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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

A Christian Who Pranks

“Mary, you’re different than I imagined,” a new friend noted as we shared coffee. “I thought you would be quiet.”

There was a time he would have been right.  As a young child, I filled a place in the perfect family photo op on Sunday morning: perfectly curled hair, church hat, dress, patent shoes, lacy anklets, and lacy gloves complete with a corsage at Easter. We could go to hell and back on the drive to church, pull into the parking lot, and I could give a big smile without letting a soul know what had just been screamed at me. Yes, I behaved from sheer terror of the consequences. On the outside – inside I treasured mischievous thoughts that kept me sane.

Later, when the reign of terror ended, I ventured from the church and God. I could do better than hypocrisy and Sunday morning straightjackets.

Mary Biever, International Woman of Mystery

Eventually, with the love of a good husband, I discovered it was possible to go to church sometimes dressed up and sometimes not, be real, and love God while keeping my sense of humor. When my son gave me mongo pink sunglasses as a prank Mother’s Day gift, I wore them. In public.

When I read where Jesus says there are many mansions in his Father’s house, I breathe a sign of relief. Surely one of those houses is a funhouse. If so, I hope there’s a room where they shoot off fireworks.

I wonder sometimes whether my knack for pranks is a talent or a cross to bear. If God created kangaroos with pouches and knew what He was doing, then surely He did the same with my humor.

Whatever happens in life, lyrics from a gospel song or show tune will play in my head. Sometimes, I sing them out loud, sometimes in public, to the chagrin of my children.

Life can be hard. Laughter and a song to sing can be a gift from God to make the tough stuff easier. As Auntie Mame said when she lost everything in the Depression, sometimes we need a little Christmas now.

How can you use your humor to make life easier for you, your friends and family? And encourage your friends to nurture their own humor? Here’s my take from Godspell‘s “All for the Best”… What’s yours?


City Chicken Slicker Flood Adventures

Two years ago, my daughter got her first chickens. Yes, we’re urban chicken owners. 

She loves animals, is in our county’s 4H Livestock Club and Future Farmers of America, and hopes to someday work in food and crop science.

She brought home 5 Rhode Island Red chicks that were three weeks old. We kept them in our utility room, in a bucket with a window screen on top. That spring, we weaned them outside to a backyard coop and run.

Then came a heavy spring rain of 6 inches in a single day – flash flood warnings abounded. That night, I waded through our backyard to see if they were alive. The coop was above water, in the highest part of the yard. 

I could hear loud peeping. When I opened the coop, the chicks were peeping frantically on one side, and a young possum was sitting on the other side. The young possum had somehow found its way into the coop with our birds.

“What do we do?” I phoned a farm friend.

“Kill it. If you leave the possum in there, the possum will eat the chickens alive, from the butt to the front.” We had no cage or alternative, and no stores were open.

My family joined me as we tried to figure out how to get the possum out of the coop. We grabbed tools from the garage. Richard caught the young possum with the kids’ old butterfly net. As he was pulling it out of the coop, the possum escaped through a hole in the net and began racing around the flooded yard.  We splashed around the yard with our flashlights, trying to find it.

Billy Crystal in City Slickers had nothing on us when we caught that possum.

“Found it!” Richard yelled. It was under the rock on which he was standing. “I think it’s dead.”

“It’s not dead! It’s playing possum!” I hollered.

My daughter lugged an ax from the garage, saying, “Here, Dad.”

The possum didn’t bother us again.  We splashed around the coop and run, flashlights in hand, trying to fill gaps in the fencing with rocks to prevent another possum attack before daybreak.

We still have hens. And we’ve had lots of eggs. But no more possums.

Lesson? As our kids follow their interests, if we let them, they’ll take us on unforgettable family adventures. Some with good eggs.


Global is the New Local

The world wide web has made the other side of the planet a little bit closer place to connect. With the Internet, global is increasingly our new local.

When we started Copper Lion, Inc.’s digital retouching and illustration services to photographers and ad agencies 10 years ago, we found Copper Lion, Inc. could quickly service clients, whether they were in Dallas, Los Angeles, Boston, or Cincinnati. Our home based operation meant we could be available to clients when they needed us in their time zone, regardless of the time in our own. Our high-speed Internet access costs less now than it did then.

