Thursday, April 30, 2009

God and The Rain Will Bring it Back

I remember as a child being mortified by my haircuts, must have been particularly during my teenage years, although I have no memory of the age.  I just remember, when I was especially distraught about the state of affairs with my hair, that Dad would say,  "God and the rain will bring it back."  He meant, basically, don't worry, give it time and it will be okay.

That memory was given a resurrection yesterday.  My hairdresser had been in a car wreck and it's not certain when she will come back to work. As a result, on my appointed day and hour for a haircut, I was assigned to a new person.  Let's just say, despite my instructions to, "Please give me a trim but the same style" the result was mismatched to me in every way. 

In the midst of my despair, I remembered 2 things that gave me perspective and hope: my former hairdresser was in much more need than I and my Dad saying, "God and the rain will bring it back."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thank Filled Thursdays

I get to be thankful early on Wednesday as I have a very early morning (4am) on Thursday. Let's see, what am I thankful for today?

1.  That we found the source of my cat's limp, claws that had grown back into her paws - truly horrific, and that we were able to fix it.  She's doing much better today.  She's the white cat that I've dreamed of since childhood and we've had her for 10 years.
2.  That my mom wants to visit when she's in the state later in June.  I hope she likes the plan I've proposed.
3.  That the water heater is finally fixed (a ceramic screen not on any of the drawings had gotten clogged).
4.  That I was able to create a print on demand greeting card pricing study and that it showed my cards to be very competitively priced in quantities of 10 and up.  Visit me at my store if you're interested.
5.   That I'm able to participate in a ministry that bears fruit, Crown Financial Ministries.
____
6.  For wanting to photograph again after a very long hiatus.  I post them on Flickr.

Go on, take a stab, what are you thankful for today?

Passionate about Peonies Part 4

Okay, I have 5 buds now but 2 have died.  This is the largest of the remaining 3 and looks quite happy.  Peony blossom season is just around the corner....the month of May is prime time for US grown peonies, usually from the Pacific Northwest.  

Safeway sometimes carries them, Trader Joe's too, and Whole Foods as well.  Keep your eyes peeled!



Here's a list of previous posts on the growth of my peonies this year:

Expect the denouement sometime in May:)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

From the Creator of Dooce.com

Recently, I won a blogging book giveaway over at Misadventures with Andi including 2 books and a Poken.  Today, after attempting to shoot photos in my plein air studio during the windy chilly afternoon, I unwrapped the first book, IT SUCKED and then I CRIED: How I had a baby, a breakdown and a much needed margarita by Heather B. Armstrong, and settled under the covers.  

The first chapters had me laughing, and then I was laughing so hard I cried and then I was crying so hard I was sobbing!  This is an amazing book.  I finished it in one sitting, lost all my mascara and can already think of 3 women to send it to.  I just can't decide which one.

If you want a preview check out Heather at her blog, Dooce.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thank Filled Thursdays

On Day 6 of the 31 Day Build a Better Blog Challenge, Maki from Dosh Dosh encouraged bloggers to think not just like a writer but also an editor-in-chief, someone responsible for the "editorial calendar" of the blog.  As a result, I'm starting a regular post called "Thank Filled Thursdays".  For over a year now, every day when I wake up I make a list of at least 5 things I'm grateful for.  It gets my attention focused on the right things - what I have instead of what I don't have. 
 I got this practice from Tommy Newberry over at Secret to a Joy Filled Life from reading his book The 4:8 Principle and have written about it before.

Phillipians 4:8 says: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

Here's my list for today of what I'm thankful for:
1. For a job in this economy
2. For growing clarify about how I'm uniquely made and how I can use that to make a distinctive contribution at work
3. For warm weather (over 90) and time to be outside in it
4. That my Lord is a God who sees me, loves me and has plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans for a hope and a future.
5. For time to visit family later this summer
.....
6.  For flowers....and seeds

On Day 6 Liz Strauss advises that one of the top 10 reasons readers don't leave comments on blogs is because you ask a giant general question.  I hope it's not too giant or too general to ask, What things are you thankful for this week on Thank Filled Thursday?

Have a great day!




Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Day #8 of BBB Challenge - Interlink Your Posts

The task for today is to interlink my posts.  I usually do this.  When I post an update about my peonies, I link to an old post about peonies.  When I post about an idea in The Longer Long Tail that I posted about previously, I link to the former post about the book.

But right here in front of my face is an opportunity that I've been missing! Why not link this post to all the previous ones in this challenge?

