Feelings Are Very Feely

There are arguably a few constants in the universe in addition to death, taxes, and change. One from which none of us can escape, unless we decide to abscond to a deserted island, is interaction with that muddlesome factor of other human beings.

Coping or engaging with others is tiresome. To attempt any kind of adept navigation through the relationships which make each day complete, I often find myself making slight adjustments to my approach for each type of person. Do I lose myself in this? Not at all. But there are nuances to how I choose to engage with others based entirely on the situation, the person, my person, external factors, and so on.

I say all this because getting caught in this muck can be all too easy. As much as I might begin to vent to my innermost circle about a coworker, even engaging in that action can replicate the action I find so annoying in them. I can inwardly judge another for being irrational or hanging on to petty or temporary issues, but the longer I dwell upon it the more similarities develop between me and the person with whom I’m irked.

Here’s the thing:  I hate human muck. I think it can be fascinating to dissect and assess each person’s motivations, but I don’t want to get dragged down into the personal hell someone else has created for themselves which is all too ready to customize a sinkhole that fits me perfectly. And if I were to have any shot at all to help them claw their way out of their own muck, I need to be clear of it myself. (In this instance, I don’t think Leo was referring to situations like this when he talked to Josh Lyman about climbing down into a hole to help him out. It’s a great quote, but a human muck hole can get awfully crowded.)

 

How do I stay clear of my own human muck? Well, I laugh. A lot. I seek out humor in just about everything, even if it makes me the target. I get my solid share of feeling stressed or beat or targeted, but I look to the foundations of my life which are, like death/taxes/change/muck, unchanging. I seek God when I’m focusing too much on these temporary issues instead of the big picture He surely has designed. And I always recognize the very real truth that His mercies really are “new every morning.” As each day dawns anew, I gain a refreshed perspective on what lies ahead.

I’m so thankful for my proclivity to all things cheery. I hope I never lose that focus, and more so that I’m able to feed it to others. I realize not everyone can shake off mortal coils of muck as easily as I might. But maybe prayer on my part, as well as a little light shone their way, can clear away a little muck for everyone.

Two Years, Turkish

A lot can happen in two years. I’ll just confess right now I was not even remotely thinking of blogging about any of it. Sanity seemed a bit more precious.

So let’s pretend this is a very quick catch-up to bring us ’round to the present, mmm-kay?

Since my last blog post exactly two years ago, we lived with my mother-in-law. We got a cat and named him Scooter Bill (brainchild by me and my son). My husband stopped doing his side mechanic business to get more hours at the bicycle shop. I became disillusioned with my office administration job because the promise of future marketing duties vanished like a puff of smoke, right before the boss who had assured me of their possibilities vanished to her new job. My son took jiu jitsu at a place populated by bitchy moms. My daughter took dance classes and had a recital. We sold our rental house and bought an amazing house, just nine blocks south of our old house. (Enter the shit-eating grins once we had moved out from my MIL’s home.) I switched jobs to get a marketing title, even though it came with a huge commute and psychotically dysfunctional management. I decided to finish my bachelor’s degree with CSU Global. I switched jobs again, six months later, for a shorter commute and one of the most amazing work cultures I’ve ever experienced. And now, in about four days, I’ll finish the last assignment of my last online course to earn my degree.

We good? Now that I have more time and a little more motivation, I think I’ll be around here a bit more often. I also publish on LinkedIn, but that’ll be more of a professional tone. This? This is me. It’s really Rachel.

Engage as the Page

Time and time again I encourage social brand managers to put down the megaphone and use their brand’s page to engage – that is, to create and promote dialogue between the brand and its fans.

