Monday, January 28, 2013

Williamson County Celebration of Youth Art Contest Submissions Are Being Accepted


Brentwood Woman's Club Celebration of Youth Art Contest is calling all young artists in Williamson County, TN in grades 6-12th to bring their creativity. Students residing in Brentwood, Fairview, Franklin, Leipers Fork, Nolensville, Spring Hill, and Thompson Station can submit artwork through February 1, 2013.



Art is being accepted at participating libraries throughout Williamson County. Ten cash prizes including a grade prize of $150 will be awarded. Students in private, public or home school are eligible to participate. Art requirements are sized 12 x 18 inches landscape, mixed media, open subjects. Art will be judged by members of the community  and celebrity artists. A reception for winners to follow. For more information email Liz Martin bwctn964@gmail.com or contact Genma Holmes bugsact@gmail.com

The Phillips' Family Foundation is the sponsor of the Celebration of Youth Art Contest.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Finding Balance While Staying Updated Online



As busy as I am with life and living, my writing and blogging is actually part of my therapeutic "down" time. What started as journaling my way through my children teen years, turned into a part-time career. I have been writing for print publications and blogging for many years. When I started earning money for writing in print publications, I began to neglect my online activity. My freelance stories and op-ed column are often not on my blog. Sometimes a magazine publisher may request for a story not to be posted online. Often, I would forget to update my blog site once the story was published. 
My Journal and Sanity Saver!


This year, I want to pay closer attention to my online publishing and engage my online community more. After all, it was my blogging and the community that I built around my blog that lead to the print syndication which eventually lead to Living Your Best Life radio show. As my grandmother would say, “never forget where you started.” Last week, I spent a rainy weekend accessing and updating my online footprint. 
I have learned that many seasoned writers pick one or the other. But I want to do both while finding balance. I know I am not super woman but I do love the freedom that comes with being online. But my business is not online. How do you do all that is needed to stay current online while meeting business responsibilities and print publications deadlines? I have no definitive answer but I have vowed to do better in 2013. I gave my online activity a checkup and made several changes while looking to implement more later this month.

While looking at what was lacking, I reeducated myself about the online community. No, I am not a blogging newbie but I read for hours as if I was seeing the blogging community for the first time. I spent time reading blogs that would not have appealed to me eight years ago. And revisited blogs and business women that were my early inspirations. That weekend resulted in a few action items listed below:

I am getting a blog designer for sure. Got several ideas and set my launch date. Thanks to  http://www.thesitsgirls.com/ for the wonderful posts on finding the right designer.

I had never submitted my site to Outbrain. It was quick and simple. I noticed traffic right away.

I found reading Social Media Examiner most informative. Where have I been?

I deleted blogs that no longer exists on my site and added new ones that I actually read. don't you hate dead links!

I updated posts to Divine Caroline, Work It Mom, Blogcritics and Mom Bloggers Club. In the pass, many of my stories were picked up nationally by posting on these sites.

After conquering the above, I felt as if my weekend at home was a retreat of sorts. I felt renewed and engaged. I did not try to do a hundred actions item, I picked a number that was durable and completed them. What a set up for success; starting and finishing a task without becoming overwhelmed. I have big plans for the 2013 but I want to stay grounded and sane. My writing/blogging come with being grounded and keeping my sanity.

In a few weeks, the pest control season will be in full swing and I will not have time to breath. But I did make a few notes to make a point of taking better care of my little blog that has done so well taking care of me. My rants, raves, faves, cares, and "all naw" are on here.

My blogging updates was a reminder for me to never forget the starting point of my journey!

(A very special thank you to several women who inspired me to keep writing by watching and reading them! (Luvvie, Gina, Danielle, Ronnie, Ellen, and Nikki)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mo' Kelly and Dr. Tanya Anderson on Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes



Join Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes as we continue to spotlight health and wellness in 2013. As we look at mind, body, and spirit, we cannot overlook the role of mental healthcare and how much it is presented daily in pop culture.

On January 26, 2013, tune in to hear pop culture critic and radio host Morris Kelly (Mo' Kelly) and Dr. Tanya R. Anderson. Mo' Kelly will share how reality TV expolits the communities of color and how he is working in partnership with others to keep these shows from airing. He will give us an insiders view of how networks makes millions while elevating bad behavior to star status.


