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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Time at the YMCA

I unabashedly fling my arms about to form the letters Y, M, C, and A when I hear the Village People’s hit song of the 1970’s at a dance or home setting. While I do not think I processed this about living at the Y when I was a youth, I felt” Y.M.C.A.” was a theme song for me as I spent so much time there in my youth. With a myriad of activities across the nation, the YMCA means many things to many people. For me it was a place of shooting jump shots, practicing karate chops, and maybe even a few belly flops. At least, that is the nut shell version.

The hard court is the place of so many of my memories at the Y. To this day, there is just something about the rhythm of a rubber or leather ball hitting against a hard surface. Fans are optional but there is something special about the echoes of an electric crowd. In my experience, all players were welcomed to play on a team and receive real playing time regardless of talent or ability.

We had some good players on my first team ever. I wasn’t one of them at the time. Well, I do not think we ever won a game. While I acted downtrodden momentarily at the time, I actually loved to be on the court. I also fancied myself good at defense just for holding my hands above my head even if the other team scored while I was doing so that first year.

I think that it was the following year that I was on the championship team. We had players that would later win state in high school for Elkhorn, NE. We also had someone on my team that would play on the varsity team at my high school. I sat the bench a lot that year and felt content to do so. They did try hard to orchestrate a chance for me to actually score, but that never became a reality.

Although I was never as good at scoring as my sister or brother, I gained confidence as being legitimately good at defense. Rebounds were not my strong suit. My skills lie in defending the passing lane as I was taught by my coach to do with a man to man defensive that often included a full court press. The other team received a lot of five second violations for not passing the ball within the required five seconds when my teams employed these defense tactics that we practiced.

Sometimes I would block a pass. I was also taught the method of tapping low on the ball being dribbled to steal it from them. I recall stealing the ball a time or two during the game. I do not remember what happened to said ball but for the sake of my glory days, let’s say that I may have assisted in points being put on the board.

Team sports with the YMCA did not employ a lot of time compared to school teams or city leagues. We practiced once a week and played once a week. There were gifted players who played for their school teams too. There were also talented players who took advantage of being able to play at the Y while they had to set out a term due to switching schools. We practiced at public grade schools in my area. Most of our games were at a public middle school.

Good sportsmanship was encouraged. Although it was only part of the time that I played, I do recall the referees gathering us in a large circle prior to the game for the Lord ’s Prayer. That seemed very natural to me as I went to Catholic schools.

Now it is time to get back to the jump shot. I was taught to shoot a jump shot earlier than most people in my day. I was used as an example for the boys a year older than me practicing on the other side of the court. As I mentioned earlier, this did not translate into my scoring in regulation play for a few years. I did not take a lot of shots as far as I recall. In my final year, I was eighteen feet away from the basket when I shot a jump shot that was as the family legend goes made my first shot ever in regulation play. It was all net!

From an early age, I loved the freedom of being in the water. When we were members of the Maple YMCA, I was enrolled in one of the advanced swimming lessons given at the same time the beginners were practicing elsewhere in the pool. There was a ratio of only three students to one instructor in our advanced class. I thought I was cool learning new strokes such as the butterfly. I liked fighting the water pressure on the deep end to swim down to the bottom of the pool as we were instructed.

We also took advantage of swimming during free time. We would just swim around or perhaps have a game of Marco Polo. There may be a race now and again. I thought it was great that you could swim year around rain or shine. One year, my family and cousin’s family rented the pool for a party celebration for me and my younger cousin whose birthday was two days from mine.

I was never very inclined to diving as they tended to cause my stomach to sting when I did not manage to go in head first. I generally jumped in from the diving board feet first to avoid a belly flop. A girl a few years younger than me from my old neighborhood explained how to do a flip by acting like you are doing a somersault off the board. I tried it and it worked! I repeated it over and over again!

