Grow Health

This Was My Week: April 25, 2015

I have a lot on my plate and can often get frustrated (with myself) when I don't get everything completed that I have on my informal to-do list.

This past week I came down with a nasty cold, probably due to a combination of pushing myself REALLY hard to launch my dream project, the stress and excitement that comes from actually embarking on a complex vision that I've dreamed of, planned for and slowly begun to create while simultaneously finishing up the semester and properly performing my official “day job” responsibilities.

As I was typing the detailed stuff below, I decided to embark on a self-feedback program is to demonstrate (to myself) that I get a LOT done each day, even when something like an unscheduled (and very rare, for me) illness tries to block my past.

I was originally going to do this post to document the progress I've been making on the Birmingham Shines component of my Shinecast project. But due to a combination of reasons, I decided to publish it here first and then use an edited version for the Birmingham Shines project status posts on my Teach Social Business site.

At some point, I'll use the details about what I'm doing to launch the Shinecast to create an ebook or webinar or something. So the more documentation I have, the easier it will be to create something of value to help others launch a project or pursue a dream. In the meantime, this level of documentation will serve as a reminder to myself that I'm working hard to make my vision a full-fledged reality.

Here's a very detailed summation of the past 5 days….

The cold that was developing on Sunday turned nasty by Tuesday, April 21. As a result the past 4 days have not gone exactly as I’d scheduled or hoped. But I managed to get the most urgent tasks completed, while also teaching my classes and handling some other work-related tasks.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mondays are always my busiest day on campus so most of Monday was dedicated to my job duties.

Despite long workdays on Mondays & Wednesdays, I like to get up earlier than necessary to have time to journal or read while I’m having my coffee.

Thanks to the cold, I didn’t sleep well anyway, so Monday began around 4:00 a.m. with coffee and writing the post on Legal Matters where I documented the Sunday tasks for Birmingham Shines.

I also reviewed my existing Soundcloud account, which has currently has the user name shinecastus. Trying to decide if I should create separate Soundcloud accounts for each show or have one Shinecast network channel. The podcast aspect of my shows may determine the answer to that.

I also quickly reviewed the overview of a couple of premium social sharing plugins that I’m interested in evaluating further after Sunday’s research. (It’s easy to get distracted when you leave the webpage open in a tab in your browser, so, note to self ….)

I also checked the proposals for the two jobs I’d posted to elance on Sunday.

After that morning flurry, most of the rest of Monday was dedicated to my job, personal tasks and helping my nephew who's exploring a career in sports journalism.

At mid-morning on Monday, I sent an email to a local business requesting an interview for the Birmingham Shines show and tinkered with the schedule availability for the next two weeks.

At 11:45 a.m. I left campus to meet my nephew, Davis, who was driving to Birmingham to attend the afternoon portion of the annual meeting of the Alabama Sports Editors Association at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. I'd alerted him to this as a way he might learn more about sports journalism. Davis was running a bit late, so he didn't arrive until about 12:15 p.m. We had lunch at the Southern Kitchen in Uptown (he picked) and talked about the afternoon events. At 1:30 p.m., Davis went in to the ASEA event and I drove back to campus to work.

I was feeling so crappy by late afternoon that I bought a Red Bull before my law class at 3:30 p.m.

When class ended at 4:35 p.m., I packed up, left campus and drove home to meet Benjamin Zamora, who was going to do some tree and shrub trimming work for me. Davis called me just before 5 and we talked for almost an hour, while I heated up bone broth and waved to Benjamin who had arrived around 5:15 p.m. to start his work.

Eventually, Davis seemed to be finishing this questions and thoughts about the day, so I told him I needed to sign off the phone to talk to Benjamin.

Benjamin finished his work just before 7 and I paid him.

Dinner consisted of leftover roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potato chunks. I was too tired and sick to make anything else.

I went to bed early— lights out at 8:40 p.m. and sound asleep.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Thanks to the combination of illness, massive to-do list and going to bed early, I woke Tuesday morning at 2 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. I finally got up again, around 3:45 a.m., made coffee and got to work.

My first interview was scheduled for Tuesday evening at 5 p.m., so that was on my mind. Even though I’ve done numerous interviews and audio recordings with my home set-up (for the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast and other a/v projects), I hadn’t yet set up the equipment so I had that to do, as well as all the work necessary to get the elance jobs underway.

The main task for the morning was to write copy for several audio tags for Birmingham Shines. I’d asked a student who wants to work in radio and TV if he’d like to record them for me and he indicated interest and said he could stop by between my classes today.

I ended my Tuesday morning journaling session with jotting down these two “first concepts” (to give this task to my subconcious brain to work on as I did other things):

  • Birmingham Shines: A show for people who make, create and innovate.
  • Birmingham Shines: A show about the 21st century Magic City.

An hour or so later I created a document in Google drive and typed out several variations. Later in the day, I edited those and added a few more. I ended up with about 10 or 12 audio tags when I closed the file Tuesday night, just before 10 p.m.

I have an 8 a.m. class on Tuesdays/Thursdays, so I had to focus on getting dressed and getting to work

By the time my first class (a print production lab type of class) ended at 10 a.m. I was feeling horrible. I did some administrative work and arranged with the departmental assistant to give my law exam at 1 p.m. On my way home, I stopped by Whole Foods and bought a rotisserie chicken and big box of salad items for Tuesdays food. I didn’t have anything prepared at home and didn’t feel like cooking.

My first order of business when I got home at 11:45 was to lie down and rest for an hour to get rejuvenated before the 5 p.m. interview.

At some point on Tuesday, I sent out messages to my then semi-finalists on elance and updated them on the job awarding process. I had planned to award Tuesday night but it was clear that I wasn’t going to feel like making a choice. A significant reason for my uncertainty stemmed from a proposal I received from a Birmingham-based audio engineer.

I really wanted to work with someone local but his proposal was the highest of all and notably higher than many of the middle-range of proposals. I’d sent him an elance message about this, gave him more details about the show and my bootstrapping budget and offered him the opportunity to revise his proposal.

On Tuesday afternoon between 1:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. I focused on getting my home office recording studio set up again and took care of emails related to work and other odds-and-ends.

Wade arrived at 5 p.m.

I started the session by taking several photos to use with the show notes and promotion. We then moved into the “studio” to start the interview.

I’ll write a separate post about the actual interview and some things I wish I’d done differently and what I learned from the first interview session.

We finished up around 7, give or take a few minutes. After the actual interview ended, we had a nice chat about various topics, so the actual interview aspect of our session ran about an hour, including pauses.

After the interview, I was tempted to crash for the evening, but knew that wasn’t really practical. I had a long day ahead on Wednesday and also needed to be ready to award the editing job on Wednesday and upload the files, per my elance job description.

I had a few bites of chicken and the rest of the salad I’d bought earlier at Whole Foods and turned my attention to transferring and labeling the audio .wav files.

Once I moved the files from the Zoom SD card to my external drive, I listened to each one and labeled them in order.

I created a Google doc for a show script and listed the segments, in order, for Wade’s full interview.

Eventually, I will edit the interviews into shorter segments and assemble into story packages, but I’m starting out with publishing most of the interviews in their entirety as a single episode.

I recorded a simple conclusion to the show and added that to the episode folder and show script.

I also added the intro and outro music files I’d purchased through Music Bakery and Premium Beat and added those items to the script.

I made an effort to record the show intro and make it snazzy but I just wasn’t feeling it at all by that point. It was well after 8 p.m. and I was feeling the worst I’d felt all week. I finally threw in a perfunctory intro that was passable, added that to the file and script and uploaded everything to a Dropbox folder before going to bed.

By 9 p.m. I was clearly feverish as I was having chills, shaking, etc. Went to bed and to sleep, but woke up hourly for water, bathroom, etc. I had a fever and was shaking massively when I would get up. I didn’t have any aspirin or ibuprofen in my house, so my only recourse was to tough it out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2015

Some time around 2 a.m. I felt the fever begin to subside and I was able to sleep, fitfully, until I woke up at 7. I emailed the departmental assistant to say I would not be in for the 8:30 production lab but to tell the students to work on their magazine spread assignment and that I planned to be on campus after lunch.

