From The Publisher

From The Publisher

Uncommon Courtesy

Beverly Denver - From the PublisherSome time ago, I placed a large red bowl on the coffee table in my office. In it are thank-you cards and letters from readers and friends and new acquaintances I’ve met while doing my work.

I like holding on to the personal messages and having them displayed nearby. Seeing them often reminds me of the interactions with their authors and how much I appreciate them for re-connecting with me in such a nice and generous way. They remind me of a favorite quote, “Small courtesies sweeten life.” And, truly, they do.

Every time I pick up the day’s mail and find a hand-written note among the bills and press releases, it puts a smile on my face. I open its envelope first. I am eager, of course, to read words written exclusively for me! On a good day, they are the icing on the cake. On a bad one, they affirm the delicious flavors of friendship and lift my spirits.

Often, we hear, “common courtesy is dead.” Gracious correspondences provide evidence; the reports of its demise are premature.

Sadly, though, small courtesies have become less common, in fact, uncommon — especially in business. And, that’s really too bad. The absence of courtesy – treating others the way you would like to be treated — hurts relationships more than many know.

Admittedly, I favor those who show their respect and consideration for others – whether it be by act or expression. Likewise, I find it difficult to work with those who believe it is no longer important — and demonstrate this belief routinely. Sorry, I’m human!

Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with a lot of artists, writers, photographers and printers. I worked with many of them for years, others not so long. Alas, the presence or lack of common courtesy has been the determiner.

For example, I worked with a local printing company for a long time. The quality of the work was good, and the price was fair. All the while, other printing companies kept approaching me, wanting to print this magazine. But, out of loyalty, I kept turning them away, telling them I wasn’t looking to make a change. Finally, one day, I was asked, “Why are you so loyal to your printer?”

The inquiry forced me to stop and think. In fact, re-think that business relationship.

My printer (now my former printer) had never requested a meeting to discuss our printing and how we might be able to improve our product or reduce costs. That printer had never offered me a cup of coffee or a glass of water when I showed up for a press check. That printer had never really thanked me for doing business with him. In fact, that printer had never even sent me a holiday greeting or sympathy card when one should have been forthcoming! Common courtesies all!

Why hadn’t I picked up on all of this long before?

Well, I had, but I let it go. I had become accustomed to the lack of common courtesy in business. It was easier to do nothing, leave things well enough alone. Finally, I said, “No more!”

Re-thinking the status quo is a good thing. Most often, it brings a change for the better — in our relationships and in us!

Thursday, March 21 is National Common Courtesy Day. I do hope you will join me on this day and show your gratitude for all who do business with you. Call them and say “thanks” or send them a card. This uncommon courtesy will be highly appreciated and long remembered. No doubt about it!


From The Publisher

BeverlyDenver thumb thumbPhilanthropy

I am not exactly sure how old I was when I first heard the word “philanthropy” or understood exactly what it meant. Most likely, I was older than I should have been.

But, that’s OK. My mother, God bless her soul, knew a whole lot about it. By example, she showed my sisters and me what doing for others is all about and how even small gestures can positively impact an entire community.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my mother was never able to write checks large enough to fund the construction of a new hospital or purchase an expensive table at a gala; however, it seemed she was always giving generously to others. She did this — day in and day out — in small, but meaningful, ways.

My mother was one of 10 children, raised on a farm in Arkansas. She grew up during the depression, and though food was never scarce, cash was. She knew what it was like not to be able to buy things. Fortunately, her parents were “philanthropists” too and taught her the value of “sharing what you do have.” My mother learned this lesson well and passed it on.

Often my mother would say, “We can always do something to help!”

My mother attended the same church for more than 50 years. She believed in tithing, and so she gave at least 10 percent of every dollar she ever earned to her church. At the same time, she engaged wholeheartedly with the other members of the congregation and supported the many activities of the church.

If there was a potluck social, my mother was one of the women in the church you could count on to bring a dish (or two or three). If a church member was ill, she was among the few who would re-arrange her plans to go visit her in the hospital. Considering my mother worked outside the home, and had my dad and us girls to deal with, that was not always easy. Still, she did it with delight.

Each year, when it was time for the Mothers March, it was always my mother who stepped forward to help the March of Dimes and its efforts to eradicate polio. She gave generously of her money – and her time and energy. She walked our neighborhood and encouraged others to give too!

Often my mother would say, “We are so blessed with good health. We must help others less fortunate.”

