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New State Fair Food Facts List For Diabetics

2 Sep

     As a father of two daughters with Type 1 diabetes I know first hand the minefield that fairs and festivals are for eating and bolusing for insulin coverage.  

     Get it right, and it’s a wonderfully enjoyable day.  Get it wrong, and the entire family pays a price. But at best, getting it right is a guessing game.  Those nutritional food apps we carry on our smart phones cover commercially made food products, but not always the treats from the mini-donut stand at your state fair.

Fair Food 1

Health Partners dietitian Susan Marschke talking about the Cajun peel and eat shrimp as a zero-carb healthy food option at the Minnesota State Fair.

     Several years ago the dietitians at the International Diabetes Center in Minnesota published a Fair Food Facts list of all of the popular items at our Great Minnesota Get Together.  I produced a television story and a corresponding blog article about the list and to this day it is one of the most popular stories I’ve done.  But with constantly changing food items, the IDC team of dietitians decided to revisit and update their list.

   You’ll find the downloadable version at the top of this post.  

     “You look everywhere at the Fair and there’s somebody walking and eating food,” said Susan Marschke, a Registered Dietitian with Health Partners.

     “The one that surprises me is just anything that’s breaded and fried, like those fired Oreos or Twinkies, it’s already something that’s already really rich,” said Marschke.  

Food Facts 2.001

Figure 1

     Perhaps not all too surprising is those deep fried Oreo cookies are among the most popular novelty food items at the Minnesota State Fair.  The dietitians discovered they are also among the worst items on their new list. (Figure 1)   A serving of five cookies (because no one can eat just one) comes in at 108 carb and 891 calories. That’s a nutritional disaster for anyone watching carb intake, not to mention their calories. 

Fair Foods.003

Figure 2

     Equally as disastrous are the Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookies.  Yes, they’re the most delicious food item at the State Fair, and it doesn’t help that one can buy them in an overflowing pail.  But just three of these small treats are 42 carb and 270 calories. (Figure 2)  By the time you add that to other snacks at the fair, that’s a lot of extra insulin to cover the carbs, and if you misjudge the dosage or bolus, that person is going to feel pretty sick in no time.  

     “So I think one of the first things to think about when you plan a trip to Fair for anyone is really, is to pick and choose the things you really like and are really special and eat a little bit of that and share some of it,” said Marschke.

     It’s pretty sound advice.

     No one, especially parents, are trying to take the fun out of going to the fair.  But finding the right foods and the right insulin coverage can make all the difference in having a great day, or a miserable day.

     Hopefully this new Fair Foods Facts guide can help.  Have fun!


Wisdom Lives Here — a Tribute to Advertising Scholar Dr. John Eighmey

24 Sep

John Eighmey pix 3

My grad school advisor and main professor from the University Minnesota, Dr. John Eighmey, has just retired.  As the Mithum Chair of Advertising at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, John started and nurtured the professional masters program in strategic communication.  The following is the speech I was asked to give on behalf of the grad school alumni at John’s retirement celebration.

*     *    *

     There’s room on the second floor of Murphy Hall with a name attached to it.  It’s room 211.  And the name on the door is John Eighmey.

      On one of my last trips through Murphy in the spring I took a picture of the name on the door and instagrammed it with a simple caption:  “Wisdom lives here.” John Eighmey's Door

      A lot of “like” buttons were hit that day.  John, one of your former students commented with the words, “Good Turf.”

      To know John is to know his love for great metaphors.  This one worked.

      You created the turf where wisdom grows and lives are transformed.   And when you stood on the turf of the classroom there was no one better.   You often talked about “gift-like objects.”  And we laughed.  But we got it.  We got it because you were and are that gift-like object to us.

     You’ve performed so many roles in your professional career.  Scholar.  Advertiser.  Regulator.  Researcher.  Everyone in this room would strongly argue you saved your best role for last:  Teacher.

