Check Out Indiana’s Winter Delights

Do you have room in your holiday calendars for a few wintry Indiana activities? Maybe you’re in need of something to entertain your children over winter break, or you’re in search of fun activities to get yourself in the holiday spirit.

We’re enjoying fairly mild weather now, but there are plenty of activities in Indiana to explore whether the weather is great – or frightful. If you’ve got time in December to get out and enjoy some sights and sounds of the season, here are a few things central Indiana has to offer:

  • Festival of Trees: The Indiana Historical Society has 80 Christmas trees decked out in Hoosier-related flair through January 6. Dates, times and ticket prices are available here. You can also check out the Indiana Experience while you’re there.
  • Lights at the Brickyard: What’s more Hoosier than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Take a drive around the oval and cross over the yard of bricks while you take in over 2.5 million twinkling lights (set to music, if you choose). This year’s expanded route is more than two miles long. Be patient on the weekends for long lines, but weeknights experience typically lighter traffic. Get tickets and times.
  • Christmas at the Zoo: Another Indianapolis staple, Christmas at the Zoo features the animals that don’t mind the cold and lights throughout the property. Get tickets online.
  • Jingle Rails at the Eiteljorg: If model trains are your thing, this is the place to be. Nine working model trains zip past Indiana landmarks and then out west to some of America’s natural and man-made wonders. New this year is a model train trip to Hollywood. The event runs through January 15. Tickets and dates available here.
  • L.S. Ayres Tea Room: Though L.S. Ayres department store closed downtown in 1990, the Indiana State Museum has recreated the famed L.S. Ayres Tea Room as a restaurant with a heaping side of nostalgia for those that recall dining in the original. It’s impressive – the ambiance and lighted windows give the feel of being on the eighth floor of the department store. The tea room is open through January 7 and includes special events such as Santa’s Holiday Breakfasts and Tea with Raggedy Ann.
  • Polar Bear Express: Put on by the Indiana Transportation Museum, the Polar Bear Express train ride departs from Kokomo or Logansport and features an approximately 75-minute trip, complete with candy canes, hot cocoa, a holiday story read aloud and, of course, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Tickets are $35 per person (kids too) and reservations are required.
  • Veal Family Ice Tree – For several years, my family lived near Shelbyville and when we’d drive on Interstate 74, my brother and I would always keep an eye out for the colorful ice tree that peaked out among the foliage. That’s the Veal Family Ice Tree! While this one is definitely off the beaten path, it’s a nostalgic place for many. The ice tree typically takes shape in January and is melted by March. This one is, of course, dependent on the weather. So, if you’re one of those that loves a freezing winter, take advantage of a Hoosier original! Check their Facebook page for updates.

We know there are many more things to do in Indiana during the winter months than what we have highlighted here. Did we miss one you love? Let us know in the comments! What do you enjoy doing this time of the year?

Christmastime in Indiana

If You’re Sorry, Here’s How to Say It

Apology

You’ve probably seen at least one cringe-worthy “apology” statement from a company CEO after the organization got caught for bad behavior.

And we put the “apology” in quote marks because the word “sorry” doesn’t seem to make an appearance, or it’s tucked into a “sorry if we offended anyone” sort of phrase (which isn’t really an apology).

One thing is for sure: There’s a big difference between a real apology and a #sorrynotsorry apology. A major component is authenticity in the statement. And people (read: customers) can tell the difference.

Grammar Girl recently posted this list of four types of apologies to avoid, along with a template to follow for an authentic apology.

Luckily, there’s a foolproof template you can use. And the template’s not a trick. If you follow it step by step, it helps you explain clearly what you did and understand how you affected someone else. Rather than having you “fill in the blanks,” it helps you find the words to say what you really mean.

We got the idea for this template from Professor Aaron Lazare, and his book “On Apology.” Dr. Lazare explains that a genuine expression of remorse should include these components:

  1. Acknowledging the offense clearly
  2. Explaining it effectively
  3. Restoring the offended parties’ dignity
  4. Assuring them they’re safe from a repeat offense
  5. Expressing shame and humility
  6. Making appropriate reparation

This may seem a little much if you’re apologizing for a small offense, like eating the last of someone’s ice cream, but we’ve found that the little offenses sometimes sting the most. Eating someone’s ice cream becomes a proxy for how little respect you have for them. Or how few boundaries you have. Or how you’re a taker and not a giver.

