A change in perspective

I used to spend so much time here, putting my thoughts to “paper” and publishing for anyone to see. My kids are only 6 and 3, and there are so many stories to capture about them.

Maybe things like Facebook have ruined that for me, where I can dash off a thought whenever, instead of composing something more … interesting … than I do now?

But I don’t even know where to (re)start. My oldest is in kindergarten and I don’t know for sure what’s okay and what’s not anymore. Will he enjoy my stories about him? Be mad that I put them online, opening both of us to criticism? (I got a lot of flack from attachment parents for that one.)

I used to feel compelled to write. Like something wasn’t quite right in my life unless I was putting pen to paper. Now, after I’ve hit 40, I’m just not sure I need to chronicle everything. Who will care in the end? My grandkids? My great-grandkids? (I would have *loved* to discover an old journal from a relative – but who knows if there will be anyone in the family like that down the road?)

It has to be for me, or not at all. So I’ll write when I feel like it, try to put down some fun thoughts that I think my boys will enjoy later, and try not to pressure myself too much. I have enough of that in other areas of my life.

Social Media Marketing World 2014 – who’s with me?

(Links in this post are affiliate links.)

I went to Social Media Marketing World last year and really enjoyed it. Learned a lot and met some great people. And guess what? I finally decided to do it again this year.

Why? Lots of networking opportunities. You meet new people and get to talk shop as much as you want with people who understand what you do. But don’t approach it from a “What can you do for me?” attitude. Just treat everyone with respect and realize that person you meet now could send you business or answer a question or just become a really awesome friend.

It’s in San Diego. Need I say more? Yeah, I live here and I love it. You will, too.

There’s not a ton of time left, so go get your ticket while you can. Buy before Friday and you’ll get $100 off the price of your ticket. What are you waiting for? See you there!

Can’t make it in person? Save $250 on a virtual ticket before Friday as well!

Category: miscellany  Tags: ,  Comments off

Looking back on 2013

It’s time for my yearly retrospective. I’ve been doing this for about 5 years now. For previous years see these: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009. Just copying my entry from last year. This retrospective was originally inspired by Linda at Sundry Mourning.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before? So much went on this year! Bought a new van. Hired a nanny. Got some new clients. Went to Austin. Went to NYC. Went to Belgium. Finally closed on our house. Crazy, crazy year.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Nope.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Nah. Not anyone super close.

4. Did anyone close to you die? It was quiet this past year, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit? Belgium! I got to go to Europe and it was so cool. Wish I’d had time to do more exploring around Europe, but it was still a memorable trip.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013? A bit more work-life balance.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? My son’s first day of kindergarten. My time in NYC, Austin, and Belgium. I feel so fortunate for the travel I did this year. It was amazing.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Pitching and getting some of my own clients. Taking a chance even when I was nervous and a bit unsure.

9. What was your biggest failure? A campaign didn’t turn out as well as it could have. Disappointing, but lesson learned.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I found out that I have diabetes.

11. What was the best thing you bought? The new van. And also my new coffee maker, which I absolutely love.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My husband has been simply amazing in helping, especially with all of the travel I’ve done this year. I couldn’t have done all this without him, nor would I be at this point in my career without him.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Pretty much everything that hits the news. Ugh.

14. Where did most of your money go? Bills. Trying to get out of debt.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Closing on our house after way too many months in escrow. And my trip to Belgium.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013? I can’t really think of anything that jumps out as a theme song for the year. Hopefully it won’t be Wrecking Ball or that Robin Thicke song.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? happier.

– thinner or fatter? thinner – lost 40 pounds.

– richer or poorer? a tiny bit richer. for now.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Spending fun time w/kids.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Working too much instead of spending time w/kids & hubs.

20. How did you spend Christmas? Got to go see my parents again. So very happy to get to do that.

21. Did you fall in love in 2013? Yes, more & more with my family. (same as last year)

22. What was your favorite TV program? I think it’s still Castle. And Game of Thrones.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No, still hating on the same person for, oh, about 10 years now. Some things don’t change.