      We’ve all had teachers that made a difference.  That someone who held the magic keys to unlock the passions and excitement we didn’t know we had.  You taught us that insights were nothing more than truths hidden in plain sight.   And for most us as students, you made us see the insights in ourselves that no one else knew was there.  You held the keys and unlocked the locks.

     And what you taught us we can still recite in perfect memory.

     There’s Eighmey’s Law: In order for an advertisement to be effective it must get noticed.  And in order for it to get noticed, it must be different.

Myself and Dr. John Eighmey at his retirement celebration

Myself and Dr. John Eighmey at his retirement celebration

     John applied the same law to the formation of the master’s program in strategic communication.  He made it different.  He designed it as a cohort model.  I like to call it an agency model.  Because each one of  us in the cohort came from a different professional discipline where we served each other, taught each other, supported each other.  Failure was not an option.  I defy you to find any online program to meet the same rigor.

     For all the Hallmark cards you helped send, for all of the long distance phone calls you helped connect, for all of corporate profits you helped protect, for all of the consumer insights you helped reveal we know that your greatest work is in this room.

     John, you didn’t just teach, you transformed lives, built careers.

     You fearlessly taught us that, “When it doubt, rocket out.”

     Wisdom lives here.   And because of it, we’re all walking on good turf tonight.

#   #   #

Note: John is now retired, but still active in advertising analysis and criticism.  Follow his blog at the Psychology of Advertising.

“The Heart Can Never Mess You Up” — Speech Lessons From a Once Homeless Marine

4 Jun

      On paper, it was no contest.  The speakers list contained a short agenda of polished politicians and accomplished CEOs.  And then there was Jerry Readmond.

      “I have but one wish right now, that my anti-depression pill would kick in,” said Readmond.

      Those were his first words.

Former homeless veteran Jerry Readmond standing outside the historic Fort Snelling horse stables that will be converted into affordable housing for homeless veterans.  (Photo by Rod Wermager)

Former homeless veteran Jerry Readmond standing outside the historic Fort Snelling horse stables that will be converted into affordable housing for homeless veterans. (Photo by Rod Wermager)

       Hardly the opening line of a master orator.  And therein lies its simple genius—honesty.

       Jerry Readmond is a former Vietnam War Marine who long ago stopped carrying a rifle and instead carried a burden.  What the war didn’t break, inner demons did.  He spent time walking and living on the streets of Minneapolis, another member of our national embarrassment called the homeless veterans club. 

       If not for the Marine Corps instilling in him a life-long sense of pride and adaptability, Readmond admits he might not have survived. 

      That’s exactly why Readmond was added to the speakers list at the recent ground breaking for 58 new affordable apartments for homeless veterans at Fort Snelling.  The fact that he’s a Marine gives him respect.  His one-time homelessness gives him standing.  Aristotle called it ethos, or credibility.  But the pathos, or emotion was about to come from the soul.

      “I don’t read from notes, because the heart can really never mess you up.” Readmond said.

      He didn’t need notes. All he needed was a narrative, and his heart gave him one.  Here are some of the excerpts:

      “I asked Senator Hubert Humphrey one time, ‘Where does it start?’ And he shook my hand.  And having been here today and witnessing this, it hit me.  After all these years, it starts with a handshake.  There have been many, many, many, many hands shook here.

      “We can build all the buildings we want for our veterans, but I hope when we leave here you will think of this one word:  Affordable.  I’m in a place right now, I have my social security and I have my compensation from the V.A., the first and the fifteenth.  My rent is going to be over a thousand dollars a month and I was homeless.  I just want to be not a perfect example, but I like to be an example because I got my housing through HUD VASH [Housing & Urban Development – Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing].  That’s why I’m so passionate about this.  It takes the honor and the courage and the strength of a warrior to ask for help, that’s why we have a hard time getting them in the door. 