Dr. Tanya Anderson will share that the bad behavior that is often highlighted on reality TV to millions of viewers can actually be undiagnosed or untreated mental issues that is being presented for entertainment for the masses. She will share how this not only hurts a community but also become learned behavior for the next generation. Dr. Anderson will give suggestions on how we must work together to address mental healthcare, locally and nationally.

 This show promises to empower, inspire, and motivate us to be proactive in making a difference in our communities and will challenge listeners to demand better for their communities than network perceptions.

 Living Your Best Life can be heard on 760 AM in the Middle-Tennessee Region, military bases, and streamed live on U-Stream.TV from 9-10AM CST.


More About Mo' Kelly



 

After graduation from Georgetown University’s undergraduate school of business Morris W. O’Kelly (Mo’Kelly) immediately went to work for Capitol Records and enjoyed an 11-year stint in the music industry, working for such companies as the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, NARAS (the Grammys), and numerous other record labels.

In addition, he began branching out into entertainment journalism, scribing for newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals. After a number of critically acclaimed Op/Ed pieces in the Los Angeles Times, he decided to combine his love of writing and media production.
Among his awards for his contributions on and off the page, O’Kelly was recognized by Ebony Magazine as a “Superbachelor” in 1999 and a 2003 recipient of the Guy Hanks Marvin Miller (Bill Cosby) screenwriting fellowship. Yale University honored O’Kelly twice in 2010 for his work, which has appeared in The New York Times, on CNN, MSNBC, Good Morning America, The Jim Rome Show and American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest and dozens of other national outlets.

Presently, O’Kelly is the host of  the syndicated radio program, The Mo’Kelly Show, broadcast on KFI AM640 and SiriusXM, and a regular political commentator for the BBC Radio Network regarding the American political system.  Also, he pens the syndicated column, The Mo’Kelly Report which runs on The Huffington Post and other print and online destinations worldwide.
On a personal level, word on the street is that he sings in the shower and various Karaoke bars in and around the city.



More About Dr. Tanya Anderson

1/2012-present Director, Behavioral Health, WellGroup Health Partners

Direct and expand a behavioral health program that is integrated in to the larger healthcare system and responsive to the needs of community and practitioners while providing excellent clinical care
Provide exceptional clinical care to children, adolescents and adults
Increased volume of referrals more than 300%
Decreased wait time to first appointment
Standardized protocols and policy amongst clinicians within the department
 
7/2008-10/2011 Chief, Clinical Services System, Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health

Chief medical and clinical officer responsible for the policy, programming and service delivery of Illinois’ public mental health system which consists of 9 state operated mental hospitals, 1 specialized treatment facility and 160+ contracted community mental health centers with an annual budget of over $500 million.
Developed community specific innovative programs that were successfully awarded over $20 million in competitive federal funding
Spearheaded Illinois’ first summit on the integration of physical and mental health with over 200 partners in attendance
Provided media representation in radio, print and on camera outlets
Standardize services and outcomes across the 9 state operated facilities
Developed communication vehicles to inform staff and increase morale and staff buy for fidelity to the mission and vision
Worked with Illinois Departments of Healthcare and Family Services, Children and Family Services and Education to streamline and standardize healthcare access policies


3/2006–6/2008
Deputy Clinical Director, Child and Adolescent Services, Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health

Created a vision for a cross system collaborative children’s mental health system that united partners and repaired relationships with previously disenfranchised stakeholders that led to coordinated advocacy effort resulting in increased legislative appropriation for children’s mental health totaling over $15 million over 3 years
Developed a real time user friendly web based outcomes monitoring system that allowed the state to monitor outcomes demonstrating that children receiving evidence based services improved 33% faster than children receiving treatment as usual thereby giving clinical rationale to redistribute some discretionary funds in a manner that allowed for better access to higher quality services to more children in need
Direct multidisciplinary team of 27 mental health professionals and administrators in development and oversight over $80 million dollars in services yearly
Managed $19 million in competitive federal funds to expand children’s mental health services in Illinois

7/2004–3/2006 Director, Comprehensive Assessment and Response Training System (CARTS) University of Illinois at Chicago


Tenured university associate professor responsible for the clinical and administrative direction and oversight of an innovative collaborative university/state government clinical program designed to enhance the stability of severely ill children in their home communities.
Delivered exceptional clinical care to adolescents and expert consultation to state government and community based care providers
Direct over 40 multidisciplinary staff and provide teaching environment for trainees from medicine, social work, psychology and occupational therapy
Reduced recidivism of cohort from average of 6 inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations per year to 1.5
Received national recognition by American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry for Service based on efficacy data and cost savings

