Jun 16, 2011

Full Disclosure: An invitation to the universe

Driftingman with Open Arms, Wooden HeartHere's the idea: there are things I crave, things I long for, and those things are out there. So this is me, putting it out there, open arms, saying "here I am!"  

An open invitation to the universe to do its thing.

And in return, I can do my thing and possibly provide things for others that they crave, that they long for.


Without getting all New Age-ish or all spiritual like or whatever, I really do think this concept has its merits. We all want something and we all have something to give. If we're willing to express those needs, and offer something in return, we can all gain something.

And don't get me wrong, it's not necessarily that I'm asking that all these things just fall into my lap. *Plop!*
But, let's be honest, that's how it works sometimes, right? An opportunity presents itself, just at the right time, exactly when we were just telling a friend how we wanted [insert a desire here]. And a short time later...

Poof! Someone mentions they're looking to hire.
Poof! A relative tells you they have a washer/dryer to get rid of, do you want it?
Poof! You win tickets to a play in a raffle.

Ya never know...

I originally saw this concept over at Unicorns for Socialism, written by the brilliant Alexandra Frazen. Her open invitation to the universe was actually the second-go-round for her, and turns out her first was rather fruitful too!


So, with a hopeful heart, here begins a list of what I wish:

  • Win a trip to Paris via Oh Happy Day (ooohhh, wouldn't that be something?!)
  • Have a tune-up on my bicycle (or get a new one) at an affordable price
  • Go on a Mediterranean cruise with friend(s) in tow
  • Find 5k motivator/ work-out buddy 
  • Find a non-surgical solution to an excessive sweat problem (hey, it's a fact of life, no sense in hiding it) which doesn't involve slathering on copious amounts of (possibly toxic) metals & chemicals several times a day, which still only yield mild (if ANY) success
  • Get a reeeeeally good massage, by a pro, and definitely over 60 minutes
  • Earn enough $ (method yet to be determined) to not have to work in a cubicle/office all day
  • Someone to teach me to bake a really good cake/tart/muffin/cupcake
  • Someone to teach me to decorate said cake/tart/muffin/cupcake
  • An mp3 player of some sort (bonus points for an awesome playlist) that I can use for runs
  • Watch a Broadway musical. On Broadway. Already in my queue? Wicked, Lion King, Chicago,  Avenue Q (well, that last one's technically "off-Broadway")
  • To find paying work/assignments where I can use my teaching skills
  • Participate in a neat-o crafty venture/event for a good cause
  • Receive a hand-written letter from someone. A friend. A stranger. Either way, it says something nice.
  • And, to visit and explore any/all of these cities/places at minimal/no cost:
 NYC
 San Fran
 San Diego
 Chicago
 Key West
 Boulder
 Seattle
 Portland, OR
 Portland, ME
Costa Rica
Belize
Portugal
Seychelles
Spain

Whew! This is by no means an exhaustive list. But a girl can't get too greedy! Not yet anyway.
Selfish? Some might thing so. But not this girl!

(Some of) What I can offer in return:

  • handmade goodies of the fabric-related variety
  • the best damn flan you'll ever have (say goodbye to that crap they serve @ restaurants!)
  • Home-made bread
  • a day/lunch/evening of some sort of activity/adventure/conversation/food/drink/walk/whatevs... sometimes we all just need a buddy
  • practice time for your spoken Spanish
  • (very) basic lessons in sewing or related project
  • help/tutoring in math-ish things
  • typing services, because I'm a little dweeby like that
  • some other thing or service that we haven't thought of yet

> exhales <

Alright, it's out there... let's hope for the best. Oh, yeah and what's on YOUR list? What invitation are YOU sending out to the universe?

May 22, 2011

Been gone for a while. 
Awesome things are happening. 


I make no apologies :)  
Catch you again soon, I hope.

May 10, 2011

Due espressi, per favore


NOTE: I’m going back in time to share with you stories that make me…inexplicably and uniquely me!  Because Sometimes I Forget I’m Awesome.


I don’t speak Italian.
But I know when I’m being cursed out in Italian. By a man of the cloth.

