Moments in Time

Fourteen months have gone by. In some ways, the time seems to have disappeared in the blink of an eye. In others, each moment drags on with aching slowness. It’s just another long day until I can see my Daddy again. Feel his hug. Kiss his cheek.

Sometimes, the pain is almost bearable now. But other times, it hurts so deeply that I still cannot breathe. I listen to his voice mails, and beg him to just come back. I will never NOT answer the phone. I’ll stay home from Bingo. I’ll wake up earlier… all just to never miss a call from him again. I will ignore my own pain just to be there for every moment he needed me and I physically couldn’t do it. All of those wasted moments that now torture me, knowing I can’t get them back and do them over.

I still want to scream until my voice is gone. The screaming inside of my head and heart feel as though it is choking me much of the time. It is so real that I can hear it. I feel the sounds trying to claw their way right through me to get out.

I keep being told that it’s time to let him go, move on and get over it. I CAN’T DO THAT. I’m not ready. What happened to people telling me that everyone grieves in their own way? For their own length of time? That’s it’s okay to take whatever time I need to get through this? Why am I suddenly wrong because I just can’t do it? Yes… I have had moments where I thought I was going to be okay and that I could handle this. Find peace. God I need peace.

I WANT to be better. I want to be okay. To feel that peace in my heart. To know I can hold on without him. That I can be productive and allow myself to achieve things again. To dream again. To be happy again. I WANT to be able to let go. I’ve tried. God knows – I’ve tried so hard.

I miss him so much. I need my Daddy back. Why do people keep telling me God needed him more?

THEY. ARE. WRONG. NO ONE NEEDS MY DADDY MORE THAN I STILL DO. NOT EVEN GOD.

When I am stressed out. Scared. Alone. Angry. Hurting. Happy. Excited. Every one of those moments, I need my Daddy. I need to pick up the phone and call to tell him something one of the kids have done. To forward a photo of them. Brag about Ashley and Beka. Tell him about the straight As I have on the road to my Bachelor’s degree. Ask his advice. Feel his hugs when I need to cry. Hear his booming laugh when something is funny. Have his wisdom wrap itself around me when I need it.

I hate moments now. I hate how much they hurt, make me feel completely alone in this world without my Daddy and remind me that there are a million more ahead that I have to figure out how to live without him.

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Happy 70th Birthday, Dad

Dear Daddy:

Today was supposed to be your 70th birthday. We had big plans for this, didn’t we? I was going to take the day off work and kidnap you. Lunch would have been Italian Beef and Beer Cheese Soup at O’Leary’s in Danville. After that, a drink at the old 610 Tap where you went so often with Harold. How’s he doing, by the way? I’m sure the two of you are having a great time, as you always did. I imagine you’ve introduced him to your buddy Butch by now. I can only imagine the beers being drunk and the stories being told.

After we left the 610, we’d have come back home to the good old Corner Pub. You didn’t know this part, but I had planned to make sure ALL of your friends were there waiting for us. I wanted everyone there – all of the guys you loved so dearly and had so many good times with over the years. We would have had a massive toast and a lot of drinks and laughter would have been flowing all around us. There would have been a birthday cake with tons of candles – I’m sure Ron wouldn’t have much liked that part, eh?

Instead, I’m sitting here listening to Address in the Stars, feeling so lost and alone. How do I tell you Happy Birthday? I can’t call you. I can’t go to the house and hug you. I can’t send you a silly card or take you to do all of the things we planned for today. All I can do is write this letter to you because there’s no address in the stars.

I hope you’re proud of me, Daddy. I’m trying so hard to go on with my life, and adjust to not having you here with me. Some days are better than others, but most days I still feel so empty and confused and angry and hurt and lost. I want to go sit down and talk to Doctor Vasareddy. Someone has to tell me how this happened. I don’t understand, and I need the answers to find some kind of closure, you know? There’s just such a huge hole in my heart and my life. Nothing is filling it. Nothing makes the pain stop. David tries so hard to take care of me like he promised you, Dad. He does a great job. I feel better when he hugs me – but it still just hurts so much. I’m trying, though. I promise you.

I miss you so much, Daddy. I love you so much more than I ever made you understand. I hope you’re looking down with a smile and know that I’m sending you every bit of love and all of the hugs that I can up to Heaven for your birthday.

Happy birthday, Daddy.

