Product Manager VS Project Manager

I like to take classes and learn new skills. Recently, I started an online class that taught students how to be a Product Manager. Since I am the Product Manager for Up-a-do Unlimited, I thought it might be helpful. The class really focused on phone app products, which is not my forte, but I did learn something interesting.

A product manager is one who develops a product, contacts clients, actively monitors social media and is ultimately responsible for meeting the short term and long term sales goals of the team. In contrast, a project manager takes on a specific task that has defined time and money constraints, breaks the task into manageable pieces, and completes each piece to finish with successful whole.

When I am working on the Up-a-do Unlimited business, I am a product manager. When I am putting together Heritage Dance Events or helping tutoring students complete their specific tasks, I am a project manager.

Which would I rather do? I actually prefer being a project manager and checking each successful event off my list of things to do. What does this mean for the future of Up-a-do Unlimited? I am not sure. We have so little time here in life, and carefully examining how we spend our moments is paramount.

Which do you think is more important? Selling Up-a-do Unlimited xylophones, organizing social group-dancing Heritage Dance Events, or tutoring students and helping them find success? I would love to hear your thoughts, and you can email me anytime at
Debra Newby

Language Exploration

My daughter tells me that my 22 month old grandson talks more to me than most other people. It is possibly because I have endless patience for monosyllabic conversation with very cute, three-feet-high munchkins. But I think it is more likely because I find the progression of language riveting and will help him explore language for hours at a time.

When my grandson initially began to speak, the first thing he called me was “Bam Bam”. He could hear the “a” sound and the “m” in “Grandma,” but the other letters were not accessible in the beginning. A few months later, he began to call me “Drum Drum.”  He was able to add in the “r” sound but still needed to keep the syllables the same. Just last month, I became “Grandma.” All the letters are working now!

I enjoyed listening to my own children explore language many years ago. One of my favorite memories is of our youngest daughter, two years old at the time, at the dinner table, trying unsuccessfully to get a word in while her siblings talked on and on. She finally stood up and announced, “MY talking to you!”

She was eventually able to switch out the adjective for a pronoun and a linking verb and went on to become a technical editor for a geo-environmental engineering consulting firm.

You never know where the exploration of language will take you.


A few weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to see England through the eyes of my youngest daughter as we took our long awaited post college (for her) Mother/Daughter trip. Both of us are musicians and hearing Evensong services at Westminster Abbey in London and at the York Minster further north were high on our priority list.

Evensong is a service that is often sung from the Book of Common Prayer. It has been part of three principal liturgies of the Anglican and Episcopal tradition since the year 1549 when the Book of Common Prayer was first authorized for the Church of England.

The Westminster Abbey choir is composed of men and boys, while the York Minster Choir includes girls as well. All of the children who sang at the York Minster were members of the Minster Preparatory School which was established in 627 AD.

At both Westminster Abbey and the York Minster, we arrived early to wait in line so we could be seated in the quire (choir stalls) directly behind the choir. Deep voices of the men harmonized with the high sopranos of the children while the great pipe organ played and filled the church. The music was heavenly.

As an added treat, before the Evensong service at the York Minster, a wedding took place, and we got to clap and cheer for the happy couple as they exited the building.

So much has happened at these cathedrals for almost a thousand years. Babies have been christened, couples have married, monarchs have been buried, and people have sung and worshipped God.

And they still do today.

The Community Gathering

I live in a small town surrounded by several other small towns. And our small towns like music – a lot! Every town has a weekly summer concert in the park series, each on a different day of the week. 

If you enjoy live music, you can head to Atascadero on Saturday night, Templeton on Wednesday night and Paso Robles on Thursday night. If you want to drive a ways to a larger city and listen to music in a historic mission plaza, head to San Luis Obispo on Friday nights.

I love music and attend a lot of these concerts with family and friends which allows us to build relationships and community. (… and eat. We bring BIG picnics.)

