Archive for March, 2013

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THE PAINTED GARDEN

March 28, 2013

THE PAINTED GARDEN

Jack Barkla “Done good” this year

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LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST vs. HANGING ON

March 28, 2013

Eventually, I guess, we all reach that point where we not only acknowledge we’re aging, but also make a conscious decision of what that life will be like.

I see it all around me-first and foremost in siblings….an oldest brother chose a life of recluse enjoying nature in Alaska; the next in line chose to reinvent himself after “retirement” as he emerged from serving community to serving as a shopkeeper and managed to create a whole new life for himself that has served him well for twenty years.  Another, disliking his “career” job seems less inclined to re-invent, but to enjoy what he worked for; despite continuing health issues.

One sister-the mom –became the snowbird far too early in life and the perils of constant traveling and indulgences along the way combined with a predisposition or perhaps bad luck, is caught in the scary world of dementia.  A younger sister, successful in her career, retired early and like our Grandma Bishop, lives life to the fullest in her world of nature.

And then there’s me-retired from a successful corporate career in my late 40s; started a new business focusing on events, and now that I’ve made great new friends, won lots of recognition through awards and press, and have been part of a team that delivered work that has become the case study for MPI Research for “Meeting Design in the Twenty-first Century”, my thoughts are turning to what’s next.  I have seen more years in my sixties than are left to unfold, so I keep trying to figure out “what I want to be when I grow up”…because I think everyone deserves at least three careers.

Six of us; all pretty different but generally we’re tolerant and supportive of one another because we are family.

Which led to the question…..

Is it the same with friends?  I’ve thought about this a lot over the past ten years…as school friends, early career friends and friends made along my life’s pathway have come and gone, re-emerged, or faded away.

I’ve thought about it because there is a trend, I think.  Some friendships pick up without a missed beat; some continue on because “it’s always been”; and some are definitely a nice experience but are they worth the effort to keep going forward?  Sometimes-not so much.

Once I thought that phenomenon was simply a natural progression influenced by circumstances in each person’s life…and sometimes, the many shared interests two people have.  Along the way, I’ve done some deliberate culling….if I merely “tolerated” someone first time around, I no longer feel obligated by long timeframes of acquaintance to continue a relationship where what is shared was simply criticism. Yet at the same time, old friendships not well-tended faded away – only to re-emerge in a time of need, to grow again, built on strengths not weaknesses.  Or like a recent reunion of the IBC team, we come together, and in the moment, ARE those people we once were 25 years ago.

I’ve never been big on status quo; I’ve never been big on preserving the way it’s always been or always been done; I’ve never had much patience for those who sacrifice life’s experiences simply to ensure a few more months or years of being here on earth.  I hope, instead, I am more like my mother – who at 75 years old was game for white water rafting….but drew the line at horseback riding in the mountains!

In the last year or so, I have thought a lot about this and have come to the conclusion that the world is made up of those that do indeed “live life to the fullest” whatever or for how long that might be; and those that live life cautiously and safely-whose goal seems to be to extend time on earth as long as possible…no matter the quality.  Or, is that in itself the issue – what is, indeed, quality of life?

Perhaps the real question to contemplate is why am I surprised that I am impatient – even with old friends whose focus today is “hanging on”?

 

 

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FRACKING Vs JOB POTENTIAL

March 26, 2013

Fracking may well be an answer to jobs and for those not working, that understandably is a #1 priority.

But I commend Senator Schmit and others that are requesting Minnesota SLOW DOWN!  The opportunity won’t go away while Minnesota assesses threats and what can be done to minimize them.

Fracking expansion before an environmental and health threat assessment is completed is not responsible.  In my mind, a job in the short term vs possible illness/early death is not a good trade off…and yet I understand how short-term relief takes precedence when there simply is no money.

We need to lobby for this assessment to get done quickly.  Those that see this as the only opportunity for employment will get that job sooner or they will learn the risks so they can decide if the short term gain is worth it.

The oil contained therein is not going away; its been there for millions of years….but life as you know it, may well be endangered.  Let’s find the answer QUICKLY!

