Category Archives: Musings

How Social Media is Changing Everything

Many of you know I work in social media. Yes, I really do “tweet for a living,” though it’s so much more than that. Social media has huge promise, and I’m constantly testing new things, attending conferences and webinars, reading blogs and trying to learn as much as I can.

All that is well and good. But when it finally comes together, and you can see the implications of social media for our lives, I get chills.

Two weeks ago, after leaving a couple days of unplugged bliss in Florida, I went to the opposite end of the spectrum: HIMSS11, a tradeshow with 30,000+ attendees that serves as the annual meeting for the Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society.

There, for the first time in my social media “career,” I saw how all the pieces can come together in tweetups, videos and QR codes. Read more over at Mastering Data Management.

Have you had an “aha” moment about your job?

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Unplugged

Early Friday morning, after a crazy week of midterms and tradeshow prep, I paced my front porch before dawn, waiting for the cab to take me to the airport. I had gotten home from class at 11 PM the night before and frantically packed for a weekend away and a tradeshow, finally crashing into bed around 1 AM before rising again at 4:30. I tossed and turned in between, fretting I wouldn’t wake up with the alarm.

To top it off, my cab was 30 stress-filled minutes late.

But Friday at noon, I rented a brand-new Corolla and drove away from all of that, windows down, hair whipping around, sunglasses framing my gaze at palm trees. I had miscalculated my layers and was sweating in running shoes and jeans, but the sweat felt so good – warm and summery.

For two hours I drove south into increasingly rural Florida. The speed limits increased as the scenery changed from Orlando sprawl to orange groves and cows.

And then I arrived. I stayed a wonderful weekend with my 85-year-old grandma at her senior retirement community, comprised of a couple hundred small homes, many of which are converted RVs. The pace of life is entirely different: my cell phone picks up only the weakest single bar of Edge network signal, and the internet is an optional expense and experience. As we watched TV Friday night, my grandma asked if I had heard anything about “that Facebook thing,” and I smiled, telling her that indeed, it’s part of my job and I’m always connected.

All day, we watched people walking and biking  (and golf carting) up the street to the community center, where the pool, laundry facilities and a host of daily activities form the nucleus of the little neighborhood. A schedule of activities on her fridge lists several options for each day, from bingo and crafts to health screenings and shrimp boils.

It was exactly what I needed. I sent a couple idle tweets as we were in town to eat out, but for the most part, I was cut off, and after the initial twitching, it was bliss.

Saturday, I slept in, waking up with a face full of Floridian sunshine, and after a light breakfast, went for a fabulous run. Since the community is hemmed between a highway and a lake, my route was limited, so I zig-zagged up the streets and around a pond, and then through an orange grove, with trees dotted with fruit ripe for picking. Afterwards, I went for my second swim of the weekend, soaking up sunshine and warmth and peace.

Sunday morning we went out for a leisurely breakfast. “What would you like to do?” Grandma asked once we returned, bellies full of French toast and coffee, facing just a few hours before I had to leave.

“Sunshine,” I answered, knowing that although I would spend a few more days in Florida, I would be trapped inside a windowless, over-air conditioned convention center.

So we sat on her patio in lawn chairs, our books unopened as we chatted idly in the sunshine. We didn’t talk non-stop, and the comfortable silences were filled with enjoying a beautiful summer day – in February.

Reluctantly, I packed up the car, grabbed a couple oranges off her tree, squeezed Grandma tight, and drove north. Soon my phone dinged with emails and missed tweets, but I ignored them, trying to savor the unplugged peace as long as possible.

I need to do that more often.

How do you unplug? I often unplug for a few hours on a weekend – or an entire weekend day, when possible – but this was so much better.

2011: Ready, Set, GO!

Well, here we are, December 31, the waning hours of the year. I’ve fought through the entirety of Reverb10, including the redundant prompts and the ones that made me scratch my head. There were well thought-out posts (Appreciating the Questions, Awake). There were lists (11 Things I Don’t Need in 2011 and 10 Tips to Achieve Balance). There were prompts I really didn’t like, and a couple times I had to write multiple posts in a day to catch up. (Including yesterday and today.) But I stuck with it, for better or worse, and I’m satisfied.

The final #reverb10 prompt tries to sum things up, asking, “What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world?”

While the duplicative prompts were annoying, they did serve to suss out some key themes. Namely, 2010 has been a year of so much change, but the change has been very positive because I have embraced and enabled it. Along the way, I have said yes to all kinds of new things, and opening those doors has greatly enhanced my life. I’ll continue to do so in 2011, as I’m sure there are still fascinating doors to open and uncharted paths to follow.

Doing so has greatly expanded my world and the community I live in. I love Elgin, and in 2010, I discovered even more community and feel so lucky to be a part of it. I’ve become more active on Twitter and other social networks and have loved the results as I’ve increasingly brought those relationships into real life.

I’m also more active than I’ve ever been, and movement has become an important part of who I am. I get twitchy if a few days go by between workouts, and a 15 minute walk at lunch can really clear the head and reset my day. A year ago, I was still struggling to make myself work out. Now, even when pressed for time, it’s part of who I am, as is eating well. Moving, eating and sleeping have fueled great days and made everything else possible.

