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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

My Prayer For My Kids Leaving Home

Fifteen years ago, I knelt in a hospital chapel, begging my unborn son would survive the day. My husband and I had a blood incompatibility (PLA1-). Our babies have neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia. My body destroys baby platelets in utero. We were going to have a PUBS, to transfuse platelets. It was early enough in the pregnancy that if anything went wrong, he would die.

Before dawn, as I prayed, a lady walked in, prayed in the front row, raised her hands in the air, and left silently. I will always believe she was an angel. I felt like Hannah, begging for a child, and her prayer being answered in church. My prayer that day: God,keep my son safe.

When our teens went white-water rafting, I begged God again. I watched rafting youtubes after the left.  When I saw the crashes, I stormed heaven again. When they made their first ski trip alone, I prayed them through the day. My prayer: God, bring my children home unharmed.

When we went hiking in the Smokies and my teens took a trail without telling us, I prayed. My ankle was sprained; my husband had helped me manage the Laurel Falls trail with a cane. Our kids didn’t want to go at my slower pace. When we got to the top of the trail, they were gone. My husband left to find them on the higher trail, while I sat on a bench, with my cane, waiting till they were found. For two hours, I waited. My prayer that day: God, bring my family back home. That was followed with prayers of God, how do I get back down this mountain if they don’t get back soon and Lord, I gotta go, there is no bathroom, and please help me not wet my pants.

Then they leave on bus trips. I fuss details and tell them survival strategies from my travels. I watch them board the bus and wait until the bus leaves. My prayers have now changed.

Hannah had a son and when the time came, she let him go to serve Elijah. When Samuel left, he heard the voice of God and discovered his calling.

Now it’s my turn. Let go of my children, a step at a time before they leave for college. When they leave now,  they may discover their calling. Their story has become their own, and I’m becoming a background pray-er.

Now my prayer is: Please God, help them hear your call so I know they’ll always be home.

Hopefully that prayer won’t be followed by, Lord, help this middle-aged mama not wet her pants.


How not to be THAT mom on Facebook

THAT Mom

The only thing scarier to a teen than mom’s saying, “I wanna be your friend on Facebook” is when grandma says it.

How do we avoid becoming THAT mom? We often learn Facebook while or after our kids do, without parenting role models. I was on Facebook a year before my kids were, and I taught workshops on family Facebook safety. Here’s what we did:

  1. Stay legal. Facebook Terms of Service don’t allow users before age 13.  Teaching a kid to lie about a birthdate for faster gratification is not smart. Facebook users under 13 place Facebook in violation of federal statute. Underage kids who get caught get kicked off.
  2. Be friends. On our kids’ 13th birthdays, they started Facebook, and mom and dad were their first friends. A local prosecutor friend was their third. “Why does HE have to be next?” our kids complained. If he was their friend, they might think twice about posting something stupid. That would help protect their personal brand. Check privacy settings monthly because their settings change.
  3. See but don’t be heard. Much. Watch what’s posted, but don’t comment or like everything your kids post. The less you post, the more likely you are their friends will friend you.  Teens think adults who comment or like too much are creepy stalkers. If you have a smartphone, subscribe to their feed and photos. 
  4. Be vigilant. If another adult tells you to look at your kids’ postings, do so.  Once, I warned a parent something looked off. That’s when the family discovered their 15 year old had friended an out of state predator.
  5. Beware the games and apps. I no longer have time for games. When I first started, I accidentally sent a Valentine postcard that said “I love you” to my husband. And my friends. That posted on their walls. Including teens. I spent an afternoon deleting them.
  6. Veto if you can. If your kids post something stupid, try to get them to delete it. I told my kids if they post something on Facebook during school hours, I may correct their grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.  It works better if I tell them privately than post the correction publicly.  Any band or movie whose name includes a 4 letter word or “sex” in it cannot be mentioned.
  7. Encourage. One of my favorite role model moms – online and in real life – posts on each of her kids’ walls on Facebook at least once a month, “I love you.”

Being a mom of teens online is comparable to real life. Watch, encourage, admonish sometimes, and always, always love them to pieces.


Your Cat's NOT in My Cradle

“Cat’s in the Cradle,” by Johnny Cash is my parenting theme song. With a twist. (hint – play while reading this blog)

He sings of making bad parenting choices and his son’s repeating that pattern. That doesn’t have to happen. I don’t repeat the patterns of my childhood.

