Evo Conference Recap

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the first Evo Conference presented by Mom It Forward and Today’s Mama – both of whom are wonderful clients of mine. The conference is billed as being about the “Evolution of women in social media” – but I think it’s reach went well beyond that aim. The information I gathered from there could easily be applied to my personal life, my business, my blogs, and would easily be useful for men as well as women. I am not a master of social media, and I don’t really intend to be one. I dabble in it. Just like I dabble on this blog, and Scriptygoddess. My main focus has and always will be what I do beyond these websites: of course my life in general, but from a business perspective, my web development. I went to the conference, curious to see what the sessions were about but not really thinking they would have that significant of an impact on what I’m doing. That assumption was wrong.

The first session I attended was about “Small Business Success” with Ciaran Blumenfeld, Lara Galloway, Lisa Leonard, Marlynn Schotland and Ana Roco-Castro on the panel. I went in hoping to find answers to whether or not I should grow my personal business and if so, how. I probably walked away with a slightly different realization than I expected, but that realization was that I don’t want to grow my business. At least not at this time. My business is me; coding. I don’t want to spend my time “running a business.” I want to spend my time coding. That’s it. So what I need to spend any additional business energy on is finding “partners” to help me continue that goal – primarily designers. I often get requests from clients to design, and I don’t really want to do that part of the project. So I need some reliable designers I can work with to do that part with me. As well, finding designers means they will also hopefully send work my way as well. That is, I think, where I need to go at this point in time.

The next session I attended was more for fun. It was a Photography Workshop with Aimee Giese, Casey Mullins, Jenny Cisney and Jen Lemen. Half of the session was spent listening to their tips and tricks and being inspired by their photography and points of view. The other half was spent outside wrestling with our cameras to try and create some of our own photographic magic. (Benspark got a photo of our group – the lady in the green halter top shirt on the left is me. Notice my look of total confusion staring at the scary settings on my camera? LOL! Also notice the bright sun, bare shoulders… and what you can’t see – lack of sunscreen. My shoulders still hurt from that burn.) I’ve been trying to be more adventerous with my D70 – so far the pictures I’ve taken on the manual setting pretty much suck donkey balls. But it’s a work in progress. I also think if I want better photos, I’ll probably need to get a better lens. A lot of the limitations I thought my camera had are actually limitations to the lens I’m using.

Oh, also – this session was up the mountain from where the rest of the conference was taking place. You had to take a 10 minute gondola ride up. At first this sounded like a ton of fun. But in reality, I don’t do so well with trust in mechanical things. Especially when I have to put my life in the hands of said mechanical thing, and instead of being a quiet, peaceful experience, the thing creaks and bounces and feels like it could drop you at any moment without a second thought. I was only able to snap one picture before I really had to hold on to the seat for dear life. Not that the seat would save me if we fell, but maybe my gripping the walls of the gondola would remind it to continue gripping the wire as we rode up. Moosh In Indy had a funny post about this experience too.

At this point I headed home for the evening. I understand there were a number of wild parties each night at The Canyons, but for someone who spends each and every day alone, at home, with nothing but a dog to talk to and my laptop to code on – I’m obviously not the most social, outgoing person on the planet. (Pretty ironic that someone like me would go to a social media conference actually.)

The next day I attended a design session in the morning. Scott Sorenson from StruckAxiom and James Rabdau from The Summit Group were on the panel, as was Rachael Herrscher standing in to talk about the design overhaul of Room 704. (The new design that was presented isn’t live yet) Again, this was more out of curiosity. I’m fascinated and intrigued by design. I wish I could do it better than I did in the past. I certainly like looking at and working with good designs – but it’s not something I feel comfortable doing anymore. The points were well made, about a logo not being equal to a brand. About how to create a brand and translate it across different avenues.