24. What was the best book you read? I didn’t get to read a whole lot, as usual. I might have to come back to this one.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? I don’t have one.

26. What did you want and get by year’s end? To go see family during the holidays. I really missed them last year.

27. What did you want and not get by year’s end? Enough time off. A vacation.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? The only film I can think of is Catching Fire. Saw it with hubs.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I took a 3-day weekend at the spa. It was AWESOME. I turned 40.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Doing better at getting out of debt.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013? Making changes. Trying to step up my game a little more, thanks to shopping at WH|BM.

32. What kept you sane? Hubby giving me time to get out of the house & do things by myself. Like go have a leisurely cup of coffee. Or browse the bookstore. Or go do some writing.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Nathan Fillion from Castle. Love the show & his character. (no change)

34. What political issue stirred you the most? I can’t stand politics. Truly. (no change)

35. Who did you miss? My mom – I wish we lived closer. And several out of state friends.

36. Who was the best new person you met? Too hard to choose!

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013. Work hard while the getting’s good, but don’t sacrifice TOO much time w/your family. It won’t be worth it in the long run.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I can’t think of any right now. Will come back if something occurs to me.

Category: me, me, me  Tags:  Comments off

House of Blues Gospel Brunch – a must-see!

Disclosure: We received comp tickets to attend this event.

I grew up with music as a very big part of my life. It was an essential part, in fact. My mom sang. I sang. Many members of my extended family sang or played instruments. I have such great memories of neighborhood jam sessions where my uncle played steel guitar, a cousin played fiddle my aunt played acoustic guitar, and another cousin played mandolin or banjo. It is part of who I am and maybe why I miss singing so much (enough to torture my friends regularly with karaoke, in fact).

You might not know this, but I grew up attending a small country church. So in addition to country music, bluegrass, and rock-n-roll, I had gospel. Lots of old-fashioned, southern-style, tap-your-toes gospel music. You name an old church hymn and I can probably sing it. (Old Rugged Cross? Check. Victory in Jesus? Check. Power in the Blood? Check.)

IMG_3622.JPG

Fast forward to now and one of the things I miss most is Sunday Church music. So when I heard House of Blues was promoting their Gospel Brunch, I just knew I had to check it out. I gathered up a few girlfriends and we went to HOB in downtown San Diego to see if it lived up to its reputation.

DSC01317.JPG
(Melissa in front; Maggie, Debbie, Elizabeth, Rory, me; Abby had to leave & missed the photo)

I have to say, it totally did. The food (it is a brunch, after all) was great. It’s a buffet and there’s a lot of variety, with some good old southern food thrown in. We all had more than enough to eat.

IMG_3620.JPG

And the music. Oh, the music. It fed my soul, y’all. I needed that. Great choir, a little humor and fun thrown in, and the plenty of toe-tappin’ foot stompin’ music. They even pulled some people out of the audience to sing and each of them could sing crazy-good, too! Such a great way to spend a Sunday morning. Feed your stomach, then feed your soul.

IMG_3624.JPG

I highly recommend it and plan on taking the hubby back to see it with me. (It’s kid-friendly, but it depends on their age and how well they handle the crowd and noise. It gets a little rambunctious — in a good way.) It was a great time – and I think all of my girlfriends agreed!

Disclosure: We received complimentary tickets so we could attend Gospel Brunch. We were not required to write a review in any way, but I am doing so because I wanted to share my thoughts on it. All views are my own.

Disney PLANES takes off! (A review and some fun activities for kids)

Disclosure: We attended the press preview for the movie

I took my 5-year-old son on a date this past Monday. We don’t get a lot of “just us” time together. So when we got the chance to see Disney’s PLANES in the theater, I thought that’d be the perfect mother-son date.

