Five must have fall shoes for comfort

Every morning I sit across from my cousin and write. There are times we are both working on passion projects and there are times that he is just…working. Because he gets paid. His areas of expertise are varied and writes for soccer magazine, some famous gaming site, and is editor in chief for StyleForum a men’s fashion website. Yesterday he had me read his fall sneaker round up.  It made me realize for the 20,000th time how little I know or care about fashion. Some of my readers are with me. We don’t care that non-tennis sneakers shall be paired with skinny trousers. What we do care about is that our shoes are comfortable.

What then does a person who has not “fully embraced urban tech ware” wear? Here are my picks. These five shoes. Well, ten shoes, are on my feet 98% of the time. The rest of the time I am barefoot. I have included my affiliate links so if you like them I too can get paid.

  1. Dansko Flip Flops.
The orange fades to a neutral making them perfect for dress up.
The orange fades to a neutral making them perfect for dress up.

These flip flops are relatively new to my repertoire replacing the fit flops of old. (They never really firmed my ass as promised.) Like every other flip flop in the world they allow me to slip them on without the pain of sitting down or bending over. With their slightly taller than flat-foam-that we-wore-in-2nd-grade sole they make me feel less like a weeble. Plus they come in fun fashion colors. I went with orange…that faded to band aid color. Buy them for $40ish dollars here.

 

2. Groundhog grandpa shoe.

Imagine them pink. And yet more like a grandpa might wear them.
Imagine them pink. And yet more like a grandpa might wear them.

I have had these shoes for so long that evidently they no longer exist outside of the floor of my mudroom. You are going to have to imagine these in pink, making them my most stylish shoe by miles. Miles and miles. Which is how far I can walk in them and somehow not look as though I have totally given up. Their secret surprise? That those laces are actual elastic so once again I slip them on…but APPEAR that I can bend over and reach my feet. Magic.  Buy them for $99 here. Which might sound pricey for a shoe that is a cross between bowling and Birkenstocks but mine are 14 years and counting.

3. Frye Boots.

Mine don't even have that fancy detail at the top.
Mine don’t even have that fancy detail at the top. They are just cut straight across.

I deviate a bit with this selection because these (I think) might be legitimately stylish. Or they were when I bought them ten years ago. I went with a “fresh for fall” golden tan which matched my Carharts. I mean the color matched..not the style at all but whatever. They clunk around making me feel loud and proud. They add inches to my height, and with a bit of wiggling CAN be slipped on from a standing position. Particularly if there is a wall nearby to offer support. These used to be my go to fall shoe until I realized that the stacked leather sole wasn’t as comfortable as, say, cork or whatever magic is in the Dansko clogs. Now I pull them on when I want to be “fall fancy”. Buy them for hundreds and hundreds of dollars here. Once again I encourage you to remember that these boots will be in your rotation forever. So really its like a dollar a day for the first year and FREE forever more.

 

4. Converse All Stars. Slip on. Duh.

It looks like you lace them. But you DON"T.
It looks like you lace them. But you DON”T.

So there was a time when these were used for basketball. That’s why I consider them a great athletic shoe. Their lack of arch support is more than made up for by their slip on quality. When I had Leo my shoe size went from a 7.5 to a 9.5. That’s right. Two sized. I wasn’t even in denial about my original shoe size. I know because my friend makes custom shoes and he does excellent measurement. His shoe would be on this list but they don’t fit me anymore. So during the 10th month of my pregnancy I went out and bought white converse all stars with pink stars. Which should have been cute. But somehow made my feet look like the balloons they were. A few years later I admitted that they were loathesome and went shopping for a better solution. I found these and they solved all problems. No tying. Grey goes with everything, and the “laces” that stop mid foot makes me look less like a kids birthday party clown.

5. Dansko Clogs.

These. You need these.
These. You need these.

Last and certainly not least are the Dansko clogs. Any of you who have worked in the medical field or in food service can sing their praises. Plus you can dress them up or dress them down. Mostly down. By now you will not be surprised to hear that slipping them on is a big plus…as is the height that the stacked heel provides. After 15 years of 250 days a year wear I have replaced them 5 times. Always because my puppy chewed out the heel (and each time because of the left shoe.) Mine faded to a sad sickly green grey in the Denver sun and the miles of wear but a quick trip to the shoe shine brought them back to life. I recommend basic black because it will go well with all of your evening wear. These are the most important ones. Buy them for $119 here.

 

I'm so unstylish that I didn't know they were in style.
I’m so unstylish that I didn’t know they were in style.

When I told Jasper about my round up he asked if I would include Birkenstocks. I think there might be room for one more shoe in my life. (Or two.) Here is the fashion editors pick for best Birk. The cork foot bed compliments natural dyes. And for those of us who seek comfort…there is great arch support. Need I mention that you can slip them on?

Hello, my name is Anna, and I am racist

All of the white things I did this weekend, followed by some of the thoughts I had about being a racist.

