oh a blogging we will go …

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I have found that blogging is a lot harder than it appears. Being creative on demand is difficult. Finding a voice that is engaging yet informative on a variety of topics is challenging. I have a few friends that blog daily, some do it as mommy blogs, others for business, all of them do an amazing job. I was always appreciative of their talent. However, I now have a greater understanding of the massive accomplishment that they have achieved. Daily blogging, when done well is arduous, regardless of how well you write. Devising topics that are timely, informative, engaging and thought provoking on a daily basis – wow – my hat is off to anyone who accomplishes this feat. I can see now that what I have been doing is a sprint compared to the marathon that they are running.

I struggled constantly throughout this class assignment. I tried to tailor my content and style to achieve engagement and a wider audience. I found that when writing a post it was hard to decipher what would appeal to my audience, it was very hit or miss. I am very proud of some posts, the ones that captured pieces of me. Those ones were easy to write. The ones in which I enjoyed the entire process from finding links and background information to the result. Then there were others that were complete drudgery. The style I used felt thick and cumbersome rather than fluid and supple. These were the posts that even with endless edits I never liked the results. Oddly enough, the ones I disliked received the most “likes” and comments.

I do believe that with continued practice I would find a voice that felt natural to me, that engaged my intended audience and allowed blogging to become a vehicle to achieve my marketing goals. Practice makes perfect after all. Even with additional practice, a challenge I can perceive having is locating content and topics of interest to me and my readers.

I love news and I always have. Before the internet made it almost effortless to monitor the world, I loved the world of print. Newspapers and magazine subscriptions were always my favorite Christmas and Birthday gifts. I liked gathering bits and pieces of random events and predicting patterns and trends that would emerge. There was a movies in the 1980’s that illustrated very well what I enjoy doing. In Working Girl, the main character Tess has a talent for linking indiscriminate details into potential business leads. There is a point where she has to defend her inspiration and does it with ease. Tess pulls out her articles and explains how A and B lead to C. Even with the marvels of today, this is still how I do it. I might have links instead of cut out articles but I like to expose myself to a wide variety of media, and then let my subconscious start piecing them together into a unique puzzle.

I can see how netvibes can be helpful to both my newsgathering, and blogging activities. However, I can only see it being a secondary or tertiary part of my process. In its current mode, I find it very visually unappealing. I have changed the settings, added, and subtracted widgets, turned it to a list mode, moved things around but it never felt balanced. Basically, it gives me a headache. It is either too busy or too plain; I could not find an acceptable fit. In the end, I had a tendency to use it similar to how I used the research library in college. I rarely go there. Only when I have to, for example at the beginning of a project when I want to see what is available or when I get stuck and need a fresh idea or tactic to gain more information. It would be a tool rather than an everyday resource.

I am grateful for the past month, without my blogging assignments I might not have tried out different styles or some of the topics. Each post has taught me something, whether it is to go with my gut, or learning that sometimes you have to sacrifice perfection for completion. You can edit forever but if you never post the article, what was the purpose of writing it? Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from this experience is  a willingness to let go.

only your mom can drive you this crazy … and you love her more than ever

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I know I am not the only person who is frustrated with their mother at times. Okay, she not only frustrates me, she drives me NUTS. I love the woman but without even trying, she makes me lose my mind. I thought I was over letting my Mom get under my skin; however, she has found a completely new way to irritate me. She plays the helpless card and I am now enabling this behavior. Now that I know I am enabling her, each time I let it continue, I perpetuate the process.

It reached a crescendo around the Christmas of 2012. Mom decided to upgrade her and my brother’s phones. On the way to the airport to visit me for the holiday, my uncle decided to show my Mom his new android phone. Of course, she fell in love; there was a talk to text feature that she adored. Problem is I went from being a blackberry girl to an iphone girl. I have no idea how any other phone works and Mom does not understand that they are not interchangeable. The knowledge does not transfer at least not in my non-geeky mind.

