Tuesday, December 9, 2008

2008 PhiliaDiDi - Learning to Love Myself

In March of this year I started this blog. One of my first entries was to introduce my life theme for 2008; “PhiliaDiDi – learning to love myself”. Every year since 2005, my yearly life theme has proclaimed itself to me and I’ve listened. I write it down and even create a ‘life card’, much like a business card that I carry around with me to remind me of what lesson or truth I need to pay attention to.

This year, although the theme had revealed itself way back in March, I had yet to produce the life card as my daily reminder. Luckily, just in the nick of time before this year ends, I’ve finally completed 2008’s life card thanks to the generous help of a graphic designer in my office at work. Here it is.

In talking about love, I learned that ancient Greeks employed several different words when describing different types of love. They used “Agape” love to describe a Godly type of love, “Eros” love to describe a romantic type of love, and “Philia” for a brotherly type of love. Philia seemed like just the right word for me in finding more acceptance, kindness and love for myself and of myself. It’s appropriate in my search to find love for my “inner child”, “inner self”, or “true self”.

Since I’m now paying attention to that inner part of myself, it seemed only right to use the name DiDi in the theme. DiDi is what everyone called me as a small child. It reflects the most pure sense of self that I have. Thus, PhiliaDiDi made perfect sense when it came to learning to love myself.

The image on the card is a great reflection of this year’s theme. It’s a combination of a Goddess image, combined with a heart over a chaotic background. The Goddess is the adult me, mother earth or all of womankind. The heart represents my little girl DiDi, who is held and protected by the Goddess. The chaotic background is the crazy world and dysfunctional environment that that I struggle against. The theme’s words appear as if written in the small words of a child yet seem to convey the boldness and strength of a woman who loves and appreciates all parts of herself. It’s the perfect combination of acceptance, existence, kindness and love.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Grammie Jammie Season Kick-Off

Don’t you just love those brisk fall and winter evenings when you can come home from work and slip into your favorite, most comfortable pair of toasty flannel pajamas and snuggle up on the couch in front of a warm fire? Me too.

That’s why I celebrated the arrival of the cool weather season this year with a Grammie Jammie Season Kick-off gathering. It was a Friday night in mid-September and I invited friends and family to stop by, sip a glass of wine, munch some tasty nibblers and enjoy some good conversation. The catch was that everyone had to wear their pajamas! After all, how could we celebrate Grammie Jammies without actually wearing them?

Now you may be wondering just why it is I call my comfortable, reliable flannel PJ’s, “Grammie Jammies”, and it’s a good question. You see, my Grandmother, who resided just next door to where I grew up, lived a long life and finally left this world when she was just a few months shy of her 98th birthday. As she slowed down in her later years, the one thing that was constant was that she was always cold and so took to wearing flannel pajamas around the house to stay warm in the winter.

The pajamas usually had a delicate floral print pattern on the soft material, a button down, long sleeve top with a left hand breast pocket and elastic stretch-top pants. All the ingredients of warmth and comfort. Following her passing in 1999, my sister began sporting them. A short time later, I began wearing them around the house as casual wear and then they became a much appreciated, holiday gift idea from my niece. It became a bit of a family tradition. In my Grandmother’s honor we dubbed them “Grammie Jammies” since she was the one who first introduced us to their charm.

Today, Grammie Jammies come in all types of colors and patterns. I even have a pair that is lime green with skiing polar bears! They’ve come a long way from their modest floral beginnings. For the season kick-off event, I broke out a brand new pair. I love the feel of the never worn, baby soft flannel before it has had time to build up pills from multiple washings, stains from cooking, and worn out knees and elbows from kicking around the house.

This pair was blue with white and black Dalmatian’s and pink piping along the blouse front, breast pocket and pant and sleeve cuffs. I was excited to un-wrap them from their neatly folded package held together with an off-white ribbon which was buttoned in place on the second button on the pajama top. The package proudly merchandised the pajamas as if they were still on display on the store shelf with stiffened cardboard to help them hold their packaged shape. The ribbon wrapped around the back to include the folded pants, and then connected again to the front of the pajamas on the same button. Ahhh. New Grammie Jammies.

