Summer 2014 Bucket List

Summer 2014 Bucket List by Elaine Griffin from The Laine List

The days are hot. The nights are warm.

We’ve already swam in ponds, and roasted things over fires.

Summer break has finally arrived.

We are all more than a little ready for summer.

We are tired of the grind, yo.

I’ve managed to squirrel enough cash to cut back on my work hours, and we have many, many plans.

I’ve never made a bucket list, but because there is input from 3 people, I figured it would be a good idea, because we all know I will not remember all that. Plus, A LIST!

Summer 2014 Bucket List!

Visit local swimming areas.
Make tie-dye t-shirts.
Visit local farmer’s markets.
See many dollar movies.
Make creativity journals.
Visit the planetarium.
Launch our food blog.
Pick as many fruits and veggies as we can.
Learn to ride a bike.
Learn to tie shoes.
Make a soda volcano sprinkler.
Go to the movies.
Have a sleepover.
Read.
Have a treasure hunt.
Build a fort.
Play laser tag.
Go bowling.
Build a sheet fort and watch movies.
Have a water balloon fight.
Learn the alphabet.
Run in the sprinkler.

I sat down and made this list with the kids, but I have some plans of my own, too. Plans I had hoped to fulfill last summer.

I’m always striving to be a better mother.

More patient. More kind. More present. More willing to drop what I’m doing for a hug, snuggle, or non-emergency need.

To put down my phone (also known as work).

I’m hoping cutting back a bit on work will eliminate stress, and not cause more of it, and we will have the best summer ever. I need it as much as they do.

Here’s hoping anyway! What are your plans for the summer?

Making Time to Make Time

Making Time to Make Time
Photo Credit Werner Kunz https://www.flickr.com/photos/werkunz/

It’s been a whole two months since I last posted on this blog. Where has the time gone? What even happened? I honestly have no idea. Too much work, too little play? Perhaps. I don’t know, I just haven’t been feeling it. Whatever it is. My creativity maybe?

It’s affecting my work, and my whole life, really. I love my work. But lately something feels like it’s missing. You probably know the feeling. The feeling when you are ready to take the next step, but you have no idea what that step is. Maybe there is no opportunity (that you can see). Maybe you have so many possible paths that it is impossible to decide which is the best.

I have waffled between these two feelings lately.

I have a good friend who works in the industry, and we frequently bounce not only industry-related ideas off of each other, but also personal issues. She’s a give it to you straight problem solver. A pep talker. A friend who, if you ask her to, will hold you accountable. She has been a tremendous help to me in the past; helping me see my path, helping me build confidence.

I consulted her again recently about my feeling that something is missing. She put all my thoughts together without me even telling her all of the random thoughts I had written on random lists. She is that good. And now I have a plan of where to go from here. It’s exciting. And scary. And will take quite a bit of time for me to develop.

Time. Where does it go? Where does it come from?

It doesn’t come from anywhere. We have to make time for it. Weird right?

Actually, I think some people don’t need to make time for time. It just comes naturally to some people to slow down. Think about themselves. DO something for themselves.

For me, not so much. So I have declared May MY month. I’m cutting back on the work. I’m going to actually write. (I am even considering NoBloPoMo, although it will have to be split up between the two blogs). I’m going to work on my new projects. I’m going to network. I’m going to actually do the crafts I’ve been planning and plotting on Pinterest. I would love it if Ben and I could launch the food blog we have been working on for months on end.

Mostly, I want to feel relaxed. Creative again. Like there isn’t something that is missing.

So I’m going to make time. Will you?

In Like a Lion: Rebirth, Revitalization, Hope

In Like a Lion, Rebirth, Revitalization, HopeWell, here we are, the first of March, and I am in my annual armpit of winter funk.

Pre-holidays, and even into the beginning of January I had a lot of blogging and business goals. I was ready to hit 2014 running. I was full of energy, confidence, and hope. This was going to be my year.

And then Christmas and New Year’s happened, and I had taken a lot of time off. Time off is always good, but it makes me lazy. Complacent.

