About bethfosborne

I've been writing since I was five. It's something I do every day. My life hasn't turned out as expected but that doesn't mean it can't be wonderful. I'm here to write about my life, my craft (marketing) and things that interest me. I write for myself, but I also hope that the words I share may inspire or help others. Thanks for visiting!

Why I Stopped Asking My Husband to Plan Things

why i stopped asking my husband to plan things

First, I’d like say that my husband is basically a saint. Sometimes, I can be a bit out of handful so he deserves a lot of credit. And he has many wonderful qualities. He is kind and patient. Rarely is he ever in bad mood. He’s great at accepting things or people as they are. His honesty and integrity are something I’d never question. But he’s not a planner.

Most men aren’t the planners. Women are typically the ones that plan events, vacations and celebrations. Maybe it’s in our DNA. Maybe we’re just better at the details. Yet, most of us still long for our partners to surprise us with something they’ve planned. And then, we get disappointed when it doesn’t happen. That disappointment feeds a cycle of negative thinking. We think we aren’t loved or appreciated. We feel as though it’s our own fault.

The truth is that many men were never really taught how to be planners. This may be because their mothers did everything for them (as someone who was once married to a momma’s boy, I can attest to this truth), or they just didn’t have a role model who expressed this characteristic.

Communicating what you need is okay. Just don’t expect anything to change. I’ve communicated to my husband on several occasions that I wanted him to plan something. He has tried with limited success. I asked him to plan dinner for my birthday this year. I reminded him several times in the weeks before. He’s well aware of what I eat and what I don’t, considering we eat most meals together. So a few days before my birthday, I asked where we were going. He made a reservation at a steakhouse. I don’t eat red meat. Even worse, it was a chain. And I hate chain restaurants, even the fancy ones. My response to his choice was that it sounded more like somewhere he’d want to go. So he cancelled the reservations, and I made a new one at an Italian eatery. The moral of the story is either I should just make the plans myself or be very specific in my requests.

But I don’t think I’m going to ask him to plan anything, maybe not ever again. I don’t want him to feel pressured or stressed that I’m not going to be satisfied. I am rather picky about a lot of things. I don’t think I’m necessarily hard to please, but my standards are high. And he meets my standards in most every other way. So instead of feeling disappointed when he doesn’t deliver what I want, I’ll just take on the planning myself. It stops the cycle of disappointment and hurt feelings.

I accept him as he is, and he’s a man who can’t plan. I extensively plan our trips with spreadsheets. I’m not a complete a**hole or anything. I just like to be detailed about what to expect and how we want to spend our time. I didn’t print out detailed agendas for our European trip this year. I called it a “loose” itinerary. I did ask for his feedback and made sure we visited places of interest to him.

I believe that most of the time, we make decisions together. We’re a team. Some things he is better at – cooking, home improvement and basically anything involving a tool. I’m better at managing the finances, grocery shopping and planning. We can only hope that when we find love, we bring to the relationship our abilities and that there is a balance. We absolutely balance each other out in most every way.

So to every woman out there who wishes their partner would plan some magical weekend away or other fairy tale, stop driving yourself crazy. It’s probably never going to happen. If it actually does, it won’t be like the movies. It will not be perfect. Accept your mate as he is; don’t put any pressure on the relationship for misconceptions about what a man or a woman should do. Just let it go. If you want to do something, plan it yourself. It will lead to many more happy years as opposed to building resentments.

What I Learned from My European Vacation: Part II

What I Learned from My European Vacation Part II

Going to Europe is not a restful vacation. It’s go, go, go and walk, walk, walk. There is so much to see and do in London and Amsterdam. It’s impossible to see it all. We already have our list of what we missed. In this blog, I’ll tell you what we did and what we learned.

London

Tower of London
We were with a tour that was admitted an hour before opening so we had less lines and people to deal with inside. Looking at the jewels and learning their history was very cool. But be sure to visit all the exhibits. There are lots of fun facts relating to the history of the Tower, including all the animals it was once home to.

