Cheers to 10 Years! Wedding Anniversary Reflections

If you clicked on this post, you might be expecting something sappy and sentimental. You know what?

You’re right. There will be some of that.

On October 1st, 2010, I, being Summer Hamilton for the first 32 years of my life, married Michael David Sorensen. After an adventurous 11 months of dating, and a whirlwind 3.5-month engagement, we sealed the deal. It was a joyous day. Hopefully for all involved, but who knows.

Everything about our courtship, engagement, and wedding seemed to “just work.” No tension (OK, there was some during the wedding planning, but isn’t that always the case?), no drama, just two kids in love who got to plan “the party of the century” as I heard it called by at least one person.

I’ll try not to melt your face with too much sentimentality, and offer some real talk also. As if those are at odds with one another.

Pre-marriage thoughts and expectations

As a young bachelorette, I heard a few things about marriage that really stuck with me. The first was this:

When you meet the right one, “you just know.”

That sentiment seemed foreign to me. How can you “just know?” Since my dating experiences prior to Mike were plagued with doubt and marked with a gripping fear of commitment, I was skeptical, to say the least.

After dating Mike for several months, I found that I had to eat those doubts. I didn’t even need a spoonful of sugar to choke them down, because …

I just knew.

Whereas in many previous relationships, I began to frantically look for the exit sign when things started to get serious, with Mike I had a different problem. For the first time, I had met someone that I didn’t want to live without. The thought of losing him terrified me.

That was when I realized that the previous sentiment held some merit after all.

The second thing I heard as a young single gal was from an older married gentleman at work. He said that who you are changes once you get married.

“I’m not the same person I was before marriage,” he said.

That was very unsettling to me. Being quick to assume the worst, I gathered it meant that you find someone who is at their best, to impress you. Then once they have you, you see that they are really just a faker who then reveals all their character flaws, once it’s too late.

I’d seen that happen to people I knew, and I was convinced that it was inevitable to some degree. I’d also seen plenty of people put on a lot of weight once they got married. I filed that away as unavoidable also. More on that in a minute.

In retrospect, those conceptions may have added to my apprehension about settling down.

The reality for us

Now that we have a decade under our belt, which is hard to believe, I see an unexpected, delightful plot twist that has emerged to fill in the mystery of that second idea.

What I didn’t see coming, in the inevitability of married people changing, is this:

That we would change for the better.

The man I’d waited my whole life for, for whom I was waiting to reveal a trollish nature, turned out to become even more wonderful to me as our years of marriage added up.

I do have to give credit where credit is due, however. Just as I prayed regularly before meeting Mike, that our good God would bring me my husband, I have continued to pray for him as we entered into marriage, that He would give Mike an increase in wisdom and skills in “husbanding” and leading our family.

God has seen fit to continually answer my prayers, and I am grateful.

The good, the bad, and the less-than-sightly

It is fascinating to think about how things have unfolded in our decade of wedded bliss.

We have the great blessing of not only loving each other but also liking one another — we enjoy each other’s company. That makes our relationship work well. We often spend so much time in the evenings chit-chatting about life and solving the worlds’ problems, that we sometimes get behind on other things.

We’ve been together long enough to see each other through seasons of great stress, disappointment, and illness. We know there will be plenty more of all that. It seems to come in cycles.

To balance out the lows, our shared love for travel and adventure has taken us to places from our own state to around the world, where we’ve taken in beauty that can’t be adequately captured on camera, and stockpiled memories that we will hold dear until our dying day.

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Syndey Harbor, Australia

Side by side, we’ve endured vacations that go sideways, pouring rain on camping trips, sickness at the most inopportune times, and all manner of inconveniences. We have learned to take it in stride, and realize that it is all part of life.

Sometimes that perspective takes a minute to percolate, in the face of staggering disappointment that often stacks up like dishes in the sink.

As we’ve marched through our 30s together (and now beyond, at least for me), we’ve seen how our youthful metabolisms have crashed, resulting in bigger pants and a reflection in the mirror that isn’t quite as trim as our wedding day.

On a side note, along with the standard wedding vows of, “in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, etc.” I wonder if we shouldn’t as a society add,

“In fitness and in fatness.”

I only say it because it’s true.

That element of humanity has managed to catch up with both of us, in varying degrees and timing. But fortunately, we are both committed to working on fighting against the tide so we can try to be healthy for each other. And so we don’t have to keep buying bigger pants.

The adventure of the ordinary

I’ve opined before about how life became more ordinary and less adventurous since being married. In many ways it has. Instead of hiking every weekend like we did when we were dating, we often end up catching up on chores, working on our side businesses, staying in with friends or family. Nothing too crazy.

The latest saga in our adventures, especially in a COVID era, is team cooking. Mike has taken a great interest in preparing delicious meals in the last few years, aided by having produce available from his garden. It has been delightful to see him as he applies his artist nature to cooking, and makes meals that look beautiful as well as taste delicious.

Sometimes we work together on meals, where one of us is a sous chef and the other coordinates the main entree. It is a fun activity to do together and often results in something tasty.

When we do go out to eat, we carefully survey how the restaurant prepares their meals and which ingredients they are using, so we can duplicate it at home. That has resulted in many new frontiers in home cooking.

Maybe all that sounds dreadfully boring to you. 

Not only is that OK with me (after all, it is OUR life, not yours), it is kind of the point: we have found that we delight in simple pleasures and a less packed schedule than our single days.

Conclusion

One of the greatest things about being married to my best friend is that we have a continual companionship that survives the exterior storms of the world. Home, with Mike, is the place I most love to be.

I hope I’ve painted a realistic picture of life. It’s not all sunshine and roses. I mean, life, and living in close proximity with another human is messy. There’s no way around that.

But I am continually grateful that God brought us together: two humans who are ridiculously compatible, who support each other through thick and thin, see the best in one another and spur each other on to keep improving as individuals.

