Connector Beth

Non-profit professional. Care deeply about family, friends and community. Love to problem-solve. Love to laugh. Love to read. Love to learn.

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In Case You Didn’t Know It, Networking Is Really Important…

So y’all…. .don’t know if you knew this, but I happen to be the Queen (or at least the Duchess) of Networking in southeast Minnesota….. AKA….. A stranger is just a friend I haven’t met.

For the purposes of this post, please take a few minutes to read what I have written, then feel free to come up with your own conclusions…. 🙂

This has always been my creed, my strength, my motto……

Gallup (you know, the people who publish all those polls….) put together something called the Strengths Finder several years ago. I took their online test. My biggest strength – no surprise to those who know me – was Win Others Over (WOO)….. in other words, I am the person that sits next to you on the 2-hour airplane ride and learns your entire life story by the time we land. 

Some people have criticized me for this, have called me “bossy” and “intrusive.” Funny, though, I am neither. In fact, I would prefer to retreat into reading a book or a magazine on the afore-mentioned flight. But that doesn’t usually happen. Generally, people want to be heard, or understood, or known.

So, often, it takes only a couple simple questions like, “How are you doing? Where are you travelling?” for people to open up and completely dump their guts, for lack of a better phrase…..

Sometimes, I really don’t want to hear people’s sacred and deep stories. Most of the time, though, I do….. 

In 2007, I was named the Spirit of Winona, a huge honor from several local businesses, organizations, etc. – it was based on my efforts of helping our community recover from a violent flash flood…… During that time, I had many opportunities to reflect on how important relationships are and how important networking is.

And the answer is….. “Relationships are Key, No Matter What You Do.”

Fast-forward a couple years to when our son joined an international student organization…. he came home during spring break and said – with a straight face – “Mom, I don’t know if you know this, but networking is very important.” Yes, I earnestly agreed with him, and only started laughing hysterically about 10 minutes later. Son and I still agree – with rueful laughter and grins – that this is important.

And, fast-forward again to today….. son sent me a link to a free webinar about how to make 6 figures in your consulting business. Of course, this is something I would be interested in – I hope and want to be successful in my new business of consulting for and with non-profit organizations!!! – so I dutifully signed up, and logged in. 

The great thing about webinars is that they can play on your computer while you accomplish other tasks. Good thing I did that yesterday…… the webinar about “Making 6 Figures While You Sleep” (or something)….. told me, after 51 minutes of my life (while I was making to-do lists and e-mailing people I wanted to connect with)…. that building relationships is the key to building a business.

Wow! I am so impressed… that I have actually held this key to success myself, for all these years! The great news is that I hold this key, and that I don’t have to start from scratch. And, son Nic, thank you for being so honest and earnest with me during your early AIESEC years!

Don’t get me wrong… I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this free webinar…. Overall, though, it will be fantastic when I am able to truly start trusting myself and my instincts when it comes to my business of helping non-profit organizations become even more successful in what they are doing to help their clients and to improve our communities…..


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Batter Up! (Cue Up My Most-Loved Summer Sound.)

(Up-front disclaimer: My least-loved summer sound is that of tornado sirens wailing. That eerie sound punches me in the gut. Every single time.)

My most-loved summer sound – on the other hand – is happy, and simple: baseball games on the radio.

Tonight, I’m so glad to listen to the Major League Baseball’s (MLB) All-Star Game on the radio. Sure, I could stay inside the house and watch it on TV. But that wouldn’t be quite the same. To be authentic, in my memory, means I need to listen to it – or hear it in the distance – on the radio.

We are not, and never were, a sports-oriented family. But, we always loved our baseball.

My brother played this game for several years (and was really good at it!); my dad LOVED it. The rest of us grew to enjoy it as a great summer past-time.

One of my first – and most long-lasting – summer sounds is baseball games being broadcast on the car radio, as we traveled through various cities and states.The radio also played the games as background in the various places (on the deck, in the backyard, etc.) we lived as I was growing up.

During my middle-school years, we lived about an hour outside of Baltimore, MD. So, of course, we were Orioles fans. We often made the trek to Baltimore to see them play. This was in the grand days of Brooks Robinson, etc. A favorite childhood photo is that of my brother with Mr. Robinson, while he was signing a baseball my brother brought him.

If we didn’t go to the game, but were driving somewhere, Dad would play it on the radio. Remember the days of the station wagon, and the way-back? Those of us in the way-back would drift off to sleep with the sound of the game lulling us off to slumber.

Mom liked going to the games, but she found them a little tedious. So she would knit something during the game… scarves, afghans, whatever. She could pay attention to the game, and to all of us, and keep herself busy at the same time.