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Life Marches On

My Daddy has been gone two and a half months now. The pain is still as sharp as the day he left this Earth. There are times when it hurts so bad I want to scream until my voice no longer works. The tears come at random times. I still pick up the phone to call him, only to remember in nearly the same second that I can never call him again. I stare at the damn box his ashes sit in, and simply cannot wrap my mind around the fact that my Dad is nothing more than a pile of ashes now. I’m so angry. I want to hurt something. I want to tear things apart. I want to rage and find out WHY in the hell my Daddy isn’t here anymore.

You see… this shouldn’t have happened. None of the damn doctors can explain what happened. He had the Cryoblation on October 18th to kill the tumor in his lung. The only part of the cancer left was a tiny tumor in the other lung… one so small that they couldn’t even get the needle into it to freeze it, as well. He was FINE. He was feeling GOOD when I left on Halloween to come visit the kids in Connecticut. While we were here, he was increasingly tired and spent a lot of time resting. He didn’t really have much pain, until the night he went to the hospital because he had excruciating pain in his leg. That and the tiredness were the only symptoms.

In the emergency room, it was found he had a blockage/clot the ENTIRE length of his right thigh. However, they couldn’t remove the blockage because he also had Sepsis. Then it was discovered that his lungs were full of cancer. Someone… TELL ME HOW IN THE HELL ALL THIS HAPPENED. It was ONE MONTH after the cancer was GONE from his lungs. How in the hell did this happen? How is it possible? I swear on everything I hold dear that someone screwed up somewhere during that Cryoblation. It didn’t KILL the Cancer like they said… it accelerated it!!!! Yet no one will say so. No one will tell me what in the hell killed my Daddy.

On November 24th, they gave us the news about the cancer. They said treatment wasn’t an option. They said in about three months, we’d start needing Hospice and that we’d have him for at least six more months. By the time he was released on Wednesday to go home, he already had deteriorated enough to need Hospice right away.

My Daddy died FIVE DAYS LATER. Tell me… WHY?!?! I know he didn’t give up. He TOLD me he wanted to fight and to live longer. He had people he wanted to talk to. He had things he wanted to do… loose ends he wanted to tie up to make things easier on all of us. He never got the chance. I’m SO ANGRY. I just want to scream.

I miss my Dad every single second of every single day. I am getting married on March 15th – my birthday. Daddy wanted so much to be with us when David and I married. He was SO HAPPY that we were together and David promised him just hours before he died that he would always be here and always take care of me. That gave my Daddy his last smile. He squeezed our hands and smiled so big with tears in his eyes. It meant EVERYTHING to my Daddy to know David would take care of me. I want so badly for him to be there for my wedding at the church… to walk me down the aisle and to play something beautiful on the organ for me. He won’t be there. Instead, I have to light a freaking memorial candle in his honor. I don’t WANT a candle. I WANT my Dad. I WANT someone to tell me why I was robbed of that moment.

I just want someone to make the pain stop and make it okay again. I want to learn how to live without my Daddy and how to feel okay again.

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How Do I Cope Without My Dad?

13 It’s been six weeks now since the night my world changed forever. Six weeks since I held my Daddy’s hands as he took his last breaths. Six weeks since my heart shattered into a million pieces – and a chunk of it went to Heaven with him. I will never be the same. My Dad had a lot of health problems for so many years. I knew that I would fall apart when I lost him. I had no idea, though, just how horrible this would be.

I’m so lost still. It hurts so much more than I ever realized was possible. The pain is just so bad – like a huge weight sitting on my chest. Sometimes, I feel like I can’t even breathe at all. I still cry several times a day. I can’t make my brain focus very well. That makes it hard to work, but work I do. I have to, you know? I lash out at people for no reason. As I’m doing it, I realize I’m doing it and that I shouldn’t, but I can’t make myself stop for some reason. Maybe I want the world to hurt like I do? I don’t know honestly. I WANT to be better. I want this pain to stop. I know it will always hurt, but does it have to hurt this badly?

Alan Flint was not just my Father. He was my Daddy. I was a Daddy’s girl for 42 years, and damn proud of that fact. Dad and I were close all my life, yes, but in the last three years, we became so much closer as we dealt with all of his health problems – and as he always tried to deflect them to worry about mine. We shared everything – even “girl problems” I was having! Nothing was sacred – Dad and I talked everything through, good and bad. He was my champion. He was my cheerleader. He was the one I ran to when something bad happened and the one I called first when something good came along. He called me the same – good or bad, it was me he talked to. We propped each other up when times were hard and rejoiced together when light came shining through. He was my best friend.