With that, I made coffee and breakfast and reopened the bidding on elance to share a sample audio file from the interview and the proposed script, in case anyone wanted to revise their proposal. I messaged the Birmingham engineer specifically since he had sent a message letting me know he couldn’t revise his proposal since I’d closed the job early. [Update: I think I actually re-opened the bidding before going to bed Tuesday night, but with the fever some of the final details of Tuesday night are a bit fuzzy] 

I was starting to feel some congestion in my sinuses—nothing major, but until that point my discomfort had been throat, ears and chest, not sinuses. Just in case, I heated some water in a cup and added salt to do a sinus irrigation using a technique I developed during my first in Oklahoma when I would occasionally start to feel allergies developing. No neti pot required.

At that point, I hadn’t received a confirmation from my student voice-over prospect that he would do the work for the offered compensation and terms so I wasn’t sure if I would receive those files on Wednesday morning, as requested.

I created a new private job on elance for voiceover recording of the audio tags. I had revised and edited my list down to 7 variations and included a PDF of the tags in the private job. I invited about 6 or 8 voiceover specialists to bid on the job, with a same-day turnaround. Once I published the job, I got in the shower, hoping to feel better.

About an hour later, I had 3-4 proposals, accepted the one who was local and funded the escrow. I also messaged the two others I was most interested in and said I would have more work via separate jobs.

The pro had the job finished and files shared within an our of when I funded the escrow. He did a perfect job — just the feel I was looking for.

Just before noon, I discovered I had an email from the student sharing the Dropbox folder with his versions of the audio tags. I listed to those and tagged the good ones. Not bad. I’ll use a couple of them, occasionally, but not as my primary tags.

At 1 p.m. I had a meeting scheduled with Greg Wingo of TechBirmingham to talk about my Shinecast media channel, the Birmingham Shines show and whether TechBirmingham membership would be useful for me. We had a great meeting, despite my being under the weather. I was feeling somewhat better, especially compared to Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.

I got to campus about 2:15 p.m. and got everything ready for my 3:30 p.m. section of media law. Took care of some more work-related tasks. In particular, I’m the adviser to a campus literary journal and we’re in the midst of getting that printed. Thankful that a student had cough drops to rescue me from a coughing fit that kicked in about 10 minutes into class.

I had called the Irondale post office just after I got to work at 2:15 to check on the delivery of 2 packages of honeybees. The postal worker said they had arrived and he had them and I could pick them up that afternoon. Fortunately, it would be possible to pick them up after 5, if I didn’t make before the official 5 p.m. closing.

On top of all that, Alabama Power was in the neighborhood trimming trees and I was texting back and forth with my very nice neighbor who had opened the gate for them and was keeping an eye on my very skittish cat hiding under the deck. I didn’t know they were coming Wednesday afternoon since they weren’t in the neighborhood when I left my house at 12:45-ish and I’d left the cat on the back patio in her chair. She doesn’t climb fences, so she’s OK to be back there when I’m not home.

After class ended at 4:35, I quickly packed up my stuff and headed out for the Irondale Post Office. Neighbor had left a voice mail letting me know Bumble was safe, the gate was locked, etc. so I called her back to say thanks.

Arrived at the post office at 4:58 p.m. in time to get my bees without having to go through ringing the bell. From there, I went home and unloaded the bees onto the back porch for the time being and let Bumble in. She was at the back door when I got home.

Despite feeling very tired and still sick at that point, I drove to Publix to pick up a few items I really needed. But forgot to get the plastic spray bottle I needed to spray bees with sugar syrup, so around 6:45 I drove to Dollar General for the spray bottle and remembered to buy some cough drops, too.

When I got home from those errands I made up the sugar syrup mixture and washed out the spray bottle. I discovered ants were starting to get on the packages of bees so brushed off the ants as best I could and I moved them to the top of my washing machine in the laundry room, which has a door that opens to the outside. In light of the ants, I decided to wait to spray the bees until morning. That concerned me because I wasn’t sure how much syrup they had left, but the bees had looked great at 5 when I picked them up at the post office and decided waiting to minimize ant exposure might be wiser than spraying and then having the bees confronted with ants.

Before going to bed, I made a list of the top editing proposals. My Birmingham audio engineer had revised his proposal somewhat. It was now the second highest bid. As I reviewed the project samples from many of the experienced editors, I was tempted to go with some of the mid-range proposals by regular podcast editors. But I am also committed to supporting local businesses as much as possible.

After an hour of reviewing the proposals, my gut said just go with Birmingham for this job and see what happens. Perhaps he will be able to offer a lower bid for future projects, after evaluating the time involved on these two episodes. I awarded the job to him, sent messages to several of the finalists about more work on this and other shows and that I would be inviting them to bid on those jobs. In funding the escrow, I had messaged my editor that I would not be able to deliver the preview episode audio files when I’d indicated in the job description, due to my illness and the honeybee situation and that I would extend the job deadline by a couple of days, but I didn’t change the terms officially.

I also emailed the guest who’d scheduled an interview for Thursday afternoon and asked about rescheduling due to my cold and the day-early arrival of my honeybee packages (I had expected them to come on Thursday, not Wednesday, based on shipping information). This guest had previously alerted me that she might also have a last-minute need to change the interview date, so I didn’t feel quite so bad about asking to reschedule at that late point.

Before I went to bed, I had a confirmation back from that guest saying it was probably best to reschedule. That helped me sleep a bit better, although I was still sick, still stuffy and still exhausted from the relentless schedule on top of the cold.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I slept as late as possible—6:30 a.m. Although I didn’t sleep particularly well, it was certainly better than the previous 3 nights.

Checked on the honeybees. No sign of ants, so I sprayed them with the sugar syrup. In the dark room, they were still “dormant” so I was a bit concerned about whether they were as healthy that morning as they had been the night before. They woke up as I sprayed, so I decided not to worry. Nothing I could do beyond spraying them occasionally and getting them hived that evening.

Got dressed and drove to campus. I took my “breakfast” with me: Protein shake and a bowl of oatmeal I’d cooked.

After class, I found that my escrow had been refunded. That concerned me, but I found that the audio engineer had simply formally changed the delivery date to Monday, which I was OK with, under the circumstances.

I accepted the change of terms, funded the escrow again, and turned my attention back to work. Took care of some administrative things, grabbed a quick meal in the campus Caf, graded a set of law exams, reviewed my notes for class and taught media law at 1 p.m.

Left campus as soon after class as I could get away after class. Around 2:15 or 2:20 p.m.

Drove home and, between 2:45-ish and 3:15 p.m., loaded my car with the bees and a few other items of bee equipment and hit the road.

Got to the farm around 5:25 p.m. and immediately set out to hive the bees. It took about 40 minutes to get everything in position to hive the first package.

Then, once I started the hiving process it took “forever” to get the staples out to open the wooden package and remove the syrup can.

I’ve only ever hived package bees once before (in 2014, when I wasn’t under quite the time crunch) so I was a bit clumsy in dealing with the queen cage, once I got the syrup can out of the way.

I didn’t want to squish the bees surrounding the queen, so I ended up placing the queen cage on a foundationless frame and just leaving it there.

I didn’t try to remove the candy plug because it was late and I had the other package to work with. I decided to come back in the morning to check on the queen cage.

It also seemed to take “forever” to shake out most of the bees from that package!

Not really forever, of course, but it did take about 40 minutes to get the first hive situated before I could start on package #2.

At this point, tt was getting dark and I needed to get my other package in its hive. Fortunately, the hiving process for the second package was a bit easier.

I started it around 6:30 and was finished in 20 minutes, just before full dark. I also left the queen cage unchecked and just saved that task for Friday morning.

Went inside and had dinner with my parents—leftover beef liver, some squash casserole with quinoa I’d made last summer that mom found in the freezer, some mashed potatoes.

At that point, I was feeling tired and sick, so I went to bed at 8:45 p.m. and slept pretty well until 3 a.m.

Friday, April 24, 2015

I woke up at 3 a.m. and immediately started coughing. Water didn’t help. Cough drops didn’t help, finally got up 4:45 a.m. and made coffee. I thought the warmth might help. It didn't.

Tried some honey.

Nothing was helping the coughing.

After I journaled for an hour or so documenting all of the week’s activity (that journaling is largely the basis for this blog post), I decided to lie down again and try reading. I was still coughing like crazy.

