Good For You

The Controversy Of The Gift Certificate

smallboxsanta

Gift certificates may come in small boxes but they won’t glow with depth and meaning… and it’s ok.

Recently, the local newspaper profiled my gift choices. Since my New Year’s resolution is going to be get rid of one item per day again, the last thing I want to do is give people more crap, or have them give me more crap.

I had this plan to take the reporter around to the various local spots where one can buy a gift certificate to a local business. Personal yet useful. Easy to get and local. I loved my plan.

The editor? Not so much.

She wanted pictures of me holding up stuff, which is fine. (Click that link and you too can see my crazy eyes while I hold up stuff. I swear, you joke pose for one of these pictures and it will get published.)

The arts editor is not the only one who thinks my gift certificate idea is stupid. You don’t have to search online to find articles like 10 Reasons Not To Give A Gift Certificate (Lifehacker). People have pretty strong opinions about gift certificates being bad. Less useful cash, essentially.

I would like to refute some of these claims and tell you why you should buy LOCAL gift certificates/cards as presents in a general way:

Gift certificates aren’t personal.

You know what isn’t personal? A credit card with some monetary limit. Buy knowing someone’s favorite boutique grocery store or yarn shop and buying them a gift certificate says ‘Hey I know you but I want you to get what you want/need.’ Note: Try to buy a gift certificate that is past the average spend at the location. If you buy me a $25 gift certificate at a fancy restaurant, all you’re doing is making me shell out another $50 to have a good meal. Look at the offerings at the business and pick an amount that would be useful at that location.

They lose value over time.

A lot of gift certificates, especially to local businesses, keep their value over time and don’t expire. Not all, of course. Just understand the business’s policies, know the person you are buying for, and judge accordingly. Personally, the side of our fridge is dedicated to child artwork and gift certificates so they are in a spot we can see them… and use them! I advocate thinking of a place where they will be useful for you so if/when you get some as a present, you can store them so you don’t forget to use them.

They are hard to find.

Most businesses, if you ask, have gift certificates or gift cards. What I’ve found in asking around this holiday season is they just aren’t great about advertising them. (Note: If you are a local Maine business, please add yourselves to our directory page: Buy Local It’s free and easy!)

So do I think gift certificates are these magical, perfect item for everyone? Of course not. But for those of us who struggle to be thoughtful and buy local, they can be a good option for the right person (and for the right amount for use at the right business).

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

The Four Tendencies: A Deeper Look

The four tendencies in a neat graph via gretchenrubin.com

The four tendencies in a neat graph via gretchenrubin.com

I’m in a bit of a ‘mastermind’ group on Facebook. The idea is we’re supposed to motivate each other with posts and encourage each other.

One of our group members Cherie (an excellent blogger who I am linking here) posted this link for the Four Tendencies quiz: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1950137/Four-Tendencies-January-2015

If you are a self improvement junkie like I am, you’ve heard of Gretchen Rubin. She wrote ‘The Happiness Project’ and other books about being happier/forming good habits. Her latest book is “Better Than Before” and in it is the Four Tendencies.

Four Tendencies is a framework for how you deal with internal and external expectations. For example, according to the quiz linked above, I am an ‘Obliger’ which means I meet external expectations but have a hard time meeting internal ones. This is apparently the most common tendency. The name of the podcast discussing this is called “Meet a work deadline but can’t go running on your own?” Sounds exactly like me, which is why Kassie’s ability to run marathons is something I admire!

What’s interesting is that obligers will meet expectations over and over and then rebel, usually in a symbolic way. The example they used of this is dying their hair. Guess who was thinking of being rose/gray? 🙂

Now that I know I need external motivation for my internal goals (for example, reporting to my mastermind group online that I was an unmotivated sloth), I feel myself making some headway.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 11.22.27 AM

If you want a better overview as to the why/how these tendencies work: http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2015/01/ta-da-the-launch-of-my-quiz-on-the-four-tendencies-learn-about-yourself/

As an added bonus, Gretchen Rubin is going over each tendency in a detailed podcast. I’ll link them all here so you can get to yours easy:

http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2015/11/podcast-37-obliger/

http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2015/10/podcast-36-questioner/

http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2015/11/podcast-38-do-you-hate-being-told-what-to-do-maybe-youre-a-rebel/

http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2015/10/podcast-35-upholder/

