Education · Op-Ed · Technology

An Op-Ed: Has technology killed the conversationalist?

*Note: This post was written May 18, 2016. 

As I sit here at the airport waiting on my second of three flights this month for work, I’m reminded of how dependent (or reliant) society is on technology. There are charging stations at every corner of the airport for travelers to stay fully charged while away from home, and there is Wi-Fi available to everyone throughout the airport as well as on most flights (when the Wi-Fi is working). Many passengers don’t even print out their boarding passes before their flights anymore, but instead rely on their smartphones for scan-able boarding passes. While waiting just over an hour and a half through the security checkpoint at O’Hare this morning, I was actually questioning the validity of those non-printed boarding passes. How do the TSA personnel physically write on those passes to make sure that person has been cleared through security?

Technology is also playing a key part outside the terminal. For example, while sitting here at my gate I noticed outside the window that a suitcase, which was supposed to be stowed away on a flight going to Charleston, SC, fell off the cargo truck and was laying on the tarmac under the walkway to the plane. It was over 20 minutes before someone came back to retrieve the suitcase. I would like to think that some technology notified the luggage handler of the missing suitcase, but then again wouldn’t we have NO missing bags if that were the case?

While waiting for the boarding call to begin, I noticed that many passengers – including myself – are on their personal technology devices. Laptops, smartphones, iPads and e-readers are in full usage all around the terminal. While video may have killed the radio star, has technology killed the conversationalist? What happened to participating in pleasant small talk with other passengers while waiting for a flight? I noticed a middle-aged man who had arrived at the gate very early waiting to board the plane. When another couple about his age sat down near him, he tried to strike up a conversation about how he is a widower traveling to Boston this weekend to see his daughter graduate from college with dual degrees. He was beaming, but they just looked at him and said some comment in a dismissive tone along the lines of, “Boy, that’s great. Congratulations.” Then they proceeded to have their own conversation. Now the widower is just sitting there looking out the window and at the passengers going by in the terminal. It was quite sad to witness the death of this conversation right before my own eyes. Even now, I know I rely heavily on my own technology to keep me connected to my family while I’m traveling, but I recognize that I need to spend more time talking to family and friends via phone or face-to-face to keep those lines of communication open.

As a professor of communication studies, I’m quite aware that the best form of communication, to make sure that both nonverbal and verbal communications are being accurately transmitted, is face-to-face communication. Electronic communication is, in my opinion, the least effective form of communication because it’s missing both non-verbal cues associated with body language as well as verbal cues like tone and inflection, as depicted in this illustration by Bill Warters of Creative Commons .

CommunicationModelDiagramWithout the appropriate channel of communication, how can you be sure your message is being transferred effectively? Can you recall a time when your lack of choosing the proper medium led you down a path of total miscommunication? While this is a lecture that I share with my students during the first week of my class, the lessons learned from this lecture carry well beyond the classroom.

Technology challenge: Today I challenge all my readers to take one moment out of the next week to try to strike up a conversation with someone outside your comfort zone. I’m not asking you to be “that guy” who starts talking to everyone at the grocery store, but maybe you’re on the train riding in to work and you realize that, instead of texting a family member, you actually pick up the phone to talk to them just to say hi.

While we know that technology has killed the art of correspondence, let’s not let it kill the art of being a conversationalist. Verbal, face-to-face communication is essential to the development of all mankind and is slowly becoming extinct. Do you think we can avoid adding the conversationalist to the endangered species list? Put down your technology and open your mouth – don’t let the art of conversation die.

About the Author · Family · Health & Wellness

When you want your child to have a sibling….

*This is a post regarding our personal journey and desire to have a second child. The purpose of the post is to educate and inform our family and friends of our journey. Note that the first par of this post was written in November of 2015. 

From the minute a couple becomes engaged the question most people ask is, “So when do you think you guys will start TRYING to have kids?” Trying – since when did that become something people talked about? Even now, I’m very cautious when talking about trying with other couples as you never know what people are going through….like my husband and me.

About two years ago, after trying for several months to conceive, my husband and I had a miscarriage, which broke our hearts terribly. At that time it was hard for us to process what we were going through.  Our doctors, however, said that we should take this event as a positive one and look at the bright side that we were able to conceive and that we should just keep trying now because I would be the most fertile after a miscarriage…and we were! I became pregnant with our son the very next month.

My pregnancy was not an easy one, not by a long shot. Because I have an undiagnosed blood clot disorder, (undiagnosed being that I’ve had two severe blood clots in my legs, DVTs, but no one really knows how or why I got them), I was put on blood thinners even before we started trying. So between the first trimester spotting episodes, the 27 weeks of constant vomiting (and peeing my pants), and rounding out my pregnancy with 24/7 heart burn and uterine contractions, I finally delivered a little boy at 40 weeks and 3 days. My labor was about 24 hours long but the delivery was less than 10 minutes (I’ll spare you the rest of the crazy labor/delivery details).

