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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

The Flinstone Car or the Hummer?

Hummer H3photo © 2009 Anatoli Axelrod | more info (via: Wylio)
Does your new web marketing plan look more like a Flinstone Car or a Hummer? Which will better drive business success?

The Flinstone Car can move from Point A to Point B. It’s cobbled together, with a website engine from Bedrock and a marketing chassis from Rockville. The social media steering wheel is strapped to the car with a dinosaur bone that doesn’t quite fit right but works just well enough to let the steering wheel turn the stone wheels.  The website engine is really a couple of guys running under the car, and they have trouble when they get into search engine gravel pits. Barely reaching Point B from Point A gets the job done.

The Hummer was custom designed so its parts work together. The website engine is up to whatever tasks are needed, and the Hummer glides across search engine gravel pits, beating all its competitors to the finish line. The social media steering wheel is finely tuned to help the car shift directions whenever needed. Equipped with the latest technology, the Hummer can go mobile or video whenever needed. Getting from Point A to Point B is never a problem – if you don’t watch out, the Hummer will venture to Point Z and find you business on the other side of the planet.

Will the Flinstone Car or the Hummer carry your business further?

Do you know someone who’s getting Flinstone Car quality work and paying Hummer prices for it? I do.

Maybe you know someone who knows the Flinstone Car won’t work and the Hummer is too expensive. Guess what – there’s a budget-minded smart car that can also get your business further than the Flinstone Car.

If your business marketing feels like a cobbled Flinstone car and you would like to get a smoother vehicle for the 21st century, let me know. I can refer you to a great team that can meet your needs to better drive your businesses’ marketing – with web design, smartphone apps, blogs, video, social media, and more so you can best reach your customers and grow your business.

GMO Wars Across the Dinner Table

I'm here with you.photo © 2009 Kevin Lallier | more info (via: Wylio)
When I decided my daughter’s first birthday cake would be a carrot cake made with whole wheat flour, I should have known God’s humor would one day smack me.

Though I have relaxed, when my children were babies, I was a nutrition Nazi. Processed foods didn’t touch our table. When my daughter was three and ate her first Twinkie, she buzzed for 3 hours like she was on a drug-induced high.

I have relaxed but still grind my own wheat when I bake bread and buy the no corn syrup, no additives wheat varieties when I buy bread.  We grow a garden, and I preserve as much as I can.  When we have enough produce, I’ll make our own pizza and tomato sauce, applesauce, pearsauce, and more to last through the next year. We have backyard chickens so our eggs have a higher nutrition content and better flavor. 

So how will God show humor to the mother who cringes at lunch meat and refused to allow her children to ingest any artificial sweeteners before they were 10?

  • My son loves junk food, especially white bread and ravioli out of a can. His favorite food is hot dogs, and he could host Teen Boy Versus Food, with weekly dares on how much junk he can ingest in a single sitting.
  • My 17-year-old daughter likes nutritious foods, but her interests took a different tack. She is passionate about food production and agriculture and plans to spend her life working in the marketing/business end of food and agriculture. In the farm to fork spectrum, she’s more interested in the farm.

Now the clincher:

My daughter loves GMO foods and wants to help create more of them. She’s opposed to the introduction of any animal or human strains in plant breeding but passionately believes that GMO can reduce world hunger in a world of increased populations and decreased land availability to grow foods.

How can I argue with a teen who tells me she wants to find ways to feed starving people in third world countries? She’s researched agriculture business and GMO foods for school research papers. I made sure she read the naturalist point of view. Her mind hasn’t changed.

My mind hasn’t changed either. So we agree to disagree. When I unload our produce from our CSA, community supported agriculture, which only raises non-genetically modified or chemically treated seed raised in a sustainable manner, she looks at the produce and sniffs, “You’re just one of those NON-CHEMICAL people.”

Yesterday, as we ate corn on the cob at lunch, I told her it was from the CSA, and her reply was: “I knew something was wrong with it. Look at the smaller ears and the smaller kernels of corn. Imagine if you raised a hybrid how much more productive the land would be and how many more people it would feed.”

I agree with her that I’m a non-chemical person. And I have chosen not to argue with her point of view. She’s on her own journey.

And I count my blessings: there are worse ways a 17-year-old could rebel than to support GMO foods.

Her family’s lifestyle will always be in her heart – I know that every time I see her feeding our vegetable peelings to her chickens in our backyard.

As she journeys on her path to feed the world, I’ll always be proud of her.


