The power of a name

the power of a name

One of the many lessons I learned early on from my father was the importance of learning and pronouncing people’s names correctly. My dad, who was also my FFA advisor, made sure to teach the lesson every year as we prepared for our annual FFA chapter banquet. See, during our banquet, we awarded every student in the program at least once and the awards were presented by fellow members of the chapter. For many students, this was the first time they’d ever been recognized for anything. And, for most, their parents would be in the audience.

It was a moment to be proud of.

Now, think how hard it would be to have your name mispronounced in front of a crowd of people as you’re getting an award (maybe your first one ever). Tough, right?

Now, I won’t say that names weren’t ever mispronounced. After all, we were high schoolers and because of how our program was structured – students from seven different schools came to my dad’s agriscience class for half of their day; some in the morning, some in the afternoon – there was always the possibility that the student giving an award had never met the person receiving the award. It wasn’t a perfect system.

But the lesson was taught to each student, year in and year out, that we should all do our best to learn everyone’s name and how to pronounce it. The parents in the room worked hard to pick that name. As we’re honoring their child, they should be proud to hear that child’s name announced – and announced correctly.

I’m currently reading the famous book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, and I recently finished the chapter on this same idea. As he says “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” To remember someone’s name is to show them respect; it demonstrates that you care and understand the important part they play in the world.

Here’s some tips we can all use to better remember and pronounce names. Do you have any others to add to the list?

How a Jeep taught me to loosen up

The last couple of months have revolved around an ongoing debate at my house. My fiance Mitch wanted to trade in his truck (which he had just purchased in November) and get a Jeep. My list of arguments as to why this was a bad idea was long:

  • You just bought this truck. If you didn’t want it, you shouldn’t have bought it.
  • We are saving up for a wedding. You don’t need to be spending money on toys.
  • How are you going to haul things without a truck?
  • Yes, I know it seems fun, but do we really need it?
  • I don’t know why you have to change vehicles so often; this is the fifth vehicle you’ve owned in the seven years we’ve been together.

And so on and so forth. I was dead set against this purchase. But, as I thought about it more, my arguments really it didn’t have to do with any of the above points. It had everything to do with a difference in two philosophies:

Philosophy #1: Lifetime of a vehicle

Amanda: A vehicle should be driven until it dies, paid off so you can save money for something new.

Mitch: A vehicle should be driven until I find something better (and not lose any money).

Philosophy #2: Large purchases

Amanda: High dollar purchases give me anxiety.

Mitch: Can I afford it? Awesome. Moving on.

It’s not uncommon to have differing philosophies in a relationship, especially about money. But, at the end of the day, we have one overriding policy between the two of us: if it doesn’t affect our joint finances, I don’t tell him how to spend his money and vice versa. We’re too independent to like being told what we can and can’t do with our respective incomes and so we’re good with this compromise. Which is why, last Tuesday night, Mitch became the owner of a 2008 Jeep Rubicon.

And I couldn’t be happier.

As we’ve been having this argument, all of my points centered around fear. Fear of spending too much money. Fear of not having enough money for the wedding. Fear of getting into the habit of frivolous spending. But those are my fears, not Mitch’s. He knows he can afford it and he’s better than me at looking at the bigger picture. He saw how driving a Jeep could allow us to have better experiences than his former vehicle. Not just for him, but for us as a family.

And he was right.

We spent the 4th of July weekend in northern Michigan, and here’s just a glimpse of the blast we had thanks to the Jeep:

Jeep ride with Mitch and my dog

Our first family ride in the Jeep with the top off, feeling the wind in our hair (or fur).

Dog eating ice cream

Nothing like taking the Jeep to get some ice cream – even Leo got his “pup cup”!

My sister and her boyfriend joined us to do a little off-roading in the Jeep. When you're flying at 60 mph down bumpy 2-lane seasonal roads, your hair's going to get a bit crazy!

My sister and her boyfriend joined us to do a little off-roading in the Jeep. When you’re flying at 60 mph down bumpy 2-lane seasonal roads, your hair’s going to get a bit crazy!

 

I have a bad habit of getting a little too uptight, and not enjoying the moment for what it is. But Mitch’s “frivolous” purchase was one more example of how he consistently shows me how to loosen up a little, chill out and have fun.

So here’s to many more off-roading, wind in our hair, singing to the music moments in the Jeep!

 

My new favorite thing about Wednesdays

My new

When I joined Twitter in college, one of the first communities I joined was #agchat. Here was an online group of people in agriculture, coming together once a week to talk about different topics related to food and farming. Out of that experience, I made some amazing friends, got to travel to new places, and had one of my first event planning gigs.

After I graduated, I became less and less involved with #agchat – mostly because, when I moved to Minneapolis for work, I felt less and less connected to the agricultural world that I grew up in. It was a community I was familiar with, but really no longer felt a part of. When I stopped participating, though, my Twitter activity overall became almost non-existent.