I knew it was a disaster. I cannot even begin to describe the begging and pleading I employed to get her to buy the iphone with Siri. I enlisted my spouse and a friend, each showing her why the iphone was superior and very easy to learn. I used logic and went back to pleading and pouting. I do not even think I begged that much when I wanted Santa to bring me the Barbie Dream House. I lost that battle when he brought the town house  instead and I lost the android phone argument. We went home with two of the suckers. After awhile I figured it out at least with it in my hand, I knew that when she was back in NY I would be getting calls about how to do this or that and without the actual phone, I would be lost. While she was here, I took her to classes on how to use it. However, she refused to pay attention, assuming she could call me for help.

That same visit mom had me create a new voicemail, email, and facebook account. I wrote down all the user names and passwords and put them in her wallet and in her day planner. I tried to make them as easy to remember as possible. Yet I still get calls about them. After we set the accounts up Mom had me look for all her old friends that are scattered across the world. Next, I got the privilege of writing them emails and posting on their facebook pages. Woo Hoo – Lucky me. I cannot find the time to keep up with my own correspondence but now I am initiating contact with my Mom’s cronies. Then they started to respond, and instead of having my Mom continue these conversations, she pleads ignorance and pulled the guilt card. For months, I kept up a correspondence with these individuals until I realized that their daughters were also doing it for them. We were all acting like secretaries. Our Moms really needed to get out their big girl panties and figure out a way to communicate without using us as go-betweens.

I finally put my foot down; I told Mom that this was taking up too much of my time. Yes, I am mean. I tempered it by reminding her she dropped me off at kindergarten with a snack and wave, telling me to make friends. Mom did not make my friends for me or cultivate these relationships, she was always clear that it was my responsibility. Frankly, I did not want to enable her avoidance behavior anymore.

I wrote each of her friends and told them that my mom wanted to keep in touch with them but that they needed to call her and her number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. I had to be very clear and added do not email her, she does not know how to read her emails, do not leave her a voice mail, she does not know how to retrieve it. It seemed to work, Mom has met up in person with a few of her old friends and now has a completely new bunch of stories.

We were doing well until Hurricane Sandy hit her area of New York. While there were areas of NY that received plenty of coverage my mom’s small town was lost in all the Long Island and New Jersey shore damage. I was worried, so I searched facebook, read the local paper, and listened online to her radio station. I was pretty informed on what was going on in the area. Everyone seemed to be organized and while slow, progress was being made to restore all the essentials. While on the phone with Mom, she started to complain that nothing was going on, that her town was forgotten and this new generation of people was being selfish. This is not like my Mom, for the most part, she will tell you New York have the best people in the world; they will give you the shirt of their back and are always willing to help their neighbor. This negative Nancy attitude was strange. I started to tell her about the clothing, food, water and toy drive at the town hall and the emergency shelter at the firehouse. All of which I read about on the town facebook page. After this, she had me repeat all of the town’s postings. I tried to get her to use her android phone’s internet feature, or her laptop to follow the facebook page on her own but I was talking to the wind. I finally weaned her off this when the Nor’easter Nemo came.

I spent most of last weekend providing her with details on the snowplowing schedule and which streets were passable. I knew she was safe, she and my 85 year old great aunt had enough food and water for three months, they never lose power but just in case they did, they were prepared with plenty of candles and flashlights and I think a generator. I am starting to wonder if they are doomsday preparers. Nevertheless, a willingness to use facebook? Nope, why do that when you can call your daughter for hourly updates.

I used to give in and have a pleasant attitude about this quirk of mom’s. At least I did until this Christmas when I saw that she reads a bunch of newspapers on her phone, follows a bunch of blogs and rags that feature Duchess Kate and the Queen, not to mention fully understands how her Nook works. I then realized, Mom is willing to learn and use what she finds interesting, the rest she tries to get others to do. Mainly me, the sucker. The enabler.