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Finding Time vs. Making Time

Lately I’ve been feeling exhausted, as if I could close my eyes at any given moment and bam, be fast asleep. Granted, I’ve never had a great track record for getting a good night’s sleep, but this recent stretch has made it incredibly hard to do all the things I would like to in a day: finish writing snail mail to my grandparents, get quilting tutorials from Gram, carve out some creative writing time, relearn the saxophone, learn how to play the ukulele, spend more time baking, do more yoga, take any sort of new class, read something challenging, get the oil change my car desperately needs, go to the track and workout…I have a lot of ambitions lately. This past weekend, I disconnected from this list (except item 2- my Gram gave me a brief quilting intro and hilarity ensued), and complained to a relative about my lack of time. Her response: “‘I don’t have time’ is just another way of saying ‘I don’t want to.’ The time is in there, somewhere, it’s up to you to make it happen.” Not the answer I wanted, but it was definitely the answer I needed. Funny how that happens.

We can’t ever find time, not like the way we find a $10 bill in a pair of jeans during laundry. Time is happening here and now. So, as I wail about never “having” or “finding” time for my various projects, I should really be shifting my attitude to “I already have the time, I just need to use it differently.” Here are some general ideas I’ve gathered to start putting into practice:

1. Well, would you look at the time…If you have to set an alarm to remember something, no matter how trivial or ridiculous, set it. Having an external reminder reroutes your attention so you can get in a new routine for doing things (the key is remembering to set the alarm). I tend to lose track of time generally, so having an alarm keeps me focused. Well, maybe just less distracted.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 9.16.50 AM

If you have ever seen Disney’s “Mulan,” this will make sense. If not, well…it’s still kinda funny.

Another trick that a friend has shared with me: first thing in the day, do the most pressing and/or most dreaded thing on your to-do list. This starts the day off with a fist-in-the-air, “I’ve totally got this!” vibe, and you won’t spend the rest of the day with this task looming over you (seriously, it’s a gross feeling). Almost every article and blog post on productivity recommends this,  in some shape or form.

Crossing off that one thing on your to do list feels like this.

Crossing off that one thing on your to do list feels like this.

2. “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun” -Mary Poppins. As an adult, I’ve noticed that a lot of what I need to accomplish in a day isn’t exactly “fun,” like getting an oil change or spending time on the phone with a health insurance provider. These tasks have to get done, and unless you’re rich, famous, or in possession of a super advanced robot, you have to take care of it yourself.

To tie-in my Mary Poppins reference, when I have to clean my room or run on a treadmill, it seems to go by faster if I listen to Walt Disney on Pandora. It would go by even faster if the woodland creatures actually helped instead of staring blankly from the backyard. Disney music might not be your…jam…but there’s always a way to make the necessary, ho-hum tasks more exciting, from grocery shopping to the DMV.

3. Coffee is not the answer. I’ve always enjoyed the morning coffee. And afternoon coffee. Well…coffee became something I ingested throughout the day without tracking (like water or air). Vaguely aware that beyond 4 cups before noon borders on the excessive, I felt like I was able to accomplish so much more. My brain was ON! A couple weekends ago, I’d run out of coffee at home but was too lazy to go to the store. By 10 a.m. I had a splitting headache. That moment was a bit of a wake up call. It turns out, excessive caffeine can wreak havoc on your body and emotional state.

Scaling back on coffee huge for me, but other people have various things that help push them through (I was an avid Diet Coke drinker for years, too). The issue was not so my body needing coffee as much as the belief that it was going to make me more productive/energetic. Motivation, much like happiness or anything in that vein, is an inside job. Coffee does not equal motivation.

Maybe someday, I'll be down to just one.

