Monday, July 27, 2009

Am I That Dependent?

Could it be that being with one person for over a decade makes one dependent? Dependent on their approval, dependent on their judgment, dependent on their mere presence? Does missing my husband and wishing he was with me violate all the feminist propaganda that I was taught when I was young? Is strength trumped by the desire to have someone with you? Can I point to those seventeen years that I raised two sons on my own as proof I “don’t need anyone” because I can “do it all myself?” Does the yearning to spend time with my husband mean that that was all a sham and prove I’m really desperate and clingy?

I don’t want to say that I was having home sickness or that I was incapable of being alone but it had been so long ago and far away that I had been able to call all the shots without finding out how everyone else feels about things. That feeling I used to have when I was single and wished that I had someone to share an experience with was being revisited.

After leaving the EA Summer in the City Party I was walking the famous Michigan Avenue Bridge and yapping on my cell phone to my husband telling him how much I missed him and loved him and wished he were there. On one hand the freedom was a bit intoxicating but on the other hand I wanted to feel his hand in mind as I walked back to the hotel. Just a little over a year ago the two of us had stayed at the House of Blues. We’d had such a great time exploring Chicago. I had just finished reading Upton Sinclair’s book the Jungle before we’d gone and before that I’d read the Devil in the White City. Neither one of us imagined we’d ever come back to Chicago but there we were and now I might still be a stranger it’s no longer a strange land.

My next stop was supposed to be at the Queerosphere at the Crimson Lounge. They were going to be giving away a sweet cruise. That wasn’t the only reason I was going to go though. I wanted to say that I did something different. Remember going to this conference was about stepping out of my comfort zone. I was going to go places I've never been before. I can honestly say I'd never been to a gay bar. I was going to meet people from many different backgrounds and try to make new friends.

I whispered in the phone that I had to just drop my EA bag off and head on over to Hotel Sax. I never made it. I was too frightened to walk that far in the dark and the drizzle in a city I was not familiar with. Just two days earlier I had heard a news story about someone who was stabbed just a block or two from a downtown area with lots of trendy restaurants. If only I had someone to walk with I wouldn’t have been so nervous. I turned around after a couple of blocks and headed back to the Sheraton.

It's too bad I didn't get to go. If only it had been held at the hotel I definitely would have stopped by.

EA Summer In The City Party

I got back in the elevator and wondered if I should have stuck around. What if this had been the best party? Yet I knew Darryl was looking forward to me going to the EA Summer in the City Party.

The EA Summer in the City Party was the party that Darryl was most excited about. For me it was the Social Luxe Lounge Party. Darryl was hoping that they would give me some video games to try out and review. I had made sure he’d written what platform we use at home because I do NOT play video games.

This party was being held at the House of Blue and was sponsored by Electronic Arts. The last time Darryl and I had been to Chicago we had actually stayed at the House of Blues Hotel. When we were there we had talked about eating there but wound up never doing so.

I arrived at the venue about ten minutes early but already trying to devise a spiel to work on any representatives. I had decided to point out that video games are a thrifty purchase for a family because if you factor the cost over the number of hours your family spends playing the game it really is cost effective. You’re always marketing yourself in every situation I tell my students.

When we were allowed in I looked at all of the artwork they had displayed. I walked up to the bar and ordered a Bloody Mary. As I walked back to the dance floor I decided to check out the video games.

The first video game had me holding two controllers trying to hit a dummy. No not my ex-husband. It was one of those big punching bag things. It took me a couple of seconds to catch on to how to use the controllers but once I got it down it seemed easy enough.

One of the Wii Moms was explaining how she lost some weight playing these games. I could see that happening if someone was doing it every day. I wouldn’t mind owning one and doing aerobics with it. I could see how it would be a motivator. I could see how you could keep someone very engaged in the workout playing the game.

One of the waitstaff came over with a tray of coconut shrimp. Now I’ve tried frozen coconut shrimp before but never ordered it in a restaurant. More than likely because I was disappointed with the frozen coconut shrimp. I decided to try a couple of the nice plump shrimps and they were so very good. I could have sat down and eaten a plate full if I wasn’t trying to watch my weight.

I asked one of the other women who was there but not wearing an attendee badge if she was with the company. She was not but she wanted to show me another game. This one was called Spore Hero if I remember correctly. You can create your own creature hero with over 250 collectable parts and special abilities and fight to save your planet. You crash land on a strange alien world. But something evil has followed you and is threatening to destroy the creatures of the planet.

I could tell pretty quickly that it was not one that my family would have enjoyed. I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. This is not because there was something wrong with the game. It really was pretty cool. It just didn’t strike me as something they would like.

My husband's favorite game is Grand Theft Auto. My son's love that game too. Other than the music on the game I can't stand it and I don't understand their obsession with it. They also enjoy war game video games. The EA game party was about family games and the games my husband and sons are playing certainly do not fall in that category.

Another person came by and asked if I wanted to try some buffalo wings. I took a couple while I checked out the next game which was Need for Speed NITRO! This was another game that looked like it would be great for some people but my family doesn’t care for race games either. The graphics were AWSOME though.

I stood there for a few moments and talked with a woman who said she was there with sponsor but I didn’t know in what capacity. I gave my whole spiel and she agreed. If you factored the price over the amount of hours you spend enjoying the game the cost of the game was affordable. I gave her my card and then prepared to leave.

This was one of those events that Darryl would have enjoyed more. He could maybe talk about video games or consoles or those kinds of things but I don’t like video games. I think the peak for me was Pac-Man and that was it.

There was yet another party for me to go to and I was already buzzing. I normally don’t drink this much and the drinks all seem to be hitting me pretty hard. As I left the party they handed me a duffle bag and I was glad they did that. I needed one to help me get all my stuff home. It was beginning to be almost comical at this point.

If you looked up the words "frumpy teacher" my picture would be right there. While I was never the life of the party, even when I was young, I used to put on my boogie shoes and dance the night away back in the day. Now I've left Sugar Mountain and I'm asleep by ten at night so I can wake up by six to get ready to go to work. The whole idea that I had this busy social schedule of one party after the other seemed so out of place in my "real life".

I checked the bag for videos or discounts and found none. My husband will be so very disappointed but I had a good time. I hope more people got to check out the new games there. From there it's on to the next party.

Party Crasher

Do you remember that movie Wedding Crasher? These were two men who set out to crash weddings to pick up women. I remember a while back some guy was all over the news because he had the ability to crash almost any event. He had photos of himself at the Emmy’s, the Oscars, and even at an Inaugural Ball. It was all amazing and funny but I certainly never imagined myself to be a gate crasher.

Little did I realize that’s exactly what I had become. In the spirit of BlogHer it seemed that the possibilities and opportunities were endless. I had such a full social schedule and one event seemed to flow into the next event almost seamlessly.

So it was that at about 6 PM or so I thought I’d take a little walk out towards the pier to get some photos. As I walked our the door there were several other Bloggers and a woman stood ahead of us in the street saying “Hurry! The trolley is getting ready to go to the Witt".

I had no clue what she was saying but I heard something about getting on the trolley and I thought maybe I could use it to catch the couple of blocks over to the Navy Pier. While I was making up my mind, the woman holding the sign urged me to hurry. “Hurry or you will miss the trolley.” Well I didn’t want to miss the trolley. If it wasn’t going where I wanted it to go perhaps I could catch it back to the hotel. I assumed it was running a circular route throughout the night.

The seven or eight other ladies all seemed to know each other and they chose to sit in the back of the trolley and chat. I decided to sit near the trolley driver to ask about the next stop. What I didn’t realize was that there really was no next stop. This was THE stop. We had arrived and almost as soon as we got there we were greeted by another woman with a sign who told us that we needed a ticket and then we would be admitted to the party.

The Witt is located at 2913 North Lincoln Avenue which was not so far away from the hotel that I actually needed a trolley ride. Then again if you have a few drinks in you you would be glad to have this transportation so you didn't have to walk around Chicago drunk in the dark.

I wasn’t sure what party this was but I did know that I had one scheduled for the House of Blues at 7 PM. Perhaps, I thought, this is another party I had heard about and didn’t need an RSVP to attend. Maybe this was a party that I had RSVPed. After all it seemed as though I had RSVPed EVERY party just about.

There were several of those and no one seemed to be checking IDs. A group of people waited behind a velvet rope for their turn to enter the club, but we simply handed them the ticket we’d been given and were whisked away to this exclusive party overlooking the city.

This was one of those “I wish Darryl was here moments.” The elevator stopped at the appointed floor and a beautiful young woman offered me a cucumber Mojito. “No thank you,” I said. “I don’t like Mojitos.”

“You should try these,” she said. Being of the mind of not ordering any drink you know you won’t like because you would be wasting money, I told her no again. She almost looked disappointed. So I said, “Look how much are they?” I figured I could afford a drink in my swanky new surroundings and I might as well order one I liked. I was even wondering if a raspberry martini, a vodka and tonic, or a Bloody Mary would be appropriate for the setting in which I found myself.

The waitress assured me that it was open bar so I grabbed on of the Mojitos on the off chance I might actually like them.

