Sunshine, Family & Fair Fare on a Saturday

Last week was one of those crazy busy weekends that only happen in the middle of summer! It was the County Fair weekend, my parents were in town and I worked early in the day so I could go play later on. In the spirit of randomness here’s a little of what I did today.

Ice cube trays are so versatile. Since my freezer is too narrow for cookie trays I use them to flash freeze fruit like blueberries. I remembered to do this after watching Charlie & the Chocolate Factory Friday night.

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Mom and Dad came up with two dogs in tow and we went off to the Fair. It was hot, not too crowded and fun.

This little calf reminded me of Jackson, all curled up to sleep.

This pig was so popular, probably because his 4-H owner had a sense of humor and named this big guy “bacon bits”

After checking out the animals we summarily bypassed the rides, the games and most of the outbuildings. Mom and I checked out the Hall of Shame, aka, all the people who are much more talented than I am. Quilters make me feel especially inferior. I snapped a few pictures with my phone but I have no idea how to transfer those to my computer yet.

Back home Mom and I picked out pictures for Grandpa’s room and we all watched a movie (the Sandlot – kid and old people approved).

Early Sunday Dad went to a flea market while Mom and I had breakfast and got the pictures for Grandpa. We visited with him for awhile until it was time for his lunch.

This is my Grandpa and Dad enjoying a ride in the Model A a few weeks back.

Lastly on Sunday we cut down a tree. A dead tree. And now there’s a pretty sad looking stump in the front yard!

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Shit Just Got Real

I love that line and Hot Fuzz (quoting Bad Boys 2) so I wanted to throw it in there.

I’ve been kinda quiet online lately and most of the people I know in Real Life are probably laughing because I’m anything but (*waves* Hi Mom! Just kidding, Mom doesn’t read my blog). But things are changing, quite drastically and thus this blog is changing as well.

As an unreformed reader, I go through a lot of books and even more blogs. I adore blogs. They’re instaneous, relevant, personal, and there’s something uniquely awesome about writing what’s on your mind TODAY rather than what you wanted to communicate two years ago before a team of editors got a hold of your words and mangled them. Lately I’ve realized that the blogs I enjoy are written by people I enjoy hearing from like Noah Kagan, Charlie Hoehn, Ramit SethiPam Slim, Alexis Martin  Neely, not to mention dozens of my less popular but just as talented friends. It’s not the words on the screen, or the amazing photography or even the weird contests that draw me to these blogs, it’s the person putting those words to press – how they each live very different lives.

My friend Kari, who I had the pleasure of knowing in real life before I knew her as a blogger, wrote this amazing post on transparency. For years I’ve heard to “protect” yourself online. Hide those drunken pictures and posts. Only put up the flowery, happy things that don’t scare away employers. And I’ve done most of that. I have a twitter feed I don’t publish, mostly to inject some humor in my day from the likes of @shitmydadsays, @fakeAPstyle, @rainnwilson and @ihatewheat. I’ve been on facebook for more years than I care to admit but my profile is set to private and I occasionally look through my friend list and ask myself “who the hell is that person?” then delete them. And on this blog I’ve never given my name aside from the title and routinely disapprove my mom’s comments when she puts her last name on them.

Over the past few weeks I’ve wondered why I need to protect myself online. I mean, any idiot with a zillow account could probably find my town or house. Seriously, I called my best friend and had her boyfriend figure out how many square feet I have when I forgot. Is anyone really going to “come get me”? They have to face my kickass alarm system and looks-friendly-but-would-tear-your-skin-off protector Jackson. Seriously. He nearly went through a car window once when my brother got too close.

Am I worried that some anonymous employer will discover that I don’t really like people, my grandma’s death was devestating to me, I love travel, and I can’t tell hay from straw? Then what? Why am I giving all these unknown people so much power?

I even stopped responding to many comments on the blog because (due to freelancing) my full name is on my email now. What am I worried about? To be fair I made the switch after emailing lots of people for a community event and having someone ask me to confirm where I went to school. Thanks to Google and debate records it’s not hard to find out and this person was giving creepy vibes. But nothing came of it.

