Inspire Marketing

Impact or Reach: What Are You Seeking?

Water is a powerful force. Over time, a stream of water can carve a canyon through solid rock. A single drip from a leaky faucet can cost a homeowner hundreds of dollars in water bills.

Water will make an impact.

Words and Stories Can Impact

Whether you're a marketer, a social change agent, a rock band or a parent, you have a message you want to get in front of an audience.

Most of us want our audience to do something in response to the message.

We really want impact, more than reach.

In my own experience, though, most decision-makers start by focusing on reach.

They ask questions like what's the audience size, how many fans and followers on each social media channel, how many downloads… if the answers to those questions actually matter.

Few of us have both the reach AND impact of leaders like Richard Branson.

Anyone with enough money can buy reach.

Even in today's fractured media environment, if you have the financial resources you can buy reach in the form of traditional and “native” advertising. You can hire a major agency to develop and execute a promotional juggernaut to get media placements on television talk shows and cable news.

A savvy and well-financed promotional campaign can also help you conquer the blogosphere and social media channels. You can even buy social media followers.

But none of that chatter and noise has staying power.

Just because your message hits a channel with your large audience doesn't mean the audience hears it or pays attention. And that's not all…..

Even if your message momentarily resonates with the purchased audience, the effect will be ephemeral. When is the last time you intentionally set out to listen to a song by Nickleback or Creed?

We’re constantly bombarded with noise. We understand how hard it is to get attention.

In the marketing space, the communication objective is to find a way to get the attention of a desired audience. For most organizations, the objective is to get a message in front of the largest possible audience, as if the law of averages would somehow boost relevancy and attention.

I think that’s the wrong approach. I think the better way is to focus on impact and identify a small number of influencers who can help to share the message.

Floods begin with raindrops, avalanches start with snowflakes

That’s how Billy Ivey of BIG Communications made a splash through his #NapkinNotes. He shared humorous lunch bag notes to his kids that resonated with an audience of parents and soon-to-be-parents who then responded and shared with his own community.

Then Jon Acuff expanded the reach. Acuff is someone you might describe as an influencer among Christian parents with a sense of humor.

#NapkinNotes now has reach, but the initial focus was on impact. A dad writing notes to his kids.

I suspect Ivey’s kids will remember those notes long after Ivey’s career in marketing is history.

For brands, the lesson is clear:

Focus on impact and you’ll probably get the reach you desire.

Focus on reach and you’ll be chasing something that lies at the end of the ephemeral rainbow.

Impact, not reach.


Grow Inspire Professional

Mind Meld with Copyblogger’s Brian Clark

Sometimes I think Copyblogger's Brian Clark installed trojan horse in my computer a few years ago when I joined the Authority community.

Or maybe he's just a mind-reader.

Of course, it might simply be a coincidence that has something to do with the fact that we're both non-practicing lawyers of similar age who discovered the internet in the early 90s, way before most of our generation, and we both escaped from the drudgery of law practice.

We also seem to have a similar taste in music.

And, just in case you're curious, this isn't a rant and it's not intended to be mean-spirited.

I feel a sense of validation, knowing that the brilliant Brian Clark comes up with many of the same ideas as I do—and succeeds at implementation.

And since this blog is where I tell my story of my own hero's journey, I thought I'd share this mini-epic—if only to serve as a reminder to myself that I am a hero who's generating the same ideas as early as those who are the masters of the internet universe.

Of course, I would also like to be one of the unemployable at Rainmaker Digital. I think I would make a great podcaster for their team.

[Tweet “The next great member of the @RainmakerFM @Copyblogger team should be @RealSheree”]

In any event, Brian is the “successful” one, at least in terms of business and finance. And I'm a Brian Clark/Copyblogger fan-girl.

Disclosure: I use Genesis framework on many of my websites (not this one) and I've been in the Authority community since 2013 and have paid for the Rainmaker platform since the beta days of July 2014. And I got to say hello to Henry Rollins at the 2015 Rainmaker Authority Conference. None of the links in this post are affiliate links.

Rainmaker Authority 2015 Sheree Martin and Henry Rollins, photo by Brad Crooks
Rainmaker Authority 2015 Photo by Brad Crooks

From Go-Go's and Emma Peel to Digital Media Empire

While I was busy making fan videos to accompany Go-Go's music and uploading those to my hand-coded website, where I blogged about the Go-Go's and TV's The Avengers, Brian was busy figuring out how to harness the power of the internet to build his first internet media empire.