I had breakfast around 8 a.m., including a farm egg from my cousin, Dana, even though I'm supposed to be avoiding eggs for the time being. I was too hungry and needed nutrition and protein and it's been a while since I've had eggs.

After breakfast, I showered hoping that would help my coughing and chest congestion. It did, to some extent.

I got dressed and turned my attention back to taking care of honeybees.

Between 9:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. I took care of the new packages (they were doing great), put some syrup in the two nucs I’d purchased in March and checked on two of my other three hives.

One of the nucs was well into their second medium hive body (brood box) so I added a third medium, to keep them from feeling too crowded.

I also fed the remaining hive of Missouri bees, since they didn’t seem to have as many bees as I would have expected, despite almost losing them in the winter.

I had a lunch of leftovers—same as supper the night before—and said goodbye to my parents, dogs and Dali. Hit the road at 1:30 p.m., with a stop in Cullman where there’s a branch of ACU (my bank). Got back to Birmingham around 3:30.

I didn’t seem to be coughing much when I was outside working with the bees, but I coughed my head off on the drive back to Birmingham, despite trying four menthol cough drops and lots of water.

After getting things unloaded at my house and taking care of the cats and replying to a elance message from the audio editor,  I drove to Dollar General and bought some vapor-rub chest salve, made a soup concoction of mushrooms, garlic, onions, and chicken broth. Took care of various household chores, from washing dishes to washing a Polartec blanket that Friend had slept on.

Went to bed at 8:30 p.m. Friday night. The chest salve helped with the coughing, better than anything so far. I was able to sleep well overnight so I feel much better this morning (Saturday) when I’m typing this post.

Now, it’s time to get to work on Birmingham Shines!

Inspire Professional

Shinecast Back Story-1

Picture an elementary school cafeteria, circa 1969.

All the tables have been pushed to the side. The room is now Main Street, America. Sidewalks paved with shiny waxed linoleum tile provide pathways into second-grade small businesses built from appliance boxes.

My First Career Day

I was the owner of a radio station, blasting out 0.00125 kw of audio across the box town using my trusty Panasonic cassette recorder. WREE played an eclectic mix of music, interspersed with news updates, time, weather and station promos.

Sheree Martin 2nd gradeI wanted to own a radio station.

I also wanted to be a wildlife conservationist and an astronaut, and a chef like Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet.

That was before the world told me you had to pick one thing.

This is the backstory to how I came to envision and create the Shinecast.

Discovering ZOOM

A couple of years after the second grade career fair, my local PBS public television station (which we called “the educational channel,” back in those days) started airing new kids show produced by WGBH in Boston.


I’ve previously written about my love for ZOOM.

I loved ZOOM so much that I wrote a letter and mailed it to WGBH in Boston, Mass 02134 (sing along, with me).

In my letter I asked how I could get on the show. I wanted to audition. One minor problem—I lived in Alabama, nearly a thousand miles away.

I received a very nice letter  thanking me for my interest and letting me know they didn’t plan to add any new cast members at that time. The reply included a package of publicity photos. I still have some of them.


The years passed.

I enlisted my brother to help me create an AM Radio “morning show” that I called “Wake Up With Jake and Kate.” He might not remember it, but I do.

The tag line: “It's time to wake up with Jake and Kate.” We would say the “it's time to wake up” bit together and our names separately. I was about 12 at the time, so my cheesiness is excusable.

“It's time to wake up–with Jake–and Kate!” I can hear it quite clearly, as if we were saying it right now.

We recorded our show on my trusty cassette recorder, which I carried with me everywhere. I tried to “broadcast” the show over our home's intercom system but that didn't work so well.

Chip and I also put on variety “shows” for our parents. We had sets, costume changes, scripts, spotlights rigged from lamps…..

In those pre-VCR years, I liked to record the audio track from TV and experiment with editing from tape-to-tape by simply stopping/starting the recording and switching tapes back and forth. Saturday Night Live was one of my favorite shows to experiment with.

In those years I was, to borrow a  term that Seth Godin uses, an impresario.

I joined the band, the school jazz ensemble and the “show choir.” I was rehearsing something every day.

I knew, deep down, that I didn’t have the depth of talent (or focused drive) to be performer. I never aspired to be an actor or singer or other type of performer. But I loved to produce shows, media, club events.

Eventually, though, the “real world” led me to shift my “career” focus to something more “realistic”–law or, maybe, journalism.

None of that “choose yourself” stuff existed in my world in those days. The early 80s were all about career paths and business suits, particularly if I wanted to escape the confines of small-town Alabama.

Stay tuned for the Backstory: The College Years.

Grow Idea Machine Project

Idea Machine, Day 40: 10 Regrets to Let Go Of

For Day 40 of Become an Idea Machine, Claudia Altucher prompts us to list 10 regrets to let go.

So far, I've been posting all of the Idea Machine content over at The Ben Franklin Follies. But a few of the prompts have been less helpful to others, so I've decided to publish the more personal oriented content here and the ideas that can be helpful to others at The Ben Franklin Follies.

In my own life, I've been pretty good about letting go and forgiving others if I feel I've been hurt or wronged in some way. I learned a LONG time ago that holding on to resentments does nothing except hurt me.

I can be tough on myself. Despite my efforts to let go of perfectionism, I still have to deal with the fact that I want to be perfect and I hold myself to a high standard of performance.

Here are 10 things I could let go of…..

1. Losing A Beehive

I'm still grappling with the fact that I allowed a strong beehive to starve in late January. How didn't I see it? Why didn't I open the hive, even despite the cold to make sure it was ok. Why did I rely on outside appearances, since I did know better. Anyway, I'll start with that regret. I have to let it go, learn from it and move on.

2. Losing A Domain & Website

I started my first “blog” in 1999 and over the next 2 years built up a huge following. By 2001 I had a lot of daily traffic, given the topic and the fact that I was doing nothing to promote it. I ended up losing the domain in late 2003 and, as a result, I let the website die. I've written about how this happened in other posts. The site was You can see a lot of the content on the wayback machine.

Although I've moved on, I still sometimes think “what if” and that's a sign that I've fully let go of my failure.

3. Not Monetizing the Website in 2001-2002

At the height of, I could have monetized it. I can't believe I didn't try. If I'd started making money from the site, I wouldn't have taken the job that led me to use that email address for the domain and then I would not have lost the domain.

A trail of what-ifs is a sign that I'm holding on to regrets…..

4. Leaving Oklahoma State

I had a great teaching job at Oklahoma State 2003-2007. I wasn't happy in Stillwater, so I started looking for another position. Since I didn't have a real mentor with experience in academia, I didn't realize that leaving a position before getting tenure is often dicey proposition.

In any event, I thought a return to the practice of law to build up a practice with clients in the tech industry and “new economy” would be a great idea. Turns out, the area I was in wasn't quite ready for that and then the bottom fell out of the economy anyway.

I wasn't happy doing the same type of legal work I had been doing in the 90s, so I started looking at a return to academia. Anyway, I've moved on from regretting this, but again I sometimes wonder “what if….”

In this case, though, I do think I've let go because if I hadn't left OSU, I would have missed out on a lot of great things that have happened in the 7-1/2 years since then. I also probably would have lost my dad, since it took returning to Alabama to discover I needed to help him.

5. Not Taking the Other Offer

In June 2009, my gut told me I'd made a terrible choice and suddenly, out of the blue, I had a new opportunity. Just the opportunity I'd been hoping and praying for.

And yet I didn't take it. Ultimately, I decided I'd given my word to Samford and that it would not be ethical to withdraw from that position at the last minute. I turned down the much better offer for what was, essentially, the academic job I'd been dreaming of.

I'll skip the details here, but it's clear that I made the wrong choice in 2009, although I have made the best of the choice I made. I've moved on.

6. Playing it Safe in 1991-92

When I practiced law on my own, I was very risk averse. I don't know that I “regret” that, but I've learned over the last couple of years that I've probably played it safe in many areas of my life, even though to most people I've been willing to take risks (like leave secure jobs when I felt stifled).

The thing is: I take one risk and then rarely go big after I take the risk. I pull back. That's something I've realized over the past two years.

7. Spending So Much Money on Music & Movies in the 1980s and 90s

I used to buy new videos and music CDs all the time. At one point, I had thousands of CDs. I sold off 2/3s but I still have at least a thousand music CDs. I also have way too many DVDs.

