Monday, July 29, 2013

Don't Pre-Judge A Monday ...

Do you ever categorize your days of the week? Mondays are long and difficult to get through, Wednesdays are a camel's favorite day (hump day), Friday's motto is TGIF, and Sunday is hopefully a day of rest.

Today is Monday and it feels like a Monday in every possible way. Nothing happened that I didn't expect; a ton of emails to follow up on from the weekend, a couple dozen phone calls to deal with, and was a bit sleepy in the morning due to not enough sleep last night. Sometimes I think we set ourselves up for Mondays. We expect it to be a long day, so our attitude adjusts accordingly. I woke up this morning in anticipation of a BUSY day, so I wore sneakers to work. No one was going to see what was on my feet from behind my desk, but it certainly made me feel better. Do whatever it takes to get you through the day. Maybe splurge on something good for lunch, although mine was leftovers today.

Alter your Monday attitude by planning something fun for the evening. That's what I did. Tonight I'm having a potluck dinner with a group of friends. We'll have a good home-cooked meal and some great conversation. It will definitely be my self-reward for getting through my busy Monday. What are your plans?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What's the best source of promotion?

When I was young technology was something seen on a Jetson’s cartoon on a Saturday morning in your PJs. We had TVs with channels 2, 4, 7, 9, 20 & 50; and usually only one TV in the house. There was this round knob on it that when you got up and walked across the room and turned it, it actually changed the channel for you. There was also one for volume (imagine that). We had a stereo console with a built-in record player (that played REAL records). We didn’t have answering machines or call waiting, cell phones or computers. Wow… how did we ever survive? We even had these thick yellow things called ‘phone books’. If you wanted to call a plumber or an electrician you looked up their ad in the book. Times were definitely different then and for many, much simpler.

Technology can be a great tool. It can be helpful and efficient, but it can also be a distraction - just look at all the people losing sleep over Candy Crush. I guess it just depends how much you want to use technology, what you want to use it for, and why you want to use it. I read an article the other day that said if you want to be a serious and competitive journalist you absolutely have to have an IPhone, otherwise you can’t share your stories on the scene and instantaneously. Makes sense since getting the first scoop is usually the #1 requirement for a reporter.

This week on Facebook I saw a post from a friend looking for a reference for a roofer. I’m happy to say I was able to help her out. Seems to me that old-fashioned person-to-person referrals are still the best source of promotion. It doesn’t matter if it comes in the form of a phone call, a Facebook post, or a real face-to-face conversation while standing on your driveway.

Promotion is crucial if you’re in business; you need to get the word out about your product or service, why you’re better than your competitor, and how much you can save the customer. Publicists, advertising agencies, and webpage designers will no doubt try to convince you that you can’t possibly do it without their help (for a low, low price of course), but businesses are different. They’re all about their product or service. Relationships are another thing entirely. They need one-on-one contact, they need attention, and they need nurturing to be able to grow.

I’ve been thinking about all of this because of this blog. This blog is an extension of me – it’s my being personal and having one-on-one conversations with my readers. But how do I promote it? How do I make it grow? How much do I even want it to grow? To me, it still comes down to referrals. Sharing the blog with your friends is a referral; the best kind, because you’re making it personal. It’s using the modern day tools of technology and combining it with old fashion personal contact. A great blend, if you ask me. Sure I could make flyers on flashy paper or pay for ads on the Internet, but that would only increase the # of readers I’m reaching. It wouldn’t let me get to know my readers; that comes from readers making comments on an entry and me responding back. Someday this blog may grow by leaps and bounds, but then again it may not. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime we’ll just take life one blog entry at a time.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Neighborhood Experiment

This past week I decided to conduct an experiment for a couple of reasons.

First I should properly set the scene. The street I live on was getting new concrete (that's a story in itself). It was a 2 step process. One side of the street was done first, then flagged off with orange cones to set for about 5 days. During that week homeowners on that side of the street made other arrangements for their cars, since some of their driveways were blocked. We had one-way traffic on the street, which was enough of a challenge for a main street. There was about a block and a half stretch of one lane ... meaning 'single file' and 'wait your turn for clearance'. Apparently that's a challenge for some drivers who don't want to share the road.

Last week was my turn. My side of the road was taken out, repaired, and set up with orange cones. My driveway was one of the lucky ones to be completely blocked, so my husband parked in front of our house and I parked in front of the house 3 houses down. I had no choice in the matter, but at the same time I felt guilty. You see, I had never met the homeowners before. I've lived in my house for 15 years and I'm ashamed to say that I don't know everyone on my street. I know the families who are my direct neighbors and I know the families on my street who had kids at the bus stop, but it kind of stopped there.

In today's 'rush rush' society we don't meet all of our neighbors ... for that fact the only time we see a lot of our extended relatives is when we're at weddings and funerals to which some cousin or aunt usually says, "You know, we really need to get everyone together somewhere other than at a funeral."

