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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

Their Best Chance

I’ve fallen in love with the new TV series, Once Upon a Time.

One of my favorite lines in the first 2 episodes is parents making tough decisions to give their kids “their best chance.” In their case, the best chance was to let them go to something better. And it also meant finding out when they needed help and doing what it took to give it.

My job as a mother is to do what it takes to give my children “their best chance.” We are fortunate to live in the United States, the land of second chances, where it is still possible to lift yourself up by your boot straps if you work hard and make smart choices.

As I live in count-down mode that by next August my older teen will be away at college, every moment, every dinner, and every family time is both precious and poignant. I keep thinking, “seize these moments.” Within 3 years, our nest may well be empty.

The choices we’ve made as parents in the upbringing of our kids and raising them to make their own choices are beginning to bear fruit.

If I could give any advice to younger parents with younger children, it would be to savor each moment because it will pass quickly. And not to settle for “good enough” choices for their kids but to seek ways to give them their best chance. What that best chance is will vary from family to family, from child to child. We can’t all afford every possible opportunity – in terms of time or budgets. But we can determine what is most important for a specific child and seek ways to meet that need.

How can parents give their  children their best chance?

Make time to help with the homework, to have the family dinner, to have fun together and to teach life lessons on hard work, high standards, and compassionate service. Show them daily they are loved. I’ve never heard a parent of an adult say later in life, “I wish I had spent less time reading to my children, attending their events, or helping them with homework.”

How can communities give children their best chance?

We can use what talents we have and find ways to share them with young people. We can let them know they matter and their ideas have merit. Who knows? If parents neglect a child, responsible mentors who encourage a kid could be the “best chance” that kid has.

As a youth leader and as a parent, I’ve often discovered that when I work to give children their best chance, at the same time I receive my own best chance for a fulfilling life.

Leadership Lessons from The Help

“You’re smart. You’re kind. You’re important,” Abileen often tells Mae Mobley Leefolt, a toddler in The Help. When things don’t go well or Mae is upset, Abileen reminds her of these 3 most important qualities.

What would happen if leaders shared that same message with those they know? We could move mountains.

That simple affirmation validates the other person’s intelligence and worth while inspiring them to be a better person. If we all felt that way and encouraged others to do likewise, imagine the problems we would solve and great things we would achieve.

So my challenge to you is this:

From now till Thanksgiving, every single day, find 3 people in your life and affirm their worth with Abileen’s simple words:

You’re smart. You’re kind. You’re important.

Try it. What do we have to lose?

Great things happen when we affirm the worth of those around us.

Wedding Expenses

Photo courtesy of Michael Gray Photography

So the Kardashian wedding of the century has ended in a split. Truly a sad time for all involved…it would be wonderful if they could find a way to make it work.

As I heard the news, I thought about wedding expenses. A $10 million wedding that lasts 72 days means each day of wedded bliss cost them $138,888.89.

Then I thought back to my own wedding 20 years ago. Richard and I paid for our wedding ourselves, were extremely frugal, and spent $4,000. My Excel spreadsheet tells me that each day of our wedded bliss (and the not so blissful days too) costs 54 cents. If we make it another 20 years, the cost will be 27 cents for each day of our marriage.

I’ve gotta say it was worth 54 cents a day and then some. Most days.

We were fortunate and frugal with our wedding plans: I found the exact dress I had wanted to order on a clearance rack in a southern Illinois store that sold farm implements and wedding apparel. One of my cousins, a florist, gave us our flowers as a wedding present. My sister, a hairdresser, did my hair. Another cousin, a cake decorator, gave us a substantial discount on our wedding cake. Richard’s company got us discounted prices on wedding invitations. We held our reception in the church reception hall and asked friends to help with the serving/cleanup of foods at the reception.

Often, weddings calculate a cost per person attending the wedding. I wonder if it might be wiser to calculate the cost over time instead. In looking back at our wedding, the one thing I would do differently is have a sit down meal instead of hot and cold appetizers. But that is hindsight.

With 2 teens in high school, I sincerely hope I don’t have to think about wedding planning for a long, long time. But when we do, I’ll probably mention to them that if there is something – like a sit down dinner – that they will look back on in 20 years and wish they had had – that we try to think of ways to make it happen.

And I will strongly encourage them to spend as much time working on building the relationship, the marriage, as they do on the wedding ceremony and reception.



Facebook Tags and Privacy

If you tag someone in a post or a photo, then their friends will be able to like or comment on your post or photo, even if they are not your friend too.

The first couple of times this happened to me, it startled me.

You can click on Home, Privacy Settings, and customize your tag settings. I recommend setting the profile review and tag review to on. For the general public, I recommend setting the bottom 2 settings on that screen to off: tag suggestions and friends can check you into places.

If you are a public figure and are comfortable with others checking you into places, some choose to change that final setting on friends can check you into places to on.

Facebook has created a guide to Facebook tagging which has useful information.

Good-bye Trees

Lifting the tree over our house.

Yesterday, we dropped two maples, one in front of our house and one behind our house. Storms had damaged them too many times, and they were dying.  With a house surrounded by tall trees, each time it’s stormed, for years, I’ve prayed for tree strength through every storm, hoping we would stay safe.

