Saturday, December 31, 2016

Passions, Priorities and Popcorn

Focus on the good. This is a phrase I have repeated time and time again. It's also the mental outlook I try to maintain throughout my daily life. I have spent the last month or so (Thanksgiving to Christmas) getting myself back on track with this concept....and it's been amazing. I was not intending to do a year-end wrap-up blog post, but I feel this idea ties my last year (and more) together pretty nicely.

The impending shipwreck image above jumped out at me as a great example for this concept of focusing on the good that I treasure so much. In general, shipwrecks are a bad thing. At the high end of the spectrum, people can lose their lives in a shipwreck. On the lesser, but still important side, personal property is lost or damaged. But there is still good that can come out of a shipwreck. This shipwreck analogy fits well with my passions, priorities and popcorn mindset I have these days.

We are all passionate about a variety of things. These are the things that make us feel like we're sailing our ship out in the open waters enjoying the wind in our hair, the freedom to go wherever we steer and the feeling of great accomplishment.

For years I have said I was passionate about a variety of things. Family and friends are always a passion. Blogging has been a passion for personal development and a chance to escape from the real world for moments at a time. Employee development and personal development in my career field has also been a passion of mine. I recently started wondering if passions change or do we just lose sight of why we were passionate about them in the first place.

You don't have to be a captain crashing your ship against the rocks to have your eyes opened to your true passion, but sometimes that's what it takes. As that captain with a passion for sailing, you might find your priorities changing after the shipwreck. You just lost your ship and might even be stranded on an island...alone. Sailing doesn't seem all that important anymore. You start thinking about survival. Staying alive is a top priority, but being alive in itself isn't the whole picture. Why do you want to stay alive? Is it merely to avoid death or is it something more?

Let's assume you stay alive on that island, but you're alone now. You quickly realize all the other things that are important to you in life. You miss your family and friends, electricity, running water, easily obtained and prepared food, your favorite tv shows, books to read, the internet...the list can go on and on and it's a little different for everyone. The point is that your passion for sailing probably isn't real high on your list following a shipwreck.

Most priorities are fairly easy to identify initially, but many have to be re-visited to remind you why they are a priority. While you're re-visiting your priorities, it is important to evaluate if your passions align with your priorities. This may or may not align with your concept of passion vs. priority, so I will explain my personal thoughts on this.

To me, a priority is just that...a priority. It should come first. Yes, you can be passionate about something that isn't a priority, but does it work against your priority? Setting your priorities should give you a number of activities that you can be passionate about to achieve those priorities. If your passions can't support your priorities, it may be time for a change.

I have gone through this process in the last month or so and made some amazing discoveries. I won't bore you with my list of changes in priorities and passions - because I don't want this to look like a New Year's resolution...because it's not. I have made a shift in how I live my life. For the purpose of this post, I will focus on just one change I have made - blogging.

I always felt I was passionate about blogging or writing, but as it turns out...I just enjoy it. It's an activity that lets me clear my brain at the end of the day and I do have fun with it. Yes, to some extent it helps me grow as a person, but not as much as it distracted me from my other priorities. My month hiatus from blogging showed me that it really didn't bother me all that much to not blog. My brain actually cleared out because I wasn't constantly "obsessed" with turning everything into a blog post. Blogging had almost turned into an addiction rather than a release.

The more important thing I found is that I was ignoring other priorities because of my blogging routine. Once I shifted my evening hours away from blogging and towards goal setting, priority shifting and planning, my life changed. My relationship with my wife and girls has improved. (It was always good, but there's also always room for improvement to get to great.) My personal development and health has improved by devoting time to myself for more than just "clear my head" blogging. My career is on track for advancement by developing my personal business skills needed for transitions at work.

I may not have experienced a shipwreck in my life, but it really feels like I saw the rocks ahead and made the appropriate course correction to avoid impact. It is very important to point out that sailing the "ship of life" isn't done by the captain alone. There is an entire crew on board that are equally affected when the ship crashes. More importantly, the crew is also there to help you stay on course and avoid the rocks.

I know you've been waiting to hear what in the world popcorn had to do with all this, so here it is. Priorities involve a bunch of simple little items as popcorn. In my case, having a family popcorn and movie night with my girls is a priority. My number one priority is my wife and girls. All my other priorities, goals and plans point to that number one priority. Popcorn and a movie with my girls isn't specifically on my list as a priority to check off, but rather one little piece of the main priority to be more involved with them and spend more quality time with them. On a side note, I'm running through the Weight Watchers program as part of a health goal for myself and (certain) popcorn is amazingly low on points as a snack - so it's a double win.

I am passionate about my family. I still have a lot of things I really enjoy doing like blogging, but I don't set them as priorities anymore. I will do them as often or as little as I choose, but I will not allow them to get in the way of my real priorities.

So if you notice that I seem to drop off the internet with rare posts here and there, don't be alarmed. I'm still here. I still love my blogging friends. I still get online and read what everyone's up to. I just won't be spending as much time generating blog content. Hopefully that means the posts I do write will be of only the best quality too. :)

My Saturday morning "personal time" on my schedule has now come to an end (Yes, it's actually on my daily/weekly agenda.), so I must be on my way to enjoy life. I encourage you to think about your own priorities and passions as I know many of you are setting New Year's resolutions today. Think of them as taking control of your life rather than wishful thinking as a resolution. I know you'll be happier and more likely to succeed if you set the right priorities and become passionate about succeeding. Until next time....

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Less is more

Life is crazy, hectic, complicated and running at 100 miles per hour. While that might make life exciting, it also risks you burning out. For those of you who read my last couple of posts, you know that I am going through a little restructuring of my life. Since I'm one of those people who really hate New Year's resolutions so I try to get all my life-changing plans put into affect well before the new year comes knocking.

This year in particular, I am structuring a lot of my goals around what I am thankful for and ways to improve upon my current blessings. Because of that, Thanksgiving seemed like a great time to kick things into gear. I don't want to get into a long, drawn out post on maximizing the probability of goal attainment so I'll just say motivation is key. You need to actually want your goals if you plan to actually hit them. 

I have found the best motivation (for me anyway) is my family. It doesn't matter if it's a career goal, personal goal or health goal. They all affect my family. That's what seals the deal for me. Even though I have known this for quite a while. I realized this year that I hadn't actually structured my goals based on this thinking. Well, I did this year. 

