Wednesday, October 1, 2014

why october is a winner.

Everyone out there has their favorite months for whatever reason. Usually it's probably because of a birthday or something (which I am maybe guilty of to a point), but it might also signal the changing of the seasons and a new start of some kind.

This is why October stands out to me. There are so many good things usually happening in October (unless you're looking for an Olympic Games or a new Star Wars movie because neither of those things ever happen in October), and I wanted to share some of mine. (Plus, full disclosure, my homework this week is to share a social story so hi, this is why I'm writing in my blog again after a long, long hiatus.)

The weather.
October is pretty awesome, because it's finally starting to cool down. Sweater weather (sweatshirt weather? might be more accurate) is my favorite, and I'm ready to wear scarves and stuff again - I like summer but it's always way too hot for scarves! I'm not a huge fan of snow... but I know my skiing and snowboarding friends are pumped for powder in the mountains. Usually the first measurable snow in Colorado is in October (in the past 10 years, seven have had measurable snow in October according to the National Weather Service), and if you live in a place like Colorado Springs, the snow usually melts the same day it falls. You can't beat that.

Plus, the leaves start to change colors and if you didn't already know, there are few things I love more than trees about to lose their leaves.



Halloween.
Mostly when you think of Halloween, you think of candy and costumes and all kinds of spooky things. There are awesome movies (Hocus Pocus, Casper - you know you agree) and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! And while it's sometimes a holiday that gets little respect compared to Thanksgiving or Christmas, it still has roots in history from hundreds of years ago that has nothing to do with a Batman costume or a pumpkin full of Twix. From the Library of Congress:


Virtually all present Halloween traditions can be traced to the ancient Celtic day of the dead. Halloween is a holiday of many mysterious customs, but each one has a history, or at least a story behind it. The wearing of costumes, for instance, and roaming from door to door demanding treats can be traced to the Celtic period and the first few centuries of the Christian era, when it was thought that the souls of the dead were out and around, along with fairies, witches, and demons. Offerings of food and drink were left out to placate them. 

I don't know about you, but it's cool to me that there's such a long history of the traditions of what sometimes seems like such a wild holiday!

Sports
Obviously there's a lot happening in the wide world of sports... Baseball playoffs (Eat 'em up, Tigers!), football (go Spartans!)(go Lions!), the start of hockey season (go Red Wings!)... and if you're into endurance sports, the Ironman World Championship always takes place in mid-October in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Plus, this year, the Warrior Games are taking place here in Colorado Springs. Wounded service members from all branches of the military are here competing in a number of different sports, like swimming and cycling, showing how sport can have a positive impact after a sometimes traumatic experience. Read more at USParalympics.org.

Beer
I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin things, but I am a big fan of fall flavors (which sometimes includes pumpkin), especially when it relates to beer. Most of my friends are craft beer lovers and so I am often the beneficiary of their knowledge and stash, and some of my favorite bars/brewpubs in Colorado Springs also feature fall beers (like a pumpkin cider from Ace). With the colder weather, it seems like a perfect time to grab a beer. A few might even make you feel a little warmer!

There's also Oktoberfest in Munich, which starts in late September and lasts for 16 days into the early part of October, including the first Sunday of the month. German beer isn't my favorite but I loved Munich and I would absolutely go back again to experience the festival.

While I'm sure there are more things I could think of to love about October, I won't ramble on forever. I will say though, it seems like fall is also a great time for a new start or turning over a new leaf, so to speak (you can probably find one on the ground). Usually the feeling is associated with January 1 or springtime, but there's something about fall that sets the stage for taking a new leap, going on an adventure, and trying something that otherwise seemed a little scary. In that Library of Congress article, what is now our Halloween season "marked both an ending and a beginning in an eternal cycle." Might as well go for it, right?

What are your favorite things about October? What do you look forward to this month every year? Share with me in the comments!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

goodbye, 2013. hello, new year.

Now that 2013 is over, it's hard to believe a whole year has gone by already. In some ways, I'm amazed. But so much has happened, I guess time flies whether you're having fun or just trying to get through a tough stretch.