I sauntered over to one of the couches to gaze down at the city of Chicago. It was yet another moment that I said, “Wow. This is how the other half lives.” This was the point where it was truly driven home to me that I really didn’t belong here. This was a private party and only meant for a few people. I was now officially a party crasher.

Sweepstakes and contests have provided me with opportunities to try things and go places that I never would have dared dreamed about. Now it appeared that blogging was doing the same thing. It was a Breakfast at Tiffany’s moment where I wished I was young, and fabulous, and everyone could just see me now. I lifted the glass to my lips and tried it. “I didn’t like it.”

Almost at that exact moment a waitress approached me with a spoon that contained some cream cheese and some salmon. “Would you like one?” she asked. “Uh sure,” I said trying to act as though I’m used to dining on food like this in places like this.

“Wow!” I thought. “Darryl would just love that. He’d ask me if I could make it at home and I would remind him how much salmon with such beautiful color as that cost. I could almost see him scowl. He feels when I say that I’m judging him and his ability to provide. I would get the standard lecture about being so materialistic when in fact I’m just appreciating the uniqueness of the moment.

I spied a bottle of champagne and reached for it. This was the perfect beverage for sitting atop this building with the Magnificent Mile at my feet. Before I could place my hand on the bottle a woman came running over to me and took the bottle from my hand. Perhaps they realized now that I didn’t belong. I hoped that they weren’t going to make a big issue of it. I hoped that they were just going to politely ask me to leave.

Instead the woman, another guest, said, “Here, let me pour that for you. It’s so much more special when someone else pours.” As my students would say, “True dat.”

Another waitress appeared and offered to take my dirty spoon and offer me a mini cheese burger that had been cut into quarters. I took one. Almost instantly I had the urge to chase her down and get three more. It was soooooo good.

The waitress that I originally encountered came by to ask me how I liked the Moito. I apologized to her because I just didn’t like it. “Tell me what you want. Tell me what you want and I will get it for you.” I decided on a raspberry martini and she told the bartender to make the best one he could so she could make it up to me that I didn’t like the Moito.

I took another sip of my champagne. I felt self conscious and out of place. The other women were younger than me and they all seemed to be clustered together. I wondered what time it was and how I was going to get back.

That’s when I chided myself for not having found out if there were any company representatives there. I had already figured out that this was a Suave party because there were Suave parties at various tables.

I spied the woman who’d poured my drink earlier. She was having her photo taken with that beautiful backdrop. I waited for the photograph to be over and then I wondered over to speak to her.

Most people who know me do not believe how difficult it is for me to talk to other people. I sometimes get myself so worked up that I almost feel like I will throw up. Having lived a life of being mocked and bullied throughout my school career and then surviving a violent marriage, I often believe that people have already written me off before the first words have been spoken. Sometimes it’s almost paralyzing and other times I wish I could walk around in a cloak of invisibility so that I did not have to interact with others.

Strange isn’t it that I would pick a career in education. I have to get up in front of an “audience” every day and keep their interest. I’m glad one of my teachers had pushed me to get into the drama club and the concert choir. I learned some coping mechanisms that help me but the fear still lingers. Over the years I have learned I’m not alone in this. There are many entertainers that still get bad attacks of stage fright too.

I smile and extend my hand to the woman as I introduce myself. I ask her if she knows if anyone is here from Suave. She assures me that there is and points to a lovely Asian woman with beautiful black hair. I tell myself I need to thank her for the party, tell her how wonderful it is, hand her my card as I make my pitch, and then ask for her card in return.

My stomach begins to knot and my heart to race. “What if she looks at my card and then realizes I wasn’t supposed to be here?” “Take chances.” I tell myself. “Take chances.” I’m always encouraging my kids, my husband, my students to take chances and now while my hands begin to sweat I remind myself that I should take chances too.

“Hi,” I say. “I’m Catherine C. and this is such a beautiful party.” She shakes my hand. In her left hand is a drink and I don’t know if I’m imagining that she’s looking right through me or at least over my shoulder in a disinterested way but that’s how I remember the interaction.

“You know,” I say. “I just LOVE Suave products. With Suave you don’t have to sacrifice quality for price.” Gosh do I really sound like a commercial? I reminded myself not to let the sentence hang in the wind. Let her know what I’m looking for. I’m looking for a company to sponsor giveaways on my site, to bring new readers to the bog I’m working so hard to create.

I pull out my card to hand it to her. “That’s why my readers love Suave. I have a thrifty living blog,, and your product is such a good fit because they know they can count on Suave to deliver salon quality products without breaking the bank.

Her hand barely misses mine as I try to hand her my card. “Well we really appreciate that and that’s why you were invited to come to this party.” She realizes then she didn’t get my card because she wasn’t paying attention. She takes it, eyeballs it for a second, and then thanks me for coming.

I have to be able to tell my students how I tried to do things that I was afraid of in order to build my “business”. I have to tell them how I approached people who might help me build my “business”. I stand there for a few moments reflecting what just occurred and realize that my audience with the rep was now over.

She has a life that I know nothing about. Perhaps she had a sick child at home but her boss required her to be there. Maybe she and her husband had an argument because she was required to attend this event. Maybe it was my imagination that she really wasn’t wanted to be anywhere else but here. Maybe the reason she was smiling and laughing with the two other women I saw her speaking with earlier is because she knows them. As always, I crawl back into myself and try to find a reason to gloss over a situation that didn’t go as I had hoped.

After all she wasn’t outright rude to me. I’m not certain how she might have acted any differently. It’s not like I expected her to grab my card and say, “Oh, you’re the Thrifty Maven. My friends and I go on your site EVERY DAY!!!! I’m so glad to meet you. Look we were looking for someone to run this great giveaway. It involves some Suave hair care products and a gift card. The Thrifty Maven would be PERFECT!!!”

I think what I was hoping for was for her to actually accept my card and perhaps glace at it. Everything else would have been icing on the cake.

The waitress comes around again with another round of tapas. I decline and polish off my martini. As I leave some asks me if I’m going. “Yes I have a couple of other parties to attend,” I reply. “My, aren’t you the party girl!” She says. “Why yes I am.” I say.

Imagine Me An Expert

Here is what I learned about what was covered in the session I missed this morning, Business of You: Bloggers are Pioneers in a Post "Employee World." Sounds like it was interesting. I believe I can use some of this in my class.

Communicating Your Best

* How do you show up to meet other people?
* Understand your value before you pitch to others.
* How do you communicate your value?
* Think of 5 pitches to communicate within your community.

Getting the Business

* Focus on speaking engagements where people might be interested in your services. This enables you to build your profile and make you think about what you're doing and the message you want to send. Look at potential clients. It's business development. Be sure to find the right people in the room.
* Start local and tap into local networks. This can launch your global outreach.
* Writing is a small part of the work...getting freelance work is the 40 hr a week job.
* Virtual assistants will help with pitches.
* Protect your intellectual property.

Money Talk

* Have your strategic plan in place. How much will you charge and who is your audience.
* Look at what others are paying for sites like yours.
* Never take the first number they give you.
* Give a range in your proposal..."I can do this for that price and that for this price".
* Instead propose a package deal and add cushion. Focus on profit margin not hourly rate.
* Ask them "what's your budget? What are you thinking in price range".
* Ask the client what they value.

Break Out Session Two - Getting Noticed

It is very easy to get lost when you are absolutely clueless and lack the map. This was the case for me when I went downstairs at 1:15 to try to Room of Your own: Your Blog is great, get people to know about it. Actually it wasn’t my first choice but I accidentally went to the wrong room trying to learn about the Business of You: Brands and Bloggers. What I found instead was a room that said Microsoft Spa. I signed up to have my make-up done the next day and I scheduled it for right after I had my hair done. I felt like a naughty school girl because it would appear that once again I would be skipping class.

By the time I made it to the Room of Your Own1: Your Blog is Great, Get People to Know About It I was one of about a dozen women standing in the hall straining to listen to the speakers. The acoustics of the room were not meant for the sound to carry into the hall making it difficult at best to hear what was being said.

The snatches of speech I heard were things that my husband had told me about. Things like the need to get someone to link to my site, checking google trends, and to comment on other people’s sites. I left in frustration after about fifteen minutes. Most of the women were either sitting on the floor almost blocking the door or leaning over the women who were on the floor. For a claustrophobic like me it was too much for me to bear.

I felt really bad about not being able to hear what was being said because the sntaches I did catch sounded like things that seemed to be working for these women and I wanted to know more about them. Thank goodness the basic notes for this session can be found here:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tips from these ladies:

1. Don't write cute titles, instead use the keywords you think people would search on Google to find your article. For example a piece about a hotel suite should not be called "How Suite It Is" but rather "Best Suite Under $100 in Chicago."

2. Repeat those same keywords from the title in your first paragraph and throughout the article.

3. Helpful Web site for seeing what keywords people are searching for: Google Trends.

4. One of the things that affects your Google page rank is the ratio between outgoing links and incoming links. So if you add a large blogroll, which is great for community building, you might consider either linking to those blogs with "no follow" links (WordPress has a plug-in that allows you to do this, or you can add it to your page html manually by typing rel="nofollow" inside the link code.) Another solution is to create a static page for your blogroll.