Then January and February happened. Bitter cold temps, school closings, illnesses. Now I am complacent and uninspired.

I take heart in knowing that I’m not alone. Mothers everywhere are feeling the strain of being locked inside with bored kids. Sick kids. Bored and sick kids. Everything in-between.

Old Man Winter still has a strong hold on many of us, but here and there we have had slightly warmer temperatures offering a glimmer of hope. The days are getting longer and brighter. Next week is Daylight Savings. I’m ready. It’s been very dark in here, and I am desperate for some light at the end of this tunnel.

Meteorological spring begins today. And today I turn 35. March is coming in like a lion, bringing with it renewed hope, energy, and confidence for the year to come. It’s time to pull myself from the dark funk and let awakening and rebirth revitalize and inspire me. My year – my life – is standing in front of me. It’s still mine. I just have to take it.

Are you ready to shake the funk of winter and greet all that spring can bring?

*image credit hotblack at morgueFile*

Holiday Gift Guide for Bloggers

Holiday Gift Guide for BloggersAre you wondering what to get the blogger in your life? Here is my top ten list of practical gifts that any blogger would appreciate.

Stock Images

Unless you are a photographer or food blogger, one thing bloggers almost universally struggle with getting great images without completely breaking the bank. A subscription to a photo service is a great way to help your blogger step up their blogging game. Try out Deposit Photos, iStockPhoto, and Shutterstock to get started.

Photoshop Elements

Of course sometimes we need to make adjustments to our photos or add text overlays. Maybe your blogger is a budding photographer. Photoshop Elements is just the right amount of photo editing software to get started, and at $99 is just the right price.

PicMonkey Subscription

In my opinion, even better than Photoshop is PicMonkey. This online editing tool makes photo editing, and producing graphics of all kinds a cinch. And, at $33 a year, it’s a much cheaper alternative.

A Year of Web Hosting

All I have to say is my hosting is expiring this month, and if someone wanted to pay for it, I would jump for joy!

Upgrades to Pro Accounts and Private Forums

One thing I know I hate spending money on is upgrading to pro accounts and private forums. They are just little expenses that seem to add up to large expenses. Perhaps your blogger has an account to their favorite web service or private forum that they would like upgraded to pro for enhanced features and materials? Maybe they would like to listen to ad-free Pandora. There are tons of subscription services bloggers use, so be sure to ask your blogger about their favorites.

Access to Their Favorite Conference

This one can get a little tricky because conferences are so costly. Fortunately there a few things you can do to help your blogger get conference ready. From purchasing passes to airfare and hotel accommodations. Points work too! Do you have some frequent flyer miles or hotel points burning a hole in your pocket? Donate them!

Electronics and Technology

This category covers the complete budget range. Think jump drives, headphones, iPods, eReaders and iPads, cameras, printers, etc. If you want to give a larger item but can’t afford it, a gift card toward the purchase is a great option.

Snacks and Beverages

I hear a lot of bloggers talking about their favorite beverages. Many of us work long nights or early mornings, and are balancing our families and meeting their needs first. A gift basket of their favorite snacks and beverages would be a most welcome gift, I am sure. I personally love gift baskets because I love themes and the possibilities are endless. Relaxation baskets could include wine, cheese, and chocolate or tea, healthy soup mixes, and whole grain crackers. Late night and early morning workers might various coffees, teas, or hot cocoa. You get the idea.

Books, eCourses, or Consulting Sessions

How many of us wouldn’t want to better our blogging or product/service with some courses, books, or consulting sessions? I know I would. Of course one thing to remember is you can provide the service, but not the time. A great (and free) ad-on might be some babysitting, cooking, or cleaning to ease the load and really give the opportunity for your favorite blogger to learn and grow.

Web Design Services

Lets face it, getting a custom website or blog can be pricey. Is your blogger ready for a new design? Check to see if they have a designer in mind, and whether or not they offer gift certificates. Even if they don’t officially offer them, they might be willing to.

What is on your list this year?

