Friday, May 31, 2013

No More Drama - a 30 Day Challenge

Better things to do with my time
(c), Kristi Lloyd Photography

We humans must be pattern seeking machines, some of us more than others.  This post came about late last night as a convergence of Studio Calico's business decisions, papercrafting industry gossip, The Unpleasantness on my blog last summer, and of all things, Mini-Microsoft.

Given my new life of leisure, and the fact that BabyM is actually starting to nap like a real baby, I have some time on my hands to surf the web.  It's actually a problem for me, because I could be using that precious alone time to craft, nap, or tackle one of the many life improvement projects on My List.

I've found myself sucked in as of late to Teh Drama brewing first on the Studio Calico message boards, and then on the TwoPeas boards about recent business decisions made by SC, their communication to their customers, etc.  Personally I'm not affected by much of it - my crafty hoarding tendencies are being kept in check by our newly reduced income, so I'm just not spending money there like I used to.  I've also made the decision to cancel the last of my kit subscriptions after my term ends this month, as I have enough STUFF to do the next 10 years of Project Life.  But for whatever reason, I've been reading those snarky threads for entertainment.

My other guilty pleasure is this papercrafting industry anonymous gossip blog. People go there to "talk smack" about whatever and whoever they want. Sometimes it's got mean and unnecessary personal attacks, but I do love the discussions about new products and classes, in the "wtf were they thinking?" vein. I will say that I'm proud to have gotten a mention as having the "balls" to sell one of my papercrafting kits for 4x its original price ;)

When he used to post regularly, I read Mini-Microsoft's blog religiously, along with the HUNDREDS of comments.  This was a place where people would vent about working for the "Evil Empire", share info about review scores and compensation, nearly all anonymously.  Quite simply, it was just another form of gossip.

You can probably see where this is going.  Reading all of this is not good for the soul.  99% of the information is negative. I don't doubt people need to vent, but I don't need to take on all of their issues.  I found myself furious with Microsoft over how some random anonymous person was treated.  I got more annoyed with Studio Calico, whose products I love, while reading about others' (genuine) anger at how they had been treated.

Just like when I attended the "Womens' Leadership Training" at work last year, I felt like I was taking on everyone else's sorrow, anger, and problems by hearing about it.  I think that's just how my brain is wired.  I can't let it go, and the more I hear, the more it bugs me.

And then last night, while idly reading my regular blogs, it came to a head. I was just getting ready to comment on a post and read the preceding comments, only to find the same Anonymous Coward (AC) who ranted at me here last year about being judgmental go off on a long rant about how *I* was undermining working women because I am "jealous and unfulfilled" and apparently have trouble getting along with people at work (wtf?).  It's only too bad she didn't link to my blog so I could get the pageviews.

I was pissed and ready to fire off an angry response, but then realized that the (completely uninvolved) blog owner doesn't need to be in the middle of this.  I don't need to spend more brainspace being angry about this ridiculous thing that happened a year ago when I still stand by what I said and think.  Even for those few minutes, I was letting AC "drain my energy", to use one of those fancy parenting terms.

Mulling over it while trying to fall asleep last night (thank you iced tea at 6pm for the gift of insomnia!), I realized this was part of a larger pattern.  I feel like I *need* to read those negative and drama-filled threads for their dubious entertainment value.  I *need* to be "right" and respond back to this person who's not even listening anyway, and just spewing.

I don't NEED.  I'm CHOOSING.  And now I choose no drama.  So for the next 30 days, my birthday month, I'm doing a trial of sorts.  No papercrafting smack blog.  No message board drama threads.  No Facebook arguing about hot-button issues (I've already quit this and just unfriend instead). Thankfully Mini-Microsoft stopped writing, *and* I don't work there anymore.  And no responding to anonymous Internet rants, even if they are directed at me.

Instead, for this month, I'm going to use that time constructively.  To create, to write, to plan our Funnest Summer Ever, to clear out the damn junk drawer for the first time in 8 years.  And if I remember, I'll report back a few times a week on how I'm using my time for good.