Hopefully you aren’t in a position where you have to publicly apologize for something. But, even if you just need to say “sorry” to someone in your personal life and are having a hard time figuring out the right way to do it, we hope this guide helps get you back in good graces.

Take a Writing Lesson from Spiderman

Has anyone seen the new Spiderman: Homecoming movie?

No? You’re all Marvel’d out?

(Just kidding; we’ll never escape the Marvel juggernaut.)

Anyway, back to Spiderman. You know what the writers did to the beginning of the movie? They skipped the back story. Completely skipped it! Peter Parker (aka Spiderman) was already living with his widowed Aunt May.

At this point, everyone knows Spiderman’s back story. You don’t need to rehash it for every single remake.

Why am I ranting about Spiderman? Because I hope this weird example sticks with you to help you improve your writing in the future. Ragan Communications wrote a post recently that linked to an infographic of 20 tips to spice up your writing – skipping right to the point is one of the main takeaways. Other suggestions: brevity, clarity, humor.

As Ragan Executive Editor Rob Reinalda advises, don’t waste precious writing real estate rehashing old information or a non-essential backstory. That’s the quickest way to put readers on a path to Tedium Town, the dreariest village in all of Writing Land. Tell your readers right away why they should read on. Save your 2004 client-crisis heroics for later.

In a similar vein, the infographic dedicates several points to brevity. Shoot for short sentences, delete extraneous words, and get straight to the meat of your story. Simple, direct writing is more forceful and effective. Make it easy for people to glide through your prose.

The infographic offers more tips to steer clear of boredom, such as going easy on the hard sell, varying sentence structure, writing with a playful tone and avoiding unreadable fonts. Also, to increase comprehension, you should complement your words with compelling images, tell interesting stories and “bring unexpected gifts.” Who doesn’t like a handy cheat sheet or a useful checklist for free?

The last point is to “Create something enjoyable” – for your audience, that is. Who cares if you think something’s fascinating? Is it enjoyable, interesting and relevant for your readers? That’s what matters.

Even if you’re not in a communications role, you probably write emails, letters or proposals, etc. Sticking to these tips (just like Spiderman sticks to buildings) can help improve your writing. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the infographic for more tips!

Spiderman

Indiana’s Best: Fall Festivities

Garth Brooks Sets the Stage for Healing After Las Vegas

There are some unifying, once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list moments that help melt away the anxiety, sadness and fear of uncertain times and national tragedies.

Garth Brooks in Indianapolis

Garth Brooks performs in Indianapolis on Thursday night (Photo by Rebecca Patrick)

It might sound effusive, but being at the first Garth Brooks performance in Indianapolis on Thursday – his first in our city in 21 years – was one of those moments for me. And it certainly felt like the other thousands of attendees and even Brooks himself (who said on several occasions that he “needed this”) felt the same.

Without directly speaking of the largest mass shooting in American history, at a country music festival in Las Vegas on Sunday where 58 were gunned down and over 500 were injured, the tragedy loomed large in the arena. Brooks and his wife, award-winning musician Trisha Yearwood (who joined him on stage on two separate occasions), both wore black shirts with “for Vegas” across the front. Both mentioned needing a cheering crowd and the chance to entertain people through music and laughter and fun.

It was heightened security outside of Bankers Life Fieldhouse that served as our first, stark reminder that we were doing just what those other country music revelers were doing less than a week ago. There were armored vehicles and horseback mounted police out front, K-9 dogs both inside and out, many more officers than usual and long lines for security screenings.

Garth Brooks

Photo by Rebecca Patrick

Known for his goofy entertaining style, there was plenty of Garth Brooks just being Garth Brooks. He delighted the crowd with the “old stuff,” as well as his new single. And the end of the show was Brooks by himself on stage with an acoustic guitar, interacting with the crowd and taking song requests from poster board signs. It made a jam-packed arena of people feel like they were at an intimate show.

