It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

The holiday season has come and gone, so you may be thinking that the timing of that title is a little off. While it may seem strange to those who don’t know me well, the reason for my excitement is because the looming spring season means that baseball is back!

I loved watching my sons play Little League, and I still get to enjoy my youngest playing for South Warren Baseball. I get to cheer on the Toppers at the college level, and the major leaguers are getting back into the swing of things (see what I did there?) in the Cactus League and the Grapefruit League.

The whole family loves the sport, and our summer vacations typically revolve around major league baseball parks. Last season we saw the Cubs, Braves, Blue Jays, and Indians play at their home fields. This summer we’re debating between heading to Boston, Houston or Seattle. We try to visit at least one park each year that we haven’t been to before, and we have an MLB map of all the parks that gets flagged once we’ve been there to see a game.

wrigley   toronto   cleveland

This week I asked my Social Media Marketing students to blog about the best video they ever saw and why it’s the best. There have been some great responses so far. It only seems fair that I should post one of my favorites as well. While this may not be the best video ever made from a production standpoint, I enjoy it because it’s cute, and it’s catchy, and it celebrates my favorite team. Good luck getting this song out of your head the rest of the day! #GoCubsGo

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College Sweethearts

hearts  #HeartsOnTheHill hearts

We’re in the midst of the #HeartsOnTheHill social media campaign, and I enjoy reading everyone else’s stories, so seems like an appropriate time to get a little “mushy.”

Craig and I were college sweethearts at WKU, but we had actually started dating even before we were students on The Hill. I’ve known him since elementary school (although I always thought he was quite the snob, which I still love to tease him about). He was a year ahead of me in school, and his senior year he was actually dating one of my very best friends, while I, too, had a steady boyfriend. Once we were both out of those respective relationships, we became very good friends, and eventually started dating. He went to Lindsey Wilson College right after high school, and I finished my senior year. Of course, when I decided to go to WKU, he transferred, because he just had to follow me (I love to tease him about that, too).

We got engaged in the spring of my sophomore year at WKU and married a few months later at the ripe ol’ ages of 20 and 21. I still wonder what our parents were thinking letting us get married when we were practically babies! And, in case you were wondering, the friend he had dated in high school was one of my bridesmaids.

We both graduated and landed jobs here in Bowling Green. A few years later, “Biggs, party of two” became a party of three when Alex came along. And four years after that, we became “Biggs, party of four” when Mason made his grand entrance into the world.

Now…24+ years after we married, we both work at WKU, our boys are Hilltoppers right alongside us, and I guess you could say that we’ve “matured” from college sweethearts to middle-age sweethearts. And that’s just fine with me.

Survival of the fittest

Campus will be buzzing Monday as another new semester begins at WKU. Based on the chatter I’m seeing on Facebook and Twitter, some students are ready to come back and some are perfectly content to enjoy the extended break.

The transition to college life is tough. It’s one of those major and memorable events that changes a person forever. It’s a time of life that is fun, scary, exciting and sometimes even a little sad (I remember the day I got my acceptance letter, because my mom locked herself in the bathroom and cried). These transitioning students are young adults, but at the same time, they are also big kids. The transition to adulthood isn’t yet complete.

Unfortunately many kids come to college who are unprepared for both the sudden new-found freedom and the rigors of college coursework. Even though I don’t typically work directly with students, I still see it all the time. They get downright giddy when they realize no one is hovering over them or telling them when to come home. They can hang out with whomever they want, whenever they want…and they do. They can choose not to go to class, and while it might affect their grade, no one is going to call their parents to see why they are absent. They are not only allowed to think for themselves, but they are encouraged to do so.

The popular kids and the smart kids who were once the top dogs in their high schools are suddenly small fish in a big pond, and not being in the spotlight can be a big adjustment. Students are suddenly surrounded by an increasingly diverse group of classmates after possibly having spent the previous 13 years surrounded by basically the same group of kids. Hopefully they’ll figure out quickly that just because everyone doesn’t look or sound or think like them, that that makes them even more interesting!

<Soapbox Alert!>

As parents we have to begin prepping our kids to survive this major life change early on. We can’t wait until their senior year of high school to decide that they need to know how to make good decisions. And they need to know how to solve problems without having to rely on mom and dad for things they could easily handle on their own.

Frequently I see students who have an issue with a class or financial aid or housing or any number of other things. Typically they know WHO they should talk to, but they often don’t know HOW to approach the situation diplomatically. In many cases momma has always taken care of everything for them – they’ve never had to work something out on their own, and therefore they don’t know what to do. College students are young adults – they are old enough to try to find solutions to their problems (without having to get momma involved), but they need to be allowed to practice problem solving before they leave home. It’s all part of spreading their wings and becoming independent and self-sufficient adults.

