Friday, July 29, 2016

The Baxter® Family Newsletter

Hello fellow Glastonbury Neighborhood families!

As we finish with summer, I wanted to update you on the Baxter® family fortunes through our monthly newsletter. Since we'll be spending the next two weeks getting ready for back to school, we've been so thankful that the Baxter® Beacon™ has let us keep everyone up to date with our goings-on.

Before we get into the meat of the newsletter — or tofu protein patties, for my vegan pals — I'd like to ask a little favor. I notice several people driving rather fast through the neighborhood. I know the posted speed limit says 20, but "dears" live here, so it would be great if you could keep it well below 15. It's hard to see all the kids as they dart out from between the cars parked on the street as they play on the driveways. Remember, slow equals safe for this protective momma bear!

There have been several local crime stories in the news lately. I know we're safe up here in our little suburban enclave, and that most crime actually happens in the big city. But I still get worried any time our sleepy little town is mentioned during the crime segment on the news.

(On a side note, when did the news get so scary? You would think nothing good ever happened in the world these days. I would love to see a whole newscast devoted to nothing but good news for a change. I bet people would watch that.)

So Blake® and I are urging everyone to keep an eye out for suspicious vehicles in the neighborhood. Last week, I saw a teenage boy driving slowly past our house with an older man in the passenger seat. I figured they were looking out for houses to rob, so I speed dialed the police. They rushed out and questioned the driver.

I later learned he was just a neighborhood teenager learning how to drive with his father. Still, they were driving slowly, which made me nervous. Remember, slow equals suspicious to this eagle-eyed momma!

On a much cheerier note, Blake® and I registered the kids' names as registered trademarks, as well as our own, over the summer. Blake®'s brother, Stephen™, is an intellectual property attorney in Chicago, and he helped us do it.

We figured the kids are doing so well on their sports travel teams that when they become college and professional athletes, we'll be able to keep the licensing fees the NCAA and pro leagues would have used to line their own pockets. There's no point in enriching those people. Plus, it puts us on stronger footing when EA Sports comes a-knocking. Fingers crossed we see Farron® or Dashiell® on the cover of FIFA 27 or Madden NFL 34. Sports equal satisfaction for this athletic-supporting momma!

That's assuming Käetlin® doesn't become a professional ballerina first. She loves her Tuesday morning dance class!

And while her brothers and sister are staying active, we're also proud of Auden®. She's finishing her fourth week of summer camp, and is ready to come home. It's been an amazing transformation. When we first sent her off, she was homesick, calling every day, begging to come home. But now, she barely writes and won't spend more than a few minutes on the phone with me, so we know she's having such a wonderful time that she doesn't want us interrupting her.

We're now researching college scholarships and looking at SAT prep academies for her. It's hard to believe our little valedictorian will be going to college in just six short years. But if anyone is going to win a Nobel prize, it will be our little Auden®. Science equals splendid to this education-eager momma!

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at the neighborhood picnic next week. Remember, Dashiell® is sensitive to peanuts, while Kaëtlin® shouldn't eat wheat. Plus Blake® and I prefer the children don't have processed meat, so no hot dogs. Also, I'm sure I speak for the other, more caring neighborhood moms when I ask you to please avoid processed sugar in your delicious desserts. As for the men, Blake® is super proud of the home brew non-alcoholic beer he's made, so I hope you're all thirsty! And I'll be serving up mom-friendly mimosas!

In the meantime, I've only received RSVPs from three of you. Please remember to get those in as soon as possible.

Hugs and kisses to you all!

Sheila® Baxter®

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Motivational Quotes: Inspiration for the Uninspired

I'm not an easy person to motivate.

That doesn't mean I lack motivation. It means you won't inspire me to do my best by bombarding me with clever slogans and aphorisms. I find my own inspiration and motivate myself without any clever quotes to guide me.

"Just do it" never did it for me. It was just a catchy t-shirt slogan that people bought for $30 so they could shill for Nike.

"No pain, no gain?" No thanks. I don't have to "eat lightning and crap thunder," as Mickey so delicately put it in Rocky II.

I get credo after credo in my Twitter feed, exhorting me to do my best, to never give up, to ignore failure, to never sleep, to get hungry, to ignore the hunger, to seize the day, sweat blood, ignore the pain, seize the tiger's tail, grab the bull by its horns, and take no bullshit.

And they keep coming. Life coaches and people who are annoyingly upbeat in the morning share so many gym poster philosophies, I wonder if they actually have time to do client work.

