The stranger I love

She is sleeping in her new room. This wonderful, beautiful girl whom I’ve been waiting to welcome to my home for 8 months. I thought we would connect the minute she was under my roof and I could know instantly what she needed the minute she needed it.

I could not have been more wrong if I had tried.

Sigh.

Friday night was like Christmas. I almost couldn’t sleep from the excitement of knowing she was coming. I had bought her so many new things and filled her room with special items I thought she would love. I was so overcome with emotion that I was almost at the point of tears for some of the day.

Saturday arrived and I drove out to get her and her things. As we packed the car I realized all too quickly, as I somehow knew already, that she was not the child I thought I knew.

Eight months ago, I drove my firstborn, the ‘Rory’ to my ‘Lorelei’ and one half of my heart to her new home – a university residence. I knew it would be an adventure but it took months before I realized that I didn’t know how much things would change. Somehow over the last year, my role in my daughter’s life has changed significantly.

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She went off to do new things without me and I had to let her.

I was shocked when I soon learned how much this beautiful, strong and independent girl didn’t need me.

For anything.

Double sigh.

I knew she was strong-willed but I thought I would be the kind of mom she (and her new friends) would go to for help!

I was cool! I understood my girl and gave her unconditional love and support. After all, I had to share weekends with her father ever since she was a young child. I had become accustomed to her being away although that also came with a period of re-adjustment.

My attention is not what my daughter needed this year; It was my understanding and distance. Although the she never said it, it was clear that she embraced her new life away from me with open arms. No need for mom, unless it was for some extra cash or a quick review of an English essay.

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I tried, oh how I tried, to give her space but it was hard.

I was her mother.

We had been a two-person tag team for a decade before her stepfather and brother came along.

I would literally do anything and everything for her. But she needed and wanted to do her own thing.

I’m sure it was bumpy. There were missed assignments that did not get completed because Mom was’t there to remind her. A few social events were overlooked because I didn’t know she had committed to attend, and then didn’t show up.

I have to take comfort in the fact that I knew she grew as a person. She realized that some promises she needs to keep.

She experienced things that I don’t know (and maybe I don’t want to know about), which made her a better person but she finished the year with new university and life skills.

She succeeded and thrived as a young adult. I have to acknowledge that her distance was the right thing for her to do.

DonicaBDayAs a university mom, I had a lot of adjustments to make this year. I have done my best to give my girl the room to fly no matter how hard it was to let her go.

Now that she’s under my roof for the summer, I hope to catch-up on lost time, to enjoy hearing about the experiences I knew nothing about and to hear about friends whom I’ve never met.

Will I ever be the cool mom again?

Maybe not, but I think she knows that my love for her is still unconditional and half of my heart is still hers.

Now, if only I could recover from the tattoo on her ankle I didn’t know existed until today.

Sigh.

 

It takes a village

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I never really knew who coined the term ‘it takes a village’ until I decided to write about Donica’s birthday. It’s an African proverb but the words could not be more true for this Canadian mom.

My daughter Donica and I are the Gilmour Girls of Nova Scotia. We quip. We banter. We quote movies and most importantly, we drink coffee. Donica is 19 today and I am just home recovering from a lovely birthday brunch with two of the people who got me to thinking about the last 19 years.

For more than half of her life, Donica was my partner in crime, my first choice when making a meal or choosing a TV channel. I was devoted to her, so much so that it was pointed out to me as she grew older that someday she would leave me and I should prepare for life without her under my wings.

 

 

That in itself is the dilemma of being a good parent. If your child is healthy and you do your job well, you will prepare them to leave you. It won’t matter that you love them and want them with you always. They are preparing their entire young lives to leave

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When I was a single mom, I could not fathom the day that I would willingly let her leave. She and I have taken trips together.

We have walked the quiet beaches of Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Florida.

We have dreams of trips that we will take someday. I remember what she wore on her first day of school, at her daycare graduation and for her first photo shoot.

 

 

 

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I have photographed my special girl thousands of times in her life. I have memories engraved in my head of things we said or did.

I have told her, and I truly believe that no matter how many successes I achieve in life, she will always be my biggest achievement. But nothing that we have accomplished could have been done without our own little fan clubs.

