5 Things Every Kid should know while trying to pursue happiness

At about the 5th or 6th grade, my daughters had to memorize the Declaration of Independence.

When they got to : ” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, a long discussion on the “right to Happiness” versus the “right to the pursuit of Happiness” always followed.

It is an important distinction that we as a society grant the right for people to Pursue happiness, but there is no guarantee that you will ever find it. What a shame to waste that right to pursue Happiness by chasing shadows and never finding any of it. Here are 5 things every kid(or the kid in all of us) should remember when they head out on that pursuit.

1) Don’t assume you know where you will find happiness. You might have ideas about where your happiness will lie, but it is just as likely that it will surprise you and you will find happiness in unexpected places.

2) Happiness is rarely expensive, hardly ever uses batteries and never,ever fake pees.

3) Happiness is often dirty, creates a mess (please clean up afterward) and sometimes requires odd bits of string and glue.

4) Flitting about like a butterfly or a busy bee can be absorbing, distracting and fun;but sometimes you have to lie still like a snake on a hot afternoon, stare up at the clouds and let the happiness bask into you slowly.

5) You can pursue something all you like, but if you do not clearly and intentionally pay attention to the life around you, it is likely you will never find it- even if it is sitting right in front of you.

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Nanny McPhee Returns blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.” [however, the advice is still heart felt and useful]

The importance of Bridges

EDIT: I won an HP Magic giveaway on Chris Pirillo’s site ( link later when it is not the middle of the night). This makes me in-eligible for Sugar Jone’s contest. However, I have already met some amazing people and Sugar has given me permission to continue to network with others. I won the contest I did, because of the power and reach of my network of friends and contacts. I will always believe in the power of reaching out to help someone without thought of reward, because eventually it really does come back to you. It is all very surreal right now, I am sure I will have more to share later on. If you are here to network and find other people whose lives you can change, read on and comment. I will reply. If you were hoping to just “gain points” by commenting, feel free to skip this and move on to the next link.

There is great clarity in my mind that one of the things I am best at is being a bridge. Bridges are structures that help to overcome an obstacle or clear a path from one thing to another. We usually think of bridges as wooden, or metal, or perhaps even rope. The word evokes different mental images in different people perhaps a large spanning structure, like the golden gate bridge. Maybe your mental picture is an old log you used to use to cross a stream in the woods when you were a child. For others, the word bridge calls up a scene from an Indiana Jones movie, with a precarious rope bridge barely attached to a cliff over a deep canyon. If you are really a geek, you might even be picturing a bridge in an electrical circuit- essential for converting energy from AC to DC. But I say that some of the most important bridges in our world today are the human ones.

None of us can fix all the problems in the world. None of us can help all the people who need assistance, or provide resources to everyone who needs it. We do all the small things we can to make our immediate world a better place- feed the family next door, donate used clothes or toys, lend a helping hand at the local soup kitchen and we can see the changes around us. It changes the lives of the people we touch and it changes our lives by reaching out. These are so important. In our immediate family, we work hard to teach our children to donate outgrown clothes and toys, to collect cans for canned food drives, to donate time to local animal shelters or to help fight teen drug abuse. They see us donate blood, vote in elections and take an active stance in the community we live in. Those are all incredibly important and I would not want any of them to stop.

But some problems are bigger than what we can tackle on a personal level. Some problems exceed our own personal resources ( time, money, location, mobility) and leave us feeling frustrated. This is where you can become a bridge. You may not have the time to donate to a local animal shelter, but you know three people who do and you can connect them. You may not have the money to put a new roof on someone’s house, but you know of an agency who assists and you get them in touch. You may not be able to grow an extra row in a garden, because your yard is too small… but you know someone at your church or school who has a huge yard.

In the internet age, it is easier than ever to see potential connections. How often have you been online and thought.. “wow, how ironic. I just read about someone trying to figure out how to get rid of their old bed without a truck.. and now this person is blogging about needing a bed. What a weird world this is.” Instead, be proactive. Introduce the person without a truck to the person needing a bed. It does not have to be a formal introduction… maybe just passing on a blog note, or a quick tweet reply to point someone in the right direction. Don’t assume that just because you read something on the internet, everyone else knows it is there. The internet is a big big place, awash in information that often only small numbers of people see.

