To Be Beautiful

dogwood flower[Written by Lauren Caswell, one of my awesome daughters, a gifted architecture student at LaTech. Bottom photo is one of her paintings.]

To define what it means to be beautiful, you first have to study what it is that wants to be beautiful, because not everything will have to same definition for beautiful, even when coming from the same person.

For instance, to me, a beautiful flower is one that stands out in rich colors, draws your eye to the center in a pleasing way, and has a soft sweet smell. But, one cannot smell a cloud. So the definition of a beautiful cloud would be one that stretches across the sky linking other clouds together, using the sun or the moon’s light to create an array of colors on this normally opaque substance.

For buildings and physical structures, to be beautiful you have to have a purpose. Every good painting and sculpture has a purpose. Some are made to express feelings or to try and take the viewer’s mind to places they haven’t been to yet. Just making something pretty and pleasing to the eye is not the same as being beautiful.

Pretty is pleasing, but beauty is meaning.

To be beautiful, it has to answer a question and then ask more, it is never fun or progressive when all the answers are given to you.

Lauren's paintingIt doesn’t have to be unique and something completely different from what people have done before, because the world has been going on for a long time, and lots of thoughts have already been thought.

It is exciting to see new experiments and creations come together though. It just has to be new to you, to be beautiful.

To be beautiful, architecture should be structurally sound as well, something that can defy the moods of the weather and stand spite the gravity all around it. A building should be determined to stand for ages. To be beautiful, it should take the area around it into account. Not just a building on the land, but a building that links the land, sky, and everything in between together.

To be beautiful, it must take your breath away when you finally complete it. To be beautiful, the architect must be excited and joyful to design this piece, rather than take it as a job. To be beautiful, it must be complete.
To be beautiful, it must be a piece of your soul shining out in real life. To be beautiful, it shall be alive, whispering thoughts into your mind.

For that is what beauty is, a feeling. We may all define different things as beautiful, but beauty is still the same feeling for everyone. You know the feeling.


Face to Face Networking for Newbies

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Right now I’m in hermit mode, getting stuff done, but short on the local business right now. Thankfully even while a hermit business does come in from referrals, and networking online. I’m not really comfortable in a large group of strangers, but I do great in small groups and one on one.

Thanks to Dina Giolitto in asking for suggestions to help a networking newbie. I’m sure her Copywriting ebook will be awesome, as everything she has written so far has been great. I’ve known Dina for years. Now for my face to face networking tips for newbies:

  1. Joining a networking group such as BNI helps you learn to be a better networker. They teach you how to network. If you don’t know how to get started, join such a group. Do some research before joining to see if the group is right for you.
  2. It takes time to build trust. Don’t expect a total stranger to do business because you said “Hi!” and handed them your business card. Build relationships.
  3. Referrals from trusted sources shorten that trust building time. Nice when a stranger calls you, ready to do business because you were referred to them. Only questions are how much will it cost? When can you start?
  4. Going to a chamber of commerce event was easier when other members of our BNI group were there too. We could introduce people we meet to each other. I could say this is Fred, he takes the headache out of office machines. Next time you feel like chunking your printer out the window, give Fred a call.
  5. Make friends (such as BNI or other networking group), get to know what each other is good at, let them know specifically what kind of referral is good for you.
  6. Don’t be a pest. When you follow up with someone it should be what can I do to help? Not buy my stuff.
  7. Lifestyle networking, my favorite. People are everywhere. You don’t have to limit yourself to networking events. I’ve meet some cool people waiting in checkout lines, at the park, kids tennis practice, waiting at doctor’s offices, church, kid’s swim meets, while taking photos on the side of the road…
  8. Make yourself easy to remember. I sent a card with some brownies to an Albuquerque business after being introduced to them over the phone. A few weeks later I was in the area and called to see if I could stop by. “Yes!” When I walked in the office, everyone knew me, even though I’d never meet any of them face to face. I was the “brownie lady”.
  9. Consistantly plan. I’ll have to thank Carol Deckert for reminding me. “Who will you meet this next week?” Life gets busy, we have more good things we can do with our time then hours in a day. And if we don’t plan to follow up or meet someone, then it does not get done and you may find yourself in hermit mode. Ouch!
  10. Remember, you are not the only one learning how to network. Something you’ll get better at the more you do.

    Image by Alan O’Rourke

How to Get More Blogs to Review Your Book

Facebook likes I ran across a cute post yesterday, How to Get More Facebook Likes, and it reminded me of a post I was going to write. Go ahead and head over to the Oatmeal blog and check it out.

