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my thoughts on making the most out of all of life's minutes…

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Not Me Monday – it’s about Google Me

Since yesterday was a Holiday, here is Not Me Monday – Tuesday Edition!  

Over the Christmas break, my insomnia was in full gear.  So much so, I was able to clear my DVR of all my recordings and I had to resort to my watch list on Amazon Prime. I had forgotten about a documentary that I had flagged.  The name of the film is Google Me.

What a charming little film this is.  It will really be worth if if you watch the trailer.  

So, today’s questions – have you ever Googled yourself?  (I love how Google is now a verb too.)

My guess would be, that you have, in fact, Googled yourself.  I admit it – I have.  I have searched both my married and maiden names. I’ve been curious to see what came up on me personally, but also to see who else was out there who might share my name.

In Google Me, that is exactly what filmmaker Jim Killeen did – he Googled himself and others, then set out to find and meet anyone who shared his name.

He set up parameters for his search and his film.  For starters it had to be the exact name – not Jimmy or James.  He goes by Jim.

The funny thing – he found many and actually met six other Jims. One was a retired police detective from New Jersey, one was a priest in Ireland, one was an executive in Australia.  I don’t want to give the whole film away – but, Oh – there was also a swinger in Colorado!

And after contacting them and them agreeing to meet and be on film, he flew out to meet each one in person.

And then he got them all together in Killeen, Texas to spend a few days together and meet each other. I can only imagine what they were thinking throughout the process. But now – they’ve met each other and have a connection that only they share.

It was a really sweet story and I was so happy for all of the Jims.  I would recommend you giving it a watch.

Do you think you would do the same thing?

If you found someone who shared your name, would you reach out to connect with them?  Would you go as far as to meet them?

I have a friend who did.  Her name is Gretchen and I was immediately reminded of her while I was watching this film.

I remember her mentioning it on a Facebook post once – so I asked her about her experience.

Here is what she said:

“I contacted her first, back in May of 2008. I think I was just goofing around and searched my name on Facebook, and there she was. Having a very unique name, I felt pretty confident that she would pay attention. I’m thinking I just “friend-requested” her, really. Then we sent a few messages back and forth.  As I mentioned before, Speerstra is her married name, and she has since divorced her Speerstra husband, so may move on to another last name at some point.

Back in those days of Facebook, we used to write statuses in third person (do you remember that?). Our name would be at the beginning, like the beginning of a sentence, and then you added the rest (i.e. .Gretchen Speerstra….is eating a plate of nachos!). We had fun commenting with stuff like, “I am?” And then our friends would be amazed there were two of us. I received several friend requests from people who were clearly trying to friend request her. It was kind of funny, because sometimes we’d get all mixed up reading each other ‘s statuses, at first thinking they were our own. We even accidentally tagged each other in our own photos.

She has since added her maiden name along with Speerstra, so it’s easier to tell the difference. Now we mostly just send birthday greetings to each other. Our birthdays are only two days apart (different years), which makes it even more fun.

We’ve never met, but I always think there’s a chance because she’s originally from Montana, so gets up this direction (from Atlanta) every once in a while.”

Super fun!

What’s your experience?  Please share it in the comments.  I’d love to hear about it.

And thanks for sharing your experience, Gretchen(s).

Happy Tuesday, Everyone!



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Beading helps with bonding too….Not Me Monday – meet Melissa!

My friend Melissa shares her story of how she is raising two little entrepreneurs in her house.  I love watching her kids and seeing their creations.  They seem so proud of themselves with all they can accomplish.  I also love that Melissa has found something surprising from this experience about herself.  You’ll have to read on to learn just what that is.

Everyone – Meet Melissa and her two super cute kids!

Amy:  From where did the idea of Blue Dolphin Beads come?  

Hayden and NilesMelissa: Blue Dolphin Beads was my idea.  My daughter wanted to swim with dolphins when we visited Hawaii in February 2012, and it was a lot of money (close to $300) on top of the already expensive trip.  She, then 7, and I had just started beading the summer of 2011 and a couple friends saw our work and asked if we would make them necklaces to buy.  I realized this would be a fun way for her to earn money towards a dolphin swim and she agreed; Blue Dolphin Beads was born!





A: How did you suggest the idea to your kids?

BryceM: See above.  After a couple months, our then 4-year-old son wanted to get in on the action.  So he started making jewelry and saving towards a dolphin swim for himself.  I was pretty amazed at their fine motor skills and patience; beading has increased both even more.