Sometimes my mom invited me to join her and her friends for aquasize class. I enjoyed meeting the ladies and the food outing that followed. They were known for their pot lucks and also meeting at restaurants. My mom and my aunt went for a few years together. When my mom had a schedule conflict due to starting back to work, my aunt continued to go. From the group, she made lifelong cherished friends.

-population-we blog post by Barb Bohan 
© 2015 population-we, LLC
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Red Nose Day Comes to America

Red Nose Day has been a tradition in the UK that happens every two years where people do something funny at home, school or work for money. A telethon is held on BBC with comedy and entertainment to inspire watchers to give generously to the UK's number one fundraising event. After 30 years it is crossing the ocean as Red Nose Day USA when NBC will have a three hour special on May 21, 2015 at 8 p.m. Eastern\7 p.m. Central.
Get your Red Noses ready & hashtag your photos #RedNose!

The corporate sponsors are Walgreens and M&M’s. Red noses can be purchased at Walgreens and the proceeds go toward the efforts to lift children out of poverty in the US and around the world. People are encouraged to take pictures wearing the red noses and posting to #RedNose on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to spread the word. There are also Walgreens vendors that will make donations based on their products sold at Walgreens from April 26, 2015 through May 30, 2015. M&M's is launching an awareness-building and fund raising campaign which is detailed at

The inaugural three-hour special on NBC will feature actors, comedians and musicians doing original sketch comedy, hilarious parodies and incredible musical performances.. Among those at the star studded night will be Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Anniston, Elizabeth Banks, Jack Black, Emily Blunt, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Carson Daly, Will Farrell, Jeff Goldblum, Jennifer Hudson, Anna Kendrick, John Krasinski, John Legend, Adam Levine, Nick Offerman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Blake Shelton, Martin Short, Pharrell Williams and Reese Witherspoon. They will come together to have fun, raise money and change lives. Videos produced by Funny or Die will also be part of the broadcast.

The money raised from the Red Nose Day special will be split between domestic and international charities. The charity partners are Boys & Girls Clubs of America, charity: water, Childrens' Health Fund, Feeding America, Gavi, the Global Fund, Lift, National Council of La Raza, National Urban League, Oxfam America, Save the Children, United Way and The Vaccine Alliance. The money will be raised from personal donations and corporate partners.

If you would be interested in making a donation that is possible here.

-population-we blog post by John Bohan 
© 2015 population-we, LLC
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Monday, May 11, 2015

Wedding Reception Missteps Worth Blogging About

Sitting with my grandfather at the back of our wedding reception I was apologizing for everything he witnessed at our reception. At the time he was 78, and he’d seen a lot of his grandkids get married. He announced to me with a grin, “This was probably the most memorable reception of a grandchild I’ve been too!” I was truly mortified.
Dancing at our wedding reception before the missteps started.

Brian & I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary last week. To this date, people still talk about our wedding reception, but for the wrong reasons. Why? Because two things happened. First, our DJ had our guests on the dance floor participate in a strip off. Not until we saw one of our groomsmen walk into the lobby, where we were talking to other guests, did we know this fact. He was in his boxers and had his cumberbun above his head exclaiming: “I am the king of the strippers!” My grandpa witnessed it all. That wasn't the only grandparent in the action. Brian’s 71-year-old grandma was dancing with one of our groomsmen when the DJ announced the “strip off!” Grandma started actually unbuttoning John’s tuxedo, but luckily she stopped and walked away. Second, the final regret. Brian’s best friend’s date had a little too much to drink and ate the top of our wedding cake. Yes, the wedding cake you’re suppose to save and eat on your first anniversary. My husband didn’t care much because--he actually doesn’t like cake. I was furious at the act! Today we laugh about it; however, when it happened everyone was appalled.

I would include a video; unfortunately, the only documentation we have is photos because years later I taped over our wedding video. My husband was traveling back and forth for business to Indiana and I popped a tape in to record an Oprah episode on "How to Survive a Plane Crash." 

