Tweet!

OK, I’m finally giving in :) and joining Twitter. Just to see… Help make it fun and come on board! The more of you that are on there doing interesting things, the better :) And if you’re already on Twitter, let me know your user name so I can find you … mine is TeresaMichelsen (simple, but descriptive! LOL).

And if you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, check it out at the link above. It’s just a way for us all to let each other know what we’re doing whenever we feel like it, in a sentence or two. Kind of a nice way to keep in touch with people far away. If you’d like a little customizable PC-tool to have it on your desktop instead of visiting the website all the time, you can get that free at Twitteroo or Twhirl.

See you soon!

Creative conflict resolution

home-main.jpg

I’ve been pretty busy lately, and just wanted to write a little about what has taken up so much of my time and effort. I’m ready to launch a new business, Mediation Solutions. This business is all about preventing and resolving conflicts – in the workplace, in personal life, business, and the environment/public policy field. After nearly 20 years of working for the environment as a technical consultant, I have come to appreciate the critical importance of conflict as a barrier to getting anything done – in nearly all realms of life.

I’m very excited to have a partner join me in this effort – Stephanie Stirling, whom some of you may know. She is a person that I have grown to admire over the almost 15 years we have worked together – in various roles: as fellow regulators, client-consultant, workshop and training organizers… Like me, she has worked within her federal role as a facilitator-on-the-side of her normal biological/regulatory duties. This is a good fit for her at this time in her professional career, and it’s a neat feeling for me to have a partner for the first time.

The other very interesting thing we’re doing with this is, in addition to the traditional face-to-face approaches, getting set up for an increasing focus on online conflict resolution. Online conflict resolution fills many niches – it helps address international commerce and workplace issues, and provides software and techniques for working with people in widely varying geographic locations and timezones.

Aside from these more obvious uses, it turns out that it is helpful in a lot of practical ways also – participants do not need to be online at the same time, do not need to take time off work, travel anywhere, or arrange childcare. One can participate from anywhere – home, office, airport, wi-fi cafe, hotel room… It is useful in situations where emotions are so high that it is hard for participants to sit in the same room and communicate effectively. Translation issues can be dealt with. And lastly – younger generations are growing up doing everything online. They’re going to expect to be able to resolve their issues and conflicts there also.

So, we’re jumping into the bold new world of online conflict resolution. It may not generate much traffic at first, but I think it will be a fast-growing market someday. And then maybe Stephanie can relax in her new home on Whidbey Island and I can relax in my hacienda in Ecuador and we can tap away and resolve the world’s conflicts :) Oh… if only it were that easy!

Feast or Famine

Well, it seems like a really long time since I’ve been able to write anything – all the contracts I’ve been waiting for for seven months (and which left me almost broke while I waited) have finally come in, dropping crazy buckets of workload on my head, lap, computer, desk, and everywhere else :) I have so many projects going at once now that I desperately need to make a list of all the things I need to do for them all over the next six months – but I haven’t had time to make the list! Add to that the trial that is starting in a week in which I’m an expert witness, and things are a bit nuts around here.

Friends, send me calm, competent energy – I need it!

Funny how I miss blogging when I don’t have time to do it. It’s gotten to be a regular part of my life and a form of expression and communication with my network that I value. It gives me an emotional outlet when I need it, a place to post random interesting ponderings that others might have something to say about, and it makes me feel really great when people read and communicate back :)

It’s also interesting how blogging tends to open people up. My signature line on my e-mails now includes a link to this blog, and as a result many of my work colleagues know a lot more about me than they did before. Some of them have said really nice things about it – we all worry about revealing too much, but over the years I have learned that the result is usually more positive than not. It gives us all a human face, which when you’re an independent consultant, feels especially important – since networking and friendships are really what it’s all about. I’ve even had one person tell me it inspired him to open up about side ventures he was involved in in his “other” life, which in turn resulted in us receiving some wonderful and unexpected bakery creations :)

Now I’m just waiting for the day when my Mom gets broadband and actually starts reading this ^.^ We’ll see if I still have the courage to post everything!!

