I got my picture in the paper! You can see it on The Gazette’s website in several editions, along with an article about the Jaycees’ event where the photo was taken.
Now if you look at that photo (it’s the group standing in front of a brick wall), you won’t actually see me anywhere. That’s because I’m not in it. Instead, it’s “my picture” in the sense that I was the photographer. (I was also responsible for the press release the article is based on.)
This is the fifth time since January ’09 when The Gazette has printed one of my photos. It’s also the first time I’m aware of when they’ve put one of my photos on their web site.
I think it’s kinda cool!
Here’s a larger version of the same photo:
Your 2010 Gaithersburg/Germantown Jaycees Board of Directors:
(left to right) Individual Development Vice President, Valerie Lefor; Chairman of the Board, Jason Silverberg; Community Development Vice President, Kara Farrell; State Director, Vicente Lopez; Secretary, Valerie Palmer; Treasurer, Dean Lefor
Got an email from Angela today to let me know that October 14 is National Chocolate Covered Insects Day.
This, of course, brings back memories of the “Exotic Cuisine Night” I celebrated with the Jaycees during the cicada invasion of 2004.
In one favorite photo, Angela is holding a piece of banana-nutcicada bread. The expression on her face, pretty much says it all:
“What’s that crunch? That’s not a walnut.”
I stopped off to chat with The Chief this afternoon to ask if I could take a half day off next Friday. That’s when the set up takes place for the Biergarten at Oktoberfest and I wanted to help the Jaycees with their part. No problem with that. (I like working for this guy.)
The rest of the conversation was even more entertaining:
Me: Of course the next day’s the good part. I’m going to say just one word, and I know you’ll be there.
Now I just need to remind him. 🙂
The problem with suggesting things is that sometimes you get asked to implement them.
One of the problems the Jaycees run into is that few people have heard of the organization. This problem is somewhat self-inflicted because when there is news, they don’t tell anyone. Back in February of this year, my chapter received a number of awards, presented one long-time member with a Maryland Jaycees’ Militia (highest award in the state), presented another one with a US Jaycees Ambassadorship (highest award in the nation), and didn’t send out any sort of press releases because nobody wanted to be seen as “blowing my own horn.”
Some months ago, the Board of Directors asked me to help publicize the chapter. Since then I’ve been working with various project chairpeople to make certain that something gets out to the media about various events, even if it’s just an entry in the community calendar. In order to make the press releases easily available to the next person to do this job (and one of my goals for the next few months is to get someone into this job), I also started a separate Jaycee Blog with the press releases and an occasional event write-up.
I’ve managed to get the Jaycees mentioned in the local newspaper a time or two since then, but last month, I “hit a pothole” when the chapter gave me a Jaycees Militia membership. Suddenly, I was the guy who didn’t want to go around tooting my own horn.
If I’d been the only one to receive an award that weekend, I probably would have taken the easy way out and not done anything. Problem is, I wasn’t the only award winner. Two Jaycees members won state awards, and another one was presented with her own Jaycees Militia membership. (I’d long assumed Nicole was far more likely to receive that award than I was.)
It took me a while, but last night I wrote and sent out a press release to make sure people can find out what the Jaycees have been up to.
I spent this past weekend at a Maryland Jaycees convention up in Timonium. One of the more memorable moments of the weekend was a presentation my friend Angela gave on Saturday evening. She was kind enough to share a copy and I thought the folks who regularly read this site might find it interesting.
Hi everyone, this person is your typical Militia honoree: they’ve chaired or co-chaired projects from small to large, held many board positions at both the local level and the state level, they’ve crisscrossed the state to assist other chapters, recruited new members, participated in state programs such as speak-up, write-up, and degrees. Most importantly, her chapter has witnessed her growth from the shy person who sat quietly in the back of the room to someone well known, liked, and respected across the state.
This person was nominated for many reasons, but one thing stands out above all others: her ability to successfully mentor chapter members and Jaycees all across the state. She coaches new project chairs through the project planning process and teaches them the fundamentals. She understands the importance of guiding and teaching them how to plan the project, rather than doing the work for them. In the nominee’s own words, “…sometimes people ask for advice, and then they follow-up by asking questions. That’s when you get to be a mentor. And that’s kind of cool. You don’t run the project for them: you answer questions, you give advice, and you help out. But you don’t take over. (It’s gotta be rough for momma bird when the baby bird takes that first step off the branch!)”
Many of you are familiar with quite a few of her…uh, HIS mischief and mayhem. That’s right, he is known around the state for taking the Special Olympics turkey plunge quite literally. Two of our members had recently gotten engaged (they decided to “take the plunge”) so he secretly raised funds to get them to jump in the frigid water, but he took it a step further by making turkey wings out of brown paper bags to go with the turkey plunge theme. They looked stunning! He’s also responsible for our chapter’s largest turnout of speak up and write up competitors at a quarterly convention simply because he challenged the chapter president that he could get a high turnout. Unfortunately for the president, this person won the challenge and the president took a pie in the face!
One of my own foolish moments has paid off in dividends for all of us. After his first year in the Jaycees, he hemmed and hawed about renewing his membership so I made a silly comment about what I would do if he didn’t renew (something about bunnies — you’ll have to ask him). Somehow, he turned it into a practical joke on me, but he’s been around ever since. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lastly, I am so very pleased to be the person presenting this award because I greatly value his friendship. We became friends long ago when we served on the chapter’s board and our friendship has grown throughout the years. When I became chapter president, I frequently sought his advice (usually over lunch or ice cream!). His ability to see things I could not were as invaluable to me then as they are now.
