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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

The Coop’s Been Flown

Our adventures with backyard chickens ended today. Early this morning, I took our 5 hens to a friend’s farm and watched as they were introduced to a barnyard full of hens and one happy rooster. They will be well cared for.

Tonight, as I looked out my kitchen window, instead of being amused at adventures in pecking order, I saw an empty coop and run.

Three and a half years ago, our adventures as urban backyard chicken owners began. We’ve gotten our one-day-old chicks in the mail, raised them, and enjoyed their eggs. We raised them in our utility room, slowly introduced them outside, and delighted when they laid their first eggs. When one ornery rooster drew first blood on my daughter, I drew second on him. Later, we gave a champion Rhode Island Red rooster we had raised to another farm that needed a new rooster.

When I made salads and prep produce, I’ve divided the scraps into 2 parts – the compost pile and the chicken run. Those hens were hilarious when they ate tomatoes, strawberries, sweet pepper seeds, and melon rinds. 

It was not by my choice that our adventures with chickens ended. Children who raise chickens grow into teens with busy schedules. They have to prioritize their time. My own business has grown such that some days I leave early and get home late.

When no one else in my family wanted us to keep them except for me, I had to bend.

I’ve learned more about poultry in the last 3 years than I ever imagined. Now, if I see a chicken, my first thought is what is its breed. For three years, I’ve delighted in each egg we’ve gathered and savored cooking with farm fresh eggs, sometimes warm just out of the nest box. Though we won’t have any more of our own eggs, I’ll never think of an egg the same way again.

And for awhile, just awhile, I’m not going to look out that kitchen window. Later, it will be easy.

So I guess I’m getting a taste of empty nest syndrome before my teens leave home.

The coop’s been flown.

Don’t Settle for the Horse and Buggy

“When cars began to be sold, my grandmother refused to learn to drive. She said a horse and buggy was ‘good enough,'” a retired lady in a recent Facebook for beginners class told me.

“Cars helped people reach new places faster. Now Facebook helps people do the same. I am going to learn to use it and won’t be like my grandmother,” she continued.

As I teach/coach people to make better use of PC’s and software, I meet many people who have resisted technology and clung to the horse and buggy.

  • It could be someone who distrusts those Excel formulas and relies upon her adding machine tape instead.
  • Sometimes it’s someone who still uses a word processor like a glorified typewriter and doesn’t realize documents could be prepared in half the time and look twice as good with a few word processing basics. 
  • Maybe it’s a salesperson who hasn’t made the leap into social media and sees no value in building stronger relationships with clients and networks via social media.

Once upon a time, that horse and buggy was just fine to venture from one place to another. It still is if you’re Amish or Mennonite.

For the rest of us, choosing the old horse and buggy because it’s “good enough” is going to have one end result:

You’ll be left behind.

  • While you’re taking a few hours to reach the next town, I’m going to be skyping with a friend on the other side of the planet in less than 60 seconds.
  • The hours you spend manually calculating those books because you don’t have time to learn new technology are hours I’m going to spend enjoying time with my family.
  • While you scramble to stay current in your industry, I keep up with the latest changes with strategic targetting of industry thought leaders on Twitter in less than half the time. And I’m probably talking with them too, developing relationships that raise my bar of performance.

Personally, I prefer not to settle for yesterday’s “good enough” but choose to aspire towards tomorrow’s “what can we do better and how do we get there?”

Adapting new solutions to old problems is the real final frontier – where we venture where no one has gone before.

That frontier is open to all with an open heart and mind to learn new methods.

Why don’t we go together on this brave new adventure?

Beware the Send Button

For years, I’ve warned students in email classes to beware the send button. I tell them that if you’re angry, shut down your email. It is much easier to type something in anger and hit send than it is to repair the damage it can cause.

There are times I haven’t followed my own advice.

With the advent of smartphones, that message is even more important. Beware the send button. Don’t get frustrated at someone and quickly bang out a message. You don’t know where or when the receiver will read it and what their frame of mind will be.

Last night, I made the mistake of checking email after an 11 hour marathon family day and time on the road. There was the message from a friend, typed in frustration, on a so-called smartphone. Exhausted and tired is not a constructive frame of reference to read “those” emails.

It also applies to text. Once, a friend of mine asked a plumber for help. Afterwards, he accidently texted her instead of someone else and called her a “stupid b*tch.” Guess who hired a new plumber after the fact.

Bottom line: just because a phone is smart doesn’t mean everything you do with it is smart too. Beware the send button. If you’re mad, turn off the phone and wait till you cool down.

You never know the damage you can do or the feelings you can hurt with that simple word, “send.”

My resolution after last night is to do a better job of monitoring my own sends. What do you do to avoid sending the toxic text or irate email when you’re angry?

