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November 22nd, 2009 | Author:

As many of you know, every quarter I donate part of my proceeds from Pencil Bugs to buy toys, games, books, and other activities for kids at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, California.  For Christmas, I try to do something extra special for the kids by having a fundraiser.

This year, my goal was to give 250 bears to Rady Children’s Hospital.  With the help of generous people on Twitter, Facebook, and also family and friends, to date we have received almost $750 which along with my own money is enough to buy 300 bears so far.  With the deadline of December 1 approaching, I hope to be able to buy even more.

We hear lots of negative things about teens today but there are also many who are making a difference in a positive way.  Here is a perfect example.

This past Friday, I received a very generous donation from a group of eighth graders at Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills, Michigan.    Their teacher, Kathleen Mencotti, sent an email explaining she taught a Service Learning Class.  A group of three students, Adrienne Yu, Sarah Matthews, and Maggie Pyett held a bake sale to raise money to buy bears for their local hospital.  As they were running out of time to complete their project, the students took it upon themselves to search Internet to find someone who was already doing the same thing they were to see about contributing the money they raised.  They found me and read about my hospital bears project for Rady.  They generously donated their bake sale money of $119.

Young adults have many opportunities to do amazing things.  They just need to have the drive and the heart to do it like these students in Michigan.  I am so grateful for everyone who continues to support me, my business, and my charity work but I especially get excited when other kids want to help also.

Thank you very much!

July 07th, 2009 | Author:

Can you imagine what a 20 ft wave is like up close?   20 feet is equal to a two-story building.  It’s huge!  Now think of being on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean with 20 ft. waves slapping against the ship and making you feel like you were on a roller coaster for over 12 hours.  That’s what I experienced for one day during our Alaskan cruise last week with my family.100_0949

We set sail on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas ship on Friday, June 26 from Seattle with an itinerary that took us to Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria, British Columbia.   I had been on two other cruises with my family before — the first one when I was eight to the Caribbean and the second one when I was ten to Mexico.   I remember feeling like I wasn’t even on a ship except for a little gentle swaying back and forth. None of us had ever needed motion sickness medicine before.

All that changed on this last cruise.  Apparently, a few days before we set sail, the Alaska/Canada coast had a pretty bad storm and we had to sail right through the remnants of it on our way to Juneau.   We had dinner in the dining room the first night and everything was just fine.  The weather was cold and a little drizzly but we pretty much expected that.    Everything was pretty normal until we got ready for bed that night when the captain announced that we would be going through some rough waters the next day.    He wasn’t specific just how rough it was going to be.   We found out first-hand the next morning as we woke up to bigger waves and a lot of rocking back and forth on our way to getting sea sick for the first time ever.

Mom was feeling bad right away so stayed in bed but Dad and I made it to lunch for a little bit.   The ship was pretty deserted already by then because so many people had gotten sea sick and were either in their rooms or sprawled out on the deck chairs in the cold air.  I guess they thought maybe the fresh air would make them feel better but being on upper decks made the rocking and rolling much worse.   I found out the caesar salad I had for lunch wasn’t such a good idea. It didn’t take too long before I joined Mom sprawled out on the bed in our stateroom.   Dad wasn’t feeling as bad as we were yet so he made several trips to the cafe to get any food that might help.   Several crew members suggested green apples to settle stomachs but within a few hours, every food area was out since so many people were sick.   As Mom and I got worse, Dad went to the shop to buy motion sickness bracelets but they were all sold out too.  His next stop was the doctor’s office.  They gave him a few sample packets of some pill that we all ended up taking.   It helped a little but not enough to get us out of bed for the entire day.  I guess they work better if you take them BEFORE you get sick which wasn’t an option for us by then.   I watched a lot of  TV show reruns and a few movies throughout the day which helped me keep my mind off my stomach sloshing.  I was glad when that day was over and the ocean had calmed down the next day.   After not eating or drinking much the day before, we were all glad to get to the dining room for some real food and not be sick anymore.

rock-wallEven though there weren’t a lot of outdoor activities on the ship because of the weather, I was able to climb the rock wall one day. I’m not sure how high it was but I made it to the top to ring the bell.  Then on the way down, the guy lets out the rope so you go flying down really fast.  It was very cool and a lot different than the first time on our cruise when I was eight.