Godspeed and Good-Bye to a 4-H Tech Club Friend

Brain Surgery & Digital Imaging Workshop at Tech Club

We are blessed when there are quiet heroes among us, who share their talents and raise the bar. This week, I had to say good-bye to a friend and his family with our 4-H Tech Club, Mark Keller. Mark is one of our club’s leaders, who will be moving with his engineering job later this summer.

Mark belongs to that category of quiet superhero – one of the good guys who comes up with outstanding ideas and then carries them from start to finish. He never sought the limelight but always undertook each task with thorough attention to detail, a wry sense of humor, and an abiding sense that as a youth leadership program, we balanced skill and character development. Mark’s years of work as a youth leader at his church gave him perspective and experience as a 4-H leader.

When our club had a planning meeting last fall, Mark suggested we try a hands-on approach to rockets. We had had workshops in past years on the physics behind rockets, rocket building 101, and advanced rocket skills. He wanted us to try having the club buy and each member of the club build a rocket during a meeting to launch at a later meeting.

As a leader, I’ve sometimes encountered creative people who come up with ideas, start them, but don’t finish them. Not so with Mark. We scheduled his rocket workshops, and Mark planned them with impeccable detail, researching and purchasing rockets that would meet our needs to be built in a 1-hour workshop. Then Mark led 22 kids, from ages 3rd to 12th grades, through the building of rockets. At a later meeting, when we launched, Mark again assumed quiet leadership and handled all the details.

Mark did an equally outstanding job at leading physics workshops for the club…whether it was a workshop on Mobius Strips where he incorporated the steps of the scientific method and illustrated industrial applications for them or a magnetic physics experiment where he had members work through each of the steps, log their results, ask questions, and then reach conclusions. Not only did he present excellent information, but he did so in an engaging manner that held everyone’s interest. He also found a neurosurgeon (who happened to be a former rocket scientist) who gave our club a workshop on how digital imaging is used in brain surgery to save lives.

Mark’s leadership skills show equally in his family. His son, a budding programming guru, has designed websites for non-profits, created Visual Basic databases, and created his own blogging application which rivals WordPress in usability – and has served this year as our club’s secretary. His daughter, a club recreation leader, has arrived at each meeting prepared with recreation, willing to share her ideas. She’s always been a great sport who keeps focus, even when the occasional middle school boy tries to get her attention by pestering her, never complaining and staying on the task at hand.

The youth and other leaders in our Tech Club will continue to seek to find new ways we can use technology better. Even so, technology doesn’t replace great people. We hope to carry on from the lessons Mark has taught us and live up to the example he set.

Thanks to the whole Keller family, and Godspeed in your journey. You will be missed and will always have a special place in our Tecchie hearts.



Soar on Eagle’s Wings – On My Daughter’s 17th Birthday

Candlesphoto © 2006 Brimstone | more info (via: Wylio)
Seventeen years ago, my daughter was born on one of the happiest days of my life. Before she learned to crawl, she learned to roll and scared me one day when I couldn’t find her in her room. Frantically, I searched and finally found her; she had rolled under her crib and was exploring.

On her birthday, as she ventures from home, I think back to a lifetime of cherished memories. Even before she could walk, Elizabeth explored faster than I could keep up with her. 

She showed her quiet loyalty even at an early age. When she was 4 and was playing across a playground one afternoon, I saw a bully try to throw rocks at her 2-year-old baby brother. Elizabeth raced there before I did, threw herself in front of her brother so she was the one who got hit, and then decked the bully. When I got there a split second later, she told me, “I handled it, Mom.”

She still “handles it” before I can catch up to her. Now, she just goes a little further. She’s just returned from a week’s leadership training in Washington, D.C. With each trip she makes and challenge she takes, I see her growing into her own person.

And I see her growing into someone who will disagree with me. Like all mothers and daughters since the beginning of time, we clash.  “Mom, you’re just one of THOSE organic, non-chemical people,” she notes as I savor produce from our local CSA group. She’s right. Though I’m now that silly, doddering mother whose opinion is not always valued, I’ll share some birthday advice for a lifetime:

  • Search your heart for the things that mean the most for you, figure out your dreams, and go for them. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you can’t or won’t. Go for the will and can.
  • Whatever your dream – whether it’s to create a new food, develop new agriculture products, build a family, play Irish jigs on your fiddle, or find a way to feed more starving people around the world, go for it.
  • Use your creative touch to leave the world brighter than you found it. Write your stories and create your pictures.
  • Always remember that when you go for your dreams, you will soar on the wings of eagles, lifted up by the prayers of your proud parents, who will love you to the moon and back again, beyond the ends of time itself.

Happy birthday.