I also know I may be wanted by Italian authorities on suspicion of theft and/or child endangerment*. 
 
But let’s start at the beginning. 

A few (very long) years ago I was a middle school Algebra teacher. (I know, was I crazy?!) And because apparently I hadn’t lost all my sense yet, I decided to join a group of these middle-schoolers on a trip to Italy & Greece. Um, yeah, crazy nutso! 

We stayed at this lovely hotel: Villa Altieri just outside of Rome. 


Don’t let the exterior fool you. It does not look like a prison on the inside, I promise.
It really was a lovely hotel, with massive wooden doors and rustic stone hallways. Gorgeous. Things to note, however: it had very few windows but it did have a convenient exit into the garden. 

Oh and there’s also the matter of it being an active place of worship and residence for Oblates of St. Francis of Sales. You know…church folk and stuff. And I don’t say this to make light. I’m just not entirely sure who they are, if they’re ordained or secular, etc. 

Shortly after arriving and while the students were still in the lobby getting some lunch, the other teacher and I went exploring, to find our rooms and get our bearings. Here’s where it got a little tricky (part I). 

The first floor is the lobby & dining room. The second floor? That part is questionable. We walked into a gorgeous albeit small dark library. The old cracked books were piled on bookcases all the way to the ceiling. You couldn’t help but touch them. Two doors led out from this small library. Well, what are doors for if not for walking through?

First door led into a cozy chapel, complete with stained glass windows and pews and an altar. Just lovely. We peeked in, breathed a deep sigh, then back out into the library. There was some sort of reverence there that made us not want to snoop too much.
Second door led into an office, also stuffed to the brim with books. Beautiful, dusty, fat old books. Aaaaand what are books for if not for thumbing through? Turns out, they are not for touching….

Chi รจ?!
*gasp*

Chi รจ? Cosa stai facendo?!

*signals to the other teacher* Sssshhhhh!

Che cosa vuoi?!
Let’s go let’s go let’s go!!!
*book tumbles to the floor*

Io spacco la faccia con quel libro!

Ok, so I’m pretty sure he didn’t reeeeeally curse us out or threaten to break our face with a book, but we ran outta there SO fast! I still don’t know where that voice came from. It was like The Nothing, rushing into that office and rumbling in our ears. Might have been God Himself. Who knows. We didn’t stick around to find out.

I do know that big ol’ monster of a book hit the ground so hard it probably scared the receptionist downstairs! We high-tailed it back through the stacks of books and down the stairs, past the confused students, and out through the screen door into the garden. 
In straight-up buddy cop movie fashion, this is how it went down next…


We ran through the first garden (dotted line) and got a little lost but managed to make it out onto a VERY BUSY side street (star and solid line), and dashed into the nearest building we could find.

See where it says “snack bar?” Let me tell you, this was not your grammy’s snack bar. No Twinkies or lemonade or anything of the sort in this little bitty piece of work.  But I could totally picture gambling, extortion, and bar fights.  And possibly tattoos in a back room. I’m overly imaginative that way. But I might not have missed the mark by much.

So what did it really look like in there? Stay tuned…
*We did not leave the kids alone when we ran from the shouting priest/monk/friar/brother? This is not the child endangerment part of this. Not yet anyway. They hadn’t gotten on our nerves enough to deserve that. Plus we were still giddy from eating pancetta/mozzarella paninis and gelatos so the kids were tolerable. They had parent chaperones.

May 5, 2011

NOW That’s What I Call a show!


Note: For the next few posts, I’m going back in time to share with you some of the ways in which I think I’m terribly clever . Because Sometimes I Forget I’m Awesome.


I have horrible vision. I mean, like I can’t see past my hand bad. I scare myself in the mirror at night because I think someone’s in my room… then I realize that’s just me. I’ve mistaken my dad (balding & plump) for my brother (Fabio hair & muscles). I’ve run into walls. It’s not cute. Just thought you should know.
At the eye doctor’s office, I sat down to take out my contact lenses with one of the young girls who worked there sitting across from me. I had been to this particular office before but I’d never met her.
We chatted for a bit though I can’t remember any of what was said. Then:

Eye-Girl*: Are you busy this Friday night?
Me: Uuuummmmm….
Eye-Girl: I mean, nothing weird, I was just curious.
Me: Ummmmm…
E-G: It’s just that I have this thing on Friday that I think you’d be perfect for. You’re so pretty and you seem like so much fun…
Me: Thanks. But this does sound a little crazy.
E-G: It’s sort of like a party. Wanna go with me?