5. Since getting links from other blogs improves your importance on Google, use some "link bait." Strategy one is by linking to others generously in your posts. Strategy two is by writing things others are likely to link to, like controversial posts or top 10 lists. For example, Annie's top post ever on PhD in Parenting combines the two tactics: "Cry It Out: 10 Reasons It Is Not For Us."

Social Networking Tips

1. Whether you are using StumbleUpon, Digg, Facebook or Twitter, do NOT only promote your own stuff. Be friendly and engage in the community. Some people advise to never Stumble your own stuff. On Twitter, chat with people, respond to them, retweet their links and Tweet about their blogs, IN ADDITION TO tweeting about your own posts.

2. It's OK to tweet about every post you write, as long as you engage in the community in other ways. Some people never go directly to blogs or use their blog readers -- they ONLY follow links on Twitter so if you don't tweet your own posts these people will not read read your blog.

3. Do you HAVE to follow everyone who follows you on Twitter, or follow a number of people close to your number of followers? Not all the panelists feel you must. Annie says she stopped following all followers when she got to a number that was as much as she could handle reading (she has 2800 followers and follows about half as many). She only follows people who chat with her and engage her. But Jessica says she still follows every single person who follows her even though she has 22,000 followers.

I found another HP room where you could upload video and photos on the new HP computers. Funny enough we actually have three of these computers. That’s because I won them last Christmas from a blog giveaway. I tried asking the people running the room some questions about my HP computer but they really had no clue how to help me. You see my laptop had crashed earlier this year and every since then I haven’t been able to use my picture drive. I’m not sure why that is but when I asked if they could help me figure out why it wasn’t working they said I’d have to buy a backup disk of some sort. This of course would erase my ITunes and my Microsoft Office.

The clock says 3:00 so I decide to pack it up and call it a day. Tomorrow I will behave better and more responsibly. Tomorrow I will go to all the sessions I tell myself. Then in the very next thought I remind myself that I have a hair and make-up appointment. In a world where once again I am the sole breadwinner of the household I feel special and pampered. It’s not to say that my husband doesn’t do nice things for me but these are things that I’d dare not spend our money on because it wouldn’t be the responsible thing to do. For the past couple of days I have not had to act responsible. In away it almost seems like my last opportunity to run away from being not just a grown up but from being mature. Do you remember people telling you to act more mature? Did you want to appear mature? It’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.

The Ragu Lunch

My schedule said that this was the “Birds of a Feather” Lunch. It is to be held in the Sheraton Ballroom. You were supposed to find your blogging flock over lunch.

Already I’m in a bad place. I’ve not only missed that Speed Dating BlogHer style but now I’ve missed the morning’s breakout session. I had wanted to attend the Business of You seminar but I’d “spent too much time at the fair.” I knew no one and certainly I had no clue how to find my flock.

Perhaps it would have been easier if the name badges had been color coded. Then I could tell at a glance that someone was a food blogger or a mommy blogger. There were no tables that were marked GLT Bloggers or Political Bloggers. So I decided I would find a table, ask if they minded if I joined them and then try networking that way.

When I walked into the banquet room I noticed that a line with a HUGE bottle of Ragu at the end of a red carpet. The amazing thing about the Ragu bottle was that it was made entirely from vegetables sitting in pasta bowls. Speaking of vegetables the lovely centerpieces were also made of vegetables they use in their sauces. They used onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers

Each lady was allowed to walk down the red carpet; camera’s flashing and then takes a photo with the Ragu jar. Then it was over to the buffet table. I loved the fact that they chose to sponsor this meal because you got an idea about how tasty living within your budget can be. I really loved the upside down pizza and I can’t wait to make it for my husband.

I try to make myself take a seat at a table that’s already occupied as I walk to my table with salad and pasta in hand. The chairs were draped in spandex linen and the overall effect was striking. Habit took over as I proceeded to an empty table nearby. It’s an old trick. It keeps me from having to be the one to make the first awkward comment. Instead someone else will be the one who says, “Mind if I sit here and then I can invite them to sit and ask them about themselves.

I don’t’ have to wait too long. A woman approaches and asks if she can sit at my table and I smile a big smile. “Please sit. Hi. I’m Cathy and you are?” Self doubt is already beginning to rush forward. Did my greeting sound flat? Rehearsed? Maybe she just wants to eat and not be bothered.

She tells me her name and then we trade business cards. Almost as soon as we’ve spoken another woman joins us. She knows the other lady and I introduce myself to her. It turns out they are both food bloggers and dieticians. It appears I am not feathering my nest with people of my same genus.

I remind myself the lesson I learned when I was dating years ago. If you let the other people tell you about themselves and they will come away thinking you are great. So I ask questions and listen about their blogs. It’s great to talk to women around my age. It’s interesting to hear how their blogs came about. Then another woman joins us. Her name is Diana L. York. I remember that because I’m looking at her business card right now. She is the inventor of the slow cooker mate. You can make your whole meal in this one slow cooker.

Suddenly I forget my commitment to not speak out and I begin to bubble over about how exciting this was because I teach my students about having their own company. I complimented her about how much risk she took on to start her own business. I realized I sounded like a blithering idiot and so I shut my mouth when the next woman took her place at the table.

It turns out that she was with Amway. I tried not to let the name Amway color my impression of her. I just remember how it used to be when you had people calling you up and inviting you to their house but they wouldn’t tell you why they were inviting them. It was all so secretive and led you to believe you might be part of a pyramid scheme.

We talked about how Amway changed their name and tried to distance themselves from rogue reps. I did remember that the products were good and they were safe for the environment. Guess they were green before green was so cool.

We finished up lunch and I ran up to my room to try to get my blog ready for tomorrow. After all I still had some time before the afternoon's breakout sessions began.

Blog Her Day Three - What Am I doing?

The line for the registration desk was long. I realized too that I should have had my breakfast with the others but the siren song of cheesecake had been too strong to resist.

I love the blogher site and they seem to be supportive. I'm still trying to figure out how to get a review or a giveaway but then again, I suppose I should READ more about it. It just seems like everyone else my life is so overwhelming right now. I know if I said something to Darryl, he'd say "If it really meant that much to you then you'd....." He's right. I keep saying I will soon and I'm hoping that BlogHer will be the thing that motivates me to do that.

When I got to the head of the line I was handed my lanyard, badge, and another swag bag. While not as large as the first it did require me to take the bag upstairs so I wouldn’t be toting it around throughout the day.

I had planned to participate in the Speed Dating Blogher Style but once I’d signed in and dropped off my stuff at my room I realized I was already twenty minutes late. I didn’t think it would be good idea to come to an event like that one late.

The first Break-Out Session didn’t start until 10:30 so I thought that my time might be well spent getting a jump on the exhibits before it got too crowded. So down to the exhibits I went with business cards in hand.

Over the years I have gone to various trade shows. Usually I have won tickets to them from local radio station. I'd go to boat shows, camper shows, women's shows, home shows, and I go from booth to booth checking them out grabbing free pencils and pens to take to school. When Darryl had his own business I had to work in his booth at a trade show. We gave out literature and told people about our product So trade shows are not something foreign to me.

What was different was the general atmosphere. The first booth I walked up to was the Suave booth. “Would you like to schedule a session with one of our hair dressers?”

My first thought? Cost of course. Remember I’m uber cheap so cost immediately sprang to my mind and of course I asked. “Cost? It’s free. We want to talk to you about Suave Hair Care products.” I made an appointment for the next morning right after breakfast. They then handed me some sample deodorant and a matching body spray. Hey that’s just like Bath and Body Works. I was so deep in the fog that these Beverly Hills hair dressers were going to do my hair I almost forgot to hand them my card and tell them why Suave was a good fit for my readers.

With each booth I visited I was greeted with a smile and almost always with a sample and a smile. Did I want to test drive a car? Did I want to try our new snack? Would you like us to take your photo? I met the laundry fairies and the Michelin Man. I wandered around in an almost dream-like state. For a girl who grew up poor and lived on the margins for years this was almost like being a celebrity.

It appears I was sucked up in a time warp where time did not seem to exist so I almost didn’t realize that it was time for lunch. I dug out my agenda and read that I needed to find my blogging flock over lunch. I headed upstairs to dump off my swag and then on to the Ragu Lunch.

BlogHer Day Three - The Why

I awoke that first morning, nervous about all the day would bring. I walked a couple of blocks away with Starbucks gift card in hand to buy my favorite, a non-fat Green Tea Latte. I even bought the Vente size since I had $15 on my card. I decided to treat myself like a Queen and eat the piece of cheesecake I bought the day before from the Cheesecake Factory. All in all, a very unhealthy, fattening way to begin this great adventure. I did not scold myself as I might have once done for eating this way. Then again I did not lie to myself, assuring myself that it will be OK because I will “skip” some meal, or exercise the extra calories away. It is yet another advantage of being almost fifty. You no longer believe even your own lies and you have finally realized that nagging is never an effective way to change a behavior. I splurged because I could and I assured myself that it would be just fine if I did.

