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mental block devil

How to Remove a Mental Block with Scissors

By | MIND | No Comments

Is there something you know you need to do, but you just can’t seem to get started? It might be something you need to stop doing or something you need to start doing. It might be a decision you need to make, but you can’t seem to go over that bridge to the other side. No one else can see it, but for you it’s like raging rapids that you’re afraid to cross. It’s a mental block.

You know there’s something you should do and you might even have a strong desire for it. It’s something that seems easy for others to do, but for some reason, you just can’t move forward. It feels like a raging river with rising waters. The longer you procrastinate, the more reasons you establish for not moving forward. Eventually you pander to the mental block and treat it like an annoying relative.

I have a long-time habit of collecting paper in the form of files, magazines, brochures and mail. Some of it piles up because I don’t want to go through it. Junk mail, catalogs, business cards, owner’s manuals, warranties, and other papers multiply in my office. Other papers get added to the stack because I like the images or I think I might want to follow up with a person or check out a website. I want each piece of paper when I see it, but I don’t like the chaotic piles that accumulate. I’ve known for quite some time I needed to get rid of a lot of paper, but I just couldn’t seem to keep up with the stacks.

mental block devil

Mental blocks are like little devils that taunt you with fear. I named this SoulCollage® card the Tasmanian Devil. He loves to create chaos and confusion which leads to indecision.

This desire to hold onto paper and allow it to pile up in my office is a sign of indecision. If I knew precisely the purpose for saving each paper or brochure, I would have a designated spot for each type so that I could access it quickly when I needed it. I have a vague idea that I might want to use each piece, but until I decide the service of the various types, the disarray in my mind manifests as disorder in my office space.

It’s a barrier to moving forward. If I had all my papers in good order, all the magazines in one place and all the post cards in one place and all the maps and travel brochures organized well, then it would be easy to locate things. But after paper piles up for a while, it feels like a burdensome task to go through it all to decide what’s worth keeping. I used to think that procrastinating the organization was the block, but recently realized that this was a symptom, but not the cause. Each mental block has an ambiguous partner.

When I discovered SoulCollage® last year, I felt like I met my tribe, my people who also get fired up over magazines, picture books and beautiful images. I finally found a group of people who share my passion for paper. After going through the Facilitator Training, I learned about this art therapy technique which is all about cutting out images and collaging them together into new pieces of art. It came at just the right time to help dissipate my mental block regarding my relationship with paper.

In the process of making SoulCollage® cards, it’s easy to get into a meditative state. Not only does it access the creative part of the mind, it also helps to carve out a little order and meaning in a big world. In addition, it provides a little spot in the world, on a 5×8 card, where one focused energy comes together in a place where we can observe it and learn from it. It’s there to help us remember something and, in the process, heal. A feeling once locked up on the inside, sometimes for years or even decades, is now captured on a piece of paper.

Should I Do SoulCollage?

By combining images in a way that triggers one energy for you, it allows you to instantly access that feeling at any time. Here’s a SoulCollage card I made showing my relationship with paper. I knew I had too much paper, but when SoulCollage® came along, I felt like I finally found purposeful outlet for colorful images I’ve been collecting for years.

fired up paper

This is one of the cards in my SoulCollage® deck. It’s called “Fired Up.”

As a writer, I’ve been around a lot of writers who talk about writer’s block. Some writers don’t believe in writer’s block, while others have written blog posts and entire books about the topic.

But when it comes to mental blocks, I believe most people would agree that we all face mental blocks at some point in life.

I’m a big fan of Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She recommends going through all your possessions one-by-one asking one simple question of each item. “Does this spark joy?” If it does, then she says you’ll be happy to keep it, but if it doesn’t, then it’s time to let it go. I’ve been using her technique for a few years now, and I can say that it has made it much easier to get rid of things that I might have, in the past, held onto much longer than necessary. It has become quite easy for me to apply her technique to nearly everything in my home, except for one area.


I love paper. I like the feel of it. I like folding it and cutting it. I love reading books and leafing through magazines. I like the silky feeling of postcards, the utility of envelopes, and the soft texture of brown paper bags that you get at the grocery store.

In her book, Kondo recommends getting rid of all paper, keeping only what’s absolutely essential. Her rule of thumb is to “discard everything.” Her book is written mainly for people who are trying tidy up their homes, but her principles apply to the work setting as well.

I work from home. I have a lot of paper, not only in my home office, but I also have some file boxes full of paper, files, magazines, books, photo albums, and so on have accumulated in the attic, and into other rooms of our home. I have a growing collection of postcards, for example, that I’ve had for decades. Some have handwriting and stamps, while others are still awaiting their life purpose to unfold.

Who ever sends post cards anymore? I have some with written messages. It’s a little piece of history dated with a time and place. Someone carved out a few moments of their life to buy a postcard, write a message and pay to mail it. Yesterday’s postcards required more effort than today’s texts or photos which can be sent in an instant. I’ve got some sort of mental block about throwing away a post card with handwriting.

I used to be a professor. I accumulated lots of lesson plans and games I created to make learning fun for my students. And over the years I accumulated a lot of books and training manuals. What if I decide to teach again one day?

There was a time when it used to be respectable to have a home full of books. It was a primary means of learning and served as a visual museum of accumulated knowledge.

I have buckets of respect for Marie Kondo, but she, like most authors, wrote her book from her perspective. She doesn’t get joy from paper, so she assumes that no one else does either. This is a mental block on her part. Clearly, many artists, craftsmen, office supply manufacturers, art suppliers, and other professionals enjoy handling paper every day.

Perhaps if she wrote a book for artists and creative people, she’d come up with some specific advice on how to go through lots of paper quickly using the KonMari method. I’ve watched a number of people on YouTube use her technique to go through the papers in their home and in the end, then have just a few notebooks and photo albums on a shelf near a desk.

I get it. I don’t need 95% of the paper in my home either, but I still want some of it. It’s not even that I look at it on a regular basis, but as soon as I start going through old training manuals, photo albums, magazines, maps or travel brochures, I’m drawn to certain images, flow charts, photos or memories that I want to keep. Did I mention that I like envelopes and stamps?

Collage Art by Carin Andersson

At the same time, I want to lighten my load. It’s no fun to push around heavy file boxes full of paper. I’ve moved many times in my life and many of these boxes have followed me around for many years, some of the pages, I’m sure, haven’t seen light for many many years.

Have you ever played the rock, paper scissors game? They each have a specific super power. The paper can smother the rock. The rock can crush the scissors. And the scissors can cut the paper.

rock paper scissors game

The rock, paper, scissors game is a great illustration that each and every thing has a potential super power.

Ultimately, I need to get over this mental block and cut a lot of paper out of my life. Paper has been in control for decades. It’s time for scissors to take the lead. Did I mention that I like to cut paper and I have a bunch of scissors?

At a conscious level, I know I could easily get rid of most of the paper in my house. But each time I’ve assembled all the boxes and stacks of paper into one place, as Kondo suggests, I’ve felt overwhelmed. There are literally thousands of pieces of paper to go through. As I start going through the files and the pages, hours slip by. It’s just like getting lost on the internet for hours. As I open a notebook, a file, or an album and start going through pages one by one, I’m suddenly thinking about all the ways I might be able to use an idea or an image. I get sucked back into the apprehensive reason I saved it in the first place.

Someday I might need this.

On a recent Saturday my husband headed out for a business trip. I knew I had the whole week to tidy up papers, so I went around the house and collected up file boxes, notebooks, magazines, mail, and other papers. I piled them all up on the living room floor where my husband sits in his favorite chair in front of the TV. My intent was to cut my paper load at least in half before he got home. I stepped over the boxes and piles of paper for five days knowing he would be home late the next day. I only had one day left before he’d come home and want to relax in his man cave.

Deadlines are powerful!

This deadline helped me to cut right through my mental block about Kondo’s position on paper. She believes that paper cannot bring happiness. What she’s really stating is that paper doesn’t spark joy for her. But this doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone.

As soon as I realized this, I experienced a powerful aha moment. I felt free to keep as much paper and art supplies as I wanted as long as it sparks joy. I quickly started going through the paper according to the KonMari Method, putting all the paper and art supplies into their various categories:

  • books
  • envelopes
  • filing supplies (file folders, hanging files)
  • gift tags
  • glues
  • graph paper
  • label maker (& extra tape cartridges)
  • magazines
  • magazine pages (sorted by categories for future collage projects)
  • markers
  • photo albums
  • postcards
  • scissors
  • sticky notes
  • travel brochures & maps (sorted by location)
  • wrapping paper (paper bags, maps)

Marie Kondo has had global success with her books and teachings because she has addressed a universal question. “What should I hang onto?” She undoubtedly has an opportunity to come out with all sorts of sequels, including one for artists and creatives. Although I’m frequently performing the “spark joy” test on items all throughout my home and getting rid of stuff, I still have lots of scissors. I plan to use them to cut through more mental blocks.


journal art collage home

How to Make Yourself at Home Almost Anywhere

By | home, MIND | 2 Comments

Have you ever stayed with friends or family who told you to “make yourself at home?” But when you head to the kitchen to help yourself to a glass of water, you have to search through their kitchen cabinets to find a cup. The cabinet doors hide the contents, so it’s a mystery what you might find behind each door. To you it makes sense to keep the cups close to the dishwasher, but your friend likes iced drinks, so he stores them next to the freezer. Your little thought is a judgment that bogs you down. And right away you realize, you’re not at home.

But what if you could feel at home here, there and everywhere? Not everyone has a good feeling about the concept of a home. But imagine your ideal home filled with all the comforts you desire and the people you love. What if you could have that sense of happiness and peace wherever you were?

If you own a motorhome, there’s a good chance you consider it home when your on the road. It’s a scaled-down version of the comforts you keep in your home. It tells a story about your priorities for everyday life:

If you’ve ever taken a long flight, your carry on bag is a small collection of some of your comforts from home: a jacket with lots of pockets, a stainless steel travel mug for tea, a book, your Android phone, and a few other treasures.

By bringing along some of your favorite things, you can make yourself feel at home wherever you are. You are a spiritual nomad, but few people experience the benefits of this in the physical world. Van-dwellers are at home wherever they’re parked, and when they’re going 70 mph on an Interstate Highway. People who live in houseboats or yachts are at home on the water. If you choose to see it, they expand the mainstream definition of what it means to be at home.

Van-dwelling RVers change up their back yard every time their wheels roll. And perhaps they’re moving closer to the true meaning of home. It’s less about the stuff in your home and more about the thoughts in your mind.

wandxrbus volkswagon van minimalism make yourself at home

Sabrina and Jimmy Horel own less to see more. They live on the road in their hippie bus with dogs Austin and Seepy. See more of their lifestyle photos on Instagram/wandxrbus.

I’ve lived in so many places in my lifetime that I’ve lost count of how many homes, apartments, condominiums, townhomes, dorm rooms, and other domiciles I’ve occupied. For a while my husband and I owned a 5000 SF home in a Portland Street of Dreams neighborhood. Our home and family were featured on HGTV. When we bought that home it was a dream come true and when we sold it, I was equally happy because I was ready to downsize to something smaller.

I’ve lived in a number of states in the United States, as well as in France and China. And, as of a few years ago, I’ve added a Pleasure-Way motorhome to the mix. When people ask me where home is, it’s whereabouts I am now. It’s not some faraway place from the past.

You can experience the full joy of being at home in the present moment. If you want to make yourself at home almost anywhere, you’ve got to do some remodeling. It’s not about rearranging furniture, it’s all about rearranging your thoughts.

