Thursday, August 27, 2015

This Uncompelling Headline will Have You Clicking Away in 3...2...1...

I get that it's ironic that I am a copywriter, and yet my personal blog basically breaks every rule of writing scannable, interesting content that keeps readers reading and not bouncing away.

I write long blocks of text.

I often do not have a compelling headline.

I almost never have a compelling subheader.

You'd have to know me very well and be interested enough in my life to want to read through those long paragraphs. Even if you know me and like me, I bet you skim most of the long entries without reading each carefully crafted word.

And that's okay. I pretty much do it on purpose. I don't pick keywords, I don't spend long minutes coming up with a compelling subhead, I don't make sure I include bulleted lists and the right amount of white space or work to elicit the right emotion. If I'm feeling particularly gregarious, I might work harder on it, but most of the time, I have this stuff bumbling around in my head and I have to get it out in order to get my paid work done. So I write it out, do a little editing, consider adding an image and how long that will take, and then publish. Done.

Or, frequently, I don't publish. I have a LOT of unfinished drafts that I haven't deemed worthy of being published for various reasons--mostly because I'm not sure if I'll be regretting having published it in the future.

I'm not advertising anything here. I'm not trying to build a brand. I honestly don't care if I have many readers--not because I don't appreciate the people who read my blog, but because I'm not trying to be popular. I never advertise a new blog post on social media simply because I'm contradictorily outgoing enough to write publicly but still shy enough not to want too many of my personal friends to know everything that's going on in my head. If you want to read this, you'll have to find it, and while I welcome you back with open arms, I also understand that this isn't the kind of copy that sells itself.

When I write professionally, I spend time doing all the right things. Writing here lets me relax.


Monday, August 24, 2015

A Little News

Elannah has been stressing out about starting school. She's going into high school, so it's a new school and new classes and new adventures, but she doesn't feel ready. I told her she'll be okay, and that after tomorrow, she'll know exactly how prepared she actually is. Somehow, she doesn't believe me at the moment.

Sophia quit drill team earlier this summer. They did so well last year--after years of lackluster showings in competitions--and most of that is due to a new coach and assistant coaches. They worked hard last year, and they succeeded in winning Region and barely missed placing at State in their division. They also had fun as a team. They bonded, they became best friends, they supported each other.

This year, the coach has caught the winning bug, so she quit her day job as a teacher at a dance studio to focus solely on the drill team. Along with early-morning practices, she has instituted after-school practices and Saturday practices. Drill team practices all year long, not just for a season. Basically, being on drill team has now become a full time job, but if they work hard enough, chances are they can give the big southern schools a real run for their money this time--maybe come in first or second or third at State! All these practices are in addition to the endless fundraisers, because funding a competition-level drill team costs $30,000 a year and up, depending on your division. For the moms of drill team girls, there's never a dull moment: if you aren't driving your daughter to practices, you're heading up a fundraiser or cooking lunch for long practices or driving your daughter to extra dance technique classes or whatever else is needed at the moment.

As happens with everything of a competitive nature, adult egos got involved. I'm not dissing the coach because she's nothing if not absolutely dedicated to taking her team to victory, but there's a fine line between the benefits of being on a team and learning responsibility, how to support each other, and enjoying the bonding and just working to win it all, as if winning is the ultimate portrayer of worth.

Frankly, I was tired of it. I am not a Type A person, and all this school spirit and the need to win at all  costs and the general hullaballoo leaves me pretty cold. I don't usually admit this out loud to a crowd of die-hard [school team] fans, but it's probably pretty obvious to everyone else even if I try to be as pleasant and social and supportive as possible. Go team!

So when Sophia casually mentioned she was thinking of quitting because it wasn't fun anymore and because she wanted to be in school plays and get a job (both of which being impossible with her practice schedule and drill team commitments), I did a happy dance in my mind. Outwardly, I remained neutral and left it up to her. I didn't want her to feel pressured to continue or quit based on my wishes and desires. Eventually, the coach told the girls that if they were thinking of quitting, now was the time, before they got seriously into competition routines. Sophia thought about it long and hard, and then informed her coach she was out. The coach was sad to see her go and was very kind and gracious (she really is a lovely woman), but now Sophia is done with it all and I'm not at all disappointed.

There are areas where I won't let my children quit. If they've made a commitment to be there for a specific performance or date and the team or group would be in a lurch without them, they have to stay in, even if it gets a little boring or inconvenient. Once their commitment is fulfilled, I'm more lenient. In Sophia's case, the whole thing was taking over her entire life, which is not what either of us signed up for. Given that the coach was telling the girls that now was a good time to leave without putting their teammates in a bad place later on, I was fine with Sophia quitting. Learning when to stick with it and when to let go are valuable life lessons.

