I support the American Heart Association and you should too!

Athena & DaddyI’m lucky to have a healthy heart, but others in my family are not. Heart disease runs in my family. When I was only 10 years old, my Dad had a heart attack. As a child, this had a tremendous effect on me.  He ended up in the hospital with not just one bypass, but five. I remember walking into the ICU after his surgery and being so scared that I might lose my Daddy. We were lucky. He recovered thanks to a wonderful team of professionals and support from our family, but his heart attack changed our lives. We became more conscious of the foods that we ate, made sure to get some exercise, and learned a lot more about heart health.

Later, I had the great opportunity to work for Dr. Syed Mohiudden.  This was an incredible gift for me because I got to give back to the person who, in my mind, saved by Dad’s life many years before.  Part of my job at the Cardiac Center was to educate community members about heart health, especially the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke, and work toward policies that improve and protect people’s lives.  I continue to work in public health now at the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at the UNMC College of Public Health and have a passion for cardiovascular health.

Knowing heart disease so closely has made me aware of how it affects entire families.  In addition to my Dad, my sister Angie, Uncle Israel, and cousin Tony have all had heart bypass surgery too.  We now know that our family carries a genetic predisposition to heart disease, Lipoprotein(a). I want to be part of the cure – keeping my family safe and healthy and making my community a better place for all by educating others about health lifestyles and advocating for policies that promote health, justice and well-being.

AHA holds a special place in my heart for the work that they do in providing accurate health information, funding vital research, and advocating for policies that really matter. Thanks for all you do!

Please help me in supporting the work of the AHA. As we come upon Heart Health Month in February, I hope that you will remember my story; maintain a heart healthy lifestyle; and be part of the Cure!

Check out this story on the AHA’s You’re the Cure website.

Symposium on Small Towns 2014: Co-Creating Our Future

MN farmThis week I have the opportunity to participate in the the Symposium on Small Towns in Morris, Minnesota.  It was about a five hour drive up here, and I spent most of my time looking at the farms and the land.  I caught myself thinking about rural life and the significance of place in our lives.

During today’s sessions there was a strong focus on rewriting the rural narrative.  There is so much negative press out there about rural communities and that they are losing population, closing schools and hospitals, and that main streets dying; however, people’s experience limits what they can see.  Rural communities are changing, not dying.  Obviously, there is an impact of globalization and economies of scale, but most are not unincorporating and closing shop.  Thanks to Ben Winchester from the Center for Community Vitality and Randy Cantrell from University of Nebraska Extension, I learned that these are stereotypes and myths that exist.  Facts are that rural population in shear numbers has increased although the percentage of people living in rural areas has decreased from 26% to 19%.  In essence, we need to change our own narratives from a deficit-based approach to an asset-based approach…instead of the focus on the “brain drain” we should focus on the “brain gain” whereby there is an in-migration of 30-49 year olds into rural areas because of quality of life factors.  Additionally, there is in-migration to small towns from immigrants.  So newcomers are making there way into small towns.

A “newcomer” is defined as someone who has lived in a community less than five years.  Here’s some interesting facts about “newcomers” in Nebraska:

  • 40% have bachelor’s degrees
  • 48% have household incomes of over $50K
  • 43% of children
  • They are generally leaving their career and are underemployed in the new community, yet quality of life is more important.
  • 60% say that they will be living there five years from now and the more communities are friendly and trusting the more people want to stay.
  • Newcomers want to live in a place that has vision and where they can see an opportunity to participate and co-create that future.

Leadership and capacity-building is an important issue to highlight.  We need a strategy in order to grow what we need.  Little did I realize, but in Nebraska, there are 27.7 people for every elected or non-profit leadership position.  That means that there is a great opportunity to serve and build this vision for a stronger state, whereas in other places there are fewer of these types of opportunities.  In fact, in urban areas there are 144 people for every position.  How do you harness that opportunity?  We need to rethink our engagement strategy and find ways to bring non-traditional partners to the table.  Instead of doing things “to” or “for” people, we need to do things “with” people and engage them in re-imagining what could be.

Moving forward we need to hear an authentic voice about community assets and build relationships to strengthen the niche, promote the assets, build social capital, and connect the community.  This is a promising way to develop lasting community change that both honors the history, tradition, and people of the area and also allows for new voices, ideas, and visions to be heard.

SOURCE: Small Towns Symposium, 2014: Ben Wichester & Randy Cantrell, Rewriting the Rural Narrative; Craig Schroeder, Discussing the Youth Voice.

Experience in Self-Reflection

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a seminar on place, culture, home, and identity in New Mexico. I was one of about 15 people who joined the conversation.

