Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Welcome to my Publishing Empire

First off, if you're a fan of my witty banter, please add Reluctant Renovator to your feed reader. These days I'm writing more often over there than I am here. Don't want to commit to the full feed? Subscribe to Progess Notes, the RR monthly e-newsletter where I share some of the month's best posts and current giveaways.

We're cleaning out the reno house because we are hours days away from demolition. Well, in theory. We're waiting for final permit approval and the village clerk I spoke with assured me that even when the signed papers hit her desk, they may have to sit there for a day or two as she attends to other aspects of her job.

Uh huh.

So this is the latest glimpse of MomImpact's world HQ, artfully arranged.

That's my Motorola Xoom on the lower left side. You might recall that I'm part of the #MidwestMoms program from Verizon Wireless. They gave me the Xoom along with six months of a Verizon data plan.

I can create a wifi hotspot with the Xoom and it's been a lifesaver because our house is not yet wired for Internet. With just a couple of touches to the screen I've got my wifi, which means no more time wasted twiddling my thumbs and I wait for workmen. Now, I can waste my time on Twitter.

Seriously though, it's been fabulous to set up shop at the house and be able to write, blog, Tweet and email from my Xoom or the laptop of my choice. (Typically, the Lenovo up top the ladder. I mostly use my old Dell for making movies. Speaking of which, don't miss this one.)

Also, my husband has this idea that we won't have wifi in the house. Something about me not bringing my computer to bed or whatnot. {rolls eyes} With the Xoom's 3G service, I don't need in-home wireless! He'll be happy about that some day when he's sick in bed and wants to watch a movie. Or kitten videos.

But alas, such a day is far off. We've got walls and cabinets coming down and new ones going up. Soon. I'm going to call that village clerk now.

Monday, September 26, 2011

ConAgra Dishes with Bloggers

Many of you know I have been working with ConAgra Foods as their Social Media Mom for years. In that time they've taken on quite a few blogger projects and even stepped up to sponsor conferences like Blissdom. Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of their latest effort, The Dish.

I want to call it their newest effort, but honestly, it's been in the works for a very long time. It's been fun to see this online resource center for bloggers evolve and finally go live, but I also know it's just the beginning.

Hop on over to meet the ConAgra PR team, get the latest grocery news from Phil Lempert, find a recipe for your family or your blog and more. I'm there, too! {blushes}

You can also sign up for First Look, First Taste to be at the front of the line to receive new product samples from brands like like Orville Redenbacher, Healthy Choice, Pam cooking spray, Egg Beaters, Hebrew National, Hunts and other family favorites. First Look, First Taste members can also ask the team questions and get exclusive offers.

Check it out!
Disclosure: The PR/social media team was quite progressive when they brought me on years ago as a professional consultant and The Dish is just another example of their innovation as well their desire to connect and share with bloggers. I am compensated for my consulting time and my involvement with The Dish.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Social Media Power Moms of Color

The other day I mentioned that I had tired of the same old conversations among brands and bloggers. It seems like they haven't changed much and I'm weary of being stuck in an echo chamber just adding to the noise. So I feel compelled to warn you that what follows is nothing new. In fact, in May 2009, I had a feature article in the MediaPost Engage: Moms column about the need for ethnic diversity in blogger outreach.

I was pretty disappointed after seeing the latest Power Moms List.

No wait, I was excited because I have so many friends on that list and it was-more than a rehash of the familiar faces that seem to be on the Big Lists. After a quick review of the honored bloggers, I headed over to the MomImpact Facebook page to share the list, and then it hit me.

Where was Jennifer James, founder of the nearly 15,000 member Mom Bloggers Club and so much more?

What about Stacey Ferguson, co-founder of a fabulous blog conference for women of color, FTC attorney and, of course, long-time blogger?

So I said this, "Great women, but lacking in diversity, which is a shame."

And I shared a few thoughts via Twitter, where I learned that a "Social Media Power Moms of Color" list was coming soon. But that didn't satisfy me or others, apparently. It was seen as too little, too late. I'm not sure if the new list ever came out. Regardless, I made my own version.

Marketers, PR pros and editors looking for high powered social media moms of color, look no further.