The Brain and Violent Behavior
Guests: Dr. Celeste Napier, Rush University Medical Center; Dr. Tanya R. Anderson, WellGroup Health Partners
http://wgntv.com/2013/01/10/the-brain-and-violent-behavior/


Violence Prevention Funding
Guest: Sara Howe, Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association
http://wgntv.com/2013/01/11/violence-prevention-funding/

Active Roles in Violence Prevention
Guests: Peter Palanca and Benneth Lee, TASC
http://wgntv.com/2013/01/11/active-roles-in-violence-prevention/

The Community Safety Net
Guests: Peter Palanca and Benneth Lee, TASC
http://wgntv.com/2013/01/11/the-community-safety-net/


Dealing with the Juvenile Justice System
 http://wgntv.com/2013/01/11/dealing-with-the-juvenile-justice-system/



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Grandmother and I

I visit my grandmother as often as I can. I have written about her in many blog posts, my news column, and I have spoken about her on my radio show. I can talk endlessly about my grandmother. My grandmother has even gotten a shout out on social media.



Each visit home brings new revelations about my grandmother’s life. She is not perfect but she is my beloved. Each visit gives more insight into who I am and my personality, the many lives my grandmother has impacted, the power of love, and the grace of God. Each visit leaves me humbled and grateful for the smaller things in life.

My holiday visit was my most recent trip. I did not tell my grandmother when I was coming, only that I was coming. I have learned that giving a specific date leads to disappointments for both of us. My schedule is that of a mad woman and no matter how I try to be specific about dates or times, life interrupts. But when I say I am coming, she knows, rain or shine, snow or ice, I am going to make my way to Mississippi.

For Christmas 2012, I made it hours shy of Christmas Day. But I came in full Ms. Santa’s gear. I sneaked into town and drove straight to the nursing home where she resides. After getting buzzed in, I winked at the nurses who were all smiles (and probably all kinfolks in one way or another) when they saw me. I knew she would be up watching TV. I put down my bags of goodies for her and the other residents of the home and I walked up behind her.

In her ear, I whispered, “What’s up chic?” Her tears started flowing almost immediately as she turned to look up at me. Upon hearing my voice, my grandmother said, “My baby is home. Yes, my baby is home.” My tears started too. We carry own like this every time we see each other.

Surprise!



There is never a shortage of tears when we greet each other. We cry for a while and then start laughing and then start crying some more. She boldly stated after gathering her wits, “I knew you were coming.” Hugging her for what seemed an eternity, I said, “Mother you look so good!”

After giving me a head to toe inspection, she said, “You look good, too.” She then touched my Santa suit and the pearls she gave me years ago and started talking nonstop. Soon our roles of grandmother and granddaughter, flesh of her flesh, meshed into two hens without a care in the world. Time seemed to stand still as we picked up where we left off. We seemed joined at the hip in thought and speech. I had to stop our conversation because I realized everyone was watching us.

I gathered her things and off to her room we rolled to finish our conversation. For the rest of the day, we caught up on all things in my little home town, and I shared about life in Nashville. The more we talked, the louder we laughed, and the more folks came to her door to make sure we were okay.

My grandmother reading a copy of Mocha Market


At some point, I had to pull myself away. My grandmother was in good spirits, and it showed. I finally managed to make my way to Stringer Drive to my parents’ home.


Once there, I unpacked and exchanged gifts with my mom and dad. My grandmother’s well-being was on everyone’s mind. I encouraged them by telling them how good my grandmother looked; the hard work of the family was obvious. My evening was spent catching up on the holistic welfare of my grandmother.

Later, I got busy around my mom’s cooking and planning a New Year Eve’s bash for my grandmother and the other residents of the nursing home. My head was racing with ideas. I brought party items from Nashville, but I still needed to go to town (Natchez, MS) to get a few more items. Immediately I thought about Nashville and for a brief moment, I wanted to be Jasmine with a magic carpet. The next day, I managed to make it to Natchez, shop for items, and get back to Fayette in less than two hours. Whew!

