Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


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On selling a home… it’s not a fun thing

So every once in a while I feel the need to move away from the topic of social media to a more personal one. In January, my husband and I found a great house. It was the home of a friend’s mom, who sadly, passed away last year. The house has everything we could want, including an acre for the dogs to roam and run. Sounds great, right?

Well, not so much. Because you can’t BUY a home before you SELL a home these days. Apparently too many people have gotten the mortgage to buy a new home and then just walked away from the old home (hmmm… why didn’t I think of that?) After the housing market crash and the recession I still say we haven’t recovered from, people knew that they were underwater with their mortgages and could never afford to pay off their home, EVER. So banks will most likely not give you another mortgage while you still have one open. So that means you have to sell before you buy.

We bought our home in 2006 (yes, anyone who bought around that time knows where I’m going with this), we paid top dollar, and then the bottom fell out of the market. Now, our home is worth tens of thousands of dollars less then we paid for it, not to mention all the money we’ve put into it since then. I couldn’t begin to calculate it out because I would be sick. And now that it’s a buyer’s market, well, it’s not easy to sell. There are lots of homes out there, including short sales and foreclosures, that offer great homes at unbelievable prices, so how do you compete with that?

So here we are, two months into the sales process, and we’ve gone through three open houses, a couple handfuls of private showings, two canceled showings an hour beforehand, one offer that was accepted that was then rescinded, another offer expected that never came through, and we’ve dropped the asking price once (so far). Now I would probably have more patience (well, maybe), except our agreement to purchase our new home expires on April 30, when the sellers will then officially put that house on the market, which it isn’t now. So we now have one month to get a buyer before we potentially lose the house we love.

I’ve done some things on my part to put the house in its best light. I’ve done staging, rearranged things, took down pictures and packed away personal items, removed some clutter. The usual stuff. And of course I cleaned like a madwoman for every open house and showing. I baked goodies (chocolate chunk banana bread, snickerdoodle cookies, congo bars) for the open houses to get that homey smell in here, much to Mr. Jean’s delight. I even buried a statue of St. Joseph under our For Sale sign on the front lawn, and already have a place of honor picked out for him in the new home. This is apparently a commonly known help in selling a home. Even Bonnie, a fellow blogger and friend I met at SXSW a couple years back tells me she did this, and she is not even Catholic!

And so far, no luck. And needless to say, I’m getting discouraged. Through this process, I’ve come to  the conclusion that it’s just awful, and not one I recommend. In fact, I’ve already told Mr. Jean that if we ever get into that house, I am dying in that house.

If you’ve had a good experience selling your home, or have some encouraging words to share, please do! I’m in dire need of some optimism right now.  Oh, and if you’re looking for a house, I know of a great one for sale. Email me. We’ll talk.


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Being inspired by writing, and why readers are so important

dear readerI am an avid reader. For work and for keeping up with all things in the social media world, I subscribe to a number of blogs through Feedly. If you don’t know Feedly, I recommend you check it out. I came across it when Google announced they were doing away with Reader. I switched and never looked back. Bye-bye Google! (I love when I can say that, by the way.) It’s a great way to organize all the blogs you love and get a quick glance of what you’ve missed from the headlines. But I digress.

Now that I’m back into my normal routine (and yes, I always use that term loosely!) I try to spend at least some time during the business day to try to keep up with what’s going on. What has LinkedIn changed lately? (By the way, if you missed the news that we will soon be able to post long form content on that network, read this post from Social Mouths). What are the best tools in blogging? I love to hit up my friend in social networks, Lisa Buben (@lisapatb) and her Inspire To Thrive blog, because she always has some great tips and tricks for readers. So by day, I go through quite a few of my favorite bloggers, which usually leads to quite a few tweets too.

At night, I love to read novels. I always have a book going, and usually try to spend at least some time each night reading. I always thought I’d write a novel at some point in my life. Now that I’m approaching a milestone age, the chances of that actually happening are becoming slimmer by the year, but I have not given up just yet. I always have an idea brewing, and I feel like reading books in my favorite genres might help me become a better writer and inspire me to pursue that lofty (too lofty) goal of writing the next great American novel, or at least a suspense/mystery/thriller worthy of praise from Steven King or Dean Koontz or Gregg Hurwitz or John Grisham. (A girl can dream, right?)

What I really love about reading is that you get to transport yourself. You can be brought to other lands through a well-written book, or develop new skills or new ways of doing something from a blog post full of tips and tricks. The jackpot, to me, is when you are inspired by an author. When you are moved to do something, or pushed to an action because of something you’ve read. Like a piece of amazing sculpture or a fabulous painting that evokes an emotion or takes your breath away, beautiful writing can have the same effect. When you’re inspired, that’s a sign of a truly good writer.