 

 

 

 

 

I was a single mom when Donica was 10 months old. While the term implies solo, this journey has not been a solitary one for me.

Today, I dedicate this blog post to my village.

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To those hundreds of people, and there are hundreds to be sure, who helped me give Donica everything she needed to be the brilliant, kind and intelligent soul that she is today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To her grandparents. For the extra help from Mom and Dad, the ‘Cape Breton home’ that would always welcome us, and the many, many trips to Bedford to help.

 

 

 

 

 

curlettTo the special times when Donica went to Granny and Granddad for an overnight sleepover or for the hours when she painted while listening along to Simon and Garfunkel.

 

 

 

group monicaTo my siblings. For every time your face lit up the room when she walked into it.

To JP for quitting smoking on her birthday, so she always remembers that you wanted her to be proud of you. To Monica for jumping on a plane, more than once, to be by our side.

 

 

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To Rhonda who took her to movies and the Bulk Barn for junk food when she was a young teenager and I was never cool enough for her. To Tammy for special homemade gifts at Christmas time and to Greg for pretending trolls do exist when she was four and liked to pretend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ralphTo Ralph, who joined us later in Donica’s life but treated her like his own. For fighting over who would get to watch her play soccer and running over the one time she called us for a favour while living in residence.

 

 

 

 

To her uncles and aunts, like Sue who left her holiday camping to watch Donica’s soccer games. For Canada Day BBQs in Dartmouth and endless hours watching cartoons and playing Barbies.

pat clovieTo the Roach, Camus and Woods family who made her feel like she had four extended families instead of two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

breton gradTo Breton, Lily and Leela, for looking up to her in a way that only younger siblings can. For loving her so much in your own little way. Some day she will be part of your village as well.

 

 

 

 

 

To my friends.

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To Shauna, who used to pick her up at school and buy her star fruit or had special meals made for her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

marion marion1To Marion and Darrell, who joined us for our first Florida vacation trip so we could feel safe.

 

 

 

 

sabithaTo Sabitha and Sheila, for treating her like an adult and showing her the same respect that you have for me and for always making her feel she was important and special.

 

 

 

 

To my old bosses, Robyn and Kelly, who always let me put Donica first while I worked for you. At no time did I ever feel I could not be with her when she needed me. My salary was the anchor that kept us safe.

To neighbours and babysitters who helped watch over Donica while she was growing up. To Jane who had a special room for Donica’s sleepovers when I could not be home. For Brenda who ran her over to physio when she was recovering from her concussion. To Karen who spent an entire afternoon helping pick out her MSVU courses.

To cousins like Tammy and Pierre who came to Donica’s birthday parties and brought her gifts.

socc3r momTo Donica’s school community. To her elementary school principal Kevin and primary teacher Marie-Josee for that time they came over for supper to help her improve her confidence to speak French. To her high school teachers like Monsieur Jeremie who gave her the tools and knowledge to succeed. To her school soccer coaches who encouraged her to succeed.

To Donica’s church youth group, the United Church community and the Berwick family. To wonderful people like Shannon and Paul Ingram and everyone who encouraged her and gave her empowerment, faith, and guidance.

mike momTo her soccer coaches in Bedford and Suburban who made soccer a lifelong passion and skill for Donica. And to Mike who cared every step of the way.

 

 

 

 

To the friends who always made her feel like she could be herself whether you were from Berwick, Sommet or somewhere in between.

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To the strangers who showed Donica and I the good in life and for anyone whom I’ve missed. Like the time a complete stranger upgraded us to Executive so she could fly in style.

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you.

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Thank you for showing Donica that her village is not limited to specific family members, geographic regions, age groups or even religious faiths.

Thank you for seeing her the way that I do.

 

 

 

 

skuDonica’s village is going to expand quickly in the years ahead. It will be filled with people whom I’ve not met but knowing she has a village, no matter how old she is, or how far she goes from home, makes me happy.

I know in my heart that she is in good hands with such a loving and encouraging foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

us3Now I can only wait to see what wonderful things she does next.

And share her successes with you.

Her village.