We have lived the work state of mind for the past decade.

This week, I taught a Facebook class in Henderson, Kentucky. Before the class, I posted a status, inviting my friends to say hi to my class. They did – from Evansville, Florida, Texas, and Australia. In real-time, during my class. Their chat was a real conversation, like I would have across the fence with my next-door neighbor.

Later, I demonstrated to the class how I can use Facebook places to check into locations.  Again, friends commented. This time, they talked to my class from Evansville, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati.

I grew up in a small town of 6,000 people, with a high school graduating class of 88 students. It was so refreshing when I first left home for a bigger world, where everyone didn’t know my name.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the best parts of small town living: friendly people who say hi, who talk with you, who take interest in your life.

You know what? With social media, we can still enjoy that part of small town living, with people around the planet.

So here’s the business angle to that: is your business positioned to meet the needs of a global backyard? If not, can you?

Let’s talk!


1 Month, 40 Twitter Action Items

Guest blog by Marjorie Clayman

Moreso than in blogging, the first month of Twitter can be really frustrating and discouraging. In blogging, the principles are pretty easy to figure out, though it can be hard to achieve your objectives. You write a post, you promote post, you hope people respond the way you want them to. In Twitter, you sign up and your page looks like somebody spilled alphabet soup with hashtags all over your computer. People are talking to each other in ways that don’t make sense, and you don’t even know where to begin.

With that in mind, I’ve put together 40 action items that will help you (I hope) get through that first month. If you’ve been on Twitter for awhile but still feel like you’re struggling with it, take a look at these recommended action items and see if some of them might help you out.

One quick note – the action items for week 1 will almost certainly take longer than a week to get done, especially if you need to figure out answers with other people in your company. However, knowing what I know now, I highly recommend solidifying some of the things listed for week one before you jump in. Plan accordingly

Week One – Decisions, Decisions

1. Decide if you will be tweeting as an individual, as a company/brand, or a hybrid of the two

2. Decide what you will use as your username. This sounds easy, but it’s harder than you may think, especially if you and the other folks in your company want to come up with a naming convention. Also, and I say this from personal experience, don’t try to be “cute” with your choice. For example, my choice of using “RealLifeMadMan” when I first started was totally confusing and really long. Bad combo!

3. Decide what you will use for your user picture or avatar. If you are blogging on behalf of your company, this will likely be a heavily discussed subject. A lot of companies like to use a product picture or a company logo but factually, people respond better if they can see a human face.

4. Decide what you will put in your Twitter bio. You don’t have a lot of room, and if you want to get your company’s website in there, you have even less room. However, this is super duper important! Get the most important information in there first.

5. Decide what you will do for your background. This background is not something that your followers will see on a daily basis, perhaps – people only see it when they click to view your profile. However, once you’ve been on Twitter for awhile, you know what the default backgrounds look like. Showing some effort to customize your background can show that you’re really trying hard to engage and be engaging.

6. Pin down how you will talk on Twitter. I started out on Twitter trying to blog as our company. I found that it was extremely awkward saying “We just read a post.” I worried people thought I had multiple personality disorder. On the other hand, if you are partaking in a company-wide initiative, that kind of tweet may be 100% logical. Work it out before you dive in!

7. Define what your “follow” methodology will be. I can tell you that almost instantly upon signing up for Twitter, you’ll probably get 2-3 followers. There are some accounts on Twitter that have thousands of followers and no recorded tweets. What this means is that there are a lot of accounts out there who just follow people so that they can get followed back. How will you deal with situations like that?

8. Watch a few people for a few days before you start engaging. See if you can figure out how people who might be similar to you use Twitter. Are they promoting themselves a lot, or are they talking to people casually, or both? See what the expectations are in your space.

9. Avoid the temptation of starting out of the gate following 575 people. When you first sign up for Twitter, you get all kinds of categories with big names to follow. It’s super easy to follow hundreds of people right away. However, the folks that Twitter starts out recommending are people like Yoko Ono, Michael Ian Black, and the President of the United States. I know you’re a lovely person, but these folks probably will not engage with you. Hand-pick a few, but know that this will not be your base of operations.

