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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

Branding Yourself

“Why are my sales lagging? Why can’t I find clients the way I used to?” some in business wonder. Maybe it’s easier to blame a tough economy than to determine how technology has changed marketing and lead generation. Last year’s tools may not work. The last century’s tools are probably a total waste of money.

For 11 years, my husband and I have helped ad agencies with successful Fortune 500 campaigns through our digital graphics company, the Copper Lion. Marketing and advertising are changing, and we see many struggling to find their niche in the new normal. We also see many who use the new tools well to grow business.

For those who struggle, social media seems like waste of time without an immediate return on their investment.

The problem is the longer they avoid social media, the further removed they become from the new world. Maybe they are so busy writing white papers they don’t bother learning to tweet.

Those who do tweet and use social media can smell a non-user as readily as a pack of wild wolves can smell fear in prey. But this has the opposite effect; social media users categorize the non-user as out of touch and spend their money elsewhere. How does a non-user become current quickly?

Erik Deckers and Kyle Lacy have written a book for this audience, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself. They take 4 case studies and give practical examples of how these individuals grow their sales, garner promotions, find new jobs, and change careers. With a step-by-step approach, they show readers how to define and brand themselves. Finally, their case studies create new opportunities through smart networking, public speaking, writing, and job searches.

Bookshelves are lined with how to books that show how to build business and make money. What makes Branding Yourself different is that Erik and Kyle show their humor through Twitter dialogues throughout the book. As their personalities shine through the lines of written text, they lead by example – showing readers how to be who they are, brand themselves well, and find new opportunities – exactly what successful social media branding should be.

Through social media, if we be who we are, we can set the world on fire and build worlds full of new opportunities.


Felonious Farts

Jail cells at the Southborough Police Stationphoto © 2009 my_southborough | more info (via: Wylio)
Two  middle school boys were just suspended from school for making obscene gestures on their school bus. The gestures in question? farts.

As the mother of a teen-aged son, I had considered flatulence a disgusting fact of life but never worthy of such punishment. Especially when I ride in a car full of teen-aged boys, somebody lets one rip, and we all lower the car windows as we gasp for oxygen.

Sounds like a good idea. They should go beyond the school suspension into the criminal court system. Listed below are levels for the new zero tolerance party for the felonious fart.

School Suspension:

The boys in question merely farted for the entertainment of their bus-mates. A school suspension fart is one filled with sound but little substance, signifying nothing but entertainment value.

Misdemeanor:

  • Class A - Fart stinks and causes respiratory problems for those in close proximity. Some report that animals run, paint peels, and babies cry upon their emission.
  • Class B – Fart has offensive noise and scent that disrupts the activities of others in the same room, bus, or automobile.
  • Class C – Fart has a mildly offensive scent, enough to be noticed. Choosy moms don’t choose to be in the room with these toots.

Felony:

  • Murder – Fart in which the offender ingests a large amount of gas-producing foods, i.e. beans and deliverately choose the blast site, resulting in the death of those in near proximity and requires a Hazmat unit for environmental cleanup. Some of those exposed to the blast who survive may experience chemical poisoning and extreme suffering.
  • Class A – Farts involve dealing with gaseous substances in an amount over 3 grams of methane produced and those farts that result in the serious injury of others.
  • Class B – Farts involving dealing with gaseous substances in an amount under 3 grams of methane produced and those farts determined to be aggravated battery or arson attempts.
  • Class C – Farts involving possession of gaseous substances in an amount over 3 grams of methane and farts defined as intimidation with a deadly weapon.
  • Class D – The lowest level of felonious farts, these include DWF (driving while farting) as a second offense; farting as a common nuisance; and farting so badly outdoors that the smell enters nearby residences.
  • Habitual Offender – In some circumstances, those convicted of second felonious fart offenses may also be convicted as habitual fart offenders and sentenced to additional jail time.

