Karen Swim

Writer, Marketer, Woman of Purpose

Love, Loss and the Pursuit of Life

Today would have been my 20th anniversary. I was married for 10 years and now have been widowed for 10. As I ponder this fact this morning, I reflect on the woman I have become in my widowhood. I was widowed before 40. At a major turning point, nothing in my life was as expected but I fought to find my footing even as I began to write a new chapter in my life. Today, on what would have been my 20th anniversary, I am whole, healthy and happy. I am all of these things not in spite of losing a husband but because of it.

I have come to this place through my experiences. I don’t feel cheated by what could have been, for what is while unplanned has still brought me to a place of joy and peace. I did not wake up today a wife and mother but I still have cause to celebrate. I have a good life, a growing business and a purpose.

I am long past the initial raw grief of losing a spouse but many see my continued “aloneness” as a sign that I am not healed. They cautiously ask if I am dating, in their mind the act that would signal that I am fully okay. Yet it is not dating for me that validates that I am whole – strong enough to just be and not seeking the security from uncertainty in the familiarity of being coupled. It took time to learn to become one, rather than one-half of a couple, but learn I did.

The people you love and lose are always part of your life. Rather than be defined by the loss I am refined by the love that enriched my life. For me the loss is a thread in the pattern of my life but there are other threads that make up the tapestry.

Today is a good day to remember and to give thanks for where I have been and where I am headed. Getting here has not always been easy but I am very grateful I have arrived.


May 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 15 Comments

Gone to the Clouds – Ex Apple Steve Jobs Has Died

October 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Labor and Rest

Labor Day is the time we celebrate the American worker and their contributions to our society. It has also become the unofficial end of summer. During this three day weekend we have the opportunity to rest from our Labor and enjoy the final festivities of the summer season.

Entering this Labor Day weekend I was desperately in need of rest. My mind, body and soul were drained. During one of many quiet moments this holiday weekend I remembered Matthew 11:28 – “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (KJV). While I am responsible for the physical and mental demands of my job and life, what a joy to know that I could always find rest in the Saviour.

I am thankful for the time off, the opportunity to rest and renew mind, body and soul. I am most thankful though that I can always find rest from my labor in the loving arms of the Father.

I hope that you too are resting from your labor this weekend and enjoying a happy, holiday weekend.  Happy Labor Day!

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Workers are Red, White and Very Blue Over August Jobs Report

September 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Joyful Flights and Soft Landings

For a time I lost my voice, not the physical one for that would have been less painful, but my writing voice. Fingers stilled, words no longer bubbled to the surface begging to flow onto the page. This was no ordinary writers block but a crisis tantamount to the loss of a vocal cord. It was an obstruction that would require more than the usual tricks of the trade.

Initially I welcomed the silence as one does when ordered to a day of voice rest. I needed the time to be still, to quiet the noise that not only surrounded me but had permeated my being. But the silence stretched on and my voice went from a tired croak to a soft whisper to nothing at all. While my voice was silent my world and head were filled with the haunting voices of others. No matter how hard I tried to push them down, they rose angrily to the surface like ugly ghosts clawing at me with skeletal fingers in the graveyard of disillusion. I ran from the page to escape their grip desperate to once again reach the welcoming light of day. I was afraid to venture back into the catacombs to find my voice so I stayed in the safety of daylight comfortably ensconced on a bench watching the words of others go by.

Then one day a floodgate of emotion arose like a tsunami sweeping away the locks and chains that held me captive. Its force propelled me into mid-air light with reckless abandon. In flight I did not open the parachute of perfection, not caring if I landed in an undignified heap on the rapidly approaching concrete. Broken bones, bruised ego and a hard landing would be far better than the prison of silence to which I had been confined.

Words tumbled out propelling me through my flight of fancy. Certain I would crash at the bottom, fear mixed with the heady excitement of freedom. I cascaded through raw emotions strung together into sentences, unpolished, uninhibited, toward my fate. Vulnerable, unequipped I stretched my fingers quickening my flight. Near the bottom, I squeezed my eyes preparing for the final fall, willing to accept a hard landing that would leave a permanent stain of failure that would seep into the grout and crevices of my legacy. But I did not go splat. Inches from the ground I was safely gathered in a net woven by caring souls who had witnessed my fall and cushioned by landing with their gentle words of encouragement.

Giddy with the thrill of adventure I bounced upon their gentle net before I climbed safely down. I looked up and shouted with my newly recovered voice, giving thanks for my freedom and for good friends who stood by when I was silent and cushioned me when I dared to once again take flight.

Special thanks to Joanna Paterson, Lillie Ammann, and Crieg Bryan for cushioning my landing.

August 16, 2011 Posted by | Personal Essay | 4 Comments

The Psalm of the Un-Mother

A baby was born. As I genuinely celebrated the wonderful joy of new life and family, I could not control the pang of heartbreak that momentarily shot through my soul. I listened as they extolled the addition of another to the family tree and the blessings of multiple generations, smiling as parents, grandparents, and great grandparents marveled at the expansive family tree. As their hearts swelled with pride at multiplying and filling the earth, I thought of my own meager field of one. As the other branches of my family tree spread wider and richer with fruit, my own branch was empty and forlorn like the old tree by the window disrobed for the winter season. Yet my joy for this precious baby’s entrance into the world was as real as my sadness that I would never be a parent.

