A Celebration of American History this July 4th

34439_444456166277_6184119_nAh, July 4th. What a great time it is in the US. I can’t remember exactly what it is we are celebrating but I love how we use fireworks, which were created in America. It’s also great because we get to eat sweet corn perhaps for the first time all summer. Thank God our ancestors brought corn over from England and Ireland. Can you imagine a summer without corn?

I think, as a fan of history, that this is the perfect time to reflect on the great history of our country. We are certainly going through some interesting times these days and I think it’s important to trace the roots of where we are and see how we got here. Will you travel back in time with me to honor July 4th?

The first people

America can trace our history all the way back to um…when did the Mayflower land? Well, at least 500 years ago. People came over to America because it was the land of the free and the home of the brave and that is what they were. They wanted to be able to use their guns and practice their religion, so they came to this empty land and decided to build their empire here. Now, they did encounter some Indians when they got here, and they did their best to get along with those people at first. They even let the Indians teach them how to farm and stuff. But you know, this really needed to be a white man’s land and these Indians just didn’t seem to get that, so they had to go. If the Indians had just tried to assimilate maybe things would have been smoother. I think you can talk to the Cherokee about that, but I’m not sure.

Anyway, living in this new country was really hard. There were a lot of trees and rivers and stuff and there were not any Starbucks or Target stores, and there were several other changes as well. Our ancestors tried to get the Indians to help with farm work and stuff but the Indians just fell over and died. Now, luckily the fates were with us from the start. There was a whole continent where the weather was always gross and there was just no civilization – Africa. So our ancestors started bringing those folks over so they could be productive and help out with planting fields and other stuff. In return, these African people got homes, food, and lots of other stuff. Now it’s true that sometimes bad things had to be done to the African helpers if they weren’t really getting how lucky they were. Much like the Indians, if they had just understood how privileged they were things would have gone better.

Why we are celebrating

So the years went on and our ancestors were still having to deal with the Indians and the Africans who were all like, “This sucks” for some reason. But we had our own problems. England was making us talk British and drink tea, so we threw tea in the water somewhere (California?) and that started a war. The English really like their tea When the war did break out the English tried to steal our guns, so we wrote up the Declaration of Independence that said that everyone except the Africans, the Indians, women, and people from other countries who were trying to live here could pursue happiness via Christianity and gun possession. Thomas Jefferson really wanted to drive the point about the guns home, so he not only signed his name really big but he also created fireworks to mimic the sound of American guns.

At some point between that and now some of our ancestors wrote up the Constitution. The guys who wrote that up were very conscious of the fact that the whole world was watching them, including us in the future, so they decided to give freedom to everyone just like they had. That meant that people who had come from Africa could continue to help out our ancestors, Indians could try to assimilate into white culture, and women could continue to make food and babies just like they always want to do. Some cynical people have said it’s crappy that only white guys wrote up this document, but I mean, they had settled the country and like, the whole continent by then, so I think everyone at the time was ok with this and we’d be ok with it now.

From the start, America has been about and for people who were born here and who have white skin and also who are men, and that’s really the way it should be. Like I said, they did all the work. With guns. That is the ancestry we are celebrating tomorrow, going back to when our forefathers declared that no British person would take our guns or make us drink tea.

Happy July Fourth!

The End of Women’s Rights As We (Briefly) Knew Them

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 1.59.56 PMToday is a horrifying day in the history of the United States of America. Today, our Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby that a privately held company can avoid covering women’s contraception if doing so collides with the company’s religious beliefs.

Let’s think about this in an over-arching way first. We are saying that companies, corporations, have religious beliefs AND rights. We are saying that a company can distinguish between what it will cover and what it will not cover, but only where women are concerned.

This is disturbing enough.

