VidCon 2015

vidcon-logoSo I’m just back from VidCon 2015 in Anaheim California. For those who don’t know, VidCon is a convention of YouTube creators, producers, industry types, and fans. Lots of fans. Mostly girls from what I can tell, between the ages of 12 and 24. These days it’s hard to tell the age of some of them based on clothes, makeup, height, and just the general way they carry themselves.

While I wasn’t actually attending the convention, there wasn’t a need for me to spend money on a ticket, I was at the Hilton hotel and convention center where everything is taking place. It gave me the opportunity for a bird’s eye view (being on the 11th floor we got to see a private YouTube party Thursday night – more on that in a bit), as well as a street level view in the lobby, the restaurant, the gym and the pool.

Here are just a few random observations.

  • Girls travel in packs. I guess they always have. I know I did at that age. And they are always on the look out for whoever their favorite creator, just in case they can get that selfie they are always chasing. It got to the point that the hotel had to set up security checkpoints in order to verify that you were actually a guest and had reason to be going up to the rooms. Some of these packs were downright rude, in one case immediately closing the door and not letting people on the elevator who had already been waiting a while. I know because I was one of the people who had been waiting.
  • You never know who you will randomly meet. One morning I shared the elevator with Drew Scott of HGTV’s Property Brothers. Personally I had no idea who he was at first. It wasn’t until someone else in the elevator asked why he wasn’t wearing a “yellow badge” (for the featured creators) and he said he was just here as a producer, not an actual creator. Super nice guy, polite and no ego on display during the ride or on the walk down the hall, since we were staying on the same floor.
  • Even if you’re not attending the convention, there is still a lot of walking involved. We didn’t rent a car, there wasn’t a need to, but place we’ve wanted to go for dinners have been at least 1/2 a mile to a mile away, so we would walk. Downtown Disney, which is a public area (no ticket required) is also a must stop and see place while we’re here, so we’ve walked there at least 3 times. And while the teenager is at the convention, I’m occupying my time at the gym and in/around the pool, so add that extra exercise in and let’s just say, my muscles are feeling it.
  • It was nice to see on the agenda panels discussing issues that are relevant to the audience that is attending. There was a mental health panel addressing anxiety, depression, cutting and other current issues teens and young adults are facing. There was a LGBTQ panel and then meet up as well. There was no tolerance for bullies (one attendee/creator was kicked out of both the convention and the hotel). As a parent it made me feel a little better about letting my 15 year old explore and do her own thing without me having to hang around all the time.
  • All in all things seem to operate much more smoothly this year. The only hiccup was on Wednesday evening. The e-mail attendees received said registration would be open until 8 pm. The website also had this listed as the time for registration. The sign outside the convention center where they were supposed to go to register had 6:00 pm printed as the closing time. This led to some confusion when the girls got there at 7:00 pm they found out that it was already closed. Because of this it took away some of their time from the following morning. With an event this large I know there are bound to be mistakes, but when it comes to registration and associated signage/messaging this should have been caught beforehand.
  • Thursday night there was a private party for what appeared to be the featured creators, industry types, and invited guests. This was what we were guessing since we we’re actually watching from the 11th floor and the party was on the 5th floor lanai area. The teenager actually spotted quite a number of creators that she follows, so you would randomly watch them throughout the crowd to see who else she could spot at the party. It was something like a real life “Where’s Waldo?” or in this case “Where’s Phil?” game. It turns out we must not have been the only ones doing this because suddenly party goers started shining their phones lights up at the rooms and waving hi. Of course we got in on that fun, waving back and using our flashlight apps to signal as well. Neither one of us has any idea who most of the people were that interacted with us, but it was a fun memory made during the conference.
  • You pretty much are running on adrenaline the entire time you are there. As an attendee you are rushing around, trying to get to signings, panels, events, and meet-ups. Food, who has time to eat? As a parent, you are on a heightened level, because you will get the “OMG I just met fill in favorite YouTuber’s name here!!” text accompanied by a picture of said event or the “I’m staying out later. Is that okay?” text, or the sobbing, hysterical, breakdown phone call because they have finally reached the limit of over stimulation and absolute exhaustion. (Thankfully we didn’t have that happen this year, but it has happened). You’re getting up early to try and get breakfast, then up late because all the events of the day must be rehashed and replayed over and over and over.

All in all, a great time was had by all. The teenager had a blast meeting her favorite creators, giving them her personalized artwork, I was able to get in some good, quality time with her too, and had a chance to relax poolside and enjoy the southern California sunshine. Now to rest up, because I know we’ll be doing this all again next year.

Spaceship Earth

A friend shared this on facebook the other day. The message is so simple, but somehow we seem to lose sight of it or make it more complicated than it has to be. We have to realize the impact we are having on this beautiful, fragile world. If you don’t have time to watch the entire thing, start at 9:00 and watch to the end.


