Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Love Affair

My lover calls to me in the light of the early morning as the moon drifts higher in the sky and the smoke from nearby chimneys drifts gently into the clouds. I curl my toes in glee as I sink into his familiar warmth knowing he will always be there.

I cannot recall a time when my lover was not present. At the age of two when I picked up a book desperate to untangle the mysteries of the dark and structured letters, he was there. At five when I could not put crayon to page in my coloring book without first telling the story behind the pictures, he was there.

Throughout the angst of my terrible teens, my lover was a gentle presence allowing me to express my anger, frustration and uncertainty as he guided me on a voyage of self-discovery. When the hospital called to say that Daddy was gone, my lover took my hand and helped me to say Good Bye as he gently recalled the man who had so wonderfully sparked the fire that birthed our love.

First love, first dance, and first heartbreak – he was there. Year after year, he listened as I questioned, reasoned, wondered and chronicled love, loss and life. He was sometimes quiet with an air of mystery, and other times bold, aggressive demanding to be heard but always, he was there.

When I lost my mom, my best friend, and had to be reminded to fill my air with lungs, my lover wrapped his arms around me and carried me through the dark days. He was there when I once again felt the sunlight on my face and the joy return to my spirit.

When my husband was dying of cancer, he was there in the middle of the night, attentive to my tear stained prayers and declarations of love. And when my husband died and my pen went silent, my lover waited patiently for my return.

My love affair with writing has been a constant in my life. Writing has allowed me to express my deepest thoughts, sorrows and joys without censure or fear of recrimination. Pen and paper beckon me and as I unite them, I am still awed by the power and passion they produce. I am mesmerized by words that unite and pulsate to a rhythmic beat unaware of their magnetic beauty as they wind across the page challenging me to follow their lead to places unknown.


This post is a contribution to the Group Writing Project sponsored by Confident Writing. Joanna Young’s theme this month is Leaps and Bounds. The deadline for this project is February 28th so it’s not too late for you to take part!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Click Here?

“Click here to update your email.” I never would have guessed that this simple little phrase would one day have me dancing with joy.

Last week I changed internet service providers. This also meant that some of my email addresses had to be updated. I expected it to be an annoyance but some companies managed to make it down right impossible.

There were those blessed few companies that made it simple with a nice little hyperlink in the communication allowing you to simply update your email address. Ah, how I have come to value the one click, one-step link. Others, provided an unsubscribe option but no update option forcing you to go to the website, recall your login and then change your information. This was an extra step that proved costly in time. It’s fine when you’re updating one company, but try doing it for 15 or 20.

Ah, but even that extra step was not as bad as the companies that simply provided no way for you to update your email address. One even taunted me with allowing me to edit everything else except my email address.

I learned a lesson that I had not intended to learn. If you are going to take the time to communicate with your customers, make it easy for them to stay in touch with you. When doing business online, we spend a great deal of time crafting messages and strategies to drive traffic, why not spend an equal amount of time keeping those same customers?

You got me to sign up for a newsletter, why not make sure I can continue to receive it? Must I unsubscribe and then go back to your site, hunt down the link and subscribe all over again?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Footloose and Fancy Free

As a child I loved musicals. Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire, anything with a song and dance delighted me. I sang and danced along with gleeful abandon.

When I was 5 my mother took me to a tap dance class. Naturally, she thought this child who sings show tunes in the hallway and dances to Teddy Bears on Parade will love this class. I was excited until we arrived and I discovered I would have to dance in front of others. I was painfully shy (yes I know hard to believe!) and simply could not let loose in front of strangers.

We returned home, my dancing dreams on hold but my love for the art form firmly intact. I still love to dance and do so frequently with the same gleeful abandon I had at age 5. I dance until I am breathless and spent, but never for an audience.

In the past week, I heard three different variations on the “dance as though nobody is watching” quote. Two of the variations revolved around the theme of writing as though no one is reading. I love to dance but writing is my passion.

I now write for a living and it thrills me, but I no longer write as though no one is reading. The same fears that gripped me in that long ago dance studio creep back in to mock me daily. “People are watching, you’ll really screw it up and make a fool of yourself.” Each client project brings a fresh wave of doubt mixed with the pleasure that I get to do this for a living.

Yet, I long to go back in time and quiet those idiot voices, to step out onto that dance floor and work it out!

Instead, I have decided to work it out on paper (or screen). I will write as though no one is reading. Tapping keys, twirling pens, words moving in time to the music of my choosing, and writing until I am spent and breathless. No longer bound by the voices that hold me back from expressing, learning and growing and most importantly enjoying something I love.

What about you? There is room on the dance floor for us all. Will you join me?


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Good Bye Kaleb

I sat at my desk gazing at the vast expanse of freshly fallen snow. I could see little clouds of smoke from nearby chimneys as they swirled up and into the cold morning air. Warming my hands on my coffee mug, I contemplated my day ahead when the phone rang.