I’m looking forward to an even better 2011, full of surprises and adventures. I’ve had two weeks off work, so I’m ready to GO!

Happy New Year to you! Let’s make next year great!

Gifts of Time and Self

On the heels of Christmas, I’ve been thinking about gifts a lot, both given and received. I had a great Christmas and got a lot of fantastic gifts – a North Face wicking jacket that has been fantastic for cold-weather running, a crock pot and some terrific new pots, lots of kitchen gadgets, clothes, the most cuddly fleece PJs I’ve ever worn, tools and even a crowbar.

Yesterday’s #reverb10 asked, “This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?”

Besides the physical gifts, I’ve really been lucky to get the gift of time with loved ones. I see my parents far more than I used to, and I love it. The hours (and hours, and hours) spent painting the front of the house were time well-spent for reasons beyond home improvement.

I’ve also received a gift of self – I feel much more centered, balanced and at peace with myself than a year ago. That didn’t require a credit card, and it didn’t come with a gift receipt, but I wouldn’t return it for anything.

What’s your favorite gift from this year?

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.

The Little Defining Moments

I’m running out of juice for #reverb10 – many of the prompts feel repetitive, and it’s been a long month. But I’m so close, I feel like I have to finish!

The 12/29 prompt asks about the defining moment(s) of 2010. (Defining Moment: Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.)

Not coincidentally, the defining moments included those when I felt most alive. Finishing my first 5k, making big decisions, hanging out with new friends in new places. Essentially, 2010 was the year of change and adventure and new things.

Every decision I made, from the big hairy decisions (the breakup) to the simple “sure” responses to various invitations to new places and new things helped define me and the year.  And I won’t really understand their true impact until years down the road. It’s hard to define your year when the year isn’t quite over and you haven’t yet realized what was really important or set the stage for other things.

So maybe it’s an easy way out of a prompt, but it fits.

How about you? What was your defining moment of 2010?

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.

10 Tips to Achieve Balance

Achieving is good. Setting and reaching goals really helps make me tick. So when the 12/28 #reverb10 prompt asked about achievement, I was ready. (What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.)

But then I realized that there’s not one big thing I want to achieve next year. I won’t finish my degree – though I’ll spend the entire year in school. I don’t have time to train for a marathon, so I’ll stick with the two halves I’m planning to run (the Jan 29 F*ing Freezing Half and the Indy Mini in May). Those will be great achievements, I’m sure.

I can seek to achieve better balance, though. I’m well on my way, but by remaining constantly aware of how important balance is, I can come closer to achieving it. Achieving balance isn’t a single “aha” moment. There’s no diploma for balance, and I can’t cross it off a to-do list.

But I can remind myself to live a balanced life by eyeballing my schedule and adjusting as much as I can. I know it won’t be perfect. There will be weekends filled with homework and frustration, and I’m sure the kitchen floor will again go too long between scrubbings. Too many months will pass before I see some friends, and I may cancel a fun outing due to sheer exhaustion. But balance requires some of that quiet couch time, too. And I can’t beat myself up about not doing “fun” things when I’m instead taking care of myself.

So balance it is! Balance won’t complete me or free me – rather, it will continue to fuel the alive feeling I’ve grown to love and crave.

My balance action plan:

1) Stretch, every day. Connecting the body and mind are essential to starting the day right.

2) Say yes to new things. You never know what you may discover.

3) But be able to say no.

4) Move every day. Whether it’s a formal workout or just a quick walk around the block, taking 15 minutes to move can reset your perspective and clear your head.

5) Read something for leisure. While school reading increasingly usurps my fiction and even newspaper reading time, I try to at least read one poem every evening before bed.

6) Couch time. Even just an hour one night a week, with a glass of wine and a quiet house is therapeutic in its own right.

7) Write frequently. #reverb10 is helping create this habit, though I know daily is not realistic in the long term. But being creative is just as important – if not moreso – as consuming content.

8. Reconsider clutter. I’ve spent the last week cleaning out the basement, guest room, closets, dressers… I need to be more proactive about keeping junk from coming into the house in the first place.

9) Go somewhere. As I’ve written, I love to travel and haven’t done nearly enough lately. I’m changing that.

10) Walk the talk. All these tips are well and good, but I’ll only achieve balance if I actually walk the talk.

How do you achieve balance? What will you do differently in 2011?

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.

Ordinary Joy

If you don’t find joy in the ordinary, then why bother? There are rarely enough “big” events full of official joy – weddings, birthdays, Christmas – to sustain a person through the whole year. Instead, look for small bits of joy in daily life, in the ordinary, to fuel your days and weeks.

I find joy in all kinds of little mundane things, from lying in bed, watching the sun rise over the river to falling asleep at night with a purring cat next to me. There’s joy in opening the daily paper, hearing the rustling of the newsprint, and seeing the resulting ink smudges on my fingers. There’s joy in finishing the crossword puzzle or in hearing my dad serenade my mom, crooning Motown songs to her on long family car trips.

