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Is What You’re Doing Making You Happy?

By August 16, 2017 About me, Advice, General

A lot of people ask: Are you doing what makes you happy? But I wonder if we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe we should ask: Is what you’re doing making you happy?  I don’t mean your job or career.  Sure, there’s value in doing something that you find rewarding.  But I’m talking about your general mentality in life.

When I was younger; just starting out on my own, a lot of people said I had an attitude problem. That made me so mad! But they were right. I just couldn’t see it.

The problem wasn’t my “personality” – it was how I came off to others. I had been surrounded by so much negativity for so long that it had become my “normal”.  My mother and step-monster were slowly smothering me with poison and I didn’t even know it. I was the proverbial frog in hot water.

Are you surrounded by negative people? We call them “toxic” these days.

One thing that we should all recognize about toxic people is that they have chosen to be like that. My mother wasn’t always a pit of negativity. Life dealt her some tough cards and she decided to flip the table and have a tantrum. For 30 plus years. And still going. I fully believe that these kinds of people are also aware of their weight on others – but that’s another post…

I decided to follow a different path.

When I was in college, I met a girl who was always bubbly and happy.  She practically giggled her words out.  When I moved away after a few years, I decided that I wanted to be like that girl.  I wanted other people to enjoy being around me.

So first – I had to change how I talked.  Even about something as mundane as the weather.  It seems silly to tell our children that they’re “not allowed” to use words like “hate”, but I think we should teach them that it is a very strong and very dark word and it should be used sparingly.  As a young adult, I had to almost completely strike it from my vocabulary.  I had to tell my point of view from a different angle.

Instead of saying, “I hate winter!” I learned to say, “I prefer summer.”  Instead of saying, “The service was terrible.” I began to say things like, “I wish the service was a little better.”  Instead of saying, “The food was bad.” I changed to, “I didn’t care for what I ordered.”

In changing how I said things, I also began to change my mindset.  I started to consciously choose happiness.  I would choose to smile…to greet others with a smile and a kind word.

Additionally, I began to put the negativity into perspective.  I remembered how lonely I had been when my children were young.  How starved for adult companionship I had been.  Sometimes, the store cashier was the only adult I talked to all day.  So I began to make a point to be as nice as I can to everyone.

Unfortunately, everyone didn’t learn this message.  My mother is a toxic person.  She chooses to think, feel and say negative things and counters them with, “I’m not a nice person,” as if it’s a joke.  Maybe long ago it really wasn’t how she actually felt.  But by years of embracing that pessimism, she has become bitter and sad and lonely.

So the decision for how to deal with this falls to me.  I don’t have to buy-into her toxicity.  I can walk away or otherwise distance myself from it.  Because she is my mother and because she has chosen to allow alcohol to blur her sensibility; I have chosen to love her anyway – while keeping her gloom in perspective and at an arm’s length.

My mother lives about 1,400 miles from me.  In order to preserve the relationship between us, I call her most days after work, Monday through Friday.  If I feel like I just can’t handle the sadness and disparity, I can either not call or make an excuse to keep the conversation short.

Now – a couple of notes –

Note #1 – Did you notice how I said she had chosen to allow alcohol to blur her sensibilities.  That’s not an accident – a typo or a slip – that is 100% how I feel.  She didn’t go to a doctor one time and come home with the diagnosis of alcoholic.  People who get cancer don’t come home as cancer-holics.  And they don’t keep feeding the cancer cells because they “just can’t stop”.

Cancer isn’t a choice.  Alcoholism is.

Note #2 – Did you catch the line about giving an excuse to get off the phone?  I’m not above lying.  It’s for my own mental health and self-preservation.  To that end, I have come to understand and remember the following rules:

  1. It’s all about her.
  2. Don’t mention friends.
    • This will lead to a tangent that includes how it “must be nice” because she “doesn’t have any”
    • It may even lead to a conversation about her only friend who died
  3. Don’t mention fun things
    • This will lead to a conversation about how she never gets to do anything
  4. Never mention that you have hurt yourself, broken something, gotten an incorrect doctor bill, gotten a high doctor bill, or otherwise have had something happen to you
    • Whatever happened to you is not as bad as this one time something 1000 times worse happened to her
    • See #1
  5. Do not mention grocery shopping.
    • She can’t even afford toilet paper and she eats 11¢ hotdogs!
  6. Never mention my oldest son by name.
    • He is almost 22 years old. He used the F word on Facebook and when she commented on the post, he commented back that she would never see another one of his posts.  She was “very hurt”.  So, any mention of his name is an invitation to retell the whole story.  With tears if I’m super-lucky.  {Insert eye roll here}
  7. Never, ever, ever mention anything having to do with money.
    • See #5 and #1

And so, with these rules in mind, I have to select what I say carefully.  If I’m having dinner with a friend, or having my oldest son come over for dinner, I will usually just say I’m going home and I don’t know what I’m having for dinner – probably leftovers.

So what’s the point of all of this?  It’s just this: Is what you’re doing working for you?  Are you angry that no one is there for you; but you don’t know how to foster a healthy friendship or other relationship?  Are you nasty to the only people you do see?  Are you judgy about perfectly normal behaviors like women wearing makeup and perfume or coloring their hair and painting their nails?  Are you creating your own unhappiness?

If you’re not happy, ask yourself if there is one thing you can change.  Maybe it’s something you can just change for a day or two – like letting the radio keep playing when the alarm goes off and singing along while you get ready for the day.  Not going anywhere?  Take a long shower.  Take extra long on your hair or makeup.  Don’t usually primp?  Just this once, do it.  Window shop and greet everyone you see.  Say, “Hi. How are you?”  And actually wait for their responses.  Remember things that once made you happy.  Your first kiss, the first time you drove a car, someone giving you a compliment…and look down and smile a secret smile to yourself.  Keep smiling when you look up again.

Be nice.  Always.  And ask yourself, every day, “Is what I’m doing creating happiness?”

