The White Elephant in the Room

Eat, drink and be merry for it may just save your life

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I was happy to attend a festive holiday party with my Ahwatukee Toastmaster friends last week and little did I realize that it was supporting an anti-cancer lifestyle.

 

The annual white elephant gift exchange is a lively and often hilarious tradition at many Toastmaster year-end gatherings and this one did not disappoint.  The devious antics played out and the most “stolen” gifts were a Ruth Bader Ginsburg action figure and a particular plunger of questionable origin ( new, with tag).

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The biggest gift of the evening came to me a few hours after the party, while I was reading in bed. While scrolling through notification messages on Facebook, I noticed an interesting article posted by my good friend Nancy in Texas.  I clicked on the story and dove into an intriguing piece written by Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, a Houston based Professor and Researcher who introduced the “Mix of Six” as a way to reduce ones risk of developing cancer.

At this point you may be wondering, is the mix of six some new drink recipe?

No, it’s not the latest libation trend but rather group of factors and lifestyle choices which, when combined, can radically transform health and delay or prevent many cancers.

The Mix of Six factors include:

  1. Social and Emotional Support
  2. Stress Management
  3. Sleep
  4. Physical activity
  5. Diet
  6. Environmental toxins

The bonus is that the fun, laughter and social connectedness I enjoyed from the joyous Toastmaster event was supporting my health in ways I never imagined (plus the food, especially the homemade samosas, was delicious).

Bottom line: Emotional support and fellowship is the best medicine for combating loneliness and illness.

The White Elephant in the room could be your best Doctor!

But wait, there’s more!

Research shows that having a strong circle of positive, supportive family and friends helps with stress management which in turn helps with sleep.  It’s like getting a 3 for 1 deal toward your the magical mix of six.

Warning:  Overstuffing on holiday food and drink can be can be slippery slope and should be enjoyed in moderation.  

So be present and give yourself the gift of health this holiday season.   Enjoy connecting with others in the light heartened spirit of sharing, laughing and sometimes “stealing” a white elephant gift!

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Festive gatherings and silly, zany gift exchanges are a fun and wonderful way to share in a circle of wellness and jolly goodwill.

So eat, drink and be merry for it may just save your life.

Happy Mix of Six!

Appreciation and Thanks

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I am thankful for organizations that are motivated, dedicated and committed to helping those less fortunate in the local community.  One such group is American Legion Post 64 in Ahwatukee, Arizona which continues to be recognized for its good work in the Phoenix area.

Post 64 was recently awarded three plaques to recognize its efforts and good works including: Outstanding Post History, Outstanding Color Guard and the 2018  Commanders Award for Community Service.

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Post 64 Color Guard in action.  Photo by Steve Smull

It’s no wonder that this fine Post has received the Membership award for the last 3 years.

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I so appreciate the positive acknowledgment of the generous and patriotic service of the members of Ahwatukee Post 64 and I am proud to call myself an active member.

Click here for the Post 64 Website

 

 

Remembering Armistice Day and Our Veterans

The red poppies are blowing today as the world marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War Armistice (11/11/18).

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As I watch French, German, American and other world leaders come together in Paris to pay their respects to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their countries, I am thankful that veterans are being remembered and appreciated for their service.

An American Legion magazine is spread open on the kitchen table and a poignant photo of a WWII veteran is calling to me.  He is all bundled up in gloves and a blanket and is holding a small US flag in one hand and a hand written sign in another.  The sign reads, “Thanks for Remembering”.

In the end, that’s all most veterans really want- to be appreciated and remembered.

So on this important day, Veterans Day in the United States and Remembrance/Armistice Day in Canada, Australia and many nations in Western Europe, it is my hope that as citizens of the world we can set aside our political differences and reflect on the positive impacts that countless servicemen and women have made all over the world.

There are over 20 million living veterans in the United States, representing almost 10% of the population.  If you don’t know someone who has served in the military, I encourage you to find out more by supporting your local VFW or American Legion posts.

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Marching in a Veterans Day Parade in Denver. Photo by Steve Smull

This Veterans Day is a very special Remembrance Day as we celebrate the centennial of the end of the First World War.

I proudly wear my red poppy to acknowledge the sacrifices made by those died on the battlefield.  I humbly pick up and carry the torch for those who came before me, knowing that they would say, “Thanks for Remembering!”