Anyone with me?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I'll keep you my dirty little secret (The Economics of Blogging, 2012 Summary)

this is Peanut's House and we're just living in it
Since my original post about the economics of my blog was well-received, I figured I'd post a wrap-up of 2012.  On the bright side, I made the most money ever here in 2012. Which really just amounts to paying for the domain name, a few cups of Starbucks chai, and *maybe* a craft supply or two.

My Amazon affiliate earnings were finally enough to earn me a gift card (yay!), and totaled a surprising $151. What's even more amazing was that people using my links bought $2750 worth of stuff, most of which was in December (holiday shopping, I guess).  I can see the items, but not who purchased them, so if you're reading this, thank you :)

Project Wonderful, which had worked so well for me in the past, was a bit of a dud in 2012.  I made about $7, and since it costs $1 to withdraw money from my account, it's not worth doing yet.

I love working with BlogHer - they're just really nice people and sometimes they feature my posts, so that makes me happy too.  I earned $58 from the sidebar ad the entire year. It's not a lot, but it's nonzero, so yay.  I also earned $120 for book reviews, plus 6 free books including The Fault in our Stars, which was amazing, and which I never would have found on my own.  Not even sure how I'd put a value on how much I loved that book.  I also "sold out" my social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) for $100 to do a few sponsored posts for them.

So my total earnings for 2012 (estimating the books at $10 each) was just under $500.  Certainly not "Quit Your Day Job"-worthy, but surprising to me nonetheless.

You've probably already figured out that I have no problem using my blog to make money - I don't have guilt about selling out, or feel like it's a conflict between my art (or writing or whatever) and the almighty dollar.  It's an experiment for me on how monetization works, though I'm still fairly certain I don't want to put in the huge effort it would require to have a truly lucrative blog (if I could even come up with THE idea that would work).

So I'll just carry on, writing what I want, when I want, and reading a few good books along the way. What's not to love?

Friday, May 24, 2013

I knew you were trouble when you walked in

The Two Best Dogs Ever, Spike and Peanut, have had birthdays recently, and are 13 and 11, respectively. Not puppies any more, they spend most of their days napping.  Spike's kidneys aren't doing so well (typical for an old dog), so the vet put him on the Hill's k/d special food which is much lower in protein.

This food is expensive, but that's fine. We're in "do whatever it takes" mode with these guys, since they're both fairly healthy and don't seem to be in pain. The problem, though, is that Spike HATES this food. To the point where he will leave it in the bowl and just not eat. 

This is a BEAGLE, y'all. You know, canine garbage disposal? Crumb vacuum? This is the dog that spent 15 minutes trying to get at a chickpea that rolled under the stove.  For him to refuse food is baffling. And sad. He actually got skinny, down to 21 measly pounds from his fighting weight of 25. 

So we caved and started giving him Peanut's food, which is a high quality dry Old Dog food.  Or maybe it was Fat Dog food.  It was the lowest protein content we could find, around 18%, but not as low as the vet-suggested food.

But Spike's latest bloodwork showed that his kidneys were still not working well, and we needed to reduce his protein intake to help. The vet asked me if I would consider home cooking for him. I looked at him like he was crazy. Then I said yes.

I still can't believe it. But Spike is my second baby. Despite all his annoying barking, refusal to do anything that HE doesn't want to do, and the tiny black and white hairs ALL OVER EVERYTHING, including BabyM, he's part of our family. And I'm willing to do what it takes to keep him healthy.

So here I am, cooking for the DOG every 3-4 days. Fortunately it's pretty easy.  I mix equal ratios by weight of meat, vegetables, and grains after cooking, and the doctor gave me a list of each to choose from.

Meat: beef, chicken, tofu, beans, turkey, cottage cheese
Vegetables: Pumpkin, squash, green beans, carrots  (no leafy greens or onions)
Grains: Brown rice (best), quinoa, amaranth, white rice (no wheat or corn)

Doesn't actually look too bad, right?