The first 10 years of our marriage has been wonderful. I would be delighted if we had another 40 or 50 more to go.

Thanks for reading my sappy post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Opinion, Relationships | Tagged , | 4 Comments

5 Things Being a Business Owner Has Taught Me

I can’t tell you the exact date I decided I wanted to start a business. The data nerd in me regrets that because I do love specifics.

It was more of a gradual realization over time. Through a series of jobs where my skill set expanded tremendously, my character was built through the inevitable interpersonal challenges of dealing with other people (of varying levels of difficult personalities), I came to realize that I was most happy when I was working solo to solve a problem. Issue a challenge and leave me alone to chip away at it, and I was content as could be.

Intermix cranky bosses that interrupt, disrespect, change timelines, and place unrealistic demands, with unreliable unemployees and moody coworkers, I realized the nine to five grind was something I could do without. Ironically, while all those factors served to make me a better employee, they also increased my longing to make a living on my terms.

The plot thickens

One thing that set my self-employment desire on a hotter track was a conversation I had with an associate who was helping with staffing at my last full-time gig. She had started her own business and was gleefully living her dreams. In a conversation with her, she confided in me that she wished she had started her business sooner, instead of waiting until her 50s.

That resonated deep within me. I didn’t want to have that same regret in 20 years. So I became more determined to get started sooner than later. That is some brief background into how SummerTime Communications was born.

Now that I am a year and a half into my self-employment journey, I am pleased to say I’ve learned a few things. Learning early and often is the constant path of the business journey, so I know my knowledge will never be complete. However, here are a few things that have helped me navigate the murky waters of entrepreneurship. Maybe they’ll help you too, whether you have a business, a side hustle, or are considering options for a passion project.

#1) Determine Your Ideal Customer or Industry

I was given this advice early on, but I wasn’t ready or able to act on it. I see now that it is quite helpful to determine the ideal type of customer or industry you are looking to serve.

When that is dialed in, so much else flows from there:

  • The look and feel of your website and marketing materials
  • The tone you use in your written materials
  • How you go about doing your marketing
  • On whom you focus your marketing efforts

It all becomes so much more clear when you have an intended target in mind. While I still serve a variety of clients, all of whom I love and appreciate, and will continue to do so, I am pleased that I have narrowed down my ideal customer to small businesses in the outdoors/fitness/wellness industries.

#2) Decide Your Priorities

Figuring out what is a priority can be a challenge. In every area.

What aspect of my business plan should I focus on first? What’s after that? Where do I want to be in a year? How about two or three years? How do I work backward from that to get there?

The same is true for networking. For those of us who choose to invest our time in networking to grow our business, the options are boundless. We have to survey what those are carefully, determine what would be the best fit for our goals, and be decisive in which to get involved.

Very closely aligned with deciding priorities is …

#3) Guard Your Calendar

This one is near and dear to my heart. Why? Because the calendar is the representation of the most valuable resource we have — our time. For that reason, I choose to guard it carefully.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that while I am building up my business to a full-time income, I have a part-time job that takes up 15 hours per week. While it is lovely and necessary to have a steady income, it also limits the amount of time I can use in my business—a double-edged sword.

With that being the case, I have to be extra careful about what I agree to, and how I use my time daily. This has forced me to become more vigilant about scheduling to make sure I am not overcommitting myself, and that I have time left to do things that I need to do for my business and personal life.

A calendar hack I recently learned

I’d found that my list of administrative tasks that were crucial to furthering my business plan was not getting completed. They weren’t even getting touched. Not because I didn’t desperately want to work on them, but because I either didn’t schedule a time for them or didn’t honor the time I had set aside.

Something always comes up, right?

A new networking meeting
A client project
Client meeting
Family emergency
Being tired after meeting all my deadlines for the day or week

The list could go on forever. The result was that I didn’t take the time for my business development.

So the hack I recently learned is to block out chunks of time on my calendar each week that are specifically, exclusively devoted to my current administrative project. And then, the secret is to stick to it. Refuse to let other things take up those blocks of time.

If someone requests a meeting during one of those times, you can simply say, “I’m not available then. How about we do it at this time?”

There are many other calendar hacks that I am learning about and implementing, but that is the most recent and powerful.

#4) Put in the work

This one is pretty straightforward. To get better results, you have to do more. Or at least do better—usually both.

After a few months of dilly-dallying after launching my business, and just hoping clients would magically find me, I decided to get serious about it via:

  • Regular networking – committing to a weekly meeting where I had to pay to be a part of it (BNI)
  • A commitment to regularly invest in my professional growth through conferences, training, and even some consulting
  • I made growing my business a top priority

Recently, I committed to working a minimum of 50 hours per week until the end of the year to see where that takes me in terms of reaching the goals I set for myself in January.

#5) Don’t forget to relax … and don’t feel guilty about it

In the last year and a half, I’ve turned into even more of a workaholic than I was while in salaried positions. When you own your own business, the work is never done.  As I’ve started gaining more clients, I’ve gone through seasons where all I do is work from the time I get up until the time I go to bed.

That can be exhilarating for a short while, but it is not sustainable. As I mentioned above, sometimes I am so beat after finishing client projects that I sluff off the things I need to do for my own business. While I am addressing that through the calendar hack in #3, I’ve also realized –

I need to relax too. We all do.

The entrepreneurial life, at least for me, means working on weekends to get caught up on the things that didn’t get finished during the week. I’m OK with that, but there has to be a limit.

One way I plan for relaxing

My husband Mike and I love to be in the outdoors, hiking, swimming, camping, kayaking, and more. Since ideal weather for that is mainly in the summer, our warm weather months get filled up with outings pretty quickly.

