Call 320.224.2706





UNUSUAL WORD FOR THE DAY – hectoring (adj.) "overbearing and blustering." hector (v.) to bully or torment. (n.) 2. a blustering bully a/k/a hectorer." (Collins Dictionary) Example: Donald Trump curtailed his hectoring behavior during the Florida debate.


By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY “simple” (adj.), (n.) “1. easy to understand, deal with, use, etc; 2. not elaborate or artificial; plain; 3. not ornate or luxurious; unadorned; 4. unaffected; unassuming; modest; 5. not complicated.” Syn. “child’s play, easy as pie, effortless, manageable, no sweat, straightforward, uncomplicated. Related word, “simplify” (v.) “to make less complex or complicated; make plainer or easier:” Related word, “simplicity” (n.) “the state, quality, or an instance of being simple.”


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“Simple” is magic word for wedding venue


Dave Peterson and Julie Nyland

Wedding planning can be complex. Quite often, it begins a year (or more, if possible) ahead of the event with the booking of the wedding venue. Dave Peterson and his wife Dr. Julie Nyland (Medical Arts Dental) have a beautiful place, just west of Crosslake, Minn., that they’ve remodeled with a north woods cabin feel and designed as a complete wedding weekend venue. (They visited with me about it at the Wedding Expo in St. Cloud In January.) Dave uses magical words like “simple,” “simplify,” and “simplicity” in any conversation about Pine Peaks Retreat & Event Center.

            The point he was making about this being an EASY event venue was not lost on me …

            I remember my daughter, Jeanette’s, wedding. (Remember, I'm a writer-for-hire, not a wedding planner!) It began at one church, moved to another church’s reception hall, and ended in the backyard of the mother-in-law’s home for more food and live music from my son-in-law’s band. It was A GREAT TIME, but it involved moving decorations for my husband and me, and it was a bit confusing for the guests, some of whom actually GOT LOST in the shuffle.

            There’s no shuffle at Pine Peaks, although, there is a shuttle to the nearby Pine Peaks Lodge and Suites. Pine Peaks Retreat & Event Center is located two hours north of St. Cloud (up Highway 10, northeast on 210 from Brainerd and then, north on 6), on the Whitefish chain of lakes, with Crosslake being the nearest body of water to the resort. The 5-acre venue sits on 80 acres of a former dairy farm, which had been in the Peterson family for four generations.

            The venue can be a completely self-contained community the weekend of any family’s celebration. Its simpler way of housing everyone is apparent. The center will seat 250 to 300 guests and around 200 for the outdoor settings. An attached pavilion can handle 30 people for the groom’s dinner. The retreat house can sleep up to 20, which could accommodate the bride’s entourage and then, serve as the honeymoon nest for the newlyweds. Guest can also stay at the Pine Peaks Lodge and Suites, six miles down the road, (with a shuttle, remember). There’s also parking there for RV’s/trailers. Dave and Julie don’t own the lodge and restaurant; they’ve have made arrangements with the owners to make Pine Peaks a complete wedding venue.

            And, if you’re Lutheran, you can even use the community church, half a mile away.

            Of course, there are also two outdoor wedding ceremony “stages” on the property, featuring a lovely backdrop of pines.

            However, I’m very intrigued with the Italian wood-burning pizza oven in the center and Maucieri’s Italian Bistro, Bar & Deli in Crosslake. Maucieri’s Catering is also available for the wedding reception. This is a great way to simplify the food plans, and I hear the food is absolutely delicious (Dave and Julie might be a bit prejudiced, though.) I’ll have to check it out myself, on my way up to Grand Rapids. (GR is often my destination in the summer because of the family property on Pokegama Lake.)

            Pine Peaks Retreat & Event Center would make a great destination for anyone’s wedding (maybe, for a wedding anniversary celebration, too). Dave encourages wedding planners to simplify the task by choosing Pine Peaks as the wedding venue. Why? The design and flexibility of the buildings and spaces make the planning simpler, and everyone attending will appreciate the simplicity of execution in the self-contained resort environment "Up North."

By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY "akimbo" (adj.) "with hand on hip and elbow extended outward." (dictionary dot com) Example: She stood in a huff, with her arms akimbo. Origin: Old Norse 1375-1425 "bent into a crook" and "accusative of."


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Word search for “akimbo” finds characters

Language sparks the imagination. Take the word “akimbo,” which is this writer’s “Word for the Day” item. I had only heard the word used in one way, as in, “She stood with her arms akimbo.” However, after doing a search, beyond my dictionary.com guardian, I’ve discovered that many people have moved beyond the definition and into creation.


The creative insight of “Papa Redcloud” was my introduction into the possibilities of using a word like “akimbo.” Up popped the website www.lanceandeskimo.com/guest/akimbo.shtml , and I read “Papa’s” words, “A subject never comes up in oral discourse that would require its (akimbo’s) use.” I’d agree. I’ve never said it, and I’ve never heard it in conversation. I HAVE read it, but always in the context of “arms akimbo.” Papa notes, too, that this adjective is applied specifically to the arms, hence the definition, “with hands on hips and elbows extended.” His opinion also covers the gender of the arms – female – since rarely, if ever, do people talk about a guy’s hips. “It’s a ‘girl thing,’ this ‘akimbo,’” says Papa, the blogger. It’s also a “standing thing.” Attitudinal. Hard to flash attitude when you’re sitting down. So, in Papa’s mind, there’s only one way the word “akimbo” can be used – by a standing female giving someone else the business.


Au contraire. I happened upon another way the word “akimbo” is used – “Limbs Akimbo.” That is the name of the album and title song by the band Hot Buttered Rum. Check their site at http://www.hotbutteredrum.net/index.php/music/limbs-akimbo and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/hotbutteredrum. The five musicians, hailing from San Fran, are accomplished and describe their sound as “Americana, folk, and bluegrass.” The song “Limbs Akimbo” is mellow, reggae, and with a calypso beat. (Of course, I’m not a true musician; so, I’d suggest you have a listen to the sample on their site.) Coming from a folk singing background, I like their sound, harmonies, and they’re articulate.


Now, for a study in contrast, listen to the Seattle band “Akimbo” and their piece “Great White Bull” at http://www.myspace.com/akimbo. This trio is classic rock, hardcore, and punk. The sound is very hard driving, heavily amped, and the words are largely inarticulate. Of course, words don’t matter so much with this genre, since it’s mostly the experience and decibel level that are important. Listening, I can imagine a great white bull tearing up the concert venue, tossing tattoo-ed rockers over its head, stomping tables to toothpicks, and angrily lapping brew from a few mangled spigots.


Now imagine that great white bull’s name is … you guessed it, “Akimbo.” He hails from just north of Avon in Central Minnesota, and he is a poser. (Can you picture “hooves akimbo”?) Akimbo likes to play Air Guitar because he has no other innate talents other than a loud snort and the ability to get friendly with the gals. Often, you can find him striking a pose at First Ave. Akimbo usually dances by himself because the vegetarians in the room won’t be caught dead touching a side of beef. This bovine doesn’t have tattoos, but he does have a big brand “X” on his back flank. As I mentioned previously, he likes his Bud, but has trouble finding a designated driver because it’s not yet State Fair time. So, he’s got to watch his behavior when he’s out kickin’ up his heels. No china shops. No laughing cows. But, for all of his faults, the crowds do seem to like Akimbo. He’s got a thick hide and doesn’t rile that easily (unless you’re wearing red). And, if the show’s good, Akimbo may demonstrate his appreciation by packing up and hauling the equipment to the band bus. Yep. He can be a good ol' Joe, that Akimbo.


Well, enough about "akimbo." Send me your findings and ideas, and we’ll keep this thing going …



By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY – “champion” (n.) “1. a person who has defeated all opponents in a competition…so as to hold first place; 2. anything that takes first place in competition; 3. an animal that has won a certain number of points in officially recognized shows; 4. a person who fights for or defends any person or cause; 5. a fighter or warrior.”


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Mary Dingmann champion of Alphay wellness philosophy

Wheaties® is supposed to be “the breakfast of champions.”® Well, I have no idea how Mary Dingmann breaks her nighttime fast. (I’m certain she eats something healthy!) However, I do know her as a “champion.” Why? As a health and wellness proponent, she is a joyful advocate of human potential and the Alphay philosophy of balance.


“The world needs coaches,” Mary said to me the other day. “The world talks us into living in a box. But, the instructions for living are written on the outside of that box.” That’s how Mary wants all of us to live, outside of a box, whatever our self-imposed prison or self-fulfilling vision. “I want to give people the gift of hope,” she said, plus joy, passion for what they do, and inspiration to live happy, healthy, balanced and fulfilled lives.