About 5 days post-delivery I passed a baseball-sized blood clot, which scared the crap out of me! I was taken back into the doctor’s office for an emergency ultrasound to make sure nothing was left over from the delivery. While only a few smaller clots remained in my uterus, the OB/GYN and ultrasound techs were 99% sure that everything was removed. That was until I didn’t stop bleeding! About every two weeks from Sept – January I was getting my period with a much heavier flow than a regular cycle. Could something be wrong? Was my once “like clockwork” period now totally out of wack? My doctor ran some tests which showed that I had precancerous cells on my cervix.  They needed to be removed and could have been causing the abnormal bleeding. Once the cells were removed, I was told, my normal 28-day cycle would return, but that didn’t work. So, after many consultations, the only remaining option was to have a D&C to reset my system. Come February, my very predictable 28 days cycle had finally returned.

That was until my husband and I started trying for our second child. We thought we would love for the kids to be two years apart in school and age, so we started trying. What was different this time around is that I’m not on blood thinners anymore. Currently with my doctor’s support I am in a trial period of being off of blood thinners, as long as I don’t have another clot. With all my doctors giving us the green light to start trying for another baby, and being in good health, I thought this would be an easy process, but in fact it has not been. Since starting the process to try for another baby, my cycles have been off having a period about every two-three weeks. This week I decided my next steps are to see my OB/GYN soon to see her thoughts and to check to make sure everything is a-okay.

At the OB/GYN, she did an exam and ran a few tests, believing my results would take a few days to get back.  The next night, however, my doctor contacted me at home to tell me that my results came back unfavorable.  My AMH levels, which measure fertility in relation to the quantity/quality of egg reserves, was a very low 0.49 (average should be about 4.0).  My doctor explained that, with a low AMH level, the chances of conceiving naturally would prove difficult.  She recommended that we seek the assistance of a fertility specialist, which we have just started to do. While the glass-half-full person in me wants to say, “so you’re telling me there a chance,” realistically, I’m aware it’s a slim one.

While this news was actually shocking and quite disappointing, my husband and I came to the realization that there is nothing we can do about it.  You cannot control nature nor should we ponder the how or why my egg reserve is low.  I’d like to still think that 37 is young, but clearly not ideal for my baby-making. After a good cry, we realized that our road to each other wasn’t easy nor was our path to parenthood, but it’s going to be okay.

But what is the most challenging part of the process is when people ask me, “So are you guys going to have any more kids?” My standard answer has always been “yes, God willing we would love to have more” but reality is starting to set in that maybe our son really is all we are going to have and we might have to be okay with only one child. Yes, my husband and I tell ourselves all the time, “if our son is the only child we ever have then we are really blessed with the best kid in the world!”

What truly breaks my heart is seeing my son wanting so desperately to play with other kids when he’s by himself. He learning how to give hugs, kisses, how to play with others and to share. With his easy-going personality he would be an excellent big brother.  I picture him in my perfect world always going with the flow of a new baby in the house, and with his crazy sleep-deprived parents.

***UPDATE as of 4/20/2016***

At the advice of our doctors we starting seeing a fertility doctor to start the process of having our best odds of becoming parents again. Everyone’s journey is a little different from this point on and with the help of some very talented doctors, it was decided that we would be best suited to try Clomid to maximize our changes of having another baby.  After two months of testing and re-testing, we were given the okay to start Clomid in February.  However, by the grace of God, we didn’t need to start the medication as we conceived a child in January all on our own!41M3p5PYnsL._SY355_

Today, I’m happy to say that I’m in the beginning of my second trimester and Baby Reaney (who we refer to as Baby T-Rex) is progressing nicely.  Just as I experienced with my first child, I’m extremely sick so I’m taking the anti-nausea medication Diclegis to try to limit the amount I am vomiting daily.  Also, to combat any troublesome blood clots that may arise due to the biological complexities of pregnancy, I’m taking a small dosage of Lovenox daily.  I’m also hoping the excessive fatigue wears off soon so I can stay awake past 8:30PM – the DVR is getting pretty full! 🙂


My husband and I are thrilled to be welcoming another little baby to our clan and we cannot wait to see Jimmy in action as the best big brother ever.  He is already practicing how to be quiet when the baby is sleeping and he gives kisses to my belly often.   This is what it is all about for me.  I knew my body would take a toll carrying another baby, but to give my son a sibling is all I have ever wanted.

Family · Mommy CEO

CEO Mommy: Work-Life Balance from a Small Business Owner

*This post is part of a monthly series called CEO Mommy which will be guest written by a few amazing ladies in my personal and professional network. This month’s post is by Susan Rescigno, President of Rescigno’s Marketing Connections who I actually met professionally a few months ago back, found out we have mutual family/friends and now I’m happy to call her my friend too!