On New Year’s Eve, my grandmother and I had the grandest time. There were many at the party, but we were having our own party. Decked out in her 2013 top hat and jewelry, she laughed and blew her horns. She wore “sparkly” nails that told you she was in a festive move. The dining hall was beautifully decorated. We popped the bubbly, sparkling grape juice, and the staffed toasted every good deed EVER done! Most laughed like no tomorrow while one of the residents, Slater, danced the time away! I soaked up the sight of my grandmother having so much fun.





Slater Dancing like it is 1999!



As usual, the time with my grandmother came to an end much too quickly. I dreaded driving back to Tennessee. Leaving is always the hardest part of my trips home. My carload becomes lighter but my heart gets heavier each time. On my way back to Nashville, I saw a billboard that read “Visit Vicksburg”. I whispered quietly, “Thank you God for my grandmother.”

Seeing the billboard reminded me of New Year’s Eve 2011 at Vicksburg’s Mercy Hospital. My grandmother was hospitalized after being very ill for weeks. In 2011, I spent the holidays with my grandmother in the hospital. We laughed but not nearly as much. We cried, too, but my tears that year were of sadness from watching her struggle to live. I prayed daily that her body would be without the drips, needles, nurses, doctors, and pills for a pill. And this Christmas 2012, she was doing just fine.

New Year's Eve 2011

Christmas Day 2011
New Year's Eve 2012

New Year's Eve 2012
Look at God. What a difference a year makes. God answers prayers. My grandmother and I were toasting to bring in 2012 with Ensure and were popping Champagne and dancing to bring in 2013. Did I mention we laughed a lot?

Oh my, I serve a mighty good God!



Saturday, January 19, 2013

2003 Nobel Laureate, PeaceJam, Belmont, and STARS on Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes

 Update Dr. Ebadi's Message and audio of show can be found here.

 Living Your Best Life is excited to help promote positive change in our communities with local, national, and international leaders. Living Your Best Life believes strongly that we must be the change we want to see in the world.

On Saturday, January 19, 2013, Living Your Best Life will broadcast a special message from 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate, Dr. Shirin Ebadi, the first Iranian woman to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Shirin Ebadi will be in Nashville January 25-27, 2013 for the PeaceJam Mid-South Partnership with Belmont University and STARS.  Hear Dr. Ebadi share why she is so dedicated to promoting peace while fighting for the rights of women and children in the Middle East and around the world.

We will also hear from Dr. Mimi Barnard, Belmont’s assistant provost for interdisciplinary studies and global education. Dr. Mimi Barnard will share Belmont's role in bringing Dr. Ebadi to the Midsouth area and Belmont's affiliation with PeaceJam. She will also discuss why educational institutions, like Belmont, are global leaders in promoting peace and justice by being loving neighbors while educating students to be change agents locally.

In studio, STARS, Donoven Rice, an outstanding student at Beech High School will join us. Listen to him share why he is involved with PeaceJam's Belmont-STARS collaboration. He will share how the students will work along side Dr. Ebadi and how this experience with world leaders will help shape leaders of the future.

This show promises to empower, inspire, and motivate us to be proactive in making a difference in our communities and will challenge listeners to think outside the box to help make our world a better place.

 Living Your Best Life can be heard on 760 AM in the Middle-Tennessee Region, military bases, and streamed live on U-Stream.TV from 9-10AM CST.

 More About Dr. Shirin Ebadi



Shirin Ebadi (Persian: شيرين عبادىŠirin Ebādi; born 21 June 1947) is an Iranian lawyer, a former judge and human rights activist and founder of Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran. On 10 October 2003, Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her significant and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights, especially women's, children's, and refugee rights. She was the first ever Iranian to receive the prize.

Ebadi lived in Tehran, but she has been in exile in the UK since June 2009 due to the increase in persecution of Iranian citizens who are critical of the current regime. In 2004, she was listed by Forbes magazine as one of the "100 most powerful women in the world". She is also included in a published list of the "100 most influential women of all time." For more about the life of Dr. Ebadi click here.

More about PeaceJam 




The PeaceJam Foundation is an international organization whose missions statement is "to create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates who pass on the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody." The PeaceJam program was launched in February 1996 by co-founders Dawn Engle and Ivan Suvanjieff to provide the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates with a programmatic vehicle to use in working together to teach youth the art of peace.

