Category:

Tech

Disclosure: I have been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card but all opinions about camping and the Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST and BLAST portable speakers are my own.

Family travel is our life. There is nothing that we love more than the four of us jumping in a plane, train, automobile, boat and in this case, an RV and going on an adventure. Yes, today we go on our first ever RV trip and we are ecstatic.

Last year, we went on our first ever camping trip. Though it was more like glamping because we stayed in a parked model, which is basically a beautiful cabin with all the amenities of home sweet home. Seriously, there was air conditioning, television, a full-size bathtub, stove top, microwave and full sized refrigerator. We even had a pergola and a deck with a built-in fire pit just outside our door. It was glorious and, for a first camping trip, I’m pretty sure we were spoiled rotten.

We spent our nights roasting s’mores and playing games and our days exploring Traverse City, Michigan; taking in the sights and soaking in the sun and playing on as many of Traverse City’s beaches as we could get to. It was unforgettable and it made me a convert from a strictly 5-star resort girl to a camping enthusiast. There is just something about being outside alone with your thoughts and your family that does the heart good.

Now, if you’ve never been camping you may not know what you should bring. Really, every person needs different things but there are a few things that I think every single person should bring to have the best camping experience possible. Here is my list.

Many campgrounds have a small store on the premises with some of the basic supplies in case you forget something and you will have to buy wood for campfires where you camp because it is illegal to transport campfire wood across state lines. Some campgrounds even have cafes, ice cream shops and souvenir shops

Basic Grocery list:

Cereal / Milk

Eggs / bread / bacon

Sandwich meats / chips

Steaks / chicken / hot dogs / hamburgers – anything you want to grill

Ketchup / mustard / butter / salt / pepper / spices

Any veggies or salads you’ll want with your barbeque – or shop at local farm stands for really fresh, local ingredients. This is our preference.

Sodas / beer / wine / bottled water

Snacks

Coffee / tea/ cream / sugar

Charcoal (or you can buy it at the campground store)

Chocolate bars, marshmallows, graham crackers, long skewers for s’mores, because let’s be honest, you’re not camping until you’re eating s’mores fresh off a bonfire; bonus points if it’s on a beach.

What else to bring:

Soap, shampoo, toiletries

Bug spray, sunscreen

Music / iPod and wireless speakers

Cell phone and charger

Camera / video recorder and charger or fresh batteries

Portable grill – not all campgrounds include them. Luckily, we double checked this year because we had just set our portable grill out to the curb!

Spatula or tongs for grill

Pots, pans, pots, mixing bowls

Paper towels / foil / plastic wrap / paper plates / napkins / plastic ware

Toilet paper

Wet wipes

Garbage bags

Dish detergent / dish towel

Matches / lighter for grill

Bottle and wine opener / can opener

First aid supplies

Flashlight / battery operated lantern

Folding chairs and picnic blanket

Games / cards / puzzles

Binoculars

Pillows, sheets, blankets / sleeping bags are great if you have them!

Bath and beach towels

One of the most important things for my family is the wireless speaker.  We love music. The new features of the Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST and BLAST portable speakers make them the perfect summer accessory.

Features of MegaBlast:

Ultimate Ears most powerful speaker with stunning clarity and deep, heart-pounding bass, brings music to life. Absolutely perfect for sitting around the campfire with friends or a day at the beach.

Taking camping to the next level, Mega Blast hands-free Amazon Alexa built-in lets you have more time to enjoy your summer. Ask Alexa to blast tunes, discover new music, crank the volume and find new restaurants.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capable

Wi-Fi connection range for the speaker is 330′. Bluetooth range is 150ft.

Rechargeable battery

Enjoy up to 16 hours with a large built-in battery. Play and charge the speaker simultaneously using the optional cradle or included wall charger. You can sit around that bonfire way into the night.

Features of the Ultimate Ears Blast:

Blasting 360° intensely rich sound with stunning clarity and deep, heart-pounding bass, brings music to life. You will never forget these summer nights camping with friends.

Water-resistant and dustproof design. The IP67 rated speaker can be immersed in liquid up to 1m for up to 30 minutes. No worries if there’s an unexpected downpour.

Two 35mm active drivers alongside with two 81mm x 39mm passive radiators provide crisp and clear sound.

Multiple microphones with beamforming technology and noise cancellation enable a smooth far-field voice recognition and control experience. And that’s not all.

 

A better way to listen with Spotify Connect (coming soon): MEGABLAST and BLAST will be the first Ultimate Ears speakers to integrate Spotify Connect. When on Wi-Fi, open the Spotify app on your phone and play music directly to our speakers (under “Devices Available”) without the need to pair through Bluetooth. Music fans can also stream the highest quality sound possible from Spotify. With Spotify Connect, text message or make calls without interrupting the music and save your phone’s battery.

New grouping experience for smart speakers (coming soon): You can group up to eight MEGABLAST and BLAST speakers on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Stereo mode is supported when you connect two MEGABLAST or BLAST speakers. Optimized to take advantage of the speakers’ built-in Wi-Fi capability, you will experience greater range for grouped speakers and improved connection reliability. Grouping is expected to be available later this year.

What do you think is the most important thing to take with you on a camping trip?

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HP Envy x360 Laptop, back to school, tech, best buy, back to school supplies

Disclosure: I have been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card but all opinions about back to school shopping and the HP Envy x360 Laptop.

Can you believe it’s almost time for back-to-school already? Here, we have less than 2 weeks left to soak up the last bits of summer. However, thanks to the back-to-school supply list in hand, I’ve painfully aware that school is happening sooner than later. Enter the HP Envy x360 Laptop.