February 28, 2016Permalink Leave a comment

Overcoming Bloggers Block With a Post About Nothing

I have had a hectic few months with lots of work to get through every day. Oddly enough, not a day goes by that I don’t think of a blog post about a memory I’ve had, a book I’ve shared or a concept I wish to share.

So many thoughts cross my mind.

I know I have great messages I want to share.

I’ve hit a wall but I’d like to think I can overcome this struggle with the power of my mind.

So tonight, I decided to just write. It doesn’t matter that this is a post about nothing. I have great content that I will share as soon as I get this first post done.

After all, isn’t that what we all need? We play little games with our heads, telling ourselves ‘if I sleep 5 more minutes I will have a good day’ or if I have McDonalds for lunch, my day will go better.

If you have ever felt this way, it’s going to get better. Already, I feel myself letting go to the “perfectly worded post” and preparing for the posts still to come.

They will be witty. They will be inspiring. They will be fun.

When is whipped cream a carrot?

With a six-year-old, we are only at the beginning of the homework trials and tribulations. Most days my little guy is happy to do his exercises and get on to bath and bedtime snacks. Other days, we have a problem. Tonight was one of those nights.

Like anything, as a parent, you are faced with a choice. You can try empty threats (No snack for you!). You can try begging (Please do this for mommy). You can raise your mom and demand that the homework gets done, especially if, like my day, your car wouldn’t start and you had a difficult client to deal with.

If you keep your wits about you and get creative, you can get it done with minimal fuss. Tonight was one of those nights. A long day at the sitter’s due to the school’s storm closure, my son was tired and fussy. Then I realized that I had a carrot to dangle in front of his nose. Leftover whipped cream from my parent’s last visit, it was just sitting in the fridge taking up space.

So, I made him a deal. Do your phrases; get a little whipped cream in your mouth. Done. Math problems? Done. Within minutes, a half hour of wheedling was avoided. It was a small treat and one that I wouldn’t do every night but that is why we all sometimes need a ‘carrot’ sometimes.

So, next time you need a carrot dangled in front of your nose, look for a little something to make the job easier. Don’t be so hard on yourself or your child. A win-win situation makes a hard job a little easier.

And if you get a little whipped cream out of, so much the better!

February 25, 2015Permalink Leave a comment

Finding your escape in books by Tamora Pierce

After an especially frustrating day, I was relieved when bedtime duty went to Dad, the kitchen was clean and I was able to skulk upstairs with a glass of red wine and my weathered “Mastiff” book. Then it hit me, rather than getting lost in the pages of the book, I should be telling people why they should be reading Tamora Pierce. It may help the next person who is crawling up to their bed after a bad day and needs a light-hearted book to help escape the day’s woes.

Now, if you were to borrow this book (which you won’t because it’s been dropped in the bath on more than one occasion and a few of the pages have marks from food that went from fork to page, not fork to mouth) you would likely feel like this is a book that has been ‘read’. Not just opened and finished once, but read often and with pleasure. Tonight’s re-read, “Mastiff” by Tamora Pierce, is the last of a trilogy about one of my favourite heroes, Beka Cooper.
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Now, I’m over 40. I get it. We aren’t supposed to have heroes, but Beka’s creator, Tamora Pierce, said it best when she wrote, “It’s not just children who need heroes.” Beka is my hero. I know she’s not real, but I like to think that she is when I re-read the pages of the three Beka Cooper books.

What is it about fictional characters that draws us in? Is it the fact that we know they aren’t real so we don’t have to try to accomplish as much or live through as many terrible events? Whatever the case may be, Tamora Pierce, in the “Protectors of the Small” and the “Beka Cooper” books, has managed to invent female characters who are stoic, kind, and above all, brave. Oh, what an amazing thing it is to be brave enough to face such dangers. If only one small part of me is stronger as a result of a fictional character, I hope that Tamora feels she has done her job.

Another one of my favourite lines in Tamora’s books is: “Girls are 50% of the population. We deserve to represent 50% of the heroes.” These are great female characters for a number of reasons. They face challenges, which they overcome, but they are also very ‘believable’.