Jerry Readmond walking through the building that will be converted into affordable housing.  (Photo from Rod Wermager)

Jerry Readmond walking through the building that will be converted into affordable housing. (Photo by Rod Wermager)

      “That’s what we’re all doing here.  Martin Luther King, ‘I had a dream.’ And everybody that’s going to fill these halls and walk the grounds will able to say instead of living down by the river or under a bridge… every winter I just get scared.  Really, really, really scared. How many are they going to find under a bridge or down by a river, or in the bush, dead because they froze to death. 

     “Now I know when Martin Luther King said, ‘I have a dream.’  And, for me it is my dream would be that we can fill as many of these buildings here as possible with affordable housing. That we can build affordable housing all over.  When President Obama was first elected he said that he wanted to eliminate veteran homelessness.  And I thought to myself one word and it was short: right.  But by golly, it’s happening. 

      “But it was the handshake.  God bless our veterans and God bless the United States of America.”

      Pity any speaker who has to come next.  In this case, it was Minnesota’s U.S. Senator Al Franken.

     “Don’t anyone ever let me follow Jerry again,” said Franken.

Jerry Readmond and U.S. Senator Al Franken.  (Photo by Rod Wermager)

Jerry Readmond and U.S. Senator Al Franken. (Photo by Rod Wermager)

     Readmond’s were the only words anyone remembered.  Readmond aimed for the heart, everyone else aimed for the talking points.

     The lessons for speech givers and communicators alike are profound.  Powerful persuasion comes in the emotional metaphors delivered by people who have credibility.  In this case, it came from a disheveled man wearing a USMC t-shirt.

“I Lost My Best Friend Too.” A Speech Lesson From an Unlikely Source—Gov. Mark Dayton

25 May


    Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton put down the script this week.  The words that escaped the bondage of talking points prove the power of discourse that comes not from a page, but from one’s soul.

      On the political stage, even the corporate stage where every word spoken is weighed and measured, parsed and dissected, the governor displayed a moment of rhetorical brilliance—a teaching moment for leaders of all stripes. 

Peter Hobart Elementary School 4th graders Mohammed Fofana and Haysem Sani.  Both boys were killed in a land slide at Lilydale Regional Park in St. Paul, MN on May 23rd, 2013.

Peter Hobart Elementary School 4th graders Mohammed Fofana and Haysem Sani. Both boys were killed in a land slide at Lilydale Regional Park in St. Paul, MN on May 22nd, 2013.

      This was no ordinary audience.  No ordinary setting.   The gilded comforts of the governor’s capitol conference room were gone.   The clicking keyboards of reporters and the silent streaming of Tweets for a headline snacking world living in the moment were all as devoid as the hundreds of eyes staring back at him.

      Those eyes belonged to the classmates of two young boys who just lost their lives.  Mohammed Fofana and Haysem Sani were fourth graders at Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park.  Their simple field trip to Lilydale Regional Park in search of fossils ended with a rock slide.  The tragedy didn’t just suffocate two fourth grade boys, if left their entire school gasping for answers. 

       The governor didn’t have any. 

Gov. Mark Dayton talking to students at Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park, MN on May 24th, 2013

Gov. Mark Dayton talking to students at Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park, MN on May 24th, 2013

       Therein lies part of the simplistic strength of a message that was so powerful.  Before an entire school sitting cross-legged on the playground, the governor, like the school teacher he once was, bent down to talk to some of the kids at eye level.  Then getting up to the podium he did something nearly every executive of his stature never does—he stepped away.   Looking directly at the children he said these words:

       “At a terrible time like this, there’s nothing I can say.  There are no words that can make you feel better.  I know that because I lost my very best friend in an accident not unlike the one that took Mohammed and Haysem away from you.  He was hiking in a canyon in California and a rock slide came tumbling down.  It was raining a couple of days before and he was killed.