Screenshot of TSMMedia website portal to the Go-Go's section from Wayback Machine Internet Archive

Here's one of my videos circa early 2002, available on YouTube thanks to ValleyEarl (After posting to YouTube in 2007, I took mine down, since I'm risk averse):

While I was stalled as a freelance writer doing long-form copywriting for ad agencies and working as freelance online editor for a couple of manufacturing trade sites, Brian was building his own online business portals.

In 2000, I could see the future and I wanted to be part of it, but I knew that my HTML coding skills weren't going to take me where I needed to go and I didn't have the capital to hire developers.

Like Brian Clark, I was reading Wired, Fast Company, and The Industry Standard.

I saw the future, I understood it. I'd been building “online” relationships since 1990. That's why I'd eagerly embraced the opportunity to do online content editing for Manufacturing Equipment News and Fabricating Equipment News.

I understood Free Agent Nation and the Brand Called You but I didn't have the tech chops to code or the financial resources to hire a developer.

In any event, I'd long since exhausted my 401k from law practice days trying to make it as a writer.

Before WordPress arrived in 2003 to make my life easier, the dot com bubble burst and my freelance writing work largely dried up by the middle of 2002.

So I gave up and finished my Ph.D.

Silly me.

On the plus side, I bought my first iPod in 2001 and was listening to podcasts from the beginning.

Great Minds, Great Instincts

If I've learned one thing over the past 3 years is that I apparently have VERY good instincts for what's coming next.

I've seen it in my own experience and, well, that's what Sally Hogshead has told me.

But the reality is this: I'm not the best implementer of my own ideas, in part because I'm too much of a DIYer.

My DIY mindset is driven by a combination of necessity, learned resilience from certain challenges of my childhood, and an innate desire to understand the how and why of pretty much everything.

The reality is that hiring others, or simply outsourcing simple projects, requires disposable cash. I outsource what I can, but mostly I DIY.

Like I said, I'm still paying for that Ph.D.

Like I said, silly me.

But I digress…..back to Brian Clark and my instincts….

Case in point….

In late March of this year, I happened to be scrolling through my Twitter feed before calling it a night. Something prompted me to click on a tweet from Brian Clark….

I had not, at that point, heard of Brian's project, even though I was receiving a variety of emails from Copyblogger, Rainmaker and Authority.

I'll confess to not reading many of the Copyblogger/Rainmaker emails in February and March–I was teaching 4 courses, had 3 preps, and was actually working on the Shinecast project.

Despite my lackluster open rate at times, I highly recommend Copyblogger, er, Rainmaker Digital resources.

Anyway, I clicked and discovered that Brian's site is about personal development centered around the themes of Health, Wealth and Wisdom. See The Ben Franklin Follies.

At another point in my life, I might have been deflated. Instead, it made me feel good about my vision, however poorly I've implemented it.

Tweet to Brian Clark

I thought about writing this blog post that evening but, like I said, I was busy with my last semester of teaching.

I was also in the midst of starting a new podcast, Birmingham Shines, which I planned to use as a promotional vehicle for my rollout of the expanded Shinecast® media empire.

Instead of writing a blog post about “great minds” or mind-melding, I filed the idea away in my head to write someday, or not.

We're Each On a Hero's Journey

A few days later, in early April 2015, I wrote my About page for the website.

And on that About page, I wrote this, pretty much in the form it appears here:

Each of us is a hero.

Our life is a journey.

On the path, we encounter the people, places and things we are given to teach us the lessons we need to move farther along the journey.

The mission of Shinecast® is to help you on this journey.

We can’t be the true hero of our own life unless we grow into the person we were meant to be.

Real. Authentic. Integrated.

Shinecast is where you find stories, inspiration and the tools to help you Discover, Grow, and Shine in all areas of your life.

The Shinecast vision is about living a whole, real and authentic life in the 21st century.

The Shinecast lifestyle is about achieving health, wealth, wisdom and happiness.

Although I published the About page on April 6, and made a few copyediting revisions since then, mainly to break up the paragraphs into shorter phrases, the essence of my message has been in development since late 2012.

