I need time to think.

There is a lot going on. At work, at home, all over, I seem to be in “go” mode. But I sometimes feel as though I am going without a lot of direction. Or maybe it’s that I don’t know where I am going, or where I should be going. And why. And how, and for how long, and in which direction, as determined by whom? This leads to a lot of confusion and some stumbling. It wastes time and needs to be changed.

These past few weeks at work I’ve discovered how incredibly busy I am, spending 35+ hours each week in meetings, and realizing that I am already behind on work that won’t really have an impact until two years from now. It’s blowing my mind. I also lead several different groups and am on the board for others. Without effective time management and planning, things seem to be falling through the cracks. They may not always seem that way to others, but they do to me.

So things are going to change. I am going to start blocking off “white board time.”

White board time. Not sure if I’ve heard that somewhere or if I just made it up. Either way, I am going to try to block time each day for thinking. To take what’s in my head and to write it down. To dissect my thoughts and to map out my ideas. I need to make sense of what’s happening inside so that I can effectively communicate it outside. And then I need to digest the responses I get and amend, adjust, update, and change what I’ve already thought through.

Thinking is an ongoing process (duh) but I want to focus on ideation – on creating and understanding my ideas and thoughts so that I can effectively communicate them, be more productive, and work better with others.

It takes time. But it’s a worthwhile investment.

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Over the Past Year…

Wow, how fast a year goes! I have now been a college graduate (with two degrees: BA & MBA) for just over a year! How crazy. I can’t believe it has been a year. I miss college a great deal, but I think I have done a good job transitioning out of the DU mode, which as some of you know, I was quite worried about after having been so involved.

I moved back to St. Louis after graduation and spent a lot of time applying for jobs, interviewing, catching up with friends, and worrying about my future. The summer went by very quickly and I enjoyed my time off while looking forward to what was next. Then very quickly I ended up with three job offers around the same time. All were great opportunities – and it was a very difficult decision.

I ended up taking a position as a Contract Negotiator with Centene Corporation, a Fortune 500 managed care company in St. Louis. I am part of the New Business Contracting & Network Development team. When Centene is exploring/wins a contract for a new health plan, we develop the outreach strategy and develop our network of health care providers. We negotiate contracts and provide training. As the plan goes live, the local health plan hires staff to do what we do and then the corporate team gets deployed to a new market. I am always learning new things and enjoy the challenges that come with working in healthcare and Medicaid, specifically. I have great coworkers and enjoy the support of my supervisors.

My position requires me to travel 4-5 days a week so I’ve become a frequent traveler and while that can be tiring and difficult at times, I really like it. I’ve been working in Louisiana since I’ve started and have explored the whole state, while getting to know Baton Rouge and New Orleans pretty well. Soon, I expect to be moving to a new state and I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned to a new market and observe the similarities and differences that come with the territory.

Because of my frequent traveling, I have been able to take advantage of the perks and have been to Denver several times, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Tampa/St. Petersburg, San Diego, and Los Angeles. I have a trip planned to Chicago and have plenty of other ideas.

Otherwise, I have enjoyed staying in touch with Denver friends, reconnecting with old friends, spending time with family, and meeting new people. I struggled with meeting new people for a little while as I was trying to figure out if I’d be staying in St. Louis and as I was starting the new job, but I’ve gained traction and have met some great new people. I’ve also been trying to figure out what all St. Louis actually has to offer and have been pleasantly surprised.

So, life is good. It’s been quite the year and I’m looking forward to the next one.

My Birthday/”We Are Young”

Today is my 24th birthday! It’s kind of crazy how much can happen in one year. This past year held so many milestones and amazing memories that I don’t know how next year can possibly beat it. I know it will try though. I am thankful to all my family and friends for their well wishes and for being positive influences in my life.