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You can be anything you dream of…. Oh, but not that.

By July 2, 2017 About me, Advice, General

What do you want to be when you grow up?  It’s a question we ask children, young adults, even ourselves.  It’s a dragon we all have to slay.  What will I do with my life?  What will I be?

Of course, when we ask young children what they want to be when they grow up, it’s cute when their answers are pro-football player, ballerina, astronaut, president.  We laugh about it as we repeat it.  “Said he wants to be a football player.  Isn’t that cute?”

Here’s a new question. When did we become so jaded? So disbelieving? So doubtful.

We tell those kids, “You can be anything you want to be.” But do we believe it?

We don’t tell them, outright, that they can’t do it.  But we start to make it sound less and less possible.  Eventually we make comments even to them.  “Well, maybe you should pick something a little more plausible.”  Counselors in school want to know what career path they’re going to follow.  When someone announces that they’re going to Hollywood or New York to make their band famous, the counselors get that look on their faces.  And they say, “Well, maybe you should pick a couple of things to “fall back on”.

Many people start to say things to their children like, “It will take a lot of work to be a football player.” But they really mean is, “I don’t think you will work hard enough.”  These people believe that their kid will never make it big.  Whatever the lofty goal is – those goals that only the best become – they honestly believe that those dreams are for “other” people.  They say, “You can be anything.” But they mean, “You can be anything ordinary.”

“It has to be someone’s kid.”

I ask, “Why not your kid?”  It has to be someone’s kid.  What excludes your child?

I have always taught my children that they really can be anything they want.  However, I have always also told them that some things take a lot more work and dedication than others.  With my belief in my children, I have also had the dedication myself to do whatever they needed me to do.

My son wanted to be professional hockey player.  He was not the best.  (Nor the worst.)

I told him that he could absolutely still go pro.  But it would come at a cost.  He would need to have year-round training.  He would need to skate before and after school, even when his team was not.  He would need to work harder than everyone else.  He would need to be the first one on the ice and the last one off.  He would have very little time for socialization.  However, he would still need to keep his studies on track.

In the end, he decided that he loves to play hockey; but that he did not want to put that much work, dedication and sacrifice into it.  That’s ok with me because above all – it needed to be his decision.  To play, to not play; to become the best, or to just enjoy the game with his friends.  It all needed to always be up to him.

Do I really believe he could have made it to the NHL?  Absolutely.  But not without a lot of hard, hard work.

One of his coaches once said, in a parent meeting, “None of our kids are ever going to go to the NHL. We’re just here to have fun.”  What a terrible attitude!  It’s great to have fun and have that be the priority in kids’ sports.  But again, someone’s kid has to make it.  Why not ours?  Imagine what could be done if that coach had said, “I want this season to be fun; but I’m also going to challenge your kids to be the best of the best. I’ll teach them to work together as a team and we’ll work on fundamentals. I think any of our kids could go pro if he works hard enough!”

Most people who reach professional status in any area have the full support of someone.  Usually their parents.  Look at the Olympians.  Do you think any swimmer, runner or gymnast got there without a lot of parent hours?  Those parents are driving their children to practices before school, taking them to a second practice after school, helping them with homework at night.  They are planning everything around training.  They are helping their young athletes eat right and get good nutrition, even when the constant running makes it hard.  They are making sure their children sleep enough, even though they might be losing out on their own sleep.  They are in the gym watching the failures, at the ice rink while their child practices, by the pool day in and day out.  If the parents weren’t dedicated to helping their child reach those goals; those children just wouldn’t.

Here is a perfect example:  My father was a professional trumpet player in the Army Forces Command Band stationed at Ft. McPherson in Atlanta, Georgia.  He grew up playing trumpet and was a very dedicated musician.  When he was in high school, he won the John Philip Sousa Award which recognizes superior musicianship, dependability, loyalty, and cooperation.  By the time he was 30, he was a successful musician in the Forced Command Band and played piano and guitar as well.   He even wrote two full-band marches – with the help of friends and colleagues.  The first, “Freedom’s Guardian” became the band’s “official march” and the second, “The Red Piping” was also played on occasion.  Unfortunately, that same year, he got cancer and died within six months.

Years later, one of his very close friends and fellow musicians told me this, “I don’t think that your dad was just very talented.  He was a very hard worker.  He practiced his craft as often as he could.  That’s what made him the best.”

So next time you ask a child what he’s going to be when he grows up, make sure you don’t dismiss his answer.

You never know.  He or she could do it.  And you should believe in that dream and help it come true!

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7 Things People Are Doing Wrong On Facebook

By May 8, 2017 General

Let’s face it.  There’s no denying that Facebook is here to stay.  With 1.86 billion monthly active users as of the end of 2016, there’s no doubt that most people are using it.

And yet…

There are several things that people do on Facebook that just drive us all crazy.  Here are 7 things that you should avoid doing.

Hijacking

I was scrolling through – absently and not really deep in thought about the posts I was reading when I came to the one that made me so mad.

It was just after Christmas and my mother had sent me her China.  Aside from the fact that it is priceless and irreplaceable; it is stunningly beautiful.  I have wanted to inherit it as long as I can remember.  I was so proud to be the new owner that I had posted a picture on Facebook.  I also wanted my mother to know how much I appreciated it.

And there it was.  After my picture, my cousin had left a comment.  “Where’s MY China?!”

I call this “Hijacking a post”.  You have now shifted the focus for anyone who reads my post.  Instead of thinking, “Wow, it really IS beautiful China.”  People are afraid to get in the middle of a fight.  They won’t “like” it; or make further comments.  In fact, now they’re just going to keep on scrolling.

Other examples of “Hijacking” are when someone makes a comment that is completely off-topic.  “You never call me.  I don’t know why I even expect it anymore.”  This kind of thing, again, makes people think they’ve stepped into a family feud and it will make everyone uncomfortable.

