My Mom: Cyber Monday

My mom really blew my mind tonight.

She was jabbering away about her adventures Christmas shopping; I wasn’t really paying attention until out of her lips spilled the words, “Cyber Monday“.

“How the !@#*& (heck) do you know about Cyber Monday?!?!?!” I am  floored.

She gives me her sideways glance, “I haven’t been living under a rock, you know.” Coulda fooled me.

Has my mom really been initiated into the Age of Information? Could the prophecy be true? She did just get an Iphone a few weeks ago…

But no, Cyber Monday was just an outlier. She then proceeded to tell me how she wants a Bose surround sound system…so she can really listen to NPR.

After trying to explain to her that the quality of sound is only going to be as good as the input, I could see the glazed look come over her face. I tried to explain that she would hear the difference if she was listening to an expertly mastered, superior quality audio file, but probably not local radio. Not to mention that she could find a comparable system for a better price (I’m really not a Bose girl).

“But my friend Jeanne has one! And she loves hers.” (Certain Connecticut wives would love two pieces of copper wire scotch-taped to a pie pan covered in a used coffee filter if it cost $1000, made noise, and had the Bose emblem on it. Talk about not knowing your ass from a hole in the ground.)

My hand slaps my forehead. Geez.

How to use People-first Language

Glamour shot of African woman, pretty woman in a wheelchair, brunette, blone, with a distinguished gentleman sitting on a box. There is a shaded white background and they are dressed in coordinating black, red, and gray

During my schoolgirl days I had briefly learned about People-first language through some of the student mentoring programs I was involved in. It wasn’t until I got trained as a volunteer at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding that People-first language came back into my life and meant so much more.

Basically, People-first is a method of speaking about others without labeling them.

Because I was being trained to work with riders of different abilities, some with medical issues, it was not only important that we not spew out our best guess of a diagnosis as that is harmful not only to the rider and their family’s feelings, but also potentially illegal, implying medical records were not kept confidential.

We learned if there is a specific facet of a rider that the other volunteers need to know about, to use People-first language. The example given to us in training was, “Instead of saying “the blind boy”, you can say, “the boy who is blind”.”

This separates the need-to-know medical information from the actual person. In the example, being blind isn’t who the boy is, it’s not the main part of him, it is simply one attribute which may be necessary to point out. The reason being, so we can count out strides or give an auditory signal when it’s time for him to steer the horse around a corner in the rectangular riding arena to prevent an accident.

It is human nature to categorize everything in order to make sense of our world. It speeds up processing and helps us make quicker decisions and anticipate what to expect. Still, as humans, it is significantly important to be sensitive about labeling others who may be different.

The most obvious examples are people who are dis- or differently-abled, people of  different skin hues, people with various sexual preferences, and so on.

But how about our acquaintances, neighbors, and community members we are inclined to know a little more about? Like the slut who works at the bank, or the hobo at the intersection, or the cop’s daughter on the hackey-sack team? Hmm, with labels like those, good luck making friends.

Some labels are great, if you’re beautiful, brilliant, and rich. But most people aren’t, and even the most innocuous descriptor can feel back-handed if it hits you just right. Sometimes even seemingly positive labels can really suck the wind out of a person’s sails.

For example, perhaps you are labeled as smart. Normally, this is desirable! But that is the only label you hear. “Get ready to use big words, I’m inviting my smart friend!” “Here comes my smart son; ask him about school.” “You’re too smart for me.” “You’re too smart to do that job.”  “Ha, I thought you were smart!” You just may be so sick of people assuming you have no friends, and if you do they are weird and nerdy and play the trombone and World of Warcraft and plan their next Model UN speech, and all you do is study and you make no mistakes and you know you are perfect and you’ve  never been kissed and you dress a certain way and have your head up your ass with snobbery, snootery, elitism, meritism, no real grasp of the real world or real people, etc…Isn’t being smart just one part of who you are? Maybe you even appreciate being smart,  but you also like dirt biking, reptiles, and tap dancing. You’re a whole person; why does only one facet have to shine through?