Elannah will be fine, too. She's still learning what stuff is worth stressing out over and what stuff isn't, although it's easy for me to tell her--with the benefit of 25 years of experience past the ups and downs of high school--that most of what she's stressing about isn't important.

What's really fun is that Elannah and Sophia have a TV Broadcasting class together this year. They sometimes collaborate to make short films, so learning more about the equipment (and being able to check out stuff like boom mikes and whatnot to use at home) will help them increase production quality of their personal films. The following film they made makes me laugh every time. They have these dry senses of humor that show up in so many little ways: the count-off after Sophia says, "This is dangerous, so let's get things started," the seriousness with which they take their crappy stunts, the way Elannah does a little in-and-out breath before hanging on the tree...They laugh at me for how many times I've watched this thing.

It won't let me embed the video, so click the link here.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Flowers on My Desk

I have two vases sitting on my work desk. One is a red glass vase, and it is full of a large bunch of beautifully made red silk amaryllis blooms from Pottery Barn (which I found at the thrift store for a price that made me quite giddy). They stand tall on thick green stems, a cloud of one of the happiest colors I can imagine. I smile every time I see them. I know amaryllises are usually displayed singly in decorative pots at Christmas, but I don't feel that is a rule I need to stick with.

The other vase is a narrow bud vase filled with tiny green rocks and a spray of yellow silk flowers with deep green leaves. The vase and flowers are obviously from the dollar store, but they were a gift, and because of the reason and meaning behind the gift, I keep this vase on my desk, as well.

I got the yellow flowers in little green rocks from a group of young women in my ward (church congregation). They had an activity one night where they identified women they knew who had qualities that matched their Personal Progress values of faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, integrity, and virtue. They decided I exemplified the value of knowledge (which is paired with the color green), and so they came to my house one Wednesday evening and presented me with the vase and a framed certificate that quotes the scripture and theme for Knowledge: "'Seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (Doctrine & Covenants 88:118); I will continually seek opportunities for learning and growth."

It was so sweet. I shed a tear after I closed the door. Of course, I also immediately thought of at least a dozen other amazing women I know who exemplify knowledge, but the vase and certificate remind me that I need to be striving to strengthen all of the Personal Progress values in myself, even though I've long since graduated from being a young woman. Knowledge is important, and I have a passion for learning new things and for stretching my mind in new ways. But seeking knowledge without also working to strengthen faith reflects 2 Timothy 3:7, "Ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

Likewise, faith means nothing without action, including good works. You also need integrity and the ability to understand your responsibility for the choices you make in order to increase your own virtue. Understanding your divine nature (as a child of God) and your worth as an individual--unique and precious, who has a mission only you can fulfill--makes you anxious to develop faith, be charitable, and to strive toward being more like Jesus Christ.

Sigh. It's a big job. Fortunately, as I remind myself frequently, I have a lifetime to work on it.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Hello, all.

I thought I'd take a break from my glamorous job as a writer to say hi. Oh, what am I wearing as a glamorous writer? you ask. Ha ha. I don't like to brag, but I'm wearing my writing costume. Picture this: comfortable old t-shirt, denim jeans, and no makeup. I'm not even sure I managed a shower this morning, but I am wearing a bra, so that's good. Let me tell you that I look pretty darn stunning.

In this photo, I am actually wearing some makeup, but note that the writing costume is intact. Elannah wanted to see if my hair is long enough yet to do a French braid. (Answer: only for about 10 minutes before it falls out. I like layers.)

My manager and I were lamenting about this problem during one of our phone meetings. On the one hand, working from home means never having to stress about business attire and wardrobe flexibility. On the other hand, yikes. It isn't that I don't want to look nice and wear deodorant; the problem lies more with the fact that I still haven't figured out my priorities.

As any working-from-home mother knows, there are plenty of competing needs, almost all of which seem to be urgent and important: personal hygiene vs. eating breakfast vs. personal scripture study vs. making sure the kids are fed vs. meeting work deadlines vs. cooking something nutritious at least once per day for the welfare of my family vs. keeping the boys entertained vs. kicking kids out of my office because I just have to concentrate vs. listening to them talk vs. getting after the kids to do their chores vs. wanting to lock my door and watch movies all day vs. the yard. Oh, the yard. It has almost as many needs as the children.

