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Tech

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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Internet Showdown: Professional Sh*t Stirrer Versus Entitled Youtuber

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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gift guide, tech for parents, girl's gift guide, Christmas, tech, travel, fashion, chooze, xdoria, kid's fit, American Girl, MaryEllen Larkin

What is the perfect gift for a parent? If you ask me, it’s a day of relaxation and leisure but seeing as that is not the easiest thing to wrap up and give in a box, why not something that makes life easier, more efficient or more enjoyable for today’s parents?

Here is my list of must-have gifts for parents in 2017.

holiday gift guide, tech for parents, gift guide

 

Arlo Baby

Yes, we all need a good baby monitor because it provides us with peace of mind. This advanced smart baby monitor includes 1080p HD video, a lullaby player, night vision, rechargeable battery, air sensors, baby crying alerts and 2-way talking. Arlo Baby gives parents peace of mind by enabling them to monitor the nursery environment wherever they are and ensure they never miss any of baby’s big milestones (baby’s first steps!).

 

holiday gift guide, tech for parents, gift guide

PogoCam

Ever worry about missing that “perfect shot”? I know when my girls were toddlers I had my hands full and they were always doing cute things that I missed catching on film because my hands were full of babies.

If I had the PogoCam, the world’s smallest and lightest attachable eyewear camera, I could have caught them all. Did you know that consumers take more than 3 billion pictures a day from smartphones? And with a phone, you need at least one hand. The PogoCam will result in more life experiences and memories being captured and shared.

It attaches magnetically to most glasses so you can maintain signature style. The small, light and easily removable camera lets users discover the world from their point of view and capture photos and HD videos. Images are easy to transfer and can be shared across all social sites when used with the PogoTec Smart Case. PogoCam connects to the Smart Case using a standard USB-C connector and can hold 16,000 photos or up to 90 minutes of video.

holiday gift guide, tech for parents, gift guide

Arlo Pro 2

Nothing gives a parent peace of mind more than knowing their precious little one is safe. As the newest generation of NETGEAR’s security camera line, Arlo Pro 2 supports 1080p video quality and also offers the ability to set alert zones, so that you can tell the camera to ping you when it detects any kind of motion in pre-specific areas. Its wire-free capability and rugged, weather-resistant design allow you to set it up from anywhere you travel, indoors or out, rain or shine.

holiday gift guide, tech for parents, gift guide

The smART sketcher Projector 

My youngest is a little artist. She wants to draw everything. Art keeps her busy, using her mind and off the computer. Art is a crucial for early childhood development. Not only does it help define and enhance motor skills, but also improve cognitive development, math skills and language skills! Imagine a product that promoted artistic ability, education and fun all in one?

The smART sketcher Projector is the first smart projector of its kind that combines both traditional art and technology in one! Kids can get sketching in 3 easy steps – take a photo of anything, filter and transfer to the smART sketcher Projector and begin sketching! Kids will learn to sketch their pets, the best friends and even their heroes.

iPhone X

The all-new iPhoneX features a gorgeous OLED Retina display without bezels and it’s waterproof. I’ve always loved my iPhones but the camera on this one makes it worth it just for the photos alone.

Apple TV 4K

This is the ultimate streaming entertainment system. You can stream 4K movies from iTunes, Netflix and Amazon prime. Apple won’t even charge you for renting and buying 4K movies. Plus what a great place to watch and share all of your family photos and home movies.

Beats Noise Canceling Head Phones

The all-new Beats Studio 3 wireless headphones help your favorite people tune out their surroundings at work or on the road. They feature high-quality noise canceling, excellent sound quality and Apple’s fantastic W1 chip.

What’s at the top of your tech list this holiday season?

Disclosure: Some of the products on this list were provided for review purposes but all opinions are my own.

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ATMOSTFX, Halloween, How to win the creepiest house on the block, digital decorating, #ATMOSFX

Disclosure: I was provided some of the products I mentioned by AtmosFX but all opinions and love of Halloween and tips for how to have the creepiest house on the block this Halloween is all mine.I scream! You scream! We all scream for Halloween! Well, you do if you’re doing it right anyway. Is Halloween your favorite holiday? Do you live for all things spooky and spectacular?

I scream! You scream! We all scream for Halloween! Well, you do if you’re doing it right anyway. Is Halloween your favorite holiday? Do you live for all things spooky and spectacular?

It’s Friday the 13th and you can bet that I am binge watching Jason Vorhees slash some teenagers trying to have sex. What a c-block, right? Having Jason Vorhees around is like having little kids in the house but with a machete.The point is I love Halloween, always have.

We are crazy for Halloween. It’s not just me. The Big Guy, our girls, my brothers and sisters and myself. We love to scare and be scared. The bigger the fright, the better the night.