What I wonder about are the implications for women like me who use “birth control” as a form of hormone replacement therapy. Companies can proclaim in grandiose statements that they will not cover contraception for a woman, but in doing so they are also preventing women from getting the hormonal support they need in the wake of problems like infertility. A woman who cannot access HRT is more prone to organ failure, and that is just the tip of the iceburg. Of course, it would be difficult for a woman to stand up and explain this today, in an era when candidates for the Presidency advise women to just hold an aspirin between their legs to avoid pregnancy. With an audience like that, how can you explain the endocrine system and why some women need to take pills to help their systems work properly?

I wonder about where we go from here. If it is ok for companies to refuse to cover this part of a woman’s health, what could they refuse to cover next? Maybe they will proclaim that they shouldn’t have to pay for a woman’s annual PAP test or breast exam because, I dunno, that’s just all yucky womanly stuff, and hey, if a woman gets cancer it’s probably because she did something to anger God, right? Maybe maternity leave will be the next to go. I mean, it’s not the company’s fault that a woman decided to get pregnant. Besides, isn’t the next logical step to remind women that we should be staying home minding the kids anyway? If you want to have kids stay home all the time, not just the first few months.

I wonder what will be deemed permissible by our ruling body next. Maybe women shouldn’t be allowed to run for office anymore. That 5-4 decision would have probably been less close if those pesky women hadn’t been around, right? And women politicians? We all know everything went downhill politically when women like Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren started popping up. Maybe women shouldn’t vote anymore, because they tend to vote for those women politicians.

I’d love to say this is all just hyperbole, but you know, I am really starting to wonder. Who would have thought that less than 100 years after women finally got the right to vote we would have to be clawing our way to have rights in the face of companies that now claim religious beliefs. It sounds like something out of The Onion. Maybe we have all entered into an Onion Universe. That would at least explain a day like today. Nothing else seems to be doing the trick.

When will it be time to be mindful of our Native American population?

Side view of the Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee.

Side view of the Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee.

This past weekend I spent some time in Nashville, Tennessee, for a trade show. On the first day, before the show began, my parents and I decided to venture out to The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson. The museum and the tour paid careful attention to the legacy of slavery on the planation, which I thought was encouraging. As you are walking up the path to the mansion, for example, the audio tour notes that back in 1837 the whole area would have been a cotton field and you would definitely have seen slaves working in those fields. These are no-brainer facts, but it’s important that Americans incorporate these ugly truths into the romanticized stories of past heroes.

That being said, another key aspect of Jackson’s life and career went unmentioned and unnoticed. No where did I see any mention of the fact that part of Jackson’s legacy is that he helped to completely crippled the “5 civilized tribes” of Native Americans who up until his Presidency had mostly lived peacefully in the Southeast. Those five tribes were the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, the Creek, the Choctaw, and the Seminoles. Jackson was a notorious proponent of Indian removal, and while the Cherokee marched on the Trail of Tears under Martin van Buren’s Presidency, the foundation of that trail was set during Jackson’s term as President. This entire aspect of Jackson’s Presidency lies untouched at his home. Why?

Lately there has been a lot of talk about sports teams who use names like “Indians” or “Redskins.” That’s great, but are you aware of some of these statistics?

“American Indians and Native Alaskans number 4.5 million. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, these Americans earn a median annual income of $33,627. One in every four (25.3 percent) lives in poverty and nearly a third (29.9 percent) are without health insurance coverage.”  via http://www.spotlightonpoverty.org/

“A recent class action suit alleged that the government mismanaged billions of dollars in Indian assets. The case settled in 2009 for $3.4 billion—far less than what was lost by the feds.” via Forbes

“One-quarter of Indian children live in poverty, versus 13 percent in the United States. They graduate high school at a rate 17 percent lower than the national average. Their substance-abuse rates are higher. They’re twice as likely as any other race to die before the age of 24. They have a 2.3 percent higher rate of exposure to trauma. They have two times the rate of abuse and neglect. Their experience with post-traumatic stress disorder rivals the rates of returning veterans from Afghanistan.” via Washington Post

What it seems like to me is that we are not just brushing American history under the rug where whites and Native Americans are concerned – we are simply brushing all Native Americans under the rug. If we don’t see them and we don’t witness their difficulties, then fighting to get a logo changed can certainly seem like ample effort. Right?