What about the people I do know? I seriously doubt anyone from high school is EVER going to Google me but what would they find? Why would I care what they find or assume about my life? I happen to love my life which is great because I’m the one living it. I didn’t care in high school, I broke ties with 90% of those people during college and I’ve not reconnected with many in the years since. Why do I care NOW?

Sure, it’s fun to be anonymous online. I’m a fairly snarky person and even co-wrote a column called Snark Bites for Barnes & Noble (now removed thanks to the less than stellar editing team’s ever changing whims). We were the snarks! So when I’m online and there’s less of a shield because I can’t SEE your expression, I tend to be snarkier. Is that good? Do I need to toe the line between “you’re an idiot” and “I think you’re wrong”? Or do I need to be me without being cruel and be prepared to back that up? Shouldn’t my friends and enemies be able to call me out when I’ve gone too far so I mature as a person instead of hiding behind a screen name?

I did collegiate debate from 2002-2005 and was ranked in the top 5 teams for novice and jv 3 years running, I’m not the kind of girl who runs from a fight. I don’t even mind saying “that’s my opinion, I’m not goint to spend hours justifying it to you. And good night sir.” Not that I presume to get pulled into a lot of internet brawls because there are MUCH better uses of my time but do I ask to be anonymous because I’m scared? What, exactly, am I scared of?

I’m under no illusions that I will someday, today, anyday become famous. It’s rather laughable how unfamous I would like to be. But I’m not willing to be so anonymous either – not because this is Cheers and everyone needs to know my name but because I stand behind my words. My struggles. My challenges. My projects. And I don’t think I can do that anonymously.

So this is me:


Me with Mom and Grandpa last weekend when we brought him pictures of his ride in Mom’s 1931 Model A and I got sunburned in the rumble seat.

And since I’ve been so quiet lately, here’s what I’ve been up to.

I have not ever really LOVED my current day job, it paid the bills… yeah, it paid the bills. So in January when they decided to reduce my hours because I was “too efficient” with my time I knew something had to change. Yes, California has 12% unemployment. Yes, it’s hard to find work. No, that wasn’t going to stop me.

So I took Ramit Sethi’s online course Earn 1K.

Why didn’t I mention that? Was I afraid of inviting criticism? Who knows. I signed up. I went to Scotland in the middle of the course. I learned a shitload of information that business school never taught me. Or I wasn’t listening. Whatever. Immediately after the class Ramit announced that if you wanted on-going support he was offering another class, Beyond 1K. I joined. I learned so much more than I could ever recap. I loved my group, still do.

In July I began working with Ramit as an intern, learning the ropes of the program, of Basecamp, of managing unruly groups of people 🙂 it’s a lot like herding cats, let me tell you. I kept learning.

Most of all I kept my goal in mind. It’s what Lea calls my ‘hammock house’ and I envision as a getaway for everyday. But more than a physical local, it’s a mindset. To be challenged every. single. day. to be better, do better, learn faster, communicate stronger.

It’s about meeting people with amazing talents for art, designing websites, reaching people who support your cause. And not just being in awe of the talents of these friends but learning from them, helping them, watching each other become better entrepreneurs, better business people, enjoying what we all do best.

Working with Ramit is awesome. The staff that he hires is so incredible that there are no descriptions kind enough. Ramit himself? Strange guy. But intelligent and entertaining and never, never boring.

So that was my “quiet” life a few weeks ago. Working a day job I didn’t enjoy, reading and learning and networking with people who are doing things differently, working with Ramit and still wondering what the next six months would bring. And then I met Andrew. Andrew rocks. He is a very, very tall rockstar.

And after chatting with Andrew through Earn 1K and Beyond 1K we met up in San Francisco. Soon after Andrew quit his full time job to work with Alexis Martin Neely. Two weeks ago I began working with Alexis Martin Neely.

If I had any photoshop or video skills whatsoever this is where the clouds would part, the music would swell and unicorns and rainbows would appear on your screen.

[use your imagination]

Working with Alexis and her team is like business on crack. Which is not to say they’re on drug drugs, just that they see so very clearly the vision of the business and pursue it relentlessly. The actions are informed but not beaten to death in committee meetings. The options are considered and the best one executed within hours, not months.

And it’s challenging. It’s a challenging business that I have been pursing my entire adult life.