So far I've used ground beef because it's inexpensive and easy to cook, canned pumpkin because it's easy to open a pre-weighed can, and whatever grains are languishing in our pantry now that I haven't been cooking them (all of which I can just throw in the rice cooker).  So far he's had quinoa and wild rice and likes them both.

The size of my pans and bowls limits me to cooking about 6 lbs of food at a time, which is about 4 days' worth.  I've been trolling the "manager's special" meat section at the grocery store, because they mark down the meat with sell-by dates coming soon.  I cook the meat the day I buy it, so that works well.

Spike is also taking a bunch of supplements to help his kidneys, and fortunately we can just add the pills to his food, and he doesn't even notice.

Because Peanut is over 100lb, I decided not to cook for him. He'd require 4 cups of food a day which means I'd need to cook daily to make enough for both of them.  So he gets whatever is left over after portioning out Spike's food, and is happy about that, but seems a little sad the rest of the week when he's eating his regular food. I'm not THAT crazy yet.

In 6-8 weeks, we'll go back to the vet and see how Spike's kidneys are doing. I'll be disappointed if all this effort isn't helping.  Then again, I haven't seen him this excited about his food in a long time, so that's something.

If you need an ego boost, I recommend cooking for a dog. Never has anyone been so excited about my cooking skills!

So, would you cook for your pets?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tuesday Lovin': Three of My Favorite Blog Posts EVER

Gratuitous BabyM photo,
 by Kristi Lloyd  Photography
In 8 years of blogging and Internet-time-wasting, I've read a lot of blog posts. Inspirational ones, funny ones, useful ones, not-so-useful ones. In the weird way that ideas converge, I was thinking about doing a post on my favorites, and a Facebook friend randomly mentioned one of them today, in a completely unrelated discussion. So I had to write this post - it was destiny, right?

I can't pinpoint exactly *why* these posts stuck with me over all these years. Two of these bloggers have consistently excellent posts, and the third is someone I don't read regularly, but his (?) post is just so ridiculously awesome that I have it bookmarked for when I want to laugh.

My friend S posted this link on Facebook a couple of years ago. I was home on maternity leave with BabyT so I had a lot of time to click links and read them. I now own and USE nearly every single item on her list - they are *that* useful. She hooked me with her lovely writing and all the stories that went with the gadgets. 

I think of it every time I use my fabulous green plastic spoon (and I'm thinking of buying another!).  I panicked in early 2010 when I was looking for the post, because I couldn't remember where I had seen it, and my fabulous friend S found it for me again. :)

I knew once T was born that I would be happy to become a stay-at-home mama. Right as I was returning to work from maternity leave, I read this post (wistfully).  This post encapsulates the brilliance of Moxie's blog -  the comments are a goldmine of information from parents all over the world.  I read her regularly, but this particular post stuck with me, for its anecdata of what everyone would need to make their jobs more compatible with family life. A few commenters discussed why they still worked.  

A close second was the one describing the Newborn Witching Hour. I bookmarked it to try solutions for both of my babies. It didn't fix the problem, but made me feel a lot better about The Crazy that descended on our house for those few weeks each time. 

This is the post that came up in discussion on Facebook today. I cannot articulate how much I love this. Anyone who has an always-hungry dog will understand. It makes me laugh out loud every single time I read it, so I keep it bookmarked. If you're not a dog person, you won't get it. Here are some cute baby photos instead.

Enjoy, and drop me links if you have a super favorite somewhere in Internet land.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Project Life 2013: Space Needle Wedding Letterpress Style

I finished this layout last night and it was hard. Nothing was coming together the way I wanted, my handwriting was terrible, and I messed up some journaling cards that I loved. Sigh. That's the way of creativity, right?