“Something is wrong with Kaleb. He didn’t eat, his eyes are almost closed. Can you help me? He’s my favorite dog.” Anxious and unable to think, I googled “favorite dog sick,” as my brother searched for a vet who could see him immediately. After typing strings of terms which yielded no other answer, we hung up, my brother off to the vet with his favorite dog and me left to hope that all would be okay.

Two hours later I received the call, “The vet said he has a bug. He has lots of medicine.” I breathed for what seemed the first time since the morning call. Longing to hang on to hope, we hung up again but there was an unexplainable unrest.

The day wore on and near the end of what surely must have been the longest February 12th on record, the phone again rang. “We’re headed back to the vet.” I hung my head in silent prayer and instructed my brother to call when he knew something.

Two hours later my stomach clenched when the phone rang. I heard my nephew’s choking sobs and then my brother’s quiet declaration, “He didn’t make it.” “No, what, he didn’t make it?” I heard the voice of a father trying to be calm for his son in the midst of his own heart breaking, “He went into a coma. We tried to call him back but he wouldn’t come. He fought hard. His tail was still wagging.”

And so it was that dear sweet Kaleb with the giant head, wagged into eternity. He was my brother’s favorite dog.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Social Faux

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed my leap into social networking with Facebook. Since then I have embraced the whole notion of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo Pulse, LinkedIn, Digg, Yahoo Groups, LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, you name it I'm networking it.

I have met some really interesting people and gained great insights from them. With a click of a button I can tap into my network with a question or share a new resource that will benefit a cyber colleague. I began this journey as another way to grow my business but the benefits are so much greater than I expected.Yet, there has been one troubling aspect that is common to all social media - the invitation.

The always insightful Seana Mulcahy nails it on the head in her latest blog post. I want to share and interact with my network through social media, but how much is too much? I find that each platform offers something different. For example, LinkedIn is great for pure networking but the only way of interacting is through the Answers section. Twitter is a fun and useful way for quick communications but not one I use as a networking tool. So I find myself asking who to invite and to which platform.

There are many people in my network that I'd like to share with across platforms but have largely resisted out of politeness. My hope is that one day someone will create a unified tool that allows multiple interactions across all of these various applications. Plaxo seems to be heading that way with their Pulse Stream but we'll have to wait and see how effective their efforts will be.

In the interim, I do not have hundreds of people in any one single network. In fact until today I was friendless on Twitter. I am open to exploring these applications and anyone who wants to join me...well, these days I'm everywhere!

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

What Message Are You Really Sending?

A group of older men are gathered in a barber shop. A younger man looking freshly scrubbed, wearing a dark suit walks in and hands the owner an envelope saying “Usually I just mail this but I thought I’d bring it in person.” The owner opens the envelopes and joyfully replies, “After all these years I finally own this place.”

Huh? The ad is supposed to brand Charter as the bank that offers personal service. It makes me cringe each time I see it. The guy is so old he can barely cut hair! It took him 30 years to buy his building! Oh yeah, as a business owner that’s exactly what I want in a bank. (Not!)

The banker in the ad smiles like he’s just given a 5 year old a squiggly puppy. The message I took away was that the American Banking System is not designed to help us build wealth but to be debtors. And we wonder why our economy stinks? But that’s a topic for another post.

I am sure the creative minds behind the Charter ad would be dismayed about my take on their ad. While I would agree that you cannot tailor your message to please a general audience, it is worth taking time to ensure that you’re saying what you meant to say to your desired audience.

What’s your take? What methods do you use to make sure that your message is clearly articulated?

Now, if only I could get the makers of Celebrex to cut that annoying music from their very loooonnng ad….


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Bowl Musings

Super Bowl XXXXII is now history. The New York Giants ramped up a 17-14 win over the Pats, spoiling their perfect season.

The Pats played a perfect season and still lost the championship. And this year’s champs will suit up next season and none of this will matter.

Business owners and athletes have much in common. Running a business requires intense focus and dedication. You can’t just show up on game day and expect to win. You must practice, prepare and do the work day in and day out.

Like athletes we have W's and L’s in our column totals but every game stands alone. We know that our record has historical validity but we don’t allow it to dictate our continued pursuit of absolute excellence.

The Pats will feel the sting of their loss for some time to come. But they will use that loss to fuel their drive when they suit up next season. The Giants will ride the waves of celebration and savor their remarkable feat. They too will find motivation in their victory when they suit up to try to do it all over again next season.

For the business owner, well, we play everyday as if it’s the Super Bowl. And we all hope to take home that trophy year after year.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Punxsutawney Phil sees shadow, predicts more winter ahead

If you believe in folklore, bundle up for six more weeks of wintry weather.This is Groundhog Day, and the furry little critter known as Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning. That, according to tradition, means six more weeks of winter. As I sit at my desk looking out at our snow covered grass and icy pond, I'm inclined to agree with the little critter. With the Writer's Strike, my TiVo is not getting much action and I find myself spending more time working and checking out the blogosphere. So, maybe six more weeks of winter won't be so bad..

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