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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

4 Ways Suzuki Applies to Family Social Media Training

I was a Suzuki mom. My kids started violin lessons at age 3. We later moved beyond Suzuki, but I applied many of the things I learned as a Suzuki mom to later help my son with speech therapy when he was a preschooler.

Now, as I train parents, youth leaders, and teens on social media, basic tenets of Suzuki training apply to teaching teens to use it well.

  1. Learning begins young. Age 13 is the minimum for social media sites like Facebook. I support that minimum and also believe that’s a good time for parents to introduce their kids to limited social media use where they learn to use it well.  It is easier to friend and guide a 13 year old than it is a 15 or 18 year old. Teach them well while they are more likely to listen. As we moved back driving ages, more teens have opted not to do any drivers ed but to simply get their licenses at age 18. And now studies are showing an increase in traffic fatalities among these 18 year olds because they never learned to drive well or with training. The same applies to social media.
  2. Nurture by love. Kids who feel loved and connected are going to be more likely to reflect that in their social media content. Once I heard a teen refer to another mom, “I feel sorry for her kids when they are sick. She complains on Facebook about it so much they must think she hates them.” What is she teaching them?
  3. Good examples inspire greatness. Parents and youth leaders who model using social media for good lead by example. Teach teens by example to promote their communities and encourage others. Kids learn to talk by listening to their parents. They are still listening – and reading – as teens.
  4. Listen. Suzuki parents listen to their kids play and help them improve, a little at a time, with positive encouragement.  Sometimes I tell parents to see what their kids are doing on social media, and they refuse. Their kids might be asking for help or need some encouragement. Other times, parents listen, and we help their kids avoid driving off a cliff. Many parents have no clue what their kids are posting on Facebook or Twitter.

Savvy social media use will matter for teens when they pursue jobs, college entrance, and scholarships. Social media background checks are and will be the norm.  

My kids know I can access their latest Facebook statuses with 2 clicks on my smartphone. In my parenting via social media classes, I tell the story of how I responded and what happened the day my phone joined the wrong teen’s Facebook profile to my daughter’s contact – and the OTHER girl posted an expletive ridden update about her family.

Families invest time and money helping their teens prep for college entrance exams. They often hire tutors if needed and make sure their kids have well-rounded outside activities.

It is now equally imperative that families work with teens on smart social media use that helps – and doesn’t hurt – their future college and career options.  

Teens who use social media well, especially those who are funny, can set themselves above the pack at scholarship time.

How Not to Parent on Facebook

I am absolutely sick.

I just watched that viral Youtube with the angry dad who shoots his daughter’s laptop. I won’t embed it because it embodies on many levels what can go wrong with parents who don’t interact well with their teens on social media.

The mistakes?

  • Don’t humiliate people online. Even if people are out of line, public humiliation never improves a situation.
  • Don’t post when angry. I’ve done it, and I’ve learned from mistakes. When angry, step away from the keyboard and put down the phone.
  • Don’t destroy property. This is hard as a parent – there are times as a parent of teens, I have gotten that angry. Physical violence does not solve problems.
  • Don’t respond to anger with more anger. Anger + anger = more anger, not resolution of a problem.

I teach community classes to youth organizations and church groups – on how to work with young people on social media. I share my own mistakes and experiences as a mother of Facebooking teens.

Like every parent of teens, there are moments I have felt that absolute hit the wall frustration. The best advice I was ever given was by a more experienced mom who advised me to approach discipline issues with a perspective of how to address the problem but not block lines of communication.

Shooting a teen’s laptop and posting it on Youtube will not improve family dynamics.

My older teen will leave home in 6 months for college. With each day, I realize that our time before she leaves is precious; even when we’re angry at each other, I’ve got to find ways to make it better.

We all know our time with kids passes quickly; what happens if a tragedy strikes right now, with this family, before they can make peace and find resolution? This angry video would stand as the tombstone on the grave of their family peace and happiness for lifetimes.

I’ve been at the receiving end of public humiliation. Once when I was a toddler in church, as my parents were musicians, I sat in a pew and decided I had had enough being good in church. So I kicked the pew in front of me with my dress shoes. And I kept kicking and pounding the pew, which echoed so loudly I woke up the guy in choir who always slept through the sermons. The lady who was supposed to watch me did not stop me. As soon as the service ended, my mother marched into the congregation and whipped me in front of everyone. I never kicked a pew again.

Yes, I needed to be taught a better way to behave. Public humiliation was not the way to make that happen. I still remember that Sunday morning over 40 years ago.

Like the dad in the video, I had a tough road and worked my own way through it. Thank God my teens have an easier life and know what it’s like to have the childhood I didn’t.