        I remember the horror I felt, I remember the shock, the disbelief.  And I remember greeting his wife and his daughter who is my God daughter, who was eleven years old.  And I said why, you know, why?  Why did this happen?  Why did not just a bad thing happen to a good person, but why did a terrible thing happen to a terrific person?  And in your school a terrible thing happened to a few young boys and two more who were injured.  And we pray for their recovery.”          – Mark Dayton

     For exactly three minutes and ten seconds Mark Dayton wasn’t a chief executive, he was a chief grandfather.   His own story of personal loss transcended the moment for those children and their parents.  Like a warm blanket, he covered their frailties by exposing his own.    He didn’t have an answer.  But he had a connection.  He had a narrative.

     What makes this moment especially remarkable is that Dayton, like many executives, is a leader who often struggles to find the right words.  Lofty oratory is not among his chief gifts.  But his brief moment with those Peter Hobart students this week was a masterful example of the power of speech when one searches for a connection and a story to tell. 

     The teaching moment for communicators and leaders alike is the essential need to always consider one’s audience.   In this case they didn’t need words on a page; they needed words from the heart.   Dayton put down the script and let his soul fly free.   

      Speech class is dismissed.

90,000 Stars — Reflections on a Fallen Marine.

1 Dec


             The tears that dropped like rain on a Minnesota prairie didn’t come from the cool air blowing on tired eyes.  They came from the heart.  Many more came from the soul.

             “Tim, I’ve never seen anything like this,” said the prideful farmer looking across the prairie from the base of St. Patrick of Cedar Lake Catholic Church. 

St. Patrick of Cedar Lake Catholic Church.  The final resting place of Lance Cpl Dale Means.

St. Patrick of Cedar Lake Catholic Church. The final resting place of Lance Cpl Dale Means.

               “I can’t tell you how proud I am of this town.”  He didn’t have to say anymore.  The tears rolling off his cheeks filled the empty space where words disappear with the emotion of what only the eyes can see, what one’s soul can feel.                

             In this part of Scott County all roads lead to St. Patrick’s.  But on this day people only needed one, the one where 1,800 American flags pointed the way.

             When word spread days earlier that a certain son was coming home, it was hardly the celebration anyone wanted.  Dale Means, was the kind of man a small town takes pride in.  He was a son, a husband, and a United States Marine.  On November 18th, what pride couldn’t promise a road side bomb took away.  What Minnesota gave, Afghanistan claimed. 

Marine Lance Cpl. Dale Means.

Marine Lance Cpl. Dale Means.

             Tragically, no news travels faster than that of a fallen service member.  When Larry Eckhardt heard, he knew what he had to do.  He packed up his trailer full of 2,000 American flags and set out from his home in Little York, Illinois.

             “Well, I went to a soldiers funeral and there was probably pretty close to about two-thousand people there and only about 50 to a hundred flags,” Eckhardt said.  “I didn’t think that was right.”

             More than 400 miles later Eckhardt pulled into New Prague with a full trailer, a near empty gas tank, and a plea for help.  Bonnie Valek was among those who heard the call.    

Larry "The Flagman" Eckhardt

Larry “The Flagman” Eckhardt

             “Yesterday they had on the radio station, if they could get fifty volunteers, and I volunteered and they had well over a hundred on the snap of a finger,” Valek said.             

            In a little more than an hour, this community known for planting crops was planting flags.  By the time they were done, the sons and daughters of New Prague with the help of Larry the Flagman built a tri-colored wall of patriotism that stood 1,800 strong.  The flags didn’t just bring volunteers, they brought pride.  Pride brought everyone else.

             Among the people lining Main Street was a man in a leather jacket with a face sculpted by the cold fall wind.  Upon recognizing a familiar face from television he reached out his hand with a tight grip and said, “Thank you, Tim.  I’m so glad you’re here, people need to see this.”  He introduced himself only as Scotty, but like so many here the only name that mattered was that of the Marine they claimed as their own.

             “It’s amazing,” he said.  “When I heard about the funeral procession I had to come out.  At first I was one.  Then five minutes later I was ten.  Then I was 50.  Then 100.”    He paused and looked up and down the street.  “Now, I must be a thousand.”

