Friday, February 27, 2009

Photo Friday and Emma Rebecca Griffin Reeder

Emma Rebecca Griffin Reeder

born 25 June 1878 in Cameron, MO
died 13 July 1923 in Harris, KS
She was my husband's maternal great great grandmother.
Colleen Degnan Johnson

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Proofreading Tips Part I

Proofreading can be tricky but it is essential. We are all human and no one is perfect. Typos happen to the best of us. If your business depends on the written word, make sure you follow these ten quick and simple tips to help eliminate those pesky grammar and spelling mistakes.

The first five tips are as follows:

Read and re-read. Make sure that you read your material carefully and more than once. If necessary, print off a copy. Some people find it easier to proof if they can highlight a hard copy.

Take your time. Time is money but not when proofing. Take it slowly. If you write quickly, chances are that you will jump over thoughts and miss jotting down important words. If you must write a thought down quickly before you lose it, just remember to go back over your work later.

Speak your words aloud. Sometimes we can read silently to ourselves and fill in words that aren’t actually there. When reading aloud, this may still occur but the chances are that you will discover the skipped words.

Check your spelling. Software capabilities make it so much easier nowadays to catch spelling and grammatical errors. Utilize these functions. They lessen the burden on your own eyes. Do not depend on these tools. Software spell checkers cannot detect a misplaced or duplicated word in a sentence when it is spelled correctly.

Get a second pair of eyes. Have someone else look over your copy. It is amazing how much can be missed when you are absorbed in the material. When someone else looks at your copy for the first time, they can spot the smallest errors glaring out at them. Get a friend if you cannot hire a proofreader. For example, a second pair of eyes can find a double ‘it it’ when it should read ‘it is’.

Stay tuned for Part II.

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office
Fantasy Face Painting

Monday, February 23, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

JoLyn from Uphill Both Ways has given CMJ Office the Kreativ Blogger award. This is a great honor for me and a thrill!

I now get to pass it on to seven of my favorite bloggers....

Lisa of Smalled-leaved Shamrock
Bill of West in New England
Kathryn of Looking4Ancestors
Holly of Holly Anthony
Dawn of Egghead-VA
Becky of Grace and Glory even though she's already been nominated - I love her blog!

Be sure to visit them all!

Here are the rules connected with the KreativBlogger Award:

1. Copy the award to your site.
2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.
3. Nominate 7 other bloggers.
4. Link to those sites on your blog.
5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominate.

Congratulations to all - and thanks again, JoLyn!

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office
Fantasy Face Painting

Friday, February 20, 2009

Photo Friday - Margaret Larkin Finnegan

This is a picture of my maternal great grandmother.

Margaret Larkin Finnegan
14 July 1878 in Gaigue, Ballinamore, Co. Longford, Ireland
8 Mar 1961 in Cranston, RI, USA
She married Patrick Finegan on 14 Nov 1906 in Providence, RI, USA. For some reason, the name developed a second 'N' in Finnegan after 1907. Prior to that, it is listed everwhere with only one 'N' in Finegan.
Colleen Degnan Johnson

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Comma Rules

Comma happiness drives me crazy. I've mentioned it before and I'll mention it again. I love the Blue Book of Grammar. I'll be sharing the 21 Comma Rules in English here for the next several Wednesday blogs.

Here are the first 3 rules:

Rule 1. To avoid confusion, use commas to separate words and word groups with a series of three or more.

Example: My $10 million estate is to be split among my husband, daughter, son, and nephew. Omitting the comma after son would indicate that the son and nephew would have to split one-third of the estate.

Rule 2. Use a comma to separate two adjectives when the word and can be inserted between them.

Examples: He is a strong, healthy man. We stayed at an expensive summer resort. You would not say expensive and summer resort, so no comma.

Rule 3. Use a comma when an -ly adjective is used with other adjectives.

NOTE: To test whether an -ly word is an adjective, see if it can be used alone with the noun. If it can, use the comma.