Ready to jump in to a new year...
When 2013 started, I said I wanted to embrace the newness of the year. There were so many new things to be happy for, from a new car to new babies in the "family," new jobs and new places traveled. New friends made, new puppies at home. Those kinds of things you can look back on and be so glad for, just because they were part of what happened to you over the past 365 days.

I said I wanted to run more than I had the past two years (I didn't run more than 2011, but more than 2012). I said I wanted to travel and I did. Of course. I spent more time with people who matter, revisited my Spanish-speaking ability (thanks to two trips to Mexico!), made space in my closet (barely) and read books and sang and laughed (and cried) and had adventures and was myself, I think. All things I said I wanted to do almost 365 days ago.

I also said I wanted challenges that helped make me better. At times, it seemed like they were so overwhelming I wanted to just shout, "I QUIT!" But I guess the thing about challenges (especially those meant to make you better) is that they are supposed to be difficult and unexpected and change you in some way. Well, sure.

This year definitely had an impact on me, I'm sure it was mostly owing to my mom's fight with cancer and my work situation (and for the record, I do love my job but this year was a little too much at times and that's all I'll say). Now that 2013 is done, I know I have come out of this year on the other side better for what I accomplished. I think that's somehow the point.

Mexico was a great new place for 2013...

I can't tell you what I want out of 2014. I think it will be a great year with some interesting moments and new challenges...  and ready or not, it's coming. It's here! I don't have high hopes for newness or anything like that, and this year I'm not going to make any grandiose promises or predictions about what will happen. At this point I think that even when you decide you want to do something, it still doesn't always work out that way. It's just better to be flexible.

And still, I'm excited about the New Year because it does mean new things in some ways. A new outlook or something. 

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.” ― G.K. Chesterton

When 2013 started, I was at my apartment by myself. I ate some vegetables and went for a run on January 1. And the year still didn't go like I had planned with healthier choices and all that. 2013 ended and 2014 began with some of my most favorite people in Michigan, and with my family, and with Michigan State winning the Rose Bowl in their first appearance there since 1988. Obviously that's not all about me, but it just felt much happier and much more hopeful than 2013. I'll take that as a sign that more good things are to come.

Happy New Year!

Friday, September 27, 2013

eat this, not that. (says who?)

Somehow along the way I have become fascinated with food sciences. I don't mean I study the chemistry and makeup of foods, but with all those different diet plans out there and so many considering themselves experts on the subject, I think it's interesting to hear what people have to say. And, you take it with a grain of salt.



Back in May I read Michael Pollen's book, "In Defense of Food." To be honest, I enjoyed reading it. It talks about how some foods are mostly created in a lab, making them far from what one would consider food at all. And it's true - I don't really think of margarine being a real food... but it has been around a long, long time. And some nutritionists (with the Mayo Clinic!) say margarine is probably better for your heart health, if you choose the right kind.

So I'm interested in what Michael Pollen has to say, but I also realize that he is an author. He is not a scientist, he is not a nutritionist, he is not a registered dietitian. Now, I'm none of those things either... but I am also not trying to give you nutrition advice. I'm just interested in what everyone else is saying.

Maybe part of my interest has to do with my own personal experiences with food. I have never been skinny by society's standards. Even as a little girl I was bigger than some of my friends - not just weight-wise, but height and everything. I have done Weight Watchers without success a number of times, the first of those being age 17 in the spring of my junior year of high school. Sure, I lost a bunch of weight at the early part of my senior year... because I was swimming probably 4,500 yards a day, at least once a day. There are reasons I feel compelled to get back in a pool, aside from the fact that I truly enjoy it.

So outside of Weight Watchers and calorie counting (which honestly doesn't help me in a mental capacity - some of you will understand that and some of you won't), there's other stuff like Atkins and South Beach and Whole 30 and and and. It's easy to get overwhelmed with "diet" options out there, sometimes forgetting that each of us is individual and unique and will have different tastes and needs and what works for one person won't necessarily work for another.