Today I read a post by a gentleman named Danny Brown (@DannyBrown on Twitter). He is someone I’ve followed for years and with whom I’ve had a few interactions that are always appreciated. He has a wonderful way of writing, he has an incredible sense of humor, and he is also a truly giving person who strives to do for others. Today I read this post from Danny and I felt like he was speaking directly to me.

Have I made mistakes with my blog? Absolutely. Will I make more? Most likely, but that’s OK. I realized that my goal is not to build lots of readers, but to build a group of readers who are going to interact with me. Who will comment on my writing, whether it be the message in any given post, or whether it is my style of writing and what might make us all better writers and bloggers. Now I will be the first to admit that I don’t usually take criticism well, but constructive criticism is something that can make us all better, and strive to be better!

When you are kind enough to take the time to read my blog, I’d so appreciate a comment. I’d love to get conversations going. I know I’m not writing a thesis here that is meant to change the world, but I believe that we can all learn from each other, because we all have different experiences, tastes and points of view. And that is what makes the world of writing a beautiful place to be.

So with that, I throw it over to you, dear readers, to answer these questions… why do you read blogs, and what do you hope to do with your writing?


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An extended leave of absence, explained

half fullFor a long time, I struggled with doing regular blog posts. Then, just when I had gotten into a semi-regular blogging routine, wham. The proverbial you-know-what hit the fan.

First, a colleague at work resigned so I was doing double duty filling in for that role while still doing my own job. Then the holidays were upon us. Then we put our house up for sale after finding a house we loved. (Anyone ever heard that selling or buying a house is one of the five biggest stress-inducing events in life? Believe it.) Now, combine that with a personal health situation (nothing major, but still…) and there you have it — all the ingredients for the recipe that makes a blog post just about the last thing on a to-do list. In fact, the thought of writing a post just added to my stress. I felt like it was one more thing I couldn’t possibly add to my already filled days.

My hubby always reminds me that things could be worse and that we are very lucky. Sometimes he loses his patience with me because I lose focus on that. He’s right and I do appreciate all the blessings we have been given. Though, in the middle of times of stress and change, it’s not as easy  to remember that. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s easier to see the glass as half empty. So I’ve made a conscious effort to focus on the good things in life, to be more positive and see the glass as half full. Along with that is being grateful every day and not allowing “things” to overwhelm me. Going back to blogging is all part of it, because writing can be so cathartic (if it’s not viewed as a chore). I’ve also gone back to a regular exercise routine and some yoga thrown in a few times a week, and eating healthy and a few other things that contribute to a more serene, happy life.

I’m grateful for the life I have. I feel very lucky to be at a point in my life where I basically enjoy what I do for a living, and am able to pay my bills every month and have a husband who keeps me focused on what’s important, and two dogs who make me laugh every day and show me what unconditional love is. The other stuff is, well, just that — stuff that sometimes gets in the way of things. But we shouldn’t let that “stuff”  let us get sidetracked from what is really important in life.

So here I am, writing my first post in about four months. I’ve also decided that I don’t necessarily want to always write about social media. So you may see some more personal posts thrown in here and there, and I hope you don’t mind. A colleague and friend I’ll call “E” actually made this suggestion to me. She a wonderful writer who has a fantastic blog I really enjoy. All of her blog posts are personal ones. She writes as a way of getting her emotions out and on paper, a sort of therapy; it’s a release for her, a way of coping. “E” went through a recent family tragedy, and right now is dealing with a serious medical issue with a loved one too. She has a lot more to deal with and feel stressed about than me. It’s a definite reality check when you see how much others are facing. It can make you feel silly, really, to think that you’re overwhelmed by things that are trivial to so many people who are going through much bigger issues.

So that’s where I’m at right now, and for those of you who are reading this, thank you for still being here! I hope I don’t disappoint in this and future posts. Because anyone who takes time out of their own busy life to read anything I might have to say is just one more thing I’m grateful for in this life. And of course, thanks to “E” for the encouragement to write this post and get back to this. Sometimes all we need is a little push, and we should be thankful for those too!


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Sometimes the water doesn’t slide off a duck’s back

Photo by Neil Howard/Neil Howard (neilalderney123)/Creative Commons

Photo by Neil Howard/Neil Howard
(neilalderney123)/Creative Commons

There are some days when you can just let things slide, like water off a duck’s back as the saying goes. There are other days, well, not so much.

It’s on those days when my mind wanders and I start the “what if” game. What if this, then that. Like, “what if I didn’t need the money…then would I still be doing what I do?”