Mars Meyers products.
Look how delightful.

We all know weekends start on Thursday so I began with wine and cheese with some lovely ladies in my living room. There was a lot of Rose. A friend was in town for a “rock concert” (his words) so he popped by for a whiskey and chat at the end of the party and got to enjoy my line up of Mrs. Meyers scented products on my counter. Geranium is my favorite. He asked if it was a joke, and in the fact that anything can be a joke it was, but they did look like the worlds least effective army lined up on my re-done counter. Which is a bit of foreshadowing.

Ryan Miller of Guster climbs tower
Look how agile.

On the entertainment front we scored high marks Friday when we saw Guster at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Great (rock) show, great venue (even though my friend thinks the whole thing is like a lush green toilet bowl because the amphitheater in the round bottoms out in a giant drain.) While waiting for the concert to start I watched Oliver’s blond head circle the concert goers on the sidewalk above the grassy slopes. He walked and walked getting the steps necessary to incubate his Pokemon eggs. Or at least he walked until he stopped to catch a Pokemon.

 

Ghost Busters
Look how sassy.

On Saturday I saw Ghost Busters. I loved it. I lounged on my friend’s daybed on her covered patio sipping iced tea and plumping velvet pillows behind my head. We played the Paul Rudd game where we each picked the Paul Rudd movie that resonated most with us. If you can use Paul Rudd and resonated in the same sentence. Clearly you can because I just did. Twice. I picked Clueless. Obviously. Leo had picked Ant Man the night before (or technically, and Steve would want me to be technical, Steve pointed it out to him.) There were a few slapstick comedies in there and now the Fundamentals Of Caring which I thought would be an awkward love story between Selena Gomez and Paul Rudd but instead was a not so awkward story of how broken people can go a ways towards healing each other. (Also, hopefully, some foreshadowing) Not bad. In any case one of the players of the Paul Rudd game called him white bread and although I get her point I think he at least is the Enriched white bread. (Again with the foreshadowing.)

British Open 2016
Look how exciting.

Sunday was a big day. I managed to squeeze in the entire final round of The British Open, which would have been a nail biter if it wasn’t golf. The big appeal to The Open (in fact the British bit was added by the Americans once we started our own US Open with religious freedom and less tea) was that we watched it in bed. Steve never likes to be in bed relaxing during the day. I think he might be broken. In any case roughly once a year he makes an exception so I kept him company and Leo brought the French Press up from downstairs. (No foreshadowing, but a bit of remembrance of how our entire country was formed on the idea of freedoms if not the practice of freedom.)

Look how addictive
Look how addictive

During this stretch I downloaded some new games for my phone and did some extensive A B testing on “Merged” v. “Merged ++” In the end I opted for Merged ++ although I think those folks might have given themselves higher marks than they deserved. I’d offer them a Merged + and they should take that as generous. (Merged- good word, harbinger?) I sat by Steve while he tried to sort out our Showtime anywhere connection. It is pretty much Showtime nowhere. Also on the fritz (is that the word? I seem to have lost it) is Sirius radio. This I feel is a sign to get rid of it. With a shared car I often hop in to be yelled at either by something masquerading as music (Ska) or its close cousin the comedians who also seem to want to yell. EVERYTHING IS FUNNIER WHEN IT IS LOUDER. SEE.

That evening Steve and I took a stroll through the Community Garden and I pointed out all of the volunteer dill. Such a thrill. I revel in my life where I have the space to celebrate dill. That is a pretty good benchmark for security.

All of this is to say I might have had the whitest weekend in the world. If you weren’t already thinking it go back and review. Really.The only way it could have been more white is if we had played ultimate frisbee with our golden retriever and haggled over prices at estate sales only to leave behind the items at the last minute.

Look how white.
Look how white.

One of the reasons we moved to a city instead of a wealthy suburb was to give our kids a chance to have more diverse relationships than we had in Vermont. That said there are two non white teachers in my kids’ school, one is in administration (and left this summer) the other is a teacher’s aid (and, I think, left this summer.) Next year Oliver’s school is less than 50% white (including the assistant principal) and they have a close eye on the fact that as you walk the halls you can see through the 2 inch wide windows in the classroom doors which are the honors classes and which are not. If I had done a little research this might not have come as a surprise.

Look how symbolic.
Look how symbolic.

In my excellent suburban elementary school racial diversity was achieved through bussing. Which resulting in me inviting Tiffany from Rochester to my house exactly one time. The school did very little to integrate the kids from Boston with the kids from the suburbs. When we learned about the Civil Rights movement one of us (and I won’t name a name here) mentioned that we were closer to “separate but equal” than we were to real equality. That thought was hushed up pretty quickly.

Look how shiny.
Even the VT capital is white.