In the normal course of your online browsing, chatting, blogging and tweeting, take a minute.. when you see a potential connection- be a bridge. You don’t need money or the ability to travel, or to even be well enough to leave the house. You just need to be willing to speak up and point out the connections you are seeing. Convert the crazy alternating current of energy flowing around us into a direct current that can take action and solve problems. Be a bridge and be astounded with how good you end up feeling with all that energy flowing through you.

note: this entry is published in response to a request for the HP Magic give away contest being hosted by the Living-in Theory Blog. If you are interested in what I would do with such great computer loot, you can check out an earlier blog post I wrote on the HP Magic Contest.

Social Media Lessons learned

The last week has been an interesting social media experiment for me. As you know by now, HP is doing a massive computer giveaway split across 50 different blogs. I became inspired and am still trying to work hard to win one of the contests to make a little Christmas magic happen here in the Heartlands. I entered a couple that were random drawings..and lost. I entered one on Liz Henry’s Blog about poetry, technology and politics that was an “inspire me” contest. I got an honorable mention for my comment, but no computers. I was excited because people liked my writing, but no computers to share. Then I found out about Chris Parillo’s contest.. it was a write a post and get the most comments sort of post. I wrote about something I have a passion for.. cooking and then started the social media pimping. I wanted to spread the word, but did not want to be completely annoying about it all.
I did a couple of tweets about the contest and included a link to the article. I posted it on my Facebook status. I sent out multiple emails to different mailing lists. The comments rushed forward… mostly family and really good friends at first. We jumped up to 21 comments in no time at all.. putting us at about number 5 or 6 in the contest. My hopes surged.. maybe we had a real chance at this.
The next day, I put out a few more tweets, but the response was slow. We stalled at about 24 comments. I really want this for the people involved, so I started calling some friends who I had emailed in the initial rush. I sat people down and asked them to read and comment on it… we jumped up to 41 comments. There was a chance after all..
With less than 24 hours left in the contest, I decided to get a little more pushy.. I started DMing people on Twitter. I actually DM’d so many that I used up my 24 hour quota of DMs (several of us did not even know the limit had been added…). But I started getting lots of positive results. DMs back from people, emails, wow. I got excited. I logged back into Facebook and started Facebook IMing people who were actively online.. asking them to please check it out and comment if they liked it.
The comments awaited moderation and poor Chris apparently came down with food poisoning, others covered for him. With no idea where I stood, I finally drifted off to sleep at about 1am.
I woke up at 3am this morning to check. Comment count was at 96!! Unfortunately, someone else has 100 and another yet has 110, so although no official winner has been announced, I am guessing this is one I did not win.
However, I learned a really important lesson about social networking. We all talk about the power of public statements and posts. We get in the pulpit and talk about how it streamlines communication and action to have things like blogs and general public streams of ideas and discussions. And I think these are all very very good things. This is a good way of asynchronously getting together groups of people who would never have converged, otherwise. But when it came down to really getting things done, to really motivating people to action? The personal, direct one on one interaction won out every single time.
I do not regret participating in Chris’s contest.. I got introduced to Geeks!, which I did not know about and found some great new people to follow and interact with over at Twitter. Life is all about the journey.
Oh, and the computers? I have not given up on those yet either.. I found another contest to tackle and try all over again over at Sugar Jones’ Living in Theory blog. You should come and join in the fun. This one is not about popularity or the power of your story alone.. ( thank goodness– no more requests for contests)it is also about community building. I am impressed with the concept, and look forward to applying some of the lessons I learned in the last couple of contests. Watch a little later for my essay part of that entry, and check out the #sugarmagic tags on Twitter to see if we can get a community built up.

Holiday spirit running rampant FTW!!!!!

Best EDIT EVAH: I DID win the contest. OMG. Chris Pirillo and his team did the unthinkable, huge task of peeling down IPs and eliminating duplicate entries…. and I WON. I so could not have done this without the power of my friends in real life, my facebook contacts, but most of all my Tweeps. The people I network with regularly on Twitter jumped in and made magic come true to push this over the top. Don’t ever discount that small networking connection you make… there is power in giving and it can come back to you in amazing ways. Living proof, right here!!