I recently had an idea for a section of my blog and decided to run it past my friends and family.  I should mention that some of my “friends” are actually men who served with my father in the Army.  I have found great comfort in getting to “know” my father through the memories of these men.

That particular day I had introduced my idea – lesson plans for busy teachers.  A different cousin than the one above (she’s blocked now), commented that it was a great idea and it would also work for homeschooling.  I hadn’t thought of that.  But then one of my dad’s friends commented, “Already been done.”

Well, now I could either refute this argument – thereby starting a “discussion”; or I could just delete the comment.  I chose the ladder.  But I was so hurt.  Sure, he was right; but when you’re looking for lesson plans; the more choices the better!

Now I’m not saying that you should never disagree with anyone on Facebook.  However, you might need to provide more than a sentence fragment.  Perhaps you could present the problem you see and then offer a solution.

Remember, Facebook posts are, like email, easy to misinterpret.  Make sure what you’re posting will be read with the meaning you meant it to have.

Also, “Hijacking” isn’t always combative.  Sometimes it’s just clueless.  For example, my status says, “Had a blast playing with the dog at the park today.”  And you comment, “Do you know if Amy is coming with us on Friday?”  It’s not related to the post and should probably have been sent in a Private Message, or at least have been posted as a separate comment on my wall.  It’s just strange.  Don’t do that.

Over-Sharing

The next faux pas that I see is people who over-share.  These are the people that end up getting “Unfollowed” because our news feed is all about them.  Out of the last 10 posts on my wall, 8 have been from this person.  Is it because they don’t know how to put more than one picture in their status?  Is it because they “share” every post they read?  No matter.  It’s too much!

TMI

But, worse than the “too-many-posts” over-sharing…is the “too-much-information” over-sharing!  You know the ones I mean.  Things you really never wanted to know about someone suddenly popping up.

Starting Commotion

Along these same lines are the ones who post about the three things that used to be considered taboo in polite conversation:  Politics, age, and religion.  Ok, I think we’re all over the age thing.  But politics and religion.  Can we just not?

Not Proofreading

One small thing that I can’t stand, is when people don’t proof-read a post or a comment before sending it.  Then, once it’s posted, they don’t (or don’t know how to) “edit” it.  Sure, we all make mistakes.  But, please learn how to correct them!

You’re Invited…

Inviting everyone on your friend list to everything.  Have you ever gotten an invitation to an “adult” party from someone you barely know?  I have.  Awkward.  I’m no prude, but come on.  Please don’t invite every single person on your friend list.  Have some discretion.

The birth of Urban Legends

Last is the worst of all.  Forwarding posts that you didn’t check the facts on.  Remember the drunk person in a tub of ice, missing a kidney?!  This is how “Urban Legends” get started.  The most recent one that I’ve seen resurfacing is this one:

R.I.P. Justin Allen 23, Brett Linley 29, Matthew Weikert 29, Justus Bartett 27, Dave Santos 21, Jesse Reed 26, Matthew Johnson 21, Zachary Fisher 24, Brandon King 23, Christopher Goeke 23, and Sheldon Tate 27…. All are Marines who gave their lives this week for us ….for our freedom! There’s no media for them at all… not even a mention of their names. If you feel called to share, please copy and paste this post.R.I.P they should not go unnoticed, they paid the ultimate price for OUR freedom!!
“Young service Men, thank you for serving our country, thank you for giving all”!
God rest your sweet souls

But here you can read the real facts:

This happens time after time.  A child is missing and someone forwards it; only to find out that the child was never missing, or was found months ago.  A crime is committed and someone shares a post about it, only to find out that the crime happened years ago.  Or, in this case, these men died 7 years ago and they WERE NOT all marines.

Check your facts.  One great place is Snopes.  But, at least google it.  I entered “Justin Allen, 23, marine” into google and found the above-linked article.  If something seems unbelievable, check it out.  If you’re going to forward something, even if you think it IS believable, check the facts.

Kristine

 

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New Things on the Blog

By May 8, 2017 General

Hello everyone!  I have a new post that I’m ready to share; but first I wanted to say thank you to all of you who have waited so patiently for me to post the next thing.  I have been busy at work and LOOK! There are a few new things on the page!

First, you’ll notice that my social icons now include a couple newbies.  I have added tumblr and also I have this adorable little blue heart for Bloglovin’.  I’d like to say a special thank you to Nick Henderson at Ultimate Social Media Premium for asking the designers to create that for me.

You might also notice that there are now ads on the screen.  Google has placed them there and I have really been excited to see what will happen with them.

Last, you might notice that I have a little butterfly icon next to my blog name on the tab that you open! That’s called a favicon and I’m SO excited to have finally gotten it to work.  A big shout out to William Scott – a genius that I met by accident – for helping me fix it and make it show up. (Except on Safari. IDK what the heck is up with that!)

So, friends, enjoy the next post.  I’m doing a lot of behind the scenes work right now, but rest assured I have a TON of posts that are getting ready to launch.  Also, “Coming Soon” – Two new blog sections:  “Lesson Plans” and “A Millenial Moment”.  More on those to come, I promise.

Have a great night!

Kristine

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Learning Shouldn’t Be Categorized As “Able” or “Disable”

By May 8, 2017 General

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By April 28, 2017 General

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Keeping Hope

By April 28, 2017 General

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1000 Cards for Allyson

By April 8, 2017 Crafts, General

1000 Cards for Allyson's 11th BirthdayHello Friends!  I had planned on posting my 100 favorite things to celebrate getting more than 100 visitors in one week.

However, I hope you’ll forgive my change in direction.

I read this story today and – being a card maker – I wanted to share the story and encourage all of you to help out!

Allyson Peterson is a 10 year old girl who lives in Houghton, Michigan and who suffers from a condition known as Kabuki Syndrome type 2.  The condition is currently incurable and causes Allyson some difficulties in mobility.  One of the joys in her life is collecting cards.