My life has not changed that much. Oddly my friendships in Vermont more closely mirrored the demographic make up of the area. It was pretty much white, my friends were pretty much white. When we relocated I made the mistaken assumption that any urban area would have demographic diversity (aided by recess on the field across the street from my house the day we made our offer- the kids were 40% white- turns out those were middle school kids and they too were bussed in from other neighborhoods.) It was naive. Some of my friends argue that being a woman and being a jew make me closer to understanding the cleavage of identity and treatment that happens in today’s society. Whether it does on paper (and I would argue that it does not) it certainly doesn’t offer me insight in practice.

Look how I kiss up to dead white guys.
Look how I kiss up to dead white guys.

Even though I know every system is flawed I feel that my odds of being treated fairly are high. If I were arrested I imagine I would be treated legally. If I went to trial there would be a team of people looking out for my rights. I am protected by family, social status, and skin color. Although my earning potential might be pennies on the dollar of the people with dicks I haven’t really tested it because I have opted out of the workplace, something that isn’t possible for most people in our country. The closest thing I feel to discrimination surrounds mental illness. Unlike skin color most of us with diagnoses can (and do) hide our conditions. That is different problem that I am much more poetic about.

Look how helpful
Look how helpful

I tell you about my weekend because I realize that both my thoughts and behavior reinforce the status quo. When I read books that reveal the feeling rather than the fact of inequality I feel helpless. I read lists of things white people can do to help and wonder about their efficacy. I know I am racist. When I interact with someone of color I am more eager. I rush to open literal doors because I am lost trying to open figurative ones. I check myself when I have horrible thoughts that come from a world of difference. When I see a person of color stepping out of a car in my wealthy leafy neighborhood I imagine he or she is there to clean or work on a house. Mostly I am right. So instead of tamping it down like my third grade teacher did with the observation of our school’s separate but equal practices I am noticing. I am noticing the caricatures of black people even in cartoons. Somehow the animals in secret life of pets had races even though they were animals and animated and those races reinforced roles that I wish didn’t exist. But wishing doesn’t get things done. The black Ghost Buster was the only one without a science degree. She was sassy and street wise. In a film that directly took on stereotypes (there was a blond beefcake as the dumb secretary in a reversal of the blond bombshell) they left this one in tact.

Look how we measure in classrooms
Look how we measure in classrooms

This weekend I came up with a plan to use the power of my whiteness to effect a tiny slice of change. The Science Technology Engineering and Math elective at Oliver’s new middle school is as pale as the marshmallows that Leo threw around the room at the last (and LAST) sleepover. My school wants Oliver. Even though it is a public school the principal is actively lobbying for the rich white neighbors to send their kids to it rather than private schools or one of the other specialized choices. He is responsive to each email and each visit. He is wooing the parent’s from my elementary school with dedication. One way that he has done this is to offer a guaranteed spot in the popular STEM program to every neighborhood student who puts his school as first choice on the school choice form. This program is the one that is best funded in the school, it is also the one that probably provides the best tangible skills for a future high paying job. I know this is middle school but we need to start somewhere. Instead of a practice that saves slots for rich white kids we could have one that keeps things random.  I know he will tell me about the ways he is trying to change things between and walls and in the halls of the school. I will offer to help, and maybe I can. Maybe we can get more kids who happen not to have white skin into the STEM program. Or maybe the solution that I have come up with from my privileged perch is not the one they are looking for.

Look how hateful
Look how hateful

Who really knows. Not me. But I will notice and listen as much as I can. And try to be less of a dingbat every single time I see someone with brown skin. Tripping over myself to be effusive is ineffective and maybe even damaging. Which is what I fear any action that takes me off the bench will be. Fear and worrying and wishing are not going to make a difference. We live in a world with regular racially motivated violence. We live in a world where the system is rigged. We live in a world with hate speech from a presidential candidate. And I live in a world apart.

At least I can try to change that last bit.

If you are looking for a way to talk to your kids about privilege I have found this video to be incredibly useful. The trick is how to have the next part of the conversation. Let me know if you have any ideas. <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/2KlmvmuxzYE” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

 

The Gummy Bear Rorschach Test

Gummy Bear Rorschach test
What is this gummy bear feeling?

The first time I saw this picture (oh be quiet, you know you have a picture of gelatin desserts that you look at once a week too) I thought our little guy in the front was looking pretty jaunty. He was off to have a day of some sort. Probably a sweet day. He was no longer a mashed mess of bear limbs in a bag. I couldn’t quite see his expression (perhaps because his face just sort of fades away into a blob) but I imagined him smiling.

Today? Today he looks like he has turned away from the group. It is likely they are talking behind his back but because he is RIGHT THERE he can still hear them through his chewy ears. His blob face looks sort of alarmed. Just moments ago the four bears were together in a circle (Or maybe a square if their flat back were aligned correctly.) Now he is alone. And he doesn’t know if he will ever get welcomed back in to the fold. He might as well be eaten. Welcome to my gummy bear mood test. I have found it is a pretty apt determiner of your mad, I mean mood.