On Sunday morning, we docked in Juneau.  It wasn’t at all what I expected.  The ship pulled into the dock which was surrounded by the town in a U-shape with small mountains around that.   It was weird to think that you can’t get to Juneau except by air or water — no roads go into the town.  I couldn’t live in a place like that.

glacierWe took a small sea plane tour over five glacier areas.  It was pretty cool to see different things like that but we were sort of expecting to see glaciers breaking apart too which didn’t happen.   I guess those things don’t happen that often.

GazeboThe next day we docked in Skagway, Alaska.   A tiny town of about 800 people but mostly tourist businesses.   The dock was within walking distance to town so we checked out things on our own.  On the way into town, we passed by a gazebo near a park.  Not so weird except that it had a toilet sitting right in the middle.   We forgot to ask someone why it was there but couldn’t imagine anyone really using it since it was right in the middle for everyone to see.   After we looked in many of the shops and bought a few souvenirs, we took a horse & buggy ride back to the ship.

icebergVery early the next day, we sailed into a fjord where the captain let the ship idle for awhile right in the middle of a million icebergs of all sizes which had broken off a big glacier at the end of the fjord.   We could see the glacier but it was pretty far away.  They announced that he couldn’t take the ship in any closer for safety reasons.  So in a wide part of the water, the captain slowly turned the ship around which took about 45 minutes but it gave everyone a lot of opportunities to take pictures of all the icebergs.   It was really amazing to see all the different designs and colors of the icebergs.  Some were perfectly see-through like glass.  Many were white and looked like snow but most were what you would expect an iceberg to look like — white ice.  It’s hard to say how wide or tall the biggest ones were  but all of us had thoughts about the Titanic for a second.

doubledecker-busAnother day just cruising at sea on our way to Victoria, British Columbia for the last stop of the trip.  Even though it’s only a three-hour drive from Seattle and about 90 minutes by ferry, it is really different from the rainy, cloudy Seattle weather.  Apparently Victoria gets a lot more sunny days per year.  It was the first day on our whole trip that we actually had sun and were able to wear shorts and no jackets.  It actually got pretty hot (around 85 degrees) in the afternoon as we were walking around town.

Double-decker buses are pretty normal for tours but I had to take this picture since it had Titanic written on it.  Thought it was ironic.

bug-zooWhile we were walking around, we ran across this Bug Zoo.  Naturally, I had to stop in to see what it was.  I had taken some of my Pencil Bugs bookmarks with us so I gave them one and told them about my business in case they wanted to order any of my products for their gift shop.

Alaskan bearThe only bear we saw close-up was this one.   We did spot a bald eagle sitting on a post in one of the ports but it was too far away to get a good picture.  We met people from all over the world and saw some pretty amazing sights.  When people asked why we chose the Alaska cruise, we jokingly said we wanted to see it before it melted away.   What we learned is that it’s been melting at about the same rate for over 200 years and local scientists who have been tracking and monitoring the conditions there apparently have different information than the people who talk about global warming melting the glaciers.  It makes you wonder who to believe.

If you made it this far and finished reading my vacation blog post, thanks for hanging in.  There was just so much to say and I didn’t even include everything.  So if you have questions, feel free to send me an email at pencilbugs@roadrunner.com and I’ll try to answer them.  You can also tweet me on Twitter.

For a limited time only (July 7-21)

I will have many pictures posted on a SmugMug account. Feel free to look through them. I thought I could make them available for purchase and I was going to donate 20% to the Wyland Foundation, but I found out with SmugMug’s 14-day trial, selling photos isn’t an option.  Maybe at a later time . . .   You can always leave a comment just to let me know how you liked the photos I took.  Thanks.

May 27th, 2009 | Author:

There is no shortage of blogs and articles online that offer tips for Twitter users.  I’ve read some of them and when I’m at school, my mom reads even more so that I can get the most out of using Twitter.  Even with all the information available, people (many of them kids) ask my advice on how I meet people or make friends on Twitter.  So I’m adding my two cents to the already volumes of Twitter tips.