Jury Duty Matters

Jury Dutyphoto © 2008 j | more info (via: Wylio)
I wonder how many people who criticize the Casey Anthony jury have tried to get out of jury duty when they were called.

There was a time, before I served on a jury, when I was one of those whose life was so busy there was no way I wanted the inconvenience of it. I tried to think of angles to avoid serving my time.

Then, a few years ago, I was summoned to serve on a grand jury. I’m not allowed to discuss what we considered or heard. After our jury proceedings concluded, parents were indicted in the death of a baby, and those parents have since been convicted.

It wasn’t convenient to serve. When I was called, I thought I would be out at noon and left my teens at home. Then I was stuck all day and got one phone call to call my teens, tell them, and pray they didn’t get into trouble all day. How inconvenient.

My time on that jury was the most heart-breaking experience of my life. Grand jury is different from a traditional jury in that we were sequestered in a room and were able to request evidence and question witnesses. During that time, I realized how important it was that I was there, along with all the other jurors in the room. We all brought different perspectives and experiences to the process. Each of us had something to contribute.

I realized then that if everyone who’s savvy figures out ways to get out of jury duty, then we can’t complain about the results the justice system brings to bear.

Parts of my time as a grand juror still haunt me. However, I would be haunted more if I had wriggled my way out of jury duty and was then dissatisfied with verdicts rendered in other cases.

Let’s resolve to shift thinking such that jury duty is once again a duty we keep and never again try to shirk.

5 Ways Young People Become Better Entrepreneurs

Money-Euro-USD-LEI_53073-480x360photo © 2010 Emilian Robert Vicol | more info (via: Wylio)
With the right experiences and opportunities to make mistakes, young people can become successful entrepreneurs. In the Financial Times, David Koeppel wrote, “When Entrepreneurs Are Too Young to Succeed,” outlining the risks young entrepreneurs face. Koeppel describes the pitfalls but misses the solution.  The more experiences young people bring to business, the more likely they are to succeed. Here’s how.

  1. Small Beginnings. It’s harder for young people to get jobs than it used to be. I ran a paper route at age 10.  Nevertheless, a snow shovel or a cookie sheet could be a stepping stone to business 101. Mowing lawns can grow to a bigger business. When my daughter was younger, she made and sold cake rolls and dinner rolls to raise money to pay her tuition for the Evansville Children’s Choir. One talented teen babysitter designed a password protected website for her clients so they could check her calendar and book her online.
  2. Nonprofit Fundraisers. Volunteer for nonprofits. Our 4-H leaders welcome young people at catering dinners. They learn customer interaction, teambuilding, and more.
  3. Youth Organizations. Smart youth development programs put teens fully in charge of their own fundraisers. Our Vanderburgh County 4-H Junior Leaders completely run a food booth at our county fair. Their success fully depends on themselves. No adults rescue them if there aren’t enough workers or they didn’t order enough food. When my daughter was their treasurer last year, she camped on the fairgrounds with another family so she could be there when they closed and be up early each morning to make food orders.
  4. College Programs. College business programs can better prepare their students. The School of Business at the University of Evansville requires all business majors to complete internships. Hands on experience is a great teacher of Office Politics 101. In addition, UE offers an entrepreneurial program where its business majors can develop a business plan and present it in a competition where the winner earns seed money to begin the business.
  5. Family Businesses. My husband and I have run The Copper Lion, Inc., for 11 years. We’re a mom and pop digital graphics shop that provides services to national ad agencies and Fortune 500 clients. Our kids have grown up with a work state of life, where our schedules revolve around client needs, with time carved out for family. For extra income, we sometimes sell books at conventions, and our kids have grown up helping us set up, sell, tear down, and inventory. They’ve seen us eat shoplifting losses and smile all day while we talk with every customer, no matter how tired we are.  They’ve seen us put up with government paperwork, such as the year we were audited by unemployment to make sure we were paying all unemployment taxes for my husband and me.

Kids who grow up in an entrepreneurial home develop a different mindset because of their experiences. I recently spent an afternoon with a nursing major who grew up with her father in a family business. She had seen him succeed despite roadblocks and too much paperwork by government bureaucrats. In the process, she honed a business sense to spot problems, see strengths, and understand what it takes to succeed in business.

Yes, it’s harder for young people to gain those experiences in a tough economy with high unemployment. Nevertheless, they can do it and gain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in business with a lot of trying.



Old Moms, New Tricks

“If you hold a needle, I want a picture to prove it,” my teen daughter sniffed when she learned I was going to a sewing party.