Instead, I sing, “I’ll be nothing like you – your cat’s NOT in my cradle.”  I deliberately chose a better path.

My family – my children and my husband – have and always will come first.

Struggling to survive the “childhood-that-wasn’t” shaped my character. However, I chose how I would use it. 

Your childhood script can be flipped with hard work.

By the grace of God and with the support of a wonderful husband who’s spent the past 20 years gently loving away the rough edges, I changed. Once a scared but tough survivor who managed on my own since age 18 with long hair and short skirts, I had moved 26 times in 24 years when we first met. Sometimes I had slept on friends’ couches or floors when I was between addresses. 

My husband helped me become a wife and mom. We built our family together – talking, laughing, and sometimes arguing our way through family dinner hours, laundry piles, teen angst, and carpools. We have a good time now.

I have neither anger nor regrets about the past. At the end of Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers that what man meant for ill can be used for good by God to help others.

How can God use my terrible experiences of a lifetime ago? I can help young people struggling in their own stories, reach their hearts and tell them life can be better. As Corrie ten Boom once said, there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. We are not alone. There is hope.

Because of where I was, my life and family now is doubly precious. Instead of being trapped in past problems, God sent a husband and friends to help me write my own song.

Your cat’s not in my cradle.  I’m not just like you. My kids aren’t just like me.

The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon. Little boy blue and the man in the moon…my children had a childhood.

Stories that start sadly can change and get the happy ending. Mine did.

It’s our choices, not the cat in the cradle, that determine the outcome of our lives.


Confessions of an Old Geezer

This morning, I have graduated to the ranks of an old geezer.

Why?

A snowstorm is coming. It’s not here. Note the amount of snow on my car right now. All area schools cancelled in anticipation of the storm. Fine. I don’t have a problem with that – it could be a hassle to get everyone home. I don’t want to see kids get hurt.

My problem is other organizations base closings on the school corporation. Tonight, I have a community meeting that’s cancelled because of EVSC’s decision to cancel school today.  No problem. 

However, this morning my kids’  scheduled morning swim was automatically cancelled because of the snowstorm that’s not here yet. By the time the practice would have ended, there would be less than 1/2 an inch of snow on the ground.

As some point, we have surrendered our common sense in the name of policy and out of fear of litigation.

So here’s the old geezer rant:

In my school district growing up, the superintendent hated snow days because he wanted to take Easter week off to Florida. That’s back when spring break corresponded with Easter. 

We lived in a small county, over 50% rural, and the buses struggled their way on county roads. We went to school when it snowed 6 inches overnight. Granted, the day we did that was when our high school basketball team was due to play a sectionals game that we would forfeit if school were let out.

There were times school buses didn’t arrive until 9 a.m., but by golly we got in our school day so the superintendent could tan in Florida in March and the ball team could compete.

The only times we really had snow days were during the winters of ’77 and ’78, when we had the blizzard.  Then, we were out of school a month.

Those bad winters, I had a foot paper route that took an hour in good weather and 2-3 hours after a bad snowstorm. I didn’t miss a day of the route. So, yes, I walked through two feet of snow. And was thankful for the paycheck. If we got a chance to shovel walks for someone for money, we were thankful for that too.

We survived and thrived because of a little hardship and a lot of snow.

Can’t we judge for ourselves the hazards in our own driveway and decide whether we can make a trip?


Diary of a Mom

Baby - did I used to take showers? When will she start talking? This is the hardest phase of parenting because there’s so much work.

Toddler - She’s talking! Tells me no sometimes! This is the hardest phase of parenting because there’s so much running. 

Preschooler - Now she talks back. Just when I think she’s ok, she’s tried something new or made a new mess.  She told me I’m the meanest mom on the planet cause I told kids no when I chaperoned her field trip. This is the hardest part of parenting because we juggle watching with letting her explore.

Elementary - Can she ever take a breathe when she’s talking? This is the hardest part of parenting because I’m driving her everywhere all the time.

Middle School – She talks to her friends but doesn’t like to talk to me. This is the hardest part of parenting because of her attitude.

Early High School – She tells me how wrong I am and how right she is on a daily basis. If I had known how hard this part of parenting was, I would have planned a different life path.

Later High School – Some bad days, some good days. I choose my battles. In just over a year, she’ll be in college. This is our last time together before she leaves. This is the hardest part of parenting because we have so much to do before she leaves home.

College - We left her at her dorm today. I cried. Will miss her and wouldn’t trade a minute of my life as mom. 

