Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lincoln Buff 2 writes anew

I'm ba-a-a-a-ck!

I started Lincoln Buff 2 in October 2008 as my contribution to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial. For more than a year, I wrote of Lincoln events, books, sites, and more. I travelled central Illinois, and later went to both the east and west coasts visiting places with Lincoln connections. I met most of the leading Lincoln scholars and many enthusiasts. I built friendships and mentoring relationships I'll always cherish. I went to two events where President Obama was speaking, and even met Stedman Graham at one of them. (No, still haven't met Oprah, darn it!)

A funny thing happened on the way to the bicentennial. I wrote more and more and fell even deeper in love with words and how they play together on a page. I also fell deeply and passionately in love with social media. Long after I'd run out of energy to write daily blog posts, I seemed to find abundant energy for Twitter. I've stumbled across people around the world to follow, or to follow me. I've even found a couple unlikely mentors who have propelled me to pursue my dreams.

Dreams do come true

One of those dreams was to write a book. My first manuscript, in which Lincoln plays a very strong part, is now with a publisher. When I get good news on that, I'll share it here. Lincoln hasn't come knocking at the door of the second book (still a work in progress) yet, and very likely won't. It's now longer than Richard Bach's 10,000 word "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" -- and growing every day.

Another of my dreams, which includes a relocation to a home on a lake in Missouri, was to find a career with the portability to make that move when the time comes -- and, most importantly, doing something I love. I love writing. I love social media. I love companies with a vision in which I believe.

New moniker - Co-editor

On April 1, I began that career. I am co-editor of Health Care Communication News, a Ragan Communications website to provide health care communicators with information they can use to be better communicators.

On Friday, May 13, we unveiled our new website. I'd love it if you'd drop in for a visit. Believe me, even non-health care communicators, even non-communicators, will find stories they'll enjoy. We publish daily, we do a ton of stories, and we enjoy writing them. We select the images to accompany them, and we try to make that fun, too.

You can still read my words

So, if you started reading my blog because you loved Lincoln, but you kind of liked my words, too, and how I had fun playing with them, drop by our health care communication website, read a story or two, and if you like them, leave a comment, please. We love comments.

You can also still follow me on Twitter as:

  • @LincolnBuff2, tweeting about a wide variety of things, often things to uplift, inspire, or inform, or

  • @RaganHealth, tweeting links to stories on all of our Ragan websites, kibitzing with health care communicators, and retweeting links I think our readers will enjoy.

Just to get you started, here are some of the health care stories I most enjoyed writing these past six weeks. I think you'll like some of them, too.

Lincoln is still with me, honestly

Don't worry. I haven't forgotten Lincoln. He is with me everyday, really. Back when I worked as a communications analyst at an insurance company, I had a big penny on my desk to remind me to pursue my dreams. I also had a lot of other Lincoln-related items, including a desk calendar from one of my readers, who has become a friend. In more than one room of my house are bookshelves with Lincoln books. Heck, he's even on one of my favorite T-shirts. Some of those desk items are not yet unpacked from the box where I put them when I left my old job, but the penny and the calendar are here with me every day to remind me that Lincoln will always play a role in making my dreams come true, no matter what they are.

For, if a grocer from the prairie could become the President of the United States, another former grocer and insurance scribe 150 years later can surely see her dreams come true, can't she?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Career number three, watch out! Here comes Ann.

Hello, world. Wonder where I’ve been? Who I am? Where I’m going?

Me, too.

To my many loyal readers who came every day during the bicentennial year looking for information on Lincoln events, news of Lincoln celebrations, reviews of Lincoln books or a look at Lincoln sites and a bit about scholars, thank you. You motivated me, you sustained me. You made all the work seem like play.

For more than a year, from October 2008 to February 2010, this blog was my life. Sharing with you my passion for Abraham Lincoln drove me, sustained me. Then, for a while, I took a rest. I needed it. Next, with the help of my family, we set about some renovations here at home to prepare for a coming transition.

Finally, I was off in pursuit of my next goal – what I would do for a living when my husband and I relocate from our home on the prairies of Central Illinois to the rolling hills and calming waters of Mid-Missouri. It’s a return to roots for me in a sense, as my grandfather left Missouri for Illinois and my grandmother nearly 100 years ago.

What I didn’t expect was for the goalpost to drop clear off the field, to be replaced by a backstop, a basket, a goal net at the end of an arena.

In the past year, seemingly out of nowhere, I had an opportunity to write a book, to apply for a coveted fellowship and to post for a marvelous new career. The book’s still a work in progress, the fellowship pursuit moved to the back burner for another time and the new career starts now. I can’t wait.

The first day of the rest of my life

As I publish this post this morning, I’m about to head off to my last day of work at COUNTRY® Financial, where I’ve spent the last 13 and a half years. When I began this blog, I took great care never to mix my blogger life with my professional life. I never wanted anything I did here to reflect in any way on the very fine organization for which I worked. Yet, always, I kept in mind that as a COUNTRY employee, even in my off hours, I was representing the organization. So, I avoided controversy, used appropriate language, wrote so I would never be embarrassed if my mother read what I wrote. (She does, so that was good on more than one account.)