Our Trip to the National Museum of Play

Last week the kids and I played hookie we took a field trip to Rochester to visit a friend and go to the National Museum of Play. That place is seriously awesome. I can’t even put into words all they have to offer, so I will let them do the talking.

You’re never too big for this much fun! With more than 150,000 square feet of dynamic interactive exhibit space; the world’s largest collection of toys, dolls, games, and other items that celebrate play; a wide range of programs and activities; and family-friendly amenities, the National Museum of Play® provides educational, entertaining, and unforgettable intergenerational fun.

I didn’t take that many pictures, because I was too busy playing!

museum of play

We strolled along Sesame Street, and had a picture in Big Bird’s nest. We saw comic book hero’s, shopped at a kid sized Wegmans, and played in an arcade. One of the best parts was the butterfly garden. Even though there was a butterfly or probably a moth that kept buzzing my head/face. In case you don’t remember, here is my history with moths.

I love how the turtle looks like he is waving good-bye!

If you are a local or are traveling through Western New York, this is a serious must do! It is well worth the money, and I can’t wait to go back!

Social Media Has Blurred the Lines Between Personal and Professional

social media gearsIt is no secret that I have been essentially unable to keep up with both a personal and professional blog. I just don’t feel like I have a lot to say on The Laine List. My readers are losing interest, because I am too.

I think about the work I have done to create my brand. I’ve never been totally comfortable with having two online identities, but I wanted to establish trust and credibility in my work. Along the line, though, between cross-posting on blogging networks, and increased presence in social media, the boundary between the personal and professional has become elastic, and it seems unnecessary. Joining Pinterest and Instagram has been the tipping point for me. Everything I do, and everything I like is already out there. Anyone can find out whatever they want to about me.

From a professional standpoint, I want to focus more on creating my personal brand.

From a personal standpoint, I just want to be me. I want people to know *me.*

Another factor here, which when I began blogging, I didn’t think would be an issue, is I finally feel like I know how I want to focus my writing. Or, in bloggy terms, what my niche is. Of course I will continue to write about WordPress, social media, etc. The personal component I would like to add is working at home, and making it work. This is something that I think about and do every day, and I know there are others, readers of the EGD blog included, who are interested in learning about how to make it work for them. So, the personal meets the professional.

I do also want to talk about my Roller Derby adventures, and I think is another area where the personal can meet the professional. I discuss personal strength and confidence when I write those posts, and how is that not business related?

I anticipate wanting to write some of the more deeply personal posts at some point. I think those posts will be posted on blogging networks, but honestly at this point, I’m not sure I have it in me to write the deeply personal anytime soon.

I will not shut down The Laine List. It will remain, and the posts will remain, and maybe I will want to write something deeply personal and post it here. I will always have the option of coming back.

This idea is in its infancy, and this is really kind of a brain dump. I’m not ready to take this risk yet, but I’m seriously considering it.

What do you think? Is this a risk worth taking?

 

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Great Risks and Great Rewards

NaBloPoMo March 2013Today’s NaBloPoMo prompt is, “Do you believe the saying that with great risks come great rewards?”

I think this is terribly cliche. I also think it is terribly true.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my life did not really start happening until I started taking risks, and putting myself out there. It’s difficult to do, though, especially if you don’t feel confident, or if you are afraid of hearing someone say, “NO.”

When you take a risk, you are opening yourself up to gaining a reward, but it’s how we perceive the reward that is the key. Perhaps the reward is something tangible, like gaining a new client, or meeting new friend. How about the intangibles, though? Maybe the reward is in the gaining of confidence, or the acceptance of hearing the word, “NO.”

What do you think? Do you think great rewards come with great risks?

Keep Your Sanity while Working at Home with Kids

When I started working from home when it was out of necessity. Money was tight and I was pregnant. Our son was starting part-time pre-school and we needed the funds to pay for it. Getting a job out of the home, aside from nights and weekends, was not an option, as we had one car and no affordable daycare.

But I got lucky, and was offered an opportunity to work at home, and working at home with kids became my reality.

And then I got luckier, and started a business that I run out of my home.