{*Eye-Girl does have a name as well as credentials, training, and an appropriate title to do all sorts of work in said doctor’s office. The Eye-Girl moniker is not meant to devalue any of that.}

Now, you have to know, at that point in my life I was on a bit of a, “Meh, why the hell not” kick, so I said yes. We exchanged numbers and Friday night I pick her up and drive to our mystery destination. 

E-G had at some point explained to me that she was selling Mary-Kay products and we were going to some sort of launch party promo thing(?) I dunno. You Mary-Kay folks probably  know what I’m talking about.
There was putting on of make-up and talking about how it made us feel and hand scrubbing and girly things. Then, the “show.”

Oh the show.

Seems all the consultants (is that what they’re called?) bring someone to try out new products then we all parade around like mad women as a way to celebrate ourselves. Go womanhood! Or something. I was just happy to be out of the house.

The room had folding chairs set up in neat little pew-like rows, with a center aisle decked out in a red carpet. These women take this very seriously! One by one, we  guests/victims  lined up ready to shake our stuff down the aisle, music blasting from some old radio. No doubt it was a copy of “NOW That’s What I Call Music.” Did you know there's like 40 volumes of those CDs??

About three or four girls strutted down the aisle before me, some walking hastily with their eyes on the ground. And right when I step up to the edge of the red carpet, ready to make my nervous entrance, all eyes on me…

“Oh my god, Becky, look at her butt. It is SO big! She looks like one of those rap guy’s girlfriends…”

Wait, what? Immediately, I lost all sense of decorum, rolled my neck, and prepared to dance this thing to the ground. I’m pretty sure my butt grew four inches too.

That is NOT me :)
 I’ve danced in a room full of strangers before, but never like this! There was some serious butt popping and backwards walking and almost Vogue-ish arm things that shouldn’t see the light of day. And there was whooping and hollering by the crowd and clapping and a little sweating.

And wouldn’t you know it, by applause of these very demure-looking women, I won myself a basket full of cellulite creams. All for dancing to Sir Mix-a-Lot. That's right, cellulite creams!! It's like they knew I'd win!

A proud moment indeed.

It’s true, sometimes I’m more awesome than I give myself credit for.

May 2, 2011

S.I.F.I.A.


Every once in a while {ahem… read: often} I get sucked into comparing myself to everyone around me and I feel all gross and boring and unaccomplished and smelly. And a little too tall for my own good, but that’s neither here nor there.
So it’s a relief when something comes along and snaps me out of it. It’s generally something ridiculous but it makes me remember that I am, in all actuality, a pretty rad girl after all.
You see, Sometimes I Forget I’m Awesome.
Sifia
Meet Sifia, the self-doubting, clueless girl inside me. She forgets how amazing she is. She’s convinced she’s an idiot, a ne’er-do-right, and mostly of the un-awesome variety. I imagine she’d rock an unflattering trucker hat and talk in mumbled tones. But I love the girl, what can I say?!

Sifia was in full force this weekend, what with the realization that her latest relationship sucks and the threat of monetary doom just around the corner. She was gloom and woe-is-me all over the place. Gross.
And then this happened: 

DSC02706

If you and I have ever met, the fact that I was able to put together a relatively attractive outfit (or, that I even OWN a dress!) should be surprising enough. My fashion skills leave much to be desired. But that’s not the awesome part.
It’s that the model you see before you is actually made up of:
  • four pairs of socks
  • a vacuum cleaner
  • an old cushion
  • two belts
  • a bra
    Damn right, folks. I am super awesome.
    *high five!*
    She (the model) hasn’t got a name yet, mostly because she was dismantled quickly afterwards so I can come up with a better way to prop her up. Also, because she’s a floozy and she’ll show her goods to anyone who looks her way. 