You see, I love Disney movies. Always have. When they started coming out on video, I began my collection. I had ALL of them. And I still – at almost 40 – love to watch the movies. This was no exception.

PLANES

There’s something about the characters in this Cars/Planes world that are so cute & adorable & a little bit goofy. As an adult, you can probably guess the ending of the movie. But when a kid sees it, they get completely caught up in the story. And it’s as much fun to watch them as it is to watch the movie.

Dusty.jpg

You see, Dusty is this cute little crop duster who’s bored with, well, dusting. He wants to be more. He wants to race. Of course, the other planes think that’s absurd, because how can a crop duster compete with jets and planes that are built for speed?

ned-zed.jpg

But Dusty trains, and works hard, and does his best to show everyone that you CAN do more than people expect of you. Even if you weren’t “built” for racing. And, of course, his loyal friends join him along the journey.

skipper-dottie.jpg

I asked my son what his favorite part of the movie was. He said it was when Dusty got repaired (after an incident – don’t want to spoil it). My son was so excited to see all the different airplanes, see them flying around and doing amazing flying tricks!

This might just be another one for the library when it comes out on DVD. I bet our youngest will enjoy it by that time, too. (Not sure my 2-year-old can sit in a theater that long, so his viewing may have to wait.)

I’m glad we didn’t wait to see it. The animation is – as always – amazing. And the 3D is great. It’s perfect for a movie like that.

If you wonder whether you should see it in the theater, go for it! We had a really great time.

Want to see a preview of the movie, if you haven’t already?

And here’s one more:

You can also check out RSN on YouTube for even more videos: http://www.youtube.com/RacingSportsNetwork

There are some fun things to do from the movie, too.

Download Race to the Finish! Activities

Download Coloring & Connect the Dots

And if you want all of this cool stuff in one place, then you’ll want to bookmark FlewTube. It has things like this:

  • Planes Trailers & Clips
  • Paper Airplane Tutorials
  • Features on Remote Controlled Flyer enthusiasts
  • Introductions to parts of a plane
  • Flight-related Disney legacy content

One last thing. There are games, too! Of course there are games.

If you haven’t already, give your kids the chance to take flight with the characters from Disney’s PLANES in two immersive games available now on the web!

Final disclosure: While we went to a press preview, we paid for all our food. I am already on Disney’s blogger email list, so I get emails with these types of links to free downloads and I chose to use them in my post. Opinions about the movie are my own; I was not asked to do anything more than provide a link to my review.

5 ways to save on your energy bill with SDG&E

Last month I got the chance to visit the SDG&E Energy Innovation Center up in Clairemont. I used to live down the hill, but haven’t been back over to the area. I was surprised and delighted to see that they’ve revamped an old shopping center into a pretty cool place. Just look at it:

And even cooler? They have solar panels in their parking lot that FOLLOW the SUN.

So I was pretty impressed with the setup by the time I got inside. And then I saw something that both of my boys would be gaga over:

That is a GIANT fan. So cool.

Anyway. The reason I was actually there was to learn about SDG&E rates and how we can save energy by making even small changes around the house.

To give a little background, your bill is calculated (very simple version) like this:

rate x usage = your bill

SDG&E does not make money based on how much energy we use. It has no financial gain in encouraging us to use more electricity. Instead it makes money on investing in its infrastructure (but still regulated by a formula). Utilities are HEAVILY regulated. They are given a set percentage of ROI.

But our rates ARE tiered, so they more you use the more you pay. And the top tiers (the ones using the most electricity) are subsidizing the lower tiers. This is also going to come into play later. Hold on.

Now, here’s where that regulation really comes into play. SDG&E can’t raise or reduce rates on its own. It’s set by the Cost of Capital proceeding. But because the last one was delayed, new rates (which are set in the General Rate Case proceeding are filed about every 3-4 years) didn’t go into effect at the beginning of 2012 when it should have. Because the commission didn’t get around to it.