A few weeks ago, I was asked if I’d do a review of a book. Legitimate request. I’ve done book reviews before. But I barely knew the guy, and I hadn’t heard of his book. I was in the middle of finishing a website for a client, still had taxes to file, bills to pay, hungry hoards to feed.

I said I couldn’t right now, and I’d have to ask a few questions first. His answer was take your time, but if you run over to Amazon and buy my book, you’ll know all about me and my book. Here the link. It’ll help your readers.

  • I barely knew the author
  • My time was very limited
  • I’m not promoting a book I don’t know and like. Without seeing the book that is hard to determine.
  • I’m not purchasing a book from a stranger so I can give him what amounts to a free advertisement.

If he visited my site, he’d realize that this blog isn’t that active, while I’m working on my WordPress Tutorial site. I don’t think it’d make him rich in book sales, although I do have some very loyal readers. It would not be fair to them to promote a book which could be great, horrible or somewhere in between. I value my visitors’ time, only fair I do some presorting.

It bugged me, I went to a Facebook group where many of my author friends hang out. I went to a business forum of which I’m a member. It seems I’m not the only one with this issue. Remember the Facebook Like article at the beginning, don’t be greedy, all about you. I’m also annoyed by “friends” who want something from me, favors, but never offer or give something in return. Even if you ask.

“Totally tacky!!! He obviously doesn’t have a publicist or have any type of real marketing and promotions plan for his book. Now, on the other hand, he could really appreciate your contributions on Twitter and see you a valuable resource. Nonetheless, it’s still not the way to go about it. You never ask someone you don’t know because how do you know they are who they claim to be.” Beverly Mahone

“Completely!” He needs some guidance.” Pat Montgomery

“I’m with Bev – very tacky!! When I was approached by a New York Times best seller (Andrew Blechman, Leisureville) for my New Urban Mom blog he most certainly didn’t ask me to buy the book! The book was sent to me within a couple days of his call to me and on top of that he allowed me to interview him for my podcast. After that I did a very thorough review that included our podcast chat. I think that’s the way it normally done.” Sharon McMillian

“As a frequent receiver of books via WE Magazine for women, it would never occur to me to purchase a book from a total stranger (someone I don’t know, have not met, or even heard of). If someone wants a book review from ANYONE and they are soliciting the review, the least he or she can do is send a copy! Obviously that guy does not have a publicist or anyone who could guide him If he did, that would never have happened. Heidi you might want to write about what it takes to get a book review on your site and then when anyone does solicit you, send them to the link. I did that and it became a huge time-saver. I simply send them the link which outlines our “rules” and then if someone wants to send a book to me, they know what to expect.” Heidi Richards Mooney

And I’m happy to say, the author I was venting about sent me a link to a free downloadable ebook a few days later. I’m thinking it is as Debra says:

“l can see him asking you to review his book if he knows your reputation and respects what you do, but ask you to buy it was pure wrong! I have asked people to review “Cedar Woman” because I know that I’ll get a true opinion, but I ALWAYS supply the book!. . .But sometimes, you know, we loose our heads. LOL” Debra Welsh

OK, enough bashing. In the excitement to get out and share your book, authors need to step back and see the blogger’s side. Time is very precious, it takes time to read a book and write up a review. What if the blogger hates your book, and you annoyed them with your request, nothing prevents them from writing a negative review. And how would a blogger handle a couple dozen free books sent to them for a review from various authors. Bloggers have spent time developing a relationship with their readers, and to be good to their audience, they will not review your book or product in a positive way unless it is to those readers benefit.

5 Top Tips for Requesting Book Review’s

  • Visit their blog, subscribe, get to know the community to see if your book or product is a good fit.
  • Look for their review policy, if they have one, follow their guidelines.
  • Ask politely, offer a free book, possibly throw in a couple books to be given to their readers, show specific reasons why your book/product would interest their audience, offer a favor in return.
  • Respect their time, have images ready with often asked questions and answers, offer to do an interview or answer any additional questions. Make your review an easy one to write.
  • Say thank you, follow the comments on your review post. Interact and reply.

Two Great Review Examples

Book ReviewWhen I did a book review for Donna Cutting, it was handled by Teresa Morrow, a classy friend of mine. I was asked if I wanted to participate, sent a copy of the book, emailed a choice of images to use, several questions and answers and that I could write my own questions for Donna to answer. I did both. Easy post to write, I enjoyed her book. I took a picture of me and her book and created a thank you card and mailed it to her.

Donna runs a first class business. She sent me a gift card, asked permission and posted the image from the greeting card on her blog (send her a copy so she didn’t have to scan) and encouraged others to check out my greeting card system, ran a contest where other readers could send her pictures and and reviews of her site.