I’ve found myself wrestling with guilt over being gone on multiple weekends, some including Fridays. When I catch myself feeling that, I try to remember two things:

  1. The primary reason I started my own business was so I had the freedom to arrange my schedule the way I wanted. So why would I feel bad when I was doing exactly what I set out to do? That’s crazy talk!
  2. It occurred to me, eventually, that I needed to relax since I was working such long hours. So rather than feel bad, I decided I would use that as an incentive so I could enjoy my time away. In other words, if I can get my 50 hours logged in four days, my reward would be enjoying my outing without feeling guilty. Do you feel me?

I think I might combine #3 and #5 by scheduling time in my calendar to relax, too! If I have it scheduled, it is more likely to happen. There’s some thinking on the fly for you. 🙂

In conclusion

If I remember and act on these five points, I am more apt to be focused and efficient with the way I do business. Which one of these do you have a hard time doing, if any? Is there one that you need to implement? I’d love to hear your feedback!

Posted in Advice, Lifehacks, priorities | Tagged , | 1 Comment

An Overlooked Teaching of Jesus: The Centrality of Repentance

Diverse opinions about who Jesus is date all the way back to the time He was here as the incarnate Word, dwelling among us in first-century Israel.

We see that even while He was in the flesh, there were misconceptions about who He was. This is clear in passages like Matthew 16:13-16.

Not much has changed over 2000 years later. People still remain unclear about who He was/is, what He taught, and why it matters.

In a social media world, many pontificate about what Jesus taught and moralize about how to apply His teachings to our lives today. While there is nothing wrong with that in and of itself, I think we sometimes get off the trail of truth by a lack of careful thinking and analysis.

Since one’s opinion on “who is Jesus Christ?” is literally a matter of life or death, it warrants the most thoughtful, honest examination as we reach our conclusions.

Just as with any fact-finding mission, it is best to start with original sources.

Doing the background work

What words of Jesus were recorded in scripture, by eyewitnesses to his life, who were with him 24/7? That is the best place to start.

What was the context in which Jesus was speaking? (Hint: it was a first-century Jewish audience.) How do His words apply to us today?

Did Jesus reference the Old Testament when He taught? What teachings? What does it mean? Did He present a reverent, coherent view of scripture as a whole?

These are some questions that are appropriate to think through when trying to correctly understand the message of Jesus. Which brings me to today’s subject.

An overlooked central principle of the teaching of Jesus and His disciples: Repentance

To be sure, there are endless ways to misunderstand, misrepresent, or misapply Christ’s message. It is done constantly. Some do it out of ignorance, some out of deliberate intent to be deceitful.

It is quite possible to read His words in such a way that your conclusion is incorrect. This goes back to the principle of exegesis, which is defined as: “critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture.”

Put another way, exegesis is the task of interpreting the meaning by looking at the original author’s context, intention, and audience. We can’t rightly draw conclusions from an ancient text (or any scholarly writing) without doing this important work.

A non-scriptural sideshow

Growing up in the United States in the latter part of the twentieth century, I often heard phrases such as “give your heart to Jesus,” or “let Jesus into your heart,” regarding matters of the transactional nature of salvation. While there is nothing wrong with the sentiment explicitly, I would challenge you to find where in the Bible those instructions are given.

They aren’t. You won’t find that phrase in the Bible anywhere. So why is it so common for Christians to use it?

Doing that mental exercise got me thinking about what did Jesus actually say about salvation? What were His teachings surrounding it, since He is the author of salvation? It warrants a further look.

John the Baptist, forerunner to Christ, preached repentance:

Matthew 3:2, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” v. 8, “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;”

Jesus’ first sermon

After Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, the first recorded words of His public ministry, which match the message of John the Baptist, are found in

Matthew 4:17: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Mark 1:14, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.

A consistent theme in Jesus’ teaching

As the Lord Jesus journeyed throughout first-century Israel during His incarnation, He drew large crowds as He performed miracles and taught with astonishing authority.

When addressing whether some people were worse sinners based on tragedies that occurred to them, Jesus said emphatically:

“I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” – Luke 13:3, 5

On another occasion, Jesus declared His mission as: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:32

To expound on that, and to bring home the point, I quote from an article on DesiringGod.org

When Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32), he did not mean that some persons are good enough not to need repentance. He meant some think they are (Luke 18:9), and others have already repented and have been set right with God. For example, the rich young ruler desired “to justify himself” (Luke 10:29) while “the tax collector . . . beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ [and] went down to his house justified [by God!]” (Luke 18:13-14).

Therefore, none is excluded. All need repentance. And the need is urgent. Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” What did he mean by perish? He meant that the final judgment of God would fall on those who don’t repent. “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41). Jesus, the Son of God, is warning people of the judgment to come, and offering escape if we will repent. If we will not repent, Jesus has one word for us, “Woe, to you” (Matthew 11:21).

This is why his demand for repentance is part of his central message that the kingdom of God is at hand. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The gospel—the good news—is that the rule of God has arrived in Jesus to save sinners before it arrives at his second coming in judgment. So the demand to repent is based on the gracious offer that is present to forgive, and on the gracious warning that someday those who refuse the offer will perish in God’s judgment.

After he had risen from the dead Jesus made sure that his apostles would continue the call for repentance throughout the world. He said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). So the demand of Jesus to repent goes to all the nations. It comes to us, whoever we are and wherever we are, and lays claim on us. This is the demand of Jesus to every soul: Repent. Be changed deep within. Replace all God-dishonoring, Christ-belittling perceptions and dispositions and purposes with God-treasuring, Christ-exalting ones.

In conclusion

Are you familiar with the biblical call to repentance? What is your response to it? It turns out to be quite literally of uttermost importance.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts and questions. Thank you for reading!

Posted in Biblical insights, Theology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Defining Redefined Words: The Fight for Language

Have you noticed that certain hot-button words in our western culture are actively being redefined to mean something new, that is an aberration from their actual, historical meaning? If you haven’t noticed, it’s time to do so.

Earlier this year, noticing this disturbing trend, I decided to screenshot some word definitions for posterity. I figured I’d use them for some reason sooner or later. Turns out it is sooner.