Mary Dingmann

Over this past year, Mary’s own life has taken a turn. She read Alphay Chairman Hui Chen’s book, The Five Elements of Success, and went to China to investigate the operation. “I read that book, and I knew this was how I was going to spend my life,” said Mary, who wants to point to a map of the world someday and say, “This is where I work.” She met Chairman Chen, and decided to leave her Nikken wellness business behind to promote Alphay. Alphay is one of China’s leading health biotechnology companies and a leader in independent network marketing. Now, as one of four founding members for Alphay and a Key Master leader, her task is to introduce Chairman Hui Chen and Alphay to America and grow a network of independent member-partners.


Chairman Chen will make his first visit to the U.S. on February 18 through February 19 at the Hotel Sofitel Minneapolis in Bloomington. Saturday will be devoted to discovering what Alphay is about and hearing an address from Chairman Chen. For anyone interested in attending, Sunday offers a complimentary workshop on the 5 Elements, ancient 6,000-year-old principles for relationships, and balanced wellness. Pre-registration is required, so contact Mary at 320.493.4266 for details.


No doubt, the Chairman will probably share details of how his father raised medicinal mushrooms and how, in his father’s footsteps, Chen grew the business to become the world’s largest producer of medicinal mushrooms. Mushrooms are very good for the immune system, Mary explained. She also noted that people are sick of being sick, tired, and broke. Alphay is a viable holistic health and wellness industry, she championed. Mary is looking for leaders to educate people about network marketing and the Alphay philosophy, which is based on Eastern principals of balance between the elements of wood, water, metal, earth, and fire. Thus far, Mary is grateful to have seven doctors of chiropractic and two medical doctors to join her team without Alphay having been officially launched in North America.


Ever the champion of health and human potential, Mary feels it is “my obligation to inspire people to look within and ask themselves ‘Am I using the talents I’ve been given?’” In Alphay, she hopes people will find a way to live a balanced life, “Powered by Heart.™”


So, the next time you’re musing about LIFE over your morning bowl of Wheaties® or whatever, maybe you want to take to heart Mary’s wishes for you. As your champion, she could tell you a few things about a healthy lifestyle, about balance, and about Alphay.



By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY – “pettifogger” [pet-ee-fog, -fawg] also [pet’ ee fog r]  (n.) “a person pretending to be something else; imposter.” Also “a petty, shifty, and often dishonest lawyer.” (Random House) Also “a shyster lawyer.” (theFreeDictionary.com) “pettifog” (v.) “1. to bicker or quibble over trifles or unimportant matters; 2. to carry on a petty, shifty, or unethical law business; 3. to practice chicanery of any sort.” (dictionary.com) Syn. “cheat, chisler, imposter, shyster, scammer, etc.”


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Pettifogger. Apply the word to roofing shysters.


Here’s a word you don’t hear too often, if ever: pettifogger. Most of us would use the word “shyster,” instead. Shawn Brannon makes that reference with contempt. Some roofing companies are shysters, he said to me, during our recent interview. He made it clear that All Elements, Inc., a Monticello commercial and residential roofing company, is a company he’s proud to represent because the family-owned enterprise can be trusted.

Shawn Brannan

Now, I trust what Shawn has to say because I’ve known him through the River City Business Network International group we both belong to. However, his response to a question I asked him is, maybe, more telling. I asked Shawn what he loves most about the business. Without a pause, he answered that he was happiest when he kept folks from having sleepless nights of worry over the condition of their home or building. He understood that having a good, solid roof overhead meant a healthier environment for the inhabitants – no contamination of the food prepared in the building and no compromised quality of the air they breathed.


(Shawn and “the guys” can smell a bad roof. In fact, they must wear protective clothing and masks when removing rotten foam insulation to protect themselves from the acrid vapors.)


Roofing companies that compromise on durable materials and skillful workmanship are pettifoggers in my estimation. (I love this word.) They don’t remove rot; they camouflage it. They leave leaks around vents and skylights. They can’t hammer a nail flush and are too lazy to blind nail. They take your money up front, complete half the project, and then, disappear to the end of a telephone line that rings and rings, but is never answered. Shysters. Scammers. Fly-by-nights. Pettifoggers. Companies like this have no shame and no pride in their work. (I can imagine Shawn shaking his head in agreement.) They are imposters, not true roofers.


True roofers have standards, like those of All Elements, Inc., from what I understand. The Better Business Bureau’s given them a “thumbs up.” They’re a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association and follow its standards. All Elements is a GAF-Certified Installer. (GAF is “the largest manufacturer of commercial and residential roofing.”) Finally, the company is a winner, for the seventh straight year, of the Duro-Last® “Elite Contractor Award.” This recognition designates All Elements as a “Master Contractor.”


For roofing contractors, this is HUGE. Duro-Last® is a manufacturer of roofing systems (“the right white roof,” notes Shawn) for flat or low-sloped roofs. All Elements must roof a minimum of 100,000 square feet in Duro-Last® and pass a strict inspection to qualify for the award and for the homeowner’s warranty to be honored.


So take note, homeowners and business owners. Remember All Elements, Shawn Brannon, and this writer’s word-for-the-day. You don’t want to be taken in by a roofing pettifogger (shyster). Do your research, talk to Shawn Brannon, and check out All Element, Inc.’s website at http://www.allelementsinc.net  www.allelementsinc.net.



By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY "erratum" (n.) (pl.) - ta. "an error in writing or printing." (Random House Dictionary) Example: "An email erratum makes the wrong impression in business communication."

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Erase email errata (errors)

How often have you received an quick email or short memo with these common errors? Or, have you made an erratum yourself?  Obviously, grammar or spelling mistake can hamper clear communication, but it can also produce a negative impression of you in the mind of the email recipient. ("Doesn't he/she know any better?") Here are some reminders about correct usage and examples of common errata:


   1. It is a pronoun. To make it possessive, add an “s,” for its. However, it’s is a contraction, a combination of the words “it is.” Thus, the word becomes it’s. Example: “It’s too late for its copying and distribution to be scheduled.”


   2. Your is a possessive pronoun. A conjunction of “your” and “are”  is “you’re.” Example: “Your time sheet is on file, so, you’re all set for next week’s paycheck.”


   3. Lets is a verb, as in “She lets me make decisions.” Let’s is a conjunction of “let” and “us.” Example: “Let’s find out why Mike lets Susan make all the decisions.”


   4. Then is an adverb, dealing with time. Than is a conjunction. Example: “After you discover why the specifications are different than we discussed, then give me a call.”


   5. All ready means to be prepared. Already is an adverb, meaning “by this or that time; previously; or now.” Example: “We are all ready to explain to you how we already have reached our quota.”


   6. All together is an adverb, meaning “all at the same time,” and “a group whose members acted or were acted upon collectively.” Altogether is also an adverb, meaning “wholly; entirely; completely;” and “with all or everything included;” and “with everything considered.” (dictionary.com) Example: “The staff is all together in our opinion that the budget is altogether too small for our 2012 objectives.”


So, let's all work to eradicate email and memo errata. Do your part, and take today's tips to heart.


Do you have some pet email and memo peeves? Send me an email (with no erratum), and vent with me.

By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY – “resourceful” (adj.) “able to deal skillfully and promptly with new situations, difficulties, etc." Syn. “able, capable, enterprising, ingenious, intelligent, inventive, quick-witted, sharp, talented.” (n.) “resourcefulness” (dictionary dot com)


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Word hardly describes MN Copy’s resourcefulness


Whatever it takes. Those are Mike Houghton’s words. His company, Minnesota Copy Systems, St. Cloud, will do whatever it takes to give their customers what they need, whether communications technology sales or service. In this writer's mind, “whatever it takes” means management and staff are “resourceful.”


Mike describes this resourcefulness as “going above-and-beyond.” (You may think the phrase somewhat clichéd, but Mike uses it as a mantra for his people.) And, don’t let that easy-going nature and calm, engaging manner fool you into thinking Mike is “just another nice guy.” (Well, he IS a nice guy!) Mike is smart in business and communications technology (copiers, printers, fax machines and networking computer systems), mindful of the company’s mission, and intent on helping customers with imagining their businesses, just as he’s imagining his own company’s success.


Mike Houghton

There are at least five ways Mike and “the guys” demonstrate their resourcefulness. First, his staff shines when a customer is stressed; emergency service calls are a priority for them. Second, customers deal with one company rep throughout their interaction, i.e., “a familiar face.” Minnesota Copy’s go-to person for the customer becomes a point person for its staff throughout many years of service. Third, in order to better understand customers’ needs, Mike and his staff routinely go on-location to study and get hands-on experience with their customers’ communication technology set-up. Fourth, the company is a turnkey enterprise, meaning that it’s sales and service arms complement each other to give customers a 360-degree experience. Five, training is very important – the on-going training and empowerment of staff AND the continuing education of consumers about cutting-edge communication technology, designed to help them become more successful with their own enterprises.



