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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

Smile, You’re on Big Screen

Twitter live on the big screenphoto © 2009 John Dalton | more info (via: Wylio)
Just before I teach classes on social media, I post a message on my profile:

“Teaching in 30 minutes. Say hi to my class. Smile – you’re on big screen.”

Friends around the planet, from my own backyard of Indiana to the other side of the planet in Australia, chime in to welcome my students.

My message to friends has a dual purpose.

  1. First, begin conversations to show my classes how we can quickly converse by way of Facebook or Twitter.
  2. Second, warn my friends that their social media comments are about to appear on a big screen in front of a room full of people they don’t know.

With each class I teach, I share my number one rule:

Smile – you’re on big screen.

If you would not be comfortable posting that profile or sending that private message to a room full of strangers, don’t tweet, publish, or send it. This rule applies whether I’m talking to a group of teens, grandparents, non-profits, or business owners.

Think before you tweet. Pause before you post. If the question is asked what’s on your mind, use your mind for a moment to think about it first.

In another era, Helen of Troy had the face that launched 1,000 ships. Today, aspire to write the post that teaches, delights, and builds.

 Today’s thoughtless post could become the tweet that launches 1,000 quips.


He Uses It For Good – Behind the Cover

My book is finished.  After a month of intense writing, and two months’ editing and proofing, I sent off the manuscript this morning. He Uses It for Good is about to become a reality.

I owe a big thanks to my husband Richard, a digital illustrator with our company The Copper Lion, Inc., who designed the book cover. After 20 years of marriage, he’s lived most of the story and knows the rest. He patiently helps when I bound in full of energy and ideas, telling him, “Richard! I have this vision! It will be awesome!” More than playing Sancho to my Don Quixote moments, he gathers pieces and parts and helps make those visions happen.

The book’s premise is that God can take whatever happens to us or mistakes we make and use them for good.  I’ve lived it and seen it for a life time. From the heartland of Illinois and Indiana, to the Louisiana Bayou, to southern California and Mexico, and the British Isles, God has helped me. My misadventures have most likely kept a battalion of guardian angels busy for a lifetime.

Richard took the threads of those adventures and wove them into a book cover, beginning with photos of me, his walking our toddling daughter through a backyard garden, and our son’s working in a pumpkin patch.

The evening I took the photo of his walking our daughter in the garden, sun reflected in the lens. The picture is a metaphor of hope; someone like me can have a daughter whose daddy lovingly helps her take her first steps in a beautiful garden surrounded by a circle of light. He incorporated into it Celtic imagery, a crucifix, and passport stamps.  The most ordinary parts of our lives become remarkable in the hands of an artist and creator.

Richard’s design captures the hope of my book and heart. It reminds me that my heavenly Father will guide my baby steps, just as Richard guided our daughter’s, surrounded by light in a garden full of possibilities. The whole time, though I may not see it, we’re surrounded by rays of Divine Mercy.

Note – check back for publication dates and more.


When Facebook Friendships Grow Toxic

Facebook Screenshotphoto © 2010 Neeraj Kumar | more info (via: Wylio)
What do you do when a Facebook friendship goes south? Not everyone is your biggest fan or friend, and sometimes bad things happen.

  • You get poison pen private messages telling you how awful you are.
  • Someone tries to be funny and over comments on your wall.
  • Someone is verbally abusive to you or your friends on your wall.
  • Someone is verbally abusive about you on other walls.

Not all playground fights happen in the schoolyard.

Sometimes a minimal response can preserve a friendship. These solutions include:

  • Hide the person’s news stories from your news feed. If someone consistently posts flame bait disguised as a status, just don’t read it. Then your real life relationship can remain intact.
  • Filter the person. Create a limited profile list and filter what posts or information you post to everyone. If you do this, be fully prepared to make a mistake and post something publicly that you intended to go private.
  • Restrict the person. Limit your friend’s ability to post on your wall or comment.

Even with these precautions, if someone launches missiles at your page, the day may come to unfriend that person. It’s not an end to any relationship but sometimes is a matter of personal protection. Your Facebook wall doesn’t have to be a place for you to take abuse, and neither is your home. If the time comes you’re subjected to abuse or treatment that makes you uncomfortable in either environment, it’s ok to opt out.

How do you handle a toxic Facebook friend?


Don’t Badmouth the Hand that Feeds You

Facebookphoto © 2010 MoneyBlogNewz | more info (via: Wylio)
What are the biggest mistakes I see young people making on social media?

  1. Complaining about their jobs
  2. Complaining about the customers at their jobs

Yes, we have freedom of speech. We can say what we want.  Remember the flip side of that freedom:

  1. Your employer has freedom to hire and fire.
  2. Your employer’s clients have freedom to spend their money elsewhere.

When you work for a company, like it or not, you are their brand ambassador. If you badmouth the brand or mock the customers, you potentially harm your employer. If you work there and you hate it, why would new customers want to enter the door or current customers want to return?