RIFO Act: Those who conspire to emit farts with others in the pursuit of other crimes can be subject to confiscation of their assets. Or at least their Wii, PS3, XBox systems, smartphones, and all texting devices for the forseeable future.

Hmmm. Would a legislature pass such a criminal code?

I wonder if there is a 12 Step program for the student who farts in the middle of his achievement test, gets so tickled he quits answering questions, and gets a bad score as a consequence.

With all the violence and other problems facing our society today, what should I make of authorities who declare war against our common enemy: flatulence?


If Dogs Tweeted

Dog Shadesphoto © 2005 Joe Sullivan | more info (via: Wylio)
Note: dogs don’t RT. They RB (rebark). This was a conversation I overheard in my front yard, among our neighbors’ dogs, yesterday morning.

@YippeeSpaniel: Squirrel!

@BlackLab: RB @YippeeSpaniel Squirrel!

@GoldenRetriever: RB @BlackLab: RB: @YippeeSpaniel Squirrel!

@YippeeSpaniel: I’m small but I’m louder! RB @GoldenRetriever: RB @BlackLab: RB: @YippeeSpaniel Squirrel!

@PitBull: @YippeeSpaniel @BlackLab @GoldenRetriever Squirrel! #Snack

Pause – dogs in their own yards.

Ambulance drives by.

@BlackLab: Siren! #Loud

@GoldenRetriever: RB @BlackLab: Siren! #Loud

@YippeeSpaniel: I can bark louder than the siren and you big boys! RB @GoldenRetriever @BlackLab Siren! #Loud

@PitBull: Siren? #Blood #Snack

@BlackLab: I just earned the #GiveADogABone badge on Pupsquare in my own backyard.

@GoldenRetriever: @PursePup is jumping at her bay window again. She wants out.

@PitBull: How much is that doggy in the window? @PursePup #snack

@YippeeSpaniel: Guess who just got out of my collar! Digging under the cell wall now! Great escape soon!

@GoldenRetriever: He just brought me lunch. Dog chow. Again.

@PitBull: Dog chow? #snack

@YippeeSpaniel: Freedom! It’s been real!

@BlackLab: @YippeeSpaniel How bout that?

@GoldenRetriever: @YippeeSpaniel has left the backyard. and fled the block.

@PitBull: Guess it’s just a 3 dog night. Anyone for a #snack? There’s that darn cat.


How to Screw in a Social Media Light Bulb

Energy Star Light Bulbphoto © 2010 Jennifer Durfey | more info (via: Wylio)
This is an evening in the life of Janie Smith, a social media mogul who lives her whole life online. During this episode, Janie changes a lightbulb in her bathroom.

LinkedIn: Organized and implemented energy output and production study in domestic settings for market research.

Facebook: The new energy efficient light bulbs help save the planet and make me tingly inside.

Twitter: Crud! Bathroom bulb went out and we have no more light bulbs!

FourSquare: Janie earned the PartyAnimal badge checking in at WalMart at 2 a.m.

Twitter: I can’t believe how much more expensive new bulbs are.

Twitter: Hello! The store bathroom’s out of toilet paper, the soap is empty, and the dryer is broken.

Facebook Places: Janie checked in at WalMart with 20 other unknown people at 2:15 a.m.

Twitter: Really weird people shop here at night.

Twitter: How loud is the Airhorn app if that parking lot creeper dude follows me?

Twitter: Safe in my car.

Twitpic Caption: Stalker dude I saw at WalMart. Note license plate # if I disappear.

Youtube: How to add flair to your bathroom with new bulbs

Twitter: Broke the stinking new bulb when I was changing it. What’s that environmental stuff?

WordPress Blog Title: Environmental Cleanup of Light Bulb Breakage

Tumblr: Great article on safe cleanup of broken lightbulbs.

Quora: How do I clean up a broken light bulb?

Twitter: Finally! The light bulb is changed.

Janie’s daughter then posted on Facebook: My mom is a social media dork.

