P90x beginnings

I haven’t written in here in a year. Get over it. I’m here now and I need a place to write about what I’m starting now, and that is P90x.

After much hemming and hawing over the nutrition guide, I just ate my first meal, attempting to use the “meal plan” …  I put quotes around it to convey a dubious tone because it has me skeptical. For example, in the “dairy” group, each serving is supposedly 120 calories. Now if you are a trusting soul, you say “got it. That’s all I need to know.” But I’ve tracked more than a few calories in my day and I can tell you, there is not 120 calories in a full cup of cottage cheese, there is 180 (I even double checked). But my main point is– how dare they make me try to eat a full cup of cottage cheese? I want to know– who out there can eat an entire 8 oz of cottage cheese? Holy gag reflex.

We’re moving on because I have a life to get to today–  I have a whole to-do list ahead of me this Saturday, and as you [probably don’t] know, nothing gets me rearin’ to go like an un-checked-off to-do list. Again– moving!–  I ate my kale omelet (was supposed to be mushroom but I didn’t have any) with one half of a cup of cottage cheese (blergh) and called it a morning. The omelet was really good, I think I will continue to make it with kale instead of mushrooms. Did I mention I am only allowed 2 servings of veggies a day? Here’s yet another thing I take issue with… they’re vegetables, man! Let me eat ’em!

Cutting the nutrition guide some slack, it’s a terrific start if you have never been in calorie counting hell before. I’m sure it more or less evens out, and with all the protein and small amounts of carbs it recommends, and the fact that I definitely do not see myself going hungry or even close to it, I can see why people get results sticking to it. But still, I don’t know how anyone could feasibly have a different meal for every single breakfast, lunch, and dinner 7 days a week. I will have to look into what other normal people without personal chefs have done. Maybe they just ate a lot of cottage cheese.

I really have to get to my list, I’ll check back in once I actually, you know, complete a workout.

 

2011-2012

For me, 2011 was fine. Not great, not bad, just fine. When I look back on it, I’m not terribly awestruck by the whirlwind of memories and emotions as many other years that stick out in my life. I had no major personal milestones, just living and working.* We hear all over the news that it’s pointless to make New Year’s resolutions because no one ever follows through, that we all fail and then feel bad about ourselves, but last year I made zero resolutions, and I made zero totally awesome things happen.

So let’s think about the word resolution. To resolve is to settle or find a solution to a problem, dispute, or contentious matter. Although they often are, New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t just be wishes, goals, or hopes. They should express intent to set out to achieve those things. A new years resolution isn’t “To lose 20 lbs.” Without action, that’s a wish, without a gameplan, that’s just a goal, and without a good gameplan, it’s just a regular old hope. Without planning, all of these will be dashed. So is that why resolutions have such a bad rap? The resolution itself should involve what you will change to effect that transformation. To eat less cookies and more veggies, to change habits in order to get more sleep and to exercise more than ever before. Nothing wrong with that!

Yes, even with a good gameplan, you can still fail at resolutions. But without setting out to accomplish something, and without actually setting things in motion, we never get better.  So why not at New Years??

That’s why this year I have decided to make a few good resolutions, or at least reflections on what I feel is lacking and how I can set out to improve those areas.

1. Get in the best shape of my life by taking on the Gold’s Gym 12 Week Challenge.

2. Give back by seeking out volunteer opportunities and following through on them.

3. Try to be more mindful and compassionate by taking more time for thought/prayer.

4. Sell our house and move already! We set this in motion by dropping the price (again).

There are so many things I want to add to my resolution list, but I think by doing these things, I can enjoy my life and the lives of others around be a bit more.

*Not that 2011 wasn’t full of blessings!!:

– Enjoyed a wonderful New Year 2011 with family in Scotland
– Celebrated my 2nd wedding anniversary
– Celebrated the marriage of my friend Kathleen to Jeff and the marriage of my cousin Reid to Stacie
– The announcements of buns-in-ovens for friends and my cousin Alicia 🙂
– Quit my first job to start a new job
– Visited my brother in Oregon and friends in California
– Met new friends and reunited with old ones

2012 things to look forward to:
– My parents’ 40th anniversary
– Family vacation in Florida
– Going to Scotland again
– the glorious mystery that is the future!

Anyone else have resolutions??

Continuing Inbound Marketing studies…

I was going to post everything, I was… but I’ve been writing all of this in a word document instead because it contains information pertaining to the company I work for and I don’t think they’d want me blogging openly about strategies for inbound marketing that they may or may not give the thumbs-up to… so I’ll keep those under wraps for now.  Here’s an overview of some of the things I feel I can share thus far about inbound marketing, specifically SEO.

