy the question above, yet is woefully elusive to this Quarter Century gal.

So until it becomes clear, I will continue to answer the above questions with this: Because I’m busy.