Thursday, March 24, 2011

Learning To Curb Your Cleaning Appetite

                                                                                 Julie Kemp Pick              

Recently ABC World News featured a story about how the "Birth Order Effect" plays an important role in determining if your older child is more likely to develop food allergies and "conditions that affect the nose and mouth respectively than their younger siblings." The study attributes this to the "hygiene hypothesis: in preparing for their firstborn to come home, parents may hyper-sterilize their environments. By the time babies 2 and 3 come around there are more germs and the younger siblings may develop stronger immune systems." Unfortunately, both my kids often walk around sneezing, coughing, clearing their throats and are in desperate need of portable spittoons. My house was surgically scrubbed for many years and I ruined both of their lives so there! There is something to be said about older siblings reportedly having higher IQ scores and my brother quotes this study on a daily basis.

Maybe if I hadn't been so neurotic about cleaning when my boys were growing up, they wouldn't have spent most of their freshman year in college at the infirmary. As they will gladly tell you, the fact that they stayed up all hours of the night doing who knows what had nothing to do with it. If only I had subscribed to the 5 second rule where they could eat anything off of the ground no matter where it may land, as long as they pick it up within 5 seconds. I shudder to think of the possibilities, as I imagine one of my sons scraping up a Tic Tac from the bottom of a Porta-potty counting to 5 in slow motion.

To counter attack the poisons in his system, I am calmed by the thought of him washing his hands while singing Happy Birthday for 15 seconds. Yeah right!  Of course, the hand soap dispenser would be motion activated, so he wouldn't have to actually touch it. Suddenly, I'm reminded of the scene in The Aviator where Leonardo Di Caprio portrays Howard Hughes. It takes place in the men's room and there are no towels left, so panic-stricken H.H. is trapped inside until someone else touches the door handle for him.

With all of the new strains of the flu virus, E coli bacteria, and infections too numerous to mention, we are inundated with preventative products in the marketplace. Advertisers are counting on scaring consumers into purchasing everything from anti-bacterial wipes to vitamins that boost the immune system.  Is it preparedness or paranoia?  On second thought, I'm not going to apologize for keeping my floors clean enough for my babies to crawl on. Now that they're living on their own for 9 months out of the year, if they want to roll around in filth, I'm just glad I don't have to see it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Creating a Winning Summer Job Experience

                                                                                                              Julie Pick

While my younger son has been spending his spring break searching for a summer job, I have been trying to advise him on honing his interviewing skills. Aside from the usual confident smile, firm handshake, enthusiastic demeanor, I thought I might need a little more outside help to set him apart from other competitors, so I decided to consult my bathroom bible AARP Magazine. In the article Nail That New Job Andrew Reiner says, "It's time to make yourself more relevant." He suggests doing this by utilizing social media networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as taking career coaches recommendations "urging clients to morph their online profiles into resumes and take up blogging and tweeting, shouting their expertise from the cyber rooftops until their digital lungs are hoarse." Looks like senior may be able to help junior after all. Is it possible that Charlie Sheen really does know what he's doing?

Reiner credits Tom Peters in the 1997 article Fast Company, "It's time for me - and you - to take a lesson from the big brands. Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEO's of our own companies: Me Inc." I don't know any college student who couldn't relate to that concept especially since everyone born between the 1970's through the 1990's is considered part of Jean Twenge's  Generation Me.

Andrew Reiner expounds on the fine art of  Unique Selling Propositions, "USP's are vital to developing our own brand, because they demand that we pinpoint what sets us apart and play up our achievements."
Some examples include Starbucks and Domino's as well as individuals Oprah and Mother Teresa. The underlying theme is "consistency," which is made possible by constantly popping up on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. This sounds surprisingly similar to subliminal advertising as cited in Marshall McLuhan's 1967 book The Medium Is The Massage. All the basic tools that he wrote about in the 60's have been recycled for the Internet. In a way Starbucks is the new Coca Cola and it's seen everywhere from your TV screen to your IPhone. If only my son was looking for a part-time job as a Mad Man, then this information would really come in handy; fortunately, he's not quite old enough for 3 martini lunches.