For the traffic of webland, search engines are GPS. Most people rely on search engines to navigate through the web, especially when they are in the market for buying a new product. Many companies invest in pay-per-click operations and gain some leads. Most companies are proud of their product and know they are #1. So why optimize for search engines? Of the nearly 200 billion searches done per day on Google alone, 60-70% of click-thrus happen within the organic search results. That leaves the rest of the click-thrus for the advertised sites, which, in addition to being a paid-for service, are ranked according to performance, leaving no real guarantee of effectiveness. SEO is free, effective, and measurable; it is a must-do to obtain and maintain good search visibility.  There are three main pillars for SEO: keywords, search-friendliness, and link building.

Keywords
Potential customers use keywords at every stage of the buying cycle, from research, to comparisons, to consideration, to purchase. It is important that the keywords used in a business site’s page titles, headings, paragraph titles, body copy, link text, image alt text, and meta descriptions match not only what their company “is” or provides, but what the target customer thinks an ideal business/product should be. Build keywords around what the customer will be searching for. You can research this by interviewing/surveying customers, talking to sales team about what customers tell them, or brainstorming internally among the company about branding.

Search-friendliness
This is your site’s architecture and maintenance, essentially. Is it organized logically into categories/themes and sub-categories? Do you have an HTML/XML sitemap in the footer? Are you updating/adding content often? Are your PDFs optimized for search? Is the site easy to find, revisit, and crawl? Do you have simple URLs? Is your site navigation using text links, no JS/Flash? If you are re-designing/structuring your site, do you have a migration plan? Are you linking internally and are other relevant/authoritative sites linking to you?

Link building
Links build and drive traffic. They signal to search engines that your site has a variety of relevant keywords that interconnect both internally between pages and with external authoritative/relevant sites. Link text infers meaning as to what your pages are about, which search engines pick up and pass onto users. It is important to be active offsite as well to let people know about new content. Use social media and comment on partner sites/blogs. Provide good content and they will want to link to you. Use free tools to find out who is linking to your competition, find out what keywords they used, and use them better.

The rest of the stuff I’ve applied pretty specifically for work in terms of actually planning what I would recommend, should the opportunity arise for that.

 

IMU Class 1 Homework

Write a blog post about three best practices that you will adopt into your blogging strategy.

1. Use first names
Whether blogging to businesses or consumers, we are essentially blogging to people first and foremost. Blogging is not of much use if we don’t keep people in mind, and they all have names. Using first names (both our own and the readers’) makes the blog personal and conversational, which is what blogging is all about.

2. Write about industry topics of interest
Again, keeping readers in mind, we want to write about things that they will find interesting. Writing about Vector alone is pure advertising, and people don’t need to be advertised to on a blog. Topics interesting to our customers could include embedded software in general, as well as the various industries we serve. We could write about events, new technologies, business moves, best practices… anything really, as long as our target reader finds it interesting. A good reason for this is it keeps the readers involved, more likely to comment/respond, keep reading. It also shows good faith on our part to keep the blog up to date, that we want to have conversations with our customers. This is still good advertising because it all ties back to Vector’s important role in testing to ensure that the software used in these industries/devices is bug-free.

3. Respond to comments (or lack thereof)
In its infancy, writing for a blog feels like putting words into a void. It takes time to build a readership, but if we keep writing often and about interesting topics, eventually the comments will come. Invite feedback, ask readers what they think, even if no one responds. What to keep in mind is building up the material builds trust with the reader. It’s intimidating to be the first commenter as much as it is to blog. That’s why, when those first comments pop up, positive or negative, we respond to them. Readers are looking to see how we respond to feedback as much as they are looking to see what the feedback is itself. This is another way we build trust.

Sidebar items:

  • Blogroll: this adds value for the reader (remember, they are our audience, not us.) Connect them with the resources they need, even if that resource isn’t us (think “Progressive”)
  • Meet the Bloggers: put first names, faces, bios. When readers see smiling faces, they feel a little less intimidated at having a conversation.
  • Poll: low-barrier way for people to give input

Inbound Marketing U

(Before I begin: you may notice I have ported my blob over to WordPress. Please excuse the ginormous header for the time being. Yeah, yeah– I’ll fix it…)

So after several months of telling myself I would, I’ve finally started at Inbound Marketing University. Why am I doing this? For one thing, I started a new job where I am mainly still a graphic designer (web and print now, woot woot), but there could be more expectations on the way to beef up our marketing in general and I want to be prepared.

