Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Bit of Retrospection and a Big Thank You!

It’s day 31 in the Word Count’s 2011 Blogathon, and “I Made it!!”  I posted on my blog once a day for 31 days!  It’s been a challenge for sure in several ways, but I’ve never been one to back off from a challenge and well, when you add the possibility of prizes, I’m “all in.”  After all, mom always says, “You can’t win if you don’t play.”

I’ve learned so much from participating in the 2011 Blogathon.  Especially since I didn’t even have a blog prior to April 15.  As you can imagine, I did a lot of scrambling those last couple of weeks of April to get a blog made because I had committed to the Blogathon and there was no turning back. 

My main reason for joining was simple.  A communications major from eons ago, I had chosen the mother-path over the career-path after our only child was born.  But our baby was in college now and the path to rejoining my career had reappeared.  It was time to divert paths. 

I wanted to jump back in to my career field, but social media and technology had changed the game, and I hadn’t kept up with it as well as I should have.  From website design, Twitter, Facebook and blogging, I had dropped the ball a bit.  But what better way to learn how to blog than to join a Blogathon?  That was my thinking anyway! 

And oh, boy…did I ever learn a lot!  Throughout my 31 days of May I’ve learned:
  • how to join Google groups
  • actually use Twitter (I’ve had an account for about a year and never used it)
  • participate in a Twitter chat
  • understand the value of Twitter
  • how to post a photo on my blog
  • download (or is it upload?) a video to YouTube
  • how to post a video on my blog
  • how to link to other web pages on my blog
  • that Blogger isn’t the best platform for my blog (thank you Blogger for those stressful two days of no service!)
  • how to use PollDaddy
I could go on and on about the technical skills I’ve learned, but what I found possibly most valuable and honestly a real eye-opener is what I learned about myself the past 31 days by reading the blogathoners’ blogs.  This was an added bonus that I never expected.

My self-reflection began almost immediately when I visited Chain the Wolf on May 1.  Although Susan’s description wasn’t my exact situation, it put into perspective and made me realize that I’ve been my own worst enemy from moving forward professionally.

A few days later Jan Udlock’s blog hit home and had me evaluating my life and career even more.  Over and over again, I was confronted by your blogs to re-evaluate myself and what I wasn’t doing. It was as if someone was placing a mirror in front of my life and pointing out the flaws or at least the missed opportunities. 

I have to admit at times it was painful.  I don’t know many who like to be shown their flaws, but overall it was a huge game-changer.  Because of this blogathon I have committed to myself that I “WILL” move forward which means taking a risk that I’ve been putting off, and I “WILL” invest in myself.  I’ve been so focused on being a mom first and having a career second that I fell way behind in my career field, but it’s time to correct that.  The way I see it is that I’ve still got another probably 30 years to work.  My career life has not passed me by, and there is still plenty of time.  Michelle, your success alone has taught me that I “can” re-enter the working world and make a big impact…as you have.  It’s time to take action and “live in the moment.” 

All of this retrospection comes courtesy of the 2011 Blogathon and its participants and for that I thank you all from the bottom of my heart! 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Would love to have your opinion - practicing inserting polls!

If you've read my blog the past 28 days, you know that I'm totally new to blogging. I didn't have a topic for my blog when I started and I still don’t. That's where I could use your help!

In an effort to help me to clarify a topic for my blog going forward after the blogathon, I'm curious which posts of mine you found the most interesting or entertaining? At the same time I still need to learn how to use polls in my blog so I've come up with the following poll.

Gosh, that was so simple to set up through Polldaddy. So, if you'll humor me and answer some other "just for fun" polls so that I can see how this works, I'd really appreciate it!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Still learning new things...

Before the blogathon ends, I wanted to learn how to upload a video to YouTube and then post it on my blog.  I tried to do that earlier in the week, but was running into difficulties.  Well, I figured it out.  It wasn't terribly hard...just signed up for a YouTube account and started uploading the video from my computer. 

What I learned is that it's a VERY slow process.  V-E-R-Y!  My little 4 minute or so video took over an hour to upload.  Geesh!  I think it's safe to say that I'll think twice before uploading a larger video.

But I got it done and can now cross off my list yet another skill learned from the blogathon!  So, here's part two to my Vegas posts about why there's so much more to Las Vegas than gambling.  This, possibly, is my absolute most favorite part of the Las Vegas Strip!!!  Enjoy!

Tomorrow's goal is to learn how to do a poll!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Power of Technology Take Two - this time in the field of teaching

I write part time for our local newspaper, and I cover education primarily.  It’s a great gig because I get to tell stories about all the wonderful things that our teachers and students are doing in our schools.

Occasionally, a real gem of a story comes through my email.  This past week it was “gem-central” as I was fortunate to receive two of those little gems.  Here's one of them!  Due to legal issues, you'll need to read the rest of it on the newspaper's website.

Liberty Middle School’s Orchestra Director Carli Bates’ eyes filled with tears as one of her sixth grade students told how grateful she was that her dad, recently deployed to Afghanistan, would be able to keep in touch by listening and watching her orchestra performances through Bates’ podcast that had been recently posted online.  It was at that moment that Bates realized the power of technology and how the technology classes she had taken in March had impacted more than just her teaching.