A: Are they excited to create the pieces?  

M: Yes!  Money is a powerful motivator.  I know they feel proud when they create something and are complimented on it, also.






pricingA: What do you have them do for the business besides making each item – e.g. – -handle money, staff the tables, advertising, etc.?  

M: We do handle money, and I let them count the change (great for math skills!).  When there is a craft fair or the farmers market, we all take turns manning the table, though my daughter did more of that at first simply because a 4-year-old can only sit out in the cold and be charming for so long!  My daughter is a really good salesperson, saying hi to people as they go by and asking people if they have questions.  That is part her personality, and part because she is older, I am sure.  We have a Facebook page and when the kids were actively trying to earn money for their dolphin swims, my daughter posted her creations about once a week to try and generate more business, and I would post photos of my son’s work.  It helped!  We have never done any paid advertising; most sales come from word of mouth and a few have come from Facebook.  We have also had the opportunity to donate to several charity auctions, which I hope has made an impact on the kids, and we’ve donated some of our profits to our beloved marine science center.  I want them to know it isn’t just about making money, and I think they appreciate that to some degree.    Hayden at Poulsbo Farmer's Market



A: Have you experienced any unexpected outcomes from doing this?  

M: I found I am good at making jewelry, also!  The kids do all the patterning and stringing and I do the clasps or earring loops, so I got a lot of practice helping them.  As time went on, I started making more jewelry for myself and as gifts and have even sold a few pieces.  Another unexpected outcome is that making jewelry has been a bonding experience.  There was many a night when all three of us were spread out on the floor, stringing beads.  And my husband built us a display tree and helped us set up/take down at the farmers market, so it has been a whole-family experience.  Even the cat used to keep us company when we’d work (See the photo above; Niles the cat!) ; I have some really cute photos of that.  I guess you could say that beading brought us together!  I hope it is something we will continue to do for years to come and that the kids will look back fondly when they are grown up.  Maybe they will teach their own kids how to bead.

Thanks Melissa!  

Have you ever started your kids on a business venture?  What was your experience?  I’d love to know about it!

Happy Monday!



It’s more about distractions….

Happy New Year!

So it’s day six in the year 2014 and I’m six days into my No Wal-Mart and No Yelling resolutions.  I have to admit – – so far – so good!

I’ve not once been to Wal-Mart although there was an occasion on Friday when I was right next to Wal-Mart but remembered my personal goal and diverted to a local grocery store instead.  That was easy.  I don’t really see this one being a hard one, it’s mostly just getting out of the habit.

The no yelling portion is going well also.  My patience was even tested one night with my boys refusing to listen to me and would not get ready for bed.  After six or seven times of saying “it’s time to get ready for bed” and them ignoring me, I finally told them  that I was getting upset and I didn’t want to yell – so they had better get moving.  It sort of worked, it still took a few more attempts to get them motivated and it was tempting to raise my voice.  Alas – I prevailed and held my cool.

One tip my friend Sally suggested was to come up with a code word.  Something that anyone can say and once it is said – everyone stops what they are doing and listens to what is being said.  I have to admit, my first thought of this was “oh – like a safe word in S&M?”  (Jeez, Amy – read 50 Shades of Grey much?)  (Not really, I hated those books…..I digress).

I’ve been thinking of a good word to use on these occasions.  Of course when I mentioned the idea to my boys their suggestions were “chupacabra” or “butt”  – – remember they are nine and five and little boys love to say and giggle non-stop at any mention of the word “butt” or any combination or similar word.  I don’t get little boys.

I don’t want a word that is necessarily funny, I want something that will get their attention yet not annoy me.  We’re working on this part.  I’ll keep you posted when we agree on our word.

My friend Sally also sent me this article, The Important Thing About Yelling.  I, in turn, had other friends post it on Facebook.   The timing of the article was ironic and the fact that a few of my friends shared it  made me think that when they read the article, it resonated with them on some level too.

That’s because the author is spot on!  My situation isn’t exactly like hers – but I know exactly what she is saying.  I’ve seen the fear in my sons’ eyes, I seen their eyes water up with tears, I’ve seen them withdraw  – – all because of me.  And my yelling.  I have to say again, I’m sharing this with you – but it is hard.  And I’m so ashamed….