I have learned to live with the duality. I do not spend days in constant mourning over my childless state but the grief sneaks up on me at times, grabs me by the heart and demands to be acknowledged. In the same way that an unexpected moment ushers in a fresh wave of mourning for those I’ve loved and lost, the child that never was is also a loss. The baby girl or baby boy that never formed in my womb is a part of my history, woven into the tapestry of my heart as securely as my mom and husband. I never birthed, held or nurtured this not born child but my love for what could have been is no less real.

In silent prayer I seek the comfort of my savior, curling up in His wide open arms transforming from wounded un-mother to child of grace. In His presence silent tears free my heart and allow me to give thanks for a heart that can love, mourn, celebrate and yes nurture. Children are a blessing but I know in truth that each of is solely responsible for the legacy we lead. With or without children how my life is remembered and the impact I make rests squarely on my shoulders. My heart fills with a fresh store of love and grace ready to spill upon my own field. While I am not a mother, I can love with a mother’s heart. I can comfort in the storms, issue words of encouragement and praise, teach valuable lessons and listen with a tender ear.

I turn my attention back to the present with an inward smile, thankful that though not a mother I have a Father who loves me unconditionally.

August 15, 2011 Posted by | Personal Essay | 9 Comments

An Empire in Peril

July 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ur Doing It Wrong: How Not to Suck in Social Media – Advertising Age – DigitalNext

Ur Doing It Wrong: How Not to Suck in Social Media

Lessons From the 2011 Suxorz Awards Teach Us How to Avoid a Campaign Catastrophe

Posted by Rebecca Lieb on 02.16.11 @ 02:50 PM


Rebecca Lieb

Quick! Which is the worst social media faux pas?

  1. Inviting consumers to follow your company — via a locked Twitter account; or
  2. When a customer posts a negative comment about your business, track his identity and learn where he works. Then, contact his employers with the suggestion he be fired?

New York’s Social Media Week featured wall-to-wall sessions on how marketers can do social media right, but nothing can hold a candle to the sheer Schdenfreude of watching the brands and agencies that are doing it wrong.

Horribly, horribly wrong.

Enter the Suxorz Awards. Brainchild of Blogads CEO Henry Copeland, the Suxorz have been calling out the worst in social-media marketing since 2008 (disclosure — I was a panelist at the inaugural SXSW session).

Here’s how it works: a panel of four marketing experts nominate their picks for worst-of-the-worst social-media campaigns. Then (this being social, after all), the audience picks a winner in each category. Competition can get fierce, and no one on either side of the stage is discouraged from opining. It makes for a lively evening.

Herewith, the contenders for the 2011 Suxorz awards — together with some lessons learned, because really, we’re not just here to laugh at them. Really.

Category 1: Meme Purgatory
No, you can’t bottle viral. Nominees were VW’s Sluggy Patterson, star of videos, tweets and a blog. An irascible old coot, Sluggy invented a complex game in which he punches people every time he espies a VW. Smirnoff’s BrosIcingBros.com, a site that basically encouraged binge drinking; and another awkward character, Dell’s Dr. Ashley PDA who has bad hair, hypnotizes patients with a GPS device and thumb-wrestles with them when they’re out cold on his couch.

And the winner is: Cisco’s Ted From Accounting series, an unabashed attempt to cash in on Old Spice’s popular video campaign. The videos were as long as they were utterly baffling. The audience actually begged the presenters to hit the “stop” button.

Lesson Learned: Character development counts. So does some sort of obvious link to the brand. But do try not to make it an overtly negative one, e.g. advocating hitting people, drinking irresponsibly, or simply boring their socks off.

Category 2: Missed Connections
That’s why they call them the “basics.” Thousands of Hungarians launched a Facebook campaign to launch Starbucks in Budapest. It worked — Starbucks opened a restaurant and erased the fan page, along with its 3,000 biggest fans and brand advocates. Pharmacy chain launches on Twitter. Their pages features the legend: “@CVS_Cares’s Tweets are protected. Only confirmed followers have access to @CVS_Cares’s Tweets and complete profile. You need to send a request before you can start following this account.” (And no, requests to become a follower are not acknowledged.). Leo Burnett’s you have to see it to believe it “HumanKind” video in which Chief Creative Mark Tutssel drones on for so long even he seems to regurgitate the Kool-Aid.

And the winner is: Denny’s menu footer call-to-action (visible right underneath dubious-sounding Senior Country Fried Steak) inviting diners to follow the chain at twitter/.com/dennys. So far so good — until you click through and learn “dennys” is some guy in Taiwan named Dennys Hsieh. He tweets in Mandarin — or maybe it’s Hokkien?