For her birthday on April 28, she wished for 1000 cards.  I hope some of my crafty friends will consider sending her one or more.

Here is more information on Allyson’s Story.

Let’s share some HOPE with this young lady!

Cards can be send to:

Allyson Peterson

P.O. Box 1016 Hurontown

Houghton, Michigan 49931

Have a great day everyone!

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Four Super Easy “Swan Lake” Stampin’ Up! Cards

By April 6, 2017 Crafts, General, Stamping

Hello Friends!  Just a short little post today.  I love stamping cards and wanted to share with you how easy it can be!  These four cards were super easy.  I used almost all Stampin’ Up! products, including the new stamp set “Swan Lake”.  It is a “clear” stamp, meaning that you use acrylic blocks, but the stamp itself is still rubber – so you can’t see through it like a photopolymer stamp.

 

 

For this first one, I used Tempting Turquoise for the background of the card and I folded it so that it is the inside of the card too.  A lot of times I just use standard white cardstock for that folded piece that basically IS the card itself, and then I create the card front; but this time I wanted the inside to be blue. 🙂

The top layer, which I stamped on, is that standard white cardstock.  Then, I painted the colors using Stampin’ Up!’s now retired watercolor crayons.  If you want to get some of your own, I have also used these and I loved them.  I stamped these images using Stampin’ Up! Basic Black Archival Ink Pad.  I love that it dries instantly and it doesn’t run when I use watercolor.

 

The next one is also  very simple and I did the same thing with the Garden Green Cardstock that I used for the background and folded part of the card.  Since Garden Green is a darker color, I didn’t want it to be the inside of the card, so I used my standard white and stamped the lily image in a matching Garden Green ink on the inside.

For the front of the card, I used a smaller piece of Garden Green paper again, but lifted it up with these little foam dots.  Here’s my secret though – unless I really need the thing being lifted to be ROUND – I use cheap foam “tape”.  You can get it in the hardware department of Walmart or any home improvement store and – since they THINK it’s for “men”, lol, it’s WAY cheaper than if you buy the same thing for “craft” purposes!!

So, I used the smaller Garden Green piece as my “base” for the front of the card.  Then, I cut a slightly smaller piece of Designer Series paper.  A note about DS paper.  I have a problem.  For real.  I am addicted to this paper.  I have SOOOOOO much of it.  I don’t have any idea what is “current” paper – or even how long it stays current.  I just buy what I like.  Shhh.  Don’t tell hubby.

So, I love this DS paper.  I then cut a smaller piece of SU’s Pacific Point and another standard white piece.  The only real work is on that white piece; so I set everything else aside.  Then I stamped the swan and the swanlings (what are baby swans called anyway?!).

The next part is a little tricky, but you are so smart – it’s a piece of cake for you!

It’s called “masking”.  So, with the ink that’s left over from my bs – Baby Swans…no, we can’t call them that either…… Well, anyway, before I clean the stamp, I stamp the image on to a post-it note.  You want to make it so that the image you stamp will stick to the paper with your swan and babies.

Then, you’re going to cut out the babies on that post-it note and put the post it over the image for your card.  Last thing, you can stamp those cattails and it will look like they are BEHIND the babies!!  Cool, right?!

I used a sponge and dabbed Tempting Turquoise for the water and Wild Wasabi for the background.  I used brown and orange colored pencils for the cattails and the swans’ beaks.

The last thing that I used was some Pool Party colored Baker’s Twine – also from SU!  I put the “top” of the card together and then put my dimensional tape at random points on the back – about nine half inch squares in all.  Then I put the card together.  TaDa!

The next one was a little harder.  I used the sets, Swan Lake and an old but cherished set called “Lovely as a Tree”.  For the paper, I used a standard white for the actual folded part of the card and the images.  I layered black and Wild Wasabi paper behind the main image.

I started by stamping the trees in the middle of the upper part of the card.  It’s important to stamp the first image in the middle and then fill in the sides as needed.  If you start on the right and then stamp another image to the left, it can look like you didn’t plan it and you just ran out of room.  I stamped my first image in the middle and then filled in trees to both the right and the left – it still goes “off the side” in both directions, but it just seems more centered.

Next I stamped the Swan so that her head is just a little lower than the middle tree and I stamped the lilies off to the sides.

I sponged Basic Gray and Wisteria Wonder for the sky and Crumb Cake for the land.  Then, I watercolored the water and lilies; and put a very “gentle” touch of green on the trees, land and water line.

That’s it.  You’re doing great!

The last one was the hardest.  I used Very Vanilla paper for the main images, standard white for the Swans – cut out; and Island Indigo for the background.  I’m in love with Island Indigo.  I love the almost regal look of the deeper blue.

I used the Wild About Flowers and (retired) World of Dreams stamp sets for the over-hanging branches and I stamped them with Crumb Cake and Garden Green…I touched the stamp to the ink pad, then stamped it onto a scrap piece of paper before the final image, so that it was lighter than usual.  I then stamped the cattails with Soft Suede ink.

I watercolored the lily and the water and colored in the cattails with colored pencil.

The hardest part of this card was cutting out the swans.  Someone has run off with my paper-cutting scissors, (or I may have mislaid them). So I had to use scissors that were ginormous!   Sigh.

But, there you go! Another great card!

If you would like to purchase any of the Stampin’ Up! products shown here, please use the contact form to reach me.  Mention the word “SWANLINGS” for a special discount!

I hope you had fun.  See you next time!

K

 

 

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How You Can Make Money With Your Blog In As Little As 20 Minutes! …and other lies you’ve heard.

By April 2, 2017 About me, Advice, General

Hello friends,

**Disclaimer:  Please read the following post with humor in mind.  While some of it is 100% true; this is not meant to make you give up if you are attempting a blog and it is not an indication that I have given up.

