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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

Google Alert Your Brand! (a rant)

If you don’t already do so, set up an alert to monitor your brand. There are paid options companies can use. If you like, begin with a free Google alert. Watch your name.

I have a new example to explain why. 

Yesterday, my Google alert for my name alerted me that a publisher I formerly wrote for is selling downloads of columns I wrote several years ago. I’m looking for my copy of the contract, signed in 2004, to see which rights I sold. Frankly, I don’t even remember what I wrote or if I agree with myself.

It was jarring to see columns I wrote 6 years ago, for publication in a magazine, being sold for download without my knowledge or any share in profits. I wish I had been given the courtesy of notice that they were going to do it.

I’m angry. That is an understatement.

Lessons this taught me:

  1. Watch future contracts more carefully. Consider which rights to sell.
  2. Do a better job of keeping contract copies.
  3. Be vigilant at checking my Google alerts.
  4. The wild world web means it’s easy to catch things like this when they do happen. 

Warning to those who might try in the future to publish my writing without our permission:

We’re watching and will defend the rights to our creative work.

Don’t poke Mama Bear (or in this case, Papa and Mama Biever) without expecting a response.

It may be winter, but Mama Biever’s out of hibernation and fired up. If someone thinks my writing is good enough to sell for a download, then it’s high time I write that book.

For the past 7 years, I’ve saved my writing in a document called the Mustard Seed Manuscript – which is now over 700 pages long, single spaced. I may have sold those 8 columns, but I have 589 others I didn’t.

If you see smoky clouds over Evansville, Indiana, don’t worry. It means a Scot-Irish mama, currently royally ticked at a former publisher, is burning up a keyboard to write my book.

Or it could mean my stubborn German husband is digging through our files, determined to find that contract and call our attorney.

Grab Your Dream Builders

Plunge!  The water feels cold when you grab your new business (your life preserver) and leap into the entrepreneurship ocean.

I knew the water would be cold but!

After you make the leap and start kicking your business across the ocean, prepping to build your boat, be on guard.

People may tell you what to do. As they talk, decide whether they are Dream Builders or Dream Snatchers. What’s the difference?

Dream Builders

  • Offer constructive, achievable solutions
  • Share strategies that worked for them
  • Scout their view of the ocean for tools or clients that might help
  • Cheer victories
  • Encourage you to learn from failures and try again
  • Hold you accountable in a positive way

Dream Snatchers

  • Talk problems, nothing but the problems – the water is cold, your life preserver is tattered on one side, why do you kick THAT way, ride on someone else’s fishing boat instead
  • Suggest you wait till the perfect time when the preserver is perfect and the ocean is warm (ain’t gonna happen – we don’t live in a perfect world)
  • Distract you by demanding you listen to their problems and fix their situations
  • Ignore your victories and ridicule your defeats

After you take the plunge, surround yourself with a smart support team who will help you build your dreams.

Dream builders help you make it happen.

Spend too much time with dream snatchers, and you will fail.

After a lifetime of helping family and friends reach for their dreams, I’m taking my shot at going for my own as a computer coach. Yesterday at a business networking luncheon icebreaker, I sat with a group of other female entrepreneurs. 

They were dream builders. We worked through the icebreaker, gave each other suggestions, and more. I walked out of the meeting ready to kick a little harder and smarter, with new ideas of things to try.

Thanks to the ladies at my table – Brenda Hughes of Evansville Home Staging & Redesign; Penelope Pennington of Milestone Investments; and  Cheryl Mochau, a personal chef and author.

Gotta go – it’s nearly dawn, and I’ve miles to kick before I sleep…

If I kick  well, my clients will leap tough spreadsheets with a single bound, create documents faster than a speeding word processor, tweet like a bird, soar social media like a plane, and become super computer users.

My Blue Dot Miracle

Blue dots and how they helped my husband notice and meet me… 

Every Midwestern town has a fall celebration.  My town had Corn Day.  Businesses close, the downtown is full of family-friendly games, and the Corn Car begins the parade with a Corn King, Corn Queen, Corn Prince, and Corn Princess.

Richard was dating a different girl at the time, whose best friend was one of my brothers.  My brother described Corn Day; Richard and his girlfriend of the time wanted to see it for themselves.  I wasn’t there because I had proudly outgrown Corn Day.