When you look at the photo do you think…

  1. The Gummy Bear candy is the pinnacle of edible gelatin applications. Can you imagine if in addition to their good cheer, adorable appearance and delicious taste they could actually give us the vitamins we need each day? They do? Humanity is amazing!
  2. Those other damn bears won’t share their square. Typical.
  3. I want to bite the head off of that bear…. deadly red die just speeds up what is happening to all of us anyways.

After listening to this audio clip do you think:

  1. Birdsong reminds me of spring and rebirth.  I think of possibilities and the incredible cycle of renewal that can come for each of us, and for earth as a whole.
  2. Do you hear that  bird? I think it lost its mother. I think it might be starving. Doesn’t it sound hungry?
  3. Those birds wake me every morning.

Now watch this video do you think:

  1. No one can keep true love apart. There is a bond between families that we are born into and those that we choose that remains strong through all of life’s trials.
  2. The mom seems to be looking for another dog. I think one of the puppies is dead and she knows it.
  3. I hate puppies.

I cycle through all three. Glad, sad, mad and then glad again. I am like a beginning kids reading book with more swearing.

What about you, are you more like to respond with anger, joy or sorrow? Have you seen the  cartoon that starts out as a brilliant and nuanced illustration of these emotions and ends up a formulaic mess? Wait…you might have another interpretation of Inside Out. Or maybe my zig zagging between the _ads just leaves you confused. When I started putting this together I was a 2. Now I am pretty sure I am a 3. In any case it is good that I am working from home today.

Taste the Rainbow.

The last time I saw in technicolor was when I went to music camp. I have always perceived notes as colors, when they are sharp they vibrate, flat they dim, and just right they make a rainbow. Sadly this doesn’t translate to being able to produce beautiful music. Once I gave up my instrument the world went back to shades of grey.

Chatting with a friend whose life is music I learned that color associations with words, letter and notes have a name…and a Wikipedia page. Synesthesia fascinates me, perhaps because I have the most mild useless form of it. Whether you see the letter A as red, or the note C as brown or simply see color in the sky we all have strong associations with color.

Pinterest board covers. Yellow of the rainbowI have always loved yellow. I like it bold, yet without the tinge of orange that you find on a school bus. It wakes me up more than coffee, makes me want to walk through front doors and generally move forward. It demands my attention and I give it. Back before I learned that I could only have Pinterest Boards that promote my blog-Blech- I had a board called “yellow not so mellow” I looked at it almost every afternoon at 2. Now I use Pinterest as a tool, not a toy so you only see yellow on my board covers.

Indigo is part of the rainbow coatMy cousin is obsessed with Indigo. He likes the process by which it is made, but even more he likes the layers of depth that he sees. He wears a cape-like lab coat thing that would make me look like an oompa loopa. Each morning he arrives with the tail swinging and takes his seat to write about imaginary lands. Stuck as I am in the personal narrative I simply see it as blue. To Jasper it is a manifestation of all possibilities in a single color.

My older son like the monochrome look. He pairs blue on blue green on green, you understand. What he can’t see is shades of color so even though it is impossible he has actually made blue clash. One day he hurried into the room holding my laptop, his face as red as his T shirt and short. “My mind is BLOWN.” He tells me. Or screams at me. When he turned the screen to me to reveal youtube I expected to be lulled to sleep by a video of a pre-teen opening a pack of Pokemon cards. Instead he showed me this. He watched it again and looked up at me. Did you have ANY idea that we respond to color that way? Why yes. Yes I did. But it was thrilling to watch him learn. Sitting on my blue comforter looking at his red outfit I felt an excited contentment the red and blue of those emotions swirling together into a sort of purple. The colors are still in there. Instead of music I see them in the moods of my boys. Whether sharp or flat they light up my life.

The single question to ask to keep your marriage strong

The post on marriage was originally published on the Good Men Project.

I was a kiss ass in school. Anything less than an A left me lingering at the elbow of the teacher wondering what I could do better. I wasn’t a sporty sort, so my version of a trophy came in the form of triplicate tri-fold carried with pride to present to my parents. Whether you loved your reports cards or loathed them, whether being coached catalyzed you or made you cringe I bet most of that regular feedback ended with your diploma.

Couple with sunglassesMaybe it shouldn’t have.

Some of us use scientific principles of recording and reporting to effect change in our daily life. We keep budgets and count calories, we track our runs and share them on social media. Karl Pearson tells us that ”that which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.”

[Tweet theme=”basic-white”]When did we feel like a team this week?[/Tweet]

Yet, few people apply these methods to our marriages.

Quantifying something as organic as a relationship is not in our regular repertoire. Recent research suggests that it should be. No less of a relationship resource than the Wall Street Journal confirms the benefit  marriages performance reviews.