Yes. Mike and Minnesota Copy Systems appear very enterprising. (“Enterprising” is synonymous with “resourceful.”) Nevertheless, mine is only one perspective. To gain a better idea of what Minnesota Copy Systems is all about, check Mike's website, www.mncopy.com. (Mike is a member of River City BNI.)


By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY – “reflexive” (adj.) “Grammar. 1. (of a verb) taking a subject and object with identical referents, as with ‘shave,’ I shave myself. (of a pronoun) used as an object to refer to the subject of a verb, as ‘myself,’ in I shave myself; 2. “(n.) Grammar. A reflexive verb or pronoun.” (dictionary dot com) Also, “reflecting back on the subject, like a mirror.” (EnglishClub.com)


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mmb photo

A word about "myself" and other pronouns


( ME )




( and I )







Like fingernails. Scratching. The incorrect use of “myself,” (himself, herself, yourself, itself, and plurals, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves) makes me cringe, just as I do when fingernails are drawn slowly across a chalkboard. So, to save others from the awful grimace I make (and wrinkles I may create for myself), I’m reviewing the proper use of pronouns, including “myself” and other “selves.”


For example, look at the following sentences. Reflexive pronouns are always objects. Reflexives reflect back to the subject, like a mirror, and are the same as the subject.

   • I want to see it for myself. (subject = I) (verb = want) (object = myself)

   • He had to hear it for himself.

   • We cleaned up after ourselves.

   • They were ashamed of themselves.


Now, don’t be fooled. Even though the following pronouns mirror one another, they’re called something else (although, I’ve seen them called “reflective.”) Intensive pronouns appear next to the subject of the sentence and are used for emphasis. They can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence. Grammatically, they are correct.

   • I myself had come to appreciate his expertise.

   • He himself had to apologize for the error.           

   • We ourselves had no clue about how to fix the problem.


However, there are ways pronouns, especially “myself,” are used incorrectly. That is when they’re substituted for “I” and “me,” etc. It seems compound subjects confuse many.

   • Incorrect: Nancy and myself will organize the files. Correct: Nancy and I will organize the files.

   • Incorrect: My representative or myself will be happy to call. Correct: My representative or I will be happy to call.


In these particular cases, the pronoun “I” is the subject of the sentence. (Test yourself: Use only one person as the subject when you read the sentences. So, you’d say, I will organize the files, and, I will be happy to call.)


Here are other examples where pronouns are used as compound objects:

   • Incorrect: Send an e-mail response to Jerry and myself. Correct: Send an e-mail response to Jerry and me.

   • Incorrect: Contact Sue or myself if you will attend the party. Correct: Contact Sue or me if you will attend the party.

     (Test yourself: Use only one person as the object when you read the sentences. So, you’d say, Send an e-mail response to me, and, Contact me if you will attend the party, and, She saw me about an upgrade.  


Did this short discussion answer a few questions about pronoun usage? It did for myself, I mean, for me. (Yikes. Fingernails, again!) Yes. Sometimes, we can all do with a pronoun review.

By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY – “cared-for” (adj.) “having needed care and attention, as in ‘well-cared-for-children.” (dictionary.com)

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Optometrist focuses on cared-for clients


The eyes have it. Dr. Sally Jackula’s eyes, that is.  They’re intense, intent on focusing in on her patient’s care. Dr. Sally operates Iris Vision Care in St. Cloud. She’s my eye doctor. I’m impressed with her efforts to make me – and her other patients – feel very cared-for. “Cared-for” is the descriptive word I associate with Dr. Sally.


Dr. Sally says that her goal of making all patients feel cared-for is her compassion for people. (I’m a believer.)


“I try to be at my best and give an added personal touch to the (patient) experience,” she told me at our last visit. In my case, she was extremely calm and methodical as we worked to get my prescription just right. It was a delicate process, since I have progressive lenses. As Dr. Sally told me, when you adjust the prescription for distance, it affects the bi-focal. In my case, it took us three go-rounds with the glasses manufacturer. (Yes. I presented a challenge for Dr. Sally, one that she handled with aplomb. No, I was not being difficult.)


It’s difficult for a busy professional writer, wife, mother, grandmother, and caretaker of an elderly parent to take care of myself. I’m sure you can relate. That’s why Dr. Sally’s attention to my care is so important.


Dr. Sally does all sorts of testing for eye conditions, some that I’ve never heard of: glaucoma, retinal detachment, retinitis pigmentosa, cataracts, macular degeneration (for those of us over 40), even computer vision syndrome. “Computer Vision Syndrome describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer use,” according to the American Optometric Association. For a complete discussion, go to the website at: http://www.aoa.org/x5253.xml


We discussed at length my choice of glasses frames. Some worked with my face shape; others did not. Some were better for my prescription; others had lenses that were too narrow. Dr. Sally patiently walked me through the many choices. She really cared that I would make the right choice and be pleased with my selection. In addition, I did not feel rushed by her, which further convinced me that I had her full attention.


Dr. Sally also paid great attention to my granddaughter, Erin, who came to see her about color blindness. The two worked through the testing, which consisted of recognizing colored numbers against a colored background. The illustrations were created from many colored circles, no straight lines. Erin is red / green color blind. However, there is such as thing as yellow / blue spectrum color blindness. Dr. Sally explained that there are actually glasses and contacts made to help patients with color-blindness. So, we learned something new during that visit.


Bottom line? Dr. Sally Jackula’s attention to my specific needs – prescription, testing, and frame selection –  and to my granddaughter's color-blindness, demonstrated to me her compassion for her patients and her efforts to make them feel cared-for. “Cared-for” is the word I associate with my eye doctor at Iris Vision Care. http://www.irisvisioncare.com/

(Dr. Sally Jackula is also a member of River City BNI.)

By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY "transition" (n) "1. movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another; change: 2. Music: passing from one key to another; modulation; 3.a passage from one scene to another by sound effects, music, etc., as in a television program, theatrical production, or the like." (v) "4. to make a transition." Example"I am in transition." Also: "Use a transition or transitional technique for more effective writing." (dictionary.com)


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"Good transitions can connect paragraphs and turn disconnected writing into a unified whole." – Purdue Online Writing Lab

"Transition words, such as but and however have been called the 'traffic lights' of language." – The Little Red Writing Book,
by Brandon Royal.

Transitional techniques use words wisely


Make your writing smoother and more coherent by linking ideas on the page, and following through to a conclusion. You may use transitional words/phrases or a technique that I call “mirroring.”

No doubt, you’ve been taught the technique of using common transitional words/phrases. The four types indicate: contrast (e.g. however, yet), illustration (e.g. for example, for instance), continuation (e.g. furthermore, moreover), and conclusion (e.g. thus, finally). Knowing these words/phrases comes in pretty handy.

Another handy technique was taught by my high school writing teacher, Mrs. Matson. This I call mirroring. Pick up a word (or phrase) from the last sentence of your paragraph and repeat it in the first sentence of your new paragraph. This repetition is not a mistake, but a thoughtful device to bridge your paragraphs more subtly. 

See my examples, below:


Pokegama Golf Course merits your investigation. Its wooded setting, lake view, accommodating space, imaginative cuisine, and  attentive service will impress.
     Most impressive is the panoramic design of the club house and restaurant.


Think of your Last Will and Testament as a road map, with designation as the destination.
     Next, ask yourself, “When I go, who gets my stuff?”
     A Will legally disposes of your “stuff” (property) after your death, according to the particular laws of the state where you lived.

      Find more examples from the Purdue Online Writing Lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/574/01/ .

Start using transitional techniques today, and you'll see an improvement in your writing effectiveness.


By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY – “responsive” (adj.) “responding especially readily and sympathetically to appeals, efforts, influences, etc.” Syn. “compassionate, kindhearted, passionate, sensitive, sharp, etc.”  (dictionary.com)


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Detailing Divas. In a word – responsive


“Divas” is probably a misnomer for this sister act. After all, when you think of a “Diva,” don’t you envision a prima donna entertainer or celebrity, caught up in her own importance, basking in self adulation, and making demands of others for her own comfort? Very “ME” focused. That’s not the Detailing Divas. These St. Cloud sisters – Jeanne Borgstrom and Lezlie Lang – are responsive to human need and very “OTHER” focused with their home detailing services, senior moves management, and community volunteering.

 Detailing Divas

So, “RESPONSIVE” is a great word for the Detailing Divas. It addresses the action these sisters take on behalf of others. It is synonymous with COMPASSIONATE, which speaks to their hearts, and SHARP, which speaks to their technical expertise. The sisters grew up in a family of painters. However, Borgstrom is also a professional stager, while Lang is a color specialist, life coach, and trained in team leadership. Home sellers, real estate agents, bank trust officers, busy sons and daughters of aging parents, and downsizers of all shapes, sizes, and ages call the Detailing Divas for HELP.


