March 23 2017

What is your Time Suck?

What is your Time Suck?

I’m not sure if a time suck is considered a real thing or not, but I can tell you there are a few of them hanging around our daily lives. I kind of fell into one this morning while I was supposed to be getting ready for work. Let me explain.

My phone dinged, so of course, I had to see who was texting me. It turns out it wasn’t a text at all but a notification that Kid 2 had posted something to Facebook. I am always curious to see what the kids think is worthy of sharing or posting to their Facebook feeds. So I paused my morning routine long enough to take a look. Unfortunately, I saw something that caught my eye just below what Kid 2 had posted, so I scrolled down and saw the cutest cartoon called Fowl Language drawn with ducks as the main characters and it was all about parenting. Now I am quite sure I am the last person to learn about this but keep in mind that I do live under a rock most of the time, or as hubby used to tell me, I am culturally deprived.

After I had wandered down that black hole looking at a post with the ten best cartoons or some such, I hit the back button realizing I should be getting back to the morning routine. When I got back to the Facebook screen, I was again distracted by a post of the top funniest yard signs or something like it, I had to see just the first one so, of course, I clicked on it and read the first few but managed to stop myself when I realized it was one of those pages seriously over-populated by ads and graphic links to other eye-catching stories tucked just beneath the big orange NEXT button that I would need to click to keep “reading” the bit about the funny yard signs. Ha! I thought. I am smarter than that I will not get sucked into that again. Last time I followed one of those paths, it was about a baby baboon and what the female lion did to it. Next thing I knew I had to wade through a story on a different lion that involved a hippo, but they kept taunting me to continue by telling me how I just had to read about the baby baboon and what happened to it. That darned baby baboon was so cute, I just had to stick with the story until I learned the ending. I told myself I was better than that now and went back to getting ready for work.

I escaped that time by telling myself I could look at Facebook while I ate breakfast if I still wanted to. The thing with Facebook is that if you don’t look at something of interest when you see it, you may never find it again. I have lost hours looking for something I saw once and wanted to find again. It doesn’t help knowing who originally posted it either because the feeds fill up so quickly that eventually you just give up or get sucked down a more distracting rabbit hole. I have solved this sort of by saving the video or link, but now Facebook is constantly reminding me that I saved several things this week and asking if I wanted to go back and look at them now. I call that nagging! Facebook doesn’t understand this is my way of bookmarking the posts I want to be able to find again.

Most of the time, I try to avoid Facebook altogether. I used to get notifications from lots of my friends but then I realized that some of them did nothing but report everything they liked from their feed and never posted anything of personal interest. I only told Facebook to notify me so I wouldn’t miss the important things in my friends’ and family members’ lives, but I quickly realized I was being notified almost constantly and it was way too distracting. So I turned off all the notifications except for hubby (who is rarely on Facebook anyway) and the kids. Most of what I know about what goes on in the kids’ lives I learn from Facebook and when it comes to finding photos to share in the family holiday newsletter, I have to go see what photos are available on Facebook. So, I’m not saying Social Media doesn’t have it’s uses. I just know that I need to only tune in to it when I have free time to burn (so, almost never) and even then I know I had better set a timer to pull me back out of the time suck I will invariably get pulled into.

The lesson of the day to avoid time sucks is to leave the phone alone until after I am ready to walk out the door for the day. I also need to take the time to change the notifications so the one for text messages is different than general notifications.

So what are the time sucks in your life? How have you learned to deal with them? Please let us know in the comments.

March 16 2017

Travel Tips for Parents and Everyone Else

Travel Tips

We have done a fair bit of traveling as a family and I have learned these travel tips along the way.

For Everyone:

Pack basic snacks, preferably healthy ones, for the road trip. I suggest baby carrots, celery sticks, bottled water, cheese sticks, and pretzels. This will help cut down on costs and the number of stops. Eating healthy can also help offset the extra calories we all tend to eat on vacations, just because it IS vacation and we know we deserve to treat ourselves.

When you are planning a trip, unless you already get some sort of member discount for booking hotels, you might want to consider getting a membership to your local AAA Auto Club. This can often save you at least 10% off the cost of hotel rooms or attraction tickets. The savings from one trip could well pay for the cost of the annual membership and you would still have the benefit of the roadside assistance and towing to use the whole year which can again save you to cost of the membership if you ever need to have your car towed.