At first, it might feel like a sacrifice to let go of things you collected. But once you start letting go and lightening up, the benefits you experience fuel your momentum.

You can learn to make yourself feel at home almost anywhere. The lesson begins by teaching yourself to rely on the joy of your thoughts rather than the comforts of your environment. The practice continues day after day, like Groundhog Day, until you awaken to the fact that regardless of where you go, you can not escape your Heavenly home. It’s all there is. And everyone else is right here with you.

Feeling at home is a state of mind. It’s a mental place where you know you’re safe from the battleground, that place where you compete to survive. The battleground, as described in A Course in Miracles, is the world. It’s a place where no matter what you have, you always want to experience something new or different. You desire an improvement on the old or something entirely new. It’s just the way life is in this world of time and space.

It’s quite possible to make yourself at home anywhere when you awaken to the awareness that your home is out of this world. Wherever we go, God is. He’s always there whispering directions so you can find your way home. Every bird sings of it.

You see what you believe and you believe what you see. It’s a paradox you can’t escape until you awaken. Your narrow perspective can begin to expand only by releasing your judgment of others who see things differently.

If you decide that you are not at home here or there, then you are right. And if you decide that you can make yourself at home anywhere, then you are right because that is your belief.

When you have a belief engraved in your thoughts, then anything that supports that belief is right to you, regardless of whether or not others agree.

home birds nest nature make yourself at home

Are you aware that home is everywhere? Whether you’re  walking through a city or forest, you are at home.

Like animals, we’ve learned to gather resources to help us feel more comfortable. Birds build nests in trees, while moles, squirrels and rabbits burrow underground. Birds, butterfliesfish, and reindeer migrate. And people do too! Whether you’re in a forest or a city, you can make yourself at home.

You can build your nest almost anywhere in the world. It might be in a motorhome, or it might be a house filled with a big collection of motors such as your dishwasher, washing machine, blender, vacuum, garage door opener, and so on. Regardless of what you choose, remember that even the most fortified homes are vulnerable in this world.

You can insure a home for reimbursement for damages, but the only way to ensure that your home is damage-proof is to move into your true home which is not of this world. When you awaken to this truth, you will rise above the earthly theatre knowing that what you stage as your home today, can and will change. Everything in this world is designed to change with time.

Sell furniture. Quit job. Take road trip.

I’m in Silicon Valley and no joke, as I was writing this, my home shook for several seconds from a small nearby earthquake.

In her international bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo recommends going through all your possessions one by one asking one simple question, “Does this spark joy?” If it does, then you can feel good about keeping it. If it doesn’t, let it go.

Recognize that all your special collections in your earthly home both lift you up and weigh you down. This is normal for life in this world of opposites. The more you lighten your load, the easier it becomes to make yourself at home anywhere.

Close your eyes and awaken your mind to your eternal home in a castle beyond your wildest expectations. Through your thoughts you can build your dream home. What you think about you will see. And you can do this anywhere!


building vision street art eyes open mind open

EYES OPEN • MIND OPEN street art in Los Angeles


If you’d like to join my husband and me on some of our RV adventures in our Class B Pleasure-Way Lexor, please SUBSCRIBE NOW to our channel at YouTube/Techie and Writer.

Techie and Writer Video Productions


Class B RV RAM Mount Diablo

What do you love about your Class B RV?

By | home, transportation, travel | No Comments

If you’re thinking about buying a Class B RV, you might be surprised to know how much there is to love about traveling small.

It’s easy to drive.

If you’ve ever owned an RV over 22′, you know that it can sometimes be a challenge to drive and park. With a Class B RV under 22′, you can park it nearly anywhere. It’s much like driving a long-bed truck. It’s easy to handle, even for people who minimal experience driving larger vehicles.


It makes it easy to travel.

You can keep all your necessities stocked in the RV. This includes your bed, bath, kitchen and closet. When we want to do a road trip, we load up some food and clothes and we’re ready to head out.

You can go almost anyplace a car can go.

With a Class B RV under 22′, you can park in most parking lots, and parallel park in most streets. In tourist areas or destination spots, you need to check for signs that might restrict vehicles over a certain height, but in general, you can park almost anywhere. It’s much easier to park a Class B RV than larger rigs or trailers.

You can sleep in your own bed.

If you’re visiting friends or family, you can “spend the night” in your own bed. You can spend all day visiting and checking out local attractions, but when it comes time to sleep, you just walk out to your RV. There’s no need to plan for extra time or rides to go back and forth to a hotel. This places minimal impact on your family and friends, especially if they don’t have a guest room or if it’s occupied by others during your visit.

You can squeeze in at “full” campgrounds.

Because Class B RVs are small compared to other RVs, sometimes you can get a spot even when a campground is “full.” When we learned about this from a fellow Pleasure-Way owner, we put it to the test and sure enough we were able to squeeze into a “full” campground on a 4th of July weekend. A Class B RV is quite small relative to large bus-size motorhomes or long fifth wheel tow rigs.

It’s fun to personalize

Since it’s a small space, you can quickly change the decor by swapping out just a few items such as pillows, window treatments, seat covers, towels, and other hanging items. You can decorate for holidays or special events and then quickly change it around again in less than an hour.

It’s a terrific way to get around when you have time to travel.

Whether you’re retired or just looking for a weekend getaway van, a Class B RV is a terrific way to get around. It’s small enough to park in most driveways or streets in front of homes, so it can be on standby until you’re ready to roll.

It’s nice to be able to shower and get cleaned up in your own space.

If you’re used to traveling by plane, you know you need to build in extra time to get out of the airport and checked into your hotel. And once you’re settled in the hotel, you need to plan time to get to the local venues and attractions. When you’re traveling in a Class B RV, you can shower and get cleaned up almost anywhere, including the parking lot of many attractions. Once you’re cleaned up, you can walk straight into the park or activity you have planned for the day.

You can control the temperature.

Most Class B RVs come equipped with heaters and air conditioners, so it’s easy to stay comfortable all day long, whatever that means to you. During moderate temperatures, you may not need to use either one. You can conserve energy by cracking windows, using an installed Fantastic fan, positioning your rig to capture more or less sun through the windows, or strategically adding Reflectix window covers to block sun or conserve heat.

van sliding door

How to Close a Van Sliding Door

By | transportation | No Comments

If you drive a van with a side door that slides, you might be happy to learn a simple trick that makes it much easier to close your van sliding door.

We’ve owned our Ram ProMaster® window van for more than a year. During this time, we often had to try multiple times to slam the van sliding door in order to lock it. If it’s not all the way closed, it won’t lock. We never put any thought into it. It’s just the way it was.

van sliding door

When I was by myself, I’d obviously be the one to slam it shut. And it often took me several tries. But anytime my husband was around, I’d yield to him knowing that he’d have a better chance of being able to close and lock it with fewer tries than me.

We love our Pleasure-Way Promaster Lexor Class B RV and its large side door. In fact it was one of the selling points of this RV. When the van sliding door is open, our tiny kitchen has a wide open view. Sometimes this view is the ocean, sometimes it’s a campsite, and sometimes it’s just the next vehicle in the parking lot. But regardless of the view, when this big door is pushed back to expose the kitchen, it makes the whole interior of the van feel more spacious as it opens up to the surroundings.

And so for the past year we went about enjoying our weekend adventures getting in and our of our RV, often trying multiple times to slam-close the van sliding door.

And then one day we were watching a fellow YouTuber with a similar van sliding door. That’s when we learned the secret.

It’s much easier to close the van sliding door when one of the other doors or windows is open. It takes the air pressure off the interior and makes it much easier to close the van sliding door.

That’s it. That’s the secret to making it easy to close the van sliding door!

Duh! As soon as we learned this, it made perfect sense! Check out this 24-second clip within our video to see a demonstration of how to take the pressure off the van sliding door:

Although we had a fairly thorough how-to walk-through when we picked up our new RV at the dealership, we didn’t learn this tip. I haven’t read the owner’s manual for our chassis cab, so I don’t know whether or not it mentions this helpful tip.

It’s common to have so much thought chatter going on that we miss the obvious. Our perception is limited. Our attention is elsewhere. Sometimes we think we’re going about things the right way, and then one day we find out there’s a better way. It’s a good reminder that we need to remain open minded at all times. There might be a better way.

If you found this helpful, please subscribe to our YouTube/TechieAndWriter channel and join us on our adventures.

Tips to manage your business reviews

By | BUSINESS, content marketing, IMPROVE DAILY | No Comments

Business reviews are more important than advertising. Customer reviews can have a big impact on your business. Opinions about your business are easy to find and buyers are more informed today than ever. Regardless of whether you’re selling a ten-dollar widget or a ten-thousand-dollar service package, buyers read about your product or service before they ever step foot into your business or try your product. This is equally true if you’re a nonprofit or any other organization who wants to attract people to whatever it is that you have to offer.

business reviews like stars

Buyers can browse through reviews and read other’s opinions about your business or organization before you have a chance at a first impression.

Decision-makers are armed with smart phones. They can stand at your front door or see your product on a (virtual) shelf and quickly learn what others have to say about it. And even if they don’t have time to read reviews, they can take a quick glance to see how many stars you have compared to other options they’re considering.

Good reviews are helpful because they let you know what customers appreciate. Bad reviews are helpful because they help you learn how to improve your business. 

After reading reviews, buyers approach your business with expectations based on what they’ve already read. Since they’ve chosen your business, it’s likely because all the stars have aligned. You’re positioned at the right time and location when they’re ready to take action.

So what can you do as a business owner to embrace business reviews and attract more customers? Take a look at some of the following ideas to see what might apply to you:

Accept negative reviews as opportunities to learn

Yelp is recognized as one of the most popular business review sites. Lots of small businesses owners have a love-hate relationship with Yelp. The good side of Yelp is that a small hole-in-the wall coffee shop has the opportunity to outrank a big franchise such as Starbucks. It gives small businesses a chance to get noticed and thrive. But lots of small business owners also fear that Yelp can hurt their business. Consider some of these Yelp experiences:

No one likes to be judged. By their very nature, judgments are attacks. Business owners who get bad business reviews can and do get dismayed. And Yelp, no doubt, feels the same about this upcoming Billion Dollar Bully documentary by Prost Films.

The best way to look at Yelp and every other review tool is that these are extra doors to your business. Some turn out to be more welcoming than others.

Release your grievances toward others and you’ll find that they begin to melt all around you.

Learn from your competitors’ business reviews

Amazon reviews can affect your business whether you’re selling through Amazon or not. If your customers are shopping in a brick and mortar store, they can check to see what others think about a product and do a quick price comparison. If it’s cheaper on Amazon, they can add it to their cart with a quick click knowing that it will show up at their front door within a day or two. Amazon has had a big impact on both online and brick and mortar stores. If you’re selling products that are also available on Amazon, or if you’re selling through Amazon, these reviews can affect your business.

Glassdoor business reviews employees

This David Horsey cartoon offers insight into Amazon’s company culture. Behind-the-scenes Glassdoor business reviews can influence the talent you attract and the ultimate results you get in your business.

Ask every happy customer to write a business review

Google reviews and ratings conveniently pop up when you’re searching for places on Google maps. Google maps search along route feature is useful when you’re trying to save time and make convenient stops. Whether you have a brick and mortar location or not, Google encourages you to remind customers to leave a review. Learn more about how to get reviews on Google.

business reviews ratings Google maps search along route

Google Maps lets you search for food, gas, and more along your navigation route.