When news broke in June 2020, that Merriam-Webster was changing the definition of racism, due to the complaints of an individual, I could scarcely believe it. Actually, I could, because I’ve been watching this unfold for some time. But for a dictionary to actually *change* the definition of a word — this is alarming.

I might remind you, that the definition of a word is in most cases immutable, with few exceptions of words that have been updated with cultural shifts, slowly, over time. Generally, a word means what it means. To attempt to change it to is uproot reality itself.

How very 2020 of reality to be uprooted. (For those reading later, 2020 is more than half over, and is going down in history as a year like no other.)

My purpose in writing this post is to simply provide screenshots of some definitions as they have always been understood. I’ll refrain from extensive commentary on this post; it will serve more to establish a baseline than anything else. I may provide commentary in future posts because there is so, so much to be said about all of this.

Historical definitions of hot-button words

Racism: “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s one race is superior.

Rascism

To illustrate my point, here is the modified definition of racism, as of June 27, 2020:

Racism 6-27-20

It’s subtle. But that is how redefinitions work. Subtle at first. More on that in a future post.

Let’s proceed with more word definitions.

Racist: a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.

Racist

Bigot: a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.

Bigot

Fascism: A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

Fascism1 7-7-20 dictionary.com

White supremacist: a person who believes that white people are racially superior to others and should, therefore, dominate society.

White Supremist

Nazi: a member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

Nazi

Justice: just behavior or treatment; the quality of being fair and reasonable.

Justice

Just: based on our behaving according to what is morally right and fair.

Just

Tolerant: showing a willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

Tolerant

Equity: the quality of being fair and impartial.

Equity

Wrapping up …

I was motivated to put this set of definitions together as a starting point for fighting back on what I see as a war on language that unfortunately many people don’t even realize is being waged.

There are leftist/Marxist cultural change agents who wield a lot of influence, that are actively redefining terms, and subtly building in different contexts around the words they are using. What’s worse, as they weaponize words that we’ve always understood to have a specific meaning, they often equivocate between the traditional definition and the one they are using functionally. And they do so deliberately to cause confusion and lack of clarity.

That is at best, deceptive, and at worst, evil. Any culture that cannot communicate effectively is doomed to implode eventually. And yet it seems that is what the word redefiners want for western civilization.

Is that what you want?

I urge you, if this topic concerns you, to educate yourself on what is happening on this front. When in conversations with people where words like “racism,” “justice,” and “equity” are being thrown around, ask the people using them to define what they mean by them. If you’re using a different definition than the person you’re talking to, you’ll end up talking past each other.

In closing, I’ll offer this quote. Let me know if there are any words that should be added to the list above, or if you have any questions.

“Social upheaval, in other words, presents an opportunity for would-be autocrats to make a grab for power by weakening the foundations of legitimate rule. Those foundations are: piety, family, and language.” – Spencer Klavan, The American Mind

 

 

 

 

Posted in Culture, Political Musings | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

3 Time Saving Productivity Hacks For Writers (and Anyone Else)

Today’s digital world is full of unprecedented opportunity. With that opportunity comes unparalleled distractions from previous eras of humanity. If you’d have told me when I was an acid-washed jean wearing child in the 1980s that come adulthood, I could simultaneously

– be writing on a Word document
– while watching TV
– flipping tabs to check multiple social media accounts
– did I mention a separate tab to play music streaming?
– getting text messages, phone calls and watching Netflix on a mobile device
– all while trying to get actual work done …

… I wouldn’t have even known what you were talking about, actually.

The cost to such ubiquitous, instant access to ANY entertainment we want is …

IT IS A PRODUCTIVITY KILLER.

Some of us are under the delusion that so many attention diversions actually help us get more done. Maybe, for a small percentage of the population with a particular brain wiring, that is true. But for most of us, the distractions slow us down, big time.

Can you relate?

As a writer, I’ve learned that I really need to focus on the task at hand to get any meaningful work done. I’ve adopted three practices that have helped me be more focused while writing. Naturally, they can be applied to any discipline. Here they are

Three Time-Saving Productivity Hacks

1. Keep Phone On Mute 24-7

Does this sound difficult, contrarian, or backward? You mean, silence my phone … all the time? Not just when I’m in a meeting? But what if I miss calls and important texts because I don’t hear them??

That, my friend, is precisely the point.

Why do you need to see text messages instantly? If you miss a call from your boss, maybe that stinks, but you can always call him or her right back. It’s not the end of the world.

The digital era has inadvertently trained us to be at the ready with instant communication. I’m going to make the brazen suggestion that might not always be a good thing. I’m thoroughly blessed to have a lot of fabulous people in my life. That translates into a lot of group text strings that go on throughout the day, every day and night.

I love keeping up with my people, but reading the wacky thing my friend’s daughter said at the grocery store is not something that I need to disrupt my concentration for when I’m “in the zone.” It can wait. So can 97% of mobile communications.

If you’re in a job where keeping in close touch with clients is a big part of your day, this may not be practical. I get it. I make exceptions when I really do need to be attuned to who is contacting me. But most of the time, silence is golden.

2. Put Timers on Social Media Apps

It rocked my world when I discovered that on Android devices, you can set daily timers by the app. That is, you can tell it how long to allow you to use the app before it kicks you off for the day.

It’s no secret that my thumbs navigate to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram instinctively, and I end up spending WAYY more time browsing than is necessary. I found myself wasting too much time on mindless scrolling that I could have been using on any number of more profitable projects. Like writing. Der.

Confession: since at the time of this writing, my state has been under a COVID-19 stay-at-home order, I’ve removed the timers from my apps to indulge in more browsing. Now that it’s been a few months, it’s time to get back to my set limits.

Pro-tip: If you have an android device, you can find this magical option under settings –> Digital Wellbeing.