I try not to translate how much I spent into today's dollars. I love the music, but surely there was a better way to listen to it. No, not in those days. Radio stations controlled airplay and there was no Pandora or Spotify.

The music I liked most was not available at yard sales, either. I wasn't looking for top 40, I wanted alternative, non-mainstream stuff.

8. Buying a New Car in 1985

My grandmother died in July 1982 and my mother bought her 1979 Chevy Malibu from her estate. That was my car for the next 3 years. I really liked it but it was totally a late 70s/early 80s car. One day, I had car trouble and I got risk averse. And I also felt slightly embarrassed by my big, old 70s car that was a fuel hog. I ended up a new car that I had to finance. Having that car payment was a huge financial setback at that time. It set up a series of bad financial choices during the mid-80s.

I've long since learned my lesson from that, but the repercussions left me financially strapped for a long time.

9. Ph.D. and Academia?

I sometimes ask myself whether I'm glad I pursued a Ph.D. and embarked on a career in academia. I had not intended to work in academia when I enrolled in the program. I was going for a Ph.D. just because it was a terminal degree, and I was advised that a Master's in PR would be a waste of time.

I am ambivalent about the Ph.D now. It's been good and not-so-good. I'm very happy with the knowledge I gained, especially in theories related to leadership, management, psychology and sociology of change. But I could have gained that knowledge at a much lower cost.

The reality is this: I made the choices I made, so I have to make the best of where I am, not look back with regret.

10. Not Launching my Online Businesses Faster

I've been working to get several online business venture off the ground for the past 18 months. It's taking me way too long–in part because I am a perfectionist and I don't want to make any mistakes like I made in 2002-2003.

On the other hand, in some ways it's been a good thing that I've let the Shinecast idea germinate because it's taken shape in ways I didn't envision. The biggest delay that I regret is not publishing The Happy Life book yet and not getting 7 Days of Real Food out last Fall. And Teach Social Business? I should have been promoting in 2 years ago, when I first published the content there. Instead, I keep playing it safe…..


Anyway, those are 10 regrets I need to let go of….Do you have any regrets that you need to let go of?

I'm sharing publicly here because I hope others will see that playing it safe and holding back due to perfectionist tendencies, fear and/or a desire to impress others is not the best way to achieve the life of your dreams.

Discover Grow Professional Portfolio

A Letter To My Younger Self

In early February, while looking for another document, I found this file saved on my computer….It's an unfinished letter to my younger self.

The file metadata says this was written December 21, 2013. After copying and pasting here on February 11, 2014, and then scanning through it for typos, I'm posting it verbatim.

It's clear that I didn't finish it….Maybe I'll write the ending one of these days.


Everything works out.

Your first grade teacher said you “have great potential.” Your third grade teacher pronounced you “gifted.” Junior high achievement testing scored your IQ at x [intentionally omitted]. All that potential. The bulk of your adult life has been directed toward somehow proving to someone that you were worthy of those labels.

You’ve only recently realized this and started to return to a life that applauds your unique gifts, rather than climbing ladders toward some measure of success that’s defined by someone else.

Your instincts have always served you well, Sheree. When you’ve followed your instincts you’ve made forward progress. When you’ve ignored your instincts or been a bit too timid to act on them you’ve had to learn the intended lesson the hard way.

Your adult life has turned out quite different than you would have predicted at age 15. And that’s good.

For a while, in your 20s, you were self-absorbed, motivated by the prospects of financial gain. Not to the level of Ebeneezer Scrooge, but you were a bit too focused on your own self-interest and less on helping others.

Fortunately, your regained your heart and set out on a new path.

All of the things you dreamed of as a child but seemed out of reach are possible in 2013 and beyond. One example……Storytelling through mass media–You can do that now. You’re no longer subject to the gatekeepers and technology limitations of the 1970s and 1980s.

By your mid-20s you’d realized that you didn’t have the stomach for politics and political machinations. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), the system was less messed up in those days than today. Nonetheless, your ambition to be the first woman president was put to rest before you turned 30.

And so ends the December 22, 2013 letter to my younger self…..

Discover Inspire

Ideas & the Revival of The Ben Franklin Follies

“I explore, connect, create and communicate ideas.”

This is still the tagline of my Google Plus profile.

Tagline for Sheree Martin's Google Plus Profile: I explore, connect, create and communicate ideas.

For a long time, I used this tagline on all of my social profiles, but starting around 2012 or early 2013 I updated most of the bios to move away from promoting myself as an idea machine.

I decided to play down that part of my being, even though I've always been an idea machine and I recognize the value of my skill in generating and connecting ideas.

That said, I have struggled to communicate the value of my idea-generating capacity to the rest of the world.  

Needless to say, I was pretty excited to recently hear that James Altucher thinks ideas are the currency of the 21st century. I hope he’s right.

[Tweet ” I agree with @jaltucher “Ideas are the currency of the 21st century.”]

James & Claudia Altucher on Ideas

A few weeks ago, I learned that Claudia Altucher (James’ wife) had just published a book called Become an Idea Machine (affiliate link) building on James’ practice of generating at least 10 ideas a day.

At first, I was like “I don’t need to read a book about idea generation.”

I’m the person who has a pen and notepaper in the cup holder of my car so I can scribble down ideas as they come to me when I’m in the car. Some of these ideas get transferred to a moleskine that is specifically dedicated as a repository for my random ideas.

A sidebar: I’ve learned through experience that ideas I save digitally are usually lost to me, although I am trying to do a better job of tagging things in Evernote. I want my ideas in a place where I can peruse them offline. I love my tech, but I also love words on paper. Real paper. Anyway, I digress.

Around the same time as I started to remove “ideas” from my social profiles, I discovered James Altucher through Chris Brogan's podcast and read James' book Choose Yourself. [affiliate link]

For a while, I formally implemented James' 10-ideas-a-day practice, but eventually shifted back into a more random approach to recording the ideas that continuously flow through my brain.

Despite my commitment to ideas and idea-generation, I decided that perhaps others didn’t value ideas as much as I did.

At the same time I started reading James Altucher’s blog, I was repeatedly hearing others say that execution is what matters, that without execution ideas are just fluff. So I thought I’d just keep my skill at generating ideas to myself and pursue those that interested me and seemed within my capacity.

Another sidebar:Seemed within my capacity” implies a limiting belief that probably explains why so many of my ideas never got implemented. That's a limiting belief that I've eliminated over the past year.

Even though I began to change the public language I used to describe my talents, skills, interests, abilities, the fact remains that I am an idea machine and always have been. Ideation repeatedly shows up on StrengthsFinder and other similar assessments.

Claudia Altucher's Book: Become an Idea Machine

Like I said, initially, I didn’t see much reason to buy a book that helps me become an idea machine.

I already generate umpteen ideas every day. My first thought was that I need more focus, not more ideas.

But the reality is, I’m not systematic about my idea generation.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I might benefit in some way from working my way through Claudia’s 180 day plan.

One thing I’ve come to realize over the past year or so is that anything harmless that triggers a bit of psychological resistance might be something I need to take a look at.

I decided I would spend $2.99 for the Kindle version of Claudia’s book [affiliate link] and follow along. Make it a game. Use it to get my creative juices flowing around topics that I might not think to ideate about.

I've now started to formally do the 10-ideas practice based on Claudia’s topic for each day. I’m sharing these over at The Ben Franklin Follies, if you care to follow along.

I explain why I’m publishing these ideas at The Ben Franklin Follies in this post—if you're curious. Nutshell version: The Ben Franklin Follies is one of the #Shinecast multimedia projects and I'll be rolling out the various pieces over the next six weeks.

Regardless of whether or not you buy the book or care about the Shinecast…. James and Claudia Altucher are onto something…..

Ideas DO matter. Ideas have value, even without execution or “results.” It takes practice to generate ideas and more practice, in a systematic way, is likely to result in better, more useful ideas.

Creativity is like a muscle that gets stronger with use.

[Tweet “Ideas depend on creativity and creativity gets stronger with practice.”]

The practice of coming up with new ideas each day can be a valuable practice, even if you never implement the ideas. The ability to generate ideas quickly will help you solve unexpected problems when they arise—I've seen the value in my own life, especially when I've needed to improvise a situation on the fly.

I suspect that those who pooh-pooh the value of pure ideation as a skill are those who aren't very good at coming up with new ideas.