The early afternoon session I went to was about SEO, with Chris Frietchen and Carina Hoskisson. These two ladies really worked well together and gave a bunch of tips and tricks for writing content that is good for SEO without going too far. This obviously has relevance to my blogs, and to my business. Not that I write content specifically for my clients, but I’m often asked advice about these issues and I get the “basic” idea, but having some validation and new ideas presented was really helpful. I am definitely going to be putting their suggestions into practice. (In fact, in my last post about Printable Masks, I played around with manipulating the text the way they described, and I’m proud to say if anyone ever actually searches for “Printable Mask Ear Hook” – I come up #1. LOL!)

The next session after that was about writing reviews, making pitches to companies for sponsorship, etc. Connie Burke, Jane Devin, Christine Frietchen and Nick Wells presented. As you may have noticed, this is another area I’ve been dabbling with. I really am a total iPhone geek and love the playing with apps on my phone. I’d say about 20% (or maybe even less) of the usage on my phone is for actual calls, another 40% would be spent on email, and easily another 40% is spent playing with apps. So talking about the apps is a natural for me – getting apps for free that I can review is really fun. Connie gave insight on what companies are looking for, Jane gave insight as a blogger, Chris gave us tips on how best to construct the post and Nick on the legal aspects. One of their points was that bloggers should always be honest – giving the good and the bad. My standpoint has been up to now to try to be positive. “If you can’t say something nice…” That is not to say that I haven’t been giving the whole truth. Basically if I don’t like a product, I will usually just stick to whatever indisputable facts there are. I have at times made some suggestions on some items. But I understand their point that people want to see the negative stuff too.

This really was an interesting experience for me – start to finish. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but started to feel better about that as time went on. I am a pretty shy person, but I started to realize that many of the people at this conference had come to it alone as well. While I was coming into this huge group of people, many of them did not know each other – some of them didn’t know anyone until the start of the conference – and that realization helped me be a lot more outgoing. For example, one person I had really wanted to talk to was Alma. I have actually spoken with her on the phone before and will be working with her on another project. I really like her work and wanted to touch base with her and talk about sending clients who ask for design work her way. On Saturday, I tracked her down – found her table where she was sitting having lunch, plopped myself down next to her completely uninvited and introduced myself. That is SO out of character for me. But I am so glad I did it. She is just the sweetest person and I was so thrilled to finally meet her. I met a bunch of people at the conference – introducing myself to complete strangers. Handing them my card. Almost as if I wasn’t a social misfit at all!! LOL!

So, as you can tell, I’m pretty jazzed up about the conference. I’m not sure if we’ll still be living here come Evo Conference 2011 – and if we’re not, I’m not 100% sure I’d be able to go – but certainly if we are still here – I will definitely be going again. Maybe next time I’ll come out of my shell a bit more and join in on some of the crazy parties I was hearing about. :)

Laid Off

Not me obviously – being that I work for myself. Unfortunately, no, I’m referring to my husband, who, even though I make a fair living doing what I do – he was the main “breadwinner.” His job will be no more in just a few weeks – blamed on a “reduction in force due to contractual obligations” – which is a nice way of saying the company is looking to save money by doubling the workload of the people left behind and letting go the rest of the team that is required to actually get everything done.

We saw the writing on the wall as people have been let go at a rate of almost one or two every week. The situation there is not good – and I don’t envy the people that still have their jobs. If anything, I’m glad Sam isn’t one of them! If any good can come out of it, I’m hoping that this will spur him on to find another job where he’ll be happier. For too long he’s been tolerating a lot of nonsense there and it’s been a long time since he enjoyed what he was doing.

The other good that can come out of it is that this is the signal to me that it’s time to move on – as it’s been a long time since I enjoyed living where are, in case my recent posts weren’t clear enough about that.

Nothing is ever simple though: Life is what happens while you’re making plans. (The alternate saying is: People make plans, and God laughs) We had plans for Rachel to attend a different school this year, we had made arrangements in the fall to take our first vacation alone, just me and Sam, since our Honeymoon 13 years ago. (That was to be my 40th birthday present) At the moment we’re still planning on going, but we have no idea where we’ll be living (I have no idea how all that will work – we’ll have to change all our flight info if we move before then), and I have no idea what our money situation will be.

