Sunday, January 25, 2009

January 25, 2009 - Another day in the neighborhood

Hey there, hi there and hello there everyone. It's only been a few days since my last blogging action, so this may be a bit of a shorty. A big congrats goes out to Miss Georgia, Chasity Hardman, for her 1st runner-up finish at the Miss America Pageant. I'm still trying to figure out how I got roped into being on the Miss Georgia Board, but I tell you what, watching those ladies last night blew me away with their talent ... I've only sounded that good about once this year after a glass of apple juice in the shower!
Aflac was pretty fun this week as I was able to work with the team to create our strategic 5 year plan for Policy Service ... sounds pretty impressive I think, but we basically put a bunch of ideas on paper with colorful stick figure flow chart pictures:) I even was able to present it to our Vice President on Friday, now that we got the ok ... all that has to be done is what we said we're going to do ... wow, that's a lot!

I had a few YP meetings this week, including a great meeting with the Columbus and the Valley folks. We're trying to create a partnership with them in order to get some more Gen Y articles and contributors to the local magazine, so hopefully we will know a bit more by the end of this week. We also had our first YP event this week which was a networking eve at the new establishment in town, Flip Flops ... they had some great water!

I did get to see my pal Chris Graham perform Hamlet at the Springer Opera House on Friday and hang out with some folks. This weekend though, was amazing ... I didn't do a dang thing! I'm pretty sure I laid on the couch for at least 20 hours this weekend, and wouldn't have gotten up if it wasn't for a visit to church and some grocery shopping action. I did pick up a web-cam to try and see how my little sister is doing over the pond. Now I just have to figure out how to use it:)

I hope all continue to start 2009 off well, and until next time ... don't worry, be happy:)



Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20, 2009 - Be the change!

Hey there, hi there and hello there to everyone here and beyond. So, today marks a historic day of change for the US. Although I may not have voted for Obama, he is now the President and has my respect. He has created a groundswell of passion and trust in our government with people that have not been on that boat for a while. If he is able to corral all of the energy that his volunteers expended for his campaign into constructive change for the country, we will be able to look back on this day 4-8 years from now and realize something great. I wish him the best and can't wait to see what the future holds.

A big happy birthday goes back out to my cousin Carter ... hope you were able to find some new arm hairs as you venture into manhood:) Also, another hello out there to the sister in England. She did indeed venture to Big Ben and Piccadilly Circus where I stayed 3 years ago ... awesome.

Aflac has been a whirlwind the last couple of weeks as we put together plans for improvement and the various initiatives of 2009. We had our first Online Services Executive Steering Committee which consisted of five 2nd Vice Presidents and other VIPs at Aflac. I decided it'd be fun to see if I could make a fool out of myself, and I did by telling everyone one thing ... which I later sent an email to correct my brain flatulence. Other than that, they loved the information I put together including all of the positive analysis of the project ... I will consider it a success! I also brought the PIC team together for our collaborative brainstorm session that I facilitated with our manager. We've put together some great ideas on paper, but we will see how they go over with our VP and the various execution plans to coincide. I had another great meeting with my mentor Joe, whom happens to be a wonderful guy to bounce ideas off of. Also, I was able to help get a promotion for one of the analyst on my team, which was well-deserved. I had another great leadership learning experience when I sat down and laid out the opportunity for advancement for the other analysts on the team, which went over 59% better than I thought it would ... phew!

It was a great Toastmasters week as well since we had our International Speech contest. I finalized my speech Tuesday morning, "Moral Opportunity." The judges thought I had done well enough to be given 1st place with a ticket to compete at the area contest in February ... should be a great experience! I had a couple great YP meetings and I think we've decided to have our YP Gala at the beautimus Rivermill in Columbus. Now, all we need to do is raise about $10,000 and get 400 people to pay money to go ... no big deal right ... wow! The Literacy Alliance quarterly board meeting was also today and I was elected the Treasurer and Program Chair (still need to learn to say no:)! It should be an exciting year for the YPs and the literacy within the community, just hope I don't spread myself too thin to make a difference.

The best part of the last week though was having the opportunity to be the change I want to see in the world! I put together a service trip down to New Orleans to help with the ongoing Hurricane Relief efforts. We had 7 Aflac folks (all SIFE alum) and one spouse make up our party of 8 as we traveled down on Thursday eve to the Hands on New Orleans Volunteer House. I could write all night about the adventures, but the pictures and captions will speak volumes:

So we stayed in a 15'x15' room with 5 bunk beds and 8 people with one heater, that kind of worked ... amazingness! Friday you will see us posted on a set of stairs of the OC Haley Blvd. rennovation project. We helped Stephan clean up the backyard of his homes so kids could have a place to play without having to worry about stepping on glass and debris.

