Hurray on a Big Day!

Hurray on a Big Day!

Within every tradition and every culture, rites of passage occur. Here are some words I shared recently at such an occasion, a wonderful time to pause and reflect.


Dear One, in my mind’s eye, I see you…
Sitting on a little chair and listening attentively to your beloved Great Grandma G playing her piano. Often helping Great Grandma G find her walking cane so lovingly, so compassionately. Selling lemonade and cookies to passersby going to and from ballgames, charming all. Conducting a seder (ceremonial meal) with great competence and poise.

This family is very proud of you and love you dearly.

Your family past

Some in your family are no longer here, but we remember them.

I recall how your Great Grandpa B tidied up your Great Grandma H’s studio before and after every class. In these classes, your Great Grandma H created a healing atmosphere, showing great patience to all.

Your Great Grandpa S was up at the crack of dawn every morning, working each day to provide for his large family. He returned home from work with big bags of groceries to keep his family, and others welcomed into the house, well fed and well cared-for. Your Great Grandma G, as you well know, showered all who knew her with wit, wisdom, and music.

We remember your mom’s parents and your Uncle R, who recently passed away.

Your family present

Dear One, look around you, and you’ll see so many who love you. Your grandparents are guiding you to become what we call a mensch (a person of integrity and honor). You can learn a lot from them. They are devoted to each other, to their siblings, to their children, and to each of their grandchildren.

Your mom and your dad are here for you in every way. They want the best for you. We thank them and all who are congregated here today for supporting, teaching, and loving you.

You are our future

And now, Dear One, you have a job to do. Please continue to learn, to mature, and to develop into a contributing, responsible young woman. Do your part to make this community and this world better and brighter. Do so willingly, happily, and joyfully.

Now, let’s celebrate this wonderful day!

Remember I wrote about Froggy who wonders what made that annoying wart wander away? Well, every now and then, I think about Froggy and his human friends who experience wellness, somewhat mystified as to how the healing really occurred.
I committed to writing Froggy’s story and I’ve made some progress. I’ve dipped into my own well, my reservoir, my creative source for exploring wellness. I needed a place to hold what pokes through the gray matter and created a template for my new book. I simply took the file for my earlier book, stripped away the content, and had place savers for a book title, subtitle, front matter, chapters, and end matter. I had styles for headings, paragraphs, lists, and quotes. With a container all set to go, I pasted my start to Froggy’s story into a chapter. With the momentum building, I was on a roll.
About This Book started to take shape.

Wellness is all encompassing. It touches all aspects of one’s being. Wellness permeates—and transcends—the person. When one is well, there’s a sense of wholeness, a sense that all is right with the world.
Annoyances, irritations, aches, and pain subside, fade away, dissipate, and disappear. One becomes open to the light. One is free to attend to the good, the sacred, even the holy.
Experts in various disciplines know something about wellness. The doctor… The nutritionist… The athlete… The naturalist… The musician… The entertainer… All have their take on the subject.
Yet, the composite from the many disciplines is not the whole story. A mystical ingredient exists. In the process of writing this book, I am hopeful that the known ingredients of wellness and the mystical might just meet.

The Dedication helped me to establish a timeline.
With my late mother’s 100th birthday one year from now, I have a goal—to honor the occasion with a book in hand, one that serves as an expression of a daughter’s love and admiration.
Progress is sweet.
What I have, thus far, accomplished are little steps toward turning an idea into a book. Yet, little steps are steps nevertheless. Progress is sweet. I feel good.

One happy Froggy (courtesy of

One happy Froggy (courtesy of

Most years have 365 days, but 2016, with 366 days, is a leap year. And today, February 29, is the day that was added. Look before you leap, leaps and bounds, a quantum leap, leaping lizards, and leap frogs have come to mind throughout the day. Leap of faith has lingered longer than the other leaps.

A little story about Froggy has started to poke into consciousness.

One day, Froggy finds a wart, an imperfection, an irritant. Through a leap of faith, Froggy imagines a day when this wart will be gone, gone, gone! That day arrives, and Froggy ponders, “What happened?”

Today, I am taking a leap of faith that, in time, Froggy’s story will be written and published—right here!

Judy and Franken

Judy and Franken

Over the Thanksgiving holiday with siblings in the home where I grew up, I was delighted to see the beautiful cypress bench that my woodworker brother Larry crafted and placed in front of the house. We considered the text that would go on a plaque. Larry’s idea is to get to the point!