I know this is just a venting session, but I know I cannot be the only one who is experiencing this. That there is a whole generation of women and men like me enabling their parents. If you are like me, let me know. If you have a solution, please comment. If you need to vent yourself, feel free to share in the comment section.

be brave, be very brave

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attributed to: warriorpoetblog.com

attributed to: warriorpoetblog.com

One quote that I love is from an anonymous source. “You have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.” As a counselor and as an advocate I take this message to heart. It informs my decisions and actions.

My personal word for the year is “brave.” It reminds me to push past the easy and to stay true to what I need and want. I try to live life of congruence. One in which my actions correspond with my beliefs. It is not always painless. It can go against my need to survive and to protect myself. Occasionally the consequences of creating a life based on my own values are harsh and long-lasting.

However, I have learned that when I place myself in a situation that is in direct opposition to my core values and beliefs, I am constantly besieged with anger, resentment, and unease. I get sick easily, anxious and enjoy life less. I have realized that I generally only go against my principles to make someone else happy. The only true relationship that I cannot afford to lose and the only one I have omniscient control over is the one I have with myself. Unfortunately, I have lost and damaged connections with family and friends. However, I try to remind myself that these individuals chose to leave or end the relationship, I had a choice, and so did they.

One of my beliefs is to interpret health and mental conditions, diagnoses, conditions and the like not as something that “defines” the individual but as one part of a myriad of life events that have affects them. I am a woman with ADHD, learning disabilities that include reading, processing, and storage. Occasionally they can cause some social issues. I do not always follow traditional conversation protocol. When I am tired, stressed, or distracted, I turn into a social clod. I blurt the thoughts in my head, interrupt, and monopolize conversations. I put my foot in my mouth. It is embarrassing and leads to social anxiety.

Not the kind of social anxiety that is associated with being shy, or quiet. It is the kind that inspires fight or flight reactions. I passed out at my own bridal shower, in a room filled with supportive and loving individuals. This type of involuntary reaction stopped me from progressing, re-routed my career and personal choices. It negatively affected my life.

It happened slowly, bit by bit. Somehow, between graduating college, moving away from family and the familiar and starting my professional career, my old outgoing, and vibrant personality faded. It was a long-term progression from cheerleader to mouse. I did not notice it occurring until I felt and became invisible. People would walk into me and say I did not see you, or forget I was there. Eventually it occurred enough times that it started to make an impression on me.

In 2001, I decided to make a concentrated effort to rejoin my life. I made the conscious decision to accept every invitation I received during 2001. I also made myself promise that I would participate and not just attend. I could not devise excuses to cancel or leave early. It was difficult, but I made a great set of friends that I still socialize with. It was around this time that I started to define my values, beliefs, and goals and recognized that I needed to create a life that encompassed these. I came back out of my shell. I started to wear bright colors and be myself.

I wish I could tell you, that my social anxiety was cured. It is managed, but occasionally it still pops up. Except now, it is unexpected and my reactions are stronger than before. A few years ago, I dressed for a Halloween party, I loved my costume, and I was excited to see friends. However on the way up the drive, I tried to drag my husband back to the car, I was having a panic attack. I bravely turned around and went to the party. Thankfully, it was an aberration. Rarely does that level of panic occur but when it does, it is a doozy.

As a counselor, I see the group counseling process as a medium to show clients that they are not alone. It normalizes the experience for them to know that others have struggled through something similar. It creates hope and optimism, even in the direst of conditions. I see blogging as another extension of this. It personalizes and humanizes the experience, puts a voice and point of view to their feelings, fears, and successes.

Going back to the “You have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.” I realize that I am not the only person who experiences social anxiety and difficulties with living a congruent life. By sharing my story, I might help someone else.

Chris Brogan and amazingly brave person and blogger, has put aside his own need for privacy for the good of others. He shares his struggle with depression. Chris does it to help others recognize this condition affects his life. However, depression does not define it.

