Monday, June 7, 2010

I've entered a writing contest... you can help me win!

I entered WAHumor’s Guest Post With the Most guest blogging contest this week and I need comments and tweets on my post in order to win.


My article is called “Social Media Marketing Is A Bit Like Being A Superhero, But Without The Tights!” It’s a humerous look at some of the qualities superheroes can teach those of us working from home.

If you aren’t sure how to leave a comment on a blog post, I’ve actually written an article explaining exactly how to do it… click here to learn how.

Then head over to my WAHumor blog contest entry by clicking here and leave me a comment. You will have my heartfelt thanks and gratitude… and, after a short time… a reply… because I always respond to my commenters!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hello World... I'm still here!

It has been one very weird week... one that left me feeling a little... well... invisible!  I have had more miscommunication this week than I can ever remember having in such a short period of time.  Today was the icing on the cake...

I work from home most days.  Which means sometimes I'm so eager to get to work that I forget the little morning routines like starting the coffee, brushing my hair, or getting out of my pajamas.  It's no big deal, no one sees me except the kids and they're just secretly jealous that they don't get to wear pajamas all day.  On these days, I dive headfirst into work and barely ever come up for air.  I get tons accomplished and then around 3pm a little voice speaks to me... it's the voice of one of my kids getting home from school.  Oh no... is it really afternoon already?!?!

At this point my stomach starts to growl and my head starts to hurt and I begin to realize that not only am I deprived of my normal caffeine reserves, but I also haven't bothered to digest even the smallest scrap of food all day.  At this point, I must confess, I become a little crazy.  I need food and I need it now!  Of course, these are also the days when I can't find anything to eat in the house... except maybe the odd can of mystery food that lost it's label sometime back in 2005... but I'm not feeling quite that brave yet and besides... I have a car!!  So, ignoring my unkempt hair and oh-so-out-of-style pajamas (usually yoga pants and a tank top), I throw on a hoodie, flip flops and my largest sunglasses and head out the door... hoping no one sees me as I speed to the nearest drive-thru.

Today was one of those days, and I hit the Popeye's drive through like a madwoman on a mission.  My first horror was that the little drive through display only lists some of their choices in a diabolical scheme to allow more room for ugly photos of various combos of fried poultry.  After a quick scan, I was relieved to find something I wanted to eat on the menu and ordered, "a 3-piece chicken strip box (mild) with honey mustard sauce, a diet coke with no ice and a sweet potato pie". 

You see, I didn't want too much chicken because then I wouldn't want dinner until 2am and that cuts into my sleeping time.... so 3 pieces sounded good.  Unlike some people, I don't always like to test how many hot & spicy foods I can cram into my mouth at once... thus the mild flavor and the honey mustard sauce.  Diet Coke... what can I say... I'm addicted and I need caffeine.  As for the pie... well... I love sweet potato pie and although the fast food version is a pale imitation of a southern classic and I normally hate fast food pies, especially apple... I'm just hungry and it sounds good. 

I got to the window, quickly paid for my food and did the quick scan of the bag before driving off... chicken, check... sauce, check... drink, check... pie, check.  I quickly drive home, ducking my head and hoping to get in the house without my brand new neighbors catching sight of my pajama-clad self.... as I'm beginning to think the hoodie might not cover all the horrors underneath.  I mange this feat with flying colors and get safely back to my room with no one the wiser and begin unpacking the bag.  What I have... is a 5-piece chicken strip meal (spicy & with fries), spicy hot mustard, a regular Coke with ice and... yuck... an apple pie! 

Now fortunately for the Popeye's people... I'm just too damn smart to think I can pull off yet another incognito drive-thru run in the same day, so instead of going back and yelling my head off, I sit and eat parts of my crummy meal and feed the rest to the kids.  Turns out they are even better than dogs for getting rid of foods you don't like or want... and they don't usually slobber when they eat.  But for the rest of the evening it confuses me... why did they bother asking what I wanted if they were just going to give me whatever the hell they felt like putting in the bag?!?!  Did they even hear me order, or am I invisible?!?!

I decided trying to come up with an answer was futile and then decided to focus on updating my social media sites instead.  I popped on the computer and... every single one of my sites forgot me.  Now, I'm used to this happening if I delete my cookies or update something... but I hadn't done any of those things and they all forgot me.  So, I signed on to every one of them... being sure to check the little "Remember me" box... which I am now convinced is only for decoration.  Then I got offline to get some other work done and when I went back online... they all forgot me again!!!  How can I not take this personally?!?!  First Popeye's and now all my social media sites... am I still here... can you all hear me?!?!

So here I sat... poor little me... feeling all invisible and then the most amazing thing happened!  My phone buzzed... someone still knew I existed... although I crossed my fingers hoping to whatever God would listen that it wasn't just a telemarketer!  Turns out it was a text from my boyfriend telling me he loves me and misses me... and just like that, all is right with the world again.  I'm still here!!!! :)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On Realtionships...

I was at the book store the other day and found myself walking through an aisle of relationship books.  I was amazed at how many of them there were!  Are relationships really that hard for people?!?!  I tend to think people overcomplicate the issue so much that even the most basic relationship becomes impossible.  How are you supposed to connect to another person while trying to remember all the expert "rules"?  It's exhausting to think about, much less implement!!!

So here's my advice... forget all of it!!!  That's right, foget every little piece of advice you've read before.  It turns out relationships are simple!  People gravitate towards people that make them feel good... those that make them happy.  They tend to avoid those who make them feel bad or unhappy.  That's it... relationships in a nutshell.

Here's an example...  Your husband goes for a night out with the guys.  They laugh, drink beer, belch and scratch themselves a lot... male bliss.  He comes home eager to tell you about his wonderful time and you start nagging.  He's 30 minutes late, he forgot to take out the trash before he left, the kids gave you a hard time and he wasn't there to back you up, he spent to much, he smells like beer, etc.  You slink off silently to your respective sides of the bed and go to sleep, both in a bad mood.  The next time he goes out with the guys, he will probably be an hour late and already in a bad moos before he returns home... and thus begins a vicious cycle.

Now envision this... Your husband goes for a night out with the guys. They laugh, drink beer, belch and scratch themselves a lot... male bliss.  You notice he's running late, so you decide to use the time to throw on a fabulous lacy nightgown, light a few candles, listen to some great mood music and read a book while you wait.  He arrives home eager to tell you about his wonderful time and immediately forgets what he wanted to say upon seeing you in all your fabulous laciness.  You have wonderful sex, followed by patiently listening to his stories of the farting contests from earlier that night.  Kiss goodnight and fall asleep in eachother's arms.  The next time he goes out with the guys, he's likely to show up a half hour early... perhaps with flowers for you.

In short, if you are in a relationship that's struggling, don't head to the book store to spend hours reading to figure out why (you can always do that later if you're curious).  Instead, spend a few minutes figureing out a way to make that person happy... then do it again, and again, and again, and... well, you get the idea.  You will find your relationship improve immensely and then you will have all the time in the world to figure out what went wrong to begin with.  Chances are at the end of all your research you will likely discover it was just that you forgot to make each other happy.

See how simple it is!  If you want someone to make you happy and be more attentive, all you have to do is be one of the people that makes them happy.  They will naturally gravitate towards you, try to make you happy and pay more attention to you because deep down that's what we all want... to be happy! 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bath Bomb Update - oops!!!

 I've been putting off writing my update on my bath bomb creation and testing for today because I'm a little embarrassed.  My bath bomb creation is still going very well, but I am embarrased to say that I slacked a bit in the testing.  I was supposed to test the last batch before bed last night, but instead fell asleep while reading about perfume formula creation online.  The lights were on, the tv blaring, and I was surrounded by my notes, but still managed to doze off into oblivion for the entire night!  I woke up early this morning scolding my self.  I mean, it isn't as if taking a glorious relaxing bath at the end of the day is a challenge right?!?!  Of all the parts of this I anticipated trouble with... testing my bombs in the tub was the least of my worries!  So, batch #3 will have to wait until this evening for testing.  You see, in order to properly test the scent concentration, I must also shower every morning to remove any lingering scent (from both me and the bathtub) from the previous night.  That's right folks... I shower every morning now and bathe every night... I am probably the cleanest person on the planet at the moment... lol!  I am a little concerned about the enormous amount of water I am using, but that can't be helped during the creation phase of this so I will just have to find other ways to conserve and be kind to the planet.