Rescigno's Logo

Running your own small business and balancing your life is like the teeter-totter on the playground.   Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down; and when everything aligns, you’re balanced.  The problem seems to be in learning how to balance. Remember when you were little and your friend would jump off the other end and you would go flying down? Well, that’s exactly what happens if you don’t set yourself up for a balanced life.

Now, you’re probably wondering how do I maintain that balance? I thought maybe, after 24 years of experience, I would share with you some things that have worked for me:

  • Prioritize what is most important to you. My priority was always my family so I set things up accordingly.  I scheduled my work day so I could pick the kids up from school and be home when they were home.  This doesn’t mean that I left the office unattended or that when there were issues I didn’t go back.  It just means that the majority of the time, I was able to pick my kids up and take them home and put on my Mom hat.
  • Create a support system for the family of my husband, my mother, and my mother-in-law that I relied on for all things family.
  • Create a support system at the office of three key employees that could always handle things when I wasn’t there. My rule was if they made a decision in my absence, I would always support them.  If I had a different idea of how the situation should have been handled, we would discuss it privately, just so they would learn how I would have handled it.
  • Make time for family and friends. I find it to be very helpful to get out with my friends and laugh.  Sometimes you just don’t want to make plans for the weekend because you need the down time, but it’s very important to get your mind off of the business and relax.
  • Make time for vacations. When we first started the business the only way the family could take a vacation together was if we closed down for a week.  I realized that we were very slow the week of July 4th so, from the very beginning, we have closed that week.  This has continued to this day and fortunately, I have developed a staff that can run the business in my absence.  I take at least 3- 4 weeks of vacation a year.   I have to add that I always do my best thinking when I am away from the business.  It really clears my head and enables me to see the forest through the trees.
  • Get involved in other things. Join boards, volunteer, take classes or join associations.  All of these things will help you stay balanced and fulfilled.  They may even get you more clients.
  • Stay involved in your church and keep the faith.

As we all know, balancing is never easy and life is never going to be perfectly balanced all the time, but if you set a few things in place your life will be more balanced and fulfilled.  Remember a teeter totter never stays level unless you are riding it.  You need to be in control.


Susan Rescigno has been in the Direct Marketing and Fundraising field for over 30 years. In 1992, she started her business in her garage and, to date, she has helped over 800 clients with counsel, planning, design, print and direct mail. She works with her team to help clients bring their annual fund programs to the next level. She has doubled and tripled annual fund programs in 2 – 3 years. Her philosophy is doing the fundamentals consistently well.  She believes in sharing the knowledge that she has gained over the years to help organizations bring in much needed annual donations.  Sue also manages the daily operations of her staff and helps generate new business, as well as managing existing business through a variety of proven fundraising and marketing strategies and tactics.  Sue’s passion is living life to the fullest, enjoying what she does and pushing herself to be all that she can be!

About the Author · Health & Wellness

Stop the Clot- know the symptoms 

bcamsquare3March is national blood clot awareness month. I know what you’re thinking, man – there is a month for everything! And yes there is…although I haven’t seen an “I Love Jello” month yet, but I’m sure it in the works.

Anyway, blood clots are something I know far more about than I ever thought I would.  As a two-time DVT survivor (Deep Vein Thrombosis) at ages 27 and 31, I am well aware of what blood clots are and the symptoms that present when one might be on the rise. I feel, since I have this blog platform, I should share with everyone my experiences in the hopes that one day this information may help to save a life.

When I was 27, I had a lump/growth on the side of my right knee.  I went to see an orthopedic surgeon who said that it was a baker’s cyst and it would be easily removed from the leg via an outpatient surgery.  Once I awoke from the survey, he explained that it was a benign mass/tumor which had wrapped itself around my hamstring tendon, which had to be cut and re-attached in order to remove the mass.  I was going to need to stay in the hospital for a few days until I could try to walk on my own with a walker and I would need physical therapy four days a week.  Talk about totally calling an outpatient surgery wrong! 6 days post-surgery, while at physical therapy, my therapist Brian said, “um – you better watch your leg.  It’s starting to look like it’s changing color and you don’t want to throw a blood clot.”

The next morning, I could barely stand in the shower and, yes, my leg was turning completely blue.  We went to the hospital.  The color and size of my leg caused some alarm as I was rushed back to see a doctor immediately as I bypassed the info desk and paperwork.  I had no clue what was happening until after I returned from an ultrasound on my leg which explained that I had a DVT.  My entire main artery from my groin to my ankle on my right leg was completely clogged with a blood clot.  My attending doctor came out and yelled at me, “Do you know how serious this is?  You could have died!”  I then began to cry because I didn’t know what was going on nor how I was supposed to know before the doctor told me the diagnosis.

