Monday, October 31, 2011

I Love A Good Conference

Every year in October, I zip off to Indianapolis for a work-related conference with people I greatly enjoy. Typically, the conference is focused on operational-type issues, but this year it went all leadership on me and I LOVED it. We had amazing speakers, I got to play with Legos and I came home feeling pretty inspired.

What resonated with me on a personal level was a discussion about differentiating yourself/your business from the competition. The speaker asked us to really think about the one thing that makes us better at our jobs - not necessarily a reason that someone would choose us over a competitor, but the one thing that you point to with pride and say, "I do that better than anyone else." Then we had to build a representation of that one thing in Legos =)

Since this is my blog and there are no rules about modesty, I'm going to tell you that I rock at my job. I really, truly have found something that I enjoy doing and I am good at it. However, there are a lot of people who are good at doing what I do. When I look at what makes me different from others who write for these same industries, it becomes apparent that the relationships are what stands out. When I'm putting together magazines, I search for content that will matter to the specific people I know in the industries I'm covering. When I write a story, I get to know the person behind the article. I work very hard to tell the story in a way that not only promotes the company that the story is about, but shows a clear pathway for other companies wanting to follow in their footsteps.

At this conference and every other that I attend, I am greeted by friends. They know that I genuinely care about the industries that I cover, and that I want them to succeed. THAT is what makes me better than the competition. For me, it isn't just a job.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Christmas List Goes Horribly Wrong

I was just telling a friend about how fabulous Miss P has been about not manufacturing this massive holiday gift list, and then we have this conversation:

Her: I need this bed for Sabrenda.

(Sabrenda is her favorite Asian baby doll, which the super-amazingly-fabulous people at Corolle gave to me at the Type-A Parent Conference in Asheville. Sabrenda is getting an absolute ton of clothes this year from Santa Claus - which I'm paying for, since the super-amazingly-fabulous people at Corolle already gave me the doll and how much more can I expect from them? Entitled bloggers drive me crazy. Oh wait... back to the doll. She's getting a ton of clothes this year because right now the poor thing is wearing ill-fitting Bitty Baby clothing and it's not a good look. You should get this doll, because it's awesome. But you don't have to name it Sabrenda.)

I'm taking a lot of cold medicine. That may explain the previous paragraph. Anywho.

Her: I need this bed for Sabrenda.

Me: We already have a baby bed.

Her: Then I need this box for Sabrenda's clothes.

Me: We should put that in a letter to Santa Claus.

Her: Santa Claus wouldn't buy the right clothes.

Me: Santa doesn't buy clothes - the elves make them!

Her: No, they don't. Because the elves would just wear them. Sabrenda needs new clothes. Not old elf clothes.

Me: ... I don't even know what to say to that.

Her: Sabrenda needs a sister.

That's what I get for letting the four year old look at the American Girl catalog.

Love at First Bark... And I Don't Even Like Dogs

I have one. A dog, that is. But I'm not altogether fond of the species. I'm more of a cat person. Cats are their own independent animal. Sure, they like a good snuggle now and then, but mostly they are content with a full dish of food and a clean litterbox. Dogs are more needy. They're like having an extra child around the house and, while I can look forward to the day when my own kiddos can take care of themselves, the dog is never going to reach that state.

But Julie Klam has written a book called Love at First Bark: How Saving a Dog Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself. Klam and her less-than-enthusiastic husband foster dogs until they are adopted by new owners. Klam credits canines with giving her a better understanding of the struggles in her own life and possibly even saving her marriage. It's laugh-out-loud funny one minute and makes you a little teary-eyed the next. But mostly, it makes you want to run to the shelter and see if there's a furry friend waiting there for you to take him home.

This book reminded me of all the stray dogs/cats/fish/squirrels that I wanted to bring home and nurse back to health. I liked the message, and I appreciated the reminder that animals don't see the bad in us. They shower us with love and affection, even when we forget to fill their food dish. And even though our dog is more mop than canine, I'm glad he's around.

If you want to find out more about Love at First Bark, check out the discussion page at BlogHer Book Club.