Yesterday I watched Tuesday’s episode of Glee. The song at the end really sums up some of the conversations I have been having with a few friends lately. I want to live life to the max and make the most of the time I have…

Girl give me a second I,
I need to get my story straight
My friends are in the bathroom getting higher than the Empire State
My lover she’s waiting for me just across the bar
My seat’s been taken by some sunglasses asking bout a scar, and
I know I gave it to you months ago
I know you’re trying to forget
But between the drinks and subtle things
The holes in my apologies, you know
I’m trying hard to take it back
So if by the time the bar closes
And you feel like falling down
I’ll carry you home

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

Now I know that I’m not
All that you got
I guess that I, I just thought
Maybe we could find new ways to fall apart
But our friend are back
So let’s raise the toast
‘Cause I found someone to carry me home

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

Carry me home tonight (Nananananana)
Just carry home tonight (Nananananana)
Carry me home tonight (Nananananana)
Just carry me home tonight (Nananananana)

The moon is on my side
I have no reason to run
So will someone come and carry me home tonight
The angels never arrived
But I can hear the choir
So will someone come and carry me home

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

So if by the time the bar closes
And you feel like falling down
I’ll carry you home tonight

This Fall I Am Not Going Back to School

Well, this is weird.  All over people are going back to school.  I even have friends who have been in school for almost a month already.  The University of Denver begins its Autumn Quarter the first Monday after Labor Day.  That would be today – i.e. since 2006, I’ve been back in college today.  But not this year.

Apparently, when you graduate you know longer go to school.  Who knew?  Just kidding – but it really is a strange feeling.  I thought in May/June that graduation would really hit me today.  I’m not sure if it has.  I guess I’ve understood for some time that I would not be returning to DU. Searching for a job for months probably drove that home.

Today does feel strange though.  As I write this, I am on a plane flying to New Orleans.  When I post this I will be in a hotel in Baton Rouge.  Last year at this time I was in classes at the Daniels College of Business or working at the Center for Multicultural Excellence.  I’ve moved on. I’ve grown up.  For the first time since I started school (a.k.a. before I can remember) this fall I do not go to school.

I guess it is time to apply what I’ve been learning all these years.  Maybe it is fitting then that this afternoon, I have a big meeting with a provider.  Maybe it is fitting that I spent Saturday giving advice to Scouts and being told how old I am (more on these last two comments in a later post).

I certainly will not take for granted all that I have learned and experienced throughout my years of education.  I am so fortunate to have had the opportunities I have had.  My time at the University of Denver, specifically, and the people I met there was more than I ever could have asked for.  Hopefully I am working now to be able to give others the same experiences – and I know my education is far from complete.

Thoughts on Graduation

I graduated from the University of Denver one week ago today!  Wow!  I can’t believe it has already been one week!  It is amazing to me how quickly time flies.  I am incredibly behind on my blogging (which I hope to fix soon) so I missed blogging about commencement.  Instead, I want to share a few reflections:

I graduated with a MBA on Friday, June 3, 2011.  A Master of Business Administration degree.  Weird.  My dad tells me that I am the first person in our immediate family to get any degree beyond a bachelor’s degree.  That’s kind of cool.

A lot of people told me that a master’s degree was a big deal in the month or so leading up to graduation.  I didn’t really think of it that way.  After all, I just graduated with a bachelor’s degree a year ago.  This was just another year for me to continue learning, keep growing, and have the opportunity to meet some amazing people.  I guess it was all of those things, but actually so much more.  The MBA seems to already be setting me up and setting me apart for the future.

I was originally a management major before changing to international studies.  I then decided to move back to business for the master’s degree.  I made the right choice leaving business to expand my horizons and skill set.  I also made the right choice coming back to business. 🙂

I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people at the University of Denver.  I have been friends with many of them for four-five years.  Some I knew for several years, but really only become close friends with this past year.  I have also met some amazing people in my MBA program.  They might have had great experience and/or insight.  They might have been from another country.  I have tried to get to know a good number of the international students at Daniels.  I remember what it was like studying in a different country and I know that each of us has something great to offer.  However I met people and from wherever they are from, I am very happy to have had the opportunity to get to know each of the amazing people and friends this past year and the four previous years.

The hooding ceremony was interesting and a good close to my business education.  I’m glad the business students actually get to keep their hoods.  Who knows if there may be another degree in my future?  Commencement was a good end to my University of Denver education – an acknowledgement and a way of saying thank you.  I was happy to have many good friends close by and to be able to see both the Chancellor and the Provost at the end of my DU experience.  Both this year and last the Provost gave me a hug as I crossed the stage.  I appreciate that.  He has actually been one of the most influential people in my University of Denver career, providing academic and career counseling as well as being a key person for the work I have done on campus.

I was able to celebrate the end of my time at the University of Denver with some of my best friends from the past five years, as well as with many of the other MBA graduates over the course of my last week in Denver.