Why the R Word Offends Me

IMG_3249photo © 2010 Karen Frederick | more info (via: Wylio)
Using the R word (“retarded”) to make fun of someone or something in front of me is the equivalent of waving a flag in front of a bull. When someone uses it that way, my perception of that person immediately changes in a bad way.  Why?

Children and adults with Down Syndrome have always been a huge part of my life. They have taught me lessons of  love, joy, and living in the moment. They have enriched their family’s lives beyond measure. How have they done so?

  • The youngest son of my favorite babysitter stayed home and did the outdoor yardwork that enabled his parents to spend at least 10 more years on the family farm before they went into a nursing home.
  • One of my middle school speech students moved a room of 200 adults to tears at the class’s final speech night when she gave an oral interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father) which included sign language.
  • The late son of another friend shared his love of music, Jesus, and Aces basketball with everyone he ever met.
  • Another friend, a high school student, dances ballet and found a job as a restaurant greeter as soon as he turned 16.

Most of all, there was my first daughter who died before she was born. Afterwards, she was diagnosed with anencephaly and Down syndrome, a rare combination.

When my children were little and played on playgrounds, I used to look at the 3rd swing, the empty swing, and wonder how our lives would be different today. I still miss her. Each time one of my friends with Down syndrome gives me a hug I feel a tug in my heart for the daughter I never got to hold. Nothing would have saved her. She did not suffer.

There is little if anything I can do for her or to honor her. The one thing I can do is urge people, and especially parents to stop using the R word to make fun of others. And to urge them to teach children how offensive that word is.  They may not realize how many others there are like me who hear them use that term and immediately think of them in a different, less flattering way.

Social Media Safety 4-H Success Story

Social Media Safety workshop in Evansville, Indiana.

Because of Twitter, Facebook, and 4-H, I got to meet some great people to help spread the message of social media safety to a larger audience. As a mother of teens who have been on social media for the past 4 years, the topic is a passion of mine. I’ve presented talks to church groups and youth groups on do’s and don’ts for social media.

Last spring, as I lobbied for 4-H funding at the state and national level, I met a 4-H leader in Massachusetts on Twitter. That became a friendship on Facebook. From there, we began discussing social safety for our communities.

Tonight, that culminates in a Skyped workshop, with my giving half of it in Evansville, Indiana and a Massachusetts speaker giving the other half. If all the technical details work out, our 4-H leaders and youth who participate will get to enjoy the same workshop, at the same time, in different states and different time zones. We’ve never tried this before and hope the technical details work.

We’ve shared information and ideas, regardless of how the tech part goes.

Our 4-H pledge talks about building our club, our community, our country and our world. Tonight, Facebook and Twitter helped us take that pledge to a new level.

The workshop in Evansville is at McCullough Library, 6 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

My Reference Letter for a Person I Don’t Know

I was flattered to be asked by Jane Doe to write a LinkedIn recommendation for her. She must pay attention to a broad range of people to ask me when we have never met, talked, or engaged one another in real life or on social media.

Frankly, I’m not sure whether she asked me to be a contact or I asked her. Nevertheless, I’m honored that she still thought enough of me to ask for the reference. Her work strengths that I can see:

  • Attention to detail – there are no spelling, capitalization, or punctuation errors on her LinkedIn profile.
  • Technical mastery – she is able to use social media templates – the request for my recommendation was the exact language of LinkedIn’s default recommendation request.
  • Humility – Jane is glad to let others shine and not venture into the limelight. Indeed, she has never liked or shared any of my posts on LinkedIn.
  • Unobtrusiveness – before this request, Jane has never messaged me or intruded on my time.
  • Pleasant personality – she’s smiling in her profile photo. That must be a good sign.

Based upon these observations, I highly recommend Jane Doe as a pleasant LinkedIn contact who never gives you a headache, pesters you, or irritates you.

By the way – if you happen to see her, tell her to say hello when she sees me. I’m not sure I would recognize her.




Birthday Surprises

Photo courtesy of Michael Gray Photography

When Richard turned 40, I was more wildcat than wife.  I decorated a 3-D toilet cake for his surprise party.  Then I filled his office with polyester cobwebs.

Payback’s rough.  When I turned 40, he flew in friends from Los Angeles and Chicago for a surprise weekend.

Now he turns 50.  No toilet cake.  You tamed the shrew.

When we met on a blind date 16 years ago, my hair was longer than my dress was short.  

On that first date, he saw through my blarney.  He smiled at me and commented, “You’ve had a rough time.”  I looked in his eyes and saw I was safe.  A nice, normal guy was undiscovered country.

We married two years later.  Many doubted it would work.  His family was traditional; mine was not.  I had moved 25 times in 26 years, and he had moved 5 times in 36 years.

It took 6 years for me to find God with Richard by my side.  As we met obstacles, I put us in separate rowboats when we crossed challenges.  Richard silently rowed to the other side.  I talked nonstop, rowing in circles around him worrying. 