You can see bits and pieces of it on my About page for The Ben Franklin Follies and here on my Shinecast Vision and Values page and in many posts on both websites.

The idea to use the hero's journey as my own metaphor came mainly through my use of the hero's journey as the framework for a freshman Communication Arts course I taught in Fall 2014.

I wanted to find a way to help students move beyond traditional academic essay writing and focus on storytelling.

Bluebird attempts to defend nest from snake Copyright 2013 Sheree MartinThe story behind this photo?

While doing yard work, a cacophony of chattering and screaming birds (of all stripes), prompted me to look up to see a snake slithering into this bird house, where the blue bird's nestlings were housed. I managed to grab my camera and capture a series of photos of the unsuccessful hero bird.

The message to the students in my class:

Each of us is a hero and we're on a hero's journey and we need to face our obstacles, fight our battles, and be transformed.

Aside from learning to tell better stories, I wanted the students to feel empowered as they began their college experience, rather than being stuck in a box that someone else created for them.

In the first class session, I scattered a bunch of boxes on the floor and asked the students to write a few paragraphs about what these boxes represented to them.

It was my way of getting acquainted. I don't like feeling boxed in.

I believe in the power of the hero's journey, so I decided to use it as the framework for all of the content I planned to create and publish under the Shinecast® brand.

The Shinecast mission is premised on the idea that life is a journey, we're on a path, and my Shinecast resources are intended to help shed some light along the way.

If you're interested, check out some of my podcasts on iTunes

  • Discover Grow Shinecast
  • Birmingham Shines
  • Ignite Alabama
  • Shine Springs Farm Shinecast

That Brian Clark Does It Again

So I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised a few days ago to hear Brian Clark talking about each of us being on a hero's journey in his Unemployable podcast conversation with Kathleen Shannon.

That episode is about what makes a brand (hint: it's not the logo) and the importance of authenticity in finding your brand identity.

So anyway, that coincidence was, as they say, the last straw.

I had to chime in with this blog post and my own hero's journey to this place I'm at in mid-September, 2015.

This isn't the whole story.

Even though this version is highly abbreviated, this blog post is long enough, as it is….Keep in mind that I'm a lawyer. We like words. Perhaps I'll use this blog post in my memoirs some day.

Flashback: Spring 2012

By late Spring 2012, I knew I was going to leave my academic position sooner than later.

I had have big, long-term plans for building my Shine Springs Farm and Apiary, so I started looking for ways to transform my blog, The Ben Franklin Follies, into something more than a variety show of content, where I let my curiosity determine what I'd write about or, occasionally, curate.

In September 2012, I started my first podcast, the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast, and quickly realized that:

(a) My love for audio content was stronger than ever. I'd majored in broadcasting in college, with an emphasis on radio, and had worked as a college radio DJ and weekend board operator for my university's big NPR-affiliate station.

(b) Podcasting was only going to get bigger and I wanted to have a whole stable of shows.

(c) The Shinecast was a cool name for a podcast and could be a key part of my branding.

If you listen to the earlier episodes, it's clear that I was learning podcasting, but you have to start somewhere……

From Podcasting to Online Courses

Fall 2012

The Shine Springs Farm Shinecast developed a small, but seemingly loyal, following.

Thanks to Copyblogger, I knew by that point that teaching and online courses were going to be huge, so I registered the domain, Teach Social Business, and put together a website where I would document how I was teaching a college-level social media/content marketing course I'd developed.

I intended to create some type of course to sell to other college professors who needed to teach a course in social media yet didn't fully understanding social media and content marketing.

I started posting to the Teach Social Business site and decided to take a few courses myself, to get a feel for how these online courses worked. It's still there, although it doesn't look very pretty right now.

Chris Brogan's Brave New Year

As it happened, my 50th birthday was coming up in November of 2012 and I'd been on a self-reflection and journaling binge through the Fall of 2012, trying to figure out how to transition out of my academic position into something entrepreneurial that would also support me at my current standard of living.

Chris Brogan happened to announce the launch of his Brave New Year course during the week of my birthday, which always falls around Thanksgiving. I signed up.