As this is not a problem unique to myself, I won't belabor the point. You don't have to be working from home as a parent to wonder how to order your priorities, but thanks for listening to me vent for just a moment.

BUT, I do have an office now! With all these kids, every bedroom in this house is taken, including the family room. I hated having the office be in my bedroom because it was like I never left the room, and when I went to bed at night, my work was still there, staring me in the face. Shudder.

So Husband and I came up with a clever solution: an office alcove.

We have a large master bedroom. It's the same size as the double garage directly beneath it, so there was plenty of room to create an office alcove and still have a decently sized bedroom area. I sold Husband on the idea (excited hand gestures and animated talking points) and he made it happen with some research and a trip to IKEA. Here is a picture of our office alcove with Little Gary hanging out and reading a book. I'm standing in the doorway of the room to take the photo.

First, we bought three Billy bookcases. Then, after a trip to the As-Is section, we scored an orphan countertop for about $10. It's a little over five feet long, so it's perfect for two people to work at. IKEA sells table legs, so Husband attached six legs to the countertop and voila! we had a new desk, which we set against the wall by the entry into the bedroom.

The tricky part was getting the inexpensive and cheaply made Billy bookcases to be stable enough to act as a barrier wall. We played with various options, but Husband eventually rigged up a very nice system: he used sturdy metal brackets to attach the bookcases to each other at the top. A wooden bench I had been planning to repaint ended up getting its seat repurposed into a footer that attached the base of the bookcases to the base of the wooden headboard of our bed, which is now directly on the other side of the bookcase wall. Now the bookcases are attached to each other and to the headboard, which makes it a very stable partition that doesn't threaten to fall over at the slightest bump (we also loaded our books onto the bottom shelves first to further stabilize the bookcases).

There is a doorway opening on either side of the partition wall, so we can comfortably enter the bedroom to either side of the bed. I will be buying some fabric to attach to the back side of the bookcases, which are somewhat unsightly.

Now I don't have to see my work when I am going to sleep or reading in bed. Also, I can get up and work early without disturbing Husband (which, okay, never happens because I chronically stay up too late, but the option is there if I ever magically change into a morning person).

In my next post, I'll ruminate on how to get my manager on board with the Results-Only work system that the CEO and president of the company fully embrace and endorse. K, my manager, has been working in the industry for nearly 20 years--mostly in corporate settings--so she's still kind of stuck on a traditional work day. I, on the other hand, have only worked in the industry as a contractor until now, which means that I'm very comfortable with setting my own hours and only worrying about delivering quality work on time, not clocking how long I have my behind in my chair or that I'm sitting in it during traditional work hours. If you're interested in learning more about Results-Only environments, read Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: the Results-Only Revolution by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. I've also recently read Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, by Jeff Sutherland. That is your homework, if you're at all interested in reading that kind of thing (personally, I really want to go and play the piano right now. I'm kind of done with words).

Monday, March 16, 2015

Celebrate with Me!

Who's the girl who never managed to finish college?

This girl!

Who's the girl who just got hired as the Senior Copywriter for a fast-growing digital marketing company (which has tripled its growth in the last seven months alone!)?

This girl!

Who's the girl who is now making enough to double our income?

This girl!

Today was my first official day as an employee with my new company. Last week I was a contract writer. This week, I can't invoice for every single piece of work I do, but I am part of a team at a company whose philosophy is one for which I can stand up and cheer. Plus, the numbers added up, which is always crucial, don't you think? I'm not mercenary, but I did want to make sure it made sense to walk away from being a contract writer and tie myself down to one company. I think there's plenty of room to grow here, though.

I just attended my first company-wide call. I was asked to introduce myself as one of the two new team members whose official start date is today, and I managed not to make an utter and complete fool of myself, which is always nice.

I've only met one person at this company in real life. The Senior Content Manager, who is my direct manager, is also stationed in Utah, and she's not so far away that a couple meetings a month aren't doable. We had lunch last week, which was the first time I've ever met her in person after knowing her for four years. At the end of this month I'll be meeting the president and one of the directors when they come up to give us some training. All twelve of us employees are scattered throughout the United States and Hong Kong, and we all work remotely. There are clusters of people, like most of the marketing division in Chicago and the design division up in Seattle. A few live in Phoenix. Several are in Hong Kong, including the CEO, who has to get up at something like 4:00 in the morning his time to attend the Monday meetings.