I've learned that if something is bothering me on a layout (or any creative project) that time won't fix it. That thing will *always* bother me, every time I see it. So now I know to listen to my intuition and fix it. Maybe that means I have to completely re-do something, but it also means the end result will be pleasing to me.

So last night when I was working on it, I struggled. I was anxious to get it done before bed so I could blog about it today. But I wasn't in a state of "flow". Every pocket was hard-won. But I'm fairly happy with the results.

I used the lovely letterpress invitation from Allison's baby shower as inspiration for the color scheme, then gathered up matching journaling cards from Studio Calico, the new Me and My Big Ideas line from Michael's (love those things!), and the new striped vellum paper I got at Daiso, the awesome Japanese dollar store we have downtown.  I've also been making a more conscious effort to use my stamps rather than just collecting them.

These pages cover our Big Outing to ride the Seattle Monorail and go up to the observation deck on the Space Needle, our friends M & T's wedding, and multiple trips to local parks thanks to our stunning weather.

I made some progress in figuring out my printing issues from Adobe Lightroom - I set Lightroom to manage the color instead of the printer, and now the photos are brighter and more true to what I see on-screen.  I still need to tweak the settings, but am much happier with the results now. (Click for larger images.)

Apr 22 - May 5: Wedding, Space Needle, Parks

Apr 22 - May 5: Babies & Penguins

Here's a slide show of my 2013 pages, including close-ups.  If you can't see it, click here to view my entire 2013 Project Life gallery.

Project Life @ The Mom Creative

Saturday, May 11, 2013

We live our lives on a feeling

I think I've written this same post 5 or 6 times over the past 8 years I've been blogging.  (8 years!).  I read a post by Cathy Zielske that's been rolling around in my head.  She's struggled with the hard work of losing weight and getting healthier, and her therapist-type person told her that she:
simply keep(s) this a problem in my life because it allows me to act like a child and indulge every whim rather than do what is needed, which is to feed my body healthy, nutrient dense food in appropriate amounts and to exercise.
My first thought was "damn, she's paying someone to say mean things to her?!".  And then my second thought was "Huh, I think that applies to me too."

I'm smart.  I know what I need to do to lose weight (a staggering amount, after this second pregnancy).  I am lucky enough to even know *exactly* how I need to eat, and that I will feel *incredible* when I eat the right things and get just a little bit of exercise.  

For me and my PCOS, diabetes-family-history self, the Paleo diet works best.  Doing the Whole30 back in Oct 2011 was really transformative for me - I had a TON of energy, needed only 7-8 hours of sleep, and felt mentally clear and just *ready* for whatever life was going to bring.

So who wouldn't keep doing it, with those fabulous results? It would be stupid to stop, right?  But I did. It was a gradual process, and I've still kept some good habits, so it's not a total loss.  But it started with just one plate of French toast, and continued down the slippery slope of "I've got 2 little kids now and I'm starving and the Taco Time drive-through is easy."  

I was angry about having a restricted diet and felt that with all the transitions in my life lately, I "deserve" to eat what I want.  But I'm a grownup.  I'm in charge, and making the choices.  I shouldn't feel like "someone" is forcing me to eat healthy against my will.

I'm not a person for whom "everything in moderation" works.  I need ironclad rules.  I also HATE food journaling with a passion.  Whole30 and on a larger scale, Paleo, meets all these needs. No counting, no hunger, and all the (sustainably, humanely sourced) bacon a girl can eat.

I am starting fresh today with my second Whole30.  So if you see me in person, help a girl out.  Don't bring me cake or ask if I want to see the dessert menu.  And most definitely do not order me a diet Coke if we're meeting for lunch.  

I feel good about this.  I'm mentally ready to do what's right for me.  I know it's going to be hard, especially at weekend breakfasts out.  But I do not want to arrive at my 40th birthday (looming!) still fighting with myself about weight and wishing things were different.  So here's to DOING.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Crazy 8

Today TJ & I have been married for 8 years.  Our marriage is the same age as a 3rd grader.  He explained to T that an anniversary is "the birthday of our marriage".  His simple yet accurate explanations are just one of the many things I think are awesome about him.