Book your overnight stays before you hit the road. While I am all for being spontaneous, there is something to be said for having a guaranteed place to sleep each night. I have been on trips where we spent hours driving from one hotel to another only to find out they were filled. Nothing sucks the fun out of a trip faster than taking care of this sort of thing while actually on the road. Save yourself the stress and headaches and book ahead of time. Trust me on this. If you want to be spontaneous while on your trip, you can always change your plans but again call and make reservations for the night before you go off on the new plan. Most hotels will let you cancel a reservation without penalty as long as you do so before 6pm. If they don’t then you should know this upfront so you can make an informed decision about whether or not you want to stay there at all.

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Remember the games you played on car trips when you were a kid? Get the whole carload of passengers involved as you take turns trying to find the letters of the alphabet in order. There are many travel versions of family favorite games like travel bingo, checkers, chess, backgammon, Chinese checkers and more. One of the games we love playing on the road is called RubberNeckers. We picked it up at a Cracker Barrel store years ago and it stays in the pocket in the car door so it is at the ready.

For Parents with Young Children:

Get extra road maps and highlight the trip so your child can follow along. Talk about the places you are driving through as you are on the road. Get the kids interested ion maps and such early.

Consider wrapping small treats to give out every hundred miles or so. This helps keep them entertained because there is something new to hold their interest every so often. It helps the kids to track time. Discuss how many treats it will be before you arrive at your destination. This encourages counting and discourages the “Are we there yet?” whining that every child seems to feel is a necessary part of traveling.

Consider traveling at night so young kids will sleep through the better part of the driving. This can be hard for the parents because it could mean they are sleep deprived and cranky when the kids are wide awake, so use your own judgment here. You know your kids and how well they travel.

Again, consider healthy snacks and for heaven sake, avoid sugar unless you want the kids bouncing around the car for the entire trip. Think water instead of soda and fruit or raisins instead of fruit roll-ups or candy.

Keep baby wipes with you in the car at all times. These are great for so many things, but especially wiping sticky hands and faces.

For Parents with Teens:

Encourage your teen to pack their own entertainment. Headphones are your friend unless you enjoy the music your teen listens to.

Encourage them to bring along crossword puzzle books, electronic hand-held games or game systems (they may have these games on their cell phones). These can help pass the time. Our family used to bring GameBoys and Pokémon games. Don’t forget to bring books and magazines along to read. E-Readers can be great to keep them reading well after dark, but have them set the background to black or dark gray and the text to white so the glare won’t bother the driver so much.

Books on tape/CD/digital media are awesome. Have the family pick a couple of longer ones and consider listening as a group. They will be asking when you are getting back on the road again instead of are we there yet. Some of our favorites were the Harry Potter series (love listening to the accents!) and the Redwall series. Try to either make it something everyone is interested in and hasn’t read yet or a familiar favorite that you may have read but never heard read aloud.

Let the teens take turns navigating and choosing where you will stop for meals. Teens love to be independent and prove they have something to contribute.

One of our favorite apps to use while traveling is Interstate Exits Guide. This tells what restaurants and gas stations are at each exit on the major highways. It can be very handy. It also lists rest areas. Make sure your phone has a flashlight app when you travel, but it is also handy to have all the time. There is an app called HERE WeGo that allows you to download maps for entire states ahead of time and use the app offline so as not to use up your data while on the road. It goes without saying that you may need multiple chargers for the family’s electronic devices. We have used the sliding pencil cases to store cords and chargers in. These are cheap and easy to throw into a backpack or duffel bag while still keeping cords contained and tangle free.

Where ever you travel remember to be safe.

March 9 2017

Visit Your Friend’s Bookshelf

On your next stay-cation, consider asking a friend of you can visit their bookshelf. Visiting a bookshelf that is not your own is an adventure to behold. Each book is a window to a new world just waiting to be opened and explored. Where will it take you? Who will you meet? What sort of adventure will you have?

Will you explore the reference books? Maybe an encyclopedia so you can explore new countries and see what sorts of things that country is known for producing. What does the flag look like? Do they dress differently than we do? What sorts of foods do they eat?

Maybe you will find a hunk and watch him fall in love with the girl next door. Maybe sail off to some romantic island getaway. If you haven’t been exposed to healthy adult relationships, perhaps you will learn through reading inspirational fiction books what a normal adult relationship could look like.

When you open a book, you can choose to embark on a new fantasy. Perhaps your friend has new books you could borrow if you promise to let them explore your bookshelf too. How does your friend have her book shelf organized? Is it alphabetically by title, or maybe by the author? Perhaps it is sorted by genre or even by publication date. It could be sorted by physical size or even by spine color. Maybe this bookshelf has some titles standing and others stacked horizontally. Your friend may have chosen to display some of the treasures they have collected during their travels around the globe.