Starting in August (sometimes before) we’re planning our costumes, by September we’re setting up our decorations and by mid-September, you can bet we are binge-watching all the horror movies on all the days. We live for Fright Fest and the Zombie walk. I know, it’s a bit much but it is what it is and it is full on our favorite holiday.

Every year we try to kick it up a notch. The family costumes get a little more intricate and we’re aiming for straight up scary. As the girls get a bit older we are able to decorate a little creepier with a little more of a macabre factor. When they were young, it was all about the blow-up decoration. In fact, we have a witch that we bought the year we found out that we were pregnant with Bella. I can still see her as a toddler sitting on her dad’s lap as they figured out the fan and blew the friendly witch up.

Ever wonder, how to have the creepiest house on the block?

As the girls grew, so did our collection of blow-ups to the point where all the neighborhood children came to the yard, every day to see what was new; parents were pushing strollers down in front of my lawn showing their toddlers that there is nothing to be afraid of at our house. It was “fun”. But this year, we’re upping the wow- EEE as in screaming factor.

ATMOSTFX, Halloween, How to win the creepiest house on the block, digital decorating, #ATMOSFX

This year, thanks to the graciousness of AtmosFX, we have discovered the piece de resistance in outdoor ( and indoor) decorating…Digital decorating! Y’all know we are tech nerds up in this house but this year, with the help of some exciting new products like the ATMOS FX Digital decorating kit and ATMOSFX Media Player with Motion Sensor, Premium window projection material, Hollusion Projection Material ( to hang in the yard and create holograms of the most macabre Halloween site on our block ever), the AtmosFX Digital ProDecorating Kit 2017 and the 3DFX Inflatable Form and accompanying digital download decorations.

This is how to have the creepiest house on the block this Halloween using AMOSFX!

What does all of this mean? This means that in my yard this year, in addition to the blow up witch, black cat, pumpkins, and bat there will be zombies trying to escape from the house, dancing skeletons in the graveyard assembled in our front yard and greetings from a particularly nefarious child ghoul at our front door, all accompanied by a spooky soundtrack, a smoke machine and strobe lights. I seriously can’t wait.

The best part is, not only do we get to earn the title of scariest house in the neighborhood this year, at Christmas time we simply change the projections and become the most elaborately decorated house in the neighborhood. I’ve always wanted to put a Nutcracker scene in the yard since our girls are ballerinas and it has been such a big part of our lives for the past 8 years. This year, I can do that because I can project a winter wonderland, complete with Santa and the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker himself. It’s going to be awesome but first, we scare the neighborhood this Halloween.

If you love Halloween scares as much as we do, and you probably do, I would highly recommend checking out ATMOSFX. There is still time to get your scare on this Halloween Night!

I’m sharing some pics in this post but will be sure to share some live video on Halloween night of all the decorations in action.

ATMOSTFX, Halloween, How to win the creepiest house on the block, digital decorating, #ATMOSFX

What are you dressing as for Halloween this year? What’s your favorite decoration/fright that you’ve ever seen while trick or treating or out on Halloween night? What do you do to be the creepiest house on the block? Have you ever used ATMOSFX to kick your Halloween decorations up a digital notch?

 

 

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Best Buy, CUJO, business-level security, home network, smart home
I have been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the CUJO smart firewall at a reduced price or for free but all opinions about how to keep your family safe on online are my own.

Do you worry about how to keep your family safe online? I mean it’s not like some freak is going to take our baby’s photos cyber hostage and Liam Neeson is going to magically appear and save the day. We have to be proactive. But who even wants to think about such horrible things? Well, you have to, for your family’s sake.

It’s your business to know how to keep your family safe online.

Have you ever been hacked? Maybe it was your Facebook or your Twitter or maybe on a deeper level, maybe your email or blog was hacked. If it’s never happened to you before or your livelihood doesn’t depend on the Internet, count yourself lucky. Mine does and I have been hacked. It is not fun. Hackers and cyberstalkers make me uncomfortable.

I thought being plagiarized was the worst thing that could happen to me while making my living online. I was wrong. You see, when someone hacks you, takes your site down with a nasty virus or uses a malicious site to impede the growth and functionality of your site, it becomes personal. It feels like someone broke into your house and stole your grandma’s watch that your mom gave you, your diary and your check. It’s pretty awful.

You are left floundering trying to reconnect and reestablish control over what is already yours. Worse, most often, especially if you make your career online, they stop you from having access to your site to make money. They hit you where it financially hurts. Let me tell you, it’s really hard to explain to companies that you have contracts for work with that you just won’t be getting your work in on time because somebody stole your site. It looks unprofessional and reflects badly on you. It may even cause you to lose work. None of these scenarios are acceptable to me and probably aren’t acceptable to you either. There has to be a way to protect ourselves from these kinds of attacks on our sites.

Here is the first step in how to keep your family safe online.