Day 3: Promote a Post

I tagged each one of these so that you can see them together.  Moving forward, I'll have to figure out a strategy for linking back to another day in the Challenge that's useful.  But this exercise sure opened my eyes to what I'm missing. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Day #7 of BBB Challenge - Write a Link Post

Today's assignment is to write a link post or a post that links to at least one other blog. Darren is encouraging us to give something of value to our readers. Well, here goes:

So you make stuff to sell.  If you remember my previous post on The Longer Long Tail by Chris Anderson, to the extent that you can digitize what you have to sell, you can delay or postpone creation of it until the buyer uses it.

Here are 3 websites that demonstrate the range of postponement options available.

At one extreme end you've got iStockphoto - as the artist you handle photo, audio, video, or illustration creation, the buyer buys that only and creates a product from it - advertisement/brochure/mug etc. There is no fulfillment or product shipment beyond the image download.

At the other extreme end you've got Etsy - as the artist you handle creating the object, the listing, and fulfillment.  Etsy manages search, listings, and payment.  The buyer enjoys the product as sold in it's final form.  Kristen over at MyMeanbean sells handcrafted beans or bags on Etsy.  Here's her photo of one of her small beans.  

In the middle you've got Cafe Press, a print-on-demand service. As the artist, you handle image creation, you decide wha product you want it on and you create the listing.  CafePress produces the product, from t-shirts to greeting cards to books, ships the product and handles billing and payment.   

Steve Blank, professor at Berkeley, Stanford and Columbia, offers his book, The Four Steps to Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win via CafePress.   He's got a great blog too.

In supply chain language, these fulfillment models lower costs to the creator and barriers to entry to creators.  Two basic problems remain - 1. how to match the niche creator to those who want that 2. how to encourage buyers out into the niches by assuring them of the quality and desireableness.  More on that another time.  

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Winner!

I just won Andi's Blogging Book Giveaway  over at Misadventures with Andi!  One of the books is by Heather Armstrong over at Dooce which is great since I follow that blog.  A poken is also included in the Giveaway so pretty soon I'll be turning that from a noun into a verb.  Thanks Andi!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Day #6 of BBB Challenge - Tips from the Top

Today's assignment is to learn from other successful bloggers.  I was delighted to learn that Liz Strauss's blog, which I found through the assignment of Day #4, Analyze a Top Blog in Your Niche, is on the list.  Since a familiar "face" seemed a comforting introduction to this task I started with Liz's 10 Reasons Readers Don't Leave Comments.  Three of these were especially pertinent - Doh!

1.  You end your posts with giant general questions like "What do you think of the Big Bang Theory"  Oops!  I've been doing that.  Time to stop!
2. You put up a fence by making me login to comment.  I fixed this one a few weeks back.  It's comforting to see the progress.
3. Your content wasn't fresh and exciting and I couldn't find anything YOU in it.  Ooh, harsh but let's think about it.  I'm looking for ME too so it's entirely possible.

Next up, Maki from Dosh Dosh. I found 2 chords that resonate:
1.  Use blog comments to converse with a prospective collaborator or friend.  Can't wait to extend this one.
2.  I'm not just a writer, I'm an editor-in-chief.  Um, what's that?  It means I'm responsible for the "editorial calendar" (which requires that I develop one), the content direction (like what niche am I aiming for), analyzing how to use this piece of writing to improve the publication, and keeping up with reader's needs and competitors.  I've always wanted to be an executive. Here's a chance to really practice.

There were lots more references on Darren Rowse's page but this is enough for now.  Maybe my editorial calendar should include doing the 31 Day Challenge again in a few months.  I guess I get to think about that!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Virtual Assistant Anyone?

Stacey Brice who runs AssistU, a virtual assistant registry and training business,hosted Tuesday Open Mic night at Liz Strauss's blog to bust the myths people have about virtual assistants.  I have to admit, I've thought some of the myths that Stacey lists:
  • A VA will never do things as well as I do.
  • I can’t afford a VA.
  • I should work with an $8/hour VA oversees–I’ll get more bang for my buck.
  • I don’t think the virtual thing would work–I need to be with someone face-to-face.
  • I should have a bunch of VAs who specialize–no one can do it all for me.
At the same time, life is busy and I can't tell you the number of times I wish I had someone to delegate to.  We have already outsourced tax preparation and house cleaning but what about hings like clothes and grocery shopping, investment research, proactive social calendar management, car maintenance, contact list consolidation not to mention "Can someone take these hand drawn slides and get them into PowerPoint and looking PowerFull?

So, once in awhile, when I feel just too far behind, I wonder, would a virtual assistant help?  How would they help?  What would it cost?

Reading through all the comments it looks like you should expect to pay between $20 and $50 an hour and most likely over $30 an hour.  Your best bet is probably someone who has good general contracting and investigating skills because no one person will be able to do it all but that's okay so long as they can find someone who does.  And, it sounds super simple, but, you have to be able to articulate what you need.