The party was a huge success. What was originally planned for a quick hour or so, didn’t break up for 3 – 4 hours. It could have been the warmth of the fireplace, the food, or even the homage to our inspiration for the event, Gramma Holmes, but I think the best part was the genuine friendships of family and neighbors ranging from 29 – 88 years old, all who just enjoyed a good reason to party in their pj’s like young girls.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Cut for Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2007 alone, there were over 1.4 million new cases of cancer reported and nearly 600,000 deaths related to cancer. Those numbers are staggering.

The truth is though, that it’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t been touched by the disease. In 2001, I was diagnosed with Basal cell skin carcinoma which appeared as an irregular mole on my torso and needed to be surgically removed three times before I was clear of it.

My mother, who was diagnosed with encapsulated carcinoma, is a breast cancer survivor and my father, who was ill with a number of conditions before his death in 2006 was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Over the years, I’ve also lost two friends to cancer, Jean and Paul, and my friend Beth lost her mother to breast cancer over ten years ago. It’s everywhere.

Although I can and have financially contributed to cancer research such as the American Cancer Society and more recently the Stand Up For Cancer campaign, I wanted to do something more personal to support those whose life has been impacted by the disease.

For me, that came in the form of a very personal type of donation – my hair. Donations of hair can be used to make wigs for cancer survivors who lost their own hair through chemo therapy. I call my project of growing and donating my own hair “A Cut for Cancer”. There are several places to send hair donations and each has their own guidelines for how it needs to be donated, so if you’re interested in donating you’ll want to check out the links below to see which program is right for you.

Pantene Beautiful Lengths

Locks of Love

Wigs for Kids

In the end, I chose Pantene, after seeing actress and celebrity Hilary Swank appear on Oprah to donate her own tresses to the Beautiful Lengths campaign. Her encouragement to have others do the same was inspiring. Even though I don’t have the same high-profile exposure as Hillary or Oprah, I encourage everyone to consider growing and donating their hair so that cancer survivors needing wigs can experience your generosity first hand.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Marketing to Generation Y

As a marketer, it’s my job to know how to reach a number of different audiences and industries: B2B, B2C, manufacturing, high-tech, professional services. Each audience is unique but many times they share some similar traits across industries and age groups.

One consumer group however, is separating itself with an increasingly expressive and influential impact on the economy. They are “Generation Y” and they are catching the attention of businesses and marketers alike who are eager to tap into the largest generational consumer group since the Baby Boomers.

In August I was asked to share my perspective on how to reach this new generation of consumers at a Southern New Hampshire University breakfast forum. It was Part 2 of a 3-part Business Indicator Series for alumni of the University who now hold executive and C-level positions in the community. Additional Southern New Hampshire University alumni panelists included Mike Dennehy, political strategist and president of Dennehy Bouley, Ray Garon, president and GM for Manchester Radio Group (WZID, WFEA and The Mill) and Paul Gertin, Regional Sales Manager USPS.

The forum, “Gen Y” – The Evolution of Consumer Behavior, gave attendees a brief overview of who “Gen Y” represents, what they’re like, how they communicate and how they influence our business and consumer markets today.

Also know as Echo Boomers, (kids of Baby Boomers), Millennials, Gen Dot.com, or the Net generation, this group is computer savvy, uses portable communication (cell phones, text messaging), and is technology forward. They know more than anyone how to find, parse and use the vast amount of available information to their advantage.

They are social, socially conscious, politically active and philanthropic on local and global levels. They thrive in environments where their input makes a difference and are vocal in every aspect of their lives, including consumerism. Demographically, they’re a sizeable force in our economy and are demanding attention.

If you’re interested in learning more, watch the entire “Gen Y” – The Evolution of Consumer Behavior discussion here.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Planting a Window Box Herb Garden

One of the best ways to start learning about herbs is to grow them. You just have to get your hands dirty. A window box is a wonderful way to begin the introduction to plants that will last a lifetime.