I’ve often said that I love my job and I do. I love being able to connect with people on a one-to-one basis. I love the trust that I’m given to represent a large organization that’s critical to the community. I love being able to feel like I’m doing something good by sharing helpful information that could improve the health of the community (like our mission says). I also love learning something new every day.

But I am enough of a realist to know that sometimes loving what you do just isn’t enough. Sometimes the aggravation and the things that are out of your control that impact your day-to-day work just become too much to overlook.  That, combined with the recent resignations of two colleagues with whom I really enjoyed working has gotten me thinking. A lot.

So what do you do when you get to that point? Very good question and one I need to ponder. I’m not naive (at least I try not to be!). I am well aware that the grass isn’t always greener, so jumping ship to go to a perceived greener grassland isn’t always the best option. So that means you have to evaluate your options closely and figure out what can make things better.

Clearly the answers to this conundrum will not be clear overnight. But it’s something to think about and to work on. Life is too short, right? We are the only ones who will make ourselves happy.

So now I pose the question to my readers: have you ever felt like this? What did you do?


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Please don’t text and drive

Photo by poka0059/Flickr

Photo by poka0059/Flickr

I consider myself to be a pretty coordinated person. I can definitely walk and chew gum at the same time, and I can talk on the phone and type, and other multi-tasking efforts come pretty easily to me. But texting and driving was never one of them.

I was thrilled when my home state, along with many others, passed a law that prohibits texting and driving. At the same time, I’m not so naive that I believe that everyone follows the law. But I have to tell you that I am just appalled with the number of people who still think they can text and drive and be safe.

I had an appointment today. I had to drive four miles from my house. I have a habit of looking in my mirror when I am stopped at a stop sign or a red light, because once I got rear-ended and, well, old habits die hard. So today, during my 4-mile drive which consisted of very few stops, I counted at least three people who were texting and driving.

It seems to me that people today are of the mindset that you have to be available and responsive no matter when it is (morning, noon, night) and where you are (bathrooms, meetings, sleeping). Now I am of a certain age when a car phone was a really cool thing to have but not necessary. I’m also the first to admit that technology never ceases to amaze me. It has given us a myriad of things to celebrate and enjoy on a daily basis, like blogs and social networks, and the ability to share our opinions.

At the same time, it has a dark side, and this is one of them. It’s made us obsessed with being available 24/7. I admit that I feel this pull too. The smartphone tends to do that to us.

But when I see so many risking their own lives and threatening the safety of others because they think they can text and drive, it brings up a number of thoughts and emotions.

  • I’m really angry that they would put others’ lives in danger because they own a smartphone.
  • I wonder why people think they are so indispensible that they must be available and responsive no matter when it is or where they are. I’d really rather not get an answer from someone who is driving (or in the bathroom!).
  • I’m curious as to what it’s going to take to stop people from doing this. My guess is a serious accident, and then it’s too late.
  • It’s a shame to me that as wonderful as technology can be, it has to have a dark side that is SO dangerous.

Do you text and drive?


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Why I don’t work on Sundays

candleThis is a rant. I don’t do these often. For a long time, though, I’ve had some thoughts I couldn’t quite put into words. It’s more of a feeling that just couldn’t be quite defined. Until now.

But this week I came across a post that just got me thinking. And it made me mad too, and I realized that what I had been thinking about was this: people are expected to do way too much these days, and something’s gotta give.

Here’s the post: “Why productive people work on Sundays.” The title alone annoyed me. It implies that people who don’t work on Sundays are not productive. Wrong. Everyone has their own way of working and everyone has their own workload to manage. It doesn’t mean that you have to work on Sundays to be a productive, worthwhile member of society or a valued employee of a company. I consider myself to be a very productive person and pride myself on how much of a workload I manage on a regular basis. I do what it takes to get the job done, and I know I’m not alone in that. And I’m willing to bet that all those other productive people are not working every Sunday.

The other thing that bothered me about the post is the fact that this writer is suggesting that we take time out of what is conventionally known to all as the “day of rest.” For me and Mr. J, Sunday is our day to enjoy the morning and relax and then go out for a leisurely lunch and cocktail. It’s the one day we indulge ourselves in some R&R time. That’s our time together. I would imagine that for those with children, that day is ever more precious, and needed more too!

Now granted, there are some professions and jobs that just simply have to work on Sundays… nurses, doctors, waiters and waitresses, the retail industry, and the list goes on. But those people have other days off.