Long story short....I scheduled almost every hour of my week and plotted it on my personal calendar. I covered my working hours, personal/family hours and even my sleeping hours. Of course I left some open times, primarily on the weekends, because life can't be planned 100 percent. 

You may remember a few posts back that I said I would be withdrawing from my online presence a little bit. I figured I would start with Thanksgiving to Christmas and see how it goes. Since I am obviously writing a blog post right now, I haven't completely dropped off the internet. What I did instead was schedule a limited amount of time that I would devote to my online "persona." 

I now only look at my blogging and social media accounts for a few minutes over the lunch hour and between 8-9pm in the evenings. I haven't been perfect about it, but I have been very good about it. The biggest sign of success I've seen with this goal so far is that I haven't had either of my daughters complain about me having my nose buried in my phone or computer in the past couple of weeks. That's the family side of the motivation. More quality time with my girls is a huge motivator. 

One of my health goals is to lose some of my extra weight. Yeah, I's an old story. I've talked about losing weight before, but I never really cared either way before. I really think the thing that pushed me over the edge (ie. to get serious about it) this time was this crazy hour-by-hour scheduling I set up. There's something about having a schedule that let's you get in the mindset of "it's right there on the schedule so I have to do it." This helped out in two ways.

First, the scheduling of my "rack time" is actually helping ensure I am ready and willing to wake up in the morning to get a work-out in. It probably doesn't hurt that I am starting with only three days per week for working out and the rest for "personal development" time. You know what though... personal development time (educational reading, etc) is often boring so the exercise choice is more appealing. Basically, I tell myself I have to wake up at a certain time - what I do with that time is up to me. I've hit my 3 days a week so far, but have to admit that I slept in a few of the other days rather than using the time for personal development. 

The second way this technological scheduling helped out was with the use of an app I never thought I'd use - Weight Watchers. Yep, I signed up for Weight Watchers. I may not be fond of exercise, but my biggest problem with weight gain over the years is my horrible sense of food portions. OK, that's not totally true. I have always known I eat too much - I just didn't care. Well, having an app tell me how many "points" of food I have to eat on a given day has helped me limit my portions. The fact that I have to enter the food into the app slows down my eating and makes me actually feel full before I hit the second or third helping. (FYI - I've lost 10 pounds so far and that makes it even more fun.) 

No matter how I look at it, this whole "less is more" thing is working out well for me. Better scheduling of my time at home and work has made me more productive in the same amount of time. The really obvious one is that eating less food is making me more healthy. (I should emphasize this is because I had horrible portion control. Starving yourself is just as bad - or worse.) We'll see how it goes, but I have to say I'm pretty excited about the progress thus far. Until next time....

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Black Friday Follies

Black Friday....going out and fighting each other over junk we don't need right after being thankful for everything we already have. You've probably seen some variation of that statement on your social media feeds lately. Whether you feel that way about Black Friday or not depends on who you are. 

I have friends that live for the fun and excitement of Black Friday shopping each each year. I also have other friends, who think more like me, that avoid retail stores at all costs on Black Friday. For me, it's mostly because I don't like large crowds of people. The fact that I spent a number of years in the retail industry just sealed the deal on my opinion of Black Friday. Now that many stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day already really makes me thankful that I no longer work in the retail industry. 

Working in the tech industry now, I am really looking forward to technology helping fix this Black Friday chaos. Cyber Monday has been around since around 2004 or 2005, but it hasn't had quite the impact I wish it would have. I think it has lessened a little bit of the madness of the post-Thanksgiving shopping. Then again, starting the shopping kick-off earlier can also take some of the matter how much I hate to admit it. 

My wife is no stranger to shopping or looking for great deals, but Black Friday was not something she experienced until a couple of years ago. It's now a fun little activity for her and my sister-in-law to venture out into the craziness and snag some deals. I'm just trying to figure out if it's a good thing or not. 

Black Friday has a way of turning good people bad. For instance, my wife wasn't a criminal until she started shopping on Black Friday.  Ok, so maybe she's not really a criminal and it really was an accident, but she almost stole a purse this year. 

This is where technology is actually working against us in a retail environment. My wife found a purse she wanted and decided to use one of those self-checkouts because the line was much shorter. She scanned the purse, swiped her card, grabbed the purse and headed out the door. As she was walking through the security sensors at the exit, the alarms started blaring. She was caught red handed trying to steal a purse....but she didn't know it. 

Apparently, that "self-checkout" was actually a kiosk to order something in the store and have the product shipped to you. A great idea for someone who doesn't want to carry a mountain of Black Friday shopping plunder with them or leave it in their vehicle as they bounce from store to store. I guess they frown upon also taking the (extra) product out of the store with you though. I don't know why since everyone seems to have a buy one-get one free offer on everything these days. 

In the end, it was an honest mistake. Since she didn't tell me about it from a holding cell at the local police department, the store must have understood it was an honest mistake as well. This little mishap does serve to prove a point though.... Black Friday is evil.

If it's not the people attacking each other over slashed prices, it's technology trying to turn you towards a life of crime. If you're daring, feel free to give it a shot. But if you prefer a simpler life like me, stay at home and work your way through the left-over pies from the Thanksgiving feast. It's a lot safer and far more relaxing and enjoyable. Until next time.... 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A simpler life

As I was going through my regular process of changing the passwords on my various accounts today, it really struck me how annoying it really is. I know it's a necessary evil in the highly technological world of today, but that doesn't make it any more fun. This post isn't about proper password protocol though - it's just part of what got me thinking about simplifying my life once again. 
I also read a book this weekend for work called Eat That Frog by Bryan Tracy. In a nutshell, the book gives you 21 ways to avoid procrastination and be more productive. Tracy uses the analogy of eating a frog to emphasize the value of knocking out the biggest, nastiest thing you have to do first. After that, the rest will seem easy...if it's still important at all. 

This book goes hand in hand with the lean management concept. One of the key points to being lean is to eliminate anything that doesn't add value. In simple terms, you scrap the junk and focus on the good. When you add the frog eating skills from above, you have a game plan anyone can embrace. Simple is great. Freeing up time AND maximizing the time you have to use is awesome. That brings me back to my password updates. 

It really doesn't take all that long to update a password for a particular site. The part that proved to be a time suck was every time I updated a single password, I got multiple alerts and had to change the login on multiple devices. 

For example, when I updated the password on my Outlook email, I had to update the app on my daily phone, an old spare phone that I use on occasion and my laptop. I made those changes only to get a new set of alerts because those credentials are also stored in other apps. My Gmail app pulls three of my emails and I have automation apps that link most of my social media accounts. Now take those steps and repeat them 20+ times (in my case) and you start to get annoyed. 