About six months ago, I found myself wanting to find that bond of community online again. I started posting on Twitter. I started following people. I started reading and sharing interesting articles. But I was still flying solo in a world that thrives on making connections.

Then, I found #bufferchat.

#bufferchat is run by (not surprisingly) Buffer — a start-up company that creates software for scheduling social media posts. I stumbled upon them in a Fast Company article and was intrigued by what they are trying to do as a transparent company with no managers and positions like “Happiness Heroes.” I set up an account and gave them a follow on Twitter. I figured that’s where it would end. However, #bufferchat turned a random follow into full-fledged engagement.

Similar to #agchat, #bufferchat is a weekly discussion on Twitter where thousands of people from around the world come together to talk about the week’s topic. Last week it was about building your reputation online. The week before that it was about using digital tools to stay organized. It’s always facilitated by the Buffer team (and sometimes there’s a special guest), but it’s not marketing spin. It’s a true discussion. It’s fast-paced. It’s engaging.

And it’s my favorite part of Wednesdays.

Just like I’d felt with #agchat, #bufferchat has helped me re-discovered the purpose of a social media tool like Twitter. It’s there to facilitate conversations, to help make connections with others, and – just maybe – create a community where you can build true relationships.

Hope you stop by for #bufferchat some time. There’s a great group just waiting to say ‘hi’.

Top 5 holiday weekend highlights!

It’s been a long time since I’ve taken a vacation, but this past weekend I disconnected and headed to northern Michigan to spend 4th of July with my fiance Mitch’s family at their lake cottage. While I didn’t get all the things I had planned to do accomplished, it was amazing to stop worrying and just enjoying being with great people having fun.

Here’s some of my highlights from the long weekend:

Off-roading in our new Jeep

Last week, Mitch bought a Jeep (more on that in the future) and this weekend we really got to see what it could do. Northern Michigan has some great two-track seasonal roads that we went and played on, and we were lucky enough to have my sister and her boyfriend come and join us!

My sister and her boyfriend joined us to do a little off-roading in the Jeep. When you're flying at 60 mph down bumpy 2-lane seasonal roads, your hair's going to get a bit crazy!

My sister and her boyfriend joined us to do a little off-roading in the Jeep. When you’re flying at 60 mph down bumpy 2-lane seasonal roads, your hair’s going to get a bit crazy!

 

Cruising into town for some ice cream

Most of these northern Michigan towns are pretty small, but we took some time to cruise into Harrison in the Jeep (top off!) to get some ice cream. My dog, Leo, even got to get in on the fun!

Jeep ride with Mitch and my dog

Our first family ride in the Jeep with the top off, feeling the wind in our hair (or fur).

Dog eating ice cream

Nothing like taking the Jeep to get some ice cream – even Leo got his “pup cup”!

Celebrating the marriage of one of my oldest and best friends

On Saturday, Mitch and I drove over to Holland to watch one of my best friends, Robyn, get married. Robyn and I have been friends for about 18 years, starting with doing gymnastics together. It was great to see her take her next step in life with a wonderful man and see the love they share for each other.

High school friends at Robyn's wedding

Robyn was a beautiful bride! It was so great to celebrate with her and our two other best high school friends, Holly and Nicole.

Mitch and Amanda at Robyn's wedding

Mitch and I clean up pretty well!

Tooling around on the lake

It’s not 4th of July in Michigan without a little time on the water. Between getting the pups on board, getting a good sunburn tan, and watching fireworks from the pontoon while they went off from all directions around us, there’s nothing like a little boat time to boost your spirits.

Dog on pontoon boat

Leo absolutely loved the boat – this is his “happy face”!

Hanging out with family

Over the past seven years, it’s been awesome to get to know Mitch’s family and hang out with them on weekends like this. In the next two months, their current cottage will be demolished to make room for a newer one that will fit the growing number of people who come to the lake and enjoy each others’ company. This last weekend at the current cottage was a great time to reflect on lots of good stories and make a few more. Plus, I was especially glad that my sister and her boyfriend could join us for a day of boating, off-roading, swimming with the dogs and playing games. This is what a holiday weekend is supposed to be about and we did it in epic style.

Can’t wait for the next lake weekend and a chance to make even more memories. Hope you had an equally awesome 4th of July with your friends and family!

 

Kicking off the new month right

Today’s July 1st. A new month. A brand new beginning.

What to do with it?

I personally love that the start of July kicks off with built in vacation. Since 4th of July falls on a Saturday this year, my office is closed on Friday. That means I’m heading to my family’s cottage Thursday night to get my relaxation started right – ka-ching! It’ll be a weekend of family, celebration (one of my best friends is getting married!), hanging by the water, a little boating and lots of decompressing.

One of the things I’m really looking forward to doing while at the lake is spending some personal time on reflection and growth. I’m planning to do some reading and writing, which I haven’t been very good at making time for. I want to do some goal-setting. I want to spend some time just…being – soaking in the peace and quiet that comes with an early morning on the deck while the only people on the water are the fishermen.