Edit: I want to note that two things have happened since I wrote this post.
1)Since I did not win this contest, I am trying my hand at another.. on the Living in Theory Blog. I am referencing this post to answer the “what would you do with these computers” part of the contest, as that is only a small part of the contest… the most important is a discussion of how we are all working to change or improve our world. I encourage you to follow through the Living in Theory link to read some amazing, inspirational stories.
2) It has come to my attention that the local preschool at our YMCA ( which both of my kids spent some time at) is really struggling. Much of their extra funding comes from United Way funds, and most of the United Way money comes from donations in the community. In a community where the two largest employers are related to the auto industry, it is probably no surprise that donations are down. Our old PC would be perfect for preschool education, and I am excited thinking about having the opportunity to donate it to them.
( end edit)

HP has stirred up a lot of energy and enthusiasm with their HP Magic contest. 50 blogs around the blogosphere were chosen to be able to give away amazing prize packages. The prize includes more than one computer, with the intent that the winner will “share the magic”. Each blog owner gets to set their own rules and requirements (within reason) and so many different niche groups are being reached. I am impressed with HP’s savvy on this.. by allowing themselves to give up some of the control, they will reach a wider audience with less work effort on their part. Seems like a win/win situation in all cases.
Never one to pass on the opportunity to share some joy,I pondered who I would share computers with and decided to enter a couple of contests. Most of the contests are “impress me with your story” or “random drawing” type entries. I encourage you to go to HP’s website and find a few to enter yourself- everyone knows some person or organization who could really benefit from a new computer.
Chris Pirillo’s contest is working a little differently. Since his website is about getting people to guest blog and write interesting articles to share, he is having folks write an article, then the article with the most comments wins.
This means I need your help. I know there is nothing in it for you, except the joy of knowing that you really helped someone out. I will, of course, do follow up articles, pictures and videos so you can share in the moment when the gifts would be revealed.
What would happen with these?

1) My best friend has never owned a computer in his life. He struggled against rough times and a very rocky start early in his life and has turned things around amazingly. he works very hard as a part time mail man ( yep, even through midwest winters) to make ends meet, but he does has not gotten to a point of being able to buy his own. I would love to see him with his own laptop. The freedom of not having to “borrow” computer time from friends or at the library would mean the world to him.

2) My new inLaws are farmers. not big corporate farmers, but small, “trying to make ends meet and not let the debt get too much bigger this year” farmers. They do not have a computer either. They use a data line, but we know that if we get them a computer, not only will it save money by replacing the dtn, but it will give them so many other options for running the farm, managing the business and staying in touch with their grandchildren who are scattered across two states. We know once it is in their hands, they will never want to give it up.

3) my daughter who is a freshman in high school is really struggling with splitting her time between two households ( mine and her dads). I am hoping that having a small mini laptop that is completely hers no matter where she goes will give her some consistency that she is lacking. I had hoped to get her one for Christmas, but since we got the “temporary layoffs up to 13 weeks are imminent” letter from our employer last week, gifts of that scale are out of budget this year.

I will not lie, we would use the last computer to upgrade our family computer.. with my stepsons 3 hours away, having a family room replacement computer will make video conferencing with them much easier, and give us a place to gather for fun. It will even run Spore! ( the graphics card in our famliy room computer will not run it now). Our old computer will then be donated to a local charity to pass on even more love.

So what do I want from you? go read the article on cooking tips to eat well and save you money that I wrote. I think you will like it. Then make an intelligent comment. Simple thing you might have done anyway… and it will help out a bunch of other people!!

Just under the wire?

EDIT: Well, I did not win this one, but a really cool grandma from colorado did. You can still click through and see the announcement and her story. I have another try going on Chris Parillo’s site. I will blog that as soon as the bread is done baking…

Not really expecting anything to come of it, but you never know.. right? Gotta try. Just found out about Jake Ludington’s HP Magic Giveaway contest and entered it hours before it is over.. you can still enter too!

Anticipation….

I took a wild plunge and signed up for something I would not normally do. Nope, not saying anything else about it here for fear of jinxing the whole thing horribly and completely humiliating myself. However, IF I get chosen, I will be spouting off about it, be sure..

( just had to say something to blow off some nervous steam….)