Well, an interesting thing happened this week.  After working on creating this blog for almost 11 weeks – almost three months – I had to finally admit it.  This is anything but easy.  If you have seen the many posts out there that say you can start a blog and make money with it in ____________(insert small amount of time here); you are not alone.

Now, I’m not about to say that these people are lying.  Maybe it all did come together for them fairly easily and quickly.  But, for the rest of us there is one certainty.  It’s going to be a lot of learning and a lot of good, hard work.

Building the site and writing the posts? Easy peasy.  But learning how to get followers and then how to get money…holy moly.

What is Google analytics?!  I couldn’t even SPELL that on Monday!  Google Adsense?  How are a bunch of Instagram followers going to help me?  What is Canva?  I actually just learned this today.  How do you like the graphics on this post?  Nice, eh?!  I just opened it and started “playing”.  That’s the only way to learn, I suppose.

What’s a custom 404 page?  Why do I want one? Need one?  What are breadcrumbs? What’s pagination?  (Sounds like a band.)  Discus?  Commentluv?

What are social bookmarking sites?  Do I need those?  Why?  What are digg, stumbleupon, del.icio.us?  Do I need media management tools?  Hootsuite and Buffer?  Are they free?  What are they for?  Who are they for?

Should I do a newsletter?  Isn’t the blog kinda the same thing?  Why do I need a newsletter to send to people who are reading the blog?

There’s something called “blogging networks”….yeah, networks of blogging, I guess.  No idea.  There’s blogengage, blokube, bizsugar, inbound.  I haven’t had time to go check them out.  Not sure what the idea is at all.  One more bullet on the points of no return.

And then, all of the advice says I have to have a “niche”…I can’t have a few things – like stamping, cooking, books, travel, etc….Nope.  You have to pick ONE thing and that has to be your specialty.

Well, guess what?!  Nobody lives their life doing just one thing.  I have lots to share and I hope that people will follow me because they never know what to expect.  I’m like a box of freaking chocolate.

One thing that completely stresses me out is that I’m supposed to have pictures to go with everything.  I guess I’ll have to take one of me crying for this post.  And then I have to post it on Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram – but I still don’t know where all the people who see me crying go to drop off their money!!  Seriously, though; there are some sites that offer free pics (ahem, not THAT kind of free pics!).  One is Canva and another is Pixabay.  But if you search “free pictures”, you’ll get tons of sites that will want you to pay!!  How does free = pay?  What the heck?!

By now I’m thinking, this is like the slowest “Get rich quick” scheme I’ve ever done!  Just kidding.

So friends, I hope you don’t get discouraged.  It’s not that this stuff can’t be learned; but I think “hitting the bigtime” is more about having all of the pieces fall together at just the right time and I think a little luck goes into it as well.

For me, it’s been a case of: “What can I learn today?”  And I like that – to a degree.  I read a book about teaching young students a while ago and the writer said that, in order for students to remain challenged and engaged, the “puzzle”, i.e. the work or the task, had to be “solvable”.  In other words, if the children were not ready, then the lesson would not sink in and they would become frustrated and give up.  It’s the same with anything in life…video games, learning to drive, learning a foreign language and, yes, blogging.

Thankfully, there are tons of “mentors” out there that will help you.  You just have to find them.  I think I have found a couple – maybe as many as a few.  I look forward to continuing to nurture these new relationships and to learn from what they can tell me.

Till next time…..stay hopeful!

K

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Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Mashed Baby Reds and Green Beans

By March 28, 2017 General, Recipes

Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Mashed Baby Reds and Green Beans

Greetings Readers!

So today I am sharing with you a favorite recipe of mine and I’m also sharing how easy it is to make an entire meal with this recipe at the center.

You may have seen this one on Pinterest.  Again, as I’ve said before – sometimes you see things on Pinterest and either one of two things happens.  One, you click and the link is a dead end; or two, the recipe is anything but easy.

Nobody got time for that!

So, this one is super easy!

Parmesan Chicken Recipe

I use a disposable pan for easy clean up.  You can also use a cookie sheet; but using a pan keeps the juices locked in and makes the chicken very tender and never dry.  I ALWAYS spray the pan with cooking spray!!

I start with boneless, skinless breasts.  I’m making a lot tonight because we have company.

 

 

 

 

 

Next, I’m using Mayo and Parmesan Cheese. 

The recipe indicates how much to use; but I wing it.  Next, I add salt and pepper to this mix and mix it altogether.

 

 

 

 

 

Next, I spoon it onto the breasts and spread it evenly.

 

Then I sprinkle the bread crumbs on top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last thing, I cover it with aluminum foil and put it in the oven.

So, for the rest of the meal, I take red potatoes, rinse them in the sink and then put them into a pot of water to boil.

I also use canned green beans.  Open them and put them in a microwave-safe dish and put in the microwave until I’m ready to start them.

 

 

 

Then – I walk away.  Yeah.  That’s really just about it.

I set the timer for 45 minutes.  So, when the timer goes off, I uncover the chicken so it can brown while I get the potatoes and beans ready.  I strain and mash the potatoes and microwave the beans.

And I’m done!  Dinner is served.  (Drops mic)

 

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Weight Loss

By March 20, 2017 About me, General

Howdy friends.

Well, since I have all this free time right now; I might as well join some fitness classes and lose some weight.  So, congratulations.  You can follow my journey here!

I am really motivated by friends and, since I have none who will join these classes and/or workout with me, this is going to be a very hard thing for me to start and stay with.

So, I did the next best thing:  I bought cute workout clothes.  Teehee.  Don’t tell my husband!!

I bought some tight workout pants because one of the classes that I’m planning to take is a cycling class and I don’t want to wear shorts that might ride up or loose-leg sweatpants.  I got them from Fabletics by Kate Hudson.  They have some really cute stuff.  Unfortunately, sometimes they sell out of my size.  🙁  I also got some cute stuff from Shopko.  I really like some of the styles of shorts and tanks at Shopko.  I got one tank and a pair of shorts with spandex leggings on the inside.  I am hoping this will reduce ride up and chafing on account of my fat legs.  By summer this shouldn’t be an issue, right?!