“Will we get there?  How will we get there?  I’ve not stopped talking for 17 days but this is important and why aren’t you listening?”

When we met the challenge, I would collapse on land gasping, “Can you believe we got here?”

Richard would smile and say, “Yes.”

God sent me a husband who meets deadlines and keeps his word. As I learned to trust Richard, I opened a dialog with a God.

I still experience culture shock when he cares for our children.  It’s part of surviving with a Dad gap – I don’t know what it’s like to have a caring father.  My kids do.  He’s always there, in the background, working quietly for his family. The chains of my miserable youth broke.

Richard spent years as a quiet, steady German worker, plowing the field and planting seeds in my heart. He taught me that living life in Christ is more rewarding than surviving life without Him.  

I’ll decorate a nice cake this birthday.  Promise.

Happy 50th,  Richard.

“Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” – St. Francis of Assisi

I Invite, 6 Platforms

Imagine you’re inviting people to a big party at your office. How will you reach them? Each communications platform has its own style. Smart business communicators use each correctly.

Text: <3 our kewl partay next week! Be there!!!!!

Email: Our office is holding its annual customer appreciation day next Thursday from 1-5. We hope you will join us.

Blog: Blog on how much customers are valued with a graphic that shows the theme. It might include an Eventbrite for reservations, or it might just be an open invite.

Facebook: 5 days till the customer appreciation party – just bought the decorations. Hope to see you there! (attached to a link on the blog about the party)

LinkedIn: Please join us next week for our annual customer appreciation party. (attached to a link on the blog about the party)

Twitter:  We love our customers! Join us next week! (shortened link to blog attached)

Business professionals need to know the vernacular of each communications platform and use it. When I text, don’t expect me to ever type “kewl” or “partay.” On the other hand, I might reply back with a “k.”

I am over 40. When you send me an email, I expect it to include complete sentences, with appropriate capitalization and punctuation.

When I get an email that is phrased like a text, unless it is from a digital native under the age of 20, I am offended and question the sender’s professionalism. “Kewl Partay!” comes across as effectively as showing up for work, dressed in a bathrobe, going commando, wearing no pants, with varicose veins popping all over the place. As I read such messages I cringe just like I do when someone talks to me who has bad breathe.

Know each platform. You can follow its standards and maintain your own voice. At the same time, remember that the voice we use in the board meeting has a different inflection than the one Ma Kettle used when she clanged her triangle and hollered for her kids to come in for dinner.

And the person who wears a tux and tails to the beach party is going to look like an overstuffed lobster ready to be baked.

When you use the wrong form, people notice your bad form and miss your message.

Love is a Choice

On the eve of the anniversary of September 11, there are countless topics about which to blog: salute to the fallen, thanks to the heroes, remembering the past.

What strikes me tonight is that we must choose love.

People will disappoint us. Situations will confound us. Evil in our world will seek at every opportunity to defeat us – either through annihilation, injury, distraction, or discouragement.

Our greatest weapon against evil, against the negative, and against hatred is love. Love is patient. Love is kind. Sometimes love is shown in our defending those who are unable to do so themselves.

Whatever the context, whatever the contest or pretext, we must choose love. Love is often a decision we make. When we make it, we shine a light in the darkest corners of the universe. Reflecting darkness never made a pit of muck brighter.

On the other hand, being the light that shines in whatever darkness gives us hope to climb out of that pit and towards a better tomorrow – and will inspire others to do the same.

Are Your Clients Your FB Friends?

When I taught a full house class of business owners on social media for businesses, I was surprised when I asked the question, “Are your biggest clients your Facebook friends?”

None in the class said yes. Their vision of Facebook for business was entirely wrapped up in the business page.

Why should most of us friend our clients?

  1. Stronger communication
  2. Better relationships
  3. An additional opportunity to better understand each other
  4. More visibility

Friending clients also means we need to learn to use Facebook well and to communicate with it, not sell. (By the way – I can help you with that and personally coach clients to better communicate socially.)

Friending clients also means communicating with them across other social platforms – Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus. Each has a little different style and purpose. Here’s how each platform works for me with business networking:

  • Facebook – nurture and build relationships with friends and those who could be friends
  • Twitter – talk about stuff that interests me and meet new people all over the planet
  • LinkedIn – meet professionals and brand myself with my blogs on business topics.
  • Google Plus – a hybrid of all of the above where I increase visibility with more tech-oriented people.

As my relationship with someone grows, we might increase the different places we talk online. What begins with Twitter or Google Plus could venture to LinkedIn.

It’s like business networking in real life. I meet someone at a networking group on Thursday and then discover that we’re both also involved in a community event. Then we meet in a different venue. Over time, we build a relationship.

Better relationships provide more opportunities for business.

That’s why business owners should friend their clients and prospective clients on Facebook.