Today was the official start of BlogHer. The pre-Parties are but a memory and now it's time for the rubber to meet the road. It's time for me to reflect on the Why's of my trip to BlogHer.

Before going to BlogHer I felt it important to set goals. What was it I planned to learn from the whole event? What did I want to experience? What will I do to push me from my comfort zone? All good questions and they were questions I asked myself yet again as I sat in my bed eating.

I teach a class called Entrepreneurial Ventures. When I first began teaching, almost eight years ago, it was called Entrepreneurship. This class has sparked an argument between my husband and me. At times he feels I am a fraud to be teaching this class. He argues that anything I teach them is useless because I have no real experience in owning my own business. These heated conversations lapse into the stale argument that begins “Those who can do….” I argue that seven of my students have actually gone on to start their own business but I question myself about the lack of experience that I bring to the table.

I never really fancied myself as a business owner. I am someone who thrives on security because I’ve been so desperate for it so much of my life. So if one could label a blog a business then I became a business owner right around Christmas last year.

I didn’t start my blog with the idea of creating a business. To be truthful I began my blog because I needed one to enter blog giveaways. You see Online-Sweepstakes suddenly started being bombarded with these blog giveaways. At first I didn’t know what to make of them. Sometimes the prize being given away was one I wouldn’t have minded having. I wouldn’t have minded having one of those electronic grocery list makers. Other times the prizes seemed to be almost worthless. Win a binkie. Win a bib. Then again I’ve entered sweeps to win a T-shirt.

The question then became what would my blog be about? Popular topics include politics, food, mommy, niche, and frugal living. Each one of these bloggers feel that their topic is the height of art and some even look at the other bloggers with a sneer of contempt upon their lips. I always tell my students to do what you love I chose saving money with a twist because I also talked about sweeps and contests.

At the beginning I didn’t really care about how many people came to my site. This doesn’t mean that I totally blew the site off but it meant I was posting every day but not getting caught up in who came. I say that until I’d checked on my stats after two weeks and I was surprised that no one had come to my site. How could that be? No one cared? I told Darryl that I was thinking about stopping my blog.

Darryl was adamant about me not closing the blog up and only posting when there was a contest. I should take this seriously just like any business. Business? Did he say the word BUSINES? This wasn’t a business it was my blog. I think that’s when it first hit me that I should run this like a business which means that I should always try to give my readers (customers) the best product (posts) that I can.

Darryl fixed the mechanism for tracking visitors. I began to see a few people stopping by. We decided to run our own giveaway. Honestly I had no clue where the bloggers got the stuff that they gave away? Did they buy it and then give it away? How in the heck do you make money doing that? If you have to buy things to give them away what is the point? Still we looked around our house and decided to giveaway some Soy Joy bars that we had bought for FRE at CVS. We kind of promoted it like a New Year’s Resolution giveaway and we had almost a hundred people visit ThriftyMaven to try to win. I promoted the giveaway on Online-Sweepstakes and SweepSheet.

In the mean time the poop was hitting the fan on Online-Sweepstakes. Bloggers rated right down there with lawyers and tax collectors and slightly above Bernie Madoff. They hated the blog contests because bloggers asked people to make a post on their blog in order to win. Big deal I thought. For some it was a VERY BIG deal. Then they were asking people to tweet, blog, and Digg their posts. Too much work people were saying for such a small prize.

Darryl suggested we hold a giveaway ever two weeks so I decided it was time I actually research how to run a blog. I want to say that this is different than anything else I ever do because I ALWAYS research everything before I begin. This is just not true. Often I start something and then I begin researching in earnest. My local library’s only book about blogging was written by the people of the Huffington Post. There really wasn’t much that was applicable to what I wanted to do. So I searched the net for information.

I found out about IZEA. Basically, your blog must:

* Be at least 90 days old, with at least 20 pre-existing posts written in the last 90 days.
* Have chronological archives.
* Contain content that is original to you and the blog.
* Be a text/written content blog, meaning no message boards, websites, IM, photoblogs, vlogs, etc.
* Have only one author.
* Not include 'no follow' tags.
* Be a blog written in the English language. We do make note of any blogs submitted in other languages so we may share those as we encounter Advertisers seeking them.
* Not be a blog kept primarily for earning money.

So I had to keep working on my blog so I would meet their requirements. Even now though I was totally lost after that. I just could never seem to grasp how to get approved for anything because the site didn’t seem very user friendly.

Then I found out about BlogSpark. Very easy and they sponsor giveaways. The people I am in contact with are TERRIFIC. About the same time I began to take a look at companies sponsoring giveaways on other people’s sites and contacting them. I was able to get a couple of companies to sponsor a giveaway and I felt I was on my way. Not quite though.

Whereas I didn’t originally have a goal for registered users I began to wonder if I would ever hit the magic number of 1,000 readers. Every day dribs and drabs of people would sign up for the Maven Moment Alert. Those numbers slowly began to build and now I had to figure out how to bring the reader to my blog. It was beginning to look more and more like a business even though I was not pulling in a salary.

Then one day I was checking my traffic and I noticed some 6,000 people showed up on my site. Even now I can still scarcely believe it. The post was about Suave and how they were giving away a FREE full-sized bottle.

It was to be another two months before I had another big bubble like that one again. While not quite 6,000 I did wake up one day and notice that my traffic was getting steadily busy as the day wore on. I wanted to find out where the traffic was coming from and noticed that a Christian radio station had posted a link to my site. That first day I had some 3,000 people. On the second day about 2,000 people came and on the third day there was another 1,000 people.

I was now slightly over the halfway mark of the goal I had set of 1,000 registered users. The blog that had once been a means to an end had now become an obsession and I was spending hours looking for great deals for my readers.

Then just like everything else with blogging so far, I stumbled upon BlogHer. I say I stumbled upon it but really I found it because of a contest they were running. It was a contest for a conference they were having and you had the opportunity to win a sponsored trip to the BlogHer Conference in Chicago.

The more I found out about the Conference, the more I wanted to go. I began to wonder how I could manage to go to the conference because I know I couldn’t afford to go because my husband is unemployed.

At first I tried to win a hotel stay for the conference. It was a beautiful hotel and I told myself if I won I would figure out how I would be able to afford the airfare and the conference pass. I was just so certain I was going to go that I was almost a bit surprised to discover I did not win that hotel stay.

That’s when I learned about the Stovetop Stuffing Contest. I had to come up with an inexpensive one pot meal that contained Stovetop Stuffing. Even as I was writing the recipe down I had a feeling about it. Yet my “evil twin” told me to stop acting crazy. Do you remember those comic skits and cartoons that feature an angel on one shoulder giving you advise while the devil on your other shoulder tries to mislead you? That might as well have been where I was on this whole contest. The angel telling me that this contest had my name written all over it and there was a reason that I should go. The little angel assured me that my recipe was good and would at least get us second place if not better. The haughty devil on the other hand scoffed at the whole scenario. “You’re crazy if you think you can win something like this.” “Why in the world are you entering this contest? No one would like this recipe.”

For my readers who followed me as I nervously went through the steps of entering and begging for votes you know that I could hardly sleep at night I was so nervous about the contest.

The day I learned I had won, I was on my way home when Darryl told me that FedEx had dropped an envelope off at the house. He wanted to know if I wanted him to open it. He told me it was from Kraft. I was afraid that I hadn’t won the sponsorship but excited that I might have won one of the second prizes which were $500 gift cards for groceries.

Once I knew for certain I began to make plans for my trip to BlogHer and tried identify what I wanted to learn. I knew I wanted to bring home what I learned to my students but I also wanted to show myself that I could do this. In all my life, I’d never been so far from home without family or friend. This was to be a totally new experience for me, a woman approaching fifty.

Now as I lay in bed finishing my Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake, I scanned the agenda once more. I told myself that people will like me when they meet me and assure myself that if some didn’t that was OK too. I practiced the words I would say to the company representatives and marketers that I would meet. I wanted to be able to use examples of what I said and my thought process with my students when they came back to school.

I drained my cup of the last of the latte and walked over to the sink to brush my teeth and apply my make-up. “It’s show time!” I said with a big theatrical smile. The face that smiled back to me was one that looked more like my mother every day. Blogging was a young person’s game but I would let them know that I wasn’t ready for the shelf. “Put me in coach. I’m ready to play.” I shut off the light, left my room and headed for the elevators.

The People’s Party

I still can’t believe that I missed the People’s Party. I walked back to the Sheraton Lugging my HUGE Swag Bag back to my room after attending the Social Luxe Party. On the way back I had a funny encounter on the bridge. Three officers were standing around speaking to some young woman. Here I am all dressed up and in high heels lugging this huge bag.

One of the officers said, “That’s a big bag.” I knew he was talking about the Swag Bag but I thought I’d poke some “old lady” fun his way.

I looked at him with my best “annoyed look” and said, “I can’t believe you just called me a big bag.” One of his fellow officers was trying hard not to crack a smile as he said, “No. No he was just getting ready to offer to help you lug that big bag back to your car weren’t you?” The first officer said, “Yes. Yes that’s just what I was getting ready to say. I was just getting ready to ask if you needed help with that.”

