Thursday, September 27, 2012

One Day And It All Changed

Twenty-six years ago today I was at home in my apartment in the Art Museum section of Philadelphia vacuuming when the phone rang. It was Carmella, the neighbor who lived four houses away from my parents telling me they had rushed my father to the emergency room.

 "Get home quick. Your mother is going to need you."

I  wanted more information. I wanted to speak to my mother, but she wouldn't get on the phone. I wanted some assurance. I wanted to know that this was just a blip on the road to recovery, a journey that had begun the previous October when my father had a stroke. But I was not getting any such thing.

I called my brother. It was his first Saturday working at the job he had started that Monday.  I told him to meet me at the hospital. I told him I was scared. Really scared. I cried. In those days I didn't cry as easily as I do now. Which must have scared him too.  He told me it was going to be okay. He sounded so calm I almost believed him.

All these years later I still remember that ride up I-95 to Warminster General Hospital. It was a grey, overcast day just like it was this morning.  I kept telling myself it was going to be okay. Whatever had happened they could fix. But as much as I tried to convince myself, always the  optimist, I know when there is no space for that.  I knew that my life was forever changed. I knew before I walked into the small private room where my mother and brother sat waiting for me to arrive. I knew before they could finish that horrible sentence no one ever wants to hear.

"We did everything we could. Your father was a very sick man...."

I screamed. Loudly. Me, the one who never screams.  The one who everyone in the family counts on to stay calm in moments of real crisis. No one was more surprised than me.

The doctor suggested I calm down, that perhaps I might need something to help.  I shouted that I didn't need any medication.

"My father just died! Why shouldn't I be screaming?"

I was the one who asked to see him. I wanted proof.  My life had changed in the space of a moment. I needed that proof.

The memories of the rest of that day and the days that followed are not as clear. Except for that awareness that everything looked and felt different to me. His energy, his big, rousing and captivating energy had left this plane and moved on to another.

My mother was right when she told me that no matter how sad I felt then,  how much one event  had changed everything, life would go on and I with it.

That doesn't mean there is a day that goes by when I have not thought about him at least once. Something happens and I am reminded of his smile, his laugh, his pervasive energy that lit up a room like few people I have ever met. And then of course those moments when I feel his presence next to me, protecting me, sometimes nudging me forward.

I hadn't planned on writing this blog today, but it felt necessary. This anniversary I am missing him more than usual. For no logical reason. Except he was my father. And I was his little girl.

The last full family photo, taken exactly one week before Dad passed at my cousin's wedding.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Six Things You Should Know About Blogging

The other day a friend who is relatively new to blogging asked me if my blog had helped me professionally.  I could tell by the look on her face that she still wasn't sold on the idea of blogging, nor were her posts flowing freely. I could also tell that she was wondering just exactly how a blog equated to paying the rent.

The thing is, there is no direct line to the cash. Which is the dirty truth that no one wants to speak about for most marketing.  But that doesn't make it any less important. In a digital age, a blog can serve as an interactive platform for who you are or who your business is. If you approach it right, a blog can lay the groundwork that will eventually translate into revenue for whatever products or services you offer. But if you think that every time you post an article, a new client will appear, think again.

I like to think of blogging as I do most social media. It's free marketing. I'll repeat that. FREE. And because I like to write. No, slash that,  LOVE to write, blogging for me is fun. Which is very important to mention if you are of the ilke that believe there is no reason to do anything if you are not making money. Fun is a reason to do a lot of things. Carol Burnett was recently interviewed on The View. She was asked if she had any idea in 1967, the first year it aired,  the impact The Carol Burnett Show would have on television. Her answer was no. All that had been agreed upon with the cast was that no matter what, they were going to have fun with each other. See what can happen when you're having fun!

If you are having fun, chances are the voice you are writing in will be much more authentic. Authenticity is how you build your following, your audience or in the words of Seth Godin, your tribe. And by authentic, I mean authentic. Not artificially authentic.

I started this blog almost four years ago. It hasn't made me rich. At least not yet. But it has worked for me. This is what I know that might help you.

1. It's a stake in the ground that says who or what you are. I launched this blog on November 18, 2008,  just three months into my non-corporate life. I was on unsteady feet, not sure exactly what my life moving forward was going to look like. Creating this blog was symbolic for me. It was a place for me to come to, every day, to evaluate, to think and to shout to the world that I was on a new adventure. No, I did not blog every day, but I did hang out here quite a bit when I was trying to figure out what to write.

2. A blog is a platform, a calling card, a giant billboard if you will, of who you are. Whether you are a CEO or an entrepreneur, a blog that you consistently contribute to is part of your digital platform. It is a chance for you to share expertise, ideas and information. Somedays, but never every day, it will include shameless self-promotion.  When I meet someone new,  I invite them to stop by.  It's a chance for them to get a better idea of who I am, how I think and what I have to offer that they might need.

3. Blog because you have something to say that you think is worth sharing. A lot of people  approach blogging as a chore. Something they should be doing instead of wanting to do.  Many start blogging with the intention of getting attention. Or new customers. Or people to sign up for their latest  class or buy their latest widget. Yes, I have that fantasy that the next blog I write might be the one that goes viral or soars my books to the #1 spot on the New York Times Best Seller List. But trust me, when I have tried to make that happen, it's a disaster.  What I have found works best is to blog when I have an idea that I think might be helpful and shareworthy. (and yes, I do try and have those ideas at least once a week!)

4. Write for you first. If you write to please others, that's exactly how you will come across.  Don't over think. As a writer, I consider my blog writing practice unleashed. I never think it my best writing, because I don't give it as much time as I would a full length article or book. But it is my writing. And I try to make it good writing. Plus it does give me the thrill of hitting that publish button as often as I like.

5. Blog because you can. Less than one hundred years ago women were not allowed to vote in this country. Today not only can I vote, but blogging has given me the freedom to voice whatever I am thinking without censure. I don't need a big corporation behind me to fund my writing (although I am always opening to funding ;))  My blog is my contribution to the greater good. Hopefully. A place where I can say what I want and trust that at least one other person, somewhere, benefits from that.

6. Sometimes my blog goes on vacation.  Like these last few weeks. It gets tired. It needs a break from all this on-line interaction. The writer in me gets involved in other writing projects, not to mention coaching.  Sometimes I can get so in the writing flow of that project, that I can't stop.  Even though I know consistency is important in the care and feeding of a blog, I take the gamble that I won't lose too many readers in its absence.

I hope I didn't lose too many while I was gone.

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