So they joined my brother on a Corn Day pilgrimage and met my family.  My mom’s house has a hallway full of family portraits.  Richard noticed one girl had a blue dot in the middle of her nose in every picture.

Another brother had gotten angry at me and put a single blue dot, on my nose, in every single portrait.  Richard asked, “Who’s the girl with the blue dot?” 

 The answer?  “She’s another sister away at school.”

 After their Corn Day adventure, Richard and that girlfriend broke up. 

 A year later, a girl I worked with told me she knew a guy she thought I would like.  I agreed to let her give him my phone number.  She gave him my name and number, and he wondered if I were the girl with the blue dot.  So he confirmed my name. 

The girl who gave him the number strongly encouraged him to call me, telling him she thought we would get along well. 

He debated for days whether or not to call.  Then he thought about the blue dot girl.  Was I so awful that my brother would retaliate with a blue dot on a wall full of photos? 

Finally, he took the gamble.  Our first phone call lasted 3 hours.  It was our first and last blind date.  We had a wonderful time and were together from that day forward.  Our wedding was two years later, twenty years ago.

Had my brother not dotted the photos, I don’t know if Richard would have risked the call.

We never know how today’s pieces will fit into tomorrow’s puzzle. After the fact, I’m thankful for all the blue dots!

This story helps me to remember to give thanks in all circumstances, even those involving ornery younger brothers.

Quickstart to Disaster Readiness

Life or death issues are sometimes made during disasters. The more you know and the better prepared you are, the smarter decisions you will make.  Different disasters require different knowledge sets.

Thanks to Greg Waite of Evansville’s American Red Cross for providing info for this blog. Thanks also to Dwayne Caldwell of the Vanderburgh County Health Department, who gave a survival workshop for Vanderburgh 4-H members, when I first learned of chemical threats and how to react.

Disaster Kits: have a 3 day food/disaster supply you can grab and go and have a 2-week supply if you stay in place.

  • Red Cross – How to Build a Disaster Kit
  • Ready.gov – Disaster Kit Checklist
  • Note on lists items besides food & water – include cash and prescription copies.

Disaster Plans:

Stay Informed:

  • Keep a weather radio good to go.
  • If you live in Vanderburgh County, Indiana, know your sirens. The Friday noon siren is the tone for severe weather. If you hear an undulating siren instead, going up and down, that is an alert for a chemical/biological disaster. Know the difference and how to respond. The responses for severe storms or chemical threats are in many ways opposite. If you choose the wrong response, the result could be fatal. If you live in another area, ask them how they broadcast chemical alerts.
  • Follow #Tristatewx on Twitter.

See specific disaster preparedness links below:

Evansville Red Cross site download links:

Vanderburgh County Health Department Emergency Links:

Ready.Gov Links: (be sure to read the chemical threat and shelter in place sheets):

  • Biological Threat
  • Chemical Threat
  • Shelter in Place during a Chemical Threat
  • Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

The good news is we have information on how to respond to different scenarios. Knowledge is power.

When you prepare and plan, it’s easier to respond appropriately.

Find Your Sunshine

I’ve learned a lot about chickens in the last 2 years since my daughter started raising them. They may be dumb clucks, but they’ve taught me a lot about life.

Today’s lesson: find your sunshine.

We have 5 hens, and they are a nervous lot. Anything that disrupts their world stops their laying of eggs. We’re just beginning to get eggs again after a 6-week hiatus.

Chickens don’t stop laying eggs in the winter because it’s cold. They stop because there isn’t enough sunshine, and the days aren’t long enough to get their sunshine quota in. Hens lay eggs best when there are 14 hours of sunshine a day. We don’t use artificial light sources in the winter, so we don’t get many eggs until the days are longer. This week, we got 3 eggs.  When the days are longer, we’ll probably start getting about 22 a week. (And with a teen-aged son, they all get eaten.

I could learn something from those birds. Sometimes I get so “in the zone,” the tunnel where work is completed and obstacles are overcome, that I forget to look for the sunshine.

What makes your sun shine? Is it more daylight? Time with your family? What brings you back to the you that you really are?

Find your sunshine. Spend some time in it. I guarantee that if you do, you’ll start laying more and better eggs. Maybe one of them will even be golden!

Off to find my own sunshine.  Where did you find yours?

Use the Tools You Have

Generic or name brand?

This is a blog about cooking, but it applies to computers. 