It was decided from my team of doctors that I was to have an experimental surgery in 2007 called thrombolysis where a catheter is inserted into the vein, allowing the blood clot to be surgically removed, in the hopes of saving the vein and minimizing permanent damage.  The surgery was a success and, after 24 hours in the ICU with a tPA drip running through my vein to remove any remaining clot, the vein was completely cleared out.

From the American Stroke Association’s website (explaining that the drug is often used to minimize permanent damage resulting from ischemic strokes): “Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA, also known as IV rtPA, given through an IV in the arm). tPA works by dissolving the clot and improving blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of blood flow.”

After many, MANY doctors, hematologists, oncologists, rheumatologists, medications, at-home meters and ample blood tests later, it was ruled that I have a hypercoagulative blood disorder…but they still have not been able to diagnose it exactly.  I do not have any genetic triggers or anything in my blood that would suggest otherwise, but for what the doctors know now, my blood randomly will clot on it own for no reason. Hence, in 2010, I threw another blood clot, another DVT, in the same leg after completing the Susan G. Komen 60-Mile Breast Cancer Walk.  As frustrating as it was to go through this experience again, I am more aware of my body now and when the potential symptoms of a clot may be presenting themselves.

I reached out to a great nonprofit called the National Blood Clot Alliance which was gracious enough to allow me to use their materials in an effort to spread awareness of their organization.

NBCA-Infographic1As a young female, I was completely unaware of the risks I was under when taking birth control.  Because of my history with DVTs, I was also going to be at risk when trying to get pregnant and during my pregnancies.  Here is an inforgraphic directly related to this:


For more information on the risks associated with blood clots, please visit the National Blood Clot Alliance website.  Please also feel free to contact me and/or to share your experiences on this blog so that others may be more aware of the potential hazards, things to avoid, and survivor stories regarding blood clots.

The National Blood Clot Alliance (NBCA) is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, voluntary health organization dedicated to advancing the prevention, early diagnosis and successful treatment of life-threatening blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and clot-provoked stroke.

NBCA works on behalf of people who may be susceptible to blood clots, including, but not limited to, people with clotting disorders, atrial fibrillation, cancer, traumatic injury, and risks related to surgery, lengthy immobility, child birth and birth control.

NBCA accomplishes its mission through programs that build public awareness, educate patients and healthcare professionals, and promote supportive public and private sector policy.

Family · Mommy CEO

CEO Mommy: One of the “lucky” ones

*This post is part of a monthly series called CEO Mommy which will be guest written by a few amazing ladies in my personal and professional network. This month’s post is Mallory Simms who I actually met professionally a few years back and I’m happy to now call her my friend. 

I am writing this as one of the “lucky” ones.

Yes, definitely one of the “lucky” ones that was able to turn my 50+ hour work week into a part-time, work-from-home consulting business practically the day I became a mom to my 1 ½ year old son.

I use the word lucky because I hear from moms how they love their job, but want to scale back hours, and I did that.  I read posts from moms about how if they could dissolve their commute and obligatory happy hours they would have that precious time at home, and I do.

I use the word lucky loosely because while I’m thankful for the hours at home and flexible schedule, the work-from-home mom resume comes with challenges and on its worse days, disappointments.

As a full-time mom and a part-time market research consultant, I teeter between the parent and corporate world on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.  For example, take the “mommy’s helper” that I hired.  She always arrives just as I’ve finished preparing the day’s activities and before I’ve even begun to walk into my office, she’s asking if I want to eat lunch with them because of course, she knows I want to, and I’m home.

So I have lunch, and the rest of the afternoon is spent fighting off the urge to get dishes in the sink and the “I’m home” guilt as I hear my son engaging in an activity I’m not part of.  This typically results in me spending more time laboring over which world I should be in, mommy or professional, than actually working.

Mommy issues aside, there are also real concerns of lost opportunity and lack of visibility working from home.  Despite a steadfast work ethic and seamless communication, the work from home mom will still miss out on interoffice conversation with peers and will never get to strategically attend an office social event knowing her boss’s boss will be there too.  Little things maybe, but in my experience, they matter.  Being heard and not seen makes it that much more difficult to get your ideas in front of those that matter.

As the months have gone on I have learned that the keys to making it work are balance, persistence and redefined expectations.  No, you can’t attend to your child’s every need during the day and still perform at work.  You just have to reach equilibrium. You will still get countless more hours with your little one than you would if you went to the office every day, and you will be a happier, and therefore a better, mom.

Also know that it will be harder to have an edge at work when you’re not there every day.  You will likely need to send more emails, follow-up more diligently and create your own opportunities more than ever before.  But it can be done, and if you can take the lost happy hour invites and missed inside jokes with a grain of salt, you’ll be able to cut out the office ‘clutter’ and spend that extra time being mommy.