Thus far, Facebook and Google+ have allowed this feature. Even Pinterest joined the fray with their Pinterest for Business profiles. And now, true to their ever-progressive form, LinkedIn allows brand managers to post and engage as the Company Page. (Cue the heavenly choir and soft ethereal light from above… even though this feature is slowly being rolled out.)

yell

Social media has gotten so much more brand-friendly over the past few years, and we digital marketers rejoice at each new embracing of the trend. In a realm where marketing job titles now sport terms like “community” and “relationship,” does it not make perfect sense to provide for companies to get as touchy-feely as any individual’s profile? Billboards are great for getting a message across, but they don’t do squat to generate a conversation.

If your brand hasn’t engaged as a page yet, there’s no time like the present to get started. Put down the megaphone, pick up some authentic tone and let the good times roll.
photo credit: mikeyp2000 via photopin cc

What Inspires Me: The Play on Words

Reality Bites circa 1994

Know How to Use Words.

There’s a reason Ethan Hawke’s character in Reality Bites elicited quite the fan base in myself and others of the Gen-X era. Sure, he was a slacker – jobless yet elitist – but the guy had a way with words. His impromptu phrase, “You have reached the winter of our discontent,” as he answered a phone call still stands out as an example of great wit and an appropriate play on words for his character.

The play on words just does it for me. I don’t care what your social status, educational level, title, or political persuasion is; if you can play on words like nobody’s business, you pretty much have my ear. If you’re that good, you may live in my brain’s creative reservoir until I shuffle off my mortal coil.

And let’s not trifle with the obvious… today you must be good with words. With so much communication from so many millions now engaging in an eternal online conversation where anyone has opportunity to bend anyone else’s ear, you must know words.

I dial back to yet another date-stamped cinematic example of why words are my inspiration. In the film With Honors, Joe Pesci’s character is a homeless man who leaves a lasting impression on four college students. As they are reading his self-written eulogy over his grave, he observes one thing about each of the four. The best one, in my humble opinion and regardless of the note not being about the main character, was directed to Patrick Dempsey’s character Everett Calloway, “who knows how to use words.”

I’ll take a footnote of that caliber on my tombstone, TYVM.

Are you inspired by those who know how to use words? Drop some names (& links!) below so we can all be inspired!

Be More. Be Bacon.

 What’s your bacon?

That is to say, what is something you know you can add to a good thing to suddenly make it over-the-top?

Bacon is and has been trending for what seems like ages in the social media sphere.  There are countless memes about bacon. There are normal products made using bacon imagery. Did you know there is even bacon-flavored vodka?

But enough about the food that is bacon. Let’s drill down on the concept of “being bacon”.

What if YOU were the additive that makes everything better?

In your workplace, your family, or even standing in line at the next shop you visit… your presence could, by small to larger degrees, improve the dynamic and experience going on around you.

“Being bacon” (or “being fill-in-your-blank“) doesn’t have to be about contributing your expertise or forcing an interjection.  It’s about seizing opportunities to make the world around you better.  You can authentically add to experiences and environments to leave them better off than they would have been without you.

photo credit: nerissa’s ring via photopin cc

What’s the payoff of “being bacon”?

Yes, I know you might well be wondering the id-focused question, “Fine, but what’s in it for me?” It’s OK to wonder, but this is where we enter the Shiny part of today’s post. You may not get an immediate or even postponed ROI on “being bacon”.

Here’s the big BUT though:  if you are consistently being bacon, people will notice. Your reputation will reflect your shine, and ultimately your presence will be sought after in your circles: professional and personal. Your ROI could be increased pay, promoted titles, more networking referrals, and even longevity at your job. Holiday meals with family might go smoother, your spouse and kids may be more responsive,  and your friends may ensure you’re on their invitation texts and Evites.

Oh, and one more payoff: if more people focused on “being bacon”, the world might have a real shot at being a better place overall.

Want to read about how bacon led to some epic publicity for a hotel? Check out my guest blog post on The TAB Blog for Business Owners.

Size Matters in Social Media

It does!

We are, of course, talking about the images on your social media profiles (let’s leave follower counts and update lengths to other posts).  Each major social media platform allows premium opportunities to showcase your stuff via dynamic images… but you need to care about size.