Parents do need to monitor and respond to how their teens interact on social media.

This video, however, is a tragic testimony in how not to socially parent.

Why I Wear Jeans to Church

Getting ready for church was a major event at the tail end of the 1960’s. I often went to bed on Saturday night with a head full of foam rollers, ready to dress up Sunday morning in my dress, anklets, patent shoes, and gloves.

A lifetime later, as the mother of teens, we had set a tradition of wearing nice clothes on Sunday to church. Gone were the gloves, hats, skirts, and stockings. But we still tried to dress nicely and never let our kids wear jeans to church.

A couple of years ago, one Sunday morning, I felt terrible. I barely made it into church and was wearing jeans because I just didn’t feel up to changing into something nicer. They weren’t dirty or torn. But when we walked into church, there was a Church Lady who looked me up and down and glared at me with the Death Stare.


As she stared at me with disapproval, I thought back to a lifetime ago, when I was in a community theatre production of Godspell at the age of 18. Godspell‘s author had struggled with addiction issues, found Jesus, and stumbled into church one Sunday (wearing jeans and looking scruffy) and also got the Death Glare. He was then inspired to write Godspell, a contemporary musical of the life of Jesus, based on the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Yes, it was very 1970’s.

Then I thought back to my own days as a struggling college student when I was lost and hurting, and the occasional Sundays when I would quietly slip into the back pew of a church, desperately hoping for something that could fill the gap in my heart. As I sat anonymously in those back pews, had I gotten a Death Glare for wearing jeans, I might not have returned. I might not have realized that we go to church to worship God, not to seek the approval of other people.

That resulted in my change of Sunday clothes.  My family is dressed well, and I usually wear jeans – coordinated with an outfit, but jeans.  If my clothes offend someone, I would rather get the dirty look than risk someone lost and hurting in the back pew gets it instead.

As a Catholic, Christian believer, I know my job is to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus – to reach out to those who are lost and hurting and show them someone cares. I know how they feel because I was once one of them. Sometimes I achieve that goal better than others and merely hope each day I can do a better job at it than the day before.

Paul said he would be all things to reach all people.

For me, in this season, that means I wear my mom jeans to church.

Teriyaki Tangelo Chicken Wings with Garlic

Chicken wings

Teriyaki tangelo garlic chicken wings

I wanted to find a chicken wing recipe that had a different zing from traditional buffalo and made up this recipe with ingredients I had. And I wanted a baked version that didn’t require a lot of time to make.


  • 1 1/2 lbs. chicken wings, separated
  • 1/2 cup low sodium teriyaki sauce
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice (I used 5 tangelos)
  • 1 T garlic herb seasoning (I use a sodium/MSG free variety)
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce


  1. Mix together teriyaki sauce, tangelo juice, herb seasoning, and hot sauce.
  2. Let chicken marinade in this sauce in a 9 inch square glass baking dish in a single layer for at least 4 hours.
  3. Put chicken with marinade into oven and set oven to 325 degrees.
  4. When oven reaches 325, bake at least 1 hour, turning chicken every 15 minutes. The last 20 minutes, raise the temperature to 425 to brown them. Ten minutes before they are done, turn them to brown evenly.
  5. Serve hot.


4 Success Tips for Social Scholarship Hunts

Parents of college students looking for college scholarships must become socially savvy, if they aren’t already.  In the old movie Spencer’s Mountain (Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara starred in this movie by Earl Hamner, writer of the Waltons), they try to find a way for their oldest son Clay Boy to go to college. In order for him to qualify for a scholarship, he has to learn Latin quickly.

Last year, KFC Scholars gave away a $20,000 scholarship in a Twitter contest, to a student who won with a single Tweet.

Colleges and scholarship committees routinely do social media background checks to ensure top applicants’ presence online matches the carefully crafted applications, essays, and interviews.

New century, new skills. If you want an edge up on scholarship hunts, you and your teen need to learn to use social media pronto. And I don’t just mean how to post a status and a picture. It’s knowing what to post and how to post. And knowing what not to post. Social savvy is like the vitamin supplement to a scholarship search.

Basic tips to get started:

  1. Google search news alert is your friend. This lets you receive regular emails for any new online sites that mention a name or phrase.
  2. Makeovers aren’t just for homes or fashion. A teen who has been online since age 13 may need to do some spring cleaning of old information. I help business people package themselves online and sometimes help teens as well. Sometimes, it’s a matter of learning best practices.
  3. Twitter is your ally. With the hash tag #CollegeChat, I have learned countless tips this year to help me better help my daughter with scholarship applications.
  4. Colleges are already here. Colleges are watching what students post and Tweet. They are inviting applicants and incoming freshmen to join Facebook groups. Some are creating parent groups as well. Some are friending incoming freshmen.  This is an opportunity for students and their families to distinguish themselves from the pack with constructive posts and the ability to ask good questions.