Bates said prior to March she knew that “the one thing lacking the most” in her teaching was her knowledge of technology.  “I’m really passionate about teaching music, and I love my kids, but I was not connecting to them through technology,” Bates said.  “So I went to this conference, and I went to everything technology related and through that I learned all of these new things.”

Read the rest of the story at http://www.theintelligencer.com/

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Are blue capes fashionable again yet?

I mentioned yesterday that we’re in “clean out mode” at my house.  After 15 years of accumulation of “stuff,” it’s time to pare down and de-clutter.

Part of “2011 Operation De-clutter” is the cleaning out of “all” the closets which includes our master bedroom walk-in closet.  I was really dreading that job.

Ok, I'll admit it.  I have trouble throwing out clothes.  I’m probably like most women where I fluctuate between two clothes sizes – my “I'm eating properly and working out regularly" weight and my “oh no, I ate too many cookies and didn't go to the Y" weight.  So, naturally I have wardrobes for both sizes. 

That takes up maybe 1/2 of my side of the closet and then I have those items that I spent a lot of money on and yes, they may be a little dated, but I may wear them someday, right?  Like that off-white suit.  It’s a lovely skirt and matching jacket that I wore, oh, let’s just say a WHILE back when I would go on job interviews.  There’s no way that it can be “in style” so why am I hanging onto it?  I paid big bucks for it, that’s why, and I haven’t worn it “that” much.

I’m constantly freezing so I have quite few jackets too.  All sorts of dressy, professional and casual jackets.  I shudder to think how old some of those may be, but you can always use an extra jacket, right? 

There’s two items in my closet that are just completely useless yet I can’t seem to part with.  One is a royal blue cape.  Yes, I said “cape.”  I bought it…get this….in 1980.  Yep, your read that right, 1980.  I think Madonna might have been popular then and so were capes.  It was really fashionable that year.  I bought it along with a long sleeved sweater dress and matching royal blue shoes with money that I earned at my first job.  I loved clothes and actually worked two summer jobs just to buy the current trends. 

I guess I’ve held onto that cape so long because I worked so hard to get it.  I imagine it may have holes in it by now, but it hangs at the back of my closet to this day.

But don't feel sad for the cape.  The cape isn’t alone.  It has company.  It hangs next to a waist-length mink coat.  It’s really ironic that my grandmother would insist that I take her mink because I’m an animal lover, but she sure did about two years before her death.  She loved that coat, and I felt obligated to take care of it for her when she suggested I needed to take it....so it hangs proudly next to the blue cape.  I think I maybe wore that coat once – over a strappy dress for a high school homecoming dance.  Like I said, I get cold easily.

So, you can imagine from all these clothes that the thought of cleaning out my closet was a bit overwhelming.  And I really was dreading it until I read an article last week that really helped me to put it into perspective.

The article stated some random statistic that we wear only 20 percent of our clothing 80 percent of the time. Although there’s no research to support this statistic, I have to believe it’s close to being true.

The article suggested that in order to validate the statistic, we need to count our clothes.  Sounds reasonable until you start to think about counting “all” of your clothes which means anything folded, all seasonal clothes, sweaters, shorts, t-shirts, jeans, hanging clothes, clothes in that extra closet (including that cape and mink) – you have to count them whether they fit or not and whether or not you haven’t worn them in months or years (aka. my numerous jackets)…it’s sounding more difficult isn’t it?

I was thinking that my total number could be extremely high – maybe several hundred.  And if I would have to determine a percentage of those that I wear regularly, I’d guesstimate it to be in the point-zero something percentile. 

But then I read that whatever clothes you really don’t wear or that no longer fit “and” you put in a bag to give away to charity, you don’t have to count.

That was my “aha” moment.  Now my number may be under a couple hundred ;)

I’m thinking that if the goal is to only keep what I actually wear and if I’m held accountable… to not only count what I keep but also establish a percentage of what I actually wear of what I keep…well, I’ve got a much better chance of getting rid of those pieces that I probably should have thrown out years ago. 

Well, everything except the blue cape and mink coat!  Did someone turn up the AC?  I think I have a chill!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Preserving history...one VHS tape at a time!

We’re in clean out mode around here.  After living in this house for almost 15 years, we’ve accumulated a lot of, well, “stuff.”  It’s like clutter-city in my house.  And while I distinctly remember saying, “I’ll never do this again” at the end of the last garage sale I had, well, apparently I mis-spoke.  Mom was right, never say never!

As I was in the basement’s “clutter,” I mean “back room” trying to remove the garage sale “goodies” so that we could move our daughter, Kelsey’s, college “stuff” back into the house for the summer, I ran across several VHS tapes.

If your family is like mine, you have VHS tapes of every birthday of your children, their first steps, every play, soccer game, volleyball tournament, holiday, homecoming event, prom…all the way through high school graduation. 

But what do you do with them?  Obviously, I can’t get rid of them.  It is our family’s history after all.  And we do on occasion torture people by pulling out a tape and putting it in the antequated VCR.  It’s really hysterical, or so we think…I’m not sure about our guests… to laugh at our hair styles or reminisce about “back then.” 

So, getting rid of them isn’t an option.  But, if I leave them on VHS tapes, I risk that the tape will eventually deteriorae and be no longer viewable or let’s face it, VHS recorders are almost extinct these days and eventually will be. 