Thanks to quasi-recent revamps of Facebook and Google+ Cover Photo size constraints (or, more appropriately, expansions), you can maximize some epic real estate as far as image sizes.

Nowadays, it’s better to design big – print-collateral big – for social media images and re-size down from there if needed.

For a breakdown of what image sizes and parameters you should use for each of the major social platforms, check out this handy Pin on our Pinterest board courtesy of Entrepreneur.com.

But wait… there’s more!

Click here to access Photoshop templates for each type of image you might use on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and even Xing (the LinkedIn for German-speaking countries).  You need Photoshop to be able to edit these, but considering your options for layering and grouping designs, these templates can be used over and over again as you tweak and optimize your images.  (HINT:  You will need to tweak them with every update pushed out by social media platforms… so stay versatile!)

Why Everything Should Be “Shiny.”

Everything’s shiny, Cap’n. Not to fret.

My thoughts exactly! Leave it to my favorite screen writer, Joss Whedon, to perfectly encapsulate in one not-so-new word my general outlook toward life, liberty, and the pursuit of social media accolades.

I’ve always been an idealistic optimist.  For me, the glass isn’t just half full; it’s half full of vodka (or insert your favorite libation of choice).  I really believe things can work out for the best, everything won’t be in vain, and people can and will come through in a pinch or even before it.

I bring that same mentality to my forays in social media.  I want my posts, my conversations with connections, and my very social essence to exude optimism and the best of what can be.  The world has such a healthy wealth of the dismal and derogatory, so why shouldn’t I add some shiny?

Thanks for peeking at this first of many blog posts to come:  we’ll focus on social media, with some tangents here and there as appropriate.  I hope this blog, and your life in general right now, is making everything as shiny as can be.

Will social media live on?

This morning I presented social media to a board of small business owners, and at least one in attendance expressed an absolute belief in the death of social media as a means of connecting and networking.

I would laugh it off, but then again I never saw MySpace clawing back up out of the grave.  Let’s consider some factors which might incur the playing of Taps for social media:

  • People are starting to care again about privacy.  With the recent $%&@#% debacle regarding the NSA and warrantless searches into the digital communications of Americans etal, it’s entirely possible internet users might – just might – come back around to prioritizing privacy over publicity on social media.  There has even been talk about the privacy value of snail mail.
  • The social media giants are getting too – well – gigantic.  When you’ve got players like Facebook and Google hosting and controlling your online activity, you may not realize how little power you have as a lone user.  Doubt me?  Have you ever tried deleting a Facebook account?  And let’s say you succeed; don’t you dare make the mistake of clicking Like or Share on another news story, because whoosh – it’s all back up and running again, and thank you very much for reactivating your Facebook profile!
  • There will always be that holdout you need.  You will inevitably come across connections, friends, or colleagues who will benefit your existence in some way, and they would-not-could-not-should-not join social media.  You’re going to have to lift your hand from the mouse, pick up your phone or car keys, and make contact in a more personable way.

I know what you fellow social media addicts are thinking right now:  “If someone I want to know isn’t already on social media, do I really want to know them at all?”  Been there, thought that.  But then I woke up to the reality – and so will you, hopefully – that your very best social media connections are going to be grounded in real-life associations.  Even a Skype call with someone can add that dose of reality that makes a social connection go farther.

Naturally I have no intention of getting out the spade to dig social media’s grave right now.  But I do wonder if, like legwarmers and shoulder pads, the touchy-feely aspect of human relations might ultimately trump tweets and pokes.

(This post in no way endorses the use of leg warmers or shoulder pads in one’s wardrobe, though the jury is still out on MySpace.)

Parenting For The Birds

Today as I was sitting in church between my two youngsters, I found myself observing them through my peripheral and engaging in something truly mental.  As my son had the under-seat bible open on his lap and was making a valiant effort to follow along with the pastor’s reading, my daughter on the flip side had a hymnal book open and was pretending to follow along with what she thought was a song we had just sang.