Foursquare brands itself as a “location intelligence company.” It’s also a good contender for finding food, nightlife or shopping business reviews and ratings by location. If your business falls into one of these categories, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your Foursquare business reviews.

Disable ratings and reviews

Facebook allows you to choose whether or not you want to enable business reviews on your business page. Go to the Facebook Help Center to learn how to allow or disable ratings and reviews on your page. If you go to Facebook’s @facebook page, you’ll see that they, ironically, do not have this feature enabled. If every business review system gave you the option to disable the ratings on your business, you could choose to ignore ratings altogether. But going dark online also makes you invisible to potential customers who use online search tools to guide their buying decisions.

Yelp vs Google vs. Facebook Reviews: which should you focus on and why?

Hire bloggers to provide you with business reviews

Bloggers are a terrific resource for business reviews. Bloggers can educate people about your business. They can share reviews that highlight the benefits of your product or service. They can share a customer testimonial telling what it’s like to work with you. You can find bloggers on just about any topic. They can help you come up with creative ways to share your business. Many are willing to barter in exchange for product or service samples, so it’s worth asking. If you’d like to go this route, here are some tips on how to ask bloggers for backlinks and reviews. By the way, if you’d like me to blog about your business, contact me today to discuss the possibilities.

Invite YouTubers to film your product or service

YouTube offers a platform for anyone with a smart phone who wants to share their thoughts about a flight, an electronics product, an RV, or anything else on their mind. YouTube is an ideal way to let people get a glimpse into what you have to offer, especially if it already lends itself well to an audience, such as a church or a school, for example where preachers and teachers are already talking to an audience. Although YouTube is driven by videos, anyone can comment on the content. This, in essence, is a form of a business review to a YouTuber. And if you’re part of the video, you can get feedback as well.

YouTubers who have lots of subscribers can have a big influence on their followers. And they have the freedom to tell stories on just about anything, including educating people on new products. Consider this “Hands Free Segway thing” review post by YouTuber Casey Neistat:

Snap photos of happy customers

Instagram tends to be a happy place. It’s a terrific app that allows you and your customers to snap, post and share attractive pictures within a few minutes. If your customers are taking the time to mention you in their Instagram feed, it’s probably positive. Smile and welcome the photos.

In addition, Instagram gives you the opportunity set up your business profile on Instagram and self-promote with annotated photos. Be sure to use hashtags to attract your ideal customers.

Connect with your community

Nextdoor offers a feature for recommendations. If you depend on local work or walk-in traffic, this is a great way to connect with people in your neighborhood. If your business isn’t already listed, you can add a business in recommendations for free. This is a great app to spark face-to-face friendships and goodwill referrals within your community. Once you establish your reputation, satisfied customers will naturally want to share brief reviews along with their referrals.

business profile reviews Nextdoor

Respond to business reviews

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) touts itself as a tool to help “people find and recommend businesses, brands and charities they can trust.” In practice, however, the BBB tends to be the go-to place where customers log serious complaints against a business because they know this is a place where the business owners might actually take action to resolve a complaint. Click here for an overview of how BBB ratings are calculated.

A BBB rating is not an indicator of the success of a business. Amazon, for example, is one of the biggest businesses in the United States. Although the majority of its customer reviews are negative, Amazon maintains an A+ rating with the BBB.

Make it a high priority to be responsive to complaints not only on the BBB, but anyplace else where they might pop up.

business reviews BBB rating

Respond to questions about your business

Quora defines itself as “a place to share knowledge and better understand the world.” It’s a great place to engage with chatty intellects who are willing to answer questions posed by its users. Buyers don’t necessarily go directly to Quora for business reviews, but if you offer a complex product or service that costs a few hundred dollars or more, you might want to take a serious look at Quora. Chances are, people are talking about it. Some brands are so prominent that all their questions are grouped together. If you’re an Evernote user, and I highly recommend it by the way, check out some of the Evernote Q&As posed on Quora.

Review your customers

Uber, Airbnb, OfferUp, OpenTable and more companies are not only giving customers a chance to rate the service provider, but also giving the service provider a chance to rate their customers. When both parties know they’re evaluating each other, it tends to result in a more cordial interaction. And this is reflected the exchange of reviews and ratings. If it makes sense for your business model to offer mutual ratings, consider adding the option.

business reviews customer reviews

Join a matchmaking site

Angie’s List is a membership site that “eliminates anonymous reviews giving you trusted, more credible info to make the right choice.” If you’re a contractor, for example, and finding high quality customers is important to you, Angie’s List might be a good fit for you. Be prepared to go through through their background check. If you’re interested in listing your business, check out Angie’s List Business Center to learn more.

Consumer Affairs provides “expert resources and verified reviews” to help customers make smarter buying decisions. Their philosophy is that “everyone deserves to make smart decisions based on unbiased feedback and research-driven information.” They encourage visitors to write business reviews about their experiences with their member brands. Check out their Brands platform to see if it might be right for your business.

Participate in a business review site that makes sense for your niche

If you own a restaurant, you might want to consider Zagat which helps foodies “cut through the clutter of available dining choices” to find the best places wherever they are. Or OpenTable where your customers can “make restaurant reservations the easy way.”

If you manufacture a product, you might set a goal to be a featured product in Consumer Reports or the Environmental Working Group “whose mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.”

business reviews ratings EWG healthy living app

If your business depends on your reputation as an expert, consider writing a book. Goodreads is a terrific place for you as a leader to share your bookshelves and review books. Between Goodreads and Amazon, indie authors have an opportunity for their books to rise to the a bestseller and they have the opportunity to compete with all the big name publishers. Goodreads is a terrific tool for authors and their readers. And it’s also a great place to find, read and review books in your industry. To make the most of your reviews, follow Goodreads Review Guidelines.

Keep Twitter on your watch list

Twitter’s mission is “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.” This means that you can share information about your business while tagging anyone you want. And it means that others can do the same to you. For better or worse, others can also create fan clubs such as Trader Joe’s List or protest groups such as InequalityAtWlmt. Twitter is not a main contender when it comes to business reviews, but depending on the type of business you operate, you might want to keep it on your watch list.

Highlight customer testimonials on your website

Nearly every business can benefit by having a website. It’s the one place online where you can define your brand and the intent of what you have to offer. It’s a great place to highlight a variety of customer testimonials that give insight into the benefits of what you have to offer.

If you have a content rich and attractive website, buyers are more likely to check it out to see what you have to offer. This is the one place where you have complete control of your customer testimonials.

Provide great customer service to everyone

Your best line of defense is to treat all your customers and employees with love and respect. Encourage everyone in your business to read and discuss books that help to develop their people skills such as: How to Win Friends and Influence People.

If you need a writer to help with responses to your business reviews, or assist with content marketing on your website, let me know. I’d love to help. Contact me today.

Lorraine Haataia

Dr. Lorraine Haataia has expertise in several industries including education, construction and transportation. She believes that our thoughts create our reality. She’s passionate about writing because it gives readers the opportunity to learn on demand, expand their minds, and benefit by seeing the world in a new way.

Relational Selling is a Big Deal

By | BUSINESS | No Comments

Relational selling is a great strategy that’s falling by the wayside in a virtual world. Perhaps we’ve lost sight of the fact that our decisions have a big impact on real people. Ultimately, most problems are people oriented and most solutions are as well.


Connecting with your client unlocks unlimited potential.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with a sales executive, Bill Stallings, who’s had considerable success in capturing new business by deploying a number of different selling strategies including relational sales strategies. Here’s what he had to say:

Everyone will no doubt agree that the wonders of technology have had an enormously positive impact on every aspect of our lives. Consider the multiple means for instant communication on a global scale such as:

  • social media
  • e-commerce
  • powerful analytical tools
  • vast storehouses of knowledge
  • and a multitude of other optimization tools

These all contribute to making our lives easier and more efficient. The world has become a much smaller place. With so much potential for life enhancements, it’s easy to overlook missed opportunities.

In Business to Business (B2B) sales we have come to rely upon:

  • automation
  • remote call centers
  • programmed or instant messaging
  • virtual assistants
  • Skype
  • virtual meetings
  • the standardization of protocols

Perhaps less noticeable have been the unintended costs that are hard to identify and difficult to measure.


Virtual operators and customer call centers often fall short in serving customer needs. Is it really a cost savings when the cost has only been shifted to you, the customer?

For the professional sales executives invited to the bidding processes of a Request for Quote (RFQ), the protocols of the process create great challenges in effecting change. How do I convince my customer to change their buying habits to favor my products or services?

For most buyers, protecting the status quo is a valid priority because change involves risk and cost. People don’t like change. So there needs to be a compelling reason to justify putting the organization through the trauma and expense of change. The buyer is reluctant to change because of the risks of departing from status quo. 

The key challenge for the sales team and sales management becomes:

How do we overcome these inherent sales obstacles to having a breakthrough with target accounts when the systems that we and our buyers have implemented are all working against us?

The “missing link” is now the human element. In many cases, deploying a sales strategy of relational sales may very well be the difference between status quo and discovering breakthrough opportunities. Developing new business is the goal.

When was the last time you captured new business at price levels higher than the lowest bidder?

Several years back I was working with my sales team on an RFQ from a major pharmaceutical company. They issued an annual RFQ for ocean transportation services from Puerto Rico to three distribution centers in the United States. Products ranged from over-the-counter medications to highly expensive life-saving drugs. Refrigerated and dry ocean containers were required and pricing had to include ocean and inland transportation services.

Every year, each of the four competing ocean carriers were invited to visit headquarters to present their bids in person for a targeted volume of business. Each ocean carrier sales representative was invited to sit before a transportation council seated behind computer screens at the end of a dimly lit room.


“I’ve attended bid presentations where I couldn’t even see the people behind a bank of computer screens,” Bill Stallings said.

At the designated time the ocean carrier representative presented their lowest possible bid knowing full well that the incumbent would bid last and be given the “right” of refusal to match the lowest offered price. I can think of no greater example of an impersonal setting and bidding protocol that devalues the relationship and services of a vital service provider while preserving status quo.

After three consecutive years of futile bidding, I changed our sales strategy.

During the year leading up to the RFQ deadline, my sales team and I invested time in getting to “know” our target account in a way that we had not tried before. The buyer had insulated himself from any meaningful contact. However, there were still many people involved with the company, both internally and externally, that had insights, information, and impact on the decision making process. We talked with truckers.


Some of the best answers to complex questions can be found in overlooked sources.

We visited the distribution centers and got to know security guards, dock workers and warehouse supervisors. We observed the traffic patterns of product arriving and leaving the facilities. We got to “know” the people and what was important to them. These would be the people that would be living with the decisions of our buyer. Most were very open and willing to talk about their ideas and experiences. They were all trying to do the best they could for their employer.

In getting to better know and understand our customer, we learned that the three distribution centers were closing and would be consolidated into one location in a state more centrally located for the entire East Coast market. We visited the new location while it was under construction and studied the logistics of how this one distribution center would handle the considerable volume arriving each week from Puerto Rico. We came up with many more questions than answers regarding the new facility. When the RFQ date arrived we went to the meeting prepared and determined NOT to offer any prices until we got several key questions answered.

Our buyer was stunned when I told him I wasn’t comfortable offering a price for services that were not clearly understood.