So, I still feel lucky. No, I might not be able to make a homemade lunch everyday, but if more often than not I get to sit down and eat it with my son, I’m lucky.  It might have taken three calls and five emails to get feedback on my last report, but for me it’s worth it.  I never thought I could have my job and be at home with my son too, and albeit not perfect, I do in fact have both.  If you’re considering doing the same, or hope to some day, just remember that no matter how it feels for you, if you can make it work, you’re one of the lucky ones.  In fact, if we make it work at all, full-time, part-time, in-office, at-home, aren’t we all lucky?


Mallory is a wife, mother and a professional.  She has been married for eight years and her son is a year and a half old.  She is currently a part-time market research consultant with 10 years of experience in brand research and competitive intelligence.  Originally from Chicago, she now lives in Atlanta.

About the Author · Family

Passing the baton to a new family

Last fall, my parents started to have the conversation with my brother and me about their interest in selling our childhood home in Tinley Park.  Selling their home, and downsizing to something smaller, is a step toward the next chapter in their lives – retirement. This smaller home would be less work for them to maintain, while still allowing them time to travel with their camper or go to their home away from home in Indiana.  Of course everyone wants their parents to slow down and retire with less stress on their minds, but selfishly, I was really sad to know I’d have to say goodbye to this house!

For 30 years, my parents created an amazing home and a safe place to raise their family.  We moved from Chicago (Bridgeport) to Tinley Park in 1986 when my brother and I were in elementary school.  It was a rude awakening for this city kid when I arrived at Kirby Elementary in Miss Garretson’s first grade class only to participate in a tornado drill on my first day, which was a completely foreign concept to me at the time.


Most kids in our neighborhood knew our house as the “Irish house” on the block.  My Mom made our home on Shoshone Trail her own little Irish cottage with green siding, shamrocks shutters, a shamrock stained glass window and even a shamrock in the shingles of the roof, visible even on Google Maps.

My parent’s house has always been a safe haven for me.  As a kid, no matter what troubles we may have gotten into, home was always a safe place.  After I graduated college in December of 2001 and had no job prospects, there was no question that I would be moving back home with my parents until I was ready to move out.  Even after I divorced my first husband in 2011, there was no question that I would move home for a while until I figured out what I wanted in my life.  My parents have always welcomed me back to Shoshone Trail without reservation and with open arms.

As a kid, we had the BEST neighbors anyone could ask for.  Many nights in the summer I remember playing flashlight tag around the neighborhood or “running bases” in the front yard with the Cohens, Cusacks and Zamzow kids.  As children of the 90’s, everyone had a basketball net in the driveway and a Nintendo in the basement.  I was one of the older girls in the neighborhood so I did my fair share of babysitting many of the younger kids in the neighborhood who, these days, are having kids of their own. Our little neighborhood did expand over the years, but the bond we created as neighbors, even today, is still very strong.

When my parents decided they were ready to start telling our extended family they were moving, many of my cousins had the same reaction of shock and sadness.  For years my parents hosted Christmas Day for our McMahon cousins and the family parties my parents threw “way out in Tinley” were legendary! From the super fun pool parties with my cousins, to watching Big Jim and Uncle PJ “Pogo-Balling” down the driveway on Easter Sunday, family gatherings on Shoshone Trail were always a blast.  One party at my parent’s home that stood out was in January 2004 when my brother was being deployed to Iraq.  From receiving his orders on a Monday to being deployed on Thursday of the same week, our neighborhood, community, parish, family and friends came together to send my brother off to war with so much love and appreciation for his service to our country.  Even Fr. Jay, our pastor from St. Stephen’s, had a toast with our family and said a lovely prayer for my brother.  The outpouring of support and community I felt that day is one I’ll never forget.

My family at Timmy’s homecoming party from Iraq in 2004.

As my parents prepare to move from our childhood home, I am reminiscing of not just the house I grew up in, but all the childhood memories I made in Tinely Park.  Memories like going to the park district’s day camp as a kid (and eventually becoming a counselor myself), playing for the BYAC softball teams, taking piano and dance lessons, participating in arts & crafts at the park district, and enjoying all the friends we’ve met over the years at St. Julie’s, St. Elizabeth & St. Stephen’s.