Screenshot_20200527-092808_Settings[1]

3. Minimize All Other Tabs While Writing

Have you ever sat down to write, only to have your eyes drift to the notifications popping on the Facebook tab? Me neither. So this advice is really only “in theory.” Ha.

All the other websites we frequent and social media services that eat away our time have a way of pulling us away from the tasks that matter the most. So I’ve found that refusing myself the temptation, by not even opening them, is the best way to stay focused.

To prove I’m trying to practice what I preach, here is a screenshot of what I am looking at as I type this.

WPress Tabs Screenshot

See, just the WordPress tab open.

For those of you who are extra sleuth-y, you might have noticed something amiss in that screenshot. The word “screenshot” above. See?

WPress Tabs Screenshot-markup

That leads me to …

A bonus fourth thing, just for you, grasshopper

That is another way I’ve trained myself to stay focused — making notes about things I need to add later to enhance the post. Pictures, videos, links to other articles – those are all things that I can add later, not while I am in the middle of a train of thought during writing.

Despite my best intentions, jumping to find the link to that other article I plan to reference inevitably leads to more distractions. Re-reading the article, clicking other links within it – wait a second! How did I end up scrolling Twitter for 20 minutes?? You get the idea.

Probably the only exception I make is keeping a tab open for thesaurus.com because I do like to mix up my word use. All good word nerds should. HOWEVER, that too could be treated as an item to be banished while writing. I’ll talk more about that in the next post, with EVEN MORE tips for writing more efficiently.

Staggering to a conclusion

If you’re going to conclude, which is inevitable, why not do it in a dramatic fashion – like staggering? (Internal voice says, “Because then people might think you’re drunk. That wouldn’t be good. Don’t stagger.”) Internal voices can be really lame sometimes.

OK, so, in conclusion. Take control of your time by keeping your phone on mute, putting limits on social media use in a way that doesn’t rely on your own perception of the passing of time (It’s flawed. Sorry to break it to you. Mine is too.), and only leave open the tab you are using to write. If your writing is on a word document, even better. You don’t need to have a browser open at all.

What else would you add to this list?

I’ve got a few more tricks up my metaphorical sleeve that I’ll share with you in the next post if you want to read them. What do you think?

 

 

Posted in Advice, Blogging, Lifehacks, Productivity, Professional Development | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Extroverts, Here is What Your Introvert Friends Want You to Know Post-Quarantine

When the COVID-19 social distancing/stay-at-home quarantine protocols began rolling out across the nation, I saw many social media pleas from extroverts, along the lines of:

“Introverts, please put down your books and talk to us! We’re not OK!”

“Introverts – check on your extroverted friends. We need help!”

Fair and reasonable.

Though I know I obviously don’t speak for all introverts, I’ll set that inconvenient fact aside as use “we” as though I do. Because I may speak for more than you think.

Many introverts answered the plea from our extroverted friends. We jumped on Zoom calls and Marco Polo to check in with you. We even scheduled some, because we recognized the value of staying in touch when we can’t see you face to face.

We even endured to some extent, extra online meetings, because we knew you were lonely. Because we love you. We love you enough to put our book down and chat, when we have no need to.

Here what introverts want extroverts to know as the quarantine restrictions loosen

“Extroverts, please don’t overwhelm us with urgent requests to hang out, multiple times per week, for the foreseeable future.”

For the solo time-loving introvert in your life, not much has changed. Did you get resistance to socialize before COVID-19? Expect the same once it’s normal to be able to hang out again.

An aside: I write this from the perspective of an introvert, even though I am a hybrid “extroverted introvert.” To the uninitiated, I might be perceived as an extrovert based on social interactions. But I definitely need time to recharge in solitude after socializing.

I understand how full-on introverts think though, so I am writing with them in mind.

Extroverts, just as you felt a sincere pang to be with your people when you were cut off, we introverts will still feel a strong urge to manage our social interactions as quarantine is lifted. We ask that you respect that.

Another piece of introvert trivia … seeing y’all on social media, and posting our thoughts there, is energizing to us, and gives us more social fulfillment than we should probably admit. Its not that we don’t want to see you — however, seeing you on social media goes a long way towards filling the gap of not being together in real life.

Keeping that in mind, here are a few ideas to help both personality types love each other well post-quarantine:

For extroverts

  • Don’t overwhelm us with invitations
    As much as we love you, we don’t need to see you 2-3 times in a week.

  • Spread out the invitations to us
    Please, please … settle for one gathering initially, then give us some time to recover.

  • Realize we probably have multiple extroverts trying to see us
    For folks who crave social interaction, scheduling time with people who have a much lesser need in that regard can be frustrating I would imagine. My challenge to you is to realize that we might have multiple people competing for time on our calendar. Please take that into account if we need to schedule something further out than you’d prefer.

For introverts

  • Be willing to overextend yourself slightly to meet with loved ones
    I’m looking at myself here. I want to be willing to squeeze a few more things into my schedule than I’d normally allow if it means showing love to a friend or family member.

  • Let them talk – a lot – without getting frustrated
    They’re going to anyway, remember? So allow them to release pent up conversation that may have been bubbling up inside them for weeks. 🙂

  • Remember it’s OK to set boundaries – and implement them
    If you try to limit your social outings on a given week, great. You’re in good company. If you’re willing to let that slide for a few weeks after quarantine, I commend you.

    However, that does not mean that you have to relinquish control of your social schedule. You can still say “no” to gatherings without feeling bad. Here is an idea of how it could play out:

    As it becomes permissible in your area to gather in smaller groups and perhaps eat in restaurants, you may find that multiple people or groups want to get something scheduled. My recommendation is to decide ahead of time how many “social slots” you have available each week, then begin to schedule them out as opportunities come in.

    When you get offers for additional socializing, especially last minute things, you can say something like:

    “I really appreciate the offer! My schedule is full this week, but how about next week or the week after? I could do (insert a few times you are available in the future).”

    “I have plans then, but could we take a rain check? Thanks for the offer; let’s get something scheduled for later this month.”

