Sunday, December 16, 2012

December 16, 2012 - Tis the season

Hey there, hi there and hello there to one and all during this holiday season.  Hard to imagine that the end of 2012 is upon us, so many gatherings and time with family to be had:)  Jenny, Lincoln and I are looking forward to a journey back to the homeland to see family and friends in Iowa.
The Duck is wrapping up a pretty awesome year I must say.  Since the last time I wrote, we had a joyus Bonus Friday ... pretty thankful to say that I work for a company that still is willing and able to give back to our employees a piece of the pie.  Speaking of pie, we also had our 4th Annual Chili Bake Off, a tasty tradition thoroughly enjoyed by all.  This year we had 10 chili entrants and while I was hoping to take home the top pick, a third place finish brought a happy face indeed:)  Additionally, we brought the teams together to gather more than 1,000 pounds of food for Feeding the Valley Food Bank.  Then about a dozen of the team members went and packed 7,200 pounds for local families, it was quite the rewarding experience indeed!  I will tell you, there has been many ups and downs throughout this year, but with new teams, responsibilities and opportunities, it has been the most rewarding year.  Just in the past 3 weeks I've had the chance to coach two more people into promotions and while projects are part of the job, those thank you cards are the most rewarding indeed!
On the volunteer front, we're closing out the year with a bang.  I had a random Santa volunteer gig for the Sonoma Pointe development, 50-75 kids in 70 degree weather was a bit crazy.  We've had some good Literacy Alliance, United Way and YP wrap-up meetings including a great Easter Seals pancake breakfast, always fun to flip some flapjacks.  Last I wrote I told you about which was one of, if not the best volunteer gig I've been a part of ... hope you enjoy the video:)
The Creighton Blue Jay action has been quite intriguing this last course on Catholic Social Teaching.  I really should be writing my final 5 page paper, but I have another day to git ir done I suppose.  After I turn that in tomorrow, I'll be a year done with my doctorate with about another 1.5 to go.  I sure have read, reflected and written a lot over the last year and it's been truly rewarding.

With that being said, I should probably finish laying down the new area rug, folding some clothes and o yeah, writing that paper while Jenny works the night shift.  Lincoln and I have been hanging out and yes, he has taken over the house!  We want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and holiday season ... we can't to see all the family for six Christmases in three days ... yahoo!  Will chat with you after the New Year, hope it's fantacular.
Alwayz, Nate

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 18, 2012 - Happy Thanksgiving

Hey there, hi there and hello there to one and all after one of the best weeks ever, great indeed!  Not only has work been fun and fruitful, but in a week leading up to Thanksgiving, I was able to meet one awesome man and be a part of one of the best events ever ... Time for Art.
This past week at Aflac has been pretty rewarding.  Not only did this week include a payday, it was Aflac's annual bonus day.  I had the opportunity to bring our whole team together to chat and reflect on what it means to work for a company that has never had a layoff and continues to reward their employees' efforts with not only a plush holiday duck, but a bonus ... pretty special if you ask me.  In addition, Aflac announced the 15 or so specialists that won a trip to NYC for the Heisman dinner.  I found out early that one of the specialist on the team won, so I took the whole team to watch the video on a TV in the hallway and video taped her reaction ... it was priceless to see the team's joy and happy tears that she had:)
Had a chance last weekend to go out with the boys to Providence Canyon for a camping trip.  Five of us headed out Saturday afternoon for a walkabout on the trails and a great night camping under the stars with easy mac and hot chocolate, delicious indeed.  In the morning we walked out visiting the canyons and taking in nature, very refreshing indeed.  It's been fun taking the Lincoln out on the trails the last couple of weeks too with his buddy Barkley, he's getting pretty well trained ... still quite the puppy though.  Best thing about Lincoln is that every night when we get home, the level of excitement he has to see us is absolutely amazing and cheers us up no matter the day!
While the bonus at the Duck was great and the hiking was fun, the best thing over the last couple of weeks was our Young Professionals Time for Art event.  It's been about 10 months in the making since the idea was brought to the group and this past Thursday, we had a wondermous event!  Our theme: Bid Time - Give Back - Get Art.  It was an event, first of its kind in the USA (that we could find), that brought in 22 not-for profit agencies for people to connect with and 36 pieces of art that people got to bid on ... instead of their money, they bid their time.  The 165 attendees bid 2,000 hours back to our community which is the equivalent to our event employee one full time person to volunteer over the next year in our community.  Thanks to Jenny and all of the friends for the support to help turn an idea, into reality ... truly amazing!
Welp, about to have a great short week at work and celebrate Thanksgiving with my wife and pooch ... hope everyone is able to remember all they are thankful for, including some tasty food!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