Well, wouldn’t trade most of the minutes of my life as mom.

My life as mom hasn’t ended. It just changed.

Maybe that’s why the Bible says “and so it came to pass” instead of “and so it came to stay…”


So Long, Farewell

“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” we sang at the beginning of my friend’s funeral.

When a singer goes to an organist’s funeral, it is a trip with the Ghosts of Church Music past. To the far left is the organist I’ve known for decades. To the right is a lady I sang with from my kids’ choir. Beside me is another singer from a former choir. The pianist and I worked together decades ago on other projects.  There was a time our lives were intertwined.

Sometimes we struggled through music for this performance or the drama of the rehearsal where nothing worked.

We’ve come together to honor the memory of a friend, for whom his music was his life.  Here, in this congregation joined to celebrate the memory of a friend, are the strands of his life and our own. 

As our voices blend at the funeral, I don’t remember the bad rehearsals. I do remember the joy we had when we sang together and things worked – the Hallelujah Chorus. The a capella “Panis Angelicus.”

Our singing is our final tribute, our final farewell to a musician friend. Every line of every song has new purpose. 

It feels like The Sound of Music, when the Trapp family sings “So Long, Farewell, auf Wiedersehen, Good-bye.”

At the funeral, we each sing our own final personal tribute. When the music ends, we wish each other a final good-bye in the parking lot. Our lives, once joined together, have ventured on different paths. 

This good-bye is no more final than the one we said to our friend who died.  Our worlds will touch again in the future. We will sing together again. Hopefully not just at funerals.

Perhaps when I sing my Alleluia and you sing your Amazing Grace, in our separate lives, we can remember each other and sing them together in our hearts.

The So Long Farewell isn’t final.  It’s just awhile –

Till we meet again.


Research Papers and Tools to Help

Term papers today are easier than when I was in high school.  That was back in the days of electric typewriters.

The following are the new essential skills and tools for term papers.

  1. Search Engines. Besides googling, you need to know how to evaluate what’s accurate, current, and verified. Wikepedia is a good to skim but is not a good research reference. Can you research on social media too?
  2. Library Websites. The Evansville Public Library website (my local library) is a treasure trove with good web sources and databases as well as books. You should be able to dance the jitterbug around your library’s website and know how to request an inter-library loan.
  3. NoodleTools. This is the best research tool I have found for students.  It costs $8 per year for an individual account, and I require it of every student I teach to write term papers.  Students take virtual notecards with NoodleTools, and it generates bibliographies. Noodletools teaches students to self-evaluate their research and intuitively know when and where to dig deeper.
  4. Evernote or OneNote. These are programs to take notes. Evernote has a free version. OneNote is part of Office. Both have mobile apps. These help you take notes on the go.
  5. Word processors.  Word is the gold standard. There is a student license for Office. If you are on a budget, you could use Google Docs or Open Office. I recommend Google Docs because it’s easier to share your work and have access to your documents wherever you are. If you need bells & whistles, go Office. The same recommendations hold if your research requires statistical analysis.
  6. Presentation software. Your choices here include PowerPoint, Google Docs, or Prezi. Some prefer Prezi because the results can be flashier. There is a free version if you share your work and a paid if you want it private. If you create a presentation, make sure you know how to use the program well. Further, know how to effectively use the presentation as a tool and not a crutch. Can you give your presentation without the slideshow?
  7. Go 2.0.  The paper and the presentation should not just be a static assignment – that’s 1.0 20th century work. Welcome to the new world. Share your work on Slideshare plus written and video blogs.

I used to worry about typing my term paper. The 2.0 research model offers opportunities to develop critical thinking – and critical sharing skills – instead.


Learn While You Can

“I’ve lived over 60 years without a computer and won’t start now,” a friend’s mother told him.

“Mom, you have to start now. It will be easier now than when you’re 70,” her son told her.

Then he continued with the jaw dropping clincher, “You had better learn to use a computer now, while you can, before you get old and using a computer is the only thing you have left that you CAN do.”

I would never have had the guts to say that. But he’s right. It’s easier to learn now than it is to learn later.

Computer technology and social media offer outlets never before available to those who face physical challenges. They have an opportunity to connect with the outside world, whether it’s beautiful outside or there’s an ice storm.  New tech changes will make it that much easier for older people to stay independent and involved.

Skype is a growing trend among seniors who want to stay connected with family members in other areas. Some families have dinner together via Skype.