Today I acknowledged a new challenge and I handed in my two week notice at the full time job to work full time on projects like Ramit’s Beyond 1K program and Alexis’ Lift Foundation.

My hands were sweaty, my stomach tied in knots, I could detect a slight tremble in my hands. But I did it. Sent the email, put copies of the notice in my boss’ box and handed another copy to HR.

Then I felt great.

I spoke to the HR representative briefly and he asked if I was just chasing more responsibility. Honestly, I answered, no. Because this past Monday when I spoke to my boss about reducing my work hours she offered me more responsibility. The chance to handle a huge project, increase my hours and train in a new program. And I said no thank you.

Confused, the HR representative asked what I did want out of a job, out of life. It wasn’t unusual, we’d spoken about this before. And this time I knew my answer.

“When I’m working on a project, creating or managing or building something, and I get that pit of fear that I’m unprepared, over my head, afraid of failure, worried how this will turn out – THAT is what I want in a job. I don’t crave the fear, it’s rather unpleasant, but I’m no longer running away from it. Putting myself in those places to be afraid, to grow and learn and then be afraid again is my goal. Because then I’m growing and learning. And,” I reminded him, “I’m giving so much more value to the client who engages my services than if I were to process the same paperwork, explain the same policies and check off the same checkboxes until I retire or die of boredom.”

The HR guy laughed and said “oh I know what you mean!” and acknowledged he would probably never make the leap. I smiled, packed up my things and headed home where I have a few more hours of work to do, dogs to walk and household chores to conquer. I’m not so naive to think all will be hugs and puppies for eternity but I do know that I look forward to work – not just a paycheck – for the first time in a long time.

~Kelly Azevedo
August 26, 2010

On stopping frustration

Short tempers are a dangerous thing and the quickest way I’ve found to diffuse a situation is to recognize when frustration first begins to creep in.  As a result of working most of my waking hours I keep a very detailed calendar. I can’t stick to my tasks perfectly because I’m not perfect, but I do try to stay on track.

Truly, if it is not on the calendar it is unlike to get done. Thus the reason for adding “dinner: eat it” to my task list. Otherwise I forget half the time!

This morning my schedule began at 8am with a site walk to plan for an upcoming event. My cohort was to meet me at 8am. I began to walk the site myself, taking pictures and preparing questions about the event so we could identify the best set up. I got a call 15 minutes later that the other committee member was on her way.

Now I have a busy day ahead, lots of work to get done and hopefully a chance to relax so this is frustrating. Instead of letting that frustration ruin my morning I found something enjoyable to occupy my time.

I found when we rewalked the site I was much more relaxed and calm than if I’d focused on the other person’s tardiness. An added bonus – I really like these pictures! How do you stop frustration before it becomes anger?

More Wilson pics

Alicia, this is just for you.

Wilson is so intrigued by the smells out here. I imagine he’s thinking:

I


Smell

Cookies!

Alicia makes the best cookies and has turned her sweet talent into a custom order and ship business! Wilson loves treats (as evidenced by the 15 cupcakes he ate a few months back) and we love Alicia!

I didn’t really intend for this to become a promo piece, but if you want info on Alicia’s cookies I’d be happy to pass that on. Dangit, now I want a cookie!

Working at Home

There was an interesting discussion amongst friends recently about remote workers, the benefits and the drawbacks.  Interesting enough most of the time we have a skewed perspective. As a worker. As a business owner. As an introvert. An extrovert.

But don’t look at me, I don’t have answers, just my own limited experience.

It occurs to me each morning when I walk out the front door to see my lovely porch that in a few hours I’ll be in a stuffy building, wishing I was outside. But when I come home I go right back inside. Not today! It’s Wednesday which means I’m on furlough and making up my own schedule based on freelance and volunteer commitments. So after a doctor’s appointment and before coffee, I took up residence on my porch swing to write, read and make snarky observations about my neighbors.

What I learned:

The dogs do not like it when I’m away from them so the front door remained open (screen shut) so Jackson could watch me. And he did. He sat there, occasionally whining, for hours. Watching. Good dog!

Wilson is more portable so he came with me, tied the leash to the base of the swing and let him poke around.

