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Archive for Jill’s Blog

May
11

Science Fair Push-Back

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerTeaching our kids to be assertive is one of the most challenging tasks of being a dad.

 Having an assertive adult as an end result is great!  Raising an assertive kid . . . is not so great.

 First I probably need to clarify this word “assertive.”  I’ll do it, using the 3 Little Bears analogy (which is, one of the great analogies of all time):

 . . . And Goldilocks tried being Aggressive, means being hostile, exploitive, and coercive to get what you want – but that was too much and she drove people away.

Then Goldilocks tried being Passive, which means deferring to other people, even when you have strong opinions or desires, but that made her have low self-worth and low self-esteem.

She even tried being Passive/Aggressive, a technique that involves deferring to people (giving in) . . . but then finding some other way to get what you want. — usually through means that include being quietly hostile and exploitive.

But then she tried being Assertive.  It’s speaking directly and honestly about what you want and trying to get it by collaborating with people and communicating clearly.

And it was juuuust right.

 After that, the three bears came home and wondered why this blond girl was in their house debating active ego communicative strategies . . .

The point is that we’d obviously all love to have our kids grow up and be assertive.  We want them to strive to achieve without achievement being their identity, and to tell the truth they believe boldly, and to work toward solutions that include others.  Learning that process throughout childhood is rough on parents for several reasons:

Kids go to each extreme while they are trying to find the sweet spot of ‘assertive’

How do kids achieve the ‘balance’ of assertive?  They try out being aggressive.  Then they evaluate the effectiveness.  Then, they try being passive and evaluate the effectiveness.  Each one of their ‘tries’ results in a swing of both mood and communication.

Kids want to practice with you . . . at home

As a dad, you’re safe.  So, kids want to use your relationship as a ‘sandbox’ to try out different kinds of communication strategies.  If they work on you, then they try them on their friends.

Parents are not assertive themselves

Some parents never really adapted the ‘just right’ of being assertive.  So, knowing how to respond to a kid that is being aggressive, forthright, or passive creates an internal struggle.  Many parents that grew up in an abusive household react with anger or let their kids become the dominant force in the home.

Parents get offended by kid assertiveness

Some people, and I’m calling out ‘Boomers definitely,’ were raised with the idea that anything less than quiet docile obedience was wrong.  “Why in my day, I’d be slapped across the room if I said that I didn’t like castor oil.”

There are positive strategies to help your kids develop positive self-esteem and self-worth through practicing and learning assertiveness:

Reward their assertiveness

When your son/daughter hits that ‘just right’ area of assertiveness, point it out and praise them.   “Hey, I noticed that you told your friend that you didn’t like gummy worms even though all your other friends were saying they were good.  That’s good to speak up directly for what you like and don’t like.”

Model assertiveness

As a parent, do a self-check on how you interact with others, especially when they are demanding.  Practice being assertive with others and your kids will see you.

Have them practice assertiveness at school

This point is where the title of this article has been generated.  It involves a story . . .

One summer in Florida a turtle crawled out of the swamp and laid eggs in our front yard.  Right place/right time – we filmed it.  Then, to our horror, when we were taking the dog out in the evening, we caught a raccoon in the process of digging all the eggs up and eating them.  We chased the ‘coon’ off and rescued 4 eggs.

I came up with the idea, “Why don’t you incubate these eggs, two inside and two outside, and document it for this next year’s science fair?”

So that started the process of carefully incubating, measuring, and checking two sets of turtle eggs . . . for months.  Seriously, turtle eggs take 3 ½ months to hatch.  When fall came, my youngest son had an incredible biology-focused science fair project.

. . . . then, someone complained to someone, and someone went to the bureaucracy, then . . . someone from the School District called me.  The concern was that, in the future, kids might try to do experiments with animals and accidently hurt them.  So, my son would have to do a whole new Science Fair project because turtle hatch was not allowed.

My feelings were not assertive at that point.  Nor were they ‘passive.’  I immediately defaulted internally to Incredible Hulk mode.  However, I needed to model how to maintain composure, and thank God (thank you God) that He gave me the strength to clearly outline how punishing my son currently for a policy they were making for the future was inappropriate.  I had to ask to speak to the District Superintendent, and went through the whole thing again.  The Superintendent deferred to the local elementary school for how they would ‘enact this new policy.”

That’s when my son was suddenly on the front lines with having to be clear and forthright to his teacher.  He had to stick to the work that he did.  He had to clearly say that he wasn’t doing a ‘whole new’ experiment, and he had to boldly, but kindly, defer any teachers to talk to me.

Then we both had to go and meet with the Principal.