Hope you'll join me in working through Claudia's book.


Now Be Do: Reflections on 2014

My 3 words for 2014 were Now, Be, Do.

These three words came to me, like a gift. No need for contemplation. Now, Be, Do just popped into my head immediately in December 2013 and I knew these words represented my mandate for 2014.

At the time, I perceived Now, Be, Do to be about taking purposeful action and focusing on now, rather than past or future. Over the course of the year, however, I came to realize these words were given to me with other intentions.

This post is about what I learned, generally, during 2014 about the meaning of Now, Be, Do.

The basic meaning and intention I ascribed to Now, Be, Do at the beginning of 2014:

  • Now: Stop putting things off into the future, don't dwell on the past.
  • Be: Be myself, live true to my purpose.
  • Do: Take action.

My intention was to use Now, Be, Do almost like a mantra to focus my efforts on action to move forward in some areas where I felt I had, to some degree, dawdled during 2013.

Was I successful? To some degree, yes.

I was definitely true to myself (for the most part) and I was a decision-and-action machine.

I made forward progress on various goals, although as the year progressed I did not progress in the direction that I really wanted to be going as fast as I'd intended at the beginning of the year.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Here's a quick look back at how my life evolved in 2014, using the words in slightly different order, because of how I came to understand the meaning of Now, Be, Do over the course of 2014.


In 2012 and 2013, I put a great deal of time and energy into really digging deep to rediscover who I am, what my values are. I knew that I'd be making some big life changes in 2014 or 2015 and I wanted to be sure I made the right changes, rather than simply changing for the sake of change.

Finding My Why

In other words, I'd spent two years exploring and rediscovering my “why” and identifying the things I think I'm supposed to be doing. Myy aim for 2014 was to really begin to BE that person, to make choices consistent with the “real” me.

Overall, I was successful at becoming a more true version of myself. I continued to “take off the mask” simple “be myself.”

A lot of the posts I've published over the past few months (about telling my story) relate the Be philosophy I've been following, so I won't restate all the details about who I am and what I'm about.

I also discovered that Be had a more philosophical meaning that is hard for me to express here. Rather than belabor (pun intended) that here, I'll cover the deeper meaning of Be in future posts.


I conceived the word “now” to be about a mindset tilted in the direction of action, rather than more planning, dreaming, visioning. Now was about the intention that it was time to move forward.

As we moved into February, March and April, I got side-tracked (more on that momentarily) and I became frustrated at myself for getting side-tracked.

That mindset of frustration and self-judgment sort of violated the philosophy of “now,” as I'd defined it. And “as I'd defined it” is a key qualifier.

I Misunderstood “Now”

As the year progressed, though, I came to realize that I'd misunderstood the meaning of “Now.”

Now wasn't about taking immediate action, Now was about living mindfully in the present moment. By November I was no longer in the place of self-judgment over my inability to accomplish everything on my goals list for the year. Instead, I was in a place of self-acceptance.

Reading Leads to Revelation

I'm a reader and I'm always reading several books at any give time. I choose from a variety of topics, always pursuing my curiosity. Over the course of 2014, I read more than a few books from a variety of philosophies and disciplines that can loosely be classified under the heading of spiritual growth and self-awareness.

As a result of my readings, I came to understand “Now” to be about living in the immediate moment, being present in each moment, rather than referring to taking action today.

I started to take 10 minutes to pause and breathe in quiet. This was my attempt at meditation (which I'd tried briefly back in my law practice days, unsuccessfully then).

It wasn't a daily practice, but on the days that I remembered to pause, set the timer on my phone to 10 minutes, and just watch my breath I noticed a huge difference in my outlook and my productivity.

This practice led me further into the practice of focusing on the present moment. Now is all we have. I simultaneously experienced the power that comes from now, as I practiced my breathing and continued to read.

This brief explanation of how my understanding about “the power of now” evolved in 2014 is pretty superficial. Suffice it to say, my growth in this regard has been profound, even if it's not visible yet on the outside.

As a result, as we begin 2015 I feel much more centered and prepared to move into the next phase of my life.

Although aspects of it seem to be taking shape, I do not have a well-defined understanding of what is coming next.

I just know that I have to stay present today, “do” whatever I must do for each moment I'm given. The outcomes, the results, are not within my control.


At the beginning of 2014, I perceived “Do” as the action-orientation to complement the philosophy of “Now.”

Rather than spend a great deal of time in early 2014 with efforts to plan where I was going, I more or less jumped in with both feet. I was very busy “doing,” pretty much all day every day, beginning January 1.

I committed myself to making decisions quickly and stop revisiting past choices and actions.

I was very proactive. Very action-oriented. I was definitely executing. In short, I was a DO-ing machine in 2014, although I didn't always seem to be doing ALL the things I wanted to do each day. Again, “I wanted” is a key qualifier.

Embracing Change

Early in 2014 I made the decision to leave my job at Samford, although I left the exact date open to give me time to figure out what I wanted to do next.

I'd known since 2012 that I would be leaving Samford within a couple of years. That preliminary decision was what had, in part, sparked all my self-exploration and reflection that began in the Fall of 2012. I knew I would stay through 2014, since that would qualify me for particular employee benefit.

In January 2014, I met with the Samford Provost to identify the official deadlines I would need to meet and procedures to follow to formally implement my choice to leave, whether I decided to make that May 2014 or May 2015.

I also decided to attend the ABA TechShow as part of my exploration of idea that I might start a consulting practice focused on social media marketing for law firms and other professional services providers. Related to that, I did several big freelance writing projects for major clients and also worked with another client on a smaller scale.

Tar Sands Fight

In March, I got heavily involved in unpaid research and strategic communication work on the Alabama tar sands mining challenge.

Ultimately, as the summer turned into Fall I felt like I allowed my efforts to understand and fight the tar sands mining proposals distract me from my own paid consulting and farming activities between April and mid-July, and I started to beat myself up over that. But, at the end of 2014, I wasn't sure. I can't judge myself on that. I did what I felt needed to be done at the time, and I don't regret it.

But in light of where things stood in late July 2014, I decided the wisest and most responsible financial and professional choice would be to return to Samford for one last year.

I'll save the details on the Fall 2014 semester for a future post, because this one is already too long!

But…..and this is key…..I would not trade the 2014 delay for a different outcome.

A Look At Now, in 2015

Today in early 2015, I feel much more prepared to  move to the next stage of my life than I ever would have been if 2014 had turned out like I had intended or hoped one year ago.

 In other words, I had more to learn in 2014 that I needed to learn and experience before I could move forward. I also had some things I needed to let go of that I didn't realize I was still holding on to. 

Now, Be, Do.

I'm continuing to contemplate and use these words as I move forward in 2015. 

My three words for 2015 are: Sceptre, Beams and Orchard.  For these three words to have full effect, I had to experience and grow through Now, Be, Do.

And it all leads back to my vision reflected in Zoom, Vivace and Jazz. That vision is just beginning to come to fruition.

I am grateful for today and this moment and everything in my life. It's all just what I need at any given moment.

All the best to you for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2015.

Grow Inspire

My Three Words for 2015

My three words for 2015 are: Sceptre, Beams, Orchard

This year, I return to words that serve as metaphors. These three words are the windows to new opportunities and the windows that deliver illumination along the path that leads the way.

Sceptre is my window to authority and the power to speak.

Beams give strength, energy and direction.

Orchard is my window to commitment, design, patience and harvest.

Shout-out to Chris Brogan for inspiring me with the “my three words” practice, which I discovered back in 2010 or thereabouts.

[Tweet “Words are the windows that reveal how we see and shape our world. #3words”]


The sceptre is a symbol of authority and power. The person who holds the sceptre has the duty to act and the right to speak.

Sceptre is the word that came out of the blue to me and seemed to be unrelated to the other words on the short list I started working on a few weeks ago. I've never had a problem giving myself permission to take action, but I sometimes am reluctant to take charge or to speak “loudly.” Until I was around age 24, I wasn't reticent to take on leadership roles.

Something changed in my mid-20s, and I became more reserved, less willing to be “out front” in leadership roles, unwilling to tell my story. I didn't even want leadership roles anymore because I began to associate leadership with hubris and selling-out. I saw too many politicians and corporate-types seize power and then use it to destroy and/or pillage.