The porch is super comfortable. Even more so that I brought out my blanket to keep my clothes clean.  Wilson loves the set up out here and he’s comfortable on the rugs or atop a couple of pillows.  The gentle rocking motion of the swing is a refreshing change from the office chair. It reminds me of the hours I’ve spent with my grandpa in this swing on his front porch, just watching the cars go by.

Trying to balance a dog, a camera and a laptop means something is going to fall. Luckily the laptop is sturdy.

My neighbor has horrible taste in music. And appears to be unemployed. That’s a terrible combination. I fear his daily task of “cleaning the garage” is a ruse.

I hate bugs.

My laptop screen is really dirty.

Eventually I moved to the ground (yes, I sat on the ground, outside, to work today. And I loved it.) where I didn’t have to balance my laptop, could prop open my book and still keep an eye on my cell phone. Wilson got control of the swing.

Lucky for Wilson he’s really, really cute. Because he kept interrupting my work by barking at the mailman. Walkers. Falling leaves.

I have slapped myself more times today trying to kill flies than I would prefer.

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So that’s my morning, sitting outside/lying on the ground, working from “home” – personally work is much less about where the work is done than what work is done. I strive to become a trusted member of a team so that no one cares if I’m working in rented office space, a loft downtown, in the park or while traveling.

Relax

Those who know my schedule are probably going to laugh at me but here’s where I relax during the summer:

granted, most of my relaxing involves reading a book and taking notes but this is the perfect place to enjoy a summer smoothie or slushie and soak up some sun.  Conveniently located on my front porch.

Are We Just Competitive Jerks?

You hear the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” often in personal finance writing to denote the trend of spending money to impress the neighbors. But once the competition with the Joneses stops another one seems to always crop up to take its place.

I would argue the world is larger than our neighborhoods now, it’s not just about the family across the street and mental ‘my SUV is bigger than your SUV’  – truly the world has become our bragging place. Now we can brag on twitter, post pictures on flickr, write a note on facebook, and show up to lunch to show off in person.

And for that reason you’ll never win. It’s feasible to get the newest car in the neighborhood, even the best television in your family. But when you set yourself up to compete with everyone on the internet you will always lose. Sometimes you’ll lose by default, “you got the new iPhone 64? Oh, that’s cool I guess. My cousin got the early release iPhone 65…” It’s not enough to be the first one to have the elusive it item, you need to be the first one they’ve heard of who has it too.

Personally, I don’t think it’s all that impressive to buy crap. Even nice crap. One of my favorite quotes comes from Justin who has the great Twitter feed @shitmydad says:

“Son, no one gives a shit about all the things your cell phone does. You didn’t invent it, you just bought it. Anybody can do that.”

Once you break away from that constant one upsmanship you’d think the competition would go away. And that’s now always the case.
The odd thing is that I’ve observed this behavior – sometimes more freqently – when people move in the opposite direction and reduce their spending. This borders on the misery competition scale* but I hate a race to the bottom in any form.

True, it’s encouraging to hear how someone is saving money but it’s discouraging when that becomes insulting. “You spent $1.28 on spahetti sauce? Well if you learned to stack coupons and shopped where I shopped and once dated the store manager like I did you could have 2 jars of sauce for only 87 cents!”

Similarly, there’s a competition to become the cheapest of them all. If you mention forgoing meat three nights a week someone else will tell you they’re a vegetarian and never “waste money” on meat.  You find some great curtains on sale that will make your living room nicer and lower your electric bill and someone else admonishes that they sew their own from scraps and never use the air conditioning anyways.

Again, unless you move to a cave in the wilderness and sew clothing out of leaves you’re never going to win.

The solution is simple in theory, difficult in application. Set your own rules, your own expectations. Know where your balance lies and when someone begins to tell you how they spent more and got something sooner or went without and got that cheaper than you, nod politely and say “that’s nice.”

Of course you could just refrain from ever talking about yourself, your purchases and your spending but that’s a little much.

*the misery competition is prevalent among teenagers and unfortunately some people never outgrow it. The competition only produces losers and sounds like this:
Loser #1 – I have two tests on Friday! I’m soooo miserable, I can’t study, I have soccer practice! Waaaaaaaah!
Loser #2 – Oh yeah? Well I have 3 tests, a quiz, research paper due, soccer AND tennis practice, a tournament AND my Grandma is dying!
Loser #3 – Oh yeah? Well….