Ok... I feel better having admitted my laziness and am off to remedy the situation by working extra hard today.  I'll let you know how batch #3 does in the tub test tomorrow. :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bath bombs - 3rd attempt! My room smells lovely!

I have just finished my 3rd attempt at creating the perfect bath bomb and I feel perfection within my grasp.  The tub test on batch 2 last night went well, except for the glitter... yikes!!!  I got into the lightly green tinted tub with the subtle scent of lavender hanging in the air.  I felt the oil and salts nourishing and softeneing my skin, and then I looked down and realized I was sparkling in the candlelight!  The good news is that the scent was not too stong, the tub had no "ring" or stain, and the bomb took it's time to fizz (even though it was not thoroughly dried yet).  The bad news was fully discovered when I drove my daughter to school in the sunlight this morning and heard her exclaim, "OMG Mom!  You look like a Smurf vampire!!!"  You see, I used a blue glitter in the bombs and it was all over my skin... even my face, although I never touched my face with the bath water.  When I got home from school drop off I took a shower and all the glitter washed down the drain without incident, but people should not have to shower after a luxurious bath!

Enter batch number 3... this morning I made a few minor adjustments and an essential oil blend that I've used for years.  I dialed down the glitter content significantly... no more blue Smurf vampire for me. :)  I fixed the moisture problem I had last night (which affects the molding process, not the finished bomb) and I think I've gotten it right this time.  I tried a powdered colorant this time and I'm not crazy about the lack of color, but that is easily changed back to the liquid variety for the next batch.  The molded bombs are holding up very well as they dry and I am enjoying the glorious scent coming off them.  I can't wait for product testing time (aka bath time) tonight.  I may have to partner with a candle making company at some point... all this product testing is eating away at my stash of bathroom candles very quickly.  Thank goodness I have rechargable batteries for the waterproof iPod speaker!  I'll have to pop over to iTunes and download some new bath tunes so I don't get bored with the same music all the time.  Well, off to get some much needed stuff done around the house.  I will let you know how my test turn out tomorrow.

Is anyone else getting anxious to try one of these beautiful bombs anytime soon?!?!

Bath bombs - 2nd attempt

After a lot of research, a lot of tinkering, and a lot of patience... and a little shopping of course... I think I have created a bath bomb much closer to what I am looking for.  I used mostly organic ingredients and pure essential oils this time... lavender by itself for experimenting, since I know I can handle an overwhelming amout of the scent if I happen to get it wrong. 

I spent the day scouring websites full of bath bomb recipes, scientific properties of the various chemicals involved and sites that discussed the reactions of these chemicals in different proportions.  I read through over a thousand comment on blogs of other people who have tried to make bath bombs and learned what I could from their experiences.  I then transfered all of these notes onto my Nook and made use of my waiting time while my daughter Jordan got her haircut to come up with what I deemed to be the best ingredients, a formula, and a procedure.  I then hurried to the store (while everything was fresh in my mind) and bought all the ingredients to make my bath bombs.

Tonight I created the first batch (ok... so I scaled down the recipe to make only 2) of Becky's Bath Bombs.  They turned out great so far.  I did use a bit too much water and the wetter mixture is creating a flat spot on the bombs as they dry, but that is easliy remedied and shouldn't affect their usage.  Now they should wait 24-hours (minimum) to dry and harden before using, but of course I'm an impatient inventor and must see how my creation holds up the tub test, so I am using one tonight,  Of course, the bomb will break apart quicker since it is not dry, but I should be able to determine tub tint color, fragrance levels, skin softening abilities and glitter levels (yep... I added glitter right off the bat) with one tonight.  I will save the other for a few days to see how they perform once hardened.

Tomorrow I will try again, this time focusing on my notes from tonight's bath.  I will let you all know how things turn out.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Not a bomb... more like a fizzle... back to the lab I go!

My first attempt at making bath bombs from a kit was a less than stellar experience.  The mixture is a pain to work with and the consistency must be absolutely perfect to get the darn things to mold properly.  Once they have been molded they are about as sturdy as a handful of sand and must be specially treated on all sides before handling them... which is hard to do without handling them!  The mixture smelled horrid, despite the sugar cookie fragrance oil that came with the kit, and got everywhere.  Lesson learned... make these in the kitchen next time!!! 

My first test of the bombs was not one of my more pleasurable bath experiences.  Once I finally got them created properly, I used one in the tub.  The bomb fizzled and dissolved before you could acutally say the words "bath bomb", leaving my bath completely underscented and a strange swirling spill of blue coloring glided across the surface of the water and sticking to the sides of my tub.  I was a little afraid to get in... thinking I might come out looking like a blotchy smurf, but after testing on a finger for a couple minutes without it turning blue, I ventured into the tub.  The bath bomb released something into the sir that made me cough throughout my bath even though I have no issues with scent.  As for the scent... I didn't even realize there was one.  While Lush bombs completely scent the room and leave a soft lingering scent on your skin, these bombs didn't even manage to scent the water.  When I got out of the tub, my skin was no softer than it was before I got into the tub and in fact felt powdery and perhaps even more dry, despite having soaked in a tub of water for over an hour.

Obviously this will never do!!!  I simply could not subject others to this completely inferior bath experience.  So... it's back to the lab... or in my case, the kitchen.  Armed with loads of research... scientific guides on the properties of the basic ingredients and what happens when they combine in certain amounts, many suggestions from other bath bomb creators, my own essential oil blends, and a host of other documents to keep me busy for hours... I will begin the difficult tinkering progress this afternoon.  A quick trip to the local store should provide all the necessary ingredients.  This is a puzzle I now feel compelled to solve.

I will not be releasing anything to anyone until I have created a bath experience as luxurious as the Lush experience.  This may take a lot more testing and experimenting than I originally thought.  Simply looking like a Lush bomb is obviously not enough.  I demand a perfect bath experience that sends the bather into another world of stress-free relaxation and inspiration.  Nothing less will suffice. 

Now... off to create...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bombs Away!!! Bath bombs... of course!

I have made no secret in my blogs of my absolute love of baths and my addiction to Lush Cosmetics bath bombs.  There is almost nothing that ends a day more perfectly than a bath, offering up just the right mood through the use of scents and color.  Well, about a week ago I stumbled upon a site where you could purchase the ingredients and equiptment to make your very own bath bombs.  I waited in breathless anticipation for the kits I ordered to arrive and now that they are here, I have decided to see just how challenging it will be to make my own bath bombs. 

You see, I have been using custom aromatherapy blends (created by me) in my baths for over 15 years.  I have come up with quite a few that are simply wonderful.  The problem is that they don't create the total bath experience in the way a bath bomb does.  A bath bomb doesn't just give you scent... it adds color, skin softening ingredients and of course the fun fizzing as it dissolves into the tub.  Plus you never have to measure anything... all the ingredients for a perfect bath are contained in one ice-cream-scoop-sized ball that you simply drop in the tub.  I've always wished there was a way to create bath bombs out of my formulas... I even thought about selling some of my formulas to Lush...  but I never dreamed there was actually a way I could create my own bath bombs.

Well, after making the first batch I can say that it is not the easiest process in the world.  The mixture is a bit tempermental and the moisture content is difficult to get right on the first try.   It's going to be hard to decide exactly how much essential oil blend to use, since the fragrance oils that came in the kit behave so much differently.  Then there's the very challenging task of figuring out how to add the honey center for my famous Cleopatra bath blend.  But, while milling over all of the apparent challenges, I have come up with some fantastic ideas.  I will be working on perfecting my formulas/mixtures, working on my molding technique and will be coming out with at least one perfected bath bomb to unveil to the world by the end of the week.  I will also be creating a website to showcase my creations, doing a lot of design work, and figuring out the pricing structure. 

During the creation process, I will actually get to take baths for "work"... how totally awesome is that?!?!?  My daughters are extemely excited... Lush bath bombs get expensive and they have not been allowed to invade my stash.  Now they will not only be allowed, but encouraged to test the bombs I'm making.  I will not be releasing anything until it is absolutely incredible... the perfectionist that resides within me simply won't allow it.  My frame of reference is the best brand on the market, so I've got quite a lofty goal, but I think I can accomplish it!

