Wednesday, February 20, 2013

OfficeMax to Buy Office Depot or is it the other way around?

The news of a potential OfficeMac and Office Depot merger was well-timed with my theme of looking back at old blog posts. On June 10, 2008 I wrote this: So a woman walks into an Office Depot, or is it Office Max? Who can tell the difference?

You can read the rest of the Office Supply Superstore Smackdown post as you puzzle over why I wrote it in third person. My point is, OfficeMax and Office Depot might as well merge, in my mind they're the same store anyway. However, as noted in my post, the office supply store that stood out to me was Staples. Unfortunately, the Staples closest to my home closed a few years ago. I was sad to see it go. Truly. I think the old space is still vacant.

The exciting thing about the Superstore Smackdown post was that it got picked up by Google Finance and was linked on the Google Finance page for OfficeMax (or was it Office Depot?). I realized that even as a SAHM blogging in her pajamas from a dark corner in her basement, blogging could give me a larger voice in the world. Heady stuff.  

And just over 18 months after that post I found myself speaking at a national press conference on Capitol Hill alongside Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Blogging is powerful stuff. No wonder I can't quit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I'm a YouTube Rock Star and Have a Paycheck to Prove It

Okay, I'm not really a YouTube rock star, but as I peruse other channels in the mom blog world, I wonder if the 4,000 or so monthly views on my channel makes me kind of a big deal. At any rate, I recently posted my 100th 101st video and marked that milestone with a blast to my YouTube past.

Those were some fun times! But I'm certainly no Danielle Smith. Still, in late 2011 she convinced me to monetize my channel, so I decided to give it a try. I figured I'd run ads at least until I earned $100, the minimum balance to receive check from the YouTube gods. It took about 14 months to hit that mark.

My first month went well. I don't remember the exact amount earned--maybe $15? It was enough money that I imagined I'd be able to cash out in 6-10 months. But on my ad-year anniversary I was still short of my goal.

Late last year Google cut me a check for just over 100 smackaroos. Is YouTube advertising worth it? Is the money I make worth the potential annoyance it may cause my viewers?

At this point, I think so many people (even businesses) run ads that it's almost expected. Also, it's it's pretty easy to click the ads off. So, I'm not going to quit my day job, but as long as I'm creating fresh video content, I will keep running ads.

YouTube is the second largest online search engine, so I dare say that most folks who watch my videos are not subscribers or even regular viewers, they're just curious peeps searching YouTube for a new product, how to do something, or a cool Minecraft video.

In general, product videos receive the most views and provide the biggest bang for the Adsense advertising buck. Some of my how-to videos are popular, but don't seem to be backed by ad dollars. And the more personal video updates tend to be watched by my friends and subscribers, but they rarely receive more than hundreds of views (if that), and they don't bring in a significant amount of money.

Money aside, all that those videos helped prepare me for moments on live TV, and I did four TV segments last year! I've been approached by some of the mom vlogger networks, but I'm not convinced I have much to gain through them and I'm not willing to sign a contract that runs longer than 6-8 months because that's a long time in the social media world.

I know money is a much-discussed topic among social media moms, but those conversations often take place behind closed doors or in secret Facebook groups. I'm not making so very much on my videos that I feel a need to closely guard my secrets nor am I making so very little that it's embarrassing (is it?) and I report the income to the IRS, so what the heck? I figured I'd share. If you willing to share YouTube tips or talk publicly about your experience monetizing social media outlets, leave a comment below.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Susan Niebur: A look back with sadness

Today marks the anniversary of the passing on my friend, Susan Niebur. She was super smart, had a brilliant career, and was a friend to many in addition to being the loving wife and mother of two little boys. I shared a bit about her professional side over at The Maker Mom.

Knowing I'd written about Susan and offered my virtual support to her in the past, I checked my archives and decided to share this post, written in the winter of 2011.


Susan is fighting, but also praying. For a miracle.

At the dawn of 2010 I wrote about miracles and I'm reposting those thoughts, though they were not my own to begin with. Nearly a decade before these ideas went up on my blog, they came out of the mouth of a fascinating, inspiring and sometimes rather goofy man named Craig Dobkin.

An experienced mountain climber, Craig fell off the side of a mountain after a moment of inattention during which he forget to check his ropes before descending. In a workshop with him a year or two after his accident, he shared his story, describing everything from the moment he hit the ground to his time in rehab as a series of miracles.

The world according to Craig Dobkin (circa 1997?).

We can create personal and professional miracles by:

* noting that all behavior is purposeful
* recognizing that miracles are possible and noticing them when they occur
* taking risks
* keeping love present
* understanding that every person in our lives is a potential teacher

One never has enough information to be pessimistic.

I'm sorry that Susan and her family did not get the miracle we hoped for. "It's not fair!" we shout, stomping out feet. Susan was always on top of things. She tackled the issue of fairness in this achingly beautiful, honest, poignant post. My heart goes out to Susan's family.