In the second half of 2014, I came to realize that I'd done a terrible job of telling my own story of successes, challenges, strengths. And that I'd done an even worse job of explaining how I've been helping others. I came to realize that by refusing to accept my strengths or use them in the public service of others, I had been, in effect, rejecting my calling.

The Sceptre serves as a reminder that I have accepted my mission, and that I have the duty, the power and the authority to speak and act in pursuit of the Shine vision that I've been given. The Shinecast (my focus in 2015) is a part of that mission, as is Shine Springs Farm.


Beams represent energy, strength, illumination and direction.

Energy is revealed through particles and waves that travel in beams.

We perceive light through waves of energy that is reflected off an object.

Navigational guidance comes through electromagnetic signals that are beamed to ships and planes.

Bars of heavy wood or metal serve as beams that support buildings. Without beams, a structure has no real foundation.

A beam also provides the balance to a scale. Think of the scales of justice. The beam is the cross-bar that enables balance.

I am both a recipient and transmitter of beams. I am a beam of light and energy to others.


The Orchard represents design, longevity, legacy.

An orchard requires planning, pruning, patience, and it lasts beyond one season. In the old days, when families lived off the land, orchards were investments for the future and a source (and sign) of wealth.

Orchards require attention to produce a meaningful harvest and the patience to allow nature to proceed at nature's pace.

A successful orchard is not, however, reflected in the industrial-style monoculture we see today in the giant orchards of corporate farms.

A flourishing orchard is filled with a diversity of life, provides habitat for an array of creatures, and delivers a bountiful harvest.

As much as I love gardening and growing things, I'm not using Orchard here in a literal sense, though. Orchard is not about a specific outcome. When the word “orchard” first popped in my head, I kept asking: “Why orchard? Why not garden?” The distinction is something I contemplated for hours, both actively and subconsciously.

For me in 2015, Orchard is about commitment, design, focused effort, pruning where necessary, patience and harvest. The Shine Vision is the orchard. The Shinecast Project and Shine Springs Farm are cornerstone species in the orchard.

What Are Your 3 Words for 2015?

So those are my three words for 2015: What are your three words?

Did you write a post about them? Leave a link below in the comments–I'd love to read your post and find out more about YOUR three words.

2015 is YOUR year to Shine.

[Tweet “2015 is my year to Shine.”]

My three words for 2013: Zoom, Vivace, Jazz

Zoom: Vision for a multi-media “empire” and related to my ability to zoom out to see the big-picture and zoom in to focus.

Vivace: An attitude and zest for life, happiness, health, fitness

Jazz: Improvisation within an ensemble. Great jazz is improvisational, but rarely do great jazz artists perform purely as a solo act.

Find out more about Zoom, Vivace & Jazz and the 2013 year in review here.

The original Zoom, Vivace & Jazz explanation via my post on The Ben Franklin Follies.

My three words for 2014: Now, Be, Do

Now: Focus on the now, live in the present moment.

Be: Be authentic, live true to myself, stop striving and simply “be” as my new mission unfolds.

Do: Take action, while letting go of the need to control results (see above).

Image Credits: Photo of the sceptre is from WikiCommons and in the public domain by creator Michal Maňas (Snek01).  Other Photos by Sheree Martin.

my #3words 2015 sceptre, beams, orchard and 3 words for past years are now, be, do and zoom vivace jazz, words in moleskine


The Unexpected for Thanksgiving

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my mom fell down the stairs and broke her hip. She's been in a rehab hospital for a little over a week.

My brother and his wife drove in immediately from their home in Colorado and they were able to take care of some things for my parents while I continued to teach my classes. Canceling classes wasn't an option for me, so I couldn't be off work. Fortunately, we did not have classes on November 26 so I was able to get up (very early), take care of things at my house, and get on the road to the Shoals to meet with the case manager to discuss Mom's recovery and what she needed to return home upon discharge.

Since I love to cook, I assumed the role of family “chef” to prepare the Thanksgiving meal. Mom got a 4-hour pass to come home for some family time on Thanksgiving Day and Chip drove over to pick her up shortly after 11 a.m.

Despite the tumult that comes with a life-altering event, we had a great family Thanksgiving.

Although I'm always optimistic, I also knew that we have no assurance that most of our family could or would be together again for a future Thanksgiving and I wanted to make the meal special.

I wrote the rest of this post on the evening of November 27, from the kitchen in my parents' home. The house was quiet. My brother and nephew had taken mom back to the rehab hospital and were doing a bit of Christmas shopping. My sister-in-law and niece had gone to Tuscaloosa to visit other family. My dad was watching TV in the bedroom.

When I was writing in my journal, it was just me and a quiet house. Although the past two days had been long and busy, I had a sense of calmness I hadn't felt in a while.

I wanted to add my thoughts here, and decided to back-date the post to the time I wrote the handwritten journal entry just to keep things in the right sequence.

The Preparations

For health reasons, I prepare most meals from scratch and I buy the highest quality ingredients I can find and afford. I had hoped to get a local, pastured heritage turkey but the only supplier I could identify had already sold out.

I spent some time the Sunday and Monday before Thanksgiving checking out turkey and ham options at various grocery stories. On Tuesday, I stopped by Whole Foods on the way home from work and bought a fresh (not frozen) USDA certified organic turkey breast (the kind with bone-in, including back and wings) and a local Level 5+ wood-smoked ham. I was thrilled to get these two healthier options for meat because I won't eat meat or poultry from animals treated with antibiotics. My preference is very much for grass-fed, free-range, etc. These two choices were as close to that as I could find, under all the circumstances. I also picked up the remaining fresh produce I needed for the various dishes I would prepare.

I was exceptionally tired Tuesday night, so after making sure I had a few bags of groceries packed with the staples and non-refrigerated ingredients, I went to bed early.

I got up at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning. I woke up shortly after 2 and really never went to sleep. So at 4 I got up and baked the corn bread I needed to make the chicken and dressing.  I used organic cornmeal from McEwen & Son.

In addition to baking, I washed some clothes, finished loading my car and took care of several matters I needed to deal with before leaving my house for a few days.

I left Birmingham at 11 a.m. to make it to the rehab hospital in time  for a 2 p.m. meeting with Mom's case manager. I stopped by my parents' house to drop off the refrigerated items I had in a cooler and made it to the hospital just before 2. The meeting went well.

My drivers license was due to expire the next day, so I drove from the hospital to the Colbert County Health Department to pick up a certified copy of my birth certificate so I could get the Star ID. From there, I drove to the Alabama State Trooper's office in Sheffield and took care of the renewal just before they closed at 4 p.m. and returned to mom's hospital room to pick up some items she wanted me to take home.

When I left the hospital, I stopped by Aldi to pick a few more items we needed, then to Long Lewis Ford to have my tires rotated. Last stop was a local grocery store for a few more items I couldn't get at Aldi.

I made it back to my parents' house a little after 6 p.m. I was tired and extremely hungry because I hadn't eaten since 10 a.m. My “breakfast/lunch” had been a piece of baked fish and leftover roasted vegetables from the night before. Fortunately, that meal and a banana had kept me fueled pretty well.

My brother helped me unload my car and then I sautéed some Italian sausage for my nephew and me, which we ate with the Tromboncino squash relish I'd canned in September. Davis loved it so much, I made a second sausage for him after we'd eaten the first two.

Around 7, feeling properly nourished, I set about baking a pie pumpkin I'd bought from a local farmer at Pepper Place Market. I planned to use the pumpkin to make two pies and a batch of Down East Maine Pumpkin Bread.

Once the pumpkin was finished, I toasted the pumpkin seeds for us to enjoy as a snack.

By 9:30 p.m., I was pretty exhausted and ready to call it a night. I opted to sleep on the couch in the living room so I could get up early Thursday morning and start cooking without disturbing anyone.

As I fell asleep, I mentally created my plan of action for the next morning. We had arranged for mom to be home during midday, so we needed to eat around 12:30 to 1 p.m. and that meant I needed to have everything cooking in the right order.

  • Start with baking the pumpkin bread and muffins, to provide a light breakfast snack for anyone who wanted something early.
  • Then make the pumpkin pies, which could cook at the same temperature as I would need to properly reheat the ham (which was already cooked).
  • Add the ham to the oven while the pies were baking.
  • While the hame and pies were baking, make and knead the dough for herbed whole wheat rolls that I always make for Thanksgiving, so those could rise.
  • Put in the turkey breast around 9 a.m. to be finished by noon.
  • Make the dressing.
  • Prepare the various vegetable dishes.