After he chastised me for my lack of preparation, I explained that I did have a variety of pricing models to consider. But unless I received the answers to very critical questions pertaining to his business, it would be impossible for me to offer the “best” price. The buyer wasn’t interested in answering any questions siting that the RFQ contained everything that was relevant and insisted on my delivering the best and lowest price. I held my ground.

Soon, a transportation executive who had been observing the process spoke up and said “OK, you’re trying to make a point. What is your first question?”

I knew I might only get the chance to ask one question so it had to be the right one.

“What is the capacity of your new distribution center for unloading inbound containers in one day?” Bill asked. The reply was very revealing about the buyer and the RFQ process.

“What does that matter to you?” he asked. 

I explained that my competitor–their incumbent–had ships arriving every Friday at ports along the East Coast and each of the three distribution centers were accustomed to receiving 30 to 35 containers the following Monday for unloading.

Transport trucks line up to drop off their shipping containers at the Port of Long Beach as a back-log of over 30 container ships sit anchored outside the Port in Long Beach, California, February 18, 2015. U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez planned to hold a second round of talks with shipping company executives and union leaders for 20,000 dock workers on Wednesday, seeking to broker a deal to end months of labor turmoil clogging cargo traffic at 29 West Coast ports. REUTERS/Bob Riha, Jr. (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - RTR4Q5X4

Transport trucks line up and wait to drop off their shipping containers. This backup results in extra time and cost for everyone.

Since all of their volume arrived on Friday when services were provided by our competitor, this opened the opportunity for a real dialogue. 

“Is your new distribution center capable of handling the combined volume of over 100 containers on Monday? If not, have you contemplated the hidden cost of per diem fees at the port? Have you thought about the detention fees from truckers for delayed unloading? And even worse, are you comfortable with one of your containers full of valuable medications sitting in a Kmart parking lot over night while the trucker is waiting for his turn to unload? Have you thought about overtime or an additional labor shift required if all containers must be unloaded on Monday? These “hidden costs” could very likely overwhelm any savings achieved through price reductions,” Bill said.

No one knew the answers to these questions.

It turned out that the new facility could only handle about 40 inbound containers from Puerto Rico on Mondays and they could get by with holding about 20 more containers over until Tuesday. Since our ships arrived a day earlier than the competitor’s there really was no other alternative other than awarding our company the remaining volume.

In spite of these RFQ conditions, we succeeded in capturing 40% of this accounts business at a price level that was 35% higher than our bid the prior year.

It turned out that we discovered a value proposition that was much greater than permitted by the RFQ process. We would have never discovered this unless we had gotten to know our customer far better than we ever had before. We overcame the sales obstacles of the RFQ process by investing time in getting to know the people that would be most affected by the results of the bidding process.

Relational Selling is NOT about being best buddies with your customer.

It does NOT mean wining and dining the customer every month or spending “quality” time on the golf course. These are perks of the relationship, but are by no means evidence of a healthy relationship. Relational Selling is only one of many sales strategies. It’s something to deploy it in a surgical kind of way. It doesn’t work in every case, but it can be an effective sales strategy when properly positioned.

Bill Stallingsbill-stallings-triad-terminals-jacksonville-florida is inspired to lead by example, succeed as a team, and motivate with integrity. His career spans over 20 years in the ocean transportation, intermodal, and logistics industry. He has achieved exceptional results in executive level sales and new business development roles, complimented with a strong aptitude for operations and customer service processes.

In every position held, as a sales manager, vice president of sales or managing partner, he has offered a solid track record of strategic and tactical management, assembling and developing high performing teams, and designing and implementing performance management and training programs.

He offers superb interpersonal and communication skills, useful in negotiating with a diverse clientele and in building meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with all stakeholders while significantly contributing to the continuous improvement of bottom line results.

interest cancellation DrLorraine.net

Interest Cancellation is Your Ticket to Financial Freedom

By | home, money | One Comment

“Interest cancellation is one of the secrets of financial freedom. What you’re about to read is unbelievable. It’s legal and the banks and mortgage companies are KEEPING this INFORMATION FROM you and your family,” says Kimberly Daly, a business developer in Silicon Valley.

The word mortgage is derived from two Latin words: mort which means death, and gage which means pledge. What many people have with a mortgage is a pledge until death.

“But don’t worry, I’m going to show you how easy it is to escape this pledge and manage your mortgage and other loans to your benefit. You can build equity in your property and own it in a shorter period of time,” Kimberly said.

Mortgage brokers know next to nothing about helping you manage your mortgage.

Banks and brokers are out to make sure that they get a big commission on your mortgage. What does this mean for you?


Interest cancellation can help you save thousands of dollars on your mortgage.

Most people don’t spend as much time and attention learning about their mortgage loan as they do on the property they purchase. But the reality is that, in the end, the loan costs more money than the property itself.

After 15 years of paying off a 30 year loan, you still owe over 90% of the original amount borrowed. And after 24 years, you still owe 50% of the original amount you borrowed.

Few people realize that they make 120 unnecessary mortgage payments in a 30-year loan.

Would you like to slash your mortgage by as much as 80%?

The ordinary homeowner is locked into a crippling mortgage plan. This proven reduction system will help you build equity in your property and pay off your mortgage quickly.

“It’s not what you make, but what you keep. I’m giving you facts and information that banks and mortgage companies don’t want you to know. It’s guaranteed to save you tens of thousands of dollars on your existing mortgage. It’s perfectly legal, but there is a right and a wrong way of doing this. Those who do it right hardly ever talk about it. That’s why 99% of the people have no idea how to pull this off and remain a financial slave to their property for most of their lives,” Kimberly said.

This requires no refinancing of your first mortgage and no alteration to your current standard of living. Conventional banks only offer these options:

  • make biweekly mortgage payments
  • make extra payments
  • refinance to lower your interest rate


But with interest cancellation, you can eliminate next month’s interest now.

What is interest cancellation?

Here’s how it works. By working with the bank’s amortization schedule, you maximize the interest cancellation effect. You can work with the bank’s system to save yourself up to 120 unnecessary mortgage payments.

Here are some typical numbers for a closed-end mortgage. You take out a loan for $340,000 at 3.99% interest for 30 years. Here’s what it looks like:


CLICK HERE to calculate the loan amortization chart for your mortgage.

Here’s a new versus an old way to pay off your mortgage. In a closed-end loan, you can eliminate interest. This allows you to control your money so your money isn’t controlling you. This also allows you to get your money working for you instead of you working for the bank.

As long as you’re willing to manage your amortization schedule and principal balance, you can get reap the benefits of interest cancellation.

Let’s say you have a $340,000 loan at 3.99% interest for 30 years. In 20 years, you gave the bank $389,100, but they only applied $179,793 to your original loan. You still owe $160,207!

This is what makes the banker happy. In the first 20 years of your loan, all the damage has been done. The majority of your payments have gone to interest, not principal. Very few people live in a home for a full 30 years. Most people sell their house before the end of their mortgage. So most of their payments go toward paying off the bank, not their home.

With interest cancellation, you can gain control of your money. This is good news that will brighten up your day . . . and the rest of your life. This ONE FINANCIAL TIP can change your life for the better.

How can you apply interest cancellation to your loan?

You can run your numbers for free. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • your monthly mortgage amount
  • a copy of your last or current mortgage statement break down
  • your total finance amount, your principal
  • the length of the loan, or the term
  • your original finance date
  • your finance percentage %

Here’s how it works. Make this month’s payment, plus the principal amount for the following month. For example, in the month of October, you would make your payment of $1621, plus you would pay the $492 principal for the following month. See the amortization schedule below.

CLICK HERE to calculate the full amortization schedule on your loan.

CLICK HERE to calculate the full amortization schedule on your loan.

Check with your bank on their requirements to ensure that your payment of $492 is applied to principal only. And follow up to be sure that it’s applied appropriately. By doing this, you eliminate the expense of the interest payment of $1129 that would otherwise be applied to the following month’s payment.

Interest cancellation is your ticket to financial freedom.

Interest cancellation is your ticket to financial freedom.

In just six months you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the balance of your loan and the number of remaining payments. And you have additional benefits:

  • No refinancing is necessary.
  • This works for all mortgages except for balloons.
  • You don’t have to make extra payments.
  • You can apply additional principal payments at your discretion.
  • You learn how to keep your money in your pocket.
  • You now know how to pay off your loan quickly.
  • You can build equity effortlessly.

Many people are afraid of being responsible for their own money. Financiers and bankers are counting on your fear and lack of knowledge to keep you paying forever.

“Lots of people start doing this, but then they don’t continue. What else is going to pay you hundreds or thousands of dollars for just a few extra hours work each year?” Kimberly asked.

It is worth it to be persistent with your bank to figure this out. You have to be persistent. Once you learn this, you’ll wonder . . .

Why doesn’t everybody do this?

You have to be conscious and stay at the front of your mortgage. The bank doesn’t care. They hope you’re going to be late because they make more. Banks don’t want you to pay off your loan early. There’s no one out there promoting interest cancellation.

“I learned about interest cancellation in college, but I swept it under the table until I got my first home. I had forgotten all about it, but my father reminded me to do this. I started doing it on my own, and continued to do it from then on,” Kimberly said.

Make sure all your numbers match and once you get it, you’re pretty much ready to go.

money 100 rolls interest cancellation

By applying principal only payments to your mortgage, you can save thousands of dollars.

Whatever amortization tool you’re using, it’s important that your numbers match the bank’s numbers. You have to play their game. You can call the bank each month and ask for next month’s principal amount. You do have to care about your money and be proactive about this. If you take a few minutes on the phone each month, it can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars each month. By making a principal only payment one month in advance, you eliminate the interest in that following month.

You can pay your principal down even faster by applying extra money when you get a bonus or tax return, for example. You can always pay more, but you have to make sure it applies to principal only. Look at the numbers for the next six months and calculate the amount. If you want to make extra payments, you can calculate the principal for the upcoming months you want to pay off and add it up for the upcoming months.

“I want to empower people to take care of their money. Finances aren’t scary. I have done presentations all over the US about this. I’ve shared this information in offices, homes and special events. I encourage you to share what you learned today with your family and friends. It’s simple to manage your money. It’s just a mathematical equation,” Kimberly said.


Kimberly Daly helps companies acquire new customers and sell additional products or services to existing customers. Her role is a crucial one for any business with the ambition to expand or diversify its clientele. As an effective business developer, she listens to what you want and where you want to take your business, including business-to-business, business-to-customer, and even non-profit organizations.

If you’d like to learn more about interest cancellation, call Kimberly at 817-382-8375.


Essential Components of a Content Marketing Strategy

By | content marketing | No Comments

“One of the primary purposes of a content marketing strategy is to influence your ideal customer to make a decision to buy. One of the strongest influences is: ‘what do other people like me think about this product or service?’ One of the most powerful examples is a customer testimonial. Another classic example is an endorsement from a famous person. This content you’re producing is to encourage them to buy,” Bob Haataia said.

A content marketing strategy is essential for driving sales. A strategy is a living document that defines your actions. It gives you a basis for continuous improvement. Bob Haataia, a senior product leader, recommends a documented strategy with answers to the following questions:

What are your goals?

In your content marketing strategy you should have goals so you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, whether it’s increase your sales by 10% in three months, or doubling your business in eighteen months. It’s important to know why you’re trying to get your message out.

“With content marketing you have to think in terms of getting traffic over time. You have to think more about the long term. You can pay for Google Ads to boost traffic, but you have to continue to pay over the long term to keep traffic coming. With content marketing, the traffic builds over time, and is sustained long-term because of the content. It’s the classic example of deciding whether you want a million dollars now, or a penny in an account that doubles every day?” Bob said.

penny doubled every day 30 days money graph content marketing strategy

A penny doubled every day produces more than $5 million dollars in 30 days.