I made a little photo collage and discovered that I don't have a single photo of us together in 2008.  (Click for a larger version.)

In true tired parent form, neither of us remembered our anniversary until a few days ago. Since my parents will be in town soon, I'm looking forward to planning our first date night since BabyM was born.  Yes, it's really been that long since we went out alone together.  It's complicated when BabyM will only nurse to sleep. At least now her bedtime is fairly predictable, and she mostly can settle herself back to sleep if she wakes before midnight so we may be able to squeeze in a nice dinner somewhere fairly close to home.

One of the things I loved about M & T's wedding last weekend was how they involved all the guests in the hand-fasting, and asked us to affirm our support for their marriage.  It was similar to the Guest Affirmation in our own ceremony 8 years ago.  

In honor of 8 years, here are 8 things I am grateful for in our marriage:

1. He is an equal partner in our home life.
2. We made some nice babies
3. He will watch the crappy TV shows I like (Law & Order, Gray's Anatomy, Glee)
4. We are both introverts, so we understand each others' need for alone time.
5. Babies love to sleep on him.
6. He fixes things when they break, when my "solution" would be to throw it away and get a new one.
7. He's always up for a trip to Canlis.
8. Our travel "personalities" are well-matched, ie. we're homebodies who enjoy a big trip every few years.

I still marvel to myself how lucky I am to have found someone who suits me so well. 16-year-old me would have thought it was crazy if you said she'd marry that "mysterious older guy" she was crushing on.  

Life is pretty amazing sometimes.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Love and happiness

Yesterday we went to a wedding.  This was the first one we've attended in 7 years, unbelievably. I guess we're just in that phase of life where everyone is already married, has decided not to get married, or elopes.

T was very excited about it - we got her a new dress and matching hair clips, told her she could wear her dress-up black shoes, and said she could dance.  I prepped her for the part where she would need to sit quietly and listen to the ceremony.

The invitation said "aloha attire" and BabyM was the only one who had anything vaguely resembling that.  TJ and I settled on ocean blue, and T's dress had flamingos, which I figured was close.

we honestly didn't plan this level of matchiness!

It was a perfect day for a wedding by the lake.  Both girls were in remarkably good spirits despite interrupted naps.  The room was filled with love and good wishes for the happy couple, as all weddings are.

But this wedding was different from all the others we've attended.  This one had two brides, who have been together for 14 years and married for 10, but are only now able to make it legal.  It was an honor to be invited, and I am *so* grateful to M and T for the opportunity for their wedding to be the first one my girls experienced.

T asks a lot of questions, and yesterday she asked *why* people get married.  I told her that people get married when they find someone they love very much and want to spend the rest of their lives with that person.

I love that T never got the memo about marriage being only between a man and a woman.  I hope that when she and her sister are grown up, they'll be incredulous that it was such a big deal for two women or two men to get married, just like I am still surprised that my own marriage would have been illegal in some states a few decades before I was born.

As expected, we had to leave a bit early due to missed naps and early bedtimes, but it was a wonderful, perfect, lovely way to end our weekend. 

Friday, May 03, 2013

I'm always workin', slavin' every day

Bonus points if you guess where that song lyric is from.

I had the perfect flexible "job" today where I was able to bring my baby and leave in time for T's preschool pickup. Even better, it involved craft supplies.

A few months ago, I signed up for the Citrus Twist kit for my Project Life pages. The first month it arrived, I was surprised to find that the return address on the package was a small town 20 minutes from us.  That month, my kit took a week to arrive because USPS thought my box needed a vacation in Jacksonville, FL (seriously).

You know I have a weakness for craft supplies, and especially papercrafty kits. Given that I was soon going to be jobless but didn't want to give up my kit subscriptions, I asked Trina, the business owner if she needed any help.