Making a difference

Recently I’ve found two web sites that seem especially helpful in making a real difference – in one’s own life and in other people’s lives. I just wanted to highlight these in case they can help you too, or you’d like to join in. The first has to do with microlending, and the second with personal goal-setting and achievement.

Microlending is a really cool practice that allows people in developing countries to obtain small loans to grow their farming or business, usually repaid within a year or two. Repayment rates are exceptionally high, typically above 95%. Kiva is a microlending website that allows you to personally view each candidate recipient and choose to whom and what kinds of projects you want to lend money. You can also see who else is lending to them, and combine your donations to fund larger loans. Then you get updates as the loan is repaid, and eventually get your money back to keep or loan to another person.

I’ve been wanting to be part of this for a while, so yesterday I contributed the money I made from tarot readings this week to four entrepreneurs at the site. Among my “portfolio” are:

– A woman farming and selling vegetables in Samoa
– A woman who has been working as a street vendor in Merida, Mexico, and is now working on setting up a little shop for food and household goods
– A woman selling vegetables in Kenya
– A man selling shoes in Kenya

All are supporting families and some are working to pay school fees for their children (a particularly worthy goal for girls in Africa). If we’re lucky we’ll get updates on the businesses from the aid organizations or the recipients, but either way we know people are getting the help they need at 0% overhead (Kiva requests additional voluntary donations to cover rent and overhead).

The second site is one that uses the power of the Internet to help people define and achieve personal goals. It’s very simply called 43 Things. On this site you can define up to 43 goals that you have for life, though most people start with many less and fill them in as they go along – I currently have 6.

Instantly, you are hooked up with others that share your goals, and you can read about their progress, their struggles, and their ideas for succeeding. You can also read journal entries from those who have done what you’re hoping to do, what it was like for them and how they did it. You can even use the geographic features to hook up with others and form local groups for whatever you want to do – go walking, practice Spanish, exercise more, whatever.

As you go along, you can create journal entries for your goals to keep track of how you’re doing. The site sends you reminders “from your past self to your future self” on intervals you pre-determine (or not, if you choose). For those who need or want it, you can even set up specific milestones with timetables and consequences :) Others can read your journal entries and cheer you on if they like what you’re doing. Once you’ve accomplished a goal, you can click on “I’ve Done It” and take it off your list – yay!

All in all, it seems more motivational than anything else I’ve seen. It combines the power of a blog with a networking site and tracking features to make it all work together – it can even link to your external blog if you want to – once I figure that out you may be seeing a new “Goals” category on this site :)

Blogging about blogging

Like my life, this blog is full of posts on many unconnected topics – nature, games, work, relationships, tarot, politics, literature… One thing I love about blogging software is the ability to see how many people are visiting your blog, where they came from, what they’re reading, and links going in and out. It’s a lot of fun to see what interests people the most. Here are a few interesting observations:

– Whenever I post on one of the big Yahoo lists, visits go way up. It seems people actually look up your Yahoo profile if you say something interesting and follow the links on it – who knew!

– There’s a whole group of tarot enthusiasts who read mostly the tarot posts – recently I had a large influx of folks from Russia when my tarot book was published there

– I’ve written a lot about relationships in the past year, having gone through some pretty deep personal experiences and transitions. These posts get read more often than any other, even though they are now off the front page. They are often found through search engines – or people get to the blog and go straight to the love category and read all the posts there

– Nature is another popular topic. WordPress has a nature tag shared by many blogs and any time any of us posts under that tag many people from within the WordPress network read it – kind of like a webring by topic made up of blog posts.

– Another thing that brings in a lot of traffic from the search engines is any post about astrology and combinations of various signs and planets. That and the relationship items are the most frequently found through searches.