There are Native Americans alive today whose great-grandparents fought Custer. The massacre at Wounded Knee, the massacre of Black Kettle and his tribe, the abuse of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce, all happened towards the end of the 19th century. That’s not that long ago, but the sands of time are threatening to bury it all, and we are letting it happen.

When will we be able to face the fact that Andrew Jackson was not just a slave-owner but also an Indian killer? When will we recognize that many Civil War heroes, including Sheridan and Sherman, went out West and declared that the only good Indian was a dead Indian? There are people alive today who were sent to schools in the East to get rid of their Native American culture. They were prohibited from speaking their native language. They were not allowed to keep their sacred possessions. Are we going to continue to sweep them under the rug too?

I am deeply concerned that we are going to simply turn a blind eye to our history and to our present where Native Americans are concerned. When will the battle end? When will we come to terms with what has happened on this “land of the free?” Huge portions of our population are still waiting.

Social Media – I’ve Been Doing It Wrong

148970581_cfd3d9f9e8_mOver the last few months I’ve been watching an effort increasingly gain momentum in the online world. When I first heard about it I shared it myself because I thought it was really really cool, but then I found out that the person who started promoting it initially was doing so because this group was actually their client. That wasn’t the puzzling part, however. The puzzling part was that this person somehow managed to get lots of other people I was connected to to promote the cause too. There have been Twitter chats, blog posts, Facebook shares, and who knows what else. I have been scratching my head trying to figure out if these other folks even know that they are helping this person do client work.

Suddenly, lying around in my sickly stupor today, I figured it out. Of course they are aware that this is all for this person’s client. People in the online world tap their connections on the shoulder and say, “Hey, my client is doing this thing and I really want them to make a big splash. Can you help me?”

Would you believe that doing that has never occurred to me over the years I’ve been online? I feel yucky when I decide to let someone know I’m writing a post that they’re tagged in, so I try to do it in advance of the post being published or well after so they know I’m just letting them know and am not requesting that they share it. But this is really what people do in the PR and marketing world today, apparently. They say, “I’m going to be running a Twitter chat for this client – can you come and make it look like it’s popular?”

Transparency is a word that gets tossed around a lot in the online world, so I have to say that it is disturbing to me that this whole realization I just had is anti-transparency in two ways. For people who, like me, think that all of these people are jumping onto a cause just because it’s super cool, it is frustrating to realize that you have in a way been duped. These folks may not feel particularly passionate about the product or the project. They are scratching someone’s back – without revealing it to be so. But I wonder too if this is not also showing a lack of transparency to the client. If you are looking to make a report on how many times your chat’s hashtag was used in an hour, sure, getting lots of people to join in makes sense. Are those people ever going to buy your client’s product? Eh.

It is sort of sad it took me this long to come to this realization, which may seem completely obvious to you. I have always tried to do favors to people while I’ve been online because I thought I was helping out, being nice, even building friendships. But I realize now that in many cases the expectation was that I was doing that favor because then I would say to that person, “OK, now can you share this post I wrote for our agency blog?” I never do that, really. I have always figured if people want to read my content they will. If they want to share it they will. So, people took their favors, waited for the other shoe to drop, and when it didn’t, well – they were able to go on their merry way. I was not playing the game correctly.

Do I regret doing things the way I did? Not at all. At all times I have done my best to remain true to what I feel is right. I have never felt that begging for readers and shares was appropriate, so I didn’t do it. I wouldn’t feel right telling a client that their amount of Twitter followers increased because I messaged 50 of my friends and asked them to give my client a “like” or a follow. I don’t regret doing any of the favors I did. Every book review I have ever written I did from the heart with the hope that it would help the person in question. When I participated in this or that to support a friend, I did it as just that – a friend. I can’t have any regrets about that.

