E-mail — critical communication or clutter?

We send dozens and dozens of e-mail from Quixtar each month.  Some are transactional — to acknowledge an order or a registration.  Others may be sent as a result of behavior – Artistry purchasers might receive e-mail about a new product in that line.  Some might be sent simply because an IBO is a Platinum or a Silver Producer.  And that doesn’t even take into account versions in different languages.

So as the number of e-mail we produce and send continues to rise, I have to ask — is this a critical form of communication that helps your businesses or just more clutter in your in-box?


You’re stranded on a desert island…

This is one of my favorite games to play with friends….you're stranded on a desert island and you can only bring five books or five movies or five CDs with you.  It's a good conversation starter as you find out what's really important to people and what sort of literature, music, or films they'd choose.  Oh, and "greatest hits" or compilations don't count!

I want to propose a different version for the purpose of conversations here in the Zone.

You're stranded on a desert island but you have an opportunity to get a lift back home —


At last, spring comes to West Michigan!

It's been such a spectacular weekend here in West Michigan that I haven't spent much time looking at the blogs.  Instead, to celebrate Earth Day, we've been planting trees and sprucing up our little corner of the world.

Here is one of the dozen trees we planted in the woods…


One of the columbine we planted in a spot that's in the shade most of the day….


And some of the Girl Scouts we met at the "Bag It" drive for Goodwill Industries. We started Saturday with a visit to the recycling center (because we don't have curbside service where we now live) and then by bagging up gently used but no longer needed clothes, toys, and household items for this annual drive.   

And, we paid visits to the yards of our neighbors that our dog is known to frequent, to make their places a little nicer as well.  (I'll spare you photos of this activity.)  Any excuse to be outside in the sunshine and temps in the 70s!






A sister’s story

As you know from an earlier post, Artistry's Beauty Begins with Heart program is referenced in a Redbook feature about autism as that program helps raise funds that support Easter Seal programs that benefit autistic children and adults.  The feature includes the stories of several mothers of autistic children and their different perspectives, ranging from fear and confusion to acceptance of how their children are different.  These stories hit home for me as my brother, Bob, is autistic. 

Bob started speaking clear words and short sentences when he about a year old, sparking my parents to believe he was a bit of a genius. He abruptly stopped speaking and interacting with them at about 15 months, shortly after I was born.  He has spoken few words since. This was the early 60s, when the diagosis and treatment of autism was in its infancy.

There was much heartache for my parents, as they traveled near and far to find an answer to what was wrong with their son who ceased to speak, who wouldn't maintain eye contact, who rocked incessantly and would toss and turn all night. They went to the Mayo Clinic, to most of the Chicago hospitals, to Indianapolis, to any referral they could get.  They got a staggering array of diagnoses, from deafness, to mental retardation, to blindness, to the absolute worst…that my brother was the way he was because he had a cruel and unloving mother.  That one was not only almost criminally negligent,  it also didn't explain why my younger brother and I were normal, happy toddlers.  I wish this was an exception but many parents in that era were "blamed" for their children's disability.

Bob was about seven when the right label was pinned to him — autistic.  We knew little then and it would be a long time before we knew more.  There were disruptions big and small to our little lives.  Bob liked to tear paper and shake it in his hand, creating a gray blur.  The kind of paper didn't matter…newspapers, bills, library books.  I think my parents replaced much of the Garyton Elementary School library over the course of our time there.  And then there was wrapping paper.  We were the only family in the neighborhood where on Christmas morning, the kids could get up before the parents and unwrap their gifts – that is we could after several Christmases when Bob woke up first and unwrapped everyone's presents.  After that, we were on our own.  Until we realized there was no Santa, anyway, then our presents could be hidden away and we'd go to a closet rather than the Christmas tree.

