YMCA Overnight CampsIt sounded like the best gig ever.

My 11-year-old son, Joe, would go to the YMCA‘s exceptional North Woods Camp for Boys for two whole weeks, while I would live with my bestie, Kate Lemay, who happens to be the Director of Programs for the Camp…as well as for the other three amazing Camps – Pleasant Valley Camp for Girls, Sandy Island Family Camp, and Laughing Loon Day Camp – that coexist on the nearly 300-acre property in Mirror Lake, NH, right on magnificent Lake Winnipesaukee.

Score!

Joe would play, learn, discover, make friends, try new things, and GROW in a safe and supportive environment, and I would soak it all in, take pictures and short videos, play with digital storytelling, and see how my content marketing and social media skills and experience might best serve the camps and their online visibility efforts.

My son would be away from home for the first time on his own, and I – I would be around. You know, just in case…because I’ve never let my child out of my sights for so long, and baby, it ain’t easy.

I’ve been here a week now, so I’ve got some tales to tell.

Grab a cup of bug juice and a s’more, and I’ll give you the dirt, as seen from the Mommy-lurking fringes of the first week of overnight camp.

First, I’d like to give a shout out to Mother Nature for setting the scene so divinely. Check-in was idyllic! Blue skies dotted with puffy clouds served as the backdrop as young men greeted their new campers and the parents and families who love them with warmth and ease. Within minutes, Joe was off playing ping pong, chatting away with a crew of other campers, and I lingered awkwardly for a few minutes until I finally acknowledged I was no longer needed (or wanted) there. Reluctantly, I left.

It was at this point that Kate told me I was to have as little contact with Joe as possible, to ensure he had the best camp experience. Hmmmm – I thought I was going to be able to cheat that system under the guise of Mommy Blogging? Alas, after a few lame attempts to shift her thinking on this, I agreed to behave “to the best of my ability.” (Ha! Notice how I built in the opportunity to cheat the system with that qualifier!)

Everything was great, though, and I was more than a little relieved.

YMCA Summer CampsEven though Joe is a picky eater, and he occasionally has trouble sleeping at new places, and he’s about as self-sufficient as a mollusk at a disco, every time I caught glimpses of him in the midst of his camp adventures, he looked like he was having a blast. And, MAN, this camp is all about bringin’ the FUN to lucky kids! Joe has been playing tennis, doing archery and riflery, hiking, and diving into the world of Magic: The Gathering, and other card games, with new friends. He’s also been playing epic games of full-field dodgeball, capture the flag, and countless other team challenges and feats of awesomeness. Other kids have been showing off their skills on the many basketball courts, going through the rigors of the YMCA lifeguard training and certification programs, horseback riding, waterskiing, building things, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and just being FREE, without the confines of parent supervision.

Then there’s this surprising element: The built-in mentorship part!

Every time I had the chance to talk to one of the teenagers – the LITs (Leaders-in-Training) and the CITs (Counselors-in-Training), they’ve blown me away with their presence and maturity. Four years, five years, eight years – these kids have been coming here since they were little lads, and now they’re psyched to show off their hard-won chops with the newbies and up-and-comers.

All of these seasoned gents had stories about how camp has helped them become stronger, smarter, and better human beings. What’s more, they really care about the younger boys, and they understand what a big influence they are on the campers, because they themselves are just a few years out of being one themselves. These sweet souls are here to help, guide, and support my son, and I love it! More than a few times I’ve felt my Mommy blood swirl with pride, whenever I see the teenagers taking campers aside to offer advice, listen to issues, and share their own experiences. It’s a beautiful thing to behold. Truly.

And then last night happened…

I was walking by the dining hall, and the boys were coming out. My Mommy senses perked up, and I found myself frantically scanning the landscape to find my son. Sure enough, there he was! He came running over to me – and I noticed his lower lip was trembling.

“Mom, I wanna go home.”

“What’s the matter? Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, I’m just really, REALLY homesick. I wanna go home.”

“Are you having fun?”

“Yes, I’m having fun – it’s not that. I just miss my bed. I’m having trouble sleeping. I miss you and Dad. I miss the house. I just wanna go home.”

Crap. His beautiful blue eyes were pleading with me behind a suspended sheet of tears.

“Let’s head to your cabin, Joe.”

As we walked, my efforts to reframe this situation for him sounded as useless and unconvincing to me as they surely did to him. No matter what I said – “You’re halfway through! Only a week left! You’re doing so many cool things! You’re meeting great friends! You’re living it up!” – he wanted none of it. I couldn’t hug him or press pause and let him just cry it out. He fought back the emotion with every bit of his being, but the more he talked, the worse it got.