    Or, if you want to politely refuse an offer and not schedule it at all:

    “Thanks for thinking of me. I don’t have the bandwidth right now, but I appreciate the offer.”

In Conclusion

Parting words of advice for extroverts and introverts (which overlaps to some degree with planners and spontaneous people – my post about that is here)

Extroverts – if you get shut down by an introvert, please don’t take it too personally. We most likely want to see you, in a fashion and time frame that doesn’t overwhelm our schedule. (Schedule overwhelm exhausts us.)

Introverts – to summarize – be more flexible and generous with your time, roll with it, but give yourself permission to not overdo it.

Is there anything you think I overlooked or misrepresented, for either side? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

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On Peace of Mind About Coronavirus

The time in which we find ourselves sure is unprecedented, is it not? In fact, it is unparalleled for many of us under a certain age whose entire lives have been in a well-vaccinated time of the late 20th century.

Those of us who are western Gen Xers, children of 1980s or later, have always lived in a time when epidemics were under control, and life was free of that kind of scare. Polio, measles, smallpox … those were things we maybe heard about as kids, but didn’t have any experience with or category for in our thinking.

Until now.

This pandemic has caught many of us by surprise. Even though, at the time of this writing, we’ve had several weeks to process it and get used to “the new normal” of isolation and social distancing, it is still a shock to our systems. At least to mine.

There is a lot that could be said about the politics behind it, and critiquing the responses of individual governments. Everyone has an opinion about what should be done about it, and how each of us should be behaving in light of what our governments have asked us to do to flatten the curve. I’ll leave the political part to someone else to handle.

My goal for this post is to get to the heart of the matter.

The proverbial heart, that is. The emotional part. Emotions are messy. They are hard to manage, even if you can identify what they are, and why they are causing you to act in a certain way. Many times, we don’t even get that far in the analysis of our behavior.

A global pandemic only complicates emotional responses. When the world as we know it gets turned on its head, and shaken fiercely like a snow globe, what happens next is unknown and unpredictable.

People freak out. Peace of mind about coronavirus seems somewhat rare.

Maybe you’ve encountered some people who are freaking out. Perhaps you’re one of them. If you are, keep reading. I’m about to get to the good stuff.

I used to to freak out a lot more often. I still do sometimes, but I’ve learned something – it doesn’t help me. I’ll go on a limb and boldly assert that it doesn’t help you, either.

I can’t think of a single time that panicking about something helped me in the slightest to achieve a solution. What does come to mind, is plenty of times I’ve squandered precious time in the midst of a panic episode. When I finally calmed down, I still had a mountain in front of me to conquer, I was just lacking the time I had wasted on panicking.

Can you relate to that?

As I’m writing this self-therapy session (thank you for peeking in the windows to offer moral support), I’m thinking of the application to the covid-19 craze in which we find ourselves in this first half of 2020.

I’m not freaking out. Surprisingly, I’m cool, calm, and collected about this whole thing. How is that possible?

An aside, before you get riled up about that outlandish statement. That does not insinuate that I am not taking the threat seriously, or that I am being flippant about the precautions. I am, and I am not, respectively.

Why I have peace of mind about coronavirus

The peace I have deep in my heart is not one that I manufactured due to mindfulness or the reading of some self-help guru. Rather it is through something known as “the peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Through a lifetime of reading about what God has revealed about Himself and His ways in the pages of the Bible, I have gotten to know Him in a more meaningful way. It has changed everything about the way I do life.

In the pages of scripture, I learn that God

Is sovereign over all (Psalm 115:3, Daniel 4:25b, Psalm 135:6)

… Is always accomplishing His purposes (Isaiah 46:9-10)

… Has an extravagant, costly, sacrificial love for us* (John 3:16, Romans 8:35-39)

… The us* mentioned above applies to those who love Him in return

This particular point has been hotly debated for all of human history, and I’m surely not going to settle the matter in one blog post. So I’ll just leave it there for your consideration and pray that you look into it for yourself to determine whether it is correct. I’d suggest starting by reading all of Romans 8-9.

… Provides His children with everything they need (hint: it is a lot less than we think, and not what we think) (2 Peter 1:3, Philippians 4:19, Matthew 7:11)

… Is always with us, giving us comfort through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:20, Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Peter 5:7)

Through the years of having these truths worked into the fabric of my heart and soul through Bible reading, preaching, and life experience, I have come to realize that there is no reason to fear.

Make no mistake, I still have fears. Anxiety still gets the best of me — more than I care to admit. Still, the calming promises of peace from God become more normal, the more I walk with Him.

So what does that mean for me?

“That’s great for you, Summer,” perhaps you’re thinking. What about for those of us who don’t have our head in the clouds?

First of all, I’ll let that condescending remark slide and ask you – why are you allowing the troubles of this world to bother you?

Why settle for fear when you can have peace?

Is it prudent to look to fallen, sinful humans for hope, when you can rest in the assurance of the Almighty?

Why shake your fist at God, and ask, “how could You allow this to happen?” instead of acknowledging that everything you have is a gift from Him (James 1:17) and respond with repentance, gratitude and humility? (Romans 1:18-22)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10

That’s what.

Here’s why I’m telling you this

I write this post because I care deeply about you. Even if we’ve never met. I have a burning desire for you to experience the peace and joy that I have, regardless of what life brings.

It is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s offensive to the secular mind. Even to a lot of religious minds.

I care about you enough to offend you if it means you’ll honestly examine yourself in light of God’s law and eternity.

Let me know with a comment if you have any questions, concerns, gripes or disagreements. I welcome them all. Thank you for reading!

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” – 2 Corinthians 13:5

“Jesus *said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”‘ – John 14:6

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The Upsides of Social Distancing: An Introverted Entrepreneur’s Take

The following is a tale of the upsides of “social distancing” as an introverted entrepreneur.