It the American Dream, yo! Except it’s HARD!

home office and dining room
Our dining room triples as a home office AND playroom!
Photo Credit: Fabio Bruna via Compfight cc

I have now been working from home for close to four years. In that time I have worked at home with two VERY different kids. My son, when he actually spent more time here with me, was super cool with the work at home deal. As long as I was here, he didn’t care. Now that he is in school full-time, though, he requires a lot more of my attention when he is at home. I mean, that’s kind of a no-brainer.

My daughter has always been a bit more of a challenge. Although when she was an infant I could just nurse her all day while I worked, that was cool. Let’s just say this. She is a great little one. She will play quietly and happily for a long time, but she wants what she wants when she wants it, and she will employ any means to get it. NOW. This is about the time that I have finished the last task she handed me and have finally settled my brain into work.

So I consider myself an expert at working at home with little kids.

Now, I know there is a lot of information on the internet for work at home parents about how they should manage their time and balance their work and their kids. While it’s valuable information for some, a lot of the tips are a fail for me, as they almost always include such tips “work at night,” and, “work during naptime.” We have no nap time here, unfortunately, and I’m totally not a night person. After a long day of work, kids, and house, I do not want to push myself to work. I want to quiet my brain, get some rest. I much prefer working in the pre-dawn and relishing the potential of the new day. It really sets the tone for me, and I know I’m not alone.
So here you have my five tips for working at home with little kids.

Plan Activities

While I’m not a super activity planner, i.e. I’m probably not planning activities that I have to really be involved in, or actually leave the house for, I do begin the day with a sense of what the kid(s) might want to do. I take into account what they have been playing with recently. Do they seem bored? Do they need a change? What can I prepare for them so they will stay happy and busy longer, and I can get the maximum amount of work done? And those out of the house activities? We do those once a week and on the weekends. It’s plenty for us.

Take Breaks

I will be honest and tell you that I would put my nose to the grindstone and not take a break if I didn’t have to. I would not eat an actual meal, and I would probably forget to feed my children if they didn’t ask for food. Part of this is due to my daughter being a grazer. Sitting down to lunch has never really been her thing. While I think grazing is fine, we both need breaks. I’m not talking just taking scheduled breaks for food. We take spontaneous breaks for cuddles, a quick book or puzzle, or for chasing each other around the house. This saves our sanity and really helps us get through our day peacefully.

Stay Flexible

Speaking of unscheduled breaks, it’s really important to be flexible with your schedule. I used to be a panicky mess if I had to take a break, or even worse, if there was something wrong that needed my attention and pulled me away from clients or work. Part of this is understandable when you are building a business or working on freelance projects. You have to get your work done or you don’t get paid. I finally came to understand that this makes working at home so we can be with our kids pointless. To top it off, nine times out of ten, your client, boss, or whoever is going to understand. Everyone takes a sick day once in a while, whether you have kids or not. The work will still be there, and it’s not going to throw it all totally off. The moral? Build in some wiggle room, don’t schedule every single second of every single day, and don’t panic when the unexpected happens.

SNACKS! And TV…

Most of my business can be conducted through email, but there are times when I really do need to speak or Skype with clients and potential clients, and I need to reduce the interruptions. This is when I break out the special snacks. I give whatever I have that they haven’t had in a while and really want. And I give a lot of it in order to maximize the time I have. Please take note: these special snacks don’t have to be unhealthy! While my daughter has enjoyed her share of chocolate chips so I can get some quiet, she also loves things like dried fruit, which we don’t always have.
Client call time is also when I flip on the TV. Don’t shoot the messenger, this shit is real, and you have to be prepared! Chocolate chips and Max and Ruby in exchange for quiet never killed anyone.

Don’t Be Afraid of Mess

Obviously, the things that are messy are going to keep kids busy the longest. I used to avoid the mess because I felt like it took too long to clean up, but I was really shooting myself in the foot. So, now we go for the gold. Paint, cutting pieces of paper and spreading them everywhere, Play-Doh, it’s all a go. Although I have put my foot down about Moon Sand. That shit’s just a cruel joke.

BONUS TIP!