Because I am almost as much of a data geek as a Wall Street Journal writer, I wanted to try to track the ups and downs of our marriage. Because my husband accepts my inner nerd he threw his number 2 pencil into the ring with mine. I started by printing the progress report attached to the WSJ article. The multi part sheet didn’t seem broad enough to measure all areas of our relationship so I flipped over my page to add on open ended questions. I love an essay. I wanted to create a space for individual ratings so we could benefit from Pearson’s law. I created an emoticon rating system tied to numerical values. I love a graph.

____

As I reached for a second sheet of paper with a cramped hand, I glanced across the table at my husband. He had the tip of his tongue between his teeth, showing me the care and concentration he was taking with his task. He had written a single line. It read:

When did we feel like a team this week?

Suddenly my graphs and essays seemed superfluous. I pushed my paper aside and leaned towards him. His single sentence reminded me that making the individual grade was not our goal. I was finally part of a team sport. We had found a way to measure our relationship that was more natural than a strict quantification, but just as useful for us.

Whether you follow a strict format of measuring and reporting like Pearson, or develop a single touchpoint, any time you spend working at your partnership will bring positive change.

His simple question led us into a complicated conversation. We talked about our parenting, our physical relationship and the times we felt lonely. He reminded me of the power of my touch and I thanked him for the act of bringing me iced water each night in bed.

We realized that since Steve moved his office home we had stopped kissing each other goodbye as we headed to opposite ends of the house for work. That was something we could easily change. Finally we finished our assessment. Except we hadn’t. As we moved from the table to the couch he draped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me in for a kiss. “Now.” He said. “Right now is when we most felt like a team this week.”

– See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-one-question-you-need-to-ask-to-keep-your-marriage-on-track-hlg/#sthash.oXur2pHk.dpuf

Make your blog go viral – 12 tools for the lazy blogger

I have never had a post go viral. So the first thing you can do as a lazy blogger is stop reading right now. Still, I have been blogging seriously for a year and have tripled my readership. I have regular gigs writing outside of my blog and make enough cash to offset all of the services that you see below. Particularly the free services.

  1. Headline analyzer
    I still haven’t nailed the headline

    Co Schedule Headline Analyzer.  I love puns. I love obscure shadowy references. But I also love traffic and shares. The tool I use to make sure my posts (for the most part) are optimized for clicks is Co-Schedule Headline analyzer. I enter my rough headline and scroll down for analysis. In a glance I know the type of headline I have chosen, the mix of words- power/emotion/ etc. It takes trial and error to improve my grade but in three or four minutes (faster than a Yugo) I can go from the red to the green. I have never scored 100. A girl can dream. Co-Schedule Headline Analyzer.

  2. Unsplash writer search
    Unsplash writer search

    Unsplash. I share this with a heavy heart. It is sort of like when you have an incredible baby sitter that makes your kids as happy as you about date night and you give his name to a friend. It is hard to share. I use Unsplash to illustrate almost every post I write. I’m sure they say it more poetically but I’ll sum it up as a simple site full of free high def images. You can use them anywhere for any reason without attribution. A few weeks ago I was generous enough to share this site with a small group of writers and one of those bitches talented ladies used some of my favorite images. I’m sure I will be just as understanding with all of you. Unsplash

  3. Buffer dashboard
    Look at all of those profiles in one place!

    Buffer.  I broke up with Hootsuite about a year ago. My relationship with Buffer has much less angst. It allows me to post to one or all of my profiles. It has an advance scheduler that I can view by the day or week or month. If I want to change the time it is drag and drop (so good, so easy.) Or I can allow Buffer to send out those things when they can get the most love. I can analyze the stats of my posts and simply click “re-buffer” to send things out again. If I want I can a/b test by changing up the call to action in the headline. It is a breeze. The only downside is that I have to have twitter going to read incoming tweets (unlike Hootsuite which has incoming streams as well as outgoing). I can’t imagine participating in social media without it. Wasn’t there some sort of headache remedy called “bufferine”? That can’t be a coincidence. Buffer.

  4. Blogging Anarchy facebook group
    Good tagline, right?

    Blogging Facebook Groups. There are 100s of groups. Maybe even thousands. At their worst they are time sucks. Frankly even at their best they take time. Some allow you to pimp your channels without real engagement, some have strict guidelines, some have bloggers with such specific niches it feels like an onion article, and some are a series of sales pitches. Yet there are a few special group that boost your traffic and build your relationships. My top three blogging facebook groups are. Blog Share Learn– BSL is robust and interactive with daily threads to share your own posts and additional opportunities to support your social media following. Bloppy Bloggers– BB is slightly quirky and always interactive with a small but super engaged group (and often humorous) writers. Blogging Anarchy– the name says it all. Do whatever you want. Post, don’t post. Share, don’t share. Comment, don’t comment. Despite (because of?) this attitude I have made some friends and followers from this new group of writers.

