Monday, August 27, 2012

Coyotes Circling the Henhouse

I was awoken Friday night to a din that sounded like a pack of dogs. “A pack of dogs” was the first thing that went through my mind, even though I’ve never actually witnessed a pack of dogs! It was 2am and it sounded like the many neighborhood dogs had gotten loose and were staging a mutiny. Then there was a whistle or a yell and all went quiet. The next day, we discovered that three coyotes had been spotted a short block away, bringing the occasional news stories of wildlife encroaching suburbia that much closer to home.
Earlier in the summer, a black bear wandered into our town, to later be tranquilized out of a tree by police in a nearby town. In that instance, the apprehending, social media-savvy, police department sent a humorous tweet, with all due respect to Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle: “Black Bear, Black Bear, what do you see? I see Brookline Police looking at me!”

I live in a sleepy little bedroom suburb of Boston. When did we begin to become so wild?! I suppose it has been gradual. There have always been the skunks, opossums, red-tailed hawks, and the occasional red fox. My friend helped the local animal warden corner a fisher cat a few years ago, which seemed rather exotic. I keep an eye out for deer off the exit ramp into our town and there is a definite spike in the bunny population. So maybe that is what is bringing the coyotes into town. From where?! The woods where my children play?! Hmm. Getting off-topic.

So, part of this realization about my surroundings is an evolving learning process for me. My neighbor diagonally across from me has three chickens, and has had them for years. It is a little unusual, but it fits with their strategy to acquire every potentially domesticated creature known to man, in their (successful) attempt to avoid getting a dog! I’ve gotten used to the chickens in the morning, as I lay awake, unable to sleep past 5am but equally unable to get out of bed until 6am.
But I was still surprised to hear, on further evaluation of the coyote situation, that my neighbor three doors down also has chickens (5 or 6!). And my friend who lives across the street from the coyote siting has chickens! I am certainly late to spot a trend. Those are only the ones I now know of. Now I see why the coyotes like my neighborhood so much!

All of these neighbors are Facebook friends with Red Cupboard, so I felt my worlds colliding as I read about a Facebook Page contest in which one of the finalists is none other than “The Chicken Chick,” an advocate for backyard chicken-keeping!

So for my favorite chicken-keepers and everyone else looking for small business Facebook page ideas, here are some great examples of small business pages with commanding Facebook presence and whose owners have faithfully kept them updated, generating high marks for fan engagement: The Social Media Examiner Top Small Business Facebook Finalists post. If you are looking for ways to improve your Facebook presence and engage your fans, these finalists offer some real-world examples of how it can be done.

Now, to see about getting myself some fresh eggs.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vacationing Unplugged

Summer is winding down and the vacations we took fill my mind. If you know me well, you know that I live from vacation to vacation! So now I have a bit of a wait until December. Luckily I’m breaking up that long stretch with an October trip to Chicago and ND for a football game!

Vacationing unplugged is a common topic these days as adults try (some more successfully than others) to extract themselves from their work for a week and as parents try to pull their kids’ noses out of electronics to enjoy their precious free time unplugged.

Minus the tent and duffel bags on top. And the dirt.
I have a favorite childhood memory of a trip my family took out West when I was eleven. Let me tell you, round trip travel from Cleveland to the Grand Canyon -- 2 parents, 4 girls, a 6-man tent -- is a journey of many miles and memories. And now, as a parent, I have profound admiration for the challenge my parents embraced by taking that trip - bottle of Scotch, and all. I think when we joined forces with my uncle and his family in Boulder, there must have been a definite “there’s no turning back now” moment.

My sisters and I laugh about the memory of my dad calling very deliberately from the driver’s seat of our blue Chevy Impala station wagon: “Put down the Nancy Drew books and look at the wheat fields” (periodically substituted with hay bales/river crossing/hawk flying/mountains ahead/etc.). My parallel life finds me directing my boys with, “Put down the iPods and iPad and look at the horses.” Vineyards/valley below/cows grazing/etc. It is hard to find the balance when games and social media have become so engrained in our daily lives. Oh, to have to get a child’s nose out of a book!

I am not yet so connected with smart phones (still don’t have one!) and internet that I can’t disconnect. I love disconnecting – except when my email account gets hacked while I’m on vacation and I have to use my son’s iPad and a pizza parlor Wi-Fi to execute some damage control.

The constant connectivity is addictive, to the point where our disconnected environment (a.k.a., the world around us) sits at a distance from our physical lives. I have what may be classified as an over-zealous connection with nature and, when given the choice, I choose nature 100% of the time over electronics and social media. But I don’t think that is the way our culture is headed. I’m certainly not sure that is the way my children are headed. The New Yorker Magazine had a humorous cover earlier this summer of a family posing for a picture at a scenic overlook -- each person had a different electronic device in full use for the portrait. We are sometimes so eager to get a picture of what we are doing or seeing posted on Facebook that we miss the moment of awe or pleasure that our surroundings are offering.

I will be the first to admit and itemize the benefits of electronics and kids in a car (non-driving kids, that is) (have I mentioned that we drive round trip, Boston-Cleveland, twice a year?)! Or at the end of a long (but wonderful, nature-filled) day at the beach where I just want a beer and a crossword puzzle on the deck, in peace. And I don’t have the answer to finding the balance. But my kids know that when on vacation, there is still allocated “screen-time” and no one should assume that down-time means screen-time. 
Growing up, the big nemesis in my house was the television. So we were raised in a complete void of daytime TV and exclusively on the evening news, NOVA, Jeopardy, Little House on the Prairie, Wild Kingdom, The Wonderful World of Disney, The Waltons and The Justice League. Period. Compared to our peers, we were TV-illiterate. But somehow we all managed to learn the lyrics to Green Acres and Gilligan’s Island for the school bus rides. And as I reached babysitting age, I expanded my Friday and Saturday night viewing repertoire substantially. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! As a parent today, the nemesis is the internet, social media and games/apps. I can only control the allocation of time for a few more years. They will do what they want when they are on their own! I just hope that by then I will have instilled within them, amidst all of the techno-clutter, some value in observing and participating in the world around them.

My day is easily made when one of my boys in the back of the van says, “Hey Mom, look how many birds are on that wire!” He was looking up! And I didn’t ask him to!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lessons Learned This Summer

My mixed bag of social media and life lessons:
  • Sports: MLB players on the DL take time to tweet from the dugout of the All-Star Game. Has social media surpassed sunflower seeds and tobacco spitting as baseball players' boredom beaters?

  • Celebrity: Predictions of new TV lineup successes are tied to the number of Twitter followers of the shows' stars.

  • International Social Media Binge: Olympics' Opening Ceremonies tweets clog the social media highway.

  • Olympics and Needham, MA: An unknown gymnast with nerves of steel earns gold medals and the love of her town - Way to go Aly Raisman! Puttin' Needham on the map!

  • Suburban Life: I love my neighborhood and my friends within it (this is not a new lesson, just a recurring realization that never gets old)! See photo below for details - nice to have our castle guarded while we were out looking for sharks.

  • Work: I am the only crazy person I know who starts a new job in mid-August - two years in a row!

  • Home Life: Pulling away from the house each summer day, leaving the kids behind, stinks.

  • Family: Children are joy. Two teenagers are harder than one.

  • Anxiety: Don't worry until they tell you it is time to worry. Otherwise, you've either worried for nothing or wasted time worrying twice as much as necessary.

Summer isn't over, but it sort of feels like it is almost gone! Make the most of what is left!