Over the next 60 days, I worked through Chris's course and was fairly active in the Brave Facebook group and Google+ community. I also did a couple of other small online courses and joined Corbett Barr's Fizzle program for about 6 months, just as it came out of the beta test.

One mistake I think I made in those months from December 2012 – February 2013 was to listen too much to the feedback I got when I posed questions to community members.

I remember sharing that I was going to develop a course to offer to college professors to help them teach social media and I distinctly remember getting a bit of pushback, including a comment from Chris Brogan that asked something to the effect: “What makes you think a college professor would buy your course?”

He may have meant this in the context of doing audience research, but I felt somewhat chastened. After all, it was Chris Brogan asking the question, not Joe Schmo.

Not long after that, Chris launched his own course, Social Media Mastery. I'm not sure if it had that exact name, originally, but that or a similar course came along not long after I put my idea on the table.

That was the first clue that my ideas had validity, even if I wasn't quite ready for prime-time.

Come On, Get Happy

File info documenting the creation date of Sheree Martin's Happy Life Manifesto

I've always loved my idea for The Ben Franklin Follies, even though I've never expressed it well or executed it well.

Because I'm so in love with it, I've also always been reluctant to let it go and move on.

I still don't know whether I should let it languish or revive The Ben Franklin Follies and I'm still trying to decide. I know all the psychology about sunk-costs and all that. But hey, Pal Joey gets a revival every now and then and The Ed Sullivan Show was huge (in its day).

Some of the blog posts get decent traffic (by my measure), especially for a site that's updated sporadically and is all over the map in terms of content.

The Ben Franklin Follies truly is a smörgåsbord, especially if you go deep into the archives.

In February 2013, I sat down and wrote the basic outline for how I could transform The Ben Franklin Follies into something bigger and better and more focused.

I thought of Ben's essay, “The Path to Happiness,” and the Poor Richard maxim: “Early to bed, early to wise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

So I wrote my own Happy Life Manifesto about the path to a happy life.

When I set out to look for domains (such as the happy life project), I discovered someone named Gretchin Rubin had written a book called the Happiness Project. I'd never even heard of it. Not wanting to be influenced by her thinking, I avoided even looking at her website. I know she's successful. Props. I look forward to reading it someday soon.

I had still have plans to publish The Happy Life Manifesto as a book of short essays.

After a great deal of back-and-forth, I ultimately revamped the Ben Franklin Follies blog around the theme of helping my audience on the path to health, wealth and wisdom.

And I found someone in England to design a logo for the Ben Franklin Follies:

Logo for The Ben Franklin Follies

By the end of March 2013, I had a website re-design completed and seemed ready to move forward.

But I languished.

Not sure if it was fear, or just too much on my plate.

I got my first two colonies of honeybees in May 2013 and spent massive hours each week from late May through August doing my Shine Springs Farm thing. I loved every minute of it.

Becoming an Authority

In August 2013, as I turned my attention from farming back to teaching, I also turned my attention back to developing my online media empire.

I joined Copyblogger's Authority program and signed up for the first Authority event as soon as registration opened.

I managed to keep my blogging alive, but I continued to languish, seeking advice and letting the short-sightedness of others poke holes in my balloon.

Asking for help on health, wealth and wisdom

I got a couple of bits of meaningful feedback from and one naysayer who apparently didn't ready the part where I wrote that the existing content was all over the place and that I would be more focused in the future.

Of course, I let the naysayer's admonishment hold sway, at least for a while.

Turtles Eventually Win The Race

In the 20 or so months since my post to the Authority forum, I've continued to push forward, sometimes 2 feet forward, 23.9 inches back, but I'm making progress.

I've written an ebook on real food that's essentially ready for sale–just needs a final proof-reading (and a better cover).

In January 2015, I published this guest post on See Jane Write about finding your true north, living authentically, and the Shinecast® mission.

I may be slow out of the gate and slow to execute, but the beauty of the internet is that it's a big playground.

I still believe that I'll succeed and that my plans to offer valuable resources to help others on their path to health, wealth, wisdom and a happy life.

I hope you'll join me on the journey.

After all, we're heroes, even if Billy's fiancé didn't want him to be one.

For what it's worth, I prefer the DeFrancos, the Partridge Family, and the Osmonds (Crazy Horses, y'all).