Everyone wants to be included and feel a connection to other people. Even the woman with green hair and tattoos on her face. She probably has other friends with vibrantly colored hair and visible tattoos, but I bet she has a lot of friends and family without them. Can’t we have friends who are both alike to us (vegans, blondes, Trekkies) and friends who are different? But can’t we also try a little harder not to make our different friends feel that much more different? Don’t we owe it to our fellow human beings to do our best to make them feel included and similar to us in some way?

Now, I’m not saying let’s stop calling everyone anything and to temper our tongues and walk on eggshells and censor every word we speak. I’m just trying to give extreme examples and say, hey, that slut is actually a girl with family members who care about her, who works an honest job, who walks her dog regularly, and deserves some decency. Next time, try calling her a girl or woman, and use your discretion before adding that she is reportedly generous with her erotic charms.

Consider trying out People-first language, not just with the “typical” groups of people you might think of, but with every person. Put the person first, then, if you must, their most significant attribute per the context. I think that by being aware of People-first language, we can make everyone feel more welcomed, more comfortable, and give those with differences hope that they can change if they want to, or if they can’t, that they will be accepted as none other than a human being.

It is interesting to note, however, that certain advocacy groups actually reject People-first language.

From what I understand, in mainstream Deaf culture, people prefer to be called Deaf, because being Deaf is just another way to experience life and is not considered a disability. It is not considered a negative label, and therefore Deaf culture doesn’t feel that they are being labeled, or labeled potentially negatively in the first place. Calling someone Deaf in this sense seems to simply raise awareness and make it known that hey, there are Deaf people all over the place and they lead totally normal and fulfilling lives. It’s just another way. I can agree with this logic; it’s kind of like saying “that man” rather than “that person who is male”. Makes sense.

Members of a different life experience, the autism rights movement, also share this outlook. To them, being autistic, or being called autistic, is appropriate. They reject People-first language on the basis that it implies that the autism is separate from the person, or the person’s personality. I get this. I think autism is simply another way to experience our world, and it’s not bad or a disease, especially in the case of high-functioning autistic people.

Revered autistic author Temple Grandin said, “If I could snap my fingers and be nonautistic, I would not. Autism is part of what I am…I am different, but not less.”

However, because the spectrum is so wide, and every person determined to have autism is different, with some people, but of course not with everyone who is autistic, there can be a pattern of co-morbid disorders and/or negative differences that I think un-enlightened non-autistic people might think all autistic people have that could make autism seem negative. It is for this reason, I believe if high-functioning autistic people want to be called autistic, they can help non-autistics by making their preference known. However, if you are encountering the family of a low-functioning person with autism (or autistic person), I’d say wait and see what wordage they drop, or just be very sensitive and ask! I think families would rather have someone ask than say something disagreeable to their preference.

Obviously, I’m sure there are many Deaf people and autistic people who do prefer People-first language. I suppose all you can do is your best and get to know them and how they would like their life experience referred to, if the topic arises.

Basically, I believe all people should have the right to label or not label themselves, and accept or reject labels, as they feel fit. This just goes to show how important individual preferences are, but that we should err on the side of being respectful and sensitive to those we categorize as different from ourselves.

If you are being labeled or not labeled and it makes you angry or uncomfortable, make the labeler aware of your preference. Users of People-first language are doing our best here, people!

It is with this that we must scrutinize the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) and perhaps trade up for the Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”

If you want to learn more, the most unbiased resource I can recommend is Wikipedia: People First Language.

2 Big Reasons to Cancel your Voicemail

Action shot of silver haired man in business suit and tie stomping on cell phone

Whether you are a parent, business owner, or social butterfly, for many people, voicemail is on the A-team of players when it comes to communication.

For me however, voicemail has long gone the way of the telegram. And gosh, do I love it.