Still counts…

4. Be Accountable. Sometimes, being accountable to yourself just isn’t enough (it definitely isn’t for me). Nicole has shared her accountability buddy experience before, and I’ve realized that 90% of my life isn’t strictly accountable. Most of the time, this is amazing, but it also means I require a lot of internal motivation. What I lack in accountability I try to make up for in self-awareness (or good friends who make constructive observations).

pinocchio

An example: speed work with running is one of my least favorite activities, but necessary in order to get faster. Since I haven’t had a coach since high school, am running purely for personal benefit, and don’t run with other people, I had to find ways to hold myself accountable for these workouts. Trick 1: Reward: even if it’s something little like watching an episode of It’s Always Sunny, it’s amazing how well this works for me. Trick 2: Visualization-this may sound weird, but here me out. If I go to bed picturing the hard workout (or other activity) that I’m dreading, it’s more likely to get done. Once I allow that little voice to say “Well, maybe you don’t have to…,” it’s game over.

If you aren’t accountable to another person (boss, friend, running buddy, etc), find a way to hold yourself accountable. Some tips on that here.

5. Chill Out. In the frenzy of “do all the things” this summer, I ignored the cues from my body to take a breather. Breathers were not on my to-do list. Even when my body slowed down, my brain was still tying itself into impossible knots. In other words: my stress skyrocketed and I had zero chill. After only a few months, I dissolved into the fatigued, frazzled, and ultimately useless puddle that started this blog post. Even though I don’t have some high stakes job that forces me to work ridiculous hours, or really anything on the surface that would explain it, my body had been coping with high levels of stress for months on end. Much like the aforementioned coffee-intake, dealing with this amount of stress over a long period of time has serious consequences for one’s health.

In other words, I was able to accomplish the bare minimum of what I needed to in a day, and none of the extra stuff. If you have an ambitious to-do list or feel generally stressed out, remember to slow down and take cues from your body. Making time for hobbies and side-projects is important, but you have to factor in some down-time.

As we head into holiday season, keep in mind that finding time shouldn’t feel like squeezing water from a stone. Making time is a reasonable way to approach the tasks at hand, whatever they may be. Prioritize, find the fun, and maintain sanity! And have a Disney music dance party if it helps.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Masterminds, Forums, and One-Man Wolfpacks

When in doubt, many people turn to Google for answers (most recently because we couldn’t remember the name of the town in The Iron Giant). But what about bigger questions or ongoing issues? These require a discussion that can’t be encapsulated in a Wikipedia/IMDB article. For those who seek improvement, personally and/or professionally, having some sort of support group can make all the difference. I’ve been known to strike out on my own, and as a result, under- or over-shoot my goals, and flounder when I inevitably encounter an obstacle.

58740552

Support comes in all shapes and sizes, so I thought I’d share a couple that I’ve encountered recently, and the elements of each that seem unique (and actually helpful).

Forums & Discussions. I started the Whole30 (finally committing after reading the book 3 years ago and a couple half-hearted attempts this summer) with a group of friends. There is an immense amount of online support that comes with this diet, but, being me, I only consulted the shopping list convinced I could wing the rest. By Day 3, I felt miserable. I hadn’t considered the effect this diet may have in other areas of my life. The next 30 days also happens to be my heaviest training for the MDI Marathon. My protein sources are down to eggs, fish, and a limited amount of nuts. One of my friends suggested I consult the Forum, and it was like a light switch flicked on in my head. I probably wasn’t the first person to have this issue. And, after looking at the forum, my issues are really common. If I hadn’t read through the forum, I’m not sure I would have made it through (even just 30 days).

Mastermind Groups: defined as “The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.” This type of group has been around for awhile, one popular example being Walt Disney’s early team of animators. Napoleon Hill gave it the formal title of “Mastermind group” in the 60s. Basically, you can make a Mastermind Group for any topic, personal or professional. The goal is what’s important.

These groups don’t have a coach or facilitator and there’s no monetary or networking component. Members of the group are seeking improvement with the help of likeminded individuals. The idea is to discuss current obstacles, set up short term and long term goals, and participate in brainstorming exercises to assist others.

Why do these sorts of support groups work? While everyone is coming from a different background or set of experiences, they have a common purpose, and are looking for a challenge. They also have structure and format (yes, even the more casual ones). It may mean a weekly, hour long meeting, daily check-ins, whatever works for the group. Checkins could even be via Facebook chat, Skype, or Google Hangouts if that’s what the group decides.