My 8th grade class was the first one where girls got to take shop, so I skipped home ec. So I made the metal ashtray, did the woodworking project, and skipped sewing. My mom had a Buttoneer, so I never sewed on a button.

God gave me a mother-in-law who is a professional seamstress. When my kids were little, I never told them, but they held their mending till Grandma visited. Then they would bring her their holey socks, torn knees, and more.  Grandma never complained at my domestic ineptitude. She taught my daughter to sew. And she didn’t explode the time my son thought her backstitcher was a bank, poured quarters into the slots, and my husband had to take it apart to get out the money.

This spring, I joined YaYa’s, an extension homemaker’s club on the understanding they wouldn’t make me sew. With this year’s Fashion Revue, the club decided to make pajamas to wear as a group entry and scheduled a sewing session. I’m not the only non-sewer. The real sewers brought their machines and told us to bring fabric.

So, today, I showed up with my pink fabric. Going into the fabric store was as stressful to me as walking into the dentist’s office for a root canal. Give me the smells of a plumbing supply store.

By this time, I was going to the sewing party as much to prove to my kids I could.  YaYa’s encouraged me.

  • “You want me to cut this?”
  • “Why are they called pinking sheers? Is it because the fabric’s pink?”
  • “Notches? Is this like an Erector set?”
  • “You iron seams?”
  • “You hem pant legs by hand? Really?”
  • They didn’t laugh when I pinned the pants across the crotch.
  • They didn’t laugh when I pinned the pants backwards.

They did laugh when I told them I needed photographic evidence to prove to my family I actually sewed.

P. S. Don’t tell my family I never touched the sewing machines. I was afraid they might break. But I did touch a needle and thread.

Lesson? Old moms can learn new tricks. So can you. Go out and learn how to do something new today!

Star Spangled Opportunities

American Flagphoto © 2009 Tom Thai | more info (via: Wylio)
Despite the economy, Americans willing to work harder and smarter with brains and brawn can still discover the American dream.

Don’t let the Debbie Downers discourage you. My family and I have lost everything and come back, and I’ve great confidence you can do the same.

On August 11, 2001, our family’s home and business burned on a Saturday night, a year after our business opened. The structure stood, but the inside was gutted with smoke and water damage. The next Monday morning, I found our flag and hung it by our front door. Our landline phone still worked, so we strung a phone cord through what had been a kitchen door into the driveway and set my office up with a card table and folding chair.

It’s 10 years later, and our business is still standing. We fought back – with lots of hard work, sweat, and sacrifice. You can do the same.

New business opportunities exist for those who want to find them. Surround yourself with business leaders who are grabbing their own brass rings. If you don’t know any, go to Twitter, find them, and follow them. Learn from them. Don’t imitate them – just adapt what you learn to who you are and what works for you.

When our ancestors came to America, many had to reinvent themselves to survive in the New World. Guess what. It’s New Techno World in the 21st century, and you might need to do the same. Your ancestors did it, and so can you. Erik Deckers and Kyle Lacy wrote a book, Branding Yourself, which can help.

Two years ago, my husband and I took our business in new directions by way of social media and set some basic goals: increase repeat business, develop new clients, and go global. Each of those goals has been met. We’ve tweaked our product mix, learned new skills, and adapted old ones.

When you set those goals and do what it takes to make them happen, you too can witness the power of Star Spangled Opportunities. With bombs bursting in air, under rockets red glare, YOUR flag can still wave.

Don’t quit. Go for the dream. You can do it in the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Oh – and if you want to know how our family and our business survived that fire, buy my book, He Uses It for Good, when it’s released later this year.

Mountain Women

woman_childphoto © 2010 KatieK* | more info (via: Wylio)
Thanks to the fighting Scot-Irish Mountain Women in my family tree, who deserve a nod on the 4th of July.

Scratching a living in the foothills of Kentucky, and later, southern Illinois, their stories leap through generations.

Their battles were fought on the homefront.