It’s important to have SMART goals is so you can find out what’s working and what isn’t. For example, if you start out with a six-month marketing campaign with a number of activities, you’ll be able to track those activities that bring you closer to your goals. It’s important that your goals are business results, not activities. A business result is a 15% increase in your traffic, versus an activity such as Tweeting daily.

SMART goals specific measurable attainable relevant time based content marketing strategy

Here are some examples of some SMART content marketing goals:

  • increase website traffic by 25% in the next six months
  • educate customers on new service in the next thirty days
  • collect 500 email addresses in the next ninety days
  • increase revenue by 5% over the next six months

“In the beginning, you may not know if your goals are realistic or not. Even if you don’t achieve your goals, by having SMART content marketing goals and tracking your progress over time, this will help you set better goals in the future,” Bob said.

Who is your ideal customer?

Why is it important to know your customers? The more you know and understand them, the better your content is going to meet their needs. By knowing your customers, you can provide information at every step of the buyer’s journey. Customer education is a key ingredient to drive sales.

“Whether you’re a consumer business, or B2B, you want to know who buys your product or service. For example with a hair salon, you might get a lot of everyday consumers who are in a particular age range. By understanding this, you can start targeting your message and services to this age,” Bob said.

It can be very helpful to document this. You can do this through personas. These are generalized representations of ideal customers you’re trying to bring in.

Yelp user customer persona content marketing strategy

Large marketing organizations, such as Yelp, create customer personas to better target their messages and build better products or services. They describe what a typical customer does for a living. They often even describe their hobbies. What do they like and what do they do in their spare time? Part of your product or service is making their life easier.

“Buyer personas  are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. They help us internalize the ideal customer we’re trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans. Having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.”Hubspot

It’s helpful to know your customers so well that you can predict their questions. Once you understand their common questions like:

  • What is it that I need or want?
  • What does it do for me?
  • What’s included in the product or service?
  • How much am I willing to spend on it?

These are deeper rooted questions than ‘what is your location’ or ‘what services do you have?’ As you look at all your service offerings, you can decide where you want to focus more of your attention. It’s important to know if the services you provide are meeting the needs of your customers.

You can go one step further and look at the competition. How does your ideal customer see you compared to the competition? How is your product better? When you know your customer, you look at your competition in a different light. You need to know your strengths to ensure your key messages stand out.

“This is how you develop your content marketing strategy to ensure your content is centered around answering the questions your customers have. In the beginning, these are questions they don’t even know they have. They may not know they need a product or service because they’re not even aware it exists. Your content needs to expose the problem so they can recognize how they might benefit,” Bob said.

By better understanding your customers, you’ll be better able to answer their questions before they even ask them.

What are your key messages?

In your content marketing strategy you’re going to have core messages to address customer questions along the buying journey. You want to limit your content to some key themes. In these core messages, you build your brand and stand out among your competitors.

“In content marketing you can answer all your customer questions. Ideally, over time, your website will answer every question a customer might have. Once a person discovers you through social media or advertising, they can look deeper into your website to find answers to their questions. This can save a small business many hours of answering the same questions over and over,” Bob said.

I recently began exploring conversion vans. By browsing through articles I found answers to questions I didn’t even know I had, such as:

  • How do you take a shower in such a small space?
  • How long will batteries last?
  • What will solar power do for me?
  • Can I get internet everywhere?
  • Where can I park?
  • Do the front seats swivel?

“Everybody likes to hear a story. This is another advantage of content marketing. I recently read an article about a couple living 100% in their conversion van. It was fun to read their story. I learned about some of the challenges of living in a tiny space, but I also learned about the exhilaration of parking near the ocean and hearing the waves. They talked about going to a campground and having dinner outside in a Redwood forest. A customer story is a great way to capture your customer’s attention. A content market expert knows how to tell stories to promote your product or service,” Bob said.

customer success stories typewriter blogger content marketing strategy

“Telling stories captures people’s imagination. In reading the article about living in a conversion van, I learned that there are many people who live full-time in a conversion van. I also learned about boondocking. I didn’t even know what it was, but now I’m interested,” Bob said.

“The questions in the early buying stage are different than later on. In the beginning I may be looking at floor plans. And later I might be looking for answers on how to fix my propane tank. So the content you put out is not only what a person might ask before they buy, but also what they ask after they buy. Through the process you become a trusted partner,” Bob said.

Where are you going to share your content?

“Start off with recognizing the vast number of channels where you can place content on the internet to be found. It’s virtually impossible to get the information everywhere, so you have to make good decisions about where you’re going to expose your information,” Bob said.

There are lots of different ways you can share your content. You’re going to post it to your website, but you need a strategy for which social media channels to use. Depending on your customer demographics they will most likely be using at least one of these channels:

“As a small business, your content marketing strategy should reflect the actions it will take to increase your sales. Maybe you need advertising, or a new social media channel depending on the product and competition. Maybe you need to place an article in a magazine. Maybe you need to start a YouTube channel. Maybe you need a Facebook page, or maybe you need a SnapChat channel. A lot of younger consumers are moving to SnapChat. A lot of people in India use WhatsApp. In a small business like Restoration Illumination, I imagine that most of her customers are on Pinterest,” Bob said.

social media channels facebook linkedin YouTube Quora Twitter content marketing strategy

For a small business owner, it can be effective to work with a content marketing specialist to develop your content marketing strategy because all of this can be time-consuming and overwhelming.

“A few years back when I was division governor in Toastmasters, I did some analysis on Facebook. Roughly half of the people in Northern Florida were on Facebook. What other medium can you use to get to nearly half of your target population? After that, the district governor created a social media chair and I helped to develop the strategy,” Bob said.

“All of the technology we’ve talked about here is essentially free. There’s not a huge investment that’s required. One of the most important reasons to have your own website is that you can measure your results much better. You can still post your information out on these social media channels, but with your own website, you can track the results of your efforts. It’s vital to have a website that’s driven by a content management system, such as WordPress or HubSpot,” Bob said.

As a small business you have limited time. You can look at your analytics on Twitter and Facebook and a lot of other places, but with your own website, you can get all the information you need in one place. Google Analytics is good enough for most small businesses.

How are you going to measure results?

“The reason it’s important to have measures in place is to know which activities are hitting your target market. If you see lots of traffic coming from another potential market, you might want to up your investment into that new market. This is one of the reasons why you need to do content marketing for several months. There may be another need you can meet. If you publish services that are coming soon, and you see lots of hits in that area, you might want to fill that need sooner,” Bob said.

bar graph measure results content marketing strategy blogging

“You want your activity to translate into purchases. By measuring results in these areas, you can find out who is being educated appropriately and decides to purchase. By measuring all this, it helps you to decide what content to publish,” Bob said.

Paying attention to page analytics can be helpful. By looking at Google Analytics, you can see whether your information is coming from Google, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest for example. And you can adjust your efforts to get better results.

How are you going to improve your content marketing strategy?

“Content marketing is not a silver bullet. You can’t write one article and expect all your traffic to come. The way Google search engines work is that it takes a consistently updated website to get it to the top where it can be discovered. Having this as a long-term strategy and finding out what really resonates with your customers will help you target content that translates into sales. It’s important to have a continuous improvement plan in place for all your marketing activities,” Bob said.

Not everything you do will always work, but knowing what works better allows you to focus your messages and continuously improve.

plan do check act continuous improvement content marketing strategy blogging

“Let’s say you have a menu of services and one or two of your pages is getting more hits, but you aren’t getting a lot of sales in that area. By paying attention to these numbers, you might be able to make small changes to convert these into sales,” Bob said.

When you have a lot of different services, you may have one that is yet to be discovered. One of the benefits of having a content marketing strategy over a six month period is that it allows you to potentially tap into new markets you weren’t aware of.

When you try something like Groupon, and it doesn’t work, this becomes part of your living document. As important as it is to track what you’re doing right, it’s equally important to track what isn’t working. This is why it helps to have a six-month campaign. After your first six months, your strategy is going to be so much better than it was in the beginning.

“When I was at IBM, we decided to do a Google AdWords campaign with a $10,000 budget. I got the team together and brainstormed all the keywords. After doing this, we discovered our web traffic didn’t increase at all. We spent $10,000 to find out that Google AdWords didn’t work in driving up traffic to the IBM support website. Even though Google AdWords didn’t work, we were able to increase traffic by two million hits over twelve months by understanding other activities that were working and doing more of it,” Bob said.

By answering these questions, documenting your content marketing strategy, and taking action, you will see an increase in your sales. This will also provide sustained traffic to your website over the long term which will make introducing new products or services that much easier.

Bob-Haataia-profileBob Haataia is a senior product leader with success in delivering complex solutions to achieve significant revenue. He solves today’s business problems with technology and the latest Agile development methodologies. He focuses on increasing global sales and services, lowering support costs, and delivering premier product experiences. He provides complete product management from inception to end of life. He believes that a content marketing strategy is essential for driving sales.


Sell furniture. Quit job. Take road trip.

By | PEOPLE, travel | No Comments

“I got the inspiration for a road trip from my friend, Kenneth Mosher, who did an eight month trip for $8K. He went across the United States. He even bought a plane ticket and backpacked in Hawaii for two weeks. He was a friend, not just a random friend, but one I knew intimately from high school. We just kept bumping into each other over the years. I thought if he could do it, then I could. I knew I asked him questions. He believed I could do it,” Amanda said.

Kenneth Mosher at Garden of the Gods in Colorado

Kenneth Mosher at Garden of the Gods in Colorado texted Amanda, “I’m letting the universe guide me in every step. I’m here on a mission to help others open their eyes to reality and help them fight the battle within themselves.”

“Kenneth called me one day when I was on a break at work. I told him I was at corporate. He said he expected me to end up there. We kept exchanging stories. I felt like I had a preview into the rest of my life already. It wasn’t horrible, but I knew if I kept doing this my whole life, I’d regret it,” Amanda said.

“He said he did this and we had a conversation about it. There was never one trigger. He gave me the spark. I just thought I wasn’t that type of person. I didn’t think I was very adventurous, but I wanted to be. If you’re scared to do new things, what do you do? You just try new things,” Amanda said.

Amanda had a savings goal. Three months was her stretch. She still had student loans, a car payment, and a phone bill. She didn’t wait until all her bills were paid.

“This trip totally, totally intimidated me. I’m not adventurous, but I’d like to be, and this kind of attitude totally changes it. I decided that I wanted to talk myself into it more than talk myself out of it. Around October I started getting it in my mind that I wanted to leave around June. It ended up being May. I started selling my furniture. I made a series of small decisions. I quit my job. I couldn’t turn back. I kept moving forward. At a certain point, you can’t back out,” Amanda said.

“I read The Alchemist before my road trip. A friend recommended it. She told me it was about someone who pursued their dream and found it. When I came across it at a bookstore in the airport, I got it. This was the perfect book to read before my road trip,” Amanda said.

“Some people just don’t take the opportunity because they don’t think they’re the type to do it. Some people label themselves. I could tell myself I’m not well traveled. I’m alone. Some people will tell you when you move you need your next job lined up. Or you tell yourself you won’t travel until you have a friend or a partner who wants to go with you. And don’t forget the biggest one. Solo travel for a woman, you can’t do that! It’s not safe,” Amanda said.

