March 27, 2006

Life Soundtrack

My friend Ryan, Dave and I were watching Crocodile Dundee 2 this weekend.

(Side Note: I realize that most sequels don't measure up to the original. But this one is pretty fantastic since it moves enough away from the "stranger in a strange land" concept, and puts a solid character, the cool calm Mick Dundee, into a new situation...avoiding some weak looking drug lords.)

Ryan loved the orchestrated background of the movie and wished that he could have that tune follow him wherever he went. He imagined how fantastic it would be to wake up in the morning, hearing triumphant and determined music, beginning your day like a champion.

The comedian Richard Jeni does a bit about that same concept. Music following you wherever you go. These days, thankfully to Steve Jobs, that concept is reality with the amount of folks who own iPods or similar devices.

I've always been a fan of how music inspires you and aids in your creativity or work. I, obviously, have my own specifics I enjoy listening to for certain activities. Wanna clean the apartment? Kick on some 80's hip hop. Need to go work out? Any heavy metal will do. Looking to do some writing? An acoustic guitar is the perfect sound. This all heralds back to the day as kid when I used to put in my brother's mix tape of 80's rap (Doug E. Fresh, Slik Rick, Whodini) while putting legos together.

The inspiration for this article though has come mostly from my father. What you need to know is that in my family we've always been a slight drop behind in upgrading electronics in our house. We got a VCR a couple years after everyone else did. A Nintendo two years later. My parents hadn't even had a CD player until about 6 years ago.

(Side Note 2: both my brother and sister have done a great job adapting technologically with the parents lack of adaptation really has been more of a blessing than a curse since there's never been that hurry up feeling of needing new technology. And yet, I do get chided for not having a cell phone.)

My brother got my dad an MP3 player and radio component last Christmas. Of course there was some trial and error getting him set up and all the music he wanted downloaded properly. On the way to the movies a week ago he did say to me, "You know, I get in my car after work, feeling stressed and tired, I turn on my MP3 player, and within seconds all of the ills of the day have melted away. By the time I get home, I feel like a new man."

I'm inspired by this because my dad's passion for his musical tastes has always been strong. To see an old school rhythm and blues fan enjoy life by listening to the music of his heart is fantastic. To know that one simple thing like an orchestrated score can lift our spirits is powerful. Essentially, my dad, much like Ryan's idea, and Jeni's stand up routine, is making his own soundtrack of life.

So to all those out there who are making their own soundtracks, good for you; I hope that you find the same depth in your musical tastes as my father has in his.


March 21, 2006

Random Thoughts

I started writing what was turning out to be a pretty large post for this week and realized that I was biting off my that I had set out to do. In keeping with trying to think big and do small this week here are some small tidbits of good thoughts:

-My friend Eric who is a teacher at Kaukauna High School in Wisconsin e-mailed me telling me how much he enjoyed reading some of the recent posts about conferences as it reminded him of the good times we had at those conferences. Another cool lady I know, Danielle, reminded me on Saturday that one of things she looks forward to at conferences is the chance to bond with the people from her school. I look back at all the conferences I went to and realized that because of those bonding times I became a lot closer to many friends across campus that I may not have run into (one of the most significant probably being my friend Jim who is an RHD with me currently). So thanks Eric and Danielle for the good thoughts!

-Chris West never ceases to amaze me. If you like basketball at all his blog is one of the best on the planet (his link is on the side). Recently he's been quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He is a constant reminder that if you're passionate about something, work on it as often as you can, doing small things, and good surprises will be on the way.

-I'd like to thank my friend Adam Jeske for teaching me so much about parenting this year by example. Adam and his wife typically bring their kids Phoebe and Zeke to lunch. Watching their interactions and how Adam will talk to his kids like their adults is impressive. Again another example of someone who does small reinforcing positive learning experiences which make a larger impact. I do often find myself in public places watching parents and kids thinking "What would Adam do if he was here?"

-As it is during the NCAA Tournament I had this glass is half empty thought the other day: Really if I'm a basketball team and I make it to the second round of the tournament, everything else is gravy. If we don't win, at least we've played two games at our first and second round location. If we win (any number of games) we make it to a round that earns a specific title: Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four. That may sound a little saccharine but in the end I'll take it.

-I have to give credit to Danielle on this one: At museum exhibits involving birds (or really any herd or flock of animals) who determines if there should be animal droppings present? And does that person need a Ph.D. to make that decision? And how much is too much animal feces in one exhibit?

-Lastly, I want to thank Paul Wesselmann for his help and kindness on a number of things related to Kick Butt Productions, inspirational speaking, and his passion for student conferences. He's a great person and should be checked out at

All right, we'll see if any of my larger thoughts come to fruition for next week. Thanks for reading!


March 13, 2006

Spring Break & Cleaning

Admittedly, one of the perks in working in higher education is Spring Break. No matter when the week falls, it's a good time to catch up on some things and do some spring cleaning. One of the things I'll be working on this week will be finally updating and reorganizing The Museum.

