Simple Pleasures: Being the “Cool” Parent

When you are a parent, including “bonus” moms like me, being seen as cool by your kid induces a sort of rush, especially since those moments are often fleeting.

While driving with my stepson and his friend, I overheard their discussion on music. They were asking each other about songs they knew, singing lines here and there (a simple pleasure in itself- listening to kids sing), when one of them mentioned Madonna’s “4 Minutes” and they both sang the one line they know.

So I asked if they wanted to hear that song because I could plug in my iPod. The answer was a resounding, “YES!!!! You have that song?!?!” I obliged and they started mimicking the beat, singing at the top of their lungs, “only got 4 minutes to save the world,” (because again, that’s the only line they know).

As I was dropping off my stepson’s friend at his house, the next song in my playlist came up: “Let it Rock” by Kevin Rudolf & Lil Wayne. My stepson leaned toward the front seat and said, “you have this song, too? Sherri, how do you have all these good new songs?”

My reply, “I’m awesome like that.” For a few extra cool points, when we got home I helped him load those songs and a few others to his iPod.

Even in short bursts, I will take cool when I can get it. After all, he’ll be a teenager soon and I suspect my chances will only get slimmer.

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It’s Who You Know

Almost everyone has heard the phrase, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This adage is often uttered after someone lands a great job or scores tickets to a sold-out show. The important key here is building relationships.

I was rather shy growing up and still am to a certain extent. Lately, I have been trying to step out of my comfort zone and forge new relationships, as well as strengthening existing ones.

In my community, I became more involved with little league and have met some really nice parents during the last few seasons. I am now one of those people that runs in to people I know at the grocery store or the gym. Speaking of the gym, I plant myself right in the middle of the room rather than retreating to the back corner. While waiting for class to start, I might strike up a conversation with someone nearby. Rather than perfect strangers, these women become friendly faces.

My family has always been spread out around the country, so even those relationships have been distant. To remedy this, I frequently call or email my parents, even if I don’t have any news to share. I started making brief, regular phone calls to my grandparents. I tracked down cousins with whom I have not spoken in years. How? Facebook. I even have plans to visit one of them soon.

Professional relationships were a bit easier for me. When you work with someone every day, you get to know them pretty well. When I was laid-off in January, I was able to quickly arrange work through former colleagues. Vendors I used to work with offered to recommend me. What could have been a harrowing experience turned into my dream of a full-time freelance career thanks to my professional relationships.

Knowing people isn’t just about getting in. It is also about feeling more comfortable because, no matter what happens, you know people, and if you don’t, you will meet people. All of those relationships will make life more enriching. Rather than being the shy, quiet girl for the rest of my life, I want to be one of those people who know people.

Yeah, I know people.

Is Twitter Useful?

Twitter found a heap of attention in the past year as users flocked to answer the question, “what are you doing?” People twitted to their hearts content with useless drivel, breaking news, daily life snippets, and sometimes, just plain nonsense. I couldn’t help but follow the buzz to see exactly what it could do and how it was being used.

There seem to be a lot of ideas floating around on how to make Twitter work for you.In a comment left on bokardo.com’s post “The Opaque Value Problem (or, why do people use Twitter?),” Ian Wilker explains why he uses Twitter:

because it gives me up to the second “state of the vibe” awareness of what the people driving the evolution of the social web are thinking and doing … I find this awareness useful in parceling out my attention

In November 2007, leelefever at Common Craft reflected on his 1 year “twitterversary.” His post includes some interesting insights about the concept of twittering. He says:

Twitter has impacted my relationships. 140 characters at a time, I’ve gotten to know my online (and real-world) friends much better. Daily life is the only real life and Twitter shines a spotlight on it.

If you are able to keep up with each Twitterer on your list, you could, in essence, learn their likes and dislikes. They may mention their favorite coffee joint, which train they take to work, what book they are currently reading. Personally, I’m not sure what I’d do with that level of information. I have no plans of stalking my friends. Whether online or offline friends, I know how to reach them when I need to. It still raises a good point, however. Getting a glimpse of their daily routine, even the mundane, will help you learn more about that person.

Individual users aren’t the only ones twittering. Businesses can take advantage of unique marketing opportunities through the service. Maki of dosh dosh compiled his research about Twitter into “17 Ways You Can Use Twitter: A Guide for Beginners, Marketers and Business Owners.”

Number one on his list is personal branding, where he explains, “it has the primary benefit of developing a casual persona and establishes you as a social personality that is connected and approachable.”

This could lend toward positioning yourself as an expert in your area of interest, though counting on soaring popularity based on your tweets alone may be a bit optimistic. An extra key to this particular use of Twitter (if not all uses) is to attract an audience that needs your information (easier said than done in our current state of information overload).

Maki also suggests using Twitter for event updates:

Businesses can use Twitter as a means to inform event participants and latest event happenings/changes. This is a hassle-free way of disseminating information, especially when you don’t have the means to set up a direct mobile link between you and the audience.