So what do I do? I am part of the Content Team. We write the stuff that goes on website pages, in clients' blogs, and manage the social media campaigns. The sales team is doing such an excellent job bringing new clients on board that we are kept very busy. Except for the meetings I now have to attend, I don't know that I'll be any more busy than I was working as a contract writer for this company, and I was really busy then, too. If we get much busier, we'll have to hire more writers.

Anyway, thanks for celebrating with me. I'm very excited for this new opportunity, and I'm so grateful to God for being aware of my family's needs. I can still work at home and be my kids' mom during the day while bringing in a paycheck that makes me finally have hope that I'll be able to put together a strong food storage and keep my family from starving when California runs out of water/the apocalypse happens/WWIII finally explodes. Whichever comes first. :)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Vaccination Solution

I've been watching this vaccine debate get heated and ugly. It disturbs me when people I know who are intelligent and educated start calling people who are wary of vaccines nasty names or jumping on the bandwagon for mandatory vaccine legislation. I also don't appreciate the anti-vaxxers calling people names, either, but I've seen far, far more of the first issue and far less of the second. Anti-vaxxers know they are in for it. Pro-vaxxers, however, feel free to shout loud because they are supported by a majority of people they know.

My first problem with mandatory vaccine legislation is that I trust the government as much as I trust a deadly, poisonous snake which you are poking with a stick. That's the libertarian in me. Seriously, when, when has the government ever made anything more efficient, better, cheaper, or safer than the private sector (which, admittedly, isn't perfect either, but at least the private sector is accountable to its customers and the government always evades accountability)? How objective is our government, when many of the elected individuals in it are tied by money interests to pharmaceutical companies and other industries that consequently receive special treatment through legislation? How fair is a government that can rule through regulation, with thousands and thousands of unelected (and publicly unaccountable) bureaucrats effectively making laws that reach far outside the purview of the Constitution? And when has the government ever relinquished any power once it gets it but, instead, seeks yet more? These questions alone should make every person think very, very carefully before blithely calling on government to force people to buy health insurance or vaccinate their children, for instance.

My second problem with all the pro-vaccination self-righteous squawkery is that the jury is still out on whether vaccines are absolutely safe. I'm not kidding. Read the warnings for any vaccination, which admit that sufficient scientific studies have not been conducted to prove the safety of said vaccine for various segments of the population (including infants and pregnant women), and then watch doctors and vaccine experts go around telling pregnant women and infants to get vaccinated. That alone is a huge red flag to me. It would make me skeptical of vaccines (and medical doctors) even if I didn't also know that vaccines contain Thimerosal (mercury), formaldehyde, aluminum, bovine cow serum, phenoxyethanol, and other nasty things that can cause serious health issues in humans when injected directly into the blood stream.

All my children are vaccinated, and I'm not sure I'm completely happy about that. The more I learn about health and nutrition, the more I am concerned that I have allowed my children's immune systems to be compromised. I have two asthmatics, one of whom also suffers from serious eczema and hay fever. The other one has nut allergies. Both of these issues, I'm convinced now, arise from inadequate nutrient absorption and leaky guts brought on by overgrowth of pathogenic microbes in the intestines. This happened because of my own poor diet while pregnant (and I have to remind myself that guilt is not a helpful emotion here unless it spurs me to find a solution) and continued overgrowth of pathogenic microbes through unhealthy diet and rounds of antibiotics and steroids (to control asthma attacks). In fact, I'm pretty convinced that I, my husband, and all of my children--even those who don't exhibit severe symptoms of asthma and eczema--are suffering from gut dysbiosis. Given our health situation, I'm convinced that vaccines have only exacerbated the problem.

I've been wary of vaccines for years now. I have read a lot about them on both sides of the argument. I have little respect for authority anyway, but the more shrill the argument and the more authorities try to force me to do a thing, the less respect I have. I'd rather think a little more critically, and that is what I've been trying to do. My kids' doctor is a lovely woman who is intelligent, kind, compassionate, and always trying to help. But she tends to want to write a prescription for everything, and that makes me question the truth of the education she received in medical school because medical school is now essentially run by the pharmaceutical industry. I don't want to be cynical, I just want to be informed. How can pharmaceuticals always be better than good diet and nutrition?

I just read the best and most logical solution to the vaccine argument I have ever read before. It's truly well thought out by an educated, experienced doctor. Her name is Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, MMedSci (neurology), MMedSci (nutrition), and she has practiced in the pediatric field in Great Britian for years.