To which Janie wondered why her daughter would post such public information online. And why was it so hard to get up in the morning?


Talkers, Not Stalkers

Facebook friends photo gridphoto © 2007 Dan Taylor | more info (via: Wylio)
An imaginary conversation with a Facebook User

Last month, I realized over half the people on my Facebook friends list never talk to me on Facebook. They don’t like anything, and they don’t respond. All they do is stay in the background. They don’t talk to other people either.

If I held a party, and half the guests stood against the walls without saying anything, I would rethink my guest list next time I held a party. Parties are supposed to be fun, and it’s hard to have fun if you won’t talk to anyone else.

My relationships on Facebook are an extension of real life for me. We can use it to build our relationship and get to know one another better. When you have a bad day, I’ll be there for you. I hope you’ll do the same for me. And I really hope we get to laugh and have fun together.

If you never say anything to any friends on Facebook, I get the feeling you’re more stalker than talker. You read what others are doing but never engage yourself.

My life is complicated enough without dealing with virtual stalkers. So I started cutting my Facebook friends list. If you talk to me and others, answer comments on your wall, and engage in real conversation, I’ll keep our friendship. If you are my Facebook friend and don’t talk to me on Facebook, I’ll most likely unfriend you. It isn’t personal.

It’s just that I prefer talkers to stalkers. That’s what friends are for.


Lord, You Will Show Us the Path of Life

Cross of San Damiano, OFM General Curiaphoto © 2011 Jim McIntosh | more info (via: Wylio)
My Meditation During Mother’s Day Mass

Life felt complete as I walked into Mass this morning, my husband at my side and our teens beside us. Sunshine and blue skies were a welcome relief from flooding.  After I sat down with my family, I felt doubly blessed. We would get to worship together on Mother’s Day.

Then they were short a server, and my son went to help. My teens are nearly grown, and we’re on countdown till they leave home to venture their own paths. In those silent, still moments on my knees before God, before the service began, He spoke to me.

I loved you and your family so much I gave MY Son to save the world. Are you willing to give?

During the Psalm response (Psalm 16), my parenting life flashed before my eyes, and I better understood his question.

Lord, you will show us the path of life.  Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge; I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup, you it is who hold fast my lot.

Eighteen years ago, we didn’t know if we could have children who would survive.  Like Hannah, there was a time I prayed and cried to the Lord to give and save my children.

Lord, you will show us the path of life. I bless the LORD who counsels me; even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

During my pregnancy with my son, I spent a month on bedrest hospitalized 100 miles from home and family. It took Paul 3 days of blindness to convert, and it took me 4 weeks on bedrest to change my life. In those nights alone, He exhorted me and changed my world forever.

Lord, you will show us the path of life. Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body, too, abides in confidence; because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.

It’s only through the hand of God and angelic intervention that my children and I survived their births. He answered my prayers. And now He’s preparing to work in my children’s lives. Like Hannah, I had given my children to God, for Him to guide and direct their paths.  When Samuel was weaned, Hannah left him on the church steps to continue his own path in service to the Lord. My teens are older, but I need to study and learn from Hannah so I too can step back from my children for them to discern their own paths. God will show them the path of their lives. God called Samuel while he was in the temple.

Lord, you will show us the path of life. You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.

When Hannah left Samuel in the temple, she still returned each year with a cloak for him.

The Lord showed me this morning the new path of my life is to step back as my teens step forward on their own paths. My prayer is they will answer His call and know Mom and Dad are on the cheering section in the God Squad bleachers, covering them with prayer and urging them to go for the paths to which they are called, wherever they lead.

When they do, I will be singing “My soul doth magnify the Lord….Holy is His Name.”


My Best Mother’s Day Gift

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!photo © 2006 James | more info (via: Wylio)
Flowers, cards, and presents are great gifts on Mother’s Day, and I love them all.

But I got the best Mother’s Day gift of my life before I had children, 20 years ago, when I was getting ready to marry my husband Richard.