This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Some People Are Wrong All The Time

Every year for the past... um... a lot of years, one or more of my kids has played in an Optimist-sponsored basketball and/or tball and/or softball league. It's parent-coached and, while the parents often have various levels of coaching ability, the kids have fun and learn a few things along the way.

Miss A wanted to play basketball this fall, so I signed her up and waited to hear from the person who would be coaching the team. Instead, I got a phone call from the guy who runs the leagues asking ME to coach. After choking a bit, I said, "Hell, no"... although perhaps a bit more politely than that, and left him to track down some other stupid parent. Evidently, all the other parents are genuises - or don't answer their phones - because he called me back and essentially said, "Congratulations! I nominate you."

He must think that me sending in every registration fee at least two weeks late for the past seven years and then having to beg for a spot on the roster for my kid automatically qualifies me for guilt-trip coaching. He must be right. Because I said, "Okey dokey."

The husband and I both played basketball in high school - some of us more successfully than others - and I figured we couldn't screw up first and second grade girls too badly. We've worked on dribbling and passing and shooting and even made an attempt at putting in an offense and a defense.

Want to see something super funny? Watch an adult trying to explain 'offense' and 'defense' to a group of first and second grade girls: If I have the ball, it's ... ? If the other team has the ball, it's ... ? Priceless.

What I didn't count on was the parents of our future All-Stars. In the span of three practices and one game, you would not believe the complaints I have heard. Not enough practice time. Not enough playing time. Not enough work on the fundamentals. Too much work on the fundamentals. My response has been simple:
If you don't like the way I am coaching, you are more than welcome to take over this volunteer position.
My personal favorite of the slew of negative comments from parents: Our first game was embarassing. Really? Embarassing for who? You? Because the girls were having a heck of a good time!

People, this is a recreational league that charges the massive fee of $25 for participation. If you want your little Michael Jordan to learn how to throw elbows and attack the basket, go elsewhere. If you want your kiddo to learn the basics and have fun with her friends while getting some valuable exercise time, then this is the place for you. Frankly, I think there are a few parents who should put their listening ears on when I'm teaching the girls about sportsmanship.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Am Good At These 5 Things

Over at Lawyerish, Meredith made an excellent point about women sometimes refusing to take credit for their own skill sets, in fear of alienating other people and/or sounding pompous. She then listed five things that she is really good at and encouraged the rest of us to join in. Here are the five talents I claim:

Procrastinating. I have always been the person who would wait until the night before a paper was due to begin writing. That has not changed in my adult professional life. Give me a deadline and watch me start the article the night before said deadline. In my own defense, I will say that I kick some major booty when writing under pressure. I'm also fairly sure my boss doesn't appreciate the heart attack that ensues every time I say, "Don't worry! I'm sure I'll get it written eventually. I've never missed a deadline yet!" That is, of course, his cue to mention all of the deadlines I have conveniently rearranged... but hey, stress is what makes our jobs fun, right?

Getting Other People to Do Stuff. Some people do and some people get other people to do for them. That's my philosophy and I'm sticking to it. Need someone to lead the Girl Scout troop? Want someone to make pretty baskets for the school raffle? Thinking about organizing a group to fight world hunger? I know just the person for the job. It's never going to be me... but I am absolutely brilliant at talking other people into stepping up.

Total Absorption in the Task at Hand. When I am into something... really, really into it... I have no clue what is happening around me. Whether it's reading a book or writing an article or mowing the lawn, I can become totally absorbed in what I'm doing, and I wouldn't notice if a circus elephant appeared before me with a naked Nathan Fillion on its back. Okay.... I wouldn't notice the elephant. However, since I've had a thing about Nathan Fillion ever since Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place... him, I might notice. But definitely not the elephant. People can talk to me, wave colored flags in front of my face and blow an air horn in my ear and, while I might be aware of a slight buzz, I remain focused on my task. This talent makes my life much easier in airports, but isn't necessarily something that makes me popular at home.

Sarcasm. In fact, I am a champ at conveying sentiment through sarcasm. I've always said that I get my sarcastic talents from my Aunt Barb (who is my aunt by marriage, rather than blood, making the genetic hand-down a bit unrealistic), but as an adult, I believe I've really come into my own on the sarcasm front. It's a gift.