So, I looked into transferring the tapes to DVD.  Sure, this won’t solve my problem forever because the DVD disc will also eventually deteriorate and become obsolete, but I figure it buys me a good chunk of time to figure out another long-term storage solution. 

Paying someone to transfer my pile of, oh, about 100 VHS tapes wasn’t very feasible, and when I looked into this about two years ago, the technology required storing the data from the VHS onto my computer hard drive before burning it to a DVD.  I would have had to invest in a separate hard drive to make that happen and honestly that was WAY too much work and expense.

But as technology goes, just give it a year or two and you’ll have some much better options.

I just bought Honest Technology’s VHS to DVD 4.0 Plus, a video capture device that supposedly connects between my VCR and computer and will allow my computer to capture the video and then directly burn it to a DVD.  I won’t need to buy a new, bigger hard drive and it will burn the DVD without being temporarily stored on my computer.  Win/win!

While this certainly is less expensive, a much more efficient use of my computer and time, of course, it isn’t perfect.  It burns the data in real time which means that I’ll be sitting here waiting and watching as each VHS tape is transferred minute by painful minute.

That’s 100 tapes at oh, say, three hours each (some likely have as much as six or eight hours) or 300 hours of video.  If I can stomach doing three tapes a week, that’s over 33 weeks or about eight plus months. UGH!  And I thought the blogathon was a commitment.  Puts everything into perspective, doesn’t it?

So, that’s my next project after the blogathon ends on June 1. 

I’d love to hear if you’ve transferred your VHS tapes to DVD and what you thought or if you have a better solution. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The shower! Yep, that's one of them.

It's Theme Day at blogathon!  That means those of us who want to partake in "theme day" can write about  "My 5 favorite places to write."  That would take less than 30 seconds to explain because I "only" write sitting at a desk that faces the front window of my house.  That's pretty much it.  Oh, and on a "very" rare occasion I write on a laptop while we're out-of-town.  That doesn't happen very often. 

But "My favorite places to brainstorm article ideas or come up with leads" is a bit more interesting.  Here’s my top five!

1.    While driving. That's also the most frustrating place to brainstorm because it's very hard to jot down thoughts and focus on the road at the same time, but being in the car for an extended period (after I get tired of singing) gives me time to think and brainstorm.

2.    The YMCA.  Every morning I go there to work out and I can just daydream as I run (ok, more like jog) on the treadmill, but that's where I come up with ideas...lots of ideas.

3.    Riding my bicycle along one of the bike paths.  Unfortunately, this one is a seasonal kind of thing, but it just clears my head.

4.    While walking the dog.  Are you beginning to see a theme here.  Being outdoors or exercising seems to stimulate the 'ole brain.

5.    Without a doubt my all-time favorite would have to be "the shower."  I have no idea why, but I come up with awesome leads and terrific article ideas while in the shower...heck, I've even been known to just jump in the shower when I'm having a writer's block.  There's just something about that water flowing that gets my creativity brain working.  And it can't be just any water flowing.  Washing dishes in the sink won't work and listening to the washer fill with water while doing laundry doesn't help at all...which is really unfortunate! Nope, it has to be a full-blown shower.  Hey, no laughing!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Seeing Vegas Through Different Eyes

We just returned from a vacation in Las Vegas. I almost despise gambling yet I've been to Vegas probably half a dozen or more times.  When a friend will find out I'm going to Vegas, I typically get asked, "But why?  You can't stand to gamble." 

While that's true, there's another draw for me to keep going back to the "Las Vegas Strip."  I'm mesmorized by the architecture and millions of dollars that are poured into the decor of these mega casinos. Here's a quick look at Vegas through a different viewpoint.

There's the structures themselves that are friggin' amazing...like this one of of the Paris Casino...

Or this outside view of New York-New York!  I've never been to New York City, but this just has to capture a glimpse into it.

Here's a closer look at just the Statue of Liberty....amazing!

Or how about the bronze statue of the lion in front of MGM?  Here's some fun facts about this structure:
Largest bronze sculture in the Western hemishere
45 ft. tall- 50 ft. long on a 25 ft. pedastal
100,000 pounds of bronze
1,660 pieces of bronze welded together

Moving indoors there's the conservatory at the Bellagio!  It's simply STUNNING!  They change out the flower display and theme all the time.  This time there was a painting, about the size of a car, made completely out of flowers.

And birds, like this one, also made out of flowers.

There's the decor like the new Crystals casino and mall that has crystals hanging from the ceiling that envelope a bar and casino area. Gorgeous!

I could post a couple dozen of photos like this, but you get the idea.  It's just something you should see at least once. 

Tomorrow I'll post a few close ups of some interesting decor I found while exploring "the strip."  And if I can figure out how to download a video on You Tube, you'll get a special video treat...Vegas style!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Best Vacations Ever and The "Someday"

As I'm ending a vacation week, it has me thinking about past vacations and also some future vacations that I'd like to put on the "someday" list.

Some of the most memorable vacations and activities we've done would have to be:
Haleakala National Park Summit Sunrise Bike and Van Tour - Maui   Quite possibly one of the coolest things I've ever done.  I can't say I enjoyed waking up at 2 a.m. to take the bus to the bicycle company so that we could get suited up and make the drive to the top of the crater, but watching the sun rise over the crater was incredible.  And the bicycle ride down was just plain fun!