Ultimately, I told him to talk to his counselors.

“No! I’m embarrassed. I don’t want them to know I’m feeling like this.”

“Go through the proper channels,” I said, forcing myself to keep a safe distance and show as little emotion as possible. “If your counselors think it best for you to leave, then I’ll be right up the road, and I’ll get the call.”

It’s now 24 hours since that conversation. No one has called. I have no idea what happened, who said what, or how anything was handled. I’m sitting in a restaurant with wifi, five miles away from camp, doing my best to stay away from Joe’s sights.

“Camp is fun, but camp is HARD, too, and no one talks about that.”

That’s what Kate said last night, as she was trying to console me. Kate’s been immersed in the YMCA’s philosophies, trainings, and passionate missions for 15 years. She went to overnight camp as a kid. She’s watched campers become beautiful and happy adults, and families return year after year to bond and play and grow together.

“Camp is where you grow, and growing isn’t always easy. You’re forced to figure things out on your own. You’re forced to ask for help from relative strangers, to get out of your comfort zone, to feel insanely uncomfortable and work through it. These kids are go-go-going all day long. They’re having a blast, and they’re mentally and physically exhausted. Many – if not most! – of them are missing home immensely. And yet, years later, they’ll credit camp as the place where they discovered their own strengths and mettle. This is where kids learn they’re much, MUCH stronger than they think they are. Once they realize they can – and do! – survive this time in one piece, they build confidence muscles that serve them their whole lives. They become incredible human beings, and camp is part of that evolution.”

 

Okay, Kate. I see it. I believe you. I get how this could be a wonderful thing AND horrible at the same time. Wonderful because my amazing first-born child needs an environment where he can spread his wings AND toughen up, amaze himself AND work through the chunks of fear and anxiety that chip away at his self-confidence.

And it’s horrible because growing IS hard. Parents know this – I know this! – and sending our beloved and trusting babies into the wolf den of tough love feels like taking a dive into a 12-foot deep pool of cow manure. Yes, this is hard for the kids, because two weeks can feel like 20 years when you’re feeling homesick and lonely and ready to call it quits.

Thing is, camp is hard for parents, too.

My husband and I miss our son. Now, it’s a little different in our situation because I’m living on camp property, and seeing me was the catalyst for Joe’s cracking. If I wasn’t at camp, I may have had an easier time choosing obliviousness over heart-wrenching worry, self-doubt, and cellular maternal aching.

But Kate tells me Joe is definitely not alone with his feelings. She’s had many phone calls with anxiety-ridden parents who received letters from their kids, saying they’re uncontrollably homesick, begging their parents to come pick them up.

Our only choice is to trust what the counselors and Directors and staff are telling us:

Our children are FINE. More than fine. They WILL get through this. And when they do, they’ll be better humans for it.

YMCA Camp Mission

In fact, it all comes down to one of my least favorite truths about life: The only way out is through. 

So my job as a parent is to allow my child to figure it out. The counselors are working their pitooties off to distract all the kids, keep them engaged and amused, active and busy. The setting is glorious, filled with fun and adventure and freedom.

I asked one of the 16-year-old counselors what he did or said to help first-time campers overcome their intense desire to quit camp early.

“I take a deck of cards, and ask the kid how many cards are in a deck. ‘Easy, 52!’ they’ll say to me. Then I take two of the cards and place them down next to rest of the deck. ‘See these cards? These represent weeks in a year. These two are the only two you have here at camp. The rest belong to school and your family and all the responsibilities of your life at home. These two camp weeks are the only time you get to be YOU, in a place designed exclusively for your maximum FUN. Can you see how little time you have here? Make the most of it! It’ll be over before you know it, and believe it or not, you’ll be wishing for what you’ve got here.’”

I’ve got one more card-week left.

Go Confidently in the Direction of Your DreamsThen I’ll be able to nurture and spoil and laugh with the 11-year-old kid in my life who’s becoming more of a man every day, whether I like it or not. As much as I’d like to think his family is all he needs to thrive in this life, I know this isn’t the case.

It’s a big world out there, and Joe needs a great toolbox of experiences and resources to draw upon to be successful – to be happy, healthy, confident, creative, centered, brave, positive, helpful, and connected to the power, magic, and mysteries of being a spiritual being having a human experience.

Luckily, this is exactly what the YMCA is famous for, worldwide. 

I didn’t get the call yet. I think he’s going to make it.

If he can make it, so can I.

(Though I sure do wish I had  a few camp songs and counselors in my arsenal to distract me!)