I still don’t know how to live without him. I haven’t figured it out yet. Nearly every day, I grab my phone to call him only to instantly remember I can’t. I catch myself saying something about him in the present tense and have to backtrack – which makes me cry every single time.

I think that it’s so much worse now than before for two reasons. One – the calls, texts, emails and such have stopped. Rightly so – everyone else shouldn’t spend their time worrying about me, how I’m coping and such, and check on me constantly. I would never expect anyone to do that, yet it’s still a loss when it ended. Does that make sense? It’s not about getting attention, but having people “check” on me helped because we could freely talk about Dad. The other thing is that David was off for nearly a month and home all day with me. He is a chef at the local private men’s college (Wabash!) and they were shut down for three weeks for the holidays and then another week when the blizzard hit. Him getting no paycheck for those weeks has crippled us even more than we already were after both of us missing work due to Dad’s death, but having him here those weeks helped some. Now that he went back to work this past Monday, I sit here all day long alone. SO alone. I can’t go in and have him wrap his arms around me when I start crying or feel overwhelmed. I can’t have him come in and rub the tension out of my shoulders. I can’t see or talk to him when I need it. I’m just… alone.

All the things I can no longer do strangle me when I think of them. I needed a ride to the airport for February 8th. Beka can’t take me because her birthday is the day before (my baby will be 19!!) and she has plans. I do NOT want to mess that up for her! My first thought, of course, was to call Dad. He used to take me sometimes when I had to go out of town. We’d grab breakfast or lunch on the way and just talk and laugh. He’d hug and kiss me when I got there, make me promise to be safe, have fun and get lots of pictures and then tell me “Love you, Sugar!” That’s what he said to me every time we talked. “Love you, Sugar!” I want to hear that so much, you know? I can’t ask him to come take me shopping or to a doctor’s appointment. I can’t have him fix my computer if it breaks. I don’t have anyone now that I can just call up when I’m hurting, when I’m sad, when I’m angry or when I’m happy. I can’t call and just hear his voice anymore. I do have about fifteen voicemails saved that he had left me at various times over the last several months. I’ve been able to listen to a couple but it’s so hard. Hearing his voice helps – and hurts so bad. Hearing him say on the recording “Love you, Sugar” makes me sob uncontrollably. I AM grateful that I have those to play, but at the same time it’s just too hard.

Yes, I’m glad he’s not suffering. I’m glad he’s not in pain anymore and is whole again with BOTH legs. I love to think that he’s up in Heaven playing the biggest and most amazing pipe organ there ever was. I’m glad he’s reunited with my grandparents, my sister, my big brother and so many others who have gone before. And, I know many believe that God needed him more. I don’t, though. NO ONE could ever need my Daddy as much as I still do. I don’t care if it’s selfish. I just want him back. I NEED him here. What the hell am I supposed to DO without him?

I miss you so much, Daddy. Every single freaking second, I miss you. I love you with what’s left of my heart. There’s a piece of it with you and it will always be there. I need a Daddy hug so bad. You’re the one who always got me through the times that hurt. How the hell am I supposed to get through this worst hurt of all without you?

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Learning Who I Am Without My Dad

On Christmas Eve, a well-meaning person told me that “he’s not in pain anymore so you can’t cry and be sad.” I beg to differ. I most certainly CAN cry and be sad. I can rage and be heartbroken. I can scream inside my head because nothing will ever be the same. I will never be the same. A piece of me died when I watched my Daddy take that last breath. He carried part of my heart with him to Heaven, and I will never get that back. I won’t – and can’t – be whole again. I’m so happy that he is no longer suffering on a daily basis. I’m grateful he’s not in so much pain all of the time. I’m glad he doesn’t have to go through tests and procedures and surgeries and treatments. But those things don’t negate the pain. It doesn’t make it okay. None of that makes me feel better about my Dad being gone. I knew it would hurt badly. I had no idea, though, just how horrific this would be. I had no clue that I would feel so completely lost and broken.