So here is where my experiment came in. My husband and I were scheduled to have friends over on the weekend to play cards, but we can only play cards when it involves fresh homemade cookies. (Don't judge.) I don't like to cut cookie recipes in half, so I usually plate up the extras and give some away. Saturday afternoon I came home to find the orange cones had been removed early ... you could practically hear the applause on the street. I decided to be bold and take a plate of homemade cookies down the street to the homeowner I had not met. I'll be honest, I was a bit nervous and felt awkward. What if they don't answer the door because they don't know me? What if they're diabetic and can't eat the cookies? What if they don't like Oatmeal Cranberry cookies? Or worse ... what if they think I'm a stalker? So many ridiculous scenes played out in my head; but I squared up my shoulders, had my cookies in hand, and marched the long distance of 3 houses down the street. A neighbor was outside (who I also hadn't met) and told me they were in their backyard. Now what do I do? If I casually walk into their backyard am I invading their privacy? But the neighbor had already seen me so I was commited to the experiment. I bit the bullet, walked back with cookies in hand, introduced myself and politely thanked her for letting me park in front of her house for the last week. It all happened so quick, but worked out great. She was surprised I would do something like that. We chatted for a few minutes, were friendly, and are now a bit better acquainted.

What inspired me to conduct this little experiment? I suppose the fact that we'd recently reviewed the 10 Commandments in church. LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR is more than just a commandment, it can be the opening of a door, the suggestion of a possible friendship, or a simple display of good morals and values. So ... how many of your neighbors do you actually know? When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone to talk to one you didn't know? What happened?

Friday, July 19, 2013

When Did It Become Acceptable To Not Care?

This week I finally took two well-deserved vacation days, technically they were 'staycation' days. The first day my daughter took off as well. We spent the day together checking items off our pre-college summer To Do list one at a time. We were productive and spontaneous. We stopped by her new college to make some schedule changes, moved on to Wilson Violins in Birmingham for some string bass repairs and such, then finished off with lunch and shopping in Royal Oak. The temperature was close to 100 which made walking through the downtown district a bit of challenge, but we survived. My daughter had her heart set on going to two stores. The second of the two was the Lost and Found Vintage Shop. She may be 17 still, but she has a very old soul. The vintage store carried clothing and items from as far back as the 40s & 50s. Things were classic back then. Clothes were made to last, cars were made to withstand dents and dings, and a deal could be sealed with the shake of a hand. It was a time when integrity was displayed everyday and your word meant something.

Times have changed, even in the 50 years I've been alive. Today I look around and notice how fast everything goes, how competitive everything is, and how so often people just don't seem to care about keeping their word. It's really very sad. Don't get me wrong, not everyone behaves this way, but it does seem to be on the way to becoming the norm and the acceptable for many.

I have seen many situations this past year when people in various businesses didn't keep their word. It seems like they were more concerned with just making the sale, rather than giving the customer good service to keep them coming back. There was a time when 'referrals' were the foundation of many businesses. I recently wrote a blog entry about 'being tolerant'. I suppose this entry could be a continuation of sorts.

I've been very busy lately researching and making changes for my blog. I read other blogs as often as I can, but in doing so I've also made an observation. I recently visited 3 different blogs. Two of them had Facebook pages and what is called 'Fan Fridays'. The idea they suggest is that they're being supportive to fellow bloggers; that we're all one big family. They say 'Like My Page and I'll Like Yours Back'. Fact is neither of the bloggers followed through on their half of the deal. Quite disappointing if you ask me. Kind of makes you wonder if they're only in it for themselves. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that they were merely busy or on vacation, but given the fact that they've posted other entries since I think it's safe to conclude that they increased their 'LIKE' status and just moved on. That's the beauty of research. You can take it all in and learn something too. In my case I learned what NOT to do. I learned that I'd rather have 53 real LIKES on my Facebook page than 1,000 if it meant they were nothing more than a number. Sure ... in today's society we often measure our success in numbers, but inflating numbers just for show never got anyone anywhere (at least no place that I want to be).

So what do you think has changed? When did it become acceptable not to care? Why does follow through seem to be such a foreign concept for some people? Are we just getting lazy? What do you think?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Find Your Voice

Do you ever feel like you're talking, but no one is listening? Like your voice is going unheard or is getting lost in the chaos? You're not alone. Life these days seems to be busier than ever. I'm not sure exactly why, but everything seems to be happening all at once and at a frantic pace. If you're like me you probably wish you could slow it down, but that's clearly not our reality.

My life has been a bit crazy lately. I've been working at my job, working at home, trying to help other people out when I can, writing on this blog, and because I have absolutely nothing else going on in my life (this is where it's o.k. for you to laugh without hurting my feelings) I've signed up to walk in my 2nd Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in early October. But did I stop there? Oh no! That would be too easy. I've accepted a volunteer position as a 'Voice of Hope' for the American Cancer Society. I was chosen to help represent the Making Strides campaign by speaking at some upcoming events to create awareness.