I learned a few things from this. First and foremost, I wondered why this hasn't irritated me as much in the past. I think having just read a book about time management had "wasting time" in the front of my mind. It's amazing how the little things I've done every day suddenly seem blatantly obvious when my mind is deep in thought about time management.

The next most important thing I learned is that I have way too many notification alerts setup. This one actually surprised me because I personally felt I had done a decent job of limiting my push notifications to the more critical functions. Apparently not. Getting an alert when your password is changed is a good practice, but I found all kinds of alerts that were setup that were redundant or unnecessary. For instance, my Google+ sends me emails and push notifications for a whole mess of alerts. Why would I need two notifications for one alert? Answer: I don't. In fact, I really don't need any notifications at all for most of them. 

That leads me to the next eye opener... Why do I have so many different accounts? Are they adding value or wasting more of my time? That's not quite as easily answered for most. Twitter is one that I made a call on today and it's now gone. I have received no value from it whatsoever and it sends more notifications that most of my other accounts combined. Sure I can change the notifications, but why bother if the account doesn't add value. Delete was so much easier. We'll see how the other accounts hold up over the next few weeks. 

Starting today, I am going to be eating more frogs. Life is too valuable to waste time with things that don't add value and/or constantly distract me with their notifications. Going forward, I will relax knowing that security alerts will come through, but none of the other garbage will. I have set aside a couple of small windows of time to manually review in-app notifications. Other than those times, my alerts can wait and I will enjoy life instead. 

I had already intended to scale down my online/blogging time to almost nothing from Thanksgiving through Christmas and this plan falls in line with that. I want to make sure I am focusing on the family and friends in my everyday life and not getting sucked into my online/computer life. I don't know that you, the reader, will see a huge difference - which is the point. My intent is to get nearly the same results with a fraction of the "effort" as far as time goes. We'll see what happens, Until next time....

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Grass is always greener

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence...or so you've probably been fooled. I'm sure you've heard that phrase more than a few times over the course of your life. The only part of that sentence I really take issue with is the word "always." Using absolutes tends to get you in trouble. That's why I like to say, "Always remember to never speak in absolutes." Just because I say that doesn't mean I'm really good at believing it though. 

It's really not all that bad to envision the grass on the other side being greener. It means you're a dreamer, a visionary - capable of setting your sights on something greater. Just like with many things in life though, it doesn't mean you're right. Nobody reaches great success without making mistakes or having failures along the way. You learn from it and move on. At least that's what you're supposed to do. 

On the flip side, thinking the grass is always greener on the other side will set you up for a life of disappointment. Jumping from one thing to the next without intelligent forethought is a dangerous game to play. It's particularly dangerous if you don't have the option to jump back over the fence back to where you came from or if the next fence is way off in the distance. 

You've probably seen a bit of this in the news lately with the handful of celebrities who "pledged" to leave the United States if their choice for president didn't win. Well, great for them. Most of the people making that statement are rich enough that they probably already have homes in other countries anyway. At the very least, they have the financial resources to make a go of it. The funny part is that the grass isn't necessarily greener over there. 

I have been hearing Canada as the first option for relocation from many of them. The first thing I have to laugh about is that Canada's immigration policy is far more stringent (as it should be) than we have here in the United States - so good luck getting in. Then again, money does talk so maybe they have a shot. 

If it weren't for the fact that it's currently the liberal crowd running for the Canadian border, there would maybe be a case for hopes of better health coverage. Since it's not the anti-Obamacare conservatives heading north, let's just pretend. They'd get to Canada for the "free health care" only to find out that means they have to wait an eternity (months - not a 30 minute office wait) to get some fairly basic medical procedures. A free society can only support so much actual medical benefits. 

Taking it down to a level most of us have experienced, there are times in our careers that the grass looks greener on the other side. It may be the working environment, the pay, broken promises or just a general desire for change. There are many reasons you may think something different is better. In some cases you'd be right and your career will advance because of it. The dreamer in you will have taken a chance that paid off.

Then again, which is more often the case, you will probably find things to be about the same as they were before...on average. The pay might be better, but you never get any time off to actually spend the extra money you're making. Maybe the health plan is better, but you find you have no room for advancement. Once you average everything out, it often ends up about the same with hopefully an overall increase in the average. Worst case would be realizing it was a horrible mistake and you're sprinting for the next fence to jump over. 

For the younger crowd who may not yet have an extensive career, the same greener grass idea is experienced when dating. To me anyway, the purpose of dating was to hopefully find that one person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. (FYI - I did. Success!!) Part of dating though is that for everything you find you like or love about a person, you also find things that don't quite match...or end up being deal-breakers. The relationship ends and you jump the next fence. 

I remember having a conversation with one of my former girlfriends where I made a comment like "if we end up breaking up...." As you can imagine, that got a response of "What do you mean if we break up? Why would you say that? What makes you think we might break up?" Well, you never start dating someone planning for a breakup, but since you've (hopefully) ended it with all your previous relationships, why would you automatically assume this is "the one?" That's why you're dating - to find out. 

Well, I've rambled on probably longer than you would have preferred so I'll wrap it up. Long story short - appreciate what you have and don't be afraid to be content. At the same time though, know what your dream is and be aware of whether you're still moving towards it. Until next time....

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

When life explodes

Before you get too excited....this has absolutely nothing to do with the recent presidential election. I figure you've probably had enough of that to last you another four years. This is instead a little tale of parenthood and what I like to think of as a little piece of parental bliss. (That's a lie, but it makes it sound better.) 

You're probably familiar with the phrase "big things come in small packages." Most people tend to think of things like a diamond ring in a little velvet box when they hear that phrase. That's not what I had in mind though. I was thinking more along the lines of a "silent but deadly" fart. It's so small and quiet, but nearly kills you when the horrendous aroma hits you. 

If you've been paying attention, you know that I have two daughters - ages seven and five. I have even mentioned how my seven year old daughter (Ziva) has been having a bit of a rough year. It started out with her missing one of her closest friends who moved away at the end of summer. It has since escalated to what can best be explained (at this point) as anxiety attacks. I say this because we have not yet received a professional diagnosis, but that is around the corner. 

This relatively sudden burst of attitude came flying at us in the blink of an eye. Ziva has always been a strong-willed girl, but this is way above and beyond that. She is now having meltdowns on an increasingly frequent basis that makes the phrase "temper tantrum" sound like child's play. 