  5. Pinterest pin making service
    Look at those low low prices

    Pinterest Pin service. I found Katie in two (maybe even three?) of the above FB groups. She always had the best looking pins for pinterest and the traffic to match. Luckily for me (and you) she realized the rest of us needed her. For a super low price she will make you pins. I have opted for even more of her help and she re-organized my boards and even does some of my pinning for me using analytics to post to great group boards. My inbound clicks from Pinterest have gone from 2 a day to 65 a day. The best part is these readers have a 20% bounce rate. That is incredibly low. The pins have enough content to have interested them…so when they click to read more they actually want to read more. Additionally Pinterest, unlike other social media platforms is not time sensitive. Pins pay off long after they have been posted. Check out her services here.

  6. Beyond Your Blog logo
    You can’t quite see how much vital information is represented by this logo.

    Beyond Your Blog. This is the website that inspired me get my writing published outside of my blog. BYB has podcasts with editors from pretty much every publication you can think of explaining what they are looking for in a submission. BYB posts links to paid and free opportunities and has huge free lists of sites that accept syndicated content. All of these are arranged by topic area. Add to this anthologies and regular success stories and you have a place of inspiration and information. I can’t think of another site that combines all of the tools to make your words leap from your blog to the world wide web.   Start Here.

  7. Ad block stats
    9,000 clicks I didn’t have to make.

    Adblock. This chrome extension doesn’t actually help me get clicks on my blog. But it does keep me from throwing my laptop across the room from dealing with incessant pop ups so that allows me to continue writing. Which then allows me to continue posting. Which drives traffic to my site. Look at the 9,000+ clicks I didn’t have to make in the 3 weeks I have had Adblock installed. That probably equates to 100 eye rolls, 90 deep sighs, 10 screams of outrage, and at least 20 minutes of my life that I didn’t waste.

  8. Click to Tweet. Honestly this has probably brought me 28 clicks in the three months I have been using it. However it is a way to break of a block of text (which is always a good thing with you lazy readers) that might serve a function. [Tweet theme=”basic-white”]Click to Tweet: It takes about two seconds to add a tweet box and makes me feel like a pro. [/Tweet]
  9. Askimet stats
    I could watch Fletch. With commercials.

    Askimet. There was a time when I didn’t reply to comments on my blog. I know. I know. Blogging etiquette 101. The reason? The viagra ads. Its not that I don’t espouse a healthy sex life because I DO.  It’s just that the comments got lost in a sea of little blue pills. Or some less appropriate analogy. Askiment is a Word Press Plug in that seems to love viagra. It gobbles up all of those spam comments itself. Askimet.

  10. Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 4.01.31 PMSumome. Even though it looks like Sue me  Sumome is a free and super simple email subscriber plug in. You can customize the pop up to be more pretty and less annoying than most. I don’t sell anything so my subscriber list is worth $0 and 0 cents. Those of you who do though are supposed to value each email address at $1. I think I read once. Just ignore that last bit. Even though giving me your email doesn’t give me any actual cash it does send my posts to your inbox. Almost all of my subscribers read my posts. If I ever did sell anything stats say about 1% of them would buy it. So lets build our lists. Sumome.
  11. Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 4.18.21 PMMail Chimp. Sumome needs a friend. Its best friend happens to be a chimp. A mail chimp. This email tool is free (for most of us) and super easy to use. Plus you can look at a cute chimp logo. Mail Chimp. He is so little but so happy and see his hat? He will deliver your electronic letters for you.
  12. Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 4.23.45 PMTrello. Trello is a super flexible easy to use system for lists, assignments and more. I found Trello back when I was developing apps with a team (a cheap team) and we could watch each other accomplish what we needed to move a project forward. We could also watch each other forget steps and ignore the worst bits of the project. Used alone it is a way to track post ideas, add details and access all of the above from anywhere. Trello.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 2.21.05 PMTo reward those of you who made it all the way down here I will share my happy ending.

I now have a post that has gone viral. And no, it is not this one…yet.  This pin has sent me over 250,000 readers in a month.In fact I am such a basic user that I was never able to track down who to thank for all of that traffic. Scroll back on up to #5 above and for $5 you can be a lazy pinner with pins poised to go viral.

The headline analyzer told me it was a good headline. And I listened. I would not say that it is the best image I have on my author board. That thing is filled with bras and kittens. Yet somehow this is the one that took off.  Those are the sort of results that this lazy blogger loves.

Want to read more about boosting blog traffic? Here is a cheap book.

 

 

Suck My Caucus

When I was a little girl my mother would take me into the voting booth with her and let me pull the large metal level. It was the reverse of the slot machine…we were eschewing luck, examining and exerting out opinions.

Until I moved to Colorado 18 months ago I had never missed and election. Sometimes I voted with absentee ballots, other times I brought my boys for some scantron and baked goods. I always went early in the morning to wear my “I voted” sticker as a badge of honor and wordless reminder to others that we have some say in the great world of ours.

