2018 WSU Honors College Pillar Awards – And a Dean Passes the Torch

Last week I attended a very special event at the Irvin D. Reid Honors College at Wayne State University — the 2018 Pillar Awards.   I was eager to congratulate the presenter — outgoing Honors Dean, Jerry Herron (who was now listed as Founding Dean) — and to meet his successor, Dean John Corvino.  The Pillar Awards was created “to celebrate the four pillars of Honors and recognize the distinguished contributions of four exemplary individuals.”  https://events.wayne.edu/2018/06/19/honors-college-pillar-awards-76864/

While the Honors College will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, it also includes graduates of the experimental  Monteith College, that started in 1959 and was discontinued in 1978.  As a Monteith graduate, I was delighted to meet other alums at the campus event, as well as some instructors from my era.  Retired Professor Paule Verdet was seated at my table and enjoyed recalling being one of the original instructors hired to create the curriculum of the new Monteith.

I had worked on a special project with Dean Herron a few years ago that involved creating an online platform to showcase student projects —  and I enjoyed seeing how Honors in its own way created the same hyper-creative environment for talented students from across the country that I found in Monteith.

This year’s Pillar honorees included four WSU graduates, including two from Monteth:  Sheila Cockrel was the winner of the Service Award and a Monteith alumna; and Hon. Sharon Finch, winner of the Career Award was the other Monteith graduate.   Cockrel is a former Detroit councilwoman while Finch is a retired judge – both remain active in the community.  David E. Smith was the winner of the Community Award, and  James Linwood Smith was named posthumously as the winner of the Research award.

There were also recent Honors graduates at the event, who were inspired by the Pillar Awards honorees.  As the Detroit area continues to reinvent itself, it is exciting to see this new generation helping to ensure a bright future.

For more information:   https://honors.wayne.edu/experience

 

An Ode to Springtime Biking

It’s well into May, the dogwood  trees in my neighborhood are blooming and I am able to bike again after a frigid early spring. Enjoying the white blossoms, the green lawns and the chirping of birds as I wheel around the neighborhood  brings me amazing joy.  It also reminds me of my life-long love of bikes.

 

It started  during my childhood in Detroit,  when  I was a tomboy and loved to hang out with my older brother Bill and his buddies.  It meant that I was always speeding recklessly on my green girl’s bike to impress them and unfortunately that sometimes had disastrous consequences —  including the time I fell off my bike in the alley as I tried to execute a fast turn, fell over and badly scraped my elbow as I hit the pavement.  I am still amazed that I got through those competitive years without any scars, just exhilarating memories. It also fueled my feeling that I could compete with“the boys” – really helpful when I competed in a male-dominated field of journalism and later publishing.

 

When I eventually lived in Brooklyn  in my late 20s, I took up biking again, racing a road bike around the borough, but especially focusing  on riding in  beautiful  Prospect Park —  where  traffic was diverted on summer weekends and bikers flooded  the roads instead.  There was always so much going on that it felt like an amazing adventure.    I even took my bike occasionally on the subway to Manhattan so I could have similar fun in Central Park or explore other areas like the Village and Soho.

 

I didn’t stop biking until after my marriage to a non-biker more than 10 years later. My husband Tim preferred a health club membership and playing racket ball to biking outdoors.  I finally gave in, although I still took my bike to California with us a few years later, where  it ended up stored away and finally sold.

 

After my beloved Tim’s death, one of the ways I coped with the sorrow was moving back to Brooklyn and buying a road  bike from a neighbor  in my condo building– a white Boardwalk Bianchi, 8 speed.  This time I have never quit and consider my bike part of my wellness package, along with yoga and meditation.   And  every spring, I joyfully hit the roads again.

April Ice and Mindful Yoga

Last year I wrote a blog on “The New Reality of April Showers,” inspired after early rains, a typical sign of Spring, had started in February and never stopped in the midwest.  This year, it has been the April ice storms and lingering snow flurries that triggered a new reminder for me of the unpredictability of climate change.

 

As I thought about my own struggles with the intrusion of continued winter weather into my yearnings for sunshine and Spring flowers, I realized that I’d like to focus this blog on a powerful remedy.  The combination of yoga and meditation can ease the physical and psychic pain of such stressful surprises from mother nature.

 

I used daily meditations each morning at home this spring  that taught me to accept dark clouds as readily as we welcome sunshine into our lives.  Yes, embrace the clouds and snow. It works!  This meditation came from my spiritual teacher,  Pragito Dove (www.discovermeditation.com). How comforting to learn from her that with a little help from the right mental imagery,  we can transform a gloomy Springtime in Macomb County, Michigan from endless depression into a hopeful “this too, will pass.”

 

 I now also spend time each week at Map Keys Yoga in Clinton Township (www.mapkeysyoga), where founder Melissa Pini guides everyone in the class into relaxation through yoga exercises, while also using meditation to help you accept the present moment, not brood on what is missing.   Melissa is a truly inspiring Master of both spiritual arts – yoga and meditation — and she helped me find my “super woman” to drive out the stress. 