November 4, 2012 - A time for thanks

Hey there, hi there and hello there.  It has been a wonderfully fantastic month indeed with a birthday, Halloween and a first year anniversary all rolled into a few weeks!  Plus, my sister Steph's birthday is this week too ... you're getting to be an old lady:)
Aflac has been fun over the last couple of weeks, especially as we were able to celebrate Halloween whilst at work with the Avenger crew, hilarious!  Additionally, we had a couple great leadership offsite meetings where we learned more about getting outside of the box, and then we took a trip to the ATL to learn about introspection at the High Museum as well as the competitive nature of our team when we hopped in some go-karts.  Last week I also had the chance to visit some friends up at our Aflac Group office in South Carolina helping to outline some process improvements and help where we can while visiting ol' friends.
The countdown has begun as well for our big Young Professionals event, Time for Art.  Next Thursday, November 15th we'll be at the CSU Corn Center for a creative community and cultural mixer.  A not-for profit agency fair mixed with a silent art auction, the twist, instead of bidding your money, you bid your volunteer time to the local community.  Hopefully we can get a great turnout because it's going to be a fun time!
A week ago today, Jenny and I were in Las Vegas for the best part of the month ... celebrating a year of wondermous wedded goodness!  Holy schnikes, where did that year go eh?!  We had a blast staying at the Luxor, gambling on the Clue machine, eating at buffets and goin gto shows.  We were able to see Criss Angel's illusion spectacle, Zumanity and the best show I've ever seen in my life, Cirque de Soleil's O aquatic masterpiece.  The last day we went to the breathtaking Hoover Dam, unfortunately we didn't get to see Megatron, maybe next time.  So many flashing lights, great company and dressing up like superheroes on the strip made for one memorable celebration of a year, thanks Jenny:)
Welp, off to start another 5 page paper for class, learning about Catholic Social Teaching this semester as well as my practicum, Time for Art ... busy time indeed!  Have a great week.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