There is just something about a setting sun, a cool breeze and music you can tap your feet to that opens the door to good conversations and good memories. 

Living History

My family and I have been historical reenactors for many years, and I delight in visiting living history farms wherever I am traveling. This summer on our trip through Texas, we happened upon the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historical site.

The farm was originally settled by the Sauer-Beckmann family in 1900. This turn-of-the-century Texas-German farm family went on to have ten children, one of whom served as midwife at the birth of President Johnson. The family sold the farm to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and it was opened to visitors in 1975.

Costumed interpreters carry out the day-to-day activities of an early 1900’s farm by feeding animals, gathering eggs, cooking meals, tending the garden, canning and butchering. Although I have visited many sites like this farm, I always find I still learn something new.

Here is what I learned:
  • If you put a small ball of cotton on a string and tie it to the top of the screen door, the bounce of the cotton will keep the flies off the screen and discourage them from coming in the house.
  • It is important to work smarter and not harder, especially when you have ten kids. (These ten kids, by the way, had their own bunk house away from the main house.)
  • Filling pin cushions with hair from a lady’s brush helps keeps the steel pins lubricated and keeps them from rusting.
  • You can store meat for up to a year if you submerge it in lard.
  • If the lard goes rancid, you can use it to make soap.
  • Use EVERYTHING! Turkey feathers make a good broom.
  • Beauty is important. Put up blue wall paper in the parlor if you can.  
  • After all the hard work is through, it is still important to remember where your help comes from.

 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  

Psalm 121.1


Waco – A Transforming Experience

A dear friend of mine moved to Waco, Texas, three years ago. I really did not know much about Waco except for a vague recollection that there had been an odd cult there, a factory explosion and perhaps some UFOs. (Wait, maybe that was in New Mexico.)

My interest in Texas increased in February when my son moved to Dallas to begin a new career. While looking for ways to learn more about Texas, I came across the HDTV show Fixer Upper. In the show, Chip and Joanna Gains help people choose a house, and then they help them fix it up into a lovely, welcoming home. In addition to home design, they have opened a community gathering spot in downtown Waco that includes a store, bakery and gourmet food trucks. They have created a historic Bed and Breakfast and have a restaurant opening soon.

I visited Waco last month, and the “Can Do” mentality of the people there surprised me. I live in California where the prevalent culture is that everyone is entitled to more and more from the government, schools and community. But here, I witnessed individuals counting on themselves to make the difference.

Walking along the river that runs through town one sunny morning, I discovered that it used to be a place filled with crime and drug deals, but through a concerted effort of the community to clean up the area, along with the partnership of the local law enforcement, the river trail is now full of walking mothers, biking teens and jogging athletes enjoying the shady paths. As we took our walk, we came across a Waco police officer – on horseback! He greeted us with his slow, Texas drawl, spoke with us a moment and then plodded along to make sure all was well and safe.

I visited Antioch Church while in Waco and discovered that members of the church go out into the schools each week to read with the students. This has caused a significant improvement in testing scores in the Waco schools while providing the students with friendship and mentorship too.

We went to breakfast in the worst part of town one morning and ate at Lula Jane’s. The bakery is owned and operated by Nancy Grayson, whom I had the delightful opportunity to meet. She excitedly told us that she was building small, ecologically sound homes in the depressed neighborhood surrounding the bakery and selling them for what they cost her so that she can take the money and build more, providing improved housing in the neighborhood which encourages others to fix up the area too. While she is not busy cooking, baking and building homes, she works with the students Rapoport Academy Charter School which she founded.

My friend told me that a longtime Waco resident she knows has observed the positive influence of a community coming together to transform Texas into a better place, and she said, “I can finally say I am proud to be from Waco.”

My son wants us to move to Texas. With two daughters and many friends still in California, I am not sure I am ready to consider that possibility yet. However, it was exciting to visit a community that believes that the Waco citizens have the power and resources to transform their own community for the better.