Examples: Felix was a lonely, young boy. I get headaches in brightly lit rooms. Brightly is not an adjective because it cannot be used alone with rooms; therefore, no comma is used between brightly and lit.

Keep watching each Wednesday for the next 18 rules.

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office
Fantasy Face Painting

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Free Seminar - Exercising Your Personal Brilliance for Innovation

SEMINAR: Exercising Your Personal Brilliance for Innovation
Presented by: Jim Canterucci,
DATE: Thursday, February 19, 2009
TIME: 5 p.m. PST - 6 p.m. MST - 7 p.m. CST - 8 p.m. EST
DURATION: 60 minutes (call in 10 min. early to secure your seat)

WHO SHOULD ATTEND? This class is open to all Virtual Assistants, small/boutique business owners, solo professionals, solopreneurs and independent professionals. Invite your business buddies! If you know some folks who would like to attend, feel free to copy and paste the contents on this page, and post invitations on the forums, listservs and groups you participate in.

When you're faced with a situation where you have to come up with and implement great ideas, and you can… that's Personal Brilliance. To most, innovation is a process executed at "special" times when we need to break new ground. Ironically, at those times, we're usually too rusty to be innovative. Why should we save our best efforts for rare occasions?

Brilliant people never get out of practice—innovation is a habit. It's easy to find these people. In all walks of life, they're the most satisfied, ingenious (regardless of natural intelligence), and high achieving.

The four catalysts to Personal Brilliance are awareness, curiosity, focus and initiative. By developing these natural traits, you will cultivate the habit of innovation in your life, both at work and at home. This will empower you to succeed—by your standards and on your terms—in your occupation and education, as a parent, in personal relationships, and while pursuing your interests.

The "Exercising Your Personal Brilliance for Innovation" teleseminar lays out a dynamic and effective plan to: Harness the power of awareness, curiosity, focus, and initiative; break through the barriers that stop us from achieving our greatest potential; make personal innovation part of our everyday lives; and stretch beyond our comfort zones to embrace positive change.

In Jim's session, based on his bestseller "Personal Brilliance, Mastering the Everyday Habits that Create a Lifetime of Success", we will go beyond creativity to innovation. Learn how developing your habit of innovation can enhance results in your life. You'll benefit and so will the clients you serve!

Sign up for the seminar here.

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office

Monday, February 16, 2009

Promoting Your Blog

Blogging is easy. Blogging does not generate traffic easily. You need effort for that. If you want people to view your blog, you will have to work to establish attention. I have put together some tips about generating traffic to your blog. So, let’s explore some tips on promoting your blog.

Link your blog to all your profiles on the web. Add your link to your website, your signature line, forums, and any correspondence you may have. You also want to add this link to your profile pages on SUN, Stumble, Ryze, MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, AIM, Twitter, Facebook, Squido and anywhere else you have a profile established. If you have profiles on Classmates or on an alumni directory, add a link to your profile on these sites. Blogging is all about linking. Don’t miss an opportunity to promote your blog.

Drop comments. Post comments to other blogs as early as you can. People always see the first 5 posts. Sometimes they do not stick around to view post 152. Post often to get your name out there and into view. If people keep reading informative responses, they will click on your link because you’ve gotten them curious. Leave comments on other blogs in your target market or interest areas. It’s always good for networking and for marketing your own blog and business. Other bloggers and viewers will then click onto your link to view your blog. This is what you want.

Check your blog stats and see who is visiting your blog. Google Alerts is just one program you can use to receive updates on when your business is mentioned online.

Submit your blogs. Submit them to such venues as a Blog Carnival. This is a great resource that many people forget or just don’t know about. There are many and the subjects are varied.

Get your blog onto a directory. Technorati springs to mind. It seems that everyone knows about their company directory right now. However, there are more companies out there. Here are a few to consider: BlogHub, BlogHer, and BlogCatalog.