The State of New Hampshire on Facebook, 2014 EditionYes, “The State of New Hampshire on Facebook.” This is the workshop based on the upcoming 2nd annual report, created with a not-so-secret agenda! You’ll find the presentation embedded below, as well as the live recording of the Google Hangout on Air. Thanks so much to the  Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce for inviting us back for the third year in a row to be part of their Summer Social Media Series. It’s always a joy, and everyone there is wonderful.

But back to the story. Sure, the presentation and workshop provide a lot of insight into the people in New Hampshire who use Facebook. (About 3 out of 4 age-eligible folks, growing 15% over the last three years to 740,000 people!) Age and gender, mobile use, interests, sociographics, and more, it’s all in there. Not to mention a discussion of “Behaviors” and the info inside “Partner Categories” – no way we could cover all that in an hour workshop, because that data goes deep AND wide.

So that’ll give you a hint about the not-so-secret agenda. Even though it says it’s about the state of New Hampshire on Facebook, what it REALLY does is give a glimpse into what’s possible for you and your business or organization. As one of your Allies in Possibility here at Epiphanies, Inc., how could I resist!?

What Non-Granite-Staters Get From It

Now, if you don’t live in New Hampshire, you can still glean some very powerful things from these resources:

1. Knowledge of the kind of insights you can discover about your own target market inside Facebook, wherever they may reside

2. Internal and external trends powering change inside Facebook, and their implications for your marketing strategy

3. Important resources for finding, learning about, and targeting ads more effectively to your Ideal Audience on Facebook

If that doesn’t float your boat, well, heck, buoyancy may not be your only challenge!  ;)

The State of NH on Facebook Presentation and Workshop Video

If for any reason you can’t see the embedded items below, click here to see the presentation on Slideshare, and click here to watch the Hangout on Air recording on YouTube!

 

Scrambled Eggs and Social Media | #GMCOCIt was a cold and wet May morning on the outside, but inside at the newly renovated Manchester Country Club, things were piping hot! What a treat it was to be invited by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce to kick off their Summer Social Media Series.

Sponsored by Bellwether Community Credit Union, the event brought biz professionals and non-profit leaders together for networking, a yummy breakfast, and presentations from yours truly. (Side note: Lani won a bet for the second time in a row that most of the audience hadn’t heard of a “gravity well,” which is what Allen used as a visual to illustrate influence in social media. Congrats, Lani!)

In addition to sharing the presentations, we’ve also recorded a webinar version of “Relationship Marketing on Fire!” which is embedded below, along with the “You x 100″ presentation from Slideshare. You can catch the scene and the social action through our wrap-up video and curated Storify, too.

They’re all here for you, and if for some reason you can’t see them, here are the old school links:

You x 100: Amplify Your Marketing and Leverage Your Content With Social Media (slides)

Relationship Marketing on Fire! Igniting Sales, Loyalty, and Customer Service in the Social Realm (webinar)

Scrambled Eggs and Social Media: The Social Scene Video (YouTube)

Scrambled Eggs and Social Media on Storify

 

 

 

 

 

 

VTNHMG Conference, Social MediaWe had a hey-ho-dilly of a time at the 26th Annual Conference put on by the Vermont/New Hampshire Marketing Group last week! Thanks so much to board member Lisa Landry of Savvy Workshop for recommending us as speakers for this high-powered event, and to Shari LaPierre and Sari White of the #VTNHMG (as it’s known in hashtag parlance) for saying “Yes!” and welcoming us as part of their impressive speaker lineup.

More than 150 professionals participated in the 3-day “Marketing Marathon” event, and we provided the pre-conference workshop and one of the breakout sessions.

Of course, we can’t go anywhere without sharing with YOU, too, faithful blog reader! So here, for all the attendees as well as Epiphanies, Inc. fans, are our two presentations, the conference wrap-up video, and the Storify of the scene. You’d only get more by actually being there!

If you can’t see any of the embeds below, here’s the old school links for you:

You x 100: Amplify Your Marketing and Leverage Your Content With Social Media

Relationship Marketing on Fire! Igniting Sales, Loyalty, and Customer Service in the Social Realm

#VTNHMG Conference Video

#VTNHMG Conference on Storify 

 

 

 

 

We just had to share this brilliant social media campaign with you – and it’s one YOU can do, too! The team at ChartSpan, an innovative startup that’s making an app for families to manage their healthcare records securely on their smartphones, decided to do something special for moms on Mother’s Day.