 

We took deep breaths and repeated “I am calm” and “I am powerful,” as well as other positive phrases – a meditation exercise that helped drive out the inner stress.Then she turned the focus to yoga stretches that  took the tension out of my  back, neck and joints. We finished by spontaneously laughing together.   If you still need convincing that it can be so easy, I highly recommend that you watch Melissa’s youtube  interview presented by Boomer Times – the link is below. *  

 

And  even though  spring is finally coming,  remember not to get complacent again —  climate change promises to keep giving us more surprises during the year.  Use the magic of meditation and yoga together to avoid depression  and stay positive!

 

 *On Youtube:  Boomer Times Presents: Anita Finley with Melissa Pini https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=743Yevrd0Ik

 

The Art of Career Growth in Journalism

After years of visiting with my late husband Timothy Robinson’s  family in Birmingham, Alabama each

March as we attended the annual  Robinson Forum together  at Samford University,

I was unable to book a flight this year because of complications in locking in a speaker  far enough in advance.  So I

watched a live feed instead here in Michigan at https://www.facebook.com/SamfordJMC/.  While I plan on flying

south later this spring or summer to visit the Robinson family,  I will miss being able to talk to the guest speaker,

always a formidably talented journalist – this  year, Roy S. Johnson, columnist and director of content  development

at AL.com/The Birmingham News.

 

Johnson, one of the early pioneers among black journalists to work at mainstream national publications

– in his case starting in the 70s as a sports writer at  Sports Illustrated and Fortune Magazine, both

published by Time Inc. —  he is currently enjoying shaping news coverage at a Birmingham, Al

newspaper.  He challenged Samford journalism students to constantly challenge the breath of their

talents – for instance, not staying only focused on one area, like sports.  His journalism resume not only

includes stints as assistant managing  editor at Sports Illustrated, but vice president and edit-in-chief of

Men’s Fitness magazine, editor-in-chief of History Channel  magazine and staff writer at the New York

Times.  He also has experience producing national TV and radio content for Sport Illustrated and he has

co-authored biographies with Avery Johnson, Charles Barkley and Earvin (Magic) Johnson.

 

It reminded me that when I knew Tim, he was a pioneer in legal journalism, with a degree from Yale Law

School – after developing his talent as an investigative reporter for UPI covering the civil rights

movement in his home state of Alabama, then as an editor and  investigative reporter at the

Washington Post.  He ended his career by jumping into the dotcom boom, developing editorial

content for news websites Exite, Alta Vista and AOL.  Tim also pushed me to take the leap into becoming

communications director for new online media sites covering the Asian American community.   After his

death, I even found the courage to take on the task of being development director of a sports non-

profit.  I hope the Samford students this year heed that call to constantly test their talents – it’s a

challenging and exciting way to keep growing.

A HIGH ENERGY SECRET – WORKING IN 90 MINUTE CYCLES

I recently became interested in how to better manage my stress and productivity and became aware of the work of a thought leader in high performance.

Tony Schwartz, chief executive officer of The Energy Project (www.theenergyproject.com) has studied stress and what keeps us at peak energy and concludes that most of us have it all wrong.  Less is more.

We actually have more energy and get more done when we take more breaks and, yes, even more vacations.  In fact, Schwartz cites studies that revealed we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes.  As he puts it, “Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves – the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.”

Schwarz recommends working in 90-minute intervals as a prescription for maximizing productivity.  A study of elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players, found the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes.  They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.  Schwartz does his writing in three uninterrupted 90-minute sessions – beginning first thing in the morning, with breaks between.  “I learned,” he said, “that it’s not how long, but how well, you renew that matters most in terms of performance. “   The more rapidly and deeply he learned to quiet his mind and relax his body, the more restored he felt afterwards.  For more inspiration, try reading his blogs at http://www.theenergyproject.com/blog/author/tony-schwartz

 

 

Motown Plays Important Role in 2018 Women’s March

The U.S. Government may have been shut down on the first anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration by a huge political divide in Congress , but hundreds of thousands of women across the country marched to prove that they have become a potent political force for 2018.

What may be lesser known than the televised view of women marching in New York, LA, Las Vegas  and dozens of other American cities including Detroit, is the importance of the Motor City in hosting a crucial convention last October for women leaders.  More than 4,000 people heard speakers there such as Me Too campaign founder Tarana Burke and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca) and also participated in panels and training sessions on topics like running for office and confronting racism. *

On Sunday, an event in Las Vegas kicked off a nationwide voter registration initiative call #Power to the Polls that has a goal of signing up 1 million voters.  More than 26,000 women have signed up to run for office, according to Emily’s List, which aims to put pro-choice Democratic women in power.   Organizers have identified battlegrounds in districts in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin and yes, Michigan, as well as other states.

So even if the dysfunction in Washington DC needs to play out further this year, don’t lose hope. Motown  is joining cities across America to help women bring new energy to the nation’s  Capitol.  For more information, read the links below.

*https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/1/19/16905884/2018-womens-march-anniversary

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/22/politics/womens-march-political-goals/index.html