To date, 13 Nobel Peace Laureates, including the 14th Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, President Oscar Arias, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Betty Williams, José Ramos-Horta, Aung San Suu Kyi, Sir Joseph Rotblat (Emeritus), Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee serve as Members of the PeaceJam Foundation. On September 15, 2006 ten of the Nobel Laureates launched the PeaceJam Foundation's Global Call to Action with the youth of the world as a part of PeaceJam's 10th Anniversary Celebration.

The PeaceJam Foundation was a nominee for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. For More About PeaceJam click here.

More About Belmont




 Belmont University is a student-centered Christian community providing an academically challenging education that empowers men and women of diverse backgrounds to engage and transform the world with disciplined intelligence, compassion, courage and faith.

Ranked No. 7 in the Regional Universities South category and named for the fifth consecutive year as one of the top “Up-and-Comer” universities by U.S. News & World Report, Belmont University consists of approximately 6,650 students who come from every state and 25 countries. Committed to being a leader among teaching universities, Belmont brings together the best of liberal arts and professional education in a Christian community of learning and service. The university’s purpose is to help students explore their passions and develop their talents to meet the world’s needs, a fact made evident in the University’s hometown, Nashville, where students served more than 60,000 hours of community service (valued at $450,000) during the last academic year. Belmont is also home to the World Cup champion Enactus team, a group of 42 student leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world. With more than 80 areas of study, 23 master’s programs and five doctoral degrees, there is no limit to the ways Belmont University can expand an individual's horizon.

More About Dr. Mimi Barnard




Dr. Mimi Barnard serves as Assistant Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and Global Education at Belmont University. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing Belmont’s interdisciplinary and adult degree programs; global education and partnerships, including PeaceJam, a collaboration with STARS that brings a Nobel Peace Laureate to campus annually; and international student programming.

More About STARS Nashville

 STARS(Students Taking the Right Stand) is the leader in school-based Student Assistance Program services in Middle Tennessee. At STARS, we help schools tackle tough issues that threaten the emotional, psychological and academic well-being of area students — issues such as substance abuse, violence, bullying, harassment, family conflicts and divorce, grief and loss, and myriad  other concerns. Through assemblies, classroom presentations, and group or individual counseling sessions, STARS assists schools in preventing and confronting these difficult challenges.

Schools across the mid-state region attending PeaceJam are: Brentwood Middle, Fairview Middle, Freedom Middle, Gra-Mar Midde, Grassland Middle, Heritage Middle, Hillsboro Middle, Jere Baxter Middle, Page Middle, Spring Station Middle, Sunset Middle, Woodland Middle, Wright Middle, Brentwood High, Centennial High, Fairview High, Franklin High, Glencliff High, Maplewood High, Middle College, Oakland High, Page High, Peal Cohn, West Wilson High.

Students will take ten issues back to their schools to consider tackling at the January PeaceJam from ending poverty and global disease to breaking the cycle of violence and ending racism and hate. The students will work with Dr. Ebadi to determine their final joint project as well as  focus on a community service project in the Nashville area.

Donoven Rice  






Donoven Darshawn Rice is a sophomore at Beech High School. Donoven is a member of  Stars (Students Taking A Right Stand) and Noah's Promise (No Alcohol in High School).  He plays football for his school and is a member of the the Sumner County rugby team. Donoven lives with his mother,  Donna, and has a 20 year old brother who is an E-3 in the. U.S Airforce. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, signing, playing play station3 and speaking to younger kids about staying drug and alcohol free. Donoven plans to attend the Ohio State University as an athlete. He plans to major in criminal justice and minor in psychology.

For more ticket information go to Belmont at www.belmont.edu

Photo Credits: PeaceJam, Belmont University, STARS, Dr. Barnard, and Donoven Rice
Special Thanks Belmont, PeaceJam, Nobel Peace Prize Headquarters, STARS and members of the USAF/MCO for their help.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

How My 2013 Networking started off with Good Signs

I have long advocated for courses to be taught on networking  and relationship building. It should be mandatory for future business leaders, especially in the age of social medial. Social media can take the human factor out of getting to know a person long term. I have started three very different business without any experience in either field by networking with others to learn the ropes of each industry. For me, networking has always been about building relationships and relationship can not exist without getting to know people.

At this stage in my life, I have learned the value of my time. I try to focus on quality vs. quantity in every area of my life. I take meeting people seriously and have developed a few ways to eliminate time wasters and energy drainers. Meeting people is an art form that must be cherished.