Again, these are just a few tips that I’ve come across. There are many ways to promote your blog. You just need to remember that you need to work to gain the traffic. You cannot just write a blog without promoting it.

So, how do you promote your blog? Did I miss anything? Let CMJ Office know.

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office

Friday, February 13, 2009

Photo Friday

Happy Friday the 13th!!!

This is a picture of Franklin M. Reeder (1873 KS -1958 KS). He died 19 days after his daughter, Nellie May Reeder Boyer, died.

He worked as a farmer in Osage County, KS, and then as a coal miner in Franklin County, KS.

He is my husband's maternal great-great grandfather.

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Position Descriptions

I have witnessed time and again the lack of position descriptions especially for the office staff. It seems that some small business owners have them and some do not. While some small business owners do have position descriptions, some of them do not utilize them.

Position descriptions are a valuable tool for any business. They alleviate discrepancies, unaccomplished work, confusion within the office, and co-worker rivalry. These are just some of the problems that I’ve witnessed while virtually assisting small businesses.

Position descriptions describe the employee’s duties and responsibilities. This is essentially how the employee receives your expectations for their work performance. This resource protects the business owner in many situations.

How might a business owner utilize a position description you might ask?

For starters, you can use a position description to fulfill yearly review obligations. Yes, your employees should receive yearly job performance reviews. This is something else I have noticed slipping to the side in some small businesses. How else will your employee and you gauge their performance? This does not need to be a lengthy and time consuming process. A yearly review can take 15-30 minutes and cover all your expectations and reviews while receiving employee feedback.

You may use them to address work performance, whether exemplary or poor. Position descriptions are extremely easy to use regarding employee performance. It should all be laid out. Follow the position description as a guide for your review. An employee cannot argue that they were unaware of a job duty if it is written in ink.

Up-to-date position descriptions also help a business owner when hiring new employees. New employees will not need to keep asking you job related questions if they can refer to an informative position description. They save time and energy.

If you have a multi-level position within your company, how to attain each level should be addressed within the position description. For example: Head Secretary – Office Manager – Business Assistant. Each stage of this job should be explained completely in the position description. You may also have three separate position descriptions for this one job. Each separate position description would list all additional responsibilities and how to attain (be promoted to) the next level of the job. Phases can be attained through years of experience, job knowledge, added responsibilities, or a combination of all these categories.

Once you have well developed and maintained position descriptions, your employees will know what duties to perform. Hopefully, this helps work flow smoothly within the office. Position descriptions really do help keep disgruntled employees at bay and they protect your business.

Remember, position descriptions are good for you and your office.

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office

Monday, February 9, 2009

Easy Feng Shui for Your Office

Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese science of balancing the energies of any given space to assure the health and good fortune of the people inhabiting the space. To help you get started with Feng Shui in your office, follow these rules and you’ll soon be functioning more effectively and with less stress!

Organize. Remove clutter on and around your desk and office for a clean flow of energy.

Desk Placement. Sit in the corner farthest from the entrance to the room to have a “command” position. Sit with your back toward a wall or corner for support while facing the room’s entrance; but your chair must not be directly in line with it.

Computer Location. Your computer should go in the north or west area of your office to enhance your creativity; or put it in the southeast if you use it to generate income.

Aquariums/Fountains. Place aquariums and fountains in the east, north or southeast. A small aquarium with black or blue fish in the north area of your desk or office will activate your business and career success.

Lighting. Provide good, comfortable, non-glare lighting. Of course, natural light is best.

Mirrors. Avoid mirrors in the office.

Decorative Elements. Decorate with plants, land and seascapes.

Balance. Use a good balance of yin and yang when decorating your workspace. Be sure to balance light and dark colors, soft and hard surfaces, and smooth and rough textures in your choice of window treatments, furniture and flooring.

Plants. Place a money tree, jade or prosperity plant in the southeast corner of your desk or room.

Focal Point. Have a red or purple focal point in your office or on your desk (opposite your chair).