For now, here's a peek at my first attempt.  These are Sugar Cookie scented bombs from a kit I purchased from Lathers and Lotions (a company I found on Facebook).  They turned out pretty good for a first try and look almost identical to the Lush bombs.  Now I'm off to take a bath and see how they hold up in the tub... it will be the ultimate test.  I'll let you know tomorrow how it all went.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The great E-reader debate

For starters, let me sy that this is not a blog comparing e-readers.  I don't have enough knowledge about most of them to provide the necessary information and I really don't have the desire to research it all.  That said, I have been investigating e-readers for my own personal use and have to admit I am still utterly confused, but close to a decision.  Those who know me well may be very surprised to hear that I am considering an e-reader purchase.  I do a lot of reading in the bath and this is obviously NOT a good reason to get an e-reader... water and electronics don't mix well at all!  However, I also do a lot of reading out of the bath.  I have also suddenly found myself with an unusually large amount of ebooks (most in pdf format) that I would like to read.  Since I prefer paper format, I have usually printed these books out and read the hard copy, but with so many books in my que this is very environmentally unfriendly and just not practical.  With the weather starting to get nicer, I don't want to be stuck indoors reading while the warm sun calls to me through my window either... so what's a girl to do?  The answer... get an e-reader so I can take my books and blanket out into the sunshine and catch up on all my reading wherever I want to be instead of tethered to my laptop (which has a limited battery life not conducive to lots of outdoor reading).

I have narrowed down my choices to the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.  Both have features that I would find useful.  Both allow you to read pdf files, both have expansion slots available, similar price points and a large selection of titles available.  One advantage of the Kindle is the read aloud feature on pdf files.  I love this idea in theory, but I'm not sure it's something I want in reality.  Sure, it would be really nice to have my e-reader reading me a book out loud while I wash dishes, do the laundry, or drive in the car, but would I really use it?  I usually like to listen to music while doing those tasks and I'm sure my iPod plays music better than any of these e-reader devices (which all support mp3 files BTW).  Plus, I can always plug in my laptop and have pdf book read to me directly from Adobe reader.  The other advantage is that the Kindle's wireless connectivity seems to be more versitile allowing you to download ebooks at many more locations.  Both of these readers require you to get books in their specific format, although the Nook allows you to share your ebooks with another Nook user for 14 days (nice little extra feature if I knew anyone else with one of these things... which I don't).  The kindle has a hardware keyboard, while the Nook has a touch-screen keyboard.  They both have a dictionary feature... yippee... no lugging that big book around when I'm reading complex subjects.  They both have hundreds of thousands of free books and allow you to read newspapers and magazines.  Yikes... such a tough choice!  I guess I just need to let this one sit for a few days and let my mind sort it all out.  I'm sure I will end up with something I really like no matter which one I choose.

Bottom line, I really just need to make some kind of decision before the weather gets nicer.  I will also be able to clear out a lot of my extensive book collection (which is starting to take over the house).  It would definately be easier to have some of these titles in elecronic format (especially books I usually use for reference since the readers have the ability to highlight and annotate) and it would take up a lot less space.  So, soon I will be taking the plunge and getting myself an e-reader.  Do any of you have any thoughts on the matter?  I'd love to hear them, especially if you have used one of these devices before!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How to avoid sharing and not be rude!

I am really good at not participating in the sharing of those random cold germs that seem to circulate through kids, friends, family, etc this time of year and I'd like to share my methods with everyone.  To avoid any future unpleasant legal issues, I will start by saying I am not a doctor, have never studied medicine, and don't intend the following information to be considered medical advice.  If you are truly sick, please go see a medical professional and if you are currently under a doctor's care, please check with them before trying anything suggested by me or anyone else.

I have personally used aromatherapy and natural remedies in my home for me and my kids for over a decade and have learned a few things through tiral and error along the way.  Cold season is in full swing right now and I have been surrounded by germy individuals anxious to share their wonderful state of anti-health with me for over a month now.  The problem is, I like these people.  I don't want to treat them like they have the plague, even if that's the case.  I am not the obsessive mom who makes her kids wash their hands 80 times a day and I don't usually avoid sick people (unless I'm looking for a convenient excuse to avoid them anyway).  SO how do I keep from getting sick all the time?  Read on to find out.

First, I should mention that my constant exposure to germs of all varieties has enabled me to build up a lot of natural resistance.  Then, let me add that I am not always successful and I do usually get sick about once a year, but it's usually less severe and shorter than most people I know.  I also do not get annual flu shots.  If someone is sick in my house I use a diffuser to burn Eucalytus essential oil.  This kills most basic germs when they hit the air (or so I've been told) and helps prevent germ transfer between those of us trapped in the house.  I also blow my nose quite frequently (for me that's a couple times a day), even when I don't need to.  Your nose hairs are designed to keep icky things floating around in the air out of your body.  Cleaning your nose out regularly helps get that stuff away from your body entirely.

If I notice I'm starting to get symptoms I take aggressive action.  I take extra vitamin C and add lots of water (and sometimes vitamin water... but watch for vitamin overdose if you do... monitor carefully) to my daily diet. I also add 1-2 extra hours of sleep each night (or in the form of an afternoon nap) to allow my body time to heal me in the way it was designed to.  I also add about an ounce of really high quality, very dark chocolate (which is full of antioxidents) every 4-6 hours.  The chocolate is especially useful if you have a sore throat or cough.  In fact, it will keep a cough at bay without any other type of medical aid.  Also, I avoid refined sugar, which can irritate the throat in a big way.  If I'm feeling sick to my stomach I will chomp on a couple peppermint altoids and stick to low acid, bland foods until the feeling subsides.  I'm not a big fan of tea, but if I'm really feeling icky I may add some herbal tea (caffine doesn't bother me, but you might want to go with caffine-free) with lemon and honey.  I also try to take daily hot, steamy baths and avoid too much exposure to cold weather. 

All the above combines to make a very effective attack against all those germs circulating everywhere.  By taking good care of myself, I also avoid sharing annoying colds and flus with people around me.  I'm pretty sure they don't view my not sharing as rude in the least!  I can still kiss my boyfriend when he has a cold, hug my kids to make them feel better, allow the kids to hang out in my room all they want, etc. and not worry too much about catching anything.  Give these things a try next time you feel a cold or flu coming on... maybe they will help you as well.

You can get vitamins, fine dark chocolate and aromatherapy products online if you can't drag yourself out of the house to find them locally :)

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Friday, February 26, 2010

My Car vs the DMV... I think my car is possessed!

 My car has a mind of it's own and apparently it has made up it's mind that it does not want a valid license plate.  It has been battling with the Seretary of State's (SOS) office, License Plate Division, since I bought it almost a year and a half ago and apprently is not ready to give up the fight quite yet. 

In September of 2009, I managed to kill my 11-year old minivan by trying to drive it through a large body of water... I know... not a smart idea.  Later that week, after all attempts to revive the minivan had been unsuccessful, I purchased my seafoam green 5-year old Chevy Trailblazer.  The death of the minivan and subsequent purchase of the Trailblazer occured two states away from home and it was an enlightening experience in many ways.  But that's not what our little story here is about.  This is the story of what my Trailblazer has been up to since that time.

Since I bought the car in another state they told me it could take up to a month to get the title transfered to my state.  They gave me a temporary plate from the dealer that was set to expire one month from the purchase date of the car.  A week later my boyfriend bought a car and got his plates that same day... I was so jealous!  A month came and went and there had apparently been no progress made on the title transfer... it was bogged down in red tape somewhere in one of the state offices.  This didn't bother me much, except that my temporary plate had the expiration date written on it in big giant black marker and I really didn't want to get pulled over.  So, I called the dealer and asked for a new temporary plate.  That is when the fun began.  The dealer said they couldn't give me a new plate because that would be illegal and assured me that they had sent everything to my State office and it should all be resolved shortly.  This didn't sit too well with me, so I went to my local Department of Motor Vehicles (ah, the DMV... always a fun errand) to find out what the State was doing with my title (my first assumption was paper airplanes, but I still can't confirm this).  The DMV told me it could take several months to process everything and that the dealer had to give me a new temporary plate.  The popular rock and hard place saying was now coming to mind.  Fortunately, the people at the DMV were being especially helpful that day and called the dealer for me.  They arranged for me to get a new temporary plate (which I had to drive to the dealer, 2 states away, to get) and said everything would be fine.. until next month. 