Tonight while crying, I told David that I don’t know who I am without my Daddy. I don’t know how to be without him… how to act, how to get through the days without calling him for a laugh or some advice. No one understands the bond that Dad and I had. Yes, I was a Daddy’s girl. Yes, he always ALWAYS put me first. Yes, he was my hero. But he was also my best friend, and I mean that literally. We called each other nearly daily, just to laugh about something, gripe about having a bad pain day, discuss various health options, talk about the grandkids, worry about bills or trade stories about the old days. We leaned on each other when something wasn’t right and we took turns applauding each others’ accomplishments large and small. We loaned each other money. We griped about a loved one who drove us nuts, those who made us angry and talked up the ones who made us happy. We shared EVERYTHING. Heck, I even called Dad when I first started having female problems. It may seem weird to some that Dad and I were this close, but it worked for us. I’ve been his little princess since the moment I was born and that never changed.

I’m not kidding when I say my Dad always put me first. Unfortunately, I believe he put me first at the end, when his life depended on it. He never bounced back after that stupid Cryoblation. When Beka and Camden and I left on November 1st to go to Connecticut, I knew he was still feeling a little poorly. He swore to me it was nothing to worry about. He promised me he was feeling a little better each day. I made him swear he would call me if he got worse. I told him in no uncertain terms I would come home early to help him, take care of him – make him see a doctor. He chuckled and thanked me like always for taking such good care of him.

I called him several times while we were there. He loved hearing about our trip. He couldn’t wait to see the photos I took of the leaves turning out East. The last conversation we had while I was there was the night before we left to head back, when I excitedly called him from the beach to tell him I had seen a whale. He was so excited for me. I told him he sounded a little down but he said he was just sleepy and about to take a nap. Stupidly, I believed him. Maybe I just wanted so badly for him to be okay.

When we got home on Monday the 18th of November, I called to let him know we were back and all was well. We talked idly of my coming over later in the week to show off all of the pictures. He still didn’t sound quite right, but he assured me once again he was okay. On Thursday, he called to let me know an ambulance was on the way to get him because he had excruciating pain in his leg. I met him at the hospital and we found out he had a clot running the entire length of his thigh. His INR was off the charts. He had Sepsis. The cancer had spread beyond his lungs into his lymph system. He wasn’t very lucid those next few days. When he did wake up the evening after the doctor gave us his final prognosis, Dad was so awake. He made me sit on the bed and explain why we were there and what was going on. He didn’t remember any of it. He didn’t remember answering all of the questions, talking to various doctors and going through all of the tests. He asked me point-blank if this was it… was he dying. I had to look my Daddy in the eyes and tell him that this time, they couldn’t fix it. I explained that the doctors thought we’d have about six months. He gave me that half-grin of his and a huge hug. He had tears in his eyes when he promised me we would make the most of that time. We would spend it together, and I promised him I wouldn’t let him be in any pain. I swore I’d do whatever it takes to make it as easy for him as I could.

We got five days after bringing him home. Five short days later, he was holding my hands as he slipped from this Earth. He never was in pain, and didn’t have much trouble breathing. He was very aware that last night… right until the end. He couldn’t really talk, but he was able to let me know in other ways that he understood things I said – with a hand squeeze, a nod of his head or even a grunt of “uhn uhn” or “mmhmm.” About half an hour before he died, my Daddy turned his head and looked me in the eyes. He said “I love you” as clear as day. It was like he saved up his energy by not talking those last few hours so that he could get that out. He knew I needed it, and he needed me to know that even as his life slipped away, he was thinking of me. He was putting me first once again. He knew how much losing him would tear me apart. The stubborn man refused to tell me while I was gone that he was slowly getting worse… he didn’t want me to miss a single moment with my grandbabies. He put my happiness before his own health… and I will never let go of the deep sense of guilt I have over that.

If he had told me… if I had only been home… we could have gone to the doctor much sooner. Sepsis wouldn’t have set in. They could have fixed his INR so that he didn’t clot the way he did. There are so many if’s here. I know intellectually that he very well may still be alive if only he had TOLD me. It makes me angry, I admit it. I want him to have TOLD me so that we could DO something. I do not for a moment believe that he wanted to leave. I know for a fact he didn’t. He didn’t want to die yet. I truly believe if he had known this would happen, he would have DONE something much sooner. I have to believe that. But I hate myself in some ways for allowing him to put me first so much. I shouldn’t have basked in the feeling that someone on this Earth – my Daddy – loved me more than anything and anyone else. Maybe if I forced him to tell me more often when he felt badly (he would brush me off a lot so I wouldn’t worry), maybe he would have told me this time, too. I know I’m not making a lot of sense, and that’s okay. I just have to get this out before my head explodes into a million pieces like my heart has.