Enter CUJO. Nope, I am not talking about the rabid dog in Stephen King’s horror movie. CUJO is a smart firewall for the connected home, designed to bring business-level security to the home network. This one device will secure all devices connecting to the WiFi router.

CUJO detects and blocks malicious sites, viruses, and hacks. Think of it like antivirus for your entire network. Plus, CUJO lets you control what your kids access online and keep them safe. Mobile apps let you control your firewall’s settings as it protects networked devices and smart doorbells, cameras, and thermostats against hackers.

So you get business-level internet security in a device that guards all the devices in your home plus parental controls. Oh, and did I mention you can connect to the router and control CUJO with an app. On top of all of that, it is super-fast with a built-in 1GB Ethernet. Basically, aside from protecting my business and my online presence, CUJO protects my family.

Some of the Parental controls features are parental controls for all devices. I have tweens now so we have plenty of devices that need protection. CUJO has an internet filter, allows you to set time limits, monitors social media and allows you to pause the internet. Finally, something I can ground them with that they will actually miss. To streamline your families online experience and give you added peace of mind CUJO provides alerts and reporting capabilities, allows remote administration and you can set up separate user profiles and settings. It’s everything I ever wanted and need with an entire family on the Internet.

CUJO is one of those things that you probably won’t even realize you need until it’s too late and your Internet security has been breached. As my mom has always said, it’s better to be safe than sorry and there are just too many great, security features for me to wait and see. My career, my identity and most importantly, my family means too much to me to not have this security measure put in place.

Do you have your own CUJO? Have you ever heard about this device?

To learn more about how to keep your family safe online, check out more information on Best Buy’s website.

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What would anissa do, Anissa Mayhew, Aiming Low, online friends, rest in peace

Yesterday, as I was laying on a beach watching my daughters frolic in the surf , a gentle, quiet happiness settled on my soul. The kind that can only be found in moments of calm simplicity. Those that are so few and far between in everyday life that we hardly even expect them. Then, I glanced at my Facebook page and my joy hit over the head with a brick and left in its place profound sadness.

I read the news that, my friend, Anissa Mayhew had died. I don’t have all the facts. I don’t know what exactly stole this woman that I respected and admired from this world. The point is moot because the result is the same; a bright light has gone out.

You see, Anissa was the first person who ever asked me to write professionally. If you’re not a freelance writer it’s hard to describe so I’ll say it like this, imagine the 1 thing you love to do in this world, then imagine there is someone who not only appreciates it, reads it, comments and tells you that you’re talented but then offers to give you actual money to be able to share your talent with the world! She gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion and chase my dreams, when I had no idea what that looked like or how to get there. She gave to me hope and inspiration like she did for so many others, not with just her words but with what she did.

What would anissa do, Anissa Mayhew, Aiming Low, online friends, rest in peace

Anissa and I met online through social media and blogging and one day, she offered me a place (besides my own site) to be as bold and silly with my true voice as I wanted to be. In fact, she encouraged it. She hired me to write for Aiming Low and it felt like being selected to be a part of the online version of SNL. I was not only humbled by her request, I was honored. Through my time at Aiming Low, I really got to know Anissa and see her for the force of nature she truly was. 

If you are a fellow Aiming Lower, you know what a magical group of people it was and you know it was carefully curated by Anissa; a woman who saw something special in each of us and our voice in this world. She had a knack for telling it like it was and doing it with complete love.

She loved me for my crazy, even when she knew how deep the crazy ran. That’s the kind of person she was. She was good and she was real and she saw that in others. She also had no qualms about calling an asshole an asshole and you have to respect that. She built me up before I even I believed in me.  

She gave me permission to own my funny and all of my stories, no matter how big or small. But more than that she made me part of her magical, insanely kooky Aiming Low family. She gave me the gift of my people and I’ll always love her for that.

What would anissa do, Anissa Mayhew, Aiming Low, online friends, rest in peace

I’m sad. I’m truly fucking gutted. When I was sobbing on the beach, full on ugly crying. I’m sure someone YouTubed it. I’m also 1000% sure Anissa would have loved to have seen that video. She probably would have shared it? Laughed and sent me a message that said,”Debi, stop being such s little bitch!”

I loved Anissa for her giant heart, wicked sense of humor and that smile that only she could give that let you know it was all okay. She taught me that life is hard and so what, get over it. Get your shit together and get through it. There was something special about her way of looking at the world and the way she loved her people. And boy, did she love her people. If you are one of the lucky ones to have been loved by her, you know, she had you back….your front and your side, all the way. 

I hate that the world has gotten in the way and none of us have been as connected as we once were because life and kids and the mundane shit of real everyday life but the love was always still there. I’ll miss Anissa more than words can convey. I hope she’s enjoying all the bacon someplace with really fine men fanning her with palms. I think she’d like that, especially if they smell of bacon.

