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Every list of blogging tips says you’ve got to be consistent. Some suggest you need to post at least once a week. Let’s see, when did we last post? FAIL. It’s called buy-a-house, move, and sell-a-house, all in a matter of two months. I know, that’s no excuse in the blogger world, but we’re just glad to have Internet service and some semblance of order in our lives at this point.

Brent and I aren’t the only ones adjusting to the move. All along we were concerned how the cat might react. She’s not big on change, except when she occasionally decides to get finicky about her Turkey Giblet cuisine. But she’s done remarkably well with just a few hiccups along the way.

First off, she decided that jumping upon and dancing around on a narrow ledge with a 12-foot drop was a fun idea in the new house. Argh! She’s not the youngest kitty anymore and a fall would surely lead to her demise. Our solution? Jommi is the proud owner of a luxurious new kitty condo, the first piece of furniture we’ve purchased together! Our hope has been that it would satisfy her need for heights. That’s yet to be seen.

Along with the move, Miss Jommi also decided she no longer was interested in our method of delivering her daily pills. Not cool since her health depends on these pills. But our veterinarian is a genius. We were skeptical, but his suggestion worked like a charm and we’d have never guessed this one.

Twice a day, we roll her little pills up in a small chunk of Gjetost. If you’re not familiar with this (as we were not), it’s Norwegian cheese. Yes, our cat is getting imported cheese on a daily basis. And let me tell you, “She LOVES the stuff.” She knows precisely when it’s Gjetost time and the meowing is non-stop until she gobbles down the scrumptious little cheese balls. Do you suppose she may be Norwegian? Oh, and yes, we tested it out ourselves. It’s a creamy cheese that has a lovely little hint of caramel flavor to it. I’m sure it would go beautifully with a nice Chianti.

If you have a pet, can you relate or do kitty condos and imported cheese put us in that crazy pet owner’s category?

P.S. If you are into cat humor, Brent found this video today that absolutely cracked me up!

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We interrupt this blog for an important announcement: Lisa and I are moving. We’ve been on a whirlwind adventure since our last post in mid January. Several

We signed a purchase agreement on our anniversary!

times I’ve wanted to sit down and just jot a few lines here. I find it difficult to throw a few lines together and post them because I feel like the post should be more than just an online diary. In other words, I like to try to bring you my thoughts after I’ve had a chance to think about it and offer you, dear reader, something more valuable than “what’s happening now.” In the comments let me know if you disagree. Especially valued are the thoughts from fellow bloggers who have thought about this before. I’d love to know how you keep fresh, relevant and new insights going in the midst of limited time to really think about it. If I get enough responses I can try and post shorter, more frequent updates about what’s going on.

Lisa and I have been preparing for a move for over a year. We’ve been praying and waiting on the Lord to let us know where that should be. Recently my employer announced they would be moving a huge number of workers to a second headquarters location that is not in downtown Minneapolis. I am included in that move. The good news is that they are letting us know about this move 2 years in advance. That’s pretty fair in today’s world. Why does it matter?

It matters because it helped us narrow down where within the Twin Cities we wanted to focus on for a move. We were open to moving to either side of the river (which is another topic for a future post.) With the announcement it helped us focus on the north and western suburbs of Minneapolis. We spent a couple

Bike paths with key locations important to us marked in orange

weeks with a map of bike paths in Minneapolis and all associated suburbs. We marked the items we thought were important to us for shopping: SuperTarget, WholeFoods, a Co-op and Costco. We wanted to find a place that supported our enjoyment of cooking (hence all the supermarkets) with easy access to the fabulous system of bike paths. Our current location is great for both. And we felt the new location needed to continue to serve those those requirements.

The bottom line is we had only looked at 2 or 3 locations when we found a spot last Sunday that really spoke to us. Some might say it was an accident, but we think it was divinely directed (more on that story next time.) We were offered incentives to close before the end of February. We went home to think about it and on Tuesday we went back with our realtor to look at it again. That’s when God made it clear we were in the right place at the right time. I’ll leave that as a teaser for the next post. Suffice it to say we found ourselves signing a purchase agreement on Tuesday night – which just happened to be our anniversary. So it made for an exciting evening.

More to come….

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When I grew up, the old rule of polite social engagement was to avoid  two topics: politics and religion, especially when traveling abroad. It’s hard enough overcoming the ugly American syndrome, especially if you don’t know what’s sensitive locally. Your motive may be to learn something, but there may be social and political barriers that make it uncomfortable for people to share that information. For example, it may not be wise to ask a Syrian to describe the struggles of living under the Asad government while getting in a taxi in Damascus. And in some places in America, it’s still not polite to talk about Sherman or the civil war while south of the Mason-Dixon line.

