Archive for February, 2010

The ultimate universal health care plan

In her book Kitchen Table Wisdom, Rachel Naomi Remen talks about a support group for parents and their diabetic teens and how effective it was. She saw that their life experience was more valuable than any professional medical credential.

She also says:

I do not think that we will be able to attain health for all until we realize that we are all providers of each other’s heath, and value what we have to offer each other as much as what experts have to offer us.

She goes on to say:

We are all wounded healers of each other. We have earned the wisdom to heal and the ability to care.”

This healing often occurs in the form of listening and storytelling.

Imagine…universal health care where wounded healers are the practitioners.

I don’t suppose congress is giving this much consideration as they debate the health care bill.

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Friday mental health break: “Good ‘Ol Charlie Brown”

Peanuts This book, The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952, is worth owning for the cover alone.

I keep the book propped upright on a table and I smile every time I walk past it.

These comics are the first Peanuts comics and the simplicity of the storytelling and artwork in these early comics is so refreshing.

If storytelling is part of your life (and I hope it is), making the occasional foray into the world of Peanuts would be well worth your while.

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Using storytelling to express feelings

Feelings and emotions are two different things.

Sometimes a person expresses their emotion very easily but has trouble articulating what her underlying feelings are.

This isn’t surprising seeing as how feelings are sometimes very different from, and more complicated than, the emotion.

For example, someone that has an angry outburst may be feeling hurt and rejected because you didn’t take the time to notice the effort they put into a project.

Emotions are like the static on a radio and can be off putting. If you want to help someone take the time to dial in to your frequency – to what your actual feelings are – try telling a story.

Step back from your emotion and tell the underlying story of what you are feeling.

This also works when it is the other person that is showing emotion.

A lecture or yelling at them to be quiet won’t work. But even if they are in a frenzied state, a story will capture their attention and help them calm down enough to tune into their own feelings

A story from your past about when you were in a similar situation, especially if you use humor and plenty of self-deprecation, will often do the trick.

So the next time you, or someone you are with, are really worked up with emotion about something, ask yourself what the underlying story is and try to tell it.

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We are caretakers of each other’s stories

Whenever I get together with the woman who was my best friend in college, we inevitably tell each other stories from our college days.

Because we were roommates for three years and spent an enormous amount of time together, she is part of most of my college stories.

Fortunately we have many shared memories. Yet many times, when I tell her a college story about the two of us, she doesn’t remember the particular memory I’m talking about. The same thing happens when she tells me a story about something the two of us did. I can’t recall that memory.

We always laugh about this and neither one of us can figure out why this happens.

It’s almost as if, when the actual event happened, I subconsciously said to myself, “I don’t have to remember this because she will.” And vice versa.

It’s also frustrating because some of the stories she tells are wildly interesting and I wish I could remember them!

I don’t know what to make of this except to say that it’s like each of us has been appointed to be caretaker of some of the other person’s stories. For some reason, it’s my job to keep the memory alive of certain stories about my friend and vice versa.

It’s also humbling…my memory of my college experience is incomplete because I need my friend to provide the missing stories.

It’s also highly intriguing to listen to a story of myself when I can’t recall the actual memory. It’s like watching myself in a movie.

All of us are caretakers of each other’s stories.

When you discover that you are in possession of a story that the other person doesn’t remember, treat this story like a gift.

Just like libraries have rare book rooms where they put their most special books, you should, with the same care and reverence, file these stories in a special place in your memory and bring them out on special occasions.

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You are a storyteller (yes, you)

The driving force behind this blog is my belief that everyone has stories to tell, regardless of writing ability.

Actually, it goes even deeper than that. Everyone IS a story.

You don’t have to be a good writer to learn how to tell stories.

And being a good writer doesn’t automatically mean you’ll know how to tell a story.

Storytelling is a skill anyone can (and should) learn. Unfortunately we usually rely on novelists and screenwriters to provide us with our stories. We are spectators of these stories. But when we tell stories to each other, we are active participants.

All too often, instead of taking time to listen to the stories of people in our lives, we seek out professionals and self-help books to tell us how to live.

As Rachel Naomi Remen writes in Kitchen Table Wisdom, “The kitchen table is a level playing field. Everyone’s story matters.”

Your life is loaded with stories, even if you don’t realize it.