In addition to harried office professionals there's a growing need for virtual assistants because of the rise in off-site professionals and work-at-home professionals. Another site, Virtual Assistant, targets just this market.

If you want to be your own general contractor, Elance is a great resource for a variety of skill sets from Legal, Engineering, Sales and Finance to Web Design, Programming, Writing and Administrative support.

Tasks Every Day has a great video of how you would use a virtual assistant in a business.  Fim Ferris, author of The 4 Hour Work Week, experimented with outsourcing his whole life and shares the adventure with us on his blog.

Looks like a good market.  But all 3 of these models have 1 common problem: the search and match problem.  With so many listings how do I find the right person for me with the right skills for the job.  Guess you'll just have to interview them:)

Day 5 of 31 DBBB Challenge - Email a Blog Reader

Day 5's task consists of reaching out to a blog reader (who has left a comment so you have their e-mail address) and e-mail them!

I can thankfully say that I already do this but it has been because I already know some of my blog readers through the flat world.  This task encouraged me to reach out more fully to people whom I know through the blogosphere. Beyond leaving a comment in conversation, this is a next level of engagement.  It says, "Hi, I know you and value you enough to make an individual effort that only you will see."

Being on the receiving end made me appreciate this task all the more.  I'm like, "Wow, they took the time to send me a really engaging fresh e-mail!" Imagine the impact if we all did that every day in every way to everyone!

I definitely plan to adopt this practice.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Balance in Hunkeford, TX

A frequent topic at corporate women's groups gatherings is some discussion about "balance" or equal distribution of weight (dictionary.com definition here).  But this is a subject that I don't see, hear or read about much in the blogosphere.  

Why is that?

1. Well, maybe I'm looking in all the wrong places.

2. Maybe there's not a lot in the blogosphere about balance because the concept and framework doesn't fit...bloggers are really passionate about their subjects.  Perhaps balance become irrelevant when one is possessed by a passion.  Who wants to be balanced anyway when you could be passionate and just get all the rest done as much as needed?

3. Or...trying to achieve a balanced life could be a framework that puts the pursuant in the victim(definition here) position because balance is an elusive, inconcrete goal.  Why try to reach a goal when you don't know clearly what it is  (unless you're just trying to keep moving forward)?  It's like trying to go to Hunkerford, TX instead of Hungerford, TX.  If the first doesn't exist (it doesn't, I checked), how are you ever going to get there?  And who said that Hunkerford/balance is a great place to go?

And bloggers look like the antithesis of being a victim.  They have a voice and use it.  They "own" the means of production and distribution.  No one, short of an internet outage, can stop them. 

4.  Maybe balance implies not equal weight but the right weight on the right things, even if it's not equal weight.  Then it might fit.

How about you?  What role does the goal balance play in your life? If you blog, in blogging? Have you heard any conversations lately about balance?  Read any blogs about the topic?  


Monday, April 13, 2009

Day 4 of BBB Challenge - Analyze a Top Blog in Your Niche

Well, I guess it would be good to have a niche first in order to do this.  I re-tagged my posts into broader categories so I could see what I write most about so far.  From 10s of categories, I'm down to 6 topic areas: books, business, culture, gardening, perfume and technology with business and gardening having the most number of posts.  So I'll benchmark those 2 categories.

There's no better place than Alltop - All the Top Stories by Guy Kawasaki to find blogs to benchmark by niche or category from A to Z, from Work to Sports, from Gardening to Geos. There on the gardening page I happened upon Kathryn Hall's blog, Plant Whatever Brings You Joy.  

Kathryn posts about 4 to 5 times a month and she's a weaver.  She uses each post to weave a number of threads into a story around a topic like the legend of dogwoods to a walk in the woods with her daughter.  Not a how-to garden blog or a where-to-see gardens blog, but really a broader look at planting in life.  Hers is one of the Top 5 Most Visited Blogs at the blog aggregator Blotanical.  Key takeaway:  You can cover a lot of different topics in a way people like if you anchor them in a story.

To identify business blogs I followed links from Problogger that ultimately led me to NxE's 50 Most Influential Women Bloggers.  Many of these were, not suprisingly, about how to use technology in business and so provide heaps of value to those who are climbing the technology curve.  Key takeaway: Provide value to be popular:)

Overall, after losing my way in the blogosphere for 2 hours, one common observation emerged; everybodies blog is customized with unique header photos and layout.  Granted, the blogs I looked at are top notch so that's a pretty high bar given my current html coding skill level.  But still, it's the bar.  The challenge now is to learn how to do it!