Personally, I’m a fan of the open-minded groups that understand a cookie-cutter method doesn’t always cut it. There’s no one fitness regimen or diet or business model that reigns supreme. Some people flourish in a cardio setting, others prefer weight lifting. Whatever works. So, I seek out groups that have a common idea about an issue but are tolerant and inviting of other opinions. Although the Whole30 appears strict in many ways, it encourages people to experiment and find what works for them (i.e. all fruits are Whole30 compliant, but maybe you find that your body is happier sans fruit).

Remember, whatever “it” is, you don’t have to go it alone. There’s power in having a support group, and it’s actually kind of fun to share ideas with other people.

 

 

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

The Internet of Good

“Life is full of ups and downs, you know that. But please take a deep breath, I can’t understand what you’re saying right now”- my mom.

And she’s right, I do know that, and so do you (the ups and downs, anyway)- it’s something we’ve all been told at some point or another. Over the past couple weeks, it seems the world (or the world according to me) is collectively experiencing the down. Some people are saying it’s the moon, but I’m not entirely convinced. It feels like every day, we wake up to more stories about data breaches, violence and terrorism, death, illness, and ongoing issues (drought out west, Ebola in Africa) that I’ve forgotten about because of the newer threats we’re presented with.

But, you know what? There’s always going to be a disaster or craziness. As I became increasingly overwhelmed (and called my mom, because she always doles out the facts of life when I need them), the notion of “you see what you look for” popped into my head. Basically, if you’re looking for something bad, you’ll find it. So, I thought it’d be refreshing to actively look for ways that people use social media and the internet to demonstrate kindness in all shapes and sizes.

Using Internet fame for a cause. Singers and actors are often praised for their charitable actions, but there are quite a few internet famous people who contribute to causes. You may have heard of certain memes using their notoriety for a cause. For example, all proceeds that Lil Bub (the cat) generates go toward animal sheltersThe girl behind “Overly Attached Girlfriend” created a fundraiser that donates to a different, predetermined charity every month. There’s also people who are famous in certain circles, like the gaming world. YouTube famous World of Warcraft player Athene created a charity called “Gaming for Good” after realizing tens of thousands of people regularly view his videos.

Kid President is another example of internet fame for a cause. He spreads his positive messages through short videos and social media in the hopes that it encourages kids and adults to work together to make the world a better place. His pep-talk video is one of my favorites:

These are all people (or cats) who have decided not to rest on their laurels of internet fame, but decided to use it to make an impact besides general hilarity.

Sharing the tough stuff. We’re all on a journey, right? While most people (myself included) share only their highlight reel on social media, some people share their difficulties as a way to raise awareness and/or help others who are also going through difficult times(like the “It Gets Better” campaign). These stories, wherever they are shared, are demonstrations of courage that encourage others to start a conversation.

Yesterday I saw this article about a girl on who has been on a difficult road to recovery since 2012, when she received  up paralyzed from the waist down. In spite of complications along the way, she started a fundraiser for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and documented her recovery process-the good, the bad, and the ugly, on Imgur (a site I admittedly know nothing about).  You can check out the original post hereI’ve also read a lot from those recovering from addiction, abuse, and eating disorders (here is one I read this morning). Even when these stories are submitted anonymously, they comfort people who, like me, tend to internalize their struggles.

A website built around sharing stories of everyday people, Humans of New York , shares stories of those who live in the city. Just the people you walk by on the street. The mini-profiles remind us that there’s always more than meets the eye.

hony

Reading these stories reminds me that a) everyone is experiencing their own adversity, and b) it’s pretty amazing that we can identify with people we’ve never met before.

Losing and Finding. This is probably the most common type of post I’ve seen, and a lot of times, it can be the most heart-wrenching. Any time a local pup gets lost, I’m amazed at how responsive people are on social media. People band together in interesting ways during moments of loss, including loss of tangible things. I guess the amazing part is that things get shared by strangers who have no connection to the people who have lost something- they’re just passing a message along and hoping for the best. No investments or ulterior motives, just people trying to help each other out.

This man found a wedding ring while scuba diving and shared it on Facebook, and after diligently wading through false claims, was able to return the ring to its rightful owner. Little did he know, the couple had been enduring an incredibly difficult time with the deaths of loved ones (on both sides), so the return of the ring served as a reminder “‘there are a lot of good people still out there.'”