The thing is every year we’re provided with this basic list of things our children need and then we use our best judgment and our budget to decide what we do with that list. For example, if it says 20 pencils, do you buy 20 generic #2 pencils or do you let your child express themselves by picking out 20 pencils with designs of their choosing? It’s these little touches that change everything.

Our family is pretty tech savvy. The Big Guy works in IT and I live in tech. These things trickle down. The girls have been surrounded by the latest high tech gadgets their entire lives. We limit their usage but they have high expectations so our tech can’t be basic. It needs to be better than that.

READ ALSO: Must-Have Gadgets for Tech Savvy Parents

As the girls get older, their tech needs to have more capabilities. Being the children of tech-savvy parents, they’ve got different standards. My girls do more than just play games and do homework on their laptops.

They’re into coding and building. The girls have a blog, YouTube channel and other social channels. These kids are trying to build a brand. That means editing videos and photos. Yes, they do still play games and watch Netflix on their laptops too. On top of all of this, they are still children so I need a laptop that is durable and capable of being a good fit for the user.

HP Envy x360 Laptop, back to school, tech, best buy, back to school supplies

I’ve been considering upgrading my 13-year-old’s laptop, a back to school contender is the HP Envy x360 Laptop.

Here are some of the features and customer benefits of the HP Envy x360 Laptops

Windows 10 operating system

Windows 10 brings back the Start Menu from Windows 7 and introduces new features, like the Edge Web browser that lets you markup Web pages on your screen. This is a great feature for taking notes when reading or studying for exams.

HP Envy x360 Laptop, back to school, tech, best buy, back to school supplies

Built for Windows Ink

Quickly jot down notes and ideas with ease. My daughters are very much like me in that they get ideas and they need to jot them down immediately before they forget. When inspiration strikes you will always be ready.

Full HD touchscreen

The 1920 x 1080 resolution boasts impressive color and clarity. Natural finger-touch navigation makes the most of Windows 10. IPS technology for wide viewing angles. Energy-efficient WLED backlight. This is so nice for my girls. They are very tactile and they are so comfortable with touchscreen usage from their phones.

8GB system memory for advanced multitasking

Substantial high-bandwidth RAM to smoothly run your games and photo- and video-editing applications, as well as multiple programs and browser tabs all at once. Perfect for those of us who keep a minimum of 13 tabs open at all times.

HP Envy x360 Laptop, back to school, tech, best buy, back to school supplies

360° flip-and-fold design

Offers versatile functionality with laptop, audience, tabletop, presentation and tablet modes. This is one of my favorite features of the HP Envy x360. I feel like this versatility makes it easy to use anywhere and virtually indestructible, at least much less destructible.

READ ALSO: Back to School Made Easy for Parents

The HP Envy x360 comes with either a 15-inch screen or a 13-inch screen so you have your choice for whatever screen works best for your family and the AMD processors make them fast and thin so you can take them with you anywhere you go!

***Bonus: there is a back to school offer to save $100 on the HP Envy x360 until 7/28.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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lil Miquela, Miquela Sousa, AI Influencer, Artificial Influencer, Digital Influencer, Instagram Influencer

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next logical step in technology, right? We knew it was coming. We’ve been waiting for Rosie from the Jetsons to be a real thing forever but what happens when AI becomes our normal reality and can do almost everything humans can do?

We’ve all seen the movies but I’m here to tell you that the future is now. While listening to Dr. Michio Kaku give his keynote at LiveWorx in Boston last month, I was blown away. It made me start really thinking about how long it would be until humans were useless because let’s face it, humans are flawed.

Humans are by design flawed by emotion, memories and physics. A human body wearies. A human brain is imperfect and, in many cases, damaged by chemistry. We love, we hate, we worry and we fail. In the end, we live on a curve. We peak and then we decline.

We gain wisdom. We grow. We experience. We emote in a way only human beings are able to do. We are perfectly imperfect and for all of our flaws, this is the very thing that makes us special and irreplaceable on some level. Our humanity makes us indispensable.

Perfection has always been our goal as human beings. At least, it’s always been mine. Logically, I know it’s impossible and unattainable but that has never stopped me in my pursuit. Therein lies my flaw; my failure. Chasing a ghost.

lil Miquela, Miquela Sousa, AI Influencer, Artificial Influencer, Digital Influencer, Instagram Influencer

Then, this past week I learned about Miquela Sousa, aka Lil Miquela internet phenomenon with, at last count, 1.2 million followers on Instagram. Meanwhile, I’m stuck at around 3.5K Instagram followers. Oh, did I mention that Miquela is an AI Influencer created by BRUD, an artificial intelligence startup?

lil Miquela, Miquela Sousa, AI Influencer, Artificial Influencer, Digital Influencer, Instagram Influencer

She has a backstory and everything. She’s a 20-year-old, Los Angeles-based Brazilian/Spanish model rocking streetwear and couture alike with brands like Chanel, Heron Preston and Supreme featured. It’s easy for her to look perfect, say all the right things and wear all the right things because she has been created out of thin air; the fantasy of some human’s imagination.

Lil Miquela has been vocal about the Black Lives Matter movement and Families Belong Together and has even caught the eye of beauty guru Pat McGrath becoming his latest muse. Miquela updates her followers on her everyday “life”, inserting relatable captions in her photos, hanging with her “friends” and eating froyo — completely ignoring the fact that she does not actually exist. Apparently, so do many of her followers even after she outed herself as an AI Influencer.

 

Virtual influencers are labeled as the start of a new chapter in influencer marketing, peaking the interest of major brands. The thing that bothers me is that she’s influencing humans and she’s not human. It’s a manipulation by a tech startup on all of humankind.