As a high-energy entrepreneur, you may expect me to settle down at my desk after dinner with my phone, a pen and a notepad, to patiently listen to and record details of each of the 30 voice messages I got that day. And then take the time to respond in a timely manner to each one before 9pm. You might think I look something like this:

In reality, I’m all over the place. I sometimes eat dinner at home, but not usually. Sometimes I go out for sushi, sometimes I eat at my boyfriend’s, sometimes I eat in bed, sometimes I drink happy hour wine at the local dive bar for dinner,  and sometimes I don’t eat dinner at “dinnertime” at all. But usually, no matter where I am, by the end of the day, I look something like this:

Now, I will tell you that these photos are not of me. A picture of me resembling the first woman doesn’t exist, and the actual picture of me resembling the second woman I have deemed too disturbing for my readers.

Thus, I have absolutely no time or patience for voicemail. Years ago, I had it. Voicemail, that is, not time nor patience.

When I was a student, almost no one left me voicemails, and if they did, I listened to them hours if not days after I had already called the person back. So I heard the information twice, only the second time it was not nearly as interesting.

Then, as an employee of a corporation, a voicemail meant bad news. Either it was going to be a request to come in on the weekend, or it was a notification that someone was sick and I was expected to pick up the slack tomorrow, or  a call to let me know (after hours, mind you) that I screwed something up. It was rarely good news.

The real fun began when I became a small business owner. People would call and leave ridiculously long messages about their life story, or talk so fast or so quietly or so incoherently that you can’t hear what they’re saying, or call to ask if I can perform a service that is not even vaguely related to my business. When I return the voicemail, I am still met with surprise, “Oh, you’re a horseback riding stable? Do you groom dogs? Could you pet sit my Bichon? I’ll pay you extra to clip his nails.” Sure, I’ll take your money, and watch your mop-dog, but really?!?! Ah, then there is my mom. On some days, she would leave seven messages telling me to watch Bill Maher that night, and subsequently call and leave messages asking if I heard her last message. Are there really some people who still don’t understand how this works?

Oh! And goodness forbid you miss a day of checking voicemails. Now, I had it back in the day when your voice mailbox topped out at 30 messages. I’m sure the sky is the limit as of now. People get really agitated if they can’t get through, and hear that your voice mailbox is full. They start thinking either you’re a slacker or that you’re dead, and tell you so when they actually do talk with you. They call their friends who they also know are your clients to see if they can get through to you. Then everyone is wondering where you are, and why you haven’t responded to their voicemail, or why your voice mailbox is full. Then, next week, you get to hear it five different times from five different clients, their story about trying to leave a voicemail.

I love when you get your first business cell phone and make the effort to have a professional, clear, enunciated voice mailbox greeting: “You have reached the voice mailbox of Melissa Miko of HorsePlay Santa Barbara. Please leave me your name and number, and I will return your call as soon as possible.” and you get all these messages for the person who used to have your phone! Now I love all people and international callers, but twice I have gotten phone numbers where the old owner of my phone spoke a language other than English. How are you supposed to tell them they’ve got the wrong number? Apparently the fact that my voicemail message is in English and states my name isn’t enough, because they keep calling.

On my old phone, I got calls from both English and Chinese speaking friends of the woman who previously had my number. Over the next two and a half years (yes, two and a half, because they kept calling for that long), I learned that this woman had developed a disease of the throat and could no longer speak on the phone, and had fallen into a depression and deleted her Facebook account and was ignoring friends and relatives. Poor woman! But geez, delegate someone to let your people know what is up.

Currently its been seven months since I got my new Connecticut phone number, and all I get are a ton of collect calls from Mexico and have not found one person that speaks English except for a debt collector. Fabulous. But, there are no voicemails, because I don’t have voicemail! I only get calls I choose to answer and correct, or to reject, from that same stinkin’ collect call number.

For me, it got to the point where I was avoiding business because I hated doing this stupid voicemail dance. It caused me anxiety, heartache, and feelings of malice. Someone recommended a voicemail-to-text application; I tried it, but it was annoying and glitchy and still took too long. I actually took my phone number off my website for a while, leaving only my email contact information. It’s perfectly appropriate to email someone at 4:00 in the morning and that not be bothersome or weird.