As a cancer survivor I am both honored and humbled. I'm not alone in the number of people who have been diagnosed with cancer, or even survived. But I do have a passion for spreading encouragement and awareness. I had a unique story with my diagnosis and feel I have a message to share. So it's important that I grasp this opportunity for my voice to be heard.

No matter what YOUR story is or what message YOU have to share you have a responsibility to share it and be heard. Embrace the opportunities that present themselves. I don't think they just happen by chance. I've never let cancer define me. I didn't let it take something from me, but I did take something from the experience. I found strength, I found courage, I found a purpose, and I found my voice.

Be strong. Speak out and let your voice be heard. I can't wait to hear what YOUR message is.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Reality Shows - What's The Attraction?

Reality TV is everywhere. Grab your remote and start flipping; you're bound to find at least 3-4 different shows on any given night. There's something for everyone. There's informative shows about travel, having babies, and buying real estate in foreign countries. There are shows that cater to your hobbies like fishing, cooking, and home improvement DIY projects. There are so-called romance shows. Then there are the human interest types like American Pickers and Pawn Stars where a story comes with every item found.

What is it that hooks our attention? Is it that we think we're just like the people on the screen and can somehow relate with them? Is it that we just want to escape from our own lives for 30-60 minutes?

I'll admit I have a few favorites, but then who doesn't? I find myself cheering for the people stranded on the various Survivor islands and contemplating their next move. Just who will Outwit*Outplay*Outlast the other guy to deserve the million dollar prize? I enjoy watching Chopped; seriously they make it all look so easy, but I do wonder if the judges really want to eat the dishes after the food has been handled and literally thrown onto the plates during the last 10 seconds. I personally prefer So You Think You Can Dance over Dancing With The Stars. At least with SYTYCD there are talented young dancers that get to work with great choreographers and potentially refine their skill and get a job afterward. Dancing With The Stars seems somewhat entertaining, but more about bringing 'used to be's' back for the 15 minutes of new fame.

Which ones do I dislike? How much time do you have? I haven't been interested in the Bachelor or Bachelorette since the beginning when Trista chose Ryan (the humble firefighter from Colorado). They made a future together, but probably only because they left the limelight and acted normal. It seems you can almost predict that the next bachelor or bachelorette will be whomever got left standing at the rose ceremony on the previous season.

Then there are the shows that create spin offs. Toddlers and Tiaras sucks me in for about 5 minutes, then I get angry at something an obsessed parent said and I literally have to walk away.  Don't even get me started about Honey Boo Boo. Once in a great while there will be one wholesome little girl on the show who will tell another little girl that her dress is pretty, but then the moment is ruined when the 2nd little girl snubs the first and tells her mother, "Just who does she think she is talking to me?" If you want to feel better about your own parenting skills, then I'd definitely recommend watching these shows.

I may have to save the rest of my rant for another blog entry, there's too much good material to choose from. But that just proves my point of how much Reality TV has taken over. Do you think it's the fad of the decade or do you think these shows will still be around in 5 years? Which ones do you watch and why? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Should We Be Tolerant?

I usually try to write my blog entries about things that are relatable to most people. I generally try to remain upbeat and positive. A good blogger will have a solid viewpoint and try to stick with it. It's never my intent to offend anyone, but I also need to strive a bit harder to not be 'middle of the fence' on my topics. It's my nature to play the mediator, perhaps because I was on the debate team in high school (a little known fact you may not have known). I try to help people sort through things that happen in their lives. Subconsciously I find myself trying to not pick sides, but sometimes I reach a certain point and then I can't help myself ... I get up on my soap box and I rant! Yep, you heard me right. I'm not always soft spoken or mild mannered. I'm sorry if you feel disillusioned right now. Get my feathers ruffled and I'll pitch a fit as good as the next person.

Lately I feel like my tolerance levels are being tested. Why? I'm not really sure, but I sure wish I knew. I've become intolerant to people disregarding when I'm trying to sleep and setting off loud fireworks late into the night. For goodness sakes, it's not even the weekend yet or the actual holiday! I'm intolerant of people being loud and carrying on outside on a weeknight. It's midnight ... some of us need to get up and go to work tomorrow. I'm definately intolerant of people talking on their cell phones and texting while driving - it's not my fault you have one hand on your phone and one hand on your steering wheel which leaves you with NO available hands to actually use your turn signal and let us other drivers know that you intended to make that sudden right hand turn. And to conclude (drum roll please ...) I am absolutely intolerant to the fact that gas prices will AWLAYS go up by at least 20cents the day before a holiday. Common, seriously, do the people at the oil companies really think the American public is THAT stupid?

What makes you get up on your soapbox?