When you grow an herb, you get an opportunity to live and learn from it. You watch the seedling emerge through the soil, watch the plant expand with new growth, smell the flowers as they bloom and rest with the plant during the colder months. You get to know the herb in a way that connects you to the rhythms and cycles of the earth and the individual plant. Experiencing living herbs best connects us to the energy and vitality that the plants offer.

Of course the pleasurable side-effect of growing a window box herb garden is that you get to have the green goodness of the plants close at hand for adding a pinch of this to recipes, a snipping of that for tea, and a whiff of all of them for inspiration. The “Fun with Herbs” class that I teach begins in the early and cold days of March, so the first class is always dedicated to planting an indoor window box. It’s always a crowd pleaser and many students have commented that the overwhelming herbal aromas, scent of the soil, and textures of the young plants are just the right blast of green to kick start the spring season.

In class, we focus on only a few plants at a time rather than a multitude. Like a good friend, it takes a while to get to know each one so we take a fewer but more exhaustive approach to learning. For each herb that we plant, I’ve created a brief data sheet that discusses some of the folklore, identification, cultivation, harvest methods, and uses (including recipes). You can click on the plant links below to download the pdf of each. There is also a planting resource data sheet that includes planting zones, a list of mail order seed & plant companies as well as and some local (to southern NH) nurseries and garden centers that I’ve found to be reputable.

The first plant we get to know is basil, a symbol of love and good wishes. Basil, a tender annual, is one of those plants whose fragrance calls to you with seductive allure. Ah, Basil, the king of herbs. Next we get an introduction to thyme, a symbol of courage, vigor and strength. This tender perennial is a standard in kitchens all over the world where many a cook has said “when it doubt use thyme”. The third herb we meet is rosemary, a symbol of love and remembrance. Rosemary is a tender woody perennial whose pine-like needles add a distinctive scent or flavor to many herbal combinations. Rosemary holds a special place in my heart and I have placed a sprig of it with both my grandmother and father when they left this world, to express my love and unending memory of them in my life.

So, dig in and plant your own window box herb garden. You may find some great friendships with plants that you didn’t expect but that you’re sure to appreciate.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sticks, Chicks, and Crutches

Field hockey in New England. I love it. In high school it was my game. As a four-year letterman, I ruled the defensive field with authority, skill, and a sure-footed confidence. That's me in the photo to the left (circa 1980 - 1981). My teammates admired my leadership and elected me one of their co-captains. My coaches rewarded my speed, agility, and defensive tenaciousness with countless ‘defensive player of the game’ awards. I even earned a place on the Eagle Tribune's Field Hockey All-Star roster. I loved the running, the flicking, rushing the opposition on corners and tackling rivals as they advanced down the field.

When I started looking for an adult league last year to get back into the game, it took a while to find one. After all, field hockey isn’t like boys basketball or baseball - there aren’t a lot of adult women players out there who are able to play. Life has a tendency of getting in the way with kids schedules, career paths, pets, husbands, and the ongoing responsibilities of running a household.

But this spring I was fortunate to come across not one, but two adult leagues. I was in heaven. I thought there would be nothing like a game of field hockey in New England to get me back in shape. The first league was an indoor co-ed league at Seacoast United in Hampton, NH where they schedule multiple six-week sessions throughout the year. The spring session was scheduled on a slightly shorter-than-regulation artificial field with ‘push play’ only rules and a reduced number of players – 3 offensive, 3 defensive, no goalie. A great way to get back in the swing I thought. It started on the first Monday evening of May.

The second league was a newly-formed outdoor club in Georgetown Massachusetts, called the Northshore Field Hockey League. This was an outdoor field hockey league on real turf with regular size fields. “Wow”, I thought, “this is great stuff”. Sticks and chicks and all things field hockey. Now I was really getting excited by the thought of getting back into the game that I truly enjoyed by participating on two different teams. Life was good.