Like Chris, I encourage others to reveal their struggles and successes. Yet when you blog or post on your social media pages be careful. It is one thing to share your story, but another to leave yourself physically vulnerable. Sometimes you have to balance your need and desire to disclose with practicality.

My parents are two very different people who have formed my internet actions. Dad is a politician; to him image is everything, along with reputation. On the internet, once it is out there it is there forever. You never get second chances; prevention is your best protection. Mom is a hippie and a conspiracy nut. She taught me to realize that people are tracking your movements and to expect it. I relate this to internet privacy. Every time you log on, someone somewhere is tracking what you do. My rule of thumb for this is choose the highest privacy levels possible, use all the firewall and safety protocols your provider suggests. Then assume that there are smart people out there that are motivated for a variety of reasons to monitor your online behavior. Always be aware privacy is a complete misnomer on the internet.

When you create something for the internet be careful of mentioning other people, organizations, or businesses. When you do this, it invades their privacy. You need explicit permission prior to including others (people, organizations, or businesses) in your posts.

One last bit of advice. Take care of what is in the background of your photos, sometimes there are clues that could pin point your location. If you post a picture of your home with landmarks in the background, you could be broadcasting sensitive details to a stalker or unsavory person. The same when you “check in” to places, people know where you are. Use these features and forms of social media with caution.

Blast from the past … do you remember these?

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I am a girl who wears many hats, school girl, counselor girl, marketing girl, to just name a few.  Rarely do these converge but when they do sometimes there are interesting and fun results.

After, I left class the other night, I was stuck in endless traffic and my mind began to wander. The radio mentioned past Superbowl commercials which made me think of past advertising campaigns in general. As a marketing researcher I know the effort that goes into a Superbowl level commercial, it’s the holy grail, a gold at the Olympics. Next, add in the subject of the class I just left which is Social Media and Social Work with a focus on non-profits. Put all this together and my mind went to Ad Council‘s  Public Service Announcements (PSA) that were effective and memorable.

These campaigns weren’t designed to prompt a consumer to purchase a good or service, but instead to engage them in the message. Some were about saving the environment, protecting themselves or their children, crime prevention, etc… what they have in common, is the recognizability of their icons and / or tag lines. They lasted the test of tine and most if not all of the commercials shown this Sunday will be forgotten before the game is over.

Lets have some fun … Which of these do you remember?

Answers at the bottom,

However unless you never watched TV you probably know all of these characters or at least the tag lines. Most ran for over a decade and when they were the focus of the Ad Councils commercial time they were in heavy rotation. Some may be before or after your time, but once you watch the clip, I am pretty sure that you like me that night in my car brainstorming – they will come back to you.

A. Stop a Crime (quick before you click what is the mascot’s name?)

B. Woodsy Owl (what was his tag line?)

C. Seat belt PSA (come on, you know this one, what is the tag line?)

D. Smokey Bear (did you know it wasn’t Smokey the Bear? – he has been made over a few times but has been on TV since before I was born, what was the usual tag line)

E. Keep American Beautiful (what does Iron Eyes Cody do at the end?)

F: This Is Your Brain On Drugs

I hope you had a blast from the past! Please take a moment to comment and add your favorites. I know there are many I left out, it was hard to limit it to just these six.

It was nice to remember that every once in a while in our over commercialized world, that not all advertisements are intended to sway you to buy an item, sometimes there is a true message. Happy Superbowl Sunday!

A. McGruff the Crime Dog, B. “Give a Hoot Don’t Pollute”, C. Vince and Larry are the Dummies and the line was “You could learn alot from a dummy”, D. “Only you can prevent forest fires”, E. He cries at the end, a single tear trails down his face.