What does that mean for us? It means that the year & a half delay in setting SDG&E rates is going to hit us on our bills. That 18 months or so is going to have to be made up somehow. And it’ll be made up in the form of higher rates (but spread out through 2015 so we’re not hit all at once).

And since the top 2 tiers (that would be tiers 3 & 4) pay 50% more than other tiers, it’s going to hit those with high consumption a LOT harder. If you want to find out more about the rates, you can go to sdge.com/2013rates to learn more.

I tell you that to prepare you for what’s hitting our electric bills in September. And I’m also telling you that so you’ll get serious about saving energy. Like, RIGHT NOW. If you do a few easy things, you can start to reduce your bill. And believe me when I say some of these are super easy to do. Here are FIVE super-duper easy tips to save some money right now.

1) First, sign up online so you can look at your bill on SDG&E’s site (sdge.com). Then you can download this SUPER COOL app that helps analyze your energy and see when your usage is highest, as well as see your usage over time. Do you do laundry during peak hours? (Stop it.) Your usage will probably spike a bit during that time. (Note: although you aren’t charged more for using power during the day, it is a peak usage time. And during “Reduce your use” days, SDG&E will ask you not to use major appliances at that time, change your thermostat setting, turn off lights, etc. So if you get in the habit now, you’ll have less to worry about on those days during the summer where high usage is a big issue.) The SDG&E reps showed us the app and it’s really sweet how much info you can see. I am going to do that right when I’m done with this post.

2) Replace your bulbs NOW. I hate CFLs to be honest (I use dimmer switches, y0). But considering that lighting can be up to 20% of home energy use, I’m going to consider going to LED bulbs instead. Yes, they are still a bit pricey. But they last a really long time. So your savings from not buying bulbs all the time and lowering your bill will help mitigate that expense.


I mean, look at the bulb choices! So much to use other than incandescent.

3) Use Smart power strips and save up to $300 a year by shutting down those energy vampires in your home. You know, all the computer & phone charges that continue drawing power when they’re plugged in? Things like printers that you don’t use all day, but there they are, plugged in, little lights flashing, sucking up your energy’s lifeblood like a Lost Boy. (If you don’t get that reference you are DEAD TO ME.)

This little puppy can save you some money (and it came in my Home Energy Upgrade Kit):

4) Adjust your thermostat to 78° during the summer months and 68° during the winter. We’ve all heard it, but how many of you actually do it? Save yourself $200 a year by just wearing a sweater during the cooler months, okay?

5) Use motion sensors with your outdoor lighting and save up to 50% on costs of running them. Turn them off at night (or use a timer to turn them off for you). Replace the high wattage security lights with LED lights, which can be just as bright but use a lot less energy. Install solar landscaping lights and save even more!

This is only the tip of what you can save. SDG&E has energy experts that can tell you more ways to reduce your use. And on their website, you can go through an energy evaluation that gives you easy solutions based on your DIY knowledge, time, and budget. No kidding! You can sign up for Reduce Your Use alerts and earn rewards for saving energy on certain days.

Oh, and one more thing. You can go and tour the Energy Innovation Center yourself – they’re open to the public and offer tours! I’m going to see if we can take my son’s class after school starts back up.

A big thanks to SDG&E for hosting us and giving us so much great information, as well as the Home Energy Upgrade Kit. All opinions here are my own, and if any of the info is incorrect, I’m the one that screwed it up. Thanks for reading!

The problem with blogging

Social media killed my blog. It’s true. Facebook and Twitter are so quick. I can fire off a quick thought, a funny observation, or as many non sequiturs as I’d like. Them BAM I can get right back to work without missing a beat.

But blogging’s not like that. It takes time to think about things. Develop the story you want to tell. Add photos to make it interesting. It takes work.

And I am inherently lazy. Yes, lazy. I’ll take the easy way out just about every time.

Take a whole hour to sit and think about what I want to say? Organize my thoughts? Make sense to people? What’s that? I’m all about the brain dump, baby. Vomit it all out there and move on.