This headache went on for over three months before the title was finally transfered and I was able to apply for real license plates.  Everytime I looked at my temporary plates, I got the feeling the car was giggling at me, but that would be crazy on my part, so I ignored it.  I got the license plates, installed them on my car and went on my happy, carefree way.

One week after getting my plates, I went to get in my car after working a full day to find it sitting there without license plates.  They had vanished while I was at work... mounting hardware included.  At this point, I think the car was out and out laughing at me, but I would get this fixed one way or another. 

The next day, I spent my lunch hour at the DMV getting a set of replacement plates with a new number.  These replacement plates have now been on my car for a year... which means they must be renewed.  You can renew license plates at any currency exchange around here, so I went to the closest one last Friday to get my renewal sticker.  Unfortunately, they were unable to find my current plate number in the system.  My old (disappeared) plate number was still in there, but since that wasn't the plate on the car they weren't able to renew anything.  I was going to have to head back to the DMV to get things corrected... yippee!

I drove to the DMV first thing Saturday morning.  You see, I had forgotten to get them renewed in time and my plates were 2 weeks overdue and now that I found out they were invalid, I was a little paranoid driving the car around.  If I got pulled over it would mean a huge headache and probably a court visit.  Upon arrival at the DMV Saturday morning, I discovered that Saturday was Washington's Birthday, which the DMV feels compelled to close for, despite the fact that they had already taken Lincoln's Birthday and President's Day off.  This means an entire weekend of driving around in a car with non-existant, invalid plates... not my idea of fun.

Today, I was finally able to get back to the DMV to get this corrected.  I had been there so much last year that the woman remembered me by name!  She and I had a good laugh about my car not wanting license plates and she said it would be easy to fix and I would be out the door in 5 minutes.  She updated my plate info, handed me a paper to take to the cashier and told me to come back to her after I paid so we could verify that the new plate was in the system.  You may think at this point that the DMV has finally outsmarted my car, but think again.  When I got to the cashier I was told they couldn't process the renewal because my car needed an emissions test!  The cashier said the first person I talked to could probably get me an extension and to go back and ask her.  Well,  to make a long story short (at this point that might not be possible), the computers on one side of the room at the DMV thought my car needed an emissions test, while the computers on the other side of the room disagreed.  I could see my car out the window grinning, thinking it had finally won.  After numerous trips back and forth across the room with various levels of supervisors, they finally called the main office in our state capitol and had to remove me entirely from the system and put me back in.  What should have taken 5 minutes had now taken almost an hour, but the DMV and I had finally beaten my car.  I rushed outside with my victory renewal sticker and placed it on the rear license plate.  I was finally driving a legally licensed car... a filthy legally licensed car.... I really needed to get it washed.

So, after all my turmoil at the DMV, I took my car over to the carwash to get spiffed up.  This particular car wash lets you sit in the driver's seat as your car is pulled through the tunnel and cleaned by various forms of hanging clothes and squirting water.  At the end of the tunnel there is a huge dryer your car passes through before exiting the car wash.  Just as I was getting to the dryer, I watched  from inside the car as my front license plate shot off the front of my car, arching high in the air like a projectile missile, before landing about 20 feet ahead of me.  This was just too much!  The car wash attendant handed me the plate through my window exclaiming, "You car must really not like it's license plates.  I've never seen that happen.  Usually if they fall off they just fall straight down but yours rocketed off the front of your car like it was shot from a cannon!"  I was too busy dissolving into fits of laughter to answer... if he only knew!

Tonight my car sits in the garage.  The front license plate is still inside the car on the passenger seat and I am sure my car is currently plotting the removal of the rear plate as well.  The DMV and I may have had a brief victory today, but my possessed car seems to be winning the war.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Shamrock" Shakes for the Dairy-free Crowd

Malcolm and Jordan both love McDonald's Shamrock shakes (actually, so do all of us in the family), but less than half of a small shake has their dairy allergy causing their bodies to cry out in despair. I set out to try and find an alternative that I can make to help them get through this time of year and still be able to enjoy the shakes right along with us. Here are the 2 recipes (I like the second better, but it isn't exactly kid friendly)... it serves 2.

RECIPE 1 (Kid-friendly)

2 cups vanilla soy ice cream
1 1/4 cups soy milk
1/4 teaspoon mint extract
8 drops green food coloring

RECIPE 2 (Adults only)

2 cups vanilla soy ice cream
10 oz. Mint Liqueur
8 drops green food coloring

For both recipes: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I take offense to the fact that you're offended

Why do we do it?  Why do we personalize every little thing others say and find ways to take offense in each little word they utter?  Are we that bored in our lives that we have nothing better to do than pick apart the comments of others?  Perhaps it's unavoidable... perhaps we have to be offended all the time, about everything... but perhaps we don't?  I'm back on my soapbox today and now, I'm offended.  I'm offended that everyone else is offended.

Our current society celebrates the offensive.  Look at TV ratings and movie ticket sales... Americans (I'm from America, so I'm sticking to what I know) are obsessed with the offensive.  We celebrate the Simpsons, Family Guy, Jerry Springer, etc.  The more offensive they get, the more of us watch.   We create falsely dramatic reality tv shows that cause us to ignore our own reality to run home and watch to see what the most obnoxios individuals will do this week.  We celebrate movies as hilarious that can't offer any form of intelligence, only explicit language and body, sex and fart humor.  I hear a lot of people say show like the Simpsons are extremely brilliant... bullshit... it's writers simply have to look at what will offend the most people on any given day to get them the good ratings.

I think I should clarify here that I am not including myself in this "us/we"... I actually choose NOT to watch these types of shows.  It's not that I find them shocking or horrifying, it's that I simply don't find them funny or entertaining at all.  I also see these types of shows as being a huge problem for our society in general.

Despite the fact, that we should be completely desensitized to this offensiveness with it being thrust in our face at every turn, we seem to be becoming more sensitive to it instead.  It's no wonder the world is in constant turmoil and we are currently going through a global crisis.  Religious groups find reasons to be offended by eachother... usually focusing on a moment in history so long ago that we can't even name a single one of our ancestors that was involved.  Races find reasons to offend eachother... again based on history, although sometimes more recent, and acts that the person you're talking to likely had nothing to do with.  Countries find eachother intollerable and offensive.... it is no longer ok for a country we can't stand to exist in their own space... with the globe being so accessible, we can now offend eachother from halfway around the world in an instant.  Political groups no longer simply disagree, they offend.  Men offend women and vice versa.  Companies whose practices and policies we don't agree with are now offensive to us on an individual level. 

Herein lies the problem. It's not usually personal, and yet people have become so quick to internalize these things and take on a personal crusade to abolish that which they now find offensive.  In a world with so much trouble, do we really need to use every potential catalyst to stir up more?  I prefer not to.  It's actually pretty difficult to offend me.  I try to avoid interjecting things in my life that will cause to me to be offended.  I also try not to personalize things unless they are meant to be personal.  If someone says something offensive to me, I will call them on it.  If they make a comment I don't agree with, I may debate it (sometimes at length), but I will not be offended unless the debate turns personal.  Some things just aren't meant to be personal.  In this time of global interconnectedness, it's usally easy to use cyclical thinking to say that something is personal that really isn't. 

I'm going to give a recent example that many people will probably try to argue with me about.... AIG and their corporate salaries and bonuses.  Many people would say that AIG giving out huge corporate salaries while accepting federal aid is offensive.  They would argue that it is their tax dollars and is therefore personal to them.  They will read into this occurance until they find a reason to be offended.  And why shouldn't they?  The news media told us repeatedly that we should be offended.  Politicians who were against the bail out remind us constantly how offensive these salaries and bonuses are to each of us.  So how can I use this as an example and say I don't find it offensive... easy... I'm not offended.  Yes, I pay those same taxes, but the amount of my tax dollars that went to AIG would probably not amount to 1 dinner for my family.  Plus, AIG is a corporation... one I wouldn't mind working for if they're paying so well.  As for the government officials who made the choice... I'm a registered voter and US citizen and I have the power to vote them out of office, run for office myself, and even to campaign to get someone I believe in elected.  The AIG mess is a definate point of debate.  In my opinion it was not a wise move to loan them money without more restrictions.  It's just not offensive.