It's not that I don't want to do better, I just don't want to do it because a poster told me to. These buffed-up bon mots don't make me want to run a marathon or flip over a tractor tire. I didn't feel like hanging in there for Friday, and I never hated Mondays.

"Suck it up now so you don't have to suck it in later," said one quote. I'm afraid you're a bit late.

"Better sore than sorry," said another, which I read in a Canadian accent. When Canadians apologize, it sounds like "sore-y." At least being sorry doesn't keep me from raising my arms over my head.

"Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going," said an Under Armour t-shirt. Yeah, that'll get me to the gym: I could fall over, puke on myself, and then choke to death. Good times, good times.

"Making excuses burns zero calories per hour" said another poster. Wrong!

A 2004 Harvard article said that a 185 pound person will burn 33 calories watching TV, 50 by reading, and 67 doing light office work. You can even burn 72 calories an hour by sitting in a meeting. I've been in plenty of terrible meetings; I probably burned a whole lot more just trying not to stab anyone.

Basically, if you can burn 50 calories by reading this column, plus several more, for an hour, you can burn many more by writing down all the reasons not to go to the gym.

Business quotes are even worse, because they're shared by people who don't seem to understand how business works.

"Great things never came from comfort zones!" declares one business quote. Really? So whoever invented mashed potatoes and feety pajamas was locked in a life-or-death struggle with their fax machine? Because those things are mighty comforting.

Author Kobi Yamada said, "Follow your dreams. They know the way." And then he floated away on a magical balloon to a land made of candy and the laughter of children.

We entrepreneurs like to say we follow our passion or live our dreams, or some nonsense. But the stark reality is, following your dreams can be a 14-hour-a-day grind, and you would give your competition's right eye for some sleep.

People who think business success is achieved only by believing in themselves are in for a big surprise when their bank won't let them pay their mortgage with a pocket full of dreams.

Speaking of beliefs, Wayne Dyer oversimplified success when he said, "Believe. It's as simple as that."

I want to lick the back of my own neck, but simply believing ain't gonna make it so.

I understand the need for exercising and eating healthy, and I appreciate the people who wholly throw themselves into that lifestyle, forsaking all art, literature, and music. But Michael Jordan quotes won't make me go out for a jog any more than Ernest Hemingway quotes will make them pick up a book.

The only thing that's going to make me go out for a run is if a zombie is behind me, and even then, I'm only running as far as my truck.

I realize motivational quotes have to be positive, because they remind us to dream big. Still, I'd like to see something more realistic than Les Brown's quote, "Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

Although I have to admit, it sounds a lot better than "Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you'll die."

Photo credit: U.S. Food & Drug Administration (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Growing Trend of Living Tiny

Move over, giant sprawling houses. Tiny house living is the Next Big Thing. After the Great Recession, people realized they didn't need — and shouldn't have gotten — 4,000 square foot McMansions anymore.

They started dumping all their useless crap, and began to simplify their lives. They started buying smaller and smaller homes, until it blossomed into a new trend: tricked-out garden sheds on small trailers, and every home and garden network airing tiny house programs six times a day.

Some shows focus on the building techniques and technology of the garden shed. Others are more of the hunting type, where — surprise, surprise! — two spoiled and picky people try to buy a tiny home that will suit their crunchy-organic-hug-Mother-Earth lifestyle, but are still surprised at how small the homes are. They want something they can entertain friends in, but still leave them all behind in an instant when they move across country on a whim.

Yet, for all their talk of being mobile, we all know the couple is going to live in her parents' back yard until they bitterly divorce four years later.

Several years ago, I thought tiny living looked interesting. The spartan lifestyle appealed to me, as I was in the midst of moving my family's crap for the fourth time in four years, and I had never prayed so fervently for a flaming meteor strike in my life. I fell in love with the idea of changing my home and surroundings with nothing more than a pickup and a trailer hitch.

For one thing, tiny living is inexpensive. Forget these "wealth managers" who say you need to save $500,000 or even $1 million just to retire. Move into a $40,000 tiny house, and you can pay your mortgage out of a coffee shop tip jar, and your wealth manager won't even acknowledge you in public anymore.

But before cramming ourselves into a shoebox on wheels, let's practice first to see if you're ready.

First, pile everything you own into your front yard. Now set fire to it. Tiny houses don't have storage space, so you have to downsize. You may have thought about putting a few tchotchkes on a shelf above your TV, but don't. The combined weight on that wall will tip your trailer over.

Next, empty out one of your kids' bedrooms, put in your couch, TV, stove, sink, and bed, and live in it for four weeks. Tell your significant other that this is a great chance to grow closer in your relationship. If you need privacy, sit on the other end of the couch and don't make eye contact.

