Brand New Beginnings

Although I made the announcement a few weeks back on my professional site, I thought it might be a good idea to put a little info over here on my ‘casual’ blog. I’ve made the jump after 16 years of self-employment to full time employment to AWeber Communications. It’s best if you jump over there if you are interested in reading all about my career move.

In the meantime I’m trying to catch up with my non-work life and blog as well as a few projects I still have in motion. Somehow I thought I would have more free time, but with kids home for the summer, my job transition and writing my second book, my ‘extra’ time has gone missing. That’s okay! I’ve discovered Stitch Fix* and the personal shopping service at Nordstrom. Seriously, I have no idea how people that work 40-50 hours a week have time for the rest of the stuff that needs to be done to run a household!!

 

 

*affiliate link

Mother’s Day Crazy-Mom Style

Brace Yourselves for Mothers Day

As you will soon tell, I’m already cranky about Mother’s Day. I am not really a fan of the ‘holiday’ much in the same way I hate Valentine’s Day. Pinterest-perfect expectations that wind up making you feel that if your family / husband / partner / kids don’t plan this elaborate thing with epic gifts you are somehow not a good mom. Or at least not as good as other moms.

While I’m grumpy about the day, I’m not in the least bit ungrateful for my family or any effort they make on made-up holidays like this. They are great to me every single day and are always showing and telling me how appreciative they are of me (yes, my kids even love and appreciate my crazy Minecraft parody song karaoke dance-off’s). Mother’s Day has been artificially bloated to make you (edit: ME) feel that we should be getting flowers, breakfast in bed, spa trips, etc. and seems to pit moms against each other in competition. I will need to be off things like Facebook and Twitter for the weekend or I will fall into the trap of watching “everyone else” (not really, but it seems like it) having the HOLIDAY OF ALL HOLIDAYS while I’m driving all over New Jersey in a minivan and no makeup.

This is what it boils down to for me. The “selfish mom” wish list in my head or the “crazy normal mom” stuff that I am actually doing this Mother’s Day weekend.

Selfish Mom:

  • Long weekend spa trip someplace warm
  • A bathing suit that doesn’t look frumpy
  • Tropical cocktails (which works against the bathing suit)
  • Multiple cheese plates (which works against the bathing suit)

Normal Mom:

  • Cleaning
  • Laundry
  • Several work-related projects
  • My daughter’s school play (two nights)
  • A birthday party my son was invited to
  • Doctor’s appointments
  • Cooking without an oven
  • Shopping for a gift for MY mom for Mother’s day
  • Working with my kids on their homework projects
  • Having my brother over for a few nights (and trying to get my 6 year old to sleep in my home office on the futon)
  • An overnight trip to NYC to go pick up some furniture my brother can’t use in his new apartment

Most of that stuff falls on Saturday. I don’t even want to go to sleep tonight (Friday) because I know what the next day will be like. We don’t dare go out on Sunday for brunch (or dinner) because the entire country does that and it is always a stressful madhouse. My oven is still broken so I am very limited on what I can make in my own kitchen. This upcoming weekend happens to be Mother’s Day but it also happens to be very, very busy even for a normal weekend.

A lot of moms will come forward and say they get the same (non) treatment for Mother’s Day, and may even try to one-up each other on how shitty their holiday is. Other moms will do the passive / aggressive thing and proclaim how they too suffer as this year they only got a three day stay at a spa resort instead of a week. Some moms, much like honey badgers, don’t care.

One thing I DO know is that the moms that don’t have the ability to be with their kids on Mother’s Day or during the year, for whatever reason, are the exact people that need love and attention the most this Sunday. And, even though the holiday isn’t celebrated there, my heart sinks for the moms missing their daughters in Nigeria.

You know what? Suddenly I don’t mind my schedule this weekend at all…

The Real Life Effect of Cyber Bullying

I want to talk about something so serious and dangerous that it pains me to know that this stuff happens ‘in real life.’ Christine is a blogger friend of mine (same awesome last name but no relation) and has been battling a cyber bully targeting her daughter since February of this year.

This isn’t some random Internet stranger flinging around hate on Twitter. It’s another *GIRL* in Christine’s daughter’s class and she’s driven this family to the brink of a breakdown.

Repeated death threats. Stalking in real life. Hacking computers and phones. Eavesdropping. Threats of suicide. What pre/teen girl (and her family) deserve this kind of life? I cannot even imagine the life they have been living since this started.

Their local police are useless. The FBI shrugs their shoulders. Their school system is useless. Why does the legal system fail our own children? Zero tolerance school policies that suspend Kindergarten children for playing too roughly during recess, but repeated death threats get a blind eye?

This family lives in the greater Austin, TX USA area. I know they are trying to get their story on the news to put some pressure on the law enforcement to take the repeated death threats to their daughter (and her friends) seriously. News stations & police in the area…

I pray that this family finds peace and the bully finds help and the MOTHER and step-father that have been enabling her daughter to actively be a bully finds a jail cell quite chilling.