             As the hearse carrying Lance Corporal Means’ body slowly crept past the gauntlet of people, pride, and flags, there was hardly a dry eye.  Jen Ophus was among those fighting off the tears.  

Flags lining the funeral procession route for Lance Cpl. Dale Means to St. Patrick of Cedar Lake Catholic Church.

Flags lining the funeral procession route for Lance Cpl. Dale Means to St. Patrick of Cedar Lake Catholic Church.

             “I think it’s… really impressive,” Ophus said.  “I think it’s something that we should all do and show our respect.  I don’t think it’s seen enough.”

             Further down the street, Ron Dols called it an awakening experience.  “Unfortunately this country doesn’t show its patriotism enough.  And I think this is a good example of it.”

             Lance Corporal Means may have given his life along a lonely trail a half a world away, but at this critical moment he and his family were hardly alone.  His last trip to the church on the hill would be protected by 23,000 stripes and 90,000 stars.  Larry Eckhardt made sure of it.

             “I call it his last gift to the community,”  Eckhardt said.  “Because, it does bring the community together and as long as they remember the flags, they’re going to remember him.”

 *            *            *

          Lance Corporal Mean’s funeral was #97 for Larry Eckhardt and his flags.  He was leaving the next day to drive his trailer to Iowa for the funeral of another fallen soldier.  To learn more about Larry Eckhardt and his flags, you can follow him on Facebook

Flags along Main Street in downtown New Prague, Minnesota for the funeral procession of Marine Lance Cpl. Dale Means on November 28, 2012.

Flags along Main Street in downtown New Prague, Minnesota for the funeral procession of Marine Lance Cpl. Dale Means on November 28, 2012.

Six Words… My Family’s Mission to Conquer Diabetes

20 Nov

                I’m very grateful and humbled to have just been honored with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Award for Public Awareness at the JDRF MinnDakotas Gala in Minneapolis.  It is the dream and prayers of my wife Susan and our daughters to find a cure for Type-1 diabetes.  Through the generosity of Minnesotans we raised more than $500,000 to fund the research to achieve that goal.  With the help of Scott Leech at BrandSpeak, this is the story of our journey with diabetes in addition to the transcript of my acceptance speech challenging all of us to help families everywhere write their own ending to this disease.

Six Words

            Susan and I are among the luckiest parents in the world.   When you have two daughters who light up your life and fearlessly step before you to testify to their own struggles with type-1 diabetes, it makes us proud and very humble.

            It’s only appropriate that you have a chance to meet them tonight, because they are the reason why Susan I are here.  They are the arc of our storyline, the inspiration for the narrative of our lives.   

Maddy & Emme Blotz presenting their father with the JDRF Award for Public Awareness at the Depot in Minneapolis, October 6, 2012.

            But the story of why we are here tonight did not begin with a diagnosis.  It’s actually a bed-time story.  It’s a bed-time story that began with a hard day about a year after that first diagnosis in 2001.   It was a typical day of chasing Maddy around the house with a needle to give her another insulin injection.  As I put her to bed and bent over to kiss her goodnight, she looked up with tear-filled eyes and said, “Daddy, I don’t want diabetes anymore.”

            Six words.

            To a parent, they are the most powerful six words you will hear.  They were more than just a child’s plea.  They were a calling.  A chorus.  A commandment.    No longer as parents would we be allowed to simply sit back and just manage diabetes.  We had to do something about it.

            In every respect I’m no different than you.  We want a cure.  My wife wants a cure.  I’m getting the recognition tonight, but Susan is the rock star.  She’s the one who’s spent countless nights cuddling a child, measuring keytones and waiting for blood sugars to drop.  She’s the one taking the calls from the school nurse.  She’s the one crying when the A1-C results come back.  She is the one who loves her daughters so much that she’d do anything for a cure.   Together, we have tried to use the public platform for which I have access, to educate and advocate for a cure.  