I have so many stories and memories that I know I need to write them down to remember what Shoshone Trail meant to me, and to one day share these stories with my kids too.  As I feel this is a new chapter in my parents lives, it is also the closing of the door to my childhood.  For now, I leave this note to the next family of 8055 Shoshone Trail:

Dear New Family:

My name is Colleen and I was the youngest member of this home’s previous and first family.  I moved into this house when I was 7 years old and for 30 years it has been my home sweet home.  Since 1986, this home has been a wonderful place for my parents to raise their children and grandchildren.  I hope you make and have as many memories on Shoshone Trail as we have.  Here are a couple of fun facts about this home:

  1. The basement crawl space has a secret little room with a light which makes it a great “clubhouse” for a young child.
  2. The kitchen has a hidden cutting board next to the stove under the counter top. I was about 10 years old before I knew it was there.
  3. There was not a single bad memory in this home as it was always filled with love, a few Irish cocktails, good food, amazing neighbors, family and friends.
  4. Our family’s hand and food prints are worn away on the back patio but know that those hands built an amazing home for you and your family to love.

Please take care of 8055 Shoshone Trail.  It has been good to us and we know it will be a wonderful home for you.

With love: Colleen Fashing Reaney

PS – In a few years, if a woman named Colleen shows up with her family and claims to have lived here as a kid, please invite her in for a cup of tea so she can take in all the new memories you’ve created in her old home. 🙂

Book Review · Family

Book Review: Rolling Up The Rug – an American Irish story by Michael Scanlon.

Starting every February 15, many homes in our neighborhood transform to cottages of glowing shamrocks, leprechauns, dishtowels/potholders and multiple shades of green decor to celebrate what my family would call “St. Patrick’s Month.”  While St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th, many weekends in the month leading up to it are filled with several family traditions of parties, concerts, parades and celebrations to embrace our Irish heritage.

Many years back I started my own tradition of reading an Irish-themed book during the month of March to learn more about my Irish heritage and to discover new Irish authors (or sometimes they are just new to me).  This year, after reading a book review on the Irish Central website, I knew my 2016 selection was going to be Rolling Up the Rug: An American Irish Story, Vol. I by Michael Scanlon.

When I ordered my copy from, I noticed that it was being sold directly from the author, which isn’t that unusual, but something of note.  Then, when the package arrived, it was addressed to me, hand-written, with Mr. Scanlon’s return address.  After reading the first 25 pages I was moved to contact Mr. Scanlon to see if he would be okay with me writing a book review for my humble little blog here in Chicago and, graciously, he sent me back this very lovely note:


Dear Colleen,
Thank you for your kind words. Here is a recent photo and a short biography as you requested.

I should tell you that you have a great blog. I am forwarding it to my daughter who lives in Portland, Oregon and to my daughter-in-law in Los Angeles. The blog is beautifully presented and very clearly written. Congratulations!

All the best to you and thanks again.


Michael Scanlon, 76, the son of Irish immigrants from County Sligo and County Leitrim, was raised in the Bronx and now lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He is married with two children and four grandchildren. He served as an officer in the United States Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis and went on to teach English at the City University of New York. The first volume of his memoir Rolling Up the Rug: An American Irish Story (Amazon) was published this past year. He writes for where he continues to explore what it was like growing up in New York City in the 1940’s and 50’s.

While there is some truth that no Irishman knows how to tell a short story, Mr Scanlon has accomplished this feat in his 100-page autobiography about growing up in an Irish home in the Bronx.  The title alone, Rolling Up the Rug, grabbed my interest right away as I’ve heard tales in the past from family members on how this tradition of clearing the home’s floor for Irish dancers and musicians was the norm during gatherings.

Each chapter in his book describes a different memory of Mr. Scanlon’s life and the lessons he learned. From his first communion at Sacred Heart, to gathering after Sunday mass at “Croke Park” in the Bronx – which also had a restaurant/bar and was later renamed Gaelic Park – to watch the Gaelic games (crazy, right?  I read this passage as if he was talking about the southside of Chicago), his memories are uniquely Irish-American yet universally identifiable. Rolling Up the Rug gives some insight into Mr. Scanlon’s family and, especially, the hardworking man his father was, working two jobs to support his family in their apartment in the Bronx. There is also a funny tale about his father getting in trouble at the airport for carrying on his small, homemade cigarettes – too funny!

While reading Mr. Scanlon’s autobiography, I was transformed to many kitchen tables in my family (including our own) where family stories are shared over a few shots of VO, pints of Magners or cups of tea.  In an Irish home, the kitchen table is where all of life’s problems are solved and where you can find solace at the end of a long day.  Even on my first trip to Ireland this past summer, while in Williamstown, County Galway, my husband and I were invited into a home of a family friend (whom we just met) where were sat around the Burke’s kitchen table for a cup of tea and some delicious homemade brown bread to talk about our travels in Ireland and how our family was doing back home in Chicago.