Jeep Rental on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands -  If you want to see this island in all it's natural beauty, a road trip around it in a jeep is a necessity.

Whale Watching Boat Trip - Maui   If you're in Maui in the winter months, a whale watching tour is an absolute must!  It's simply awe-inspiring to see these beautiful creatures up close.  The enormity of their tails as they glide through the ocean with ease is a magical sight to see.

Visit to Crazy Horse Memorial in Black Hills, South Dakota - I first visited Crazy Horse when I was a child while doing a "western" vacation with my family.  Seeing the very basic rock structure some 30 years ago didn't seem like much back then, but now I think it would be interesting to see the progress 30 years later.

Lake Powell near Page, Arizona - I can't say I've seen anything quite like this place.  It's a canyon that's been allowed to fill with water creating a lake.  What makes it so breathtaking are the rock formations that rise out of the water.  We took a short boat tour of the lake, but I'd like to return some day and rent a boat ourselves and spend a day or two just exploring the nooks and crannies of the lake.

Places I'd like to visit on future vacations
Hike in/out of Grand Canyon - I've been to the Grand Canyon twice but have never been with anyone who wanted to hike down in it.  I'd really love to either hike in, spend the night in the bottom and hike out OR white water raft to the bottom and hike out! 

Take a drive up the northeastern coast of Maine - It looks like this area is simply gorgeous, and I'd like to see it.  A bonus would be all the crab and seafood I could eat along the way.

Visit Yosemite National Park and the Redwood National Forest - Two of the few national parks I've never been to in the U.S.

Go to a musical on Broadway (in New York City) - Not sure which musical I'd want to see...maybe my favorite, Wicked, but I think seeing any musical on Broadway would be a special treat.

Go to Paris and see the Eifel Tower - need I really elaborate on this one?

Visit all the memorials and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. -I was in D.C once around the age of 10 and again on an 8th grade class trip.  I'd just like to go back and see it all again.  I think I'd appreciate it even more.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I read a statistic yesterday in the newspaper that scared me silly.  A 2010 study shows that anyone who has used a tanning bed is 74% more likely than others to develop mlanoma.  Now I'm no mathematician, but if you do the math, that means I've got only a 26% chance of NOT getting skin cancer...YIKES!  That statistic is quite staggering and, to me, says that we need to mount an effort to educate the public better of tanning bed dangers - especially to our pre-teens and teens.

It really shouldn't be difficult to educate the public.  I think the country as a whole gets the message once it's been put out there in force.  For example, we once were a nation that didn't use seatbelts, but now we do.  And we once were a nation that drank alcohol while pregnant and now we don't.  I remember a time when we used baby lotion for suntanning and now that's completely crazy.  We learned, through education, that these things had serious repercussions; therefore, we are smarter today and don't do these things.  So, why is it taking so long for us to be aware of the dangers of tanning beds?

I ask because I just watched an entire generation of teens use tanning beds for prom, homecoming, pre-spring break trips...geez...even pre-vacations.  It's very much the norm in high school and college-aged kids these days to tan in tanning beds regularly, and I'm very concerned that we may be setting up our youth for a future dealing with skin cancer.

I don't know that I have the solution, but what a scary statistic! 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Customer Service Apparently Is NOT Dead

If you had asked me last week what I thought about customer service, I would have said that it's a dying practice, but Southwest Airlines has changed my mind.  Some flight attendants at Southwest Airlines have proven that their company still knows the value of going the extra mile and making its customers feel special.

While flying the other day, two flight attendants on our flight learned that we were flying to a vacation spot to celebrate our daughter's 21st birthday.  Years ago I would have expected the flight attendants to make a big deal of it...making our daughter feel special, but in this day and age, I really didn't expect a thing.  Boy was I surprised.

They not only offered a free drink to our daughter and the two young women travelling with her, but they announced it was her birthday over the speaker and they made her a special birthday crown out of peanut packets and drink stirrers.  It was really a very kind gesture on their part and made the girls' day.

By doing that small gesture, I can promise you that all three girls will tell at least a dozen friends about the experience, it will be posted on Facebook for each of their, oh, 800+ friends to see and they'll now think twice about which airline they will travel on in the future. 

Southwest got all that free "marketing" for the cost of three sodas, three miniature Jack Daniel shots and a couple of flight attendant's few minutes of time. 

Am I the only one who doesn't understand why other companies don't see the value in this???  Seems like a no brainer to me! 

When I return from vacation, I'll be writing a letter to Southwest Airlines telling them about the wonderful customer service we received!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What's Your Favorite Droid App?

As much as I’ve complained about being behind the curve on learning all this blogging technology, I really do love technology.  I’m just too cheap to jump out and purchase all the fun stuff when it comes out.  I usually wait a while before I jump in.

But I did recently “finally” as my daughter said, join the Android cell phone craze.  And I must admit, I have no idea what took me so long to change…well other than my contract not being up for renewal and receiving a discount (like I said, I’m chep).

When I first got my HTC phone, I reached out to my Facebook friends for suggestions on which free “apps” were their favorites.  I compiled a list from their suggestions that I thought I’d share. 