If this is the first time ever you’ve heard what I did for a living, it’s as I intended – not because I wasn’t proud of where I was, but on the contrary, because I respected a fine organization and wanted never to do anything to disappoint it (the old mother rule again – works pretty well in life, I think).

At COUNTRY, I had the opportunity to use what I learned in my first career – almost 30 years in customer service at a supermarket – and to build further the skills for a career that didn’t even exist when I started stacking the blocks. I worked first in the Loss Reporting Unit, fielding calls from clients calling in claims, then in the Customer Service Center, assisting clients when their financial representatives weren’t available, and finally in Communications, where I wrote for our corporate intranet and worked on other communication as well.

Now, at the stage in life when some choose to retire, I take those skills and move on. Monday, April 4, is the first day of my new life. I start my third career – one with yet another well-respected organization whose Vision is one in which I believe.

My cube just got bigger

As I retire from COUNTRY today, I’m stepping out of a fabric-covered cubicle and into a space with no boundaries. I’ll be co-editing the Ragan Communications website for healthcare communicators, and my cube is wherever I can research, write, post stories. It can be my home office, my deck, a coffee shop or conference – anywhere I can be connected and connect.

When I was a new communicator, my manager and coworkers introduced me to Ragan newsletters and webinars. Later, they shared information they learned at Ragan conferences and sent links to communication-related articles on Ragan’s websites. Now, I’ll be attending some of those conferences myself, writing for the website, building relationships with readers as starved for helpful information as I once was, still am.

What I’ll be doing for Ragan is really much like what I did here during the Bicentennial – finding information my readers need and want and sharing it with them.

Please come visit our healthcare communications website and snoop around on our other Ragan websites, listed at the top of the home page.

And follow me on Twitter as @RaganHealth.

Don’t forget to tell your friends or family members who are healthcare communicators to follow me there. In this day and age, that moniker fits many – not just marketing or public relations people at hospitals, but doctors, nurses, health departments, pharmaceutical representatives - essentially anyone, anywhere who communicates with the public about healthcare, through traditional or social media or, yes, even in person.

Lincoln Buff 2 isn’t dead yet

In case you’re wondering about Lincoln Buff 2, don’t be too alarmed. She’s still kicking, just less frequently and with different moves than during the bicentennial year. I still tweet as @LincolnBuff2. I’ll still drop in here from time to time and you’ll still find me cropping up at Lincoln events here and there.

This Lincoln jaunt has been an unbelievable journey. I set out in search of Abe and found Ann. And, she’s having a blast!

Thanks for joining me on my trek. You’ve made it all the more amazing.



P.S. Wonder why the big smile? You would be, too, if you were retiring and heading for an opportunity doing something else you love almost as much as Lincoln. Yes, I am in love with social media, too. You can tell my hubby if you want, but I think he's already figured it out. ;-)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy birthday #202, President Lincoln!

Here in Illinois, where we grow up living and breathing the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln, the prairie lad who made it from a log cabin to the White House, it's not hard to forget what February 12th is, even though someone, sometime, somewhere created some joint birthday celebration and called it President's Day.

Yep, you can't even walk or drive past a vehicle in the Prairie State without being reminded it's the Land of Lincoln. And, that's okay with me. I can be assured that, thanks to my license plate, no matter where I travel on this nation's highways, I'm evangelizing for my pal, Lincoln.

Lincoln lives
Today, folks, Lincoln turns 202. I know, I know, as my coworker friends and old school chums, who constantly rib me, would remind me, "No, Ann, he's not 202. He's dead, remember?"

And, you know what I've got to say about that? John Wilkes Booth may have snuffed the life out of his body, but no one will ever kill his spirit, quelch the "right to rise"* which he so strongly represents. In 1950s, when I first discovered Lincoln, the 1970s when I introduced him to my own daughter, the 1990s, when I shared his story with my first grandson, or the 21st century when we celebrated the bicentennial of his birth and began using all kinds of new technology and mediums to share his story, we can still learn from Lincoln, we can still be inspired by his story.

Take time for Lincoln
Dear reader, today please take a minute to learn something new about Lincoln yourself. Find a Lincoln story you didn't know, discover a Lincoln letter or speech, learn a lesson from the life he lived. Then, when you do, tell someone. Teach a child of 4 or a grandparent of 94.

Find the Lincoln site nearest you and take your friends and family along to visit. Drop in at a senior center or a nursing home and let someone with Lincoln-like wit and wisdom tell you what they remember learning about our 16th President, how he inspired them.

Watch a documentary, read a book, pen your own tribute to Lincoln. But don't let this day pass by without stopping to reflect on how different this country, this state, perhaps even our lives would have been if this man had never lived or risen to a stature not unlike many of his statues - larger than life.

Join us in Springfield
As for me, you'll find me in the same place I was last year and the year before and a Lincoln's birthday when I was a child and Illinois kids still got his birthday as a day out of school - in Springfield. There's tons to do down there all day today, much of it free of cost. If you're in the neighborhood, check out this blog post by my Lincoln blogger colleague, Chris Umhoefer, on his Heart of Lincoln Land blog. I'll be at events at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Lincoln's Home and more. Hope to see you there!