His greatest strength is his compassion and caring. He’s known for being quite the practical joker, but last year with great planning and care, he turned the long-time practical joke of bunny ears into Operation Bunny Foo Foo to lift my spirits during my illness. Compassion and caring — that’s him.
But tonight it is not about me — it’s about him. At this point, will the members of the Gaithersburg/Germantown Jaycees please don your ears and escort the newest Militia Major, Blair Learn to the podium.
And then A BUNCH OF MY FRIENDS PUT ON BUNNY EARS and led me to the front of the room where I was presented with a plaque, hat, and other accouterments recognizing me as a member of the Maryland Jaycees Militia. (A Militia Membership is the highest honor you can achieve in the Maryland Jaycees.) The Gaithersburg/Germantown chapter sets a pretty high standard in order to consider someone for a Militia membership and given the caliber of people who had been honored in the past, I figured it was a pretty safe bet I wouldn’t be one of them.
I’m still a little blown away.
OK, maybe it’s not completely involuntary, but it’s certainly a case of old habits dying hard (minus Bruce Willis and the gratuitous explosions of course).
The Jaycees are an organization for people between the ages of 21 and 40. Once you turn 40, you’re out. It’s not like Logan’s Run mind you, none of this stuff where the day you turn 40 you go off to “Carousel” to “Renew”; it’s just that the year you turn 40 is the last time you can renew your membership. (So your Jaycee membership does go off to “Carousel”; in a manner of speaking anyhow.)
Having been there first hand, I can tell you that it’s a rough on the individual, but it’s good for the organization because it means you can’t have the same people doing the same thing forever. Sooner or later, the organization is forced to let someone new take over. Turning 40 didn’t bother me much, but hitting 41… that one bothered me a lot.
Of course, even after you turn 41, you don’t have to just go away. That’s where “associate members” come in. That’s the old folks who are still around to help out with things, but are no longer involved in running things on a daily basis.
There’s a strong temptation to tell people how they should be running things, and maybe even try to force your way back in, but I try to avoid that. I’ve seen too many cases of old folks sitting around complaining how things aren’t the same as they were “back in my time.” Yikes!
One of the best bits of advice I’ve ever been given was 15 years ago when a new group was taking over an event I cared a great deal about. My friend Sam told me, “You know, they’re not going to do things the way we think they should. It doesn’t mean they’re wrong, just different.” I’ve tried to take that to heart, if someone asks for advice, I’ll give it to them. If they don’t follow it, that’s their choice. It’s sometimes painful to watch the result, but I seem to recall some lessons from my own painful learning experiences. (Burning your finger on the car’s cigarette lighter is a lot more convincing than just being told that it’s hot. Not that I’d have any experience with that kind of thing mind you.) Similarly, if asked for help, I’ll provide it, but I try to avoid “parachuting in to save the day.” (Which is a heck of a colorful metaphor even if I don’t remember where I first heard it.)
But sometimes people do ask for advice, and then they follow-up by asking questions. That’s when you get to be a mentor. And that’s kind of cool. You don’t run the project for them: you answer questions, you give advice, and you help out. But you don’t take over. (It’s gotta be rough for momma bird when the baby bird takes that first step off the branch!) And most important (and as I’m finding, sometimes darn difficult) comes the part where you make sure the person who just learned all this stuff is also the person getting the credit for it.
So far, so good. It’s been nearly a year since I held any official role in the Jaycees. But in the past 10 months I’ve mentored a new person in the role of supplying food and beverages for a local high school’s AfterProm party and I’ve mentored someone to run the Paint-A-Pumpkin booth. With a bit of luck, this year’s “mentee” for each project will go on to become a mentor to someone else and so on down the line.
But my work here isn’t done quite yet. A couple months ago, the Board of Directors asked me for help with publicizing events. I’ve convinced a few people to write Jaycee Press Releases (and written a few myself).
Now I just have to find someone to take over keeping that torch lit too. It’s not supposed to be my turn any more.
One of the highlights of my Labor Day was getting together with the Jaycees to help out at Gaithersburg’s Labor Day Parade.
We had our usual problem where the city’s organizers’ eyes were larger than their streets: The balloon traveled most of the parade route within a few inches of the street in order to avoid getting tangled in the numerous low-hanging utility wires. (Still, this was better than two years ago when we were guiding an airplane balloon with such a wide wingspan that people on both sidewalks had to duck.)
All in all, the hassle was pretty minimal. It was a fun event as usual.
A bit more “interesting” (mostly in the “entertaining” sense) was the afternoon’s driving lesson.
Kay’s leaving the country in a few weeks to take a job in Italy. She’s taking her car with her, but she’s already been told that she’ll have to do some driving in rental cars (if nothing else, while she waits for her own car to arrive). There are however two small problems. Minor things really, hardly worth mentioning:
- Evidently, most rental cars in Italy have manual transmissions.
- Kay has only ever learned how to drive with an automatic.
After remembering that my car has a manual transmission, Kay asked if I’d mind teaching her. So because I’m such a great guy, I ended up spending about 90 minutes with Kay this afternoon, driving around a mostly empty complex of parking lots with plenty of hills to practice starting on.
It’s only the second time I’ve taught someone how to drive with a manual transmission and it brought back a lot of memories from back in 1987 when I first learned. I had a rough time learning how to start on hills too. (Kay was no doubt hating me the first time I made her stop halfway up.)
Because it’s a hybrid, my car’s engine is quieter than most. So between wanting to make sure Kay could hear the engine and just generally wanting to avoid the distraction, I’d turned off the radio before she got behind the wheel. After dropping her off (I made her drive) I switched it back on.
I burned out on pop music about 12 years ago. These days my preferred format is country and when I switched the radio back on, I started laughing.
The first song to come on was by Alan Jackson. He was singing Drive.