What I mean is that it’s easy for an AI influencer to be flawless because they are computer generated, the creation of a human in the pursuit of unachievable perfection. Miquela can easily have a perfect body and flawless skin because reality has no bearing on her existence. She will be perfect in perpetuity.

Which makes me sad because if you think girls/ women have been unfairly influenced by anorexic models who are airbrushed sending many regular girls into spirals of depression from not being able to attain the perfection of an airbrushed human existence, what the hell do you think is going to happen when our little girls are trying to look like an AI Influencer? Is it even possible? Probably not without extreme body modifications and even then, most likely still impossible.

Setting aside my own experience with body dysmorphic disorder and anorexia, ignoring my entire parenting lifetime of actively raising little girls to love themselves in a world where they are objectified like pieces of meat, what about the ethical fact that the people who created these AI Influencers are trying to dupe mankind? The stakes have never been higher for our little girls and now, we go beyond the human situation into the AI existence? We are systematically making ourselves irrelevant.

Our collective obsession with technology continues to increase daily as we push the boundaries of what technology can do. Building online connections is the norm. People don’t bother with face-to-face anymore because digital is faster, more efficient. Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives, birthing “influencer marketing” with many people looking to mimic the unattainable lives of celebrities. In response to this behavior, a never-ending quest for authenticity has emerged as we look to follow those who have lifestyles that are more relatable to our own. We’ve come full circle. Does that mean that influencer marketing is dead? Nope, it’s here to stay. But instead of following photoshopped influencers we’re being manipulated into following AI influencers; avatars who have human-like characteristics, both physically and emotionally.

The thing is that compared to human influencers, who are more susceptible to criticism, unpredictability and drama, there lies an opportunity here for brands to develop virtual content with AI Influencers with none of those issues. Which means that now, instead of human influencers gaming the system with airbrushing, professional photographers and perfectly staged photos of a life that doesn’t exist we’ve moved on to actual fake people because they are easier to control. We can order them up to our specifications eliminating human flaw from the equation. Sounds good, right?

Nope. We are being lied to and we are punitively relating to the human existence.  But there is something that an AI Influencer cannot do, it cannot relate on a human level. Meaning, sure Miquela can put in her Insta bio that #BlackLivesMatter but doesn’t exist and has no idea what life even means. She can’t understand the concept of oppression and the desire for equality because she can’t feel; the very thing that makes us human. Maybe we humans are imperfect, flawed and messy but there is nothing like it. Until we live in a world where only AI beings exist there will always be a need for humans if only to create the AI influencers that we can relate to because without a human driving the experience, it would be completely unrelatable. A complete disconnect.

The way that computers have become invaluable in our pursuit of efficiency and knowledge, I do believe AI will be indispensable in these same ways but an inanimate object will never be able to empathize in any meaningful way and what is our world without that connection?

How do you feel about AI Influencers, virtual influencers, not only taking jobs from human influencers but actually influencing our children who are manipulated into believing that an AI persona is an actual human being?

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How to SEO optimize your blog, SEO, SEO Optimization search engine optimization, SEO Tips

Feeling completely overwhelmed by SEO Optimization? Just starting out as a blogger and have no idea where to start with search engine optimization? I am sharing everything you need to know about SEO or everything I’ve learned in the last 3 months of conference sessions at Disney Social Media Moms Celebration and Mom 2.0. I’ve been doing this for 9 years and these sessions blew my mind.

The first rule of SEO optimization is to go for the organic traffic.

Algorithms are always changing, put your attention and time into the only thing you control, your blog. Plus, did you know that the pay is better for organic traffic?

READ ALSO: Rise of the REAL

First thing is first when you decide to sit down and figure out your SEO optimization goals and make a plan to conquer those goals, keep these things in mind.

1.User Experience
As bloggers, we base a lot of things on algorithms and the Internet but your audience is human beings. Always keep that in mind. Is your site easy to navigate and find things? If not, people will leave. Also, I know you are tempted to keyword stuff so that Google sees you but then you are spammy and the humans will turn the channel so always make the humans your priority. Google will see you as authentic and rank you better. Keyword stuffing will get you a slap on the wrist from Google and you don’t want that.

2. Answer the questions your audience needs the answer to.
Be a source of good information or entertainment. Give them a reason to come back. I’m a storyteller so I’m not always telling you how to do something. Most of the time I’m sharing how I got through something; the solution that worked for me. It might not teach you how to do it but there is value in being the person who shares with you that you are not alone. It won’t make you any money but I feel good when I make people feel, in a time when they might otherwise feel alone, that I’ve been there. That kind of reach is priceless.

3. Provide useful information.
Make sure it’s useful and not just what they can already find everywhere else. Look for keywords that are highly searched but have low to medium competition so you have a better chance of ranking. Google the topic you want to write about and see what comes up in search. See what articles are ranking in the top 10 and see how you can answer that question more efficiently or more in-depth or more specifically. Or see if you can answer a question that is not being answered.

4. Establish Domain Authority

How to grow your Domain Authority is one of the great mysteries of the Internet. It used to be easy you could check your Google Page Rank and you knew where you stood. I used to have a 6. Of course, that means nothing now, as it is no longer available. But here is how to grow your domain authority authentically.

5. Optimize old content.
Yes, remember how back in 2009 none of us knew what SEO optimization was so most of those old posts are not search engine optimized? Well, that is traffic just sitting there waiting to be activated. My old posts, those awesome evergreen ones about being a mom and raising babies are just waiting to be seen my new audience of awesome millennials.

6.New content research.
Check your reports and see what is working for your site. What are you ranking on the front page for? What low competition words can you be ranking higher for? Do more of that. I’ll share the reports to check all of this next week on a post. Make sure you come back next week. I will also put it in the newsletter this Sunday.