Happy Veterans Day America

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Respect and Inclusion for Veterans in Corporate America

Respect and Inclusion for Veterans in Corporate America

Trust, Respect and Inclusion. While these values may seem to be waning in American society today, they are valued more than ever by employees who yearn to be part of collaborative teams that make a difference and positive impact in their organizations and communities.

In a time of increasing disunity and fractured social groups, it is heartening to know there are companies and employee networks that promote inclusion and diversity with the benefit of development and engagement in our communities.  Like many people today, I crave a sense of belonging to something greater than myself that shares a common vision and objective.    With Charles Schwab and its many Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), I am one connected and happily engaged team member.

As a US Army veteran, I am proud to say that Schwab walks the talk when it comes to fostering and supporting Diversity and Inclusion networks.  Our teams meet frequently and have strong executive support to provide a wide array of programs, events and services.

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What many veterans miss most from their time in the military is the sense of camaraderie, cohesion and support from their units and teammates. These bonds are strong and are established all over the country in Schwab’s Military Veterans Network (MVN) groups (over 550 members).

This sense of team and connectedness is important to me since, as an IT professional, I have relocated many times and I always felt welcomed, appreciated and assisted by the local MVN chapters.  These groups come together with shared experiences and unite under common goalsand priorities.  The teams work as a cohesive unit to actively engage with the community and non-profit organizations to help fellow veterans and their families.

The trust, respect and inclusion the MVN fosters continues to grow and we are strengthened by the feeling that “we are all in this together” or as my Navy friends tell me, “we are all in the same boat”.

Being of service to others and giving back is another key driver for many members of the MVN and our volunteer efforts are supported by all levels of management.  Whether it be serving Thanksgiving dinner to homeless veterans at the Phoenix U.S. Vets facility,  assisting at the annual Arizona Stand Down or painting rooms to shelter those in need, our motivated ERG teams are ready to meet the call.

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Charles Schwab has given me the opportunity and the honor to work with many veteran focused non-profit groups including Project Sanctuary, American Legion, VFW and Heal The Hero.

Through solid action and commitment, employers that walk the talk on supporting veterans can gain something back — the loyalty and positive engagement of those former service members. Trust, Respect and Inclusion are truly wonderful gifts that keep on giving.

This quote from Air Force veteran Terrance Purcell sums up what I think is most important impact of ERGs, “All of these things really touch my heart and make me proud to be a Schwab Military Veteran Network member.”

Reflections on the Mall : My 1980’s Top 40 List

My nostalgic yearning for life as it was in the 1980s continues for a number of reasons. Sad news of the passing of a childhood friend, an upcoming family visit to my hometown and the longing for simpler, more authentic experiences have me pining for my happy days growing up in the small, friendly community of Spotswood, NJ.

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Last year I wrote a two part series on the popular Netflix series Stranger Things and the Dungeons & Dragon phenomena and today I am excited to share with you the latest update on Stranger Things season 3.

This quirky teaser trailer for season 3  had me LMAO and vividly remembering my first job at the Brunswick Square Mall in 1983.

I visited the shopping mall the other day and it just didn’t have the same positive vibe that I remember growing up.

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Photo by Michael Galinsky

It looks like we will have to wait a bit longer to get our next 1985 fix since season 3 of Stranger Things isn’t scheduled to release until mid 2019.

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The other thing I loved about the 1980s was the music.  Everyday I listen to SiriusXM radio on my drive to work and I always end up on the 70s, 80s or Classic Vinyl/Rewind channels.  Hair Nation is also a favorite channel with its compilation of arena rock concert music.

Images of black and white band jerseys come flooding back every time I hear a song from Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Rush, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel or Lynryd Skynryd.

 

I also enjoyed Casey Kasem and the weekly Top 40 countdown so I thought I’d share with you my own list of memories from the decade of big hair and great movies.