(PHOTO: Lezlie Lang, l., Jeanne Borgstrom, r.)


Jeanne says the help they provide is an art, science, and a psychology. She and Lezlie are sensitive to clients anxious about someone coming into their home, evaluating its condition, touching their belongings, and finally, changing things. Lezlie notes the sisters are very compassionate, allowing clients to work out any negativity, such as embarrassment over the condition of their homes.


(I can relate. Even when I schedule a cleaning lady, I have to clean up before she gets here! Yes. I must confess that I'm a better writer than housekeeper!.)


Here’s another example of responsiveness to those of us in the “sandwich generation” – caring for children and aging parents. The Detailing Divas were approached by a loving daughter who needed to help her mother move from the family home to a senior apartment with added, managed services. Her mother had physical difficulties and memory issues. Of utmost concern was her mother’s comfort level with the move and the daughter’s desire to not upset her. Yet, the daughter was also a professional person whose job didn’t allow her the complete flexibility to deal with ALL of the tasks the downsizing represented. Well, the Divas handled the entire multi-faceted project. From packing and coordinating the transfer of the mother’s belongings, to setting up her new home in a familiar layout with familiar objects, to staging the family home for a sale, the sisters took care of everything with skill and sensitivity. No worries for the daughter. No distress for her mother. Now, that’s being responsive to LIFE and the human condition.


The Divas are responsive to the community’s needs, too. Their professional hands guided the amateur hands of six crews of Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity volunteer painters at the Kyle Hanson home in October. (See the January 3, 2012, St. Cloud Times/Citizen Times’s story. Divas lead Habitat paint project) They also volunteered to supervise crews at a twin home on the east side of St. Cloud. The Divas even donated equipment. This was the first time the sisters had volunteered on a Habitat home, but they plan to return. Why? Because they are KINDHEARTED and SYMPATHETIC when they see a need.


Well, I need to wrap this up. So, if you need help with a staging, senior move, or community project, I suggest you call the Detailing Divas at 320.420.4376. (Jeanne helped me convert bedrooms into an office for myself and for my husband, a studio. Then, I hired her to help with a daughter’s new home painting.) Thus, in a word, I find the Detailing Divas to be RESPONSIVE.


By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY "efficacy" (n.) "capacity for producing a desired result or effect; effectiveness." Syn. "effectiveness, performance, capability, competence, strength, efficiency." Example: Chris Vasecka improves the efficacy of clients' irrigation systems.


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Chris Vasecka improves efficacy of irrigation systems

Efficiency. Chris Vasecka touts that word frequently. He’s the owner of Use Your Water Right Dot Com, a Clearwater, Minnesota, irrigation company. In a word, Chris tests the efficacy of clients’ irrigation systems through a unique irrigation audit.


“I want to create the most efficient way to irrigate the outdoor landscape for clients,” said Chris during in interview with this writer in April, as he was readying his business for the busy summer season. He’s not changed his tune this winter. I interviewed him recently and found him to be just as passionate about his work.

picture of Chris Vasecka, Use Your Water Right


Currently, Chris is recommending a sit-down with individual homeowners or representatives of homeowners’ associations, even maintenance managers for commercial businesses, including hotels and care centers. He’ll show them how to save money on their water bills, taking a look at their bills for the past five years. Also, he’ll introduce them to a tool unique to his business – the Full Irrigation Audit.


His audit is the product of eight years of development. (Understandably, Chris is pretty proud of it.) The Full Irrigation Audit uses four steps to ascertain the character of the lawn and the opportunities for improvement. Chris begins with soil analysis – loam, clay, sand-based? Each type of soil affects the life cycle of roots. Next, he notes the ratio of sun to shade across the lawn. Geographical location is another consideration. Chris uses a 50-year span of historical data for this step. Finally, he creates a User Profile and report. With all of this information, Chris is able to make a very educated recommendation to the client and set up a 5-Year Plan.


How he approaches each client’s individual needs for his or her lawn is very scientific, thoughtful, and purposeful. Sometimes, he might recommend a whole system, and for another, the client may simply need to replace a few sprinkler nozzles. You never know.


However, ask Chris Vasecka; he knows how to set up an irrigation system with efficacy (efficiency) in mind. Visit his website at www.useyourwaterright.com. (Chris is a member of River City BNI.)


By marymbelisle

Click on the title of this blog to reach a comment screen. I appreciate your feedback.


WORD FOR THE DAY “symbiosis” (n.) “any interdependent or mutually beneficial relationship between two persons, groups, etc." (dictionary dot com)


Eric O'Brien's word is "symbiosis"

He was candid.  I’m a business partner, investing in your business, said Eric O’Brien, Commercial and SBA Lender at Falcon National Bank, when this writer met with him the other day for an interview at Caribou Coffee. His reference to “partnering” with clients reminded me of the word “symbiosis.” The word applies in many ways to Eric and Falcon National Bank.

Eric O'Brien#2

A banker and a business should have a symbiotic relationship, especially in today’s economy. Eric has been working on these types of banking relationships for over 11 years. He was, understandably, emphatic about the way he and Falcon now work together to create this symbiosis. Eric was hired by the bank this June.


Eric continued to share with me his passion for the work he does at Falcon. “My loan, my responsibility” is how he put it to me, in a very genial and straightforward manner. He shared his commitment to each customer that sits down at the desk with him, shares his or her story, listens to his advice, and explores the benefits, and potential risk, of products and services the bank has to offer. Eric quoted the bank’s tag line, “Service that soars above the rest.” He was serious about his promise to personally work with a client throughout every facet of the loan process. Eric’s honesty and conscientiousness were front-and-center in our conversation. I’m not surprised. He’s a St. John’s University graduate. (Having married a “Johnny,” I’m impressed with the caliber of character these graduates display.)


CEO John Herges and staff members Jason Iverson (Chief Credit Officer) and Jessica Bitz (Senior Lender) had made a good impression on Eric when he’d crossed paths with them during his career. Also, Eric had grown up in the Avon/St. Cloud area. These were the main reasons he joined Falcon National Bank.


Eric and his wife Jen live in Monticello, so, Eric commutes everyday. Yet, he’s settling in nicely with the St. Cloud business community. In fact, he’s a member of my Business Network International group in Waite Park – “Rockin’” River City BNI. Why’d he join? Well, he joined to create a symbiotic relationship with other business owners and their representatives, of course!


As we spoke, Eric reminded me of the amount of community involvement the bank undertakes, largely, through the activity of Marketing Director Josh Nelson (currently, Habitat for Humanity Board President) and the various events the bank sponsors. He’s happy to be part of an organization that continues to create symbiosis with the greater St. Cloud and Central Minnesota community.


So, I think Eric O’Brien and his employer, Falcon National Bank are in symbiosis, with each other and those they serve in the greater St. Cloud community. I enjoyed my interview and conversation with Eric. You may want to get into symbiosis with Eric as well via a loan, an account, merchant services, or simply over a coffee at Caribou.

By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY "important" (adj.) "1. of much or great significance or consequence; 2. mattering much; 3. entitled to more than ordinary consideration or notice; 4. prominent or large." (dictionary dot com)


Important words need a writer.

Words are important. A single word identifies an object, person, feeling, a place. Strung together, words convey simple ideas like “I’m tired.” Or, they can ask something more abstract, such as “Where does the sun go at night?”  They can explain a concept. “The earth rotates on an axis, causing parts of the planet to face the sun during the day, while others are in the shade at nighttime.” Words can even wax poetic. “Hark. What light through yonder window breaks?  It is the East, and Juliet is the Sun.”  Organizations should understand the importance of words and give them the attention of a professional writer.

If what you have to say is worth saying, it’s worth hiring a professional writer to say it in the best manner possible. The words must be memorable and effective. OK. You may know, more or less, what you want to say. However, the page remains blank. The message is jumbled and confused. Perhaps, the words are adequate but lack dynamics or conviction. The worst case scenario? Your efforts have cost you in time, money, and anxiety, yielding poor results.


Messages generated by an organization serve an internal communication function, or they’re designed to meet external marketing objectives and strengthen brand awareness. A professional writer will take your ideas, apply your unique vocabulary, infuse the message with your distinctive character, and wordsmith it to educate, inform, honor, entertain, promote, sell, or touch the reader/viewer/listener with emotion.


You can create effective communication messages and celebrate – through written or spoken word – your unique story and vision – when you use a freelance writer-for-hire. If your writer knows his or her "stuff," content will be more:

• Clear   • Concise   • Creative  • Correct   • Customized   • Compelling


So, what's the "stuff" good writing is made of? First, good writing takes time to percolate. Your writer needs to interview you, take notes, and internalize your mission, culture, products, and services. A writer can't intelligently craft your message if he or she doesn't understand you. Second, good writing pays attention to the mechanical basics – grammar, punctuation, spelling, word choice, thesis, topic sentences, subject/verb construction, etc. Third, good writing follows a logical thought pattern and organizational approach to the topic. Fourth, it makes a connection with the reader/viewer/listener on some level, whether emotional or intellectual. Fifth, it differentiates your business/organization from your competitors through various branding techniques. Finally, it moves the reader/viewer/listener to action or leaves a vivid impression in the mind.