7. Think mobile.
Most of our audience is now mobile. Currently, about 61% of my traffic is mobile so make sure that your site is mobile friendly or people will leave. Nobody has time for a subpar experience. They will leave.

8. Consider your site speed
Same goes for your site speed. If your website takes forever to load people will bounce and go someplace where they can get the information quicker. Make sure that you are doing everything possible to make sure that page loads in a timely manner.

9. Make sure that your images are optimized and compressed.
This is no joke. Make sure that your photos are optimized for SEO to bring the traffic and compressed in size to keep the audience. There is nothing worse than photos that take forever to load. It’s annoying and, if you’re like me, I just don’t have the patience. I don’t want a surprise; I want the info I came to the site in search of. The only thing worse is self-starting video. Don’t do it.

 

READ ALSO: How Mom 2.0 Renewed My Faith in Blogging and In Me

10. Last but definitely not least, run your reports to know where to focus your attention. I heard an amazing speaker at Mom 2.0 and she shared all the information on how to access and use the Google analytic reports, Googe Search Console and SEM Rush and even a secret report that I NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE. Yes, you need all of these to effectively optimize your site. These reports gave me insights into my website that I never even considered before.

Aside from just who my audience is to when they are online, what days of the week they are reading, where they are reading, what social media channels they are accessing my content and at what times. Besides just their demographics, their spending habits and where they live, these reports help me know what they want from my content. That’s not to say that I am going to change what I am going to write but it definitely makes me consider my audience and who I am talking to.

I will provide all of those steps to access those reports in a post next week on this blog but if you want it sooner, I will be including it in my newsletter this Sunday. So if you are signed up, you will get that. If not and you’d like that information sooner, please subscribe to the newsletter.

I’m doing lots of research into SEO optimization, are there any questions that you’d like me to find the answers to in my research?

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mom 2.0 Summit, Langham Pasadena, Blogging, blogging anniversary, anniversary

Today is my 9th blogging anniversary. I can’t believe the TRUTH about Motherhood was started when my baby was only 1-year-old. Where did the time go? Seems like just yesterday that I was writing under the pseudonym Truthful Mommy and you were all my lifeline. I wrote the stories but you guys were definitely my phone a friend. Thank you for being on this fantastic journey with me.

I’m just back from the Mom 2.0 Summit and still really high on all the energy and people that I just spent the last week soaking in. I networked with a lot of solid brands that I love and are a good organic fit for me. I got to rub elbows with the likes of  Kristen Bell, Debbie Allen and Brene Brown. I learned so much at the most amazing sessions. Even after almost a decade of blogging, I am still learning. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to connect and reconnect with all my friends who live in my computer.

mom 2.0 Summit, Langham Pasadena, Blogging, blogging anniversary, anniversary

If you’re a blogger, you know exactly what I mean. If you are not and you actually get out in the world at a time in history when most of us communicate through our tech devices, bravo for you because you are one of the lucky ones. The thing is I’ve made friends who’ve virtually held my hands through some of the toughest and happiest moments of my life and we’ve never met face to face. Things get lost in translation when you are communicating online. There is no tone.

READ ALSO: This Blogger’s Life, Vera Sweeney

However, when you meet someone that’s been there for you and vice versa for almost a decade the transition is almost seamless. I got to meet some friends for the first time ever. I got to hug people who I haven’t seen in at least a year and some even longer (too many to mention but you know who you are and I love you all so much) and I finally got to meet a couple of my blogging heroes, women who write from the heart and put it all on the line.

I met quite a few new bloggers who I’d never read before but now I will because of the amazing conversations we had in the hallways, elevators, the pub and restrooms. I have to say, the IRL interactions with all of these women are what blogging is all about. I even finally got to drive the KIA Stinger and I may, or may not, have gotten In & Out.

KIA stinger, mom 2.0 Summit, Langham Pasadena, Blogging, blogging anniversary, anniversary

But one of the most unexpected exchanges that happened at Mom 2.0 Summit came out of nowhere and bowled me over. It came from one of my former editors and it was as unexpected as a blow to the head at a church service.

As a writer sometimes (a lot of the time) it feels like you are sending your thoughts out into the abyss. You are never quite sure anyone is reading and if they are, you often wonder are they actually seeing you; understanding the meaning of the words you are writing. Sometimes I feel like I’m writing in a foreign language.

For me, writing is fulfilling on a deeper level than most other things and it is truly how I process life. It’s my medium and when you open your soul and share your story, you hope that someone (anyone) is reading and it means something to them. In a lot of ways writing is like motherhood, it is beautiful and soul filling but at the same time, it is often thankless.

I spend most of the time feeling like a failure at what I do and the other half feeling like an imposter. Since people have stopped commenting on blogs like they used to, it really feels like I am shouting out into the nothingness. Some days I wonder why I’m doing this. Then, I remember it is not about other people, it’s about getting my thoughts down and preserving these moments for my daughters. Still, it’s always nice to feel like your words helped someone, even if it is just by making them laugh or giving them the solace of knowing they are not alone.

The thing is this editor came up to me during the party after the IRIS awards. I was standing there in a room full of winners feeling like a giant loser. I was tired and jetlagged and was seriously considering sneaking away but I stayed because the only thing worse than Imposter syndrome is FOMO. I often feel like I need to make my exit before I’m revealed as the imposter that  I am.

iris awards, mom 2.0 Summit, Langham Pasadena, Blogging, blogging anniversary, anniversary

Anyways, this woman who is a phenomenal editor (who edits amazing writers every day) came up to me and told me that it was a privilege and honor to have edited my stories. How these are the moments that made her work feel worthwhile. I was stunned.

