The Art of Balance

I’m a klutz – or as they say in Central Pennsylvania – dopic.  So, I really admire people that are more coordinated than I am (which is pretty much everyone).  Last night, we enjoyed a date night at the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by our beloved Maestro Stuart Malina.  What made the performance particularly memorable were the additional performers on stage last evening.  “Cirque de la Symphonie” featured acrobats and aerialists who amazed the audience with choreographed moves, accompanied by the orchestra’s masterful artistry.  I was particularly enrapt with the final performance by two bronzed muscular men. Those in attendance were spellbound by their feats of strength, balance and grace.

As I watched, I wondered what propelled these athletes to choose this occupation.  What discipline and practice it must have taken to achieve such synchronicity!  The countless hours of training and experimentation, the injuries that were likely sustained are beyond my comprehension.  And I’ve wondered similar thoughts about those musicians whose performances we so look forward to as they weave their own magic, beneath the stars of the glorious Harrisburg Forum.

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Do you need to work better on seizing the day? Carpe Diem!

While a whole bunch of you leaving me comments are spammers, there are many kind people who have left me comments to savor.  And I owe you an explanation of why I haven’t been updating the blog lately or posting your comments.

As many of you know from reading previous posts, my husband is a four time cancer survivor.  We are now hoping to beat it for the fifth time.  And this time is very different.  Caught very early, we are living with this cancer because it cannot be removed by surgery as it is on his remaining kidney.  The good news is that it is slow growing.  So, slow, in fact, that when recently tested again, we’re in another watch and wait mode for four months until he’ll be tested again.

I am finding this very unsettling this time.  “The Saint,” as my parents refer to my husband, just takes it all in stride, confidently putting it in God’s hands.  The control freak (that would be me) has more trouble doing that; while I’m great at putting it in His hands, I keep taking it back!

So, while I’m muddling through this time, and trying to manage what is on my plate, I’ve eased up on myself for a time – trying to pace myself better, during this (my most professionally demanding) time of the year.  Perhaps you, like me, need to work on “seizing the day” better.

I am most grateful for the patience of my students, the support of my colleagues at school, the Social CMO crew (because I’m not pulling my weight there right now), clients, Twitter friends, and my extended family.  And I’m making progress; I finally purchased our plane tickets, committing us to that trip to Ireland we’ve been talking about for so long.  Yes, the little Pennsylvania Dutch boy is taking his Irish girl to her homeland.  And this precious memory-in-the-making is helping me better cope with life’s uncertainties right now.

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Are You Asking the Right Questions?

The surgery lasted an hour and a half longer than we expected, but they called and warned us from the operating room.  When Dr. Conter came out to explain what happened (during what was supposed to be a routine hernia repair surgery), we got answers to a question I asked several doctors last fall, following the removal of my husband’s cancerous kidney: “there seem to be some digestive issues; what might those be?”  Our surgeon found the bowel intertwined with a larger than anticipated four-pocketed hernia.  After unraveling the mess, he removed six inches of the upper bowel that couldn’t be saved, put things back where they belonged, and closed him up.  Dr. Conter remarked how amazed he was that Cliff hadn’t had a bowel obstruction, hadn’t had significant pain, and could process food at all.  We’re most grateful for the skill of this surgeon, his staff, and the fifth floor nurses at Lancaster Regional Hospital.

So, I’ve been (over)thinking, what questions might have the caught the attention of those two doctors so that this situation could have been better diagnosed?  This story could easily have had a much more unpleasant result. 

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The Power of YES

I love anticipating the smell of the Thanksgiving turkey roasting all day at home, and the lingering scent it leaves behind for a few days until my 14′ douglas fir arrives.  (Even though I’m allergic to the tree, the beauty of its’ fullness and soft evergreen needles keeps me coming back.  My husband and grandson say no more 200 lb. trees are coming in the house; we’ll see….) 

This year, my side of the family gathered at Bricker’s Pizza in Hershey for Thanksgiving; my nephew, Robbie, has worked there part-time since his college days.  Since his girlfriend’s family and our whole family convened to celebrate the holiday, we needed someplace to meet that could accommodate all of us.  Even though he’s now finished graduate school and works as a civil engineer, he still loves filling in at the pizza shop when they need help.  His gal, Lauren, is a senior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania; they’ve been dating since January, thanks to his aunt Jenny (who set them up on a blind date then). 

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Who Wants to be an Athena?

The Athena Award is a prestigious, national honor given to a someone in the community who exemplifies eight attributes of female leadership: authentic self, relationships, giving back, collaboration, courageous acts, learning, fierce advocacy, celebration and joy.

As a previous recipient of this award bestowed by the local Chamber of Commerce, I had the privilege of participating in selecting the next awardee. As is our custom, the nominees are interviewed by a panel of previous recipients and a few others. All of this year’s applicants had been nominated in prior years. (I have the distinct honor of holding the county record for being nominated seven different years before I was selected; I jokingly tease my peers that they selected me simply because they didn’t want to see my nomination form again.)