In no particular order, here are ladies who bring the awesome online:

Jennifer James
Stacey Ferguson

Kimberly Coleman
Carrie Weir
Ana Flores
Thien Kim Lam
Sandie Anugulo Chen
Melanie Edwards
Melanie Sheridan
Christine Koh
Miss Lori
MJ Tam
Ilina Ewen
Carol Cain
Leticia Barr
Yoly Mason
Divina Rodriquez
Caryn Baily
Veronica Arreola
Onica (Nikki from Mommy Factor)
Renee Ross
Grace Duffy
Duong Sheahan
Migdalia River
Anissa Mayhew

(D'Oh! forgot these wonderful women on the first go around. See my note below and let me know who else to add!)

Kris Cain
Stefania Pomponi Butler
Kelly Wickham
Sheila Bernus Dowd
Liz Dwyer 
Jennifer Rabulan-Bertram
Christy Matte 
Christie Crowder

Disclosure: I hate making exclusive lists because I like to be inclusive. Also, I just know I forgot to include some brilliant women. No offense intended! Leave your name and blog in the comments.

Also, as much as I would have loved to give a brief description of what makes each of these moms so fabulous, I have consulting to do and walls to paint.

Should My Gifted Kid Take Out of Level Tests?

Yesterday morning I received this note: I was wondering if you could give me some of your thoughts on the EXPLORE test. My daughter brought home a brochure from NUMATS, offering the EXPLORE test. I was wondering if you saw any value in doing this test so early. She's only in 4th grade, and I understand that the test is for 8th graders for placement in high school. Would you do it at this age? What's the point? Will it only stress her out?
As I went to answer her, I recalled that I've already written about this issue. These tests aren't good or bad, it's a matter of why your child would take them and what you might do with the info. For example, when you realize that your third grader is academically in line with the average 8th grader and you've already maxed out your district's enrichment offerings? It's more of a bummer than a delight, IMO.

At this old Momformation post, I shared reasons why out-of-level testing, that is testing that compares them to older students, can be useful. It helped convince the school to put my older son in a more advanced math class. Scores may be needed for the child to enter certain enrichment programs.

Then again, whoever provides the test probably has some advanced pricey math classes that your child will qualify for once the results are in. (Sorry, I'm cynical like that.)

My older son typically tests well and does not get stressed out by these tests. Indeed, now that he's in 8th grade, some of his friends are really worried about EXPLORE, but it's old hat to him.

And when young students take the ACT or SAT, their scores don't "count" for college, so it's good practice for later in high school. This fall my son has received a few invitations to apply for scholarships at a handful of boarding schools as a result of last year's test scores.

To be clear, he hasn't actually received a scholarship offer, but I do have a friend who's son got one for a private high school in their city.

As the parent, if you have a reason for your child to take it-- mainly school placement or entrance to a program-- then I'd say sign him or her up.

Monday, September 19, 2011

For Anna See

Not surprisingly, the early weeks of this month were filled with conversations about 9/11/01. I read one survivor recap in which the writer, now is his 30s, said that he is certain that he survived the worst of day of his life.

"No," my mind automatically shouted back, "the worst day of your life is when your child dies."

This is, fortunately, not something I've experienced, but I imagine that even the horror of 9/11 would pale in comparison.

Recently, I caught wind that at least one momblogger was not so lucky. Marinka wrote an eloquent post about this and I echo her thoughts, as well as those of Alexandra whose reactions to the news were the same as mine, Unimaginable Realities, so I will let her tell it.

My heart goes out to Anna and her family.

Please go share your condolences with Anna See, whose beautiful son was close in age to my boys.

And if you write about this on your blog, leave a note in the virtual condolence card that Kate has started at The Big Piece of Cake.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bloggers and Brands - A must read post

While I still listen to, analyze and am involved in a lot of conversations about bloggers and brands, very little has made it onto my screen as of late. Do I share it here? On MomImpact? On the MomImpact Facebook page? On my Facebook page?

Do I write about it at all or should I stick to writing about my house, which is where most of my bloggy energy has gone lately.

I just don't know. I do know, however, that I'm tired of having the same conversation over and over. So much today's brand and blogger discussions are simply a rehash of the discussion that took place yesterday and the week before and so on back to about 2008.