Sheree Martin about to record a podcast interview at the home of her guest

Grow Inspire

Explaining the Shinecast

So here's a bit about how the Shinecast has evolved over the past year ….

[I originally published a similar version of this to a private Facebook group that I'm a member of]

The Shinecast vision has been (and continues to be) about helping others discover, find inspiration, grow and shine. The journey is where you find happiness.

This occurs through an integrated life built on the pillars of health (real food, movement, sleep, time in nature, mindfulness, spiritual nurturing), wealth (both money and relationships, commitment to sustainable living), and wisdom (personal growth).

In February 2013, after a few months of deep self-reflection and journaling, I wrote a short treatise that I titled the “Happy Life Manifesto” that lays out the 95 theses of a happy life based on these pillars.

I wrote The Happy Life Manifesto before I began to hear similar ideas from James Altucher via his Choose Yourself book, blogging and podcast interviews, but I did read Choose Yourself shortly after I finished my own treatise on happiness.

[Beyond James, others are also sharing a similar message. I've intentionally never read anything by Gretchen Roberts who, as I understand it, writes on happiness. I heard about her work around the time I was getting ready to publish The Happy Life Manifesto as an ebook and research work on happiness on Amazon. Since then, I've also avoided listening to podcasts where she's interviewed. I'm still going to publish my manifesto, but it will be part of this larger Shinecast mission.]

So how to present the Shinecast / Happy Life vision in a way that's helpful, not promotional or preachy?

I have grappled with that question for a long time….. Especially, since I have a hit-miss community, not a full-on “tribe” eagerly awaiting each bit of insight I send down from some mountaintop. I'm just a person who's come to this through a lot of years of living life.

Last summer, I wrote a how-to guide titled 7 Days of Real Food, and then held back on releasing it because I didn't have all the other pieces in place to build momentum. It's all ready to go out as a real book on Create Space and a PDF (needs some revising for Kindle, to delete some of the numerous photos documenting how to prepare the meals).

For the past 2 years, I've envisioned the Shinecast project being some type of multimedia content platform but couldn't explain what I meant by that, except by saying it might be like a combination of Charlie Rose, Oprah and Marie Forelo. Except customized for my personality.

That broad definition, while conceptually understandable by someone in the media/internet world, was not specific enough to build into a strategic plan for implementation.

How Do I Make the Shinecast Happen?

When I first envisioned the Shinecast project I called it “building my multimedia empire,” half-jokingly because I didn't think anyone would take me seriously, even though I was serious.

At first, it was just a brand to share my message with a podcast, online video, ebooks, newsletter, and other multimedia spinoff components.

Then last Fall, I began to see the Shinecast more specifically as a series of shows and other multimedia components (video, newsletters, free and premium) assigned to “channels” on the Shinecast “network.”

In other words, my multimedia empire. Not one show, but several.

Think Big

Well, the bigger version of the Shinecast is finally happening. Over the next 120 days I'm rolling out a series of podcasts and other “pieces of content” (for lack of a better word right now).

The content is organized by channels on the Shinecast network. And some of the channels are getting their own separate websites where I deliver the content.

I also want to use RSS to bring in selectively, carefully-curated content from others, both in a/v and blog form

The first show goes live this Friday: Birmingham Shines.

Other shows will be rolling out every few weeks.

Lots of moving parts in this project and I'm finishing up the last few weeks of my teaching job, so I've been a bit busy…….

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.

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.

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.


The End of Fall

The past few days have been beautiful in Alabama. In fact, we've had a picture perfect Fall season. Maybe a bit on the dry side, but the low humidity and blue skies have been a blessing.

If I had to choose, I'd probably choose Fall as my favorite season.

I love the promise of Spring, the luscious green of early summer, and the bountiful harvests of July, August and September. Every winter I eagerly await the possibility of a winter storm that will leave my world a whirling, swirling, white chaos.

But there's something about Fall that especially resonates with my Spirit. To everything there is a season.

October becomes November

There's something about the feel of mid-October. Perhaps it's the hint of coolness in the breeze or the flinty, mineral-esque edge that lies just beneath the blue quilt of sky.

In Fall, the clouds lose weight.

The white puffs of cotton give way to white wisps and feathers, hints of flint-and-mineral duck behind the silver walls.

Mornings turn crisp. Darkness arrives earlier.