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THE COST OF BEING A SINGLE WOMAN

March 21, 2013

 

I have always been aware of the social stigma of remaining single, but early in my life, I made a conscious decision NOT to marry and have children and have not regretted that decision or my reasons why for the last 37 years.

 

However, “The Cost of Being Single” as outlined in the STRIB today was a real EYE-OPENER!

 

Of course I knew the disparity in WAGES between men and women in the corporate world from the 1960s to the early 1990s.  I accepted it, quietly sought to improve the situation for others and moved forward as best I could.  I definitely was of the mind that quietly out-smarting, out-performing and successfully lobbying for those that followed me was a better strategy for success of women in the workplace overall than confronting head on the blatant discrimination experienced by most women in “untraditional” roles in the 1970s.  And over all, it worked for me…and created a pathway for others that followed.

 

Of course I’ve understood that a married male counterpart had financial benefits I did not have in terms of not only salaries, but applicable deductions/costs.  Of course I recognized that two-income families had a financial advantage over me – particularly those without the expense of families.

 

However, I had no idea that the disparities went further than that. 

 

Consequently I bought into the “family” mantra that along with being the dumb one, I was also fiscally irresponsible.  I was caught in a bit of a trap, here, as I knew they had no idea how little I was making, and projected the incomes of males in similar positions unto me; and hence, the judgment….and yet, I could not bring myself to share what I was actually being paid, as to me, it would reinforce their original assessment – I was the dumb one to work for that little money. 

 

Today, however, an article in the STRIB shed new light on disparities that even I, in the midst of it, had no idea were happening!

 

Comparisons of single women to married women show that over a lifetime, unmarried women pay almost a MILLION DOLLARS more than their married sisters for taxes, social security, health and housing “thanks to more than 1000 laws that provide legal/financial benefits to married couples” NOT extended to those of us who remain single women.

 

The most egregious to me personally is the regulation that IRA options allow MARRIED women to withdraw money from IRAS early for medical or education expenses WITHOUT penalty.  This is a very personal issue as those of you who know me personally, know of my fall and resulting health issues in 2002. 

 

The fall coincided with the first recession of the Bush Administration following 9-11.  I had almost no income through three years of physical therapy and who knows the amount of medical bills.  This was exasperated by the fact I learned today that SINGLE WOMEN pay more for insurance than married women do.  So yes, as a small business owner who was self-insured, I had a high deductible catastrophic insurance because that was all I could afford-and paid more for it than either a man or a married woman would have.   And thus, the medical bills just kept coming and coming-quickly depleting “emergency fund savings” and then forced me to tap into a devalued IRA account and before I could work again, what originally was over $200,000 in IRA savings were gone….impacted first by a devalued market and second by a need to withdraw funds paying a 10% penalty – that married women are exempt from!

 

I suppose it is my fault I did not recognize these disparities but I wonder how many other single women had no idea just how much their lives have been impacted by this discrimination. Remember, the study quoted in the STRIB projects the overall inequity for single women at $1 million for just these four categories with no projections for salary discrepancies that once existed and may still be a factor today.

 

Make no mistake, it would not have changed decisions I made, but knowing this may have protected me from falling further in the trap of accepting I was the dumb or irresponsible one all those years and saved me a lot of time trying to figure out how I could be such a loser at personal finances when I generally was known in my business life as the opposite!

 

Guess the lesson learned going forward is that these statistics are startling. When presented in a single article, I am sure there are circumstances overlooked, but we are at a juncture today that as we look toward Social Security and Medicare reform and cost savings, I suggest we look to REDUCE the advantages given to married women/married couples.  I know better than to think single women would get a favorable adjustment upward, but after all, what is socially and politically acceptable for the SINGLE woman should apply to all, don’t you think? 

 

NOTE: And although this was not a test, I expect majority of women reading this nodded yes, and majority of men said no-as some things never change. 🙂

 

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THE MAYO MODEL vs. CLEVELAND CLINIC MODEL of MEDICINE

March 17, 2013

Thank you; Thank you; Thank you to Paul John Scott for the article and to the STAR TRIBUNE for putting the Mayo request front and center on the Opinion Page as Scott so succinctly explained the difference between Mayo and those medical models driven by private enterprise and the quest for profits.