Honor Susan's memory by noticing a miracle today or donating to further research on Invasive Breast Cancer

Please join bloggers throughout the web in honoring Susan Niebur's life and contributions with a post, and please add your link below.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Surf Sweets for Valentine's Treats and Beyond

Surf Sweets vegan, gluten free no artificial dyes and made with organic fruit juice and sweetners
Back in 2010 I spoke as a "mom trend expert" at the Sweets and Snacks Show. My homework for the event involved sifting through nearly ten pounds of confections as well as scouring through data I gathered from a survey of my network to find the next Big Thing in candy. I told the audience that that moms want sweets that avoid high fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes, candies like the gummies from Surf Sweets.

I recently reconnected with the folks from Surf Sweets and they sent me Sour Worms, Fruity Bears, Jelly Beans and more to sample.

In addition to their sweet satisfying chew, Surf Sweets also satisfy this picky mom because they are:

  • made with organic fruit juice (some products are certified organic)
  • made with natural colors and flavors
  • gluten and casein free
  • vegan and vegetarian
  • produced in a nut-free facility

As someone who favors red gummies, I especially like the Fruity Hearts pictured above. The watermelon and cherry hit a sweet spot with me. And they're a perfect low-fat alternative to Valentine's Day chocolates.

Surf Sweets are available at Whole Foods and other fine retailers, as well as from several online retailers. I took a recent visit to the Chicago Children's Museum and would have liked to see Surf Sweets on display there instead of the artificially-colored "neon gummies" they were selling.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Walking in the Woods on a Snowy Day

I woke up Saturday morning to a snow-covered world. I headed outside to shovel around 7:30, delighting in the quiet calm of the early morning as well as the light snow. Keenly aware of changing weather patterns and the havoc they're wreaking upon us, it was nice to experience winter as it should be. I was the first person in my neighborhood to have a clean sidewalk and driveway, a rare accomplishment at Chez Moldofsky.

After cleaning off my car and moving it out of our single lane driveway so hubs could drive his vehicle to a morning meeting, I decided to head over to a nearby patch of woods. Filled with a childish desire to be the first to leave my prints in the freshly fallen snow, I parked the car and I hurried over to the nearest path.

Only to find this: 

What? It was barely past 8 in the morning and already the cross-country skiers, deer, nature lovers and dog walkers had mucked up the path and my delicious fantasy. The deer are the only ones that get a pass. If the early bird gets the worm, then... I'll have to work on the analogy.

In the meantime, here's a look back from just over 7 years ago. The following post was published on this blog on January 27, 2006, when my now big boys were in kindergarten and second grade. (Sniff.)

Last weekend, the boys, their friend and I went on a trek through the snow-frosted woods. It was delightful, refreshing and exhausting all at once.

I should explain that by woods, I mean a .25 X 1 mile stretch of forest preserve set in the heart of Chicago's first wave of north suburban sprawl. About 80 years ago my grandma and her sister used to take a trolley from the city to this then-rural area for hiking and picnics. Despite the fact that these woods are now in the midst of suburbia, one can wander alongside the Chicago River feeling far from the strip malls that are actually just a healthy walk away. One can imagine roaming these woods even before my grandma's time. I told the boys that Native Americans used to camp along this river.

"Perhaps," the friend said, "we should imagine ourselves to be Native Americans making our way to the next village." But somehow his idea quickly turned to building a shelter out of every available branch they could manage to uncover from the snow and drag to the designated spot. I took great joy in watching these boys, boys who so willingly plug in to their electronic games and tune out the world, excitedly collaborate on their construction project.

Splinter asked if they wanted wallpaper in the shelter, but the older boys ignored him. "How would you do that?" I asked. He showed how to scrape the outer layers of bark from the branches to create a more interesting look for the walls.

But it wasn't just the building project that captured them. They explored little hills, puddles of gooey muck, footprints and animal tracks, branches and rocks of every size. They packed handfuls of snow into great clumps and threw them into the river to hear loud ker-plunks. They tossed small handfuls of snow that instead ker-plinkedwhen they hit the water.

I'm sure my boys would tell you that the "outdoor voice" is a myth because they noticed long ago that even when they're outside they're often asked to turn down the volume. This outdoor adventure was no exception. At one point, I convinced them to quiet down enough to listen to the sounds of snow and ice bits falling from the trees, but just as important, I was hoping to give the other handful of hikers some sense of tranquility.

Once home, I realized that the walk was almost as draining as it was rejuvenating. My job as sole chaperon included keeping the boys from straying too far from the trail or getting too close to the riverbank and preventing them from climbing on slippery logs as well as quelling their inexplicable urges to crawl through mucky puddles.

I was also on constant lookout for off-leash dogs. People don't take small dogs for walks in the woods. Most people leashed their dogs as they saw us approach, but as an enthusiastic Golden Retriever headed our way I remembered that a friend's son nearly lost his life due to an attack by this breed...or was it an Irish Setter? No, definitely Retriever. Thankfully the dog retreated on his own.

And what about that man standing alone over in the trees? Nature lover or pervert? If we took the path less travelled would some sicko jump us?

My karate sensei would be proud of my keen awareness of my surroundings, but I was exhausted. We ended the adventure back in the clearing by the parking lot where the boys set about making the world's largest snowball- "2/3rds the size of a house!" they promised. But I ruined their plans by insisting we leave.