In Spencer’s Mountain, Clay Boy learns Latin, wins the scholarship, and goes to college. Of course, he later goes on to become a writer of hit movies and TV series.

For me, my teens are at the beginning of their scholarship and college journeys. I don’t know what the ending will be. But I do know that savvy use of social media is a tool in their college prep arsenal to give them their best chance at a better education.


Amazing Star-Spangled Grace

American Flagphoto © 2009 Tom Thai | more info (via: WylioMy business mornings for clients and teaching have a strict routine: in my car, on the way there, I sing, first “Amazing Grace” (the first verse and a later one added), followed by the “Star Spangled Banner.” Part of my routine is a transition and the other part is a sung prayer, as I thank God for where I’ve been, how I’m free, and for my freedoms.

Look out if you travel with me because I may well begin singing even if you’re there. When I skip my routine, my outlook and energy level declines, and I don’t produce as well.

Why these 2 songs? I identify with John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace.” Though he had some religious training as a boy, he had a troubled beginning and became the captain of a slave ship. One night, during a terrible storm when he was certain they would sink, he asked God for help. They survived the night, and his conversion began. He changed his whole life and wrote “Amazing Grace” about the process.

His conversion began with a single night. Paul’s took 3 days of blindness. My own took 4 weeks of bedrest during a high risk pregnancy, alone in a hospital 100 miles from home. I write of it in He Uses It For Good. I was just a little bit stubborn. (My husband suggests I still am.) My world changed when I was humbled.

Then I sing a verse later added by Harriett Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It’s a verse originally sung by African American slaves, passed from one generation to the next. They inspire me, and I sing that verse because of its message that we can be set free from the chains of generations past that bind us.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun.

And with that freedom, I can then sing the “Star Spangled Banner” and remind myself that no matter what happens – rockets red glare or bombs bursting in air – my flag will be there.

I grew up on the other side of the mountain and climbed a long way to see this side – a good side. Those songs remind me to savor the joys of the world around me and make the most of them. There are other mountains to climb, but I’m not alone.  Amazing Grace has carried me this far and will continue to do so.

So if you’re driving in rush hour some morning, and you see a middle aged Plato-packin’ Mama singing while she drives, it might be me.

I’m thanking God for the opportunity to build a new world and raise my family in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

5 Ways Extension Transforms My World

“Share your stories,” I was told last week at my first PCaret meeting in Indianapolis. PCaret, or the Purdue Council for Research, Extension, and Teaching. PCaret brings together people who have been impacted by and see the benefits of Extension programming. Here’s my story.

Getting my kids to join 4-H 8 years ago was the best decision I made as a mother.  I never knew it would change our lives.

Computer Hardware Workshop With Webcam

    1. 4-H Prepared My Kids for a Changing World. As my kids begin their college search, their 4-H experiences have prepared them to handle challenges. It’s not just the skills they learned showing chickens, baking pies, or building rockets. It’s their experiences as 4-H camp counselors or leadership training. It’s competing in state contests, managing food booths, volunteering at the State Fair, and more. It’s leadership training in Washington, D.C. and white water rafting in Georgia. Later this spring, my daughter will serve as 1 of 2 Indiana delegates at the National 4-H Conference. 4-H pranks have inspired their creativity. My daughter my son’s Christmas present with duct tape last year (after seeing a 4-H prank). Last weekend at a Product Innovation team scholarship contest, she covered a container with yellow duct tape the same way. Her graphic skills she learned doing project posters helped her, as did experiences working on projects late the night before the fair. She could handle the stress of  getting a challenge at 8 p.m. and working with her team until 3 a.m. to present to faculty members of a university’s School of Business at 9 a.m. the next morning. (They won 1st place.)
    2. 4-H Broadens Knowledge Bases. 4-H is working to build 1 million new scientists with its programming. Locally, I started a Tech Club 6 years ago that offers monthly science workshops. Last year, through corporate donations, we sponsored our first all-club rocket built and launch. With an all-new Junk Box Robotics curriculum designed by national 4-H, we have a template for affordable hands-on workshops that will teach physics, robotics, engineering, and more to our members through workshops for several years.
    3. Extension Homemakers Still Thrives. Last year, I became a Ya-Ya, a local extension club. Our meetings are  my Moms Night Out, when I can learn new things and am encouraged by other busy wives and moms. The younger moms there keep me current on changing trends and technology.  We teach and encourage each other through meeting programs. We share ideas for our homes and families via Pinterest.
    4. 2008 Small Garden Contest Entry

      Master Gardeners Builds Skills. When my daughter went through the Master Gardener program last term, she learned how Japanese beetle traps were made. During last week’s Product Innovation contest, she applied that to her team’s Leprechaun Trap, using a pretty female leprechaun as bait to capture greedy leprechauns. She sold her team members with the point structure (learned from 4-H projects) – half of the points were for creativity and innovation. Like all the other Master Gardeners in our county, she will volunteer 40 hours this year to share knowledge and work in community gardens.