Having said that, it is bitterly frustrating to watch other people present the illusion of success, both for themselves and for their clients, when it so often is just a house of cards, a masterful disguise of what is really going on in the online world. Perhaps companies are experiencing such difficulty in measuring their Social Media ROI not because it’s difficult but rather because the numbers would reveal the truth – all of those impressions, likes, hashtag uses, and retweets are the function of behind-the-scenes back scratching and nothing more. Where does that leave these companies? Good question.

I don’t regret doing social media wrong. Not one bit. I would easily be able to defend myself before any clients, and I can look in the mirror every night and every morning and know that even if I am not on the surface the most successful person around, at least I have maintained honesty, integrity, and yes, even that famous buzz word – transparency. I wouldn’t trade that for the world. And to people like Kaarina Dillabough, Marsha Collier, and Brian Vickery, who support me without my ever even hinting at an ask – thank you. My appreciation knows no bounds.

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hkvam/148970581/ via Creative Commons

Why I decided to deactivate my personal Facebook account

7722015606_f879ab85bb_mTomorrow will mark one week since I deactivated my personal Facebook account. A few people have asked me why I did this, so I thought I would write out a single blog post and hopefully explain things in a way that is understandable. Just to avoid accusations of hypocrisy, I am still running a few pages. I transferred administration capabilities to an account I created just for that purpose. So no, I am not completely off Facebook. I just removed my own personal account.

Now that we have that little point cleared up, why? What’s the dealio, yo? Well, a few things come to mind.

A fate worse than slacktivism

For the last few years, people have been talking about online “Slacktivism.” I think the Kony video going viral brought this term to the forefront. People shared a video that they probably did not watch because it was about 12 minutes long and it was depressing. They shared it because Oprah and a few other celebrities said they should, or maybe they just figured it was worth sharing and maybe one more retweet or “like” would do some good. Slacktivism has also been used to describe Twibbons, Avatar ribbons on Facebook, and more. You aren’t necessarily doing anything to help, but the idea (and hope) is that you are raising awareness.

What I have been seeing on Facebook is a new stage of this kind of mentality. I started to notice it in myself as well as others, so I am not pointing any fingers. I found that if I shared a story about an important issue I would get a sense of satisfaction or a feeling that I had done something to improve the world. The most recent example of this was the “Bring Back Our Girls” effort. Boy did I share their page and their Twitter account. And as daft as it may seem, I felt like I was helping, just by doing that. I think it’s easy to fall into that trap especially if you make such a post and then you get a lot of likes and comments. “OK,” you think. “I’ve brought this issue to some folks’ attention and I’ve started a dialogue about it. I helped!”

This is of course all a big illusion. I mean, to some extent raising awareness online is good. To some extent. Ultimately, though, I fear that Facebook is allowing us to make a post from the comfort of our homes and then feel like we’ve helped. I am connected to about 200 people on Facebook. If I make a public post maybe a few more might chip in. If we all sit and comment and like each others’ comments, nothing will get better. We will just continue to feed that endorphin rush, and not surprisingly, there will be even more stories for us to share productively. Why? We are not fixing the world. We are talking. We are typing. And the odd thing that is social media – with its thumbs up and shares and likes – is fooling us into thinking that this is what is important. This is one reason I have to let Facebook go. I need a slap in the face. If I want to change the world for the better, I can’t do it (for the most part) sitting behind my computer screen in my comfortable life. No matter what century you live in, that is just not going to do the trick.

The out-of-control snark

Some of you reading this have probably seen me complain about this before, but the things that people say on Facebook in the name of “I was just kidding” are really horrifying. On a single evening two different friends posted new profile pictures. Both of them received not just one but several comments along the lines of, “Oh, you grew a beard. Barf.” Really. This is an odd sort of contrast with the concept of positive reinforcement, but Facebook manages to harbor both of them.

Even more disturbing is the snark I have begun to see on Facebook surrounding any story about a shooting. Sometimes it appears in the post itself, and other times it appears in the comments. Before we talk about the NRA, the sarcastically used #thanksObama hashtag, and more, can we not take time to notice that a person is dead? Sure, the way they died was stupid and unnecessary. But they still died. Have we become so callous that we don’t even notice anymore? These people are real. Again, Facebook allows us to comment as if we are sitting on Mount Olympus, kind of separate from these events we eagerly share and comment on. The dehumanization of our society, both person-to-person and in the bigger picture, is another reason why I have to let Facebook go.