  • To my fellow graduates, however well I knew you: “Thank you for being a part of my education and my experience.  I appreciate everything you contributed to our successes and our community.  Congratulations!  We did it!”
  • To my friends: “Thank you for being a part of my life and for everything you do for me and for us.  I appreciate you more than you could know.”
  • To everyone: “Please stay in touch and continue to be a part of my life.”

Thoughts On The Week & A Meaningful Song From Jason Mraz

I have not done so well at posting things this week.  Life has just been crazy busy – but in a good way.  Unfortunately, because I am so busy, I have to turn down opportunities to see friends and family (which I, of course, would rather not do).  I wish there was more time to see people.

It’s been an extremely busy week at work – and the work I am doing is certainly useful.  I have been helping to plan the fall Operations Summit, preparing my presentation on my internship that I will be giving to the Build-A-Bear Workshop Chiefs and Managing Directors, compiling sales data for license product contract renewal, completing filings with governments for new franchise business development, and much more.

I cannot believe that one week from tomorrow will be the last day of my internship!  This summer has gone so fast!

As I reflect on the summer, I find the words of “Details in the Fabric” by Jason Mraz meaningful.  The song was shared this week at BearQuarters:

Details in the Fabric
by: Jason Mraz

Calm down
Deep breaths
And get yourself dressed instead
Of running around
And pulling all your threads saying
Breaking yourself up

If it’s a broken part, replace it
But, if it’s a broken arm then brace it
If it’s a broken heart then face it

And hold your own
Know your name
And go your own way

And everything will be fine
Everything will be fine

Hang on
Help is on the way
Stay strong
I’m doing everything

Hold your own
Know your name
And go your own way

And everything, everything will be fine
Everything

Are the details in the fabric
Are the things that make you panic
Are your thoughts results of static cling?

Are the things that make you blow
No reason, go on and scream
If you’re shocked it’s just the fault
Of faulty manufacturing.

Yeah everything will be fine
Everything in no time at all
Everything

Hold your own
And know your name
And go your own way

Are the details in the fabric (Hold your own, know your name)
Are the things that make you panic
Are your thoughts results of static cling? (Go your own way)

Are the things that make you blow (Hold your own, know your name)
No reason go on and scream
If you’re shocked it’s just the fault (Go your own way)
Of faulty manufacturing

Everything will be fine
Everything in no time at all
Hearts will hold

A Bit More On Camp (+ Pictures & Video)

Where has the summer gone?  The last week of campers leaves on Saturday and the staff will be out on Sunday (baring craziness).

We spend all year talking about and getting ready for camp and then it is over just like that.  I did not even work on staff this year and yet this feeling is still real.  So much of the time I spend with my camp friends is spent talking about the upcoming year and reminiscing about the past.  It is amazing how time flies.  I wonder what this next year will bring with so many people discussing not returning to camp…

When I was at camp last weekend, I took a decent amount of pictures. S-F is the home of many memories and friendships.  I’ve got some pretty good pictures of camp, as well as several from Lambert’s.

When I was stepping into a skit during the closing campfire last friday, I asked my friend Ray to take some pictures and he ended up taking a video of part of the Knob Lick Knickerbockers skit, a spoof on the Knob Lick Knockers skit that we do every opening campfire.  S-F Scout Ranch is in Knob Lick, Missouri.  Knob Lick Knockers is a skit about a “model patrol” and how to set up your campsite for a good week of camp.  The Knickerbockers have Jeeves.  Check it out:

There are quite a few things that may be changing for next summer.  I hope they all change for the best.  I look forward to the future.  2010 is the 100th Anniversary of Scouting.  Hopefully it will be here for another 100 years.  I look forward to doing my part to ensure its continuation as boys need to understand the value of citizenship, leadership, service, and the outdoors.

Eating lunch outside of Astronaut's Hall.

Eicha – Tisha B’Av

Tonight and tomorrow is Tisha B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.  It is a fast day, a day of mourning for the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem, the Bar Kochba revolt failing, the siege of Jerusalem, and more.

Two years ago when I was studying in Israel, I spent the eve of Tisha B’Av in Israel.  I went with a friend to Jerusalem and we visited the Kotel (Western Wall) before going to the City of David, the site of the original founding of Jerusalem by King David, to hear the Book of Lamentations, Megillat Eichah, read.  It was a deeply moving and spiritual experience.