Changing of the Guard
You kind of have to do this. But it’s not that exciting. Our guide took us from the area where they change in and out onto Buckingham where they parade by. Would have liked to have gone into Buckingham, but it’s only open for tours in July and August. Buckingham doesn’t look that grand on the exterior.

Afternoon Tea
This was a favorite for me. The tea was bliss. The sandwiches and pastries were good not great (remember, I have a super palette). But I loved learning about the history and customs around afternoon tea.

Windsor Castle
I’d love to go back and spend a whole day in Windsor. It’s not far from London. We did not have enough time to see everything. No pictures are allowed inside. Windsor is grand on the inside and out.

Kensington Palace
You walk through a public park, and there it is. You can only visit a small portion, as it is a working palace. This was the home of Princess Diana so there were exhibits focused on her, including many of her well known dresses and gowns.

Stonehenge
It’s just in the middle of a field. There’s even a highway not too far away. What if you saw Stonehenge on your commute every day. I found it fascinating. There was a definite energy there. You could feel it. And the weather changed four times in 20 minutes. It’s much clearer how the stones were moved here (from sometimes hundreds of miles away) then why. It was very evident to me that this place was very special to many people at one time.

Amsterdam

The city is so beautiful. The history and artistry are all around you. It’s hard not to be intoxicated by it. Whatever your preconceived notions might be about Amsterdam, you’re probably wrong. The Red Light District isn’t seedy. We went on the Red Light District tour, and it was very enlightening. Prostitution is a legal profession just like being an accountant. Well, not exactly. But we learned a lot about the history of the sex industry. For starters, to have a window in this area, you’ve got to have money. It’s not cheap. I’m not sure where the cheaper hookers are but not here. Another thing is that you won’t find any men in the windows. Apparently, they aren’t brave enough.

You probably also might be thinking there would be drug addicts or bums filtering the streets. Not that we saw. We saw neither homeless people or addicts walking the street. Our guide informed us that in the early 90s, there was a heroin epidemic in the city. The traditional way of dealing with addicts was to imprison them. The Netherlands decided that wasn’t working. So they actually provide addicts heroin to use in a safe place. Treating it like an addiction; not a crime worked. The number of heroin addicts continues to shrink. Crime related to heroin addiction plummeted. And there are very few addicts under the age of 40, meaning that it’s not attracting new users. It’s a fascinating and smart way to look at drug addiction in my opinion.

There are so many things to do in Amsterdam. We made a bit of a dent in the list, but it will require several more trips to see everything. We loved the Van Gogh Museum. You can spend hours getting lost in his brush strokes and story. The canal cruises are a beautiful way to see the city. We took one in the day and at night. On one cruise, we saw the newer part of Amsterdam with its modern skyscrapers. I had no interest in seeing this part of the city. I much prefer the gorgeous and aged row houses.

We also toured the Amsterdam Museum, which provides you a great overview of the city from its beginnings as a port to its growth to international destination. The Royal Palace was open while we were there so we took a few hours to check it out. It was built in the 1600s as a city hall. Now it’s a residence for the Dutch monarchy and is open for touring depending on the schedule.

And yes, Amsterdam has coffeehouses and live sex shows. But it should never be defined as a city of hedonism. The Dutch aren’t conservative or prudish about what many cultures consider taboo. Rather they allow individuals to make their own choices about participating in such activities. They’ve removed the mystique around things that many cultures cannot. When things but come less risqué they lose their appeal to many. In my opinion, I believe they get it right.

Our time in Europe will be a time I always cherish. It’s just amazing and breathtaking to be around such history and beauty. We can’t wait to go back. We left parts of our heart their so we’d know we’d return as soon as possible.

Readability Matters

Read This for Tips on Readability

It’s now just what you say; it’s how you say it. There are many masterpieces in literature that aren’t very readable. But in the world of readability, what really needs to be readable is marketing content. And it absolutely matters.