Once upon a time

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google images - http://everyonehasthemicrophone.wordpress.com/tag/mitch-and-murray-productions/

google images –

INTRODUCTION:

Once upon a time, there was a blogger that wondered, what makes good storytelling? I think everyone will agree, that engaging your audience is vital. If you are unable to engage the audience immediately, you are going to lose them. You do this by creating people they identify with and a situation that they can picture as though they are watching it unfold. You can use sound or verbal descriptions to create a dynamic setting and characters they can understand and like. I personally think that the most important part in setting the scene is the main character. Using news terminology – the who.

WHO:

People everywhere argue about why Twilight, Fifty Shades, and the Hunger Games were massive hits. No one will argue that these are examples of great literature, but they sell. Women of all ages everywhere purchased the entire series. They became guilty pleasures. One suggestion is that, the protagonists never saw themselves as being special or extraordinary. The main characters are recognizable and relatable. They make it easy for every female reader to picture herself in the story. Making her way through life, doing her best to make it through the day and improving the lives of those she loves. Almost immediately, females understand these characters and recognize her desires and insecurities. It is the same in traditional fairy tales like Alice in Wonderland, haven’t we all felt like we have fallen through the rabbit hole into a situation that seems bizarre. That one little change can make normal unfamiliar.

WHEN and WHERE:

Setting up the rest of the story is important, but I think it all begins with the main character. The environment can be colorful and vibrant, bleak and scary, or ordinary. The supporting cast can be unique like the Mad Hatter, or typical like the loveable dad. These aspects add to the story, they are the where and when. They make it more interesting for the audience.

WHY:

After you have introduced the characters and scene, the next step in good story telling is making sure there is a purpose to the story, the what. Otherwise your audience will become bored and disinterested, there needs to be a reason for them to continue. You want your readers / listeners to be enraptured but not confused. Therefore it is ideal to limit yourself to one dilemma per story, if there are more that need to be tackled save it for the sequel.

In addition, you want to take care that the presenting issue is clear and that you avoid tangents. Those first stories we heard as children are great examples, fables, fairy tales, bible stories, and picture books. Can you imagine a fable without a moral, or a Fairy Tale without an evil entity?These stories are relatively brief, with a quick introduction to the characters and scene, leading to the presenting issue, which brings you to a plan of action, the implementation, and eventual following through and an ending.

WHAT and HOW:

As a storyteller, you need to maintain the audience’s attention while your character confronts their antagonist or predicament. A very talented author can increase engagement during this time. A vulnerable protagonist that beats the odds faces their fears and continues to move forward in a daunting situation, is a compelling combination.

CONCLUSION:

Great storytellers, leave you with the feeling of completion. You know how the resolution of the quandary positively added to the life of the main character and others. Additionally if there was an antagonist or villain they want to know that they were negatively impacted. Extraordinary storytellers leave you hungry to learn more, eager to see what the “happily ever after” looks like. However they know better than to attempt it in this story. They either re-visit these characters in another chapter, book, movie, or let you the reader fill in the blanks.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

If you are interested in more information on good story telling, these sources may help you on your journey.

Jason Thibeault: Storytelling 101

Elizabeth Sims: Make A Good Story Great

TED Talks: A Variety of Opinions and Suggestions on Good Storytelling

The Art of Storytelling : A Manual For Beginners

Once upon a time graphic retrieved from Google Images and attributed to Mitch and Murray Productions

be brave and become an advocate for aging foster youth!

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Forgotten_foster_youth_lost_after_aging_out0_1337730209

We have just begun a new legislative cycle and I strongly urge everyone to consider potential areas of improvement that you can ask our leaders to address. Unless you stress your concerns to the politicians your voice and opinions will not be heard. Please, express your thoughts, provide them ideas and solutions. Even echoing the words or comments of others can help.