The Top 40 List (in no particular order) of the things I miss most about the awesome 80s:

  1. Hanging out with friends and listening to records or cassette tapes for hours on end.
  2. Playing Asteroids, Space Invaders and Pac Man at the video arcade.
  3. Waking my Dad up bright and early on my 17thbirthday so he could drive me to the DMV in Rahway, NJ. He let me drive his 1972 Chevy Chevelle to take my driving test to get my license.
  4. Listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall on my Sony Walkman.
  5. Back to school shopping and getting a shiny, new Trapper Keeper note book.
  6. Paradoxes in clothing trends: Black parachute pants. White Painters pants, Overalls.  Day glow colored spandex.   Peach colored anything.
  7. Quality movies like Back the Future, Ghostbusters, E.T. and The Terminator.The list is endless.
  8. Hanging out at Brunswick Square Mall and my first job at York Steak House.
  9. Getting a slice at Taverna Pizza parlor for lunch during senior year at Spotswood High School.
  10. High quality teachers like Mr. Muschla, Mr Dziedziak and Mr. Perosa.
  11. Great coaches who inspired and motivated: Jean Lonergan Puff and Bruce Nissenbaum.
  12. Playing in large piles of leaves in the front yard.
  13. Watching or marching in the annual Memorial Day parade.
  14. Eating a Carvel banana barge with nuts after eating pizza.
  15. Making cassette tape mixes by recording them from vinyl albums or the radio.
  16. Listening to classic rock on FM radio WPLJ.
  17. Being able to go over to someone’s house unannounced and just knock on the door and ask if they want to come out and play.
  18. Climbing trees and occasionally having someone break an arm.
  19. Building forts in the woods.
  20. Playing in the “dirt piles” behind my house.
  21. Sitting around an open fire in the woods.
  22. Going to Devoe Lake and sitting by the small waterfall on the Immaculate Conception church side overlooking the American Legion post.
  23. Watching Fourth of July fireworks over Devoe Lake from the church parking lot.
  24. Play acting and performing skits with my friends on Maiden Lane and Bruning Lane.
  25. Riding our bikes to places my parents didn’t know about.
  26. Exploration and the sense of wonder at discovering new and buried things.
  27. Playing kick ball in the street until it was dark.
  28. Riding my bike and unicycle to school without a helmet (it’s amazing I survived).
  29. Watching my friends play D&D.
  30. High School Marching Band and Color Guard pride.
  31. Swing sets and dodge ball at recess after lunch at Appleby school.
  32. Walking home from school on the railroad tracks.
  33. Playing video games at the Sorrentos pizza parlor on Main St and Devoe Ave.
  34. Jumping off home made, wooden ramps with our bikes.
  35. Storytelling at sleepover parties.
  36. High school yearbooks with hand drawn artwork on the covers.
  37. Using a shiny, new Apple II in high school computer class and learning BASIC.
  38. Fun and festive carnivals behind the Catholic church.
  39. Fishing in down at the outlets and rivers.
  40. Going to the Movie City Five theater and it costing $1.50 to see a movie.

Getting to the Point

NEWS ALERT:

You have something important to say.

 Here are some tips to ensure that your ideas are heard.

Why?

  • Attention spans are short
  • People are inundated with information
  • Your ideas need to stand out
  • Focusing your point/purpose will help you hit your target

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One of my favorite movies from the 1980s is “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”.  Little did I realize that it was teaching me valuable lessons on how to be an effective speaker.

The humor and sarcasm of Steve Martin in his scenes with John Candy are memorable, priceless and often times, instructive.

This fun quote from the movie applies to all Toastmasters.

“Here’s a good idea. Have a point.  It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!”

Steve Martin’s Pointed Clip

What?

For decades, the objectives of Project # 3 in the Toastmaster communication manual emphasized that the speaker should strive to organize their speech with a focused and precise purpose. The project was later named “Get to the Point”.

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Objectives of “Get to the Point” speech:

  1. Determine your general purpose
  2. Focus in on your specific purpose.
    • What does the audience really need to hear?
  3. Organize your speech so that the opening, body and conclusion all tie into and reinforce the purposes.

Interestingly, when I researched and found the archives of Ralph Smedley’s  “Basic Training for Toastmasters”manual from 1956, the concepts and techniques outlined are still relevant and applicable today.

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How?

  • Give the headline (point/purpose) up front.
  • Early in the speech, provide the audience with a roadmap of where you are taking them.
  • Bring stories and supporting items together to reinforce the larger, single message.
  • Use an outline or a framework (a plan on which to hang your words).
    • For example, I find the acronym PRES helpful.
      • P- Point
      • R- Reason
      • E- Example
      • S- Summary
  • Frame the central idea so that no matter what, the audience will remember that.
  • Strive to have the closing statement link back to the opening (like book ends).

I had something important to share with you and it is my hope that my point was clear and that I made it mildly interesting along the way!

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