These are in no particular order.  The first one applies to kids only.  Some of these I learned from very helpful tweeples when I first started and some I’ve figured out as I went along.   If you don’t agree, remember, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

  1. Have a parent or other adult help you tweet.
    • Even though the minimum age requirement is thirteen for Twitter and most other social networking sites, it’s no secret there are kids much younger online.   There are also adults who shouldn’t be allowed on at all because they haven’t figured out it’s not cool to use bad language or act inappropriately.   Except for a couple of tweeters who sent horrible tweets to several kids (me included), the majority of the adults I’ve met on Twitter have been awesome.  By the way, one e-mail to abuse@twitter.zendesk.com from my mom about a user who was at the total opposite end of the “G” rating, and their account was deleted the next day by Twitter.  Keeping it clean for everyone does work. 
  2. Remember that ANYTHING you say online stays forever somewhere.
    • If you are a biz kid using Twitter, you want to have people take you seriously.  Using proper grammar and spelling helps.   Even if you only get 140 characters to say what you need and have to abbreviate a lot of words, you can still come across much better if you’re not just plunking out the first thing that comes to your mind.  Think before you type.  It can save you a lot of embarassment later on.
  3. Learn how to have a conversation with people.
    • Don’t just say random things.  Use Twitter to practice talking with people about a lot of different subjects.
  4. Use http:// before a URL so it makes a clickable link.  Or better yet, use a Tiny URL option to save space.  Tweetdeck has an auto option for this.
  5. Do searches with keywords that interest you.
    • If I’m stalled and haven’t had many new followers lately, I’ll go to the web version and use the Advanced Search option.  Type in some keywords to find people who might be tweeting about the same subject.   Then take time to see what they’re talking about and if you want to follow them.
  6. Take time to do #followfridays
    • Don’t just list people.  Tell why people are worth following even if you have to do several #followfriday tweets.   I started making a list (on paper) during the week to group my favorites.  I’ll usually have a Biz Kid group, Awesome Adults, Artists, etc.  You get the idea.  Then because I’m in school all day Friday, when I’m done with homework after school, having my faves in groups ready to go makes it a lot easier to tweet my #followfridays.
  7. If someone refers you on a #followfriday,  it’s good to reciprocate.  
    • Okay, for this one you have to be reasonable.  Some Fridays there are too many to even keep track of so I’ll just do a general shout out and thank all the people who included me in their #followfriday tweets.  Most of the time, people understand and aren’t offended.
  8. I recommend Tweetdeck
    • It has so many advantages over the web version:  separate column options, auto tiny URL, post tweets to Facebook at the same time, among others you can play around with.  I have mine set up with a DM column, my own Pencil Bugs column, my Favorites, and All Friends.   It’s easy to see who has mentioned you by quickly looking at your own column or who has DM’d you. 
    • The only thing I still go to the web version for is to see new followers and follow back.
  9. Take time to read other people’s tweets.   There’s always something you could comment on (i.e. movies, people asking opinions, etc.)
  10. Send replies as soon as you see them.
    • Try to mention what you’re replying to especially if it’s been awhile in between tweets.  Otherwise, the other person may not even remember what they said to you in the first place.
    • Even if I somehow missed a tweet directed to me or referring to me in some way, I still send a reply.   People would rather have a late response than no response.  What’s one of the rudest thing to do to another person?  Ignore them . . .  so don’t.
  11. It’s ok to sell or advertise your own services or products but it’s even better if someone else does.  Recommendations from other people is better than tooting your own horn all the time.
    • If you have something you really need to promote but don’t want to keep saying it too often, send a DM to someone you know really well and ask them if they’ll tweet it for you.  I’ve had people do that with me and I know who I can ask for favors in return if needed.
  12. NEVER EVER use bad language.   There’s just no reason for it and it doesn’t make you look good.
  13. Web Twitter and Tweetdeck have a delete tweet option but you only have a short time to delete it.
    • I’ve tested it and was able to delete a tweet up to a minute afterward.  It may go a little longer but I haven’t tested that yet.   Don’t get worried if you still see the tweet in your own column because it stays there but it’s gone from the general view.   For general purposes, I’d still make sure you proof before you hit enter just in case.  You may not realize your mistake until it’s too late for delete.
  14. Use DM if there’s no reason for the world to see what you’re saying to a specific person.
  15. RT whenever you find something that’s worth repeating.  Not only are you spreading good things but your username comes up more often too.
  16. If you know people that have something in common, do a tweet with both people’s usernames in it so they can meet & tell them why.  Twitter is like trying to find a needle in a haystack so if you can introduce people, they appreciate it.
  17. Be genuine. 
    • Don’t have people tweet for you.   Tweeples see your profile pic, get to know “you” and expect they’re talking with “you”, not a hired substitute.
    • Even though it’s fun to change your profile picture, keeping it the same helps people recognize and find you faster. 
    • Take time to fill our your profile information and post a picture of you, not of some random cartoon unless of course you’re a cartoon artist. 🙂   I’ve heard from many tweeters that say they won’t follow people without a profile pic or information.
  18. If you tweet something that you hope others will RT, make sure you leave enough characters for that.
  19. Even though many Twitter applications have auto responders, etc., I wouldn’t use them.
    • If you follow someone and you instantly get a DM that is obviously not personalized, it’s like hearing a recording on a phone message or getting junk mail.  If it wasn’t meant for me personally, I usually don’t pay much attention to it.
  20. Don’t schedule tweets ahead of time like when people write a bunch of famous quotes and set them to auto tweet on a regular basis.  Without too much effort, anyone can see they are auto generated.  If you’re too busy to tweet them yourself and have real conversations with people, maybe you shouldn’t be using Twitter until you’re not so busy.
May 08th, 2009 | Author:

When I first got on Twitter and saw people saying they were V.A.’s or had a V.A., I wasn’t sure what that meant.  So like I do with most things, I asked.

Simple:  Virtual Assistant.  Mystery solved.  I should have figured it out myself because my dad works from a home office here in California and his assistant works from her home in Pennsylvania.

A few weeks later on Twitter, someone referred to my mom as my V.A.  I never really thought about her as an assistant because she’s much more than that.  Plus she isn’t virtual. 🙂  So I started calling her my R.A. (Real Assistant) just for fun.   But that wasn’t right either.

Next idea:  Since my mom does a lot of my business stuff, calling her my B.M. (Business Manager) made more sense except that I’ve heard doctors use the initials BM so that didn’t work either.  [If you’ve never heard the medical term BM, ask someone.  It’s funny.]

So what initials could describe all that Mom does for me?    I thought awhile longer and then came up with the perfect title:  M.O.M. (Mother of Me!)

V.A.s are great.  R.A.s are too but MOMs are the best!  I wouldn’t be where I’m at without her.

 

April 18th, 2009 | Author:


Twitter does have a learning curve for most people, especially figuring out the abbreviations.

Recently, I received a tweet from @jyl_MOMIF inviting me as a guest on their weekly Twitter #GNO pajama party.  Since my mom monitors all my tweets, she wondered what GNO stood for.   I’m not really sure why I knew that abbreviation but I quickly told her, “girls night out.”

You would think it was just for girls but they often invite men guests.  Last week, they had @guykawasaki on talking about entrepreneurship.  On Tuesday, April 21, I’ll be one of their guests for the topic, “Charity.”  I’m pretty sure I’ll be the youngest Twitter guest/entrepreneur, not mention the youngest boy, they’ve ever had.  How cool is that?!

Since I started my own business when I was nine (I’m 13 now), I’ve been donating to help foster kids and also a children’s hospital.  I always encourage people to at least give something because even the smallest things can make a difference in someone else’s life.  It doesn’t have to be money or gifts either.  If you can volunteer your time, that’s good too.  Besides helping kids in California, I’ve taken on a much bigger project also.

Last year, an organization called Nurture Smart located in Nairobi, Kenya found me on Internet when they were searching for a young entrepreneur.  They have a program to teach kids ages 7-15 the skills to become productive business people so when they grow up, they can continue to help people in their own country.  They invited me to Kenya as a peer ambassador, keynote speaker, and judge at their annual Young Entrepreneur Search competition.  As details were being worked out for the trip, their funding partner backed out on them leaving their program, and especially the kids, with nothing.

I’ve seen a lot of things on TV about people donating food and clothes to other countries which is really good.  But when that stuff is gone, the people are still in the same situation they were before.  Nurture Smart’s program is trying to educate the kids to be more self-sufficient when they grow up.  I think that’s a lot smarter in the long run.  That’s why my family and I are looking for ways to help them raise money to keep their program going for the kids.

Join me at #GNO on Tuesday, April 21 from 6-8 p.m.  I’ll be online answering questions and giving some tips that I’ve learned about business and charities.  For more details, check out Mom It Forward .