But after a short while, it’s easy to exhaust topics of weather, sports, home improvement,  fashion, TV or whatever else is dominating pop culture. So whether you’re traveling or at home, people desire to catch the flavor of something more substantive. And let’s face it, politics and religion affect us all and each of us expends some time thinking about it sooner or later. And social media seems to have relegated the old rule to the dark ages of what I call B.I. (Before Internet).

FB and Twitter have become people’s favorite platform to share someone else’s content or their own views. I think it’s okay to do that and I’ve liked or shared information that I thought was well written and supported my own emotions and thoughts on these former taboo topics. And I’ve commented on others’ posts as well. And it’s in the commenting that I think I’ve noticed a distinct trend.

I noticed the majority of people sharing someone else’s or their own original content aren’t really interested in eliciting opinion other than the one offered. In other words, the comments are usually in the form of a lot of other people agreeing with the person posting the opinion.  Or the comments pile on additional statistics taken from TV, radio and blog talking points that support the post. If anyone posts an opposite view, that person is usually heckled, called names and generally told to “get lost”. Often the friend who posted the original topic doesn’t even edit out sharp criticisms from themselves or other commenters. Why is that? Isn’t social media about being “social”? Apparently not. And what about being “tolerant”? Forget that too.

So why is that? If you post an opinion, do you want to elicit opposite views and generate a civil discussion? What’s your motive?

I believe most people who post on politics and religion want assurance that others think the same thing they do. They are not interested in changing their minds about these topics. Nor are they interested in or appreciate others’ opinions, especially if they contradict their own. Offering an opposite opinion doesn’t provide the positive strokes that the poster is looking for.

When sharing content, I’ve decided my motive will be to include why someone’s content was interesting to me or how I feel about it. Your friend list should be a safe enough place to do that. And if someone wants to respectfully  disagree while providing their feelings or personal experience on the topic, I’d like to hear that and to seek to understand them. I may never agree with their conclusions, but I can attempt to respectfully hear them and listen to how they feel. And hopefully, even though I and my friend may not share the same view, we can both respect each other enough to care about each other as people and seek first to understand rather than be understood.

Recently I read a blog about how to improve your Twitter RT’s (re-Tweets) and FB Shares. The advice was to avoid simply re-Tweeting or Sharing without adding your own knowledge to the post. The direction was to enrich it with your own thoughts and feelings. So like Wiki, the original post becomes richer with each add. And that can work whether or not the poster or the commenter agrees with the shared content. And in my opinion like other polite conversation, folks should police themselves with some basic etiquette and avoid sharp criticism and personal attacks.

What’s interesting is that derogatory comments seem to be more prevalent when people have some sense of anonymity behind a keyboard. Sharp words would likely not be spoken out loud if the conversations were face to face at a dinner table, cocktail lounge or party. Someone might make a snide retort, but generally if the conversation soured, someone would quickly turn to something more innocuous. For men, that’s usually something along the lines of landscape timber or what they bought at Sears. It’s amazing how the latest handyman project can be used to manage almost any conversation whether at work, at happy hour or online.

Now, about those _____ [Vikings, Packers]….

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Mac iWeb (iLife)

For those of you using Mac software for publishing, we’re sure you’ve seen the advert’s from Apple prompting you to trade up to the latest version of iLife ’11 for $49 (cheaper if you just bought your computer recently). For those of you not in the Mac world, iLife is a suite of tools that has iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, iWeb and GarageBand. We haven’t begun to explore the cool stuff in GarageBand although we’ve sat through the demo at the MOA Apple store a couple of times.

Anyway, we’ve used the other tools in this suite quite a lot and I’m not sure if it’s worth the $49 upgrade, but we’ll probably pay anyway and try it out. If you’ve upgraded, we’d love to hear your thoughts on why you think it’s worth it…or not.

We’ve paid for the full family MobileMe account and besides our own accounts, we’ve got mom and dad up and running too. They don’t make as much use out of the MobileMe as Lisa and I do. However, I keep teaching my parents a little more every time we visit, so eventually I hope to be able to share content and create some nice family memories using these tools and then sharing them as gifts.

Our latest adventure with the iWeb software was our annual Christmas letter. We created a more static web page using our MobileMe accounts and decided to organize it to contain our annual Christmas updates. It’s our “green” contribution. No stamps, no cards, no trash for the landfill. Really, how many of you hang onto Christmas cards from your family and friends after February 1st? The only ones that tend to literally hang around past MLK Day or President’s Day are the photo cards of somebody’s kids. Those actually are stuck to your refrigerator right now…aren’t they?! I don’t mind seeing photos of kids, but sometimes the Christmas greeting is the only communication I get from some folks for the whole year. And instead of sending us a family picture, I get one of the kids and the dog/cat. Usually accompanied by a couple of lines written in a red ink pen saying “Miss you! Thinking of you guys at this special time of the year! Let’s get together soon! Love The so & so’s”. Was that really worth the $25-$50 and postage? We’re not convinced.