I was going to carry the joke a little further by saying, “Oh so you think I’m too out of shape and old to carry such a heavy thing?” I thought better of it though and just said, “That’s OK. I’m fine. I don’t have much further to go.”

Being 50 (well almost) is very liberating. People will expect you to have peccadilloes and idiosyncrasies. While some of my contemporaries still spend hours fussing with their hair and make up. I am no longer a slave to fashion. While I have not yielded to the call of house dresses and Mom pants, I am no longer worried what label is on the back of my pants.

I read somewhere that being elderly in America is like being invisible. I’m not so certain that’s as bad as I once thought. As a teen you feel that all eyes are upon you. Each mistake, each fashion faux pas, is dissected and discussed. I have reached an age where I truly am my own person and realize that being me is not so bad at all.

I marched back to my room determined to document my trip to the Kraft Food Kitchens and my encounter close encounter of the Obama kind. I dumped my treasures on the bed and immediately began to write about all the fun I was already having. I also had to call my husband to tell him that I was doing OK. I think I totally let the time just rush past me and I wound up just crawling into my nice comfy Sheraton bed to just relax.

It wasn’t until the next day that I realized that I had totally forgotten the People’s Party and the Room 704 Party. I’m not certain what happened at these two events but I always feel there is a reason for everything that happens and even for things that don’t happen. I will sadly wear the crown of party pooper by missing these two parties. I was determined to make up for lost time the next day.

Campbell's Soup BowlHer Video

I originally was going to pass on the BowlHer Party but I'm so very glad i went. It was such a great time. I just couldn't believe how much fun I had.

Fast Fixin’ “Step Up to the Plate” Contest

Fast Fixin’ wants to send one lucky blog reader on a fabulous trip for a “Legends of Baseball” Experience in Cooperstown, NY.

Simply Step Up to the Plate” and tell them why you’re the biggest Fast Fixin’/Baseball fan- and you could win a “Legends of Baseball” experience for you and a guest!

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Airfare from the closest major airport- for two

Airport transfer to-and-from hotel

2 nights/3 Day weekend stay at Otesaga Resort

One round of golf-for two-at Leatherstocking Golf Course(Par 72 Resort Course) or Fishing at Lake Otesaga

Tour of the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum

Opportunity to: (based on availability) play cards, participate in a Baseball clinic or play catch with Gaylord Perry and Wade Boggs.

The Second Place prize is: Free Fast Fixin’ for a Year(50 free product coupons) Coupons good on any Fast Fixin’ or Fast Classics product.

For more information check out Consumer Queens' site.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

BlogHer Day Two - SWAG

After my tour of the Kraft Kitchens I head over to the Social Luxe Party. I think this was the party was the one I looked forward to the most. It promised primping and pampering and let me tell you I got all of that. I had a backrub. I had some photos taken for a new avatar. I had a makeup artist touch up my makeup. I even went crazy and got a tatoo. OK not a permanent one but I did get a tattoo. It was a Henna one and I selected a Chinese symbol for luck and wealth. I can truly use both.

The swag I received was GREAT. Let me start by adding this disclosure policy.

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact

This blog does not accept any form of cash advertising, sponsorship, or paid topic insertions. However, we will and do accept and keep free products, services, travel, event tickets, and other forms of compensation from companies and organizations.

This blog abides by word of mouth marketing standards. We believe in honesty of relationship, opinion and identity. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post will be clearly identified as paid or sponsored content.

The owner(s) of this blog is not compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owners. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we will only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

This blog does contain content which might present a conflict of interest. This content will always be identified.

I made it a point to meet the Swiffer Representatives. I wanted them to see the video I had made for their contest a couple of years ago. Now I will admit that for me it was my time to shine. what I didn't know was that these two ladies would treat me like a Hollywood movie star when they discovered that I made the video. They couldn't wait to see it.

My Swagbag included things like a Proflowers Gift card, cards, One Hope wine, a Kodak Zi6 and so much more. I will be uploading a video of this swag so you can see it. Once again, YouTube is acting very slow so it might be a couple of days before I load the video.

Finally at the end of the party I trudged back to the hotel hauling my HUGE bag of goodies. When the elevator door opened to my room I saw an employee pushing a huge cart with vases of flowers. I joked with him, "Oh they must all be for me." He said, "I already put one in your room." Just an exchange of words nothing more.

Boy was I wrong. When I opened the door to my roomm I was greated to a lovely bouquet of flowers that included four yellow roses. They were from Colombia, Land of Flowers. Just too beautiful. Did I mention I love BlogHer so far?

There are also some contests that are going on here that are exclusively for people attending BlogHer. I've entered both of them. There might be more but I will find out soon.

HELP...Obama's Following Me!!!

President Barack Obama, was here in Chicago last night. Do you think he's following me? He went home briefly last night to raise $2 million for his party with a fundraising dinner at the home of business executive and campaign fundraising chief Penny Pritzker and a reception at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago.

It turns out that this was the same hotel that was holding the Social Luxe Party. Wouldn't you know I was running late because of the Kraft Tour and I was trying to find out exactly where the Social Luxe Party was being held.

Either I looked like I was lost or perhaps I looked like some wild-eyed right wing fanatic as I wandered around looking for some sort of sign with an arrow pointing to my event because I was stopped in the lobby.

"Mame are you hear for Obama?" Is that a joke? I had no clue what he was talking about. I had no clue that Obama was going to be there. So the question threw me a little. Did this guy think I was Hillary? I guess we both do have short hair and wrinkles. "Obama?" I said. I must have sounded like a moron. Maybe he wondered if I was totally clueless and never heard the name of our President.

That's when I noticed the small sign that welcomed Obama home. Who knew? I guess everyone in Chicago knew but I certainly didn't. I was more interested in going to the Social Luxe party. No offense, but I was certain Obama was not there to give me any swag.

I finally got to where I was going and I'm glad I made it to the Social Luxe Party and got some GREAT Swag.

As I left with my HUGE bag in tow I met some more protests. These were three LaRouche protesters. CLUELESS! I asked if I could make a video of their protest and I wondered if one of them would like to talk for one minute to tell me about their protest. I got the impression that I might as well asked them to calculate the square root of the circumference of the earth multiplied by the distance the earth is from the sun.

They looked at each other. One of them wanted me to know that their sign had two sides. I promised I would video both sides. Then they looked at each other again, they talked, and told me again that their sign had two sides. I said, "Look I'll video the first side then you turn the sign around and then I will video the second side." The young man who was not part of the sign holding effort said he would talk but didn't know what I wanted to talk about. I repeated again. Tell me in one minute or less what you are protesting about.

I actually took the young man to task after the video, not because of his viewpoint because I had promised to let him have his say without editing his message. I just felt that you lose the argument when you call names and that he should work more on his message if he wants it to be effective. I think I detected an eye roll as he said, "I'm just telling the truth about Obama. He is a stupid whine baby."

The LaRouche people do want you to know about the Obama health care policy. According to the LaRouche people the establishment of an "independent board of doctors and health care experts" to make the life-and-death decisions of what care to provide and what not, based on cost-effectiveness criteria. They hearken it to the infamous "T-4" policy imposed by Adolf Hitler in 1939. The Nazi regime was tried and condemened at Nuremberg for the "T-4" policy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BlogHer Day One

The great people at Kraft Foods have sponsored my trip to Chicago and I can't begin to tell you how wonderful this trip as has been so far. I can't honestly say that I'd ever been on vacation all by myself in my whole life. Vacations have always been a family oriented event and I'll admit I was a little nervous about leaving Mr. Thrifty behind. Then again, someone had to take care of our dogs.

The flight to Chicago went off without at hitch. As a matter of fact not only did Kevin, the WONDERFUL rep from Weber Shandwick, did such a great job of planning my trip out here I felt like a Super-Star. (Everyone should have a Kevin!) While I'm not certain he had anything to do with how short the lines were at security, I'd like to believe he was. I'd also like to believe that he was responsible for getting such a great seat on the plane. Not only was I sitting on a window seat but I had the whole row to myself. The flight went smoothly and I even got some reading in on the flight.

When I arrived at the airport, I headed straight for the baggage claim. The driver that Kevin had arranged was waiting for me right at the gate. (Note to self. Ask Mr. Thrifty for my very own Kevin). My driver was so nice and helpful. I was brought to my car with tinted glass which fit my new rock star status.

When the car arrived at the Sheraton I just couldn't believe that a company would be willing to do all this for me. I knew I loved Kraft before but now I'm contemplating having a heart with the word Kraft Foods tattooed on my ankle. (Well maybe not tattooed but I do love Kraft.) Everyone at the hotel was helpful and friendly.

You should see my room. I'm staying on the 24th floor and the room is pure luxury. I'm within walking distance of the Magnificent Mile and the Navy Pier. It's close to just about everything you'd want to see in downtown Chicago. I also have internet access in my room.