But there are new gems here and there and maybe now that my boys are back in school and I'm settling in to a work routine I should get back to it? Yes? No? I just don't want to add to the noise. It feels like social media has gotten so noisy lately.

Enough with the navel-gazing, though. The must-read post isn't even mine. It's written by Amy Oztan of Selfish Mom and the Blogging Angels. Yes, the Amy Oztan of this scandalous video* and Working Mother Magazine's latest Power List of social media moms, FTW!

Go read her Blogger Pledge. Paste it up as the wallpaper on your monitor, print it out and post it where you need it. If you're making the transition from hobbyist to problogger, you need her advice.

*Did I make you click?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Venus Williams has Sjogren's Syndrome and I Have Advice

Hi Venus,

I was shocked to see Sjogren's Syndrome noted as a hot topic on my Alexa toolbar. I had to click. Nobody ever talks about Sjogren's Syndrome (SS) except for the people who have the autoimmune disease, mostly women, and rheumatologists. I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis.

Draft 1: It sucks now, but it gets better. I'm living proof!

Draft 2: Sorry to break the news, but no private medical insurer will touch you until 2014 when they have no choice (unless the Republicans send us back the old way where only healthy people get the care they need).

Draft 3: The Advice Route-

Make sure you have a good dentist and visit 3-4 times a year for preventative care. With SS your immune system attacks your salivary glands, which means less saliva and low quality saliva, which makes your teeth vulnerable and can lead to some pretty bad damage. Also, floss daily.

Find a good rheumatologist. Believe him when he tells  you that you will likely develop rheumatoid arthritis or lupus in the coming years and listen to his treatment plans. I'm thinking you can afford a second or third opinion, so get it.

Find a good opthamologist. SS attacks the body's moisture-producing glands, including your tear glands. This is bad for your eyes.

Lubricant eye drops like Refresh by Allergan* can offer a lot of relief. Carry them with you at all times. Try not to leave the little droppers like a bread crumb trail everywhere you go. This is bad for your relationships.

If you think some babymaking action is in your future, find a good maternal-fetal medicine practitioner (high-risk OB). Hopefully, like me, you will be one of their most boring cases and your babies will be just fine.

Change your mind. For someone like you, a true champion and top-notch athlete, a fighter, it's going to take some getting used to living with a chronic disease. This is not something you beat, it's something you live with, find a way to make peace with it.

This will take time and practice.

When RA was settling into my bones, it would take hours each morning before my hand could form a fist. I was training shotokan karate at the time and certain I could fight with my "warrior" outlook, so I'd force myself to make a fist ten times over on each hand, crying my way through the pain and the uselessness of my body. In the end, it didn't make a difference, it still took my hands hours each day to become useful.

The right medicine makes all the difference. Now my fingers once again fly over the keyboard.

As one of my doctors put it, finding the right meds in the right amount for the right person is as much art as science. Sidenote: some of your meds may make you seriously sensitive to the sun, you need your next cool tennis outfit to be more along the lines of a burqini as opposed to the current ones that show off your assets. Other side note: I'd totally buy one from your line, though maybe you'd send me one as kind of a 'thank you for the inspiration, Kim' kind of thing.)

But back to those meds- I sincerely believe Western medicine is your very good friend. Which is not to say you shouldn't explore diet or exercise and other alternative options, but don't dis the drugs.

Screw your lousy health insurance plans their direct mail pharmacy, getting your meds at Costco will save you money. I'm not sure how they manage to sell my meds at a lower cost than my health plans, but they almost always do.

You may feel like you're on a downward spiral and will never get back up. You may cry about the end of your life as you know it and as you cry, you'll notice that your nose is runny and snotty, but you aren't really producing tears and then you'll be even sadder. But you know what? It gets better. I'm living proof!

BTW, here's an uplifting piece about my autoimmune journey at the fab website, ChronicBabe. Welcome to the club.

Need more advice Venus, I'm just a tweet away.

*Disclosure: I only wish they were paying me. If Venus does not accept their offer to be a spokesperson (they can finally make eye drops sexy!), I'd like to be next in line for the job.