    DSC02792

    That tramp! Though I guess I wasn’t exactly discouraging her behavior. After all, it was me who took her out on the balcony to show the goods. Ohhh, what the neighbors must be thinking…. There was definitely some awkward groping of the chestal (yup, word!) areas. And really, I’m not sure if there is an “appropriate” way to undress a fake person in public. Try it. It’s a *little* weird.

    Anyway, she’ll be making an appearance over at the Campobella Etsy shop to model some of the products.
    And in the sprit of Sifia, bless her heart, I think this week I’ll recount some more times where I forgot just how I awesome I am.

    Apr 22, 2011

    Thrifty finds



    A few weeks ago I made out like a bandit at my favorite thrift store. I got a few dresses, a curtain (to become a skirt, hopefully) and the pair of curtains above.  I don't know about you, but to me they screamed out, "beach!!!"  It's actually a lighter blue than the pic shows... point-and-shoot... whatcha gonna do, right?

    Well the curtains have been given a new life as a cuuuute little set of beach totes. *sigh*  Makes me want to keep them! I should be able to make a total of 4 (only 2 finished so far) so maybe I will keep one after all.

     They'll be making their way to the Etsy shop soon (though I've been slacking for quite some time on that.)

    I really wanted to make little coordinating pouches for the beach totes and this week I got lucky, again. I found this bed sheet, on sale. 

     Little baby stripes to go with my big bold ones. Score!

    Also got away with this skirt.... Check out those colors! And it was only a dollar!! I'm thinking flow-y spaghetti strap spring shirt.


    And this terribly cute print (bed sheet as well) of letter monsters.  I'm not sure what I'll make with it yet, but I couldn't pass it up for $1.50.  I'm thinking appliques. Got any ideas?


    These are just a few of them. I can't decide which one's cuter. Though unfortunately for Agwat, I think he automatically takes the award for creepiest.



    Do you see your favorite?

    Apr 19, 2011

    Happy Birthday


    I received many happy birthday wishes.

    And happy it was.

    It was also on a Tuesday. Go figure.

    There was food and drink and merriment.
    And we laughed. Hard. And loud.


    There was dancing. Lots and lots of dancing. And there were drums, but no dancing to drums (which made my dance teacher very *sad face*) 


    We listened to obscure reggae and bluegrass covers of rap songs. 


    We wrapped it up almost before midnight. Because we're old that way.



    Special shout-out to my SIL & brother for bringing the xbox kinect. And to my friend Cerice for bringing the TV. That's right, my family & my friends are so awesome that they don't just bring food and drink.... they bring entire entertainment systems!!

    It was perfect.


    I had so much fun, I didn't even take down the decorations*. It's a party in my house every day!

    *Interesting side-effect of my job: I know all too well just how many fire safety codes I might be breaking with my decorations. I mean, let's be honest, having tons of flammable paper materials around the house (esp. in the kitchen!) is probably not great. Eh, they're 10-foot ceilings. Whatevs. I like 'em.



    Apr 14, 2011

    Full Disclosure: It's not you, it's...

    by Mary R. Voght
    I know he never, ever, ever reads this blog, so I’m completely comfortable with what’s about to go down here. Prepare yourself, folks. This ain’t gonna be pretty (or brief).

    I’m not in love, but I like him enough.

    {"Wait, what?!" I know, I know…. if you’ve been reading along you probably thought I was hopelessly single. Read on.}

    We’ve been seeing each other for about a year and a half now.  When we met, it wasn’t exactly puppy dogs and ice cream between us. But the timing was just right. We didn't dislike each other but we've never been head-over-heels, butterfly-in-the-stomach lovey-dovey with each other.  Well, maybe he was with me. I don’t know. I do know:

    -We don’t have fun together. 
    Sometimes we do, but most of the time he aggravates the #*&$ out of me. But there are good moments, and there's not really bad moments (ever), just blah. All the time.

    -I don’t care if I don’t see him. 
    Even if a week goes by. Most of the time, I don’t even look forward to it. Not because I anticipate we’ll have a bad time, just because I could find something else to do. I don’t care to show up on time for our dates, and I’m always happy if the evening ends early. 