Instead of shaming people for their choices or how they look or how they eat, we should just leave it up to individuals to decide, unless they seek help or ask questions. Even then, it's okay if you are a vegetarian and someone else is paleo. Not everyone is going to need to subscribe to the same lifestyle.

It's funny that I was thinking of this last night after reading this article ("How Junk Food Can End Obesity") and then someone posted a link to an article about McDonald's promising a salad option instead of fries for value meals with the comment, "It's about damn time" (or something that I am paraphrasing).

Now, I'm not saying go out and eat fast food. But if you eat one McDonald's hamburger, you're not going to instantly gain 10 pounds. You're not going to get fat from one burger, once in a while. In fact, that junk food article explains how some of the "healthier" foods have more calories, have more fat, less protein, less nutrition... and are more expensive. It's a long, long article, but you should read it, just for another side of the story. Yes, processed foods are bad, but you'd think limiting yourself so severely that you are in a constant state of craving or lacking nutritionally would be bad too.


Aside from food and calories and all of that shit...

You realize that somewhere along the line we got serious as "adults" and stopped moving for the fun of it and started instead criticizing our bodies and others around us. I also read this article this morning: What my daughter taught me about body image. I don't have a daughter, but I can see how the way we live our lives as children sometimes needs to carry over to how we see ourselves as adults.

While body hatred has become widespread for adult women — and increasingly men — we only need to look at children to know the difference between what’s natural and what’s culturally imposed nonsense.
There's much more I could quote from that article, but I will just suggest you read it for yourself.

In the end, it shouldn't be so hard. Strive to be healthy, but make sure that includes your mind, too. If you spend most of your time beating yourself up for how you look in your jeans or how slow you run or how terrible you think you should feel after you eat a brownie, you're not helping yourself in any way. Remember that society has unrealistic expectations and focuses on our bodies and how they should look, when no one (not even the actresses or models used as "examples") really looks like that.

I don't think this topic will die down any time soon. But I read this quote the other day and thought it was interesting:

“If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.” — Dr. Gail Dines

Monday, September 23, 2013

it's been a while.

I have always been of the belief that I will just write when I can, and about the things I want. I don't need a theme and I don't need a schedule because I'm not trying to blog to make a living. I'm just writing because I like it. But lately I haven't been doing a very good job, and that makes me sad.

So, hi. I'm back. Let me tell you some things.

Things like, I just went to London for the second September in a row. In the last 13 months, one whole month was spent in London, which is pretty cool. This time I was there for triathlon world championships, but I also had a chance to tour Westminster Abbey, the London Transport Museum, the Globe Theater, and Windsor Castle. I rode on the London Eye, a massive ferris wheel (at least in looks) that moves so slowly and allows you to look out over all of London (most of it, anyway). I took a Duck Tour, which is not an activity unique to London but is pretty cool because the vehicles were used on D-Day in World War II. If you take one in London, you'll ride right into the River Thames.


The Globe Theater
There are so many fantastic things to do in London, if you ever were going there, I could give you some suggestions. The Globe Theater, for instance, is not the original but it is in the original spot. They had to redo it for a number of reasons, but there's history, and they were true to the background of the theater and Shakespeare and the other playwrights who had shows there. I think it would be awesome to actually see a show there (and the Royal Opera House), but I didn't have time on this trip.

Windsor Castle
I just have such a fascination with London and the history there. There are monarchs from hundreds and hundreds of years ago who built these castles or buildings, and they made their mark with certain artistic flair throughout. It makes me wonder about my own lineage, and where I came from, and what history might be waiting to be discovered there. Nothing quite as exciting as the royal family, I'm sure, but it's still interesting!

Westminster Abbey
I could have spent all day in Westminster Abbey, to be honest. In a way it's weird to walk through there because there are people buried in there... including past kings and queens. But there is also Poet's Corner where Charles Dickens, Tennyson, Robert Browning and others are buried, and others like William Shakespeare are memorialized. Even Sir Isaac Newton is buried there. If you go to London, it's worth it to walk through and listen to the audio tours.

For the record, audio tours in London are the greatest invention ever. Many of the major tourist attractions I've been to, including Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Winston Churchill War Rooms, Windsor Castle, and Westminster Abbey, all have audio guides. Take advantage of these, especially if you're a history buff like me.