If you have any wedding reception missteps worth remembering--we want to hear from you! We just might be able to give you some closure and a chance to redeem yourself or the guilty party!

-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2015 population-we, LLC 
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Monday, May 4, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Week Post Honors Mary Kay Mueller

Worldwide this week May 4-8 is Teacher Appreciation Week. In honor of teachers past and present population-we™ (pop-we) dedicates this week's post to Marian High School teacher Ms. Mary Kay Mueller.

Knowing what I know now, I have even greater appreciation for my 10th grade Speech Communication teacher, Ms. Mueller. The wholesome looking, attractive teacher with a warm, wide smile and friendly, broadcaster quality voice was the measuring stick in my mind when I majored in Communication at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Teacher & Author Extraordinaire Mary Kay Mueller

As the fear of taking a public speaking class has kept some people from pursuing higher education or completing their degree, it is good that both my high school public speaking teacher and the introductory public speaking course that I completed 10 years later in college both had instructors that seemed receptive to the efforts of the students. My first speech in my high school class broke down some of the elements of pitching the windmill for softball. Following my speech, Ms. Mueller spoke of how passion for a subject makes a difference in delivery.

Ms. Mueller assured us that feeling nervous was normal and can be channeled to help us. Nervousness and excitement are quite similar according to her.

The scope of what I was taught in my 10th grade class was more comprehensive than my college level Public Speaking class. Both classes were one semester and mandatory. We did the following speeches in both high school and college although the names may vary: demonstration, persuasion, and impromptu. The 10th grade class also had sections on debate, acting, humor and Oral Interpretation.

Oral Interpretation is my favorite type of Speech starting in 7th grade when I was one of the students chosen to compete for my school. In Ms. Mueller’s class, my love for this form of speech grew even more. I had one of the most alive moments in my life as I performed in front of her class shifting my voice between characters including Wendy, Captain Hook, Peter Pan and the narrator. I received such positive feedback from my class and Ms. Mueller. She did caution me that some of my voices could lead to voice strain. She also let me know that I could participate in that event for competition. I heard that she encouraged a lot of people to go out for the team.

During our acting section, I recall Ms. Mueller giving me positive feedback as we stood on the floor space between the basement level and next level of stairs. Now I am comfortable speaking one on one with most people. When I switched schools in 8th grade, I became quite withdrawn and lost normal communication skills when talking one on one. I seldom had anything to say and it could be hard making my lips move if I did want to speak. I could still give speeches and act during that time. I have learned that I am not so unusual in these traits among actors and performers. In a lecture at the university, I learned that there was a whole area of study for my condition labeled communication apprehension. The professor specialized in that very area. I am sorry for my blank stare at the time but grateful for a teacher who took the time.

Speech class at Marian High School, an all-girl Catholic High School in Omaha, NE was a safe place. At the beginning of our class, the rows of students wearing a light blue and white plaid culottes in warmer weather and a gray, longer skirt with in the cooler season stood by our desks as Ms. Mueller told us to tighten and relax regions of our body step by step until we had relaxed our feet, legs, arms, hands and more. I think it culminated in being hunched over in a rag doll position and raising ourselves upright ever so slowly. That was my favorite part of the stretching. For our vocal warm up at the start of class, there was a chant that was sing-song, and drum-like in quality. I delighted in the nonsense chant and maybe this explains in part my love of rhythm and whimsy in poetry.

In 10th grade, we learned the model of sending receiving messages that includes a sender, a receiver and interference that is probably basic to many high school and college level courses. We also learned far more interpersonal communication skills than I would in courses that followed at the university. Ms. Mueller taught us how to phrase our feelings in a way to not accuse a person when we confronted him or her. She tutored us in listening skills relating how rephrasing what a person said back to them demonstrates that you are listening.