I woke up just before dawn and lay on the sofa, thinking through my plan. I got up at 5:50 a.m., put on the coffee, and started implementing the plan.

The Menu

  • Organic Turkey Breast
  • Southern Smoked Ham
  • Cornbread Dressing (with a bit of chicken)
  • Roasted Parsnips, Delicata Squash, Sweet Potatoes and Acorn Squash
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Broccoli Salad
  • Stewed Apples
  • Whole Wheat Herb Rolls
  • Pumpkin Bread
  • Pumpkin Pie

My preparations went like clock-work. Everything worked out perfectly. I worked alone in the kitchen from 6 until 9-ish, when my dad and brother drifted in and others started to wake up. It helped that no one was in the kitchen to disturb me during those early hours. I was very focused and in-the-moment. And thoroughly enjoying myself.

I love to cook and I love strategic planning so the logistics of making sure everything was finished on time in the right sequence was actually fun for me.

I had great help from my sister-in-law who washed and peeled the apples (grown in their yard in Colorado) and then washed and peeled the sweet potatoes and other vegetables for roasting. And my niece took care of washing and cutting the broccoli for the salad.

As scheduled, I had the turkey in the oven at 9 a.m. and the dressing in the crockpot by 10 a.m. At that point, I left the kitchen to shower and dress while my sister-in-law and niece took over to take care of getting the vegetables ready.

Chip left around 11 to pick up mom at the hospital and they returned shortly before noon. It took a bit of planning to get her up the back stairs in the wheel chair and into the house. But they were inside just before noon.

The Meal

I took the turkey out at 12:15 p.m. It appeared to be cooked perfectly. At that point, we were just waiting on the roasted vegetables to finish up. I put the rolls in around 12:25 and we were ready to eat within 10 minutes.

We enjoyed our Thanksgiving feast in the dining room. That gave us plenty of room and made it special.

Mom raved about all the great food and we all enjoyed good conversation and fellowship.

I think it might have been our best Thanksgiving in years, notwithstanding the uncertainty we face with mom's hip and the long recovery ahead.

I am grateful that the injury brought us all together. It was certainly unexpected and it breaks my heart that mom has to deal with the injury, but we are truly blessed to have each other and the chance to be together as a family.

I'll add some pictures later.

Grow Professional

When Things Don’t Turn Out As Expected, Part 2

Hard decisions are hard, usually because they are based on incomplete information. Even when the choice seems to be the right now, we aren't in control of all the variables that can impact that choice.

A better title for this post might be: When Integrity Trumps Common Sense.


I want to preface all of this by saying that I take full responsibility for my choices. I'm not blaming recessions, incomplete information, or other people's input, on the choices I've made. My purpose in writing these posts in such detail is to explain, as best I can, how I came to make my choices.

Ultimately, I'll also explain what I've learned from these experiences and how I've used them to grow, personally and professionally.

In the last post, I explained how I moved from Stillwater, Oklahoma and left what seemed to be the makings of a bright career in academia at Oklahoma State to return to law practice. The Great Recession disrupted my plans to build a new practice in advising tech start-up entrepreneurs. It didn't help matters that most of Alabama is, as usual, trapped in an old-economy mindset.

Perhaps I wasn't sufficiently patient in my second stint as a lawyer but, in any event, I made the proactive decision to move on and accepted an offer for a faculty position at Samford University in Birmingham.

When I said yes to that offer, I thought I was doing the right thing, given all the facts available to me at the time and my own attempt to “read the tea leaves” (metaphorically speaking) about the direction of the economy and where opportunities existed. In hindsight, I realized that in 2008-09, I was also stuck in something of an old-economy mindset, at least in terms of opportunities in internet business. More on that in a future post.

This post focuses on the events that transpired during June and July of 2009, when I ignored my gut instincts and plethora of messages from the universe.

Bad Signs

Within a few days of accepting the offer from Dean Chapman for a position as assistant professor in the Journalism & Mass Communication Department at Samford, I got a call from the department chair Bernie Ankney welcoming me to the department.

I don't recall whether it was the first or second conversation with Dr. Ankney that we began to discuss which courses I'd teach in my first semester. As I remember it, the first conversation wasn't too unsettling, even though I was surprised to learn that I wouldn't need to learn Photoshop and InDesign yet. I was told not to worry about teaching any layout/design courses in the Fall. Early on, I identified several courses that I was interested in teaching: Media Law, Feature Writing, Applied Communication Research and PR Communication.

Over the next  week or so, however, the conversations shifted heavily into the direction that I would be teaching mass media writing and, possibly, labs associated with the basic reporting/writing course. That did not make me happy–at all. I knew I'd be bored to tears and I'd never taught the courses. I couldn't understand why I wasn't getting to teach media law.

I almost didn't sign the contract when it arrived in mid-May and waited until the last possible minute to sign it and send it back in.

Then I discovered that one of the new faculty benefits that had influenced my decision in accepting the offer was not even available to me because I'd earned my Ph.D. before the cut-off date. When I asked the Dean about this discrepancy, I got a reply to this effect: “That's why I said to talk with the benefits office to confirm what I told you.” Not exactly a response to inspire confidence.

By early June, I was experiencing serious “buyer's regret.” But I had signed the contract, given my word.

Ask And You Shall Receive

Then one night I received a phone call. It came in the early evening on a day filled with a series of developments that included a literal cry to the universe to “Get me out of this state” (Despite the positives, living in Alabama can be quite frustrating at times, mainly due to inept governance).

It was as if God had heard my plea and delivered.

Plymouth State had an unexpected opening to teach business law and, in light of my interview for the business communication faculty slot, they were interested in talking with me about the business law position. Was I interested?

I explained that I had accepted Samford's offer, but I was definitely interested and wanted to learn more.

That initial conversation led to several more and, within a few days, I had an offer from the Provost of Plymouth State for an assistant professor position to teach business law. I had more credit for prior service, better benefits, higher salary.

Everything about the situation screamed “this is made for you, Sheree.”

And yet I couldn't accept it.

I wanted to accept the Plymouth State offer. I spend days talking with a real estate agent and trying to find a place to live. The then-chair of the Business program, Dr. Trent Boggess, went above-and-beyond to help me locate a home to rent.

Integrity or Fear?

But each time I started to say “yes,” I had this voice in my head saying:

“You've signed a contract. You've given your word to Samford.”

Everything about the Samford position was turning out bad for me. My gut instinct was saying I'd made a mistake in taking the position and that I'd just accepted it by default, that something was wrong.

But this other voice in my head was screaming about integrity, being true to my word. And the lawyer in me was concerned about legal options if I backed out at such a late point, after signing the contract. I knew specific performance of a professional services contract was not an issue in Alabama but damages might be.

I spoke with a couple of mentors from the College of Communication & Information Science at UA, where I'd earned my Ph.D. They said it wasn't unheard of for someone to back out of a contract in my situation.

But I couldn't bring myself to call Samford to discuss it. I wish I'd felt comfortable enough to speak with Samford's Provost at that time because I think I'd have received good advice from him. But I didn't feel comfortable raising the issue with the Dean or the department chair at Samford.

No Decision Is A Decision

I kept postponing my decision, continued to research housing options, weigh the pros and cons. I wavered.

My family had a 4th of July weekend vacation planned for Gulf Shores and so I decided to use that time to make my final decision, free of pressures from the workday.

My heart said I should go to New Hampshire.

One evening, while sitting in The Oyster House in Gulf Shores having dinner with my family, I received an email from Bernie Ankney listing my teaching assignments for Fall 2009. I would be teaching mass media writing and two sections of the lab associated with that course. Applied Communication Research rounded out my schedule. Four courses. The only course I cared to teach was Applied Communication Research and that was the only one I'd had any experience teaching before. I'd taught a variation of research methods for undergraduates one semester as an adjunct at UA in Spring 2000.

My heart was broken.

I sat at the dinner table and cried in front of my family.

My head and my heart said I had to go to New Hampshire, take the job at Plymouth State where I could teach courses I cared about. My dream had been to live in New England and I could now make that dream a reality.