We learned much about ourselves and how culture and identity are impacted by place. I struggled with how to explain what I learned and how I feel, but below I will highlight some of the key reflections I’m taking home:

1. Life is in all forms. Your ability to eliminate the distance between you and anything else brings greater harmony and allows relationships to flourish.
2. Identity and life transitions are deeply affected by place and space.
3. Sharing a story is so often not valued but it is immensely important to understanding any other person. Not only are you sharing in the words for that instant, but in fact you are sharing in their experience.
4. We should strive for more intentional conversations. Instead of shying away from difficult and important topics, we should embrace the opportunity and learn to see the world through another’s eyes.
5. We share a common humanity and are all connected through a lifeblood provided by the universe.
6. Nothing is perfect. Nothing is permanent. And nothing is ever finished.
7. “Being face to face, you cannot see the face. You must step back to see.” (Russian proverb)
8. We find our own meaning in everything we see, feel, hear, say, and experience. We are the authors of our lives, and meanings and interpretations can change as we change or reflect.
9. We are all only a path of greater understanding. It’s a journey, not a destination. It might be slow and tough, but there’s no parking along the way.

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The many deep, intentional conversations, the beauty of nature, and open mindfulness shaped this experience of a wonderful, peaceful place. I can’t wait for next time!

Practicing Haiku for an Exercise Next Week

Haiku:

a major form of Japanese verse, written in 17 syllables divided into 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, and employing highly evocative allusions and comparisons, often on the subject of nature or one of the seasons.

Blessed are we to dream

For a better tomorrow;

Action, trust, and US!

 

Good morning sunshine

Beautiful world around me

May love fill us all

Focus on Strengths

I love to read.  I believe that self-discovery is based on our awarenss and openness to life-long learning.  As I prepare for yet another transition, I have been focused on how to develop and build stronger relationships.

I just finished reading Strengths Based Leadership, by #1 New York Times bestselling author Tom Rath and Barry Conchie.  It is yet another step in the strengths dialogue.  This book reveals three key findings about leadership: (1) Know your strengths and invest in others’ strengths; (2) Get people with the right strengths on the team; and (3) Understand and meet the four basic needs of those who look to you for leadership.

These types of lessons are not only good for professional relationships but also for personal relationships … strengthening families and maximizing friendships.  I try to be a positive person and pass along that positivity to all that I come into c0ntact with.  I believe that everyday I can make someone’s day.  If you know how people work, what they value, and what makes them tick making someone’s day becomes just a little bit easier.

So today’s the day – focus on people’s strengths, assign tasks to allow people to excel, value each unique individual, and watch the change in your world.

Today, I leave this blog post and share a poem that epitomizes my beliefs, The Optimist’s Creed by Christian D. Larson.

The Optimist Creed

I promise myself:

  • To be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind.
  • To talk health, happiness, & prosperity to every person I meet.
  • To make all my friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.
  • To look at the sunny side of everything & make my optimism come true.
  • To think only of the best, to work only for the best, & to expect only the best.
  • To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.
  • To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
  • To wear a cheerful expression at all times & give a smile to every living creature I meet.
  • To give so much time to improving myself that I have no time to criticize others.
  • To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, & too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
  • To think well of myself & to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud word, but in great deeds.
  • To live in the faith that the whole world is on my side, so long as I am true to the best that is in me.

I hope you can promise yourself the same thing.  Cheers! Until next time.

Thoughts On Our Present

Sometimes we go through life, and we look, but we do not see. We observe, but not explore. We pass through life, but do not live. We have special moments but fail to recognize their significance until other circumstances in our live’s highlight that once past time.

As one matures, it becomes more apparent that every moment is a special moment and that the significance of each moment lies in the thought and reflection of the experience. All feelings, all thoughts, and all that we call “real” is only as real as the value that we give or place upon those feelings, thoughts, and ideas. We live a dream which we control. We are the masters of our own dream – our own reality – own destiny.

Love, life, and harmony are tools of navigating our purpose and our future. Reflect to understand and move forward with what feels natural with what advances your goals and your vision and leave behind the things, people, and places that don’t assist you in reaching your potential.

With Downtime Creativity Can Flow

I’m in Jemez Springs, New Mexico with some wonderful collegues at a workshop called “The Practice of Seeing in Place: Zen, Culture, and Communication.” This afternoon we had an assignment to explore the site where we are at by sensing the place and creatively depicting this space.

So I wandered to a nearby river and sat by the banks. I felt a calmness and clarity come over me. So here’s my thought to share with you today…

“A Thought”

River flows by me
Understanding it’s to be
Today is the day

I’m learning to see
Visualizing serene peace
I’m part of this world

Bubbles of water
No longer a mystery
Life – humanity

We are who we are
Atoms, vibes, energy, sunlight
Specks in time and space

Trees in the fall breeze
Snowflakes through a small window
Blossoms and radiant love

Seek to comprehend
Look at the edges of the frame
Live life purposely

And you will know what it is to know.