Dependency on the Internet has diluted the value of meeting with individuals. In 2012, I spent most of the year growing Living Your Best Life Radio's audience. It was very different from working in the fashion industry, pest control, or writing for media outlets. As odd as those combinations of careers are for one person, I know them fairly well. Expertish even. But in the world of broadcasting, I was a newbie, a babe with a mic. While focusing on developing content for the show and learning the industry, I could not meet with my breakfast clubs.


Breakfast club meetings had become a steady diet of referrals for Holmes Pest Control. Business breakfast clubs are groups of small business owners who have gotten to know each other well and refer customers regularly. Meeting with individuals who were like minded two to three times a week had become my main source of new business for nearly two decades. I have learned over the years if I wanted to build an exclusive list of pest control customers, small clubs were a gold mine for building relationships with other business owners who only referred if they knew you well. No yellow page shopper types were allowed in this network of relationships-first-then-business individuals.

In 2013, I will start back meeting with my Brentwood breakfast clubs. But I also decided I needed to meet new people. Before taking the plunge, I called a friend, Dawn Rutledge, in December to ask her about a few recommendations that would make the most of my multiple networking needs. I told Dawn I had three requirements: small, no crazies, and no drama. I put emphasis on crazies and drama. Laughingly, she understood my emphasis. She gave me the names of several organizations to look into.

After researching the groups and their membership rosters I was given, I settled on two groups to visit. One of her recommendations,  IABC Nashville, peaked my curiosity because of it's January speaker, Kate Herman, President and Publisher of the Nashville Business Journal. I have long wanted to have a one on one conversation with her. Listening to someone speak and observing them with others is a great way to learn their world view. I made my reservation and jotted down a few notes on signs to look for if the group would be a mutual fit.

Arriving late from a volunteer outing, I entered the room as everyone was introducing themselves. The room was packed so I stood in the back waiting for an opportunity to find a seat. When asked to introduce myself, I hastily said "Genma Holmes of Holmes Pest Control."  Ms. Herman, not knowing she was the hook to my being there, offered me her seat. Hmm. Good sign, I thought quietly.

Shortly after giving me her seat, Ms. Herman began her presentation titled, The Changing Face of the Media and What PR Pros Need to know. Upon hearing the title, I nearly fell out my chair. This topic is one of my hot buttons. Not the PR PRO part but the Changing Face of the Media. I thought immediately, "Lord, when you deliver, you deliver!" Good sign. .

The presentation was chock full of stats, information on the business community, partnerships and events galore. She emphasized over and over the importance of relationships. I was in heaven. Heaven! I took pages of notes as if I was studying to become a new PMP (pest management professional). That's big for you non-bug industry people.

After her presentation, I could not stop myself from going up to her to add my unsolicited two cents about some of the statistics she gave. Instead of bristling, she agreed. The more we talked, the more I wanted to follow up. Kate Herman was engaging, informative, confident ("We really do not have competition."), and was not afraid to ask the lunch crowd for email addresses to stay in touch.  I asked her about a future appointment and she said, "Yes." Then she turned to make sure I had her business card. Good sign. Wait...great sign!



IABC Nashville's first meeting of the year was a good way to start my networking through relationship building in 2013. I called Dawn to thank her for her recommendations. I shared with her how impressed I was with Kate Herman, the presentation, and the group. We discussed the presentation and Nashville's business community, the printed and unprinted. We chatted about a few other things and promised to talk later.

The very next day, I got a call from someone who attended the meeting. She knew of Holmes Pest Control and wanted extermination service for her home and business. Yes ma'am, I will kill your bugs! An appointment was set. This was more than a good sign, this was a new customer in a New Year from a new group! I immediately thought, "I attended a meeting for communication professionals for lunch and managed to nab a pest control customer out of the deal." Manna. Networking, when done right, will net results. Excellent signs for 2013.  Now that's what I am talking about!

Photos: Genma Holmes

Friday, January 11, 2013

Ms. Santa I want a Bullet Proof Vest and a Doll

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. Last year, I skipped Thanksgiving. Totally. I put my Christmas decorations up the day after Halloween and got busy prepping for my eight week stint as my alter ego, Ms. Santa.

Yes, yes, yes say what you want about me but I love going to area schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. My Santa suit draws big smiles. And the stories I am told by the little ones stay with me throughout the New Year. Special requests for Ms. Santa are not usual. I have gotten calls to visit a returning wounded warrior, a visit to someone in poor spirits, or a patient in the hospital. My heart overflows with joy to accommodate every request. Finding gifts year round to take along with me is all part of the fun that comes with extending the Christmas spirit well beyond the holiday season.