If you’d like to learn more about these great characters, do the following:

  1. Buy the books (I linked it to Chapters Indigo as their great staff told us about Keladry many years ago!) Note: Get the hard cover editions that will stand up to falls in the tub and late night ice cream treats.
  2. Look for fan art, articles and other blog posts by googling Keladry of Mindelan and Beka Cooper! Check out the attached, amazing artwork of Keladry of Mindelan and Beka Cooper!
  3. Read this interesting article about Keladry of Mindelan as a Feminist in Fiction. She truly was written to help girls have a voice and be themselves and for that I love her (yeah, yeah, I know she’s fictional).

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Last but not least, take a moment to look up the author, Tamora Pierce, who writes phrases that stick with you. Her belief that “Libraries are places where the damaged go to find friends” is one that I have always kept with me. It’s further proof that books can engage, console, and even heal us.

So now if you’ll excuse me. I have a book to read. I will open it, read a few pages to remind myself of Beka’s latest adventures (and how great she is) before drifting off to sleep. There is no better way to treat myself after a frustrating day. Except maybe if tomorrow is a storm day and by some magic, I have the house to myself!

My Post-PodCampHalifax Promise

Blog A few weeks ago, I headed downtown on a Sunday morning to participate in my fourth PodCampHalifax. I could go on about the cool people, topics and vibe that comes from this event but that is not what tonight’s post is about (Want to know? Search for #PodCampHfx blog posts).

It’s about a promise I made to myself upon leaving PodCampHalifax this year. Every time I attend, I wonder why we don’t have this event more often. I know what some people will say. What makes it work so well is the fact that it’s once a year, held during the same month and always on the coldest Sunday in January. Right? Well, maybe that’s the case but I still think another event, planned by people devoted to making the event as successful as PodCampHalifax, can work, especially if we should focus on a more specific theme.

Cue the ‘bloging conference idea’. I know from my event planning days that having a clear objective is crucial to a successful event. One of the things I enjoy doing in my spare time is reading, writing and monitoring blogs. What about a blog conference for Maritime bloggers? Perfect.

Second, I knew I would need some partners-in-crime. The right team of volunteers can make great things happen. A few dedicated people that agree to contribute their time and energy are more than enough for a successful conference.

Third, I knew we would need to start planning. While our first meeting was postponed due to stormy weather, I am hopeful this week’s meeting will take place. We have a Facebook group page, almost a dozen interested bloggers, and some momentum.

Will this blog conference become a second PodCampHalifax?

Personally, I’m hoping it morphs into its own crazy, fun event that like-minded bloggers and blogger-wannabes (like me) from across the Maritimes will want to attend.

My wish is that we will entice speakers who want to share their insight with a captivated and welcoming audience.

I would love to secure sponsors who understand the power of a blogger with an engaged audience who can help us keep our costs down.

Are you interested in learning more?

Connect with us (via the Facebook Halifax Bloggers group) if you’d like to volunteer before or during the event. Email me if you want to learn more without committing to a group. Knowing my fellow committee members, I guarantee not only will we promote it well, but also that it will be a tremendous success.

What does success look like? if one person leaves this conference feeling engaged, informed and empowered, I will have achieved my personal goal. And I can bet I’m going to have fun along the way.

See you at the conference!!

My hot yoga adventures

It started with wine and ended with hot yoga.

Last fall, I attended a wine tasting event for my son’s school. It was my good deed but even while drinking wine, I managed to keep my head on straight for the silent auction. I dabbled with certain items but then zoned in on a one-week day camp for my son. I monitored the list and waited for the auction to be over.

Voila! I was the proud owner of the day camp certificate. A week later, I received a call from the organizer saying that I had also bid (and won) the hot yoga certificate. It was for two weeks at Moksha Yoga Bedford – a yoga studio that I had seen many times on my way home from the drug store.

Seen but never entered. Driven by but never stopped in.

Yoga is not for me, I thought. I don’t have the body, agility, or time to do yoga.

I began thinking of whom I could pawn it off on (I mean gift it to). Not one person came to mind. The friend I offered it to said hot yoga was not for her. Everyone else lived too far or would likely refuse it.

I then realized my need to get my money’s worth out of the certificate outweighed my fear of actually doing yoga. The one time in my life, I thought, that my frugality may be a bad thing.

