Sunday, November 30, 2008

November 30, 2008 - Hang ing out

Hey there, hi there and hello there to you all. Jim and Mr. Funke, I hope you both had a wonderful birthday and that everyone had a fantacular Thanksgiving. It's hard to believe, but November has passed us by and December is here yet again ... craziness!
It was a pretty darn short work week, like most holiday shortened weeks there were not a lot of people there and a large volume of work was probably not completed. I did start a couple new initiatives, but mostly worked with the ongoing projects and reporting; did I mention I love reporting ... not! We did have our first annual PIC Team Chili Cook-off with 7 entries, one being Mom's Easy Chili aka Shueyville Sweetness. While I believe I won the creative chili brochure contest, most will remember my 7th place finish ... I guess people in the South don't really care for simple pork-n-bean chili:) I'll get 'em next time.

Steph was still down for the beginning of the week until Wednesday and than I had another fine lady join the fun, my girlfriend Jenny whom arrived on Monday eve. They joined me at Aflac for the chili cook-off to meet the rest of my team and then that evening had some delicious pizza before the fantastic Fantasy in Lights show at Callaway Gardens. We witnessed over 8 million light bulbs in our hour long trolly tour with some of my SIFE pals as well, it was a glorious experience. I did have to bid farewell to my wonderful sister early on Wednesday morning. It was so amazing to have you come down Steph and I thoroughly enjoyed all of our chats and time together ... althought I think moving out to LA for your first gig would be absolutely amazing and a life-changing experience, you need to do what's best for you and what will make you happy! (Keep me posted b/c I'd love to visit too:)

Wow Jenny, what a week. I will say to all that were wondering, she passed the cooking test with flying colors. Thanksgiving ham, mashed taters, green bean casserole, sweet rice, corn bread muffins, Ovaltine (ok, I made that) and pumpkin pie ... mmm mmm good! Best part about it was she made plenty for leftovers as well ... you done good Jenny! This weekend was also payoff time for Jenny's birthday present; hang gliding at Lookout Mountain. We headed up early on Friday and stopped to visit Ruby Falls. We took a wonderful tour of the caves and beautiful falls before heading to our 300 sq. ft. cabin. Saturday morning we got all dressed up in our gear for a day of flying. We started off with some instructions and practice runs on flat ground to get the technique before going up 2,000 feet. Then we moved over to the bunny hill where we both nailed our first solo flight with a near perfect take-off, flight and landing ... well ahead of where Dan-the-man wanted us to be. Can't say that for my second solo flight. I started off well, feet running in the air and then I got excited, pulled back a bit and then took a nasty nose dive resulting in the largest divot our instructor had seen, a loud bang from my head and two bent hang gliding poles. Guess the adrenaline kicked in b/c I didn't feel it until a couple hour later, what a crash! However exciting that was though, it turned out Mother Nature had seen enough and for the rest of the weekend we didn't get to finish our training or tandem flight ... big time bummer! Guess Jenny and I will just have to venture up there again sometime for a 2,000 foot flight!

Saturday night we went out on the town for a Murder Mystery dinner theater, high school reunion style. Chattanooga is a pretty cool place and the dinner was amazingly hilarious and much needed. I was able to pull away with the Top Sleuth award by guessing the murderer and even had a small acting part while Jenny and I danced with some old folks:) We finished the night off with a movie, Australia (pretty good), and a cruise through the fog back to the cabin. Although we didn't get to do our tandem flight, it was a fun weekend of leftovers and hanging out ... very much enjoyed. Jenny will be here until Tuesday, but I don't believe we have any big plans besides her favorite restaurant, Fuji on Tuesday for lunch. Thank you so much for coming down, cooking some grub and hanging out ... it's been awesome!

This is going to be one of those crazy weeks with a YP board meeting, our first hurricane relief trip meetings, volunteer action, Aflac Christmas Party and the Favorite Word Gala next Sunday ... wahoo! I've got most of my shopping already done and four Dirty Elephant parties to attend in the next three weeks (one with my over 60 year old lady friends ... gotta love it!)
Other than that, I hope you all have a wonderful week and a great beginning to the holiday season.

Can't wait to see all of the family in a few weeks ... until then, have a holly jolly Christmas.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

November 23, 2008 - Steph's in town ... here comes Jenny:)

Hey there, hi there and hello there all. Well, congrats to Mr. Funke for making it another year on Tuesday ... wow! O yes, and this is probably one of the greatest weeks as my wondermous sister Stephanie is joining me right now (I think she's eating for the 4th time tonight) and Jenny will be hanging out with us tomorrow night ... which I am excited about!

