How to slow down in 10 steps

1. Fly to somewhere that makes you feel serene. Pick a place where internet connections are slow (and there are few places with free wifi) and  “roaming” on your mobile phone will be really expensive.  

 2. Arrive. This may happen after a very long travel day, after which you are exhausted but still in non-vacation mode: tense, cranky & pessimistic. 

3. Have your favorite drink while looking out over a beautiful scene (e.g. The Caribbean Sea).

4. Eat something delicious.

5. Go to bed early.

6. Wake up early the next day.

7. Have your coffee outside looking at a beautiful scene (e.g. Boats in a marina, coconut trees & a lagoon)

8. Sit.

9. Update your blog to rid yourself of the residual urge to do something.

10. Unpack

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Everybody hurts: 10 reasons journalists can have morale problems

Non-journalists are often surprised to learn that working in journalism is not all excitement, fun and a deep sense of fulfillment.  Working in television and digital news as I do, I find myself explaining that one of the biggest issues facing leaders is morale–and it’s one that often gets short shrift in the fast-paced, intense daily flow of work.

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As many corporations have learned, a workforce of frustrated, frightened and angry employees is bad for productivity. There’s a reason new companies place a high premium on workplace amenities, generous benefits and opportunities for training and growth.

So why are so many journalists bummed out?

1. We are constantly finding out disturbing information about human nature.

2. That ever-present, sneaking feeling that you just missed a very important story/scoop.

3. Highly competitive. Journalists are constantly sizing themselves up against the news operation “across the street” as well as against their own co-workers. This is a losing game, but we can’t resist playing it.

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4. Change. New technology, new platforms, new economic realities. It’s all scary.

5. With great responsibility and public presence come outsized egos. And, the flip-side is deep insecurity.

6. One minute you’re winning, the next you are down in the cellar.

A recent study looked at how constantly monitoring performance via metrics affects newsroom morale. No surprise, it found that simply checking how individual digital stories performed–or looking at daily television ratings–can be either be a huge downer or a massive upper–and both outcomes offer distortion that can feed into insecurity and frustration. MORE Study: Metrics have ‘powerful influence’ on journalists’ morale

7. Work-life balance. Say what?

8. Money. Unless you are a network anchor who writes a best-seller and marries money, you are unlikely to be rich. You will work very hard for long hours.

9. Love and hate from the public. When we give voice to the voiceless, expose the baddies and hold the powerful accountable we are heroes. When mess up, everyone knows and won’t let us forget it.

10. Bosses who just don’t get it.

Believe it or not, journalists are not always the best leaders! We tend to be impatient, cynical, skeptical and highly motivated by individual achievement. The qualities that make a reporter, producer or other newsie great at news gathering can make us terrible as managers. Recommended: What Great Bosses Know (podcasts)

As a newsroom leader myself, I find one of the toughest challenges is distinguishing between individual and organizational angst: There are people who have personal or professional problems unique to them, no matter where they happen to be working. Then are also low morale themes that permeate and fester. Tackling morale problems effectively requires leaders to correctly diagnose before taking action.

So why to we do it?

Remember that excitement, fun and a deep sense of fulfillment I mentioned earlier? It does exist! Also, we love being in the know and on the front lines of life.

There is no formula for all of this. But, we know listening and hearing are vital. We know that walking the talk speaks volumes.  Suggestions welcome!

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Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries.

Is it another sign of maturity, or just a rather twisted and voyeuristic streak? Lately, it’s hard for me to sit through a fictional television program; it has to be about depravity, murder, secrets and/or lies to really hold me (True Detective, Season One). Similarly, I used to love to read fiction; now, magazines like Harper’s and the New Yorker hold my attention, as can biographies–especially revolving around themes of race.

Exception Alert: “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” a comedy, is the bomb. Not suprisingly, it comes from the twisted and awesome mind of Tina Fey.

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Thanks to the podcast “Death, Sex & Money,” I have a great resource for discovering documentaries I might not know about otherwise. There is a link to a Google spreadsheet on the show’s website, and it’s being populated by fans of the the podcast.

Go here to check it out: Summer Documentary List

I was moved to add three docs of my own choosing:

  • “The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden”
  • “Open Secret”
  • “Little White Lie”

The list reminded me I’d not yet seen “Grey Gardens,” which omission I rectified this weekend. Other docs I’ve watched this summer (pre-list) include “There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane,” and “The 9/11 Faker.” Also, “The Vivian Maier Mystery,” “Savage Memory,” and “Love & Terror On The Howling Plains of Nowhere.”

Get the picture? Sensing a theme?

Documentaries allow me to feel things I don’t normally tap into on a regular basis. They remind me that life is large, that time is short, and that there are really more important things than x, y or z.

Human beings are so improbable. How do we ever get anything done? How do we find and then lose ourselves and each other?

More documentary recommendations always welcome! (Remember my favorite themes, please).

4 + 4: A tweet that says a lot about how to live and be a decent person

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To step outside oneself in attempt to take stock is as important as it is difficult. If you’re like me, the result of self-examination is black and white and may depend on one’s mood.

Good mood: “You, you’re awesome! Look at all you’ve accomplished, the places you’ve been and the people you have in your life.”

Bad mood: “(Sigh) Well, at least you’re not incarcerated.”

I spotted this Tweet earlier this morning and found it heartening. It’s as good a piece of advice for a good life as any I’ve seen.

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Warning, this blog is personal: Last night I wept at the Tears for Fears concert in Kansas City

You’ve seen this: Concert footage in which fans are crying. I never understood it. Sure, the music is great and the band members are (sometimes) good looking, but weeping at a concert?

Last night I wept at the Tears for Fears concert in Kansas City. On and off, from the first strains of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” through the encore “Woman in Chains” and “Shout.”