First of all, Scott clearly tells the story of what Mayo came to the Minnesota Legislature about.  Mayo is NOT asking for a handout- they expect nothing to help finance the buildings they will add to their complex.  However, as good citizens, they recognize their plans will place a significant burden on the existing infrastructure in Rochester. The expansion they plan will create additional Minnesota Tax REVENUE of $3 billion.  Yes; THREE BILLION.  Mayo has asked the State Legislature to commit that an estimate $500,000  of that $3 BILLION generated by the Mayo-financed expansion will be returned to the city of Rochester – NOT THE MAYO CLINIC – to accommodate OVER TWENTY YEARS TIME necessary infrastructure needs such as roads, transit and sewer and municipal parking.  Yes, these are all things normally provided by the government.  Yes, these are normally things paid for by assessed Minnesota taxes. 

Boil it down:  All that is asked is that if they build it, peoiple will be able to get there.

In exchange, Minnesota will have an additional $2.5 billion more tax income over 20 years than they have today – to be spent wherever else there are needs in the remainder of the State of Minnesota.

However, if Minnesota does not feel that is a good return on their investment, then the Mayo Clinic will shift expansion plans OUT OF MINNESOTA to an alternative site.

The inability of House Tax Committee Chair Ann Lenczewski to comprehend that makes one wonder at the level of competency we have in handling our state finances.  What’s not to understand:  $2.5 billion dollars in additional MN state taxes to allocate wherever you wish in Minnesota  comparted to $0 in additional MN state taxes to spend.  $3 billion is wishful thinking and is not an option.  You cannot tax what does not get built and grown.  Pretty simple concept.

But MORE IMPORTANT is the story of the Mayo Clinic and how they practice medicine vs medicine practiced elsewhere in Minnesota, and most certainly, as I can attest to, in our own metro area.

Friends have heard me complain for years about the health care system in Minneapolis.  I am not disputing the expertise or skill of medical practioners here; but I am disputing the compensation system and the overwhelming influence of private industry influence on the medical care we are prescribed and the care we receive.  It is inconvenient, much is unnecessary, and most is expensive.

I recognize if one does not know there is another way, one cannot really understand what I am talking about.  I also recognize because I was born and raised in the Mayo system, and until 25 years ago, continued to consider them my primary care physician, that I have experienced a very different type of care, with excellent results at a lower cost than what most of our nation as a whole generally experiences.  And a key point in that difference is care does not necessarily translate to expensive tests and treatments at the Mayo Clinic.  The key word in my book is CARE.

So if one is concerned about Medicare costs, as we ALL should be, the answer is not to transfer more of those costs from government to individual; it is to obtain better care at less cost.

TRANSLATION:  The focus should switch from punishing those in need to regulating those complexes- such as the Cleveland Clinic model – who are totally controlled by private industry.  Private industry is driven by profit.  Think about it.  Read the STRIB article. 

 

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URBAN TROUBLESHOOTERS

March 16, 2013

I’ve been a pioneer in using social media and digital messaging to create a better interactive and engaging event- and I have been well recognized and rewarded for doing so. And yet, I continue to search for more impactful tools – tools that convey a sense of warmth and meaning.

I have been advocating for art and culture as a medium – harking back to my own “good old days” at BI in the’ 70s and CMG in the’ 80s when “People to People” Welcome Cocktail Receptions were often my trademark planned into the incentive travel award we offered our Fortune 500 clients.   And yet, try as I have, the integration of arts and culture has not trumped “pretty”; the “WOW Factor”; good food and good entertainment as the stars of the event world. And all those that know me, know how frustrated I am when the awards banquet turns into a theme party instead of a chance to celebrate and learn from the awesome performance of others.  Over twenty years, I have not learned how to communicate effectively HOW to do it better as the fun of a party with costumes and lots to drink presents a challenge for which I do not have the skills to compete!