Sitting on the ground by custom, thousands of Jews recited the Book of Lamentations in Jerusalem's Old City on Tisha B'Av to commemorate the destruction of the two Holy Temples in ancient Jerusalem, July 19, 2010. (Abir Sultan / Flash90 / JTA)

Tonight I went to Tisha B’Av services at my synagogue.  I was reflecting on the powerful and meaningful words and the thoughts shared by my rabbi.  I enjoyed thinking about some of the older members of my congregation and how they have shared with me as well as my friends and family.  I thought about how lucky I am not to be living through the horrors described by Jeremiah.

The short article below is from the JTA about Tisha B’Av and modern issues in Israel:

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israelis flocked to Jerusalem’s Old City to observe Tisha B’Av, the fast day that commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple.

A new poll released before Tisha B’Av showed that some 22 percent of Israelis would fast on the day and another 52 percent would refrain from going out with friends.

Israeli law requires that recreational spots be closed on Tisha B’Av; 18 percent of poll respondents called that “religious coercion.”

The Ynet-Gesher poll surveyed 505 Hebrew-speaking Jewish Israelis. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Jewish tradition says that the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred; the poll asked which groups are the most hated in Israeli society. Fifty-four percent of respondents answered Arabs, 37 percent named the haredi Orthodox, 8 percent religious and 1 percent Tel Avivians.

Some 42 percent of respondents said they believed that the religious-secular issue is the worst source of tension in Israeli society, while 41 percent said it was the Jewish-Arab situation. Another 9 percent said the worst source of tension is between settlers and the rest of the country, while 8 percent said it was the tension between rich and poor.

“May it be Thy will that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days”.  Jews say this three times a day in prayers.  TIME offers some interesting thoughts on what it means with the modern State of Israel.

אני מתגעגע לישראל

Behind Again & My Computer

It has been a week since I last posted something on here.  Life just seems to be crazy busy.  Summer should not be so intense.  I like my internship a lot, but working all day really limits my ability to do anything else with my time.  I always feel behind and like I do not have enough time to see my friends or sleep.  I did visit camp this weekend, which was enjoyable – more on that in a future post (I do not have time to write it right now).  I miss S-F a lot – it is a fantastic place.

Hopefully, I will have a chance to start posting regularly again.  My blog is getting hits from random websites though, which I kind of enjoy.

I have been having computer problems for quite sometime.  Tomorrow, my plan is to take my (almost) four year old laptop in to be shipped off to be “fixed” under my four year (!) warranty.  I like this computer a lot, but I have had so many problems with it and so many headaches from it that it is almost unbelievable.  I am hoping to buy a new laptop this summer.  I am trying to convince myself to buy a MacBook Pro because so many of my friends have said good things, but they cost so much… Let me know what you think…

More On The Flotilla

The response to the Gaza flotilla has been overwhelming.  Stories from every angle are all over the home page of The Jerusalem Post.  Most countries seem to be using this as an excuse to condemn Israel, even without knowing the truth of what happened.  This is no surprise.  The United Nations has called for an impartial inquiry into what happened between Israeli commandos and the “pro-peace” activists.  With the UN’s history of discrimination against Israel, this is almost laughable.

This morning I came across a TIME Magazine article about whether or not Obama and Netanyahu could bridge their personal gaps to create peace talks.  I was going to post that here as an interesting story, but then came across a post by Joe Klein about the flotilla incident.  I generally agree with what Joe Klein writes.  In this instance, my opinions waver.  In terms of Israeli politics, I tend to consider myself moderate, wavering to the left or to the right depending on the situation or topic.  Klein gives blame on the Israeli side to Netanyahu and his right-wing government, giving added credence to my International Studies thesis. Klein’s article is as follows:

Well, this certainly doesn’t look good. Israeli commandos attack a flotilla of peace activists and supporters of the Palestinian cause–including a Nobel peace laureate, a holocaust survivor and the mystery writer Henning Mankell–in the waters just off Gaza. Ten are killed; several Israeli commandos are shot, apparently by activists who seized their pistols. I have several immediate reactions:

First reaction: This is an insane use of disproportionate force. It is a product of the right-wing radicalization of the Israeli government, an extremism that Peter Beinart wrote about in his recent, much debated New York Review of Books article. And it will further isolate Israel from the rest of the world. The US will be asked to condemn this behavior in the inevitable Security Council resolution–if Obama doesn’t veto the resolution, there will be hell to pay among the Israelophilic leaders of the American Jewish Community. If he does veto the resolution, his outreach to the Islamic world is kaput. If he abstains, everyone is offended.