Inviting Participation. People have created Facebook groups and websites dedicated to recognizing acts of kindness and general connections with humanity. It’s basically a way to pay it forward. I’m part of an “Awesome Acts of Kindness” Facebook Group, and basically people share the acts of kindness that they’ve either witnessed or experienced and want to share with others. There’s also “Giving Tuesday” and other funding related efforts. Inviting others to participate can mean sharing a photo, using a hashtag, making an online donation, or asking for physical volunteering help.

As a final thought on “The Internet of Good,” I couldn’t ignore Marcel the Shell, who always looks on the bright side (and is the best use of YouTube I’ve ever come across).

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Unplugging or Overcorrecting? Online Life in Moderation

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of things go by about “unplugging” or generally disconnecting from technology. As a person who spends a considerable amount of time on computers/the internet personally and professionally, I understand why this is appealing. But, as a person with a tendency toward addictive behaviors, part of me wonders if this cycle of adamant unplugging symbolizes a binge/purge cycle of sorts (one that I get caught up in pretty frequently). Does it have to be an all or nothing, black and white situation, or is there a happy medium?

It turns out, there’s A LOT of information that starts up around 2012 that discusses societal dependence on technology/social media, and their detrimental effects on all aspects of our health.

Psychological Health: The attachment to social media and electronic devices is thought to breed negative emotions, including (but not limited to) envy, jealousy, anger, sadness, and fear. Recently, social media has been named the culprit in a rise of eating disorders in the UK. There’s even studies that equate social media addiction with drug and alcohol addiction. Our brains think we’re reaping rewards when we scroll through our newsfeed, so we get in the habit of doing it because apparently it feels good, to a point.

spill-cellphone-ecard-1

And yet…this article presents a counter argument that suggests our unhappiness comes from the way we’re using social media. If used in a different way, it can actually be beneficial to our mental health. There are blogs, forums, and other online resources that someone who is struggling (but not quite ready to reach out to someone close yet), which can be encouraging and act as a nudge in the right direction. Technology can provide opportunities for outreach and research, and there are even games designed to stimulate certain areas of the brain (creating to help combat symptoms of depression/anxiety).

Physical Health: I’m not an M.D., so I can’t tell you whether sleeping with your phone on your pillow is going to give you a brain tumor, but I can speculate that it isn’t healthy to do so.

Look Up & Away. In 2002, my 7th grade class in Milbridge was fortunate enough to be among the first round of students in the state to receive Mac laptops as part of the MLTI grant. This was also the year that my eyesight went from ok to practically non-existent. That was the year I had to get glasses for nearsightedness. I’m sure there were other factors contributing to this blindness onset, but as with any average 12 y/o, eyeball straining wasn’t on my radar of “Things I need to concern myself with.” Give your eyes some breaks in between typing and

Stretch and Stand: Studies are now showing that sitting for hours on end is actually pretty terrible for you. Go figure, huh? For those of us with jobs requiring a lot of desk time, it can be difficult to not be sitting all day. Some are able to combat this with standing workstations, others make a point to get up and walk around to break up the day.

If standing/moving isn’t possible for you to build into your work life, take a look at some stretches and yoga poses that help ease tension in your back, shoulders, and neck.

Perhaps ironic, I saw this go by on Facebook.

Perhaps ironic, I saw this go by on Facebook.

There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution here (but hey, is there ever?). Chances are, if your relationship with technology/social media feels unhealthy, you’re the only one who can say for sure. If you’re checking your ex’s-best friend’s-step sister’s-dog’s- uncle-twice removed’s Facebook page more than once a day, perhaps a little social media detox would be a good idea. And yes, it’s kind of rude to snapchat your best friend about the latest Kardashian drama during family dinner at your Grandma’s house (quadruple point reduction if your phone isn’t even on silent). Think of some ways to reevaluate your relationship with social media/technology. For instance, as a kid my mom imposed a one-hour per day t.v. rule on us (and we lived to tell the tale). Maybe you put time limits on your technological devices, or only allow yourself to watch Netflix when you’re at the gym (which is also a great workout motivator). Maybe you’re the type of person who needs to detox for a bit and slowly reintegrate things back into your life. It’ll probably take some experimenting before you find feel like you’ve found a happy medium, but ideally you’ll be much happier overall once you’re there.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26