Aflac was pretty fun this week as we're making some more headway on our projects. I did have to bust out the stern Nate once this week ... really didn't want to, but sometimes that is just the way it is I suppose. I've had a real rough time with all of the red tape over the past few weeks, it gets pretty darn frustrating jumping through all these hoops just to get simple things done; very disappointing I must say. On the flip side, our team came together and on Monday we're going to donate more than 100 canned goods to a local charity, pretty amazing for a small team I must say. Also, the team all got together and went out for a fall luncheon out at the Farm House which was delicious.

Had a wonderful service week as well as we donated the Born Learning Trail with the United Way, the Columbus Mayor and our Chief People Officer there for the ribbon cutting. I also had a few meetings for the YP Gala and our Favorite Word Gala ... sure looks like there are a lot of galas coming up and I don't think I've ever even been to one!

Best part of the week though was having Steph come and fly into town, only a few days after her Teach for America offer (congrats on that). To celebrate that, and the profit sharing bonus (thank you Aflac), I went and picked Steph up for a dinner on Friday night at PF Chang's. I surprised her with an overnight stay in Atlanta at the Sheraton. Saturday we went out on the town and of course we had to visit the Georgia Aquarium which was again amazing. Then we did cartwheels in Centennial Park and checked out the CNN Center for some ice cream of course. Saturday night we busted out the ol' bowling shoes for some good times with some of the SIFErs at the BA and today we just did a lot of hanging out. It was great just to have some brother sister time and much needed I must say.

We're both looking forward to, ok me probably more, to having Jenny join us tomorrow eve for some extended good times throughout the holiday. Sad to say that Steph is leaving on Wednesday, but Jenny will be staying for a good 8 days ... which is awesome!

Well I got a late start this eve and have a big day tomorrow I will have to leave a short tip. So, here is the morsel I gave my sister as she is making her career choice, "Do what makes you happy ... and you'll be happy."

I wish all of my family and friends back home in Iowa a terrific Turkey day. I wish I could be there to eat some pumpkin pie and have the good times, but I will be thinking about you as Jenny and I are hang gliding off a mountain ... until next time, have a great week!



Sunday, November 16, 2008

November 16, 2008 - Howl at the moon

Hey there, hi there and hello there to you all. A special anniversary hello to Byron and MarJoan, I will never forget the box car ride down Aspn Lane ... thanks for the memories:) O yes, and a special thank you to my good pal Ryan Funke, the reasoning behind this is further down in the blog (this is foreshadowing, I read about it ... in a book;)

We had a very productive week at Aflac this week as well as some good times. I only had 20 meetings this week, so I was able to get quite a bit of work done on the side. We did quite a bit of work planning this week for different enhancements to all of our systems in 2009 (please don't fall asleep, it gets better). Then on Thursday we had a department wide celebration at the BA, or bowling alley for those of you not in the acronym business. About 300 or so folks came out for some bowling, dancing and karaoke. I will have to say, I am glad the performance appraisal season is over with because I had to take my boss-man down with a 180-168 victory on the bowling lane; it had to be the electric blue shoes. Then our PIC team got up to see Brick House by The Commodores, hilariousness ensued. It was a great way to celebrate the successes and wrap up the week indeed. Then the weekend started early ...

I left work a bit early on Friday so I could venture down to visit my good pal Ryan Funke ... yes, pronounced like funky. I know, it's hilarious. As I was driving down to Melbourne (which happens to be about 7 hours away) I got the call for Neil Armstrong that the Endeavor Shuttle was launching from the Kennedy Space Center on Friday night, so I met up with Funke alongside of the road and waited. We were about 2-3 miles away from the center, but we could see the launch clear as day and it was spectacular. It was amazing to see the fireball take off and then appear to tail away with the wind as it left Earth's atmosphere. A couple minutes after the initial launch we saw the boosters fall off like shooting stars, it was majestic and a grand experience I must say! I was able to meet some of Ryan's pals while watching the good ol' Iowa Hawkeyes at a local establishment and then we cruised around in the 85 degree weather, it was wondermous. Saturday night we ventured up to Orlando to visit a wonderful establishment, Howl at the Moon. Four of us went up and got front row seats for the most amazing dueling piano/band bar I have ever been to, probably the best night club since Big City in Cancun. The atmosphere was great and the musicians were quite excellent throughout the evening. You had your normal dollar requests for songs, but then people could put money up to write a phrase on these two huge mirrors behind the performers. The phrases started off at $5 for things like, "Happy Birthday Eric" or "Congrats Liz and Ed." As the night went on more money went up for "Go Florida Gators" and my personal favorite, "The hottest girls in the world are from Canada!" Seeing an opportunity, Funke and myself put in some money to change the previous phrase to, "The hottest fellas in the world are from Shueyville, Iowa" which was followed by lots of Iowa chanting ... it was a glorious feeling to know that the bar had more people in it than the entire town of Shueyville:) I had a great weekend with the Funkmaster, but it all had to end too quickly with a long drive. Thank you though Ryan for the air mattress and home made cookies, it was a great time!