If the average Facebook user has 150 friends, then odds are that somehow, if you say something bad, your boss will see it.

It’s a tough economy, and odds are there are other people out there who would love to have your job and will do it well, without the badmouthing.

If you work for a company that is abusive, or that engages in immoral, unethical, or illegal practices, find another job. Don’t vent your frustrations on social media. If you do, and your prospective employers see it, they will assume you make a habit of badmouthing the hand that feeds you and will choose not to hire you.

Discretion 101 matters as much on Facebook and Twitter as it does in real life.

Good things happen if you share the good parts of your job, your customers, and your employer:

  1. You brand your employer as a great place.
  2. You brand yourself as a positive team member.
  3. The more you focus on the positive, the more you’ll enjoy your job and the time you’re there.

Treasure in Weeds Behind the Barn

“Check the weeds behind the barn,” I was told at Seton Harvest yesterday. Seton is a community supported agriculture initiative sponsored by the Daughters of Charity in Evansville, Indiana.  It’s a 10-acre farm with 2 greenhouses, a barn, and full irrigation system.  They are Certified Naturally Grown, which means they have no chemically treated or genetically modified seeds, practice ecologically sustainable farming practices, and use no synthetic chemical insecticides, fertilizers, herbicides, or fungicides .

Families purchase shares in the garden, and members equally divide the harvest.  Each week, members visit the farm to collect their harvest of the week. Last year, they donated over 8,000 pounds of surplus produce to area food pantries. Members can also collect herbs from the herb garden.

So it’s win win for members – promote good land stewardship, obtain fresh produce for their families, and help the poor.

I never realized when I signed up the peace and tranquility I would discover when getting my weekly share of the harvest. There’s a serenity among the fields. After collecting my kale, lettuce, shallots, pak choi, green onions, and tatsoi yesterday, I was able to go pick strawberries.

strawberriesphoto © 2010 James Lee | more info (via: Wylio)
Early spring rains made it a bad year for their strawberry crop. The berries are small and sparse. After I had gleaned tiny berries from the rows in front, I was told to check the weeds behind the barn. First, as I wandered last year’s weedy strawberry patch, I didn’t see many berries. Then I ventured into the tall weeds. As I looked among the 2-foot weeds, I found the best berries of the bunch – large, juicy berries hidden under the weeds. Because they were more difficult to find, they weren’t picked over and were plentiful.

What a lesson in life and business. Jesus encouraged us to search for the one lost coin, and I sometimes felt like I was searching for the one lost berry. Businesses seek their niche. Smart businesses may figure out where the weeds are in their industry where they can find the big berries with less competition. It may take a little extra effort, but the result is worth it.

When you search for berries, how do you check the weeds behind the barn?


I Do – 20 Years Later

Photo courtesy of Michael Gray Photography

“I do,” I said 20 years ago on our wedding day. The happily ever after adventure we got is different from the one I imagined that day.

What’s the secret that kept our marriage going, even on the days when the bathroom sink broke, the kids got stomach bugs, and the cat got fleas?

Those simple words: “I do.”

In the 1968 film Yours Mine and Ours (embedding of this video was disabled), Henry Fonda explains the facts of life to his daughter. Henry plays Frank Beardsley, a widower who has married Lucille Ball, a widow. As they combine their household of 18 children, chaos erupts when Lucille goes into labor with number 19. As their daughter struggles to know what real love is, Fonda explains:

“It’s giving life that counts. Until you’re ready for it, all the rest is just a big fraud. All the crazy haircuts in the world won’t keep it turning. Life isn’t a love in, it’s the dishes and the orthodontist and the shoe repairman and… ground round instead of roast beef. And I’ll tell you something else: it isn’t going to a bed with a man that proves you’re in love with him; it’s getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts.”

My home is chaotic as times, but not as chaotic as the scene in this movie. Nevertheless, when my world grows to hectic and I long for the blissful honeymoon or some Calgon take me away time on my own personal Pacific Island, I think of Henry and realize something.

Each day I say “I do.” Love is a decision and an opportunity often disguised through the routine of dishes, laundry, cooking, and driving my kids. It’s the decision to stick through the chaotic moments along with the blissful honeymoon that makes a marriage.

So today, I say “I do.” I’ll repeat that tomorrow, and every day, and rejoice in the unexpected gifts along the way.


Work and Old Geezers

Help Wantedphoto © 2008 Egan Snow | more info (via: Wylio)
Once again, I’ve reached the age of Old Geezers.

Where is it written that every job will be fun and pay double digits by the hour for your personal fulfillment?