“These are preconceived notions and labels. I needed someone who shattered that mold. For me it was Kenneth,” Amanda said.

“People write themselves out of the equation. I thought some people just had it in their heart. You might think that just other people do this. I just want to inspire you to go,” Amanda said.

You need a forerunner for things in life and sometimes you’re the forerunner.

“If you want to do it, there’s an ideal time. I had a friend who told me he was moving from Ft. Myers to San Diego. At first he told me about all his furniture and how he spent a lot of money on it. It turns out it’s just as expensive to move all the furniture, so you might as well sell it. After we talked about it, he decided to sell his stuff and make a two-week road trip out of it. You have to be prepared to let a lot of things go,” Amanda said.

Amanda Haataia sold virtually everything she had, quit her job, and started trekking solo across the United States.

Amanda Haataia sold virtually everything she owned, quit her job, and started trekking solo across the United States in her Scion. She didn’t consider herself adventurous until she embarked on this road trip.

“One of the highlights was at the Wildflower Cafe in Gardner, Colorado. I met a family and helped them wrangle in their horse. There were four generations from the great grandparents to the grandkids. This family left me the keys to their house. Something like this doesn’t fall in your lap when you’re sitting at home,” Amanda said.

Young boy Amanda met while helping the family wrangle in their horses.

Young boy Amanda met on her road trip. She helped the family wrangle in their horses.

“You never know how something holds you back until you let go of it. If you hold on to anything, everything has its price. You know its value in a good way. But then you start to understand your true value. Until you exercise your freedom, you don’t know you have it until you experiment and try it out,” Amanda said.

Your furniture can hold you back. I didn’t value freedom until I took this road trip. I used to think I was free when I could have dessert before dinner and that was my definition of freedom. 

“Another thing about Kenneth, is that he’s totally different now. A lot of his friends say he’s way better. And these are people who already thought highly of him. Sometimes we want to be better people, but if you’re always in the same environment, you’re not putting yourself to the test to see new values, or even have the desire to find yourself. Once you have the freedom to be however you want to be, you can craft yourself to be who you’re meant to be,” Amanda said.

This is a story of finding yourself.

“I knew I didn’t love my job. I also didn’t think I needed to love it. I picked all the logical things for a new job, but I knew I didn’t have enough information to know what I wanted to do. I felt I would get into another job, and it would be just the same. I felt I hadn’t lived enough. I came across a lot of other people who felt the same way and quit their job. I wouldn’t say I was adventurous until this road trip,” Amanda said.

You have the time to read the books and play out the things you care about. Most things you find out that don’t matter as much as you thought. Some things fade into the background and then other things stand out. If you don’t know what you want, what are you going to chase after?

“Sometimes it seems like a lot of hype about big cities. You can read blogs or read about places, but once you experience cities for their culture, climate, and price tag, then you can say I like this culture or this temperature during the day,” Amanda said.

“I loved Colorado Springs way more than Denver, but everyone hears about Denver. I realize I can get all of Denver for half the price in Colorado Springs. I started to realize how much outdoorsy stuff I like,” Amanda said.

"Jim Bishop's Castle was amazing! I loved visiting with the first best friend of my life, April Ann Amaya, my friend since I was six years old," Amanda said.

Jim Bishop’s Castle was an amazing part of my road trip! I loved visiting with the first best friend of my life, April Amaya, my friend since I was six years old,” Amanda said.

“You start to play with your values, rather than sitting behind a desk. You get all of that without living in one city for five years. You get a preview and taste of everything. Now when I approach my job search, I’ll know more about what I want to do, and some of the tradeoffs of each city. It’s way way better than what you could ever read,” Amanda said.

“I just want to inspire people to take road trips. You have to decide that you want to do it enough. You’ll discover on your own what matters and what doesn’t and it will be totally different from mine,” Amanda said.

I went to Wye Campground in Colorado Springs. I was away from everything. From my tent I could see the Milky Way. It was a great experience.

I went uphill for about an hour. I met some people in a group of five or six people. They had to drop off 2-3 people at airports because they couldn’t handle it. When you go out, you learn what you can handle.

“I had a myriad of experiences. Every day was new. Even if I had a bad day, there was always tomorrow which was so different.” Amanda said.

You realize the extent of flexing your freedom muscles. That’s what a road trip does. You don’t realize how free you can be until you test it. It’s a change in thinking. It isn’t always the experiences. It’s more about the things I was thinking, knowing I can do it.

“I had a lot of first times on this trip: couch surfing, going to a drive thru movie in Pueblo, Colorado. Wait, oh yeah, it’s called a drive in. I had a few times when I woke up and didn’t know where I was going to sleep that night for the first time. I wasn’t worried about it. It was the first time in Louisiana, first time in this state, first time trying new food. It was the first time I did a thirteen hour drive in one day. This was how long it took from Dallas to getting into Colorado. I just had to get to Colorado. Every day was a first for something,” Amanda said.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

“My sense of adventure has gone up. I met a lot of people. Some of the people who hosted me are some of the most open-minded people. That’s why they get involved in couch-surfing,” Amanda said.

“On the road I read the amount that I’d like to, whereas before I couldn’t find the time to read. I flossed pretty much every night on the road. I met my goal to not use heat tools on my hair. Now I can go days without makeup and without caring about it,” Amanda said.

My concern for what other people think about me has gone down. I don’t care in a good way, a positive way. I know which advice to ignore and listen to now. Any time I come to a decision I get practical advice. I listen to my heart. On a road trip like this you wake up in a new day and you have three or four choices. You don’t feel obliged to go with your friend. You have a chance to go with yourself and not be ashamed of it.

“My first Couchsurfing experience was in Pensacola Beach. I texted them just before I arrived. My heart was racing. I told myself if I don’t feel safe, I’ll leave. I knew I could get a hotel. There were about five cars in front of the house. Someone was outside and offered to help me with my things. I told him I’d get my bag later. I asked for Alex. He told me I was at the right place,” Amanda said.

“I grabbed my purse and locked my car. I knocked on the door and there were about seven people inside. I wondered what I got myself into. It took me a while to get comfortable with all of them asking me where I’m from, where I’m going, how old I am, how far I am into my travels, and more and more questions. It was a house with four lifeguards. Apparently Pensacola Beach is not a safe place for surfing,” Amanda said.

If you don’t have the time to travel, you can be a host to Couchsurfers from all over the world.  You can also be picky with who you want to stay there and just accept people from other countries to learn about them. Hosts can choose who they want. If they don’t want to have someone that night, they just decline the request. You arrive and request a day or two, or possibly more. You just see how your vibe is, and how you click. Then you can see if you want to stay for a day or a week.

“One time I put in a request for a day and stayed for four. I stayed three days in New Orleans. I did two different Couchsurfing stays in Houston, two nights each.

One of the guys I met in New Orleans loved to cook. He cooked for me twice a day.He was from Honduras. His dad left the family and his mom had arthritis. He grew up cooking to help take care of the family.” Amanda said.

This man from Honduras loves to cook.

His dad left the family and his mom had arthritis. This man from Honduras learned to cook for his family at a young age.

“Once you get used to it, it gets easier. As I got more into my road trip, I felt more independent. I felt more comfortable on the road. I met travelers and would just crash with them. Couchsurfing it’s totally free,” Amanda said.

Couchsurfing is just a network to help you get comfortable with it. After a while you don’t need it, but at first it gives you references and you feel safer. When you sign up you fill out your about me page, your philosophy, how you participate, what music, movies or books you like, your age, occupation, current location, stuff like that.

If you’re a host, you say if you have a shared room or private bedroom, how many surfers can you have. You explain parking at the location, or things to do in the area. The more detailed you are, the more trustworthy you seem. And you can add photos too.

At the end of a stay you answer a few questions about your visit and what it was like. And you can leave a reference. Then you can read what others said about a host or visitor.

Cleverness can be learned, but does not get you far like true experiences can. I’d love to learn deeper truths about generosity, community and understanding.

“I downloaded Airbnb before my road trip, but I didn’t use it. Even if it’s $20 or $40 to stay somewhere, I valued each day so much that I didn’t want to spend this much. I called Kenneth twice along the way when I ran into something and I didn’t want to ask Reddit. He told me how he found free campsites. Free Campsites was a helpful site. I also used Hostelworld,” Amanda said.

 at 6th Street in Austin, Texas.

During this road trip Amanda met a lot of new friends along the way. Here are a few people she met at a hostel. They snapped a photo together at 6th Street in Austin, Texas.

“I liked staying at Drifter Jack’s Hostel in Austin, Texas. It’s a lot of solo travelers who come together. Everyone is very inviting. Everyone met around the pool table around 10 or 11 in the morning and evening and everyone would go out together. No one knows each other so everyone’s invited. They’re all cool people,” Amanda said.

"This fellow roadtripper put my ride to shame! His van a bed, sink and stove! After losing to pool, I was able to whup his son in Catan," Amanda said.

“This fellow roadtripper I met in Englewood, Colorado, put my ride to shame! His van had a bed, sink and stove! After losing to pool, I was able to whup his son in Catan,” Amanda said.

“I used Podcast Addict for entertainment on the road. I also downloaded the AllTrails app because I wanted to go hiking,” Amanda said.

“I used Reddit and some of the Subreddits.  Its fun to play with. They have a community for everything.  I subscribed to some Subreddits such as r/vandwellers, r/solotravel, r/roadtrip, r/nationalpark and r/travel. The content is invaluable. These were so helpful. If I didn’t know the answer, I would go to a community of people who cared about it,” Amanda said.

“You can ask a question like, ‘how did you eat breakfast on the road.’ And someone will answer. ‘If I wanted to have cereal, I’d buy small containers of almond milk.’ Someone told me to get a memory foam pad. This made camping even a little luxurious. It was helpful finding these communities,” Amanda said.

If you’re looking to talk yourself into something instead of out of it, go to the people who believe in it to get the answers you want. This is how to make something a reality. 

“But even a positive story has its baggage. Do you want to know some of the negatives of the road trip? It would be different for everyone. I even look at them almost positive now. There’s travel stress for sure. There are some days you feel like you should be doing more. You have this expectation when you travel that you should be doing this grandeur thing every day. I’m in this new city and just playing a board game and having a beer with someone while couch surfing. And then another day you just do laundry. You think about adventure, but it’s not 24/7. It’s really tame in a way,” Amanda said.

Nothing prepares you like the road trip itself. I was in a job I didn’t love. I wanted to do a road trip and I wanted to get the information to believe I could do it. If you just want it a little bit, that’s all you really need. Then you realize this applies to everything in life. As long as you’re going down some road. This road trip gave me so many avenues to go down. 

“Shutting down chapters can be sad. I cried several times on the trip and I’m ok with this. I lost my Kindle. I was bored with some of the people I met. The good part is that it was only a day. It’s not an entire life. You have bad days on a road trip, but you don’t feel stuck or attached to that day. If you have a bad day at work it can stick in your head, like this is my life. It’s going to be like this for ten or twenty years,” Amanda said.

“It’s easy to let it go because you can play with your priorities, but you have to experience some bad things to know. After a while with podcasts, I got annoyed with how political they were. I got lonely, but not as lonely as I thought. In fact, sometimes I got overwhelmed with meeting so many people. Pretty much everyone asks the same ten questions. Where are you going? When did you start? Where are you from? How old are you? You get used to it, but telling the same story while traveling gets exhausting. By the 47th person, it’s boring,” Amanda said.