    -He’s uninspiring.  
    And  a little boring for my taste.  I don’t think wanting a decent, entertaining, stimulating conversation with someone is too much to ask for. 

    +He doesn’t make me want to be better.
    It’s not that he doesn’t want me to grow or be happy, but I think for him, I’m exactly everything he needs. So I don’t have to do much else.  I don’t care to work-out to look even hotter, or cook to impress him, or 
    surprise him or be romantic. Nope, no “extra mile” effort from me.
     
    He’s not a bad guy. I guess this is the part where I should tell you what I actually like about him:

    +He compliments me often. 
    Bores the heck out of me, and I by no means want to marry-have kids-build a life with him, but he helps pass the time and does make me feel wanted.

    +He bails me out with bills. 
    He lets me get all the cake & ice cream I want and helps with groceries & gas money. And rent.

    +He’ll humor me.
    Lets me take a last minute trips, and I was able to get a nice little apartment in a great neighborhood because of him. He pretty much lets me do what I want, when I want. 

    So I have to wonder, is there someone better suited for me?
    Now, I know it’s not supposed to be perfect, and I know relationships aren’t fun all the time. I’ve thought about leaving him.  I don’t know when I’ll find someone else. I’ve tried the online sites, and I get no responses back. None. 

    What if the next guy is even worse?! What if no one comes back around for months? Years? 

    So, why stay with him? I don't expect perfection, but he just doesn’t do much for me.
    I can’t think of any good reasons. 
     I deserve better, right?
    Don’t we all deserve better?

    Would you feel the same way if you knew I was talking about my job? 
    Why do we continue to allow, accept, and even promote such unhealthy relationships with our jobs?! That’s just how it is, right? Your job isn’t supposed to make you happy. It’s alright if it’s just “good enough.” 
    If it pays the bills. If it bores you to pieces.

    It's not you, it's me.
    I don’t think we should see each other anymore.
    Someday, you’ll make someone very happy.
    I'm sorry job, but I think it’s time I move on.

    Apr 5, 2011

    My 30th birthday


    I turned 30!! 
    This happened a year ago.

    But I have to admit, it didn’t feel very celebratory. I went to dinner with my girlfriends, followed by a quick stop at the bar next-door and drank water. For reals. 

    I know I had a great time at dinner and afterwards, but I can’t really recall any particulars. I love my girlfriends and I love the fact that they made me celebrate even when I was in no mood to do so. One very pregnant girlfriend even drove over half hour to share an expensive birthday dinner with me... while less than a week away from her due date!! I’m pretty sure when one of them asked what I wanted to do for my birthday, I replied something along the lines of “mumble, mumble, whatever…”

    So I showed up late to my own party in that “let’s-get-this-over-with” sort of way that comes from feeling hopelessly numb, which I think is the best way to describe my state of mind at the time

    I didn't care that I was turning 30, what should otherwise be a somewhat milestone age.  I didn't care about damn near anything, to be honest. I don't remember much at all of my days up until maybe mid last year. Even after that, details are fuzzy, save for a few scattered out-of-town trips I've been lucky enough to be able to take. 

    My girlfriends gathered to celebrate me, to share with me, to laugh with me, and not only did I not appreciate it in the way I should have, but all I have is this grainy cell phone photo to remember it by. 

    {That pink lei still hangs from my rear-view mirror.}
     Unacceptable.

    I should have made a spectacle! I should have danced and sang and talked too loudly for my own good.
    I should have celebrated!
    I hope this year I do better. At celebrating. At enjoying. At being less numb and more present. At seeing all the signs that point to me being blessed and loved and cared-for.
    And I hope I do that on more days than just my birthday.

    So this week, there will be spectacles and dancing and singing and loud talking. There will be pictures taken and blessings counted. There will be cake.
    Even if it's just me or even if I need to pretend a little, I must celebrate.

    Apr 4, 2011

    On faulty reasoning


    {Note: That I erased the header & tons of my pictures from the hosting site, leaving the blog to look crazy, doesn't reflect my superb intellect, I promise!}

    I like to think I’m a fairly smart person. Not brilliant in many respects and I’d fail miserably at Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit, but I can get by.