But another thing the author mentions is – distractions.  100% of the time that I’ve yelled at my husband or my sons is because I was distracted.  Sure – sometimes they are just not doing what I’ve asked of them – – yet my reaction to their non-compliance is because I’ve been distracted with something else and annoyed that they aren’t doing what I’ve asked.  So, in a sense, my reaction in yelling – is my frustration with too much going on in my head.  Maybe I’m tired, maybe I’m hungry, maybe, like the author, I’m distracted with something else on another level – – – it doesn’t matter.  It’s the distractions that leads to yelling.

So – the non-yelling thing isn’t just about not yelling.  It’s about taking control of other influence in my life and learning to leave those at bay while I’m dealing with another situation.  It’s going to be hard but it’s a life change I need to make.

I wonder if we cut out distractions in our lives, how will that improve other interactions?

For 2014 – I’m introducing my 28 day series.  Each month and for 28 days I’ll share a tip on a topic of the month.  I know by my implementing short and easy changes to my daily routines, I will see improvements.  This is an exercise for me that I’m sharing with you and I hope you find some value in it too.  I’d love to hear your thoughts along the way.

One way to make sure you keep in touch with each daily tip is to subscribe to my blog (see the button on the right?) or like me on Facebook.  Up and onward – – stay tuned for the 1st day of the 28 day series on reducing distractions.

Happy Monday!  Happy New Year!


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“My son’s favorite is Plokkfiskur”

My friend Shannon is a mother of two and introduced a family project called World Dinners earlier this year.  I think it is a great way to discuss other cultures, learn about other countries and try new foods!  I thought it would be a perfect thing to share with everyone as part of my Not Me Monday series.  

So – here you go.  Everyone, meet Shannon!

Amy:  Can you explain Alphabetical cooking – or what are you calling it 

Shannon:  We call them World Dinners and its eating dishes from around the world.

Amy: From where did the idea come?

Shannon: The idea came from my friend, Eliza, who got the idea from a kid’s CD (They Might Be Giants – Alphabet of Nations). She started making dinners based on the countries in the song. I thought it was brilliant and asked my (then) 9-year old son if he’d be interested in doing the same thing. He said yes, and here we are!

Amy:  When did you start this project?

Shannon:  We started our project in June, 2013. We started at the beginning of the alphabet and have worked our way down the list. We did a couple of countries out-of-order, to accommodate seasonal ingredients (fresh pumpkin, for instance), and we’re down to ‘Y’. We’ll have a beef stew and bread from Yemen this weekend. The only country we’ve missed is Japan, and that’s because my husband is in charge of that one and hasn’t got to it yet. A few dishes are things we’ve had before, like falafel from Egypt and beef stroganoff from Russia, but most of the 23 dishes we’ve made have been new.


Amy:  What are your favorites? 

Shannon: My favorites have been the unexpected greats – benachin from Gambia and lamb tangine from Morocco. So much flavor from all the spices! My son’s favs have been Quiche Lorraine from France, Plokkfiskur from Iceland, and meatball subs from Oman. My husband doesn’t have one dish that stands out, but there were several that he liked.

Amy: What have your discovered from this experience?   

Shannon: The best thing I discovered is that you can find good food all over the world. Just because the origin is exotic, doesn’t mean that the food is weird or inedible. Sometimes you might be pleasantly surprised!

Amy: What does your family think of this project? 

Shannon:  My family thinks it’s pretty cool. My son is totally on board, my husband thinks it’s interesting, and my 4-year old daughter thinks it’s weird. LOL! It’s okay…introducing new foods to a preschooler isn’t usually successful.

Amy: What hurdles have you had to overcome? 

Shannon:  My hurdles have mostly been finding some ingredients. If I can’t find something, I just use something close – ham instead of salt pork, for instance. Sometimes a recipe uses an unusual spice blend (common in Middle Eastern dishes) and I have to research what’s in the blend so I can make it.

Amy: Will you do it again and start over – or try something different?

Shannon My son wants to do it again next year, with new countries. I think we’ll probably do it. We might have a problem with ‘X’ though! There is only one country with the letter ‘X’ in it and we did that one last week – Luxembourg. In the song, they use West Xylophone, which my friend surmised is Fiji; that’s the country she used for ‘X’ and probably what we’ll do next time.

Thanks Shannon for sharing your story. 

What do you think of Shannon’s project?    Love it? 

Do you have an interesting story you’d like to share?  Know someone who has a great story too?  Let me know – I’d love to interview more people and find out what they are doing in their lives to learn new things or make more out of the every day minutes!

Happy Monday to you!


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“Just believe the jokes will come” – – Not Me Monday, Meet Elsa

Happy Monday!