There was a section on body language during the class. This had real application as she coached the girl in the role of Sandy in her acting group rendition of the play, “Grease” that her crossed leg was too assertive for the passive character.

Interesting factoids were woven in her lectures. Some of the insights came from her notes on past speeches given by students taking my class. Part of her purpose in sharing, was to help us learn attention getters, persuasive arguments, and other helpful information for speeches. From her I learned about the value of tears for releasing toxins from the body and the curative power of laughter. I even gained a rationale from chocolate as source for magnesium. We became more savvy consumers as she made us aware of scare tactics used by advertisers. She discussed the possible ramifications of living in a society that people feel a need to take a pill to take away every pain and headache.

Serious subjects were openly discussed. I recall her educating us about the importance of walking in an assertive manner while being aware of surroundings as she said this protected from sexual assault. She said that women were often assaulted when they were most drained and having a horrible day. Of course, it is wisest not to be alone in dangerous areas.

I think that I can vaguely recall emphasis on self-esteem in the lectures. But I cannot even form a fuzzy memory of the content. Ms. Mueller’s seeing something in me has always meant so much to me. The success in her classroom has always been an important foundation for me.

Ms. Mueller was very anti-television as she felt it whiles away our time that could be more productive. I believe her television was in her basement to make it only to be used on rare occasions, which I think included weather emergencies.

When Ms. Mueller was one of the faculty leaders for my retreats, the environment was so conducive for growth and sharing. There were large group and small group activities. I recall an activity where we took turns guessing the randomly placed label around our neck by the response given by others in our group.

During a small group session, someone shared something personal that she had done prior to high school. When I openly shared my feelings during the retreat, I felt closer to my classmates. Their continued acceptance of me is so vital to me. I so treasure that weekend retreat.

One of the wonderful aspects of attending a private school was the freedom it gave Ms. Mueller and others to share their spiritual feelings during Retreats and at times in the classroom. She shared her faith in God and prayer that year.

During a retreat, Ms. Mueller shared how young people lacking experience do not know how life is full of peaks and valleys. Her words have come back to me over and over and over as I have had my ups and downs. Little did I know how real the peaks and valleys were in her own life.

In reading her self-help workbook Taking Care of Me: The Habits of Happiness, I discovered the teacher who cheered us at school had troubles at home. As abusive situations go in cycles between good and bad and also escalate over time, I am not sure how bad it was when she was my teacher. It was only a couple of years after she taught my class that she hit rock bottom according to her book. She is one of the last people that I would ever expect to seek refuge shelter. I have known another dynamic woman who would find herself in a dangerous marriage. One cannot always spot someone in an abusive situation when there are no telling bruises or broken bones.

When Ms. Mueller and her toddler daughter fled to a shelter, she met an elderly mentor whose views at first seemed harsh to her. The elderly woman did not believe in victim mentality. She grew to love this wise woman who empowers women to feel that they deserve happiness.

Ms. Mueller said the future is often grim for women at the shelter. They often find themselves in abusive relationships again. She humbled to what she described as a blank slate. This was not a period of her being the communication expert. Here she was an open vessel willing to learn a new way of thinking. She said this helped her break the cycle of abuse in her life.

I have often wished that youth that I have known could have a Ms. Mueller in their life. Fortunately, her words are reaching wide audiences of students. She also speaks to teachers and has a great deal of respect for this profession. As a former teacher, she knows how teaching can be both rewarding and demanding. She understands the realities of burn out among teachers who lack the right balance in their lives.

Ms. Mueller also shares presentations to business professionals, and people living in shelters. Messages are tailored to the particular audience.

In addition, Ms. Mueller provides training for people to become certified coaches. She said there is a demand for coaching as people want to change from the inside out. In her book, Taking Care of Me: Habits for Happiness, she relates the value of having coaches in our life. They may take many forms whether they are a grandparent, rabbi, pastor, teacher, therapist or certified coach. She also distinguishes between a coach and those who may act as a team player or cheerleader. She feels it is easy to find groups of supportive people and has started such groups online. I think there may be a time and a place for coaches and also a place for mental health professionals with very specialized training. Ms. Mueller is all about being in control of your life and not surrendering your power to another including a coach. She explains how trust is so critical that you should terminate a relationship with a coach if the trust is violated.