But that’s not what people are looking for. They want you to DO something. Make them laugh. Think. Cry. Give them something useful to act on. I have a lot of cool stuff in my head (I think), but getting it out through my fingers has become almost impossible for me.

Then again, I can’t remember the last time I picked up my paper journal and got everything out either. I’m stuck. There’s so much jammed into my brain that I just don’t know where to start. So it stays in there until it disappears into the fog of my memory. Lost forever.

There are moments I don’t want to forget. And then there are others I wish I could.

I miss writing. I’m not really sure what I want this place to be. But it’s my space and I’ve poured out a lot of my soul over the last 10 years. And I’m stubborn. I just can’t quite quit yet.

So the problem with blogging is this: it’s me. That’s my blogging problem. Just me.

Old School: Braces Then, Invisalign Now

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored, but the story and opinions are my own.

Did you have braces when you were a kid? I did not, but I probably needed them. Still do, in fact. But the last thing I want to deal with is a bunch of metal in my mouth at (almost) 40 years old. I bite the inside of my cheeks often enough as it is. I can only imagine how much worse it would be with braces.

DSC00833

(Sugar Jones, getting her 80s on.)

So when I originally heard about Invisalign, I really wanted to find out more about them. I thought they were way too expensive for me. I thought old school braces were my only really option. And then I heard that Invisalign was doing an educational event, so I went to check it out.

DSC00836

(Rory knows something you don’t know.)

And I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Invisalign costs about the same as traditional braces, with fewer office visits. Oh, and none of those broken wire emergency visits, either. Once I was on a fishing trip with a bunch of friends, and we were out for at least an overnight trip. And yes, one of the passengers (a good friend) had braces. One of her wires CAME LOOSE and was poking her in the cheek. There was no chance of an emergency office visit. So I took some pliers and put the wire back in the bracket for her. ON A BOAT. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OCEAN. No lie.

And people wonder why I am certain I’ll never get braces. THAT RIGHT THERE is why, y’all.

DSC00842

(Gigi doesn’t like the thought of food stuck in her teeth. Or you taking a photo of her eating. You pick the right one.)

And yes, it’s a great option for teens, too. Oh how I wish this had been around for me when I was a teenager. But I’m glad it’s an option when my boys are older (I think my oldest is probably going to need help when he’s old enough). And if your kid loses a tray, it’s pretty easy to reorder one. I love that, as I have a feeling that’ll be important since I have two boys that already can’t remember where they put things. :)

Invisalign

(Nicole is recreating her teen look here. No need for headgear with Invisalign!)

And now that I have diet restrictions (I’m diabetic), it’s nice to know that I wouldn’t be even further restricted with Invisalign, because you can take the trays out while you eat. That is AWESOME.
.
DSC00834

(Maggie and me – birthday sisters)

One important thing I learned is that not all dentists are certified Invisalign providers, so make sure you use the doctor locator to find a provider near you.

As I get older, I do think about how I’d love to get rid of the annoying overbite I have. I would love that so VERY much! So my next step is to find a provider near me and talk to them about payment plans. While it’s still not cheap, advances in technology are moving so fast that it’s getting more affordable. And doggone it, I need to take care of me once in a while. I think this is something I would be very happy doing for myself.

And if I do, I will let you know!

A blank screen and some free time

I keep wanting to write. I have occasional thoughts of “Oh, I should write about that!” only to get busy, or forget about it, or waste the thought on FB instead. My writing has fallen very low on the priority list. I remember when I just HAD to write or I would go crazy. And now? Time flees my grasp, my kids are growing, and I’m not capturing life as I would like to.

It all goes by so fast and my memory is so horrible that if I don’t write it down, I eventually won’t remember it. And I so want to remember this time in my kids’ lives. In our lives. Even as it’s hard and crazy and messy and loud, it’s ours. And I have such a tenuous grasp on it all anyway. It floats through my fingers only to dissipate with barely a sound, a soft whisper of “You’re going to miss this when it’s gone,” before it really IS gone.