As if this wasn't fun enough in itself, my five year old (Siri) is now learning her older sister's tricks. It's great that she loves her older sister and wants to learn from her, but it's not so great that this meltdown mania appears to come quite naturally to her. Of all the things she chooses to learn, why does she have to excel at this? 

We had parent-teacher conferences tonight with both of our girls' teachers. As usual, we got glowing reports about how they don't have any attitude issues at school. Don't get me wrong. They have things to work on just like the next kid. An out of control attitude at school just isn't one of them. In fact, when we talked about these explosive meltdowns with their teachers, they look at us like we're nuts....or at least not talking about the same children. 

Within 20 minutes of getting home from the parent-teacher conferences, Siri went into full meltdown. I'm pretty sure this was the worst I've ever seen out of her. It was so bad that Ziva was in tears seeing and hearing the meltdown. At first I thought it was because it was scaring her seeing her younger sister blowing up like this, but the first words out of her mouth were, "What have I done to my sister?" 

She didn't mean this like she had made her mad. She was connecting the dots to the fact that her little sister was copying her own meltdown routine. She felt she was personally responsible for her sister's actions. I used this as a little learning opportunity and started asking her a few questions about it. 

With very minimal prompting, Ziva was able to identify that Siri was extremely tired and just saying no to everything my wife or I would say to her or ask her to do. She further deduced that Siri has noticed how much attention Ziva had been getting from mom and dad during her own meltdowns...and she wanted some of that attention. 

I'm proud of her for figuring this out and she says she'll remember it when she feels herself starting to get out of control in the future. I'm not going to hold my breath on that, but I think it's a step in the right direction. I know it won't eliminate her future meltdowns, but I am hoping this lesson will at least serve as a point of reference next time Ziva is in meltdown mode. It would be great to have a little piece of good come out of an otherwise rough evening. Time will tell. Until next time....

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Waste of time

I am fairly good at procrastination and this is mostly because I am extremely good at wasting time. Though there are many benefits to procrastination and wasting time, there is one thing I do not like about it: I don't like other people wasting my time....That's my responsibility. 

Since it's been about a year and a half since I complained about what a huge waste of time our whole Daylight Savings Time thing is, I thought  I would whine about it today. Besides, I have some time to waste while my girls are taking an afternoon rest. 

If you haven't read my last post on our clock re-setting nonsense, you can check it out HERE.  Or if you (are really weird and actually) like having to change your clocks twice a year, you may prefer to just read my post on procrastination located HERE. Coincidentally, they were both written in March of 2015. I must have really been irritated about it back then??

Back to this year.... Last night was the lesser of two evils when it comes to having to change our clocks. I say this because I can almost get behind the idea of turning our clocks back every so often to gain an extra hour of sleep. I do not see any reason whatsoever that would make moving the clocks forward and losing an hour of sleep a good thing. Since becoming a parent, I have learned that both are equally pointless and problematic. 

Since we are in the "gain-an-hour-of-sleep" clock change today, you would think that would be good. Those of you with kids know that's not true though. The kids still wake up at the same time regardless of what the clock says. That means the grownups' extra hour of sleep is non-existent. It also means the evening craziness hour became 60 minutes longer because the kids will be over-tired and cranky and hour earlier than usual. 

My minimal suggestion: If there's ever a chance of making this "clocks back an hour" schedule work, move it to a Monday morning instead of Sunday morning. Adults would prefer to put off Monday morning work and extra hour and kids would stay in bed that extra hour....because we all know they have to be dragged out of bed on a school day. 

As for the "lose-an-hour-of-sleep" clock changes, just stop it. There's no reason to put anyone through that. We're not gaining anything, We don't care if the sun is up or not. It's not like businesses shut down on an overcast day because there isn't enough sun in the sky. You're also either a morning person or an evening person. I don't think it's going to matter what stage the sun is in the sky. 

My preferred suggestion: Just get rid of the whole clock changing process all together. It's going to take me a few days to readjust my internal body clock. It will be months before I find all the clocks in the house that need to be changed to the new time. As a matter of fact, there is probably at least one clock in the house I won't have to change because it never got changed last Spring. 

Let me know what you think. I doubt that I am alone on seeing Daylight Savings as a huge waste of time. Maybe somebody else sees a benefit?? Changing when you wake up just means the daylight hours shift back and forth in your day. Who cares? Not me. One of my favorite memes on the topic was a picture of a Native American and his supposed reaction to being told the reason behind Daylight Savings Time. He supposedly said, "Only the government would believe you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it on the bottom, and have a longer blanket." Fact or fiction - I don't care. It's a clear explanation of how ridiculous the whole thing is. Until next time....

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The here and now

My employer was featured on the local news this week and something my boss said on that segment got me thinking. He was talking about all the career opportunities we have in our company and how that sometimes makes it hard to focus on where you are right now. I know this to be true from my own personal experience with the company.

I've been with the company for a little over two years and during that time I have had multiple job titles and numerous different areas of responsibility. Each new role acted as a stepping stone to the next. While it's really exciting looking forward to the next step, it is very easy to lose focus on where I am today. The same can be said for much of life in general.

The Past
You can't really talk about the present and future without at least mentioning the past. History is a wonderful thing. Besides the fact that it's a treasure trove of memories, it's also a guide to where you're going. As the lovable tow truck Mater from the movie Cars said, "I don't have to know where I'm going. I just need to know where I've been."

We should appreciate and learn from the past. I always like to say I learn things best by doing it the hard way. In other words, I tend to remember things better when I make mistakes first. The important part is trying to learn from mistakes so you don't repeat them. (I'm not always as good at that last part.)

The Future
Learning from the past is great, but the natural progression is to then jump right into planning for the future. Don't get me's great to dream and plan for the future. You can mess up your life pretty quickly by wandering aimlessly through life without a plan or goals. Focusing too much on the future though can also ruin the present.

If you're always dreaming about what could or will be, you will lose appreciation for what is now. Life will pass you by while you continue to look further into the future. The best example I have experienced with this is watching my kids grow up. From the moment they're born, it's easy to get overly focused on the future. You anxiously await their first steps and first words and in the blink of an eye, you start to miss the days of them sleeping in your arms. (Not to mention they are constantly on the move after that and never stop talking.)

The Present
The here and now doesn't seem to get the respect it deserves. You can make your life downright miserable by only focusing on what was or could have been in the past and what might be in the future. Maintain focus on the present and enjoy what you have now. Before you know it, the present will be the past. It's already yesterday's future. Until next time....