    I placed 6th in my graduating HS class, earned myself three college scholarships, graduated early with honors, have remained debt-free, etc. Oh and I’ve managed to avoid parking tickets, drunken tattoos, acrylic nails, bee stings, jail time, drug use, broken bones, and animal-print leggings.

    Lucky? Probably. Smart? You would think, right?

    And yet I often have the reasoning of a two-year-old. On the daily, I make the leap from Truth to Absolute-Unfounded-Nonsense in a split second. {Here’s one example of that} My logic seems to follow a pattern most intuitive to the toddler mind, as in:
    If: Dogs have 4 legs.
    And: Dogs bark.
    And: Cows also have 4 legs.
    Then:  Cows also bark.

    Last week I came up with this genius life-changing action plan:
    Step 1: Make work bearable until I come up with a better plan.
    Step 2: Come up with a better plan.
    (I mean, really, who needs specifics? Not this girl!)

    These moments of brilliance happen more often than I care to admit, and few are privy to these bits of wisdom (except for poor, poor V. who continues to be subjected to my tireless ramblings and questionable math skills. Even via text at 3:00 am. That’s a friend!).

    Today’s product of my mental prowess went a little something like this:
    I feel like writing today. (Really, I feel like that most days.)
    I can only think of negative things to write about.
    So I will not write.
    Mind-blowing excellence, isn’t it?! The last part is a nod to the fact that  I’ve been feeling super whiny (for lack of a more eloquent way to express my mental state) and I’m a little concerned about the amount of negativity that’s been flowing out of me lately. Now, those of you with more sense than I may notice two things...
    • I am, in fact, writing by posting this.
    • It didn’t occur to me to look for positive things to write about.
    So I’ve made a mental edit.
    I feel like writing today.
    If I can only think of negative things to write about
    I will look for positives
    And I will not write.
    Granted, It’s no major scientific discovery or literary masterpiece, but I think it’s a big step up from the dreaded “toddler logic” I really should avoid.

    Kind of like eating more Oreos because they’re the low-fat kind. Faulty reasoning, perhaps, but I subscribe to this particular Oreo philosophy pretty strictly and I doubt that will change. Ever.

    Mar 30, 2011

    Full disclosure: "Love will find you out"


    untitled

    Have you got a minute? Make one. Set aside a few. You’ll need them. I had to share what might very well be one of the most painfully beautiful things I have ever read. Here’s a glimpse:
    “…Go ahead, be disappointed.
    Nothing turned out how you hoped.
    Sit under a tree and tell me the whole of it
    and I won’t say a word.
    I won’t say a single word…”
    It’s a journal entry by Jen Lemen who has quickly drawn me in with her words in an incredibly unexpected way.
    Read the entire piece, Love will find you outhere.

    By the way, I found the piece through Kind Over Matter. What a lovely little space of feel-good-ness!
    Go check her out. You’ll feel better.

    Why is this full disclosure? Because I'm pretty sure she's talking to me.


    Mar 10, 2011

    Priceless

    girls boys
    {POORLY adapted from source}


    
    Another new perfect little niece was born yesterday morning. Love her.
    Looks like the girls are winning. Only 3 nephews to my 4 nieces.
    I got a text from my brother early in the morning saying they were at the hospital already. I walked into the office and couldn’t wait to share the good news with my boss.

    “I just found out I’m getting a baby today!”

    WHAT?! You’re having a baby?!”

    “NO, no, no… I’m getting a baby today! My niece. Looks like she’ll be born today.”

    “Oh.{whew} In that case, woohoo!”

    Ohhhh the look on Boss-man’s face was priceless! And yup, he says “Woohoo.” Often.

    Mar 8, 2011

    2nd Monday Do-Overs



    Ahhhh, someplace I'd like to be.Someplace beautiful, relaxing. I need a beach soon, something serious!

    Anyway, time for another round of “Second Monday” where I insist on avoiding Tuesdays altogether by just re-doing Monday (and the last few days) a little better. If you missed it, here is the first go-around at it.