My hope is that my boys have enough confidence and discipline to be successful when they get to college. I want them to be able to make good decisions and to solve inevitable problems that will arise. Of course I’ll help them when they need it – I’m not going to just throw them into the world and wish them good luck. But at the same time, I’m not always going to taking care of my baby birds. I want them to be prepared to survive and thrive when they leave the nest!

Don’t forget to be thankful during the holiday overload

Halloween is over except for the mounds of candy that my gorilla – er, my son, brought home last night.  After I picked out all the empty wrappers from his goody bag (wonder how those got there?), I “assisted” him with rifling through the treats to see what swag he had scored.  I declared that all of the chocolate was to be mine, but that didn’t work out so well for me.  That’s OK – I don’t need it anyway.

So now we’ve moved into November and toward the holidays that are just around the corner. The store shelves have been stocked with Christmas decorations for weeks already, and fake trees can be found at every turn.  I love Christmas – I really do. In fact, I’ve been known to whip out the Christmas music in the middle of summer just to get a quick fix.

But as much as I enjoy Christmas, I think it’s important not to overlook Thanksgiving.  We have so much for which to be thankful, and there is a whole day set aside for just that!  Enjoying the turkey and dressing is just one part of the day – I want my kids to understand that enjoying time with family and making a special effort to give thanks for all that we have is important, too!  And for those lucky enough to have the day off of work, that’s just another reason to be thankful.  This is my favorite time of year with all of the holidays looming in the near future, and amidst all the chaos I am looking forward to celebrating each and every one!

Come to think of it, every day could be Thanksgiving!

9 ways that marketing and parenting are a lot alike.

As a working mom, I have two full-time jobs.  The job that pays the bills is overseeing Marketing & Communications at WKU, and the job that I go home to every evening is parenting a teen and a tween and running a household with my hubby.  I’ve been a ‘practitioner’ in both fields for 15+ years, so, while I don’t claim to be an expert at either, I feel sufficiently qualified to talk about them both and to point out the similarities that have been swirling around in my head.  I realize it seems like a bit of a stretch, but read on, and I think it will make sense.

Marketing and Parenting are a lot alike in that:

  • Most of my efforts go smoother with Planning and preparation, but even the best plans have to be flexible.
  • In both jobs I am trying to reach a specific Audience and hoping like heck that they listen.
  • I often have an important Message to get across to the intended audiences, usually hoping for some specific action in return, but they don’t always do what I want them to do. Sometimes I have to ask several times before anyone seems to react as I had hoped.
  • Social Media plays a big part in the communication with my audience (I can get my son’s immediate attention if I hack his facebook!)
  • There is all kinds of Competition vying for the audience’s attention. I can’t ignore those competitors or pretend that they don’t exist lest they lure my audience away.
  • Every situation requires a careful Situational Analysis to figure out how to handle it. Knee jerk reactions aren’t usually productive.
  • I can learn more about the audience by Listening to and Communicating with them, rather than by constantly talking AT them.
  • The Results of my efforts over time can be extremely rewarding, but there are bound to be frustrations along the way. The key is to not give up.
  • There is constant Change, and I have to accept it and adapt to it or risk getting left behind.

Both of my jobs come with good days and bad days, fun days and crazy days.  But I am thankful for the rewards I get from both roles – and that is true every day.

15 truths about parenting that I’ve learned so far

My oldest child turns 15 on October 8, and in honor of this momentous occasion, I’ve decided to jot down 15 things I’ve learned to be true about parenting.  Some of these are tips that “the pros” tell you when you join the parenting club (but you don’t really believe them), and some of them are just off-the-wall tidbits that I’ve discovered on my own.  So here goes – in no particular order…