Extension Becomes Extended Family.

    We live in a world where many of us no longer have the support of extended families. Many youth don’t have strong role models. Many of our county’s 4-H leaders are 2nd and 3rd generation volunteers. Some have volunteered more than 40 years. That stability transforms lives.

Thanks to the Millers who helped lead Energetics for 37 years.

Extension’s programs have extended not only our family’s experiences but also our opportunities.

As Extension has transformed my family’s world, it’s inspired us to create a better world for others.

Healthful Eating = More with Less

The cookbook More with Less by the Mennonite Doris Jansen Longacre can give steps for families to climb out of the obesity and nutrition crisis. It gives not only recipe ideas but a mindset on how to incorporate healthier choices into a family menu and how to cook the foods involved. The premise is that we can learn to eat better and consume less of the world’s limited food resources.

Grocery shopping is sometimes an obstacle course for me because I see families with children who pile their carts full of junk with minimal if any nutritious choices in the basket. Some say that fresh fruits or vegetables are too expensive.  They are more affordable if the chips, desserts, sodas, and fruit juices are left out of the cart. That  cuts across social-economic classes. On my last trip, I held my tongue when a girl told her affluent mother, “I will only eat chicken nuggets, hamburger helper, and cookies,” and the mother nodded yes. The mother gave her daughter permission to eat a diet that would result in a lifetime of health issues.

Longacre pulls no punches as she describes our overdependence on processed foods. Just because we use vegetables in a casserole doesn’t make it healthful if we pile empty calories with it. She writes:

Casserole recipes must be evaluated for what they involve. For example, some people reject old-fashioned gravy because it’s too caloric but use commercial source cream. Herb-seasoned stuffing mix is the latest fashionable casserole-topper, while in many homes stale heels mold in a corner of the breadbox…Contemporary casserole recipes all seem to call for a can of soup. Will future cooks be born, live, and die without knowing how to stir up a smooth white sauce? Will there finally be only three flavors identified at a carry-in dinner – cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, and cream of celery? Buy a wire whisk and break the mushroom soup cycle. Save money and cans by returning to the basic 5-minute white sauce. Variations are as infinite as the herbs and seasonings on your cupboard shelf and the cheeses, broths, and vegetables in your refrigerator.

It is key for parents to help their kids develop a taste for nutritious choices. It takes at least 17 times for a food to be introduced before kids decide whether or not they like it. An unexpected consequence of my trying to fix foods for my kids without the mushroom soups/mayonnaise products is that they prefer the real taste of foods instead of the processed masking. Whenever we donate food to a food drive, my son’s first choice are cream soup cans because he doesn’t like how they taste.

I have cooked for my family since I was 9 years old. Longacre’s cookbook is one of the resources that helped me learn to really cook instead of lean on rice mixes, burger helpers, and canned sauces.

What I like is that she describes simple, nutritious recipes, and explains how to combine proteins and carbs.  The cookbook shows how to incorporate whole grains, beans, and fresh vegetables into a family meal plan. The cookbook introduces international recipes and varied ways to fix vegetables.

We can all improve our nutrition choices – start with our own dinner table. Then expand to our communities. If you are in a church or other civic group that sometimes offer meals, be the one who prepares the healthful menu choice. If you serve or sell foods for fundraiser find ways to add healthier choices – serve some bananas. Go to whole grains. Add vegetables. Add it as an option with the others and help us all see that nutritious food options can taste good.

Relying on a casserole loaded with soups, creams, mayonnaise, cheese, and potato chips plus a token vegetable isn’t going to keep that boneless skinless chicken breast a low fat menu option. Serving it with low fat varieties of all of the above is simply going to add to the cost and add other health issues. The low fat food often has more sugar or sodium to replace the fat flavor. Serving those options long term masks the taste of real food instead of teaching us to savor it. It’s time we set higher standards for ourselves.