For the weekend leading into Mother’s Day, Ryan O’Hara – ChartSpan’s CMO and member of the ‘A-Ha!’ Tribe – and his team offered to write custom songs on the fly for any mother out there. All you had to do was tweet the mom’s Twitter handle to ChartSpan, and BAM! Custom song and YouTube video within hours. Our son Joe asked them to make one for Lani, and it turned into a rave:

(Can’t see the video above? Click here to watch it on YouTube!)

They ended up making 21 custom songs and videos in three days. The campaign got great visibility for them – exposure to as many as 1.75 million Twitter accounts, more than 500 video views, and a bunch of new website traffic. The full 21-song playlist has 73 views in its own right, and the number grows every day. They also nabbed the attention, respect, and gratitude of some key influencers who now have ChartSpan squarely on their radar. We’ve already joined the waiting list to be notified when the app is available to the public, and hope you will too!

Now, what about YOU? Maybe you’re not the musical type, but could you use an app to create customized and easily-shareable visual messages? How about recording 6-second messages on Vine?

Here’s the thing: To do something memorable and impactful like ChartSpan did, all you have to do is:

1) Pick a theme

2) Pick a tool

3) Use all your channels to get the word out, and

4) PLAY!

The tools are out there, and you have the power to bend them to your will. Memorial Day and Father’s Day are coming up…what will you do with these opportunities?

I'm going to the Live in Love Retreat - Join me!Two weeks from today I’ll be on an island on Lake Winnipesaukee with some really amazing people at the first-ever Live in Love Retreat. Some of these fabulous souls will have driven from Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut, and most of them will have trekked from different nooks and crannies around the Granite State.

Our time together will be filled with discovery and possibility, music and magic, laughter…and probably a few tears, too. Hey, tears happen when we unplug from our own hustle and bustle, allow ourselves to be open and [GASP!] vulnerable, and get connected – with our dreams, with our inner whispers, with our fellow weekend adventurers, and most of all, with our HEARTS.

I’m incredibly grateful to be leading two brand-new Breakout Sessions during this one-of-a-kind retreat. Here’s the first one:

The Power and Possibility of Living From the Heart

The heart is an amazing and vital muscle. It beats rhythmically, steadily, miraculously, from about 20 days after conception until the moment we take our last breath.

It’s also one of the most awesome untapped resources of our personal journeys, capable of might and miracles beyond our wildest imaginings.

My goals with this workshop are threefold:

During our time together, we’ll do exercises to open our hearts in new, safe, and enlightening ways, and really anchor its strengths and importance in our lives. I’ll share both scientific research and intuitive insights about how the heart can be our emotional, spiritual, and physical home base; how we can rely on it as our go-to consultant and connector; and how it can guide us and lead us to enjoy more passionate, powerful, intention-fueled, love-filled lives.

We spend so much time in our brains, drowning in our stress hormones, and taking cues from the wrong places and things and sources.

This workshop will be an homage to the heart chakra, and a chance to activate our superpowers, once and for all.

Becoming aware of the power of the heart as the ultimate ally to our most gorgeous and wondrous possibilities is a huge game changer. It’s also at the root of the very possible and pragmatic goal and opportunity to LIVE IN LOVE.

What’s the other workshop I’ll be leading, you ask?

Well, you can check out the title on the Live in Love Retreat Itinerary Page

And you’ll be able to read about it in my next blog post.

Of course, it would be wayyyyyyyyyy better for all of us if you’d come join the adventure and experience it in person, don’t you think? ;)

This is a teaser for the Retreat, with me and my co-creators in this journey: Christina Alexa, Kelly Lang, Kate Lemay, and Angela Sites-Georgiev. (Can’t see the video below? Watch it on YouTube!)

 

VacationLani and I are taking a much needed vacation, off with the kids to Martha’s Vineyard for a week.

When’s the last time YOU took a vacation? If you’re an entrepreneur or the head of of your own business, there’s a good chance you may not even remember. Our winter in New Hampshire seemed like it went on forever, and it’s taken us a few days to shake off and shake up our dulled senses and blunted gusto.

Ever notice that yourself? That even when you step away for a time, to get some fresh perspective on your life or business, that it takes a little while to get past the superficial stuff and get down to the real, meaningful matters…

Rediscover Yourself

We’re rediscovering ourselves here. If you can’t take a vacation right now to rediscover your own passions and desires, then we encourage you to take 10 minutes out of your day to answer this question:

Who are you when you’re on vacation?

If the answer is very far removed from what your life looks like right now, then it might be time for a change. Even a small one.

What will it be?

True Grit: A poem for battle-scarred biz owners, unsinkable entrepreneurs, and gritty spirits

Pulling, scratching, clawing my way

Back to the memories that worked

Ditching the gunk that didn’t

 

I am smarter than I let on

Even to myself

Especially to myself

 

Hardly hopeless, far from helpless

I sing, I feel, I know…

I let go…and move on.

