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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…”

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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.

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?

“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.

Birds ate our holly berries yesterday. We have 2 tall holly trees in our backyard. Every January, in a single day, birds descend and gobble all the berries. I wonder sometimes if they know exactly which day the berries will have the right tang.

Holly berry eating day makes me happy. Yes, it’s cold and snowy outside. Spring will come. It will get warmer. Berry eating reminds me of that.

Nature habitats don’t have to be restricted to the zoo.  The Certified Wildlife Habitat program can help you create a friendly habitat in your own backyard, school yard, or community. Whether you have a huge farm or simply an apartment balcony, you can participate. In our case, with a double lot backyard full of vegetation, my main job was documenting what was already there.

How do you create a habitat?

  1. Provide food for wildlife.
  2. Supply water for wildlife.
  3. Create cover for wildlife.
  4. Give wildlife a place to raise their young.
  5. Let your garden go green.

The program encourages the propagation of native plants instead of imported species. After these steps have been met, it’s a matter of paperwork and certification. Certification costs $20.

We certified our habitat 10 years ago. I made it into an education unit for our kids – it involved mapping, identifying plants, and a first experience at recordkeeping.

Community gardens, businesses, and churches can create Community Habitats.  In addition, the Schoolyard Habitat program offers opportunities for schools to get involved.

Over 150,000 backyards in the United States have been certified as habitats. Won’t you join and help us preserve not only habitats but native species?

Gardening for wildlife makes your backyard a more interesting place to visit year round.

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.