10. Search for words that are important to you and follow people who seem to have interesting things to say about them.

Week Two – Twitter Speak!

Twitter has very peculiar shortcut words that make following conversation pretty hard when you’re first starting out. In week two, the goal is to learn about some of these and then practice using them. If you have a hard time figuring these out, feel free to ask me either here or @margieclayman.

1. Learn what a DM is

2. Learn what an RT is

3. Learn what #ff is

4. Make sure you are clear in your head about the difference between a DM and a regular tweet

5. Watch how people RT. People have their own ways of doing this and there are good reasons behind each methodology. Find out which way makes you feel most comfortable.

6. As a piggy back to number 5 (hint hint) learn how to use URL shorteners so that you can link to things on Twitter. For example, check out goo.gl or bit.ly. Watch how people use those and see if you can practice using them yourself.

7. Decide how you will thank people if someone RTs you (or says something else nice). Some people will RT any nice thing sent their way. Other people will respond in other ways out of the Twitter stream, while other people (like yours truly) usually simply say “Thanks!”

8. Observe how people do #ff (Hint, this will happen on your first Friday). There are 2 schools to this: 1 is to mention tons of people, and 1 is to mention just 1 or 2 people but explain why you are mentioning them. I prefer the latter myself.

9. Observe how people use the # symbol. Not only is this a really important thing to learn in order to use Twitter, but you are also likely to jump into some pretty good conversations by following that little symbol. *Hint: “trending topics” will give you a hint on this one.

10. Make sure you know how to talk to people on Twitter. Remember, after the @ you need to type their name exactly as it is in their handle. Otherwise, they won’t see it. To make sure you have this down, tweet out a hi to me and let me know how your action items are going so far. You’re halfway there!

Week Three: Jump into the pool

1. Introduce yourself to five people this week. If they don’t answer right away, that’s okay. Practice pushing yourself into the stream.

2. Practice promoting someone else’s blog post this week – this is very important to a lot of people who use Twitter. This will introduce you to people and will also help you practice linking to things using URL shorteners.

3. RT something someone says – and make sure you know now what RT stands for

4. Try to come up with a question that would be pertinent to other people learning Twitter or relevant to your  business niche. Questions are a great way to start conversations and meet people. Again, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get any answers – just focus on learning how to engage.

5. Try to find another person who is learning the ropes – help each other out as you go along. It’s great to have a buddy!

6. If you have someone to mention for #ff, give it a go. I have to warn you that a lot of the big names don’t like being included in those kinds of mentions just because they get absolutely flooded with them. If you do mention them, don’t be sad if you don’t get a huge thank you

7. Tweet something out that is of interest to you, whether it’s one of your own blog posts, an article you read that’s interesting, or something you learned at a webinar. If you do the latter, see if the webinar has a # so that you can tie your comment to other people doing the same thing (there, I gave you more of a hint for your week 2 homework!)

8. On Saturday night at 9 PM EST, search for #tweetdiner. This is a Twitter chat that my friend Stanford Smith (@pushingsocial) and I started. Its goal is to help people new to Twitter talk with people who are new or who have been on Twitter for awhile, and it’s also a place where you can ask questions and be assured of getting lots of help.

9. Look for a question mark and see if you can find a question you can answer. Now you can help someone else and maybe meet someone new at the same time.

10. Take stock of where you are. Do you feel like you are moving in a good direction? Send me a tweet and let me know how you are doing!

Week Four – Start building your Twitter house

1. Learn how to use lists on Twitter – you may be listed on a few already. Some are automated, some are created by other users. See if you can tell the difference. Are you ready to create your own lists yet?

2. Begin to watch the content of your tweets. The golden rule is to make sure you are promoting other people more than yourself. The unspoken rule is that interacting with people person to person is a lot more interesting than just tweeting out links. Now that you’re getting the mechanics down, learn how to translate your personality into 120 characters.