New Office Layout

All my life I’ve had my back to the wall at work so that passers-by don’t loom over my shoulders and look at my computer screen. (I don’t even want to get into the creep stuff I had to deal with in corporate IT.) I had a little ‘rear view mirror’ on the top of my monitor so that I could see people coming up behind me. It didn’t always work…

Now that I’m out of corporate, I have my own huge 14 x 19 office but I shoved myself up against the wall here too. It made video work hard and always made me feel closed up even in a very large room.

Today I rearranged my entire office layout. Now that my desk is against a wall (and not in the MIDDLE of the floor) I need to decorate behind me a bit. And figure out how to hang my lighting kits from the ceiling.

I’m a horrible decorator and never know what to put on walls. I think we have five pieces of ‘something’ on our walls at home after 14 years living here. Time to hit Pinterest!!

Props to my husband Dave for moving heavy furniture for me.

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Keeping Your Online Opinion To Yourself

Today’s pet peeve has me in such a twist it deserved a post on my blog rather than a ‘throwaway’ comment on a social platform.

Makeup EyeshadowWhat rubs me the wrong way? When “well meaning” people (men and women) comment to someone and give unsolicited advice about another woman’s appearance. Namely:

…how a woman is wearing too much makeup

…looks better without makeup

…looks ‘fake’ with makeup

…looks like they are ‘trying too hard’

…looks ‘over optimized’ with makeup (WTH?)

…is trying to fight her age using too much makeup

Did it ever occur to these armchair critics that some women (and hell, some men too) LIKE to wear makeup and like the way it makes them look or feel? I for one love the process of putting makeup on, experimenting with new products, and how I can work at making my outside feel like my inside. Makeup makes me feel more professional and it helps me be “on” especially for work. I’ve been known to put on a full face of makeup for audio conference calls just for the bump in confidence.

Listen. Just because a person uploads a photo of themselves does not give you the unfettered right to make sly remarks to them and push your opinions on their fact. To this end, if a person posts about a new love interest (or a former one…) it is NOT okay to jump on the bandwagon and go on giving opinions. A friend of mine posted pics with her new beau recently just to have PUBLIC comments made that “you can do (or have done) better,” “you’ve put on some weight,” and my favorite “he doesn’t look like he makes enough money for your high maintenance tastes.” WOOOOOW. Poor fella was even tagged in the photo, so he saw all the shenanigans of this gal’s “friends.”

A few weeks back I read Amy Vernon’s #SMEtiquette article about someone offering unsolicited advice via Facebook regarding a friend’s plastic surgery. I was horrified that people actually think it is not only okay to offer unsolicited advice but to feel offended that the person didn’t take the advice. Now I’m seeing it in full force. Just. Stop.

Booking Appearances For Your Blog or Podcast

Due to the nature of my company and job, I tend to get asked for interviews or guest blog posts from time to time. In fact, today I just responded to four requests, and turned down two others. What makes me (or anyone else) accept or decline an opportunity for “exposure” in front of another audience? It depends on the person you are looking to interview of course!

Interestingly, ProBlogger just published a post on nearly the same questions I’ve been contemplating “How to Convince Someone to be Interviewed on Your Blog.” What I loved about the article was the suggestion to not chase A-List bloggers all the time, as their story has been told (and told again) but to get creative and find hidden gems in the industry.

Speaking for myself, and in order of preference:

  1. It is much easier for me to appear on a podcast or video than any other form of interview
  2. Answering a set of questions via email is easier than doing it over the phone if you plan on writing an article (this was I know I’m getting ‘quoted’ correctly since I wrote up the answers!)
  3. I do NOT write guest posts or articles. I’ve tried.

The two rejections that went out this morning were for guest blog posts. I’m not saying it isn’t a great content marketing tactic, it just isn’t for ME. I’m not able to take the hours out of my schedule for writing and research if it isn’t directly connected to my media properties or company/clients. I am envious of writer friends of mine that can be handed a “350 word article, one rights-cleared photo or graphic, on XYZ topic by this date” and they kick out an article in 30 minutes.

To augment the ProBlogger article I have to say I love getting a list of questions or at least a general outline of the podcast/video interview ahead of time. I’m not asking to be nosey or judgemental but to make sure I’m getting myself into something I’m comfortable with. In the past I’ve been on a live radio show and had the interviewer ask me the completely WRONG set of questions on a topic I had less than zero knowledge about. I didn’t want to embarrass the interviewer ON LIVE RADIO but asking ME questions about a car purchasing and maintenance blog for women is SOOOOO not my area of expertise.

Two podcasts I have to say I absolutely love are The BeanCast (I’ve been a guest about six times now) and Social Media Examiner. The BeanCast host Bob Knorpp always sends topics over ahead of time and follows a consistent format which is great for listeners as well as guests. (One day some of The BeanCast’s regular guest may mutiny and take over the show for an episode. We are still plotting…) Social Media Examiner’s Michael Stelzner not only talked with me on the phone to discuss topics that he knew his listeners would love and find value with – and make sure I was the right fit for his show – he sent over unique questions that did a deep-dive into the topic.