  • Shop Savvy or Savvy Shopper – both will tell you where you can find a particular product cheaper at another store
  • PicSay – edit the photos you take on your phone or add special effects
  • Squirrelizer – quite possibly the funniest app I’ve seen.  You can add a photo of a squirrel to any of your photos which can be quite amusing
  • Barcode Scanner – scan barcodes on CDs, books and other products, then look up prices and review
  • Words with Friends – a mobile word building game you can play with your friends
  • Aldiko Book Reader  - turns your phone into a kindle of sorts
  • Key Ring – keep s a photo of your favorite loyalty cards on file in your phone so that you don’t need to cart all those cards around in your purse
Of course, Angry Birds, is on the list, but I feel like everyone in the world must have heard of that one.  The others may or may not be as familiar.

What I want to know is…. What is your favorite app for your phone?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Just a vacation prep rant....

Why is preparing for vacation so difficult?  Sometimes I wonder if all the pre-vacation stress is really worth it. 

I mean I’ve spent the last four days just preparing to leave.  Aside from getting caught up to a point at my job so that I could leave, which was a feat in itself, and then I was faced with all the household pre-trip ritual…things like:

Laundry – Does it ever end?  And how many loads do I need to do before we have “everything” we need for the trip, clean?

Dog Sitting – Granted, not just anyone can take care of our little princess, but unfortunately it requires driving four-and-a-half hours one way to drop our baby off at my sister’s house.  I then got to turn around the next morning and drive the 4.5 hours home.

Snacks for the plane – It is a three hour flight after all and we “will” get hungry.  Gotta make a run to the grocery for some granola bars, candy and gum.

Clean out the fridge – Who wants to return home to the stench of two week old lasagna leftovers or the lettuce that turned to mush in the crisper?

Then there’s the packing….but oh wait, the weather forecast has now changed.  How does this continually happen to us?  The last three trips we’ve taken, we’ve planned to arrive at a location known for mega-sun and balmy weather, but as the trip approaches, the weather forecast changes and we find ourselves buying sweatshirts because we packed shorts and it's freezing.  Well, the same thing has happened again.  The four days we are going to be gone, it’s going to be unseasonably cool.  Grrrrrrrrrrr….what shall I pack now? Oh wait, is the washer free?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Row, row, row your boat....across the Pacific!

It’s officially guest post exchange day with the WordCount’s blogathon, but I didn’t reach out to anyone to exchange posts with today because honestly, I
a)      haven’t really figured out what my blog is about to tell someone what I’m looking for in a guest post.
b)      didn’t think it would be fair for me to write someone else’s blog because they wouldn’t gain any readers from me.  (After all, my blog says I have seven followers but being realistic I have maybe two.  Oh wait, my mother may be reading this so, ok three. Doesn’t seem like a fair trade off for someone)
c)      figured I’d be too busy preparing for vacation to really devote a substantial amount of time into today’s post (which turned out to be true) which wouldn’t be fair nor the right thing to do when exchanging

 So, in trying to stick to the day’s theme somewhat, I decided to post about Roz Savage’s blog.  If you’ve never heard of her, I’d highly recommend stopping by her blog.  Talk about someone who is following her dream and is truly inspirational. WOW! 

In a nutshell, she woke up one day in 2000 at the age of 33, evaluated her perfect life with a husband, job, house, and sports car, but wasn’t happy.  She wasn’t fulfilled. 

By 2004 her life had made a complete 180.  She was divorced, living in New York City working as a part time photographer and at one time was homeless. 

A former member of Oxford University Lightweight rowing club, Roz announces that she’s going to row solo across the Atlantic.  HELLO?  Did you catch that?  She’s going to row…as in a row boat, albeit a little souped-up, but still, a friggin’ rowboat...across the Atlantic Ocean!  OCEAN!!!!

Is she nuts?  Many might think so, but she not only completes that goal in 2005-06 rowing 103 days straight from the Canary Islands to Antigua, but then turns around in 2007 and attempts to cross the Pacific Ocean solo.  Bad weather thwarts the 2007 attempt but undaunted, Roz returns in 2008 and completes the first part of this journey – she rows for 99 days from California to Hawaii.  I first learned of Roz during this leg of the Pacific journey and followed her daily blog as she endured, to me what seemed like a nightmare.  But she loved it.

Roz continued her journey in 2009 as stage 2 took her from Waikiki to Tarawa – 104 days at sea.  I watched her daily blog then too.

She just left recently to complete stage 3 – rowing across the Indian Ocean.

I find her to be so inspirational.  She’s rowed over 11,000 miles, taken 3.5 million oar strokes which has caused her to spend nearly a year of her life at sea…in a rowboat people!  OMG!!!

Aside from her goals being crazy in my eyes, she’s an inspiration because she had a dream, gave up nearly everything to go after it and then persevered to make it a reality.  Now, I’m not suggesting that anyone give up everything for their dream.  I can say with absolute certainty that I’d never leave my husband and daughter nor sell my home (or a sports car, if I had one) for any dream I may have, but I still admire Roz’s tenacity and her dedication to a dream she obviously has.

She’s also an environmentalist who believes that we all can make a difference in our world and should.  I love that about her too as well as her personal creed of taking life “one oar stroke at a time.”  Check her out.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

An update on the Power of Facebook

Well, as promised, I have an update.  For those who may be tuning in for the first time, visit my “The Power of Facebook” post for the story from the beginning.