Some jobs are dirty. They wear you out.  Not everyone loves every job. We may work for fulfillment and paycheck, understanding that that paycheck pays our bills and gives us choices for every facet of our lives.

I got my first paper route when I was 9. I delivered papers daily during the blizzard of 1978 and bad winters of 1977-1978 because I needed the money. As the oldest of 4 kids in a single parent family, I bought my own clothes and provided my own spending money beginning in the seventh grade – from that paper route, a job stuffing papers, mowing lawns, and babysitting.

After I left home at age 18, I worked any job available – tutoring, market research, cooking, sales, waitressing, typing, desk jobs, and anything that would pay me something so I could eat, have a roof over my head, and pay for classes.

Never in my experiences did I have the luxury of saying a job was boring, or tiring. It was a paycheck, and I resolved to be worthy of it – working my hardest.  A dirty job is a glass half empty/half full proposition. We can choose to look at it as a lousy way to spend a day. Or we can rejoice that we have an opportunity to earn a paycheck and resolve to make the most of and enjoy everything we can about that day on our job. Having fun on the job is often a deliberate decision in attitude.

We live in a tough economy where jobs are hard to find. Sometimes the jobs we do find don’t pay what we would like and aren’t the kind of work we enjoy.

My grandparents lived through the Depression. I survived single parent poverty and cannot understand on any level someone who needs a job who refuses to take that job because it is too boring or beneath them.  That is of course qualified that the person is physically and mentally capable of a legal, moral, and ethical job.

Don’t cry poverty on my shoulder if you decline opportunities. My sympathies are reserved for those who do work hard and who struggle to make ends meet.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

– Thomas Edison


Golf Course Hacks

facebook logophoto © 2008 Marco Paköeningrat | more info (via: Wylio)
A new golf course hack is hitting Facebook right now. I’m going to update a writeup on this but wanted to alert you ASAP. Do NOT click on it. It looks particularly nasty. Here’s what it does:

The new Facebook Golf Course hack likes the following:

  • The hottest and funniest golf Course video
  • Get a free meal hurry (Subway)
  • Life in 3 Steps Born Love Live Die
  • I Love Music
  • Oytube
  • Give Respect = Have Respect
  • It’s Fun to be Young
  • Oh My GOD and Who Know Me?

If you like ANY of those pages, you risk getting hacked by this monster.

Please check back on fixes for this and see my featured blog on 8 steps to prevent and fix a Facebook hack.

If you’ve been hit with this and note other things it has done, please comment and share.

Thanks to Nibby Priest for alerting me on this hack and giving feedback on this post.


College Prep Social Media?

facebook merger facebook merger facebook merger facebook merger facebook merger facebook mergephoto © 2010 Asthma Helper | more info (via: Wylio)
Facebook is too dangerous for college prep teens,” a student in my Facebook class told me. “We won’t let our 16 year old touch it because he might risk scholarship chances.”

Interesting proposition. I had 2 primary responses:

  1. Learning to navigate social media is like learning to drive. Parents work with their teens to teach them the rules of the road. With both, these are skills you don’t leave home knowing. It’s easier to teach your teen to use social media responsibly, under your own roof when they are younger, than to trust it happens later.
  2. I increasingly know employers who view those with NO social media presence as odd ducks and ill-equipped to interact with the modern work force. Long term, no social media presence = fewer career opportunities.

“We hired a college coach who tells his clients: NO SOCIAL MEDIA FOR COLLEGE PREP TEENS. It’s just too dangerous if they post the wrong thing,” she replied.

Frankly, I was astounded to still have this conversation in 2011. As the parent of 15 and 16 year olds, I disagree. My husband and I were their first friends on Facebook, and a friend who’s a prosecutor was their third. We monitor them and teach them to use it constructively.

But this isn’t about my opinion. What do YOU think? So I’m asking YOU, my readers. Is social media too dangerous a risk for college prep teens? Please comment below.


Changing Directions Helps

Wedding Cakephoto © 2007 Liji Jinaraj | more info (via: Wylio)
Before I had children, I enrolled in a series of cake decorating classes. The first two classes were a total disaster as I attempted to make flowers. The rest of the class mastered them, but mine looked like they had been run over by a humvee and left in the street to rot.

“Why don’t you try making them with your other hand? They can’t look any worse,” the teacher suggested.

So I switched hands. I am mixed dominance – I write with my left hand and cut with my right. It never occurred to me that I might also decorate cakes with my right.

When I changed hands, my flowers slowly became recognizable. They were never works of art, but they were passable. I could decorate a cake without embarrassment at the final product.

Lesson: if something isn’t working, you need to experiment with solutions. Listen to others’ feedback and try something new, on a small scale. Don’t accept mediocre results as good enough. Look for ways to improve them.

Today’s experiment can sometimes become tomorrow’s breakthrough.


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