Statistics suggest that daughters of divorce, with absentee fathers, are more likely to divorce themselves and raise their children as single parents. With Divine Intervention, and my luck in finding one of the good guys, those statistics are less accurate than the fortune I get in my cookie at the end of a meal at a Chinese restaurant.

My children don’t have to know that hollow feeling of being on their own and never having the support of their father. They see him at their concerts, holidays, and at dinner almost every night. He’s the quiet, steady worker they know will bust his tail and build his business to provide for them and build a good life for all of us. They know he believes in them, as do I, and that we will always be in their corner, cheering them on and perhaps sometimes nudging them forward, with some nudges stronger than others.

Each time I see him teach our kids something, or spend time with them, I get a small, miraculous Mother’s Day present more precious than anything that can be wrapped in a package.

I get to see that childhood scripts can be flipped, we do get 2nd chances, and our American dream of building a better life for our children than what we had really can come true.

Thanks, Richard.


Water Lessons

Flooded house in Mtwapaphoto © 2007 Villager_87 | more info (via: Wylio)
“‘Water is patient, Adelaide, water just waits. It wears down the clifftops, the mountains, the whole of the world. Water always wins!’ says the Doctor in “The Waters of Mars” episode of Dr. Who. As it begins to rain again in Evansville, I think of this and our battle against flood water.

Though we cannot stop water, we can divert it. We can try to minimize the damage to homes and buildings and pray for sunshine so the water can recede.  As we learn from water, we can gain tactical advantages over it. Lessons I’ve learned the past week.

  1. Start Right. If you begin to build a sandbag wall without learning how to do it right or planning it, you will probably fail. Plastic sheeting needs to be strategically placed because water seeps through sand. Your wall needs to be constructed so it will not collapse. Some recommend a pyramid style with as many rows at the base as you have rows high. Sandbags have to be filled correctly. If you just start throwing down a sandbag wall without this planning, it will either fail, or you will work 10 times harder trying to fix your mistake than if you had done it right the first time.
  2. Accept the Help You Get. Unless you absolutely know someone is physically or mentally incapable of helping with any part of a sandbagging operation, accept their help. One lady called me in an emergency this week to find sandbaggers for someone. I put out the call. One lady who called was turned down because she didn’t sound “strong enough” on the phone to manage sandbags. The lady who was turned down, a former Air Force veteran, then took her 4 youngest children to another location where they worked for an entire day. She worked out a system for her own family where she held the bags and directed her sons as they filled and lifted them. If someone offers you a flood relief meal of sandwiches, don’t refuse and hold out for a donation of hot food. Those you alienate today could well be people who would help you tomorrow if you thank them and treat them right.
  3. Care for Yourself. Stay hydrated – get plenty of water bottles for those you help and who help you. Then drink the water, as in the bottles, not the flood. Take that 5-10 minutes to take care of yourself in a crisis to pace yourself for the long haul. If it’s sunny, get sunscreen. Take especially good care of your feet.

Some day, the rain will stop. Instead of thinking how we can beat the water – we never will – we can figure out how to divert it and outwait it until the flooding recedes.

Then we can take the lessons we’ve learned and apply them to the rest of our lives.


Special Easters

IMG_3249photo © 2010 Karen Frederick | more info (via: Wylio)
Church was crowded last night, and we sat behind friends of ours, a family with daughters, one of whom has special needs. Her parents sat on either side of her and helped her get through the service. Because the service didn’t follow our normal routine, it was more difficult for her. As we sat in the dark, quietly lighting candles, her turn came.

Originally, her parents were going to skip letting her have a candle. But she wanted one. Her dad helped her light it while her mother pulled her hair back so she wouldn’t have an accident. As we all stood there in the candlelight, her parents worked a silent tag team ballet of helping their daughter enjoy participating with us all.