However, then it dawned on me. I called Verizon, and asked them to disable my voicemail. They did. That was singularly the best decision I ever did for my sanity and my business.

If you choose to do this too, check and see if your phone will give the caller the message, “The user of this number has not set up a voice mailbox account.” or if the phone will just ring and ring and ring. See if you can choose, and determine if you are OK with the result. I feel the former seems a little unprofessional and unpolished, and the latter leaves the caller with a dazzling sense of mystery. Like in Boiler Room.

On my website, I generously place my email link in strategic locations, as well as have a Contact Form that shoots your message right to my email. On my site and business cards I put “Please Text (860) XXX-XXXX”. That way, this “unusual language” makes it crystal clear that I greatly prefer a text.

So, three reasons why you should cancel your voicemail:

1. Lack of efficiency. It is a waste of effort on both ends. The caller wastes their breath talking one-sidedly to a machine/data inscribing robot who may or may not deliver the message to the receiver. OK, in 99% of cases, voicemail works, but what if you are out of range? What if your phone dies and doesn’t alert you that you have a new voicemail, what if the system is glitchy? Plus, voicemail opens up an excuse for shady people, “Oh, I left you a voicemail. You didn’t get it? Well maybe you phone’s broken.” (I love hearing this excuse, and confirming that a person definitely, without a doubt left me, on my voicemail, a message, then revealing I don’t have voicemail. Boo-yah, mofo!)

Next, it’s called caller-ID. The first thing I see when you call is your number, and if I know you, I see your personal contact information, like your name. I see that it is you who has called, plus your phone number that will presumably still be working by the time I get to you. I will call you back long before I would ever listen to your voicemail.

And if you have a restricted number? I don’t want to talk to you anyways because you’re either an individual with way too much drama in your life or you’re a marking salesperson who wants my money.

I don’t want to forego a free moment in my day when I can actually call you back to see what you need, and instead wait until the end of the day to listen to your schpiel along with all the others and call you back when I’m worn out and tired and just trying to get through my list. The whole production seems like a huge inefficiency: You call, you wait, I wait, I listen to a recording of you, I transcribe it, I read it, you still wait, I finally call you back, hopefully you answer; if not, the cycle perpetuates.

Voicemail perpetuates a cumbersome service that delivers little value. why not take advantage of a free service? Because it stinks!

2. Stress. People have different thresholds of pain. People have different thresholds of stress. For me, stress is very stressful! The “notification ringtone” of a voicemail curdles my blood, and the anticipatory cold sweat that breaks out leaves me shakey until I can find a moment alone, where I am sitting down, pen and paper in hand, to check my voicemails and see what is so wrong and urgent that the caller had to leave me a message in his or her own voice? If it was a casual question, you’d just text me. If it wasn’t urgent, you’d email me. Voicemail is such a tease, as if our lives are so chaotic that we must strain and stretch and just can’t wait to hear every last second of your message before gulping a breath in time to listen to the next one.

For those of you who say I should just accept life as it is, and have a nice voicemail because it seems professional, and it’s what everyone normal and successful does, I am here to shake things up for you. Submitting to a product I hate is submission of power, and this I do not like! I have been successful without voicemail. I promise you, it has and can be done!

And I know, voice-to-text software has improved greatly since I last tried it. However, I just don’t want voicemail because I don’t want it. I don’t want to be like everyone else. Even if I fiddle with voice-to-text for a fraction of a second, I’m going to be complaining. My eyes are on those programs, just waiting for them to screw up. I’m stubborn. I want to be the successful business owner who is successful despite not even having voicemail! Let’s call it my cause.

I’m sure in this article you can find endless sub-reasons to eschew voicemail, and probably think of some of your own. Whether you decide to banish voicemail from your life here and now, or mildly consider it, or even decide life can’t go on without it, consider not only the output of effort it requires, but also the potential for it to be a stressor in your life. We should aspire to live a life that flows as smoothly as possible.