Dr. Campbell-McBride works with children who have autism, schizophrenia, dyslexia, dispraxia, depression, ADD, ADHD, epilepsy, asthma, learning disorders, and other conditions. The common connection between all these patients is gut dysbiosis. She argues that when pathogenic microbes like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa overwhelm the beneficial flora in the gut, all kinds of physical and psychiatric weirdness begins to happen. As every person has a unique gut makeup and because every person reacts differently to gut dysbiosis, children and adults present with different symptoms. Some will succumb to autism, some to asthma, some to epilepsy, and so forth.

She talks about what causes gut dysbiosis--including the specific ways antiobiotics, steroids, other medications, and poor diet wreck beneficial gut flora--and then talks about how to cure it. As she has worked to cure and heal the gut and restore the correct balance between beneficial and pathogenic microbes, almost every single patient she has ever seen has shown remarkably reduced or eliminated symptoms of autism, schizophrenia, learning disabilities, etc., including her own child with learning disabilities.

In regards to vaccines, she posits that vaccinations are meant for healthy children, and that healthy guts can usually successfully overcome the bad things in vaccines. However, given our propensity to poor eating habits and taking medications, most of us suffer from gut dysbiosis, whether or not we are autistic or have other serious physical and/or psychiatric illnesses. When a vaccine is introduced (or multiple vaccines in one dose), the body, already compromised, cannot successfully handle it. That vaccine can be the straw that broke the camel's back, triggering an onslaught of symptoms of various diseases and conditions or making them worse.

Her solution: test every child before giving vaccinations to see what condition their gut is in, and test them every time. For healthy children who do not suffer from gut dysbiosis and do not have the markers in the blood or stool that would indicate this health issue, give them the vaccinations because they will probably be helpful. For those who are not perfectly healthy, either work to correct the situation and delay the vaccination until the situation is corrected or, in severe cases, put off the vaccination indefinitely. It strikes me as a far better balance between the "Force All Parents to Vaccinate Their Children" camp and the "Never Vaccinate Your Children for Any Reason" camp. (But just for the record, I would not put the government in charge of deciding who is and who is not ready for vaccinations.)

The book is GAPS: Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (I make no money on book sales and am not affiliated with Dr. Campbell-McBride in any way). It's absolutely fantastic, and I could not put it down until I'd finished it entirely. The point about vaccinations is not at all her main point. What she tries to do is help parents and caretakers of GAPS children and adults (and we're far more common that you might think) heal through diet and nutrition. Dr. Campbell-McBride refined the GAPS diet, which helps heal the gut, restore the correct balance of beneficial to pathogenic flora, and reduce or eliminate symptoms of diseases and conditions that are growing to epidemic levels. The answers have been around for decades, but this book reminds us of what doctors knew before Big Pharma started making tidy profits by pushing their wares on anyone and everyone and before modern food manufacturing had begun to crank out the false and harmful "food" that it now does: inadequate nutrient intake and absorption both causes and is exacerbated by gut dysbiosis, and this is what is causing autism, schizophrenia, asthma, and other serious problems among our children and ourselves.

Even if you violently disagree with me about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, this book is something you'll want to read. I promise the vaccine debate is not even a factor in it, but you'll find a wealth of good, solid information about the importance of diet to our health.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Good Distractions

I keep writing a new post and then getting distracted and not finishing. But there are good reasons for my distraction.

First, my oldest daughter, Sian, finished her nine weeks of intensive scriptural and Russian language training in the LDS Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah. Early Monday morning, she began her long airplane journey to Ukraine, where she will spend the rest of her 18-month mission helping Ukrainians develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. She's safely there now, and I've had pictures to prove it. (Sian, who is third from the left, is obviously dead tired and hasn't had much time to do her hair, but here she is with her mission president and his wife and her new companion, who is at the far right.)

I don't cry often, but sometimes I really miss her enough to cry. Like right now, when she's thousands of miles away on the other side of the world. The good thing is that I'm so proud of her, and I feel strongly that angels are guarding her with each step she takes. She'll be an excellent missionary, and I know she'll love her mission and grow so much from it.

The other distraction I have is my new, awesome job. Long story short: just as I was preparing my resume for job hunting, one of my former editors emailed me out of the blue and offered me a contract position with her current company, where she is the senior content manager. It has been an excellent fit for me and for them, and to make things even sweeter, I get paid four times what I was paid before. I still get to work at home and make my own hours (as long as I meet the deadlines, of course), so I feel very, very blessed. In fact, I know this very needed job is a direct blessing of Sian choosing to go on a mission.

Another great thing is that I have learned to make magnesium oil, and using it seems to be having a remarkable effect on my ability to sleep soundly and well and have energy during the day. More on that in another post.

That is all for now.