Two points to this:  Never do a science fair with turtles!  And the other point:  I’m SO GLAD that he practiced being firm and forthright with someone else rather than me.  I was with my kid almost every day telling me “I don’t want” and trying to negotiate a change in my decisions, and giving up on speaking up with kids and his brother.  I was elated that he was doing all this practicing with someone else for a change.

I’d rather the school personnel, that I pay, deal with my kids learning assertiveness – that way I can

  • Back my kids up
  • Advise them from the sidelines

Advising from the sidelines could be another whole topic in itself.  This is going to need at least a follow-up article.  I can see many of the dads that read this column plunging into the realm of Assertiveness totally unprepared.  Which, is actually the main idea with ‘practicing’ assertiveness.   Once again, let me know how it goes with your kids.  The comments are open; assertiveness is a project just like a science fair.

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Apr
27

Opposite Logic

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerToday’s article is up for you, the reading audience, to ratify.  It’s all based on logic I learned from the 90’s sitcom, Seinfeld.

Jerry Seinfeld : If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

George Costanza : Yes, I will do the opposite. I used to sit here and do nothing, and regret it for the rest of the day, so now I will do the opposite, and I will do something!

 

I thought of this when I was switching roles with one of my counseling clients.  Dads do certain things.  Moms do certain things.  If a mom comes in and has a hard time getting a grasp on the dad perspective, I ask us to pretend and switch roles.

It’s a helpful technique if a mom is singly raising kids, because she has to routinely act in the role as both dad AND mom.

. . . I even have a ladies’ wig I put on during session to do the play acting.  — Yes, I’m a riot.

Anyway, I hear a lot of women say that their instinct and role is to be “the caregiver” — the one that keeps the kids safe and protects them.

So, using the Seinfeld logic, the Dad role would most likely be the opposite of the caregiver:  letting kids be independent and having them experience dangerous and unsafe situations.

It’s just a working theory at this point.  I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments or e-mail me.  But let’s look at how such logic would flesh out for Dads (or dad-figures) . . .

 

Kid:  Wants to learn to skateboard

Motherly instinct:  Protect child at all cost!  Skateboards = death.  Child should instead pursue quilting.

Dad:  Do it!  Bones heal and chicks dig scars.

___

Kid:  gets a role in the school play

Motherly instinct:  Help them rehearse their lines and help them make a costume

Dad:  “Break a leg.”   I will come to the play and film the whole thing.

____

 

Kid:  another kid is teasing them on the bus.

Motherly instinct:  Let’s call the school and arrange a meeting to work on a strategy to keep you safe.  Better yet, I’ll drive you to school the rest of the year.

Dad:  Stand up to them!  If you fight and get suspended, I’ll let you play Xbox all week . . .

 

. . .  I’m so far noticing that this might be a workable theory.  I’m also thinking that good Dad role responses probably fall into three categories:

 

  • Give a sense of autonomy (which will help build self-esteem)
  • Figure things out

One thing that combines both of the roles of Dad and Mom is to share the emotions.  Guys sometimes instinctively do this different than ladies, but the idea is still good.  If you look at kids like a cup filled with emotion, many kids have emotion running over and spilling out everywhere.  If Dads or Moms . . . or moms/dads acting as both mom and dad, can prompt kids to share their emotional experience, then the cup doesn’t spill everywhere; instead it ‘pours’ where you want it.

Kid:  Wants to learn how to skateboard

Mother:  Oh, tell me about that, how does skateboarding make you feel?

Dad:  Let’s go look at skateboarding videos and you can tell me all about it.

 

Dads and Moms have different methods, and that’s ok.  When it comes to opposite logic, both protectful caregivers and dangerous risk takers can agree on hearing and understanding the emotions of our kids.

What we do after we hear those emotions? . . .  Well, that might be a topic for another day with a better sitcom analogy.  Hmmm, were there any words of wisdom in The Office . . .?

 

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Mar
23

Please Don’t Mess with My Peanut Butter

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Rev. James Snyder, Out to Pastor bloggerNormally, I’m a rather calm, cool and collected person. Actually, my creditors trying to collect things from me, mostly money, are responsible for this and I have been officially collected. If I could only collect my thoughts, but the pieces are too small and too few.

Anybody who knows me knows I am not easily rattled by anything. I let the chips fall where they may because I know from whence they came. I am not susceptible to the various rumors making their way around on a regular basis.

All the debate about global warming, for example, has not in the least disturbed my personal serenity. Some say the earth is getting warmer while others insist it is getting cooler. Who in the world are you to believe? One scientist frantically reported that if we do not do something quickly in 1500 years, the earth is going to get 10° warmer than it is right now. One can only hope he was not a Rhodes Scholar.

Then there was the hullabaloo about how harmful chocolate was to a person only to be discovered later that it has marvelous health benefits. Pass me another bonbon.

Others took potshots at coffee. Again, it was found that a morning cup of Joe is just the thing to get a person on the go.