The endless complaining

Finally, I have found that Facebook has evolved (or devolved) to become a sort of dumping ground for all things negative. Now, when I mention this people accuse me of wanting to be all sunshine and rainbows. They accuse me of burying my head in the sand. This is not the case at all. I am fully aware of how scary the world is right now, which is exactly why I am a proponent of making sure we are grateful for all we have. If your biggest problem tomorrow is that a social media guru did something stupid again, your life is pretty good in the grand scheme of things. I would love to see people balance “So and so is so stupid” posts with, “Here is someone doing it right” posts, but that just does not seem to happen. Bad news sells, both in the media and in social media.

My life has hammered into my head the fact that life is not obligated to give us anything. When I was a very young child, I assumed that I would have my grandparents until I was an adult. I knew that I was going to have two kids and I knew their names already. I assumed I would have time to make peace with various people whom I seemed to mix with like oil and water. All of these things proved not to be true or possible. For a LONG time that made me bitter. Now it just makes me realize that everything is special. You could wake up tomorrow and discover your eyesight has gone. Someone you love could have a stroke out of no where. Life is precious. Time is precious.

It is any individual’s choice how they want to spend their time. If they want to spend it sending out bad news on Facebook, there is nothing I can say or do about that. But I can choose not to bear witness. And that is why I have to let Facebook go.

I hope this answers any questions that may have arisen. Is it possible I may return to Facebook some day? Perhaps. But I doubt it at this point. I do not see these things changing any time soon, and in fact with Presidential elections coming up soon, I only see these facets of Facebook growing stronger. But I have deactivated my account. I have not deleted it. I will not burn bridges. You never know what life may throw at you.

Thanks for listening.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/84346589@N00/7722015606 via Creative Commons

Does it really need saying?

12065654826_a5efcb44e6_mFor the last several weeks I’ve finally been doing the smart thing – I’ve been catching up on Dr. Who (just starting with 2005). Last night I watched an episode during which The Doctor has a chance to finally tell someone he loves that he loves them. The moment is perfect. She’s waiting for it. You’re waiting for it. But instead he says, “Does it really need saying?”

I think a lot of people have been in a position where, given the opportunity to say, “I love you,” they instead say something completely hokey or maybe even something kind of mean to deflect away from the situation. The reasoning is almost always the same. To the person, it is obvious that they love the other person. Why does saying it make it any more real or meaningful?

There are three reasons why I feel strongly that it does need saying.

Humans are insecure and self-absorbed

OK, that’s not a very nice thing to say, but as a species, let’s face it…it’s pretty darned true. We are just sure that in the grand scheme of the universe, we are wastes of space. We also are obsessed with anything having to do with making us feel better about ourselves. With that activity keeping us busy, and with our lack of confidence in the affection of other people, is it any wonder that we might miss the signs that seem so obvious to others? As a friend once told me, getting up and getting someone a glass of juice will not be universally translated as “I love you.” They had a point. We need to say the words not just so the person feels loved but also so that they don’t have to guess anymore.

Saying the words is brave

It was poignant that the Doctor could not make himself say the words. He faces all kinds of fierce opponents throughout the series. He is known throughout the universe. But a letter and two words – he couldn’t make it happen. I envision saying “I love you” like you are giving someone a little piece of your heart to hold in their hands. You are saying, with those 3 words, “OK, look, I am fully invested in your well-being. When you are glad I’ll be glad, and when you are sad I’ll be sad, but I’ll try to make you feel better too, and I want to enjoy the good times with you.” That’s a lot. And you know, it almost seems foolish. We give other people the chance to hold a bit of our heart in their hands? There is so much risk! They could squish it up. They could drop it and just leave it on the ground. Something could happen to them and our heart could break. Geeze. Who wants to go through all of that? Yes, saying “I love you” is brave. Only the bravest can do it, but bravery can be developed.