So I did my own thing, experimented where I could, and finally found a way, through the use of digital applications, to change things up in a more impactful way than an ordinary “special” event .

But that has not stopped me from thinking about how we can do it better.

Early in 2012, I attended a city program called Plan-It Hennepin…and EUREKA! – I found what I was looking for.  As part of that experience, I participated in a week residency by Charles Landry that focused on creative city-making and knew I was on the right track.  It is the essence of every world class city in the world.

Yet, to date I have not found the opportunity to experiment in how I can achieve what I am looking for through this medium.

Meanwhile, this month, I have spent my fair share of time at Mayo – and between appointments, I re-acquainted  myself  with the “Mirror to Man” art of my past found through-out the much smaller Mayo complex of the 1950s-1980s….and along the way, experienced the explosion of new art since added to the collection and displayed through-out the “grown-up”  Mayo complex.  Experiencing the Mayo philosophy (care for the well-being of its patients along with their medical needs) again ignited the overwhelming desire to bring this medium into my work.

Riding back to Minneapolis on the Mayo shuttle, I was re-energized.  I have to try one more time to figure out how to illustrate to our industry how we are missing the boat.  It is not about pretty; it is not about Wow; it is not about a digital trick or game…it is about connecting emotionally to create memorable experiences that deliver the strength and clarity to accomplish our client’s  goals and deliver desirable outcomes.

So needless to say, with that percolating in the back of my brain, I was immediately drawn to the “Cities are turning to artists as urban troubleshooters” feature in the Strib this morning.

As I read, I learned that national policymakers are watching the Twin Cities as we experiment in using art to help with an urban problem, and as Saint Paul is now doing.

“There’s no doubt the Twin Cities is leading the charge on this…you have a creative ecology that spawns this work much faster and in a more leading-edge way than other cities” said Carol Coletta, head of ArtPlace, a Chicago-based consortium of foundations, federal agencies and banks that finance art projects similar to those now taking place in Saint Paul.   Sounds like a lesson learned and somewhat forgotten from my Meetings Production days where I repeatedly relearned that remarkable creative talent often trumped that found on either coast.   And of course, I already am aware of CreativeCityMaking, Irrigate and Arts on Chicago …I simply struggle with how this rich resource we have here can become integrated into our world of events, adult-learning, and objective achievement  in the world of our clients, the business community.

 

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JOB TRAINING

March 16, 2013

In 2012, Obama introduced an initiative in his State of the Union to “cut through the maze of confusing job training programs”….as he identified we were spending $18 Billion to administer 47 different and over-lapping training programs.

Finally, a year later, the House has taken up the initiative, moved the authority to a business-led workforce investment board to determine local job training needs – in effort to better match job and education needs at a local level.  That makes sense.

So far, so good…The House bill has now passed with NO votes from the Democrats….and yes, the DEVIL is indeed in the details!

The “decider” in how to spend these government funds generated through taxes we pay will be THE 51% MAJORITY of the new advisory board that is made up by LOCAL BUSINESSMEN – not the government who is doing the investment.  Equally egregious, all programs to aid VETERANS, in addition to Native Americans, sex-offenders, seasonal farmworkers and youth have disappeared.  Spending based on the new act is frozen at $6 billion dollars a year for the next seven years.

Hmmm.  What about the BUSINESSMAN who lost the recent election that led to the disarray in their party did they not understand?  How many of these House representatives that think they are the “experts” have ever been an integral part of a major business operation?  As an executive in a past life, I can assure you that many of the good cost saving and investment ideas within a business come from the people doing the work – not from those casually observing from the executive suite.  And that is just my first concern.

What about a hierarchial “the boss rules” do they not understand?  Infallibility is not an automatic outcome of BOSS or POWER.

And, what about taking the people’s voice out of the hands of their own future and placing it in the hands of  the robber barons who have already influenced the shift of wealth away from the middle class and into the hands of the few do they not understand ?

In fact, what about their loss of a second Presidential election because of greed and hubris that has now torn their party into shreds and has created the need to reinvent themselves do they not understand?