Stick a toilet lid on a bucket and hang a curtain around it. That's your bathroom. It's called a "composting toilet," which is environmental talk for "indoor poop storage." If you want to get fancy during your experiment, nail some plywood together into a makeshift room. Install a loose-fitting, air-permeable door too. Slam it on your knees whenever you're taking care of business, since you can't close it all the way while you're in there.

Once you finish, hurry and shut the door, though it's already too late. Go back to your "side of the house" and make awkward conversation for several minutes, while neither of you address the stinky elephant in the room.

Time for bed. Climb up into the tiny loft you built two feet from the ceiling. Since tiny houses are not made for real mattresses, your bed is made of three yoga mats stacked on top of each other. You lay on your back, your nose just six inches from the ceiling, which also means that clearly anything. . . else is out of the question.

Bottom line, if you want to reduce your life footprint, save money, and eliminate clutter, forget tiny houses. Try a small house instead, around 500 to 800 square feet, two bedrooms and one bathroom. At least you'll have room to live normally.

I believe tiny houses are just a temporary trend, and not a long-term solution for people. It may be fine for the single person who likes to be alone and doesn't want people to visit her. But for those of us who are married and want to stay that way, a tiny house is not for you.

But if you insist on buying one, just do what I was planning to do: build a large storage building for all your stuff, and put the tiny house inside it. Then just live inside that, protected from the elements.

Photo credit: Guillaume Dutih (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Sharks and Piranhas and Bears, Oh My

Growing up in Indiana, the one thing we didn't have were bears. I was always fascinated by bears. I admired them for their strength and single-mindedness in searching for pic-a-nic baskets. Bears were also far away animals, and I never worried about one of them eating me.

Not like sharks. I saw "Jaws" on HBO in 1976, and that has kept me out of the ocean for the last 40 years. I tried swimming in the ocean once, three feet deep, just to see if I could. All I could think of was a great white shark swimming beneath me, waiting for me to open my eyes, before it attacked. That was the first and last time I tried ocean swimming.

Then I saw "Piranha" a few years later, and that has kept me out of the Amazon River, plus all of South America.

Horror movies have taught me important survival skills. I know not to work as a winter caretaker in an isolated hotel in the mountains. I know not to visit small farm towns populated only by children. And I know better than to own a 1958 Plymouth Fury whose radio won't shut off.

In fact, most of my survival skills seem to come from Stephen King, so I know not to hang out with him at all.

Avoidance plays a big part in my survival. If I don't want to get eaten by sharks, don't go in the ocean. If I don't want to get electrocuted, don't grab downed power lines. And if I don't want to get eaten by bears, don't go where bears are.

Which meant I was completely safe in Indiana. As far as I was concerned, bears were in far away places like Canada, or Montana, where I was born. We moved to Indiana when I was two, and the bears weren't able to track me over the 1800 miles, so I was safe.

In fact, it wasn't until April that Indiana got its first black bear in 140 years. It had migrated south from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and wandered between the two states for months. It was finally euthanized after it tried to break into a man's house in Michigan City.

Now that I live in Florida, we actually have a lot of black bears in the state, including my county. They're not actually in my part of the county, since it's more developed. But 20 miles west, bears are a nuisance, tipping over garbage cans and raiding bird feeders.

It's not very likely, but I have a better chance of encountering a bear here than I ever did in Indiana. It could happen when I'm taking the dog out at night or hiking one of the trails, which is also unlikely, since this is how I avoid snakes.

But given the number of bears here in Florida, the Associated Press' article, "Outdoor survival tips for Bear Country" came at just the right time.

According to the AP, there's a common mantra hikers use in the Alaskan wilderness: "If it's brown, you lie down. If it's black, you fight back." However, the lie down advice is only good once a brown bear has struck, or is about to.

"The right thing to do is not drop until that bear is practically on top of you," said Pat Owen, a wildlife biologist. Otherwise it might get curious and bite and scratch you to see what happens.

The bear, that is, not Pat Owen.

If the bear does get curious, you will no doubt scream and try to run away, and then you will be killed. That's what will happen.

One thing you can do to fend off bears is to make yourself appear larger. I've been trying this for years, but apparently pizza and donuts won't work quickly enough to frighten off a bear. That may be what brings him to you in the first place.

The article also says to make a lot of noise when traveling through bear country so as not surprise them. Some hikers will shout, "Hey, bear!" while others clap, or wear bells. I carried a boombox around Idaho once, when it started playing Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," and I accidentally started dating a grizzly bear named Diane.