Did not have a lot of volunteer action this week besides a few YP/Literacy Alliance meetings, but I did put a start on the Change the World tour. OK, I just made that up, but we do have about 10 SIFE alums that have signed up to join me on a service trip to New Orleans over MLK Jr. weekend in January and I am elated. It's going to be a great time and I'm glad so many people decided to join in on the fun, it'll be a life changing experience no doubt! (Easter Seals Halloween pic to the left, gotta love that place).

I have two of the greatest ladies making ventures to visit in the next week or so and I can't wait to see Steph and Jenny! We are going to have a blast and I'm really looking forward to some good times!

With that I will leave you with the morsel of the week. With all of the turmoil in the economy right now, I thought two quotes from the 'Traveler's Gift' would be very suitable: "Challenges are gifts, opportunities to learn ... Adversity is preparation for greatness." We will all run into obstacles in our life and although at times I agree it is beyond difficult to see why that wall is put there, life will be sunny on the other side. I have my fingers crossed Steph and Dad ... love you and wish the best of luck. Thank you for the greatest family and friends, that's what makes every day a beautiful day!


Sunday, November 9, 2008

November 9, 2008 - Makin' a livin'

Hey there, hi there and hello there to everyone enjoying the high 60's and to those back home enjoying the high 20's ... wish I was there to witness the snow! A special happy birthday again to sister Steph and niece Lindsay this week; what a cutie pie!

Everything is quaking well at the duck as last week was full of wonderful reporting and planning. I have learned that the various operations/strategic management classes I've taken over the years have prepared me quite well for executive reporting ... but, no matter how many hours in the classroom, management will always find a new way they want to see something:) It keeps me on my toes each and every week and I love it! Our Brown Paper Fair (pictured last week) was such a success that we did it again this week and had the corporate photographer join us on our journey. Our boss-man Mike decided to join in on the fun where he was truly able to see the great benefit of discussing the customer experience directly with the specialist by their cubicles ... we're going to try and sell our idea back to the consultants that came up with this whole "customer experience" bit, I'll let you know how that one goes for me later:) I was also able to participate in the Fast Forward Leadership class to learn a bit more about generational leadership and the benefits of understanding how the different age groups react to the ever-changing corporate environment.

We had a great SIFErs in Action meeting this week where we presented our new project initiative to educate students about insurance needs when they step into the workforce. I also decided it'd be a good idea to get back on the service trip kick, so a few of us (don't know how many yet) will be traveling to New Orleans over the MLK Jr. holiday in January for some extended hurricane relief. The other two times I took part in hurricane relief it had a life changing effect on my attitude and I'm sure it'll do the same for others. I also had a few more meetings with the Young Professionals group as well as the Literacy Alliance as we prepare for our Favorite Word Gala in December. The YP group teamed up with another organization I'm involved with, Hands on the Valley, to put together a Born Learning Trail ( out at Shirley Winston Park. Basically, we put up posts for 10 different stations to help engage parents/care takers with their children to learn that every situation in life has a learning opportunity from hop scotch to learning your ABCs. It was ironic that the local Hands On group got a hold of the United Way of East Central Iowa, where I used to be a board member, for best practices when putting it together ... what a small world indeed!

It was a sad yet wondermous end of the season for the ol' En Fuego soccer team. Although we lost our final game of the season, we did get together on Saturday for some scrambledog action at Cook's. Almost all of the kids, parents and siblings came out for our end of the season bash. I had a wild bunch this year, but they improved so much throughout the season that it might me a bit sad to see the season end but excited to see their improvement. They were all very appreciative and the parents all had very kind words for me. They've asked me to return as the En Fuego coach next year and they even gave me a visor with "Coach Nate" on the front ... gotta love those kids!