I didn’t realize how attached I was to those trees until they were being dropped. We moved into our home when our daughter was a baby. For 17 years, every happy family event in our yards took place under those trees – from the time my children learned to walk to the present, as they learn to back the car out the driveway.

The summer of 1995 had a storm that first damaged the 100+ year old maple in our back yard. After the storm, I bought Richard a chainsaw for Father’s Day so we could clear damage from our back yard. A little more fell in a storm in 2003. When front line winds from Hurricane Ike hit in 2008, more of the tree fell. We again put the chainsaw to use.

Ice storm roof damage

The scariest damage happened in the ice storm of 2009. Large parts of the tree fell, including a 15 foot limb that went through our roof and pierced our daughter’s bedroom ceiling just above her bed. (We were in the basement thank God.) The tree stayed intact during storms this spring, but it was time.

We knew we would one day drop the trees. It was a matter of being able to pay for it and hiring the right company – we knew we needed an arborist with appropriate insurance in case something went wrong.

This year, as I began to help Go Local Pros, a group  of Evansville area contractors with their marketing, I met one of their members, American Eagle Tree Service.  They gave us an estimate and dropped our trees.

The back tree was a special challenge. The driveway to the back yard is narrow. The tree was too close to both our house and our neighbor’s and was surrounded by power lines. So when they dropped the tree, they moved their truck into our front yard, positioned their crane over our house, and lowered their tree cutter, chainsaw in hand, into the tree. Everything went much better than I expected.

I prayed for his safety, and all went well.  This morning, they returned to grind the stumps. It’s culture shock to look back and see bare ground where trees have always been.

Yes, I’ll miss the trees. But I’ll rest more easily, especially during storms, knowing the two dying trees beside our home are no longer there.

Sawing the base of the tree

A Great Keyboarding Teaching Tool

This week, I discovered a new book that works remarkably well in teaching adults how to type. KAZ, Keyboarding A to Z, offers an accelerated approach to touch typing that I highly recommend. I used it in two class sessions with a group of adult industrial plant workers who never took typing and never learned to use computers.

What worked? KAZ developed 5 short phrases for adults to learn to type first. Those 5 phrases use all 26 letters of the alphabet. They introduce those phrases incrementally and show correct hand position.

I was skeptical that this book would work until I used it. 

One of my worst memories from my own high school typing class is the incredible boredom of going to class daily for a year and typing business letters. By course’s end, I was prepared to not only type but write boilerplate business correspondence. (This was back in the day when our typing class getting a single row of electric typewriters was a big, innovative deal.)

Teaching keyboarding is a lot more fun now. When my kids were ready to learn to keyboard (fifth grade), I purchased a computer instruction CD which began with first finger “f” and “j” keys and progressed by way of games with fun music and tests.

For adult students, I blended the textbook with breaks of free keyboarding games we found online. After they finished an exercise, they got to play a game. Students experimented with different games and then chose the ones they preferred most.

Another key element to the success of the class was that students had time to practice on their own between class dates. They had tools of what to practice, both in their book and by way of website games.

Another helpful tool was that online typing tests measured their speed. By the end of the second day’s class, the students who already knew how to type had more than doubled their typing speeds. Those who were brand new had respectable scores and were comfortably typing.

In addition to traditional typing, I incorporated into my class PC keys – e.g. control, alt, delete, escape, home, end, arrows, and the Windows button.

While brilliant tech gurus and geeks discuss the latest and greatest, it’s easy to forget that there are adults who have never used a PC, never typed, and don’t text. A smart phone might be one with touch tones instead of dial-up. If you sit in any library computer lab, you will see people who don’t know how to find a website, don’t know what Google is, and don’t know when to click – let alone use the right or left mouse button. 

Empowering these adults to use PC’s is as critical as literacy efforts to teach people to read. The KAZ series does a great job of working with these adults to engage with new technology.


Check your Facebook Privacy Settings NOW.

If you haven’t checked your privacy settings on Facebook since their most recent upgrade, STOP. Do not pass go, do not stop for coffee, and DO check your privacy settings.

  1. On your profile page, there is a button on the upper right that says View As. See what your page looks like globally, to any of the 800 million users on Facebook who aren’t your friends.
  2. In the upper right corner, go to the drop down arrow, click on privacy settings, and evaluate each setting.
  3. When you click on edit profile, click on the tool option sprocket on the right of different options and deliberately select what is public and what is locked down.
  4. Check to see what level you are sharing your posts. If you change one post to show as public, then it becomes your new default until you later restrict access.
  5. If/when you check into a location and check others in as well, their friends are able to see where you are. Think carefully before you do so.

I’ll have more details on protecting your Facebook privacy in coming days. Check back soon.

Nothing is worse than thinking your privacy is protected when it really isn’t.


Waiting for Monday

“You’re too young to have enough experiences to write about your life,” I was told last week by a lady who had just met me. Part of me wishes that were true.

If things go well, I”ll have copies of He Uses It for Good available for sale Monday evening.  We’re waiting on the books to arrive. I want to make sure the books actually arrive before I schedule events to sell the book.