  1. Kids outgrow their parents.  When I hug the soon-to-be 15-year-old, I have to tiptoe to get my chin on his shoulder, and I could probably get both of my feet in one of his shoes.
  2. Selective Hearing is a real phenomenon.
  3. When a kid is 18 months old, it’s perfectly acceptable to give their age in months.  Not so when they are older.   If you say your child is 180 months, instead of just saying 15 years, you will be an oddball.  Try it sometime just for fun.
  4. It’s a good thing for kids to learn some life skills like laundry and cooking.  At some point they will need to fend for themselves.
  5. No matter how perfect a kid is, they will get off track at some point, and the mean mommy must emerge to get them headed back in the right direction. Mean mommy is no fun.
  6. It’s a great day when you can say “everybody load ’em up!” and you don’t have to secure a car seat, pack a diaper bag or sippy cup or blankie or Sam <or whatever your lovey’s name is>.  You just hop in the car and go!
  7. You automatically get a raise the day you stop paying for daycare.
  8. Teenagers like to be with their friends more than they like to be with their parents.  Friends are fun.  Parents are just old…even us cool ones.
  9. Every mother thinks her child is the cutest/smartest/sweetest/funniest.  It’s best not to argue.
  10. When your kids hurt, you hurt.  Whether it’s physical or emotional – you feel it, too.
  11. Kids have a tendency to interpret words and phrases differently than parents.   e.g. “Maybe” or “I’ll think about it” means “Yes” to the kid, but to the parent it means “maybe” or “I’ll think about it.”
  12. When kids don’t get their way, they can get very angry at mom and dad and say things that are downright ugly.  Stand your ground!  Keep in mind that they’ll get over it when they want money.
  13. No matter how old your kid is, you will get unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and family.  Use it or don’t, but smile and say ‘thank you’ either way.  There’s always time to grit your teeth later.
  14. Pick your battles.  Save the arguments for things that really matter (like wearing a seatbelt), because you might go crazy if you don’t just let some things slide.
  15. It really does go by fast.  No matter how long a night with a sick infant or a day with an active toddler or a weekend with a mouthy pre-teen may seem, you look back and think where in the world did the time go?

I could keep going and going, but I’d rather hear from others about what they’ve learned about parenting.  Do tell!

Oh – and happy almost birthday to my favorite 15-year-old in the whole world!

Alex Biggs

Happy Birthday!

Remembering 9/11

The song ‘Where were you when the world stopped turning…’ has been going through my mind a lot the past few days. It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years. Even without the “title” of this post, anyone reading it would know what I am referring to without being told. As does everyone else who is old enough to remember, I recall exactly where I was and what I was doing on that sunny Tuesday morning. At the time I still worked at Logan Telephone, and Craig of course worked at WKU. He was traveling a lot at the time, and it had gotten to the point that I didn’t bother asking for the travel details. He was to fly to Kansas City on September 11. Before he left that morning I asked him “What time do you fly out of Nashville?” and he only answered that “I’m not flying out of Nashville this time, I’m flying out of Louisville.” I didn’t know what time or what flight number or even what airline.

So we went our separate ways as usual, and I thought nothing more of it. When news at the office began to spread that a plane had hit a building in NYC, we still didn’t give it a lot of thought. Finally we decided to turn on a television, and that’s when the magnitude of what was happening began to set in.

We watched mesmerized as the buildings burned and listened intently as reporters began to share more information. As planes went down in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, true panic began to set in as I wondered if Craig was in the air yet and if more planes were targeted. Of course the cellular networks were jammed and I couldn’t get through to him. We didn’t have texting at the time, and there was no Twitter or Facebook to provide status updates. I was trying to be level-headed and logical about it (my LTC co-workers can tell me if they agree with that or not)…I mean, really what were the chances? I have a strong conviction not to fret about something until I know that there is something to fret about! When I finally did hear from him that his flight was canceled before he ever left Louisville I was relieved and thankful, and I couldn’t wait to go home to my family that night.

At the office we stood around the television, unable to focus on work or anything besides what we were watching. The TV images of the towers falling, of frantic people running in all directions, of first responders doing their jobs, of Peter Jennings tearing up as he told about hearing from his own children that they were OK, of pictures of missing people plastered all over the city…are all burned into my mind. Over the next several days and weeks, as endless human interest stories were told and as heroes emerged, most everyone seemed to be in a state of melancholy. The sense of sadness and loss for people I didn’t even know were almost overwhelming at times, and there were other times when I felt guilty for the selfish joy I felt when I knew Craig was OK that day. Now, 10 years later as we commemorate the events of September 11, 2001, the feelings of sadness and fear resurface.

This Saturday WKU football will play Navy and I have a feeling that the ceremonial events before and during the game are going to be more emotional than the game itself. It is Military Appreciation night and a fitting time to honor all Military personnel on the day before the 10th anniversary. I hope the stands are full and the atmosphere is charged (or JUICED as Coach Taggart would say) but respectful. If anyone who reads this is coming to the game, please bring an item or two to go into care packages that will be sent to Soldiers in just a few days. It’s hard to know what we as individuals can possibly do to help, so this is a tangible and easy way to do something meaningful. There are around 500 people in the unit that the items will go to, and simple items like beef jerky, hard candy, shaving supplies and deodorant – things that we take for granted – would be much appreciated by Sergeant Major Brownell and his unit in Afghanistan. Here are a couple of links about the adopted unit, the items being collected and many of the other events planned at that game: http://bit.ly/nJKVSL (go to page 50 of the magazine) and http://bit.ly/qcTCJg. Even if you’re not coming to the game, please help spread the word so that we can collect as many items as possible.

These are my personal thoughts and memories. Where were you and what were you doing on that day? What do you remember the most?