October 7, 2012 - It's been a while

Why hey there, hi there and a long awaited hello there.  Yup, I've been slackin' quite a bit on my blog duties over the past few months, so figured I would pick it up again. Many happy birthdays have been had, including my wife's:)  Also, had a great visit back home for a couple weddings with cousin Jered and friend Sarah, as well as quality time with the fam.
The Duck has been wonderfully good times indeed as the only constant is change:)  Since we last spoke, I've had the great opportunity of adding five teams, another 50 folks and changing up the team's focus as part of the new organization.  You know what makes work great, the people?!  Don't get me wrong, I love that the team identified $750K in postage savings in less than a week and the successful completion of projects, but the people make it all worth it!
The volunteer front has been pretty amazing as well, in fact, dare I say spectacular!?  I was honored by the Easter Seals organization that I have helped over the years with the Edna Kendrick Memorial Award for service to those in the community with disabilities, humbling indeed.  The most exciting volunteer event is that for the last three years with the Literacy Alliance, we have been very lean in our spending because the funding was scarce.  At the end of August I went to the Columbus City Council meeting where we received some amazing news, over $100,000 in funding to improve and expand our programs while hiring more staff.  We've come a long way in the last three years and for the first time in a while, we'll be in the positive at year end not just with the programs, but with our money:)  In addition to that good news, we started up our Live United Youth Council with United Way in our second year.  We've already had two meetings and another this week with local high school students.  They've packed food, elected officers and begun to fundraise for their own allocation process.  Young Professionals has been pretty amazing too with many projects and success stories.  Last year we had just under 300 members and my goal as Vice Chair of Membership this year was to hit 350 by year's end, which we smashed already in September and our well on our way to 400!!  We had a great Screen on the Green event with over 1,000 folks, but I'm even more stoked about our upcoming event Time for Art.  It's the first in the USA where local artists have donated over 30 pieces of art that we'll put up for silent auction.  The cool twist is that instead of bidding your money, you bid your volunteer time.  Yup, local not-for profit organizations will be there to match folks up with their time, talent and treasure ... very excited indeed!
It has been a little over a month since Jenny and I had to make a tough decision about our dog Caden.  Unfortunately, his degenerative disorder wasn't allowing him to get the nutrients he needed and he was losing weight and unable to eat without putting it back up, even with his hi-chair.  So, we mad the decision that he didn't need to suffer any longer and put him down.  He was such a great dog and such a big part of our life.  We didn't realize how big until we went a few weeks coming home to no dog, so we found the newest addition to our family ... Lincoln the Labradoodle.  He is quite the little fuzzball for now, but a smart cookie indeed.  He's got the whole sit, lay down, shake and a great walker in the morning and evening:)
Jenny started a new endeavor on Monday and Wednesday evenings as she began her certificate program at the local technical college in cabinet making, yup, the only nurse in scrubs with the power tools!!  Jenny's woodworking skills are pretty amazing as she and our friends the Demko's have come up with their partnership name, DEMKlein design.  They're building up their inventory of awesomeoness starting with punkins, yes, that's punkins with no m!
The main reason that I haven't been blogging regularly is that the majority of my at-home computer time has been working on papers, posting reflections and working towards to the ol' doctorate with Creighton.  In fact, I had a great chance to visit the Creighton campus a couple of months ago for orientationand to meet classmates.  It was fun to see such a great campus and I even was able to spend some time with the great folks at our Aflac call center in Omaha.  Heck, my dad even came over for a day of hanging out in Omaha which was a wondermously good time indeed.  Over the next couple of weeks I'll finish up my first 20 page paper on the importance of financial literacy in high school education.  It's been a great program thus far, can't wait to keep on learning. 
Welp, it's about that time to go play with the pooch, hope you have a great beginning to October, a wonderful month indeed!  

Alwayz, Nate

May 27, 2012 - What a month!!

Hey there, hi there and hello there all.  Wow, what a crazy busy month this has been, maybe the busiest of all time ... OK, probably not, but wonderful indeed.  Had a graduation, a trip back home, some work, a trip to KC and all sorts of fun.

Since I last wrote, we had a great Employee Appreciation Week at Aflac.  The week started off with that trip to Callaway Gardens with Jenny and then the week was filled with prizes, food and a chance for me to dust off my ol' announcing skills for over 700 tenured employees.  Our celebration at the Civic Center was fantacular fun times while the afternoon volunteering with the team was even more meaningful.  The PIC team headed over to PAWs Humane for a wondermous afternoon of walking and washing dogs for the YP Servant Leadership Day of Action.
O ya, then I graduated from Emory ... which was awesome indeed:)  I had the great delight of being our class' orator with a speech on how to LIVE life (  Jenny and I made a weekend of it, probably the most supportive person ever ... thanks honey:)

O yes, how could I forget that we also flash mobbed our commencement day with a special Taio Cruz remix, wow what fun group of friends ... will never forget, thanks for the great memories.
Then it was back home for another graduation of little sister Becca Boo Bear Bridgewater, off to UNI to study accounting.
It was fun to be back home to see friends and family, especially our nieces and nephews that have grown up so big, wow!
It was our first trip home since the honeymoon, so the kids thoroughly enjoyed their African drums and gifts as noise makers, sorry aunts/uncles:)
May was one heck of a month, I mean all of that and then it ended with a wonderful trip to Kansas City for the SIFE USA National Expo.  It was great to see my mentors Tom and Tony in addition to some of the crew from the MMU team.
  I was humbled by the SIFE Alumnus of the Year honor joining great alum company indeed:)
A bonus about the trip was a visit to my best friend Gump and his wife Jenna.  Made for a fun weekend and we even had our ol' roomy Horman join the fun for a golf outing and walk around town.  I miss those two, great friends indeed:)
Welp, that was a fun month ... what a year ... and we're not even halfway done!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 6, 2012 - Happy Days Indeed