For the first time I live in a swing state and will not be voting on Super Tuesday. I am equally heartbroken and annoyed.

Here is what voting looked like in Vermont:

A friend votes for Bernie.
A friend votes for Bernie.

I don’t know his story but presumably my friend picked a time that worked for him, went into a room, spent a few minutes chatting and then left with a baked good, a sticker, and a vote that will be counted.

I will not have that experience. I have copied below one 200th of the instructions regarding the Colorado caucus.

It is
A. Unintelligble
B. Inconvenient- you MUST arrive at 7pm.
C. Lengthy- They estimate a 3 hour commitment
D. Not family friendly (see B and C)
E. Likely to be a shit show

Steve and I spent hours trying to figure it out, and when we realized that we would not BOTH be able to caucus because of an immovable appointment at 6:30 I tried to recruit a replacement.

A friend who is a lawyer and was a judge spent about an hour on the materials and decided that it didn’t make much sense. Right. She still might take my place. (If you are reading this I love and appreciate you.)

Enjoy the bits I have selected below.

C. It is recommended that caucuses conduct straw polls, (i.e., you can discuss the candidates; do a show of

hands) before conducting the official preference poll. But once the official preference poll is announced,

only one ballot is allowed. The caucus may also conduct straw polls on other races (county, legislative,

etc). Straw polls may be conducted in order to select delegates for House, Senate, and Judicial districts. In

most causes, multi-country districts do not elect delegates during the caucus process but will at the

County Assembly.

• Once the entire caucus is assembled, each person declares a candidate preference and a tally is kept.

• The Chair (or someone good at math) using the math worksheet, determines which groups reach the

15% threshold and how many delegates they receive.

D. Make sure a calculator is available. Advance practice using the work sheet with some sample problems

before you go to the caucus will help immensely. If you have any questions as you are reading this in

advance, contact the State HQ at 303-623-4762 or e-mail your questions so answers can be provided to all

who may have the same question.

If you are planning to vote in this important swing state on Super Tuesday I have just one question:

Did you bring your calculator?

P.S. In the end we left volleyball early, hired a sitter and both went to the caucus. It took 2.5 hours. In that time we lost 1lb/hr in sweat. We had 120 people from precinct 622 in a small elementary school classroom. Nine precincts caucused at the school surrounded on all sides by precinct 622 but precinct 622 was NOT ONE OF THEM.

It was poorly organized but about a half hour after we crammed into our classroom our volunteer leader got things started. All 120 of us were white. We were all upper middle class ( is that still a thing?) except the one guy who told us he was living in his parent’s basement. As we had an informal poll (80 for Clinton, 30 for Sanders 10 undecided) I realized that it wasn’t JUST that our our neighborhood is homogenous, but that also caucuses are elitist. It takes resources to leave your job and or find childcare to participate in a caucus. It was as if the whole room was filled with museum docents…lovely, educated elderly ladies and gentlemen with white hair.

There was lots of speaking in support of candidates. Then the final vote. (80 for Clinton, 30 for Sanders, 10 undecided.) As it turns out no one needed a calculator. Except to figure out how MANY people skipped this voting process compared to an open primary.

We are no Stepford Family

For many years I lived in Shelburbia. Now I live in Hilltop. On the surface there is a certain blond sheen to both of these communities. Where Vermont has wholesome apple picking and farmers markets and hikes Hilltop has ubering to hip eateries strolling to bespoke coffee shops and taking Fridays off to ski in powder. In both communities these activities can be done in high end yoga pants. There just might be a bit more Botox in Colorado. There are very few people in either neighborhood that actually live the stereotype of the community as a whole. Any one person has a story, and interests and fears that change him/her from a caricature to a flesh and blood person with a heart. If you stick to the surface though you can make sweeping generalizations.

The glossy neighborhood magazine “Hilltop Sundial” keeps things real with a “Family of the Month.” I know most of these families and enjoy reading the feature. Real people put the best spin on their lives. I found this month’s article between “Hilltop ladies try a neighborhood spa party” (Which in fact was a directive not a description.) and the monthly favorite “Whats cooking in Hilltop?” Valentine’s red velvet cookie sandwiches, natch. (To be fair, which generally makes things less funny, this issue also described Hilltop Juniors helping the community and a great article on Bono written by a fifth grader.) Reading the upbeat answers of my friends the I can’t help but rewrite the interview with the answers my family would have given.

Pets: Skreechee. Cat. The double ee’s are not a typo THAT IS HOW IT IS SPELLED. The youngest Palmer will never forgive you if you get it wrong. Skreechee enjoys long walks through the neighborhood and biting the hand that feeds her. She is a fair cat though…she will bite hands that don’t feed her also. On the upside she will fetch small felt owls for hours. As long as it is between 1am-4am.