It's smart to hire a writer, even when you’re comfortable with words. Some projects need a fresh new perspective or an extra pair of eyes. We businessmen and women have to care about the words we use in ads, articles, blogs, direct mail, newsletters, press releases, radio spots, speeches, and websites. People are expecting us to get RESULTS … build more audience, sell more stuff, secure more donations.


What does it cost to have a grammatical error on your direct mail letter?  to run  radio or print ads with no clear calls to action? to display a profile on social media that's riddled with bad spelling? to distribute a weak press release? to leave web copy to the graphic designer? It costs a business in credibility, effectiveness, marketing and advertising dollars, and CUSTOMERS.

Words are important.  If what you have to say is worth saying, hire a professional writer to help you and your words.

© mary macdonell belisle – writerforhire

By marymbelisle

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WORD FOR THE DAY “practice” (n.) 1. “habitual or customary performance; operation; 2. habit; custom; 3. repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency;” (v.) 1. to exercise oneself by repeated performance in order to acquire skill; 2. to do something habitually or as a practice.” (dictionary dot com)


10 writing practices improve your press release 


Toot your horn. Get your important information out to the print and electronic media via a press release. A press release can raise awareness of your name and brand, position you as a leader in your industry, and also put a “face” to what could otherwise come across as an impersonal business entity. However, it’s important that you do it right. Steve Waganer, an SEO specialist who works for Comet Search Engine Marketing, notes, “It is not enough just to write press releases and publish them on the web; you must know the correct way of writing a press release to be noticed on the web.”1. Here are eight prompts to improve your press release.


1. Make it newsworthy. Is your release actually advertising-in-disguise, or is there meat on the bone? Publicize a worthy cause, and describe how your company participated in it through volunteer activity or a sponsorship. Expand on the results of a survey your company recently conducted. Or, take some new national data relevant to your business, and give it your company spin. This comes in handy if you’ve added a new service, and your release sounds like advertising. For example, a dentist may have added sedation dentistry to its services. Can the information be tied into an article on odontophobia, fear of dentists, and some just-published statistics about the number of nationwide sufferers? (See http://www.medicalartsdental.com/, click "Press Release")


2. Be specific and creative with your headline. Remember, there are plenty of other businesses vying for editors’ and readers’ attention. A data-specific example would be, “ABC Transport hiring 250 temporary technicians this July.” It is stronger than “ABC Transport hiring.” Can it be more creative? How about, “ABC Transport trumpets July hire of 250 temporary technicians.” You can use devices such as alliteration (in this case, the repetition of the “t” words) and even rhyme to call attention to your headline. How about “Outsourcing Resource in HR is Super” to publicize a new company called “Super Consulting Services, LLC”? (See the release at: http://www.wordingforyou.com/Blog/WORD-FOR-THE-DAY--/Outsourcing-Good-word-Good-practice/)


3. Put contact information at the top of the release.  Name, title, phone number, email address, and website address are necessary so an editor or reporter can interview you for more information.


4. Make the first sentence of your release memorable. Describe the news first, and then, tell who announced it. Weak: “John Smith announced today the merger of ABC Transport with XYZ.” How about “The merger is on. No one is happier than ABC Transport’s CEO John Smith, unless it’s XYZ founder Don White.” Remember, the editor will take your information and rewrite it, or a reader will forward your story to his/her network. Your job is to write an interesting piece.


5. Don’t editorialize with adjectives and embellishments. This includes words such as “great,” “quality,” “unsurpassed,” “notable,” and the like. Remember, the news requires facts. “Specifics sell,” just as they do with advertising. Let your specifics convince the editor that your piece is relevant to readers.


6. Insert key words and links into your release. “Inserting key terms back-linked to pages on your Web site can not only trigger an action from the reader – such as visiting the site to learn more or purchasing or scheduling a service – it also helps build the SEO power needed to ensure that your Web site and online pages have prominence in online search results,” says Eric Richard of Startup Nation, a free Internet entrepreneurial site, located at http://www.startupnation.com.2.


7. Use correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. An error implies all sorts of bad things about you, including ignorance, laziness, and lack of motivation. You should have resources on hand – a dictionary, “Elements of Style,” and an extra pair of eyes to proof your work. Remember, your words leave an impression about you and your company.


8. Write and send your release to the appropriate person. Send staff additions, promotions, awards, and “moving or expanding” stories to the Business News Editor. Releases can be sent to a reporter responsible for a topic area, e.g., Education, Religion, Food, Health, Recreation, Sports, etc.


9. Distribute it to your social media network also. Post to your website home page, and send it to LinkedIn, Facebook, and FourSquare accounts. Share your release with bloggers in your industry. Send it to an article distribution service. What’s new today as opposed to “yesterday” is that people on the Internet might actually be searching for the information contained in your press release.


10. Hire a professional writer. You may subscribe to a release service or a PR company. You certainly can designate an employee in-house to handle your public relations and Web activity. Or, you can outsource your writing to a professional writer-for-hire.


So, if you’ve decided to be more proactive about publishing press releases, way to go. Use these recommendations for your next release, and you should see an improvement and, with luck, generate some response.



1. “What is the Importance of a Press Release?” by Steve Waganer, Comet Search Engine Marketing, © 2006, < http://www.cometsearchenginemarketing.com/what_is_the_importance_of_press_release.html >


2. “Modern PR Tactics: Blending The Old & The New,” by Eric Richard, StartUp Nation, © 2011 < http://www.startupnation.com/business-articles/9715/1/modern-pr-tactics-blending-old-new-htm >



By marymbelisle

(Comments are welcome. Click the blog's title to activate the comment screen.)


WORD FOR THE DAY – “blanket” (noun) “1. A large, rectangular piece of soft fabric, often with bound edges, used especially for warmth as a bed covering. 2. The chief garment traditionally worn by some American Indians. 3. Any extended covering or layer, e.g. a blanket of snow. Synonym. Bedding, cover. (verb) “1. to cover with or as with a blanket; 2. To obscure or obstruct; interfere with; overpower; 3. to toss (someone) in a blanket, as in fraternity hazing: Synonym. Cloud, conceal, mask. (adjective) “covering, or intended to cover, a large group or class of things, conditions, situations, as in: a blanket proposal, a blanket indictment. Synonym. Absolute, sweeping, wide-ranging. Idiom: born on the wrong side of the blanket, born out of wedlock” (dictionary dot com)


Point blanket makes blanket statement

A simple blanket can transport the human spirit, covering years of a family legacy.


When I picked up that Hudson’s Bay Company point blanket at Gypsy Lea’s in Sauk Rapids today, my breath caught, suspended between the moment and decades past. The sale HBC bucket blanketwas sure. “HBC” is woven into the plaid of my family’s story as surely as the threads of our tartan. I had to have that blanket. (“Gypsy” Lea was happy to oblige.)


Hudson’s Bay Company 100% wool point blankets were first traded for beaver pelts with the native population of Canada around 1780.1. (The term "point" comes from the French word empointer, which means "to make threaded stitches on cloth.")2. Many Canadian and American First Nations’ people used Hudson’s Bay Company blankets as wraps and as clothing.3. (Link below for a listing of tribes.) French and Scottish voyageurs and traders continued their trade with native people from HBC company outposts throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.4.


Our family tree sprang from those seeds planted by Ontario Scots and le Francais from Quebec. The MacDonells and MacDonalds of Glengerry County, Ontario, emigrated to Minnesota in the late 1800’s. Then, they moved on to Duluth. Around the same time, the St. Germains and Jolecoeurs emigrated from Three Rivers and Montreal to the Port City. In 1920 my grandfather, Randolph MacDonell, married Loretto St. Germain, the girl next door.


Grandpa MacDonell used his Hudson’s Bay blanket at the cabin. The redwood log cabin was built in 1927 on Pokegama Lake, just five miles from the Grand Rapids city limits. Grandpa died in 1969; the blanket is also gone. The cabin is now the great room of my sister Margaret Ann Armstrong’s summer home, which looks across Poole’s Bay to the inlet and onward to the Mississippi River’s thoroughfare.


This summer home sits on the site of yet another, older cabin. Its wooden foundation has long since crumbled to dust. (During the summers as kids we’d try to excavate the area to find artifacts, with no luck.) We wondered who lived there before us. Perhaps, it was the Metis Joseph Sayes and his wife whose names appear first on the Abstract of Title. Sayes was given 1,000 acres of land as part of the Chippawa Scrip of 1858. My grandfather’s tract, purchased decades later, was only a small part of that treaty with the first people of the area.