Tears for Fears played the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Missouri on June 15, 2015.
Tears for Fears played the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Missouri on June 15, 2015.

There was something in those familiar, loved songs–rendered even better and new again live–that hit me in the heart. Hearing Roland Orzabal (best voice in pop music) got right in amongst me. Also, the band seemed to see the fans as a mass audience of old friends, with warm smiles and genuine enjoyment of the crowd.

The years–with all the good and bad they have held–rolled over me again and again.

And there’s another, very important thing. For a variety of reasons, I have never settled down in a geographic place. A sense of only partially belonging here or there is something I am now used to, and most of the time I don’t even think about it.

MORE: Holly’s Tears for Fears Spotify playlist (You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Orzabal cover “Creep” by Radiohead)

Last night, I think I was moved, in part, because I remembered that I belong to a generation and I (finally) understood something about what that means. In a hall full of singing, dancing and cheering strangers (average age around 42, I’d guess), I felt connected. Music carries us through time. So, I suppose I will always have a “place.”

Artwork on the shirt I bought at the concert on June 15, 2015.
Artwork on the shirt I bought at the concert on June 15, 2015.

Stay-cation or vacation? 3 things to consider before making your decision

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Say you take a few days off: Just enough to take a trip somewhere nearby and affordable. OR, you could use that travel time to take naps, putter around your garden and explore the place where you live.

3 tips to making the decision

1 – Exhaustion factor. If you are really beat, the stay-cation may be the best way to recuperate. If you have kids or pets, however, staying home could add to your exhaustion factor.
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2 – If you did not already live where you do, is it a place you’d want to visit? For mid-size to large cities, the answer could well be “Yes.” However, if you’ve lived there most of your life, getting away is probably the more refreshing option.

NOTE: If you are new to town (like yours truly in Kansas City), the stay-cation can be great. Perfect for hitting up markets, museums, or just taking a walk around your new community. Plus, you’ve already got a place to stay.

3 – Weather. If it’s more to your liking where you are than anywhere else you can get to and/or afford, staying put is going to make you happier.
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RIP Anne Tkach: I hardly knew you, but now I know you were amazing

Here’s how I knew Anne Tkach: As Adam Hesed’s girlfriend, who came with him to family gatherings throughout the year: Thanksgiving, birthdays, Christmas. She was warm and kind, but we never really had a deep conversation; now I wish we had.

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It’s a little complicated: Adam Hesed is a member of my sister-in-law Emily Edgell’s (nee Shavers) family: a clan that includes blood ties as well as family by choice. Because Emily and my brother Randy have the biggest house and yard, we tend to do the major occasions there.

I knew that Anne and Adam were involved with music–I did not know that Anne was a big deal on the St. Louis music scene, playing in bands and supporting her fellow musicians in all kinds of ways.

On April 9, Anne died in a house fire. She was 48 years old. You can read about what happened here.

My mother told me the news; she had just seen Anne at Easter Sunday festivities, which I missed–driving back to Kansas City, where I live.

Checking Anne’s Facebook profile, I learned just how much she impacted the community in life–and about the shockwaves and despair her death left in its wake.

READ: This tribute in The Riverfront Times

On April 18, I attended Anne’s funeral in Webster Groves; Emmanuel Episcopal Church was packed–standing room only, This is where I learned a great deal more about Anne; that she was deeply loved by a lot of people–because she was generous, humble, and loved to knit. That she also loved to wear overalls I already knew. Also, that she loved Adam Hesed.

The sadness I felt was mostly for the living: Adam, Anne’s father Peter, Emily, the Hesed family. But, I also wished I had known Anne better.

I found my roots in Strawberry Hill, a Kansas City (Kansas) neighborhood

Alvin George Edgell (my father) was born in Kansas City, Kansas on Feb. 3, 1924. His mother and father, childless in their thirties, may have been surprised by his arrival!

Neither of my grandparents were from the area. Emma Edgell (nee Blahnik) was a fairly intrepid young woman, moving from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Denver to find work. She met Kinsey Edgell there. Kinsey, a West Virginia native (in West Virginia the name Edgell is about as common as Smith or Jones, by the way), must have been fairly intrepid himself, heading to Colorado to seek a better future.

In the 1920s, Emma and Kinsey ran a boarding house on Orville Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas, in a neighborhood called Strawberry Hill. Then, it was a magnet for immigrants, mostly South Slavic. Today, the Strawberry Hill Museum and Cultural Center (established in 1988) boasts permanent exhibits for the countries of Croatia, the Ukraine, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Polish, Slovakia, Slovenia and Russia.

My father's block: Orville Avenue between 5th and 6th Streets in Kansas City, Kansas.
My father’s block: Orville Avenue between 5th and 6th Streets in Kansas City, Kansas. (Google Maps)

My father remembers being one of the few non-immigrant kids in his school. Holy Family Catholic Church served as a spiritual and cultural hub for the community. You can read about its history on the church website.

My grandparents, as far as I can tell, had no strong religious feelings then. (Later in life, my grandmother became an active of member of a Methodist congregation in Michigan). My father, intrigued by guitar-strumming Mormons who lodged at the Orville Avenue boarding house, decided to become a Latter Day Saint at age eight. That’s a story for another blog post!

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When I first visited my father’s street 2007, I found signs of a new immigrant community: Latinos, mainly with roots in Mexico. Many people not from this area may not know that Kansas City’s Hispanic ties date back many generations, especially on the Kansas side. Significantly, by the 1920s, most laborers on the local Santa Fe Railroad tracks were Mexican.

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As a person who is constantly moving, I am very fascinated by places–in particular, the places on the map where my forebears lived. So, to find myself living in Kansas City (Missouri), within an easy drive of the place where my father spent his formative years is profound.

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