 

New beginnings – that’s all that exist

Ahhh…but the twist!

Too hard to resist.

The old is what clings

It feels real, but it’s not.

 

I forgot.

 

Time to remember again

Grab a pen.

Let go…find flow…

And move on.

 

There are signs

There are tools

Sometimes there are rules

But only the fools play by them.

 

DEFY THEM.

 

Set up the scene.

Wipe the slate clean.

Let the past go…

And move on!

 

###

Facebook News Feed, With Allen VoivodFrustrated with Facebook? You’re not alone. More and more Facebook Page Managers have been venting to us recently. The conversations usually start like this:

“What is Facebook doing to the News Feed? My reach just dropped through the floor!”

Or…

“Are they just trying to get us to spend more money and advertise?”

Or…

“I used to get great engagement, and now I post and only get a few likes, when I used to get so much more!”

Paraphrased and combined, these are the main themes we’ve heard over the past six months. It’s happening with Pages of all sizes – from a few hundred Likers to 200,000 Likers and more.

Why, Facebook, Why?

If you’ve been wondering what’s been going on, look no further. We’ve got the answers in this video, broken down into three key storylines, as well as what you need to do to get your Page’s engagement and reach back on track.

YouTube Preview Image

Bonus Reading

Want to get the scoop straight from the horse’s mouth? Check out these posts from Facebook’s Newsroom and Business Blog:

News Feed FYI: What Happens When You See More Updates From Friends

Finding Popular Conversations on Facebook

News Feed FYI: A Window Into News Feed

News Feed FYI: Showing More High Quality Content

 

 (Here’s the official press release for the launch of the ‘A-Ha!’ Tribe and the release of a limited number of Lifetime Memberships for passionate professionals like you! Thanks to the folks at Online PR Media, who have again exceeded all expectations in getting this release picked up by 40+ news outlets, including the Boston Globe, and indexed more than 400 times in Google, all in the first 24 hours of its release!) 

Join the 'A-Ha!' TribeEpiphanies, Inc. announced the public opening of the ‘A-Ha!’ Tribe (#AhaTribe), a thriving growth, success, and mastermind community for forward-thinking professionals. A limited number of Lifetime Memberships are available for entrepreneurs, artists, corporate renegades, business owners, marketing mavens, and mission-driven leaders at http://AhaTribe.com.

“Having a focused, trusted mastermind group to help you navigate today’s business landscape – which can be incredibly confusing and overwhelming – is a true game-changer,” says Lani Voivod, Chief Chick and Ally in Possibility at Epiphanies, Inc. “In the #AhaTribe community, members learn and discover new and proven tactics for expanding their reach, playing bigger, and boosting their profits and possibilities, once and for all.”

Every month throughout 2014 and beyond, a different social media or marketing platform, tactic, or strategy drives the #AhaTribe vision and agenda: Down ‘n Dirty Marketing Planning; Facebook; LinkedIn; Twitter; YouTube; Blogging; Google+; Instagram; Content Marketing; Pinterest; Podcasting; and the ‘Best of 2014.’

#AhaTribe members get access to:

1. An ever-evolving library of video tutorials

2. A private Facebook community to network, share wins, and swap resources

3. Monthly customized training webinars on the top communication platforms

4. Exclusive interviews featuring inspiring industry experts and trailblazers

“We’re thrilled to help so many incredible dynamos, dreamers, and doers – the professionals who show up everyday and make miracles happen,” says Allen Voivod, President of Epiphanies, Inc. “Our goal with the #AhaTribe is to be the tide that lifts all boats. That’s what it’s all about.”

Lifetime Members get access to biz-boosting bonuses, too, including discounts and early access to new products, services, workshops, events, and 1-on-1 consulting calls and strategy sessions, plus special offers on other Partner and Member products and services.

The #AhaTribe already features a nationwide membership and lively private Facebook Group. To become part of the #AhaTribe and secure one of the limited number of Lifetime Memberships, join today at http://AhaTribe.com.

About Epiphanies, Inc.

Hailed as “visionary” and “two of the most creative thinkers in the industry” by the NH Division of Economic Development, Lani and Allen Voivod share powerful social media and marketing strategies through speaking, events, workshops, and their online channels. Their company, Epiphanies, Inc., engages leaders, inspires entrepreneurs, and helps redefine what’s possible for bold brands, innovative businesses, and mission-driven organizations. Connect with them at http://www.EpiphaniesInc.com, and their award-winning “A-Ha!” Summit conference at http://www.AhaSummit.com.