I took all of these things in the good-natured way that is typical of Yours Truly. I try not to let anything get my dander up. In fact, I am quite proud of the humble way in which I respond to all of these negativities, usually, with a cup of coffee in one hand and a bonbon in the other.

All was going well until one morning, the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage rattled my cage. She takes great pleasure in doing something like this.

“Have you seen the trouble they are having with peanut butter?”

This caught me by surprise because I had not heard any such thing. My wife went on to explain that, in some cases, they were recalling certain peanut products. Personally, I know a few nuts that need to be recalled.

I do not mind if they fool around with global warming, and recall every car on the planet. I care not what they say about chocolate and coffee, but I go by one simple rule; do not mess with my peanut butter.

My underlying philosophy is, man shall not live by bread alone, he needs a little bit of peanut butter to hold it all together.

I am not sure who invented peanut butter, it might have been God himself; all I know it is the food of the gods. According to Wikipedia, there has never been a time in history when there was not some form of peanut butter.

It is one of the few essential items in this world that nobody can get along without. I can hardly imagine a world without this marvelous concoction, either creamy or crunchy.

There are many things I can get along without, but I cannot get along without my daily ration of peanut butter.

Some people have chocolate as comfort food. Some people’s comfort food of choice is a bag of salty potato chips. Others pamper their comfort with ice cream. And I say, to each one his own. My comfort food is simply peanut butter, preferably crunchy.

The thing about peanut butter that is so amazing is it can be used in a variety of ways. I would guess that the list is all but limitless. Hardly a month goes by that I do not discover a new way to enjoy peanut butter.

There, of course, is the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Every thoughtful and loving mother starts her young brood off on nutritious and delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwichs. If your mother was quite like my mother, she affectionately trimmed the edges, which made the peanut butter all the more delightful.

Need I mention Peanut Butter Cookies, Peanut Butter Fudge, Southern Peanut Butter Soup with Pepper Jelly, Peanut Butter Cheesecake, Peanut Butter Candy, and a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Sundae?

I’m not alone in this appreciation. “To me, peanut butter is the breakfast of champions!” opined Greg Louganis, Olympic Diver. And if anybody should know what a champion eats for breakfast, he should.

Peanut butter can be used for breakfast, lunch and supper. And for all those snacks in between.

Those who know the history of our country will remember that two Presidents of the United States were peanut farmers [Jefferson and Carter]. I am not sure of this, but I think it helped them deal with the nuts at Washington.

Of all the ways to enjoy peanut butter, there is one I prefer above all else. That is simply a nice tablespoon of peanut butter right out of the jar. If a tablespoon is not handy, several fingers will do the trick admirably.

Really, there is no wrong way to enjoy the marvelous taste of peanut butter.

Speaking of comfort food, the Bible has the perfect recipe. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4).

God has a marvelous way of taking our attention away from the trials of this world and focus our thoughts on Him.

Dr. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of God Fellowship, 1471 Pine Road, Ocala, FL 34472. He lives with his wife in Silver Springs Shores. Call him at 352-687-4240 or e-mail jamessnyder2@att.net. The church web site is www.whatafellowship.com.

SHORT VERSION = 550 WORDS

Please Don’t Mess with My Peanut Butter
Dr. James L. Snyder

Normally, I’m a rather calm, cool and collected person. Actually, my creditors trying to collect things from me, mostly money, are responsible for this and I have been officially collected. If I could only collect my thoughts, but the pieces are too small and too few.

All was going well until one morning the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage rattled my cage. She takes great pleasure in doing something like this.

“Have you seen the trouble they are having with peanut butter?”

This caught me by surprise because I had not heard any such thing. My wife went on to explain that, in some cases, they were recalling certain peanut products. Personally, I know a few nuts that need to be recalled.

My underlying philosophy is, man shall not live by bread alone, he needs a little bit of peanut butter to hold it all together.

It is one of the few essential items in this world that nobody can get along without. I can hardly imagine a world without this marvelous concoction, either creamy or crunchy.

There are many things I can get along without, but I cannot get along without my daily ration of peanut butter.

Some people have chocolate as comfort food. Some people’s comfort food of choice is a bag of salty potato chips. Others pamper their comfort with ice cream. And I say, to each one his own. My comfort food is simply peanut butter, preferably crunchy.

The thing about peanut butter that is so amazing is it can be used in a variety of ways. I would guess that the list is all but limitless. Hardly a month goes by that I do not discover a new way to enjoy peanut butter.

There, of course, is the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Every thoughtful and loving mother starts her young brood off on nutritious and delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If your mother was quite like my mother, she affectionately trimmed the edges, which made the peanut butter all the more delightful.