Aside from London, I've been traveling a lot and still have a number of other trips coming up between now and December 31. It's kind of wild to think that before I moved to Colorado, I hadn't been on a plane since I was 18. Now I fly thousands of miles each year and I love it! But let me tell you, I'm always happy to be back in my apartment with my chair and my Netflix account... sometimes it's nice to just have quiet and familiar surroundings.

Flying over Lansing, Mich.

As always, traveling has an impact on my running, or lack thereof. Lately running just hasn't been very fun, and I think I need to forget about it for a while. I have a 5k next month, but then I am going to try to swim more, and ride a bike (at least until it snows), and I'm not going to worry about running unless I really feel like going. There's a difference between pushing yourself to a good kind of hurt and feeling pain when you barely go anywhere. I know it's a mechanical issue (like I am a car), but I still have to work through it before I can have any kind of running commitment. Swimming has always been better for me anyway.

Mostly this year has been trying for things that are out of my control. This isn't meant to sound like a complaint; it's just the way life works sometimes. I think this year has been an interesting test to say the least, and I'll be glad when my day-to-day is a little more settled and less stressful. I'm sure you can relate, somehow. Maybe next year will have less stress, fewer weird situations, and no fires or flooding. I don't really think that's too much to ask, and I bet a few of my fellow Coloradans would agree with me.

It's hard to believe 2013 is almost over, but I'm ready for what's next. I know one thing is for sure - I'm going to try to write more. Hope you'll check it out!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

harry potter vs. luke skywalker.

You are going to think this post is silly. But I wanted to comment on something and it's too long for a tweet. So I'll just tell you here.

I read this article the other day entitled Why Harry Potter Won't Have as Much Staying Power as Luke Skywalker, and it was pretty much as nerdy as you would think, but it also made me think for a few days after the fact.

Basically, the author says that so far this summer, we're lacking any new superhero powers and everything seems like the same old story. Maybe that's true, on some level. But at the same time, doesn't it take a while for a worthy story to come around? I mean, even Harry Potter, which is used as a prominent example, didn't just conjure movies out of thin air (although, if Harry Potter were around, he probably could have made it happen). The stories took time to be written and to come together in an unforgettable way. What's the rush?

Another concern here from the author is that Harry Potter basically has no new content and no new part of the story and man, it's just done. Somehow it seems like the author of that article equates a finished story to a dead trail. As if the fans of that particular story or universe can't continue to enjoy it long after someone like J.K. Rowling has said, "All was well." Yes, it's a "closed-end universe" (unlike Star Wars, which has a massive expanded universe that I can't even completely keep up with), and yes there are these copyright laws that keep others from creating new parts of the story officially... but I don't think that's a bad thing.

You see, I love Star Wars, and I love Harry Potter. These two things are not mutually exclusive. They can exist together in different ways. Maybe the movies seem outdated somehow... but on some level, both stories are about more than just the way the actors are portrayed on the big screen.

Harry Potter and his friends are brave. They are not afraid of the tasks ahead of them, and they fight for what they believe in and for peace in their world. It is about friendship and love and those unshakeable bonds that make all people whole. The story is not reliant on Daniel Radcliffe, even though he is a very convincing Harry Potter. My point is, the lessons you might learn from the books are not limited to one generation... so why wouldn't there be some kind of staying power?

Star Wars has a similar theme. It's good versus evil and a battle for what's right and true in the universe. There is loyalty and family, but there is also the way of the Jedi. May the Force be with you. You know.

My point is: both of these tales (and many others) can have staying power. Sure, Harry Potter's story may have ended, but that doesn't mean I will stop reading the books every year. Honestly, I find something new every time I read them. I am extraordinarily excited for a new Star Wars film, but the original trilogy is what will stick with me as my original introduction to the universe. It's like a first love - you just can't forget it. And since the author brings up the point of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, I don't see anyone losing interest in that story any time soon, either.