I’m scared. I’m lost. I’m broken. I NEED my Daddy. I need him here so badly and I don’t know what to do without him. I don’t know how to be me anymore. I don’t know how I’m supposed to live the rest of my life. I need to hear him again… “I love you, sugar.”

I love you too, Daddy. I miss you so much – every single second. I know I have to go on, and I’m trying so hard. I know you would want me to laugh and love and be happy. I know you want what’s best for me. I just hope you know how very much I love you. I promise you that somehow I will figure it all out.

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What Happens To Your Outdated Social Profiles?

XangaMy friend Drew Olanoff got me thinking with a recent Tweet about Photobucket. I replied to him with something snarky and then put “note to self: find and delete old PB account.” I shuddered when I thought about the pictures languishing there. Thankfully, y’all will never find it. I used an email address and username from years before I started working in social media, and have never used those since for anything. Whew! But still… now that I remember they’re there, I really don’t want them there.

Social sites come and social sites go. There are a few that will dig in for the long haul such as Facebook and Twitter. We once thought that about MySpace. Oh and Xanga. Remember that place? I’m willing to bet your old profile is still there. And the dumb photos you’d rather no one see these days. Let’s not forget the status messages about your ex – the one you’re hoping your current love never sees.

You’ve forgotten about those accounts, haven’t you? I did and I KNOW better. As more and more of these types of web spaces open up on a daily basis, it’s something we need to think about. How often have you signed up for a hot new site, filled in a profile complete with pictures and information and then quickly moved on to the next shiny new toy? That stuff doesn’t get deleted except in the rare case the site actually closes. Go ahead – I’ll wait while you go confirm that your old MySpace and Xanga pages are still there.

When the announcement came a little while ago about the “new” new MySpace, I went into full panic mode. I knew everyone would go log in or create new profiles to check it out. I remembered what my profile looked like and nearly threw up. It was full of blinky stuff, lovey-dovey quotes, messages to my ex and pictures of the two of us. I don’t want to remember that stuff let alone have to have anyone see it. It took me about ten minutes to get in – I had no clue which old password and email I had used. Finally – I was able to delete most of it and clean it up. That process took a while, admittedly, but was worth it.

So what should we do? It’s simple. We’re all still going to join new sites and create profiles. I recommend keeping them very basic at first unless you become a heavy user. That way if you never log in again you have nothing to worry about in the future. Additionally, let’s say a Facebook killer DOES come along one day and you decide you’re going to make “the switch.” Take the time to clean up anything on the old site you wouldn’t want someone to see in five years. Download your data/photos/etc on sites that allow it. Delete anything that could somehow incriminate or embarrass you later in life.

It may seem like a pain to have to do these things, but how will you feel when you run for President one day and some lame reporter digs up your long-forgotten drunken toga party pics on MySpace?

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Stop Selling and Get Social

This morning started out no differently than any other. I showered and dressed, straightened up our apartment and decided what to cook for dinner. I then fired up the computer and headed out to the porch with my iPhone to enjoy the last (likely) warm day of this year for a few moments. I scanned Twitter and Facebook, seeing the same old same old posted everywhere. I’m so used to this that I didn’t realize how BAD my streams have gotten… until I looked at a beautiful photograph my good friend Dave Delaney had posted of him and his son. It was in that moment that I remembered what the hell social media is for.

We all have become so good at marketing ourselves, our companies or our clients on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter that we have forgotten to be social. We aren’t sharing our lives. We aren’t talking to each other. We’re too busy competing for the most clicks, favorites and Likes. We crave those almighty shares and will do whatever it takes to get them. You bet your ass social marketing is a glorious thing. I won’t bother to deny it. I get paid to leverage my clients in these spaces, just like you do.

It saddens me, though, that we no longer truly socialize with each other. I’m not talking about the damn checkins from Foursquare telling the world what you’re eating for lunch or which movie you’ll be attending. I want to know what you think. How do you feel about relevant issues? I want you to stop blindly reTweeting links to an article you enjoyed and instead tell me WHY you liked it. What’s your take on those written words? How would you have written the story differently?