I was fortunate in being well-acquainted with all of this year’s nominees. While it was a difficult choice for the committee to make, we selected the person we felt best exemplified the eight attributes of leadership at this time.

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Pass the Popcorn, Please

I love using the power of a good story in my classroom. As a part of my class this fall, each student takes a turn, sharing a story about an entrepreneur’s inspiration and journey to the marketplace.

This week, it was Stephanie’s turn to share her story about Brian Taylor, a guy whose relatively ordinary name might lead you to believe he might have nothing distinctive to offer the world. A philosophy major at the University of Michigan, his friends begged him to share the fabulous popcorn seasonings he created – and the idea was born for Kernel Seasons. Using money from his summer jobs, Taylor worked with flavor experts to develop fourteen flavors without butter, salt or MSG and upon graduation, launched his business.

Stephanie could have just taken us to the website and read a written report. But this sharp student understood a basic element of connecting with her audience; she drew them in with not one, not two, but six lunch sacks with popcorn samples flavored with different Kernel Seasons products. (Little did she know that one of her professor’s longtime favorite addictions is popcorn.) So, as she regaled us with this entrepreneur’s story, we happily munched on garlic parmesan, kettle corn, ranch, nacho, butter, and white cheddar popcorn. And, being the thoughtful gal that she is, Stephanie also provided us with napkins, handwipes, and a bottle of water.

Without being told, Stephanie knew a pivotal secret of connecting with her intended target market: the more senses you employ, the more memorable (you and) your information becomes. She had the visual stimulation of images projected, taste of the Kernel Seasons products, and the delicious smell (the sense which connects most powerfully with our memory) of the popcorn going for her.

So, how can you make your next presentation stronger?? (Oh – and pass the popcorn, please.)

Kathy Snavely

Photo courtesy of carabou on Flickr, “Popcorn Cupcake,”

Risk, Reward and Celebrating with Chile

It’s almost 2am – and I can’t rip myself away from the online and television coverage of what is happening in Chile. While I’ve been rejoicing with each miracle, big and seemingly small, that has brought these men out of their captivity, I’m also thinking of the terrible tragedy this situation could have been. Mining is inherently risky – period.

Center Rock Drill, located in Berlin, Pennsylvania, played a huge role in Pennsylvania’s Quecreek Mining incident in 2002. Their expertise was called upon in Chile as well. Brandon Fisher, Center Rock Drill’s company president, is like Harry Stamper of the movie, Armageddon (the hero portrayed by actor Bruce Willis). No one, perhaps, knows better how these men’s lives will change after they are rescued, and the inherent risks they will face because of the experience they have survived. What further peril lies ahead for these men and their families?

But we also take risks, perhaps not quite so dramatic, in our lives and businesses on a day-to-day basis.

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Grace Beyond the Pew

Is grace a word we hear outside of worship? Its meanings include: elegance, politeness, generosity of spirit, or a pleasing quality. A topic of Pastor Jim’s sermon today, I began thinking on the way home from church about how I’ve seen grace in action outside the church.

  1. ABC’s Dancing with the Stars explained on Tuesday evening that what may have been perceived as the audience booing Sarah Palin (whose daughter Bristol is a contestant) the previous night, was actually the audience expressing its extreme displeasure with scores given by the judges on another performance. (Grace, as an expression of politeness)
  2. The effervescent Jennifer Delaye (JDK Catering; “cover girl” of the September issue of Business Woman and the August issue of Harrisburg Magazine) shared her perspective on innovation and shared slides showing examples of her fantastic event food and room decor design in my class on Tuesday. One of my students, Veronica, held her hand up in the middle of her presentation, and shared a high five with Jennifer, telling her, “You’ve got it going on!” (Grace, as a pleasing quality)
  3. One of my colleagues from Harrisburg Area Community College, Judy, was setting up our Artisan’s Marketplace in Gettysburg this week. One of the artists missed the gallery submission deadline; she offered (with my permission) to have the artist drop their work off at my home so I could transport it to Harrisburg the day following, so Judy could take it to Gettysburg to include it in the show. Judy was beaming ear-to-ear at her opening night on Friday, partly because she knew the experience wouldn’t have been as successful if this artist’s work hadn’t been there. (Grace, as generosity of spirit)
  4. I’m having the privilege of working with some terrific people I met in Memphis last May, thanks to folks like @HowellMarketing and @AnneDGallaher. One of the by-products of this meeting is the publication of a book on social media, with contributions from some of the people at this event. While I feel like I’m a relative newbie with this medium, @TheSocialCMO (who is coordinating all this talent) and fellow contributor @markwschaefer have been kind enough to allow to me contribute in some small way to this book. (Grace, as in elegance)
@markwschaefer and I at #BroganMemphis

While still recognizing that grace is easier to bestow on a thankful recipient, couldn’t we all use just a little more grace beyond the pew?

Kathy Snavely

(This post was written by a grateful recipient of grace in its many forms.)