A Time For Rest & Thanksgiving

In October, all of nature moves to complete its preparation for a season of rest, of superficial dormancy.

But this year as winter approaches, I feel a sense of yearning—of loss—that I have not felt before. The summer was over before it began. I was distracted by concerns about intentions to start surface mining operations in a quiet rural area and how that would, or will, change my life and future plans.

And August ushered in the heaviest teaching load I've had during my career as a college professor.

Since late March, each day has moved seamlessly to the next, with weeks evaporating into months.

Changing Weather in FallAnd so I find myself on November 11 awaiting the arrival of unseasonable cold before dawn.

I am concerned about the status of my honeybees and feeling somewhat distressed because I haven't had time to properly inspect and prepare the hives for winter.

So this last beautiful day of Fall brings with it a heaviness of heart, a sense of mourning for the lost days of June, July, August and September.

But tomorrow I will arise before dawn and step into my future.



Grow Inspire

Do You Know Your Story?

Your story is about the defining experiences that shaped you, molded you, refined you.

Embrace your story, whatever it is. Your story reveals who you are, and your story reveals what makes you unique. From your story you find your strengths and talents that will enable you to make a contribution to this world that only you can make.

I've been writing a lot about myself lately, and that's mainly to help me think through my own story and find the threads that connect all the dots. It's my hope that by doing this exercise in public, I'll inspire others—like YOU— to dig deep to uncover and understand your own stories.

Bo Eason is all about using the defining moments in your life to tell your story.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and, over the past few months, Bo has turned up as a guest on a few of these.

Bo Eason is a former pro football player. For that reason, he's not the type of person I'd normally seek out as a source of inspiration. To be honest, I almost skipped the episode the first time he turned up because I didn't want to hear a former pro football player go on about his story of playing through injuries. But…..

Gaining New Perspectives

One strategy I use to make sure that I'm taking in new ideas is to listen to or watch interviews with people that are outside my realm of experience or direct interest. I like to expose myself to new ideas.

That's how I came to be listening to School of Greatness podcast to begin with. Lewis Howes happens to be a pro football player who talks about playing through injuries and has become a motivational speaker and “lifestyle entrepreneur.” His guests are kinda guy-oriented, but the insights are universal so I listen to most episodes from the School of Greatness. But when I heard Lewis introduce Bo Eason I almost hit “skip” because the idea of TWO former pro football players talking about playing through injuries just seemed like a bit much….

Whenever I feel a strong urge to avoid something harmless (like an interview with a former pro football player-turned-playwright and motivational speaker), I take it as a sign that I'll learn something from the experience.

So I didn't skip Lewis Howes' conversation with Bo Eason and, as is usually the case, I found some nuggets of wisdom that I could apply to my own life. In short, I learned about his approach to finding and telling your story through the defining moments in your life.

In some ways, it was that first podcast interview that sparked the “how do I tell my story better” exploration on this blog.

What Are Your Defining Moments?

Quite honestly, once the semester kicked me into overdrive trying to get everything done at work, I forgot about Bo Eason. I was so busy that I was only blogging occasionally, when I could squeeze something in, and focusing on the Teach Social Business site because I could use my blogging there for course preps. I knew I wanted to explore my story, but I was concerned about blogging too much about myself, yada yada yada.

This weekend Bo Eason turned up again in my podcast feed. At first, I didn't remember his name so when one episode of Bulletproof Radio ended and segued into the next one I ended up hearing once again,  an intro to Bo Eason. I ALMOST skipped it once again.

But I'm so glad I listened to this episode of Bulletproof Radio to hear Bo Eason explain the importance of finding your defining moments and building your story around them.

Sometimes it takes repeat exposure for messages to sink in.

I'll be honest, some of my defining moments are still somewhat private and I'm not sure that I'm ready to publicly announce my take on those experiences. Others know about them, but I feel that talking about some of those defining moments in public would hurt other people and I don't care to do that. I don't think it's necessary to hurt others to succeed.

In any event, I think it's how we RESPOND to what we experience in life, rather than the experience itself. I like to think that I'm not defined BY my experiences, but rather how I've responded to both adversity and success.

[Tweet “It's our response to events in our life that define us, not the event itself.”]