I am going to start tomorrow, Monday, March 20.  I’ll be joining two fitness classes at our local YMCA.  One is Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the other is Tuesday and Thursday.  So, yes, I will be going to the gym 5 days a week.  The classes are at 4:45 and 5:15 respectively.  I didn’t choose morning classes because….well, duh.  Morning.  Nope.

WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?!

So, the first class is “Indoor Cycling”.  The brochure says:  

“Low impact option when you want a high intensity workout. Great for all ages and skill levels. Set to rocking music, you are sure to break a sweat. Great way to increase lower body strength and cardiovascular endurance.”

Yeah, bicycle that doesn’t move.  How hard could it be.  Right?

 

 

 

The second class is called “Triple Threat”.  I’m scared already.  The brochure says:

“This 3 day series of workouts is 30 minutes of non-stop action! Each day features a different focus.

  • Day 1 is strength;
  • Day 2 is cardio;
  • Day 3 is yoga!”

Ok, two hard days and then yoga.  Yoga looks like it’s relaxing.  There’s like a mat that you put on the floor so you can lay on it.  I think I’ll like yoga.  Right?

My goal is a bikini.  Seriously.  Like, no amount of pounds…just bikini.  And I don’t want to just wear one because I can.  I want to look good in it!  I want to be proud of it!!

So, I hope you will all be rooting for me.  This is going to be interesting.

I will also be changing my diet slightly.  Believe it or not; one of my biggest problems is I don’t always remember to eat.  Especially now that I’m not working, sometimes I will forget to eat until 7 pm or later.  I also have some stomach issues, so a lot of times, food refluxes.  Ew.  So, sometimes I don’t eat because feeling hungry isn’t as bad as feeling “refluxy”.

I will start by eating a piece of fruit and possibly either eggs or oatmeal in the morning.  I will eat lean turkey or chicken, cheese, nuts, salad and vegetables (not all at the same time) for lunch.  For dinner, I will eat mostly pork or chicken, vegetables steamed or sautéed in olive oil, and baked or steamed potatoes (or none).  I will still be eating pasta sometimes.  I will eat toast with butter with my eggs.  I will drink mostly water, but occasionally milk.

I don’t usually drink alcohol, so I’m not giving anything up there.  I gave up soda in December and (thankfully) haven’t picked the habit back up again.  I did have the rare Pepsi today when I had lunch with a friend and I thought, “I don’t even want this.”  Lol.

I also have never been a smoker.  In fact, generally speaking, I’m probably pretty healthy.  Just out of shape.  (Round is a shape….)  I’m really excited to see results.  But I’m really a little scared at feeling sore!!

 

I will look forward to reporting back to you!  Wish me luck!

Kristine

 

 

 

 

 

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Memories of Dad

By March 10, 2017 About me, General

Good Afternoon, everyone.

Today is a sad anniversary for my family – the anniversary of the day my dad left this world.  But, it’s not without hope!  Read on, to feel our pain and see our triumph!

March 10, 1980 was a Monday.  I don’t remember if I went to school that day.  What I do remember is that I was with a very special family who had been friends to my mom and dad for years.  We had taco nights alternating from our house to theirs; Clothes were handed down from their oldest daughter to me, back to their second daughter and back to my little sister.  I learned how to ride a bike at their house.  And, this day, this horrible, sad, Monday, they babysat my sister and me while my mother went to the hospital to visit my dad.

My dad was never angry.  He seemed to always be happy.  I can literally never once remember him being cross.

He had a hammock which he strung between 2 trees in our backyard and his 6 foot 4 inch body would sway back and forth in it on lazy Georgia days from May to September.

One summer, a tree in the corner of our yard was infested with thousands of caterpillars.  Dad knew they would kill the tree; but he still shared my fascination of them all.

He played trumpet in the Army.  He practiced every night.  He played guitar and piano too.  He wrote beautiful marches for his band.  Our house was always filled with music.

He let me copy my handprint in the copy machine at work.  I wish we had thought to keep one.

When I had my tonsils out, he built a snowman with my mom outside my window because I was too sick to play.  He also bought me a giant stuffed blue elephant.

I loved him very, very much.  It seems that most people who knew him loved him too.

In 1980, I was in the second grade.  Between first and second grade, my mother had taken us all to a small tourist town in Upper Michigan for a vacation.  My dad had loved it.  It was a different world.  Everything moved at a different pace compared to the city of Atlanta.

Once we returned from vacation, as near as I can figure out, dad must have started to feel sick.  He visited the doctor in October of 1979.  Surely, everyone thought he would treat this cancer aggressively and win.

Unfortunately, by Christmas, things were looking grim.

My mother insisted that my sister and I would be allowed to visit him in the hospital.  She was pregnant with my brother and home health care would have been impractical, and was far from the usual mainstream idea it is today.  So, we would drive from our home to the hospital several times a week.

I remember stopping and playing at the Burger King play area.

I remember scooping up the rare fresh snow that fell one day to bring in to dad – and then eating it!

I remember coloring in special coloring books that were kept at the hospital.  My sister and I sat on the floor and colored, my mother knitted and talked with dad.  My dad laid there, tubes everywhere; not lounging in a hammock, not laughing and happy.  Just existing.  Barely.

That day in March so many years ago, my mother went to the hospital alone.  She had been doing so for about a week.  Even at 7, I knew things were probably bad.  And so, that Monday, before she even came to pick us up, I knew.  How long did it take us to get home?  Was our Pastor already there?  I don’t know.

My mother and the Pastor sat with me on the couch and my mother’s words will never leave my mind:  “You know I have always been open and honest about your father and his sickness.”  I think I must have nodded before she continued.  “Today, your father died.”

I was on a merry-go-round that was spinning too fast.  Everything was a blur.  I was crying.  My mother was crying.  My sister was watching something on Nickelodeon.  She turned and asked why we were crying.  My mother told her.