Be Grateful. Before you start work each day, give thanks for your blessings, prosperity and abundance. Give to receive. Share generously with others.

A great source for more information on Feng Shui can be found here: Feng Shui Dos & Taboos, by Angi Ma Wong.

About my guest author: Angela Wycoff is the entrepreneur, Virtual Assistant, and CEO behind Focus Administrative. Focus Administrative prides itself on providing expert administrative, marketing and design support services to entrepreneurs who are ready to take their business to the next level.

I hope everyone enjoyed this guest author's article. I found it fascinating. Thanks Angie for allowing me to post it here.

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bob Doyle and the Irish Brigade

Bob Doyle, the last member of the Irish Brigade in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), died in London last month.

Check out this great article describing his life.

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office

Friday, February 6, 2009

Photo Friday and Warren Oliver Gragg

Warren Oliver Gragg or Gregg depending on which record you're viewing.

Born 2 October 1880, Culver, Ottawa Co., Kansas and died 9 September 1960, Lyndon, Osage Co., Kansas.

This picture was taken in Kansas during the late 1940s. He is my husband's maternal great grandfather. He looks rather sweet in my opinion.

Colleen Degnan Johnson, CMJ Office

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Around the Kitchen Table

This post is for the 3rd Edition of the Canadian Genealogy Carnival.

My great grandmother's family (Brown) came down from Nova Scotia to Massachusetts during the 1890s. The maple cookie recipe traveled with them and has evolved into the following.

Ingredients for Maple Cookies:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup real maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
granulated sugar for rolling/coating


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets or place parchment down. In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg, syrup and vanilla mixing until well blended. Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir into mixture until well blended. Shape into 1 inch balls and roll in the sugar. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart and flatten slightly.

Bake 8 minutes in the preheated oven. Let cool on wire rack. Enjoy!

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Possessive Apostrophe

It's Wordie Wednesday and time for a grammar review again care of the Blue Grammar Book.

Use the apostrophe to show possession. Place the apostrophe before the s to show singular possession.


one boy's hat
one woman's hat
one actress's hat
one child's hat
Ms. Chang's house

NOTE: Although names ending in s or an s sound are not required to have the second s added in possessive form, it is preferred.

Mr. Jones's golf clubs
Texas's weather
Ms. Straus's daughter
Jose Sanchez's artwork
Dr. Hastings's appointment (name is Hastings)
Mrs. Lees's books (name is Lees)

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office

Monday, February 2, 2009

Powerful Presentation Tips

I have sat through numerous meetings, conferences and seminars. Some just seem to drag on and on, while others are truly fantastic. So, what makes that difference? How do you make your presentation powerful?

Be yourself and show some personality. A monotonous tone droning on and on will not do. People want you to do well and they want to connect with you. Let them see the real you and allow your natural vocal inflections to flow into your speaking pattern.

Speak up and project your voice. Many people suffer from nerves in front of large groups and their voice level tends to drop. Unfortunately, nothing is more irritating to an audience than having to strain to hear. If you're in a hall or large room, be sure to test the sound system before the presentation begins. Avoid unnecessary words such as “um” and “like” which can also become grating when used too often in a presentation.

Make eye contact. Interact with your audience to keep them engaged. Ask them topic-related questions and keep the floor open for discussions. Don’t be selective. Use the whole room. Create conversations.

Move about the room so you don't become stiff. Keep your audience attentive and awake. If you're stuck at a podium, remember to make some simple hand gestures to keep eyes on you.

Add humor. Nothing breaks the ice like a good joke or funny story during an event. Just make sure that it’s appropriate and directed properly to your audience.

Use visual aids sparingly, but creatively. Slides need not be wordy or elaborate. Stand out from the norm and infuse energy into your presentation. The best ones pop with color and imagery to accentuate your main points.

Think about the last conference you enjoyed. How can you incorporate ideas from that event into your next presentation?

Colleen Degnan Johnson
CMJ Office