DH was a star. Not only did he have hot cocoa waiting for us when we got home, but, even better, he let me nap while he took charge of the weary boys. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Say GoodBye to GoDaddy and Their Superbowl Ads

GoDaddy recently called me regarding domain renewals. You see, one of my reserved urls was about to expire and a few others were approaching expiration. Like many bloggers, I typically keep a stable of 1-2 dozen urls on hold for current and future projects. I let the domain in question lapse. I almost renewed one for 3 years, but then asked the caller if I'd lose the money if I transferred the domain to another host. Of course I would, so I stuck with a one-year renewal and made a mental note to move it over to BlueHost, where I feed my domain habit and host my blogs, The Maker Mom and Reluctant Renovator.

Customer service dude asked why I'd transfer away from GoDaddy and I told him it's because each year when GoDaddy releases their new Super Bowl ads with much fanfare, I'm reminded that their company doesn't take women seriously. Year after year their commercials make it clear that I'm not their target demographic and I wonder why I give them my business. After all, they clearly don't want it.

Two or three years ago, I started buying and hosting new domains elsewhere. (BlueHost, if you must know.) All my newer domains are with them, I just haven't bothered moving my older ones, though I've let many lapse.

The GoDaddy guy was speechless. He tried to apologize, but hemmed and hawed and let out a nervous laugh or two. Dude had a conscience and could not deny the sexist, obnoxious commercials. But of course he's powerless to do anything other than forward my note up the chain of command, which he said he would do.

He truly sounded embarrassed on behalf of his employer, but honestly, I've had the same conversation pretty much everytime I've talked with someone from GoDaddy. On the flipside, everyt time I'm in touch with BlueHost, I tell them I'm willing to pay the higher fees because I refuse to engage GoDaddy for new business. Sure GoDaddy is cheap, but they also make me feel cheap and not in that frugal way.

When I posted a brief summary of my GoDaddy convo on Facebook, it turned out to be one of the most commented upon updates I've ever put out there, so I thought it was worth posting on my blog, too.

If you consider yourself a businesswoman, I urge you to leave GoDaddy.

Friday, February 01, 2013

My Manifesto

illustration by Vivian Edelson
Tuesday morning, I stepped on the scale feeling good a couple of weeks into my new year's fitness routine. The scale lit up with a number higher than I'd seen since early 2012. I'm embarrassed to admit this sent me into a psychological tailspin, but it did. Emphasis on "psycho" because rather than vow to eat more thoughtfully or double down on my effort to burn calories, my reaction was to feel sullen, worthless and eat anything in site.

Wednesday, everything that could go wrong, did. And by Thursday night, I was convinced that I'd accomplished almost nothing worthwhile in my life and had myself an all-out pity party, table for one. Though a small, rational part of my brain was cautioning me not to take myself too seriously because, you know, just maybe my thoughts were hormonally induced. This morning, Friday, I got my period. Damn you, PMS.

In December 2012 I quietly celebrated 7 years of blogging. If I had finished the post that's sitting in draft mode, I suppose I would not have been so quiet. (And well, there is this.) My friend Donna at SoCal Mom is celebrating nine years of blogging and is reposting some of her old faves; I thought I'd follow in her footsteps.

It seems appropriate to begin this look-back with my Mamafesto. Not to be confused with the fabulous Manifesto series Kelly Wickham has going over at MochaMomma, this is much more light-hearted, taking a cue from Dr. Seuss. However, it applies as much to my life as Kelly's Manifesto does to hers.

It's also how this blog got its name. Though if I knew then, what I know now, I never would have picked such a silly name for my blog. There have been many times in recent years that I've been in dry, corporate settings surrounded mostly by men and asked to share my blog name.

Anyway, here goes:

Credit or apologies to the late Dr. Seuss for his book My Many Colored Days.
My Hormone-Colored Daze of PMS
by Kim Moldofsky

How sunny I am when days are yellow.
Just so content and feeling mellow.
I can move mountains if I choose!
Or maybe just sip a latte and buy some shoes.

Purple days are carefree and bright
Full of energy through day and night.
My day is productive; I get things done,
At night I relax and have some fun.

On orange days I’m giving off good vibrations
My body’s primed for ovulation!
I’m feeling sexy; I’m in the groove;
I shake my booty when I move.

On gray days clouds begin to form,
My perceptions change from the norm.
I’m in a hormone-created haze,
That enshrouds my brain for the next few days.

And then some days are blue and sad.
I fret. I pout. I get really mad.
It’s not enough to merely frown,
I fuss until tears trickle down.

Brown days are chocolaty- smooth and rich.
If I don’t get some I become a real bitch.
Candy and cookies I must devour
To keep my mood from turning sour.

Some days are blotchy like my skin.
I feel bloated, though I used to feel thin.
I get grumpier by the second;
It’s the price I pay for being fecund.*

The red days come with cramps and pain.
Reminds me I’m a woman again.
I’ve got my period; I’m on the rag,
I tend to whine, complain and nag.

It’s over. Finally, I’m me!
And then…
The whole darn cycle starts again….

*fecund= capable of producing offspring