Just because it's not new anymore doesn't mean it's done. New generations will find the journey of these stories something to behold, and Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker will both find ways to live on regardless of the age of the original publish date. I know I will continue to appreciate these stories for many years, and I hope that when I introduce them to my future children, they will be as excited about the adventures as I have been.

Monday, June 17, 2013

digital marketing, week 1.

This quarter I am taking a class called "Digital Campaign Management" through my masters program at University of Denver. Part of me thinks that I have a pretty good understanding of what digital marketing is but the other part of me knows that I have a lot to learn. 

Even if you're not pursuing a degree in higher education, I think there's something to be said for learning. Personally I want to keep learning throughout my whole life... and when I could be "done" learning I hope I learn some more. 

This quote particularly rang true this week as I am preparing to do my second assignment for my class:

“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
Voltaire


We had to read a few different pieces about how to find the right people or vendors or agencies to work on a digital marketing campaign. Considering my experience thus far is targeted at a number of different communications vehicles and strategies, working with vendors is not something I am really all too familiar with. It is more common for us to research methods we can implement on our own and use those, instead of essentially outsourcing the work or project to someone else. This is going to be a good critical thinking challenge, and I'm ready to try to take it on. It also makes me think of my own personal approach to digital marketing and how I fit into the answers to these questions.

Even though I've had this class for a week already, for this post, I wanted to take a step back. See, this class, like many others in the University College program at DU, is also offered as an in-person/on-campus course, so many of the aspects originally were planned with that approach in mind. For this class, there are "class participation" questions that we are actually not answering so much as applying to our thinking processes as we complete the other parts of the course. 

Mortimer the duck scoping out the digital marketing
efforts of the local newspaper.
 
So why should you care?

Well. They are actually some questions worth answering. 

I thought I'd share a few of them from week to week, and if you want to chime in, feel free. Since I'm not having these discussions with my classmates, it would be fun and interesting to see what other people are thinking about these topics. (Note: I'm posting these after the week is done, so it's not like you're helping me with my homework or something. Just helping me to think more fully, if you want.)

Week 1 questions:


  • What is your experience with digital marketing tactics?
  • What do you think are the major differences between traditional marketing campaign management and digital campaign management?
  • What role does digital marketing play in the overall marketing landscape?
  • What are the trends you see in digital marketing as a consumer?


  • I think these questions kind of go together, to be honest.

    I definitely use digital marketing on a regular basis. Social media, e-newsletters, website (including mobile web!)... all these are part of the communications platform where I work now, and I enjoy using social tools like Twitter and Tumblr in my own time. The thing that makes digital marketing different from traditional marketing is the approach. If you're going to excel at the tactics of it, you have to recognize that digital marketing pops compared to traditional marketing.

    You probably use digital marketing tactics more than you think. But to really highlight the differences you have to engage, interact, be part of a conversation. Traditional media is a flat, one-sided conversation. Digital media should inspire people to start talking and keep talking. Hopefully about positive things. It kind of helps spur that whole word-of-mouth marketing tactic. If you're online and what you're seeing is online and your friends are online, you can tell them instantly what you think. Negative opinions are going to spread that much faster, which is why it's not limited to one time or another. You kind of always have to be "on" when it comes to the digital marketing scene. 

    You can see that as a consumer too. You rely on social tools to allow you to connect with a brand at nearly any time, even if it is outside of business hours. Sometimes life happens outside of business hours! The brands who respond quickly and in a helpful way seem to have a better presence in the digital landscape than those who deny the importance of it. It's going to be a little different to every brand to fit their unique needs but the approach can have the same foundation, and that's making your online community a place where people want to belong.

    What do you think? Share your digital marketing thoughts below...

    Thursday, June 13, 2013

    air travel tips.

    Note: There are still fires burning here in Colorado but since I've been working on this post for a while, I figured I would post it. I've learned from experience, being consumed by fire coverage is not healthy for your brain or your heart.

    You may know that I travel frequently, and I enjoy visiting new places (or the same places over and over) and experiencing new restaurants, climates, and all that these new places have to offer. Now, I'm not trying to be a travel-only blog (if you want to read a quality travel-themed blog, visit my friend Erin's new blog here) but I thought I'd share some of my experience just the same.