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Little hands, big help

Today is my favorite day of the year. The day I get to rake up all the leaves in my yard and then not be able to walk for two days because I wrecked my back. Thanks to the help of my two little helpers, I am not feeling any back pain this time around. 

This is one of the advantages of being a parent that kind of sneaks up on you. It seems like only a few months ago that my girls being in the yard while I'm trying to do yard work meant my progress was slowed down. Now that they're a little older, they're actually able to help...and be productive. I think they ended up raking about a third of the yard by themselves. 

I am proud of them for their hard work and excited that their added efforts seemed to make the difference between me throwing out my back or not. I suppose it is also in part to the fact that half the leaves are still on the trees so I didn't have as much to do this go around. I was forced to do it today because it's apparently the last day the local refuse drop-off is open for the season. Since I hate bagging leaves, I made sure to do what I could today. 

I was particularly impressed with my five year old's efforts today. She is really getting the hang of raking and she only "accidentally fell" into the piles of leaves 35-40 times. My older daughter was pretty good at keeping them on track and making sure they were making nice piles. I'm hoping this eagerness to help dad out with the yard work carries over to shoveling when the snow starts flying. 

I'll have to find something to make shoveling snow fun for them. Their favorite part about raking leaves is packing them down in the back of my truck. In their eyes, it ranks right up there with one of those ball pits the kids love to swim around in. 

Tomorrow will be the day I really find out if my back survived the leaves of 2016. No matter what the outcome, I had fun working with my girls today and they seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. I'm looking forward to being able to do more outdoor activities like this with them in the future. It's nice that I don't have to feel like I'm ignoring my kids while doing the required yard work on the weekends. Until next time....

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Grizzly Adams Family

Being a dad is a lot like being a grizzly bear. The biggest similarity of course is how we like to eat and sleep. Although I thoroughly enjoy talking about eating and sleeping, it's not the primary focus I had for this post. I wanted to talk about how most dads are part loving, cuddly teddy bear and part ferocious beast. 

My morning started out with my youngest daughter having a minor tantrum because the the nose was falling off her Olaf hat. You wouldn't think that was a big deal, but apparently it's quite a catastrophe to a five year old. I managed to find her a different hat to wear, but only after promising I would fix her Olaf hat today so she could wear it tomorrow. 

Part of my teddy bear side involves making sure my girls are taken care of. Fortunately for my daughter, I mom taught me how to sew. I had her hat patched up in short order over my lunch break today ad she was all smiles and giggle when she got home and saw it repaired. I got a big old hug from her as I walked in the door. 

After work, my older daughter decided she wanted her hair braided. She wanted it braided before bed so that she  could let it down tomorrow for school and have extra wavy hair. Personally, I'm impressed that she correctly realized the affect it would have on her hair. I have mentioned this before, but in case you missed it, I am the go-to hair braider in our house. It started out because I can get ready in the morning in about three minutes and therefore have more time to help get the girls ready for their day. 

Initially, I just did it and hoped for the best. I had nothing to lose since nobody would criticize me for having less than mediocre hair braiding abilities. Now after braiding hair a few hundred times, I'm actually getting fairly good at it. 

Being a a big old teddy bear doesn't mean that the natural protective grizzly isn't still inside. That's the fun part of being a dad to two girls. I get to teach them how to be ferocious when needed as well. I know I won't always be around to protect my girls myself, so I take every opportunity I can to teach them to take care of themselves in that respect. 

Teaching my girls (wife included) to fight has been beneficial on a few fronts. My wife enjoys the exercise...or rather enjoys that it's one way to actually get me to exercise. (She probably doesn't appreciate that we don't spar too often though.) My older daughter got through a hitting phase by redirecting that energy to our own "sparring" sessions. We now use also boxing and wrestling as a way to burn off a little extra energy in the evenings when they're rowdy and/or tempers are running a little hot. 

I still haven't convinced my wife to start learning a few knife fighting techniques. I guess it's all a work in progress. I even have appropriately sized knives for each of us to use. According to my wife though, that's not enough of a reason to start teaching them to fight with knives. That's ok though, I'm always thinking of new reasons. 

Well, it's time for this grizzly to go start a 7-8 hour hibernation cycle. It would be nice to learn how to do one of those winter-long hibernations. Until I figure that out though, I'll have to settle for the shorter nightly sleep cycles. Until next time....

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fruitcake and Unicorns

I decided that since Halloween is already less than a week away, I should probably get started on my Christmas list. My wife says I'm really hard to shop for so I hope she reads this post. Personally, I don't think I'm all that hard to shop for, but I always try to be helpful. 

This may come as a shock to you considering my love for food, but I have never had a fruitcake. In fact, I don't recall ever seeing a fruitcake in person. For years I just assumed that fruitcakes were a mythical food talked about by parents as a veiled threat of what they'd have to eat if they misbehaved. After many years of never having seen or eaten a fruitcake, I am now curious. 

Because of this, I am asking for a fruitcake for Christmas. I'm not sure if it's something my wife would be willing to get for me so I am turning to my loyal readers for assistance....both of you. If I'm going to to get my hands on some fruitcake, I want to do it right. (Assuming that's possible when it comes to fruitcake.) 

I'm thinking the easiest plan would be if one of you just invited me over for a big holiday feast followed by fruitcake for dessert. In the off chance that none of you are willing to do that, I could use some less intrusive assistance. Since I've only heard the horror stories about fruitcake, I don't really know where to begin. 

Can you actually buy a fruitcake in the store or is it something Grandma needs to make? (Yes, I realize I can Google an answer to that, but where's the fun in that?) Is there a best flavor to go with...or one to avoid? Maybe they're all the same?? I have no idea. That's why I'm turning to you wonderful folks. 

Let me know any suggestions, recommendations and/or warnings you may have when it comes to fruitcake. If they are truly just a myth, then I am willing to accept a unicorn for Christmas instead. My girls would probably prefer having a unicorn around anyway. Then again, knowing my luck, unicorns probably eat only fruitcake and then I'd be back in the same boat trying to track down fruitcake. Until next time....

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The kid cycle

I'm not sure if it's coincidence or my super-human parenting skills, but I completely called this evening's meltdown for one of my kids. It's reminiscent of my days working outdoors in the tree industry. When you spend that much time outside, you can learn to feel the pressure changing as a storm approaches and you can almost smell the moisture in the air as it gets close. This ability is very similar to what a parent learns about their kids. 