It impacts SEO, user experience (UX) and the success of content marketing. If you don’t care about readability, you should. The days of keyword stuffing are over. Google cares about how readable your content is not just that you used the keyword a few times. As voice search becomes more popular, the emphasis shifts much more so to readability.

If you don’t think readability impacts SEO, your’re wrong. Maybe you’re wrong a lot; I don’t know. I am not basing this on anything but pure experience as a professional writer and content marketer. I write upwards of 5,000 words a day so I understand what it takes to write on many different topics and be interesting. Yes, I care about SEO and keywords, but I don’t force it. I choose quality every time.

Readability is also a factor in UX. If you publish poor content that emphasizes keywords over telling a story, the user will not have positive experience. They then become unlikely to read more of your content or become a customer. Just as every element of design impacts UX, your copy does, too.

The elements of readability

There are certain specific areas around readability. Again, my experience is the basis for these thoughts. I didn’t copy this from another article. It’s just what I think matters.

Kill adverbs and adjectives unless that provide context. You do not need seven adjectives in one sentence. It comes off as being fluff and not authentic. Use them sparingly so that when you do, it’s purposeful.

Vary the length of sentences. It’s good to have a variety of sentence lengths. When in doubt, edit and cut. I was provided copy to review recently, and one sentence had 42 words. 42 WORDS! There is a rhythm that happens with readable content. Read it out loud to understand if you are on point with rhythm. Don’t make sentences so hard to read that it takes three huge gulps of air.

Use active voice. Passive sentences don’t read well. Sometimes passive cannot be avoided. However, consider the syntax of the sentence. Revise as necessary to create a better balance.

Don’t use every word in your extensive vocabulary. Most content should be written on an eighth grade reading level. Unless there is a good reason, be simple. When writing about very technical topics, using big words makes more sense. Remember simplification isn’t dumbing it down. It’s making it more accessible to your reader.

Grading your readability

It is possible to score your readability. There are many tools that will give you a grade. The Flesch reading scale is used by many applications like Yoast. The scale grades how easy it to read the text. It looks for how hard a sentence would be able to read (the 42 word sentence did not bode well). I am a big fan of Yoast. It’s my preferred plugin for SEO on WordPress. I also use the Hemingway App, which is a great working tool that highlights where the issues are.

I encourage every writer, content marketer and SEO specialist to care about readability. I know people don’t read much these days. They scan. We live in a world where content is created and consumed at a rapid pace. But before you publish, do at least this – read it.

(P.S. I scored this on Hemingway App. It received a grade of good.)

Monsters

I read this the other day and was saddened by its profound truth. As children, we are scared of what’s under the bed. As adults, we know better. We know it’s other people who commit the greatest transgressions.

As a child, I had fears not unlike many. I was exposed too early, perhaps, to Jason Voorhees and Freddie Krueger. They didn’t really haunt my dreams. I was enthralled by horror. I was drawn to Hitchcock movies and Stephen King novels. But as you know, humans more often than not were the culprits in these stories. It is too often that when unmasking the villain, we find just a person capable of the worst. How often were the monsters really monsters on Scooby Doo?

As much as we’d like to see the good in people, that seems to get harder and harder. We don’t live in a world anymore of unlocked doors and stopping to help someone out on the side of the road. We can’t trust so easily anymore. It’s just not prudent. Being compassionate can actually get you killed.

I try neither to see the good or bad that may be inherent in others. I try to see the truth, whatever that might be. Maybe it’s because I learned from the beginning that monsters weren’t under the bed or in my closet. They were right in front of me. They were people in my life that hurt me in ways that I’m still recovering from. I’m far from the only one who has found monsters among them.

Then I found myself with monsters within me. They were the voices of doubt, fear and disgust. The constant rumbles of not being good enough. The monsters kept me numb and dislocated from reality. These monsters mostly only did harm to myself. But I am not immune to being a terrible person. I’ve hurt others. I’ve lied. I’ve cheated. Hurt begets hurt way too often.