You might not get a chance tomorrow

This particular scene in Doctor Who was especially heart-wrenching because it was the last chance he had to tell this person he loved them. He knew that going in and still asked, “Does it really need saying?” Of course as humans we never know when our last chance is. When I was a little kid, I called my grandma to ask if I could spend the night and she ended up talking to my mom. Later that day, my grandma had a massive asthma attack that ultimately ended up taking her life. My mom always said that I had done something great – by calling my grandma I had let my mom say “I love you” one last time. Any conversation, online or offline, could be your last. That sounds dire, but it really is true. Why gamble when saying the words takes only a few seconds and means so much to you as well as to the person you love?

Does it really need saying? Oh yes. Every time. Every possible occasion. We need to tell the people we love that we love them. You can never say it too much. You can never assume you’ll get another chance.

Yes. It really needs saying.

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bevgoodwin/12065654826 via Creative Commons

Book Review: Soul Models

Screen shot 2014-05-25 at 5.59.16 PMAs soon as I started to read Soul Models, by Angela Daffron and Elizabeth Bryan, I knew that the book was going to be my cup of tea. Part of this was that I have known Angela for just about as long as I have been online, and to me she epitomizes what a soul model is. Angela founded the anti-stalking organization Jodi’s Voice after her young friend Jodi was tragically killed by a stalker. Most people would have mourned, would have lamented how crappy teh world is and how unfair that was. Angela did something about it and continues to do so.

Soul Models consists of several stories of individuals or families who faced challenges of various kinds and used those challenges to motivate them to DO. The challenges and the actions vary by person. In most cases, the challenge is a tragedy a person faced – the death of a child, the death of a loved one, or bearing witness to the challenge of others.

In my own life I have had the immense privilege of watching a few soul models in action. In addition to Angela, I have seen Molly Cantrell-Kraig build her Women with Drive Foundation based on her own challenges as a car-less single mother. I have watched Jennifer Stauss build her SMAC! Monkeys Against Cancer effort even while she had to say goodbye to her inspiration – her own mother, who passed away after a long battle with lung cancer. I watched people ride and walk and run races to raises funds for the American Cancer Society because they lost someone to that disease.

Being a Soul Model, as Angel and Elizabeth define it, is something I think we all strive for in a way. We would love to think, universally, that we could find the strength to make the world a better place even if our own world seems to be crashing down. What separates these very special people from the rest of us is that they actually do it.

Reading this book made me cry at times. Some of the challenges these people faced are hard to grasp because of their enormity. The fact that they went on from those events to try to help other people is hard to fathom. But this is another book that you can’t read and then sit still. I found myself engaged, energized, inspired, and motivated, and now that I have finished reading, I want to see if I can also help make the world a better place. That’s a pretty amazing return on investment for buying a book don’t you think?

You can buy Soul Models here, and I highly encourage you to do so.

Your Chance to Make a Difference -#Stand4theManinBlack

Screen shot 2014-05-25 at 11.41.53 AMAs is the case with so many of my online friends, I can’t remember *exactly* when I met Amber-Lee Dibble. It just seems like I’ve known her forever. I am fairly certain I met her over at Gini Dietrich’s popular Spin Sucks blog. In fact, Gini featured Amber-Lee in the SpinSucks Follow Friday series last year. I feel like I’ve just kind of known Amber-Lee forever.

I remember the first time I got to hear Amber-Lee talk about what her life is like up in Chisana, Alaska, working for Pioneer Outfitters. It was a video and her vivaciousness jumped out of the screen. Then Amber-Lee wrote a book talking about her combined role as a marketer, a mom, and a big game guide. In what is predominantly a man’s world, Amber-Lee is a boss, but she is not afraid to show her sweet side, her sentimental side. As I read Amber-Lee’s book, which she so kindly gifted me, I thought how rare the Pioneer Outfitters experience is these days. There aren’t very many people who can show you how to survive in the world’s wild places. To be able to dabble in that world is a real gift.