Friday night we ventured down to Bourbon Street for some Mardi Gras good times, 80's cover bands and some real southern blues with a wind/brass band.

Saturday we headed over to Ms. Evelyn's house for another great project. She visited and told us the story of how her and her late husband moved into this house more than 30 years ago and she has yet to live in it since Katrina. So, we were tasked with making it beautiful by sanding off the old paint job, putting up three stories worth of scaffolding and repainting the front side of her home. It was one of those projects that we could step back at the end of the day and feel/see a true sense of accomplishment. I just wish we could see the look on Ms. Evelyn's face when she moves in three months from now!
Sunday was our day off, so we ventured around New Orleans. Patrick and I started off the day at the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the US, St. Louis in New Orleans. The Archbishop led the mass, which was absolutely gorgeous and full of music! We then visited the rest of the French Quarter, after our late night on the town, and saw some amazing street artists and performers. Then it was off to see the remaining devastation of the 9th ward which still looks like a 3rd world country compared to the rest of the US. It was sad to see that even three years after the tragedy, people either didn't have the resources to fix what was left, or didn't even come back to what they had. We ended the night though on a much lighter note by traveling over to Mississippi to visit a couple of old friends. Billy Ray and Connie were the two of my pals I met on my first service trip to Biloxi back in January of 2006. They had us over for a full spread and great times catching up. They don't have many volunteers in the ol' Dedeaux School, but we did get to visit the bunks where I stayed. Billy Ray just happens to be the 4th grade teacher of my favorite football player of all time ... Brett Favre. He must've remembered that I was a big fan, so he gave me an absolutely amazing gift ... an autographed Brett Favre football:) Thank you so much Billy Ray and Connie for your hospitality and gifts, you will truly be friends forever. That night we also ventured out to Beau Rivage for some gambling action at the casino. I am happy to say that I was the big winner of the night at the Roulette table ... lucky #6 won me $72:)

Monday was our last day at the house (pictured above) and we had to say farewell to our Hands on New Orleans volunteer crew. Those folks pretty much gave up their life to volunteer for the cause and were some of the greatest people you'll ever meet. We also hung out with various other volunteers, including some AmeriCorps folks ... one of which was from Iowa and ventured many times back to help out after the flood. That day we headed over for the MLK Jr. service day project at Albert Wicker Elementary where I met up with some Mount Mercy Mustangs ... what a treat. They were there for a J-term class, so I coordinated with their advisor to be at the same worksite yesterday where I met some great folks from my alma mater.

On Monday, besides just "hangin' out,' we had the opportunity to build benches from scratch. Our 8 man crew built 3 normal benches, 3 planter benches and stained them all in the matter of a day. We were able to meet the principal of the school and learn of the great things the community is helping them do as a literacy partner. We also helped sketch out murals and paint hop scotch. It was a great way to end the service portion of our trip so we could say we cleaned, revitalize and built all in one trip!

On our way back there was a special request to drive down scenic 90 through Biloxi to see what the storm damage had done right along the coast. I must say, I was elated to see the amount of sweat and tears that must've gone into the rebuilding along the highway. When I was there three years ago, only a Walmart, Home Depot and one casino were open at the time. Now, the scenic route is booming with condos, casinos and Waffle Houses:) We even made a special trip to Saint Michael's Catholic Church where I worked three years ago. It almost brought tears to my eyes to see that the HOPE we had created there, was still alive and well. The Saint Michael's Catholic Church sign and granite creation of the word HOPE were still in tact after three years. Travis Peters and I spent hours putting together a rememberance for the perisheners and it looks like they're still holding on to that sense of hope.

The people you meet and the things you do for others will change your life forever, no matter how big or small the effort it makes a difference.

So here is my thought of the day, "Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all" (Dale Carnegie). Keep giving back and livin' it up!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

January 11, 2009 - Cheerio!

Hey there, hi there and hello there to everyone here in the US ... and England now! Cheerio Steph, I am glad to hear that your flight was not too much of an adventure and that your sweet potatoes turned out alright. I'm also happy to see you've joined the blogging community, so check out my sister over the pond at A special happy birthday goes out today for Grandma Park and Uncle Pat, I hope the fish are jumping for you today under the ice:)
After a slow week to begin 2009, the stars have realigned and we are busy yet again ... just how I like it. We are in the process of strategic planning over the next couple of months which has been quite the learning experience I must say. We've got a presentation this week to our VP to go over our 3-5 year ideas, so I guess next week I'll let you know how it went:) I also did a recap with the team on what they thought worked in 2008, what didn't and what they'd like to accomplish in the coming year. I had some great one-on-ones with all of them and I think we're on track to have a wondermously productive year!