It doesn't take much to identify the signs warning of an impending meltdown of one of your kids. Maybe it's the attitude changing or possibly the backtalk starting to emerge. Whatever the particular signs may be for your own children - you learn them pretty quickly. I must be so good at parenting now that I can identify these early warning signs subconsciously. The reason I say that is because my daughters were having an amazing morning. They were getting along with each other, having fun and following my direction. I then jokingly posted the following image on Instagram:

Even after I posted this late this afternoon, we continued to enjoy a wonderful evening. We took a family walk through Flandrau State Park here in town followed by a family dinner outing at the Green Mill restaurant. Things went splendidly until 30 seconds before bedtime. I guess technically it was right at bedtime because that's what set off one of my daughters. 

I won't get into all the details, but I can tell you it followed the typical kid cycle. She was happy. She got angry. They she was sorry. (As in "felt bad" - not the punishment fit the crime kind of sorry.) After a "certain amount of time," she was almost back to the happy phase and went to bed. I'm pretty sure she fell asleep about 30 seconds after her head hit the pillow. 

After 7+ years of being a parent, I think I am finally starting to understand this "kid cycle" as I call it. Because I'm a nerd, I made the fun image at the top of this post to help me remember it for next time. It's a learning cycle for both my kids and myself. Being able to identify the repeating cycle goes a long way in acting more rationally as you progress through the stages of the kid cycle. 

The particular daughter who had her meltdown tonight is very much like me. She bottles up her stresses and frustrations until they reach the max and then she snaps. I am unfortunately the same when it comes to reacting to her meltdowns (that have suddenly become more regular). We both go from happy to frustrated/angry in the blink of an eye. In a matter of minutes, she is saying and doing mean things and I am jumping right to taking away tv privileges, toys, books, you name it. We just fuel each others' fires. 

This is probably more my fault than hers since I am the adult. I may like to act like a kid half the time, but when my kids need a parent to be a parent - it's not the time for me to fail them. Let's just say it's a work in progress for all of us. Now that our kids are getting older (and smarter), it's going to take more effort as we work through the kid cycle. I'm really banking on my pretty picture to do the trick. If not that, at least I have my wife here to keep me on track. The kid cycle picture might actually be beneficial for my girls as well. They are both very visual and being able to track where they are on a chart could come in handy. On that note, I am off to bed. Until next time....

Friday, October 21, 2016

Bring in the clowns

If there's one thing we can all agree on during election season, it's the fact that it's fun to watch. Once you get beyond the whole "our country is going down the toilet" concern, you can really have a lot of fun watching the the whole election process. You've probably heard the term "media circus" before and I am fairly certain whoever came up with that term was just being polite and not wanting to call them the clowns that they really are. The problem is, they're not the only clowns involved. 

Looking big picture, I wouldn't blame the rest of the world for thinking our country as a whole is just a big American made car filled with a seemingly endless supply of clowns emerging. It's not just the election. The whole idea of what's right and wrong has been flipped upside down. People are standing up for criminal thugs, hunting our cops and praising unpatriotic pieces of garbage who kneel during the national anthem and stomp on our flag. Ok, those things are far from laughable and "clown" isn't an appropriate term for them. Since this is a family blog, I'll just call them fools. That's mostly because I have Mr. T. in my head saying "I pity the fool..." 

The politicians are the clowns in the limelight right now. It takes a lot of skill to keep up the clowning around on the campaign trail. Most (normal) people don't have the stamina to maintain a story after it has been blasted apart by fact and/or common sense. It also takes an extraordinary amount of "hamming it up" abilities to talk for such extended periods of time while avoiding an answer to a direct question. 

The talking heads on tv seem to be their biggest fans and worst enemies at the same time. I think it's fitting since the media has some world class clowns in their ranks. In fact, I think some of the best and brightest clowns out there work for the media. (For the record, "best and brightest" refers only to their clowning abilities and nothing to do with their intelligence.)  Unfortunately, these clowns have the best platform and the technological resources to put their own act in the spotlight. 

I'm doing my best to try and laugh at it all. We do have Halloween just around the corner so I will have the opportunity to see all the clowns in training. Then again, with the creepy clown sightings that are popping up all around the globe, there probably won't be too many clown costumes this year for Halloween. I bet there will be plenty of Trump and Clinton costumes though. 

Personally, I prefer a jester to a clown. Jester's are smarter, better looking and do a better job of making people laugh. That's probably why so many people have a phobia about clowns, but nobody seems to have an issue with a jester. Certainly not your average jester anyway. Until next time....

Me when I'm not blogging.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Life lessons from a parenting pro

There are more parenting blogs on the internet than you can shake a stick at. They are filled with an endless supply of tips, tricks and stories to help guide you through your own parenting journey. The problem I have found is that they all seem to miss one vitally important aspect of parenting. I am concerned that this is not going to get better as the new generation of parents roll off the line. 

I agree that dealing with discipline issues, caring for sick kids, time management and being a loving parent are important - and most blogs do a good job of covering those aspects. The concern I have is about the new generation of parents I will refer to as the Pokemon Go kids. 

Distractions like Pokemon Go have taken the focus off the greatest parenting guide known to man - Star Wars. What we are ending up with is a generation of parents running around with their noses stuck in their smart phones looking for Pokemon hiding in the neighbor's yard. Although I feel the process of natural selection will limit this due to people walking into traffic while looking for Pokemon, it's still an issue I feel compelled to address. 

Many of you probably aren't aware of this, but the full name for Star Wars is actually "Star Wars: The Ultimate Guide to Successful Parenting." (Note: This is just as true as the fact that I'm a "parenting pro.") Since I'm sure this is news to most of you, please allow me to further explain this.

Star Wars teaches a number of valuable life lessons. If you were to watch each installment 20-30 times like I have, you would see it as clearly as I do. 

I Am Your Father
It should go without saying, but your kids need to know you're their father. Luke struggled with this for quite some time during the original Star Wars movies. My kids are fully aware of the fact that I am their father, but I like to remind them every chance I get. The best way I have found to remind them is by speaking through a box fan and telling saying "Girls, I am your father" in my best Dark Vader voice. They usually respond with "Oh Dad - We know that." That is proof that it works.