Recently I started seeing Amber-Lee post a lot about something called Stand for the Man in Black. She was posting a lot of pictures of her with master guide and her surrogate father Terry Overly. I clicked to see what was up. What I learned is that last September, the Pioneer Outfitters aircraft exploded. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this aircraft for Pioneer Outfitters. Chisana is not a place that makes itself accessible. In order to get food, find missing horses, and help rescue lost or stranded people, the aircraft is vital. Pioneer Outfitters has been hanging on these last several months but supplies are limited and their way of life just may not be sustainable without a new aircraft at hand.

This is where you come in. This is where we come in.

The money that Pioneer Outfitters needs is not over the top. They need $250,000. You could look at that objective as just being for an aircraft, but that’s not really true. That money is what is needed to keep a rare way of life intact.

Amber-Lee, my friend and a real role model for me, has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise these funds. She is working so hard. So very very hard. And she is graciously thanking EVERYONE who supports her. But she isn’t to her goal yet.

I know that money is tight for a lot of people right now. If you can’t donate, would you consider sharing the campaign? You can do either one here:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/stand-for-the-man-in-black

Remember, in an effort like this, no amount of money is too small a contribution. If we all say, “Well, my $10 can’t do anything,” then nothing will occur. If we all say, “I’ll add my $10 or $5 or $1 to the bucket, it will add up,” then we can help Pioneer Outfitters get what they need so they can continue giving people the experience of a lifetime.

It’s a pretty easy trade, don’t you think?

Book Review: Never Pray Again

Screen shot 2014-05-25 at 11.19.51 AMWhen I was a pretty little kid, I got a beautifully illustrated children’s version of the Bible. Although my family was not religious and I have never been religious in a traditional sense, that Bible got me interested in learning more about Judaism, Christianity, and then many other religions and spiritual perspectives.

As I got integrated into public school starting in fifth grade, I was around a lot of peers who went to church every Sunday and then acted like total, well, not nice people the other days of the week. They were bullies, they ostracized others, and more. I remembered a passage I had read where Jesus tells his disciples that he did not want them to build extravagant temples. He didn’t want people to get so bogged down in ritual that thy forgot what they were actually supposed to be doing. I often wondered how that passage could cross my mind so often as a non-religious person yet be missed by so many people who claimed religious fervor. I figured I’d never really get an answer. Then all of a sudden, a college friend of mine said, “Hey, I’ve co-authored a book with two other ministers. Would you like to give us edits after doing a pre-reading?” The book was Never Pray Again, and it validated everything I had been thinking about organized religion for pretty much my entire life.

Don’t get me wrong though. Never Pray Again is not a manifesto in the classical sense. As a marketer much of my work involves making sure there is a “call to action.” You don’t just want to drive people to your website, you want to also tell them what to do once they get there. Buy this product, go to this page, etc. Never Pray Again highlights problems and inconsistencies, but the authors also suggest solutions, many of which are derived from the same Biblical source they reference every Sunday with their congregations.

The overriding “call to action” of Never Pray Again is very simple. Unfold your hands and get to work. What does that mean, exactly? It means if you see a poor person, don’t mouth a silent prayer to God that that person will eventually find food and shelter. Help them find it. It means that instead of hoping the world will get better and hoping your own life will get better just because you go to church every Sunday, you should go out into the world and try to make things better. The authors suggest you should get up and go because through Jesus God demonstrated that is how He wants things done. Jesus didn’t show up and say, “Gosh, I hope those people suffering from leprosy get better soon. God, do something about that.” He went out there and did the work himself.

Although the book’s backdrop is obviously the Christian faith, the wisdom inherent in the book applies to anyone of any faith, or even those who do not ascribe to any particular edict. Whether you pray or whether you just hope that things work out, there is another option, and that is to go out there and help things work out. The book is filled with examples of how to do just that.