Died?  My dad had DIED?!

How could this be true?  But it was.

Days later we would have to say goodbye.  I walked up to the casket.  I wanted to touch his hand one last time.  It was so cold and hard.  It wasn’t the same hand that played trumpet and piano and guitar.  Not the same hand I held to cross the street.  Couldn’t be the same hand that tickled me into fits of laughter.

We went to the cemetery.  A long line of black sadness following us.  It was a very cold, rainy day.  It was as if all of the world knew our heartbreak and cried with us.  Someone spoke of my dad’s life.  A speech about what a loss he was.  Then, somewhere far away a bugler played taps and a second one shook with its sad echo.  The American Flag was folded and given to my mother.

And we left him there.  He was gone.

And yet…….if we had never lost my father, I doubt we would ever have moved to Michigan.  I would never have met my husband, had my children.  Sure, I would have met someone and would have had children….but not THIS husband, and not THESE kids.  I know that sounds crazy; but I believe my life would have been very different if my father had lived.  Happier?  Maybe.  But maybe the agony of losing a father is what makes me the compassionate and loyal friend and person that I am.

I think that my father would be proud that I choose to be a happy person.  Sure, I have my days when I’m down.  That’s only natural.  But, I’m not down and out!  Just down…but never count me out!

I miss dad every day.  I know his friends miss him.  He had many.  I know my mom misses him too.  But, we’re all ok.  And that, my friends, is the hope for today!

I hope you’re all “ok” today as well.

Happy Friday!  🙂

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What I’m Looking Forward To

By March 9, 2017 About me, General, Lists

Hi everyone, I hope you’re having a great day.  Our weather here in the Midwest is completely schizophrenic.  It was windy and warm the other day until evening, then I saw flurries.  Now tomorrow it’s supposed to be freezing cold again, but expected to be warm again in a couple days.

And so it is that we’re in this holding pattern of “maybe-it’s-Spring” and “Winter-isn’t-over-yet”.

When I lived down south, it was definitely becoming Spring this time of year.  In fact, we would have our Church picnic outside on the grounds on Easter Sunday (or around that time).  There was SO MUCH FOOD!  There wasn’t just one buffet table; there were several.  And people were sprawled on blankets and dressed in their new clothes.

Not so much here.  Sometimes in June, we start thinking, “I think it might be Spring!”  Not kidding.  Ah, oh well, right?

So, some things that I’m looking forward to:

Number 1:  BEAUTY AND THE BEAST!!!  I got the tickets today.  I am so excited.  I will probably cry when it starts.  BATB has been my favorite since the cartoon version came out in 1991.  I always hoped they would make a live action one.  I think the CGI is really well done, from the trailers I’ve seen and the Beast is just amazing.  I love that Belle is intelligent and she’s not afraid to exert that intelligence.  No one tells her what to think, what to feel.  There are a lot of times when she probably “talks out of turn”, but GOOD FOR HER!!  And she’s a bookworm!  I just love her admiration of books and stories.  Easily one of the best written characters in Disney lore.  I am not impressed, however, with the media saying that it is a “feminist fairytale”.  Why does everything have to be political?!  Can it not?

Number 2:  Physical Therapy release!  So, I am out of shape.  I gained some weight as I aged.  Unfortunately, when I started to exercise, I had a problem.  I wasn’t able to walk very far before my hip joint started to hurt.  It would hurt my lower back and into the groin/joint.  When I went on a shopping trip with my daughter in December, I really was in agony.  So, I’ve been seeing an amazing PT since then.  But, I think she will likely release me next week as I am almost pain free!  The pain that I still have is “I’m-still-out-of-shape” pain.  Lol.

**Side note:  If you have chronic pain and/or you “can’t” do things like you used to – no matter how young or old you are – do yourself a favor and look into Physical Therapy.  This is not the first time I have used PT for something that wasn’t right and they have helped it be right again.  I think a lot of people think that Physical Therapy is just for people who have had an accident or a surgery.  However, PT’s can help no matter what the reason.  I also think that people believe that pain is a normal part of aging.  Some people just accept that they have pain.  That isn’t necessarily true.  It never hurts to look into PT!

Perhaps I will interview my doc on exactly that point at a later date….

Now, I don’t usually watch a lot of TV.  But, surprisingly – the next 3 –

Number 3:  The new ABC show Time after Time.  I watched the pilot last night.  HG Wells and Jack the Ripper are friends.  Jack (known as “John”) is about to be caught when he uses the Time Machine and travels to New York City in the present day.  George (HG) follows him and now they are racing against “time” to find and stop John before he kills again.  The problem is, they can never catch him or the show would be over.  Maybe they can catch him at the end of the season and then next season will offer a new “time” problem.  This will be a shame, though; because as much as you don’t want to like a killer, he’s totally hot and self-aware – even 130 years in the future!  I am interested to see where this show goes.  Oh, and to be honest, George isn’t hard to look at either!  Teehee  🙂

Number 4:  Dancing with the Stars.  Ok, I have long said that this show seems to have a formula.  Creepy old man; Older, overweight, desperate woman; young female athlete; disabled person; football players; and then the actual contenders.  Still, I’m a sucker for the show.  I usually start watching late enough so I can fast forward over the horrible ones.  But when it’s good.  It’s really good!

Number 5:  Once Upon A Time:  I’ll be honest.  I didn’t love last season.  Didn’t hate it, just didn’t love it.  This last Sunday the show returned and I’m excited.  Although, can we please NEVER see “aged” Hook again?!  Lmao  J  Also, speaking of Hook…if modern medicine can attach a donor hand; can’t the magic world come up with something?  Just saying.  The new season looks like it might be really interesting.  I love the idea of friends’ children being at war.  Will this tear them all apart?  How could it not?  Maybe everyone will be “good” in the end?  Meh, what fun would that be?!

