A Pause to Remember Friends

I’ve lost two friends in the last few weeks — Rod Nilsestuen, who has led the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection as its secretary since 2003, drowned (as you surely have heard). Also, Bill Bathke, longtime Executive VP of WPS Insurance, died unexpectedly.

Both men were in their early 60s, and their deaths stunned family, friends, and colleagues. Both gave significantly of themselves to non-profits — of themselves, not just their money — and both led their agencies admirably and with great vision.

More personally, both men have given me great advice more than once, and I will miss their counsel and encouragement. Certainly their families and their colleagues have my deepest sympathy.

So things are not “business as usual” lately. I drive past WPS most days, and I admit that seeing the flag fly at half mast brought tears to my eyes. But neither man would have wanted to have left a legacy of tears, so we are called to move on. But we do not forget them; we take with us their lifelong examples of compassion and their history of diligent work on our behalf.

Let’s take a break to reflect, then

I was going to write something really tremendously profound about business this month, but now I’m not. I’ll leave that to the editor, Joe Vanden Plas, and instead, I’m going to encourage you (and Joe) to skip out early one day with a camera. And with that camera, I’m going to suggest that you take a few photos and send them to me as your entry in our monthly Web photo contest.

If this seems like a sudden and almost flip transition from the opening conversation, know that it is not. It’s a serious minded extension of it.

The reason I’m suggesting this is because life is so very precious. The people, places, and pets in your life are precious. The view in front of your eyes of creatures great and small is precious. And the moments pass so quickly that if you can capture just a few of the images that give your life meaning, and share those images with others. I think that is a worthwhile activity that cannot (or should not) be restricted to special events.

To further expose our Web readers to the wonders that you capture, in August I’m expanding the photography that we’ll be showcasing on IBMadison.com from one category — (a general category) with 10 winning photos — to three categories (“General,” “People,” and “Pets”) with 10 photos each to be selected by judges for publication.

General winners, to date, have primarily focused on creatures, scenery, and the more artistic shots of familiar objects. Kid pictures haven’t stood a chance, frankly, with our artistic judges, so I’m creating a chance to celebrate catching a child playing in the rain — or to share a thoughtful photo of your grandmother standing in shadows. Snap a photo of whoever you want and send it in.

Also, I have two dogs, and they are pretty important to my husband and me, and so I’m inviting pet owners to send in photos that put the “personality” back in “pet photography.”

The judges do not know who sent in what photo, so amateurs really do stand a great chance of taking home a first, second, or third place ranking. But amateurs and professionals alike are encouraged to enter. The only caveat is that you send four photos per entry (of anything, in any category — mix and match if you like), and you include an e-mail address we can publish, as well as the name of the type of camera that you used.

If you’ve missed past contest winners, check my blog, “After Hours,” where the contest is being held. We’ve held a June and July competition — 10 photos each, in the general category of “contest” — and the results speak to the value of seeing things a little clearer.

Let’s celebrate life together this month. It only seems fitting to be fully appreciative of the opportunity we still have to capture and share our todays with one another.

In the end, that’s what life is all about, and it’s a fitting memorial to friendships that will go beyond “todays” and into our “forevers.”