Some of what this book has to say may challenge you if you are a devout Christian, but understand that this is not an attack on Christianity or you. It is rather a recommendation that everyone, Christian or not, can do a better job of living out what all of the great wisdom in the world has said for eternity. Be good to each other. Treat others as you would be treated. You will reap what you sow.

You can order this book (and I highly recommend that you do) from Chalice Press. Let me know what you think!

Book Review: The Peacemakers by @thebrandbuilder

Screen shot 2014-05-03 at 12.27.41 PMIt occurs to me that while I have been tweeting and Facebooking about this book for about a month now, the only place I’ve ever really explained why I liked it so much is on Amazon, as a review. This is a bit of a chicken and the egg conundrum. If you aren’t drawn to Amazon in the first place you won’t see my review and the several other extremely positive reviews that are there. So, I thought I would go into a bit more detail here about why I have been recommending this book all over the place.

Immediate Transportation

I don’t know about you, but some of my favorite books are the ones where as soon as I started reading, I felt like I was immersed in the world I had just entered. For example, the opening pages of Lord of the Rings pull you in immediately with the description of hobbits. What are these hobbits now? What do they have to do with this ring thing? Before you know it you’ve read 500 pages and can’t stop. The Peacemakers had this impact on me. The description of the setting is one thing, but then you also meet this fellow named Harbert, who kind of seems like a weenie to begin with. He’s nervous, he’s seasick, he’s sort of intimidated by everything, it seems like. Is this guy going to be a main character? Who are these other characters he’s interfacing with? Pretty soon you are Harbert’s travel companion, not an onlooker.

Characters you want to reach out and touch

Part of this feeling of transportation is that all of the characters in The Peacemakers are three-dimensional. You very much feel, very quickly, that you are reading about real people who are just over the horizon. If you could travel right now, you could shake their hands (or give them hugs, which you find yourself wanting to do quite often). Although the characters are deep, they are not fantastical. In fact, the great strength of the characters in Olivier’s writing is that they seem entirely real, so everything they go through (which is quite a lot, let me say) seems more like it could happen to you. You find yourself thinking, “Man, if that happened to me I’d probably…” and then you find the characters doing just that, or perhaps the entire opposite. You will find that even the most seemingly minor characters are taken care of with love in this book. In fact, one of my favorite characters only appears for a few pages (unfortunately). He makes such an impression, however, that I wish there was a whole book just about him, and in fact, I could picture just such a book being written about this one fellow.

No one genre

Some authors are very insistent on sticky to one specific genre or style. Although the writing style remains consistent and even (and rich like fudge), fans of many different kinds of genres will find joy with this book. It’s versatile and flexible in that way. I am a 100% diagnosed history buff, so I had a field day with the book. Fans of the Steampunk genre will love this book. Fans of romance and adventure have things to look forward to. Fans of sci-fi have something here to enjoy. Although overall the most probable best classification for The Peacemakers is Steampunk, I would definitely hesitate to limit it just that one genre.

That writing

Speaking of the writing that is rich like fudge, the writing is rich like fudge. If you are a fan of Fitzgerald, for example, you will really appreciate the gift for language that is displayed here. That’s not to say that the book gets entangled in trying to find just the right word – sometimes you can feel the tension as the author strives to place everything just so. In this book the language seems natural, just not the way we usually speak in our every-day lives.

You won’t want to put it down

Finally, if you are a fan of books that you actually can’t put down except maybe when you need to eat or sleep, this is the perfect book for you. If you have a long plane ride scheduled this book will help the time fly by (pardon the pun). Part of the problem is that Olivier, much like John Irving, knows how to sneak in those foreshadowing clues for added suspense. But even without those, you become so enmeshed in what has already happened to the characters and what might happen next that you just can’t help yourself. This makes waiting for part two of the trilogy acutely painful, by the way.

Right now, you can get instant gratification. You can go to Amazon (not an affiliate link) and download this masterpiece to your Kindle right now. As I write this it’s a Saturday, a rather good day to start an awesome reading experience.

In case you hadn’t noticed – I highly recommend you proceed doing just that :)