As I was winding down the last two weeks of my school visits before children would leave for Christmas break, tragedy struck the Sandy Hook, Connecticut community. By now, we all know the horror that took place. I was dressing to visit a daycare and an after school program when I saw the breaking news. I stood transfixed in front of my television screen, as the first reports began breaking. Who? Why? My mind was racing with questions. Those questions were quickly replaced by prayers asking God to be with every family. I also prayed for our nation.

I refused to look at anymore coverage as I continued my Ms. Santa transformation. I was visiting children the same age of the children at Sandy Hook's Elementary School. What contrasting imagery; me preparing to visit schools to bring joy and fun was just the opposite of  the news coverage of a school that had been visited by evil. I physically shook my head to clear my head of anyone shooting babies. I needed to concentrate on bringing joy to the little ones who wanted my undivided attention while they shared their wish list with me.

The children I visited on that Friday were not aware of what was being discussed on every channel but their teachers were speaking in hush tones. My classes of students laughed and said oohs and aahs as they opened small gifts and took pictures. As they gathered around me to share their Christmas wishes, I hugged them tightly praying silently for their protection. 

That evening at home, I wept after hearing the death toll. I was filled with sadness. I remember calling my adult children, my dear little Alex, family, and friends just to hear their voices. "Life is so precious", I remember saying out loud over and over that weekend.

On Monday morning, I was determined I was going to bring Christmas cheer by the truckload with me on my visits as I put on one of my newly cleaned red suit. My first stop that morning was to a first grade classroom. I arrived to see happy faces ready to share their world with me. I barely got my cape off before one beautiful blue eyed pixie touched my arms to get my attention. As I settled into my chair, I reached to give her a hug. As she inspected my pearls and touched my bee pin, she hugged me back tightly. Sensing something was wrong, I said her name softly and asked what would she like for Christmas. She looked up at me and said without blinking, "I would like a bullet proof vest for me and a doll. Can I get a bullet proof vest for her too?" My body stiffen briefly as I was rendered speechless by her request. With this age group, I have learned to be quick on me feet with responses but her wish knocked the wind out of me.  My eyes were stinging from the tears that instantly welled in my eyes as she continued to talk about getting a bullet proof vest.

Company trying to meet demands for children bullet proof vests

I could feel the eyes of all the children on me at that moment waiting for my answer.  I lowered my eyes to fight back my tears. Buying time for my answer, I began to straighten her hair bows and complimented her on her colorful dress. Taking a deep breath, I finally responded, "Your doll will be as beautiful as you and I will make sure to speak to your mom and dad." My words were measured. Ms. Santa is mom also. I glanced at the teacher who was shedding tears. Our eyes locked for a few seconds as she turned to get Kleenex tissue for both of us. 

On the first school day after the Sandy Hook tragedy, one child after another talked more about being afraid of the "bad guy" than toys. Throughout the day babies weaved bullet proof vests, back packs that would protect them as they are running away, and can Ms. Santa beat a bad guy with a gun in with their talks about dolls, bikes, trucks and video game wishes. I managed to deflect some questions by wrapping them in my bright red cape, pulling a toy out or giving them a tight hug to comfort them. Children should not worry like this, I mused to myself.


The evil that visited Connecticut had left its mark on children in Middle Tennessee. No matter what area I was in, from Brentwood to North Nashville, the majority of the children I visited that week mentioned Sandy Hook to Ms. Santa. The events in Connecticut cut deep and wide. I worked overtime trying to bring them comfort and joy to ease their minds.

As I began packing away my Christmas suits and holiday decoration this week, I could not help but reflect on my numerous encounters as I waved to, smiled at, laughed with and hugged countless children. I loved every minute of my adventures.

However, I find myself becoming sad when I think of  the first graders who shared their fears with me. I am still troubled by their questions. As I write this post, I hope every one would look for sound solutions to address the violence that has gripped our nation. We can no longer wish for the best. We must find better solutions without feeding into fear and hype.

Our children are our future. Let us make sure they have one.

Photo Credits: Genma Holmes as Ms. Santa-Martin O'Connor
                         Bullet Proof Vests- John Vizicaino
                         Child and Christmas Decor-Genma Holmes