Expelling the monsters, whether internal or external, requires more work than most are willing to put in. It’s easier to let someone keep destroying us or to keep destroying ourselves. It’s beyond comprehension what people do to one another. I’m not just talking about the most egregious evils. It’s the things we say or don’t say. It’s when we leave and don’t return. It’s when we look into another’s eyes and say nothing but the truth.

And right now there are many monsters among us. We are monsters every time we look the other way and just let things stay unchanged. That’s what is truly scary; not the boogie man. I don’t waste too much time on fear. It does little good to be overcome with fear about those things outside of our control. It won’t stop me from experience and opportunity. I will never let the monsters take these from me.

Monsters don’t just appear in fairytales. Those evil characters simply prepare us for the horrors of life. And the real life monsters are much scarier than the ones of fiction. We can’t turn those off. They play in our minds forever. I’m not sure if monsters can ever change. They are too good at it. Many want to be. They are orchestrators of chaos and discord. But we can’t let monsters have all the power. I let them have power over me for too long. Even though they can’t hurt me anymore, I still feel their presence. They still win sometimes.

I want to live in a world where monsters aren’t real; they’re just stories. That’s not really possible or realistic. What I can do and will always do is to realize my own role in the story. And try not to be my own worst enemy. We live a life of so much rejection and suffer a lifetime of being casually spit out by life. There’s no room for monsters. They steal your joy. And at the end of the day that may be what makes us human.

Are We Born Hateful?

Are we born hateful-

My husband, who often likes to buck the consensus, started a conversation with me recently about hate, and if it was learned or if humans are somewhat inclined toward hate at birth. I immediately answered that it’s learned. He rebutted my ease at the answer with thoughts of how animals, and even humans, must fight to survive in many circumstances.  And that even if it’s not hate that spurs us to save ourselves first, there is this innate sense for self preservation

Nelson Mandela had an important opinion on this, stating, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.” We tend to believe that we are born true of heart, and that hatred, whether it be based on race, religion, gender or any other element is learned. However, I don’t think everyone is taught to hate; sometimes it may be a consequence of sameness.

Looking at my own history and experiences, it would have been easy for me to be hateful and fearful of anything different. I grew up in a rural North Carolina town full of white faces. I never went to school with anyone who wasn’t white until college. In my first 18 years of life, I was surrounded by lower to middle class white Christians. I never met a Jewish person or Muslim person until college. It was by all accounts, a sheltered life. The only thing that made it different was my mother, who engrained in me that people aren’t skin colors or genders or religions. People are the product of their choices, their passions, their actions and their words.

This segregated world I grew up in isn’t from the 70s or 89s but actually the 1990s. There were people of other races in my town, black and also a growing Hispanic population, due to the apple orchards, Christmas tree farms and chicken manufacturing plant. My best friend went to another high school where things were more diverse. And on more than one occasion, girls were transferred from her high school to mine by their families because of their romances with young black men.

My mother may have been inclusive; however, my absent father still said the “n word.” My grandmother whispered the term, “black.” She was not in any way racist, but a product of her environment and life. Thus, in my sea of sameness, I did encounter different thought patterns that ultimately led me to discern what the differences were in each of us, and if they really did matter.

I know I wasn’t born hateful. But I’m not so sure there’s not some truth to my husband’s theory. Are we really pure at birth? Don’t we come with some pre-programming? Babies are born with fear, or at least two specific fears, that of falling and loud noises. They are part of our DNA, in response to the need to survive.

Interestingly, hate is often born from fear. Not understanding or not experiencing anything outside of our comfort bubble may make us more inclined to hate. Is it because we are bad people? Or simply the way in which we perceive safety?

There has been substantial research on the subject with no real clarity. Are these studies biased from the start? I’m not a scientist. My understanding of the human condition is based on my experiences. And those experiences took me out of that small town to other states, cities, countries and continents. My perspective is also tempered by loss. When your entire immediate family is gone by the time you are 20, your identity becomes a bit unstable. Differences, especially physical ones, have no real meaning. Maybe my compassion is greater or my tolerance for ignorance lower.