Need I mention Peanut Butter Cookies, Peanut Butter Fudge, Southern Peanut Butter Soup with Pepper Jelly, Peanut Butter Cheesecake, Peanut Butter Candy, and a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Sundae?

Peanut butter can be used for breakfast, lunch and supper. And for all those snacks in between.

Those who know the history of our country will remember that two Presidents of the United States were peanut farmers [Jefferson and Carter]. I am not sure of this, but I think it helped them deal with the nuts at Washington.

Of all the ways to enjoy peanut butter, there is one I prefer above all else. That is simply a nice tablespoon of peanut butter right out of the jar. If a tablespoon is not handy, several fingers will do the trick admirably.

Really, there is no wrong way to enjoy the marvelous taste of peanut butter.

Speaking of comfort food, the Bible has the perfect recipe. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4).

God has a marvelous way of taking our attention away from the trials of this world and focus our thoughts on Him.

Dr. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of God Fellowship, 1471 Pine Road, Ocala, FL 34472. He lives with his wife in Silver Springs Shores. Contact him at jamessnyder2@att.net. The church web site is www.whatafellowship.com.

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As more and more look to work from home given the present state of things, it’s important to know some ways to implement it.  If you haven’t done it previously it can seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be.  These tips should help.

10 Tips for Working Virtually:

  1. Set up a dedicated area. If you can convert a room or a part of a room to an office that is the best scenario.  Find a place where the interruptions are less frequent and also away from barking dogs and other distractions.  Being able to shut the door too is a godsend.  However, work with what you have.
  2. Internet is crucial. Repeat the internet is crucial.  Get it set up and know what to do if it happens to go down.  If your company provides tech support utilize it. However, don’t wait until the last minute.  If major companies send everyone home to work, your favorite tech support guy is going to be extremely busy.  So get prepared.
  3. Test your equipment and work out any bugs. I’d love to say this is going to be a flawless operation, but that’s not necessarily the case. Those who have worked from home for years (I’m at 35 years) know that things happen and how you deal with it is what can save you.  A quick Google search or a YouTube video might be just the answer you need.  If not, talk with someone with experience and get their recommendations.
  4. Back up all work. Your company more than likely had back-ups already in place. But now that you are home it’s imperative that you set this up immediately.  A flash drive, cloud storage such as Dropbox, and also Carbonite are good recommendations.  I have them all.
  5. Skype and Zoom will be your best friends. These allow you to have audio and video conferences. Before you have a conference, learn the basics and test that you can be heard and seen.  Nothing is more frustrating than someone attending a meeting and you can’t hear or see the person who is there.  Valuable time can be wasted here.
  6. Set up your webcam. Invest in a good one too. More importantly though check it out and see how you look.  When it’s too close all you can see is your face and close up that can be not the most flattering.  Also review your background.  Anything that is in view should be cleaned up. Now is not the time to see your 20 bottles of old Diet Cokes you haven’t thrown away. I mean who does that? (Guilty as charged!)
  7. Discuss your needs with your family and any friends. Be firm on the fact that you’re working and just because you are home, you can’t talk for hours or go for coffee.  If you have children let them know you need to work as well.  They might love the fact that mom or dad is at home now and that’s awesome, but it can add additional stress you don’t need especially as you are trying to figure out your work arrangement.
  8. With small children prepare now and have a goodie basket of things such as crayons, coloring books, books, etc. that you can give them to help keep them busy allowing you to take calls and work. The Dollar Store can make this less expensive or make some of your own by printing out coloring pages.  Of course, prepare depending on your child’s age.  And no too many cartoons or Netflix right now is not bad!  They have probably heard the news too and this can be relaxing for them.
  9. When on important calls or conferences, be sure to turn off any distractions. If you are on Skype, turn your phone off so you can’t hear voice mails. Log out of email programs such as Outlook so all your notifications don’t appear if you have it set up that way.  If you have a dog that barks every time someone knocks on the door put a note on the door not to knock.  UPS has hurt many a conference call for me so I do this every time now.  What else?  Review what your needs might be and plan accordingly.
  10. Write down all your passwords. I’ll leave it at that.  You’ll thank me later for that one!

Remain calm. This is a situation that in and of itself is extremely stressful.  Then you top that with having to figure out how to work virtually.  Try and relax and take it a step at a time.  Take frequent breaks and reach out to friends when too stressed.  We will all get through this, but hopefully some of these tips helped.  If you have additional tips please do leave them in the comments below or if you have questions, let me know.

 

About the Author

Diana Ennen, Virtual Marketing bloggerDiana Ennen is the President of Virtual Word Publishing, www.virtualwordpublishing.com, where she offers PR and Marketing, book marketing, PR and Virtual Assistant Coaching, VA services, writing and editing, ghost writing, and so much more.   She has been featured in all major media including Forbes, Fox, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc. Radio, Woman’s World Magazine, and too many to mention and gets her clients in these publications as well. Email her for more information at moc.gnihsilbupdrowlautriv@anaid. Posting is free to be reprinted as long as this bio remains.