She said more but I don’t remember the exact words as I was crying like a baby next to the dance floor because her words moved me. In those few moments, she validated me and made me feel like I was heard and I belonged. I don’t know if she knew how much her words meant to me. I’m not sure that she can.

I tried to convey it, as I stood there with my face melting off as I cried through my contouring but words seemed too small when such a big gesture had been made.

You see, for the past year, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the backend of blogging.  I think many of us are. All that I’ve ever wanted to do was write. Write my stories free of worry about all the things like SEO, keywords, traffic, meta tags, understanding google analytics, pinning to win, facebooking to reach the masses, having the perfect cohesive Instagram, posting at the right times on the right days and writing for the right audience.

I want to write but blogging is my business and to have the honor of doing what I love, I have to learn to do a whole lot of other things that are out of my wheelhouse. This often leaves me feeling like I am on the outside looking in because in the blogging world, traffic equals jobs. Numbers equal traffic not always considering engagement so where does that leave me? Content is no longer king, it is the queen and SEO is the King and I feel like while the queen and I are besties, the King doesn’t much care for me.

I guess the point that I’m trying to make is that after 9 years, when I was tired and feeling like giving up, feeling like the biggest imposter on the Internet, I went to this Mom 2.0 Summit and I heard all the right things from all the right people. My heart was full. My soul set on fire and my mind could clearly see the direction I need to go. I’m not quitting, I’m rebooting. I’m going back to what I love… writing from the heart.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still trying to understand the business side of all of it. I have to, it’s irresponsible not to but I’m not letting myself get overwhelmed by it. Blogging is my passion and sharing my stories with you is what fuels my soul. If just one person gets something out of my words, it is all worth it.

Hearing her words reminded me that you never know where your words are landing and how they are touching others. I’m not an imposter, I am a writer and my words deserve to be read just as much as I deserve to belong. I can’t be on the outside looking in because I am the protagonist in my story.

Here’s to being lucky enough to be writing for you in another 9 years. Thank you for reading my stories and sharing yours with me.

Here’s to many more Blogging Anniversary

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rise of the real, how to blog, blogger, blogging, daddy bloggers, women's rights

Rise of the real blogger are the five sweetest words that I’ve ever heard. The most important thing I took away about social media and blogging from Disney Social Media Mom’s Celebration was to just be myself online and trust in who I am as a blogger. The universe not so subtly reminded me to get back to what I’ve always done and trust my gut. Recently, I was told that I was being “too real” when I blog. I’m not even sure how that’s possible but from my understanding, authenticity cannot be manufactured. Real life is seldom perfect and when you present it in a way that is… you’re lying, either to yourself or your audience.

“Rise of the Real, be yourself, Be Authentic, connect with your audience, emotional connections,” these were just a few of the ways I heard the universe telling me to be myself. It is the very premise on which my website was built.

I kept hearing it over again at the Disney Social Media Mom celebration like a whisper following me around. It felt like the universe telling me to stop worrying about what other people were doing. You’ve heard the truth will set you free? Well, I believe it. The moment I started second guessing myself, doubt crept in and it manifested itself in a crippling fear of failure.

READ ALSO: How Mom 2.0 Renewed my Faith in Blogging and in Myself

I saw other people doing it better and getting bigger and I thought, hey, maybe they know better than I do. But doing what they do didn’t feel right for me because writing for me is more than a means to an end, a creative outlet or a career choice. Writing is a big part of who I am as a person and how I move through the world. I tell my stories because it’s how I process and make sense of life.

Rise of the real is confirmation of what I’ve always believed; honesty is the only way to blog and live.

I share with others because I think we are all connected by our experiences and while they don’t all play out the same way, we all experience them. Life is universal, some of us just do it differently than others. We all do what works for our family, for our lives but we all have those moments of failure and success and even though they may be different, the gut-wrenching pulls of failure and the elation of success (whatever the scale may be) is the same.

I’ve always shared my stories because I knew that people could relate on a human level. But then someone told me to think before I “speak” (write) because being too real can be a turn-off. I almost believed it. To be honest, it sent me into shut down mode. I got a terrible case of writer’s block. Turns out that I can’t overthink every single word I write because if I question every single thing I say or do, I’ll never do anything. I’m a leap first, ask for forgiveness person. It’s who I am and I don’t want to change that.

READ ALSO: What Every Blogger should know about Blogging

My stories connect me to you and your comments and responses connect you back to me. So often the online world feels like throwing something out into the abyss and leaving it there but that is not how blogging and social media have worked for me, not at all.

Blogging started for me when I was a new mom, completely disconnected from the outside world. Drowning in motherhood, my blog was me reaching out for someone to throw me a buoy and my readers, those connections/ their stories and ability to relate to what I was going through, they were what kept me afloat. If the stories I share can do that for someone else, it’s all worth it. I know they can because I’ve read the comments and I’ve made the connections with people all over the world through our stories.

A million page views a month may not be in my near future but I have posts that people all over the world have connected with and commented on over and over again. Some of my most personal stories that, if I had used common sense, I would have never hit publish on are some of my most popular because everyone is not perfect. Most of us have a hard time of it. We struggle, we fail and our success, our stories, are in the fact that we keep getting back up. Not that we never fall and never fail but that we keep trying and we overcome.

Someone once told me that people don’t want to read reality because they live it. They said reality is not “positive” enough. I say seeing someone I can relate to triumph through their hard times and succeed in their good times empowers me to do better. It makes me feel like I can do anything and it makes me happy for them. When they are in pain, I cheer for them. I don’t block them from my feed because they are bringing me down. I check in to make sure they are doing okay. My readers and followers are not just names of people I don’t know. We’ve connected. They know my family and in many cases, I know their stories too because they’ve shared in response to my stories. It’s a very organic and symbiotic relationship and I love it.