At first, I delayed going until during, then after, the holidays. Then, I got sick, so I delayed some more.

Finally, after weeks of carrying that gift card in my wallet, I gathered up my courage and walked in for a tour. Thinking back this seems silly. After all, it was neither a job interview nor a doctor’s appointment. The thought of wearing spandex and going barefoot into a hot room in an effort to relax and get in shape seemed counter-intuitive.

I went in. Everyone was so nice. The tour was great.  I honestly couldn’t wait to try the shower with its lovely smelling products.

My first time was yoga with music, which I can honestly say I prefer to other classes. I was new to yoga, overweight and out of shape. The mirrors were enormous! Everyone seemed to have nicer exercise clothes, pedicures, and experience. I walked in, pretended I knew what I was doing, and got through my first class. Then my second. And my third. OK, I think I’m hooked.

My favourite part of yoga? The moment that cold facecloth hits your forehead at the end of class. I don’t know if this is typical of hot yoga or a nice perk the studio does but it’s a real treat. You have put in the effort; you’re sweaty and hot. In those few moments before that facecloth itself gets hot; you have a brief and cool reward for the last 60 minutes of sweat.

Part of the reason for my newfound love for hot yoga is my instructor Laura. She is both helpful and cheerful. She has guided me through moves and recognized my return each time with a great smile.

Hot yoga may not be the bravest thing I’ve ever done nor the most painful, but trying something new and going outside my comfort level has been a great experience for me. Try as I might, I still don’t always breathe right (or breathe at all!), remove the outside world distractions from my thoughts or relax, but I am getting better. Today I only drummed my fingers to the music for a few moments before I stopped myself. That’s progress, right?

And those showers I mentioned at the beginning? They are worth the work. If the thought of a nice shower and a friendly face gets me to class, I’ll take it. And if this helps me feel better and be healthier, so be it.

Pulling up my socks: More perspective on human social media

Pulling up my socks: More perspective on human social media

Online channels are managed by human beings with feet and feelings

Since first posting about the comfort of strangers earlier this year, I have been working away on my thoughts about human social media. Here is another story that I would like to share.

It has been over a decade since I proudly took on the new role of ‘Online Communications Manager’. At the time this role was as innovative as today’s social media strategist and online community manager. You cannot imagine how excited I was to improve the company’s current internal and external websites, run website diagnostics and focus groups on how to improve the website, and in general, make our online portals sing and dance. I was young, creative, and excited to share my passion for all things online.

What a shock to me, early in my career, when I realized how negatively people reacted to changes to the company website.

Move the location of their favourite website? Don’t you dare!

Change the large banner that links to the company bulletin board? How could you?

I soon realized that websites, especially in the early 2000s were very new for many employees and any change at all could bring about headaches and even calls from a vice president’s office. That story is for another day.

Interestingly, the one thing that garnered the most visits, but also the more issues, was our company employee directory. It far outranked any website for number of visits. People didn’t write down a colleague’s telephone number or save it to their contacts, they would simply return, repeatedly, to find their phone number.

Why was this issue? Well, imagine, when the employee’s contact information was outdated, missing or just plain wrong?! The horror! Rita got a new haircut? Why did she have red hair in her profile picture?!

I will never forget the day an email came into from website feedback page from an employee who was trying to get her contact information fixed. Now before I go on, let me say that the employee directory was fed from a different department and not one that I had any control over. However, this person, while contacting our general feedback email address to tell ‘me’ to ‘pull up my socks and get it fixed’! I was young, a little sensitive, and doing my best. What can I say? It hurt my feelings.

The first thing I remember thinking was that this was a very rude person. Didn’t they read my lovely fact sheets and how-to documents? Didn’t they see the flashing arrows (well, okay, they didn’t actually flash) and all the tips we posted to help people update the employee directory profile? No, they didn’t because that is not what people choose to see. People’s experience with websites is very different, some react to images and others focus more on words.

What has been consistent throughout my career is how much more aggressive people can be when they are communicating through a computer. In an email, you can insult someone for not doing their job, for mixing up your order, or just in general messing up. This is normally done using language that you would never do otherwise. Now, I’m not naïve. Some people really are as rude in person as they are in an email, but they are the minority.

