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5 posts from November 2009

November 30, 2009

New Pajamas, New Beginnings


There's nothing like a soft, cuddly comfort of new pajamas on a cold winter night. Especially if you're woman who has just arrived at a domestic violence shelter with just the clothes on your back. Not many people would connect starting a new life with getting to choose from a closet of warm pajamas, but it was obvious to Kelly Sargent, founder of Helen's Pajama Party and owner of Brainstorm Marketing in Des Moines. The non-profit is named after Kelly's mother, Helen, who passed away when Kelly was a child. In 2006 Kelly asked 50 friends and family members to buy new-with-tags pajamas for Des Moines-based shelters. Her effort resulted in 150 pairs which she proudly took to a shelter. She left seeing a greater need; she'd delivered only enough for a six-month supply for just one shelter. 

Nearly 3,000 women now seek shelter from domestic abuse each year in Iowa. So today Kelly works to provide each one with a new pair of PJs. Last year Kelly met that goal and expanded to include shelters in Nevada, Arkansas and New York.  She's relentless in her all-consuming efforts, using cash donations to shop for bargain tops to match donated bottoms and working with friends and groups like Rotary and the Central Iowa Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners to fill the need. What difference does one pair of pajamas make? 

Read these words from Sister Charla, the director of New Beginnings in Dubuque: "The first night a woman comes to stay with us, we invite her upstairs to what we call Pajama Dreamland to choose a pair of pajamas that best fit her. We explain that we aren't just talking about size. We are including her dreams and hopes. Today a newly arrived victim, with eyes sparkling for the first time since walking through our door, said that if it were just size it would be easy, but considering what we asked, she said, 'Suddenly I have so many possibilities. Pajamas with flowers: I can plant my own, and no one will stomp them dead. Pajamas with soft colors: I can dream and know my dreams have a chance. Pajamas with puppies: I've always wanted my own dog, and now I could have one. Pajamas with lace and bows: I'm a woman and maybe I can learn to be proud of that. Pajamas with clouds: I can go to sleep and not be afraid.'

Sister Charla continued: "With so many choices, I asked her if one pair would be enough, and she said, 'To have one sweet dream is more than anything I have ever known. One is enough.'"

Bet you didn't know a pair of PJs could evoke such thoughts about one's future. I look at pajamas in a whole new way now, and I purchased a leopard pair for my donation this year. I hope you'll consider helping Kelly's indefatigable effort to make life better, one pair of pajamas at a time. Most needed are small, medium and 2X at this time.

November 25, 2009

Let's go bowling

Be wary of what lurks within, Iowa football fans.

Within your own conference.

As the Dec. 6 bowl selection date approaches, Hawkeye fans are justifiably excited about the possibility of their team landing an at-large invitation to a BCS bowl. Iowa has finished its regular season at 10-2 and is 11th in the BCS rankings, so the Hawkeyes are eligible for one of the four at-large spots in the big-money bowls.

The Florida-Alabama loser in the SEC championship game will get one. That leaves three. TCU will be guaranteed a spot if it  finishes unbeaten, which is almost certain to happen. That leaves two. If Boise State goes unbeaten, the Broncos will be hard to ignore. So we could be talking about just one at-large berth remaining.

At first glance, Oklahoma State appears to be Iowa's main competitor, if the Cowboys beat Oklahoma in their Bedlam Series game on Saturday. Okie State is 12th in the BCS standings now and would finish 10-2 with a victory over the Sooners.

But Penn State, 13th in the BCS standings and also 10-2, is really the team to be concerned about. Yes,  the Hawkeyes beat Penn State in Happy Valley and were more competitive against Ohio State than the Nittany Lions. But the Iowa loss was a long time ago, back in September. Plus, Penn State has more national cache than Iowa, has a better offense than the Hawkeyes (just about every decent team does) and they have Joe Paterno, who's certainly more colorful and a better draw than Kirk Ferentz (With no offense intended to Kirk. That's just the way it is).

In Iowa's favor: The Hawkeyes did beat Penn State, they find a way to hang around no matter the opponent or circumstances and, most importantly to the bowl folks, they'll put a lot of butts in the seats and spend a lot of money in the hotels and restaurants.

I think Iowa's going to get that at-large spot, in the Fiesta Bowl. But if that's your hope, it wouldn't hurt to be pulling for Oklahoma this weekend, just in case. And you better hope that Nebraska doesn't upset Texas in the Big 12 championship game.

If that happens, all bets are off.

Now, what about Iowa State?

The Big 12 has eight guaranteed bowl slots, including a BCS game, and right now, eight teams are eligible. It could be nine if Kansas beat Missouri on Saturday.

Should that happen, I look for Iowa State still to get the nod over Kansas for a Big 12 bowl, even though the Jayhawks beat the Cyclones. Iowa State fans will travel, the Jayhawks have gone in the tank since beating ISU on Oct. 10 -- they've lost six straight -- and things are generally a mess in Lawrence with coach Mark Mangino being investigated for verbal and emotional abuse.

So, if you're a bowl, do you want Kansas and all that baggage or do you want an Iowa State team with a new coach who's invigorating the program and would be excited just to be there, wherever it may be. Of course, this all could be moot if Kansas loses to Missouri, which is likely to happen.

It could be the Insight Bowl in Phoenix. It could be the Independence Bowl in Shreveport. But the Cyclones are going bowling. And I say good for them.