My mother retired from the workplace at the age of 62 and took up quilting (among other things). Always a gifted seamstress, my mother caught on quickly and before long became a talented quilter. Thus, she decided to make quilts for each of her three daughters. Being the oldest, I got the first one!

My mother kept a busy schedule in her retirement, but parts of each day were devoted to working on new quilts. By the time she passed, at the age or 81, she had created beautiful quilts for us girls, her six grandchildren and her first grandchild. Other quilts were also made – for dear friends and distant relatives who “begged” her to make quilts for them!

Today, those quilts are being used in homes all across the country, keeping people warm, reminding them of the enormous generosity of my mother — my all-time favorite and most beloved philanthropist.

From The Publisher

BeverlyDenver_thumbVision Boards

About this time last year, we sponsored a Vision Board Workshop for our readers. We held it on a Saturday morning in the conference room at The Council on Jackson Hill. We served a continental breakfast and invited an expert on the subject to talk to us. She explained how vision boards could be powerful tools to identify and manifest our biggest dreams and aspirations. 

After she spoke, the room was abuzz with activity. Attendees started looking through magazines, clipping out images and words that resonated with them, pasting all of them on their boards. At the same time, the attendees chatted candidly with each other — sharing what they wanted their boards to represent.

The event was a hit. Many of the participants asked us to schedule another workshop one year out! So, we did, two days ago — right before press time for this issue. Again, the participants had a great time! Most said they had been “meaning to create a vision board for years” and had “just not gotten around to it.” All thanked us for giving them the opportunity to gather with like-minded women and focus on themselves (for a change). 

The idea for vision boards is not new. But, it wasn’t until the release of the best-selling book, The Secret, and widespread talk about the Law of Attraction that more of us took vision boards seriously. No doubt, it was John Assaraf’s vision of his giant mansion (and the realization of that dream) that got our attention?

As Assaraf explained, the idea behind the vision board is to surround yourself with images of your ideal life — where you want to live, where you want to go on vacation, the car you want to drive. In short, the vision board should mirror the deepest desires of your heart. To all who have not yet created a vision board — and don’t want to wait until our next workshop — I strongly encourage you to go ahead and do so. It’s fun, and getting started is easy. 

All you need is a matte finish poster or foam board, a big stack of magazines, scissors and a couple of glue sticks. You’ll want to use a variety of publications. This will prevent you from limiting yourself. My personal favorites for this activity are Oprah, Travel & Leisure, Money, Southern Living, Fast Company and, of course, Houston Woman Magazine. All have images of things and places I love and headlines with words of inspiration and empowerment. 

Next, a bit of ritual is in order. Sit quietly and set the intent. Ask yourself: “What is it I really want?” You might get a one-word answer, or several images may come to mind. Then, turn on your favorite background music. Listening to it while you work on your vision board will help transition you to the wonderful world of possibility.

Now, flip through the magazines. Clip out images and words that speak to you. Lay them all out in front of you. As you do, you’ll get a sense of how the board should be organized — in sections (home, work, health) with white space between them or as a collage with no white space visible. Both are cool. 

Now, glue your favorite images and words in place. You might consider leaving a space in the middle for a picture of yourself - one that shows you smiling and happy! You might also consider adding some writing of your own to the board. 

Finally, hang your completed vision board in a place where you can look at it often throughout the day! Now, most importantly, believe it; we definitely can attract that which we envision and focus on!

From the Publisher

Taking a Sabbatical

BeverlyDenver_thumbAbout this time last year, I decided to approach “this summer” differently. Instead of taking a major vacation – one that would be draining both physically and financially – I would take a sabbatical. 

I’ve always believed “life is too short to live it with regrets” and “if given chances we should take them.” It’s been easy to apply these mantras to my work. I’ve taken risks, done my own thing and said ‘yes’ to opportunities when they presented themselves. And, doing so, has served me well. 

But, sadly, I’ve not always applied the “life is short” philosophy to my personal life. Devoting dedicated blocks of time to be with friends and family or enjoy one’s own interests is difficult.

There’s always something going on in this big city, and requests for media coverage are constant. Often times, my saying “yes” to requests is saying “no” to me! Too easily I feel like an observer of life, instead of an active participant. When this happens, I get annoyed easily and become downright crabby. My half-full glass of joy starts to look empty. Not good! 