The AARP author offers some other tips with the aid of brand strategist Catherine Kaputa, "We can grow confidence by understanding it comes from self-acceptance Accepting yourself is the most important ingredient in the self -confidence formula." She also recommends to,"practice your elevator speech, a short verbal pitch that conveys who you are, what you do best, and what you're looking for. Keep it around one minute. Strong, personal authentic stories help give your brand credibility and set you apart from the competition. And remember what your mother told you: Stand up straight! Command the space you're in." Thank you Ms. Kaputa, this last part almost brought tears to my eyes. You're never too old to listen to your mother.

In summary, Reiner's article suggests that we should all jump on the World Wide Web ride before we become obsolete. It is our responsibility to become our own self-promoters, but at what cost? Andy Warhol's 15 Minutes of Fame has sky-rocketed into Charlie Sheen's Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not An Option Tour. He's a fine example of branding gone amok, but the more he waves his machete, the more money comes rolling in. Hopefully, my son will use some of the inter-generational advice that AARP offers to promote his own unique brand of an honest, hard-working individual, and his sincerity will outsheen  the rest.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Time For A Relationship Tune - Up

                                                                                                                 Julie Pick

While perusing the Sunday paper, I came across an interesting article entitled Love Checkups Needed by Robert Pagliarini which focuses on putting quality time and energy into maintaining a healthy relationship with your loved one. "If you obsess over the stock market and how well your portfolio is doing, doesn't it make sense to invest a few of the other eight-hours into a marriage checkup?" Eight hours is way too long a commitment unless it's broken down over a period of several days with meals and plenty of caffeine included, but this is still an intriguing premise to ponder.

Pagliarini goes on to say, "Wouldn't it be nice to have a checkup or stock market type score for your marriage to see how last night's fight affected your relationship today?" The great thing about my husband is that he never holds a grudge; this combined with hearing loss often works to my advantage. It's also a double edged sword as many of our arguments are about the fact that I have to act as a TV interpreter and often end up watching the same show twice at a volume that attracts all the neighborhood dogs. Now why would I want to "score" this long forgotten memory that he may have never heard in the first place? No one is going belly up on my watch.

The author makes other comparisons between relationships and the business world, "A couple of bad years for a stock and the board may fire the CEO. A couple of bad years in a relationship and you-know-who might get replaced." Is he talking about me? No worries, I've already chosen several replacements, but my husband won't hear of it! See how that hearing thing really works out for me?

Pagliarini then asks, "Has your spouse ever been upset with you for something you had no idea about? Or have you ever been upset with your spouse and they had no idea? It's not enough to 'feel good' about the relationship. You need to test it." This happens all the time, where I get aggravated with my husband and he only has a few seconds to think about it, before I get even angrier. Sometimes this escalates to the point where I don't even remember what bothered me in the first place. Most people that I've talked to say that the men in their lives are the same way in that they don't like confrontation. I'd much rather have a good fight than be ignored. When he's upset with me he usually pulls out the credit card bill and tells me to do better next time. You gotta love the man...he sleeps like a snoring baby.

Lastly, the author suggests "scheduling an hour session with a marriage counselor once a quarter. Just a few bucks and an hour of your time can be the best investment you make in your relationship." Though this is good advice for many I'll have to take a pass. It's like the kid who digs for gold and ends up with a bloody nose, sometimes you have to leave well enough alone. We're happy, we're comfortable, our kids don't completely hate us, life is good. Maybe other couples have come closer to achieving the perfect marriage, but we're still together imperfections and all. I think Erma Bombeck said it best, "Don't worry about who doesn't like you, who has more or who's doing what. Instead, let's cherish the relationships we have with those who love us."