Thursday is the day scheduled for my tour of the Kraft Kitchens. I look forward to receiving their magazine every month and then making many of the recipes contained in the magazine. So for this Mom who loves to cook this opportunity is actually a trip of a lifetime. You should have seen my Mom's expression when I told her I was going. For years she told me that if I kept eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese I would turn into Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I guess my obsession with all things Kraft (especially stove top stuffing) did turn me into a Kraft Fan Forever.

I think that some companies recognize that product loyalty is won in small increments by providing consistently good products but also in showing they care about their customers by reaching out with their magazine, their website, providing coupons, corporate outreach (like with Crystal Light's Global Water Challenge), running contests, sweepstakes, and listening to customer feedback.

I don't think that I can thank the people at Kraft Foods enough. I hope to learn many things that I can take home to my students. I am looking forward to telling you more about my trip.

After I checked into my hotel I headed down to the Concierge desk to find out how to get to the local Hair Cuttery. I used to have a Hair Cuttery near me but no more. That would be all well and good except I had a gift certificate that Darryl had won for me last year and I hadn't been able to use it.

Darryl had written this really nice essay about how I deserved a make-over and his essay was chosen the winner. The prize had included a $125 gift certificate for a makeover from Hair Cuttery. I decided to check online to see if there was on in Chicago and there was one. I quickly put away my suitcases and headed off to catch a bus to Randolph Street. There I had my hair dyed and foiled for a frisky new look. I didn't need a hair cut and since I normally dye my own hair I think I was a bit shocked at the sticker price for having this work down at a salon. It cost me $110 for all that. I just can't imagine spending that kind of money on my hair every day. Still it was a treat and one that I might never have had if it wasn't for my darling husband.

After two hours in the salon I took the bus back to my hotel and took a little walk down the Magnificent Mile. Lots going on down there. I even had a couple of interesting conversations with a protester and an activist. Ah the city, makes me miss DC. We just don't have all those huge buildings in DC or Rome, GA for that matter.

I actually heard the protesters before I saw them. I heard some music and wondered what was going on. As I got closer I realized that there was a protest going on. Turns out that NBC does not treat their employees right. I was all over the story. I noticed that a couple of the local city officials were there being interviewed by the local news. That's the moment I said, "Hey wait. I'm a blogger. Bloggers can report what's going on. No scratch that bloggers report what's going on."

I decided to ask one of the protesters and almost immediately I realized that I might not be on top of my game. I prefer planning out what I'm going to say. This was spur of the moment and I had no background whatsoever on the story I was covering. Can we say rookie mistake?

I asked one of the women participating in the protest and almost immediately she invaded my personal space. We were so close we almost touched and I had to tell her that she was too close to the camera. It turns out the people she's striking with have been working for four months without a contract. I asked her a couple of questions and she was obviously very anxious to let me know her viewpoint. I think it kind of amazed me that someone who didn't know me would be willing to talk to my little pink Vado Video Camera and treat me like she thought I was some journalist.

After speaking with her I felt a little empowered. Would everyone be so willing to speak to a handheld camera? I found out when I talked to the Green Peace Activist. Originally he wanted money which I didn't have. I have a husband who is unemployed thank you very much. He originally called me over saying, "You look like you care about the earth."

Honestly, at first I wondered if there was just something about me. Just a few weeks ago, Darryl and I had checked out some cars at a local dealership and the salesman actually asked us if we were "tree huggers". I wondered what would cause him to ask that. Darryl thought it was his sandals. I thought it was my tie-dye tee shirt with the peace symbol. We both missed part of the equation. You see the salesman had told us that while those things played into his question we were also the only couple to ever show up on his lot so concerned about the mileage of the cars we were looking at and asking about the cash for clunkers deal.

When the Green Peace guy said I looked like I cared about the earth I wondered what made him think I did or was that simply his pick up line. I suppose it was my peasant skirt which gave me a bit of a bohemian look. More than likely it was the fact that I was carrying an organic cotton carry all that said Earth on it with a stencil of two elephants on it. I had won the carry all from a blog giveaway a few months ago and I brought it to help me carry swag.

He and I discussed Al Gore, derivatives, carbon credits their founder's belief in Nuclear power, and about how Green Peace does not back Obama's Cap and trade policy. I think he was a little surprised that some random woman on the street actually knew something about Green Peace or their agenda.

So even though I didn't give Mr. Green Peace any money I did allow him to tell me about a cause that Green Peace is involved in and that he wanted others to know about. It's nice to be young and have a passion burning in your heart. Once again I was surprised at someone's willingness to talk to my Vado Video camera.

My Green Peace friend was taken in by the "fact" that Al Gore is donating "All his money back to the cause" This is not quite true and here's a little background on that.

Former Vice President Al Gore has built a Green money-making machine capable of eventually generating billions of dollars for investors, including himself, but he set it up so that the average Joe can't afford to play on Gore's terms. And the US portion is headed up by a former Gore staffer and fund raiser who previously ran afoul of both the FEC and the DOJ, before Janet Reno jumped in and shut down an investigation during the Clinton years.

Here is how Gore buys his "carbon offsets," as revealed by The Tennessean raises serious questions. According to the newspaper's report, Gore buys his carbon offsets through Generation Investment Management:

Gore helped found Generation Investment Management, through which he and others pay for offsets. The firm invests the money in solar, wind and other projects that reduce energy consumption around the globe...

Gore is chairman of the firm and, presumably, draws an income or will make money as its investments prosper. In other words, he "buys" his "carbon offsets" from himself, through a transaction designed to boost his own investments and return a profit to himself. To be blunt, Gore doesn't buy "carbon offsets" through Generation Investment Management - he buys stocks.

Here's a list indicating what it takes to make money along with Al. Funds associated with these companies have placed millions of dollars under Al Gore's control. And, as you'll see below, Gore's selection for the US President of GIM might raise a few eyebrows as well.


According to their own documents, GIM intends to invest in, or buy companies poised to cash in on Global Warming concerns.

Putting this in perspective, for years the mainstream media have posited that George W. Bush (oh almost forgot EVIL George W. Bush) started war with Iraq to benefit the company Vice President Dick Cheney used to run, Halliburton, as well as Bush’s oil tycoon friends. It almost seemed you couldn't find a reporter who couldn't find a way to introduce Cheney without mentioning his ties to Halliburton.

Yet, as the former Vice President continues to plug global warming as a coming crisis in need of immediate attention, the same media completely ignore his obvious financial conflicts of interest.

If Gore's motivation in pushing Global Warming is so altruistic, was it really necessarily for the already wealthy Gore to establish a multi-million dollar corporation in England to cash in? And given the history of Gore and Knight, are these people we should trust to drive a re-vamping of the world economy at the same time they're lining their pockets because of our much smaller carbon footprints?

Then again this is why I like reading on both sides of the spectrum. I've always heard there are three sides to every story, his, hers, and the truth. Neither the far right no the far left have a real grip of what's real that isn't clouded by their bias. So Green Peace guy, because I know you are reading this, see what happens when you talk to some old lady walking down the street with a Disney Earth bag?

I also tried to get a little of the "Obama is the Russian's Puppet" guy but I decided not to interview him because I felt that would be exploitative.

Dinner tonight was the Cheesecake Factory. Anyone who does not believe that sweepstakes influence your buying decision must not know the people I know. We tend to be loyal to companies that regularly have sweepstakes and contests. For the last several weeks I have been entering a contest/sweepstakes that was sponsored by the Cheesecake Factory. You had to write an essay in the contest portion of the promotion but you had the opportunity to win a gift card instantly.

I did NOT win. Every day, day after day I would go to that site to play the instant portion of the game and every day I'd say, wow that really looks good. So I made a conscious decision to throw caution to the wind and despite my thrifty challenge I purchased lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. What a lunch it was. I ordered a Southwestern Salad and it was so huge I was too full to eat dinner tonight. I had also ordered a margarita and a cheesecake. I had to take the piece of cheesecake with me along with half of my salad.

Finally I have a sad death to report. Gidget, the chihuahua from Taco Bell and Legally Blonde passed away. She was 15 years old. Quoting the dog’s owner, Karen McElhatton, as saying Gidget “lived like a queen” and “had a great life.” I hope wherever you are Gidget you can always head for the border for some tacos.

So tomorrow's the big day and I can hardly wait. Come back tomorrow to find out what I learned

Thanks for stopping by and let me know if there's anything you want to tell the people at Kraft Foods.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

We WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Around noon today Darryl and I both received emails saying that we each won a flip video camera from Huddle House. I'm so thrilled. This means that we can give one to Dan and one to Mike for Christmas this year. I can do that because today Darryl's new Flip HD video came today. We received that for doing a review with BlogSpark.

Tomorrow I leave for Chicago. I'm a little nervous but very excited too. I'm going to keep this post short because I have lots of things to do.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More Information On The Billing's Murders

Here's an interesting twist in the background of Byrd Billings. It appears he was involved in a bizarre scheme he started early this decade that aimed to make millions by apparently copyrighting his children's names.

About 2003, he began filing dozens of confusing documents that attempted to copyright his children's names, then demanded millions of dollars for copyright infringements when government agencies used those names.