The year we spent an autumnal week in New England was amazing. Not only did we get to partake in our country’s foundings (and yummy food!), the World Series was happening. I remember a couple nights in hotels; the lights would be out, we would all be drifting off to sleep, and Dad would have the TV on, watching the World Series games. A memory I will never forget, or never give up.

A little later, when we moved back to Fargo, we spent a lot of time at our family’s lake place. The Lake, The Mythical Lake….. Always, the radio broadcasts of the baseball games were part of our background noise. We always got a daily newspaper at the lake. Mom and Dad used it as a way (a fun way, for us back then!) to teach math. Looking at the baseball team standings, we would always wonder…. how many games will the Twins need to win to be in first place? What about the Orioles? I remember many mornings looking at the paper and trying to figure this out, while eating a bowl of freshly picked blueberries or peaches, covered with cream and sugar.

What makes tonight’s All-Star Game so special to us is that it is in Minneapolis, the hometown/home-city we have all adopted over the years. This is the first time it has been played there since 1985 (the year Bill and I graduated from college, and got married). They have done it in a grand fashion…… all the events leading up to the game, today’s parade, etc. Tonight, they had Idina Menzel (from “Frozen… Let it Go” fame) sing a ballad to the rock-star teachers picked by each team (“Forever Young,” by Minnesota legend Bob Dylan) and the National Anthem, followed by an Air Force flyover.

Really, it doesn’t get much better than this. Hope the best team wins. More importantly, though, hope everyone (teams, fans, friends) has a wonderful mid-summer experience.

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Have Fun. Be Good. Stay Safe.

These are six very short words. They encompass all we care about when dealing with our adolescent and young adult children….

I tried for a long time to figure out the best way to send our son and his friends off for the evening, for a weekend adventure, for a mission trip, to college, etc, without placing un-needed( or -wanted!) guilt or angst on them, while at the same time letting them know how much we care about them. These six words seemed to always cover our concerns and communicate our wishes for wonderful adventures for the kiddos.

Have Fun……. have splendid adventures, our kids! We hope and want you to have great times and amazing discoveries. You don’t need to share all the details with us (unless, of course, you choose to)…. but we want you to explore and make memories.

Be Good…… don’t do things that will land you in hot water or legal trouble (among other things), dear ones. Don’t make choices that are harmful, dangerous, or illegal. It’s simply not worth it. Pushing the boundaries…… as long as it’s age-appropriate, that’s one thing. Beyond that….don’t do things that will jeopardize your health or future.

Stay Safe…. this is the most important one. As you are making your way through your life adventures, please take care of yourselves and each other. Be diligent about safety – whether it is recreational, outdoors-adventures-related, relationship-related… I could go on and on, but you don’t need me to. You know what I am talking about. Make sure everyone around you is safe. No experience is worse than a parent getting a phone call from law enforcement officials, informing them of something horrible that has happened to their child.

My community of adults salutes our community of the young adults we care about and love. Don’t forget…. we have been in the same place as you, even if it seems like a million years ago to you. But we worked hard, made sure we made good choices….. and, in the end, we were rewarded by having you as our children! Life is so good……

So in closing, my dear young friends…. Have Fun. Be Good. Stay Safe. Tonight, tomorrow, and every day……



We Are All In This Together

Two untimely deaths this past week in our community. Two young men, both full of promise, passed away. One was 23; his death was completely unexpected. The other was 33; his death was anticipated, but still highly mourned. The first young man was at the very beginning of his adult/professional life, and he had already made a difference for so many and touched so many lives. The second young man was in the midst of his career helping people; he also touched the lives of countless people, and left behind a beautiful wife and infant twin children.

The looks of grief, compassion and loss of people in our community were so abundant this past week. And the hugs…. they were also abundant. Some people knew one of the men and his family; some knew both men and both of their families. Walking down the street, seeing people in the grocery store, words on social media…… all emotions were raw and painful and heart-felt. 

Funeral homes and churches were full of emotions the past few days as we all mourned these two men, whose lives were both cut too short. And we all mourned the loss of the promise of the many more amazing things they would have done if they had only lived longer. 

As I posted on Facebook recently, being part of a community is a blessing and a privilege. Sometimes we cheer together or for each other; sometimes we share the joy and celebrate together; sometimes we share the frustrations; sometimes we share the burdens and the sorrows. The point is…… we share, whether it’s good or it’s bad. So… a blessing and a privilege (never a curse, no matter how bad the day might seem). And that’s what it means to be in a community.


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Words I Would Say at Your Graduation…..

It’s commencement/graduation season. So many people are graduating from high school, 2-year programs, 4-year programs, Master’s degrees, and beyond. Every ceremony will have a speaker who will try to impart words of great wisdom. I wish you, and all of you, well. Very well, in fact. Well enough that the speech is memorable, inspirational and remembered, and well enough that you find jobs/careers you love and that pay enough for make your lives not stressful…..