When all of these thoughts collided in my blonde little head, I spent an hour going through Tweets and Facebook posts. I calculated approximately 95% of what I saw fell into one of three categories:

  • Links to articles (this includes re-sharing) with zero commentary, follow-up or original thoughts added.
  • Quick messages telling me to buy your book/service/product – most of which didn’t bother to tell me WHY I should want to do this.
  • Missives begging me to look at this metric or that report.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of talking about ROI. I don’t want to hear any more about metrics. I don’t give a flying fig what your “numbers” are, honestly. I want you to talk to me – and this includes companies and brands. Even a company can have a conversation. People will appreciate you answering their questions and asking some of your own to facilitate discussion MUCH more than they’ll appreciate yet another link to yet another sale. I promise.

Don’t you remember the days where building relationships and trust was the most important thing you could do in the social space? Do you all honestly believe that turning into some link-posting robot is going to build anything? All you’re doing is making people want to tune you out. I’m just as guilty, but I’m vowing here and now to change that.

I want to talk to you. I want to get to know you. I want to understand WHY you think the way you do. I want you to explain to me how your company/product/service can help me – WITHOUT throwing statistics or metrics at me. What was your vision when you started? Why did you decide to do what you’re doing? Where do you plan to go from here?

Social media sites are boring these days, y’all. I dare you to look at your own streams through critical eyes and tell me you aren’t seeing the same thing. I wondered briefly if I’m just following all of the wrong people. It’s definitely not that: I have cultivated a pretty awesome list of friends on all of my social networks. You’re all different – and that’s what I love about each and every one of you.

Here’s my challenge to you: I DARE you to stop selling and be social – even for half an hour. Don’t post a single link to yourself, your product or your service. Don’t talk about metrics or numbers or tools. Telling people their business will never thrive without you is not allowed, either. Instead, I want you to just TALK TO PEOPLE. Ask them questions. Answer theirs. Open a discussion about something (NOT POLITICS!!) that is important to you. Find out how others feel.

Building this type of relationship is going to be far more valuable to you than anything else you will do this week… this month… or this year.

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Social Gaming Should NOT be in Your Media Plan

Oy Vey. I read an article earlier that made my mouth hit the floor. I’m pretty sure I whispered an expletive or three. The author lists seven reasons why your brand “must” incorporate some type of social game in order to attract and keep a community of followers. Unfortunately, I’m not joking.

Before you start yelling at me, I already understand the damn statistics:

  • 600 million users play games on Facebook. 50% of the U.S. population between the ages of 18 to 44 does so on a daily basis.
  • Ads shown inside of these games are delivered during breaks in the game. This means your ad will be seen pretty much every single time.
  • Mobile is the growth of social gaming! Yep, I know… I play AngryBirds too. Apparently, the author is convinced this will extend the penetration and reach of your campaign.

While I cannot argue with those facts, the part of the article I take offense to is this:

Social gaming produces positive emotions, stronger social relationships and a sense of achievement among users that your brand can take part in. As a result, consumers associate these good emotions with your messaging.

WRONG! There is something that produces positive emotions and stronger social relationships, and I guarantee it isn’t some damn game. It’s human interaction. Stop being lazy by letting a game do the work for you. Get out there in the trenches and cultivate those relationships. TALK TO PEOPLE. Stop worrying so much about ROI and metrics and all that other crap that self-titled “gurus” spout the need to worry about. Get back to focusing on the people themselves and watch what happens.

I absolutely hate that social media is turning into nothing more than a giant marketing tool. There’s a right and a wrong way to build a loyal and happy community around your brand. Throwing links at them, promising special sales or giving them a game to waste time with a couple of times are all very wrong. Asking people how they are, finding out who they are and figuring out a way to truly ENGAGE them is what is right.

A Community Manager isn’t someone who pushes out a bunch of rah-rah about your brand and then sits back and promises to make things right when something goes wrong. A Community Manager is right there IN the community… talking to people… getting to know them… making them truly feel connected to what you are doing. When this happens, all of that ROI mumbo-jumbo will naturally happen all by itself. Pinky promise.

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Why Do You Need a Virtual Assistant?