As I look at the world now, there’s so much conversation of them versus us. Who has the right to be here? Who has the right to marry? And will what is happening now change us? Transform our DNA to be born with more fears in order to survive? Time will only tell if the human race chooses to celebrate diversity or uniformity. Let us please find a way to love the differences.

Do Sh** That Scares You

do sh-- that scares you

Wise and revered First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do something every day that scares you.” This is good advice even for those who aren’t risk takers. Because doing something that scares you need not be solely concerned with the physical.

Because I’m not a risk taker or an adrenaline junkie. I’m not a thrill seeker. I was never a fearless child. Not that I have many fears. Heights I can deal with except in certain circumstances. While at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto years ago, I could not step foot on the glass section. It’s an area where you can stand and see straight down. It can hold like a herd of buffalo. But my leg wouldn’t stop shaking so I just looked at the view in front of me not below me.

I’m also fine in the dark except that I can’t see. Roller coasters aren’t so much scary as they are nauseating. So I don’t tempt fate on that one. I’m looking out for my fellow riders. I’m also not really scared of death. It’s inevitable so it does little good to waste energy being scared. And that prevalent fear of public speaking doesn’t apply to me. I love it.

But life is scary. It’s scary in that everything can change in an instant. I could walk out my door today and never come back. Accidents, crime, wrong place wrong time and a million things in between can 180 your life in a heartbeat. So why not do some sh** that scares you. If you’re scared of something then you actually do it; you win. More importantly, it takes away the power of fear.

As I’m out there living life with a capital L, I’ve pretty much had fear’s number. I zip lined a few weeks ago. No hesitation, just stepped off and went. It was exhilarating. It’s the closest thing to flying most humans will ever feel. Great experience and would love to do it again.

But I haven’t been really scared in a long time until I went down the Wenatchee River on a raft with four real rafters. I thought it was just going to be a laid back rafting adventure. Then we got there and started getting into wet suits and packing up gear. Then there was the safety review, which I paid attention to like my life depended on it (spoiler alert: it did).

Then we get in the water, and the fun begins. There were multiple occasions where my heart was in my throat, and I was literally shaking. As a city girl, I’m not super outdoorsy. To clarify, I love to be outdoors but I’m just not an outdoor adventurer. My many years of girl scouting or previous rafting experience did not prepare me. I was with people who knew what they were doing so I deferred to them. Even though I did fall in, I received a passing grade from the pros. And more importantly, I did something really damn scary.

So these are examples of scary situations. But I do things every day that scare me just as much, but in a different way. I bare my soul with words that aren’t always easy to write. I’m honest to others and myself. I walk away from circumstances and people that are toxic. I’ve lived every day for 20 plus years without my mom, yeah that’s still scary. I take chances on people and let myself be vulnerable, unimaginably scary. I love people who may disappoint me or leave me. I prepare for professional rejection on the regular because not everyone thinks I’m publication worthy.

So I guess these adventures are small potatoes compared to what I and many of you do every day. Being brave is different for every person and every situation. If you want to feel alive; if you want to feel your pulse, simply do something that scares the sh** out of you. Every. Damn. Day.

What I Learned from My European Vacation – Part One

 

european vacation part one

This is the first in a series of posts about my recent trip to London and Amsterdam. I’ve been obsessed with Europe since I was young. My mom planted this desire in me. I think her trip to Europe in the 80s was probably one of the best times in her life. So I thought of her a lot while I was visiting castles and famous places in London as she had 30 years ago. Traveling with her is just one more thing we didn’t get to share. But I was glad to be there with my favorite person.

For this post, I wanted to talk about logistics and my observations of how Europe just gets it right.

Trains, Planes, Boats and No Automobiles

We were never in a car the entire trip. There’s no need for a car in Europe. Transportation in Europe is really about getting where you need to go quickly and efficiently. In the US, transportation is intertwined with identity. Having a car is not just about getting where you need to go, it’s a symbol of your independence. I, personally, loathe driving and care very little about a car. So Europe is perfect for me.