Homemade soap review
I was happy to get a note from one of my twitter friends, asking if he could send me some of the homemade soap his wife makes. Very cool. I was so surprised when a few days later I opened my mailbox and it smelled so good. I have a wonderful package with not just one, but one of each of the different varieties of soap, they add essential oils. I was in a hurry to run errands, not wanting to leave the package behind, I placed it in the car.

Weather was beautiful, I left my windows down, and enjoyed the smell of my handmade soaps. Couldn’t wait to try them out, brightened my day. He get a homemade soap review even though he didn’t ask for it. And when I run out, I’ll buy more from them.

Now to follow Heidi Richard Mooney’s Advice and write my review policy page.

What is Open Source?

Tim Caswell

I admit, many years back I didn’t know what open source was either. Thanks to my oldest son, Tim Caswell, I’ve come to know and appreciate open source.

Basically open source is software which is open for all to use, without purchase. You are also free to improve, update, modify the code for your own purposes. Click on the term open source if you want a more technical definition. Quite likely you use open source software already.

  • Linux an operating system for your computer. (Windows is a non-open source operating system.)
  • Apache popular http server, if you have your own hosting account or visit websites, you benefit. Many sites run on Apache servers
  • Firefox a web browser, I use it, do you?
  • Open Office word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation tool
  • WordPress Where would we be without wordpress, powers this site and many others.
  • node.js and many other programming languages such as rubye, python, etc. My son supports his family working with node.js and other open source languages
  • Gimp a photo editing tool
  • Blender a 3d modeling program
  • many, many more programs

Apple and Windows aren’t opensource. You can’t legally go in and change the programming on your iphone. Windows, if your software is buggy and you are a programmer, you can’t go in and make changes to fix and improve the bug unless you are working for windows. You are stuck waiting for the next update. Non-open source companies may fight over intellectual property, keeping their goods out of the hands of their competitors.

Now if a company wants to keep their code to themselves, that is up to them. Doesn’t mean they are evil or anything like that. Simply 2 different business models. Personally I love Open Source for many reasons. You’ll be hearing more on this later.

What are your favorite open source programs?

I love WordPress, Gimp, Open Office, Firefox, ones I use everyday.

Learning How to Use WordPress

WordPress 101 for Boomers Several years back I realized it’d be quite helpful for a business owner to have their own website. Not necessarily a blog, I thought blogs were online personal diaries, and why would I want my private ramblings public? My own personal website though would be cool.
So I checked into making a website, not knowing anything about websites, hosting services, etc. To make a long story short I fell in love with WordPress.
I had to click on all the buttons, learn what they’re for, down to editing the graphics and layout of a site to make it do whatever I wished. Yet I remember back when I first started and I put WordPress away to learn to build a site because I couldn’t get mine to work right. I spent countless hours, googling directions, etc. to simply change the main logo-like image on my website. Nothing worked. Later I learned it was because my wordpress installation was missing some files.
I learned to talk to my webhost, to ask questions to those who knew much more than I, even if I didn’t know the right words, I searched much online. In the end, putting these things into practice, creating my own WordPress site is how I learned to use WordPress.
WordPress has improved much since then. I’ve learned much too. So I created these free WordPress tutorials for those who’d like to learn how to use WordPress.

  • Not sure how to get started with WordPress?
  • Don’t even know what WordPress is?
  • Do you need a blog. or even a website, but not sure where to start?
  • Someone hack your website?
  • Better yet, learn how to protect your WordPress site from hackers
  • If you’d like to learn WordPress or brush up on your skills, visit my newer site WordPress 101 for Boomers. If you get stuck and have a question, be sure to ask. Someone else may have the same question. See you there!

Level Up?

Maple Story Character

I got an email from one of my sons today. Doug is serving on a mission for our church in Eugene, Oregon. I thought I’d share part of his letter.

I know that the missionaries here think I know a lot about plants from what I learned from Mom. I can name a lot of berries and other plants, because I have firsthand experience with them. Believe it or not, working on the land was more fun to me than playing computer games ever was (and I know perfectly well how fun they can be), mostly because playing computer games never gave me real life knowledge or real life skills that I can use for the rest of my life. For example, in an RPG style game, you basically try to develop your character making them the best you can. How much cooler is it when you develop your own character? When you inrease your own attributes and increase your skill level? Yes it takes a little more work than pushing a few buttons on the keyboard, and it is relaxing, but nowhere near as fulfilling, or lasting. If you win the computer game, you get bored again. If you win life, you will have everlasting happiness.”