Community Connections

I am currently reading The Benedict Option by Rod Drecher, a book given to me by my daughter for Mother’s Day. One of the chapters in the book discusses the importance of building community ties to stand against the tide of modernity.

For hundreds of years of history, one of the ways people celebrated the joy of being part of a community was through dance.

Today, many people are lonely. They think they have “friends” because they have received a lot of “likes” on Facebook, but what they are missing through social media is the ability to work together with others to create something of great beauty and lasting memories.
Creating large group dance patterns with other people of various ages and backgrounds seems impossible. But it is not when you have a dance caller who teaches each dance before the music begins and then calls out the steps as the dance progresses.

I have been a Victorian Era dance caller for eleven years, and last weekend I asked the families at the San Luis Obispo History Day how many of them had been part of a social dance before. Only a couple of people raised their hands. And yet, 300 people stood up to give it a try and were delightfully successful in making new connections and happy memories with old and new friends.

For Information on how you can host a community building event like this, go to!


What is it like to turn seventy-nine years old? I do not know for sure, because I am not there yet, but here are few things I observed this month when my siblings and I gathered from around the country to celebrate my dad’s seventy-ninth birthday.

Me and my Dad
1. You are a little more tired.  Every day, my dad “reads” the newspaper while lying on the couch. He often reads it for an entire half an hour with his eyes completely closed, snoring softly. Resting is important, and when you are older, you allow yourself that luxury.

2. But you still want adventures: My dad announced on his birthday that he wants all of us – his kids and their spouses, to take a trip to Alaska next year. There are always new horizons to explore, if perhaps a little more slowly than before.

My Dad and my sister
3. You continue to like the same things you liked when you were younger. My Dad has always loved cars. My mother tells the story of when she was in the hospital to deliver me, my father stepped out for a bit to attend a classic car show. (This is before fathers were required to help their wives breath during labor.) I remember being the only kid in the neighborhood who drove around in a big, black 1930’s Packard because my dad loved restoring old cars, and he will still discuss cars with anyone who will listen.
My Dad and my brother

4. Childhood memories are important. My father had a ceramic farmer doll dressed in overalls when he was a very little boy. My grandmother, before she died, restored the doll and then gave it to me. I had the doll for years, but this year it occurred to me that perhaps my father would like to have it again.  I carefully wrapped it in layers of tissue paper, and when my dad opened the package, tears streamed down his cheeks as memories from his happy childhood were relived.

5. You never cease to enjoy the company of family, no matter what your age. There is no one else who remembers singing those silly songs on a family vacation to Montana back in the 70’s. Only family know how irritating you can be, but loves you all the same. Whether you are nine or seventy-nine, there is joy in being a family.

Beginning Again

Reminiscing on past events while going through one’s previous blog posts is a pleasant way to spend an evening. I kept a regular blog for five years and marvel at the number of people who followed along. I am not sure any of you are still out there after this long hiatus, but for those who are, I thought you might enjoy an update.

We left off with the wedding of my eldest daughter and my venture into full time tutoring.  Both of those endeavors have produced great successes, but the best of all has been my transformation into someone I had never been before – a grandmother. 

My daughter carrying her son
like I used to carry her.

Wee Oliver is sixteen months old now. There is a joy in being a grandparent that is like none other – you get to have all of the fun and none of the responsibility! Watching a grandchild laugh and grow is delightful, but watching your own child parent her young toddler really stirs the heart.

My friend and fellow grandmother, Dede, said it best:

New Parents!
“When you become a parent, you get to relive your childhood. When you become a grandparent, by watching your own child parent, you get to relive being new parent all over again.”

Grandmothers get to play
at children's museums again!
My mind has been flooded with recollections of those past years of being a new parent – wonderful memories I have not visited in a long, long time. As a grandmother, I am enjoying the present delights of my grandson as well as the happy memories of his mother when she was his age, too.

Isn’t it interesting? In a way, each new generation allows the older generations to begin again.