So instead we played around with iWeb and leveraged one of their templates. My old version of iWeb has 28 themes and 6 templates.  Does anyone know if there are more in the iLife ’11 version? One of the templates is a “blog” template.

Am I ever glad we didn’t discover this and try to use it for this blog. We think it works great for the annual Christmas letter though. The nice thing is that folks can comment back on your Christmas letter and you can actually answer them (although we only convinced 4 people to make comments…I guess we’ll see if we get more next year.) But hey,  already an improvement over a couple of silly lines in red ink!

Here’s a link to our Christmas Letter using Apple’s blogging template in iWeb.

But what surprised us was that the blogging template in iWeb is seriously lacking key functionality. WordPress and Blogger have Apple beat hands down here. When we discovered the blogging template in iWeb, I thought, “Wow, did we miss out on a really simple solution to our blogging by not knowing that iWeb offered something?” We all spend time learning and improving on our sites in WordPress and there are things I really like and some that are a little harder to figure out. But I guess we have this expectation that because it’s Apple and a Mac product, it’ll be slick, eye popping, easy to use and learn. If you go to the Apple store and sit through the GarageBand demo, you realize that you literally have way more than you need to do some serious sound editing and publishing in a great tool. iPhoto is okay, but we use Photoshop for the serious stuff. iMovie and iDVD have been useful for creating some easy to share family media, but the tools themselves aren’t overly intuitive. Nevertheless, our expectations were high when we noticed the blogging template in iWeb.

That is NOT the case. It was a huge disappointment. Apple is really getting their butts kicked as far as blogging software in iWeb; and that’s a surprise to us. We sort of thought Apple would offer something over the top, a slick blogging tool as part of iLife.

Basically, all you get is:
– choose one of their 28 themes
– select the “blog” template
– drag and drop photos and video from anywhere on your desktop or iPhoto
– Type your text directly into their WYSIWYG page
– Publish directly from iWeb to MobileMe
– Search
– RSS

No appearance options or controls, no polls, no ratings or feedback mechanisms (other than comments), no blogroll, no categories, no tags, no trackbacks….you get the drift. It’s not worth listing everything they don’t have.

Are you surprised Apple doesn’t offer better blogging publishing via iWeb? Maybe they have improved it in iLife ’11 and we just don’t know it. If you have iLife ’11, please comment and let us know if it’s improved.

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My subject today is due, partly to being struck by Michael Hyatt’s blog post, and partly to simply wanting to plug his blog. It’s my current favorite, at least for just offering a whole lot of really useful information on a bunch of topics. If you’re into leadership, productivity, publishing and social media, it’s like a candy store. Hard to know which morsel to try next.

“My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ.”

Billy Graham

Mr. Hyatt (Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing) put out a post today offering an inspiring story that compared a long ago meeting with a well-known pastor to a meeting with Billy Graham. If you read it (and I hope you do), you’ll recognize that the contrast was striking. (See “A Tale of Two Leaders: Which Are You?” 12/8) It made me ask God to continue transforming my heart to become more and more like his own – sacrificial, genuinely concerned and interested in others, and very present to people when I’m with them.

It’s a great post. The headline gets the reader personally involved right from the start. There’s a simple, colorful image that symbolizes the central message. And it tells a true story that communicates a larger message. Best of all, it provokes readers (at least me) to action. First I prayed and then I thought about how I’d like to take more blogging pointers from Mr. Hyatt and leadership pointers from both he and Mr. Graham.

Brent and I have been praying to experience God speak to us in some specific ways as we head into the new year. I’d like to add to the list that God would transform me in fresh ways that lead me to grow as a leader, a friend, a manager and a wife.

What are you praying about for 2011?

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Treasures. Don’t you love uncovering one?  I’ve spent the past hour delving into a blog I discovered tonight. I can’t even remember the trail that led me to it. It’s possible that you might even take a look and wonder why I’m so excited. But if you knew me, you’d quickly nod your head in complete understanding.

Think about when you meet someone with whom you seem to instantaneously connect. You start talking and it seems you relate on every topic. They say things that you’ve thought or said before. And they have a ton of great ideas on things that are near and dear to your own heart. Time seems to stand still when you spend time with them. That can happen online too.

I haven’t really met Mary DeMuth and most likely never will, but her blog is chalk full of creative ideas, resources and inspiration that met me in so many places that are “me.” It was like I just returned from having coffee with a long-time mentor friend. How fun!

Now, unless you’re into writing, spiritual transformation, cooking, books, organization or photography, Mary’s blog may do nothing for you. That’s ok. But I wonder what blogs may have led to a similar reaction for you. Who do you follow that you enjoy like you would a friend, learn from like a mentor and connect with because they share similar views, interests and passions?

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