Mar
09

The Long Game

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Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerSometimes as a parent you have to play the long game.

I like expressions, but I realize that I use many of them and don’t actually know what they mean.  Take the idiom, “Easy as Pie.”  Does that mean baking a pie is easy?  Or eating pie is easy?  In this 21st Century I can microwave a frozen pie — that’s easy.  I’m not sure that baking pies from scratch ‘the ol’ fashioned way’ was easy.  Maybe stealing pies from windowsills is easy . . .

Luckily there is Google.  I am currently looking up the expression ‘the long game:’

The Urban Dictionary says the long game is having a long term plan, long term goals, or doing things now that set you up for the future.

That’s what I hoped it meant.  Still don’t know where it originated, but that will be a Google for another time.

I’m using the expression ‘the long game’ with parenting because sometimes we don’t get immediate results from our parenting interventions.  When kids are little there is more of an immediate turnaround on parenting instruction.

 

Me:  Eat your spaghetti-o’s

Kid:  [munch munch]

Easy.

As they get older there is more of a delay in what your kids experience as the payoff of parent instruction.

  • You’re the worst Dad ever!
  • I’m going to do it my way.
  • Dad, let me make my own decisions!
  • I’m going to rent a house and move in with three friends that have no morals.

All the above statements are versions of the same thing.  It’s natural for your kids to want to be independent and find out things for themselves.  This is especially true as they get older.

As a Dad, I can tell my kid not to play in the road.  The immediate consequences are extreme.

As kids get older, I can tell my kids not to try drugs . . .  the mid-term consequences are extreme.

As my teenage kids contemplate moving out into ‘real life’ I can advise them to make a budget, manage their time, to not use credit cards, to not be alone for copious amounts of time with people of the opposite sex (until they’re married) . .

The consequences from these actions might not be immediate or even mid-term . . . but they can have some extreme long-term effects.

A budget is a great example.  Right now, my 18year old son is working at Dairy Queen.  We, mostly my wife, have been stressing to him to build a budget and put money toward the things that are important; like education.

However, he gets paid a pittance at Dairy Queen and doesn’t want to save money.  According to him, he barely has enough money to cover his necessities.

Which, but the way, there is some disagreement regarding the definition of the late-teenage version of ‘necessities.’  Both my wife and I have to frequently restrain ourselves from reminding him about REAL LIFE and bills and mortgage and health insurance.  Right now his necessity is gas for his car and money to frequently go to McDonalds.

So, doing a budget isn’t a high priority to him now.  We stress it for the Long Game; we want him to have a budget in the future when he has real necessities.

 

Future Daughter in Law:  I’m really glad that you learned how to budget from your parents, or else we’d never have money to pay our insurance deductible.

My Son:  Yeah, my Dairy Queen salary really is stretched to the limit.

Ok, that was supposed to be funny.  Dairy Queen.  Salary.  If you’ve ever worked fast-food you might be laughing.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you plan to Dad the Long Game:

Start as early as you can:  How early is too early?

“Look Emily, I got you a cute little budget-shaped pacifier . . . “

Seriously, the things that you want them to know when they are in their 20’s you should start mentioning now.

Here’s a verse from the Bible (Proverbs 22:6) that is comforting to many parents parenting for the Long Game:

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Reinforce Reinforce Reinforce:  I’m sure ‘training up a child’ in the above verse is more than just mentioning it once.  If you want your kids to wait to have sex until marriage, start repeating ‘when you get married’ any opportunity regarding the opposite sex.   Keep repeating the important long-term wisdom you want them to absorb.

The Bible talks about some extreme measures for doing this with the truths in the Bible

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 New International Version (NIV)

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Be patient: – it’s a “Long Game” remember?  This, and the next point are probably the hardest things to do as your kids get older.  You may notice that they are making unwise or even unrighteous decisions as they are becoming independent.  Sure, you can advise them to get back on track, but after that, you have only to wait and . . .

Trust God and your actions.  Every boy and girl can get heady and throw out ALL of our instruction, wisdom and righteousness.  But, through God’s mercy there are times where our training kicks in, or our conscience reminds us of things our Dads taught us, and it keeps kids from screwing up . . . or screwing up so badly.

We just need to do our part for the long game, then, when it’s out of our control, we watch the game play out.  Come to think of it now, clearly this analogy of the Long Game is related to the game of Monopoly.  Have you ever really finished a game of Monopoly? – Especially before EVERYONE got in a fight.  So much like raising kids . . . .