Brooks was also visibly emotional at times, during songs like “The River,” when the crowd turned on phone flashlights and filled the fieldhouse with sparkling lights. Or, near the end with “The Dance” and “Unanswered Prayers” and “New Way to Fly,” as the lyrics lend themselves to a beautiful and quiet introspection, particularly when everyone sings along.

Garth Brooks

Photo by Charlee Beasor

With five shows in four days in downtown Indianapolis, the economic impact of Brooks in town is tremendous. The show wrapped up just before midnight and there were plenty of hungry people spilling into nearby bars and restaurants. And Brooks notes publicly that adding shows when the original dates sell out quickly is his way of fighting back against ticket scalpers and bots. With tickets priced at $67, he ensures fans of all stripes can afford the chance to participate.

In the end, Brooks’ long-awaited return coupled with the horrifying events of Sunday still fresh in people’s minds turned this night into more than a concert. It served as an opportunity for Hoosiers to come together despite fear and sadness and disagreements over politics, sports or anything else. We sang and danced and screamed our hearts (and voices!) out, and Brooks was clearly grateful to be back on stage in Indianapolis to help him heal, too.

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood perform together. (Photo by Rebecca Patrick)

If you’ve got tickets for his other shows, I hope the experience is similar for you. Tip: If you have a song you want to hear live, your best bet is to write it on a poster board and bring it along!

And we can’t forget football fans who also love country music. You might recall the last time Brooks played here. In March 1996, he wore a Colts’ Jim Harbaugh jersey and reminisced about the quarterback’s near miss at leading us to the Super Bowl. Now the football team intersects with Brooks again. The bronze statute for Colts legend Peyton Manning will be unveiled at 3 p.m. on Saturday – the same time Brooks is starting his third of five concerts.

Enjoy the shows!

Indiana Documentary on Bicentennial Torch Relay Wins Spot in Heartland Film Festival

Indiana is no stranger to the bright lights of Hollywood. Even the recent movie Columbus (set in Columbus, Indiana and starring Jon Cho, Haley Lu Richardson and Parker Posey) treated the city and architecture of Columbus almost as a main character in the movie.

Another accolade that Indiana can add to its film repertoire is Everlasting Light: The Story of Indiana’s Bicentennial Torch Relay, selected for screening at the 2017 Heartland Film Festival (held in Indianapolis).

Flag of the State of Indiana

Produced by the Department of Telecommunications at Ball State University and commissioned by the Indiana Office of Tourism Development (IOTD), the documentary highlights the 2016 torch relay that spanned 260 cities and towns in all 92 counties in celebration of the state’s bicentennial.

The IOTD has more on the film’s inclusion in the festival, including where and when you can view the documentary:

“We are honored to have the documentary selected for the film festival,” said Mark Newman, IOTD’s executive director. “Looking back on the torch relay now, nearly one year since it concluded, I continue to be amazed by the positive impact it has had on our state.  The way that it brought people and communities together has been a great reward.”  

The film will screen three times during the festival:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 7:45 PM @ AMC Castleton Square 14  

Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 12:00 PM @ AMC Castleton Square 14  

Friday, October 20, 2017 at 5:15 PM @ AMC Showplace Traders Point 12  

You can purchase a DVD of the documentary here.

IOTD recently received a Mercury award for best Public Relations Campaign for the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay by the U.S. Travel Association at the 2017 ESTO conference, held in Minneapolis.

IOTD is also being honored by the Indiana Historical Society for the Bicentennial Torch Relay. It was chosen as one of the winners in the Outstanding Bicentennial Collaborative Project category. A ceremony will be held in November.

During the five-week relay, students from Ball State University worked with the Indiana Office of Tourism Development to produce daily videos, photos, articles, and social media related to the relay. The team worked the same material into the 36-minute documentary Everlasting Light.

This is the ninth honor for the film, which has won eight awards including a Gold Aurora Award, a Society of Professional Journalists award, two awards from the Indiana Association of School Broadcasters, and four Accolade Awards of Merit. In addition to the Mercury Award, the entire media project also won a Summit Emerging Media Award and two ADDY’s.