I get it. Too much negativity is a bummer but life isn’t always unicorns and rainbows and beaches. Sometimes it is. But sometimes it’s ugly cry, raw and hard. But mostly, it’s minutia and daily moments peppered with a good mix of profound bliss and misery. All of those unexpected, uncontrolled moments are what make up a life; beautiful in its glory and agony.

So, I ask you, do you prefer to read about how great someone else’s life is all the time? Or do you prefer the truth? The sometimes amazing beyond anything you could imagine, sometimes horrible and sometimes humorous day-to-day of life. Some days, it’s even downright boring but even in the minutia, it is relatable because who hasn’t been bored in their life? The thing I’ve realized it that it’s not about changing the truth, it’s about the way you tell your stories. It’s all in the narrative.

How do you prefer your blogging, transparency in the blogs you read or a blogger who edits reality to make it prettier?

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Have you ever heard the names, Elle Darby or Paul Stenson? Me neither until today. Talk about an influencer’s nightmare, I’m not sure it gets too much worse than this. A British Youtuber, Elle Darby, had the “audacity” to privately email a hotel, the Charleville Lodge Hotel, and ask for accommodations in exchange for “exposure” of their property. The property owner, Paul Stenson, clapped back by not only refusing and ostracizing her but doing it publicly on the establishment’s social media channels.  Therein lies the snafu and now, in response to Influencer backlash, he has banned all influencers from his establishment.

Obviously, I am being facetious. If you have worked in this space for any amount of time, at least in the United States, you know this is a common practice. Not necessarily that all influencers cold pitch businesses to ask for product in exchange for promotion. That’s a bold move and to do that, you need to have some serious confidence and influence to back it up. Seasoned influencers know this. We also know if you don’t ask, it’s always a no but there is always a chance of a no and it does not feel good, even in private.

Just to put this in perspective, brands and PR firms have absolutely no qualms about reaching out to influencers on a daily basis and asking us to work for free, for “exposure” (I keep putting this in quotes because I find it simultaneously hilarious and insulting because I can’t feed my children “exposure” and if I am spending my time away from my family working on promoting a brand, I need to be compensated) or for product. I prefer cash because that’s how I pay my bills but if the product/event is something that I am interested in and the value is equivalent to what I charge for work, then I definitely do consider it. Everything is negotiable except for my opinion, which is honest and if not positive, I always give the brand the option to opt out of the post going live. You know, the whole if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all thing.

I’ve been pitched, in the early days, to write positive reviews on products without even being provided the product. Obviously, I didn’t do that because I can’t tell you about or promise a positive review on a product that I’ve never tried. Also, crafting a well-written post, editing photos, creating video and promoting on social media all takes time and effort. No one would expect a marketing executive or an advertising firm to work for free, why would you expect an influencer to work for free?

First, I think a couple things need to be defined in this space. Why does anyone care if I (an influencer) promote a brand? How do I influence anyone? Why does my opinion matter? For any of this to make sense, you have to understand what being an influencer means.

What is an influencer?

A Social Media Influencer is a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.

Why does this matter?

Using social media influencers in your marketing is the practice of building relationships with the people who can build relationships for you. Whether an influencer’s audience is small or large, an influencer can reach consumers via their blogs and social networks that your brand may not be able to.

You see while some influencers may have little influence, some have a huge influence. It’s about more than numbers, it’s about engagement, credibility and connecting with your audience. If an influencer has developed a following over time and that audience has become invested in that influencer’s life, they do care what that influencer has to say, in the same way they might value a friend’s opinion over a brand’s commercial. Of course, there has to be taken into consideration the influencer’s integrity. Are they going to give an unbiased review? That really depends on the influencer.

After years of influencers being approached by brands to work in exchange for hosting, attending events and product we know that this is common practice. It is not unreasonable or even rare for an influencer to make this ask in return. In fact, many venues/events have media inquiry pages with forms just for this sort of ask.

I am fully aware that it sounds sketchy and maybe even entitled when you randomly find out about this practice from a salacious story on the Internet about a ghastly influencer who dared ask for something like this. Pay your own way, you think. But that’s because the general population is not aware of these practices in the digital space. I can tell you, and any brand will agree, it is easier to get paid $20000 in product than it is to get paid $1000 in cash but sometimes you don’t want $20K worth of kidney beans or bras or baby toys. That has everything to do with budgets and write-offs for the companies.

Again, if you work in this space, you already know all of this but the average person does not. My brother still doesn’t understand how “the internet” pays me. I think he thinks checks fall from the sky out of thin air. I tried to explain it once but his eyes glazed over and I could see he was hearing the Charlie Brown “Wah wah wah wah” thing. So I gave up but not today, Satan.

Elle Darby, who I had no prior knowledge of before this story blew up was just trying to “live her best life” (Generation Z you make my chuckle) working with what her mama gave her. We influencers know that if a company isn’t willing or doesn’t have the budget to pay us so we can pay for those things we need to live, it’s perfectly acceptable to (what I call) work for food, or in this case a holiday. The end result is the same.

We promote their brand to our audience (which is usually their target audience because we do our research) and in exchange they provide us with a good or service that we would have bought with the money had they paid us. We’re the new pioneers. It’s called bartering. It was the original form of payment. Google it. I’m kidding…don’t Google it. I’m sure people paid for goods and service with rocks or some shit a long time ago in caveman days

The problem is the person who did the clapping back is a skilled shit stirrer. Elle Darby made one fatal mistake and that was of asking the wrong person, Paul Stenson. The wrong person got her email or rather since he is the owner, she should have googled him before she emailed and then she would have known better.