"On this road trip I realized how much I want a horse, and dogs and cats," Amanda said.

“On this road trip, I realized how much I want a horse and dogs and cats,” Amanda said.


The benefits are beyond the road trip. You have no idea the extent of what you can do when you’re stuck in a routine. Don’t get me wrong, I love my routines and good habits. You don’t realize how many things you put around your head until you go out and do a road trip. Then I realized I can take this liberation with me wherever I am.

“Yes, this road trip changed my life,” Amanda said.

If you’re feeling sluggish with your life, a road trip might be the reboot you need to start over.

“I’d like to encourage you to do a road trip. You’ll transform from wanting to tell stories to wanting to do things. Just like when you’re a kid in the playground. You’re like a kid. You just want to climb that thing. You just want to go over that mountain. So I’d just meet someone and say, hey I’m doing this, do you want to join me?”

check-mark-black-green   Sell furniture.


check-mark-black-green   Quit job.


check-mark-black-green   Take road trip.


basic-square-checkbox-unticked   New beginning.


Amanda Haataia loves listening to music, watching movies and reading books. She enjoys the outdoors and is a card-carrying member of a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. She recently sold virtually everything she owned and started trekking across the country in her Scion topped with an unlocked cargo bag. In addition to traveling across the United States twice (once with family in 2005, and this trip in 2016), Amanda has also traveled to Canada, France, Ireland, Mexico, Spain and Switzerland.


2015-National Parks-Federal-Recreational-Lands-Pass

Jax Woodworkers gives away more toys each year

By | artists, gifts, NONPROFITS | 5 Comments

“I’m the last living founding member of Jax Woodworkers. All the others have passed away. I’ve been the Chaplin for many years,” Bobby Clayton said.

Woodrow Connors with Bobby Clayton, two of the four founders of Jax Woodworkers Club.

Woodrow Connors with Bobby Clayton, two of the four original founders of Jax Woodworkers Club.

“My neighbor, Woodrow Connors, had a two-car detached garage in his back yard. That’s where he had all his woodworking equipment. When we moved into the neighborhood, he had been living there several years before us. This is where Woodrow founded the club. I’ve been there ever since the beginning, since the inception. Jax Woodworkers formed with four men, including me. Carmen Fenanelli was a banker and became the treasurer right away. And Ray Reynolds was the other guy. He made a bunch of grandfather clocks and walking canes, plus many, many, many toys over the years. We’re considered to be the founders. But Woodrow was the man, the head man. It started a long time ago,” Bobby said.

Jax Woodworkers started in December 1989 in Woodrow’s garage.

Woodrow Connors with Ray Reynolds, two of the four founders of Jax Woodworkers Club.

Woodrow Connors with Ray Reynolds, two of the four founders of Jax Woodworkers Club.

“Woodrow was already making the crosses. They were designed to be hung in rear-view mirrors inside cars. He brought the idea from the North Jacksonville Baptist Church. He was a member of that church and that’s where he got the idea. He started making crosses in his garage. Each one is made of hardwood. They all have red yarn and a heart that holds the yarn together. His wife, Miriam, used to string the red yarn through the crosses and add the plastic hearts. The crosses were free and not to be sold. He just gave them away. Woodrow made more than 20,000 crosses and today they’re probably all over the world,” Bobby said.

Miriam and Woodrow Connors . . .

Miriam helped her husband, Woodrow Connors, by stringing red yarn through crosses that he gave away for free.

“I have a wood shop in my garage too. I put all my equipment on wheels. When I want to work, I roll everything out in the back and work on it,” Bobby said.

“Woodrow founded the club in his back yard. That’s where we started making toys. I’d walk over there. I was just one of the guys who was helping to get it started. We started with four guys. It grew to 60 plus members. We made thousands of toys and we’d give them all away. None of them are for sale. They’re for small children,” Bobby said.

“We’ve met at different places. We’ve moved around to anyplace that would have us. Now we’re meeting at St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church. We meet on the third Saturday of each month at noon. We eat in the church dining room before we start the meeting. The workers from the church fix us lunch,” Bobby said.

“After we eat, we start the meeting right on time. The president might mention if anyone is sick. Many of the members are older. We also have younger guys and gals and they’re happy to learn from the older woodworkers. They’re very skilled at what they do. Before they retired, some of them were woodworking artists.”

“The president always starts the meeting with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance. That’s important, the prayer part. Make sure you put that down. The secretary reads the minutes from the past meeting. Then the safety officer gives a safety report. Working with saws can be very dangerous, especially with small projects. He reads and speaks from his own personal experience. You don’t put thin plywood in a planer, for example. If you do it will fire bullets. This is just an example. You should never plane a piece of plywood,” Bobby said.

“On the third Saturday of November each year, all the members bring in the toys for distribution. Some of the toys go to Shriners. There are about fifteen agencies that come to pick up the toys during the pick-up time. We divide them between the groups. Some people take them to the hospitals and give them away,” Bobby said.

Jax Woodworkers club members lay out all the wood toys to prepare for pick up.

Jax Woodworkers club members lay out all the wood toys to prepare for pick up.

“The members of Jax Woodworkers make about 5,000 toys a year. In November, we spread the toys out all over the floor. People come with boxes to get the toys. They go fast,” Bobby said.

“One of the club’s biggest expenses is wheels. The wheels are expensive. The toy chairman orders wheels and axles with money collected from annual membership dues,” Bobby said.

Jax Woodworkers Club purchases the majority of their wheels from Woodworks.

Jax Woodworkers members make thousands of toys each year

Jax Woodworkers members prepare thousands of handmade toy cars, trucks, planes and other wood toys for their annual giveaway.

“Every year we make thousands of toys for the various agencies The American Legion, Sulzbacher Center. Some of them I never heard of before, such as a group for babies of prisoners,” Bobby said.

Jax Woodworkers . . .

Jax Woodworkers lay out all the toys for distribution each November for various nonprofits to come pick them up.

“The people who receive these toys are invited back from last year to this year and they tell about giving them away. When the children go into the room with plastic toys and wooden toys, they always run to the wooden toys. People get up with tears in their eyes to tell what a joy it is to get the toys. The men are humble. When you lay 5,000 toys out on the floor, it’s quite a sight. The woodworkers don’t want any credit. They’re just doing the work of the Lord,” Bobby said.

Jax Woodworkers . . .

Jax Woodworkers Club gives away thousands of handmade wood toys each year.

“The woodworkers have such great camaraderie. They’re not trying to outdo the other ones. They’re just trying to do something for the children,” Bobby said.

“One of the main places we get our wood is Rulon in St. Augustine. They supply us with wood. They’re in the business of making ceilings and wall systems for properties all over the world. We’ve developed a relationship with Rulon to get their wood. So we get choice wood, quite often poplar and black walnut. Rulon makes fancy commercial ceilings,” Bobby said.

“One of our members, Greg Fisher, found out about Rulon from a friend who was getting wood from them. Greg went to see Rulon to tell them what Jax Woodworkers Club does and our need for any wood they could give us. Rulon was happy to give us wood to make toys for needy children. They have been doing this now for over six years. Each meeting there is a pickup truck full of wood for our members donated by Rulon,” said Web Master Bob Corona.

Rulon International Jax Woodworkers Club Jacksonville Florida warehouse St. Augustine Florida Jacksonville community

Rulon International is committed to giving back to the community. They have been donating wood to Jax Woodworkers Club since 2010.

“I like this club because it gives us an opportunity to be of service to the Lord to see the children light up when we give them a toy. Aside from that, I personally enjoy getting a hold of a plan, making the toys, and sharing ideas on how to make different ones,” Bobby said.

“The woodworkers also build a lot of stuff for show-n-tell that’s not given away. We have show-n-tell at every meeting except December when we have our Christmas party. The callers make the calls to remind people about the meetings a few days before,” Bobby said.

“Making toys is our main goal, but at each meeting we do show-n-tell. The show-n-tell officer chooses a topic such as drill press or table saw. They’ll bring stuff in that they made with this equipment. We have a table full of stuff that has nothing to do with giveaway toys. Some guys come in with cabinets they’ve built or airplanes. We take it in and show it. You leave your name by your piece and someone will call you up to explain how you made it. And then people ask questions like, ‘what kind of glue did you use’ and so on,” Bobby said.

Bobby Clayton talking about a ukulele he made at Jax Woodworkers Show-N-Tell

Bobby Clayton at Jax Woodworkers March 2014 meeting during show-n-tell, describing how he made this ukulele.

“I made a ukulele once. I brought it in and showed it and played it. I’ve brought clocks in and showed them. I’ve probably made about twenty different clocks, one big grandfather clock. We have three grandfather clocks in our house. My father had an old clock made in Mississippi. it’s a little over three feet high. That’s what got me interested in clocks,” Bobby said.

“A few years ago a gentleman called the Jax Woodworkers Club to find out if anyone would be interested in purchasing a grandfather clock kit that his father purchased in 1991 from the Wisconsin Clock Company. That same year his father passed away leaving the kit in limbo for nine years. I negotiated a price that included all the basic parts including the movement and, to my surprise, a nine-tube striking system. I didn’t keep a record of how long it took to complete the project, but I would estimate between six to nine months, of course, part time,” Bobby said.

Bobby Clayton built . . .

Bobby Clayton has a number of clocks chiming every quarter hour throughout his home. This grandfather clock that he built from a kit, is the largest of his collection.

Sawdust Trails can be any Saturday of the month except during our monthly meeting. A member will host a gathering at their home. These events usually have about fifteen to twenty people. People volunteer and invite people to come to their house for breakfast on Saturday. This gives the other members a chance to see their workshop and learn something. We call this Sawdust Trails,” Bobby said.

Jax Woodworkers Club members Naylor Sawdust Trail gathering men Jacksonville Florida

Jax Woodworkers Club members at Jim and Wilma Naylor’s Sawdust Trail gathering in March, 2016.

“In December we have a Christmas party. People dress up in costumes. If you want to bring a gift, you can. If you do, then you get a ticket and pick a gift that looks attractive. It’s fun. We sing Christmas carols. All the wives are invited and many of them come. There are mostly men who do the woodworking, but some women do too,” Bobby said.

“Margaret Miller was the president for years. She kept us together. She stepped down to let others have a chance. She’s a woodworker. She makes some pretty good stuff. We have a mission statement, by-laws, and a full slate of elected officers,” Bobby said.

Margaret Miller holding an award she received in recognition for all her years leading Jax Woodworkers Club. The plaque was presented to her at the club's June 2015 meeting.

Margaret Miller holding an award she received in recognition for all her years of leading Jax Woodworkers Club. The plaque was presented to her at the club’s June 2015 meeting.

“We need help to get the word out there about Jax Woodworkers. Our club has many elderly members and young people are more into technology, so getting new members is difficult. I was president for six years. It was an honor and a privilege to be part of this great organization who, for over 25 years, have worked hours and hours to see to it needy children receive toys at Christmas. These members with beautiful hearts are a gift to the community,” said Margaret Miller.

Woodrow Connors went to join his Maker in Heaven on February 6, 2009. He was 95 years old. But this hasn’t stopped Jax Woodworkers from carrying out Woodrow’s vision of making more and more toys each year.

Woodrow Connors has made, and given away, more than 20,000 of these crosses. He gives them away for free. "The Gospel is free. Jesus didn't charge anything. How can i?" Woodrow said.

Woodrow Connors has made, and given away, more than 20,000 of these crosses. He gave them away for free everywhere he went. “The Gospel is free. Jesus didn’t charge anything. How can I?” he said.

