AND SOME FREE–ASSOCIATION
By Kelly Sargent
AS I KNOW you know, a blog is a regularly updated website or web page managed by a group, individual or business — written in an informal or conversational style.
The number of blogs has blown up recently: some estimates cite the uptick as high as 31% over the last four years.
What, you may be wondering, can account for the proliferation of this particular form of online communication? The answer is simple; because they're effective — or at least they can be.
Check out the stats below, then we'll talk about the 'can be' caveat.
Here's the caveat: a blog is only effective if it's well-written and published regularly.
Here's a typical scenario: a company starts a blog with the best intentions, things get busy at work and the blog falls by the wayside.
That's why it's a good idea to consider hiring someone to blog for you. They'll do what they're good at so that you can continue doing what you're good at — and the blog gets written.
Although failing to write regularly is the most common problem, the opposite is also counterproductive. We met with a company recently that had been posting every day and emailing each post to their audience. Nobody wants to hear from anyone except maybe loved ones every day! Proof that even organizations with enough personnel and time to write should consider having an outside contractor keeping an eye on the process.
You can't see the picture if you're in the frame. That's true about writing about your own blog. It's easy to get into the weeds with too many details and lose your audience. A professional writer will have a clearer perspective of what your readers want to hear and how often.
The goal is to set yourself apart from the background noise and ever-expanding range of choices available. A blog is a way to personalize yourself and what your business has to offer. Plus, let's face it, everyone loves a good story. So start telling them. Or let me tell them for you.
Lessons from the garden
By Kelly Sargent
YOU MAY recall that Paul planted a birthday garden for me. A beautiful, loving gift from a beautiful, loving man. The garden has prospered and grown.
Originally, however, we'd put some of the plants in the wrong place. We planted impatiens in an area that was too sunny and hot for them. After watching them struggle to hardly live, we moved them all, every last one, to a bed in the back of the yard that doesn't get as much sun, and there they've thrived.
We put in vincas and zinnias where the impatiens started out, and the vincas and zinnias loved the hot sun and laughed at dry days. The zinnias have become bushes and the vincas mounds of flowers.
Paul and I had a rare day entirely free of obligation this past Sunday, and we spent it doing small, household nesting chores together, but mostly we puttered in the garden. Paul pulled weeds in a bed we've yet to resurrect, as I made my way through the vincas.
One of the flower-tending tasks I perform as often as I can is removing spent blooms. It's especially consequential to pick dropped vinca blossoms because the tissue of the old blooms decomposes, desiccates and forms a thin but tenacious film over whatever is beneath — leaf, flower or bud.
This dead-petal coating proves particularly destructive to buds. If a spent bloom lands on one, it forms a shroud over the bud, effectively sealing it shut and preventing it from opening. When I pull off the remnant of the old bloom, sometimes the bud will expand and open right before my eyes. It's life-affirming to watch. Those that don't open immediately, will by morning.
As I watched one bud unfurl, I thought about how we're sometimes like shrouded buds. There can be people around us who keep us from opening up and blooming as nature intended. Acquaintance, supposed-friend or relative, whether they mean to or not, they bind us within ourselves, and we miss the opportunity to flourish.
Or maybe we're like the impatiens that were planted in the wrong place, somewhere we intrinsically aren't suited to grow . . . and we never will . . . until we're situated somewhere else offering favorable growing conditions.
We often blame ourselves for it, telling ourselves that we 'shouldn't' let that person make us feel inadequate or incapable or less-than, or if we just 'try harder' we can somehow rearrange our DNA and be able to survive inhospitable surroundings.
But you know what I think? You and I should be what and how and who we were built to be, and in the absence of a gardener who will transplant us to where we belong or gently and carefully remove our shroud (how lucky Paul and I are that we've been able to do that for each other) — we have to do it for ourselves.
Stop worrying about why someone always makes you feel bad. Stop analyzing what you're doing 'wrong' and exit yourself as much as you possibly can from ever being around them. And if you really look at your choices, you have way more opportunities to put them in the rear view mirror than you think you do.
Stop turning yourself inside out to fit someone else and just be YOU — beautiful, blooming you.
RCDM scholarships 2018
By Kelly Sargent
It was my pleasure to once again serve on the Rotary Club of Des Moines scholarship interview team for East High School for what is, by now, at least seven cycles. Each year RCDM awards six $8000 scholarships, one to each of the Des Moines School District's six high schools: East, Hoover, Lincoln, North, Roosevelt and Scavo. And every year my interview partners — Mark Lyons and Rob Tucker — and I wish we could give scholarships to all four East High finalists.
This year was no exception.
Difficult as it always is, our job is to select a winner, and this year’s East High RCDM scholarship recipient was Ashley Martinez-Torres. Although Ashley has only been in the US four years, and English is her second language, she earned a 3.5 grade point, qualified for membership in National Honor Society and participated in volleyball and theater, all while working part-time at a restaurant and a radio station to help support the family. Ashley plans to major in multi-media communications and photography at Des Moines Area Community College, then transfer to Grandview University to complete her degree, with a goal of a career in broadcasting.
Our second-place finisher was Alicia Rojas, and her story was equally compelling. Alicia lived in Nashville, Arkansas, population 4500, until last year when she made the gutsy decision to move to Des Moines to finish high school. Her goal was to improve her chances of being accepted into college by attending a school with greater educational and resume-building opportunities, in a larger city that could also offer more employment options. Although Alicia was fortunate to be able to move in with her aunt and uncle in Des Moines, her living arrangements also entailed providing childcare for their three under-the-age-of-three children, working part-time at Dunkin' Donuts, while still making sure she earned college-worthy grades at an enormous, unfamiliar school.
Alicia succeeded. She graduated in the top 15% of her class and was awarded a nearly full-ride scholarship to attend Drake University.
Those of you who have met me IRL know that I'm not large in stature. I'm 5' 2" and weigh under 100 pounds. That corresponds to wearing a size 2 or 0 in clothes, depending on the brand. Alicia, however, is even smaller; same height, but tinier.
You've heard the phrase, “What’s less than zero?” In the world of women's clothing, there are not only zeros but there are double 00s and triples. Based on the difficulty I have finding 2s, let alone 0s, I knew Alica was going to have an even harder time. I asked my interview team if they would consider joining me in making a modest personal financial contribution to her future so that I could take her on a shopping excursion for school clothes. They didn't hesitate. The result was two shop-till-you-drop trips and an expanded wardrobe of properly-fitting new clothes for her to wear now and when she heads to college.
The other RCDM Des Moines School District scholarship winners are:
Paul Bridson and Kelly Sargent
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