So, this June, I’m taking a four-week, micro-sabbatical. I will relax a bit, see friends I don’t see often enough and do fun things I never seem to squeeze onto my calendar. 

As I was preparing for my break from work, I did some research online. With the help of Google, I learned a lot. I found several good articles and blogs; all provided advice about how to prepare for a sabbatical, how long it should last, how best to use your time away. One blog post, entitled “100 Things to Do on Your Business Sabbatical,” caught my eye. The author, Jamison White, listed things like this:

• Circuit Iceland by car.
• Learn to walk on fire.
• Kayak the Pacific Ocean.
• Track puma in Argentina.
• Climb the highest peaks in the U.S.
• Live and work on a coffee farm in Guatemala.
• Attend a triathlon training camp.

I thought, “He’s got to be kidding! If I tried to do any one of these things, I woudl need my head examined!” Right then, I made a list of my own. It includes:

• Go to the beach.
• Read for pleasure.
• Spend a rainy day in my PJs.
• Watch the Hallmark channel.
• Go swimming at my friend’s pool.
• Read for pleasure.
• Spend a cloudy day in my PJs.
• Watch HGTV.
• Return to the beach.

I will spare you the rest of my list. But, you must know; it was long and shamelessly void of challenge or ambition.

My online research confirmed what I already knew about sabbaticals; they are commonly taken by those in medicine and academia, but not so much by those in business. I learned, though, that things are changing. Some companies are now providing paid or partially paid sabbaticals for long-term employees. They contend a sabbatical rewards good work and eases burnout. It creates a kinder, gentler workforce. I love that!

So, inspired by the results of my Google search, I’m taking my first-ever sabbatical. I’m viewing it as research — the kind most needed by me.

From the Publisher


Still Learning

Working with student interns from the Communications Department at the University of Houston, as I am doing this semester, reminds me of the old adage, “You’re never too old to learn.”

The students come to Houston Woman Magazine to put into practice much of the knowledge they have acquired over the course of their college careers. At the same time, they look to me to help them perfect some of the skills not quite ready for prime time (that first job). As their mentor for 12 weeks, helping them do well when they take that all-important next step is a responsibility I enjoy — and take seriously.

Since most of the interns I work with are studying to be writers, many opportunities to write are provided here!

The interns write articles for our blog, Houston Woman Wire. So, posting to that blog is done more often each day.

The interns cover meetings. So, Houston Woman Magazine is able to say, “yes,” to more requests for coverage.

The interns do research and conduct interviews. So, each issue of our publication has more articles in it than if interns were not part of our team. Clearly, interns are crucial to Houston Woman Magazine being able to provide all the services it does. 

I’ve been very lucky when it comes to interns. All have been good, hard-working young people, eager to learn and contribute as much as they can. And, despite the generation gap between them and me, all have been respectful of my time and my feedback. What they see and like, I think, are my passion for journalism and my sincere interest in what comes next for them.

I want interns to learn a lot while they are here. So, I do my best to teach and emphasize the things I view as most important.

Some of the “important” things are directly related to gathering facts and putting them down on paper. I want them to know the rules of the Associated Press Stylebook (which we follow here). I want them to know how to include the 5 W’s in paragraphs that are well constructed and easy to follow. 

But, some of the “important” things have nothing at all to do with journalism. Instead, they deal with business basics — the things they need to know to keep that first job once they get it. 

Often, they hear me say, “You must respect what others inspect.” Or, another favorite of mine, “You must manage what others measure.” 

I remind them often that these comments apply to so many things in business. Like getting to work on time, every day. Like getting the   assignments completed when due. Like knowing when not to call a client’s cell phone number. Like knowing when not to send a text (instead of making a call or sending an email).

I tell them, “If you heed this advice, you will be the favorite of every boss you ever have — including me!”

I get into all this because I’ve learned not to assume anything. Not all student interns have been exposed previously to a business environment, and some just don’t know what they don’t know. Mentors need to teach these kinds of lessons, as well. 

Make no mistake, working with college interns is a learning experience for me too, and that’s an added bonus.

From them, I’ve learned  a lot about pop culture, trends in fashion, the best music to download on my iPod and the most helpful apps to install on my iPad. I’ve learned about how they think politically and how they’d like to change the world. I’ve learned not all 20-somethings see and do things exactly the same way. 

Over the years, interns have taught me a lot, and some things I've learned have been really important. For example, making general statements about those of a certain generation (as some are prone to do) is just not wise.

It’s something I will always remember!

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