My 2 babysitters growing up were old lady cooks. One made divinity to die for. She insisted on the most expensive brand name products when she cooked and would accept nothing less. 

The other took whatever she had and made a feast of it. If you gave her a can of corn, a dead possum, flour, and an open fire, she would have made a feast fit for a king. She used what she had. 

I help cater for 4-H fundraisers and sometimes cook on the go in church kitchens. We bring in our own cooking utensils and make good food with whatever their kitchen holds. It could be a state of the art oven or an old one that takes 45 minutes to bring to temp. Whatever they have, we make it work. 

The same applies to business technology. Businesses cannot always afford the flavor of the month latest available tool. Their employees work with what they have. It’s like science fiction movies where the mechanic makes the old junker spaceship work. 

Whatever the field – be it food preparation or computer technology – equipment and ingredients are the tools. A talented mechanic takes the tools at hand and makes a great product. 

As a computer instructor, I’ve walked onsite into unusual setups. Once a client had me give a class onsite. I didn’t know till I got there that their training “lab” had machines running Office 95, 97, and 2000.  Yet I was expected  to train 10 employees on Word, Excel, and Access, with students on all 3 systems at the same time. The employees were each running different versions and desperately needed my help. 

We made it work. It was not easy. Every step of every exercise often meant 3 separate sets of instructions as the software had different sequences. 

It would be wonderful if we all had the latest and greatest. I would love to one day cook in a dream kitchen too. 

Untalented cooks can make dinner in a dream kitchen with perfect ingredients and still create a disaster. Ditto for people with computers. 

It’s training, talent, and experience that often make the difference between a flop and a banquet. 

Go for the best you can afford. Update when possible. Look for free alternatives. Make the most of what you have. 

Don’t apologize for your tools.

My I Spy Summer


Mary Biever, International Woman of Mystery

 This is a parable of why you should search your name on the Internet to monitor your brand.       

Several years ago, I noticed 2 of my kids’ friends, twin brothers, behaved strangely around me. They would walk around me, sometimes almost seeming to hide so I wouldn’t see them. I thought they were just odd.       

After 6 months, I learned they had made up a game about me – the Email Mary Spy Game. (My nickname used to be Email Mary because I organized nonprofit communities by way of email for many years.) They pretended I was an international spy, and their mission was to keep me under surveillance. They got extra points if they could walk around me without my noticing them.       

Kids were not going to outdo me on that one. I blogged it with a challenge. I invited hundreds of local families to join the Email Mary spy game, see when they would spy me, and tell me where later. For an entire summer, some played the game with me.    

It was a Where’s Email Mary Game. With 2 kids involved in everything, I was spied lots of places.       

Two years ago, I searched my profile on ZoomInfo. My listed occupation? International espionage agent. You never know what a spoof blog will do to your social media brand.       

I cleared it and knocked it off search but must make a confession.       

I’ve never been a spy.  My laugh alone would disqualify me.       

The golden rule of social media is CYA – cover your avatar. Be real. But be vigilant, especially if you’re a pranker.       

You never know which gag will land where on the Wild World Web. If my children one day write a book – maybe Life with Email Mary — or Mommy Social Media-ist, you’ll know why.

Training Investments

Instant gratification is my favorite part of teaching computer classes to companies. I love moments, when someone gets a new concept and realizes its potential.

Then there’s the groan reaction. When I hear an “Oohhhhhhhh” of dismay, I grow concerned. But generally, that means I’ve shown an advanced feature to someone who just realized how much faster and easier their job could have been. Examples from Excel classes:

  • A human resource manager had set up spreadsheets without keeping the cells on layered sheets in the same place. Three-D formulas would not work. “I would have saved myself hours of time if I had known this six months ago. If I tried to fix my work now, it would take 60 to 80 hours I don’t have.”
  • An analyst grew more upset as I explained advanced sorts, filters, and customizing criteria.  Then he said, “If I had known 10 years ago what you just showed me in the last 2 hours, I would have cut 500 hours off my workload. Every year.”
  • When I showed how the Get Data feature made it easy for Excel to retrieve information from websites to place into a spreadsheet, a whole room started to groan/laugh and look at their quality control expert who had struggled countless hours trying to get a cut and paste of website info into a spreadsheet.
  • An accountant said she could redo all her reports much faster after discovering how to create pivot tables and pivot charts.