Back in Happy Days when families roamed this street, here resided the Shulmans, Ellisons, and Sohls. A ’57 Chevy in the driveway. Kids playing ball, riding bikes, going to music lessons. The Euclid of old, a different place, a different time.

When I arrived back home for our Christmas Day gathering, the bench was occupied. There sat Franken, the newest addition to the neighborhood. While getting acquainted, I had a thing or two to share about our family home, our refuge for five generations. As it turned out, Franken had some words to share with me.

Judy Talks to Franken

Franken, I love seeing you here, waving to the many passersby who are walking, biking, and driving on this busy street, often on their way to classes, work, ballgames, and activities at the nearby campus. Some fitness enthusiasts are passing by the house—and you—before crossing the street to climb the 176 steep steps that lead to a vista of the neighborhood and the city with its landmarks and parks, its drumlins and lakes.

When my Grandpa Shulman (also known as Poppy or Pa) bought this two-family home in the spring of 1951, he had lots of company. There was Grandma, who passed away before the year was over, two daughters—my mother Gertrude and my Aunt Jeanette, my dad Sam, and four Ellison and three Sohl kids. In time, another Ellison baby added to the tumult of a lively family home.

We Ellisons lived upstairs, and our Pa and the Sohls lived downstairs. It made no difference whether you lived up or down, since doors were rarely closed and never locked. Pa, a very handy man, always seemed to be painting, wallpapering, chipping plaster, making a little hole into a big one in one room or another. If there wasn’t enough to do upstairs or downstairs, he was outdoors, pouring concrete to repair the sidewalk.

Read More

With the support of its sponsors—both Impact Earth and Education Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Executive Leadership at St. John Fisher College—Thinking Forward, a speaker’s troupe I helped start, celebrated National Swap Ideas Day on September 10 with a program that included talks from three Millennials and a dance performance from the Avenue D Afro Latino Dance Group.

The Millennials, the young dancers (aged four to 13 years old), and the more seasoned participants in the room all wrote out their answers to the following question, shared it with someone in the room, and placed it in an Idea Box. Here is what they wrote, clustered into various categories.

What is needed to transform this world into a richer, more vibrant place?

Friends and neighbors

My idea is to move more and smile.

My idea is to give more hugs because everyone is struggling with something and hugs are free!

Make more connections to change other people’s lives!

My idea is to be a friend and be grateful. How to be grateful? That means you need to be nice!

We can say hi to people we pass on the street and our neighborhood.

Say hello to everyone in the neighborhood.

We need to get to know our neighbors first and then go beyond and introduce ourselves to someone new!

Pet Introduction Day. A small group of people meet to introduce their pets and, in doing so, meet each other. It’s like a blind date for dogs or cats with people as the hosts. It would help single and elderly people with pets meet each other.


Have more food shares.

Start with a potluck with your neighbors.

Have community tool shares.

Swap houses.

Have one month of tech that’s free.


Find time during the year to donate energy, time, and resources to a cause that influences the local community. Get involved!

I would like more activities that allow us to get involved.

Use the Slow Road idea of getting up off your couch to motivate students to explore new ideas that will help everyone contribute to something positive for the community.

Invite others to come out and try something.

My idea is not to make things worse.


Clean garbage in the street and keep it clean.

I can clean and keep promises and respect everyone around me.

One thing I could do to improve my community is to have a cleaning group every week to clean my community.


We should have more police present in the community.

Create a safe public place for people to gather and exchange ideas on a regular basis.

No more violence in the world.

Parks and gardens

I love vertical community parks and gardens.

I would like to see more community gardens.

My idea is to start a neighborhood garden with all of my friends.


My idea is to make my school a better place.

Arts and music

Have people tell their stories so everyone knows what everyone else is doing.

Do storytelling.

I think everyone should learn to play a drum.

Have music in the community. Different types of musically inclined people gather at various venues and play for each other.

To make the dance group a better place is to make sure that everyone comes on time and every day.

Have more community dance groups.


Bring your own reusable bags (BYOB) initiative.

Take compost buckets to work.

Do recycling in public schools. There is so much paper and waste.

Make a sustainable impact.


I would like to encourage everyone to know where chocolate comes from and what community is impacted. Read More

Julia Ward, Shenouda Associates Inc.

Julia Ward, Shenouda Associates Inc.