Our family life was different than most, but to us it was normal.  But there were times that I wanted nothing more than a "regular brother."  The worst for me was in the fourth grade, when I was struggling with math homework and had literally labored hours on some long division problems.  I finished the homework and went to my room for a piece of paper to recopy the problems and my answers.  When I came back my homework was in shreds.  I asked my mother to give me the answers, as she knew I'd already worked them out myself.  She told me that wouldn't be fair, because then she would be doing my homework for me.  Which of course sent nine-year-old me into a tantrum about what wasn't fair!

There were other peculiaraties.  Many autistic children and adults need rigid routines around mealtimes, sequence of events, and even placement of objects.  My brother had to have the soap dish and the toothbrush holder in our bathroom exactly 3 3/4 inches apart and both cocked to a 47 degree angle.  Believe me, we used to measure them to check Bob's precision. If anyone moved either object he seemed to be able to sense it and would immediately return to the room to put them "right" again.  Even today he needs predictable patterns to his day to be happy and comfortable.   

But there were joys as well.  Teaching Bob how to ride a bike, a skill he enjoys to this day. Watching my younger brother go after kids who had the ignorance and audacity to tease Bob for being different (one incident in particular when my brother, then six, jumped on the back of a high schooler and basically started pummeling him.)   Seeing  Bob  at his manual typewriter, typing out commercial jingles and taglines (one of his favorites…Winston Tastes Good Like a Cigarette Should) and laughing at each as he reread them.   And because we were kids and didn't always do the right thing, letting Bob take the fall for something for which my younger brother or I were really to blame. If someone had eaten too many cookies  or something got broken, well, Bob couldn't defend himself. (As you might expect, this didn't last long before my parents caught on.)  But most of all, learning that inside everyone there's something special, even if it's very hard to see.  And learning to stand up for those who can't defend themselves.

And we became part of a community of other families seeking answers about autism.  People we never would have met otherwise and friendships and support we came to cherish. 

Today Bob works at a sheltered workshop where he does various jobs like sorting objects — nuts, bolts, different sizes and types of things — for different companies.  It provides the structure and routine that he needs. He still lives at home with my mother, but his social workers are working with him on skills he'll need when someday he'll need to move to a group home or other living arrangement.  My mom realizes the time will come when he'll need to move out  because she'll be unable to care for him.  But she's not ready to let him go, not yet. 

Today early intervention and advanced therapies mean a whole different world for people with autism.  While the cause or causes are still uncertain, there are remarkable programs like those offered by Easter Seal that mean a diagnosis isn't a sentence to social isolation.   I wish these programs would have been around when my brother was young, but I'm grateful and proud to support Easter Seals in its mission to help other children and families affected by autism. 

Go to to find out how you can help.



What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?

That's one of my favorite Elvis Costello songs and the soundtrack for my day, because today started with some  


Guten Tag to my friends in Munich

That's the full extent of my command of the German language, but I wanted to send an in-language hello to my communications colleagues from Alticor and Amway affiliates around the world who are gathered in Munich this week for a communications summit.

I'd hoped to be with all of you but unfortunately some pressing assignments back here kept me home this time.

The beauty of working for a company like Alticor is that we can work with and learn from colleagues around the world who offer different perspectives and ideas based on what's happening in their home markets.  You always leave these meetings overwhelmed and impressed by all that's happening with Amway worldwide and brimming with ideas for what we can do here.

I can't wait to hear more about your discussions and what's ahead for all of us.

PS - While you're here in the Zone, check out our newest blog — beauty tipsy


Your own beauty advisor…introducing beauty tipsy

You probably know someone who has a tip or a suggestion for your every beauty need.  A referral to a fabulous stylist.  Who does the best eyebrows in town.  Or who's already "shopped" the new dermatologist who promises miraculous results.  Someone who'll tell you that a color is all wrong for you, but will then share what will work with your coloring.

I know who my "someone" is…and now you do, too!

Allow me to introduce you to Tonya Mann, T$ (T-money) to her friends here in Communications and the lastest blogger to join the Opportunity Zone with beauty tipsy.