What a legacy they give to my children and me…and great stories to share:

  • When her husband came home drunk and passed out in bed one too many times, she left him. But first, she sewed him from head to toe up in the bedsheets. In the mid-1800’s.
  • After her favorite mule was stolen in the 1800’s, she heard someone had him 100 miles from home. So she rode alone on horseback to fetch him home. He had been sold to a farmer. When she called the mule and he came to her, the farmer realized the mule did belong to her. She declined, saying she had to get him back home or no one would believe she found him.
  • During the Civil War, a mother with a house full of kids to feed went postal on a military regiment that tried to take her last cows to feed the army. She told them she had children to feed and fought so hard they took the cows, but paid her. She was the only one in the area who got reimbursed for livestock.
  • My grandmother, who lived in a log cabin in the woods, walked 3 miles to the highway while in labor to get to her sister’s house to deliver a baby. Three days later, she walked 3 miles back home, in 3 inches of snow, with my grandfather carrying my newly born mother, with her toddler son trailing beside her. The sisters had gotten into an argument after childbirth, and Grandma was so mad she walked back home.
  • Equally expert with a butcher knife or shotgun, Grandma saved the rattle when she shot a snake out of the tree in her yard. I kept the rattle until it burned when my house burned 10 years ago. Once, in her 80’s, an intruder ventured on her porch. Alone at the time, Grandma turned on the porch light, leaned her shotgun across her walker and yelled, “Come one step closer and I’ll blow your balls off.” The intruder fled, never to return.
  • Grandma’s oldest sister, who was a formidable 5 feet tall when she began as a schoolteacher in a one-room schoolhouse, teaching 60 kids, including her 4 younger siblings. At her funeral, just weeks shy of her 100th birthday, an 80-year-old student who became a pastor preached the sermon. He told us, “Miss Ida ruled the school. Every farm boy was afraid of her. Once, she told me, ‘If I have to take a hoe and knock a hole in your head, I will if that’s what it takes for you to learn your math tables.’ I learned them. And when I got too sick to go to school, Miss Ida drove her horse and buggy to my house every day after school to give me my lessons. For a month.”
  • Grandma’s other sister, Aunt Lena, who managed a peach orchard in southern Illinois (with the largest barn of its time) after the untimely death of her husband, was still a piker in her 90’s. When a doctor tried to talk to her daughter and ignore her, Aunt Lena interrupted him, saying, “You talk to me. I pay my own bills, and I write your check.” (Her orchard is now Hedman Vineyards, with a Swedish bed and breakfast, complete with fantastic meals at the Peach Barn Cafe. The farmhouse by the Peach Barn is where my mother was born. The vineyard is beautiful, and the cafe is fantastic.)

Those strong women were the wives and mothers of equally pioneers and mountainfolk. I thank them all for fighting for an American dream of a better home for our families. 

Their legacy gave me the strength and chutzpah to overcome my own obstacles to build a better world for my family.

Happy Independence Day!

Google+ Joins the Social Media Playground

playgroundphoto © 2006 Azfar Ismail | more info (via: Wylio)

What do businesses need to know and do right now with Google+?

Keep your backyard Social Media Playground flexible enough to adjust the layout when a new toy gets introduced to the market.

Early reports look good. With its invitation only roll-out, social media obsessives like me were pumping Twitter networks yesterday to angle invites from friends already there. We liked what we saw. All it took was an invite and a gmail account to get me hooked.

What do Businesses Need to Know:

I hope you didn’t fall so in love with your Facebook page that you made it the inground pool centerpiece of your social media strategy. Facebook owns the platform and loves to change its rules. Arguing with Facebook is as effective as negotiating with the Borg in Star Trek.

If you built the inground Facebook pool, get ready to make adjustments in your other backyard space. Facebook grew too confident and comfortable with its market dominance because there was no viable competitor. In recent months, and especially in recent weeks, I’ve heard varied frustrations from people sick of Facebook. Why?

  • Teens don’t want to hang out on the same block Grandma and Grandpa do.
  • Facebook games lost their luster.
  • Recent spam attacks that showed pornographic images put wavering users over the edge.
  • More people are frustrated at how difficult it is to negotiate with Facebook if they delete your account.

Real competition will force Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to all up their game. This morning, Facebook added sorting and reputation features to comments.

What do Businesses Need to Do:

  • Get an invite to Google+ for at least one person on your social media team. Start playing.
  • Vary the toys on your social media playground. If all you’ve had is the Facebook pool, it’s time to try the Twitter trampoline and the LinkedIn Playhouse.
  • Get thee to WordPress and Youtube. Go blogging with written and video channels. (The Youtube/Google+ connection could become much bigger.)
  • Go mobile. Design your website for mobile. Value added apps your customer uses can make your sales boom.
  • If you choose to stay Facebook only social media marketing, prepare yourself for the day your Facebook pool becomes as relevant as a backyard museum designed for Pet Rocks.

If you need help getting started with Twitter or LinkedIn, I can help. If you don’t know who to go to to create an app, design your website, or set up your blog so you not only win search but make more money, ask me for recommendations.

I know some super talented pros in each of those areas who can help – WordPress design, web design, blogging, video, and app development and would be glad to give you a referral.

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