    I gotta say, I feel pretty good about not having a whole lot of do-overs this time around. But if you’re counting, here they are:

    ---
    Taste the tofu before trying to fry it. I would have found out that it’s gross and mushy and no combination of breading and/or frying would make it less so. Don’t judge.
    ---

    Make plans sooner. Went to dinner with some girlfriends. Great time (and delicious falafel)! Just wish I hadn’t waited so long.
    ---

    Relax. And I don’t mean in that “take a vacation” kind of relaxation. I mean, stop spazzing!! Heaven knows I worried myself silly over something that didn’t even happen.

    How does the saying go? (I dunno, is there a saying!?) If you worry & it happens, then you couldn’t have stopped it; if you worry & it doesn’t happen then you worried over nothing? Who knows I’m no philosopher.

    {Thanks for allowing me to spaz, V.}
    ---

    Get the “love it” size. Because sometimes Coldstone ice cream is worth the extra pound or two. Think brownie mix and Oreo creme filling. Together. Bliss.
    ---

    All in all, I didn’t do too bad this time around. Let’s try to keep it that way. Anything you’d like to do over, just a little better?

    Mar 4, 2011

    How to follow a site (Part III): Google Friend Connect


    {Don’t miss Part I and Part II of “How to follow a site”}
    By now you know how to use feeds to receive updates to a website and how to read that content.
    Today is more about a method to connect with other readers on blogs and how to share the content you like. 

    Let’s take a look at Google Friend Connect.
    Friend Connect is used almost exclusively on Blogger blogs, though I believe there are widgets now available for other blogs as well (Tumblr, Wordpress, etc). This is not something used on news sites or corporate blogs. Not every blog will have this.

    At its simplest, Friend Connect is a social-media tool that can be used on tons of blogs.

    Here are the basics:
    • Makes it WAY easy for the blog author to see who’s following (be kind to your bloggers, won’t you?)
    • Can easily share content you like via other social apps
    • Find other readers with similar interests
    • Explore new sites from other readers
    {Following on Friend Connect does not automatically subscribe you to the blog’s feed like we discussed yesterday, but you already subscribed didn’t you? Yeahhhh I thought so. However it does add the blog to your Blogger dashboard. I’ll explain that in a future post} 

    Go ahead. Try it. It won’t hurt a bit. I promise.
     
    Step 1: Click the "Follow" button on the site.  Some folks will have this at the bottom of their blog so be sure to scroll all the way to check for it. (Remember, some blogs don’t have this at all). 

    Friend connect widget

    Step 2: Choose how you follow. You should see a window open up like the one below (it may or may not already show your information, if you're already logged in to Blogger or your Google Account…) 

    Google Friend Connect

    If you’re not already logged in, notice you can log in using a Google Account (if you use Gmail or Blogger you already have a Google account) or any other account you already have. Excellent! (You may be redirected to another screen to log in to your other account, Twitter for example, but you’ll come back here after that.)

    You should now be at this screen. Enter your name and decide if you’d like to follow publicly or privately. 

    Google Friend after log in screen

    You’re pretty much done!
    You’ll see this to confirm. Feel free to share with your friends! *wink wink nudge nudge* 


    Google Friend after confirming subscribe

    Click DONE and you’ll be back on the blog. 
    Now Google Friend Connect will look like this (if you followed publicly): 


    Google Friend after DONE on subscribe - back on site

    (If you choose to follow privately, no one will see your picture under “followers” but you’ll still see see the “Options” drop down each time you’re on the site.)

    From your OPTIONS menu you can share the site (wink wink) or change your settings:

    Google Friend back on site - options 
    Site settings pop up

    So how does this help you, the reader?!
    Well, besides making it super easy to share the blog in all sorts of ways, you’ll also be able to find folks with common interests as yours. 

    On the site, click any picture under “Followers” and you’ll a pop up with that member’s profile (if they created one) as well as any blogs they’ve subscribed to. 

    So for example, if you’re on a surfing blog A, the followers of that blog will most likely be followers of other surfing-related blogs B and C…which you wouldn’t have known about until now!
    Pretty neat, huh?

