Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sorry for disappearing/Some things I've learned

Hey everyone. I'm really sorry for disappearing. I have been pretty bogged down working on a new website for TMN and I also had some other things that pulled me away from my regular duties last week. I'm taking this week to finish up some stuff to get the website to a good place and wrap up some other things and hopefully we can return to our Servant Leadership series next week (cross your fingers!)

I've learned a lot in the past couple weeks that I have been "away" and I felt compelled to share some of them with you all. I think they are the kind of life lessons that everyone can benefit from (and if you already know all this stuff, well... then you can get a good laugh on me!)

So my first reason for being behind is the website. We've decided to use a Content Management System for our new website, which will be really awesome once its all working. There are so many great features and neat things that this software can do. I'm excited about this project and how awesome our new website is going to be!

So, my tasks were to install the software and get our new template converted from a PDF to the CMS template. Seems easy enough, right?

Well, first, I had to learn some web design stuff. I had done it before, long ago, but its changed a lot and I needed to brush up a bit. I spent the better part of a week taking the PDF and recreating it with CSS. It was so cool to watch it take shape and know that I was making this happen with just WORDS! Coding is so cool to me -- I guess that's my inner geekiness coming out!

Any of you who have ever done any web design know that there is not a tremendous amount of consistency among the browsers and you have to design with all of the browser's various quirks in mind. I spent that week working diligently on my code, testing it in three different browsers until it was absolutely perfect!

And then I opened it in Internet Explorer. Ouch.

Lesson learned: When you are making something for everyone, make sure that everyone can actually see it. And perhaps try not to forget the most used browser in the world in your troubleshooting. Sheesh Heather.

After I finally fixed ALL of those little bugs and errors, I was ready to make my HTML/CSS template into the Joomla! Template. No problem!

Another several days went by with me looking at one tutorial after another, trying to figure out WHY this seemed so complicated. And then, like a great smack in the head, it hit me. Maybe I should learn how to USE Joomla! before I tried to make a template for it.

You see, I was trying to do an advanced function in a new software, without really understanding how it worked to begin with. No wonder it seemed so complicated! I've always been the girl who skips the directions and goes straight to work and this time, I wasted a lot of time and energy trying to figure something out the wrong way.

Lesson learned: Sometimes you really do have to start at the beginning. And even though it seems like it will take more time, you'll save time in the end by starting off on the right foot!

I've also spent a good deal of time in the past week talking to some of our members and learning about their concerns about their chapter and about TMN. I've learned a lot of lessons from this experience.

I've learned that sometimes, doing it the same old way doesn't work. You have to be willing to try new things and new methods of communicating the same information, to ensure that everyone can HEAR you. If you're not getting your point across, perhaps its just that no one is listening to it!

Lesson learned: Be willing to try new things to solve old problems.

I've learned that most of our members are the same where it counts -- on the inside. They love their kids with all their hearts and just want to be good mommies. They come to our sites to get support and to learn and to find friends, so that they CAN be better mommies. And they have the same feelings as anyone else -- they hurt, they laugh, they cry, they rejoice. Its amazing to me how similar we are all at the very root of it all... and yet, we let all these things -- this STUFF -- trip us up.

I want to tell you about one of my favorite people in the whole world. She was a member of my home site for years and I always enjoyed reading her posts and getting her take on things. She's a smart cookie. When I homeschooled my daughter, I would host homeschool playdates for other moms on my local site, so we could let the kids play and the moms could talk about homeschooling, or whatever else came up! This one member decided to come to my homeschool playdate and we finally were able to meet in person.

After about an hour of non-stop talking (we hit it off instantly!), she admitted that she had almost not come to the playdate. I asked her why and she said "Well, I've read your posts for a long time and I know that we don't always agree on stuff like politics, so I figured you'd probably not like me and vice versa. But wow was I wrong!

It turned out we had SO much more in common than either of us had imagined and she has grown to be one of my most dear friends. And I would have never had her in my life in such a big way if she had let my "politics" be the way she judged the rest of me.

I see this all the time, on all of our chapters, at one point or another. We all get so hung up on that one thing (and some of us can be oh so passionate about the things that are important to us, can't we?) and we forget that behind that one opinion lies an entire person, with lots of other thoughts, feelings and passions, some of which could be just like ours!

Lesson learned: There is far more to a person that what she posts online. Getting to know the person behind the avatar opens up a world of new friendships and opportunities. I challenge all of my readers to really think on this one... and if there's someone that you just keep butting heads with on our forums, invite them to coffee. It will be an hour of your life, sure... but it may just be the surprising beginning to a lifelong friendship.

As you can see, its been a busy couple of weeks for me around here! I'm hoping that things will settle down soon and I can get back to talking about servant leadership with all of you! Thanks for reading!

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