As the mind often does, it went through a variety of suppositions and assumptions within a matter of nanoseconds:  knowing my son is now in the fast-pace portion of his reader class and has received a few recent paper rewards touting his reading progress, the thought voiced itself, “He might be the reader.”  In like kind, recalling the repeated instances when my daughter has been softly singing to herself made-up songs or her best remembrance of one she has heard before, as well as how intently focused she was this morning on the guest choir, a similar thought rose up:  “She might be the singer.”

This is right about when I almost physically shook myself out of my reverie and would have smacked the back of my own head to immediately cease these careening trains of thought.  Without realizing it, I had entered into the realm of what I term Pigeonhole Parenting.

I gandered at the definition of pigeonhole, and the portion I particularly identified with today was “to classify mentally; categorize.”  That part I found to be fairly innocuous on its face, but then there’s the alternate definition also provided which is likely what made me shudder:  “to put aside and ignore; shelve.”

(If you still need a solid visual on this idea, go ahead and google “pigeonhole.”  I had no idea the term branched into office supplies…and that imagery embedded my angst even further.)

I LOVE my kids and I truly do believe and hope they can be anything they want and try to be.  But by autopiloting myself into a trajectory where I was assigning each kid their respective and assumed label or identity, I could very easily be mapping out a trajectory for them which they might feel they are expected to follow.  “Well, Mom keeps calling me ‘her reader,’ so I’d better focus on that – even though I really enjoy building with my Legos.”  You get the picture.

Look, I’m not saying a reading focus is a bad vector to follow, or that singing and the arts is either.  I’m not even saying that my internal monologue of this morning was some indication that my kids will turn into resentful, one-dimensional teens and then adults who will be filled with regret.  But the better I can be at catching myself in these deliberations before giving them voice or action gives my kids a better shot at really being all they can be – and even more than I can visualize.

I Am The 2%

My hide is chapped.

No, really – there is actual chappage on my hide which was likely incurred by braving some cold-ass temperatures last night to put in an appearance at my precinct’s caucus meeting… and I just lost you, didn’t I?  For those without a thesaurus handy:

Precinct = neighborhood or zone.

Caucus = gathering or meeting.

Meeting… um, see above for evident redundancy on my part.

Once every four years, they hold these meetings as candidates of my party make their way across the country in attempts to glean my vote as well as the votes of my fellow state inhabitants.  Most of you (98% of this state in fact, at minimum, based on last night’s turnout and stats) are absolutely clueless as to what goes down at these events, so let me enlighten you.

  • Sign in that you attended for your precinct.
  • Grab a cookie provided for free at your table and have a seat.
  • See a few people in the seats next to you who apparently are your neighbors AND of your political persuasion (at least generally).
  • Have a quasi-knowledgeable citizen/neighbor walk and talk you through the agenda which includes:  vote for committee chair, vote for county delegates, vote for state delegates and vote for congressional delegates (PSST, if you become a delegate, for the cost of two venti Starbucks you get to go hobnob with other delegates where actual candidates and political figures will be!).
  • Write down your ideas (collectively) for issues you want to be the platform of the party for election season.
  • Have another cookie.
  • Discuss and debate with those who are verbally capable at your table the where and why-for of your choice of candidate, your thoughts on issues and current events.  (The result is a flavorful concoction of communication enhancement and mind-broadening.)
  • Discreetly grab a few more cookies for the ride home (which will take all of two minutes) and head out of there.

In total, the above list took 78 minutes to reach completion at my specific caucus.  I came away with a free cookie (hey, I’m watching my portions), the title of county delegate and the promise of getting paid $100 to be an election judge on November 6, 2012.  But more than that, I walked to my VW waiting in an ice-glazed parking lot with a sense that I actually put to use the right bestowed upon me by generations of Americans who have bled and even died so I might freely complete that bulleted list above in the company of my peers and neighbors.

There are worse ways to spend a frigid winter evening once every four years.  You might try it once in a while.