“Woodrow wanted to expand the club. There’s another woodworkers club in Jacksonville at Woodcraft. They sell woodworking equipment and wood. There are many woodworking clubs all over the country. If you look up woodworkers, you can find many of them out there,” Bobby said.


“I truly appreciate my daughter, Lorraine Haataia, and the work she did to pull this story together,” Bobby said.

Recipients of toys made by Jax Woodworkers Club include, but are not limited to, the following organizations:











St. Andrew Episcopal Church


Sulzbacher Center Way Home logo





What are the Top 10 Words in ACIM?

By | books, SPIRIT | No Comments

“You can’t know a book from its cover, especially the amazingly generous 1300-page psycho-spiritual teachings of ACIM,” says Andrew Allansmith who has been a student of A Course In Miracles (ACIM) for a few decades.


One of Andrew’s favorite quotes in ACIM is, “The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.” T-26.IX.6:1

“I was in serious pursuit of a spiritual awakening. I tried different spiritual paths. In 1993, I stumbled on A Course In Miracles and the other books dropped away in the first week when I started studying ACIM. Since then, ACIM has become the catalog of answers that I trust. I continue to intellectually challenge ACIM, but I no longer question it. I challenge it to bring me the answers. I know they’re all there to release my fixation on being separate, vulnerable and even human. I’m delivered from being human. That’s a limit. I’m released,” Andrew said.

“ACIM helped me let go of the thought that I’m a who. All humans are who’s. Who’s are vulnerable. Who’s have something measurable to lose or gain. What you are in ACIM has nothing to gain because it’s touching everything with your true Identity. It’s a whole different way of thinking about identity,” Andrew said.


Andrew Allansmith leads a weekly ACIM study group in Santa Cruz, CA.

“I was preparing for an annual gathering for our study group in Santa Cruz and I got inspired. I was so busy preparing for this gathering. I was doing Holy Spirit as a topic and it occurred to me how many times the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the book. This led me to look up the most common words. About four hours ensued. It happened all at once. I did the research at a mad pace in a single setting. It was so exciting because I had never seen the book sliced this way,” Andrew said.

“I used a combination of internet research and Excel. The course is available in ASCII. I used some software tools for the legal industry, a word count function. Then I realized I needed to combine some words that had similar meaning,” Andrew said.

These top 10 words offer a quick insight that this long-time ACIM student and teacher finds accurate to the core messages.

Here are the top ten words used in ACIM:

#1        God, Father                           3,192 uses

#2        See, Look                               1,781

#3        Truth, True, Truly                 1,603

#4        One, Oneness                      1,584

#5        Gift, Given, Give                  1,549

#6        Mind                                      1,308

#7        Thought, Think                    1,297

#8        World                                    1,285

#9        Holy, Holiness                     1,281

#10      Real, Reality, Realize          1,264

“In making the Top ACIM Words list, I had to make some choices. I omitted prepositions, pronouns and such, to get to the meaty words. If I included the word ‘I,’ it would be the clear number one word.  The personal nature of the book and author is obvious with over 5,000 occurrences of ‘I.’ In the first half of the book, that ‘I’ is Jesus almost exclusively, as the author coaches the reader through an understanding of how to release the ego and all of its pains once and for all,” Andrew said.


Here’s Andrew’s take on a message using these words:

With God (#1) you Look (#2) through the Truth (#3) of Oneness, using the Gift of Mind, to Think about the World’s Holy Reality.

Otherwise, using your ego as a guide you continue to see its UNHOLY reality.

And here’s a message using them in countdown:

The Reality (#10) of Holiness (#9) is hidden by the World (#8) until you Think with the Mind that was Given you from Oneness to Truly See God.

“We could come up with a dozen other sentences using these words. There are so many gifts in this book. After 23 years of studying ACIM every day, I continue to find new powerful mind-healing messages that bring me peace and understanding. One of the gifts is shown by my assembly of these words. I can reconcile the Love of God with the biting tragedies of the world. This is no small gift,” Andrew said.

“The Course knows you are a belief addict and a relationship addict, abusing both with your ego. Using its mind-healing direction by working the 365 daily ACIM lessons, you can see all of your world and every fellow being in it with meaningful thoughts instead of the meaninglessness at the behest of your ego,” Andrew said.

CLICK HERE to buy ACIM now.

“The real number one word is the author, ‘I.’ I had a shift in my knowledge of ACIM. God is this primary topic. After all the years I taught this book, it still teaches me how to live a better life. I’m more comfortable and happy. And to find out that God is in the book as number one. ‘I’ outnumbers ‘God by a lot, by 50%. The ‘I’ is the author, and it’s not Helen Schucman. I had to surrender to the idea that this is a very personal narration by Jesus about God, about God’s way. It’s God’s way for me to return to peace,” Andrew said.

Andrew Allansmith has been a teacher of ACIM since 2004. He is the Founder of Spiritual Ear, an organization dedicated to making PURE ACIM study tools.

God is in everything I see because God is in my mind. ACIM W-pI.30.1



spark joy glass bookcase konmari marie kondo

Does this glass bookcase spark joy?

By | clothing & accessories, home | One Comment

A few months ago I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This book proposes a radical concept: touch every item you own, one by one, and ask yourself, “does this spark joy?” This is rule #1 in the KonMari method, a term Marie Kondo coined by combining parts of her first and last name.

Her book sparks joy for me. And it delivers on the promise in her title. It offers “life-changing magic.” It motivated me to start going through different categories of things in my home to find and keep only the things that spark joy. Kondo’s book inspired me to tidy up my clothes which were stuffed in a closet in my bedroom. Plus my office closet was full of dozens of jackets and coats, including many I hadn’t worn for years.

By the time I was done tidying up my clothes and jackets, all my favorite items fit into the bedroom closet. And it freed up a bunch of space in my office closet. I was now able to use this closet to store work-related things that spark joy.

In addition to tidying up my clothes, I also found the KonMari method useful in other categories of things I owned. I was so pleased with the results that I decided to tidy up our furniture. We had a number of pieces that were tolerable, but now I had this acute awareness that many of the pieces did not spark joy.

Because I enjoyed her first book so much, I bought her second book, Spark Joy, when I saw it at Recycle Bookstore in San Jose. I love buying books from them. Not only do they have great prices and selection, I love to visit with the resident cat.

Recycle Bookstore is a great place to buy and sell both used and new books

Recycle Bookstore is a great place to buy and sell both used and new books

As I started looking at all the furniture pieces in our home, I realized that some of them sparked joy, while others clearly did not. Kondo recommends going through things by category. So if you have a lot of books, which I do, you go around your home and collect all the books you have from every room and stack them up all in one place. And then you quickly go through them one by one keeping only those that spark joy.

I need to be honest here and let you know I cheated. I didn’t go around our house and collect all our furniture pieces and put them in one room. My husband is generally cooperative when I ask him to move heavy stuff, but this would have pushed him over the edge.

I did, however, take photos of a lot of our main pieces and put them in a Google photos folder where I could see the images all together. This also made it a lot easier when I was out shopping and wanted to visualize what something might look like in a particular location.

Does your furniture spark joy?

After taking a closer look at all the furniture throughout our home, I realized that we’d have a more joyful home if I made some changes.

Some of the pieces had to go, but some of them just needed a paint job or a new location within our home. I had a glass bookcase in our dining room, for example, that served as a nice display case for cookbooks and glassware, but I knew this space was underutilized.

What this dining room wall really needed was a buffet/hutch. It would make the entire room much more functional.

But this glass bookcase sparked joy for me and I didn’t want to get rid of it.

spark joy glass bookcase KonMari method Marie Kondo

this glass bookcase sparks joy for me, but the location does not

As I was taking stock of all our furniture, I started a wish list of what I wanted to get to make our home more comfortable. I decided which pieces sparked joy and would stay. And for all the pieces that didn’t spark joy, I thanked them for the purpose they served in my life, as Kondo recommends, and then I listed them on OfferUp and Craigslist.

One of the pieces on my wish list was a storage cabinet for the bedroom. I wanted something that was about 5 or 6′ tall, about 3′ wide, and no more than 12″ deep. I wanted a piece that could provide more storage for clothes in the bedroom. And I was hoping to find something white.

Ironically, I went to thrift shops, estate sales and used furniture shops, including Not Too Shabby, before realizing I already had the perfect piece! It was the glass bookcase in my dining room.

It turns out that this case was just the right shape and size. It fit all the requirements on my wish list for this piece, but I didn’t see it right away because I was so used to seeing it in my dining room.

chalk paint restoration illumination tami shabby chic spark joy

chalk paint is a great way to transform a piece of furniture

Another thing that clouded my vision from seeing this piece in our bedroom was the dark stain. I wanted something tranquil that would fade into the white walls. I wanted it to feel light, clean, serene.

Tami Shidawara-Vasquez is a talented artist and owner of Restoration Illumination. I met her after purchasing one of her pieces at Not Too Shabby. She enjoys projects like this where she can do her magic with Annie Sloan chalk paint and wax. She specializes in giving pieces a new look, and sometimes an entirely new purpose.

9 Ideas to Repurpose Junk Into Treasure

spark joy glass bookcase konmari marie kondo

Since reading Kondo’s books, I handle clothes differently. Now when I come across a clothing item I know I won’t wear again, I immediately set it aside to sell or donate. I typically try to sell things at Crossroads Trading first, and then donate the rest to Goodwill.

When I first read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I couldn’t put the book down. It kept me up half the night. And the same thing happened when I read Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.

Does it spark joy? It’s such a good question. What’s the point of hanging on to things you don’t love?

Because this bookcase has glass on the front and sides, it turned out to be a beautiful display case for sweaters. Not only does it provide extra storage for clothes, I can see many things in one glance. This makes it easier to get dressed. And because I already tidied up, now I’m searching for what style I want among items that spark joy. I’m no longer wasting time slipping in and out of things I wouldn’t wear anyway.

Finally, the glass on the sides allow the light from the window to shine through into the hallway. It seems that this piece was custom made for this spot, but accidentally got put in the wrong room when we moved in several months ago. When we take the time to slow down and appreciate everything and everyone in our lives, one by one, something magical happens. It’s enlightening.

spark joy glass bookcase KonMari method Marie Kondo shabby chic

glass bookcase repurposed into shabby chic clothing display case

Speaking of light, the curtains are still a work in progress. I hung blackout drapes so that my husband and I can sleep in the dark, but haven’t gotten around to tidying up the window treatments yet.

Tami suggested swapping out the hardware for glass knobs. This coordinates well with the existing glass knobs in the house, plus it adds a bit more character to the glass bookcase.

spark joy glass bookcase KonMari method Marie Kondo shabby chic restoration illumination

glass bookcase repurposed into clothing display case

The clothes add color to our bedroom while maintaining the peaceful feeling I want in this space. The clothes are much more comfortable in their new space. I’m so happy with how this piece turned out. The entire project, both inside and out, sparks joy for me! And my husband likes the improvement as well.

Although Kondo recommends folding most clothes into rectangular shapes and storing them upright, these bulky sweaters work well in this case since they’re in short stacks.

I’m so happy this lovely lady came into my life. Kondo’s tidying up methodology awakened me to a magical power from within.

People around the world are obsessed with the KonMari household decluttering method.

People around the world are obsessed with the KonMari household decluttering method.

Think for a moment about all the things you’re surrounded with in your daily life. Does this spark joy for you?