Hey there, hi there and hello there to one and all.  Wow, what a monthish it has been since I last wrote.  We landed back safely in the states, about to start Employee Appreciation Week at Aflac, traveled to West Virginia for a wedding, was the wingman for another engagement and next week I graduate from Emory ... what a whirlwind!
Might as well start with the greatest honeymoon ever, well I guess only one I've been on.  The last time we left you was on our way to safari in Zimbabwe, and let me tell you, what a way to end a trip.  Since it was the slow season, we had 8 staff to our lonesome as we feasted on the tastiest meals of the trip and enjoyed our luxury tent.  Every day brought hours upon hours of safari where we got up close and personal with zebra, giraffe, hyena, antelope, hippos, dung beatles and countless other animals in the wild.  Our last night was the perfect way to end a honeymoon as they set out a romantic dinner under the stars by the watering hole.  Just as we were getting the main course we hear some ruffling in the distance, and to our delight, a herd of 15 elephants walked right up to about ten feet away and started drinking out of the watering hole as we ate.  What a priceless memory to end an unforgettable trip, hope you enjoy the two-part video:)
Our 16 hour direct flight from Joberg to Atlanta got us in at 6am Tuesday and we were just crazy enough to shower up and get to work by noon.  To my surprise, I came in to a new boss, hey, as long as my badge works, I am good.  The team took it upon themselves to decorate my cubicle for my return like a bungaloo, filled with manaquins, a cot and a portrait of myself riding a camel.  Yup, I love my team!!  Aflac has been somewhat of a whirlwind ever since I returned, but a great new peer group has made it enjoyable indeed, even during our State of the Department madness.  This week marks the beginning of Employee Appreciation Week at Aflac where we will spend the next 7 days celebrating the people that make the Duck fly, our employees.  Jenny and I even had the chance to go to Callaway Gardens for free yesterday and climb in the trees and swing down the zip line!!  It's truly a spectacle and a privelage to work for such an amazing company!
The volunteer front has been a blast as well.  With United Way, we finished up our innaugural Live United Youth Council where the high school students raised nearly $4,000!!!  They then solicited proposals from local not-for profit organizations and went through the allocation process selecting some very deserving programs to fund through their efforts.  We also had a Live United Youth Camp reunion at Easter Seals where we got together to make sensory books for all of the students and adults.  That day I also was asked if I'd be interested in joining the Easter Seals board of directors this fall, quite the honor ... and yes, I checked with Jenny to make sure it was OK:)  Young Professionals has been a blast as well as the Vice Chair of Membership.  We're well ahead of where we were last year and over 75% of the way to our year-end membership goal in month 5.  Plus, we're chugging along with our new event, heART of Columbus (formerly Timeraisers) that I think will truly be a one of a kind event in Columbus to spawn volunteerism in our community!  Good times have been had with the Literacy Alliance as well as we are putting together a big proposal to the city's crime prevention unit to help provide sustaining funding our programs, which includes a new one we're going to tackle, YouTube video montages teaching adults the importance and tactics of how to read to their children, a lost art in some communities.
Congrats to Kayla and Alan on the wedding, good times were had indeed in West Virginia on our joy ride with the Demkos!  O yes, and our Emory Spring Formal was memorable with Jenny as a star with her Midwest Moonshine and killer dance moves:)  Then last weekend I had the best shot of my golf life, picture this ... last hole, 100 yards out where most would use a pitching wedge, not this guy, why not a 7 iron?  Hit a straight shot, but the hole was uphill behind two bunkers, luckily, two pals were sitting on the grassy nole ... and then they went nuts ... I flopped a birdie into the hole from 100 yards out and retired from golf at that very moment!!
Jenny has completed her second sale of her woodworking masterpieces, a Learning Tower made from scratch, pretty amazing indeed.  She's also knockin' out some scrapbooks for a special high school graduation for Boo Bear, and fortunately, her scrap book room has been the only one that has been hit by the scrapbooking tornadic activity!!! 
The next few weeks are a bit of, well, madness!  Next weekend are all of the Emory Graduation festivities up in the ATL.  I had the great honor of being elected class orator, so I just finished up my speech and a potential flash mob is in the works:)  The following weekend we take our tour on the road to Iowa for Becca's graduation and my final farewell to our home on Butternut Lane, I'm going to miss that basement!  I'm looking forward to some time with family and friends, and Blake, be ready on the basketball court!!  Then, a day after that I have the honor of flying out to the SIFE USA National Competition as the 2012 SIFE USA Alumni of the Year.  I was humbled by such an honor that would not have been possible without great friends, family, mentors and a SIFE experience that opened my eyes to a whole new world of servant leadership.
All in all, the last month has been pretty fantacular I must say.  Jenny and I thought we'd slow down a bit this summer ... ha, I laugh in the face of relaxation!!  Hope you all have a wondermous weekend.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28, 2012 - yup, we rode an elephant!