Their daughters are as old as my own, and I’ve known them since our children were preschoolers. When they were younger, I remember our kids playing Duck Duck Goose in a circle of friends, and their daughter’s aide helping their daughter participate. Then the same aide realized my son, who was in intense speech therapy, could say neither duck nor goose. She helped him find a way he, too, could participate.

Those are the moments that break and build a mother’s heart at the same time.

My son not only learned to talk but learned to talk back. Their daughter will need help the rest of her life. Her parents and her sister work with her.

As I watched these 2 parents work so well together, I thought of the other special needs children and families in my circle of friends. One mother told me this week, “My son shows the light of Christ and brings out the best, most beautiful parts of everyone he knows – whether he’s at school, at church, or anywhere else.”

I thought of the speech classes I’ve taught and an autistic boy who participated in one series, often sharing keen observations no one else would dare have mentioned – but doing so in such a humorous manner there was neither harm nor foul. I remembered another girl in another speech class who had Down Syndrome and severe speech impediments; for her final speech night to perform with families, she recited the Lord’s Prayer, not only saying it but signing it so beautifully an audience of 200 were left in tears.

And I looked at our kids – our daughter sitting with us and our son serving – and remembered the empty seat beside me which would have belonged to another daughter, who was anencephalic and had Down Syndrome, and how our lives would be different if she had survived.

Our service concluded with the hymn “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.” Their daughter knew it and sang it with her family. As she sang, her mother watched her with a face lit with joy. Her daughter was participating and singing with us all. For the brief moments of that song, I saw the hand of God working on a mother’s heart and giving her a needed and much-deserved blessing for Easter.

Afterwards, I thanked the mom for blessing us with her family’s love. She thanked me for sitting directly behind them because others who don’t know their daughter can get distracted by her ticks.

As we sang Jesus Christ is Risen Today, I thought of Jesus, welcoming the little children. He welcomes all of them – especially those with lifelong challenges.

God has a special purpose for those with special needs. When we welcome them and their families, He shows us windows of grace where we can glimpse at the power of doing simple, everyday things with great love.

Happy Easter. Let’s all sing with our whole hearts and souls and voices – Jesus Christ is Risen Today.


Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil at Immaculate Conception, Faribaultphoto © 2006 Steve Moses | more info (via: Wylio)
Tonight is one of my favorite nights of the year – Easter Vigil. We begin outside the Church with a bonfire, remembering the first time St. Patrick lit an Easter bonfire in Ireland centuries ago. From the bonfire, the Easter (Paschal) candle is lit, and we each light our own candles from that fire, spreading the light of Christ. Our responses in song include “Christ our light” and “Thanks be to God.” In the early Church, St. Cyril of Jerusalem said this night was as bright as day.

Then we process into the darkened church as the Exsultant, or Easter proclamation of man’s sin, God’s mercy, and our Redeemer is sung. Then the lights turn in the Church, we see the beautiful Easter decorations, and we begin our Easter celebration. Constantine introduced the lighting of lights to represent the light of Christ. As the lights turn on and dispel the darkness, our grief of Good Friday turns to joy at the celebration of the Resurrection.

The Old Testament readings (at least three will be read) share Salvation history – these include readings from Genesis and Exodus 14. Before an excerpt from Romans is read, we will sing a Gloria as bells are rung in celebration, and we will sing Alleluia before the gospel reading.

After the homily, we celebrate baptism and welcome new members to the Church. Another reason I love tonight is because 14 years ago, I was one of those who was welcomed, and I celebrated my first communion in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We will all renew our baptismal vows and resolve to follow Christ.

Each reading, song, response, and gesture is full of meaning and has been repeated throughout centuries of tradition. Our celebration crosses languages, border, and time as we rejoice and sing Alleluia.

It reminds me of the final scene in a Star Wars movie, where the great battle is won, and everyone rejoices.

Whenever there is a great celebration, there is also a feast. And as a cook, that means lots of kitchen prep time.

I have many dumplings to make, eggs to dye, and desserts to bake before I sleep, so this blog must end!