3. Try to find and join a new chat that interests you. There are tons of chats every day and night of the week. Jump in, introduce yourself, and meet some new people!

4. Try to meet 10 new people this week, either by answering questions, via chats, or through searching for terms that are important to you and seeing who is talking about them.

5. Turn your attention to beginning to build relationships now that you’re getting used to the wacky world of Twitter. If you see someone talking about a movie you love, jump in and talk to them about it. Get your humanity involved!

6. Check your “following” list. Are you staying true to what your follow-back policy was? Why or why not?

7. Take stock of the kinds of reactions you’re getting. If you are not getting a lot of traction yet, is it possible that you are not engaging enough? Does your profile not say enough about you? If things are going really well, try to isolate things that are working well for you and keep those going!

8. Try to introduce two people to each other this week. If you don’t know enough people yet, that’s okay. Keep this one in mind though. Introducing people is a great way to start building a community.

9. Try to find a person who is newer than you are now to the world of Twitter. Try to help them out.

10. Let me know (if you could) how this program worked for you! Are you feeling okay about Twitter after your first month or are you still kind of unsure? I’d love to get your feedback.

-Marjorie Clayman works for Clayman Advertising, Inc., a 3rd generation Akron, Ohio, marketing firm.


Shopping in a Mobile Age

Shopping’s changed from when we visited the Main Street stores on Friday night in Small Town America.  My phone is my  new road map for shopping success.

By Christmas this year, half of all Americans will own a SmartPhone or other mobile device. Smart shoppers will leverage their technology, and smart stores will profit. 

Examples:

  • When car shopping, a teen lags behind her parents in the car lot, texting prices quoted to her parents so they can later compare with online prices and other lots.
  • A mom at a meeting, discussing the need to make costumes for an event, goes to the fabric store online from her Nook Color, finds a pattern that will work, shows it to all in the room and buys it immediately. Does your online store offers pictures and access to make this possible?
  • While shopping at the grocery store, an odd cut of meat is on sale. The shopper hasn’t seen it before and checks her recipe app on her phone to learn more about it. It includes recipes, nutrition info, and shopping lists.
  • The fine print on the back of the package at the store is too small to read, so the shopper starts the magnifying glass app on the phone and reads what it really says.
  • The bar code scanner shows me every comparable price online and in the area. I may still buy from you if you’re local and your price is a bit higher. But you’re going to have to have great customer service and give back to our local community.
  • Shoppers scan a QR code – whether on a sign in a store or the back of a cereal box – looking for more information or coupons. One Boston sushi restaurant prints QR codes in edible squid ink directly on plates so consumers can get dietary information about their dinner.
  • Location-based programs a la Facebook Places and FourSquare can offer me deals or can help me brand myself or promote important events to others.
  • If I get bad service and the store ignores my complaint, my next complaint goes on Facebook and Twitter. I could photo or video my problem and share that as well.

Let’s Make a Deal shows the audience making deals with the emcee. In our increasingly mobile world, it becomes: Let’s Make It Mobile.

How do you use mobile to enhance your shopping experience?


Writing By Dawn’s Early Light

Graphic provided by Mystfren Designs

A candle is lit, Pandora is playing praise music, and the lights are out. 

Is it a date with my husband? No….it’s a date with God I’ve been making every early morning the past week. I pray.  God listens. I listen.  God answers. I write. 

Before dawn’s early light, I can’t get distracted. Because it’s dark, I can’t look around the room and think of all the things I’ve not done on my to do list. My Pandora Praise station responds to what I need like Bumblebee does in Transformers. Whatever I need to hear, it plays. 

What am I doing this for and why? 

Last fall, I met Cheryl Mochau, author of He Knew I Would Tell. God told her to write a book. She asked Him how she was supposed to fit writing a book into her schedule. The next morning, she woke an hour early, realized He was providing her time to write, and she began. 

Last month, I felt God’s urging me to write a book. It was to be a book of encouragement, telling how we can overcome adversity and turn it to good. 

Yes, I’ve written blogs and magazine columns for 10 years. My 5 year personal plan includes writing a book, after my kids go to college. 