If we want this world to be a better place, we need to stop focusing so much on the offensive and focus on not offending.  Let's move towards being part of the solution instead of adding more ammunition to the problem.  Next time something offends you, think about how it personally effects you and if it doesn't, find a way to turn that false feeling of offense into positive action.  Instead of being the one bitching about the problem, be one of the few working to come up with a solution.  Listen to other points of view, debate the issue, and discuss the merits of your agruements.  We have far more potential if we work to understand others instead of rushing to be offended by them.

As I close out this little moment of venting on my soapbox, I would like to say that the title and beginning of this blog are wrong.  I am not actually offended by people who are offended.  It just occured to me that people who are always offended would look for more reasons to be offended and be more likely to read my point of view on the matter.  You control how you respond to any given situation ofr stimulous.  Do you really want to pend your entire life feeling offended by people, places and things?  You get back the type of energy you put into the world... make it happy and positive if you want a happy and positive life.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The golden hippo on a red velvet pillow can make you happy

Have you ever talked to someone who was so down in the dumps that you just couldn't bring them out of their blue mood?  Next time, try the "Golden hippo on a red velvet pillow" meditation.  I know right now many of you are thinking, "What the ____ (<--fill in the blank)?"  Well, this is just a little meditation technique that I developed that is guaranteed to get anyone out of a bad mood.  It has never failed me yet.  It works like this...

You start by telling your upset friend that you are going to help improve their mood with a little guided meditation.  You must say this in all seriousness and must remain completely serious throughout... no matter how much you might want to laugh.  Of course, using a really dramatic tone can help too.  Tell them to close their eyes and try to picture what you are saying.  Begin with, "I want you to visualize a gigantic golden hippo laying on a teeny weeny red velvet pillow..." 

If they aren't giggling at this point, continue adding as many obscure and strange references as they occur to you.  For example, "... while an angry pink and purple zebra feeds the hippo caramel grapes and a small monkey in a shriner's hat dances on it's head... and then suddenly in come the dancing strawberry bananas wearing whipped cream covered bath poufs as hats... stay with me, keep picturing all of this in your head... you hear a commotion coming from the back of a square circle and look up to see green tofu falling from the ceiling like orange snowflakes...."  You get the idea. 

Make your descriptions as far fetched, strange and unconnected as possible.  Add as many descriptive words as possible to make it easier to visualize, but don't use the usual descriptions... notice in the example above that the zebra isn't black and white, it's pink and purple.  The sheer absurdity of this will at least get someone out of a bad mood, if not have them rolling on the floor laughing.  The next time they're in a bad mood, just mentioning the "Golden hippo on a red velvet pillow" meditation will get them in a better mood.  If it doesn't, start all over again from scratch.  They will already be thinking of all the absurd things you said last time and it will work that much faster.

Give it a try next time a friend is in a bad mood (or try it on yourself to boost your mood) and experience for yourself the true genius of the huge golden hippo laying on a teeny tiny red velvet pillow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day

Sometimes I wonder if I am the only female on the planet in a relationship who doesn't celebrate Valentine's Day.  I've never been a big fan.  Previously this has been a problem when I'm involved with someone, but I've finally found someone who also doesn't celebrate... although for much different reasons.  I watch my female friends  spend this time of the dropping hints everywhere their significant other might look about what gift would suitably express love... usually over-priced item that they will forget about before the beginning of March.  I also watch in silent amusement as many couples plan weekend retreats to romantic destinations... and get upset if everything doesn't turn out perfect.  I walk through seas of pink and red stuffed animals and chocolate boxes in every store I go to.  This year I can add that I am bombarded by Valentine's themed stuff online, especially on Facebook.  Am I complaining?  No.  I'm actually happy at this time of year for my friends who celebrate this holiday by cramming a years worth of romance into a 24-hour period.  I feel sympathy for the friends who aren't with someone and feel pressured at this time of year too.  I just choose not to take part in the hoopla.

If you've read this far you're probably wondering why I don't celebrate this mass hysteria day of red hearts, roses and chocolate.  I'm guessing you've come to the conclusion that I'm bitter, alone, have been hurt deeply or don't have a romantic bone in my body.  I assure you, none of these assumptions are correct.  I enjoy romance every bit as much as anyone else.  I relish the thought of romantic getaways with the man I love, scented rose petals, candles, frilly red lingerie, love themed cards and all the rest of it.  I'm not bitter about love and I'm with someone I love with all my heart.  I just believe that if you love someone, your expressions of that love should happen all the time, throughout the entire year, when the thought comes to you. 

In the past I've had a lot of guys say I would make the perfect girlfriend since they wouldn't have to celebrate Valentine's Day, but actually my way is harder.  In my world, every day is Valentine's Day.  Every day bring opportunities to express your love for the human being you've choosen to spend your life with.  If the idea occurs to you one day to bring that someone flowers, you should not have to wait for a Hallmark holiday to do it.  I expect little gestures of thoughtfulness and romance all the time.  It's easy to let someone off the hook for Valentine's Day when they express their love throughout the year.  There's no pressure that way to be romantic on a specific calendar day.  What if you're having a bad day, not in the mood, tired or cranky?  I prefer romantic gestures to come from the heart, and they don't have to be anything big.  It could be as simple as getting up to start the coffee maker because I'm not fully awake yet, or lighting me a cigarette when he lights one for himself, or turning off the tv and lighting a couple candles, or surprising me by hiding a card in my car where he knows I'll find it.  These are the things that make a love last through the years.  The big "love" holidays are nothing more than something to gossip about with your friends when you're comparing who's man is better than the rest.  By the way... I always win that arguement.  It seems that most of my friends who have big celebrations of love on anniversaries and romantic holidays don't get the daily expressions of love.  They get a day of forced romance that is then used to get out of any sort of romantic gesture for the remainder of the year.

So I will smile and bite my tongue and let my friends enjoy their special day... and who knows, we may do something romantic that day also if we're in the mood to, but I won't force or schedule it.  Hallmark doesn't run my life... I do!

For those of you who do celebrate, here are a few gift ideas to help you out. For those of you like me, feel free to use these ideas throughout the year!

For Flowers: Send Valentine's Day flowers & gifts from 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, order early & save!

For Jewelry: Fine Jewelry

If you can't cook and need food delivered: Just point, click and eat!

For romantic bath products and towels: Bath and Body Products at Apothica! and Great Gift Idea-Monogram Towels from TurkishTowels.com

And of course let's not forget chocolate: Find the Perfect Valentine's Day Gift at Chocolate.com

And for those who don't have a date yet, there's always Match.com: 5 Days Free with Match.com or Put Personalized Matching to Work for You

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Malcolm's Soon-to-be-Famous Ham & Beans (with a Becky Twist!)

I posted this recipe for my friends on Facebook and decided to also share it with my blog readers too.  This tastes absolutely amazing!!!  You will need a 6-quart crock pot for this... minimum... and it will be totally full! This makes enough for at least 3 meals for a family of 4 and costs under $10 total! :)

INGREDIENTS:
1 small pkg each black beans, great northern white beans, red kidney beans (can also subsitute pinto, navy or any other favorite type of beans)
5 tsp powdered ham boullion (use beef if you can't find ham)
1 pound thick cut bacon (cut into 1" sqauare pieces)
1 pound cooked ham (cubed)
6 oz sliced shitake mushrooms
1 yellow onion (diced)
4-5 red potatoes (peeled and diced) <-- these are important!  They cut down the fart-factor after eating so many beans and make it possible to still hang out with the people you ate with... without nose plugs!!!

DIRECTIONS:
1. Prepare beans. You can either follow the package directions or use the quick prepare method. To quick prepare, place all beans together in a large pot, fill with water, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and boil 1 hour.
2. Drain beans and place in crock pot with about 6 cups of water (leave about 2 inches room on the top) and boullion.
3. Heat in crock pot on high several hours (4-8)
4. Add remaining ingredients, stir and recover. Note: bacon can be put in raw as it will cook through very quickly in the hot water.
5. Turn crock pot down to low and cook another 8-12 hours.