The other thing that post made me realize is that there are some factors at play that make up the reality of today. Thanks to the horrible economy, most companies have fewer people expected to do more with less money. So there’s a bigger workload for most people, who are already stretching themselves too thin. And how many hours of our lives are we expected to dedicate to a job rather than our lives? When did it become the norm to live to work rather than work to live?

Now, let’s add to these expectations the fact that if you’re not part of the social media world you’re probably not going to be a top candidate for any jobs in the field of marketing or public relations (or any number of fields for that matter), right? In this industry, if you’re not part of social media, you may as well call it quits and retire. So let’s add on the hours that you can spend (lose?) just keeping up with Facebook status updates, tweets, retweets, hashtags and lists in Twitter, Instagram pics, Pinterest pins, and so on. And don’t forget the time post to your own blog, and catch up on the reading of all your fave blogs and commenting on those posts. Hmmm.

Do you see where I’m going here… suddenly a 40-hour a week job becomes 60 just to get your work done and keep up with everything in the social sphere. I know there are many people who are just totally driven and are not happy unless they’re working all the time. But for the most part, those people are often self-employed. There are others of us who work for companies who are trying to do manage workloads that should be handled by more than one person, and who are also trying to keep up with being a part of the social world. They also try to maintain some sort of family life.

As my dad used to say, “You’re burning the candle at both ends.” I can’t think of a time in history when this is more true.  And this is the reality of today. I don’t think everyone can keep up this pace for too long. Eventually, it’s going to meet in the middle and there will be no wick left, and the candle is not a candle anymore. It’s given all it had to give. There’s nothing left to burn.

So how long do you think you can keep going at the pace you’re going? When is your candle going to meet in the middle? Do you feel it necessary to work on Sundays? Do you think it’s necessary to be productive? So many questions. I’d love to hear from you.


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Feeling inept and guilty. How to find that happy medium.

???????????????????????This weekend I had a lot of plans. In addition to my normal weekend social media postings for work. I was hoping to get to a nursery to select two flowering bushes. I was also hoping to get caught up on my RSS feed which has been sorely overlooked lately. Identifying a few blog ideas and  getting some thoughts down would have been nice too. Finally, I wanted to figure out how to get iTunes home sharing to work so I could get the awesome workout playlist my hubby, Mr. J., made for me onto my iPhone.

And guess what I did. NONE of them! I got my social postings done and did get to the gym on both days, but I got NOTHING done that was on my to-do list. And as a result, I’m starting the week feeling inept and guilty. Inept because I’m feeling very behind on everything, and unable to catch up and make headway and guilty for not having focused my attention on the things I needed to.

Instead I relaxed, read some of the new book I started, and even dozed off for a few brief, wonderful minutes on Saturday afternoon! On Sunday morning, I visited a friend with my dogs for a doggie playdate. Then later I enjoyed a quiet afternoon lunch and cocktail while watching the Red Sox game with Mr. J at one of our fave local places.

Weekends are meant to be enjoyed, right? But when we do, how many of us are left feeling this way because of all the demands we feel from our professional lives, and the need to keep up in social networks. Is it worth relaxing if we start our Monday feeling guilty, inept, and completely unorganized?

And I wonder, what is the solution… to stay up to date and on top of things and never take time to enjoy life and relax? There has to be a happy medium, right?

How do YOU find the happy medium in your life? Do you set time aside, do you follow rigid schedules, do you never relax? Share your secrets to managing it all! There’s plenty of people who could use some tips.


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Responding to a crisis that isn’t yours

Boston-marathon-Facebook-cover-photo-630x456There have been two recent tragedies that have played heavily in the news and of course in social media. The bombings in Boston and the explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas were horrific events that demanded the attention of the nation and made news across the globe.

Whenever something occurs of that magnitude, in today’s world, many of us automatically turn to social media to obtain the latest breaking news, to share our own thoughts or to pass along information we think is relevant. That’s all well and good when it’s from a personal standpoint. From a brand standpoint, most of us have our own crisis management plans (or at least we should) that provide us with direction in times of emergency.

But when you are using social media as a marketing tool for your brand, what do you do when a crisis occurs and it’s not yours? Your crisis management plan is in place for YOUR brand, not a tragedy like Boston, Texas or last year’s shooting in Newtown, CT.

There has been a lot written lately about this subject. From the danger of unmonitored scheduled tweets from @GuyKawasaki to the tweets that were simply poor judgement and in really bad taste like Epicurious.

A very smart blogger I follow, Mark Schaefer (@Markwschaefer), had a wonderful post on his {grow} blog about this very subject. More recently, my friend Lisa Buben (@lisapatb) recently asked if we should tweet or not during extraordinary events on her Inspire to Thrive blog.