We took the Underground everywhere in London. Our hotel was a block from a stop. London is a big city and very spread out. It would be impossible to go everywhere on foot. Although we did walk so much and for so long. Even with comfy shoes on, my feet were on fire.

In Amsterdam, we took the bus and trams. Amsterdam doesn’t really have that many cars. It has bikes. This is truly a bike friendly city. Everyone has their lane: pedestrians, bikes, tram and cars. You have to pay attention and stay in your lane. We didn’t see any accidents nor did we see helmets. Justin wondered how safe biking is in Amsterdam so we looked it up. The stats we found stated six to eight people die from head injuries in biking accidents annually. That’s a very small percentage. My take on why there are so few crashes is that respecting bikers and pedestrians is a cultural philosophy. Riders, drivers and walkers understand their responsibilities to each other. Whereas in the US, most drivers don’t have any desire to share the road or yield. They’ll happily run you over, honk at you and flip you off. Such an uncivilized place is the highway.

The Underground was not hard to figure out. The only tricky thing is that some trains go the same path but then split. So make sure to take the right one if your stop is after the split. The trams in Amsterdam were a bit trickier. The basically run in circles parallel to the canals, but it’s not so easy to understand what the stop is. They make announcements but they aren’t always about the next stop. And the trams stop a lot for traffic not just at actual stops. I ended up just standing beside the window where I could physically see the stop name so we didn’t miss our stop.

Getting from London to Amsterdam

We looked at several ways to travel, including by water. I chose a flight because it was quick and reasonably priced. We chose British Airways, as they don’t charge for the first bag. Plus, we were able to fly out of and back into Heathrow, which is where we departed from to get back home. We are lucky to live in a hub city with direct flights to many European cities. That’s what I always say when people ask me what I like about Charlotte. “It’s got a great airport.”

Interestingly, when checking in with American Airlines on our fight back, Justin and I were questioned about our trip. Separately, due the fact we have different surnames. I was asked what we did on our trip, how we would get home and how long we’d been gone. Justin was asked where he works, how he travels to work and where we stayed. But this has become part of the routine in the world we live in so I expect it. We had no issues at immigration or customs throughout the journey.

About the Stairs

Be prepared for stairs. At our hotel in London, we were on the fourth floor. No elevator just for flights of steep stairs. These were “feel the thigh burn” after one set kind of stairs. I only needed to go back up them about a 1,000 times and I’d have some fierce legs. We were on the first floor in Amsterdam so we lucked out.

Being Short is Not a Bad Thing

Europeans make good use of space. Think IKEA. The rooms are small. We upgraded to the double bed. We survived the small quarters. It’s easier to sleep in a smaller bed without three animals. Doorways are small. The subway is compact. So for all my tall friends, you’re going to have to crouch and dunk a lot. Shorties, this is when you’ll be glad to be petite. They make great use of their space.

English – the Universal Language?

English is, of course, the language of the U.K. They do add a u to many words in which the US does not. They also use an s rather than a z. In the Netherlands, you’ll find everything in English (UK not US) as well as Dutch. I feel conflicted about how most any country offers everything in English. It speaks volumes about the US expects everyone to conform to its language (although the US is still own its own with the imperial system). I wish I could speak lots of languages. I took four semesters of German in college and have little to show for it. Dutch is similar to German so I could read some things. But it’s hard to speak. It’s a language with long words difficult sounds. I appreciate Amsterdam catering to its visitors from English speaking countries and in turn apologetic for our ignorance in not knowing multiple languages.

I’ll end by saying I never felt not safe in Europe. We saw a much stronger police and military presence in London. But I was never fearful in any way. Since our return, the U.K. has experienced two tragic terror attacks. It’s hard to know what I can do in these times. I don’t have any solutions to thwart terrorism. I can only say that I love Europe and its people. I’d go back tomorrow and stay if that were an option. These attacks won’t scare me away. There are many more adventures to take! Next up – Italy.