Not A Resolution

weight-scale2For the past 3 1/2 years I’ve been working out with a trainer (and some on my own). It’s been hard work, but the results have definitely been worth it. When I first started I was coming in at around 186 pounds. At 6 feet tall (or 5 foot 12 inches as a friend used to say) I was able to carry the weight without most people noticing too much. But I noticed and it bothered me. I didn’t like the size clothes I was wearing, having a hard enough time finding things to fit right because of my height, my weight didn’t help either.

Working with a trainer has probably been one of the best things I could have done. It helps to hold me accountable, not only getting to the gym, but also because he checks in with me to see what I’m eating, if I’m doing workouts on my own, and making modifications based on how my body is responding and if there are injuries to be considered. And even after working with him for as long as I have, the workouts are never boring, never the same.

Over the past year I have also been using a program to track the cardio portion of my workouts. These are primarily my warm ups before sessions with the trainer and a couple of hours on my own during the rest of the week. What surprised me was the totals that I reviewed when I looked at my “lifetime” achievements. Since I started tracking last January I have worked out for 246 days (out of 356, give or take a day), I have completed 117 hours and 55 minutes, for a distance of 1,322.81 miles and a calorie burn of 59,266.

I have also made dietary changes, because exercise alone is not going to give me the results if I’m still consuming too much or the wrong things. Don’t get me wrong, I still have sweets on occasion, and bread (my biggest weakness) and other foods that most diets would tell you are “forbidden”. But they are in moderation along with adding a lot more of the healthy things I should be eating. And the results of all this, I have lost and kept off 25 pounds, I have gone from sizes 12/14 to sizes 6/8, I sleep better, I’m more flexible now than I’ve been in years past, and just the other day I was actually able to run sprints and not experience pain or ill effects (something doctors told me I shouldn’t do because of my knee issues). I don’t say this to brag, I just share it as an example of what can happen when you make a change and stick to it.

I’ve also learned something else important in all this. You have to find what works for you. All these crash diets, plans, and workouts that are out there are only as good as you make them. If you aren’t going to enjoy what you are doing, if you think it’s a drag or a chore, you won’t get the results you want. And until you are ready to fully commit to the change, it’s just another resolution you make at the beginning of the year that will be forgotten in just a few short months (or weeks).

And now I’m off to the gym, because now when I don’t go, I miss it.

A Tale of Two Experiences With Customer Service

I am big believer of treating others as you would like to be treated. So when I have to call or have some sort of customer service interaction I keep this rule in mind. Recently I have had two customer service experiences that were about as opposite as you can get.

The first experience was at our local veterinarian. Both the dog and cat were due for refills of their flea medications. When the husband called to request these he was told that the animals would need to be seen for an exam before they could refill the prescriptions. Because it was close to the holidays and knowing how much that was going to be, he requested that the appointment be after the first of the year. They agreed and said they would dispense a one month refill to get us by until then. It would take 24 hours before the refill was ready, but we could pick it up anytime after that. Fast forward two days – we stopped by the clinic to pick up the medicine at 2:00 in the afternoon. When I got out of the car I was met in the parking lot by one of the staff who asked me what I needed, note “what I needed” not “how can I help you?”. I told her I was there to pick up medicine for our animals. Without asking any questions or giving me a chance to explain any further, she informed me they were in the middle of a staff meeting and that I would have to come back after 3:00. She did not ask what sort of medicine it was, if it was any kind of emergency situation, just that they were unable to serve me during their regular business hours. The tone in her voice was one of inconvenience, as though I was interrupting a highly critical procedure or crisis. Never mind that I was the customer, there during their normal posted hours, attempting to give them my money. Based on her attitude and the utter lack of communication on their part, we will no longer be doing business with this clinic.

The second experience I had was with an insurance company. I went in expecting the worst, mainly because it’s health insurance and past experiences of dealing with them while working for a chiropractor some years ago. After getting through a ridiculous number of prompts and irrelevant information I reached an actual live person. Darren was very pleasant from the get go and easy to understand (always an added bonus these days when calling what I expected to be a call center). I explained my situation to him, confirmed the answers to his questions, and he was able to take care of my issue without any hair pulling, up selling or any other hoops that I would have to jump through. A few things that stood out from this experience were the fact that it was not a call center that I had reached, but the actual insurance company offices, that they have a significant number of long term employees and they promote from within, and lastly, that when you address a cs rep by name they are quite surprised and pleased that you took the time to notice and use their name. Darren even went so far as to thank me for using his name and said most people don’t do that and typically start off the conversation by yelling at him. I don’t understand this logic. If you are calling someone for help, why would you be so combative right off the bat? Would it hurt to take a minute, address them as a human being with a name, explain the situation, and let them try to help you to the best of their ability. While the call did take almost a half an hour, we had a pleasant chat during the wait time, he shared with me a bit about the company and their work environment, and proved to me that this was a company I would continue to do business with based on the way they treat their employees and customers. And it turns out the problem I had was a computer glitch and an easy solution was found.