I’ve always been an observer. A recorder. Whether it was on paper or via camera, I had a compulsion to document things. If I don’t, then I’m afraid it didn’t happen. Why am I so desperate to leave a record, an “I was here!” for future generations to see? I guess maybe I always wished that I had found an old diary of a distant relative from years past where I could have a glimpse into what her life was like. Her hopes, dreams, loves.

I guess I want my kids to know that there was so much more to their mom than changing diapers, driving them to school, kissing scraped knees, or being their jungle gym. Don’t get me wrong – I love being that to them. But I am SO much more than that. I’m not quite sure what that is, because it’s tough to define yourself as more when you’re down in the trenches of mothering.

It starts by doing a better job of taking time for myself. I’ve been working a lot of hours recently and I haven’t taken enough time to care for myself, my relationship with my husband, or my friendships. I’m working on changing that. And it actually starts this weekend, by going out with a girlfriend yesterday and spending some time writing today.

I still have a lot of work to catch up on. That hasn’t changed. But I just have to know my limits. Wearing myself out isn’t going to help me work better, nor is it going to help the quality of my work. And with recent health developments, it has become even more important that I take care of myself. So it starts now. Wish me luck.

Xtreme Customz by Ridemakerz: It’s a hit!

I had the chance to host MommyParties, sponsored by Ridemakerz Xtreme Customz. We hosted 10 boys and their moms for a fun car-themed party. And let me tell you, these “carz” were a huge hit.

xtreme customz by ridemakerz

I didn’t tell my son ahead of time that we were having a party or what it was about. He is mad about cars and I knew he’d beg me for days to open the box. So I waited to tell him the night before and it was almost too much for him to bear. :)

photo6.JPG

Some of the boys were new friends, as I knew their moms but my son hadn’t met their sons. He was ecstatic. That’s him above.

All of the boys had a great time opening the boxes and assembling their Xtreme Customz cars. The target age range for these cars is 5-7 and I’d say that’s about right. The cars need some assembly: you snap the chassis into the body, add the tires & wheels & accessories. Some of the pieces are held in the package by clear little rubber bands, so keep that in mind when you open them.

Xtreme Customz

The cars are a little hard for your young one to assemble by themselves. They’re going to need some help getting everything out of the package and put together. And some models were easier than others were.

Once the boys got their cars together, it was nothing but car noises and races and crashes galore. They had a ball running all over our clubhouse with their Xtreme Customz. It was seriously loud with that many boys running around, but it was a good chaos. :)

boys playing with Xtreme Customz

The boys put them through the paces, crashing them off of the stairs and pool table, and even into each other. Although a piece would come off here & there, they easily popped them back on and kept going. I think only one small accessory broke (and that was during assembly) out of all of the cars. And these boys weren’t exactly gentle with their cars. :)

They played contentedly for at least 45 minutes — uninterrupted. And all the moms told me that their boys continued to play with their cars after they got home, too. That speaks to how cool these cars are. I think my son slept with his car for several nights after as well.

assembling Xtreme Customz

I’ve been a pretty big fan of Ridemakerz for a while already. I think we have 4 or 5 of their regular line of cars. These new Xtreme Customz are much smaller and start at a better price point – $9.99. You should be able to find them at Target and Toys R Us. (I even found them at Amazon.)

They were a big hit with all the boys. In fact, my almost 3-year-old has been trying to grab it and play with it, so I think there might be more Xtreme Customz in our future. Ridemakerz makes a good product. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to others. I may or may not have one (or two) of my own that the boys are NOT allowed to play with. Maybe. ;)

Full disclosure: We received a kit of 10 cars. All the boys got a car at no charge, and I was asked to post & share. I participated because I really like Ridemakerz. :)

Category: giveaways and reviews  Comments off