Serve with warm corn bread smothered in butter (or non-dairy butter substitute in our house) and honey.  I also like to sprinkle shredded parmesan cheese on my ham & beans (and sometimes on the cornbread instead of honey).


Friday, February 5, 2010

Hush... don't tell a soul!

I started this blog a little over a month ago and made it public right off the bat.  People have been reading it and quite a few of you seem to like the way I put words together.. although I'm not sure I really do it any better than anyone else.  I am, however, noticing an interesting trend.  Depsite the fact that this blog is public (yep... anyone in the world with a computer and internet connection can read it), most of the comments and critiques have been private.  Now, I'm not telling you guys to stop sending me your thoughts that way if you're more comfortable... I enjoy reading them all... but I wanted to take the opportunity to let you all know that you are welcome to comment here as well.  

I have a little announcement to all of you who have kept up this far, or those who are just finding me for the first time.  I am going to attempt to write a book.  I have no idea about what yet, but I'll let you know as the process unfolds.  Because this is a daunting  process for me, I'm sure I'll be back here venting soon. I will also be doing a lot of writing outside the blog though, so please be patient if you don't see as many posts for a while.

Making a descision was my big task for the day.  Now that it's accomplished, I am off to enjoy Super Bowl weekend and let potential book topics roam around my skull for a few days. 

One last thing... GO COLTS!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A feeling of interconnectedness... aka the universe tapping your shoulder and saying, "Yeah... that's the way to go!"

The feeling that I'm on the right path is getting stronger every day this week and now it seems the universe wants to let me know I'm on the right track... to where... I still have no idea!  This week has been amazing, but to fully understand it, I've got to go back to the beginning... when I was maybe 5 or 6.  Don't worry, I won't take all day... there are a few bruised knees I won't bother mentioning.  You don't necessarily have to follow along, but I need to really see the progression for myself... so come with me if you'd like.

When I was very young, I had a really good friend.  She had this older brother who was kind of a pain in the butt and not the nicest brother I've ever met.  He became obsessed with music very early on and finally stopped throwing pebbles at us and I (for reasons I couldn't fathom at the time) missed the attention.  Of course I still thought boys had cooties, but if they ever found a cure... he was the one I wanted to hang out with. :)  It was one of my first memorable crushes.  It was also one I never mentioned.... not ever... to anyone!  I was sure the little men in white coats would come take me away if anyone ever knew I had a crush... on a boy!!! 

Flash forward to college.  Music has been a steady part of my life and is now one of my minors.  I am immersed in the world of arts in a way I never have been before and loving it.  My taste in boys has changed drastically and although I appreciate musical talent, I don't want to date musicians... they're strange after all!  The boy from my childhood has vanished completely from memory and... good news... there are male business majors as far as the eye can see.  I get involved with the college radio station (and a few of those business majors in my spare time) and discover genres of music I didn't even know existed.  I am comletely in my element... except I hate school.  I had wanted to go to an arts school and ended up at a 4-year university instead.  My parents had told me this was a compromise, but I saw right through that!

Flash forward again to last year... see... I told you it would be quick.  I now have 4 kids, a man I love, a "career" as an administrative assistant that is going well but leaving me completely unfulfilled and a Facebook page. I got the Facebook page to reconnect with some high school friends... our 20th reunion is coming up.  I reconnect with my childhood friend (who is just as beautiful inside and out) and her brother (who has gone on to have an amazingly successful career on the business side of the music industry) on Facebook.  Don't worry... this isn't going to become some horrid Maury first-love reunion... the crush is gone and I have no designs on the brother whatsoever!  All I can say is that he has turned out to be a nice guy and we've had a few quick and extremely plutonic correspondences in the last year.

Then the unthinkable happens and I get laid off.  I say  unthinkable because I'd never been laid off before and never considered that to be a possibility.  But, I tend to look at these kind of things as the universe kicking my butt into gear and saying "it's time for you to get moving in another direction"... so I'm not too upset.  I do however wish the universe would be kind enough to provide a map when it does this, as I'm not accusomed to wandering blindly in the dark.  But with no map, no compass, no direction... I head out into the unknown.  And here is where I've been for the last 8 months.

These past couple weeks, the universe has taken pity on me and decided to at least provide a few signs that I am on the correct path.  I now believe the universe sent me that first crush so I would take notice all those years ago and remember this other human being (my friend's brother), because he is pivotal in all that has happened recently.  It is through him that I learned about the webinar series I'm attending.  Through the webinar, I have met some amazing individuals that actually think like me (sorry to you all... there is no known cure and I'm pretty sure it's worse than cooties).  Then tonight the real coincidences hit... cue the Twilight Zone music!!!  I met an individual through a post by the webinar hosts... who knows a friend of mine (who has nothing to do with the webinar series) that I know through my boyfriend... and who also somehow knows my friend's brother... and who also writes poetry (like I do) and plays music... and finally, who I am strangly feeling I was somehow meant to meet.  Again, there is no romance here... he is married and I am with the man of my dreams... but somehow all these unrelated pieces of my life are fitting together in a way they never have before and that is making me sit up and take some notice.

I don't understand how any of this relates to my path and I have no idea if any of the people mentioned here will continue to accompany my journey, but somehow this amazing interconnectedness has given me hope that the destination of my journey will be made clear to me sooner rather than later.  I now have the universal awareness that things are coming together... the path is right... and for the first time in a long time I am no longer afraid of what is ahead.  Bring it on!!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

And now things start to come together

I can feel things coming together, but I can't yet put my finger on how.  My focus is shifting in a direction I am completely unfamiliar with, but excited and intrigued by.  That tells me that this must be a direction I am supposed to head... so I'm on the right track... but to where?  I have been searching for something meaningful to do with my life.  I've been presenting this question to the universe (and the online commmunity through my blog) and opportunities have come into my path that I had not expected but took the initiative to follow.

I am spending two weeks (last week and this week) immersing myself in an amazing well of inspiration.  As a result, I have engaged others more, offered to help in ways I might not have before, written more (a passion I had as a child and abandon long ago) and gotten into discussions I would normally avoid.  The experience has been liberating in many ways and I know I must follow this path to find what I am meant to be doing with my life in the near future.

I'm not a very spontaneous person, although some would argue otherwise.  For example, when I killed my car by trying to drive through a flooded area last year (I know... not smart Becky!!!), I went and bought a new (used, but new to me) car the next day.  Many people would call this spontaneous.  What they wouldn't know is that my old car was 13 years old with over 100,000 miles on it.  I had been thinking about a new car for several years... analyzing precisely what I wanted and didn't want.  When I went car shopping that day I had a very specific list and ended up with exactly what I wanted.  The same was true of buying a new phone.  I knew ahead of time what I wanted and didn't want and when my phone died, I bought a new one the very same day that was exactly what I wanted (ok... almost... I do still want an iPhone someday).  My point being, that although I seem impulsive and spontaneous, most of what I do in life is very deliberate, planned and well thought out.

So I guess this is my period of analyzing.  I am filling my head with knowledge, ideas, inspirations that will enevitably lead me to make a very deliberate descision... although it may seem rash to those of you following along.  I assure you it will not be.  The thing about being such a definative person though is that it's really scary for me to be in this period of uncertainty.  I don't like not knowing what's coming down the line.  I knew I would soon need a new car and a new phone... this is different.  This is like walking through a dark tunnel hoping to find a way out at the end... and I'm frightened, but at the same time excited.  It's so hard to explain the multitude of feelings running around inside me right now.

I am not looking for answers yet.... it's too soon.  But I thought this might help some of you who are lost on your journey through life understand that you are not alone.  At times we all feel the uncertainty, confusion, anticipation and expectation of what is ahead for us.  Hang in there though... the end of the tunnel is fast approaching and we need to be ready to walk out into the glorious sunlight!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Impossible vs. Inconvenient and the element of Personal Choice

As you have read previously, I am attending a webinar this week entitled The Millionaire Affair (http://themillionaireaffair.com/).  Each day we are treated to an interactive presentation from a successful entrepreneur.  I will be writing a summary of yesterday's wonderful speaker, Wendy Moore, in my next post... but first there is something I just have to get out of my head. 