Don’t get me wrong, full disclosure, I went to his blog and Paul Stenson is funny AF and I quite enjoy the wit and honesty, with which he writes. He gives his truth and doesn’t give a flying flick what anyone else thinks, generally, I admire that quality in a human being. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and I think that may be why he was so annoyed by the Youtuber’s gall to ask for this hosting in exchange for her work. I don’t know for sure but his blog seems like a personal blog and maybe he doesn’t work as an influencer for his own blog. After all, he has owns The White Moose Cafe and Charleville Lodge that I’m assuming his salary is in cash money. Lucky bastard.

Here is where my problem stems from, the message Paul Stenson posted on FB along with his message (both below) were not coming from his personal account but from the business account which was very unprofessional. He could have simply replied with a, “No, thank you.” No harm, no foul.

Had Mr. Stenson did the same thing from his personal account, that would simply be his opinion but as he did it as a representative of the resort and released a private business email then proceeded to chastise Ms. Darby over standard practice on behalf of the establishment, reflects very poorly on his establishment. I don’t think he’s a bad person, I just think he did a social media f*ck up under his business account. He should have hashtagged that shit #hacked.

 

Paul Stenson, Elle Darby, Elly Darby, The White Moose Cafe, Charleville Lodge, Dublin, Ireland, influencer, social media influencer, ban

 

Dear Social Influencer (I know your name but apparently it’s not important to use names),

Thank you for your email looking for free accommodation in return for exposure. It takes a lot of balls to send an email like that, if not much self-respect and dignity. 

If I let you stay here in return for a feature in your video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room? The waiters who serve you breakfast? The receptionist who checks you in? Who is going to pay for the light and heat you use during your stay? The laundering of your bed sheets? The water rates? Maybe I should tell my staff they will be featured in your video in lieu of receiving payment for work carried out while you’re in residence?

Lucky for us, we too have a significant social media following. We have 186k followers on our two Facebook pages, an estimated 80k on our Snapchat, 32k on Instagram and a paltry 12k on our Twitter, but Jesus Christ, I would never in a million years ask anyone for anything for free. I also blog a bit which as far as I’m aware is another way of saying “write stuff on the internet”. The above stats do not make me any better than anyone else or afford me the right to not pay for something everyone else has to pay for.

In future, I’d advise you to offer to pay your way like everyone else, and if the hotel in question believes your coverage will help them, maybe they’ll give you a complimentary upgrade to a suite. This would show more self-respect on your part and, let’s face it, it would be less embarrassing for you. Here is a little video I produced which you may learn from. (just Google it)

Best regards, 

Paul Stenson

P.S. The answer is no.

And Paul Stenson isn’t changing his mind anytime soon. Of course, now that I see this tweet, I feel a little skeptical about the entire situation. Was it all a media stunt for publicity? Maybe the two did collaborate, after all?

 

Paul Stenson, Elle Darby, Elly Darby, The White Moose Cafe, Charleville Lodge, Dublin, Ireland, influencer, social media influencer, ban

 

I do have to say, Ms. Darby’s “over 30” reference left a bad taste in my mouth too but let’s chalk it up to youth.

Either way, what are your thoughts on this situation who do you side with the Elle Darby or Paul Stenson?

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At&T,dreams, Walt Disney World, HIspanic Research, New Year's Resolutions

At&T,dreams, Walt Disney World, HIspanic Research, New Year's ResolutionsI told you all about my word of the year but it’s more than just words and visions, it’s hopes, dreams and goals all pursued with purpose and intent. I want attainable goals to better my life. After all, isn’t that all any of us really want?

What are those goals? I want to be my best self; physically and mentally. I want to be present in my life. I want to be available to my children and husband and I want to do my best to grow my career. I would rather spend every moment pursuing my passions and enjoying my life than being safe.

This is a compensated campaign in collaboration with AT&T and #WeAllGrow Latina Network.

One of my biggest goals is to take my passion (writing) and my business (this blog) to the next level. I want to grow beyond my self-imposed boundaries. I’ve spent years being afraid of the next level and I’m done with that. I’m more afraid of not trying than I am at failing because if you try, you can’t actually fail because you succeed just be going for it.

One of the primary ways that I will be pursuing this goal is through the use of technology. In fact, without it, my dream would not even exist. My dream lives on the Internet and plays out via my laptop, camera, phone, routers, Wi-Fi hotspots, desktop and so many other pieces of technology that keep me connected and provide me with a venue to pursue my dream.

My website has provided me not only the vehicle to connect with other moms and women around the world, it’s given me a place to share my words, my thoughts and my experiences. It’s allowed me to raise money for charities and bring light to important issues that need our attention. The internet has given me a place to amplify my voice and to actually do something to change the world, instead of just talking about it amongst a small group of friends.

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. ~ Steve Jobs

Last year, a small group of us raised over $100,000 for charity in a couple months just by using social networks. I’ve traveled the world. Met celebrities and politicians. Seen Broadway shows, concerts and musicals. Been given backstage access to some of the coolest events. Worked with some of the greatest brands around the world all while being able to stay-at-home and raise my daughters. Technology has changed my life and allowed me to touch other people’s lives. It’s as close to having it all, as I ever could have imagined.

In April 2017, AT&T conducted a Hispanic research study to explore the role of technology in U.S. Latinos’ pursuit of their goals and aspirations across various aspects of their lives. Of those Latinos researched, 77% say technology plays a big role in keeping socially and culturally connected. 67% say technology enables them to stay connected to their Hispanic identity. 58% feel more empowered through technology. 68% believe technology is key to the empowerment of the Latino community in the U.S. I agree.

At&T, HIspanic Research, New Year's Resolutions

Technology is the great equalizer. It makes all of our voices carry equally. There is no accent or preconceived notions or prejudices parlayed via our online voices. Technology has leveled the playing field and there is no dream too small or too large that I can’t pursue and achieve. Knowledge of technology is power.