13 Ways I’ve Tried to Make This Site Friendly to Readers With Dyslexia

Young brunette woman smiling with her hands behind her head sitting at desk in front of a computer

Something that was very important to me when designing this website was that I made it as helpful as possible to people with dyslexia. There are a few people who are very close to my heart that have dyslexia, therefore I want to be able to share my articles with them in the most convenient method possible.

1. The first thing I did was change the background color of my posts from the default color pure white, which is coded as the hexidecimal color #FFFFFF, to a pleasant creamy shade. I use #FDFFED.

2. Supplementary to that, I changed my default font color from true black #000000 to a charcoal gray, #333333. Yes! The letters you are reading are actually gray! But isn’t it easy on the eyes? These first two changes probably benefit all readers since they are so much less strenuous to look at.

3. I then made my font sizes larger. For titles, I changed the size from 18 to 28, and made them bold. I changed my regular-use font from 12 to 16. Another great option I took advantage of was to make the spacing between lines a tiny bit bigger; not too much, but just enough to reduce glare and make each line of text a little more refined.

4. Because I have heard that serifs, or those little fancy things on the edges of some fonts like Times New Roman, are not helpful to readers, I chose the font Arial font family for its clarity. Not to mention, I like it so much better! So sans serif fonts, it is.

As a quick offshoot, Dutch company Printer.com tested fonts for their efficiency of ink and found that Century Gothic topped the list as using the least amount of ink. Times New Roman was second, but only because the letters are smaller and finer than fonts without serifs. Arial was next, as well as Calibri and Verdana. So I would use Century Gothic because it is just so clear AND earth and wallet friendly, but it’s not as widely supported on the web as Arial.

Back to my main point…

5. I try to keep paragraphs brief. Again, I believe this benefits all readers in keeping their place and being convenient to read.

6. I only use one space after each sentence. Growing up I had a friend who learned to put two spaces between each sentence, and it drove me nuts. That seemed to me a terrible and unnecessary waste of space, time, and effort. Too much wear and tear on that poor space bar and your thumbs! That habit harkens back to the typewriter days when letters were set very close so that pressing the space bar twice after each sentence did in fact help define the sentence.

7. I stick with left-alignment. I don’t justify my text. However, once in a while you will see me center something. I am very conscientious when I do this, but sometimes it just must be done for balance and Feng-shui purposes.

8. I use all real, full words. I try not to use shorthand or Short Message Service (SMS) abbreviations or slang.

9. If I feel I must really stress a word, I make it bold. I don’t use italics or underlines, nor do I use all capital letters or have my site in all lowercase. Some people actually use all lower case letters for style, but personally, I think it reflect submissiveness and low self-esteem, but I’ll save that for another article.

10. I refrain from using textured text or backgrounds.

11.Behind the scenes on my web design, I don’t use frames, because as I understand it frames can mess up the flow of an article for people who use an audio reader.

12. Likewise, I really, really try hard not to use graphics with text in them since audio readers miss them. This is really hard since I love funny animal memes, however, usually the text is so brief or the picture is so cute that the meaning of the text takes a back seat.

13. If I write very long articles, I plan to put a topic list at the beginning, so people can scroll through to the sections they are most interested in.

My Header breaks quite a few of my rules: the text is against a gradient, my Trajan Pro font has serifs, and it’s an image file containing text so most audio readers won’t pick it up. However, if you’re reading my site, chances are you know where you are. Because the header is there for style rather than content, I went with it because I found it visually pleasing.

I am aware that everyone who has dyslexia has different preferences and are dyslexic to different degrees and in different ways, however I tried to make this site as user-friendly as possible. I’m thinking of you, guys!

If you have any suggestions or improvements I should make, please shoot me an email or use my contact form and let me know. Again, what works for you may not work for someone else, so I may or may not change it, but I would love your input and your help. Thank you, and enjoy the site!

The Uncopyright or Open Copyright Philosophy

Red henna drawing on a cream background of a sitting hindu god with four arms and an ornate hat, playing a sitar and smiling.