Donna & Mrs. Burke, Ireland 2015

As a child I would hear the same tales over and over again, but I never found the appreciation for why these stories existed or what lessons were learned until years later. Many of my older relatives, including my grandparents, passed away before I was able to appreciate where they came from, the lessons they learned from their parents, or even to remember the stories they told. Even now, I have very few solid memories of stories told by my elders. Luckily I have family members like my cousin, Mary Eileen, who can share these stories over a shot of honey whiskey.  🙂

I would highly recommend Mr. Scanlon’s book to anyone with strong family and/or childhood ties, but especially to those with Irish-American roots.  This book tugs on the heartstrings and captures the boyhood of a child of Irish immigrant parents striving to make roots in America as his parents intended.

Goals 101 · Professional Development

When the writing is on the wall at work

As I am in totally envy of my parents as they talk about their impending retirement, and seeing that their full time working days are numbered, I have started reflecting on my own career as I hope I am nearing the midway point of my working days. Granted, most of my retirement savings is tied up in the State of Illinois retirement system, but that’s a blog for a different day…

Throughout the course of my career I have always kept a few things in mind as my  golden work rules to live by:

  • Make time for professional development opportunities, when/if they arise.
  • Maintain open communication with your colleagues and managers.
  • Choose a job for the career and not for the money/benefits.
  • If you’re unhappy with your work situation, change it.
  • Know when the writing is on the wall.

The last point is a little more challenging for some people to see, especially when they are too comfortable at their current company which, in my opinion, one should NEVER be too comfortable. Becoming too comfortable allows people to let their guard down, blinding them to potentially new, challenging opportunities, either within their current company or outside the corporate walls.  When you become too complacent and take a blasé attitude towards your work, it shows, and this attitude will not help in finding your next opportunity.

Manage Up: If you’re keeping one of the golden rules of having open communication with your manager, you should be able to have honest conversations about the current status of your career path.  You should maintain this through regular meetings and not just at an annual review.  Your professional development is most important to you – so you must make it your duty to seek out those conversations with your manager.  If you feel you are in need to fulfill a new skill set that you currently don’t have, but see it listed on all similar job postings, see if you can obtain that skill while at your current employer.  For example, in my career path, many director-level and above positions in alumni relations required some form of fundraising experience.  I was able to have a conversation with my boss stating that I wanted the opportunity to take on a project in higher education fundraising where I could gain those skills, and I was able to accomplish this.

If you have a manager who is a little more standoffish, try to schedule a 30 minute meeting to be a quick professional development check-in with your boss.  The agenda for this meeting is set by you – not your manger.  This meeting should not be used to discuss your current projects and daily duties but rather your professional growth within the company.  Having these regular, open conversations about you and your career path are paramount to making your future opportunities happen, especially if your are investing in the company you’re working for and want to stay there for awhile.  Many times we feel like our company takes us for granted; that we are just numbers on the payroll and can be easily replaced.  My first post-college job was working at a post-production house in Chicago editing commercials.  I was being trained by a not-so-friendly guy who seemed really bitter that he was asked to train me.  On my first day of work he told me, “just remember – you’re replaceable”.  That statement has always stuck in my head and, while jaded advice for a fresh-faced professional, is sadly true.  As I’ve posted before, many companies don’t have the loyalty they once did toward their workforce.  While this is much easier said than done, it cannot be overstated: creating the opportunity to have those conversations is your responsibility, not on your manger’s.

When your professional development conversation is halted, then you know the writing is on the wall to gear up your job search.

When you finally have an “ah-ha ” moment at work and recognize that it’s time to start job searching, here are a few things to keep in mind to maintain your professionalism at work and to answer the question, “How do I not let my current boss know that I’m starting to look for new employment?”

Embrace LinkedIn: You have to start believing that you are always the only one who’s in control of your career path – you must decide!  Start by beefing up your LinkedIn profile page.  Many people are afraid that their current employers will see a LinkedIn page and question why they have one.  But that’s not the case anymore!  LinkedIn is used for as much job searching and professional development as it is for networking with old colleagues and keep up on latest trends in your profession.  In a 2014 article written by Liz Ryan, Ten Ways To Use LinkedIn In Your Job Search, Ryan addresses this very topic.

“Using LinkedIn, you can see who your friends know, where people have been and what they’re interested in, what people are talking about and who’s gone from Company A to Company B. If you’re paying attention, LinkedIn can absorb at least thirty percent of your job-search-related research load. LinkedIn can save you hours that you used to have to spend at the library or on some corporate database, researching who’s who and who’s where. It’s a new day! LinkedIn is a job-seeker’s best friend.”

Be Courageous: Recognizing the position you’re in with your company and having the courage to make changes that will effect your career path is key.  Many people stay at a position for a long time (nowadays, that is anywhere between 3-5 years without a title change) complaining about their boss, the company or the lack of opportunity to grow.  You have the power to change your situation at any time.  You need to start getting your resume and LinkedIn profile in order so you can start letting your network (both personal and professional) know that you’re seriously looking for a new opportunity.

