Annual Review: Best of 2011-2012


I totally missed writing a post about my favorite things from 2011. So I’ve decided to adjust the time frame a little bit and sync my annual list with the school year instead of the calendar year. Since much of my life flows with the starting and ending of semesters it seems to make more sense.

What follows are a few of the things I remember most from the past 12 months.

Websites/Blogs/Media/Email Newsletters

1. You’ve Cott Mail is still my one-stop-shop for news from and about the arts community. Week in and week out Thomas just keeps it coming. I especially like the way he groups the articles (never more than 3 or 4) into subjects or categories every day. You can follow him on Twitter: @youvecottmail or sign up for his newsletter here:

2. The Verge ( is a great collection of tech and start-up news. I like the format and the content.

3. Pando Daily ( is pretty new but I’m already enjoying the daily posts and news items related to the start-up world. Snarky and irreverent, it’s just my kind of site.

4. John Haydon ( continues to pump out useful tips and advice for nonprofits using Facebook and other media.

5. I’m now a “Top Contributor” at Trip Advisor ( a travel related website with user reviews and picks. Sometimes the reviews can seem inconclusive or all over the map, but you can get a sense of whether a certain hotel or restaurant will meet your needs.

Favorite apps of the year (all available from the iPhone app store)

1. Packing Pro. I’m not sure what I ever did without this app. Not that I don’t still forget things when I pack for a trip, but at least I can add it to the list so I won’t forget it NEXT trip. I’ve also found that I don’t stress as much about the process of packing knowing that I have the list ready ahead of time.

2. Pinterest: I’m fascinated by this app. I just started using it a few weeks ago to see how it could be used by nonprofits. Basically it’s an online wish list and you should see what people are wishing for!

3. Flud: Simply put, Flud collects the news feeds from your favorite outlets and allows you to share stories with your friends (who must also be Flud users). I don’t use the sharing feature much, but I really like the consolidation of several media outlets into one app that lets me scroll through headlines pretty quickly. My guess is that some bigger site (Twitter maybe?) will buy them shortly.

4. Weebly: I created a blog using Weebly on my iPhone in less than 2 minutes and posted a photo of me sitting at a bar in another 30 seconds. Easiest way to set up a website I’ve ever seen. There are only a few templates, but for getting started, what more do you need? There’s a browser version but I’ve not checked it out yet. This app is also likely to be bought by another company sooner than later.

Favorite Twitterers (

I really cut back this year on the number of Twitter users I follow. I’m trying to focus on those that give me the best resource or information and don’t engage in spamming. Here are the few that I read almost daily.

1. @ClayCollins : Hey, he’s got the same name as me! What’s not to like. Regular posts with a marketing theme.

2. @PRDailyNews ; lots of tweets, but great access to what’s new and effective in the world of marketing and PR.

3. @garyvee : I love Gary Vaynerchuk. I want to meet him. I know he turns off some people, but I can’t help but smile when I hear him speak. (Note: he’s not afraid of profanity to get his point across. He’s also not afraid to call someone stupid if he thinks they ARE or ARE being stupid. As in: “What so-and-so said is total bullshit.”)

4. @chrisguillebeau ; I follow Chris and his quest to do things his own way.

5. @DalaiLama ; for balance.

Favorite Books

Since I had a real job for most of the last year, I didn’t have the time to read many books. In no particular order here are the books I read and really liked.

1, The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuck. No surprise here. It’s become my go-to source for ideas and guidance about connecting with and engaging prospects and donors. He doesn’t talk specifically about nonprofits, but everything is transferable.

2. buy in, John P. Kotter and Lorne Whitehead. Easy to remember steps to get your ideas supported and implemented by any organization, employer, or community. Even includes a section on how to plan to succeed with larger regional and national movements.

3. The Carrot Principle, Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton. I listened to the Audible audio version of this book during one of the several trips we took back and forth to Indiana. The book answers the question of how to motivate people who work for you. Whether it’s a single person or team, authentic and regular appreciation is key.

4. Tribes of Eden, William H. Thomas. I’m amazed by this book. Written by one of the pioneers of the Household and Culture Change movements, it deftly incorporates Eden Alternative principles into a futuristic story set in the future when our civilization crumbles and a new order rises. I can’t wait for the movie! I bought it on iTunes and read it on my iPad/iPhone.

Favorite trips

Traveling was another thing curtailed by my job, but I got to see several new places and one familiar one.

1. Galveston Island, Texas. In July. (Shrug) For our 25th anniversary we chose Galveston. We have great friends in Houston who agreed to entertain our son while we went to the island for some time alone. The weather was a little hot, but we thoroughly enjoyed the Hotel Galvez, the beach, and the great section of downtown with art galleries, coffee shops, and restaurants. Favorite places we’d visit again include: Eatcetera (408 25th St), Oasis Bar and Market (409 25th St) Peck Arts Gallery (2208 Postoffice), Rudy & Paco Restaurant (2028 Post Office St), and the car ferry trip across to the Bolivar Peninsula.