The first day of the series, everything went wrong and yet the experience was wonderful... so wonderful that I wrote a blog post about the unexpected lesson in failure ( http://abysstales.blogspot.com/2010/01/unexpected-lesson-in-failure.html ).  Later that night, I was talking to a friend about my wonderful, positive experience and something happened.  She got very negative and defensive.  Now, I'm not writing about this to bash her in any way... I understand completely where she was coming from (many people fall into the same pattern)... but it's been on my mind ever since and I wanted to get those thoughts out of my skull and into the world where they might be more useful.

What she said (not an exact quote, just the general idea) was, "I saw that webinar event on your Facebook page and wanted to go too, but they scheduled it at such an inconvient time that it's impossible for me to do it because I have to work.  You should tell them that next time they should schedule it at a more convenient time so more people can go."

Impossible... inconvient... and apparently not fair to everyone!   But what I said that night and will expand upon here, is that it was possible for her (and anyone else in the world) to attend and she had choosen not to.  You see, this webinar is an opportunity.  It could have been held on a weekend in a convention hall in Vegas at $1000+ per attendee based on the presenters and the worth of the information they are providing.  Instead, it is being broadcast to a global audience for FREE... online... one hour a day... for 2 weeks.  That's actually a lot more convenient for most people.  It is definately possible to make adjustments in a schedule to accomodate at least one or two of these presentations, even if you can't attend them all.  It is maybe even possible to convince your boss that it would be valuable to them as your employer to alter your schedule a little to let you gain the knowledge these individuals have to share... thus making you a more educated and valuable employee.  It is a personal choice not to even try.

Opportunities come into our lives every day, yet they are usually inconvenient or seem impossible to take advantage of, so we grumble and groan about the opportunity passing us by and how the good life is out of reach for us.  That does not have to be the case.  We each make the personal choice whether or not to make that opportunity a priority.  If it becomes a priority, then we will go to great lengths to rearrange our life to make it a possibility.  Once in opportunity becomes a possibility, we can turn it into the potential for growth and perhaps it will be what you look back on as the opportunity of your lifetime.  One of the biggest differences between those who are living their lives on their own terms and the people that grumble about how unfair things in life are, is the ability to prioritze and choose things based on those priorities.

You make thousands of choices every day on how to spend your time, money, thoughts, etc.  You make these choices based on what is important for you in your life.  Accepting that you have the control over these choices is the first step on the road to making your life what you want it to be.  When an opportunity comes along you need to put it to the test.  Will it benefit you?  Is it aligned with your long term goals?  Is it more important than another obligation you have at that same time?  If it is of equal importance, can you rearrange things to take advantage of both?  Is it perhaps a better opportunity for someone you know (if so... pass it along!!)?  There are many things to consider when an opportunity presents itself but is inconvenient, but the first thing to recognize is it would never come across your path if it was impossible... no matter how inconvenient it may be.  Sometimes you just need to get creative in order to get to the door to open it when opportunity knocks. 

If you didn't take advantage of an opportunity, maybe it just wasn't important enough to your life for you to make it a priority... not every opportunity is right for everyone.  Keep on the lookout for the next one.  In the mean time, get to know yourself and your goals well enough to be able to prioritize the things that are most important in your own life... then you won't be so quick to want to follow someone else's life choices and feel bad when you don't.  We all have to walk our own path in life, and though we may walk together at times, none of us are on the same path.  Find your path and make sure to take advantage of the opportunities that will help you along your way.. no matter how inconvenient or impossible they may seem.

If you found this discussion interesting, you will enjoy a blog post by Derek Sivers.  He will be our presenter on Thursday and posted a blog today about how there are always more than two options.  It follows along the lines of what I have been thinking for the past 2 days...  http://sivers.org/options

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Invasion of privacy vs. good parenting

This issue is becoming more and more popular and I'm not entirely sure why.  People are arguing that it is an invasion of privacy to read texts on your kids' phones, check out their Facebook/MySpace pages, check out their call logs on the cells.  Since when?!?!  I am their parent; I provide these technological gizmos; and it's my job to help them use them in a somewhat responsible manner.  Now, I'm advocating helicopter parenting here, or sneaking around in secret reading your kids' diary, just common sense and a little parental monitoring to keep our kids safe. 

Here's how things work in my house, perhaps you'll find something that will help you decide how things will work in yours. 

CELL PHONES: I have 4 kids (ages 11-14).  These 4 kids share 2 cell phones.  When I gave them the cell phones they had unlimited texting and very limited minutes for calling.  They knew from the time I gave them the phones that at any minute I might ask to see those phones.  I do this maybe once every couple months... at completely random times.  I will simply say, "Text check time... give me your phone."  They hand over the phone and I read through the texts on there.  What I'm looking for are red flags to dangerous situations or major issues.  I'm not monitoring their language (which is usually worse than a sailor's), or making judgements on the humerous forwards they receive and send, or limiting their ability to be themselves in their texts.  If I see something that concerns me, we'll talk about it... for example, why it might not be a good idea for one of my daughters to send a majorly sexual themed forward to a bunch of boys.  I don't get mad... we just talk.  I also update their contact list for my records.  Yes, I keep a list of all their friends' numbers.  If they are ever missing, I will have a great database to look for them...  I don't use these numbers for any other reason.  My kids don't consider this an invasion of their privacy... it is simple one of the things that they have to do in order to use their phone.  I also require them to charge their phones in my room overnight and they are not allowed to take them to school without special permission.  They complain about it once in a while... "We're the only kids that don't get to have a phone in school!", or "But my friends don't start texting until after midnight!".  I can tell you, when I was in school (before cell phones) I was not allowed to use the phone after curfew or leave class to go make a phone call.  It's common sense.  They don't need 24/7 access to this technological tool.

SOCIAL NETWORKS: Then there's online social networks... Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.  I have them all myself and don't think there is anything inherently wrong with them.  There are many people (adults and kids alike) who misuse them and put themselves in danger every day.  It's my opinion that kids need to be taught how to properly use this technology for fun without putting themselves at risk before they leave the safety net of living at home.  My kids are allowed a Facebook page age 14 and (if all goes well) a MySpace page at age 16.  The rules are that I must be added as a friend immediately and I must be given the password (they are allowed to change this without telling me when they turn 18).  I check their pages in the same way I check their cell phones.  I do this right in front of them and we discuss anything that might be of concern.  For example, photos of the girls and their friends that are completely innocent (and adorable), might not be appropriate for the internet.  I teach them to view the photos they post online through the eyes of a 40-year-old pedifile.  I don't care how private you set your profile, this is just plain common sense... and yet it's something they can't really be taught anywhere else.  I caught the kids trying to start MySpace pages early and made sure the grounding was enough to deter them from trying it again.  To them, it just isn't worth the risk... especially since they know I'm periodically monitoring these sites.  But I didn't just yell and ground them.  We discussed in detail why they shouldn't be doing this and in the end, they agreed (or al least... they said they did... lol!).

CREATIVE PUNISHMENTS: My favorite "punishment" is for them to prepare for a debate against me on the issue.  In this debate, I take the kid side and they take the parental side.  In effect, they are trying to convince me (and their siblings... our audience) of why the behavior is not appropriate.  They are grounded until they win the debate.  If they do enough research and convince themselves that something is "wrong", they are much more likely not to go sneaking around to do it and they are armed with arguements to defend themselves against peer pressure.  It's a pretty effective method when dealing with difficult issues.  I also give them option to change house rules in this same way.  They let me know ahead of time and we debate the issue.  If they can convince me the rule should be changed, I will consider it. 

My ultimate job as a parent is to prepare them for the world.  How can they function in the world if I control every aspect of their life and don't let them think for themselves?  It's just not possible.  My kids will fail... they will make mistakes (some that they regret more than others)... they will stumble through obstacles they don't fully understand... and all the while, I will support them and provide a life raft for them to hold on to when the water gets a bit too choppy.  In the end, hopefully they will succeed at becoming the best version of their own individuality and live the lives they were meant to live.

Watch my writing improve... I hope!

I enjoy writing.. always have... but now I want to learn to write better. I picked up two books of writing exercises (one for fiction writing and one for non-fiction) and will be working my way through both of them. My new blog ( http://learningtowriteright.blogspot.com/ ) is where I will be posting my assignments. I am hoping for constructive criticism and critique, so please comment often and help me get better. Post titles will be the name of the exercise from the book... you can read the assignment descriptions from the books... links provided below.