I have a great deal of hope that something better is on the other side of this current mess. Sam is freaking out as you can imagine – and I feel like I’m keeping everyone’s sanity together. That is quite a task. Mainly because when I feel like my sanity is falling apart, and I start to freak out – there is no one to support me and help me keep it together (except for my parents – but I hate feeling like a burden to them).

So that is the fun that is going on in our house at the moment. Life is certainly an adventure.

Why dreaming is important

You have to dream. If you don’t dream you can never learn what it is you want, you can never define your goals. You have to open up your mind to what may seem impossible. You have to be willing to believe that good things can come your way.

The fact of the matter is that most of the time, reality sucks. There’s bills to pay, risks threatening on your every turn. If all you do is focus on reality, you will never move forward. If all you do is focus on the problems that might come up, you will never improve your existence. If you are thrilled with the way things are, then maybe this is okay. Stagnation in itself is not a problem. But if you are not happy, then you have to make change. Life it too short to live it in fear of what might happen, or protecting what you have because you’re afraid to take a risk.

I’m not saying throw caution to the wind and jump off a bridge – but calculated risks need to be taken. I do not believe in a higher power, but that doesn’t stop me from believing that somehow things will work out. Somehow, I’ll find a way to fix the problems that might come up. The reward is worth the risk, and the problems that come up can be dealt with if/when they are a reality.

When you dream, you leave the risks out of the picture, you forget reality, and suddenly you can picture what it is that will make you happy. While you may never acheive that dream to the smallest detail, and things will never be perfect, you need that dream to help define a goal and give you the direction you need to head to.

You also need to continue to dream as you work towards acheiving your goal. By doing so, you allow yourself to adjust your course and fine tune your goal or change directions if you need to. (Sometimes the grass may just seem greener on the other side, and if so, once you start realizing that – change your course).

Because we are human, we are all too aware of the possibility of our own demise. Some completely ignore it – some live in fear of it and by doing so have trouble truly living. There is a happy medium in there somewhere. That is why dreams are so wonderful. Explore the impossible in your dream. Ignore reality just for the moment. You have to know what’s on the other side before you can plot the course to get there.

Faint heart never won fair lady.

Life Update

I‘m totally uninspired to write a deep reflective post about anything in particular in my life. We’re just going through the days. So here’s a random scattering of things going on in my life at the moment…

Freelance work has kept me pretty busy – not as busy as it was a few weeks ago (that much busy would have killed me if it kept up!) Still – it’s been hectic enough that eating healthy has taken a back seat. Many dinners have crept up before I could get a handle on things and we’d end up ordering out. Expensive and unhealthy. I finally broke down and signed my saturday morning away to make a bunch of meals through Dream Dinners. I was at first not looking forward to it – but it didn’t take long (about an hour and a half start to finish to prep 12 dinners) and now we have 3 meals a week for the next month ready to go. All relatively healthy (Well at least it’s better and cheaper than the takeout we’ve been getting!)