    And there you have it… Google Friend Connect. 
    Thanks for reading ! 

    Mar 2, 2011

    How to follow a site (Part II): Google Reader

    {Make sure you read Part I on how to follow a site using feeds.} 

    If you read Part I, did you get here by following your feed? Did you get here from your favorites bar? Your “feeds” menu in your browser? Great!

     Welcome back!

    We've already discussed how to subscribe to your favorite online content using feeds, and a few different ways to read the content. Today, we'll talk about Google Reader*, another way to access all those goodies to which you've subscribed.

    *You need a Google Account to access Google Reader. Good news…if you use any Google product (such as Gmail, Picasa, Blogger, iGoogle, etc)  you already have a Google Account. 
    Otherwise, you can create one here using any existing email address you have (yahoo, hotmail, aol, etc).

    You can find Google Reader on the main page of Google. See at the very top-left where it says “Web,” “Images,” etc? There should be a “more” up there as well. Click on the little triangle next to “more” and you’ll find Reader in a drop down menu like so:

    Google Reader main page


    If you’re not already signed-in to your Google Account, you’ll be directed to a log-in page first.
    If you are already signed-in, then you’ll go straight to your Reader home page like this:

    Google reader Home page A-F

    Points of interest:
    A: Easily add a subscription (aka: feed) to your Google reader by adding the website’s URL (or just use keywords & Google Reader will find it for you)
    B: Tells you how many items total you have not read (Anything in bold means it’s unread)
    C: Google Reader will recommend sites/articles/pages it thinks you might like based on what you've subscribed to already
    D: Lists all your subscriptions & the number of unread items for each website
    E: Search within your subscriptions using keywords
    F: Overview of all your subscriptions (again, bold =  how many are unread).

    Look at section F again. Notice that you can only see the first few lines of text for each item from the home page.
    To see more, select “All items” in section B. It should now look like this:

    Google Reader All Items page


    Now you’ll be able to see more of each item. Almost all of the time* you’ll be able to see the entire post, pictures and all. They’ll be listed with the most recent update first. Here, of all my subscriptions, CurlyPops happens to have been the latest one to post, so hers is up at the top.
    *{If you remember from yesterday, authors have the option of only publishing a summary rather than the full content, which means you’d have to click on the post’s title to see the full thing along with the pictures. For example, New York Times does that, if you’d like to see what I mean}
    If you scroll to the bottom of the post, you’ll see options to share it, star it, keep it unread, etc.


    Google Reader share options

    You’ll also notice the next post right after it is from a different blogger, this time from Jen at Tatertots & Jello. All my subscriptions will show back-to-back because I chose “All Items” (Section B). If you were to select a particular subscription from your list (Section D) then you’d see items from just one subscription.

    That’s pretty much it! You can read all your content all in one place. Of course, you could add Google Reader to your Favorites bar too.

    Now, let’s run down the pros/cons of this, as well as some “advanced” features.

    Pros
    • Easy to see what’s still left to read
    • Can search or filter through available content
    • Easily read through many items without leaving the page
    • Direct link to site available
    • Easily share items, or star for finding easier next time
    • Might find some interesting things with the “Recommended” feature
    Cons
    • You miss out on additional information found on original website (welcome page, side bar, sponsors, etc.)
    • No ability to comment on original author’s post (so author & others can read it)
    • Site author does not benefit from "hits" to his/her site if you stay on Reader
    • Not all sites publish full content… some only publish summaries
    Now for some neat things to know…
    You can change which items show and how they’re sorted straight from your “All Items” page.

    All items -show-
    All items -view settings-

    You can even tell Reader to go straight to your “All items” page rather than your “Home” page; just click on “Set as start page".”
    You can also change all sorts of settings down at “Manage Subscriptions”

    All items -manage subscriptions-

    There you can delete subscriptions, categorize them in folders, tell Reader when to mark something as “read,” and find some neat Reader apps.

    Give yourself a pat on the back... you are now a Google Reader guru. Don't worry, no one checks credentials!  Happy reading!!

    {Edit: Find Part III of the series here}

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