Follow me on Twitter
I'm also on Twitter as LincolnBuff2. Though my tweets since the bicentennial have become much more eclectic, reflecting many of my interests - books, museums, National Parks, aviation, social media, and my favorite authors, such as Richard Bach and Richard Paul Evans, I still remember Old Abe from time to time.

Today, as I attend events in Springfield, I'll try to tweet when I can. I don't have a snazzy new 3G or 4G phone yet, so my Twitter application is a bit clunky and uncooperative at times. I'll tweet some, though. Please, don't hesitate to tweet a link to this article or retweet my Lincoln's birthday tweets.

Happy Lincoln Day, blogosphere! Ann

* "Right to rise" is a term made famous by Lincoln scholar, Gabor Boritt, a Hungarian refugee, whose own story of rising above adversity is told in a marvelous documentary, Budapest to Gettysburg, directed by his son Jake Boritt.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Honor Lincoln and help break world record

Hey, friends.

Our buddy Abraham Lincoln's birthday isn't until Saturday, but tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011 at 11 a.m., Central Time, you can join in and give him a gargantuan birthday gift. As part of the kickoff of the Civil War Sequicentenial and on the 150th anniversary of the day Lincoln said farewell to Springfield, you can help break a world record.

At the Great Western Depot, known as the Lincoln Depot, and at sites all around the nation, people will gather for a simultaneous reading of Lincoln's Farewell Address. This speech is still one of the ones that always moves me the most. I can't read it or hear it without getting tears in my eyes.

You can learn all about the celebration, rules and more at the special website dedicated to the event. And, be sure you watch the video, where my friend, Lincoln, (Fritz Klein on other days) delivers his very powerful performance of the speech.

Friday, January 28, 2011

New year, new motivation, even new links

Nothing like waiting until nearly the end of the month to write my first blog post, huh? Especially when I haven't written one for more than three months. What a slacker...

Well, I'm back, folks. I won't be writing as often as I did during the bicentennial, but I will try to write more often than I did in 2010.

Redefining my mission
One of my biggest questions these last few weeks, months has been what my mission should be going forward. During the bicentennial year, I devoted nearly every waking, non-working moment of my time to my Lincoln mission. I wanted to make sure you, my visitors, had all the information you needed to get to the events in your communities, know of the tributes across the country, not miss out on celebrating Lincoln at 200 years. I had a blast! Hope you did, too.

From October 2008 through December 2009, I did more than 200 blog posts, attended more events than I can remember, met many people I never imagined I'd meet, and visited Lincoln sites I'd only dreamed of ever seeing. Most days, I was lucky to get four or five hours of sleep a night. And, you know what? It was worth it! I loved what I was doing. I did it as much for me as I did for you.

The reality of it, though, was that I couldn't keep that pace up forever. In 2010, I caught up on family, home renovations and more. I did a lot of soul searching trying to determine what my role should be going forward, what this blog should be. I knew there were several big years coming up between fall 2010 and 2015 - the sesquicentennial of Lincoln's inauguration, journey to the White House, Presidential years, assassination and train trip home. Add to that the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and it makes me want to take a nap just thinking of how much there is to be learned, rediscovered.

New motivation
Don't worry. My mission has always been to use my passion for the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln to inspire yours. That hasn't changed. What has changed is the medium through which I feel I can best do this and move toward my dreams.

I love Lincoln. If you've read one blog post or 100, you know that with all certainty. I have another love, writing - and this blog has been an incredible outlet for that. But, last fall I had an opportunity of a lifetime - a chance to write my first book, one about Lincoln. My manuscript finished, I sent it off for some review, and am now back at work on revisions.

It was time to reassess where I need to put my time, my energy, my talents. I struggled with this. I love my readers, I loved blogging, but I knew with the sequicentennial coming, to cover it, I'd be back where I was in 2008 and 2009. I just can't do that - and write my books.

And, besides, the Lincoln I know best is the popular Lincoln, the Illinois guy who made it big against all odds, the self-made man, lifelong learner from humble beginnings who inspires and motivates. I don't know politics, I don't know the Civil War, I am not nearly as familiar with the White House years. So, it was time to step back and say, "Ann, you've got to let others do this."

There are other folks writing about Lincoln now, and even more writing about the Civil War. I urge you to seek them out.

In the meantime, I'll drop in from time to time, to alert you to a new book or a Lincoln event. But for the most part, my energy will be to finish this book and write the next one. Hope you'll all be around to read it when it's done.

New links
I have updated some links on my blog and you'll find I've also rearranged the left-hand navigation some. With the bicentennial past, some of those websites are no longer available. I've removed dead links. I also added some Lincoln sites I overlooked in the past. Because there are so very many Civil War blogs, I've provided you one-stop shopping with a link to one website which lists a number of Civil War sites.

I haven't forgotten you, folks. Please don't forget me. At Lincoln Buff 2. you'll still find links to lots of information you need and lots of interesting information about Lincoln in my more than 200 earlier blog posts. Thanks for visiting. Ann