If you would have told me, even a month ago, that the current state of affairs would be the case in the dealing with the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic, I would not have believed you. Would you have believed you?

And yet, here we are. Basically on lock down for at least two weeks. I see the wisdom of all the shutdowns and cancellations. Honestly, I don’t mind it.

I know extroverts and otherwise highly social people that are getting stir crazy right now, and I feel compassion for them. This must be terrible.

For me, as a solopreneur/entrepreneur who also happens to be an introvert, I personally am embracing this “social distancing” with fervor. I’ll briefly share why.

An inside look at the insanity

As a new business owner, who also has a side gig to help pay the bills, regular networking activities, a husband and two cats at home, volunteer work, and active involvement with friends and family, I feel perpetually behind. All the time. I would imagine that is a feeling shared by many, not just business owners. I get it. That is life in the 21st century.

But when I work late into the evenings, all day on Saturday and part of the day on Sunday (which I most often do), and still feel like I barely made a dent in my to-do list of business and housework tasks, it can feel like a hamster running on a wheel. Always moving, but never going anywhere.

I have big dreams and ideas of things I want to do for my business … just never enough time.

The introvert admission

Jump to Thursday, March 12, 2020. That’s when the closure announcements started rolling in like the frothy foam on a breaking ocean wave. As meeting after meeting, event after event got cancelled, my calendar went from fuller than I care for to very empty.

And I love it.

What better time to start chipping away at those big projects that never get started because I know they will take hours of time that I can’t seem to find? Why not use those windows of time that are committed to meetings, and get some reading or cleaning done? Or sleep in?

I have, and I will continue to do so, thank you very much.

As for the missing social interaction … I can’t say I’m missing it. 🙂 I love my friends and family dearly, and I look forward to seeing them again soon. However, for this over-scheduled introvert, a forced break is like a sigh of relief.

Since my business is new, and my client load has room for growth, I’m in a position of not having to worry too much about loss of income. I’d have to have some in order to lose it. 😉 (I do have some, but my side gig is still my primary source for now.)

In conclusion

I’m grateful that I can work online. As long as clients can pay, my work goes on.

It is a treat that social media allows us to stay connected digitally, even when we aren’t meeting in person. If this would have happened 15 years ago, we’d be in a lot worse shape on many fronts.

It is a blessing in disguise to have extra unanticipated free time. I am trying to make the most of it.

I’m sure as this quarantine stretches out, I’ll start to get cabin fever and be ready to hang out with people again. Until then, this social distancing as an introverted entrepreneur is like a dream come true. How are you coping with the quarantine? Are you having cabin fever yet? Getting projects done? Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

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4 Marketing Trends for 2020: My Takeaways from Social Media Marketing World

I just spent six glorious days in lovely San Diego, California. Having completed my Bachelor’s degree there, it felt like coming home again. Well, at least home to the place I had the privilege of living for 2.5 years but had to move back to my actual home immediately after because I couldn’t afford to stay in Southern California. 😉

The primary purpose of my trip was business — attending Social Media Marketing World, a conference I’ve had my eye on since 2012, but never could quite make it. Now that I work primarily for myself, I pounced on the opportunity to attend. As an entrepreneur who makes my living helping small businesses with copywriting and social media, I would be crazy to not attend one of the most prestigious conferences in that arena if it were within my grasp to do so.

The conference was three days, bringing me to the sweet secondary purpose of the trip. Pleasure, of course. My dear friend Kim relocated to San Diego county a little over a year ago and the ability to visit and stay with her is what made the trip a no-brainer. Furthermore, I have some friends from college days who still live in the area, so I figured I might be able to sneak in a visit with them also.

For the sake of making this post more palatable to folks who don’t know me, and are interested mainly in my takeaways from the conference, I’ll start with those. Some personal stories will be sprinkled in after that. You’re welcome. 🙂

Preconference deluge

To preface my takeaways, I’ll admit that I was a little overwhelmed before I even set foot in the San Diego Convention Center. The SMMW team puts an incredible amount of strategic forethought into making the conference as exceptional as possible for the attendees. That begins WEEKS before the conference.

First, they invite you to join the Facebook community group, which is full of separate chat groups with dozens, if not hundreds, of niche industries and interests. The organizers constantly engage the massive group with questions and helpful topics for the uninitiated.

Then there’s the app. I’d never attended a conference where you can plan out your agenda in advance on the app. Within the app, there are similarly dozens of separate strings of conversation happening.

This newbie was inundated with a flood of information. It was a lot to take in. However, it all served a purpose: to give attendees every opportunity to come prepared, and ready to connect with others. That became clearer as the conference got underway.

Setting the scene

Upon walking into the Convention Center, the great effort to set the mood for a party was quite apparent. Loud, lively music playing, and smiling staff members in branded t-shirts ready to direct you and answer any questions. There was even a dance team/flash mob that entertained the scores of folks eagerly anticipating the conference kickoff.

#smmw20

The Social Media Marketing World flash mob!

The networking plaza … and a humorous encounter

Corresponding to the many chat genres in the Facebook group, the networking plaza had a table set up for each one. Industry niches (e.g. tourism, media, entrepreneurs), personal interests, various industry topics … there were dozens of themed tables where you could join a conversation with like-minded individuals.

There was so much going on at all hours each day that I under-utilized that resource. I knew I wanted to make an appearance at the introvert table — I’d had some amusing convos with fellow introverts in that chat spot on the FB group, and I thought it would be fun to meet some of them in person.

When I finally had the chance to swing by the table on the last day, this is what I found:

#smmw20

OK, so no one feels like gathering to talk, evidently! 🙂

We introverts can be an elusive bunch, so I got a good chuckle out of that.

Now, onto my top four takeaways for marketing from #SMMW20:

1. I’ve got to include video in my marketing plan. Video is the way of the future. Get cracking!

This has been on my radar as a marketer for a few years. It’s been widely reported that social platforms reward video (especially live video) with greater reach than text, even text with pictures included.