From the IMU website:

The Inbound Marketing Certification acknowledges the recipient’s proficiency in Inbound Marketing principles and best practices. These principles include: blogging, social media, lead conversion, lead nurturing, and closed-loop analysis.

While I’ve been updating social media for Gold’s Gym RI for about a year now, it never hurts to have another stamp for one’s “career passport,” as it were. That was a terrible metaphor. Moving on.

Part of doing the homework of IMU is to write blog posts about what I’m learning. Some classes have been more helpful than others, but I have been watching the lectures and doing the homework with diligence. I was just putting everything in a Google doc, because really, who the heck is going to want to read my class reflections? …But then I decided to be the honey badger (is that too 10-months-ago? Honey badger don’t care anyway) and share my knowledge with the world.  I hope you’re ready to have my newfound, inbound marketing genius rain down upon you.

And without further ado…

(hint: go to the next post. I pasted my class 1 homework in there).

Portlandia

(let’s pretend for a moment I write in here a lot and just pick up where we left off…)

Tomorrow I’m going to visit my brother in Portlandia and I’m thuper exthited.

Since we all love lists, I will share the reasons why in list form:

  • I have new giant glasses so I can look ‘hip’ in the hippest of towns. Not that I care. Too hip.
  • My lovely sibling bought the hubs and me something to sleep on in his basement, no floor for us!
  • I get to see the broski and meet his girlfriend and hang out.
  • Let’s face it… this is just good timing. I’m a little frayed and ready to recharge.
  • I planned ahead and bought Benadryl to knock myself out so I’m not horrendous on the flight and can just hold my husband’s hand in a coma instead of a death grip. (FUN FACT: the active ingredient in Benadryl is the same as the non-headache sleep aids, however it is ~2 cents cheaper per pill)
  • After Portland I get to go stay in LA with one of my favorite people, Blair, who made a spreadsheet of how we can spend our time awesomely and effectively. I already made my case to visit Coffee Bean at least daily. Looking forward to seeing college friends and just be having a good time, having a good time.

Shorts

Today I rubbed all the color out of a spot on my hot pink shorts while trying to fix them after accidentally sitting in sap/tar. The original spots were tiny, and would have been fine if I would have just left them alone, but instead, I feverishly tried to restore them to the perfect shorts they were when I bought them.

Now there is a big white patch just below the right bum. Unwearable.

You have no idea how excited I was about these shorts. For one, they are the most flattering fit I’ve found in a long while, in a size I was ecstatic I could finally fit into, in a color that made me want to skip around with delight.

I tried to look up hot pink dye brands, as if maybe I can still fix them (I know that is very unlikely). I fantasized that soaking them would more evenly leech out from other parts of the shorts onto the white spot (I know also, this is unlikely). But mostly, I keep looking at the shorts trying to convince myself maybe it’s not that bad, maybe I wasn’t overzealous in the scrubbing, maybe they’re not ruined. Maybe it wasn’t my fault.

From the beginning my husband took a very “accidents happen” “you’re too hard on yourself” “just buy a new pair” attitude– which may be kind of right, but these sort of accidents make me crazy, and you can’t just “buy a new pair” (ladies, am I right??) because the price included that initial joyous rush I felt at finding them, and he should know we can’t afford to be replacing full-price hot pink JCrew shorts every 6 weeks.

Of course, once I thought I was thoroughly “bummed,” I started thinking, maybe that’s how I am with everything. If I could just accept that some things aren’t perfect and sometimes things get a little crapped on, my meddling and trying to make everything exactly as it should be isn’t going to make anything better,  and no amount of examining it at all angles would be able to convince me it’s fine. So maybe I do need to stop being so hard on myself, even though I’ve spent a long time convincing myself my problem is I’m not hard enough (it’s a Catch-22).

That’s not to say “things” aren’t bad. Things are good– I’m really lucky, I just lack perspective 70% of the time. My real problem is that because I’m lucky, how come I can’t seem to make any more out of the luck I’ve been given? I feel this real need to live up to expectations and then to exceed them, because– as with the shorts– everything I’ve been given has been so close to perfect, I can either just wear the shorts and run with it, or scrub at them until I go too far and have nothing suitable to run in.

Thus, metaphorically speaking: next time I need to just wear the damn shorts (why didn’t I do that before?? GAHH.)

So, in the end (which is now, btw) I may have just gotten more out of ruining a $45 pair of shorts than I did out of earning the $45 I needed to pay for them.

UPDATE: I procured a pink highlighter and used it to color in the white patch. While it’s not a perfect match, it’s so unnoticeable I can wear my shorts again. Joy!! and another lesson to always bear in mind: Where there’s a will, there is a way.