What would anissa do, Anissa Mayhew, Aiming Low, online friends, rest in peace

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m feeling like from now on we get back to 2009 blogging. When you write ask yourself, what would Anissa do? And just write from your heart, comment like it matters, make connections, talk and care about more than just who will pay you the most to promote their product. Remember what we do counts… the human connections are real and far-reaching. Our words have weight and how we interact/ the way we care/love/laugh that’s part of our legacy. That’s how we’ll be remembered.

Thank you, Anissa, for giving me the balls to continue living my truth even when it wasn’t popular, the friendship to keep going during the excruciatingly hard times and for making all of us misfits feel like snowflakes, even when you had your own shit going on.

I could talk for days about how amazing Anissa was. I know many of us share similar stories and I hope that you will share your favorite moments about/with Anissa in the comments below. I want to reconnect with all of you because one thing Anissa’s passing has taught me is that life is too short.

But mostly, I want to send all of my love and prayers to Peter Mayhew and Anissa’s 3 beautiful children who she loved so very much. You’re in our thoughts.

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Nielsen, Nielsen App, Tap Influence, How to partner with your dream brand, Entertainment

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Nielsen. I have been compensated through the SheSavvy Influence Network. All opinions remain my own.

You all know that I love entertainment; television, music, movies and live productions are my jam. It’s always been my outlet since I was a child, the way I decompress. I just never knew how important it was to me until I was bedridden when I broke my leg in 2015. That’s when I realized entertainment keeps the mind agile, even when the body is immobile. But who decides what works and what doesn’t?

Have you ever heard of Nielsen, as in the Nielsen ratings?

Nielsen is the leader in TV, radio, and Internet measurement. I’ve always associated the name with television but it is so much more. They are the people who figure out what should be on television based on what the viewers want. Luckily, they understand that people who watch TV, listen to radio, and use the internet come from diverse backgrounds and that’s why they make sure to reach out to African-American, Latino, Asian-American, and other communities to ensure everyone’s voices are heard. Each culture’s experience is different and we can relate to shows differently. This is important.

In fact, Nielsen has been the leading global research company that provides consumer insights to businesses for 90 years and work in over 100 countries. They partner with real people to provide the science behind what’s next. They do research all over the world to find out what real people watch, listen to and buy.

 In today’s digital age, just like their work with TV and radio, Nielsen wants to better understand how people use their computers and mobile devices so that they can provide insights to those providers that give us the best user experience.

Like with television and radio, Nielsen does this with online panels, people just like you and I. This gives us an opportunity to voice our opinions and provide honest insights that can help improve our online experience. We can make our voices heard.

Being a member of the online panel is simple. You just sign up, fill out a registration survey, and download an app onto your computer(s) and/or mobile device(s). While your participation in a panel impacts the future of the Internet; it can also be rewarding! As soon as you download the app, you can start earning rewards like sweepstakes entries (for up to $1,000 per month!), gift cards and more.

So what is the Nielsen Computer and Mobile Panel?

The Nielsen Computer and Mobile Panel is our opportunity to be a part of the research Nielsen does. They analyze information from the panel to understand how people use their computers, tablets, and smartphones. Companies rely on this important research to make better decisions about the products and services they offer.

What are you signing up for as part of the Nielsen Computer and Mobile panel?

You will help Nielsen understand how people use the Internet by simply using the Internet on your computer or mobile device. By using the app, you’re signing up to become part of a “panel” and share your internet habits. Just be you, they want real feedback.

How does it work?

Sign up using your email address, fill out a registration survey, install the app on all your registered device(s) and start earning rewards. Simply, use your computer/ phone as you normally do and get rewarded for it. Even if you don’t use the Internet all day every day like me and only use the Internet once a month, your feedback still provides important insights.

What is in it for me? Does it cost money to participate in the Nielsen Computer and Mobile Panel?

Absolutely not! In fact, you will be rewarded for participating. Active members receive sweepstakes entries for their registered computers – you could win up to $1,000 per month! For participating with a mobile device, you can earn points that can be redeemed for prizes or gift cards—up to $50 per year!

Your participation will never cost you anything and no one will try to sell you anything but it’s vital to shaping the future of the internet. It gives you the opportunity to represent your community with your voice.

How does Nielsen protect my privacy?

They are committed to protecting the data and personal information you share with them. They will NOT use such information to advertise, promote, or sell goods or services directly to you and we do not allow their clients to sell directly to you. So they will not be selling their panelists list. Panelist data is automatically encrypted to help ensure complete security. The information about you and your household for research purposes. However, as part of the panel, Nielsen might contact you about future research opportunities.

It’s a win-win, you use your devices as you normally would and you get to influence the future of the Internet while possibly earning some extra cash for yourself. Being part of the Nielsen panel is simple and safe, like getting rewards for walking or breathing.

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