To sum it all up:
1.  To take one small step toward the high bar, customize my template with a photo.  
2.  To engage you more, develop my storytelling ability, voice and conversational style
3.  To add more value, focus the content a little more, and find the intersection of the needs of my readers with my passions.

What do you think? What else would you like to see?


 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

For the Love of Footnotes!

With everyone's 401k now a 201k, we may want a little more scrutiny of how our investments are being managed.  For over 5 years, Michelle Leder at Footnoted.org has been providing just that in digestible and humorous format.  She digs through the footnotes of the Securities and Exchange Commission filings ferreting out interesting contrasts like Aaron Rents sponsoring race cars but, upon further inspection, the race car drivers are the CEO's 2 sons!  Did you know there's a Chinese Warren Buffet?

She's great reading and her insights provide an excellent counterpoint to data tables and tiny font. 

Day 2 of BBB Challenge - The List Post

As Andi from Misadventures with Andi graciously pointed out in the comments to yesterday's post, technically, I've already done this on day 1. As a result, I truly considered skipping a day, but I couldn't miss an opportunity to to turn you on to another blogger.

Every day I begin the day with a list of at least 5 things I'm thankful for.  It gets my attention focused on the right things - what I have instead of what I don't have.  I got this practice about a year ago from Tommy Newberry over at Secret to a Joy Filled Life from reading his book The 4:8 Principle.  His blog posts remind me to stay on the bright side.

The list can be anything from the sublime to the mundane, from the surreal to the too real.  

Today, I'm thankful for:

1.  A good night of sleep!
2.  A job and that it's going well.
3.  My husband who loves me and tells me often
4.  A home to come home to and wake up in
5.  Great girlfriends!

(And sometimes I get carried away and keep going:)

6.  That we're both healthy
7.  For a good church
8.  A great workout last night - 2 hours!
9.  The birds singing in the dark hours of morning
10. Being able to pack my lunch
11. For a standing desk at work
12.  And always, for flowers:)

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

31 Days to Build a Better Blog


Andi over at Misadventures with Andi turned me on to Build a Better Blog in 31 Days over at ProBlogger.   It seemed like a good idea to me to improve the content and the experience for those who read my blog.  

The task for Day 1 is to write an elevator pitch: 

“An elevator pitch is an overview of an idea for a product, service, or project. The name reflects the fact that an elevator pitch can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride (for example, thirty seconds or 100-150 words).” - Wikipedia

Right now I'm not even sure what my mission statement is for this blog.  I gave myself all of 2009 to just practice writing but eventually I hope to find where my passions overlap with the world's needs and write about that.  So far, sports injury treatment is the hottest topic but that's not something I have a big supply of entries on.  I'm not there yet.

I know what my blog isn't; it doesn't have a single subject area.  For example, it's not a gardening blog, nor a perfume blog nor a sports blog but it has posts about all those things.  One thing I spend a lot of time on but don't write about much is business. 

After 4 months of blogging I have a clear idea of the benefits: 
1. It helps me keep current with Web 2.0 technology 
2. Gives me practice integrating my own photos and words to articulate ideas and connect with people
3. It gives me a creative outlet outside of work
4. It helps build relationships
5. It helps me practice punctuation and grammar (when I take the time to look up what I should be doing at that critical juncture!)

Lots more to learn! 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Passionate about Peonies: Part 3

Most of the pictures I take of my modest backdoor peony farm look terrible compliments of the dirt and shade but I managed to snap a reasonable one of this Bowl of Beauty bud.  


Someday, according to the adverts, it will look like this.  I'm just hoping I'm not out of town when it happens:)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Second World

At 341 pages plus 64 pages of notes all in small font, this book is a mule choker but it's still a condensation of 423 other books (listed in the bibliography) that also provides a unique point of view - not a regurgitation but a mastery of and a Gaudi-esque building upon.

While the Economist magazine and the press in general only report events in countries, Khanna concisely articulates the geographic, political and cultural context that the country faces, the backstory in short, to those events, while at the same time holding the players accountable for the results.  He covers countries in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe and countries from the former USSR.

The vocabulary in this book is beautiful.  Khanna plucks words like ummah and condottieri from the native trees on which they grow and uses them to write about both the locale or culture from which they came as well as applying them to other contexts, collapsing time and space.  

For a tapas-sized taste of his writing, try this article "The Coming Middle Ages" published in McKinsey Quarterly February 2009.  He outlines the shared concepts between the Middle Ages and our future including the Renaissance idea of a nation-state vs the Middle Ages concept of the city-state and how these 2 ideas apply to failed as well as successful nation-states today.

Khanna markets himself well by maintaining a blog with links to all his published output whether interviews, books or videos.

This is a masterful book and worth a second read.