Everything was set to go. I purchased a new stick, some practice balls, shin guards, a pair of New Balance shoes and molded my mouthgard to fit. I was ready to play.

The first fifteen minutes of the first game were glorious. Granted I was completely winded, and missed a few plays, but I felt the same rush of adrenaline I did as a player at Londonderry High School . I was back. That is, I was back right up until I planted my foot to shift direction and tackle the oncoming offensive player and my knee missed the play. “Crunch, rip”. Damn.

I had made one critical miscalculation. You see, I thought that field hockey would be a great game to play to get back in shape. But as it turns out, I needed to already be in better shape to play field hockey. Emergency room, crutches, rehab, referral to an Orthopedic surgeon, and a noisy MRI. Sigh. It looks like a torn Meniscus and a partially torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), and that most likely means surgery.

Even though I’m sidelined after just beginning, I’m optimistic that I may be able to get back to the game after I heal. I still love the rush I get playing field hockey, and hope that I can experience the thrill of the game again. Until then I'll have to live with the fact that this time around, it was at the very least, a most frustrating encounter with ‘sticks, chicks and crutches’.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

File Hosting and Media Sharing

For a while now, I’ve wanted to share some of the content from my Herb Classes with readers, but couldn’t figure out know how to publish or link to the plant related handout sheets that I had created. Google’s Blogger, which is where my Blog now resides, allows me to link to other places and add photos, but doesn’t allow me to store data so readers can download.

It took me a while to figure out that there are a number of free file hosting sites available that will allow me to store my documents online for absolutely nothing. Zilch, Nada, Gatz. And free is always a good thing to a small-time, beginner blogger like me. A Google search will give you a fuller list, but here are a few names of potential places to store your stuff online.




I’ve chosen to use Mediafire. A lot of the free applications are fairly similar in function but Mediafire was noticed by PC Magazine, Cnet, PC World and Lifehacker which put it in the winners circle for me. It’s super easy to use, takes very little time to set up an account (which is optional), and within minutes I had successfully uploaded a file.

Once the files are stored online, I’m able include a link to them from my blog. Readers can then download the files for their own information or use. Very cool.

I really wouldn’t have figured this out if not for a friend of mine, David Seah, who’s an avid and well respected blogger in his own right. Dave is quite a bit more skilled with the online and technical worlds than I am so when he suggested I use an online file hosting package for file sharing, I paid attention. On his blog, Dave writes about productivity and other methods of empowering ourselves. Check him out - he’s one of the smartest people I know and fantastic at combining technical and creative concepts in ways that most of us can only imagine.

Now that I have a file hosting application in place I’ll be adding more content from my herb classes for anyone interested in learning a bit more about the plants.

Monday, April 21, 2008

This Year’s Theme: Learning to Love Myself

Each year for the past several years now I’ve experienced spurts of personal growth which emerge as themes or patterns in my life. These recurring topics have been useful roadmaps to focus my attention on learning to listen to myself more on a daily basis and in helping me find a more emotionally balanced place to exist in this sometimes crazy world.

The most interesting thing about these themes is that I’ve never gone in search of the topics, of what I should be working on, or what I should be paying attention to. Rather, they seem to coalesce on their own, issue by issue, over time, and come into my awareness as I’m ready to acknowledge them. Sometimes I know what the theme will be even before the year begins. Other times I don’t know until well into Spring or even Summer, but inevitably they always show themselves. They most usually take the form of something I need to change, accept, let go of, or work on - ideals like finding personal balance, dealing with the loss of a loved one, or challenging myself to be my authentic self.

The concepts have become so noticeable that it seemed only right to start naming them each year as a means of celebrating their presence in my world and to use them in becoming more emotionally aware and present. Each year now carries with it a proud moniker, a declaration of what the year will be, is, or has already become. Each theme comes complete with its own logo printed on a ‘life card’, much like a business card, that I keep with me in my wallet to remind me of where I am in my journey. I don't have the design for this year just yet but will post it as soon as I do. Each year has been an interesting revelation that peels back another layer of who I am, what I am about, and what is important to me.