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Feb
27

Top Ways to Be More Creative While Working from Home

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pc: pixabay

Whether you’re a freelancer or a remote employee, working from home certainly beats the drudgery of having to commute to work, attend pointless meetings, and all the other things that annoy you at your workplace. Of course, as I have learned, there’s a downside to everything no matter how good it may seem. Working from home day in and day out can leave you feeling creatively drained and increasingly stressed as there’s no leaving work behind at the end of the day. While this may seem like a catch 22 situation, there is a way out. Here are a few tricks and strategies that usually help me when I hit a creative slump. 

Simple Strategies to Keep the Creativity Flowing when You Work from Home

Step Out and Smell the Roses

Granted, the odors that greet you could sometimes be offensive, depending on where you live, but that’s not the point. Staying cooped up in your house will take a toll on your creativity and it’s important to get a change of scenery from time to time. Whether it’s your backyard, front porch, the neighborhood coffee shop, or a public park, spending a few hours outdoors can be invigorating for your creativity. You can use this time either as break from work or to work outdoors, depending on what suits you.

Collaborate

We’re all wired differently and some of us thrive with solitude, while others will find their creativity withering away. Working from home can be pretty lonely and even a solitary creature like me eventually starts to miss the friendly office banter, the helpful feedback, and the unhelpful disruptions. There are times when all you need is a second opinion or someone to bounce ideas off to give you that much needed creative spark. Connect with a friend or a trusted colleague, or collaborate with other freelancers if you can. 

Find Your Inner Peace

It’s easy to lose focus and burnout quickly because creative minds also tend to be incredibly chaotic. That lack of quiet time for your mind translates into stress and anxiety. When levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, are elevated most of the time, cognitive function starts to suffer and creativity becomes challenging. The best thing you could do would be to start each day with a few minutes of meditation. Mindfulness-based meditation techniques are so effective at restoring calm, lowering stress, and helping you focus that they are also used in clinical programs to treat anxiety disorders and depression. 

Get Physical

Stress can impair creativity not just because of the rise in cortisol levels, but also because of the reduction in serotonin and dopamine levels. These neurotransmitters don’t just influence your mood, but also play a role in cognitive functions like creative thinking, learning, and retention. Evidence shows that regular exercise can improve this neurochemical balance to give you a cognitive boost. From personal experience, I’ve found that morning exercise is one of the most effective strategies to keep my creativity levels high throughout the day. It’s also worth noting that these benefits are linked not just too high intensity exercise, but also to mild and moderate activities like walking, swimming, jogging, and cycling. 

Take Routine Breaks

It’s easy to get carried away when you feel like you’re on the cusp of a breakthrough, pushing on relentlessly despite the fact that your brain needs a break. To avoid a burnout, you need to take short and period breaks to let off some steam. Watching funny animal videos and spending time with my fur babies works wonders for me, but you can even do household chores, watch some standup comedy, or play a quick game. Just make sure to do something that takes your mind off work for at least 5 to 20 minutes. When you get back to work, you’ll find that your creativity is back too.

Don’t Skip Meals or Overeat

It can be tempting to skip breakfast, snack at any time, or have heavy meals when you’re working from home. This might not seem like a big deal, but your food intake actually has a significant impact on energy levels and creativity. Irregular meal timings and overeating can increase indigestion, causing a wide range of gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, tummy aches, and worse, which can interfere with your creative output. Additionally, some nutrients like omega-3 fats are particularly important for healthy brain function. 

While all of these methods will help you be more creative when working from home, they won’t do you much good if you can’t maintain a healthy work-life balance. Working from home gives you the opportunity to have the best of both worlds, so give it all you’ve got and make it work. The teething phase can be tough, but it’s worth it in the end. 

 

Categories : Articles, Jill's Blog
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Feb
07

3 Ways to Grow Your Ecommerce Business

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You didn’t start your ecommerce business to see it struggle and flounder in its market. You took the plunge and embarked on this money-making venture because you were sure that it would prove successful in the long-run. If you’re to reach your goals as a business owner and ensure that your online store turns over massive amounts of profit, you must seek to improve it at all times.

To find out what you must do to grow your ecommerce business, be sure to read on.

 

Track your analytics and leverage your data

Tracking your ecommerce analytics is the first thing that you must do in your bid to grow your business. This will allow you to gauge and leverage your data, which in turn will help you to pinpoint and subsequently fix any pain points that you have.

By successfully managing to track your analytics and leverage your data, you will stand to reap the following key benefits:

  • You will find it easier to keep your finger on the pulse of the latest consumer trends
  • You will be able to maintain a keen eye on which of your channels are helping you to grow your business, and which are holding your site back from reaching its full potential.
  • You will be able to track the sales approach of your internal team as well as the daily engagement of your users and vendors

 

Make it personal

Your audience members want to be made to feel like individuals every time they access your site. To ensure that you are able to capture the interests and imagination of these unique shoppers, you must strive to personalize your ecommerce business.