My passion and the cause I am the most vocal about is aging foster youth. In Georgia, foster children that turn 18 years old can be removed from the foster care system due to their age, without the support and life skills necessary to live on their own. Many of these youth struggle to get by looking for work without a high school diploma or GED and they soon become high risk for poverty and homelessness. Can you imagine what your prospects would have been at 18 years old? On the morning of your 18th birthday day would you have had enough resources to get a job, an apartment, or even dinner? Too many newly minted adults are awoken on that fateful day with a “Happy Birthday, blow out your candles and move out of my house” with a garbage bag filled with your worldly belongings.

As citizens we need to understand and become activists. I am urging you to become an advocate for enriched Independent Living Programs (ILPs) that promote healthy transitions into adulthood.  ILPs assist the youth in foster care to become self-sufficient, contributing members of society. We also need to encourage this extremely vulnerable yet frequently frustrated population to explore and utilize the ILPs available to them. For an idea of best practices in this area please consult this guide from the  Jim Casey Youth Initiative.

I strongly urge you to familiarize yourself with this population and advocacy groups. Begin to voice your opinion and ask questions of our policy and lawmakers. One example of an advocacy group here in Georgia that is very influential in the ILP movement is EmpowerMEnt which encourages transitioning youth to become involved in their future. Help to bring this issue to the forefront. Assisting these youth can benefit all the citizens of Georgia. It will decrease spending that can be re-purposed elsewhere. In addition to the fiscal benefit, it can improve the future of the current 6500 youth in Georgia that would be eligible for these type of services.

Independent Living Program’s

Increases

Decreases

          educational attainment   substance abuse
          housing prospects   teen pregnancy
        career and vocational opportunities  incarceration
      relationship and socialization abilities  relying on public assistance
          overall savings for Georgia supplemental nutritional aid

Personal vs. Professional Social Media

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Is there such a thing as a separate personal and professional social identity? I argue that there isn’t a difference.  Melanie Pinola does a wonderful job of describing the importance of juggling social identities and privacy concerns.  You can create distinct profiles with the intention of monitoring who has access to these accounts. Unfortunately, you cannot ensure that crossovers will not happen. All it takes is a Google search and a little bit of time spent investigating and an intrepid individual will mine out your details.

Please, keep in mind that your name is your brand, whether it is your personal or professional persona. Your reputation is fragile and is your most precious resource. A positive reputation takes a lifetime to form and a second to be destroyed. You always need to consider how you represent yourself on the internet just as you would in real life. In fact, you should be additionally cautious on the internet since nothing, not one single post or picture ever truly disappears.

We have all heard the horror stories of spring break pictures popping up years later and harming a young woman’s career, or the spiteful co-worker who tells the boss that so and so was enjoying a weekend away instead of being out sick. You really do not need to provide the haters with photographic or written proof of your drunken fun or white lies. Protect yourself, from this point on – do not over share on your pages. Take a moment to Google yourself, if a friend has tagged you in a photo that might come to harm you, ask them to remove it or un-tag you. Make it a habit to search your name every few months to make sure that you know what is out there. Be proactive rather than reactive, your future self will thank you.

Last week Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times published an article on the inconsistencies that are occurring legally about freedom of speech and social media. It is a concept that is evolving. How much leeway do you have as an individual when what you are posting is “legal” but defaming to your company? Can you be fired for something you post online? What if it occurred before you were hired? Right now, there are no fast and hard rules; lawmakers are constantly reviewing it. There are gaps that can leave individuals unprotected and vulnerable.

I follow a simple rule when it comes to social media. I ask myself if this post became public would I want it to be seen? Would I stand behind my statement if my grandmother, employer, or child stumbled across my comments? If the answer to these questions is not a strong “YES,” it does not belong on the internet.

I hope that I have scared you a bit. You should be a little apprehensive. With this in mind, you should still use social media. Personal social media sites like Facebook, and Twitter are effective mediums to keep in touch with family and friends. Professional sites like Linked In and similar niche networking communities are valuable professional tools for developing your professional persona. All you need to be is conscious of your posts and net presence.