However, we’re sure there was trade conducted on that spot. My father retrieved a rusted bucket from the clay muck of the lake one summer, thinking it could be valuable. After cleaning the brass, the initials “HBC” could be read on the inside lip of the old artifact. Yep. Hudson’s Bay Company goods had been traded along the banks of Pokegama, long before it became MacDonell and Armstrong land.


(Oh, to be a time traveler, to go back and see what came beforehand …)


Gypsy Lea’s is filled with all sort of furnishings and accessories from the past, refurbished and offered up to today’s “time travelers.” Folks who buy will be able to add their own memories to the story of their precious antique objects, and so, continue the human legacy through their stories.


I wonder what stories my Hudson Bay point blanket will share with those who come after me.



1. Hudson’s Bay Company website, http://www2.hbc.com/hbcheritage/history/blanket/history/

2. CBC Digital Archives, http://archives.cbc.ca/economy_business/consumer_goods/clips/16966/

3. Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_peoples_of_the_Northeastern_Woodlands

4. Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudson%27s_Bay_Company

By marymbelisle

(Comments are welcome. Click the blog's title to activate the comment screen.)


WORD FOR THE DAY “outsourcing” (v.) “1. (of a company or organization) to purchase (goods) or subcontract (services) from an outside supplier or source; 2. to contract out (jobs, services, etc.); 3. to obtain goods or services from an outside source.” The word can also be a noun. (dictionary dot com)


“Outsourcing.” Good word. Good practice.


“Outsourcing” is a recently coined word. I just discovered that this word, addressing the practice of contracting services from an outside source, was first used in modern times around 1975 to ’80. Etymologists know better about word origins, so, I’ll take their word for it. However, I’m certain the practice has been around since Khufu had the local wheelwright align his chariot wheels.

Today I think small businesses are very familiar with the word and its meaning. They outsource (subcontract) all sorts of things – accounting and payroll, IT functions, e-commerce, and off-site file storage, corporate compliance requirements, graphic design services, even writing (ahem!) services. Kent Gustafson, of Safe Shield, and Ron Marotte, of Marotte Design, have contracted Human Resources projects, like those supplied by Michelle Super, Super Consulting Services, Inc. I like to say that the “new outsourcing resource for HR is SUPER.” (Michelle’s name is so perfect to use in this manner.)

“No longer regarded as a temporary back-fill for open staffing positions or one-off projects, outsourcing to freelancers and consultants has now become a regular practice among small and large businesses alike,” says Caron Beesley, Small Business Administration contributor, in her blog, “Outsourcing to Freelancers & Consultants: 5 Tips for Getting it Right (and Lawful).”1.


According to a 2003 survey by the society for Human Resource Management, 53% of HR professionals used an outside HR consultant to supply services. By 2004, it was 58%. Reasons ranged from saving the company money, to improving compliance and accuracy, to a lack of in-house experience. (See "Outsourcing: A Strategic Solution,” Susan M Heathfield’s blog.)2.


Small businesses outsource their HR for similar reasons, especially to save time and money, says Michelle on her website: www.hrsolutionsmn.com. In addition, Michelle’s goal is to help small businesses concentrate on their operation and specialization, instead of getting bogged down with HR duties they find “tedious, incomprehensible, and stress-inducing.”


But, you don’t have to take Michelle’s or my word for it. Check out “Human Resource Outsourcing: How winning small businesses think big and save smart,” part of the MBA Tool Box from THINKING LEADERS’ editor Joshua Cook.3. Or, ask your colleagues in business IF and WHAT services they outsource.


“Outsourcing” has become a familiar word in today’s business world. Ask Michelle Super, of Super Consulting Services, LLC, what she thinks about it.


Psst. While you’re at it, ask a wordsmith as well.

1.  < http://community.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/outsourcing-freelancers-consultants-5-tips-getting-it-right-and-lawful >

2. < http://humanresources.about.com/cs/strategichr/a/outsourcing.htm >

3. < http://www.thinkingleaders.com/archives/524 >


By marymbelisle

(Comments are welcome. Click the blog's title to activate the comment screen.)


WORD FOR THE DAY "gaga" (adj.) "1. Excessively and foolishly enthusiastic; 2. ardently fond; infatuated; 3. demented; crazy; dotty." (dictionary.com) 


Gaga's "old fool" inappropriate as Alzheimer's label


Alzheimer’s disease is top-of-mind these days. After all, it is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Many people are preparing for various walks around Central Minnesota. The walks, sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association, raise awareness and funds, and educate people about the appropriate response to Alzheimer's dementia. We've come far since those days of labeling Alzheimer's sufferers as "old fools" or speaking of their condition as "going gaga."


Do you know that for thousands of years the symptoms of this type of dementia were lumped into the category we now call "senility," a synonym meaning, "deterioration of physical strength or mental functioning, especially short-term memory and alertness as a result of old age"? Forgetfulness and memory loss, language difficulty, irritability, aggression, combativeness, and mood swings were thought to be normal aging. In fact, the origin of the word "senile" is the Latin word "sen," meaning, "old man" (Dictionary.com). Only after 1902 when German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer identified the symptoms as disease in a 50-year-old woman was "and disease" added to the definition. Today we know that this disease in not just an "old-timer's disease," that there is something called "early-onset" dementia, which can be caused (but not always) by the disease known as "Alzheimer's."


These myths about the disease are busted on the Alzheimer's Association's website at www.alz.org. The site also features "10 Signs of Alzheimer's," which can help families explain "What's wrong with Dad?" and "How come Grandma doesn't know me?" and "Why is Mom acting so childish?" Do some research and check out the site.


It is interesting that, while I was researching the meanings and roots of various words related to the disease, I came across "doddering, doddery, gaga" as words for "senility." "Gaga" is also a synonym for "demented," and has its origin in the French "old fool." This usage is usually derogatory, in the same category as "crazy, daft, disordered, insane, mad, maniac, etc." and in the informal "daffy, loony, bonkers, cracked" and the slang "batty, buggy, cuckoo, fruity, loco, nuts, wacky, etc." (Dictionary.com).


However, those afflicted with dementia, including Alzheimer's, are loved ones not deserving of ridicule and mistreatment, but instead, should be given proper, patient, and very necessary care as their bodies and minds deteriorate. Elder and Alzheimer's - dementia care expert Erin Bonitto of Gemini Consulting in Cold Spring, notes on her website at www.gemini-consulting.org that "Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease destroy language centers and short-term memory. But the person is still in there." All the more reason why it's important that there is an Alzheimer's Association and that it encourages people whom have been touched by the disease to raise awareness and funding for research and education.

So, "walk on" this weekend girls and guys, knowing that the steps you take are part of a longer journey on a historical continuum to the final elimination of this wicked disease and to a greater recognition that sufferers are not "old fools" that have gone "gaga." They're our friends and our loved ones, deserving of our care and respect.

By marymbelisle

(Comments are welcome. Click on the blog's title to activate the comment screen.)

WORD FOR THE DAY "dementia" (n.) Psychiatry. Severe impairment or loss of intellectual capacity and personality integration due to the loss of or damage to neurons in the brain. (dictionary.com) Example sentence: "Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia." September is Alzheimer's Action Month, and today is Alzheimer's Action Day. Wear purple to show your support, and visit www.alz.org/mnnd/.


Cars. Keys. Dementia.