Sorry, But It’s Time to Abandon Apologies

One of my favorite college teachers once shared a piece of valuable advice from her mother: Never enter a room apologizing.

Sure, “sorry” has its place. The problem is that the phrase is widely overused, which minimizes its sincerity and impact.

International business speaker and author Michael Kerr has this to say in a Business Insider story titled “12 Times You Shouldn’t Say ‘I’m sorry’ at Work”: “Some people just use ‘I’m sorry’ as a filler phrase, like ‘so’ or ‘um,’ or they may use it because they think it makes them seem more polite,” explains Kerr. “Others say ‘I’m sorry’ to convey a sense of deference to their superiors – and many use a well-placed ‘I’m sorry’ as a preemptive strike to avoid taking responsibility for their actions (‘I’m really sorry, but there’s just no way I can get this report done by Monday’).

Forego apologies in these scenarios (view full list):

When you really aren’t sorry.
We’ve all witnessed the classic “non-apology apology” where someone thinks they’ve said they’re sorry, but they really haven’t.

“Dogs can tell when we’re not being sincere, so if your ‘I’m sorry’ drips with sarcasm or oozes insincerity and you’re merely saying it because you think it will make the problem go away or get you out of the doghouse, then don’t say it,” Kerr advises. “Leave it for when you genuinely are sorry and want to convey ownership over an issue.”

When you are genuinely upset over someone’s bad behavior.
“I’m sorry, but you just can’t make sexist comments like that in here.”

“The person who should be saying they’re sorry is the person making the sexist comment, not you for holding them to task,” Kerr explains. “Saying ‘I’m sorry’ minimizes your own feelings and plants the seed that perhaps, just maybe, you’re the one who should be sorry.”

Before you ask a favor of someone.
“I’m sorry, but would you mind helping me?” or “I hate to have to ask, but could you help me with …?” are horrible ways to preface a request.

If you’re really that sorry or feel that badly about it, you wouldn’t be asking.

Just jump right into the request, or start with a compliment, like, “I know you’re great with Excel. Would you mind helping me with this spreadsheet?”

What’s in a Word? You’d Be Surprised

Metaphors are music to my ears. And puns? Forget about it! I love to playfully slip them into conversations. Reactions usually elicit delighted high-fives or bewilderment.

The good times really get rolling when history enters the picture. That’s why I’m so excited to share gems from a blog featuring 14 Expressions with Crazy Origins that You Would Never Have Guessed.

These idioms are especially fascinating:
Bite the bullet
Meaning: To accept something difficult or unpleasant
Origin: In the olden days, when doctors were short on anesthesia or time during a battle, they would ask the patient to bite down on a bullet to distract from the pain. The first recorded use of the phrase was in 1891 in The Light that Failed.
Mad as a hatter
Meaning: To be completely crazy
Origin: No, you didn’t already know this one, because it didn’t originate from Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Its origins date from the 17th and 18th centuries – well before Lewis Caroll’s book was published. In 17th century France, poisoning occurred among hat makers who used mercury for the hat felt. The “Mad Hatter Disease” was marked by shyness, irritability and tremors that would make the person appear “mad.”
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
Meaning: Don’t get rid of valuable things along with the unnecessary ones.
Origin: You won’t believe this one! In the early 1500s, people only bathed once a year. Not only that, but they also bathed in the same water without changing it! The adult males would bathe first, then the females, leaving the children and babies to go last. By the time the babies got in, the water was clouded with filth. The poor mothers had to take extra care that their babies were not thrown out with the bathwater.

Indianapolis Native Serves Aboard USS Forrest Sherman

Story provided by Navy Office of Community Outreach

NORFOLK, Va. – A 2009 Warren Central High School graduate and Indianapolis native is serving aboard USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98), one of the world’s most versatile multi-mission combat ships.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Campbell is a yeoman aboard the Norfolk-based ship, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that is longer than 1.5 football fields long at nearly 510 feet long. The ship is 66 feet wide and weighs more than 9,200 tons. Twin gas turbine engines can push the ship through the water at more than 30 mph. USS Forrest Sherman is named for Admiral Forrest Percival Sherman, and is the second U.S. Navy ship to bear the name.