If you have a school-aged child or children, be ready when they get home! One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn, and honestly one I am still working on, is being ready to just be mom when my son gets home from school. Honestly, I’m still working on it. Some days, I just can’t turn off. Those days are hell, though. A lot of running around screaming, nagging for candy or other treats, and just general lack of respect and humanity! So, my goal is to give myself 15 to 30 minutes before he gets home to shut my brain off, pick up around the house, prepare a snack, and be ready to welcome him home with open heart and arms. Because, isn’t he the reason I decided to stay home in the first place?

Do you have tips for managing work, either inside or outside the home, and family?

It’s 2013 and I Have Only One Goal

Swooshable Planning
Swooshable Planning (Photo credit: Bohman)

Usually at the start of the New Year I have been planning and plotting my goals, and am super amped to start the New Year off right. We all know how that goes for most people. I wouldn’t say I fizzle, really. I always keep my eye on the prize. But things never work out exactly as planned, and unfortunately I’m pretty unrealistic about how much one person can accomplish in any given amount of time.

For some reason, this year, I didn’t even give my goals a single thought. Maybe it was because I was trying to live in the moment with my children and family. Maybe it’s because I’m so fucking tired of plotting and planning. Worrying and…worrying. I just don’t have it in me to be amped. All I have is enough for me to moving forward. Cautiously optimistic.

Like many bloggers, I really wanted to write about all of the fabulous goals I have for myself. I have pondered what I would say in this post for several days, and basically I had come up with nothing until I sat down to write it. I was going to write about how I have no goals!

But that is not completely true. Of course I have goals, but nothing I want to really write about. None of them have any deep meaning. They are not particularly life changing. They are just regular old career, family, and healthy living goals. Boring.

As I began thinking through having no exciting goals to write about, and as I thought over my brainstorming process in the last week it became very clear that my number one goal should be to just keep moving forward. Keep a positive attitude. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Keep swinging at all the shit that is thrown my way. Dig out from the trenches when I get buried. Move forward. Onward. Upward.

It was a trifecta of signs that  helped lead me to my goal. First of all, on New Year’s Day, I think on Headline News, they had some ‘expert’ talking about how you should identify only a couple of goals for the New Year, and those goals should be taken at most a week at a time. They should also include some room for setbacks. I think this is so obvious that it’s one of those things that needs to be spelled out for people. We are so hard on ourselves. We don’t give ourselves any breathing room to make mistakes, learn, grow.

The second sign was from a vlog post by Audra Silva where she describes her one word goal for the New Year: Intention. While I could relate to her goal to live with intention as a way to accomplish goals rather than abandoning them, what really struck me was the simplicity of having one word to describe how you would like to live your life. One word, one goal, to live with intention.

The last sign was yesterday, and the one that after some thought really lead me to identify moving forward as my number one goal, came from my friend Jenn in response to a post on Facebook. I had posted “I’m still trying to decide what my 2013 goals are. What are yours?” The conversation went like this:

Jenn: “I have always been terrible with goals. Or planning my future. I kind of just take it as it comes and if I want something to happen I just make it happen. Usually semi-spontaneously. Good luck with yours!”

Me: “I think that is why I’m having a hard time. I just need to keep trucking along!”

Jenn: “Some people do not need goals to get/do what they want. Don’t beat yourself up over it.”

And you know, she is totally right. Not just about goals, but the fact that I didn’t even realize I was beating myself up over it. I was stressing over not being able to identify unrealistic goals. How lame.

The afterthought of all of this comes from the Jason Mraz song, “I’m Yours.” I’m brought back to this song a lot in my life, for a lot of reasons, but in this case it’s the line, “Open up your plans, and damn, you’re free!”

As a planner and plotter who gets bogged down in the ‘what-if’s’ and ‘what’s next’s’ this is something that had not come easily, but hopefully in 2013 I will be able to open up my plans and keep moving forward.

Enjoy the video – I hope it gives you the positive, warm-fuzzy feelings it gives me!

Do you make New Year’s resolutions or set goals, or do you just leave it to life to decide for you?

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