The latest news is that I received a phone call yesterday from Jennifer.  Jennifer is serving as the primary contact for gifts, food and any other miscellaneous things for Olivia’s family so that Olivia’s immediate family can focus on Olivia’s treatment.

Jennifer was calling to let me know that someone from Disney called her today to verify Olivia’s address.  A letter and the this photograph of Belle in a Disney frame is being sent to Olivia. 

One of my St. Louis friends hooked me up with a very caring, sweet St. Louis couple who have a connection to Disney.  When they learned of Olivia’s story, the wife, Pat, called me for more information and said they would see what they could do as they were going to Orlando last week.  Well, they apparently knew someone and made this happen.

The phone call from Jennifer came yesterday morning ironically right after this email update on Olivia’s treatment arrived in my inbox.   

“She is feeling a little better today. Counts are very low, lowest they have been since chemotherapy began. No visitors for now. : ( We are praying her body quickly recovers.

Some have asked about dietary requirements and question why no fresh fruits & fresh vegetables. Her counts have to be at certain level (which is not often) to eat fruits & vegetables because they are not part of a low bacteria diet & her body can't fight back. Good washing can't always prevent. She can always have bananas, oranges & fruits that are protected by a peel. Hope that helps.

Her amazing OliCap arrived today. It is just perfect & Donna is one talented lady! What sweet friends made this happen. Some of her own hair is in it & she has 3 adorable caps to attach her hair too. Pictures to come.
This email comes to my inbox because I subscribed to a website where Deanna, Olivia’s mother, keeps family and friends updated on a daily basis.  The updates are heart-wrenching yet I know we all appreciate them as we worry and pray for little Olivia.

As a mother I can’t imagine what Deanna must be going through.  It makes me so very thankful that everyone in my family is healthy…something we tend to take for granted.  I know I often get caught up in the drama in my daily life that in reality is unimportant, and I often forget to just be thankful for all the blessings I have. 

A side note:  There are still two other Facebook friends of friends working on a Skype date and a phone call so I’ll keep you posted if those happen also.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What I’ve learned so far participating in the blogathon

What a learning experience the Blogathon has been for me!  In celebration of being nearly at the half-way point, I thought I’d do a list of the five things I’ve learned so far.

Don’t use Blogger
It never occurred to me that Blogger would go down, and I’d be confronted with not being able to post.  Although I don’t understand the logistics of it all, Blogger being down also restricted me from posting to other blogs.  Very frustrating.  

Commenting is a two-way street
It’s the old adage, “you’ve got to give to receive.” 

Blogging is easy!  The technical side is the hard part. 
Even without all the Blogger nonsense, I’ve encountered Google Group issues, a learning curve for the technical jargon of Twitter, and just the technical details to posting links and videos.  I guess I never really thought I, the computer whiz of the family, would have such technical issues.

There are ways to “cheat” in blogging 
Ok, so “cheat” may not be the appropriate terminology, but I learned that on days, well, like today, when I don’t really have a blog idea in mind, that I can do a list (like today’s), post a photo and comment on it, do haiku, post a series of videos and comment on them…gee… this was so enlightening to me considering that I’ve got to come up with 31 straight days of blogs and five of those I’ll be on vacation.

Bloggers are such nice people
WOW!  I am so impressed with how supportive, helpful and just downright nice bloggers in this blogathon have been.  Anytime I’ve asked a “how do you…” or a “what’s your thoughts about…” question, the other bloggers have jumped right in to offer insight.  That has been invaluable…thank you!

Although I’ve learned a lot, I’m really looking forward to learning even more the next 15 days.  Mom wasn’t kidding when she said, “you learn something new every day.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thanks for the inspiration

The past week or so I’ve noticed in some other blogs a common theme of “don’t be afraid to take a risk,” and the “follow your dreams” which have really gotten me to think a lot about where I’m going and what the heck am I doing.

It made me also think about a cousin of my husband who I admire for reinventing herself over and over again.  This woman, Judy, is not afraid of failing. She follows her dreams – takes huge risks. I thought I’d share her story here today.

Judy is about 50 years old, but she has demonstrated over the past 24 years that I’ve known her that she isn’t afraid to follow her dreams.

When I first met Judy she was a stay-at-home mom with her one child, Erika, but in her free time, Judy would paint.  She found a market for her paintings and sold them for quite a while.

Judy lives on the inter--coastal near Stuart, Florida, and she and her husband have owned a boat since they’ve lived there.  Judy took up deep sea fishing.  She enjoyed it so much that she entered contests and won several. She’s well-known in the area as the main “deep sea fishing” competition.

As Erika grew older and moved out of the house, Judy decided to go back to work.  She chose to be a real estate agent.  She excelled in that field as well and made a very nice salary for her efforts.

She tired of the real estate business and didn’t work for a short while when she decided one day to open her own cake business.  Judy recalled all the holidays that she had spent as a child where her aunt would bring a delicious rum cake to holiday events.  As an adult, Judy learned the recipe and made the rum cakes for her own family. 

One day she told us that she was opening Edible Spirits, and by golly, the next week she had rented a space, was baking rum cakes and selling them.  That was about two years ago. 