How do you help an older family member or friend be more independent on the computer? When I’ve worked with senior citizens, the following helped.

  1. Go slow. Repeat often. Write down steps and have them follow the steps with you.
  2. Have them click the mouse. If you take over the mouse, they will never learn to click.
  3. Begin with solitaire. This teaches them to drag and drop, click, and double-click. Explain what click, double click, and right click are used for.
  4. If double-clicking is a challenge with a traditional mouse and they want to use a mouse, teach them to hold the mouse still and think “tap tap” instead of “double click.” The words “double click” have fricative sounds, and people jiggle their hands more with those sounds than when they think “tap tap.”
  5. Spend time teaching them to minimize, maximize, and close windows.
  6. Make sure they understand how to cut, copy, and paste.
  7. Help them save photos to a place where they can find them later.
  8. Be sure their system is backed up.
  9. Repeat the same topic several times if needed.
  10. Make sure they have shortcuts to get to the programs they use most often – most likely email and maybe social media.

If you’re a senior, what poses the biggest computer challenge to you? If you’ve helped senior family members, what tips can you share to help others?


9 Steps to Starting Social Media

“How do I get started?” people ask when they decide to try Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn for business.  Follow the same steps you would take when planning a long distance business trip. 

  1. Plan. Before you take a business trip, you decide why you’re taking it and what you hope to accomplish. “Go somewhere and business will come” is not a sound strategy.
  2. Train. Before you drive a car on a business trip, you learn to drive the car. Riding in a car does not translate into instant driving skills. You learn the rules of the road, safety tips, and more. Driving lessons take time. Give yourself time to learn to use social media.
  3. Organize. Decide who will go. Who do you send on business trips, and how do they best represent your unique brand? What will you do when you get there?
  4. Budget. What tools will you buy, and which freebies will you leverage?
  5. Equip. Travel is mobile. So’s social media. Get a smartphone so you understand your customers better.
  6. Target. Who is your dream customer, and how can you best find that niche via social media?
  7. Converse. Listen to your target customers, respond, and ask them questions. Build a relationship.
  8. Streamline. Over time, social media takes less of your time. Tools like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, and NutshellMail can help you use social media on a schedule.
  9. Evaluate. Measure results. Experiment with various strategies and determine which work best for your customers. This will help you set short and long term goals.

The key to social media is the word “social.”  It’s about people.

If you can…

  • Balance the personal and the professional..
  • Be real and be smart while you’re being transparent…
  • Listen and respond….
  • Build your own brand indirectly as you build up the community around you….

Social media will help your business not only survive but thrive.


6 Blogging Tips for Boomers

If Charles Dickens blogged today, no one would read him.  He used too many words.

Boomers can have great ideas, but they have to relearn how to write if they want people to read them. Less is more. Long is never read. How can a boomer with great ideas learn to sift for gold and shake out the good stuff? What tools should they use?

  1. Twitter. Tweets are limited to 140 characters. Savvy tweets use 120 or fewer characters so they are more easily retweeted. The more you tweet, the better your writing will shift to the new paradigm. Overly long tweets will make you look old school and past your prime time.
  2. Main Point. What’s your main point? When I teach document layout to non-graphic business people, I tell them to print a page, hold it at arm’s length, and squint. What stands out the most is what the average consumer will see first. Design the rest of the ad around that point. This applies to writing too. Step back from your blog, squint, and determine the main point. Write around that point. If you have more than 1 point, you have more than one blog.
  3. Blog with Word Count. Don’t just blog. Keep the word count at 300 to 400 words. If you go longer, you have a blog series. Start with your premise, your thesis, and evaluate every word and sentence to assure they are essential to your thesis. Don’t repeat yourself. Cut the fat.
  4. Bullet. Bullets are like related tweets and are more likely to be read.
  5. Graphic. Include a graphic or video with your blog. Back link it to your website for better SEO.
  6. Link. Tweet your blog on Twitter. Link it on Facebook. Link it on LinkedIn. If you link properly, it will be read more often than if you just include it in a status line. When you link correctly, your graphic in your blog will show on Facebook and LinkedIn. Links with pictures get more clicks.

I blogged back in the days of 900 word limits. Today’s blog is not a 5 paragraph essay. It is not a dissertation. It is a foot in the door. Smart writers use these tools to powerpack a content rich punch that stands out from boring blogs.

PS: Have keyboard. Will blog. For hire.


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