What is your resolution for the greater good? How has technology made your dreams come true?

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conquer, word of the year, words, how to live with intent

Every year, for the last few years anyway, it has been popular to choose a “word of the year“. A word to guide you, subconsciously fill up all the air around you and permeate your every action and allow you put it into the universe and manifest your destiny. I like the idea because words are what I do. Writing is how I process and move through life. Words are everything to me and predicate everything I do, whether I planned it or not. It’s who I am. I am a writer.

This year, I chose not a word of the year but words because words matter to me and I believe that we do manifest what we put out into the world, whether it be by thought, word or action.

I believe they go hand in hand and where one goes, the others will follow.

This time it wasn’t so much about a word of the year but more of an idea. This year isn’t about resolutions so much as intention. It’s not about black and white, there is no room for absolutes. I have goals and intentions for this year but they are more about the kind of life I want to live and not so much about hard fast boxes to mark off. If that makes sense?

My word of the year for 2018 is “conquer” by my definition.

Conquer: To successfully overcome with intent and purpose.

My supporting words, my words of intent to help me get to conquer in my best possible way?  Grace, bold, brave, out of my comfort zone, growth and abundance.

I picked these words because I want to grow in all aspects of my life and I want to grow abundantly beyond my comfort zone. And all this I want to do boldly with grace and bravery. I need to break my own glass ceiling, conquer my fears and the limitations that I have put on myself and go for it. That’s always been my problem. I put myself in a box. I want out of the box. I put it there, so I believe I can remove these shackles. It starts with changing the way I approach things.

I have always believed that where there is a will, there is a way. I don’t believe in outside factors being able to stop me. They may detour my path but no one else can stop me from getting to where I want to go. It is me; my procrastination, my fear, my self-doubt, my preference for quitting rather than being rejected that has gotten me stagnate. It’s the voice of being undeserving that overwhelms me and freezes me into not pushing past my comfort zone but I want to move past it. What I want lies beyond where I have allowed myself to dream, so I am pushing towards the unknown. pushing through my own fears and self-doubt to get there. Working my ass off to learn what I don’t know and get myself there.

Which leads me to my next decision, if the answer is not a loud siren-like, “Hell, yeah!!!” then I am going to say no. I am tired of bending and pulling my life in 27 different directions, wearing me too thin for things I don’t really care about. I want to put 1000% towards the things that do matter to me and not waste any time or energy on those things that don’t matter to me. In doing this, I want to pay it forward or laterally or however you want to see it, and share opportunities that are not for me on to others who might be everything to them.

I want to work and live with intent. There has to be a purpose for everything, even if that purpose is just pure joy. That is still a purpose but I want there to be intent in all of my actions.

When I first thought of “conquer” as my word, I wasn’t sure because it sounds a bit too aggressive but considering that the first word that came to mind was “revolt” I guess it’s a better choice. The thing is I don’t mind being aggressive in my pursuit of my dreams but I don’t want to be abrasive. There is a difference between being strong-willed and determined and being confrontational for the sake of causing conflict. Life doesn’t have to be hard all the time. I just learned that. Life is beautiful and malleable and can be whatever we want to make of it. Happiness is different for all of us. Conquer is what is going to bring me to my happiness. 2018 for me is going to be the year of the word.

What word of intent is going to bring you to your happiness? What is your word of the year?

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Norton Core, Cyber Security, Best Buy, Secure WiFi

Disclosure: I’ve been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the Norton Core™ at a reduced price or for free.

How much of your life is online?

For me living in the digital age means many of life’s most precious things are held online; the videos of my daughters being born, our wedding video, all the photos of our life and my work; all the stories and memories we’ve created  throughout our life so far, digitized and in living color.

And even the things that seem less important are still pretty vital to our existence, our financial records, our privacy, our history, a record of payments and earnings, home security; basically everything we do now is online from homework to dental records and everything in between.

What that means is that my online security is almost as important as my actual physical safety. What that means to me is that I need to take that security very seriously. I need to protect all that is precious and dear to me with the fierceness and ferociousness that I would protect my own children with. That’s why I take my cyber security seriously. I can’t let those memories, moments, pieces of our lives be compromised for one second.

Norton Core™ is a secure, high-performance WiFi router that helps protect your home network and an unlimited number of your connected devices, including computers, mobile and smart home devices against malware, viruses, hackers, and cybercriminals before they can infiltrate your home and compromise your personal information. Think of it as a personal bodyguard for your online existence.

Norton Core, Cyber Security, Best Buy, Secure WiFi

Norton Core™ is a high-performance and easy to set-up WiFi router that allows you to stream your favorite movies in 4K, play online games and download content with its powerful dual-core processor.

Norton Core™ offers multi-layer protection. Think of it as a bodyguard for your bodyguard. No one is getting past this thing without a serious fight on their hands. It’s comprehensive network security to protect your connected home from malware, viruses, phishing tactics and botnets.

Norton Core, Cyber Security, Best Buy, Secure WiFi

 

Bonus, Norton Core™ protects all of your connected devices. A 1-year subscription to Norton Core Security Plus is included to protect your Macs, PCs, tablets, Smartphones and smart devices.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Norton Core™ enables you to manage screen time by setting content filters or daily limits on usage. And if the situation calls for it, you can pause the Internet in your house. That’s what I call smart parental controls.

Norton Core, Cyber Security, Best Buy, Secure WiFi

I love Norton Core™ for all that it does to protect my favorite and most precious things that I entrust online and it’s hard to believe that all this protection comes in such a small, sleek piece machinery that looks more like a piece of art than my family’s bodyguard.

 

 

 

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