Where are you from?:  Well we moved here from Vermont but VT would never claim us because we are not five generations deep. So we are a people without a place.

How long have you lived in Hilltop?: 19 months. Like some mothers of toddlers we will never stop counting in months because it shows how much we CARE.

Profession (s): Electrical Engineer and Program Manager Aerospace and Defense Business Unit and Government Programs GLOBALFOUNDRIES, formerly International Business Machines (IBM, PMP, MBA, ETC) & IDK. (Steve, Anna)

Favorite Activities/ Hobbies: Steve: Hockey, Golf, Old Man Football League, Brewing beer. Anna: watching TV in Bed. Oliver: Watching people open packages of Pokemon cards on Youtube. Leo: Getting banned from Minecraft servers for hacking things so he can fly.

Favorite Play area/Park/Hangout: Steve: Big bear ice rink, anyplace I can be in the sunshine!, Anna: My room, Oliver: the playground across the street where I can scream so loudly that my mother can hear me in her room. Leo: my mother’s room.

Favorite Restaurants: Steve: Tag burger bar, Anna: KFC (I’ve finally learned that using the word chicken is off-brand, and possibly illegal.) Oliver: Cherry Cricket. Leo: I won’t go to restaurants. None of them are my favorite because I hate them all.

Favorite Vacation Spot: Steve: Aruba- fresh fruit, clear water and sunshine! Anna: my bed. Oliver: Back to Vermont…but I wish that weren’t a vacation. Leo: I don’t like to go on vacation. Wait, will there be wifi there? Is there wifi on the plane? Can we take out hotspot in the uber to the airport? If yes then I don’t care.

Favorite Sports Teams: Steve: Any team I play for, The Detroit Red Wings, The Detroit Tigers. Anna: New England Patriots. It is a serious situation. Oliver: What’s the one with the orange? Leo: Colorado Rockies! They are the only thing I leave the house for…plus last year I bought a plastic helmet and I have been bringing it back for popcorn ever since. I love to beat the system. I want to be buried with that thing.

Favorite Family dinner: Steve: Homecooked, around our dining room table, with no potty talk. It has yet to happen but each day is a new day. Anna: Anything we eat in bed while engaging in potty talk. Oliver: Anthonys pizza. Its almost as good as Marcos. Not that anything in Colorado is as good as anything in Vermont. Leo: Salmon. Why did you cook salmon? I’m not hungry. Pushes three apple cores a tomato stem, 6 cheestick wrappers, the butt of a pepperoni a sharp knife and a cutting board into his sock drawer.

Family Traditions: Making poop jokes at the dinner table.

Kids? What activities are they involved with? Oliver is on the DI team on Thursdays. Leo takes tennis on Thursdays. The timing is not a coincidence. Nor is the length of this answer.

How are you involved in the community?: Steve: Plays in sports leagues, coaches DI. Anna: I picked up Skreechee’s poop from the playground. I also yell at people whose dogs poop on our lawn. Boys: They get things out trees in the playground. That purple balloon, that plastic back, those shoes. Wait…that was Steve.

What do you do to relax: Make poop jokes in bed.

What is your favorite part about living in your neighborhood?: Steve: It is quiet but close to everything. Anna:There are so many dogs. So there is a lot of material. Oliver: I love the playground…but there are even better playgrounds in Vermont. Leo: It has wifi.

Don’t you want to hang out with us? You and Steve could have a beer, watch some hockey or PLAY some hockey, maybe hear some live music. Or you could talk about Vermont with Oliver, or watch Leo play Minecraft. I might be busy upstairs.

So Shiny. So happy.
So Shiny. So happy.

Totally off limits

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.22.51 AMI often think I have no filter.

There was the time I told my two year old about Hitler and he decided not to be Jewish. There was that other time I told my friend that her outfit wasn’t flattering and had six months of misery trying to sort that out. I wrote about my semi step father’s toe nails and almost alienated him. Whoops I might have done it again. I talk about money and sex. I told a friend about her boyfriend cheating and almost wiped out a 5 year relationship. The list goes on.

There is one subject that shows that I have a filter. I have not written about my husband’s family.

I am also not writing about them today.

When I read books on writing they all recommend pretending your family doesn’t read your work. I always interpreted that as allowing sex and drugs and bad language to fill your page if it wants to. Many people from my daily life and show up in my writing. Sometimes they are disguised, sometimes they gleam with the unique characteristics that make them easily identifiable. It is the hazard of befriending a writer.

Steve’s family didn’t choose me.  They didn’t choose to be revealed through my eyes, in my words. It is difficult to keep them off the page. I have done it for 12 years and I will do it for 12 more. Sometimes the window is open to observe all that goes on in another person’s life. And sometimes the window is shuttered and covered with vines. I’m not sure I have the tools to open it up and shed light into that room.

What about you fellow writers? Is there anything that is TOTALLY off limits? What do you think of my small slice of filter?