 

Number 6:  2 Proms!  My son and his girlfriend go to different schools.  Hence, 2 proms.  Omg, adorable overload!  Pics to follow.

 

 

And, last – the thing that I really think about a lot –

Number 7:  Thunder and Lightning.  If you live someplace where there is never a long period of snowy, cold, winter; you won’t get this.  But if you have a for-real winter, you’ll understand.  There is no sound more fascinating, more relaxing, than the sound of the first thunderstorm of the year.  The thunder growls in the distance like a hunger pain needing to be satiated.  And the lightning cracks across the sky like the hatching of new beginnings everywhere.

There is no smell like the electrified earth that calls you to think of new flowers, new grass, new buds on the trees.

Did you know that smell actually has a name?  Petrichor.  Yeah, I know!  I’m weirdly excited about this!  It is a combination of the chemical called geosmin and plant oils.  Apparently the soil actually emits these things after a storm and causes the smell.

I think it’s a taste too; a taste that feels like perfectly cool water when you’re parched.

But, oh…..the one thing above all…..after the storm, if it’s at the right time; and if not, then maybe after the next storm……..but always after a night of clashing thunderbolts streaking the sky with their crooked lights…..it’s the morning when the birds have returned and as they wake with the peeking sun you begin to see it.  To see them.

The tiny green buds begin to smudge their way across the previously-bare tree branches.  There is a haze of dewy green across the hills and into the valleys.   You begin to feel that change is about to happen.  You can see that gentle green growing.  And then…….

The next storm after that.  And you wake to an explosion of green!  The buds uncurl themselves into full leaves!  Flowers have been poking through and now they greet the rising sun’s kisses with happy tones of red, yellow and green.  And you look out across the world and you just can’t imagine that all this, and even the sky itself, was so grey not too long ago.  And now, the grey is gone and color rejoices with you!

Yep, safe to say that I’m ready to see some color in my life.  To get rid of the grey.

I hope all of you embrace all the color of life today!

Kristine

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How to make Chicken Gnocchi Soup

By March 8, 2017 General, Recipes

Hello Friends!  Long time, no chat.  I’ll admit, it’s been a tough time.

Well, last weekend I made this amazing Chicken Gnocchi Soup that is a copy-cat recipe from Olive Garden.

I am here to show you how to make it!  It’s actually a super simple recipe to make.  I recommend starting out by gathering all of your ingredients and then getting everything cut and measured before you start.  Once you start this soup, because of its cream base; it is not something you can walk away from.

So let’s get started!

Here is the list of ingredients.  Go ahead and shop and prepare these things and then I’ll show you what to do….I’ll wait.  (humming)

6 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons olive oil

1½  cup onion, diced

1 cup carrots, diced

1 cup celery, diced

8 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

2/3 cup flour

8 cups chicken broth

3 cups half & half

4 cups white meat chicken

2 pounds gnocchi

6 cups baby spinach, stems removed

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

 

Ok, got everything?  Great!

So, I like to sauté all of my vegetables in a large frying pan to start.  So, combine your butter (no cheating – real butter!) and olive oil over medium heat until it is melted and mixed.  Margarine is a chemical.  It’s not real food.  Don’t do that to yourself!  Butter is yummy and it’s natural!

So, once the butter and olive oil are melted and mixed, go ahead and add your onions, carrots, celery and garlic.

 

Look what I found instead of fresh garlic!  I love this stuff.  Whenever you chop garlic, you run the risk of finding bad cloves and not having enough.  Also, it doesn’t keep very well (or in my house, it seems to get lost and then found months later – ew!)  Last, chopping garlic makes your hands stinky.  So I use this stuff.  It tells you on the container how much is equal to one clove.  (Confession:  I totally don’t measure.)

 

 

 

So, on the other burner, I have my large soup pot.  I have put my chicken broth in there to start simmering.  I choose one large “low sodium” and one regular chicken broth.  I can always add salt later; but you can’t do anything about food that tastes too salty.  Speaking of which, I do add my own salt and pepper to the vegetables.  Just enough for taste.  You can add more salt later if you want.

Once it begins to simmer, I add the chicken.  I use “Tyson Grilled & Ready Oven Roasted Diced Chicken Breast”.  I love that I can just throw it in and I don’t have to cook and chop it.

So, while we’ve been chatting, your vegetables should have begun to get nice and tender.  Make sure to stir pretty often, as you don’t want them to get browned at all.

Once everything is nice and tender – the onions and celery should be almost see-through – then we’re going to add our flour.  This will help our soup thicken up.  I use regular all purpose flour, since there is really very little being used.  Sprinkle it on the vegetables and stir it in.  Make sure to stir this constantly as flour can burn easily.

Once your flour is incorporated, go ahead and add your cream.  Add a little and stir it completely, then a little more and finally all of it.  Incorporate the cream well, then you will add everything from the pan to the pot.  Be careful not to splash yourself!

If you do splash yourself, you’re going to have to suck it up.  You have to stir everything together now and you can’t be stopping to tend to burns.  (Just kidding…just don’t splash yourself, k?)

Once you have everything nice and combined, it’s time to make the gnocchi.  You could have done this earlier; but I like to do it right when I’m ready to put it in.  In my opinion, they get sticky if you do it too far ahead.  Besides, they’re quick to make.  Just add to boiling water and when they float for a couple minutes, they’re ready.

Now you can add them straight (strained) from their water to the soup.

Next, add your basil.

Now the spinach.  Again, I don’t measure.  Whatever looks good to me.

Let it all simmer, stirring often, for about 10 minutes.

TA DA!  You totally did it!

I serve with warm Italian Bread which I bake homemade totally buy in the bakery of the store. 🙂

I sure hope you enjoy the soup.  I make it on the weekend and we have it all week.  This is a double recipe.  You can cut it in half for fewer teenagers :).  It warms up in the microwave or on the stovetop really well.  Comment below and let me know how you did!!

Kristine

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