Many of my defining experiences are easy to share. I've recognized them as defining moments for my entire life—so much so that I've never considered blogging in detail about most of them. But I will, soon. Here are a few highlights of defining experiences that happened before I was 6 years old.

The Lawnmower Accident

When I was 3-1/2 years old I was in a lawn mower accident.

My dad had me sitting in his lap on a riding lawnmower and it started to “rear up” on a slight incline in the yard. He tossed me off to the side, trying to get me out of harms way. But instead, the mower tilted over on top of me. The left side of my head was crushed.

My parents rushed me to the hospital. I can actually remember every detail about the accident AND the trip to the first hospital, my head on mom's bloodstained shirt and her stroking my hair saying “It will be OK.” Everything did turn out OK.

I call it my Harry Potter scar.

The Not-Dorothy-in-Oz Experience

A few weeks after that lawnmower accident, a freak tornado sent everyone scrambling for shelter. My dad literally got stuck in the mud as he ran across a freshly-plowed field toward the storm shelter with me in his arms and we fell face-forward into the mud. We survived, of course.

I didn't end up in Oz. Instead, my freshly-changed bandages were a muddy mess.

I learned about the power of storms and, for a while, I was afraid of them. But another defining moment changed that a few years later.

“I Have An Idea”

I started first grade when I was 5-years-old, having never been to kindergarden or pre-school. My parents didn't want me to wait another year and I'm glad they found a way to get me in school early.

Since I was so young, I was placed in the “can't read” group. By the end of the first week, I had progressed to the strongest reading group. I knew I could read.

I also appeared as Martha Washington that year in my school play and got to proclaim at the Constitutional Convention: “I have an idea.” Yes, I remember that vividly. I still have ideas.

“Mrs. Peel, We're Needed”

Sheree Martin Emma Peel 1967Around the same time, I discovered a TV show called The Avengers. Even though I was much too young to understand all the irony and nuance, Steed and Mrs. Peel became a role models. My mom would let me stay up and watch the show every week.

Scenes from one episode, in particular, always stayed with me. The defining moment of that episode: Mrs. Peel is on a conveyer belt, about to be sliced in half by a spinning saw blade. Instead of revealing fear, Mrs. Peel just displayed the unflappable, calm fortitude she's known for.

I began to emulate Mrs. Peel when I played. More importantly, the strengths of the Mrs. Peel character helped to define my own response to a whole host of situations.

I even dressed like Mrs. Peel.

Life, Then Death

Shortly after my first school year ended, I watched my beloved grandfather experience a fatal heart attack and die in front of me. He was only 46 years old. I learned about death and how it can come suddenly, but it didn't make me afraid.

Those are a few of the defining experiences from the first six years of my life. I'll be sharing more about these events and others in future posts. They're too complex to do justice here.

The key takeaway for me is not that the moments or experiences define us, rather it's how we RESPOND to the experience that defines us.

Honor Your True Self

Today, I know myself pretty well.

I lost myself for a while, in my 20s, as I floundered trying to be someone I really wasn't. I relinquished a lot of my creativity, energy and adventurous nature in an attempt to fit into the world of business law and estate planning. My intentions were good, but my soul and spirit were suffering.

What I've found is that when I honor my true self, by playing to my strengths, I get good outcomes. Trying to fit into someone else's definition of what's right for me is like wearing someone's else clothes—and that's under the best of circumstances. It usually doesn't turn out that well.

To get to this place in my life, where I know myself, I had to make some detours, wrong turns and experience some things that I didn't enjoy at the time. I never quit, never gave up. Those detours are part of my story.

You probably have some detours and wrong turns, too. Most people do, unless they never seek to grow.

Learn From Your Experiences

I am convinced that our experiences are meant to teach us something. If we keep having the same type of experience over and over, and getting the same outcome, repeatedly, we are not paying attention and not learning what we need to learn.

The point is that we all have life experiences that both shape and reveal who we are. We face a situation and we respond to it. We have to find those and look for opportunities to grow from them.

So look back at your life and consider your experiences. Find your defining moments. Find the “Groundhogs Day” moments when the same problems or issues keep cropping up.

Through those moments you can uncover the lessons you've learned, or still need to learn.

I hope this post will inspire you to find your own defining moments and enable you to tell your story with courage and dignity.

I'd love to hear from you!