So as we approach the end of this year and look forward to a new beginning in 2015 I challenge you to keep in mind this one simple rule – treat others with the same respect as you would have them treat you. You’ll be amazed how much more pleasant and enjoyable your life can be.

How Much Is Too Much?

I stumbled across this on Tumblr. Because I have a high school student (a freshman this year) who is going through exactly this, I felt it had to be shared.

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teacher 2

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So if a teenager is at school for roughly 8 hours, and they are doing homework for 6+ hours, and they need AT LEAST 9 HOURS OF SLEEP FOR THEIR DEVELOPING BRAINS, then they may have 0-1 hours for other activities like eating, bathing, exercise, socializing (which is actually incredibly important for emotional, mental, and physical health, as well as the development of skills vital to their future career and having healthy romantic relationships among other things), religious activities, hobbies, extra curriculars, medical care of any kind, chores (also a skill/habit development thing and required by many parents), relaxation, and family time?  Not to mention that your parents may or may not pressure you to get a job, or you might need to get one for economic reasons.

I will never not reblog this

So my question is this – how do we change this? Why do we expect this much from our kids, when we aren’t even doing this much as adults. What exactly is this teaching them, other than to be work-a-holics when they are finally done with school and in debt up to their eyeballs. It certainly does not instill a love of learning or reading, key ingredients to living a fulfilled, enriched life.  The stress and anxiety that my 14 year old is going through this year is ridiculous. Homework is assigned over the summer and holiday breaks. Have schools and teachers forgotten the meaning of the word “break”?

Your thoughts?

How Rude

I am always amazed at how rude some people can be.

First example happened at my local gym. There was a woman in the locker room who decided this was a good place to take a phone call. While she was on the phone, she walked back to the area where the toilet stalls are located. She continued her conversation back there, when someone, yes, flushed the toilet. When this person walked out, the first woman stopped her phone call and said to the person exiting said stall “can’t you see I’m on the phone?” Okay, there are so many things wrong with this, but I couldn’t believe she had the audacity to think this, much less say it out loud. First of all, the woman already in the stall had no idea that the other woman was on the phone (the doors are not see through for a reason). Second, why on earth would you take a call in a locker room and then walk around, especially back to the area where the toilets and showers are located.  And why would she think that a toilet is more mobile than a phone? Um, hello, but use your brain, say to the caller “excuse me for a moment, I’m in the locker room, let me go outside so we can talk unimpeded” if the call is that important that you must take it at that exact moment. The world does not revolve around you, nor should you expect it to.

The next example hits closer to home. As a parent of a girl adopted from China I have encountered many people who feel it’s okay to ask me the most personal of questions. Or make assumptions about my child bearing capabilities. The fact that I’m even writing that sentence is a sad commentary on peoples manners these days.

I would have people say, “oh, I’m so sorry you couldn’t have a child of your own.” Or “how much did she cost?” “You know, there are treatments that you or your husband could try.” And the kicker “how can you love her, she’s not really your own child.” And what made it that much worse was they would ask in front of my daughter, not taking in to account that she has ears, she can hear what they are saying. Now at the age of two maybe she couldn’t understand the question, but as she got older and we would still get asked these questions, she began to wonder and then ask me what these people meant.

Most of the time I would just look at them in bewilderment, astounded that they could even formulate these ideas, much less speak them into existence. On occasion I would think not nice words in my head and then politely responded with an “oh, okay” and walk away. Then there were a few times, when my daughter wasn’t around, my sarcastic side would take over and I would ask them about their financial situation or sex life or any other completely inappropriate question just to see how they would respond. That usually shut down the conversation pretty quickly.

I admit, there were those people that were asking because they genuinely wanted to know and understand the entire international adoption process. And you could tell that they weren’t meaning to be rude, they simply were trying to engage in a conversation. But that was a small percentage of the people. The rude ones, well it was like meeting a real life troll. Maybe it made them feel better about themselves to put others down. Maybe this is just what they were taught and they didn’t know any better. Maybe it was just their prejudice and ignorance showing. I don’t know. But it broke my heart, every time. The fact that someone could think that I didn’t love my daughter just as much as they loved their own child, just because I didn’t go through what they thought of as the normal the physical of having a baby, astounded me and still does to this day.

So on behalf of all adoptive families out there, please, if you want to ask us about it, think before you speak. Actually, that really should just be the rule that we all follow in any given situation. The world would be a much better place.