I find joy in crossing things off my to-do list, but also in putting new projects on the list, excited to get started and see ideas come to fruition. I was nearly overwhelmed with joy when I found my favorite tea at a shop in Geneva a couple weeks ago, after searching for it for four or five years.

There’s joy in finishing a race, or even in just pushing through a tough workout, knowing that I accomplished more than sitting on the couch. Joy in discovering connections among my friends, in realizing how small the world is. Joy in getting emails from long-lost friends or notifications of blog comments. Joy in walking in fresh air after a long day trapped in the office. Joy in Christmas lights, in quiet evenings at home, reading or writing and enjoying the peace. Joy in turning the key to my home, knowing I’ve created a comfortable nest for myself.

There’s joy in so many mundane moments that it’s nearly impossible to catalog them all or pick a “most joyful.” It’s the combination of them that gets me up in the morning, knowing that there will be moments of joy and bliss in the day ahead, and it’s my job to enable them when possible and enjoy them no matter what.

Where do you find joy in your daily life?

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more. This prompt asked, “Ordinary Joy: Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?”

Feeding the Soul

2010 was the year I really learned to cook. So when the 12/26 prompt asked, “Soul Food: What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?” several answers popped to mind.

I ate really well this year, better than ever before. There were fantastic meals at great restaurants that I remember fondly, but it was the casual lunch I ate alone in Coronado that is seared into my memory. After a morning of walking along the ocean, barefoot despite the chill (but oh-so-warm for a Chicagoan in February), watching the waves crash into the shore, I put my shoes back on and walked along the quaint little strip of downtown Coronado. I wanted fish tacos, and I wanted to sit outside, since I was returning to a snowy Chicago that evening. I passed a couple places that looked rather touristy and finally settled into Miguel’s Cocina, just off the main drag near the Hotel del Coronado (thanks, Mint.com for helping the memory). It was noon on a Friday, and I was the only one sitting outside – it was “chilly” by San Diego standards so the other patrons were all indoors. The sun felt so good on my winter skin, and I ordered a small pitcher of sangria to go with my tacos. The salsa was mild with just a hint of spice, and the chips were fresh and warm. The tacos were delicious – exactly what I didn’t know I was craving – well seasoned, perfectly portioned. They tasted like summer, as did the sangria. I people watched and planned and thought, and was very sad when I had to leave and grab a cab off the island, especially given that the evening meal was fast food at the airport.

But beyond the restaurant meals, learning how to cook and balance flavors and textures and high-quality ingredients has taught me how to feed the soul on a regular basis. In years past, cooking for myself meant soup and sandwiches and rice-a-roni, with the occasional venture into tacos or chili made from spice-packet recipes. As I’ve branched out, the things I cook now are truly nourishing and help provide some much needed balance and nutrition on busy days. I really look forward to dinner time when I have something good to eat. Looking at cooking as part of the entire eating experience – from planning, experimenting and execution to sitting down at the table with a glass of wine – is so much better than the nuked Trader Joe’s burrito eaten on the couch. It’s creative, and, when done properly, gives me multiple lunches and dinners for days when I don’t have the luxury of time.

How about you? What feeds your soul?

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.

Pictures of 2010

I’ve never really liked pictures of myself, but I had a few good ones this year. Today’s #reverb10 prompt asks, “Photo – a present to yourself: Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.”

I took this photo of myself on a cool August day just before rain rolled in. I’d had a fantastic day at work – everything was humming along nicely – and I felt really GOOD. I rarely wear my hair back but had done so on a whim that morning and liked it.

I got home and decided to see if I could capture the energy and joy I felt. The first couple takes inside didn’t go so well – the lighting wasn’t right and gave off that yellow incandescent hue. So I scooped up the MacBook (I was using the Photobooth app) and went outside, just as it was starting to rain. I balanced the laptop on my patio table and had to turn it a couple times to avoid ugly backgrounds. I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

 

The other one I really liked while sifting through pictures was taken right after the Helping Hands 5k, when I had finally shattered the 30 minute mark in a race. My ex took the picture with his phone – he had raced, too, and cheered me in – and I was thrilled about my 28:36 time. It had been a really cool morning that necessitated a hoodie while leaving the house, but the run had warmed me up, and the sun was really bright.

 

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.

As the World Turns, So Do I

Even when things are whirling and swirling, I know it’s all going to be ok. Better than ok. Everything’s going to be great.

Yesterday’s #reverb10 prompt posed this question: Everything’s OK: What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

For me, it’s the continuity of the little things. Knowing that how crazy and chaotic things seem, my newspapers will be waiting at the end of the driveway when the some comes up tomorrow. There will be coffee in the house. (I make sure of that.) The cat will greet me when I get home, following me around like a puppy, happy to see me.

There will be annoying people on the train, but they’ll give me good stories to tell.

My work laptop will blue screen.

People will tweet.

I’ll consider going out for a run.

I’ll eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and a couple snacks in between.

All these things that happen daily help reassure me that everything’s fine. Because as long as the earth keeps turning, so will I.

Merry Christmas!

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.