I find it interesting they did not make the checks/balance be one of the three arms of our federal government?  Oh yes, that’s right…they are a bit concerned that the mess they have produced in their own party may lead to losses in 2014…so this insures-in case of more losses in the 2014 election- no influence by those awful Democrats led by that guy who not only does not look like them, but worse, does not believe the methods hatched mid-20th century are necessarily relevant to governing or world influence in the 21st century.

All those questions come to mind with just the FIRST problem – the attempt to take the power of government from the people and shift it to business.   And typical Republican, I guess, let’s only look out to tomorrow – so what they still cannot comprehend is that the many businesses, like my own successful business of 20 years, are NOT led by Repos!

I think the only hope for these people is to employ a clairvoyant to contact all the Brits that were as frightened as our Republican leaders are when world leadership of the British Empire was challenged by the “upstart’ Americans.  Perhaps sharing some “lessons learned” from the past might give them pause….but honestly, I doubt it!

And then there is my second objection.   A new means invented to disenfranchise those non-whites that will soon become the majority in the US?  Oh my, gerrymandering may not be fool-proof; what else can we do to be sure the majority does not get their way?

To eliminate job training access for Veterans, Native American, sex-offenders, seasonal farm-workers, and youth is simply unbelievable.  I read that portion over and over – sure that I was misunderstanding, and then slowly realized that indeed, I was not.  The white supremist male caricature is alive and well in our US House of Representatives.

This is not only egregious, it truly saddens me and makes me ill…that we have a good share of our citizens who simply refuse to consider after 150 years, that they are not RIGHT! 

 I pondered the inclusion of veterans in the group NOT being allowed to benefit from the job training program-it did not compute.  War is always the Republican answer to show the might of the US; a strong military defense is paramount – so why would those returning soldiers who they sent to war not be helped when they return?  And then the light bulb went on and enlightened me. 

The wars since 1950 and the resulting loss of American lives have not been fought with boots on the ground from a representative mix of just their sons and daughters, have they?  Our enlisted forces represent a mix of ALL Americans:  white men, women, African-Americans, the GLBT community, and immigrants of all races and ethnic backgrounds from around the world.

The exclusion of youth in general from job training over the next seven years is also puzzling…and so far, I cannot resolve in my mind why this group has been excluded.  Is it the last breath of the angry old white birds- or possibly the recently-hatched young birds that are fighting for the final say in the Republican party that was the impetus to exclude all youth from help? 

As what about the $6 billion dollars cap per year over next seven years?   The amount may be accurate if all those groups ignored are not included; I have no way of knowing  Were I writing this from a Republican perspective about a bill drafted by a Democratic majority, I might just be thinking:  ” it may be that the businessmen ‘deciders’ have already calculated how much additional profit they can harvest if they are in charge of the spending and can control expenditures to only benefit existing businesses, rather than to support innovation and growth-especially were it to come from any of the groups they hope to disenfranchise.”   The point is, a casual reader cannot discern the intent nor a realistic budget amount, as the article did not give an explanation of how they arrived at the amount, nor the amount.

 We know Obama’s original identification of the problem and initiative to fix the issue certainly expected costs to go down.  But without a lot of time spent fact-checking, I simply do not have the facts at hand to know what might be a reasonable cost savings.

Similarly, the seven year limitation raised several questions.  Lots of suspicions flash through my mind, from after seven years, there is a chance the young Tea Party House members will have children that just may be reaching the age they need a job to start their own careers….or that seven years is the time frame they are looking at to rebuild their party and resume majority in House, Senate, White House and Supreme Court appointments.

 But my hunch would be that the budget numbers and time frame may need some additional scrutiny as well-just because these folks have proven over and over, we should not trust them at face value.   

So, with several issues – imagined or real- I now will leave it to the Senate to strip away the Republican hubris.  The issue itself is real; the need to reform is real; the need to help train-to match to need- our youth, immigrants, women and all the currently unemployable is real.  So being an optimist, I trust we will wind our way through the process and eventually develop a plan acceptable by all to address this very real initiative introduced by Obama.