“I’ve got to get my car ready for winter,” says my 84-year-old father, with some agitation. “What’s the oil test at?  Thirty below?”
      I wonder if I should play along at this point or if I should begin the inevitable argument about a certain elderly man who’s not allowed to drive anymore.  I choose the latter; Dad has to be reminded, again.  Maybe, one day, the information will move into his long-term memory.
      “Dad, I’ve had the car into the garage, and everything’s fine,” I begin, but Dad interrupts.
      “I’ve gotta have my car.   I’ve got things to do.  I’ve got to get on the road.”
      Since I need to get some idea of where Dad’s mind is today, I ask him about why he needs to get on the road.
      “You know why,” he says with some disgust, no doubt wondering how I could have been so silly to have forgotten.  “I’m in business.  I can’t sell if I don’t have my car.”
      We’ve been playing a shell game with Dad’s car since a year ago, when we finally moved him to assisted living, 150 miles from his home on Pokegama Lake in Northern Minnesota.  First, it stayed at a garage at my sister’s summer lake home next door.  Then, my brother took it to his apartment in Grand Rapids and parked it in the street.  (He cleaned it of the dog hair, styrofoam leftover boxes from various restaurants, assorted pieces of trash, and piles of used Depends.  –  How and where on earth was Dad able to change his pants while on the road?)  Next, we had it towed to St. Cloud when our brother wasn’t “looking;” (Our brother wasn’t convinced that Dad couldn’t drive anymore, and we were afraid he’d bring it down to the assisted living place for him.)  So, the car ended up in my driveway, on my mother’s insurance and with the title in mom’s name.  When Dad would come to visit my home, we’d drive it over to mom’s apartment lot.
      “Dad, I’m sorry to remind you, but you cannot drive any longer.  I know it’s a disappointment, but . . .”
       “Now, you listen to me,” interrupts my beginning-to-get-agitated Dad.  “I can drive.  I’ve got a license right here from the State of Minnesota that says I can drive until 2010, and that’s what I’m gonna do as soon as I get out of here.”
      He pulls his wallet out of a pocket and stabs it with his finger for emphasis.
      So, this is my cue. I should now expect a litany from Dad about everything that’s bothering him – he needs to go home, who gave me permission to take care of his money (“It’s MY money, My father gave that to me.”) he wants his car, the food at the place isn’t any good, it’s way too cold in the apartment, he’s got to get home for Christmas, he’s got equipment to take care of...
      Dad’s got dementia, with some Alzheimer’s. His untreated high blood pressure over many years caused small “silent” strokes. Clinically, it’s called “multi-infarct dementia.” We didn’t know what was wrong with Dad, but we noticed him changing while he was still in his fifties. Not a pretty sight. Not a great experience for us. In fact, often there was violence. For almost 30 years, the family’s picked up the pieces of all of Dad’s subsequent losses – business, home, land, legacy. Yet, Dad’s never “lost” us. We’ve always been there for him, even when his behaviors pushed us away for our own safety or mental/emotional health.
      Now, he’s aged, and for his health and because of his worsening dementia, we’ve taken away the car, and the keys, and the lake that he loves ...
      “We love you, Dad,” I say, holding my ground. “That’s why you can’t drive.”
      I turn and hurry out of the apartment before my Dad takes a swing at me.

By marymbelisle

(Comments are welcome. Click on the blog's title to activate the comment screen.)


WORD FOR THE DAY "speech" (n.) 1. th faculty or power of speaking; oral communication; 2. the act of speaking; 3. something that is spoken; 4. a form of communication in spoken language, made by a speakere before an audience for a given purpose; 5. a single utterance of an actor in the course of a play." (dictionary.com)


Six Ways to Improve Your Next Speech


“Pass this jobs bill.” The repetition of that sentence eight times within President Obama’s address to the joint sessions of Congress last evening (Thursday, September 8th) was meant to punctuate a call to action and reinforce the topic of the speech. Jon Favreau, the President’s speechwriter, knows his craft well, and the President knows how to deliver. When you give your next presentation, will your audience think "mush mouth," or "great speech"? Here are six ways to improve your own speech or presentation.

1. Know your audience. Humorist writer Garrison Keillor knows how to use the residents of central Minnesota as the source of his humorous tales of Everyman (and Everywoman). Many believe he incorporates Norwegian Lutherans into his tales to broaden his audience and deflect some of the sting of his observations on the small-town behavior of the large German Catholic community. Your audience will help you decide on the topic, style and tone of your presentation. Remember: If you’re not comfortable or practiced with humor, don’t attempt it.


2. Find a provocative grabber sentence and/or approach. This could be a challenging statement, question, quote, or large gesture. It is important that it engages your audience, pulling them into your enthusiasm for the subject and piquing their curiosity about what’s coming next. Note that the President and his writer could have chosen to begin the speech with this sentence, used after a paragraph of introductory, expository copy, “We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”


3. Memorize every word of your introduction and conclusion. The intro is an important stage setter. The conclusion leaves the audience with a final impression. Freeing yourself of the script will allow you to make good use of eye contact and effectively reduce the distance between you and your listeners. Your words will carry more sincerity and authenticity and thus, be more effective.


4. Write the text with the knowledge that it is to be spoken. Simple words and shorter sentences will help you avoid tongue twisters and verbal trip-ups. Often, a word ending in a consonant flows more readily into a word beginning with a vowel and vice versa. (Note: You’ll encounter these as you write, so, no need to attempt to prepare for them beforehand. Example: “to attempt to.” Try that phrase out loud.) Vary the length of your sentences to add interest via the rhythm of your speech. Use alliteration, and don’t be afraid to insert a little rhyme (with stress on “little.”) Create an interesting flow to your words by changing up sentence lengths. Repeat certain words, phrases, or sentences for further impact.


5. Know your subject matter. Vague statements have weak impact.  Since your goal is to share something of substance, you must do your homework to deliver on that audience expectation. President Obama has a staff of researchers and data miners to assist him. Of course, you don’t. So, find at least two major works as your main resources, with additional, smaller supporting pieces of information rounding out your bibliography. If you’re using a PowerPoint screen, resist the urge to read from it. Use it only to reiterate major points or to give detailed information that is too difficult to outline via speech alone.


6. Practice. Practice. Practice your speech out loud. Pitch up the endings of your sentences so their points won’t be lost in a mumble. Vary the volume for dramatic emphasis. Be energized. Remember: The more your practice your speech, the more comfortable with it you will be. Don’t put your audience into the position of suffering with you, or for you, or because of you due to an ill-prepared presentation.


Thus, many of us don’t have prestigious speechwriters like Jon Favreau to craft our words, nor do our persuasions carry the fate (or weight) of the American economy, as does President Obama’s. However, if our words ARE WORTH SAYING and REPEATING, then, they’re worth improving through speech writing and presentation techniques, or possibly, through the use of a professional writer. Mush mouth or great speech? It's your choice.

© mary macdonell belisle ­– writerforhire


RELATED STORIES AND POSTS, regarding content of the Obama speech:

“The Nation: Obama’s Speech Changes Conversation,” Ari Berman, Minnesota Public Radio, September 10, 2011



“Obama Urges Congress: ‘Pass this jobs plan right away”


By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY "value" (n.) "1. relative worth, merit, or importance; 2. monetary or material worth, as in commerce or trade; 3. the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged or in terms of some medium of exchange." (dictionary.com)


Figure the cost when businesses don't value a pro writer.


Ask yourself, "what does it cost?"


What does it cost to have a grammatical error on a direct mail letter or postcard? to run a radio or print ad schedule with no clear call to action? to display a profile on social media that's riddled with bad spelling and word choice? to distribute a press release written by an amateur? to post web copy that's punctuated and structured so randomly that the viewer can't follow the message or navigate the site with ease?


What does it cost to under value a writer?


It costs a business in credibility, effectiveness, marketing and advertising dollars, and ultimately, CUSTOMERS.


Even though it's sometimes difficult to put a price on the use of a professional writer, clearly, a writing pro adds value if only to stop practices that sabotage its efforts to reinforce image, send clear messages, encourage action, and grow customers.


So, what is it costing you to not recognize the value of a writer?



By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY "grabber" (n.) 1. a person or thing that grabs; 2. Slang. Something attention-getting or sensational; 3. a mechanical device for gripping objects; etc." Root. "grab" 1. to seize hold of something; 2. to arrest; catch; etc. (dictionary.com) Example: "Make the first sentence of your written piece a grabber."

Seize readers' attention with five "grabber" suggestions

Duller than dull? Cliched? Inaccessible? You have three to 10 seconds to capture and keep a reader's attention. So, don't blow it through your own lack of attention to techniques guaranteed to help your writing gain interest. Here are a few suggestions for creating effective grabbers:


1. Choose vivid words or phrases. Remember, "it's" and "there is," "there's," "there are" are NOT memorable starters.


2. Experiment with approaches. Challenge or make an outrageous statement, or raise a question. Also, a play-on-words or alliteration can pique curiosity. Humor is great, but people respond to the attempt in various ways. What you think is a hoot, others may find offensive.


3. Keep the sentence short.  Short sentences - seven words or less - tend to have energy. Readers get bogged down in multisyllabic words. Often, those words don't sound as sincere as plain speech. So, KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid.)


4. Use subject / verb construction. Beware of the "prepositional parade," a label coined by Dr. Richard Andersen, author of "Powerful Business Writing Skills." Here's an example: "On a ragged shoreline across a placid lake and along a tract of cattails below an old boathouse lived a cranky mallard." Two prepositional phrases MAXIMUM.


5. Plain English, please.  This speaks to #4. Avoid jargon, buzzwords, and cliches.

Interesting, vivid, and personal language that is free of jargon and long linking phrases is your goal when writing an intriguing introductory sentence meant to GRAB the interest of your readers.


(Here are a few cliches I considered for the beginning of this short article: "Stop them in their tracks; say it like you mean it; snooze, you lose." All would have been appropriate but grossly overused.)


By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY "peevish" (adj.) [pee' vish] "1. cross, querulous, or fretful, as from vexation or discontent; 2. showing annoyance, irritation, or bad mood; 3. perverse or obstinate." (dictionary.com) Example: "My father would often utter a peevish refrain about his sore feet ... over and over again."