Several years ago, I was asked to speak at the Winona Rotary Job Shadow program. This pairs high school seniors with professionals in our community, to give the students a chance to see if the careers they might like to do are actually the careers they would like to do. Kudos to everyone involved in this program, from the organizers, to the school counselors who help make the connections, to the professionals who are willing to give a day of their time to 17- and 18-year-olds.

I was so glad to be able to speak to the students (coincidentally, the fall our son was a senior). At first, I had no idea what to say, but then I boiled it down to six “simple” steps. I still stand by these ideas…. there may be many others I missed, and I may have missed the boat on some of them, but here’s what I think young people should think about as they are considering their futures:

#1 – At this point in your life, your choices are nearly endless.

Most adults are asking you what you want to do, what you are planning to do, what you are going to do. If you know the answers, great. But most young adults don’t. And that’s ok. You are going to continue your education, or pursue a trade, or enter the military…. to see what you want (or DON’T want) to do. You have time. Be gracious with the adults; they are trying to engage you in conversation, and not trying to trap you into anything.

#2 – You don’t have to make lasting life decisions right now, or even in the next couple years.

The next few years are a time to explore. If you’re going to college, take gen. ed. classes, but also explore some things you may never have thought about. Even if you’re pretty sure you know what you want to do, take a class or two that may not seem practical, but is interesting to you. You never know where it might lead.

#3 – What you want to do now is probably not what you’ll do your whole life; AND More than likely, the job that you have when you’re 40 will either be something you’ve never heard of, or doesn’t even exist today.

#4 – Be open to learning, during your entire life. Take advantage of any and all opportunities that are made available to you. Be open to new experiences.

#5 – Learn from every experience you have.

#6 – And, finally – Figure out what you’re passionate about, what you love. See if you can make a life following that passion.

Finding your passion and following your passion will take you so much farther than Plotting Out a Career Path. Now, if those things happen to merge, so much the better. But, the passion and the dreams will be much better over the course of your lifetime.

Good luck. Congratulations. And best wishes as you find your future and your goals.


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For the Mothers, and the “Other Mothers”

Tomorrow is a day to celebrate mothers.We will all contact our moms, send them flowers or another gift, take them out to lunch and generally show them how grateful we are for their love.

At least, if we’re lucky. If we have moms. If our moms were or are kind and decent and loving. If our moms are able to accept our love.

For the record, I have the best mother in the world. At least in my world. Other people might have the best mothers in their worlds, but mine is perfect to me.

That being said, it’s not only our own mothers many of us celebrate on this day and other days throughout the year. It’s also the “other mothers,” the women who add to our lives, by being there when we need… by mentoring us…by encouraging us…by showing us how we can be better people, how we could learn to be strong and wonderful women ourselves.

These “other mothers” can be aunts, grandmothers, older sisters. They are the parents of your friends, the friends of your parents. They are the neighbors next door or down the street. They are the teachers, the “lunchroom ladies,” the school secretaries.

Many women who don’t have children of their own (biological or adopted) are “other mothers” to many. Any woman who cares about even one child in the world, and lets that child know she cares, is an “other mother.”

I have been fortunate. I have had so many “other mothers” throughout my life. I won’t name them (mostly because I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out), but they have all contributed to who I am today. Thank you to all of you. I salute you.

Between my mom and all my “other mothers,” I am so blessed.

Happy Mother’s Day to you. Celebrate the love.


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Right Here. Right Now.

Confession: I sometimes talk on the phone while driving. I know, I know…..

Often, these phone calls are with my parents. If I’m still chatting with them when I get to my intended destination, I stay in the car and on the phone in order to finish our conversation. If that means I am a few minutes late, it’s ok. I would rather see a meaningful conversation to its conclusion than to hurry up and hang up, or to finish that conversation while walking through the grocery store or heading into a meeting.

The other day I was talking to first Dad then Mom, and ended up sitting in the Hy-Vee parking lot for about 10 minutes. In preparation to finishing up the call I  told Mom, “Well, I’m at the place I’m supposed to be.”

She responded by saying, “Wow. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all say that every day?” Blew me away. What a cool way to think. Thanks, Mom, for making me think a little differently yesterday.

Hope you are at the place you’re supposed to be. If not, what ideas do you have to get there?

Enjoy the spring weekend, my friends!


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Blessing Others Provides Benefits for You, Too

A couple months ago, we visited a Unitarian Universalist church with our family in Austin, Texas. I received a gift that day.