The next day I mentioned to my mom during a walk on the beach that I was probably going to New Hampshire. I heard a litany of reasons why I should not move there and why Samford was the better choice.

That conversation from my mom led me to waver again in my resolve to get out of the Samford contract, even though I left that vacation and returned home with the intention of accepting the Plymouth offer the following Monday.

I must conclude this post now. I'll pick up the story after Thanksgiving.

Grow Professional Professional Portfolio

When Things Don’t Turn Out Like You Expected, Part 1

In the early Fall of 2007 I returned to the practice of law. At the time, I hoped to build a new practice focused on internet issues, intellectual property and start-up ventures growing out of research at The University of Alabama.

I rejoined Rosen Harwood, P.A., in Tuscaloosa, where I'd been a shareholder before leaving for my 10-year stint as a writer/academic. Back then it was known as Rosen, Cook, Sledge, Davis, Carroll &  Jones, P.A.

I hadn't anticipated ever returning to active law practice, but the opportunity arose when I contacted Sydney Cook in May 2007 about a recommendation letter for a law school position I'd applied for. When I'd explained to Sydney that I wanted to leave Oklahoma, the question was put forth: Why don't you come back and join us? Within 2 or 3 weeks, I'd said yes to this new opportunity.

My Future In Tech

I was thrilled, envisioning all of the ways I could combine my knowledge of internet technology, IP law, and business transactional law to assist what I anticipated would be a growing community of start-up entrepreneurs in Tuscaloosa.

One of my first actions was to attend a tech start-up event at Innovation Depot in Birmingham. Another attorney with the firm, Andy Jones, drove with me up to Birmingham and he seemed very excited about the possibilities to expand our firm's practice areas and grow our client base through tech start-ups.

I knew there would be a bit of a transition period, as I developed my reputation in this new practice area. But as we approached the end of 2007, I was less-than-thrilled to find myself spending more and more time working on the same types of transactions and preparing the same legal documents as in 1992-97. My excitement over the return to law started to dim a bit, because I was not interested in estate planning or simply restructuring businesses to save taxes. But I soldiered own, not giving up hope.

The Great Recession

My future in tech was not to be, at least not then……

In 2008, the economy imploded. Everything in the legal world shifted to a focus on business restructuring and wealth preservation.

What I'd found when I arrived in 2007 is that Tuscaloosa wasn't yet producing the types of research-driven tech start-ups that I'd anticipated. Alabama's tech start-up community (such that it was) seemed to be based in Birmingham around UAB or in Huntsville around UAH. And the big Birmingham firms had already locked-up that most of that work.

And so, with no end to the recession in site, I began to lose any hope that I would ever get to do the type of legal work I'd envisioned when I said “yes” to the offer I received in June 2007. All of the optimism I had in September 2007 was, by October 2008, shifting into something of a sense of resignation that my law practice would just be more of the same. I couldn't see a light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps I was just being short-sighted. Who knows.

At that point, I'd been out of academia for just over a year. I had taught media law as an adjunct at The University of Alabama in the Spring of 2008 and was scheduled to teach it again in Spring 2009. I really enjoyed teaching the class and the students were great. No attitude problems and most were engaged with the course material.

I started have doubts and think that I'd made a mistake in leaving Oklahoma State, where I had a successful academic career underway. The only reason I left was to pursue a new opportunity in a place where I had more friends. I loved my colleagues and classes at Oklahoma State and solid-to-great evaluations from students.

I thought perhaps that my return to law practice was a transition because of an unexpected family crisis that had been unveiled upon my return to Alabama in August 2007. I thought perhaps I'd been brought back to Alabama to deal with that problem and, once I'd solved that problem, it was time to move on again—sort of a real-world Dr. Who.

I took a look at the academic job postings in the Chronicle of Higher Education and sent off a couple of applications.

A New Door Opens?

One day, out of the blue, I got an email or phone call (I don't remember which) from Jon Clemmensen, a faculty member at Samford. He'd seen my picture in an Alabama Sierra Club newsletter and wondered what was up. Jon and I had become friends during the year I taught CA classes at Samford in 2002-2003. My office and most of my classrooms were in his building.

I explained to Jon that I was contemplating a return to academia and he mentioned an opening at Samford. After finding the job listing on the Samford website, I sent off my materials.

At that point, I'd only applied for a couple of positions. I was being quite picky about the locations and the subject matter. I wasn't desperate and not looking to simply leave law practice. I wanted to move into the “place” where I would be able to pursue one of my interests and make a major, substantial contribution.

The Samford position was described as “visual and multimedia communication.” It sounded like a great fit, since I'd taught visual communication theory at Oklahoma State and was a big user of multimedia technology. I had thoroughly enjoyed teaching CA at Samford in 2002-03. I had no experience with Adobe software, but knew how to code websites without Dreamweaver and edit video using other software, so I figured I'd explain that and see what happened.

In light of Jon's phone call, completely out of the blue and unrelated to academia, it just seemed like one of those situations where “a door opens” just when it is meant to open. I figured that it would all unfold as it was supposed to unfold.

My Preference

I was really interested in another position, at Plymouth State in New Hampshire. I wasn't familiar with the school, but I liked the location and liked what I'd learned about it through my research. I was especially attracted to it because it was a communication position with a business department.

I've always known that my strengths are more focused on business and strategic communication, rather than journalism. [I'll explain another time how I ended up in a Ph.D. program in the College of Communication at UA, rather than a business program.]

In February 2009, I had a couple of phone interviews for positions that didn't seem to be a good fit for me and I ended up withdrawing from both searches, just as I was getting an invitation for a campus visit.

In late March I was scheduled to visit Plymouth State for an interview when I got a Saturday night call from my airline that my Sunday flight had been canceled. There was no way I could get another flight there and still make the meeting schedule on Monday. They kindly reworked my campus visit for the following week.

I loved New Hampshire. I really liked the campus and, more importantly, I really liked everyone I met who might be a potential colleague. The campus visit and interview seemed to go well. I seemed to connect very well with the department chair, Dr. Trent Boggess, as we shared a common fondness for Ford vehicles.

I returned home, hopeful and optimistic.

The Other Search

I hadn't heard anything from Samford as of mid-to-late-March, so I assumed that I was out of consideration for that position.

Around the time as my rescheduled trip to Plymouth State, I'd been invited for an interview at Samford and was given essentially two choices for dates, never of which offered much advance notice. The teaching demonstration was scheduled to be on Photoshop. I had purchased the software, but had no time to learn it.

In light of my optimism about Plymouth State, I attempted to withdraw from the search at Samford. I sent an email the day before my visit and said I was withdrawing.

withdrawal email

I received a reply from the department chair Bernie Ankney asking me to come anyway and do my a teaching demonstration on beat reporting. I didn't want to leave them hanging with my last-minute withdrawal, so I said OK. I put together a lecture and demonstration activity and went for my interview.

Nothing felt right about my Samford visit except for the teaching demonstration and conversation with the Provost. Everyone was cordial but I sensed something was off. I kept thinking it was just me and my distractions. I asked about the teaching load and was told it was a 3/3. I was assured that it was fine that I didn't yet feel competent to teach Photoshop. I didn't get any sense that the courses I'd be teaching were print journalism and reporting labs, rather than mainly visual/multimedia communication and media law. I interpreted the beat reporting teaching demonstration to be a simple “gimme” to make me feel comfortable. I didn't really expect to get an offer, quite honestly.

I left with understanding that they had one more interview to complete and then I'd hear something.

At that point, I continued to think that Plymouth State was still a possibility, although I didn't think I was a sure bet. I had gleaned from the campus visit that there might be an inside prospect, such as a regular adjunct who'd taught the course before.

The Offer

About a week or 10 days passed. I received a notice from Plymouth State that someone else had received and accepted an offer for the business communication position. I was bummed, but accepting of the outcome. The same week, I received a call from offering me the position at Samford.

My gut was unsettled, but I accepted the offer from Dean David Chapman to join Samford in the JMC department as a tenure-track assistant professor. I was given 2-years credit for my 4-years at Oklahoma State.

I simply assumed everything was working out as it was meant to work out.

In my first phone conversation with the department chair after verbally accepting the position my unsettled gut became much more unsettled. Something seemed wrong. I keep telling myself it was just a bit of anxiety over a big decision about my career.

Little did I know how much that decision would change my life.