I Got out of Bed for This: Leaving Home for LA


Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Communications Network and CommA Fall 2010 Conference in Los Angeles with the help of a blog team, which is part of the conference’s 2nd annual Gorilla Engagement Squad.  This is a guest post by Sylvia Burgos Toftness,Communications Lead at the Northwest Area Foundation.  Follow the Foundation on Twitter:  @NWAFound

by:  Sylvia Burgos Toftness

It usually happens before a trip out of town: I toss for most of the night and then awake well ahead of the alarm. Today, I emerged from the fog to windows filled with stars and my head swirling with the “to-do’s” and “don’t forgets” of last minute packing, cryptic e-mails, and scribbled notes to husband and to myself.

I threw a final load in the dryer – I’ll need the tan khakis tomorrow – and ran upstairs to repack my attaché, a beat-up LL Bean that’s been kicked under lots of airline seats. OK: my laptop, an old Saveur magazine featuring LA foodie hot spots, papers to reread for the upcoming board meeting, and notes from the Gorilla Gang webinar (that I missed). It was then that I noticed the pink light filling the room.

Sunrise on the lake never fails to arrest me. The water was glass, the sky without a cloud. Deep pink shifted to pale, and then to a yellow-white as the sun claimed the horizon. How I would have loved to stop, and sit for a half hour to feel the warmth. But no, I didn’t have 30 extra minutes; I had to drive and hour and a half to the airport, sit in a crowded waiting area for 1+ hours, fly 3.5 hours to Los Angeles, and then wend my way to the Communications Network conference hotel.

Ah, but I jump ahead.

Packed, and fortified with a bowl of cheerios – liberally sprinkled with raisins, what the heck – I kissed hubby ‘bye, yelled toodles to the dogs and began the drive.

Rolling hills of ready-to-pick corn stalks lined the county road. Eight feet tall and golden brown, their top leaves were translucent to the rising sun. Acres of soy beans, golden brown and brittle, alternated with the corn. And then, of course, there are those fields of green, black and white – Holstein cows grazing clovers, timothy and brome grasses.

(Ever heard a cow rip up a mouthful of grass? Amazingly loud.)

I love this farm country. I’ll miss my small herd of beef cattle over the next few days, but I’m excited about what I’ll find in LA: knowledgeable and generous colleagues, people I respect; practical models and tools; valuable lessons; ideas that will challenge my staid thinking; inspiration; fun; rejuvenation. It’s been an intense year.

I need these gifts and shake-ups. After more than 30 years in the communications business, I am excited about attending this conference.  In fact, I began composing this short piece – or should I say – these thoughts imposed themselves on me as I cruised from fields, to suburbs to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

And so, here I am, cruising at 60,000 feet and feeling mighty blessed for the many planned, and unexpected, things that’ll happen over the next couple of days.

Couple of flight hours to go: time to read over some notes and get ready for the opportunities ahead.

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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