Lesson Learned: Hire a proofreader. And a copyeditor. Dot those I’s and cross those T’s.

Category 3: Mean People Suck
Does not work well with others. In the U.K., Dr. Pepper launched a Facebook status takeover campaign. Motto: “What’s the worst that could happen?” Answer: updates like the one to a 14-year-old Glaswegian girl’s page, “I watched 2 girls one cup and felt hungry afterwards.” Oops. Nestle fared no better on Facebook when a protest erupted against the company practices that are endangering orangutan habitats. At best, Nestle replied to comments with phrases like “Oh, please.” It also threatened to sue users for infringement when they modded the Kit-Kat logo. Finally, Mercedes Tweetrace campaign, which forced people to “like” the campaign before they could participate in what amounted to an attempt to spam Twitter with Mercedes-oriented tweets.

And the winner is: Hands down, PriceChopper, the supermarket chain that tried to get Jonathan Hoster fired from his job for being “negative” after his tweet negatively compared one of their stores to the rival Wegman’s chain.

Lesson Learned: Don’t hate on your customer, clients and prospects. Duh.

Category 4: You’re So Vain
Even celebrities must learn social graces. Up was Kenneth Cole’s very un-PC tweet during the demonstrations in Cairo, and Fast Company’s Influencer Project, which proved “influence” is really a code term for “spam” and “affiliate scam.” And LeBron James opened a Twitter account at the height of speculation about where he’d land, and tweeted nary a word to address the speculation.

And the winner is: Alicia Keys’ oh-so aptly named Digital Death campaign. The cause was noble: to raise a million dollars to fight HIV/AIDS in the third world. The means? Less well plotted. Keyes enlisted a host of celebs to put the kibosh on tweeting, blogging, and general social-media’ing until the target goal was raised. When it wasn’t, rather than rally with calls to action, all this social-media firepower was under a self-imposed moratorium to do…nothing.

Lesson Learned: It’s not as about you as you think it is. And when it is about you, it’s not necessarily about the part of you that you think it is. Plan accordingly.

The floor was then opened to audience nominations, which were not in short supply. The TSA’s attempt to wrangle bad publicity on full body scanners at airports, BP’s response in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, Charmin’s Facebook page (because it’s a Facebook page about toilet paper).

Following a spirited debate, PriceChopper was awarded the 2011 Suxorz for, well, pretty much violating every precept social media is supposed to be based on. The evening’s “social-media DJ,” John Accorino, posted a note of congratulations on PriceChoppers Facebook page.

It’s not there any more.

Rebecca Lieb is a digital marketing consultant specializing in content, SEO and social media. Learn more at rebeccalieb.com or follow her on Twitter.

The access and ease of using social media platforms is not a guaranteed formula for success. Utilizing social media in your campaigns and outreach should not be approached with a half-hearted effort or ill-formed plan. This article from AdAge recaps social media gone wrong and how we can learn from these failures. What examples would you add?

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To God Be the Glory

In recent days, there has been a great deal of negative press about “the church.” It breaks my heart that many will be turned away from seeking God by the very human, fallible actions of the body. Yet, I am not ignorant in our collective part in allowing “the church” to overshadow God. I do not have an issue with the size of a church or of a pastor’s bank account BUT I do take issue when anything takes the spotlight off the one who has provided it all.

Prosperity pimps are preaching a gospel of wealth and people are flocking in droves to get in on the wealth equation, but what about the wealth giver?

Deuteronomy 8:17-19 (New International Version) says:

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.

I am not against wealth but it troubles me that we have allowed the seduction of riches to cloud our vision about the word of God. We have elevated mere mortals to god-like status and have failed to test their words and actions against the only standard for our life – the word of God.

I have come to understand anew why many choose a vow of poverty. Without the trappings of cultural “success” the truth stands alone on the platform.

I speak as one who is daily “working out my own salvation,” painfully aware of the beam in my own eye but together we must do better.  We should all seek to live the words of John 3:30 (NIV) “He must become greater; I must become less.”


October 14, 2010 Posted by | Personal Essay | 1 Comment

Blog Action Day – and the Age of Conversation – Servant of Chaos

The Age of Conversation Official Charity – Charity Water

The first piece of news is to confirm that the charity that benefits from each and every sale of each and every book, is Charity Water. Charity Water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. 100% of public donations directly fund water projects.

Amazingly, just $20 can give one person clean water for 20 years. An average water project costs $5,000 and can serve 250 people with clean, safe water – so purchasing a copy of the Age of Conversation 3 really can make a difference to someone’s life!

October 15th is Blog Action Day and this year’s focus is water. Many of us may take it for granted but many around the world do not have clean and safe drinking water, something vital to human survival. Charity:Water is also the official charity for The Age of Conversation 3, so we’re asking that you support both Blog Action Day and Charity;Water by tweeting, sharing and blogging about the topic and buying a copy of The Age of Conversation 3 on October 15th.

Read Gavin Heaton’s full post here: http://www.servantofchaos.com/2010/10/blog-action-day-and-the-age-of-conversa…

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment