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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….

To read the rest of this blog, go to MaryBiever.com, its new host location.

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!

When we started our home business, the Copper Lion, 10 years ago, our kids were 4 and 6. We put an open/closed sign on our office door and told our kids they could go into the office when it was open.

Then our son turned the sign around. “The sign says open,” he explained. We forbade him from changing the sign.

There are subtler ways business owners can lose time. Protect your time with your business and beware The Errand Trap.

When you begin a home business, some family and friends believe your flexibility gives you opportunities to run their errands.  They ask if you can do this, do that, and more.

Snap goes The Errand Trap.

You have to learn to say no and set boundaries. The only at home business people who make millions doing nothing are actors in infomercials.

Small business owners live with flexibility to decide:

  • which 6 of 24 hours we will sleep – sometimes. Sometimes it is 1 or 2 of 24.
  • which 1 day out of the month we will take off as a real day off with no work – sometimes.
  • which 1 in 10 years we will shut down and take a family vacation.

 The short one hour errand can kill half a day. How?

  • Add ½ hour for conversations before and after the errand.
  • Add ½  hour on either side for drive and delivery time.
  • Add ½  hour to either side for time you spend preparing to leave and then settling back afterwards.
  • That becomes 3 ½ hours lost.

You just lost half a day’s work for that 1 hour errand.  You will make it up by giving up family time or sleep.

Successful businesses are built because their owners are willing to “crush it,” as Gary Vaynerchuk passionately puts it. We have free time but schedule most of our lives around work.

Decide how much of your time and talents you can share with others on errands.  Set a limit on that time. Otherwise, unless it’s a dire emergency, it’s ok to say no.

Protect boundaries.  Spend your time on friends and family who respect your efforts to build your business and go after your dream.  

Good news about The Errand Trap – business owners can spot it and avoid it.

Make sure you don’t get caught.

How do you avoid the errand trap?

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.

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.

“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.

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?

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