I have endless excuses to not do video. I’ve used them regularly. I’ve been incrementally doing more video content, but it has been very irregular. After several of the sessions, most notably the statistics-rich keynote from Mike Stelzner (CEO of Social Media Examiner), I realize it is time to put my excuses to rest and GET ON IT.

As a side note, after the second day of the conference, I found myself wide awake the majority of the night, thinking about all the things I was learning … and processing a new focus for my business, which is quite exciting! I’ll share details on that soon.  A lot of research and planning to do in the meantime.

2. I need to put prices for my services on my website.

Marcus Sheridan, the closing keynote speaker, made a very compelling case for posting prices on my website. This is something I’ve thought about but not gotten around to.

Sheridan had the audacity to call out my primary excuse. It goes something like this: “I can’t put prices on my website, because every customer has a unique situation with a custom quote required.” He cited that very thing. Ouch.

He made a compelling case for posting those prices, backed with data and compelling self-examination revealing that:

  • Posting prices increases the chances of getting business.
  • I might be losing business with people who come to my site looking for prices and move on when they don’t find them.
  • Having prices available builds credibility and trust.
  • The excuse that my competitors may get my business if I am too expensive is bunk. Competitors don’t pay my bills, so why let the fear of them reduce customers’ trust in me?

3. Storytelling, and similarly, telling my story, is a critical piece to my marketing.

We are all drawn into stories. Folding stories into the fabric of my marketing draws people in. Furthermore, to loosely quote Marcus Sheridan, “the world needs to hear what life has taught you.” It was great to be reminded of this.

4. It is not about me. It is about my customers. Solving their problems is key.

I know this. Hearing it repeated over and over in different ways, by multiple speakers, gave it a fresh spin to get through my thick skull.

Skip self-promotion. Cut straight to the chase of addressing the customer’s problem (preferably, with the use of a good story when appropriate) and make a clear case for how I will solve it.

There is an abundance of additional takeaways and minutiae that I could include, but that is the top four.

Now, onto the personal fun stuff. 🙂

I flew into San Diego Friday morning, so I could hang out with my friend and gracious host Kim Friday and Saturday before the conference started on Sunday.

With a few hours to kill before she got off work, I made a beeline to the beach to grab lunch at a spot I’d been meaning to try out since my last visit to the area. Pacific Beach Alehouse did not disappoint.

Pacific Beach Alehouse

The view from the deck of Pacific Beach Alehouse. 🙂

Friend shenanigans included a trip to a local winery and a lovely hike at the oceanfront Torrey Pines State Reserve — another item on the to-do list for quite some time.

Torrey Pines State Reserve hiking

Coming from the drippy Pacific NW winter, I was eager to rock a tank top in March.

As it turned out, I was also able to connect with two of my college girlfriends for lunch right before catching my flight home. I located a New Zealand themed restaurant near our target area, and my friends were gracious enough to agree to meet there. My enthusiasm for all things Kiwi has been bubbling over since my trip there in January 2019 — which you can read about here.

Dunedin New Zealand Eats

L to R: Alicia, yours truly, Jen. I also heartily recommend “Dunedin New Zealand Eats” if you are in San Diego.

Dunedin New Zealand Eats

Dunedin New Zealand Eats — a great spot

All in all, I had a wonderful time. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn an incredible amount of things that will not only help me grow my business but will enable me to provide greater value to the clients I serve.

It is always a treat to spend time with dear friends as well.

Thanks for reading this post! If you attended Social Media Marketing World, I’d love to hear your takeaways also.

If you didn’t, please let me know if you have any questions about social media marketing that I can answer for you. I look forward to sharing my knowledge!

 

 

 

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May I Have Your Opinion? (Favorite Topics & A Quandary)

Dearest Reader,

I’m working through a bit of a challenge in my posting topics, and I wanted to ask your opinion.

This has historically been a variety blog. I write about whatever topics come to mind. Christian discipleship topics are what most often fill the pages; I delight to write about what I am learning as I study God’s word, read and listen to biblical exposition and live out my faith. With my primary goal of bringing glory to the one true, triune God of scripture, those topics are near to my heart and mind.

My challenge, however, is this: I have two conflicting principles I am trying to reconcile.

1) The conventional wisdom for blogging is that one should focus on a niche and write consistently on that topic. The reasoning is that by doing so, you not only have the potential to be regarded as an expert and thought leader on that topic – which can lead to other business opportunities – but that it is the surest way to grow your blog readership because generalist blogs are a thing of the past. People seek out niche content.

I agree with that and see the wisdom in that philosophy.

However …

2) I love variety too much. I even wrote about it. In addition to Christian discipleship/biblical topics, I also dabble in productivity, lifehacks, health, fitness, recreation, travel, humor, and miscellaneous matters of culture and politics.

I’ll be honest – I don’t like the idea of picking just one genre.

Recently, I recorded a video on social media soliciting the opinions of my friends and followers regarding this challenge about what type of posts they like to read from me. I got a mixed bag of feedback.

I thought it appropriate to open up the question directly to my beloved readers (maybe I should have done that first!). I share most of my posts on social media, which does open it up to more people. The majority of my readership comes from subscribers, search engines, and some who happen to find my posts in their WordPress feed.

So, what do you think?

Which type of topics do you most enjoy, of those I mentioned above? I’d greatly appreciate your feedback. If you are reading this, it means that you are one of the “founding readers” of this blog. I want to hear what interests you and what type of posts you’d like to see more of. (Even if they include sentences that end with a preposition.)

Yes, I’d like to grow the readership of this blog beyond a handful of family, friends and random social media people. The search engines make that possible, but it is a slow journey to significant traction. Yet, I’d also like to write for the people who have supported me since the beginning – YOU.

I’d love your candid feedback not only on the post topics you like but on the quandary of whether to niche down or keep the variety. Your opinion is important to me!

As always, thank you so much for reading. I really appreciate it!

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