The documents, obtained from the Escambia County Clerk of Court and the Florida Department of Children and Families, reference "genocide acts," maritime law and "corporate fictions.'' He signed one purported affidavit "Byrd Billings, Agent, Attorney in Fact, With the Autograph, Non-Domestic."

DCF attorney Katie George said every time the agency addressed a letter to Billings that included his children's names, he would reply with an invoice demanding millions of dollars in copyright infringement.

Generally, he demanded silver coins or federal reserve notes of equal value. After nearly two years, Billings began addressing invoices to DCF employees at their homes, and a DCF lawyer sent Billings a sharply worded letter warning him that legal action against him was a possibility.

"At no time in any of your correspondence have you made a plain demand for damages under a clear and cognizable theory of liability," Assistant District Legal Council Richard Cserep wrote in a Dec. 9, 2005, letter.

After that letter, Billings stopped sending invoices.

When asked if she was aware of Byrd Billings' copyright claims, Ashley said he had mentioned copyrighting the children's names to her but said the goal was to protect their privacy,

That is wierd. Maybe I should copyright my name. That is so weird. Of course it's not deserving of murder kind of weird but it is wierd all the same.

Here's more about the whole adoption fraud charge from years ago. In 1989 Byrd Billings, his former wife Cindy Reeve and another woman were sentenced to two years probation on charges of violation of adoption, fraud to obtain birth certificate and forgery of birth certificate.

Court records show that 20 years ago a debt-ridden and pregnant Pensacola woman named Vickie Taylor checked into Sacred Heart Hospital under the name Cindy Reeve. She delivered a baby boy June 4 and listed the father's name as Byrd Billings. Taylor told deputies she had agreed to the fraud in exchange for a $2,100 loan, so the Billingses could claim the baby as their own.

Sheriff's deputies learned of the plot when someone with knowledge of it called authorities, the documents say. A deputy found the baby, named Justin, when he went to interview Reeve and Billings.

No new updates other thann those two. I will try to update as I can when I am in Chicago.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Frank McCourt Dies

Frank McCourt Pictures, Images and Photos

For a few years I'd meant to read Frank McCourt's books. One of my former assistant principals, Mr. M had told me I should read "Teacher Man." I haven''t read that one.

A few years back one of my friends read the book Angela's Ashes. I asked her if it was good because I'd heard they were making a movie about the book. She told me it was very dark. With that one sentence she didn't make me want to rush out and read the book. On the other hand in the back of my mind I'd always thought that I should read Angela's Ashes.

This year I finally read Angela's Ashes and then I read 'Tis. It is dark and it does talk about the poverty he and his brothers and sisters lived in while growing up. The story chronicles his childhood. McCourt's father was an alcoholic who drank up the little money his family had. Three of McCourt's seven siblings died, and he nearly perished from typhoid fever. While I grew up poor we were in a far better position than Frank and his family were living.

Since we'd been Scotland I'd wondered about seeing my mother's home country of Ireland. What was it that her family had left behind to come to America?

In his book 'Tis he talked a bit about being a teacher. The kind of kids he taught sounded a lot like the kind of kids I teach. They are not the kind of kids that set the world on fire. They are the kind of kids that we depend on every day to do the jobs that others go to college to avoid. The kids Frank and I have taught were kids that were a lot like us and they desperately wanted and needed someone to care about them. I liked this book better.

Yesterday I heard that Frank McCourt was in hospice and not expected to live. I thought how sad. Then my next thought was, "I wonder how much time he has." The answer came today.

McCourt, who was 78, had been gravely ill with meningitis and recently was treated for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer and the cause of his death, said his publisher, Scribner.

Until his mid-60s, Frank McCourt was known primarily around New York as a creative writing teacher and as a local character — the kind who might turn up in a New York novel — singing songs and telling stories with his younger brother Malachy and otherwise joining the crowds at the White Horse Tavern and other literary hangouts.

He was a very talented writer. Now I really have to read his book Teacher Man.

Today we went grocery shopping. Isn't that what Sunday is? We also bought school supplies at CVS and Staples. I got some great deals and I will have to make a new video about the things I bought. I'm really excited about my new book bag. I finally buckled under and bought one of those quilted bags that EVERYONE had ....two years ago. I 'm so behind the curve.

It turns out I was correct about Jacob Shaffer. It appears that he and his wife were in the process of separating.

A man who knew a southern Tennessee woman slain along with her family tells The Associated Press that she and her husband who is charged in the killings had been having marital trouble.

Authorities say Traci Shaffer, her 16-year-old son and teenage neighbor were found dead Saturday in her home near Fayetteville. The bodies of Shaffer's brother and father were found in a neighboring home.

James Wilson was gathering belongings from Shaffer's house on Sunday and says he is her sister's boyfriend.

He tells the AP that Traci and Jacob Shaffer weren't living together but had not filed for separation.

He says police told him that the couple's 4-year-old daughter was home during the killings but unharmed. He says Traci's slain son and a 9-year-old daughter were from a previous relationship.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Downtown Beach Party

Today Darryl and I checked out downtown Cartersville. They were having a beach party and many of the local stores has snacks and some even had giveaways. I thought I'd tell you about something funny that happened to me at one of the stores.

One store participating in the Beach Party was named Curves. I kind of thought they were talking about the women only gym. I thought I'd check that out because they had some free treats and a giveaway. When I walked into the tiny shop the owner took one look at me and said you are in the wrong store. "We don't have us no size four clothes in here. Our clothes start at size 16." I stood almost frozen. I'd never been scolded about going into a store before. That look of "OMG I'm in trouble now" must have registered on my face. The owner then said "Well I guess we have some purses you could look at." She then repeated that her clothes go from size 16 on up. For all she knew I might have been shopping for a friend, a parent, or a sister.

About two minutes went by as I pretended to look at clothes before she said something to me a third time. Trust me the third time is the charm. This time she said, "You should go to the store across the hall, they have clothes in your size." I just didn't know what to make of the whole thing. The owner was an ample sized woman but at almost fifty years of age I'm not snickering at anyone's weight. I wasn't staring at her, pointing at her, or even commenting about the size of the clothing. I wondered if I made her uncomfortable. If I did I didn't mean to. Besides I'm not a size 4 I'm a size 6 I'll have you know. I'll also have you know that there was a time in my life, however briefly that I did wear a size 16. I guess I know how it feels to have someone say something about your weight when you don't even know them.

Today was Darryl's birthday. We picked up my car and Dave gave us both our birthday gifts of $50 each. NICE.

Six slayings in two communities about 30 miles apart in Tennessee and Alabama are linked, and a suspect who was sitting on the front porch of a home where some the bodies were found was being questioned, authorities said Saturday.

Suspect identified as Jacob Lee Shaffer, who faces murder charges. Most of the victims were members of the same family. Jacob's wife, Traci Shaffer, 38, was found dead in her home on Lincoln Road, along with her 16-year-old son, Devin Brooks and his friend, Robert Berber, also 16. Just down the road, investigators found the bodies of her father, Billy Hall, 57, and her brother Chris Hall, 34. .

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released the identities of the victims found in Lincoln County. The identity of a sixth victim, whose body was found in Huntsville, Ala., has not yet been released by Huntsville police.

I have not learned of any motive but it just seems that I'm hearing more and more about whole families being murdered. For someone to take out not just the wife and stepson but also her father and her brother, I wonder if there wasn't a divorce in the works. The father and brother probably were helping her separate and the husband didn't like that. Murders like this never make sense.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Economic Free-Fall Has Ended (ROLF)

Of all the statistics pouring into the White House every day, top economic adviser Larry Summers highlighted one Friday to make his case that the economic free-fall has ended.

The number of people searching for the term “economic depression” on Google is down to normal levels, Summers said.

Searches for the term were up four-fold when the recession deepened in the earlier part of the year, and the recent shift goes to show consumer confidence is higher, Summers told the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

So am I to take from this that Google is like one of those Eight Balls? You know the kind that you ask a question, you shake it, and then you turn it over for the answer. Maybe I will Google "Will I Be Pretty? Will I Be Rich?" and see what it says to me. My guess is that it the Eight Ball will say "Que Sera Sera"

Would you not think that someone who is the top economic adviser might actually use other indicators to illustrate his point rather than how many people are googling "economic depression?" Do you suppose with the unemployment rates in some areas in the double digits that perhaps some people don't need to google "economic depression" because they are all too aware of what it is since they are living it every day?

The Billings were laid to rest today. Incredibly enough Pamela Long Wiggins was released from Escambia County Jail on $10,000 bond, Escambia Sheriff’s spokesman Chris Welborn said today. She was charged Wednesday as an accessory after the fact to felony murder in connection with the shooting deaths of Byrd and Melanie Billings in their Beulah home last week.

Defendants cooperating with investigators said that the guns used during the robbery and killings were transferred into Wiggins’ minivan which was later observed at her antique business in the 4300 of Gulf Breeze Parkway, according to an arrest report.

Wiggins was a passenger while the Billingses’ safe and the guns were in the van “and had knowledge these weapons were used by the suspects during the commission of the home invasion (and) double homicide.”