A while back, I used to do a thing on Mondays called Not Me Monday.  It was sort of my way of sharing things that I’d read or discovered over the course of a given week.  I fell off the wagon with this for some reason, but I always enjoyed doing Mondays so, I thought I’d bring it back.

I have so many interesting friends that do really unique things.  I thought it would be fun to share them with my blog friends too.  Here is my first one.  Please meet my friend Elsa.

Elsa is a mom, she works full-time as a Development Director for a local non-profit, oh and in her free time she is an author.  Here is a little bit on how Elsa finds her inspiration to write  – as written in her own words:

Amy, thanks so much for having me on your blog! 

Elsa and KotaWhen I’m thinking about a story, what usually pops into my head first is a situation or circumstance (such as: a dog and woman switch bodies, like in Dog Days.)  Once I think up a situation that seems fun to me, it’s really hard to not sit down right away and start writing – even though I have no idea what happens next!  I practically have to sit on my hands and get myself to wait until I have the whole story planned out before I get started.  Otherwise, I’m too likely to start writing….and end up writing myself into a corner.  I’ve done it before, so this is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way.  Plan first, write second, Elsa!  The good thing about this is that when it’s finally time to start writing, I’m pretty excited to get rolling.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a writer.  I wrote a couple of (very short) books, all illustrated, all in the Secret Garden/Little Princess vein.   Girls enduring hardship!  Wearing pretty dresses!  But I never really believed that being a writer was a plausible career.  It seemed like something only a few very lucky people got to do, people who lived far away and were much smarter than I was.  So I went to college and didn’t think about writing at all until I was cleaning out my childhood room just before the Peace Corps.  I found a time capsule I’d made at about age 10, and on it I wrote that I wanted to be a writer or a teacher when I grew up.  By that point I knew I wasn’t going to be a teacher….but why not a writer?  Why not, really? 

It was the perfect time to have such a thought planted in my brain, since Peace Corps provided a lot of long, quiet evenings with plenty of time for scribbling.  The only problem was that we didn’t have electricity, so no computer and no electric light.  But I got a few (truly awful) short novels written there, and I came home with the new knowledge that I had the perseverance to write a whole book.  That was a big hurdle to overcome, since before that I hadn’t really believed I could do it.

 Flash forward to today….  At this point, I’ve written a lot of manuscripts, a few of which have been published, which is incredibly exciting.  I feel so lucky to have found publishers that are willing to take a chance on my stories.  And I’m so glad I haven’t given up writing, even when it seemed like no one would ever publish anything!  That, by the way, is the key lesson for every writer.  If you enjoy it, then do it and keep doing it, no matter what.  It’s good for your soul, so there’s no reason to stop….and your biggest success may come right after your biggest disappointment.

Since I have a job and a little boy, my only writing time these days is in the evenings.  Just about every night I struggle to get myself to sit down at the computer.  After a full day at work, it’s the last thing I want to do.  But I met with a great life coach once who suggested that I think about how happy I feel after I’m done writing and use that as a motivator to get going.  I do find that helpful, especially since I really enjoy writing once I get into the story – it’s just getting started that’s tough.  Once I have my head back in it, things start to flow and I get into that wonderful space of living right in the story.   I love your question about being creative on demand, because I think about that quite a bit.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there’s no point in worrying about creativity (or lack of it) in advance.  It doesn’t do any good to fret about whether you’ll be able to be funny in the scene you’re about to write, or if you’ll be able to summon your character’s voice when you’re doing a re-write, even when it’s been four months since you wrote the original manuscript.  Worrying doesn’t help any.  It’s much better to trust yourself.  Just believe that jokes will come to you when they fit into the story.  The character’s voice will come flooding back.  Trust that – in the moment – you’ll rise to the occasion.  Because you will.  I find this line of thought pretty empowering.   Also, I think anything that cuts down on worry is excellent!

DogDays_medAlong those lines, a great piece of writing advice I once read was to never save anything when you’re writing.  Don’t hold a clever line back to use next time.  Don’t save a great scene or fun character for your next book.  Use them!  There’s no point in saving things, because you won’t remember to use them anyway.  And, if you empty your head (or your “well”) completely, it will fill back up with new ideas and thoughts and characters, just like magic.  I love that advice because, again, it’s about trusting yourself.  It’s easy to have doubts as a writer, so anything you can do to practice trust is a good thing.

If you’d like to see some of Elsa’s work – find her Facebook Page or her website.

If you know someone who has a great story to tell, send them my way!  I’d love to talk with them and share their story with others.

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