To my surprise she said yes! So today I got a behind-the-scenes peek into the fascinating world of running a scrapbook kit club.  BabyM and I went to her house after our Starbucks run (I really need to give that up!) and Trina gave me a job to do - measuring and cutting lengths of gorgeous ombre-colored twine for this month's kits.

Tasks like this relax me. One of my all-time favorite jobs in college was sorting mail for the Chemical Engineering department.  Campus Mail Services dropped off a huge box with all the mail for the building.  It was my job to put the mail into each individual's mailbox and forward items to folks who were no longer there.  I did this for one hour twice a day every weekday.

It was a welcome respite from hours of chemistry, math and physics lectures and the looming problem sets that were always due.  Not to mention that $10/hour was a kingly sum for my 18-year-old self.  Unexpectedly, that job yielded me 2 offers for paid summer research positions and I met a lot of graduate students and faculty I never would have talked to otherwise.  Opportunity often knocks when I'm least expecting it.

Today I had a great time chatting with Trina about how she runs her business, new paper products (swoon), and our families.  BabyM played (mostly) quietly on the floor next to us.  I didn't get as much done as I had hoped, but will go back next week while BabyM plays with her grandparents.

It was a neat way to spend a few hours this morning, and despite forgetting to take photos, I'll definitely include it in my upcoming Project Life layout!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

She blinded me with science

BabyM loves Science
Shortly after each of my babies was born, I got a postcard in the mail from the University of Washington asking if we wanted to add them to a roster of experimental subjects for research studies.

This sounds weird and ominous, right?  But actually, it's pretty cool.  UW has some amazing research programs on humans - the kind of biology and neuroscience stuff I know nothing about. I was a molecular bio/biochem person in my previous life.

T only got called once when she was about 15 months old, for a study to determine when babies understand cause and effect. The study is mentioned here, but I can't find an actual reference for it. 

We went down to "the U" on a sunny day, and she got to play with some toys and watch some things light up.  The researcher would arrange a group of toys in a particular orientation and then see if she'd imitate him.  T was more interested in naming the objects - ladder, octopus, helicopter.  He was impressed by her verbal skills, and she wanted to play more when we were done.  She got a small toy elephant for her "work" and our parking was free.

Last week I got an email asking for babies to participate in a non-invasive hearing study.  BabyM and I went to our first of three sessions today, and it was the first time in YEARS I wandered around the University District.  I went to school at UW nearly 15 years ago, so I'm familiar with the area, but it's changed so much since then.  I don't remember it being quite so seedy-looking, to be honest, but maybe I'm just viewing it with my suburban mama filter now.

This study required BabyM to wear a tiny earpiece and listen to some (quiet) white noise, over which they'd play people speaking.  They were watching to see if she'd react when the sounds changed.  

Since she was sitting on my lap, they needed me to be "neutral" so I got to listen to music so I couldn't hear or influence her reaction - Mama is nothing but a piece of furniture in this experiment!.  I listened to half of U2's The Joshua Tree, and remembered what an AMAZING album it is. It was the first album I bought on CD, back in 1990.  Yeah, I'm old.

BabyM is happy and smiley when she's not tired or hungry so this morning went well and she charmed the (all-female!) staff at the lab.  We'll go back twice more next week and earn our $15 and free parking again (probably just enough to pay gas and the bridge toll!).

I like the idea of contributing to Science, and of course, the studies I agree to are totally safe for my girls.  I'm obviously not doing it for the money.  I do think it's good for babies to go out and meet new people and see different things. BabyM was fascinated by all the colorful photos on the walls at the lab, as the same building has a Speech and Hearing Clinic for kids.

I did decline the request for a 2-year study that required us to come in 6-8 times for a sleeping MRI, right around bedtime, for 1-2 hours each. I don't think MRIs are harmful, but wrangling a tired baby and trying to get her to fall asleep in an unfamiliar environment seemed like a recipe for stress.

But the easy studies during the day?  Sign us up!

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