Now here’s the kicker: imagine the quality control guy tells me what he’s tried to research online. Instead of a traditional resource, I go to Twitter and show him the leading expert in our area, with whom he can converse and make sure he has the best, most accurate information.

Imagine the company that trains its employees on Excel, Twitter, and the latest tech advances.

Well-trained employees find new ways for computers to make and save the company money.

Smart companies know their information investment doesn’t stop with hardware and software.

Good training on computer systems is not an expense. It’s an investment which reaps long-term benefits for you and your company.

Crouching Mama Hidden Ninja

Desktop background created by Mystfren Designs

When Michael Reynolds tossed a Ninja to me at an Inbox Zero workshop last fall, he didn’t know what would happen. That Ninja, trained in the art of email management, is talented with WordPress too. With a new year and new website, I discovered his talent.

The last 2 weeks, I’ve worked to migrate my blog from WordPress.com to self-hosting. The software differences remind me of moving from DOS to Windows or from Lotus to Excel. Many concepts are the same, but the setup is different enough to give me a headache and heartburn. 

With WordPress help and encouragement from Talina Norris-Ryder and Nibby Priest (thank you both!), I’ve made it to the other side of the WordPress aisle.  Many years ago, my husband Richard bought my domain name, saying I would one day want and use it.  In the last two weeks, he’s patiently created, re-created, and tweaked the graphics for the new site.

Learning the new software was harder than I thought it would be. And it was more stressful. For a lifetime, I’ve helped family and friends go after their brass rings. Ten years ago, Richard and I started the Copper Lion, Inc., so he could provide digital graphics to ad agencies.

What I didn’t realize till halfway through the new site is this time, it’s MY behind on the line.  It’s not only my behind, but my name. When I couldn’t find a fast answer to my question, I would jump, yell, and be ready to quit. Then I would see the Ninja on my desk and remember Harrison Painter‘s latest blog on Coffee with Harrison.

As I wrestled with WordPress, I looked at my ninja and repeated Harrison’s advice: knock’em over! Once I remembered that, I became Crouching Mama Hidden Ninja, ready to conquer an army of widgets and subdue Attila the Plugin’s legions.

Victory! If I couldn’t find the answer, I could find someone or some website to help. With time, help, and hard work, the site came together.

Just like any action story, you know the widgets and plugins will be back with future challenges. My Ninja and I are in training, making ourselves stronger so we can handle whatever they try next.

That’s my Ninja story, and I’m sticking to it.

When you hit the wall, what’s your Ninja and what keeps YOU going?

Llama Drama and Leadership Training

Her Llama invitation

“I want to have a llama program and llamas for bring a friend night,” my daughter, the new president of an urban 4-H club, told the planning committee last fall.

A city girl turned Future Farmers of America member who participates with a Livestock Club and raises backyard chickens, she wants to study agriculture. After seeing a llama program last year, she’s been obssessed with them.

I stayed out of her way to see what she would do.

She asked the church hosting our meeting’s permission. They said yes.

She scheduled the llama lady. Then she messaged the head leader it was set.

I called to give him warning before he saw her email. Dead silence on the phone. “She told us she wanted it in the planning meeting,” I explained.

“But I didn’t think she was serious!” he answered.

“You’ve known her for years. If you don’t tell her no, she does what she decides. If you do tell her no, she may still do it,” I told him.

I knew the girl who designed her 5th birthday cake with an erupting volcano on a Pacific island filled with palm trees, with cowboys and Indians fighting in canoes off the coast didn’t joke. (Yes, I decorated it.)

The church called. Because the meeting room had carpet, they wanted tarp on the floor.  She assured them and me that the llamas wouldn’t poop indoors. And she packed our tarp.

She drew a llama graphic and created a Facebook event so members could invite friends.

As we spread the tarp, I gasped in panic that it was close to a denim couch. “Won’t they eat the denim couch cushions?” I asked.

“Mother. Llamas are related to camels, not goats,” she admonished me in her strictest voice.

I shut the classroom door, worried the llamas would get loose and charge through the church halls.

Meeting time began. The llamas stayed on the tarp. They did not escape. They did not eat the denim couch. And they did not poop indoors.

And several kids brought friends.

Huge sigh of relief.

A leadership lesson smacked me when it was over.

If we want to groom teen leadership skills in a changing world, sometimes we have to give them space to try their outside the box ideas.

Some fail. Others work. All teach lessons.

Don’t worry. Be happy.

Hakuna ma-llama!

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