It’s my hope that this blog will help you remember and start telling some of those stories.

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How to start blogging, part 5 of 8: Writing Posts

It’s time to write your first post if you haven’t already.

Fonts

First you’ll want to make sure that it’s easy for your readers to read your posts.

If your font is too small or too hard to read, people will be less inclined to visit your blog.

I recommend using Arial or Verdana font style, size 10 or 12.

You can select your font before typing each post but I recommend changing the default font in your template so that you don’t have to remember to set your font each time you write a post.

Here are instructions on how to change your default font in Blogger.

Set a Goal

You’ll lose momentum if you don’t push yourself at the beginning and set a goal for blogging.

I recommend writing one post per day your first month.

If that is too demanding for your schedule, choose a different goal, but make sure you write posts regularly.

The more posts you write, the more traffic your blog will receive, and the more you’ll get the hang of blogging.

Post Topic Ideas

Here are some post topic suggestions:

*An introductory post that tells your story and what your blog will be about.

*A series of posts about a particular topic. For example, if you have a photography blog, you could have a series of posts about how to take photos of birds.

*Post a link to a YouTube video about topic that is pertinent to your blog. This is a good post to do when you don’t feel like writing a post.

*Look at the news and current events of the day and write a post about that news item that ties in with the topic of your blog.

Categories and Labels

Be sure to choose labels and/or categories for each post. This will help readers be able to find all your posts about a particular topic.

In the next post I’ll give you tips on how to find content for your blog and the best way to do research for your blog posts. Until then, happy blogging!

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How to start blogging, part 4 of 7: Creating your Blog

Now that you have a Google Account and know the basics of social media, it’s time to create your blog.

Blogger or WordPress?

There are two free blogging platforms that I recommend.

One is Blogger.com. The other is WordPress.com.

They are both easy to use and free.

If you don’t know which one to use, go with Blogger because there are more theme options and you can place ads on a Blogger blog if you want. WordPress doesn’t permit this.

You’ll need a Google account to use Blogger. If you read part one of my series, you’ve already done that.

Two Things To Do Before Creating Your Blog

Before you create your blog, choose a title for your blog and choose a URL (i.e. link).

The name and URL don’t have to be the same.

For example, you might want to use your name in the ULR.

Then, if your blog is about a topic such as scrapbooking, you would choose a title like “Wonders of Scrapbooking.”

Choose a few different titles and URLs because sometimes the URL and title you want to use won’t be available.

Your assignment is to create your blog. It will only take about five minutes to do this.

It’s very easy to create the blog but if you want to follow a step by step video, click here for a video on how to create a Blogger blog and click here to create a WordPress blog.

Good luck! Let me know if you have questions. Next time we’ll discuss how to write posts and a few tweaks you should make to your blog.

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How to listen to a story about you

This week I sent two separate emails to two different friends.

In each email I told that friend a story about something they said several years ago that meant a lot to me and I thanked them for it.

Even though the stories were not at all similar to each other, and both friends are very different from each other, they both had a similar reaction.

Both friends enjoyed the stories but said something like, “Oh no, I shouldn’t have said that!”

They responded this way even though I had made it clear how much I had appreciated what they said.

It occurs to me that listening to a story about yourself is similar to looking at a photograph of yourself.

When someone hands you a photograph, isn’t the tendency to look at yourself with a critical eye and notice your flaws, even if the person handing the photo to you says they think it’s a great photo?

I guess it’s because a photo can make you feel vulnerable and exposed, even if it’s a fantastic-looking photo. It’s hard to look at yourself with the same uncritical eye that the other person does.

Stories are the same way.

The next time someone tells you a cool story about you, go easy on yourself.

It’s more than OK to enjoy the fact that you’re the main character in the story and that you made a difference in their life.

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How to start blogging, part 3 of 7: Start Socializing

Today we will discuss social media and Web 2.0 and the role they play in your life as a blogger.

Back when the internet started, websites were static. You would visit the website and read it.

Today you can visit a website and, in many cases, interact with it by leaving a comment, writing a product review, asking a question in a help forum, etc.

This is what we mean by Web 2.0. The web allows for two way conversation.

The social aspects of Web 2.0 are called social media.

Social media sites include Facebook and Twitter. Social media sites are where you go to be social and keep in touch with friends and family.

Facebook and Twitter will play a role in your blog, even if you choose not to open Facebook and Twitter accounts of your own.