One of the rituals this church celebrates during the weekly service is called a Metta Meditation. It’s a way to ask for a blessing for you first, send blessings to someone you love and care about secondly, and – finally – wish for blessings for someone you struggle with. Based on your faith tradition, this can be a blessing, warm thoughts, or prayers.

During this entire ritual, you center yourself in an attitude of prayer and mindfulness. First, you say (silently, quietly or in a murmur):

May I be free from danger;

May I be mentally healthy;

May I be physically happy;

May I have ease of well-being.

Next, you think about someone you care about and love and – maybe – are concerned about. You then say (as above):

May you be free from danger;

May you be mentally healthy;

May you be physically happy;

May you have ease of well-being.

Finally, you ask the same things for someone who have difficulty with, someone you are angry with, someone who has harmed you. If you can’t say it directly, you can say:

To the best of my ability,

I wish for you to be free from danger;

I wish for you to be mentally healthy;

I wish for you to be physically happy;

I wish for you to have ease of well-being.

Why is all of this so important? First, we very often neglect or forget to take care of ourselves, or we feel we are not worthy of self-care. That’s ridiculous, which I’m sure you know (or at least understand, even it’s it’s not emotionally something you are comfortable with). Once you have asked for blessings for yourself, you can move onto the next circle – those you care about and those who care about you. That’s the easy part.

The third and final part is the most difficult. Why in the world would you wish good things for people who have not treated you well, or caused you pain and harm? Well, my friends, that is the miracle of this entire exercise.

By digging deep into ourselves and asking for kindness, love and mercy for others who have wronged you… guess what? You are not – in the end – doing this for them (although, it may very well benefit them). You are doing this for yourself; you are healing yourself. There is a ton of scientific research showing that forgiveness benefits the person doing the forgiveness as much or more as the person being forgiven.

What the other person has done may very well be (at least in our eyes) unforgivable. But the rewards of giving up the pain this has caused us will help heal us and set us free from the power the unkindness tries to have over us.

Try it. It’s painful – difficult – hard. But try it – it can be so freeing.

Good luck to you, friends, as you “let it go” (in the vernacular of the very favorite Disney movie song in, like, forever…..). You deserve to live without the pain. And the other person deserves the forgiveness, even if you don’t think so right now.


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Living On, Long After You Are Gone

April is National Organ Donation Awareness Month. Year-round, not just in April, this is an issue for hundreds of thousands of people.

Every year in the US, more than 24,000 people’s lives are saved because of organ transplants. And so many other people are healed, because of the gift someone has left behind.

In my own case, I have always been aware of the importance of organ, eye and tissue donations. At age 17, I signed up to be a donor. I even had a poem tacked to my bulletin board about this issue. (Geek alert….)

This is not easy to think about. Or talk about. What an amazing gift, however, when someone makes the decision to become a donor after they have passed away. Many – most – people shy away from the conversation. It’s a personal decision; an extremely personal and intimate decision. Once you’ve decided this is something you want to do, though, it’s easy to let others know.

And it makes a difference, for those 24,000 people (and their families!) who have another opportunity for life, and for those people who can be healed. Did you know that up to 50 – fifty! – people can be helped through one generous and brave person’s decision (and their family’s decision to support their wishes)? That’s a lot of people.

We have seen first-hand the impact these decisions make.

We have a friend who struggled with a liver disease since he was a young teenager. After years of waiting and struggling and getting sicker by the day, month and year, he received a liver transplant a couple years ago. He and his family celebrate his “liver-versary” every minute of every day. He will be able to see his daughters grow up, will walk them down the aisle at their weddings, will know his grandchildren. For that, all of us who know him and his family are grateful.

Two weeks ago today, our 23-year-old son lost his best friend in a sudden and tragic accident. Because of friend Allen’s foresight, and his family’s knowledge and acceptance of his decision, he was able to save the lives of four people through the donation of his organs. Additionally, Allen’s eyes and tissue will help heal countless others. We salute Allen and his family. In the midst of the sadness and despair, his family was able to know that Allen – our funny, sweet, goofy Allen – gave comfort, courage and life (!) to people he didn’t even know.

Want to know more? Please visit or They have facts, statistics and information to help you decide whether this is a gift you can and want to give. Me? I decided long ago.

Bless the people who have made this decision (and their families for supporting it). And bless those whose lives have been saved or made whole by this wonderful gift.

In case you are wondering, here is the poem I hung on my bulletin board all those years ago:


To Remember Me  
Robert Noel Test (1926-1994)

To Remember Me

At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.

When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don’t call this my “deathbed.” Call it my “bed of life,” and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to a man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby’s face or love in the eyes of a woman.

Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.

Give my blood to the teenager who has been pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.

Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.

Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk.

Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her windows.

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all my prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil. Give my soul to God. If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.