About every other week I see on Facebook where Judy has posted another milestone – new cake flavor, radio show guest, TV show guest, new large client – it’s just amazing.  Judy has once again, become very successful in yet another new profession.  Oh, she’ll tell you it’s been a lot of hard work, but that she really enjoys it.

As I am now looking at my own future with a bit of a better focused lens, I find Judy to be an inspiration for me to “follow my dreams” and “do it now.”  It is time!

Music feeds the soul!

Editor's note:  WOO HOO!  Blogger is back up!

I love music.  I grew up in a fairly musical family.  My mother and sister played the piano.  My sister also played the violin.  My father loved music too.  He played the guitar and would have his buddies over quite a bit to "jam" in the basement.

The basement was music-central.  I remember spending many, many hours listening to my dad’s record collection, and the few LPs – yes, I’m that old – that my parents bought me.

I never stuck with an instrument long enough to learn to play one well.  I took piano lessons at the age of about seven, but gave up after learning how to read music.  Then I decided I’d play the flute in grade school.  I learned the finger positions for the notes, but could never figure out how to blow across that dang thing to make that angelic sound.  I gave up on that too.

But choir.  Now that’s where I belonged.  I was in choir in elementary school and Showchoir in high school.  I loved to sing, and still do.  I’m one of those freaks that you snicker at as you drive by on the highway because I’m singing at the top of my lungs.  I’ll sing to whatever is on the radio, but I won’t hesitate to put in my all-time favorite CD – the soundtrack from the musical, “Wicked.”  I also love to sing along with “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Rent” soundtracks. 

I thought I’d share this with you today because I’ve been stopping by Radio Nowhere’s blog  where he’s posting his favorite songs.   Loving music as I do, I thought that was a fun blog idea, but it also made me think about how much I love music, and how it can literally change my mood or enhance it. 

For example, when I just want to listen to a song that gets my blood pumping and puts a smile on my face, I listen to OK Go’s “Here it Goes Again.”  The video is a classic too.

Or if I’m really mad, you can’t beat a good hard rock song like, Sammy Hagar’s “I can’t drive 55.” 

Feeling sad?  Sarah McLauchlan’s “When Somebody Loved Me” may send you further into a depression, but it’s a beautiful song.   

Having a great day and just want to celebrate it?  It’s a Perfect Day by Hoku is the perfect song.

Wanting to share an inspirational song with someone.  Try Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband’s “Dream Big.”

Oh I could go on an on, but you get the idea.  Music just feeds the soul!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Graduation From Soccer-momdom

The day has finally arrived.  I’m about to graduate from owning a mini-van to buying some other kind of vehicle – that’s smaller.

Honestly, the thought of driving around in something besides a mini-van is, well, unsettling.  After all, I’ve owned a mini-van since 1998.  But as I was standing in the Honda dealership listening to the service consultant inform me that I needed repairs and maintenance services of over $3,000 for my mini-van to possibly transport me another 100k miles, well, my husband said, “I think it’s time to trade it in.”

My husband has been ready for me to “graduate” for about a year now, but I’ve held onto my Odyssey for one obvious reason – SPACE!  I’ve used it to cart around lots of people, purchases from Home Depot, and let’s face it, it’s invaluable when moving our daughter to and from college. 

But my husband pointed out the following:
  • We’re only going to move our daughter twice more and then she’ll graduate
  • Her girlfriend owns a truck and so do about three other “guy friends” if we really need one
  • We don’t cart around lots of people anymore
  • If I can’t get our luggage in a regular size vehicle for a trip, I’ve over-packed
  • If we buy something large at Home Depot, they do let you use one of their delivery trucks for free if the purchase is over $25, which obviously it would be
  • He would soon be buying a new SUV or cross-over so it’s not like we wouldn’t have one car that was fairly large
Gosh, I hate when he’s right.

So, out to the lot I went looking at new vehicles.  I have to admit that the next two hours I spent investigating a Honda Accord and Fit were quite fun.  New cars have lots of fun options, and there’s a lot of choices besides mini-vans!  ;)

I was drawn to the tiny “Fit” because it had a LOT of room for such a tiny car and it averages 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, but everyone I've talked to says 40 mpg is pretty typical.  WOO HOO!  Now, that caught my attention!  Plus, one of the service agents said she actually has owned a Fit for four years and she told me that she absolutely LOVES it.  

Now that I’ve accepted  that I’ll be buying something besides a mini-van, I’m now overwhelmed with all the possibilities. If I look at the Honda Fit's competition, there’s the Mazda2 that’s running a close second.

Or should I go a little larger like the Honda Accord or the Toyota Camry?  I had Nissans before the Honda van so I’ve considered a Maxima or an Altima. 

Come to think about it.... I’ve always wanted a red convertible so since I’m leaving behind my “soccer mom” status, why shouldn’t I enter the “hot mama” world?  Ok, probably not.  UGH!  There’s just too many choices. 

No wonder I fought graduation for so long…soccer momdom was just plain easier.

If you have some suggestion on what you think is a great car on the market these days, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Haiku Tuesday

I must admit that I’m not a fan of haiku.  Oh, it’s easy enough to write, but seems kinda pointless to me.  I’m more of a limerick kind of gal.  But, hey, participating in haiku Tuesday means a break in the blogathon so I say, “haiku it up!”