If you train your audience to look to Twitter for event updates, you could effectively notify participants of changes to the agenda or provide a brief recap (or a link to one) afterward.

One California TV station used Twitter to post updates about the recent wildfires, noting evacuations, the number of homes destroyed, and other pertinent details. In this case, a seemingly trivial piece of technology became a bulletin board of relevant information.

So, the verdict on Twitter? leelefever sums it up best: “Twitter isn’t for everyone. There is a lot of noise and crap. But, if you can find people you know and have a way to integrate the updates into your life, you may be addicted.”

If you have experience with Twitter or other uses, please leave a comment. I’m interested in how it is being used.

Why the Internet is Good for World Peace

In the movie Miss Congeniality, an undercover FBI agent is advised to answer “world peace” in reply to a pageant question about what this world needs. Each contestant before her does exactly that, but when the FBI agent, played by Sandra Bullock, is read the question, she replies, “that would be harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.” When the audience stares blankly at her, she quickly adds, “and… world peace.” The audience goes wild.

Today is September 11th, a day that is forever different for those of us in the United States since the terrorist attacks. It seems appropriate then, that the
Social Network to Promote Peace
has selected today as the start of 10 days of blogging for peace.

The Internet actually seems like a nice place to start because it makes this world a smaller place. In fact, it’s right in the name: world wide web. Through blogging, I have been able to connect with individuals in other states and in other countries, across county lines and across oceans. I can share thoughts, pictures, and experiences with people I would otherwise never know.

Though Internet experiences may not actually bring world peace, they do allow us to come together in peace.

Learn more about the Peace Blogs effort and how you can participate.

Email Should Make Us More Productive, Not Less Interactive

I’m probably a rare Web/techie type. I don’t necessarily care about bigger, better, fancier Web sites. I want a simple site that acts as I expect it would without too many bells and whistles. After all, the Web is about quick information right? Get in, find what I need, get back out. Sure sometimes I can browse aimlessly on the Internet. Other times I’d rather not be attached to my computer screen.

I attack my email in the same manner: quickly. In fact, I tend to check my personal account only once or twice a week. (Did you just gasp?) Email is helpful for business. Not all business, but some business. It’s also useful for quick replies to family and friends. If I want to contact someone, though, email is not always my first thought. I’ll pick up the phone, maybe send a postcard. (For those born in the 1990s, a postcard is a paper rectangle with a picture on one side and blank on the other. You handwrite a note, address it, stamp it, and drop it in the real mail.)

U.S. Cellular’s Vice President, Jay Ellison, must feel the same way about our “advancements.” Last year, he instituted a policy whereby email between officemates is not allowed on Fridays. The alternative? Face-to-face discussions and phone calls. Employees are also encouraged to pick up the phone to contact clients on Fridays, rather than send email. Phone calls, even short ones, are more personal. (See Companies limit e-mail use to boost productivity for more on U.S. Cellular’s initiative.)

Technology has certainly made a lot of tasks in our daily lives easier. It’s also become a bit of an obsession to some. Yes, I fit this category sometimes, too. Particularly when faced with a new project.

The thing is, I’m interested in how technology can better my life, not become my life. I am all for simplifying. If that means sending an email, so be it. If email is complicating my to do list, then it’s not useful.

Human Interaction: A thing of the past or future?

Internet café: a place where you will be in the presence of others, with whom you will not communicate, while you use your computer to communicate with people who are not there

This was the definition given by the Blue Man Group at a show last week. Roughly. I wasn’t taking notes.

By the way, I highly recommend their show. It was, as the critics say, entertaining, thought-provoking (who knew?), and surprising. But I digress.

In a seemingly odd phenomenon, it’s not uncommon to see users engrossed in their computer at a coffee house or book store. One could argue that they are missing out on human interaction. If we think about it though, absent of computers, those patrons likely would not have spoken to their fellow strangers anyhow. In fact, some of them may even be interacting with humans on the other end of those computer lines in book stores across the country.

The Internet has changed human interaction, whether for better or worse is in the hands of each user.

Brad Paisley Shows Us Our Own Ridiculousness, Again

Brad Paisley’s latest music video humorously depicts internet behavior. In “Online” he discussed the persona shifts that sometimes come along with online interaction when a user portrays themselves in a stronger, more confident way.

I discussed social networking the other day and, while I think online interaction serves some purposes, it can not replace face-to-face interaction. Our lives are different online than they are in the real world. As I write this, I am wearing a faded 15 year old t-shirt and baggy cotton pants, yet I could present myself as a cutthroat business person if I so chose. I could not, however, walk out my front door in these clothes and elicit the same response. Don’t misunderstand me; I don’t mean to imply that one of these is the right way, the other wrong. I think both real world and online interactions can be enlightening, educational, even empowering.

Brad Paisley has yet again analyzed our society at a wonderfully basic level. See some of his other observations in “Celebrity” or “Alcohol.” Reality is always entertaining.

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