Personally, I think you have to first acknowledge the situation. I think you look self-absorbed, insensitive and uncaring when everyone is turning to that situation and you’re still tweeting about how important your new book is.  I remember when the shooting occurred in Newtown. I immediately stopped tweeting and we turned all our attention to this. We offered the resources we could, but mostly we offered our condolences and support.

Even when it’s not a crisis of your own, I truly believe you must recognize it. The whole point of social media is connecting with people and sharing our humanity. That means when a tragedy befalls someone else, especially when it’s as big as those situations, it’s time to step away from our own agendas and be part of this social community we have built.

Even the day after a crisis has occurred, I still don’t feel right about going back to regularly scheduled posting. I just feel like it makes a brand appear cold and uncaring, and even personally for that matter. I believe you have to wait at least 24 hours and then test taste the waters.

I have adopted that plan for the brands I manage. After a tragedy has occurred, I announce that we’re going to interrupt our regularly posting due to the situation. During that time, I will post releveant information that I feel is important to relay or share with our own community for their health or safety. I will also share resources that are relevant to the situation that might help others. Usually I wait 24 hours to even consider going back to normal posting. At that point, I acknowledge that 24 hours has past and slowly start moving back into regular content, but still including some relevant posts about the situation at hand.

That’s my plan, that’s how I approach it. It’s not because someone told me that is how I should do it, it’s just what feels right, what feels respectful, and what feels most comfortable and natural. Social media is about reaching out to people… and in a tragedy that’s even more important. Because when it comes to a tragedy, you or your brand aren’t all that important in the big scheme of things. It all comes down to getting some perspective I guess.

What do YOU do in a crisis that isn’t yours?

 


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The key to happiness? Let go of the sad.

(Note: this post was originally written for and appeared on Jayme Soulati’s blog, Soulati-‘tude for the Happy Friday series.)

When Jayme Soulati asked me if I would write a post for her Happy Friday series, I was both honored and overwhelmed, to say the least. This is way out of my comfort zone to write so personally, but I’ll give it a whirl.

What really intrigued me about Jayme’s invitation is that for the past couple years I have been on a mission to be more positive. So the first thing I did was scour this wonderful little Happy Friday series she has going and I LOVE it. One of my favorites was the science of happiness and do-overs by Geoff Reiner. Geoff is in the midst of re-training his brain to be happy, and that’s exactly what I did, but not quite so deliberately and scientifically.

In my mind there are some folks who always have that “glass half full” attitude. I am not one of those people, but I’ve secretly envied them. It took me many, many years to recognize that I come from a family who just seems to see things negatively. There’s always something to worry about, there’s a dark side to everything. Having grown up in that atmosphere, it just seems normal and natural. But when someone points it out to you, then you stop and think.

happy & sadI thank my husband for being the one to really point this out to me. I honestly didn’t realize how negative my attitude and my outlook could be. I would see faults in people often before I saw positive traits. I’d recognize the down side of a situation without seeing the benefits. For the most part, I was NOT a happy person, even if I seemed it outwardly.

So two years ago, I decided to change that. I bought a journal called “Gratitude” that helped on this journey. Each day had little tips or tricks or positive sayings, or little assignments for the owner to do. For instance, one of the daily assignments was to “find three things that went right in your day and figure out why they went right.”

And so I kept my journal, and made a conscious effort to find and be grateful for little things. I had to teach myself to recognize the positives each day, and even help others see the brighter side of things. Through this, I’ve discovered that sometimes you have to really look for things to be thankful for, but when you do, they’re always there. It also helped me come to a conclusion: happiness doesn’t just happen; it’s something you must choose, and something you have to work at.

And now? I’m SO much happier. I am not saying that every day is a joy, but there are definitely days that would have been much darker if I hadn’t adopted this new approach. It’s still a challenge because it doesn’t come naturally for me. I know I have to make a conscious effort to not dwell on the down side of things and remind myself that it’s important to see the positives in a situation.

If something goes wrong with our house, I now think of how much worse it could have been, and how lucky we are to be able to have this home. Now, when I’m talking to my mother and she’s focusing on the negative, I try to steer her in a more positive direction, rather than wallowing in the negative with her. When my company was having a difficult financial year and said “no raises,” I was thankful I still had a job. When I had a medical issue arise last year, I thought of how much worse it could have been and how lucky I am to have the good health I enjoy.

Through this whole experience, I’ve realized that it’s not how you’re born and raised and it’s not about luck. It’s all in how you look at things and about training your brain to choose the positive, count your blessings, recognize there are things to be grateful for, and find  happiness in your everyday life. Because let’s face it… life is way too short to be unhappy.

So,  how full is your glass?