Here’s a haiku sampling for you to ponder:

Vacation next week
A week of writing freedom
Blogathon only!

Tired of exercise
Getting old is for the birds
Pass me a doughnut

Where’s springtime weather
Jumped straight into summer heat
Bring back the seventies please

Monday, May 9, 2011

What Every College Should Be Doing!

The college in our town has a requirement of its students that I think is just fabulous. 

Students must complete a senior project to graduate.  The project can be completed as an individual or group, but it entails taking the knowledge learned from general studies and combining it with the knowledge they’ve learned from their field of major to demonstrate what has been truly learned during their four years at college.

Every year the school hosts a Senior Showcase where those student projects selected as the “best of the best” display their masterpieces.  I attended the showcase recently for the first time and was amazed at what these kids are doing.

There were the more simplistic projects such as an education student explaining how to teach math to elementary students and a geography student who researched the habitat preferences of a box turtle to the more complicated projects such as a team of 15 engineering students that developed a system to reuse residential waste water.

A history major did his project about a research room on campus (that I wasn’t even aware of) for the study and preservation of the atomic research and development (referred to as the Manhattan Project) that took place in this area during World War II.

But what caught my eye was the project of three computer science students.  They built a kit that can be attached to any stationary bike, elliptical machine or treadmill that connects to any computer.  When the computer accesses Google Earth, the kit allows the bike to interact with Google Earth so “exercisers” can walk or ride through any location on Earth.  Buttons that are affixed to the handle bars allow the person riding to make left or right turns.

Think about what this does!  You can walk your way across the Great Wall of China or pedal your way down Broadway Ave in New York City – minus the traffic.  Take a bike ride through the trails of your favorite park or walk on your treadmill through the hills of San Francisco.  The possibilities are endless and what a fun way to exercise.

During the demonstration at the showcase, a college friend “model” was pedaling her way through Disney World to the amazement of a seven year old visiting the showcase.  It was just as we were right there with her travelling down Main Street and past Cinderella’s castle.  Quite amazing! 

The trio entered their project into a campus entrepreneurial club and won second place for their invention – why they didn’t receive first place is beyond me.  But through the school, the students were also connected with local entrepreneurs who are assisting the students with marketing their product. 

What a grand combination of student innovation and education! 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Mother's Day Poem

Happy Mother's Day!

There are times when only a Mother's love
Can understand our tears,
Can soothe our disappoints
And calm all of our fears.
There are times when only a Mother's love
Can share the joy we feel
When something we've dreamed about
Quite suddenly is real.
There are times when only a Mother's faith
Can help us on life's way
And inspire in us the confidence
We need from day to day.
For a Mother's heart and a Mother's faith
And a Mother's steadfast love
Were fashioned by the Angels
And sent from God above.
~Author Unknown~

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mom's Words to Live By

I have the best mom in the world.  She set a great example of what a mother should be, and she always had the right words to say in every drama-filled moment of my life. 

The phrases she used were those ones that you just never forget, and her words of wisdom still ring in my head today.  I’ve passed on those little “gems of life to live by” to my own daughter, and I’ve added a few of my own. 

In honor of Mother’s Day weekend, I thought I’d share some of them. 

There's those that withstand the test of time like….
  • Watch both ways before crossing the street
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
  • The grass is always greener on the other side
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again
  • Do your best!  That’s all anyone can ask
  • Be nice
  • Money can’t buy you happiness
  • A penny saved is a penny earned
There's those few that are just plain common courtesy…
  • Use your indoor voice when inside
  • Take your shoes off at the door
  • "What do  you say"  (answer = please, thank you) 
There’s some I take exception with like…
  • Don’t put off for tomorrow, what you can do today (I mean, enough already, I go hard every day.  Can’t something wait till tomorrow?)
  • Cleanliness is the next to Godliness (I could be wrong, but I don’t think there’s any reference to dust in the Bible)
  • If you sit too close to the TV, you’ll hurt your eyes (I’m pretty sure that research has proven that I didn’t become near-sighted because I watched Scooby Doo at arm’s length)
  • Carrots are good for your eyes (That one never worked when she tried to get me to eat more vegetables)
There’s the one that always makes me laugh when I hear myself repeating it:
  • Shut the door!  Were you born in a barn?  (turning off lights when you leave a room applies to this one also)
Then there’s some of my absolute favorites that mom always said and still says today like….
  • You can’t put a price tag on your health
  • Be careful for what you ask for (boy, isn’t that the truth?)
  • You learn something new every day
  • Take your vitamins
 Perhaps the two that really made an impact in my life are….
  • Can’t never did anything (Apparently I said “I can’t” a lot as a child because this one is burned into my very being.  Just tell me I can’t do something or even suggest it, and I’ll prove you wrong.)
  • Life’s not fair (Something that I still struggle with today because I just feel life should be fair.)
I’d also like to add a few of my own gems…
  • It’s not always what you know, but who you know
  • Dusting is a waste of time J
  • Think twice about what you do and say because Karma “will” right the world
My daughter would laugh reading this because I’m sure I’ve said a lot, if not all, of these at one time or another.  But they really are important words to live by, and I thank you mom for keeping me pointed in the right direction with these words.