A PEEVISH refrain about gouty feet, yet again


“I’m not going,” says my 84-year-old father, beginning his peevish refrain about his feet ... again.  “My feet hurt.”
      Not this morning, I say to myself as I try to complete this 6:30 a.m. wake-up-and-get-ready telephone call to the nursing home. We don’t have time to review the importance of Dad’s keeping this 8:00 a.m. doctor’s appointment.  
      “Dad, you have this appointment so that we can take care of your feet,” I keep my voice measured and calm.  “You want to get out of that wheelchair, don’t you?”
      “Well, can’t we just set another one?” he petulantly asks.
      “It will take us weeks to get another appointment, Dad,” I explain, keeping a whine in check.  “Your doctor is going to prescribe some medication for your gout, then, you’ll feel better.”
      “Don’t have gout,” he says, exasperated. “Scraped my foot against the side of the tub and hurt it.  I think I sprained it or something.”
      Why is “gout” is such an evil word with my father?  Does it conjure up images of a rotund glutton, chewing on a huge turkey leg, fat dribbling down his chin and onto his portly, covered-in-stains belly?
      I tell my father I’m sorry he doesn’t remember, but when he went to the doctor five months ago for that foot injury, the doctor had said it MIGHT be a sprain and to stay off of it, apply cold packs, and take Tylenol. He’d referred Dad to a rheumatologist because the red, swollen second toe on his other foot was probably gout.
      “I don’t have gout,” my father had said.  “never have.”  
      Yet he went to the specialist and seemed a little more convinced, at least of the toe, when the woman doctor showed him photos of what gout actually looked like and had him compare it to his own toe.  Yep. Red. Swollen. Mottled with circular, round impressions. Extremely painful to the touch and throbbing with every beat of Dad’s pulse.  Non-committal as ever, my father had only grunted.
      “What’s the matter with this other foot?” Dad had asked her, challenging.  “I scraped it on the side of the tub when I took a bath.”
      Picking up the swollen foot and intently looking at the outside edge toward the pinkie and then, to the red knuckle of the big toe, Dr. Susan did not hesitate with the diagnosis. “Gout.”
      “That’s not gout.  That?” my father had exclaimed, jabbing the air with his pointer finger toward the offending foot.  “I hit it on the tub.”
      Dr. Susan slowly explained that, when my father had scraped his foot against the side of the tub, he had aggravated the crystallized uric acid nodules in his blood.  These nodules had caused the swelling and pain, especially when any pressure had been put on them.
      My father had assumed a “wait-and-see” attitude and had refused to speak for the duration of the visit, allowing me to take the prescription, written for one intense week of three medications with challenging names like Prednisone, Allopurinol, and Colchicine.
      Through the subsequent weeks, the feet and toes healed; the medication kept his gout in check – until just recently. Dad experienced another gout flare, and we were back to an old, familiar conversation.
      “OK, Dad, humor me,” I beg.  “I’ve got the appointment all set.  Afterward, I’ll take you to breakfast”
      “Well, in my opinion, my foot hurts because I banged it on the tub . . .  I sat down, which I shouldn’t have done because my knee doesn’t work worth a damn, and as soon as I sat, I knew I couldn’t get up, but I grabbed the side of the tub . . .”
      “Um-hum.  Yes, Dad.  Uh-huh.” I’ve already heard the story many times.   “ . . . and you scraped your gouty foot trying to get up. . . five months ago,” I mutter under my breath.
      “I don’t have gout,” my father repeats the mantra.  “You’re gettin’ me mad.”
      “Dad, I’ll pick you up at 7:45.”  We really have to get off the phone.”
      “Now listen, I want this taken care of,” says my father of his painful foot.  “But I guess you’ve got your own opinion.”
      In my opinion, some things are not worth yet another circular argument.  I say nothing.
      “So when are you going to pick me up?” Dad finally asks . . .

© mary macdonell belisle

By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY “Pokegama” (poh KEG’ uh muh) (n.) name of two lakes (at least) in northern Minnesota, one of which is near Grand Rapids. Meaning: (Ojibwa) “many fingers, many bays” also, “spider.” Example: "Governor Dayton will fish the Opener this weekend on Lake Pokegama, Grand Rapids.”



During summers at the lake of my childhood, my siblings and I were always referred to as “the cabin kids” by our cousins.  We called them “the other MacDonells.” Our clan occupied acreage along the shores of Poole’s Bay on a large northern Minnesota lake called “Pokegama,” which we were told by our parents meant “spider” in the Ojibwa language. It was a marvelous place in which to grow, beautiful with its white and Norway pine, birch trees and sumac, its expansive and every-changing winds and water, wooded and poison ivy infested Nesbitt and Drumbeater islands, and Tioga No. 2 iron mine – located across the bay from our home, just beyond a shallow channel of lily pads and cattails.  Our combined MacDonell acres comprised the summer playground of our youth and the site of many adventures.

By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY "genuine" (adj.) "1. unquestionably not false, copied, or adulterated; 2. free from pretense or hypocrisy; (syn.) authentic" (Random House Dictionary)


Five steps to more genuine letter writing

A mistake people make when facing a letter writing project (capital “W” and capital “P”) is to put their heads into a lofty place, steeling themselves for a difficult task. Sentences get longer. Bigger descriptive words are used, often taken from the Thesaurus. Tone becomes more formal; some would say “stiff.” Be genuine if you want the best results. Consider these steps in the process:


    1. Identify the recipient.  Your approach will differ, depending on your reader.  “Dear Mom” is different from a “Dear John,” as is a “To whom it may concern” and one that begins with “Dearest Love.”


     2. Understand the reason for your letter.  This speaks to “results.” You can write to inform, educate, demonstrate, win the argument, persuade, move the reader to act, express sympathy, go for the laugh, and more.


     3. Choose your tone. Match it with the objective in #2. It’s important that your writing is conversational, however, the approach can be casual or formal. (This  is created with your word choice and sentence length.) A condolence letter would not begin with a joke or use short sentences, bursting with exclamation marks and flip statements. Nor would you move someone to action by using long, laborious sentences full of detailed, descriptive copy.


     4. Be sincere. People don't want to be pushed or sold to, bullied or boondoggled. Let your words and ideas speak clearly, honestly, and to the point. After all, you have something important to say and want the reader to consider your words openly and honestly as well.


     5. Use comfortable language.  This speaks to #4. If you never say “utmost,” then, don't use it. Instead, use “complete.” Never say “endeavor”? Then, use “try.” To communicate most effectively, make your words REAL.


     To write the most effective letter possible, project your true character and share an honest conversation with words and ideas that are the most comfortable for you and the recipient. PS: Remember to proof your letter.

By marymbelisle

WORD FOR THE DAY "block" (n) 1. an obstacle or hindrance; 2. a solid mass of wood, stone, etc.; 3. a platform from which an auctioneer sells; 4. a part enclosing one or two pulleys; 5. a quantity taken as a unit; 6. a small section of a city; etc. Also, (v) to obstruct or hinder.


Use these 10 techniques for overcoming writer's block

Do you have trouble starting an important writing activity? Do you find yourself stuck midway through your writing project? This "writer's block" can be caused by distraction, perfectionism, enxiety over a deadline, stress due to life's cares, and even a lack of discipline. Sometimes, we do so much mental editing that we get nothing on the page. Here are 15 suggestions for handling writer's block.


1. Get rid of distractions. Shut the office door. Turn off the talk radio. Instead, turn on the classical, easy listening, or jazz.


2. Set up a ritual. A certain time of day, a particular musical piece you play, quiet time to clear the mind, a mug of strong coffee at hand, the desk set up "just so," whatever puts you in the right mindset for writing.


3. Write every day. Make it a habit.


4. Use visual prewriting techniques. Mind map or cluster. Gather words and ideas on a notepad in diagram form, each idea enclosed in a circle from which radiate other circles filled with words/ideas. Or, use note cards, placing a single idea on each card, rapidly, as the thoughts/words come. Then, organize the clusters or cards into a rough outline.


5. Begin with a rough outline, placed next to the computer.


6. Write with a particular person in mind. This makes focusing much easier.


7. Take a break. Go for a short walk, jog in place, or dance around the office. Or, meditate, surrounding yourself with silence.


8. Write something radically different. Write extemporaneously with a word taken from the dictionary. Write quickly about something you know well. Write a back story to a news headline. Write some bad doggerel poetry.


9. Force yourself to move on. If you're stuck on a word, use the wrong one, making a note (word choice) and highlighting it for editing.


10. Stop writing in the middle of a sentence or paragraph. Used for a long piece that you plan to continue writing at a later time. Hemmingway used this technique.


There are even more techniques used by writers, some variations of those listed above. Please share your ideas.