Tonya will help all of us separate fact from fiction and fads from fabulous in her new blog, which offers beauty tips for all of us.  And why the name beauty tipsy?  Because Tonya literally bubbles over with enthusiasm about beauty and there's nothing she'd rather share than a good tip!

Her day job is as beauty editor, creating all the copy for Artistry, NAO, Body Blends and all the other exclusive beauty brands offered by Quixtar.  In fact, Tonya has even had a hand (or a well chosen word or two) in naming many of the products you know and love.  But don't think this is all beauty and no brains; Tonya knows her stuff. 

Check out the blog and her posts from a video shoot happening this week in Minneapolis.  She'll take you behind the scenes of what's happening behind the cameras.  If it's anything like past shoots, it'll be an adventure you'll want to share!


Constructive, not destructive

I normally try to be a constructive force in the world around me.  And I usually succeed.  But last week I was tired and a bit frustrated, so instead of providing some constructive feedback I vented a little.  And I wasn’t very proud of it in retrospect, because I seek to be constructive rather than destructive, and to provide solid feedback that helps make things better.

Complaining isn’t productive, but feedback is.  And the choice you make — being constructive or being destructive — shapes what you create.

We each have an opportunity to make our little corner of the world a better place through what we do and say, in big ways and little ways.

So I tried to undo the bad deed by sharing some positive feedback and offering some constructive ideas for improvement.  I went back and reread the “transformational force” post of a few weeks back and decided to begin with the end in mind — to be outcome focused — and to center my remarks on what we collectively hoped to accomplish.

My daughters are currently squabbling over all sorts of things.  And did so during much of the weekend.  To reach some sort of detente, we worked out some agreements about how they’re going to interact with one another.  They also apply to the workplace as well!

  1. If you can’t think of something nice to say, keep thinking until something comes to you
  2. Just because someone hits you with a (fill-in-the-blank…shoe, rock, bat, ball, rude remark) doesn’t mean you have to hit back — it usually doesn’t make things any better
  3. “Whatever” is neither a clever or appropriate response to most situations
  4. When you don’t have the right response and blurt out something (again, fill-in-the-blank…mean, inappropriate, rude) ask for a ‘rewind’ and provide the right response
  5. If you give kindness, you’ll get it back in return


More power of the printed word: George Plimpton on giving a speech

Last week I offered a link to Kurt Vonnegut's "How to write with style," part of an old International Paper series on the "Power of the printed word."  That alone tells you how old this series is!

Here's another one…George Plimpton on giving a speech

My favorite line:  The more you sweat in advance, the less you'll have to sweat once you appear on stage.

As I remember more of the essayists, I'll share more of their work if I can find it online.  That is, unless I manage to find my treasure trove of circa 1980s newspaper and magazine clippings!


Foodie on the loose…meet the Rocktucky Chef

Few people would have the guts to invite our entire division over for a party.

There's only one person who's done that twice.

Meet Gregory Gronbacher, the newest blogger to join the Opportunity Zone as the Rocktucky Chef.

Inviting 60 people and their significant others over to their condo to try out a new recipe?  No sweat for this intrepid host.  Even when his oven went out days before the big event, he didn't blink as he went about preparations to serve a garlicky shrimp with ravioli.  

Gregory's a foodie without being a food snob.  If you bring something in he's got lots of questions about how you made it and what you used.  If you have to fess up to using a mix, he'll want to know where you got it because it was apparently good enough to fool him into thinking it was homemade.  And if you're looking for some gourmet item, he'll probably know where you can get it local or order it online.

If we're all divided into camps of people who eat to live or live to eat, I'm in the live to eat category.  My mother hated to cook but my grandmother began each day with the enthusiastic question, "what are we going to eat today?" I share her passion but lack the time to indulge it.   I'm hoping Gregory's blog will offer lots of food for thought and plenty of ideas for what we're going to eat!