If the support group is mainly a gripe session or a place where people try to top each other, it is time to find a new group according to her. She also counsels that it is time to move on to a new group if you find yourself being there for the group and gaining anything in return. The book helps one find balance and happiness. The road to happiness according to Ms. Mueller is not being a martyr never meeting your own needs nor is it living right in your comfort zone. She said that many parents surveyed say that they want their children to be happy while the parent is miserable sacrificing so much for others. That was quite a thought provoking statement to me as she pointed out how being miserable is what is modeled for the next generation in these cases and the cycle repeats.

Ms. Mueller is also the author of 8 to Great: The Powerful Process for Positive Change. These are the 8 steps that can be tailored for audiences of young children to business professionals. 1. Get the Picture 2. Risk 3. Full Responsibility 4. Feel All Your Feelings 5. Honest Communication 6. Forgiveness of the Past. 7. Gratitude for the present 8. Hope for the Future. The last three steps are referred to as the FHE formula. I will not elaborate on all the steps. One of the crucial steps is allowing ourselves to feel all our emotions. She points out how we can feel mad or sad and not be stuck in these emotions as some people who become mad at being mad and sad about being sad.

Many of the principles in Ms. Mueller’s book are helping At Risk Students to have better attitudes and behavior and to stay in school. Her message is helping both students and adults move towards their dreams instead of running from them while finding more joy in the present.

Lisa Tonjes Moritz is one such person. After reading about her success on the 8 to Great facebook page, I requested a testimonial from her. She said, “I have always tried to be a positive person but going through MK's training at a time I was single and unemployed, really taught me to "Get the Picture" and live my life in Gratitude. MK became a friend and was a big boost in helping me start my first business. I am calling 2015, My 8 To Great year because it has been 8 years since I sat in her living room and then started HOPE organizing. MANY great things have happened but I am ready for some big change this year that with make it GREAT.”

I knew that Ms. Mueller was part of the back story of a golden ticket to Hollywood by a young man in my area as it was featured on the local news. I did not know until reading her book how the techniques in 8 to Great were so critical in his securing the coveted golden ticket.

During 12th grade religion class my teacher told the class that Ms. Mueller was a gift to the school. Given the fact that this teacher was quite instrumental in my life as she had also been my 8th grade religion teacher and 9th grade English teacher, I appreciated her endorsement. Classmates readily agreed. Once I had a conversation with a student from a different grade who I do not know the identify at this time who was in a leadership capacity and was part of the Campus Ministry that Ms. Mueller led at the time relay how neat she felt Ms. Mueller was in our brief conversation. Although I have not sought any information from classmates or Ms. Mueller regarding the content of our class other than questions about stretching and the chant as I wanted this to be my memories, I did have classmates add recently that they really learned a lot from her and enjoyed her class.

I have enjoyed reading testimonials of her recent work as an international speaker and trainer. This is one of many :

“MK is authentic. She devoted time to listen to and understand our needs. For me MK's message is something that resonates through how I was raised and who I am. It is not a quick fix or touchy feely. It is a way of life that can help in all aspects of a person’s life. We brought her in for an in-service and now have trained myself and seven staff in her process. If you have time to read 8 to Great or watch some of the Youtube videos on themk8togreat channel, you will get a brief snap shot of what you will experience with MK. She is the real deal.”

- Patrick Crowdis, Spearville MS/HS Principal, KS

Although she has grown so much as a person since she taught my 10th grade class, the person described by Crowdis seems so familiar to me.

-population-we™ blog post by Barb Bohan
© 2015 population-we, LLC 
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