In the U.S. and Canada, Labor Day is a national holiday that’s celebrated on the first Monday in September. Though it was originally a way for laborers, workers, and unions to show their solidarity, it now typically signals the end of summer, the start of a new school year, and a day off to shop and take advantage of Labor Day sales. For me, this Labor Day is the perfect time to reflect on the work that Shenouda Associates Inc. has provided for the past 30 years, crafting technical, marketing, and business publications for our clients. Long-time Shenouda employee, Julia Ward, shares the wonders she worked in two recent projects.

Finding the right balance of detail

Challenge: A team at our client’s site that had been developing a complex medical device now needed to create an operator’s manual, which would be simple enough for first-time users and complete enough for those who were much more advanced. With input from all the team members, written in different styles, the source file included 200 dense, single-spaced pages. The team looked for guidance about how to make all this good information less intimidating and more approachable for our client’s customers.

Solution: The file grew even larger when Shenouda converted it to a user-friendly template with more headings and whitespace; then it started to shrink as we refined the text. Where possible, we simplified paragraphs into step-by-step procedures, tables, or graphics that could easily be skimmed. A Shenouda writer traveled cross-country to the client site to validate the steps in detail and to capture software screens and photos, both of which were later edited using Adobe Photoshop software. The more we learned, the more we were able to advocate for novice users and ask questions about gaps in the content, which resulted in Shenouda writing dozens of new pages.

Result: Although it ended up having about the same page count as the first draft, the final manual was more usable. Advanced users could skip the basics, and novices now had all the steps required to handle various situations that might arise in their work. Sometimes, as with this manual, a project requires both addition and subtraction to equal the right balance of detail.

Starting at the beginning

Challenge: While on the phone with less-than-happy customers whose products required repair, help desk agents quickly had to find the correct process to follow. Where did the customer live? Was the product new? What was its model? The help desk agents asked many questions from memory and then looked for the most appropriate Word file on their hard drive. Many steps in these long procedures overlapped. When managers changed the steps in one file, they couldn’t always remember to review and update all the related steps elsewhere.

Solution: Shenouda started where the help desk agents would: at the beginning. While converting the files to HTML and posting them on an Intranet site, we created a new Web page article (procedure) that would be the starting point for every call. From there, steps branched off to other linked articles, depending on the customer’s answers to questions.

Result: By editing to minimize inconsistency and repetition, we were able to make suggestions that streamlined the actual process steps, not just the way they were documented. Agents ended up with half as many processes, which were interlinked and organized in a more logical way. Managers had less work to do when maintaining content. Best of all, customers could have their concerns addressed more quickly, with consistency and confidence, resulting in a positive customer experience—good for the customer and great for our client.

We can help

Do you have a need for technical, marketing, or business publications that support your products, processes, and services? Tell us about it. We’re here to help!

Swap Ideas Day Flyer-05

Today, I’m thinking about an upcoming event. With some ideas percolating in my cranium and others made visible here in print, reaching out to you seems like a worthwhile pursuit, especially since this event is an idea swap.

A Thinking Forward event

In the U.S., there seems to be a day dedicated to just about everything, including swapping ideas. To celebrate National Swap Ideas Day on September 10, Thinking Forward, a speaker’s troupe that I co-founded, has assembled a very impressive group of innovators, all in the early stage of their careers. They will share their ideas on what is needed to transform this world into a richer, more vibrant place and convey how they have put these ideas to work in a specific area of interest in their communities. The talks are about the protection, growth, and renewal of land and people; an economy where community is wealth; zero waste; a multidisciplinary approach to connecting people to places; and solar technology.

As a balance to these serious topics, a group of young performers will dance Reggaeton from Puerto Rico, providing a look at how owning one’s culture through the arts can enrich one’s life and community.

I know that our winning cast of presenters will shine and illuminate our knowledge of subjects in which they care deeply.

My role

Up to now, my role has involved finding a venue; assembling the speakers; collecting, drafting, and proofing content for promotional pieces; adding to our distribution list; and spreading the word via social media.

I still have another important task before me—develop a 10-minute idea swap activity that gets everyone thinking, participating, and sharing. The room will likely be set up with small groups at tables, making interaction easy. Imagine that you are sitting at one of the tables, along with several friends and colleagues. You are listening to the instructions for the idea swap activity.


Here are my preliminary ideas for an idea swap activity. Read More