In my apartment I'm fortunate enough to have a spare bedroom which, since I don't have any kids, and most of my guests are my male friends who are used to sleeping on couches or bring an air mattress if they come over, is used as space for my Stuff. Everyone accumulates their own Stuff over time. For some it's collectables (comics, baseball cards, autographs, etc.) others it's personal memorabilia from concerts or sporting events (my friend Ryan has a great collection of basketball Stuff from famous collegiate coaches).

My Stuff place is called The Museum since, years ago when I started scrapbooking and consolidating my Stuff, it is a place to inspire creativity and reminisce about good times. The Museum has three sections: 1. The Artifacts: select items which cannot be scrapbooked and which all carry some type of story in my life. 2. Scrapbooks: each representing a time in my life (high school, college, grad school) or an interest in my life (student conferences, humorous things, sentimental things). 3. Storage: obvious not everything can be displayed in the room, so there are some things that I am not ready to part with (or haven't come up with a creative system for organization yet).

The process of updating items in The Museum always makes me feel better and refreshed about life. The process consists of three parts which I recommend to anyone who is a pack rat and is looking to do some spring cleaning of their own.

Step 1: Organizing/Sorting
I usually take a box of Stuff I've accumulated over a certain time, spread it all out on a table in my living room, put in a movie that I've seen enough to float in and out of it when I need to, and begin the sorting. I notice that as I go through the individual items instantly I'm transported to the memory it represents. This brings back a rush of excitement, a quick chuckle about a funny time, or some serious reflection.

Step 2: Keep or Throw
My mother would be amazed to know that this my favorite step in the process. I would say that one out of every three things I have ends up getting tossed. It's not that it's any more or less special to me, but it may just be that there are other ways to keep it (putting it in a journal or writing about it elsewhere) or I was glad it made me thought of the memory but I'm ok if I don't remember again. This is a fear we commonly have with most things in our lives (as a writer it's one that face routinely if I have a great idea and I'm not near a computer). Truthfully, our brains can only hold onto so much, and unlike computers, we cannot upgrade our memories. Throwing away means letting go, enjoying something for what it was without minimizing it or blowing it out of proportion. Not easy to do for some, but very therapeutic.

Step 3: Creating
Recently, with the movie Rent out on DVD, I'm reminded of the line "the opposite of war is not's creation." This is a powerful maxim for something as simple as putting together a scrapbook or photo albulm. Like the previous steps, it offers it's own benefit that you have challenged your brain and your imagination to make something that supports your heart. And because most of these things are created for ourselves, we have no expectations to meet other than a sense of accomplishment (and it's always refreshing to cross another thing off the ongoing list).

I do wish all the folks who are traveling this break (and other breaks) the best! From last year's seven state extravaganza that my friends and I went on, this year it was definitely ok to take a rest. And for those of you who are staying, check out that closet or drawer you haven't cleaned out in a while, and do some cleaning.


March 06, 2006

OPE Weekend

First, a little explanation for you non Residence Life types: The Oshkosh Placement Exchange (OPE) is the 3rd largest job placement conference in the United States. It's been hosted here at Oshkosh for 27 years. This past weekend (Thursday the 2nd through Sunday the 5th) we just concluded another successful OPE.

I reminisce on this weekend because this is one of the events that personally brings me joy.

Family is defined differently by many. I myself consider many of my friends to be family due to the closeness I share with them. In Residence Life, you eventually go through one of the job placement conferences, in addition to possibly changing schools at least once or twice during your professional career. Conferences (as I mentioned last week) are one of the ways you meet others and build upon those relationships. From having been a student who worked OPE, a candidate who intereviewed at OPE, and on a university interview team for OPE, this experience really is like coming to a family reunion every year.

There are two messages I want to leave you with about this weekend:

1. This weekend is a convenient way to reconnect with friends from all different stages of your life. The smallest amount of time I spent chatting with an old friend was about 10 minutes. The important thing to remember is that you don't need an event like this to reminisce with your friends. Call them when you can. Even if you're just saying hi and want to see what's up and let them know you're thinking about them. It was great to see my friends Jason, Craig, Alicia, Linda, Jen, JD Love, Paul, Mark, Jefe, Dr. Johnson, and Andrew and hope they continue to do well in their lives!

2. Although this conference is about job searching and there's a serious/professional side to it, I think that we in the field who sit on the 'commanding' side of the interview table need to remember that it is not about a competition. It's not a weekend to steal the best candidate or get the professional whose most sought after. It's a weekend to 'grow better corn' (something I will cover in a future post). You can do this by not only collaborating with other schools and talking positively about certain folks that you think may fit better at their institution but also by preparing your own candidates for this experience (please check the homepage soon as I will be launching a site for Future Leaders of Student Affairs aimed at doing just this thing). I know that there are some institutions and professionals already doing this, and I thank you. Please share your secrets with your colleagues.

The weekend usually leaves a peson worn out, and reflective. I want say that I had a chance to work with five great students throughout this year and got to see them shine at OPE: Charissa, Jennifer, Christina, Dane, and Anne. I was very impressed with all of your hardwork and I hope you find the institution that fits you best.