Walter Cronkite died today at the age of 92. Best known as anchorman for the CBS Evening News for 19 years (1962–81). During the heyday of CBS News in the 1970s and 1980s, he was often cited in viewer opinion polls as "the most trusted man in America" because of his professional experience and kindly demeanor.

Finally, on a personal note, Darryl went on his interview and then called me. He told me that he was there for about two and a half hours. They gave him a tour of the company. The guy who interviewed him sent him to meet another executive there. After that he was sent back to the original interviewer who then took him over to personnel. He said the woman there spent time talking to him and telling him about the benefits. She also gave him the email of someone who wasn't there and told Darryl he should email him. I take this as a good sign. There was something said about being in China for a few months. We don't know what that was about.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Another Job Interview for Darryl

Darryl left today for his interview. He kept putting off leaving because he said he had a bad feeling. He said, "I feel something bad is going to happen and there is nothing I can do to stop it." That is highly unusual for Darryl to say he had a bad feeling. I wish he hadn't said that.

The interview took place in a city called Thomasville. It is near the Florida line not far from Tallahassee. If he gets the job it will be a step up for him and more in line with what he wants to do. We would be apart for at least this school year. I hate that.

I spent most of the day working on sweeps and of course ThriftyMaven.

I'm still following the Billings murder which gets stranger as each day passes by. It just doesn't make sense. People naturally want to blame the victims and try to find something about them that caused such a tragic thing to happen to them. I never understood that "Blame The Victim" mentality until someone finally explained it to me. You see when something like this happens or something like 911 happens you realize that your life could end in one violent moment and that is a frightening thing to comprehend. You mind seeks to calm you by saying, "Sure that happened to them but that person....." or "If I had been in one of those planes I would have...." It's kind of like a bedtime story you tell yourself. This happened to them but it would never happen to me. The fact is bad things do happen to good people.

Why would well-practiced thieves target a home with a security camera in every room? Who was Byrd Billings? And what does Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan mean when he says investigators expect motives to emerge beyond simple robbery?

Interviews and court records portray Byrd Billings as a former strip club owner-turned used car dealer who was once sentenced to probation for an adoption scam. He frequently crossed paths with "shady characters," according to an ex-wife, but police have offered no evidence linking his past to the killings.

Known around Pensacola as "Bud," Byrd Billings spent his early years in Mississippi and Tennessee. He owned a car dealership in Mississippi in the 1980s, and incorporated a boat company in 1976. The corporation was dissolved in the 1980s.

In divorce records from the end of his second marriage, in 1993, Billings reported a net worth of just $1,400, including total cash assets of $100 and a net monthly income of $1,190. Four months after the divorce, Melanie became his third wife.

They were living in a $700,000 home -- opulent by Pensacola standards -- and associates say they employed several people to care for the children. But how they got there is unclear.

Byrd's background also includes a strange criminal case. In 1990, he and his second wife, Cindy Reeve, pleaded nolo contendere -- which means they did not admit guilt but agreed to a punishment -- to charges they doctored birth records and tried to obtain a newborn for $2,100. They both received two years probation which was later amended to a year.

At the time of their divorce, the documents show, Billings was a consultant for Back Seat Inc., a holding company for a topless bar, which opened in 1990 and no longer exists. He had owned the company at one time. Arety Kapatanis, owner of the Pensacola strip club Arety's Angels, said Billings hired her as a waitress.

"Bud Billings was a man of integrity. He was generous," Kapatanis said. "He ran his business in the most professional manner."

Billings later opened a used car lot, which according to state business records was registered to Melanie and her daughter, Ashley Markham. It sits on a worn-out slab, surrounded by pawn shops and bail bond companies. Next door is the Billings' Worldco Financial Services.

Melanie, in her second marriage, seemed to thrive helping disabled children.

"Their lives centered around children, their family and each other," said her brother, Ed Brock. "They loved deeply and unconditionally. They embraced the complexity of raising children with special needs and they were their advocates. They gave these children a joyous childhood and a much needed voice."

On her MySpace page, Melanie Billings said she was a "total Internet and ebay JUNKIE" and that her favorite song was "I Cross My Heart," by country music star George Strait. She loved the TV shows "CSI," ''Law & Order" and "The Sopranos."

The MySpace page also showed photos of some of the couple's 17 children (13 adopted together and four biological children from previous marriages.) Three had died over the years

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why Is The Papparozi Following Me Already

I thought I'd share my Blogher Wardrobe with you. These are the outfits I'm entering in the Tim Gunn contest. I may be old but I still have it going on. Perhaps what I have going on is only in my head but it's still the best show in town.

Do You Know This Woman?

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said Pamela Laverne Long is being sought as a "person of interest" in connection to the death of Melanie and Byrd Billings.

Long, 47, has several aliases, Morgan said. They are:

-- Pamela Wiggins

-- Pamela Malden

-- Pamela Long Link

-- Pamela Laverne Long Coco

He said investigators have not heard from Long, who has several aliases, in the last 48 hours.

He issued an appeal for Long to contact his office.

This is a brutal and heartless murder. If you know this woman please contact your local police department.


Pamela Long HAS been found in Alabama.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Do You Have To Pass The Queer Test To Go?

As I said in a previous post I am very excited about going to the BlogHer conference. I've really never been to a conference before. I've been to educational seminars with all their little breakout sessions but at the end of the day you were on your own. I didn't realize that BlogHer was so much more than just breakout session and learning how to improve your blog.

I suppose it's because BlogHer is a woman centered event that it's only natural that there would be so many opportunities to network and socialize. Being full of youthful enthusiasm I decided to sign up for almost EVERY party there is. Think "Audrey Hepburn" circa "Breakfast at Tiffany's". I'm just a party girl. Maybe even a Barbie girl in a Barbie World. I was going to be a regular party girl until I fell asleep per Eastern Standard Time. I felt that there was something to learn and much to learn about by going to each of the parties.

When going through the list of parties I saw the invitation to the Sweet & Out Loud Party! Hey, I'm sweet and I've been told I'm loud. Maybe I should sign up for that one too. With just a few clicks of the mouse and very little reading I was "IN" and not Out. The Party is scheduled for Friday July 24, 2009 at 8:30 PM at the Crimson Lounge in Hotel Sax. Heck they even told me that the party wouldn't be a party without me. How true. How true.

I went to bed that night and the next day began sending all the information that needed to be printed out for my trip to my husband so he could print them out all at the same time next week. Now I really began reading more about the parties I would be attending. I was trying to get an idea of what to wear and what I might learn at each of the parties.

It wasn't until the next morning that I realized that I was now entering the "Queerosphere." Stop right here. Before I go any further I want to say that this was a quandary for me. Did this mean that the party was only for GLBTQ? If so then I needed to let them know that I wasn't eligible. Could I come to the party if my nephew is Gay? He came out to the family a couple of years ago and I was there for him and let him know that he is always first and foremost loved. Could I go if I've had several Lesbian students in the past who tell me I'm the bestest teacher EVER? Does it sound trite if I said "I had a friend who is gay." Can my hair dresser who is "Out" testify as to my character?

Certainly there was no such things as a "Queer Test". Would they just let me go so I can meet new people and make new friends? Can I still enter for a chance to win a Sweet Cruise for my husband and I if the trip is being given away in the Queerosphere?

I need not have worried. Here's Sweet's policy on that: they sweetly welcome anyone who wants to be in a lesbian-centered environment for a week. I don't have any problems with that. Actually I'm a bit Sweet on the idea of a cruise.

Now a little more about the cruise:

Sweet Caribbean Cruise for Two: Value $4,598

Sweet, the lesbian travel company with a twist, is offering a balcony stateroom for two on our Caribbean Cruise, Nov. 8-15, 2009, aboard the Norwegian Spirit . Merging the best of lesbian travel with social and environmental awareness, Sweet aims to make the world a better place while having a blast in it.

The largest lesbian cruise ever will depart from New Orleans where we will pitch in with the post-Katrina relief effort by day and party on Bourbon Street by night. From New Orleans, we sail to gorgeous Costa Maya, Mexico, fabulous Belize City, Belize, scuba and snorkeling wonderland Roatan, Honduras, and stunning Cozumel, Mexico. For your entertainment, we're bringing Suzanne Westenhoefer, Erin Foley, Gloria Bigelow, Sandra Valls, Edie Carey and Jen Foster. We'll host off-the-hook Club Skirts (makers of the legendary Dinah Shore) tea dances, theme parties and events.

It includes all of your accommodations, port taxes, gratuities and fuel surcharges for our 7-night cruise. It does not include round trip transportation to New Orleans, lodging before or after the cruise, transportation to or from the port, specialty meals, alcohol or specialty beverages, spa treatments, shore excursions or other on-board expenditures

If you are going to BlogHer too don't forget to submit all of your entries using this form. You're not in until you've submitted each of your entries. If you've already submitted once and then score another entry, just submit a second form. Keep 'em coming.

It's official now because I received an email about the dress code for the event. So here's the message of the day:

"I'm attending the Queerosphere's Sweet & OUT Loud Party, and I'm entered to win a cruise for two from Sweet, a lesbian travel with a twist."