I've just posted my first assignment from the fiction book.  The exercise is called Wedding Pictures.  You are supposed to select a wedding photo and write a fictional story based on that photo.  Hope you enjoy my first stab at this. http://learningtowriteright.blogspot.com/2010/01/assignment-wedding-pictures.html



Monday, January 25, 2010

An unexpected lesson in failure

As you may have read previously, for the next two weeks I am attending a daily webinar titled the millionaire affair.  The event was created and put together by Sue and Steve Soucy who are the event hosts.  Each day a different successful entrepreneur will be having a candid discussion with us about what they've learned along their personal road to success.  Today's presenter was Wendy Moore (from Melbourne, Australia), who was supposed to discuss how to use social media to attract media and build your list.  Yippee... right up my alley!  And then... everything went wrong and it became a lesson of an entirely different sort.

What happens when you plan a webinar, investigate hosting companies, line up busy speakers, perform weeks of testing and then your 400+ person audience crashes the server?  It was an abrupt and absolute meltdown!  A true example of grace under pressure, Sue and Steve did everything in their power to get things up and running again.  They had a chatroom open on Twitter for the event and directed our chat there to take some pressure off the server while they got on the phone with the webhosting company.  Throughout the rest of the hour, the webhosting guy, Sue, Steve, and our guest speaker Wendy all tried to get the system to work.  We were finally given our own dedicated server and 400+ people had to collectively log off and log back in.  In the midst of all this, we guests from all over the world began chatting... mainly about our collective technology issues.  Dispite the fact that we were all disappointed, the mood was positive.  I attribute this to the constant positive communication from our hosts that they were doing all they could and to the reason we were all there.  We all had a common purpose of learning how to improve our lives and therefore, we were all coming at this with a positive attitude.  You don't improve anything by complaining, giving up, or speaking hurtfully to the people trying their best to solve the problem... and AH-HA... that was the real lesson today.

After over an hour, they still hadn't worked out the bugs and rescheduled our most gracious speaker for tomorrow.  Many people left (having other obligations to attend to), but about a third of us hung on... for a total of over 3 hours!  I ended up doing other things as I was listening to them trying to figure out how to prevent this from happening again, but was amazed at their spirit.  They never gave up, they never got mad (not even at the webhosting company guy), they just focused on finding a solution to the problem.  It was wonderful.

I was also impressed that Wendy Moore, our speaker for today (and now tomorrow) stayed on the entire time.  Not only that, but she offered free special online bonuses (items that normally cost money) to those of us who stuck around... as a thank you for our patience and perserverence.  She talked with us one on one and was wonderful and positive through the whole thing... despite the fact that it was her presentation that was affected (and some would say ruined, although I would disagree) by all of this.  I was more impressed by her handling of today's situation that I could possibly have been by any presentation she might have given.  She really cared.  I went to her website (Savvy Web Women Mentoring Program: http://www.1shoppingcart.com/app/?Clk=3505674, Free Bonuses From Savvy Web Women: http://www.1shoppingcart.com/app/?Clk=3505677 ) and signed up immediately for their affiliate program.

Many people view successful individuals today as standoffish or even mean and uncaring.  I know many successful individuals personally and find them all to be extremely personable, friendly and accessible.  It's just that the corporate or social structure doesn't enable them to get out and be as accessible as they may want on a daily basis.  If you really want to learn from these people, you can... but you need to make the effort.  Don't be afraid to contact a particular author or corporate giant.  If you want information badly enough, you just need to be persistent and of course polite... and once you make that contact don't abuse it.  You will be surprised at how much you can learn from these people and how much they really are willing to teach.

Today was not at all what I expected, but by maintaining a positive attitude and hanging in there through it all, I gained lessons it might have taken a lifetime to grasp otherwise and I am so grateful for the experience.  I am looking forward to technologically-glitch-free presentations through the rest of the series, but I am certain I will learn important things every day of this series whether the technology behaves or not.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The little white truck goes round and round!

Tonight was the District Fine Arts Festival for our school district.  The high school, junior high, and elementary schools' choirs, bands and art departments put on a night of fun for all.  It began with a choral concert... all levels combined... that was beautiful.  Then there was the art exhibit in the commons, accompanied by the music teachers' jazz band... awesome.  Finally there was a band concert that was short, but sweet.  My 8th grade daughter is in choir, so we went to see her perform and see the artwork my other kids had contributed.

After the concert we went to Steak and Shake for dinner... me, the kids, and my oldest daughter's boyfriend (who is in HS choir).  It was a fun night at Steak and Shake.  While I was eating (facing the window) I noticed a white truck go through the drive-thru.  The thing that caught my attention was that I could swear that the driver had just been up near the counter area inside the restaurant.  "Well," I thought, "maybe it's just my imagination."  But it was not my imagination when the little white truck drove around the building and through the drive-thru a second time... then a third... then a fourth... then a fifth... until it had gone through the drive through about 15-20 times!!!!  Then, the driver parked and came in.  Turns out he worked there and was on break and messing with his fellow employees.  We had a brilliant idea though... when we left we would go through the drive through... order a drink... then go around again and ask for another straw... then a napkin... then another dirnk... and so on.  I'm sure you get the idea.  Unfortunately, it's a school night and it was getting late, so we decided to put it off for another night.  I'm beginning to think I might not be the best influence on my kids... lol!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Another Offer... The New Droid Phone

Well, I just recieved another offer in my emailbox from my advertisers.  Are any of you thinking of getting a Droid phone?  You've probably seen the commercials with the robot searching for all things human on this phone.  Well, if you have Verison (or want Version), one of my advertisers is offering a free Droid phone for 48 hours for new or existing Verison customers... now is the time to go for it!

Wirefly - Latest Offers

Help! There's a phone in my ear!

There's a new law in Illinois regarding driving and cell phones.  It is now illegal to text on your cell or talk on the phone without using an earpiece while you are driving.  Now, I am all for getting distracted idiots off the road, but I'm not liking this law at all.  First of all, the distracted drivers won't be driving any better because they will either be ignoring the law or distracted by something else.  They will be distracted by the radio, the fancy car on the other side of the road, the adorable kitten in the yard they just passed, etc.  The problem is not the phone... the problem is the person using the phone.  If you are a good driver, you pay attention to hundreds of details while driving... the phone is just one more.  If you are easily distracted while driving, you are an accident waiting to happen... phone or not.

For another thing, I hate cell phone ear pieces.  I see people walking around wearing them all day like they are some kind of new fashion accessory.  People... it is for talking on the phone!  If you aren't talking on the phone take it out of your ear!!!  And I really can't stand when you are in a room with someone and they are talking to someone else on the earpiece.  At least when someone is talking on a handset you can see them holding the phone to their ear and know that they aren't talking to you. 

Today I was driving and noticed a very interesting thing.  As I looked at the drivers around me, I noticed that about half of them were still talking or texting on their cell phone handsets.  The most obvious (and incredibly disturbing) case of this was a funeral procession that passed me going the other way.  All but 2 of the 20 drivers (including the guy driving the hearse!!) were on their cell phones... at a funeral... what the hell is that about!?!?!  

With all the driving I do, I want to be able to make effective use of my time and get some quick calls in.  I guess I'll have to give in and get an earpiece.  The problem is... I want to switch phones at some point and I hate having to buy new accessories every time I do this... new case, new car charger and now, new earpices...yuck!  I've been eyeing an iPhone for a couple years now with a few obstacles in my way.  There's the price...YIKES!  The fact that you have to have AT&T... although I could switch with their new unlimited promotion... it's a pretty good deal and it would make the phone a lot cheaper too.  The storage space is limited, but it's much better than it was. 

But now, I have to buy an earpiece for the phone I've already got... cutting into my savings for my next phone and putting it off that much longer.  I guess I'll head to AT&T and investigate.  Maybe I should just go for the iPhone now and save myself all the hassles.  Ugh.  I've only had my phone a few months... I finally got everything set the way I want it.  Stupid IL laws... first the smoking inside thing... now this... they should give us the elecronic cigarettes and the earpieces.  But the way things are going, pretty soon none of us will be able to leave the house without written permission from the governer.  Grrr!

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