Archive for the ‘Babbling Brook’ Category


Last January, in a weak moment, I said yes to Elizabeth Edwards of Omaha Ballroom when she asked me to participate in “Dancing with the Omaha Stars.”  It’s a fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House…and I’ve never been one to say no to Ronald.  His french fries are irresistable.

In October I got a call from a Christopher and he announced that he was going to be my dance instructor (and I had thought/hoped they forgot about me!).  I’m sure you can sense my apprehension by now.  When I told my mom I was going to do this – she laughed in my face!  That wasn’t exactly the supportive response I was looking for. 

Allow me to describe my “dance” history:

  • Exhibit A:  Somehow I managed to make the pom-pom squad in high school.  When I realized I couldn’t do the moves without silently mouthing 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8…I knew I was in over my head.
  • Exhibit B:  My signature move on the dance floor at age 30 is a combo “shoulder dance” and “snow ski” move.  I even have sound effects to go with it.  Come down to Nomad on a Saturday night and I’ll show you what I’m talking about.
  • Exhibit C (the most aggregious piece of evidence):  Back in my pageant days they always made us learn an opening number that we contestants performed as a group. It usually involved some kind of ridiculous costume and an overly-enthusiastic self-introduction.  We have actual video of me, a  good beat or two behind, looking at the other contestants for cues on the next move.  The worst part was that I was often in the front row because I’m short.  There was no where to hide! 

Nor will there be anywhere to hide on January 22 when I hit the ballroom floor with Christopher.  The good news is that I can count to eight, as Exhibit A demonstrated.  I also spent a few years in voice lessons, so I have some sense of rhythm.  So we’ll see how this goes.  Christopher is teaching me the tango, which I understand is the dance of love from Argentinian brothels.  Lovely.  It’s been fun so far.  We’ve had two lessons and I’ve already picked up a few moves.  I’m just struggling with this whole “let him lead” thing. 

The big benefit from all of my dancing experiences is that they’ve taught me to not take myself so seriously.  I might look silly, but I’m still going to have fun.  That’s the same attitude I’m taking in to this competition – I’lll keep you posted on how these lessons go.  I’m going to give this my best shot…for Ronald.

Bon Soir!

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Today was the American Heart Association’s fifth annual Sweetheart Mother-Daughter Tea Party.  I’ve been involved in the Sweetheart Program since it’s inception and it’s truly amazing to see how the program has grown over the years.  This year’s Sweetheart class is exceptional – all are motivated, involved and dedicated. 

The tea party was inspired by an experience I had as a Miss America contestant.  During a PR trip to Washington D.C. we contestants were treated to a fabulous tea party in the Crystal Ballroom at the Willard Hotel.  The event was actually covered by Southern Living magazine.  When Barb Miller, Krista Knicely-Anderson and I began planning the Sweetheart program in it’s infancy, I knew this was an something we had to replicate for our girls. 


Fast forward five years later and we are still doing the mother-daughter tea, but now with an even more authentic twist.  I married an Englishman, so I’ve learned a lot about a “proper cup of tea” in recent years. Today we serve a three-course tea complete with savories (four types of tea sandwiches), scones (, plus homemade lemon curd and devonshire cream) and sweets (white chocolate-orange cups a’la Barb).  All are paired with different types of teas.  And did I mention that nearly everything is homemade?  Our committee spends hours preparing for the tea by gathering in Barb Miller’s kitchen where we work as a team to create yummy delights, set a beautiful table for 30, and create a memorable experience for our Sweethearts and their mums. 

This year we were fortunate to “taste-test” scones from the Educated Baker during the tea.  The cranberry scones received rave reviews from mums and Sweethearts.  They were light, flaky, soft and generally perfect.  The Educated Baker is a business that was started by a colleague of mine in Creighton’s business school, Steven Michael Kelly.  He is selling his products – a line of ready-to-bake cookies – at Hy-Vee stores.  And now I can’t wait for him to roll out the scones! 


We created a beautiful fall theme with the help of Aaron Carlson’s amazing flower arrangements that featured splashes of orange roses.  We even carried the theme into our white chocolate-orange desserts! 


The Sweetheart Program seeks to enrich girls’ lives by teaching lessons in leadership and heart health.  The tea party allows us to share some important points on social graces.  Barb Miller, who kindly opens her beautiful home to us every year, gives a presentation on entertaining and hosting.  I gave a presentation on etiquette to help Sweethearts navigate the Heart Ball, another important event on their agenda this February. 

Here are the points I shared today – I hope they will help you feel more confident and comfortable the next time you are out and about: 

Good Posture
Warm smile and eye contact
“How do you do?” or “It’s nice to see you.”

Match grip
To convey additional warmth, place your free hand on the clasp
To establish rapport, touch the other person’s arm between wrist and elbow
Pause briefly before continuing conversation 

Address adults on a last name basis unless invited to do otherwise
Young people are introduced to older people, less senior people are introduced to more senior people
 When introducing peers, introduce the person you know better to the person you aren’t as familiar with
Introduce one person to a group and allow group members to introduce themselves 

Use name immediately after introduction in conversation
When you can’t remember, try jogging your memory by asking, “What’s new since we last saw each other?”
Try a defensive strategy:  Introduce yourself to anyone who approaches 

Ask open ended questions rather than yes/no
Develop a repertoire of questions that can be ice breakers
Keep up on current events and the news. Readers are better writers. Writers are better talkers.
Try the echo strategy
Invite new conversation by getting a drink and standing in front of a window facing the room.
Never say, “Huh?” or “What?” Instead say, “I missed that. Can you repeat?” or “Pardon me?” 

RSVP promptly
Two key ingredients for a good thank you note:  promptness and sincerity.
Respond to personal emails within 48 hours and business emails within 24 hours. Same rule applies to phone calls. 

Social Media
It’s a great tool to stay in touch and to market yourself.
Remember that what you put out there can’t be taken back.
Don’t “friend” or connect with people you aren’t familiar with
If you wouldn’t want it printed in the newspaper, don’t put it online.
Follow the golden rule. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it. 

Remember B-M-W (Bread-Meal-Water)
Napkin should be placed in lap immediately after being seated. Napkin should placed on seat when excusing yourself from the table.  Leave in loose folds on table when finished dining.
Utensils:  Resting position is an inverted “V.” Finished position is at 4 o’clock.
Dishes should be passed counterclockwise.  Anything with a handle should be passed with the handle going first.
Bread should be eaten one individually buttered bite at a time.  No butter sandwiches! 

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