Second Reaction: But wait a minute. The blockade the Israelis were enforcing is a joint Egyptian-Israeli effort, caused by the intransigence of Hamas (which, in turn, may be a result of groups even more extreme than Hamas, a new generation of militants who may be the next wave). The sticking point is the Hamas refusal to release its Israeli Army prisoner, Gilad Shalit. And the blockade is not total–food and humanitarian supplies are allowed through by the Israelis, which renders the humanitarian aspects of the flotilla redundant. The real purpose of the flotilla is to dramatize the inhuman conditions in Gaza. But those conditions are as attributable to Hamas’s behavior, especially its refusal to release Shalit and to negotiate, as they are to Israel’s intransigence. If I were an Israeli–even an Israel opponent of the Netanyahu coalition–I would be utterly opposed to making concessions to an organization as historically intransigent and violent as Hamas, unless there were signs that Hamas was willing to behave more reasonably. The first such sign would be the release of Gilan Shalit.

Third Reaction: As I wrote a few months ago, the Gaza situation is–to coin a phrase–a bleeding ulcer that requires aggressive US diplomacy. That means acting as an intermediary between Hamas and Israel. I was led to believe by senior US officials at the time that there were no contacts–not even secret or third party contacts–with Hamas. That seems hard to believe. There is an obvious deal to be negotiated here:  the release of Shalit in return for a limited lifting of the blockade, especially construction supplies so that the Gazans can start rebuilding their homes.

Fourth Reaction: Hamas has achieved a propaganda “victory” here and will be even less likely to negotiate immediately, enjoying every last moment of the international condemnation of  Israel.

Update: Here’s an Israeli account of the incident, which–in Orwellian fashion–calls it a trap set by the pro-Palestinian activists. It is claimed that the Israeli commandos were armed with paintball rifles (huh?)…but they were apparently also armed with pistols, which they used and were used against them.

Update2: Right on schedule, the Likudnik Israel-firsters over at Commentary throw down the gauntlet. It’s up to “liberal zionists”–that is, people who believe in Israel but not in Likud’s neo-imperialist policies–to “choose” between Israel or Hamas. Sorry, but it’s a false choice…and I’m certainly not going to submit to some juvenile ultimatum thrown down by right-wing extremists whose knee-jerk support of Netanyahu’s sado-masochistic coalition is hurting Israel grievously. I understand Israel’s position on the Gaza blockade, though not its crazed macho military nonsense against the flotilla. I believe it’s up to Hamas to initiate negotiations that will lead to the lifting of the blockade. But I also believe that Likudnik policies created Hamas just as surely as the disastrous 1982 Likudnik invasion of Lebanon created Hizballah. It is just astonishing how these shameless people can be so noisy and so wrong for so long. In truth, the one thing that might deter Netanyahu from his disastrous course might be if responsible American Jewish leaders quietly sent the message to Bibi that enough was enough, that they’re happy to support reasonable acts to ensure Israel’s survival, but not this Goliath-like stupidity. (It’s interesting that some of the Palestinian activists were using slingshots against the IDF commandos; that’s an image no Jew wants to see).

The Washington Post article that Klein quotes is interesting in itself.  While essentially tearing apart the flotilla organizers and supporters, the article simultaneously blames Netanyahu and the Israeli government.

We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla — a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders and Turkish Islamic activists. Israel says that some of the organizers have ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda. What’s plain is that the group’s nominal purpose, delivering “humanitarian” supplies to Gaza, was secondary to the aim of provoking a confrontation. The flotilla turned down an Israeli offer to unload the six boats and deliver the goods to Gaza by truck; it ignored repeated warnings that it would not be allowed to reach Gaza. Its spokesmen said they would insist on “breaking Israel’s siege,” as one of them put it.

The article says that the only way for Netanyahu to get out of this “disaster” is to take credible and solid steps towards a Palestinian state.  Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are in a place for this to happen right now.  Making such major decisions as a result of a diplomatic crisis will only end in failure.  If  the writer of the editorial had read my thesis, the writer would know this.