            All of us want to do something about it otherwise you wouldn’t be here tonight.  In the audience we have mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors.  But also among us tonight we have doctors and researchers.  God gave them the ability heal, gave them the ability to ask tough questions, hypothesize the answers and prove them.   The rest of us are here because we have the ability to help them. 

            So, this is our story.  It is a story we share together.  In this narrative we all have a beginning whether that beginning was a father who has diabetes, a brother, a son, a daughter, a friend, or perhaps yourself.   Events like tonight are the middle of the story.  We all have them.  Our own narratives lead us down different walks of life and different paths with diabetes.  But we’re all trying to write the same ending.

            Won’t you help us?

            Six words.

            This is a bed-time story we need to put to bed.  Please join us.  Help us rewrite the title of this story from “I don’t want diabetes anymore,” to “I don’t have diabetes anymore.”

            Thank you for being with us tonight and blessings to you all.

*           *          *

Feisty the Seal: Anatomy of a Duluth Flood Meme

22 Jun

Meme \`meem\ n:  an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture 

Figure 1 – Feisty the harbor seal captured on June 20th on Grand Avenue in Duluth by Elli Buchar.

The lens by which the world viewed the Duluth flooding disaster this week was actually viewed through a sympathetic set of eyes.  Never mind that they belonged to a nearly blind harbor seal named Feisty.

When 10 inches of rain fell on the bluffs that anchor the city of Duluth, Minnesota the runoff cascaded down its hills with the force of a dozen rivers at spring break-up.  The rushing water in the middle of the night on June 20th swallowed cars, roads, homes and even the Lake Superior Zoo.  The raging floods drown eleven animals and flooded out the pen holding two aging and sight impaired seals named Feisty and Vivien.  At the height of the disaster in the middle of the night, no one knew the plight of the zoo animals until Ellie Buchar saw something unusual along Grand Avenue—Feisty.  She snapped a picture, shared it online, and within a matter of hours this nearly blind seal became the vision by which the rest of the world viewed the disaster. (Figure 1)

Just how powerful was this meme?  I was standing along Olney Street interviewing Gene Swanson who was in danger of losing his house to the raging King’s Creek when my phone rang.  It was one of my news producers at her computer monitor from 170 miles away wanting to know why I wasn’t at the zoo?   Never mind the people desperately trying to save their homes and lives.   “What about the animals?” demanded the producer.  (I could give a dozen journalistic counter arguments–but that’s another post at another time.)

Feisty’s story is a case study in contagion and memes in this new age of social media.   It provides a unique pathway for understanding why they become so powerful.

In this case, social psychologist Jaap van Ginneken would argue that Feisty served as what he calls a strong replicator.  Such replicators evoke an emotion that cause people to take notice and share.  Image plays an essential role—the strongest replicators have child-like images with large eyes.  Finally, the replicator must be positioned in an unexpected way—a surprise.

Feisty’s image on Grand Avenue fit perfectly into the model:

  • Strong Replicator: stressed animal
  • Child-like face: helplessness
  • Surprise: found in middle of street 

    Figure 2

The image served as a critical signal to viewers, especially women that something was happening.  This signal is the beginning of a cognitive cycle where the viewer forms a positive association with Feisty and in context forms a negative association with the floods.  (Figure 2)  When the viewer hits the “send” button on their computer and others share, a meme is born.

That’s essentially what happened on July 20thand why a helpless animal has become the face of such a human disaster.

Figure 3 – Feisty in her new temporary home at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul, MN

It should come as no surprise that Feisty’s viral picture is exactly why she and her half-sister are now safe and recovering at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul.  When Como’s zookeepers saw her viral picture they immediately called the Lake Superior Zoo offering help.  Several hours later both seals and a polar bear were traveling to their new temporary home.  (Figure 3)

Como’s Sr. Zookeeper Alli Jungheim says they’re all feeding and adjusting well to their new home.  “We’ll take care of them like they are our own,” said Jungheim.

For now the seals are safe.  But, there’s so much more work to ensure the rest of Duluth is safe, too.

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