We shared coffee last week, and I asked Cheryl how she published her book.  I told her my concern was time and maybe I should ask God to show me when. 

“He might answer you,” she jokingly cautioned. 

“If He wakes me up tomorrow morning, I’ll post on your Facebook wall so you know,” I answered. 

The next morning I woke at 3 a.m. I prayed for an hour, asking God to show me what to do. By 4 a.m., I knew I had to write. Out came the candle and music.  As I listened, the words flowed. Every morning since then, I’ve awakened early – before my alarm – and written. 

Genesis 50:20 inspires me. Whatever our challenge we face, God can use it for good to help others.  

I write because I’m happy. I write because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. 

The tentative book title? 

He Uses It For Good 

(Thanks to Mystfren Designs for providing the candle graphic. Mystfren provides digital graphics and designs for web, print, and t-shirts.)


Sharing Our Table of Plenty!

Image courtesy of Lusi at http://www.sxc.hu/.

As the mother sat at a table in a crowded dining room, a lady accidentally touched her arm. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said.

The mother patted her on the arm and answered, “Don’t apologize. Life is hard. We should celebrate the times people brush against each other instead of apologizing.”

What a perspective. Apply it to social networking – to Facebook, Twitter, or whatever your platform of choice it is.

Every day, you have an opportunity to listen to other people – those you know and those you don’t. You can share their joy, celebrate their wins, comfort the lonely, and console the hurting.

Global is the new local, especially in our world of social media. I can get up in the morning and Tweet with friends in China and Australia before they retire for the night. In between, as I sip my coffee, I wish good morning to my friends across the United States and beyond.

There are over 500 million Facebookers on the planet, which means one of every twelve people on earth Facebooks. 190 million Tweeters Tweet 65 million times daily. While on Facebook we talk with those we already know, Twitter provides opportunities across the planet.  Imagine the opportunities!

My dawn is another’s sunset. Share your dawns when others are struggling through the night.  Every night, there are sick and hurting people trying to make it through the night. Some turn to social networking to share their pains and fears.

I may be just a wife, mom, and business owner in Evansville, Indiana. But with social networking, I can be a mom to friends and neighbors all around the planet.

My social media challenge to you:

  • Every day, encourage at least two people who are tired, discouraged, or having a bad day.

  • Every day, celebrate at least two people’s victories by congratulating and complimenting them.

  • Every day, thank at least two people who help make your life and your world a better place.

Trust me – when you cast your bread upon the waters, you will be blessed as well. What would happen to our planet if 100 million Facebook users started doing this daily?

You’re my neighbor. I’m your neighbor. Wherever we live.  Let’s share our table of plenty.

What great times we’ll enjoy together!


Meal Train Makes Helping Easier

What’s the first thing I think of when someone in a friend’s family gets sick, dies, or has a baby?

What are they going to eat?

I’ve organized, helped, and been the beneficiary of meals brought to my home during a crisis. Until you’ve received them, you’ve no idea how helpful they are.

My challenge when I help is what to fix that will taste good, be nutritious, and be fun to eat; when kids are in a crisis, it’s nice if they can get excited about something on the menu.

Last night, I was at a meeting and learned of  Meal Train, a free program which can help.

If I organized a series of meals for someone now, I would sign up for a Meal Train account. With my account, I would set up an invitation only private group for my set of meals. I would designate which days the family will need meals and can also list family food allergies, their favorite meals, drop off information, their address and phone number,

Then I would invite families to help provide the meals – by email and Facebook. They could log onto our Meal Train, see what times are available, select a time that works for their schedule and post what they are bringing. This avoids the hazard of 5 consecutive spaghetti meals.

Meal Train sends email reminders to those who volunteer to send meals. They also offer a bulletin board where those participating can chat with each other. The Meal Train Facebook Page offers suggestions to help plan and organize meals for your friends..

When I received meals after surgery 2 years ago, they were a total blessing. Knowing that my friends were helping me make sure my family was well fed helped me focus on my most important job at the time: taking care of myself and recovering.

How wonderful to know Meal Train will make this easier next time I organize them.


Why Semesters Abroad Are Worth It

Image courtesy of Lusi at http://www.sxc.hu/.