2. New York, New York. I finally got to plan a trip to the other Manhattan. To coincide with Karen’s birthday and to use an expiring US Air voucher, I booked the flights for this trip back in early September. It wasn’t until a few weeks before that we started trying to decide what we’d do and/or see. First, we flew nonstop from Kansas City to Philadelphia (closest nonstop US Air destination), took the train to Trenton and spent the night with our niece and her husband. We had a wonderful dinner at the Palace of Asia. We took the train into Manhattan the next morning with tickets to only one show: The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Don Giovanni. We also had plans to visit with another niece and nephew the next afternoon, so we had some choices to make. We finally ended up seeing Seminar with Alan Rickman (raw and witty) on Saturday afternoon and Memphis (stunning and energetic) the next afternoon. After hanging out with our niece and nephew at a local bar, we took the train back to Philadelphia that night and flew home on Monday morning. The Parker Meridien hotel was exquisite and The Lincoln restaurant at Lincoln Center was amazing. I wrote a post about our experience at the Met Opera that you can find here: link. I also wrote reviews of the hotel and restaurants on Trip Advisor. Just search for my name.

3. Fargo, North Dakota. We used to live in Fargo and it was the first time I’d been back in 13 years. As part of a trip to introduce the Meadowlark CEO to the CEO of where I used to work (The Village Family Service Center) I spent two days visiting old friends and enjoying the town. Apart from the fun of getting reacquainted with The Village, I got to see several friends and get caught up. I’d heard about the Donaldson Hotel for years and it lived up to it’s billing. Despite the energetic couple in the next room (the headboard was mounted on the adjoining wall) it was a very modern and restful place to stay. Overall I had a very satisfying trip. As did the couple in the next room.

4. Orlando, Florida. Again. This trip in November marked the third time in 18 months we’d been to Orlando and to Disney. While our exchange students really enjoy the Disney experience, it’s become almost mundane for us. Go figure. But we also get to spend a few days with my parents who live near Orlando. It’s always great to see them and hang out at the lake. As a bonus, when we go at Thanksgiving, we get to enjoy an amazing potluck feast in the community building. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much in one sitting!

5. Beaver Creek, Colorado. Coupled with some business, Karen and I took advantage of the trip and stopped in Denver to see some friends, hung out at the Beaver Creek ski resort, took a chairlift up the mountain, and hiked several miles to the top. It was my first visit to a ski resort and even though it was summer, we were blown away by the vistas, landscapes, and scenery. It is such a gorgeous place.

Live Theater that made me cry

Here’s a short list of the best live theatre I experienced this past year. It’s all over the map, but generally I love honest and authentic portrayals with significant emotions or relationships. All five of these were all that and more.

1. Adding Machine, K-State University. Directed by Jennifer Vellenga, this was easily one of the best productions I’ve ever seen at K-State. The ensemble work was superb and the set, sound and lighting design magnificent. Kudos to the production team and students. It was so good that I forced my family to go with me to another performance!

2. Memphis, Shubert Theatre, New York. Our first real Broadway musical. And we cried it was so good. It was incredibly powerful and moving. The vocals and band were really great. It’s the power of music and drama at its best.

3. I Ought to Be In Pictures, Manhattan Arts Center, Kansas. I was in this show and didn’t cry until it was over. I had a great time being on stage again and thoroughly enjoyed the whole process from blocking and rehearsing to performing and messing around backstage. It took over my life for a couple of months, but it was an experience I’ll remember the rest of my life.

4. Much Ado About Nothing, Manchester College, Indiana. This was our son’s last play at Manchester College (soon to be Manchester University). At least that’s the plan. I’ve always loved the Kenneth Branagh movie of this Shakespeare play and am fairly familiar with the dialog and action. The production at Man U was done outside at one end of the mall with the Chapel as the backdrop. No sets or flats. No lights or sound system. And only a few props and one bench. I was a bit worried that being able to see all the backstage movement would be distracting. It was for about five minutes. Then we settled in to watch a really good production. Daniel was cast as Benedick (Note to actors: BenediCK, not BenediCT) and he did a wonderful job of being arrogant and sly then becoming “horribly in love with her”. Alas, I hope that Daniel continues to perform and that we’re able to see his performances. Only time will tell.

5. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, K-State University. I mention this show for two reasons. If you’re not familiar with the show, it utilizes several audience members who are brought up on stage who then participate in the spelling bee and are allowed only varying degrees of success. First reason I mention this: We attended opening night so we could go to a reception afterward featuring K-State alum and TV star Eric Stonestreet. Well, he came to that evening’s performance and he was picked (or volun-told) to be one of the contestants. It was quite funny and I’m sure the student actors will remember that performance for a long time. Second reason: We went to the performance on Saturday night and I volunteered to be a contestant. It was quite fun to be on stage, but also a little nerve-wracking. My favorite moment came during one of the songs when one of the actors took me over to the basketball hoop (the play is set in a school gym) and gave me a basketball and told me to shoot free throws. I made 4 out of 5. Cold. In front of a live audience. I’m just sayin.

That’s my list of favorite things from the past 12 months. What are some of your favorite things?