If you would like to learn how to make the most nutritious meals possible on limited resources, I highly recommend More with Less.  (an affiliate link)

6 Ways to Succeed at Pinterest With a Little Bit of Trying

Pinterest can be a great tool to gather new ideas from your friends and inspire one another.  If you are new to Pinterest, here are steps to follow to make it work for you.

  1. Content first, numbers second. When people start on Facebook, Google Plus, or Twitter, they may at first worry about how many are following them and who they are following. Don’t. Follow great people who share great stuff and then you share it.  The more good stuff you share, the more others interested in your areas will find you and follow you.
  2. Make your boards. Then pin cool things on them. Create boards with clearly specific titles on them of things that interest you. Then fill them.
  3. Put great photos on your web pages and blogs. This is the number one most important note for web designers and bloggers. The picture on the page is the new king – make it big enough and interesting enough to grab attention on Pinterest when you share anything from a home tip to a recipe. (Note to photographers and digital artists – Pinterest is a prime time business opportunity.)
  4. A hard sell will fail. People go to Pinterest to glean ideas. If you post a hard sell that teaches me nothing, I will not not follow and will not share it.
  5. Check your snarkiness at the door. The people I see on Pinterest are interested in constructive pins that build communities and help others. I’ve seen a few try to lower the Pinterest tone with mean boards that make fun of things; this is the wrong platform for that. Tweet your snarky frustrations instead of pinning them.
  6. Don’t just sit there – pin something. The best way to learn to use Pinterest is to jump in and start pinning.  If you start a Pinterest and create no boards and post nothing, it looks like the person who starts Twitter and never tweets.

The first hour I was on Pinterest, I had the same gut instinct I felt 17 years ago, when I was working in a maternity/baby store, and we unpacked our first shipment of Beanie Babies to put on the shelves. I immediately told my husband those ducks and everythiing else would be the biggest thing since pet rocks. Now, I wish I had bought very one of those first shipments that day.

What strikes me about Pinterest is that women I know who have Facebook accounts but rarely if ever share anything are pinning their hopes and dreams on boards on Pinterest and inspiring their friends to do the same.  A pin at a time, they are socially sharing their dreams and ideas.

Stopping Jerry Springer Syndrome in Social Media

Social media that inspires people and builds communities must be on guard not to fall into a Gotcha Social Media trap.

Social media can be a fantastic venue by which we can shed light on customer service problems quickly. However, it also runs the risk of thoughtless, tweet on the impulse rants that can go viral and don’t give people a first chance to fix mistakes without public humiliation or virtual lynching.

Two weeks ago, when I was angry about a horrid dressing room experience, I wrote a livid blog that roasted the company involved. Leveler heads than my own, especially that of my husband, told me to NOT post the company’s name but give them a chance to fix the problem. So I wrote my blog without mentioning the company, went through corporate channels, and watched to see what would happen. And I chomped at the bit, wanting to do more.

Through my blog, awareness of dressing room safety was raised. The company involved sent national representatives into the store with the problem and fixed them. If the solution works, they will broaden what they have tried here and expand it nationally.

Bottom line? A problem was addressed and fixed without my publicly crucifying the company and turning loose a virtual lynch mob where every socially conscious social media expert jumps on the bandwagon, retweets and shares the incident so we can “make” the company fix it.

So now corporate America knows the effects of gotcha social media. We who are on social media must guard ourselves and our keyboards so we don’t devolve into a Jerry Springer studio audience lynch mob where we yell “fight! fight! fight!” whenever there is an injustice in this world. Sometimes, it’s ok to keep our social powder dry until we determine whether or not we really need to use it.

As the mother of teenagers, I have another worry about gotcha social media. In the past week, we’ve seen what happened when a teen-aged cashier put something racist, offensive, and inappropriate on a restaurant receipt. It went viral, went global, the teen got fired, and the restaurant went into major damage control.

As the mom of 2 teenagers and the friend of others, I worry about what happens to a teen who makes a stupid mistake and does the wrong thing. I’m an adult and I still do wrong, stupid things sometimes. Instead of crucifying the kid who does something wrong, would it sometimes not be more constructive to make it a teachable moment and give a second chance?

It’s easy as someone who can instantly communicate with thousands of people with a single tweet, Facebook status, blog, or pin on a corkboard to air what is wrong with our world.  In the process we might just wreck a life and dismiss it as collateral damage, done as a testament to our new power with social media.

But I wonder – should we find a way to think twice and try to work within the system and work to preserve the dignity of those involved, including those who wronged us, before we rant in front of the whole planet?

Would it hurt us to work a little harder to err on the side of mercy? Isn’t that what the song “Give Peace a Chance” was supposed to mean?

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