I have a few additions to the suggestions in the article:

  1. Keep your audience’s needs above that of your guest’s promotional needs. Yes, you finally landed that ‘hot’ web celebrity for your podcast but if you let them steamroll you into making an infomercial for their latest book at the “cost” of your audience – who are you really producing an interview for?
  2. Ask interesting questions. I’ve seen interviews (and appeared on podcasts) where the host asks everyone the same exact set of questions. This has the very real possibility of looking stale, lazy or un-researched if you execute it improperly. Asking questions where nearly all of your guests will answer the same is BORING for your audience. If the questions are open-ended enough to produce interesting answers it can be a great way to quickly interview.
  3. If it is not immediately apparent what the connection between your audience and your guest is – make it clear. I’ve been invited on shows that (to me) seemed they weren’t a fit, but after talking to the host and getting the angle they were trying to get across, I understood why I was being interviewed. More importantly, I understood the direction I should be taking the conversation. Ask me to appear on your car mechanic podcast and you’ll get a rejection unless you TELL me why I’m relevant to your audience and the types of things you’d like to cover with me and the specific value you feel I bring to your audience.

Any other tips or suggestions? I’m getting ready to start up Media Chit Chat again and would welcome any ideas I’ve missed!

I Blog But I’m NOT a “Blogger”

I’m sure there are people already freaking out because of the title of this post. Here’s the thing, I blog as a matter of method of communication and business strategy. NOT because I’m a “blogger.” Sadly, the idea of being a blogger comes with a lot of negative associations. More specifically, I’m a woman with kids who blogs — therefore the assumption to some is that I’m a mom blogger.

For example, this past weekend I took a trip with my family to a gaming conference (PAX East). No less than nine people contacted me and asked 1) who my sponsor was and 2) why I wasn’t “disclosing”. WHAT? I went to PAX so my kids (and husband, let’s not forget the King Gamer in the house) could geek out over new games and I could get some ideas on new tabletop games to buy. I bought full price tickets to get in, stayed at a hotel we paid for, drove ourselves there and back, and stood in line like everyone else to play video game demos. When I disclosed this, I was met with outrage on why I wasn’t given special treatment as a “BLOGGER.” Uh, because everyone can blog, it’s not a big of a deal as some make it out to be.

The real stars of the conference were the Minecraft YouTubers that my daughter idolizes. Kids – yes, kids – who have millions of active (and monetized) YT subscribers. I’m pretty sure they make more money in a month than I make in a year. Minecraft Let’s Play celebrities literally have girls crying and screaming in the hallway. I promise you no amount of notoriety as a blogger (or working professional for that matter) has lead me to having screaming fans following me into the bathroom. (THANK GOODNESS. That’s creepy.)

Being a “blogger” to some degree has become synonymous with being entitled and unprofessional. I am an advisor over at iBlogMagazine with the hopes that professional education can help fix some of the gaps when bloggers want to turn online publishing into a legit business. I joined (and paid for) a New Media Professional Association membership targeted to parents that blog. I speak at parent/women blogger conferences to try to help expand their technical skills and become better media producers. In the end I don’t see blogging as a career, profession, or business. It is a TOOL. JUST. A. TOOL. Not a lifestyle. Not a means to get free shit or cut in lines.

Honestly I have no issue with parent blogging at ALL. I read a fair number of them. The problem is that I’m just not “one of them” and it seems disappointing to some that I choose not to align myself in the profession. For me, I find that my professional abilities and my company are often undervalued or dismissed because of this association of being a mom blogger stereotype.

I’m not a writer. I’m not a journalist. I’m not a mom blogger. I’m not an accountant. I’m not an attorney. I’m NOT a lot of things.

But what I AM has also been horribly bastardized to the point that every few years I have to re-label myself to separate out from the garbage. Search on my old LinkedIn profile or my professional website and I’m sure it said I was a social media professional (some account may still have this listed). People that had no right calling themselves that have now muddied the water for the great number of us that do know what we are doing. If you claim to be a social media guru, have 42 Twitter followers, and sell services to gain others thousands of followers for $23 — I don’t even need to explain how this has hurt the industry.

This past week I went to a business mastermind event (which I paid for – weird how I feel the need to disclose every penny I spend on my business advancement). When I introduced myself, others told me their impression of what I did (that was part of the exercises). Responses ranged from “can you send Tweets for my company?” and “can you get me more Facebook followers?” to “the agency I hired can’t show me how I’m making more money after buying more Facebook fans.”

A year from now I’m sure I’ll label myself something else. Evolve or die. In the end it doesn’t matter what we call ourselves, but by what others refer to us as. What we offer to help others succeed at is what really matters professionally. Be a mom blogger. Be a YouTuber. Be an accountant. But whatever you do, be sure you are doing it for the right reasons. I know what my reasons for EVERYTHING are, and it’s not fame or notoriety. It’s to take care of my family and pay for trips to gaming conventions so that my daughter can have the time of her life…

Half of the reason I do everything I do (the other half is her brother)