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Thursday, July 22, 2004 08:19 am

Grace about town 7-22-04


OK, things are getting a little out of hand here. Not in a bad way, though; on the contrary, things just keep getting better and better.

I'm not just talking about My New Boyfriend, also known as MNB -- although, of course, he's in the subtext of everything in my life now. It was a week full of activity and hubbub: meetings, interviews, fan mail from cute famous Springfieldians.

First, a meeting. I've never been a meeting-type person. The mere thought of a meeting sends me into a stuporous state. I associate meetings with listening to somebody drone on and on about trivial minutiae, tedious boringness for all of eternity, that forces me to run screaming from the room.

So you can imagine my slight trepidation at attending a meeting. But it wasn't a meeting, really -- it was the first summer social for the newly formed group Illinois Women in Leadership. Hmm, "social" -- maybe there would be ice cream.

Talk about your movers and shakers, gee whiz. I'd met one of the members of the organization, Cyndi Deitrick, a week ago, and she invited me to see what the group is all about.

The social was held at the Inn at 835, the bed & breakfast on Second Street. It's a lovely, interesting place for a party or weekend getaway. About 130 women attended. I was greeted by president-elect Val Yazell. Val explained that the group is full of involved, motivated women leaders of the community who've joined together to support each other while giving back to the community and encouraging young women to live up to their potential and realize that they can achieve great things.

Wow. Where were they back when I was in high school, drifting aimlessly?

One cool thing IWIL ("I will" -- get it?) does is provide scholarships to area high-school women. The Scholarship Committee is chaired by Diane Hillard-Sembell, M.D. I ran into Diane at the social, but we didn't talk about the committee; she runs triathlons (three a year!), and she'd read my article about MNB and his first triathlon.

(One quick note: Pretty much everybody in Springfield seems to be talking about MNB now. He's suddenly famous, though anonymous -- except that I keep introducing him to everybody I see. We stopped by the Wienerdog on Saturday, and the owners, Mark and Rob, gave me a lecture about MNB, even though he was standing right there: They said they didn't wanna hear about the guy and told me they feel sorry for MNB because he's just starting to date a woman and she writes about him all the time! They were utterly horrified by this. MNB is tough, though; he can take it.)

Anyway, Diane was sure I'd be doing triathlons pretty soon, but I assured her that it's not on my agenda. I did admit that next weekend I'm going to run a short (seven-mile) race, even though I said I'd never do that. She just smiled knowingly.

At the social I was delighted to see Amy Friedman, who isn't a member but was there with a friend. Amy went to school with my little sister, Amy, and I hadn't seen her since she was in eighth grade. She's a beautiful, sweet, smart woman, all grown up now.

Amy Friedman's friend Beth Camplain had just started her own marketing firm, Hot Dog Design. I told her about my one-woman show, Grace Talk #2, and confessed that I don't have many marketing skills, but she said that putting up fliers (which I've done) is an effective way to advertise. By the way, I'm presenting Grace Talk #2 at 8 p.m. next Thursday and Friday at Stella Blue. Do you have your tickets yet?

A couple of women suggested that maybe I'd like to join IWIL, and at first I balked -- my natural reaction. But the social was fun and interesting. I was given a membership application, but I'm daunted by questions such as "Are you responsible for establishing a strategic plan for your business?" and "Are you responsible for budgeting, financial performance, and allocations of resources?" I could write them an entertaining and lengthy essay about why I'm not so good at planning and don't have enough resources to even think about doing any allocating. I don't have any management experience that I can think of, besides directing a movie, and I've never spoken in front of people, except for Grace Talk #1, and I don't think that's exactly the kind of speaking they're talking about.

However, any organization needs a little levity, doesn't it? I could be the head chairperson poohbah of Mirth and Remembering to Not Take Ourselves Too Seriously.

One more quick thing: At the Wienerdog, a bunch of American Legionnaires walked in as I was videotaping Rob and Mark for a segment for my show. They were in town for the annual state convention. One of them, Barry Cicero, was dying to be in the video, so I let him talk. He was highly entertaining and let me wear his cap. The legionnaires gave me their program and business cards and told me to look them up when I'm in Chicago.

And a final note: I did get a fan letter from a famous cute Springfieldian, but I can't tell you who he is because he didn't say I could. I'll just say it's not WICS-TV (Channel 20) sportscaster Patrick Fazio, and it's not Elvis Himselvis. Mr. FCS wanted to know who MNB is, as does everybody, apparently.

OK, so much moving and shaking -- I need a nap.

To see Grace's latest video click here.

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