Stay Open Minded: No opportunity is too small to not interview for, especially if you haven’t interviewed in a while – you need to get back on that horse.  Also, stay open-minded to all offers.  As I said, the ball is in your court as you still have a job and you’re job searching to see what else is out there. Maybe the pay is $10K less, but it’s a part-time position and you can work from home, but depending on your commute, family dynamic and future plans, that might be the best fit for you.  You never know what awaits you until you look.


Daily Life Hacks · Product Review · Technology

How technology fuels my day

I love my car! I really do – I enjoy driving in to work and having a little quiet “me time” to drink my coffee, listen to talk radio and sing loudly! In recent months, my always reliable car had a few less-than-reliable moments (e.g. dead battery, broken coolant hose thingie). In an effort to keep my 2007 Nissan Altima alive for a few more years, I’ve recently started taking the Metra into to work daily.  Now I know what you are saying, “Why would you not take the Metra to work? You can save yourself a bunch of money by not having to pay for downtown parking.” While yes, that is true, but for me, my alone time in my car is priceless! But, alas, I’ve decided that having reliable transportation outside of work hours is more important that my alone time in my car.

Thankfully I have tons of gadgets and apps to keep me totally occupied on my commute.  However, it’s not just my commute that is fueled by technology as I have realized that my whole life is plugged-in.  I am totally accessible via a myriad of technology and communication devices nearly all the time and it is by choice. I want to be able to pick up my phone, laptop or ipad to connect to the world, for function and for fun.  Here are a few of my life hacks via technology that keep my day afloat.

ParkMobile App:  Any frequent commuter knows that there are apps for checking train and bus schedules like Transit Stop and OnTime Metra, but are you aware that you can pay for your Metra parking via an app?  It’s great!  Running late for the train?  No worries if you have the ParkMobile App.  It’s synced to your debit/credit card and you can pay for your parking via your smartphone.  This app has truly been a lifesaver for me, especially when I don’t have exact cash in my wallet when I arrive at the train station.

Apple iBooks:  I know many will agree, but don’t you ever feel like you’re a bag lady going to work? Lunch, work bag, purse, coffee cup, maybe laptop sleeve?  It’s crazy!  I love having Apple’s iBooks synced on my iPad Mini and iPhone where I can have few books, newspapers and magazines all downloaded and ready for me to hit the train in the morning.

Target In Store Pickup:  I love Target, as many people do.  But today I wanted to share my appreciation for the technology that Target has implemented to help busy adults do their Target shopping while on the go.  I can ride in to work and go through my shopping list.  Then select the items for Target’s In-Store Pick-Up, place the order and then pick up my purchases on the way to the train for my commute home. This is a great feature especially if there is a Target close to your office or home. It saves a ton of time, especially when your day is short on time, or when you realized that you used up your last nighttime diaper on your toddler the night before…just sayin’!

Spotify: My nephew Brian turned me on to Spotify a few years back and I love it.  It’s an online streaming website (free) where you can choose any artist or any album and listen to their music via your desktop or mobile device. The desktop version is free but you have to pay for the mobile devise access.  I know many people listen to Pandora, but the major difference is that Pandora is playlists of different artists based on styles of music, where this is artist- and album-based online streaming. I listen to music all day long via Spotify while at work and It’s great. If you think of a song you haven’t heard in awhile, I bet you can find it on Spotify!

Apple Facetime: I cherish the fact that my husband and mom both have iphone so I can facetime with them from work when I need my “Jimmy fix.”  I love seeing my little toddler running around the house, playing with his daddy or reading books with his grandma.  Facetime allows me the opportunity to stay connected with my son, get a few screen kisses and hugs, and let him know that I’m just a call away.

WGN-AM Podcasts:  Sometimes when I’m not interested in reading while on the train I listen to The Download with Justin Kaufmann podcasts .  I discovered Justin Kaufman’s show when I was on my commute home from teaching at DePaul on Monday nights and I love the context of his show that many of my peers in their 30’s would enjoy too.

PBS Kids App: For me, this is the app if you don’t want to clog your DVR with kids’ shows.  My son doesn’t watch a ton of TV, mostly just dances around to the music in commercials (or the Jeopardy! theme when my hubby is catching up on his DVR).  But recently he wants to cuddle up and play with my cell phone before his bedtime.  So I downloaded the PBS Kids App which I saw in a commercial on PBS.  It’s amazing! It’s most of the PBS shows all in one app that you can download whenever you want.  It’s like having a mini portable DVR for my son directly in my phone. He loves Super Why! and is recently discovering Daniel Tiger and Thomas the Train.

While many people think that technology is ruining the world (and I do agree that it’s hindering some of our basic communication skills), many advances have undeniably made our lives even more functioning in this fast-paced world. So- what are some of your technology life hacks that you’d like to share with busy parents?