This can be achieved by:

  • Individualizing your promotions and product selection to ensure that is tailored for each unique shopper that accesses your site
  • Collect cookies so that you can remember customers preferences and create personalized homepages for them
  • Offer guides, on-site assistance, and size and style guides that are unique
  • Display recently viewed items
  • Take location into account
  • Base your ad campaigns on previous user behavior
  • Get personal when it comes to email marketing (personalize subject lines, email subscribers on their birthdays, re-engage inactive leads, etc.)
  • Provide your users with personalized recommendations to suit their style

 

Go mobile

If your ecommerce site isn’t accessible on mobile devices, you’re going to leave a lot of money on the table and, even worse, you’re going to ruin your reputation. If you want to prove that you are capable of providing a service that is befitting of today, it’s essential that your mobile users are able to access your site at all times.

To ensure that this is the case, you need to invest in a robust m-commerce platform. This will help you to remain competitive in the mobile computing industry and it will even allow you to offer mobile-specific services.

If you want to grow your ecommerce business and truly take it to the next level, it’s essential that you put all of the above advice into practice.

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Jan
14

Marketing Offline Can Increase Your Online Business

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jill-new14The Internet can be a scary place for those looking for a home-based business opportunity. The fear of not connecting personally with others is one concern and many people have been “taken” by online scams in their search for a legitimate business and are fearful to take any more risks. One way to overcome fears such as these is to market your online business locally. By simply offering the person a contact that they can speak to and possibly even meet face to face you will making the statement that your business is legitimate and trustworthy.

It is effective to market your online business locally primarily because potential customers and business recruits prefer to have the option of speaking with the business owner face to face. By attracting customers locally, you can maximize the opportunities to meet with them. You will no longer be that “someone they found online,” but someone that they will be able to relate to and feel confident doing business with.

But how do you market locally? Here are some excellent tips:

Besides the common local advertising routes, such as Newspaper Ads, Yellow Pages, Etc., another effective (and inexpensive) way to advertise locally is to post business related flyers around your community. Many grocery stores, libraries, bookstores, and office supply stores offer bulletin boards for this purpose. Make yours stand out and be recognized, yet professional enough to warrant someone trusting you with their business. Also, if possibly have a tear-off section on your flyer so they can take your number and leave your flyer.

Look for events geared toward small businesses. There are organizations, such as your local Chamber of Commerce, that hold events across the nation to help promote the small business owners. At events such as these, you can purchase a booth and make hundreds of local contacts, as well as sales, all in one day. Read More→

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Jan
02

Organizing Your New Year

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jill-new14
new year new startThe New Year is here!

I look forward this new beginning each year with a great deal of anticipation. It’s time to shake off the things of last year and look to the days of head and all of the opportunites they hold.

To help you start your year off right, here are a few thoughts for organizing your business and household for the upcoming year.

BUSINESS 

1. Files – Now is a great time to go through your files and make sure all is in order – labeled and put in a place where they are easily accessible. Take the time to throw out anything that can go and put old tax and business files into storage.

2. Desk –  A clean desk is a great way to kick off the new year. Find a place for everything and put everything in it’s place. It will help motivate you to sit down and get to work – no distractions.

3. Calendar –  Buy yourself a new calendar and/or planner and start filling that baby up. Make sure to mark in the days when there is no school (or early out days), and other items that you’ll need to keep you organized in both business and family tasks.

HOUSEHOLD 

1. Drawers and Closets – With the cold weather keeping you indoors, this is a great time to clean out those drawers and closets that need your attention. It’s also a great time to donate your gently used items.

2. Books – Just like clothing and other household goods, books can be donated to your local homeless shelter. Our local shelter has a library available to all of it’s residents. So, take time this new year to go through your books and donate those that you can part with.

3. Storage Spots –  Now that it’s time to put the Christmas decorations away, you might as well tidy up those storage areas as well. I’ve found that adding shelving to our small storage room makes it much easier to keep things organized and accessible. Also, nowadays you can buy colored totes to make separating out holiday decorations – or other items – easy.

SPIRITUAL LIFE

1. Hello/Goodbye Workbook and in this new decade, they are offering The Last 10, The Next 10, (by Jo Saxton and Stephanie O’Brien – “The ‘Hello Goodbye’ process is a tool in response to New Year’s resolutions – it is not about fixing yourself, but intentionally, prayerfully turning away from certain things, whether good or bad, and turning towards other things.  Those things might be fun (like working out!) or they may be uncomfortable, such as embracing  grief or forgiveness, but the focus is finding ways to be healthier emotionally, spiritually and physically.”