In 2008 it became increasingly clear that I needed to work on finding more acceptance, kindness and love for myself and of myself. I needed to find love for what I’ve now learned is commonly known as my “inner child”, “inner self”, or “true self”. I need to be able to accept, like and love myself as I am. It seemed only right then that I proclaim this year “2008 PhiliaDiDi. Learning to Love Myself.”

Philia = brotherly love.

DiDi = my name when I was a little girl.

This blog is part of the process of learning to love myself. It is giving me a forum to speak and be heard/read by anyone who has an interest or similar struggle.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Fun with Herbs: Wonderfully Green Weeds

One of the more interesting things I’m fortunate enough to be able to do is teach a class through the Derry Cooperative School District - Center for Adult Studies in Derry, NH. I taught a class for the first time with them in Spring 2007, and they were kind enough to invite me to teach again this year.

The course is titled “Fun with Herbs” and is a five week course that covers introductory topics and activities with the smell good, feel good, taste good, wonderfully green weeds. Here’s a description of the class according to the Spring 2008 course flyer:

“Learn the basics of how to use common herbs in your everyday life. This hands-on course teaches you how to plant a small window box garden, make an herbal inspired meal, create a soothing lip balm, blend your own home-made incense, and understand how to harvest, store, or select quality herbs.”

Each Monday evening for five weeks beginning in March, students get to know the plants. They get their hands dirty planting, cutting, cooking, blending and using herbs in ways they may not have tried before. The course focuses on just a handful of plants, which gives each student time to get to know each plant individually and to gain a working knowledge of what they are, how to use them, how to grow them, and how to harvest and store them.

The best part about the class work, other than working with the plants themselves is of course getting to know the students. During the first class I taught, I was pleasantly surprised by the sincere interest and enthusiasm of the six women in the group. Despite their different backgrounds and lives, they made an instant connection and were swapping contact information and sharing resources, tips and recipes without hesitation.

In today’s world of drive-through food, frenzied work-loads and over-scheduled lives, the simple pleasure of women gathering around a table to learn, talk, laugh, and share stories is a simple pleasure that I treasure. Taking time to interact with each individual person and to learn about them is refreshing. Taking time to slow down, be present and experience the smell, texture, and taste of the plants, is rejuvenating.

Teaching this course is as much fun for me as it is for the students who attend, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend my late-winter/early-spring evenings sharing the lessons of herbs - the wonderfully green weeds.

My First Foray Into the Blogging World.

I’ve finally taken my first step into the blogging world. It took me a while to get here, which you may think is odd for a fairly outgoing, career ‘marketing type’ such as myself. You know us marketers, those annoying types of people who spend every day thinking about how to position, brand and present a company in the world in the best, most memorable way possible, to increase sales and reduce the friction of the buying cycle.

Yup, I’m the kind of person who formulates an opinion on website functionality when I shop online, make comments out loud (even if I’m home alone with only the cat to hear me) when I receive a direct mail offer with no tracking system on it, and laugh uncontrollably when I see a live trade publication ad with an outline of an empty box and a big bold “FPO” printed diagonally in the location where a photo should be. For all you marketing types reading this, yes, I really did see “FPO” (for placement only) on an ad by a former client and yes, my laughing was loud and boisterous.

So, with years of writing and managing the corporate communications of companies to public audiences, you’d think I’d have no trouble at all with writing my own blog, right? Wrong. This is a challenge of a different sort. This is a personal blog and as such, well it’s personal! Throughout my entire life, it’s always been easier to do for others rather than to boldly step to the front and center of the stage and declare “this is me”. It’s a bit nerve racking to put myself out there on the fail tree limb and pray that a strong breeze doesn’t shake the branch uncontrollably and send me tumbling dangerously toward an uncertain, unpleasant, free-falling failure. But since inaction guarantees failure, I’m taking my chances on the tree limb. I hope you’ll join me.