Good & Evil
The greatest lesson Star Wars teaches is the constant battle between good and evil. Life is filled with both and they're not always easy to identify. The quick and easy path (like the Dark Side) is appealing, but doesn't usually generate the desired end result. After multiple episodes of Star Wars, your children will have a better understanding of the difference between good and evil and the result of choosing one over the other. When my kids are overtired and crabby at the end of a long day, we refer to them as having crossed over to the dark side. I should point out that my wife even uses this phrase. This is amazing considering she has never seen Star Wars. I will take that as a personal win that the Force is so strong in me that it has allowed my wife to have a basic understanding of the dark and light sides of Star Wars. That or I talk about Star Wars too much.

Don't Give Up
If ever there was a reason to give up, the Rebel Alliance had it in Star Wars. They were always grossly outnumbered and facing technology far beyond their own resources. The lesson learned here is that they ever give up and they almost always succeeded. You could say they may not have won every battle, but they won the war. A single proton torpedo against the Death Star is exactly the same thing as learning to ride a bike or do a cartwheel. Well, maybe not, but if you drone on and on about Star Wars while your kids are doing something they are scared about and/or feel is impossible, they will get so confused that they do it anyway...and succeed.

Be Good To Others
It really should be second nature to be good to others, but society has shown us that it is not easily understood by many. You never know when that stranger you interact with in public will suddenly not be a stranger. There are a few great examples of this in Star Wars. Luke and Leia meet to only later find out they are brother and sister. Luke finds out late in life that his nemesis Darth Vader is his father. Han Solo and Princess Leia start out pretty much hating each other and then later getting married. The lesson is that you should be good to everyone you meet. You never know when that stranger you meet will end up sitting next to you in class, be your new boss, your new neighbor or even your future spouse. 

To sum this all up in easy to understand terms, just remember: "Star Wars - Good. Pokemon - Bad." If you remember that, you will have no problem raising children that will grow up to be great leaders and contribute great things to society. Until next time....

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Reading Rewind

Yesterday was a dark day in the Zahrt household. Our cable connection was flaking out and didn't get repaired for nearly 24 hours. It would be one thing if it was a major outage and the crews were working non-stop to get it fixed, but it was just us. It was apparently some connection with the main line feeding our house because the repairman fixed it during the day today without needing access to our home.

We all learned a little bit last night. My wife learned the frustration of not being able to work her (greatly online) side business. My girls learned that the DVD player still puts movies on the tv just like the good old days. I realized that I hadn't read a book in over two months. 

I'm pretty sure that reading is almost as important as writing when one of your passions is to write. I spend so much time writing blogs in the evening that I feel like vegging before bed. I have gotten into an enjoyable, but maybe regrettable, habit of watching a bit of Netflix in bed before I fall asleep at night. 

On a semi-related side note, Netflix has even better compression than I thought. I learned a long time ago that I can reboot my router while streaming Netflix and not have the show so much as pause. I learned last night during the intermittent internet signal that watching Netflix was still possible....but a bit choppy at points.

Either way, I finally gave up on that and grabbed one of the books I had been meaning to read and got back into my habit of reading myself to sleep rather than watching Netflix. I didn't make it more than a few pages before I was fast asleep. Not because of the book though. I was reading a great Andy McNab book. I'm beginning to think there may actually be some truth to the idea that too much screen time before bed  will keep you awake. 

I think it's time I got back into my reading cycle. Lately my "pleasure reading" has been limited to the many blogs I enjoy following. I'm curious if my old reading habits will return. I tend to read various genres in cycles. 

Since I started back into it with Andy McNab, I will probably stick to the military, spy time theme for a while. That means there's a bit of Vince Flynn (only one book left of his I haven't read), Keith Thompson and Brad Thor in my near future.

That will probably transition into some Lee Child with a good ex-Army MP Jack Reacher novel or two. That in turn will feed my desire to read some crime dramas which will bring James Patterson, David Baldacci and John Sandford into the mix.

City crime will start to wear on me and I'll want a breath of fresh air. That means I will shift to CJ Box and Craig Allen Jonson (as in Longmire) to follow law enforcement in the wild. Once I get here in the cycle, I always want to shift to a good old cowboy book....or was it space cowboy?? Westerns and Space novels always intrigued me, but I have yet to take the time to research a find a few good authors in either genre. (Feel free to comment any suggestions.) 

All I know is that I am once again excited to get back into reading. Who knows what ideas it will give me on the writing front. Time will tell...assuming I can stay awake longer than a few pages at a time before bed when I'm worn out. Until next time....

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Friends - Junior Edition

I recently wrote a post about Friends where I explained that my daughter was a bit sad this school year because one of her closest friends moved to another state over the summer and her other closest friend was in a different classroom. I also mentioned that the terrific trio would be seeing each other again this past weekend. daughter was kind enough to write a few words about friends from her perspective. (Note: I have only listed the friends by their first initial because I am not sure how comfortable their parents are with posting info about their children to the world. Plus it gives the the post a real Men In Black vibe.) Without further ado, here's her story:


"Agent K"

"Agent M"

"Agent E"

<<<<<  average jester note  >>>>>

I have to say this is a great pleasure and honor to have my second grade daughter guest post on average jester. Her passion for reading and writing leads me to believe she will have a blog of her own one day and possibly a book or two. I am very proud of her for being able to do this for me and very thankful that she took time away from her own fun to write a post for me. 

A Fallsome Day

Words play a big part in our everyday life. It's very difficult to make it through an entire day without having to read, write and/or speak at some point. In fact, it takes up a large part of our day. Even though we use words so much, we still seem to struggle with them. I'm not going to get into grammar examples like "there, their and there" or even get into the debate about the evening meal being called supper or dinner. Instead, I am going to tackle a much more pressing issue that is currently on the rise right now: Fall vs. Autumn

My education in the area of the proper use of words started at a very young age. Less than 48 hours old to be more precise. As legend tells it, my dad and mom loaded me into the family vehicle to take me home from the hospital for the first time. My mom said, "Well Jesse,  you're about to have your first ride in a car." To which my dad replied, "It's an automobile." From that moment on, I have devoted my life to saying things with the most syllables possible. When complex words escape me, I just use a lot more simple words. 

The seasons are clearly changing here in southern Minnesota. The colors are bright and vibrant, the temperatures and leaves are starting to fall...basically, it's beautiful outside. Because words like pretty, colorful, beautiful and vibrant are overused, I have taken it upon myself to come up with better words. 