Traveling for Work Without Mommy Guilt. I take several short business trips each year and, although I miss my kiddos something fierce, I must not have the gene that demands excessive hand-wringing at the harm I will be doing them by missing a day in their precious lives. I have a phone. I am able to call my munchkins every day to check in and hear about school, sports and friends... but I also am able to drink wine and other spirits without fear of a 1 a.m. wake-up call courtesy of the monster under the bed. I will gladly enjoy a swanky hotel, nice meals and the company of other adults for a few days, and then I will go home to my beautiful girls. But mommy guilt? Umm... no.

So. There you go. What are your special talents?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Please Let Me Sleep

I love my kids. I really do. But I would love them more if they would sleep longer in the mornings.

Just keeping it real, folks.

I was one of those college students who would happily sleep until noon after a late night... on the weekends, of course... because I wouldn't have ever skipped classes...

Even now, I wait until the last possible minute to get up in the mornings, and then I stumble around the kitchen like a zombie for another 20 minutes or so, mumbling and shielding my eyes from the light. My children, however, are up at the crack of dawn. In fact, some days they are up BEFORE the crack of dawn. The oldest sets her alarm for more than an hour before the bus picks her up so that she can straighten her hair, do her make-up and change clothes 16 times. The youngest two happily leap out of bed and race to the living room to watch Crocodile Hunter or Dora the Explorer while I roll over and snuggle deeper under the covers.

Thankfully, they're at an age where I can stay in bed for a couple of minutes, rather than leaping out of bed the instant I hear their footsteps in fear of what they might do without supervision. Still, they aren't quiet. And so I lay in bed listening to their arguments and cupboard-slamming as they find something for breakfast and I look at the alarm clock every five minutes until I can no longer stand it.

I know that someday my house will be quiet - too quiet - and I will be longing for the days when the house was filled with activity and noise. But I'm betting I will be longing for those moments after 8 a.m.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wil Wheaton Rocks... and so does The Bloggess

As a social media mom and an advocate of social media in my professional life, I love The Bloggess. I loved her even more after the chicken post (that's like $200 of chicken for free) and I'm seriously considering the purchase of a mini Beyonce from her store.

For those of you who don't know, The Bloggess is a massively popular -- and rather irreverant -- blogger. She has influence and reach, two things PR folks would love to use to their clients' advantage. However, Jenny (The Bloggess has a real name!) got tired of PR pitches that had nothing to do with her blog and asked Wil Wheaton to help her out with a response to those off-kilter PR pitches. He did, because Wil Wheaton is cool like that, and she's been sending it out for around a year now. Yesterday, a PR firm took exception.

And then one of the firm's vice presidents called her a nasty name... through a 'reply all' email.

All together now... Ouch!

Now this could have happened to a million bloggers.. well, maybe a thousand... or at least a couple of hundred. But it happened to The Bloggess. And when Jose the vice president gave a half-hearted apology that illustrated his lack of understanding of the audience to which he spoke...

Let's just say that the last 24 hours have been a little rough for good ol' Jose.

Jenny blogged about it. Twitter blew up. The PR firm's Facebook page was flooded. And then Wil Wheaton blogged about it. Because he's cool like that.

To sum up, for those of you who don't feel like clicking 80 gajillion links: PR firms need to treat the internet as a respectable marketing channel, rather than some newfangled gimick. As such, the people who populate the internet channels - i.e., bloggers, tweeters, facebookers, YouTube-rs (yes, I made that up) etc. - need to be treated with respect. If a PR firm would like to pitch a blogger, GREAT! Put together a professional pitch, offer appropriate compensation and open a discussion. But don't spam every blogger on the internet with a pantyhose pitch (and yes, I got it, too - if I had a dollar for every blogger who appears to have received that email, I could buy an island). Don't come to the table with a "we're better than you" attitude. Do understand the medium and the target audience. Above all, don't be Jose.

And if you're over the whole #PRfail and/or you really don't get what the fuss is all about, then at least read the chicken post and thank me later.