Which books do you and your friend both have on your bookshelf? You may find you have many common titles or you could discover that you and your friend have completely different tastes in reading material. After you and your friend have fully explored each other’s bookshelves, you may want to visit the local public library and broaden your horizons.

I usually look for books by authors similar to ones I have already read and know I love. But then when I find a new author I enjoy reading, I tend to read my way through the entire list of all their books owned by the library. The library is one of my favorite resources and the reason I have stayed interested in reading all these years. If I had to buy all the books I read, I would have been able to read a mere fraction of the books I have consumed thus far. Not only do I not have the money to buy every book I read, but I lack the space to store them all. If I had copies of all the books I have read, I would have to spend a significant amount of time dusting all those books. This is time I would much rather spend reading yet another book. While I do like owning books so I can freely loan them out to a friend to read, the library is still a good resource for that because if I can find and borrow the books I want to read, then once I recommend it to a friend, that person can go and check it out for themselves.

Looking through a friend’s bookshelf might help you to discover a new author who will go on to become a new favorite of yours. Sometimes the vast quantities of books at the public library are overwhelming to me and I have trouble deciding which books I want to take home with me to read. So I find exploring the bookshelves of my friends to be a good way to discover things I might not have picked up from a library or book store to read. My friend can tell me a little about the titles that I think sound interesting and help me to make an informed decision on whether I would enjoy reading it or not.

Do you let your friends borrow your books? Have you ever visited your friends’ bookshelves? Did you find some exciting new books to add to your To Be Read List?

March 7 2017

It’s Finally Here!

The day we have all been waiting for is here! Today. My friend Abby released her newest version of her Building A Framework Blogging course today. I have been using her course to learn to set up this blog and use Word Press and I believe in it so much I became an affiliate.

If you have ever wanted to start your own blog but didn’t know where to start, this is the place. Here is the affiliate link to get the course. If you click it the price will be the same for you, but I may earn a small commission from the purchase you make.

I know this blog isn’t perfect, but I am working my way through the course and wouldn’t be this far if not for her great tips and advice.  I still have so much to learn but I am tackling things one chapter at a time and it has only been a little while since I took my leap of faith, bought my own domain and started in on the course, so I think I have done pretty well in one short month. Now that things are kind of set up, I am focusing on things like building my email list and writing posts. It has been so much fun learning something new and seeing where it goes. Check in on Thursday nights to see what I have written for that week’s post. I occasionally get inspired to post at other times but late on Thursday nights is when you can expect to see a new post here. If you have something you’d like to see a post on, don’t hesitate to let me know!

March 5 2017

Have you ever thought about starting a blog?

If I had to guess, I would bet that most people have thought about starting a blog at some point in their life. Maybe they have a passion that they want to share, or maybe they want to use their knowledge, experience, and expertise to help others. Maybe they’re looking for a creative outlet, or maybe they’ve heard that this whole blogging thing can actually become a business that has the ability to bring in extra income.

Whatever the reason, blogging seems to be one of those things that is intriguing to people, and I can totally understand why! I felt the same things when I decided to start my blog! Since I’ve now realized just how amazing blogging is, I only wish I had jumped on all of those “what ifs” and started my blog sooner!

If you’ve always wanted to start a blog, you need to meet my friend Abby from Just a Girl and Her Blog. She and her husband Donnie are full time bloggers, and they love to help others get started with blogging as well. This week, they will be holding a free training for new and soon-to-be bloggers on one of the most important parts of starting a blog: deciding what to write about (also known as your blogging “niche”).

Click here to sign up for the free webinar.

In the training, Abby and Donnie will be talking about:

  • Why having a well defined niche is so important for the success of your blog
  • A simple equation for finding your perfect niche
  • How to make a decision if you’re torn between a few different blogging topics
  • What to do when you’ve decided on the perfect blogging topic for you

At the end of the training, Abby and Donnie will also talk about their newly revamped course Building a Framework: The Ultimate Blogging Handbook, which provides even more in depth help and training for new bloggers.

Click here to register for a time that works for you!

If you’re a new blogger (or would like to be!) I hope you’ll join us at this helpful free training and take the next steps toward creating a blog that thrives! Blogging has made such a huge impact on my life, and I know it can on yours as well! “See” you there!