If I was a lazy man (which I'm not and there's proof in a recent POST if you don't believe me), I would have settled for what we have to work with today. I even thought about switching over to "Autumn" instead of "Fall" because it sounds more sophisticated. Just compare the "first day of Fall" to the "Autumnal Equinox." Or, even just hearing someone say "look at all the autumnal colors" makes you feel like your walking down the campus mall of some Ivy League school....but I won't settle for that. 

"Fall" has real meaning to me. As a kid, I could easily remember the name of the season because the leaves fall in Fall. Now that I'm older, I have different reasons for wanting to use the word Fall. Fall has a negative connotation and I think it's fitting - even if only to warn us of the impending doom of Winter. 

Think about it for a minute. From the fall of man in the earliest days or our existence here on Earth, fall has been bad. We fall learning to walk or ride a bike. We fall in love. (Technically that's only bad until the last time.) We fall out of trees and off of roofs. To me, Autumn is beautiful, but Fall is something to be feared. 

Not only does falling leaves mean we have to rake up a bunch of fallen leaves, it also means the real problem season of Winter is just around the corner. That wasn't such a bad thing when I lived in Texas, but living in Minnesota is an entirely different animal. 

Because of the importance of highlighting the dangers of Fall while still appreciating the visual beauty of it, I am going to propose we start using a few new words:

Fallsome: "It's such a fallsome day out." It's a single word that encompasses both the awesome beauty you see and the impending doom of colder weather. It is the root word for the following variations: 

Falltastic: You step out side and see a yard covered in leaves and say, "Well that's just falltastic." This word is best used in a heavily sarcastic tone. It's fantastic that the kids can run and jump in the leaves, but I know I wont be able to walk right for two days after raking them up. 

Fallscinating: A useful variation of the word fascinating. Once again, at face value the autumnal colors are beautiful, but you know they mean hard work is in your near future. 

Fallacy: Ok. I didn't make this one up, but it is very useful. This is the word you use to describe your thoughts about how "maybe the leaves will all blow into my neighbor's yard" when in fact you know theirs will blow into your yard. 

I hope you find these new words useful. I expect to see a liberal use of them during the next few months. Oh - who am I kidding? I won't hear anything. I'm going to be locked up in my basement bunker until Spring arrives. Until next time....

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Lieb it to me to mess this up

For those of you who may never have heard about it, there is this wonderful thing out there in the blogosphere called the Liebster Award. It's an award bloggers are nominated for by their fellow bloggers. Basically it's a way to recognize other bloggers for their hard work and spotlight their work for others to see.

Well, thanks to a wonderful gal by the name of Susan, I have been nominated for this award. Susan writes (among other things) a blog called Woman on the Ledge. I am very grateful to her for nominating me and I hope she understands when I bend the rules on this and put a little twist on it of my own. There are technically "Official Rules of the Liebster Award (2016 Edition)" that I am supposed to follow, but I tend to think (and act) outside the box.

Rule #1 - Thank the person who nominated you.
I totally nailed this one above by thanking Susan. I should probably do more to thank her since it's the first blogging award I have ever been nominated for, but I think she'll forgive me....because she's awesome!

Rule #2 - Display the Liebster Award logo in your blog post. 
Once again, I'm right on track. Even I can handle copying and pasting a logo...

Rule #3 - Write 150-300 words about your favorite blog (that's not your own). 
I'm going to go a little off track here in that I want to include more than one blog. Since Susan was kind enough to nominate me, I will write a little (fictional) story about how we met. Here goes:

As I was enjoying the view from the balcony on my high rise apartment building, I noticed a WOMAN ON THE LEDGE who seemed quite distraught. I began talking to her only to realize she was upset with the state of blogging today. With all THE WHACKO BLOGS out there, it's apparently hard to get noticed. Being a blogger myself, I understood her pain and did what I could to help her out.

It's not everyday you can have LIFE EXPLAINED in simple, down to earth terms, but I thought I'd give it a try. My wife, SARAH, SIMPLIFIED this for me a while back amidst the CHAOTIC KIDS & CLUTTER that make up our everyday life. She said we can't all walk around in fields of LAVENDER INSPIRATION hoping that THE GRATITUDE LETTERS will start rolling in from your hard work. Life doesn't work that way.

If you just BELIEVE - CHANGE - BECOME, you will be amazed what becomes of your work. Sure, there may be rough times, but when that happens you just need be a GOOD LITTLE INDIAN and suck it up. It's not like you're trying to fit THE SQUARE PEG into a round hole and you don't have to be Secret AGENT 54 to figure that out. It's not as hard as trying to say "SENCZYSZAK" three times real fast and it's certainly no SUSAN JOY CLARK mystery.

Right about then, ADELE ARCHER BOOKS it across the patio and tells me to shut up. Apparently, Susan had heard enough of my rambling nonsense and was about to jump just to escape my story telling. I figured she was in good hands now and I could go grab a pint with THOG. The rest is history...

Rule #4 - (Where'd it go??)
I have yet to see a rule #4. I looked at a few different past nominations and the listings of Liebster Award rules seems to be missing number four. I'm clearly not too concerned about following the rules, but that makes me want to do more research to find out what's so secretive about rule number four.

Rule #5 - Nominate 5-11 others, BUT they have to have less than 200 followers to qualify. 
I'm really breaking the rules here. On one hand, I listed a whole bunch of blogs above that deserve a Liebster Award. On the other hand, I don't know that any of them have fewer than 200 followers already. Considering how many blogs and books are being produced by the writers above, I don't know if any of them have the time to write a Liebster Award post....or another one in many cases.

I am also horrible about locating new bloggers to follow as I myself am relatively new/green to the whole blogging world. I am trying to learn from the Pros above right now and hoping to focus more on identifying other new blogs to follow as time goes on. However you want to look at it, I consider all of the above bloggers as nominated by me for the Liebster Award yet I don't pressure any of them to act on acknowledging the nomination.

Rule #6 - List the rules in the post
I technically did this via the link at the beginning of this post as well as the bold headings to each section. All in all, I think I did a fairly decent job of following the rules while still throwing my own twist to it. My two little girls would be proud of me for almost following the directions.

Rule #7 - Let everyone know they've been nominated
Well, I will do my best to tag everyone above in my post, but if I forgot anyone - my apologies.

All joking aside - I am truly grateful to have been nominated for the Liebster Award. I have learned a lot about blogging and made numerous friends in the blogging world thanks to the camaraderie and shared promotion between bloggers. Many thanks again to Susan for nominating me and thanks to everyone who's been kind enough to read my rambling nonsense over the past 2+ years. Until next time....