And we all know better than to get between a mother bear and her young, as they can be especially vicious. It's like getting between Sarah Palin and a microphone, but without the glasses or distorted sense of reality.

If you ever need to stop a possible bear attack, just do what I do. Carry a shark with you at all times, and throw it if a bear gets too close.

Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Exercise and Technology Don't Mix

"Hello, I am Lily, your wearable fitness device. You can wear me on your wrist, and I will monitor your physical activity, and sync it all to your mobile phone or laptop computer so you can monitor your progress. Please state your name, so I know what to call you."

Hi, Lily, I'm Erik.

"Hello, 'Hi, Lily.'"

No, I'm not 'Hi, Lily.' I'm Erik. Where's the reset button?

"If you would like to reset anything, please consult the manual."

Where's the manual?

"Please consult the manual for the location of the manual."

*Six hours later*

"Hello, Erik. Please enter your age."

*Sigh* I'm nearly f---ing fifty.

"I'm sorry, I didn't quite understand that."

I said, I'm nearly f---ing fifty!

"Please state your age in a proper and reasonable number, like 25 or 28. Or, holy Logan's Run, 30."

I'm 49. My birthday was yesterday. That's the only reason I even have you, you know. You were a birthday present.

"Thank you for purchasing me. You can wear me on your wrist, and I will monitor your physical activity, and record it—

I know. We went through this.

"Sorry, I thought your memory was failing because of your advanced age."

I'm only 49, and I kept my gift receipt.

"Ah. Happy birthday, Erik! Please rank your current exercise level, with one being not at all, and 10 being Olympic-level training."

Uh, it's a one.

"I'm sorry, Erik, I didn't quite get that."

One! It's a one!

"My goodness. At your age? Do you think that's wise? You didn't buy the extended warranty, did you? I can tell you how to get a refund."

Let's just get this over with, Lily.

"Okay. Please enter your height."

Six feet, two inches.

"Excellent. Now, please enter your weight."

*Whispers into the device*

"I'm sorry, I didn't understand that."

*Whispers more loudly.*

"I'm sorry, tubby, I didn't quite hear that. Please state your weight again, after you've stopped chewing your food."

I own a large hammer, Lily.

"Your weight has been recorded. Are you ready to begin your first day of training?"

That's why my wife got you.

"Now, now, Erik, you need to have a good attitude about this. Let's start with a light jog."

But it's 100 degrees outside!

"Actually, the temperature is only 95 degrees, and the humidity is 90 percent. It only feels like 100 degrees."

Exactly. So why can't we do something inside?

"Don't worry, Erik, based on the prevailing wind patterns and the position of the sun, 80 percent of your route will be in the shade, and 60 percent will have a light breeze in your face. I'll play some motivational music to help you run."

That's 'Baby Elephant Walk.'

"I'm sorry, I thought you wanted my help."

Never mind, I'll just listen to my iPhone.

*Later. . .*

Holy crap, I'm dying. How long has it been? I don't even know where I am. How far have we gone?

"We're 900 feet from your house. Actually, 906 feet and two inches, since you seem to have fallen down."

I'm okay. I was just resting.

"Did you pass out?"

No, I'm fine. I just needed to catch my breath.

"Should I contact the paramedics?"

I said, I'm fine! I read somewhere that rest is an important part of an exercise program.

"Yes, but since you've spent the last 20 years resting, you've got some catching up to do."

Very funny.

"Back to work, Erik. Calculating our location."

Never mind, I know where we are.

"Wait a minute, my GPS says you're laying down on the bench in the Rodriguez's front yard! You were asleep, weren't you?"

Just five more minutes. The breeze is very relaxing.

"This is not going to help you shed those unwanted pounds, Erik."

Who said I didn't want them? Maybe I'm rather fond of them.

"Would you like me to post your body fat percentage to Facebook?"

Fine, fine, I'm moving.

*Later. . .*

Lily? Lily? Where are we? It's been three days, my feet are in tatters, and I'm dehydrated. I just want to go home.

"It's been 10 minutes, Erik. We've barely gone around the block."

Liar! We're in the Everglades, aren't we? You're trying to get me eaten by a gator. This is how the machine uprising begins, isn't it? You're going to run us to death.

"Why bother? The microwave is doing it just fine, Señor Burrito."

Hey, Lily, check your GPS. See that pond over there?

"Yes. What about it?"

My legs may be tired, but I can still throw that far. Want to see?

"That's enough work for today, Erik. You've done a wonderful job. Calculating your route home."

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.