November 23, 2009

WBO Pet Project

We aren't our work. I've been telling myself that for years whenever I get too caught up in being a business owner. Work is not my identify. So I get excited when other women business owners show their passions in ways other than building a profitable business. With expertise and good customer service we can meet client needs, but sometimes what most fills our hearts is in the nonprofit arena.

Three women I know — Becky Mollenkamp (Becky Mollenkamp Creative Services), Sara Henderson (SOS-Small Office Solutions) and Karla Rendall (Liberty Bank) — have recently combined forces with two other concerned pet lovers (Monica Wimber of McKee, Voorhees & Sease and marketer Holly Hartling) to create The Pet Project Midwest, a non-profit that complements current local animal organizations by providing services they don't offer. They started Iowa Pet Alert -- sort of an "Amber Alert" for animals -- and use social media (Facebook and Twitter [@IAPetAlert]) to let folks know that a pet has been lost or found. The goal: speed the reconnection of pets and their owners. Aren't these women something?

They're also paying attention to the economy. You've no doubt heard of the increase in homeless pets; their owners have fallen on hard times and can't afford the cost of feeding and caring for their animals. So The Pet Project Midwest plans to open a Pet Pantry -- sort of a food bank for animals -- in January and is accepting donations of products to stock their shelves. Of course, they're also accepting dollars, but their 501(c)(3) status won't come through until early 2010 (so $ are not tax deductible yet, but will be soon).

They need unopened puppy and dog food, unopened cat and kitten food, collars, leashes, pet beds, kennels, dog houses, cat litter, litter boxes, flea/tick medicine, pet shampoo, nail trimmers/ files and brushes. They'll also take manufacturers' coupons to help them purchase pet products at reduced prices. Please consider putting them on your holiday list. I've never bought dog food...before last week! And it was for them.

November 17, 2009

What's your bad business habit?

You may recall my writing (October 6) about one of my bad business habits: multitasking. To improve my focus, I turned off the distracting "ping" that alerts me that a new email has just arrived. It's been 42 days, and I still have it off. Yes, it's helped me avoid interruptions, and I'm showing small improvements in keeping myself on one project at a time.

I heard years ago that it took 12 days to create a new habit, and I thought that if something could be done in less than two weeks, maybe there was a chance for me to correct some behaviors I didn't care for in myself. Well, this morning I read a new time line: 30 to 60 days for a new habit. I prefer to think in baby steps, a day at a time, but I know I have a long way to go (well beyond 60 days) to break out of my years of multitasking madness.

That two-month timeframe came from Karen Leland's blog on Web Worker Daily: Teach an Old Dog New Tricks: How to Break Bad Work Habits. Her bad habit: impatience. (I can identify with that since I sometimes jump to another project if I'm not coming up with the creativity and flow that I'm looking for when I'm working. I always think I'll "clear my mind" and all will be well when I pick it up again and view the project with fresh eyes and a recharged brain.

Karen's simple formula for getting started is what I'm actually doing with multitasking:

Step 1 - Call out the bad habit and identify its negative consequences. When you spell out the crazy-making, frustration or lack of productivity caused by your bad habit, you feel pretty wimpy about continuing it. "Naming the habit" sounds like it should be easy, but creating a true awareness and verbalizing it may not be that simple. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to be honest about where there's "room for self-improvement." For some, we're looking at ourselves from a new perspective, and we may prefer to just ignore what we see.

Step 2 - Create alternative actions. We can't just think "I gotta change." We need to identify solid action steps to take toward that change...and then take them. That's building a new pathway in the brain that over time will become stronger than your known mode of operation. It's not too late to form new neural connections, folks; it just takes a while to rewire ourselves. And, as I well know, nothing will change if we don't want things to be different and choose to act.

November 11, 2009

Open it up, Kirk

Iowa goes to Ohio State's Horseshoe this weekend with a redshirt freshman, James Vandenberg, making his first start at quarterback.

All Vandenberg is being asked to do is lead an offense that wasn't all that potent to begin with against the No. 1 defense in the Big Ten. All that's at stake is the Big Ten championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl.

No pressure, huh?

So, how about trying something a little different? Anyone who follows Iowa football knows that coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe are too conservative to try anything really crazy. But you're not going to beat the Buckeyes lining up in your base offense and running right at them. Ain't gonna fly.

You can't give Vandenberg too much because the kid's barely had time to grasp the basic offense. But you can at least give him a chance by throwing a few new wrinkles into the offense.

The two Iowa players most likely to break off a big play are receivers Marvin McNutt and DJK. Have McNutt take some direct snaps. He went to Iowa as a quarterback. He ought to be able to handle that. Run a reverse with DJK. Try a couple of bubble screens. Run McNutt on a reverse and have him throw it.

And while the offensive coaches are at it, maybe they could find a way to get a few balls to someone who's become invisible lately. You remember Tony Moeaki. He's the tight end who caught six passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over Michigan. He's caught six balls total in the four games since, none against Northwestern last week.

He's being double covered, you say? Well, draw up something to make sure he isn't. That's why Kirk and Ken get the big bucks.

It's not all on the offense, though. The Iowa defense has to come up big time in this one. The Hawkeyes need to get some stops at Ohio State's end to keep the field position in their favor. They also have to come up with a couple of momentum-changing turnovers, something they couldn't do against Northwestern.

Even if the Hawkeyes get creative on offense and force some turnovers, there's still no guarantee they'll win. But without some creativity and turnovers, they have no chance.