    Out a plane window on the ground in Auckland, New Zealand.
    Through my travels, I end up on airplanes. A lot. Last year I logged more than 60,000 miles (although that includes my mileage bonus from my frequent flyer account) and my travels took me all over the U.S. and to London, New Zealand and Australia. I fly often enough that I qualified for TSA's Pre-Check last time I flew, which is the TSA's relatively new pre-screening program. It was kind of nice to leave my shoes on, for once!

    But the point here is that even though I travel a lot, some of you don't, and I thought I'd share a few of my best tips that I like to keep in mind that make traveling a little easier for me... who knows, it might help someone else!

    Sign up for a frequent flyer account. Most times even if you're using a discount ticket distributor, if you pay "full fare price" you can get the miles. It's nice to save a few bucks when you're booking a flight, I'm sure, but when you accumulate miles you can take a trip somewhere and use those miles as the currency to buy your ticket. Even if you only fly once or twice a year, those miles can add up. On that note, look up the mileage expiration policy of the airline you choose to fly. 

    Don't be a fool in the security line. Yes, you have to take off your shoes. And your belt. And your sweatshirt/jacket, if you're wearing one. And that one quart plastic bag of liquids (3 oz or less!) will have to come out of your bag. No, that bottle full of water cannot go through. Laptops come out of your bag too... and in other countries, your iPad or tablet usually has to come out as well, although in the U.S. you can probably leave it in the bag. Also, once you get through security and are collecting your things, don't block everyone else from the conveyor belt while you tie your shoes and whatever else you need to do. Most airports offer space just past security for that.

    If you're not sure, ask! People make jokes about TSA but those people are just trying to do their jobs.

    Packed for a two week trip to New Zealand and
    Australia - definitely checked a bag!
    There has to be space for everyone's bags. What I mean is, if you have two pieces of carry-on luggage, one of them can surely fit under your seat. You also might (on smaller planes for sure) have the option to gate check these bags (it's free! at least on most airlines), which means you don't have to try to wedge it into a storage bin above someone's head. You can also check a bag, which sometimes is pricy but is sometimes worthwhile instead of trying to maneuver a giant bag through the airport or through an airplane aisle. Don't be greedy with the overhead bin space -- you're not the only one who wants to store things up there during the trip.

    Bring your own water bottle and snacks. If you don't want to spend $3 for a bottle of water, bring your own empty bottle from home. As long as it's empty, you can take it through security and fill it at a drinking fountain once you're in the terminal. If you fly through Chicago O'Hare, they have pretty awesome water bottle spouts so you don't only fill your bottle halfway. Snacks are good too, as long as there's no liquid. Nuts, pretzels, fruit... all okay for airport security!

    Bring something to do. Whether it's a book, a movie for your tablet or computer, work or anything of the like, it's always nice to have something to entertain yourself for the flight (and while you're waiting). Some airlines offer wi-fi onboard and some have TV (it's usually a crapshoot whether it's free or something you have to pay for). But I wouldn't rely on those options, because you just never know what they'll be playing or if there's anything like that offered at all. A book is a great option, but keep in mind that if you have an e-book reader, it has to be turned off at take-off and landing.

    Be courteous. As fun (or creepy) as it would be, you're not the only person in the airport. This probably seems like common sense (or maybe you think it's rude!) but in my experience, people tend to be in their own little world when they travel. Don't stop walking in the middle of hallways -- other people are probably behind you and could be in a hurry. Don't hog the armrest. Don't crowd the gate! Most of the time you have an assigned seat and you'll get on when it's time. Plus if people don't monopolize the overhead bin space, there should be room for your things too!

    Traveling can be fun but it can also be stressful, so it's best to be as polite to others as possible. This means gate agents and other airline workers. They can't help it when flights are delayed or when the weather is bad, and they will do their best to get you where you need to go. A kind word or a smile can go a lot further than anger and shouting.

    What are your best travel trips? Share them here! And whether you have tips to share or not, I hope your next trip is an excellent, memorable experience!