Yesterday, Jeremy Morrill wrote in USA Today that it wasn’t worth it to spend a semester in college abroad. Today, I’ll discuss why he’s wrong.

He writes as a college junior. I write as a mother and business owner who spent a semester in England 24 years ago and address each point he made.

Academics:

My academics were different from stateside. I studied at Harlaxton College, the British campus of the University of Evansville. Faculty was a mix of British professors and visiting American ones. Studying Shakespeare with tours of Stratford and performances of the plays was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So was studying art history and touring museums. My other courses were biology, philosophy, and sociology. I carried a 4.0/4.0, had work study in the admissions office, and still travelled.

Classes:

Probably the best time academically to go on a semester abroad is your sophomore year for general ed electives. Freshman year, you’re adjusting to college life.  Several schools have plans to help you make a semester abroad work with your major.

Social:

When I studied abroad, our college had 1 computer. We communicated by mail and telephone. Two hundred students had access to two pay phones.  I have 0 sympathy for complaints that Skype is inadequate.

I travelled in a safer time, when I could venture alone and immerse myself. I had to talk to locals to survive.

Cultural:

In my sociology class, Americans were the minority; most were international. I learned our culture impacts our perception.

My adopt a family helped me live real British family life. Touring a country is different from living there.

Advantages not addressed:

Resourcefulness – I survived my travel from hell story – every student has one. Mine was a 25 hour adventure getting from Donegal, Ireland to Harlaxton, England by hitching, bus, ferry, train, and taxi. My room-mate spent a night in a snowstorm in a German phone booth. Two girls slept in a pay toilet. When you survive an adventure on the other side of the planet by luck, wits, and the grace of God, you gain confidence.

Two decades later, I don’t remember much of what I studied in classes. I have new family and friends. My experiences studying abroad are among those I will always treasure.

Local is the new global and global is the new local. The more international experience you have, the better you will be able to thrive.

I pray my own children will have the opportunities to see more of the world than I have.


Tech Heroes

Josh at Tech's laser tag party

This blog is a salute to my 4H Tech Club heroes – the leaders. Who are they, and what do they do?  

Five years ago, my son started robotics. Robotics held such potential I asked our county’s 4-H program to offer a robotics project. Some areas had robotics clubs, but I wanted more.  

In Thomas Edison’s time, there weren’t light bulb clubs. I saw a vision of a 4-H Technology Club, where youth encounter technologies, build skills, and ignite passions.  

Challenge: it takes two leaders to begin a club. I am not a scientist. We needed  a second leader with a science background. A friend introduced me to Josh Weiland, a web designer. At our first meeting, Josh was friendly.  I knew he was the right guy when I told him, “I don’t know much about science, but can organize my way out of a paper bag. If you help with the science, it would work, ” and he laughed.    

4-H began a push to cultivate 1 million new American scientists. Our club could help that happen in Evansville, Indiana.

So our Tech Club began 4 years ago. Since then, Dana Nelson (a social media strategist) and Mark Keller (an engineer) have joined our team of leaders.  They all share their unique strengths with the club.

Each year, we host workshops in computers, electricity, aerospace, and robotics. We’ve brought in guest speakers including a brain surgeon, toured an airport, and practiced hands-on robotics programming as guests of a college programming class.

Josh is the fun leader who adds zing. Each year, we’ve played laser tag at our completion party.  Josh loves it, and club members conspire to “get Josh.”

Computer Hardware workshop

 Josh, Dana, and Mark give workshops in their areas of expertise. Mark has taught physics and application of the scientific method.  Dana and Josh have led members in web design exercises.Last night, Dana loaned Josh a webcam for a computer hardware workshop. Because of their many questions, the 30 minute workshop stretched to an hour. With each question, Josh answered patiently as his enthusiasm lit the crowd. 

Club members divided into teams that took apart computers and put them back together. Learning by doing sometimes means learning by taking apart. Dana, Dan Nelson (Dana’s husband, an IT pro), and Josh helped the groups.

Thanks to Josh, Dana, Mark, and all the families of our club who worked hard and built it into a success.


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