Facebook

Among teens and twentysomethings, Facebook is the new email. If you want to stay in touch with younger people, a Facebook account is almost essential.

As a blogger, I encourage you to create a Facebook account so that you can share your blog posts with your Facebook friends.

Also, the people that read your blog posts will sometimes share them with their own friends on Facebook.

If you don’t have a blog yet, Facebook will help you become more comfortable with expressing your thoughts online.

When you post status updates and links on your wall, your friends will sometimes leave comments, thus the social nature of Facebook.

I’m not going to go into detail about how to open a Facebook account here. If you have a teenager or an adult Facebook user in your life, they can show you the ropes.

The one thing I will emphasize here is that once you have a Facebook account, make sure all your privacy settings are set to “friends only.” This will ensure that everything on your Facebook page remains private and only your Facebook friends will see your profile and posts.

Twitter

Twitter is like a mini blog, where you write posts that are up to 140 characters in length.

You can sync your Twitter and Facebook so that your Twitter posts (“tweets”) automatically post on Facebook.

If you intend to have a blog to promote your business, I recommend opening a Twitter account.

On Twitter you can quickly meet people in your area of interest and share ideas back and forth.

On Twitter you will also post links to your blog.

The best way to learn Twitter is just to open an account and start following some people.

The best way to find people to follow is to go to this directory.

When you follow someone, about half the time they will follow you back.

So if you want to start a blog about scrapbooking, you could open a Twitter account and find people interested in scrapbooking and start following them.

In your Twitter posts you would share tips about scrapbooking and then occasionally link to one of your blog posts.

Blog Comments

If you read the first two parts of my blogging series, you should by now have several blogs that you read regularly.

I encourage you to leave comments on those blogs from time to time, especially when you benefited from a particular post.

You don’t have to use your last name and you can even leave your comment anonymously if you want to. Most blog comments have a space where you can post the link to your own blog if you wish.

If you leave quality comments on other blogs, those bloggers (and the other people reading your comment) will click on your blog link and start reading your blog too.

As a blogger, it’s very important to leave comments on other blogs and to be social in this way. Start getting in the habit now, even before you have your own blog.

Each blog post has a comment section at the top or bottom of the post. This is what you click in order to read and leave comments.

In closing, I want to emphasize again that you don’t have to open Facebook or Twitter accounts in order to be a blogger. But I do encourage you to at least open a Facebook account.

As your blog grows and people get to know you through your blog, you should know that many readers will look for links to your Facebook and Twitter profiles on your blog. As a blogger it’s good if you can be accessible in that way but, as I said, it’s not mandatory.

Your assignment is to start leaving comments on the blogs that you read. Aim for 1-2 blog comments per week. Your comment doesn’t have to be fancy. Even just a “thanks for the great post” is fine.

If you have any questions about Twitter and Facebook, leave a comment or send an email to me through my contact page.

In the remaining four posts of this series I will focus on the nitty gritty of creating your blog and writing posts for it. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

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How to start blogging, part 2 of 7: Reading Blogs

If you read part one of my blogging series, you now know what a RSS feed is and what Google Reader is. Congratulations! I’d say that probably 90% of casual web users have no idea what those two things are so you’re ahead of the pack.

Today I’ll show you how to find some blogs to subscribe to.

Top 100 Blogs

The first thing to do is visit this list by Technorati of the top 100 blogs on the internet.

When you consider that there are some 80 million blogs on the internet, being in the top 100 is quite an achievement.

Each of these blogs receives millions of visitors per month so it’s worth taking a look at a few of the blogs on this list.

Google Blog Search

One of the best ways to find new blogs is to go to the Google Blog Search page.

Type in a topic in the search field and Google will show you blogs about that topic.

In addition to searching for topics that are of personal interest to you, you should also search for the topic that you want your future blog to be about.

For example, let’s say you hope to start a blog about decorating. It would be good to find some decorating blogs to subscribe to.

Your assignment is to find 5-10 blogs to subscribe to. Check your Google Reader each day for new posts.

Before too long you’ll find that you have more than 10 subscriptions. As your number of subscriptions grows, you might want to create folders in your Google Reader to keep things organized. This Google Reader help page will show you how.

As always, if you have any questions, please leave a comment or go to my contact page and send me an email.

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