– I’m enjoying random links that happen from time to time. I wrote a post on the metaphysics of mediation, which has been picked up by someone over at “blinkbits”, which as I understand it, is a way to share favorite posts from feeds.

– The blogs that tend to get the most comments are about relationships, politics, and nature :)

The way all this ebbs and flows is so interesting, and I really enjoy being able to see the friends and perfect strangers that have taken the time to stop by, read, and discuss. Thank you!

Check out the Tarot Channel

tc-banner-blue.jpg

I just started writing for a new group tarot blog (featuring Mark McElroy and Janet Boyer as editors) over at The Tarot Channel. Pop over and check it out, and let us know what you think. It’s a neat idea, I think, to have a bunch of us writing in the same place about a topic we all like, but approach in very different ways. Plus Mark has a unique talent for finding odd and interesting tidbits on the web to keep us all entertained :)

As you know, this blog is kinda my own personal space, and you may find anything at all here on any given day. This way, if I feel like really writing about tarot in ways that are more in-depth and less personal, I’ve got another place to do it. Both of these forms of blogging are new to me in the last year, and it’s all very interesting – so many ways to communicate and participate in a community, and hard to know which ones will take the world by storm and which ones will slowly fall away. Fun to watch it happen though!

It’s really not breast cancer! and how you know that…

So this is a musing on how the Internet has changed our lives, particularly with medical information – for ourselves, our children, and our pets. It seems as though the media is excellent at telling us all about all the things we should be worried about, even many things we really shouldn’t worry too much about. At the same time, I notice more and more how I rely on it to get the information I need to solve problems – before I talk to my doctor. This takes some work of course – there’s a lot of misinformation on the Internet with a lot of really good stuff mixed in. Any good researcher should be able to tell the difference, though it may take some practice. The advent of Google seems like one of those things that’s changed my world.

For example, (stop reading if personal health is TMI) I’ve been feeling kind of sharp pains under my left breast and armpit area for a while. As any woman knows, the very first thing that leaps into our minds is breast cancer. It’s just so scary on so many levels, and something we’re taught to worry about pretty much from teen years on. And now that I’m 40+, it’s an even bigger concern. So this morning I felt it again. I had just sent an e-mail message to my doctor on another topic (yet another health care innovation that I love), and didn’t want to bother her again unless I really had to. I mean, I just had a mammogram and everything was fine. Still, fears persist. So onto the trusty Internet I go. Come to find out that there is almost never pain associated with breast cancer, and that this kind of pain is NORMAL for women heading into pre-menopausal years.

What a relief… and it took me all of 5 minutes on the computer to find that out, and another 5 to confirm that my initial research on it was accurate and consensus-based. This is a good thing – it took something that could have become a significant nagging worry and just took it off my plate. Sometimes I think that we have far too much to worry about in the world today – many things we can do nothing about. To the extent we can use the Internet to relieve these anxieties, that’s a real gift.

The Internet has been essential for all the research I’ve done on new treatments for migraines over the years, which prepare me for office visits with neurologists who don’t have a lot of time to spend on each appointment. I work hard at making sure I don’t over-react to media, or base any medication decisions on advertising. But it sure is nice to be able to look up original research and evaluate it for yourself – especially if you’re trained to do so.

Then there was the time my kitten horrified me by peeing on my bed, the very first week I got him home. I had no idea what to do, or why he would do such a thing. A little time on the Internet convinced me that he probably did it on purpose to try to tell me something important, and I should take him to the vet. Sure enough, he had a UTI infection. And here I thought (at first) he was being bad, was scared, or just poorly trained, when neither punishment nor training (or even comfort) would have helped a bit.

There’s something immensely comforting about all this – I could give a lot more examples, but I’m realizing how I’m coming to rely on this information source – used carefully and with discrimination. I’ve received good advice more times than I can count. Given how overloaded our health care system has gotten, it’s probably good that we have at least some other alternative for less critical matters. In some ways at least, the Internet is really living up to its promise.