Let’s face it: there simply are not enough hours in the day for you to get everything accomplished. It doesn’t matter how organized you are nor how many lists you make – things happen. Calls and emails come in. Clients need something urgently. Your child has a doctor’s appointment and your significant other is out of town. You have a speaking engagement this evening, but another client absolutely needs that proposal written up before morning. Your hair is turning grey right before your eyes, wrinkles are showing up on your forehead and you are tired. You look in the mirror at night and ask yourself how in the hell you’re going to get through the next day.

Does this sound even remotely like you? I’m willing to bet that many of you are now nodding your head in agreement. I understand that you don’t feel you can give up control of portions of your work. It’s difficult. How can you be sure it will be done correctly? What if you pay the assistant and they just decide not to complete the task? Isn’t it easier just to do it yourself – somehow – even at the cost of your health and personal life? How will you even find the time to tell a VA what it is you need to have done and give them the necessary access, tools and information to help you?

Trust me. I understand. One of the first things many of my clients have told me is “I KNOW I need help – but I don’t know how/where/why.” I take the time to really talk with them. We go over various things they’re working on and discuss areas where I may be able to help lighten the load. We work together to figure out the best course of action. At first, it’s a difficult transition for some people. There are those who want to speak with me umpteen times each day at first, making sure that I’m on top of things. I never turn away a request to talk and am very open about what I’m doing, how I’m handling things and why things are going the way they are every step of the way.

Another type of client may drop the ball on communication. They’ll ask me to do a project for them – and then get too busy to answer any questions. I cannot possibly redo your website without input from you. I can’t fix the nightmare that is your Inbox unless you give me at least a little bit of guidance as to what you want to focus on and what can be set aside or unsubscribed from.

Most of the time, though, I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing people. We discuss a task, I get it done quickly and perfectly and they ride off into the sunset happily. Many times, they come back when they need something else done. Several of them have kindly passed along other opportunities and connections.

Your life and your work are busy – there is no doubt about that. I can help you become more successful by doing some of the “grunt” work that you just don’t have time for – yet which is necessary to be completed – leaving you to focus on the larger picture. I’m always open to tailoring a package which works for both of us, whether you’re needing help with one project or someone to help out on a regular basis.

Let me help you grow your business while leaving time for you to actually have a life. That, my friends, is what it’s all about anyway.

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Community Management: Marketing or Customer Service?

Let me preface this post by explaining just a little of my background. I am not a snob – but I do have very set opinions of what a Community Manager is and does. I began my CM career as a volunteer moderator for a wedding website forum back in 1999. I quickly moved up to Administrator there, and helped manage a very robust site with more than 50,000 active women. From there, I branched out over the years into working as a volunteer moderator/administrator on many large computer help forums, sports-related forums and more. I even helped run a few IRC networks in my day. All of these things translated into a paying job in 2007 when I went to work as the Community Manager for Chris Pirillo. There again, I dealt with people – not products.

Earlier today, I happened across a job posting on Twitter for a Community Manager with a company I very much respect. I clicked through to the listing to check it out and was actually angry to see that they had listed the job under “Marketing” – two categories below the people they needed to hire in “Customer Service.” Wait, what? Since when did managing a community evolve from working with people into pushing a damn product or service? Say I’m behind the times all you want, but I think this is a travesty to the profession… not an evolution as some claim.

A Marketer deals with marketing products or services. A PR person deals with public relations. A Community Manager deals with people. Period. End of story. Managing a community isn’t supposed to be about trying to convince a group of people to buy whatever it is you’re selling. It’s about breathing life into them – connecting them to each other and giving them the platform and tools to change the world. Your company may be what brought them together, but do you really think they’re only going to stick around because you sell the best gadget for the lowest price? They want interaction. They want direction. They want to become a true community.

Many of you are going to argue that the role of the CM is changing to include marketing and brand evangelism. There again – I disagree. A Community Manager works with the people – talking to them, listening to them, interacting with them and helping to evolve and grow the hamlet. A Brand Evangelist is something completely different. These people are the cheerleaders for the company itself and the things being sold. They deal with customers, yes… in order to facilitate sales and keep them happy with product.

Can a single person do both things at once? Absolutely! However, slapping the title of Community Manager on a job description stating you want someone to help you sell yourself is just not cool. Call it what it is folks – a Marketer, a PR person or even a Brand Evangelist. If you want someone to work with people in order to help build a true COMMUNITY – then we can talk.

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