I’d never thought of it that way, but Doug makes perfect sense. Look how much care people put into developing their virtual characters. Make them stronger, better armor, potions, wisdom, speed etc. Addicting. But what if we put that same focus on developing our own personal characters. No you can’t build up your strenth with a few die rolls nor develop talents through random numbers floating through cyberspace. But the cool thing is that it isn’t left up to chance. You have control.

Want to be stronger, healthier? Push yourself away from the computer and get some exercise, eat good food.

Want to learn to write? Start a blog and get some practice. Read.

Want to improve your woodworking skill? get out the hammer and nails, make something.

You want to be a kinder person? Say something nice to everyone you meet, all day. Genuine words, not say something nice to get something in return.

Take the level up challenge. Whatever it is you’d like to do to improve your character, just do it! Time, effort, sweat and tears, but you’ll make it. Feels good.

The Misfits. The Rebels. The Troublemakers.

Steve Jobs

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do…. “

Steve Jobs

Thinking back, I’m so glad we (this is Heidi speaking) moved and switched schools for my kids, if we hadn’t I’d have checked into homeschooling. Picture a kindergartner sitting in the principal’s office all day because he wouldn’t say he was sorry for jumping off the side of the steps. He wasn’t sorry, he wanted to jump down the last 2 steps, he wasn’t going to lie. And I imagine a hyperactive, ultra-curious 5 year old was more of a punishment to his office staff than the 5 year old. The principal told me I had the most stubborn child he’s ever met in all his years of teaching.

Picture his sister staying inside from recess because she didn’t finish her morning’s busywork and thinking she’d never have any money or amount to anything. Why so slow? Because part of morning’s activity was to draw a picture to go with the short poem they copied. She’d draw a masterpiece while her classmates quickly scribbled.

By middle school, the stair jumping boy was heavily into origami, making dragons and other cool creatures during class, teaching himself to program on a dial-up computer at night.

His sister, without any musical training, learned to play songs by ear, both hands. She also composed her own piano piece which won an award in the school’s talent show.

Their siblings are each unique, but all have strong creative minds. I’m proud of each and everyone. They aren’t the only ones. I feel it is a human quality. This drive, this need to be something, do something, no matter if it has been done before or not. To find your unique work, your calling. Old. Young. Rich. Poor.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.
“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”
Steve Jobs

iShocked. iMourn. iGrieve. iSad.

iSad to hear of Steve Jobs’ passing. I want to challenge each and everyone one of you this week, try something new, something you’ve never done before, but wanted to try. Don’t just stick your big toe in the water to check the temp, jump right in, you know it is where you want to be. So what if you make a mistake, we all do. Learn from it!

Steve Jobs, Apple founder dies

Steve Jobs photo by Ben Stanfield

“iShocked. iMourn. iGrieve. iSad.” thanks to SunnyC

Farmin’ in the HOOD

First, watch the video. The Urban Farming Guys explain what they are all about better than I.

This group is connecting in so many ways:

  • Connect with nature – Growing food stuff, plants, animals, aquaponic system, alternate energy.
  • Connect with family – It is fun the watch the kids learn how to do stuff working with their parents, working together, growing family ties.
  • Connect with friends 20 families moved together, working together on various projects
  • Connect within their community – Crime rate has gone way, way down. They didn’t isolate themselves from the rough neighborhood they moved into. They interact with their community, pay attention to what is going on, take action.
  • Connect with rest of the world Great use of social media, through their website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, all very well done. “Sharing Knowledge . . . Feeding Nations”

A few weeks ago I did a search for land prices in the Detroit area. How bad is it really? How far did the real estate market drop. I found vacant lots as low as a couple hundred dollars. Homes where your house payment was only a fraction of cost of the property tax. (hopefully those appraised values will move down to market cost). It reminded me of what the Urban Farming Guys are doing. People is Detroit could take a lesson from them. Heck, we all could. If only our government would learn.

Why Social Media Works

Doesn’t really matter the platform: MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, various forums. People migrate from place to place. At one time Ryze was one of my favorites, now it is almost a virtual ghost town. You’ll find spammers, stalkers, scammers along with great friends. Old friends are reunited, business partners found, shared brainstorming (crowd sourcing). I mean, people even find their true love online. You have to use common sense and keep yourself and your computer safe from the bad guys.

So what is the pull? Why has social media increased over the past few years?

In this age of automation, “please press 1 if you speak english”, “enter your 16 digit account number”, people are hungry for what they miss, human interaction. Real people who believe that you have value, that you are special. Validation.

I believe that people go where they feel good, connected to others, where their voice matters. And when those needs are no longer being met, they’ll go elsewhere. People go where they feel important, where others care, where they can make a difference, where they feel validated.

Online or off, take a step back. How do you interact with others? Do you validate them as a human being?