I’m still waiting on an evaluation to resolve the other issue I discussed. Just a little more info on it: Rachel’s grades have been terrible this year. It’s weird because she’s really very bright, her reading level is well above her grade level – but she has never done as well as I thought she could. But this year is by far the worst. I’m honestly wondering if they’ll let her move to 5th grade. Unfortunately I wasn’t aware of how bad it was until parent teacher conferences a few weeks ago. (Long story – but yeah, I was totally kept out of the loop and I’m REALLY pissed about it. At this point, really how much can we do to get her grades up??!!) Some things in particular that I’ve been seeing have really made me wonder about whether or not she has ADHD. (Not the hyperactivity – but the inattentive type) She’s extremely disorganized. She does really sloppy work and just rushes through it to get it done quick – so she makes a ton of careless mistakes. If you call her on it and make her go back, she’s often able to see her errors. Part of the reason for her bad grades is because she is constantly losing the papers she needs to work on or turn in. When I stand over her shoulder and make her do her homework, she doesn’t really fight me on it – but it is a bit of a struggle to keep her on task. It’s easier when I make lists for her for everything. Including what she needs to do to get ready in the morning – otherwise she’d forget really basic things like brushing her hair or teeth! (And my telling her to go and do it isn’t enough. It’s like if a bird flies by the window, she’s on another track and she won’t do what she was supposed to) Even the religious school teacher said she’ll call on Rachel in class when they’re having a class discussion and it’s like Rachel was checked out the whole time. So now I’m just waiting to see a specialist to have her evaluated. I hesitated to bring it up on the blog because I know there’s all sorts of hype about ADHD – how they’re “diagnosing all kids with it and just dumping drugs on them” or something. Or how people blame TV and video games for the rise in ADHD. (I think they recently proved that to have no effect anyway) I don’t want to hear about how if we change our eating habits and eat all whole foods, etc. how it will cure her. I have started giving her Omega-3 supplements – which I did see some reliable data on how it can improve kids with ADHD, but I’m not convinced that it’s having any kind of a noticeable impact. I’m going to keep it up because I still think it’s probably a good thing for the kids to have – but it’s not a cure for ADHD. All I want right now is a diagnosis. I don’t want to hear how she has to “try harder” and this is all her fault. The level of disorganization, and the level of how much she seems to have trouble with the work that involves a certain level of sustained mental effort – I really don’t think it’s her not trying. And to be honest, I’ve had my suspicions about her since Kindergarten – but of course no one would evalute her for ADHD then! I just want an evaluation, and then we’ll have a plan of action. Whether it be medication or not (I don’t think she’s severe so maybe it’s just a matter of therapy to help her) – I can’t get help until I know and have proof of what the problem is.

=deep breath=

Anyway – moving on… Passover really took a backseat this year. In the past, my parents have come out for some part of it and we’ve had a seder with them – but they couldn’t make it out this year. They do have a big seder at the new Synagogue we’re a part of now, but Zachary is such a spaz that I didn’t want to deal with bringing him. (And it would have had to be me and the kids alone, because Sam wouldn’t have been able to make it out of work in time for the seder).

Sam doesn’t really do the Easter thing with the exception of the candy. LOL! His mom sent the kids a big care package of chocolate and jelly beans – we were able to hold them off until today and now they’re all in a sugar coma.

Speaking of Sam – his job is really unstable right now. I have no idea how this year is going to play out, but it doesn’t look good. Oy.

Anyway – our plans for the day: we’re going to see that new animated movie “How to train a dragon”. (Speaking of movies, we finally got a babysitter and got out to see Avatar last week. Awesome movie!!! I’m so glad we were able to see it before it left the theaters. I’m definitely going to get the blu-ray of that when it comes out too.)

So about the babysitter – after the fiasco with the last babysitter (found out she was lying about a whole bunch of things and had basically “permanently borrowed” someone’s car. That someone showed up on OUR doorstep to collect said car from her… OY!!!) – we hadn’t been able to find anyone and I finally caved in and signed up for a membership with SitterCity.com. SO GLAD I did. We’ve now found this girl, she actually lives really close to us – maybe 2 minutes away, IF that. So far the kids haven’t scared her away yet and as far as we can tell she doesn’t seem to have any serious mental defects like the last one. LOL!

Brand new day

These are not the words you want to hear, half-asleep, 5am in the morning. (Not that those words are ok anytime of the day) And thus began my day of balancing taking care of Zach while lugging my laptop around with me and trying to keep up with emails and whatever little projects I could get done. Fact of the matter was that he ended up being fine. I kept him home for the day, because I didn’t know what that was all about and wanted to keep an eye on him to be sure he was ok. But mostly he just wanted to play all day. Chalk it up to another day I’m thankful for my “work-at-home” life – even if I didn’t get that much work done today. heh.