2. Joanna Weaver’s 2018 Utmost for His Highest Bible Reading Plan  –  Joanna Weaver is the author of several books, most notably Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Joanna explains a little about her 2018 reading challenge: “Each day, after reading an assigned chapter from the Bible, you’ll be encouraged to also consider that day’s entry from Oswald Chambers’ devotional classic, My Utmost for His Highest .” Joanna will be sharing updates every weekday on her blog (and I’ll be contributing in April!). You can download the free workbook when you sign up (also free) on her website: JoannaWeaverBooks.com.

 

I hope you’re as excited about this new year as I am! I’d love to hear your tips for getting organized – post them in the comments below!

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Dec
28

The Timbuktu Question

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Today’s blog article is for exhorting and empowering us dads and thereby setting an example for health and balance for our kids.

I’m going to use another one of the Great Counseling Analogies — I should do a series (three-armed man, Christmas Bicycle, the Playground, . . – actually I did one on the Playground — it was great and you can read it here http://cwahm.com/2016/articles/series-interruption-for-the-playground/ )

 The analogy involves Timbuktu; a city in Mali . . . which is a country . . . um, in Africa.  I’m not so good at geography — especially geography for different continents.  Which is the point:  Timbuktu used to be the city people would mention when they were talking about somewhere very remote on the ‘other side of the world.’*

 Plus, Timbuktu (Tim – Buck–Too) is fun to say.

 Timbuktu, Timbuktu, Timbuktu.

 But the idea of the analogy is that you consider the question: What you would do if you were starting over with a new life after moving to Timbuktu – the farthest reaches of the world where no one would know you?.

 My wife typically ruins analogies at this early point by asking too many detail questions.  “Why would I move to Timbuktu?”  “Do you get there by boat or did I fly?”

 She’s like that.  The point is – you are starting over.

  • No one would know you there
  • You wouldn’t have easy access to all your old habits
  • You’d have to focus on the basics to start over
  • All your old social connections would be gone

 . . .  You could start fresh

What would you do?

Many people have a desire to make a change, but they think that their current circumstances hold them down; their habits, their job, their feelings, their responsibilities are hurdles to their goals and desires.  A transfer to Timbuktu would thrust you out of all your current excuses for life change.  You may not be able to pick up and move to Timbuktu, but you can give your mind a fresh perspective by thinking this way.

Ask yourself some related questions:

  • If I had to form all new friendships, what would be important to me?  Are these attributes reflected in the friends I have now?

  • What disciplines would I like to include in my life if life didn’t get in the way?  How could I eliminate commitments so that life doesn’t get in the way?

  • I don’t really need much to survive, what could I cut out of my life to make it simpler?

  • What’s my schedule like in Timbuktu – do I sleep in every day or work long hours?

When you start to answer these questions, you can get a new perspective on your current life-state.  Thinking and considering the Timbuktu question is the first step.  Then you need to take action.

In all honesty, having to move to Timbuktu would be easy.  You’d HAVE to do all the things that change your life.  You’d be FORCED, by external circumstances, to make changes.

But, if you’re like me, you don’t like to be forced.  It’s also really hard to imagine how a move to Timbuktu would even be feasible in ‘real life:’

Boss:  Well, we are opening up our Mali office next month and we want you to helm the initiative of the company there.  So pack your bags, you’re moving to Timbuktu!

Rather than wait around for an external stimulus to galvanize you into some Timbuktu changes, you’ll have to do it yourself.

One option is to create an external circumstance of sorts.  You can create a change event.  Pick a date on the calendar and designate it as ‘Timbuktu Day” – the day you make changes.  I always encourage people to plan for a Timbuktu Day in many of the same ways they’d plan for a trip to Mali; tell your friends that you are having a life change, cut out all the unnecessary commitments and downsize stuff you own.  Maybe have a ‘going away’ party to start a new life.

By the way, a Timbuktu Day is a great time to incorporate some of those disciplines that are hard to maintain with a hectic life:  meditate, take some margin, enjoy a Sabbath, and take some of the extra time to read the Bible.

Joshua 1:8

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

I didn’t add that “prosperous and successful” part – that’s 100% Bible

Plan your Timbuktu Day with enough time to start planning for the trip.  Try some new schedules and disciplines now.  And, let me know if you do Timbuktu – either as a real, physical move to Mali (you would be one of my first Dads to actually do it), or as a life change in your current location.

  _________________

Very geeky addendum that I couldn’t resist because of the recent Star Wars movie:  Luke Skywalker needed the Timbuktu Question.  He needed a good reason to be assertive to his Aunt/Uncle and stop whining about Tosche Station and go join the Rebel Alliance.  Don’t wait for a bounty hunter to roast your relatives before following your dreams!

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