I eventually grew a thicker skin. I became accustomed to getting negative feedback emails about the websites that I managed. I resolved this by picking up the phone to contact the individual and explain how the issue could be resolved. Each time, the person on the other end of the line would apologize for their language. Some were even a little sheepish about what they had written.

What had I done differently? I had put a face to an email address. I wasn’t feedback@XX.ca. I was Christine. In conversation, they learned that I was a human being. I had a daughter. I loved my cat. During our discussions about their website issue, they discovered the email they had sent went to someone who did not deserve their wrath.

The same thing applies to social media. Day after day, I read Facebook comments or tweets to companies whose accounts are managed by human beings. I get it. People are frustrated. Their dishwasher isn’t getting fixed. They got the wrong shoes. Their Internet isn’t working. I also see real human beings answering those rants with words like ‘don’t give up on us’ or ‘give us another try’.

No matter how bad the situation, it is never necessary to use bad language or insinuate that everyone who works for the company is an idiot. We know better than to rant and rave in personal conversations (for the most part) but we need to remember that respect is also needed when we type words into an email, tweet, or post.

Social media channels and websites are considered impersonal channels of communications, but in reality, they are not. Someone is watching behind the scenes and usually doing all they can to make the website the best it can be.

Emails strip away the body language that takes up so much of your attention. All that is left is a screen with words written on them, some lovely and some bad. It is up to us to ensure that these words include please, thank you, or whatever the situation requires.

To return to the individual who told me to ‘pull up my socks’. A few months later, I met her face-to-face when she was introduced to me by a mutual friend. Interestingly, when I told her about my role with the company, she remembered sending the email and even acknowledged what she had written was inappropriate. She apologized. It was a nice moment, and while not everyone apologizes, I remember hoping that when her next frustrating moment arose and an email was being typed out furiously and with great acrimony that she would remember online interactions go to human beings like me.

November 20, 2013Permalink Leave a comment

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century

worldflatI first read Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat in 2005 and recently had the opportunity to re-read parts of it. While some of the content is dated, it is still a great book.

The World is Flat made me think about my children’s future. The flattening of the world will affect them. Our parents used to say ‘eat your food because there are people on the other side of the world who are starving.’ After reading The World is Flat, I believe as parents, we should tell our kids to get a good education and stay in school because there are people on the other side of the world who will take their jobs. There are people with the passion and drive to eat your breakfast, lunch, and supper!

The fact that someone would write a brief history of the twenty-first century may seem odd , that is unless you consider how things have changed over the last few years. 5 days can bring about tremendous change to our world.

The World is Flat includes Thomas Friedman’s Top Ten Flatteners; events or actions that have contributed to the world’s flattening. They include such events as the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to the un-official launch of the World Wide Web in 1995.

Actions that have greatly contributed to our flat world also include open-sourcing, in-sourcing, and supply chain management. I have said this frequently; being productive is crucial. Throughout the industrialized world, it seems like everyone is striving to produce more with less.

Thomas relies heavily on the fact that leveling or ‘flattening’ is taking place because of technology. Take Japan for example. Thomas describes a colleague working online while sitting on a bullet train, traveling at speeds over 200 km/hour! He also mentions the massive technologies that are in place in India; companies are hosting customers 24/7, 365 days a year. Thomas also explains that a flat world will enable us to work virtually and in a socially responsible manner. Companies, like HP, are working with developing countries to help their neighbours improve their lives, using their technology, of course.

Although a book written in 2005 may seem out-dated, it is still an interesting read if you want to know more about how the world is no longer limited by time zones and continents. Here is the book to read if you want to know how and why this has happened.

The Comfort of Strangers: Human Social Media

The Comfort of Strangers: Human Social Media

My latest guest post from Spin Sucks is all about the comfort that strangers provide using social media platforms.

Read my blog post - The Comfort of Strangers: Human Social Media - and tell me if you agree with the fact that people are turning to social media to grieve and honour people whom they have lost.

Spin Sucks is a Professional Development Online Network for PR and Marketing Pros. The Spin Sucks blog publishes guest posts, like mine, posted on a range of topics.