As a 24-year-old with numerous responsibilities, Campbell said he is learning about himself as a leader, sailor and a person. Campbell added that his shipboard experience is rewarding and motivating. “When I reported aboard the ship, I was hit with a lot of useful and interesting information, and I try to apply all the knowledge I’ve learned to daily situations,” Campbell said.

He also said he is proud of the work he is doing as part of the Forrest Sherman’s crew, protecting America on the world’s oceans. “I like the daily interaction I get when working with customers aboard the ship,” said Campbell. “It’s knowing when someone has a problem and I am able to fix the situation which makes me feel very important.”

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard USS Forrest Sherman. Approximately 34 officers and 253 enlisted men and women make up the ship’s company, which keeps all parts of the destroyer running smoothly — this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the engines.

“As John Paul Jones said, men mean more than guns in the way you run a ship and it’s still true today. It’s all about our people, I am proud and amazed by the knowledge they display and the work my sailors do every day,” said Cmdr. John A Krisciunas, the ship’s commanding officer. Their professionalism, motivation and commitment to the Navy are genuinely inspiring.”

Fast, maneuverable and technically advanced, destroyers provide the required warfighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute multi-mission evolutions such as surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-air warfare. USS Forrest Sherman can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups, and underway replenishment groups.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most versatile combat ships, Campbell and other USS Forrest Sherman sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

“Not everyone can do this job,” said Campbell. “Protecting those who can’t defend themselves makes me feel that I am a key asset to the United States Navy.”

“Serving in the Navy is rewarding because it gives me a sense of belonging to something positive,” said Campbell. “No matter what my rank is in the Navy, I will always be a key asset.”

UK’s State-Sponsored ‘Love Nugget’ Program Aims to Keep Couples Together

Oh boy. The United Kingdom is getting a little touchy-feely with its taxpayer dollars.

A new campaign – sponsored by the Department of Education (who else?) – suggests small pieces of advice, dubbed “love nuggets,” for married and long-term couples looking to keep their relationships from ending in divorce or separation.

The program – which is being led by a charity called OnePlusOne and a few other family-oriented organizations – is sponsored by almost £3 million (current exchange rates puts that at just over $5 million U.S. dollars), according to a number of media reports in British news outlets.

The idea behind the campaign, according to the web site, is that the breakdown of couples and families is expensive and costs the state a whole lot of money. So, in order to help strengthen the bonds of matrimony (and coupledom), the Love Nuggets campaign offers a number of pieces of advice to help couples stay connected. The suggestions come from the public, but they are screened to ensure nothing naughty gets posted. Phew.

Here are a few:

  • “He surprised me by picking out my favourite horror movies and getting lots of munchies for a movie night in together.”
  • “My husband brings me breakfast in bed on a Saturday morning.”
  • “My wife always gives me a big hug when I get in from work.”
  • “We make each other cross words or give each other a book for long journeys.

I’m not making this up. But, I could: Can I get someone to pay me £3 million to write these “brilliant” pieces of advice?

You can see all the “love nuggets” at once, or spin the handy spinner on the home page to get three random suggestions for spicing up your relationship.

While I can appreciate the assistance for keeping your love life healthy and happy (wait, isn’t that what couples’ therapy or Cosmopolitan magazine is for?), this is a bit too far – and too much money – for a government that could be spending that money on actual education.

Anyone that’s been married or in a long-term relationship knows there are times when it can get dull. You’re busy dealing with work, family, children, life and paying attention to your spouse can unfortunately fall pretty far down on the list. But most of the criticism of this government-sponsored web site includes the notion that most people know the small acts of kindness they could show their partners – it’s the tricky, deeper issues such as finances or the pressures of raising children that can have the more devastating effects on a relationship. Pretending these “love nuggets” are a solution to the more serious issues facing couples today is just (as they say in Britain) mental.