Hey there, hi there and hello there to one and all from Zimbabwe, Africa:) We're on the final stretch of our honeymoon and this will probably be the last time we say jambo until we get state side because tomorrow we head out to the bungaloos of the Hwange National Park for our 4 day safari to see the Big 5!
Since we last typed together, we've seen so much, don't even know where to start, well I do, but that sounded nice! After Petra we drove out to the middle of the desert, yes the Captain's Desert Camp in Wadi Rum. Let's just say the first few hours did not impress the wife, but after many games of Phase 10, Cribbage and hangining out, it was time for a delicious dinner. Then our night turned around as we thought we were staying in a 120 sq ft tent, the manager came over and gave us our 4th honeymoon upgrade to the penthouse tent:) Ok, not a penthouse, but we had more room to spread out and even our own toilet and shower, which was key! The next day was great fun too as we toured the desert and climbed all over for great views!
The next day was full of traveling, starting with a 3 hour tour on the road to Amman, Jordan to bid this great country farewell. Amman to Cairo on a flight, then hopped on a big plane to Joburg's impressive airport on an 8 hour flight, o yes, then one more flight to Victoria Falls ... we were glad to land and be done with flights for a week!
We're currently in Vic Falls, and it's probably been the highlight of the trip. The first night we arrived and went on a sundowner cruise on the Zambezi River. We got to see so many species of birds, a couple crocodiles and yes, even the massive hippos ... my favorite! The sunset was gorgeous and our Vic Falls Safari Lodge is majestic, overlooking a watering hole where warthogs, water buffalo and elephants frequent!
Yesterday it was time to visit the actual falls, very impressive. Our guided walking tour took us through the beauty of the Main Falls, the Rainbow Falls and whilst walking, we got absolutely drenched because of the high water this time of year. Towards the end we even saw a few monkeys, which were pretty hilarious.
This next part the parents probably don't need to read ... because it involved me jumping off a bridge, but I'm here to tell you I survived. I had to do some convincing of Jenny on the honeymoon to bungee jump off of the Victoria Falls Bridge, but being the most amazing wife ever, she reluctantly let me:) It was the most intense experience of any of the extreme activities I have done jumping into the most beautiful falls where every photo had a rainbow and a view full of memories. I won't lie, dangling the toes over the edge knowing crocodiles were below was a bit weary, but I got ir done with the utmost safety and return to land:)
For my adventure, I did have to get Jenny something, so we decided to do an elephant safari. Yup, we rode on an elephant through the jungle and it was spectacular, even though their mufflers were a little gassy:) We were able to feed them and learn all about these gentle giants through the forest. After the tour, we went to the craft market where we were the beneficiaries of many "sunset specials," classic haggling at it's finest. Heck, I even traded two shirts I had bought at an outlet store for gifts back home, it was hilarious and a great time!
Today was our first experience on a true safari as we crossed the border to Botswana on the Chobe. We began the morning on the Zambezi River where we got close and personal with so many elephants and a bit too close and personal with hippos, but they just wiggled their big ol' ears at us. After a tasty lunch, we hopped on a safari 4x4 to tour the Chobe National Park. There we continued our games of cat and mouse with the elephants, too close for some's comfort! Then, we saw some Kudu, Impala, Warthogs, Water Buffalo and even Giraffe. It was an amazing day indeed, even though we didn't see any of the big cats, we're hoping to see them over the next few days in Hwange.
Welp, it's about that time to get some good rest to finish up our trip and our time in Vic Falls. We are continuing to be safe (even bungee jumping:) and are having a great time. Thanks again for all the well wishes and we can't wait to see you all soon ... especially after we visit Pizza Hut and get some Ovaltine:)
Nate and Jenny