This weekend will kick off what is sure to be another busy month of travel and work. But, for three short days, I plan to slow it down, take a step back and soak it all in.

 

Grey’s Anatomy and emotional investment in fake people

I spent some time this weekend getting caught up on my DVR, including Grey’s Anatomy. And, yes, I watched THAT episode of Grey’s. The one that caused people to consider suing fictional hospitals, petitioning Shonda Rhimes to give the show the Dallas treatment, and boycotting watching from here on out. And, yes, all of this was very ridiculous.

But I still sobbed inconsolably.

Now, I’ll admit that it’s not the first episode of Grey’s Anatomy that I’ve bawled uncontrollably through. When Meredith had to cut Cristina out of her wedding dress? A mess. When the shooter was taking out doctors left and right? Couldn’t stop the tears. When Callie and the cast sang their way through a tragedy? Pass the Kleenex.

I’m emotionally attached, to say the least.

And it’s not the only TV show I have this issue with. Series finales of Boy Meets World, Roseanne and Glee…all equally sob-inducing. And, if Twitter/Facebook/Instagram are any indication, I’m not the only one with this problem.

The question is, why?

Why do we get so emotionally invested in TV shows and fictional characters? As someone on Twitter pointed out so well, these are fake people with fake lives. Nothing that happens on Grey’s Anatomy or any other show has anything to do with whether my life is good, bad or indifferent. It’s just there, another piece of pop culture that we take in and that is there to entertain us.

Or is it?

Whenever I question why I still watch Grey’s Anatomy, I’m immediately transported back to when I first started watching as a freshman in college. It was 2006 and Grey’s was just starting its third season, coming off what turned out to be one of its most epic storylines – Denny’s death. I was experiencing a whole new world away from home and, because of the huge popularity of the show, Grey’s Anatomy was a part of it.

I remember being in a lecture where the professor was trying to schedule a review session and when asking if Thursday night would work, several of the girls in the front row started shaking their head “no”. When he asked why not, they said “That’s when Grey’s Anatomy is on.” He then asked the lecture hall of more than 200 people how many of them would be watching Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday – and, I swear, more than 80% of the class raised their hands.

I remember piling into dorm rooms with friends to watch the show every week. I remember sitting in my room, illegally downloading the latest music from each episode. I remember using quotes like “Pick me. Choose me. Love me.” as my status on MySpace and Facebook. The show was huge.

And, for me, it sort of acts like a sticky note on the pages of a particularly important time in life, like an old friend that was there along for the ride.

Now, here’s the thing – I know that Grey’s hasn’t been good for awhile. But I’m a bitter ender – even after TV shows, movies, etc. get bad, once I’m invested, I have to watch until the bitter end. Because at one point it was good. And, at one point, it was a part of my life.

So, here’s to unnecessary emotional investment and nostalgia. Adios, Dr. McDreamy. It was a good – and tear-filled – run. May we all take your advice and approach each day as “a beautiful day to save lives” – no matter in what way that takes form.

Why I’m loving working remotely

Finally, FINALLY the sun has started to shine on a daily basis and the temperature is on its way up!

I can’t believe the last time I wrote something on this blog was in January when it was cold, snowy and I was still working on moving back home! I’ve been back in Michigan for almost three months now and I’m loving every minute of it. I spend time with friends and family I haven’t seen in years and I’m starting to get involved with so many of the things I used to be part of. It’s been great!

One of the things that people ask me all the time, though, is “What’s it like to work remotely?” See, when I left Minnesota, my company was wonderful enough to let me stay on and just work from my new home. I shifted a few responsibilities here and there to make it more conducive to being away from my coworkers, but for the most part, my job has remained mostly the same. And you know what?

I love it.

For anyone who knows me, I like to get stuff done. I don’t like a lot of distractions (i.e., meetings) and I like to feel as though I’m making progress and accomplishing things. Working remotely really allows me to do that. People only pull me in to meetings when my presence is truly needed (because, let’s face it, being on a conference call sucks no matter which end of the line you’re on). I have my home office where I can go and work without distractions (or at least, only a few here and there from my four-legged fur child). It’s the first time in a long time that I feel like I’m checking boxes left and right and moving the needle forward.

It’s great.

Now, I will caveat this with the fact that every now and then, I feel a little pang of loneliness. In those moments where I feel the need for some human interaction, though, I make sure to utilize FaceTime or instant messenger or a good old fashioned phone call to get my socializing in for the day. And, thankfully, I fly back to the office for a few days every month so I can catch up with my coworkers and get caught up on all I’ve been missing.

I’m really fortunate for the opportunity to continue in my job, while also getting to move closer to my family and friends. It’s the best of both worlds and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Now, excuse me, while I go sit on my deck and soak up this beautiful spring sunshine.