This week was also a fabulous week for all of the volunteer action. I had a double meeting day for the Literacy Alliance and Young Professionals group. I've been asked to be the Treasurer and Program Chair for the Literacy Alliance, and that whole New Year's resolution to learn to say no more often ... didn't work, so it should be an exciting year of Literacy for me:) I suppose I could find worse things to take up my time. We also learned Friday that the local TV station, WRBL, is on to help out with our 2nd Annual Favorite Word Gala next year ... yippee.

Then, we had the best YP FUNdraising we've had since I took over last July. Everyone has taken stake and chosen a business to contact for sponsorship, and hopefully by the end of tomorrow we'll have 3 of our events fully sponsored:) Also, we were able to tour the new National Infantry Museum to see if it'll be able to hold our YP Gala later this year. It is going to be an amazing facility with a brand-spankin-new IMAX theatre ... sweeeeeeet!

It should be a pretty exciting week of work and then 8 of us Aflac'rs are heading down to New Orleans for a service trip over MLK Jr. weekend. I'm pretty excited to see the progress that's been made since the last time I was there in January of 2007 (pictured here at Emma & Joe's place). Plus, we're going to meet up with the Mount Mercy group that will be there the same time ... what a cowinkidink;) Seeing as though we'll be there through next Monday eve, my next post will be a little delayed, but wondermous nonetheless.

In honor of Dr. King, take it upon yourself to make MLK Jr. day a day on vs. a day off. Help someone in need or serve the greater good and remember what he said, "Anyone can be great, because anyone can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love."



Sunday, January 4, 2009

January 4, 2009 - Yeah, 2009 ... Happy New Year!

Hey there, hi there and hello there to everyone this brand new year. Time flies when you're having fun and there is no doubt that 2008 was just that, so I am excited for 2009 and a new challenge around every corner. Special birthday wishes to Kayla K this past week:) Also, I want to wish my sister Stephanie the best of luck in her travels as she heads over to England to study abroad for a semester ... have a blast over there Steph and stay away from the pubs;)

Aflac has been fairly slow these last couple of weeks, as I'm sure many businesses have. Not a lot of people have been in the office, which has given me the opportunity to work more on plans for 2009 and beyond. This whole strategic planning thing for Online Services is pretty interesting, but something very new for me to think so pie in the sky about an initiative. Hopefully they like my ideas:)

It was a wonderful weekend full of running outside, kickin' the ol' soccer ball around and rollerblading. You just have to love the winter 60 degree weather ... sorry all of my friends/fam back in Iowa!
I would have to say though, the best part about this last week was most definitely the New Year's celebration (which happened to also be my best friend's birthday as well ... happy birthday Gump:). So, I had a crazy idea ... not far fetched for myself ... that I would like to celebrate the New Year not the normal one time per year, but why not twice this year? Now you may be asking yourself Nate, what are you talking about? And it's at this point that I smile, wink and give you the thumbs up when you realize I really did come up with a very stupid, yet amazing idea:) So here's how it worked: we began the evening at Mr. Ed's house with a few good pals (pictured to the left) to celebrate in the Eastern Standard Time Zone with Dick Clark (whom, by the way, I believe they cryogenically freeze for 364 days a year before they warm him up for New Year's). After some card games, we all counted down together and popped open the sparkling grape juice to bring in the New Year ... it was at that instant, where normal people would either kiss their significant other, drink some more beverages or just hang out ... but I'm not normal. So, my buddy Patrick and myself we run off and jump in the Honda for the great part of the evening, our venture to travel back in time to the Central Time Zone to celebrate New Year's one more time and hour behind us ... yes, I know what you're thinking right now ... genius (or weirdo, either one works). We drive 40 minutes to Auburn and after a few moments, we stroll into the Supper Club. Wow, this place is a dive with an old band called the Zigtones playing. Nevertheless, we had accomplished our mission with ten minutes to spare (pictured to left) and we may not go down in the history books for this feat, but it is a great story and I can now check it off my bucket list! Thanks Pat for a great wing man experience.

Also, thank you everyone at Aflac, in Columbus and back home for a great 2008 ... I wish you the best in 2009. Here is my morsel for the beginning of 2009 from my buddy Dale Carnegie, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. People are interesting ... get to know all you can." Give it a shot, let me know how it goes.

Until next time, I hope you all have a great work week and Steph ... have fun!


ps, good luck in the ER Jenny:)