So much of our mainstream, capitalistic society requires that we pay, in money and time, for everything. We work our lives away and piddle away our hard-earned pennies on things like Starbucks and Post-Its and overdraft fees and light sabers for our Angry Birds.

I believe in living free, don’t you? Free to charge a price if we care to, and also free to not charge.

By claiming a work Uncopyrighted or Open Copyrighted, the creator gives permission to the world to use the work as they see fit. For profit or not for profit.

mnmlist.com clearly states the philosophy I share:

“Copyright stems from a protective mindset, one that believes the creator owns his or her work, and must protect that ownership in order to profit from said work. The creator will share his or her work with others, but only at a price, and anyone who takes without paying, or uses it as a basis for further creations, is stealing.

That’s the copyright mindset.

The uncopyright mindset is that of someone who gives without any guarantee of profit, who lets go of ownership and believes the world owns his or her creation. He or she hopes to contribute to the world in a small way, and if others benefit from this contribution, that’s a good thing. And if others use his or her contribution to create something new and beautiful, that’s a wonderful thing.

The uncopyright creator lets go of ownership, because to hold on to ownership hurts the world, and to try to protect that ownership leads to unnecessary stress.

The minimalist also eschews ownership, at least to some degree, and believes owning things doesn’t make him or her happy. Doing things makes him or her happy. Helping others makes him  or her happy. Creating makes him or her happy.”

Since this site is geared to being intellectual, motivational, and (hopefully) entertaining, I feel uncopyrighting my site is one way I can be of service to the public and offer the content written directly on this website for free. Sharing and giving to others is just one of the ways I lead a meaningful life.

If you need to use my content on this site for a report, go for it. If you think a lesson or thought I talk about here could benefit your peers, students, or company, then use my materials to train them. If you think its good enough to include on your own site, go for it.

While not necessary, Credit is greatly, greatly appreciated.  The more people who visit this site help shoot it to the top of Google, they help get my name out there for the benefit of my businesses, and most of all they encourage me to keep producing quality content.

If you’d like to share this site, but like my mom, don’t know how, an easy way would be to copy this link:

www.melissamiko.com

and paste it where ever it is you want to share: an email, your Facebook, Twitter, etc.

If you don’t edit the meaning of the content but want to copy it or use it, you are welcome to credit me, Melissa M. Miko as the author, but it is not required.

My hope is to improve your life, give you a helping hand or tidbit of advice if you need it. It would be cool, that if a small percentage of readers like my writing so much that they eventually buy a book, or come to hear me speak, or become one of my clients or even friends someday. Again, not required, but that would be very encouraging and pleasing for me!

Additionally, if you are reading through one of my posts very carefully because you plan on using it and find a mistake: be it factual, grammatical, spelling, formatting or whatnot, please let me know so I can correct it by emailing me at Missy@MelissaMiko.com. And by all means, please correct or edit it to fit your own usage!

Remember, I am only human and there is only one of me, so it’s not like I have a huge staff of editors and machines and robots and Nazis to make sure every pixel on this site is perfect. But, I aim to be close.

I do have other websites that are copyrighted, since they link to my various for-profit businesses. Also, any products, i.e. e-books, offered on this website that you pay for or download that say Copyright, are. I have to comply with my suppliers regulations so I don’t get in trouble, and hey, I have bills to pay too!

Please enjoy www.melissamiko.com. I hope that the liberty I bestow upon you here helps you in some aspect of your life.

Uncopyright for MelissaMiko.com

Blue copyright letter "C" crossed out with a blue circle and line which is the uncopyright symbol

This blog is Uncopyrighted.

Its author, Melissa M. Miko, has released all claims on copyright and has put all the content of this blog into the public domain.

No permission is needed to copy, distribute, or modify the content of this site.

Credit is greatly appreciated but not required.

 

Terms and Conditions for Copying, Distribution and Modification

0. Go for it. Enjoy.

 

Read more at The Uncopyright or Open Copyright Philosophy.

 

The WordPress theme “CleanResponse” also available for free from ThemeFurnace.

 

A million thanks to my inspirations, Steve Pavlina and mnmlist.com.