How about them Iowa Hawkeyes though, what a win. I even was able to play a little flag football over the weekend and enjoy the 70 degree weather ... gorgeous, sorry to rub it in friends back in Iowa. Just a couple more weeks until I have two of the great ladies out there visiting me, I can't wait:)

I just finished up a very interesting marketing book, The Numerati, which talked about how marketers in the future will base their investment on behavioral vs. demographic marketing ... a change in the way it's been done for decades, a true marketing revolution! The book I'm reading now, The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews, is where this week's morsel comes from: "just because I use the expression 'good luck' doesn't mean that luck actually has anything to do with where you end up." I've heard many times that luck is where opportunity meets preparedness ... so, with that in mind, always be prepared for the next opportunity life has in store for you and you never know ... you might get lucky!



ps, I made some amazing chili tonight ... thanks for the recipe ma:)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November 2, 2008 - Happy days

Hey there, hi there and hello there to you all. A belated happy birthday to Ms. Sarah Jencks, a big happy anniversary to dad and Barb and a wondermous celebration of happiness to my sister as she gets one year closer to a reduction in her car insurance on Thursday ... 22, holy schnikes you're getting old!

Crazy busy work week = wonderfulness! I tell you what, I love giving a good ol' presentation and hanging out in meetings. Maybe I'm a little weird, but I really feel good after a productive gathering of the minds and I had many of them this past week. Trying to join forces with IT on some initiatives was very exhilarating this past week especially with the emphasis with Online Services. We also held a customer experience "brown paper fair" for our department. To give a little background, in the past we would put huge pieces of brown paper in the hallways and have the production specialist come out and give us suggestions for process improvements throughout the department. Well my team started thinking outside of the box and thought it'd be a good idea to bring the "brown paper fair" to the customer. So, we created sandwich boards with all of the information and wore them around to visit all of the teams throughout the day. I have to say I looked pretty schnazzy in a blue sandwich board and it worked like a charm. We may have had some ... ok, a lot ... of people giving us crazy looks, but it was very effective and caught the eye of our management! The most exciting time at work was had not at work, but rather out in the boon docks for our 2008 Client Services Leadership Trek. All of the leadership for our department from supervisors up to our VP attended the event where we split up into teams and competed in various challenges throughout the day. We built a shelter from the storm, had relay races, told stories and climbed an inflatable rock wall which was not too stable:) We had a great time and learned about the ABCs of leadership (Antecedent - Behavior - Consequence). It is pretty awesome to be a part of a company that can take all of the leadership in a department for an entire day and devote it to leadership development.

We were even to end the work week on a positive note with Halloween where we could dress up. Pictured above you will see a wonderful Top Gun representation from Patrick and myself representing Goose and Maverick respectively. About 7 of us from the Aflac SIFE group dressed up and left work early to deliver treats to the children and adults at Easter Seals. That is such a great organization and the kids were so grateful, it was a blast! I was able to help out Easter Seals yet again today as I manned the booth to sell Precious Moments down at the Trade Center for Christmas in the South where over 200 vendors sold trinkets and candy ... mmmm!

Did a little Toastmasters action this week which followed my first ever Miss Georgia Pageant Board of Trustees meeting. There are some great people on the board and it is for a great cause, I just hope the future meetings are a little bit more full of substance! We do have our end-of-season soccer tourney beginning tomorrow night so keep your fingers crossed for an En Fuego victory!

This past weekend was probably one of the most fun and exciting that I've had in a good bit. Of course we had to go out on the town to show off our Top Gun outfits which didn't even compare to some of the effort of the golden Buddha, the Peeps Easter candy and the TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for those non-1990's-cartoon-watching-fans:). Then on Saturday I was able to attend my first Steeplechase up at Callaway Gardens. It was basically a minor league Kentucky Derby with various feathered hats, horse/dog races and good times had by all in the terrace boxes and the infield. Next year I will most definitely be entering the fancy hat contest! It was a bit haiwty taiwty (not quite sure how to spell that one) up in the boxes, but it was a great show nonetheless.

It was obviously a full week of wonderfulness and this week will hopefully only get better! I wish all of the people celebrating something the best of days and especially you there Steph ... have good times, wish I was there but I get to see you in a couple weeks anyways;)

My morsel comes from a card Jenny sent me, "Some days are hopscotch kind of days, some days are waiting to get nailed at dodge ball kind of days ... I hope today is the hopscotch kind of day." Hope you have wonderful days ahead for you this week and go get 'em tiger.