Sunday, May 23, 2010

Leisure: Wanted: Mid-Century Modern Patio

My rambler was built in 1952 and by the looks of my patio after this last winter, one would think that the patio was originally built then, too. (Actually, that could be the case.)

My patio, with its charming red brick wall and two seating areas (only one is shown in the below pictures), is now cracked, warped, and creates uncomfortable puddles when it rains. Boo.

So, now I begin the process of designing a patio that reflects my appreciation for mid-century modern landscape design. Ideally it will have clean lines but be warm and comfortable. For those familiar with my patio, I am thinking about moving the dining area to the grill area, and turning the current dining area into a lounge area. Below are some pictures I found online that caught my eye.

So, maybe by July 2011 I will finally get around to having a housewarming party (three years later!) and can unveil a new patio!


Monday, May 17, 2010

At the Moment: Mentorship Programs: Part I

I work with talented people at OptumHealth, a UnitedHealth Group company. Three people, in particular – Chengny Thao (who is leaving us, boo!), Cara Troye (my former boss), and Wendy Mateega (who sat directly across from me in our cubefarm) – inspired this topic (brief Part I) about mentorship programs. Each has influenced my experience in seeking and establishing a mentor as well as wanting to share the wealth with others. Chengny is the one who suggested I obtain a mentor. Cara was my boss who interviewed prospective mentors and made the first contact with my mentor. And Wendy has talked about establishing a formal mentorship program within her department at OptumHealth with the hopes of extending it throughout all of OptumHealth and eventually the other UnitedHealth Group businesses. (Okay, I may have thrown in that last bit about going UHG-wide, so I may have unofficially expanded the scope of Wendy’s plan. One may already exist but I have yet to hear about it.)

Anyhow, Part I of this blog post subject is me actually asking you to share your thoughts and experiences on mentoring/ship programs. As I recently expanded my role at work to include the management of a small team, I now find myself accountable for more than just me. It is in my interest to help develop these team members and when I think back to what has been successful for me at work, my relationship with my mentor and those relationships which were derived from my primary mentor relationship have been invaluable. In fact, I even proposed establishing a membership program (perhaps very informally at first) with my interim boss and she has asked me to present best practices and benefits at her next management meeting. I am not sure how a bunch of IT managers and analysts will respond to a mentorship program but it is a start. So, I ask for your input, articles, links, etc. to share with us. It would be greatly appreciated.


Monday, May 10, 2010

At the Moment: Back to Board and Volunteering: Part II

Excellent news! Three blog posts ago I shared my feelings on board service and volunteering and since then two fabulous things have happened: (1) wingwoman Kathryn Frankson signed up to volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters and (2) I received word that starting in July I will be a part of the Marketing & Communications Committee of Tempo, the young professionals group of the Minnesota Opera. Directorship will have to come at a later time, one which I will have to earn!

Anyhow, if not for the enjoyment of opera, I love the idea of helping the Minnesota Opera cultivate new audience members – especially as the existing audience grays – yet ensuring that it stays true to its artistic mission. I realize that a lot of people have assumptions about opera: high ticket prices; a lack of understanding because it is sung in foreign languages; and a lack of familiarity with storylines, music, and performers. However, you can address these issues by purchasing less expensive seats, knowing which opera companies display subtitles in English, and doing some preliminary light reading, respectively. If you think about it, an opera is essentially a play set to music. :-)

But what I look forward to in this volunteer role is how to market to the audience/consumers, donors, volunteers, membership groups, and recognize the complexity of overlapping stakeholders and addressing their needs and interests ... to understand what is important to them and communicate our value proposition in exchange for their time. Operas can be as long as 2.5 to 3 hours, however, from my experience, it is worth it! But if you must, I suggest starting off with an opera that has popular music and a fast-paced storyline like "La bohème," which is absolutely beautiful.

Anyhow, see below for more blogs/articles on board service and volunteering:

Board Life Matters
BoardSource's "What I should know before joining a board?"
Metro Magazine's "6 Reasons to Join a Twin Cities Board of Directors"


Sunday, May 2, 2010

At the Moment: Total Money Makeover - Baby Step 1

Give me a goal that I believe in and it will be so tangible to me that I cannot even imagine not attaining it. (I realize that this behavior of mine is taxing for some of my friends, alas.) My No. 1 goal for 2010 has been to have a healthy financial physique and I am achieving that goal with the help of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. As I said in my first blog post, Mr. Ramsey's Total Money Makeover (TMM) program has changed my paradigm in managing my personal finances – the seven baby steps are pragmatic and easy to commit to. TMM may not be for everyone but I can honestly say that since I committed myself to this program I have not been stressed financially once this year.

In Baby Step 1, Mr. Ramsey tells us on his website to build a $1,000 emergency fund:

"An emergency fund is for those unexpected events in life that you can't plan for: the loss of a job, an unexpected pregnancy, a faulty car transmission, and the list goes on and on. It's not a matter of if these events will happen; it's simply a matter of when they will happen.

This beginning emergency fund will keep life's little Murphies from turning into new debt while you work off the old debt. If a real emergency happens, you can handle it with your emergency fund. No more borrowing. It's time to break the cycle of debt!"

In January 2010, I put $1,000 into a money market account because I knew that if the money sat in my checking account I would have spent it. (Just being honest.) A money market account allowed the money to be readily available in the case of an emergency, and lucky for me I had already completed Baby Step 1 because just the other week in April I encountered an emergency.

When I took my car in for its annual oil change, the service adviser was shocked to see that my 2006 car with 32,000 miles had tires that were completely bald. Sadly, this was not a surprise to me. I live in Minnesota and drive a rear-wheel car without the optional AWD, snow tires, and have an upward-sloping driveway. I know. Please. Anyhow, road safety was my primary concern, so new tires that day were a must! I paid for the new tires with cash. It did not even occur to me to charge them. This confirmed that TMM was the right personal financial plan for me. To financial peace! (I have since replenished the once depleted emergency fund. Thanks, Geithner.)