As soon as I have books in hand, I’ll post information on how you can get copies.

I’m waiting with a mixed bag of excitement and nerves. As I wrote, I opened the deepest closets of my heart and shared them – the good with the bad. I’m a little scared of what people will think. We all have a story with happy and sad parts. I’ve never shared some of the sadder parts of my story. Until now. 

I hope it celebrates the best of the American dream – the hardships we deal with, whether as children or adults, do not have to define or destroy us. They build us, and they make us stronger.

And I hope it shares my faith and what I have learned – whatever happens in life, if we give it to God, He can use it for good purpose.

Time and again, I’ve been hit with challenges that should have destroyed me. Yet here we are. God carried me through those times so I could share that story and inspire others to keep going, to never quit, and to see how God can use all things for good in their own lives.

Each day that I wrote, I asked God to guide my words. After I finished, I asked Him to confirm that it was time to tell my story. He confirmed it in a remarkable way that was added to the book’s end.

If you want to know more about how God carried me through challenges, buy my book.

Watch the Ball

When I was pregnant with my son, we both nearly died. The last month of his pregnancy, I was on bedrest, in Barnes-Jewish Hospital, in St. Louis, Missouri. My family visited on weekends. Each day presented challenges, including blood treatments with terrible side effects, early contractions, and more. But I knew that each hour and each day we delayed his birth increased his likelihood of survival.

How could I handle being alone, in a private room, on bedrest, in a hospital 100 miles from home, for 5 days each week? My husband helped me focus on the end game priority. We put a baby boy outfit on a hanger, on that wall, complete with get well cards from family and friends. When I got sick, tired, or discouraged, I would look at my wall of hope.

We managed to delay his birth a month by the grace of God. He didn’t spend a single hour in NICU.

There are life and business lessons in my experience.

  • Decide on your big, end game goal and put a reminder of it where you can see it. 
  • Surround yourself with encourages who love and support you. There are some who would rather argue with you or distract you in other directions. They can’t distract you if you watch the ball. Mentally remove them from your sphere of attention. The more you pay attention to the negative naysayers who would rather fight than build, the less likely you will win the end game.
  • It is easy to get distracted by small inconveniences.  Keep your eye on the ball, look for the prize, and don’t get distracted. The more you focus on your real goal, the more your actions and decisions will reflect that goal, and you’ll be likely to attain it.

Life is too short to waste it on distraction. Spend it going towards your goals and building loving, healthy relationships that respect boundaries.

Build your team with players who want to win the big game and will work together.

Oh – and if you want to hear more of how we survived that pregnancy and what happened, by my book He Uses It For Good when it’s released next month.


Discovering Jesus on Vacation Adventures

When my family visits other parishes during our travels, we’re touched and uplifted spiritually. If I copied Geoffrey Chaucer and his tales of Canterbury, I could call them Biever Tales. But then people would think of something else, and my purpose would be lost.

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, many pilgrims share stories on their journey. In their stories – some funny, some profound, each as unique as those on the journey, I see Jesus – a Jesus who came to save an imperfect world and loves us, flaws and all.

When our family travels, I research Mass Times to find parishes where we can worship. Then I find a Mass time that meets our schedule and map our way to the parish. Sometimes, our schedule is tight.

  • This summer, we went to Mass at Holy Rosary in Indianpolis just two hours before my daughter went to Washington, D.C., for a week of workshops.
  • Last month, when my son returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., we raced to St. Monica parish in Indianapolis, running a few minutes late. In that case, I had my Mass times folder, complete with times and maps to 4 different parishes, depending on what time his bus got back.
  • Our travels have taken us in recent years to St. Anthony in Indianapolis, Our Lady of the Springs in French Lick, and St. Thomas Moore in Mooresville.

Each time we follow those maps to visit a parish, sight unseen, I pray we won’t get lost and something remarkable will happen. It does. When we’re out of our comfort zone in a new parish and city, we still enjoy universal Mass responses. Being out of our comfort zone jars us from complacency and helps me discover Jesus in unexpected ways.

  • Worshiping in the tiny parish where the young child who’s just learned to talk says “Amen.” At least 20 times in a row.
  • Listening to a youth praise band full of young people playing with all their hearts and souls.
  • Hearing church bells in a parish that feels like it was lifted from the hills of Italy and brought to the Midwest.
  • Meeting priests who recognize us as guests and make a special point to make us feel welcome, thanking us for visiting them.
  • Visiting a parish where we’re in the racial minority and everyone there makes an extra effort to welcome us.
  • Being invited for coffee and donuts after Mass in new places.

Yesterday, as we visited a tiny parish on a hillside in French Lick, Indiana, during the readings, I grabbed my husband Richard’s hand. The priest had just shared a profound insight about God’s love and wedding feasts. We both saw Jesus again in that moment.

Just as in Chaucer’s time with a band of diverse pilgrims, no two parishes are the same. Nevertheless, they are united in the Eucharist. Each, in its own way, teaches us a new facet of God’s love and introduces us to Jesus all over again.

So each week, wherever I am, I can stop the bustle of my schedule, meet Jesus for a very important occasion, and remember how much He loves me and all of us.