Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hunger Games Mockingjay, Part 1 - A Review

Note to self: Never, ever again go to a midnight showing of Hunger Games, or any other tween movie. In the words of the great Roger Murtaugh, "I'm too old for this (well, you know)." It is never more evident how old I am, then when I am sitting in a packed theater with teenagers giggling and opening loud bags of chips. SO glad we were never like that as kids, right?
Mockingjay was never my favorite Hunger Games book, that was always reserved for the first book in the series. While Mockingjay is necessary to ending the story, it was hard to read at times, not because the writing was bad, but because the excitement of possible rebellion has passed and the reality of active rebellion sets in. Characters die, revelations are had. Katniss eventually has to succomb to the fate that is her life; either die a martyr fighting for her people or destroy the Capital and live a life of horrible memories that she will never be able to truly forget. It's bleak, but it's also important and necessary.
I am not going to recap this movie, I am writing to those who have read the novels and know what happens. This movie does end halfway through (because ironically, how much money is ever enough, really?) so the last half of the novel is one we will have to wait another year and pay another $9.75 to watch. What they did give us was the connection between the world that was and the world that is yet to come, an arc to help us understand what Katniss is going through and her inner struggle to fight the Capital but also save her beloved Peeta. Jennifer Lawrence, of course, did a wonderful job bringing such a beloved character to life. No longer a naive girl but a matured relunctant hero of the people, Katniss gives the people what they need, hope and motivation to fight for the cause, all the while knowing her requesting such a favor will likely cost many their lives.
This entire series is serious. Child on child killing for the sake of propaganda and control is no light matter. I do think that the movie versions have really shied away from the political side of the novels. They have given teenagers what they want to see: action. One complaint I have always made about the two previous movies is that they didn't touch on just how manipulative President Snow and the Capitol really were to the people living in the districts. They controlled these people by fear and hunger. They weren't just poor, they were destitute. We've seen bits and pieces of that, but in Mockingjay, it becomes truly evident just how much politics plays into the theme of Hunger Games. We get to see just how far President Snow is willing to go to maintain his lifestyle and power. We see just how far he is willing to go to keep his world exactly how it is, and we see just how much of a threat Katniss is to that cause. We see the blatant manipulation of the media to control the masses. We see people working behind the scenes to manipulate ways to get people to do what they want them to do. While we hate the Capital for doing it, we begin to see the rebels doing the same, and I am sure in the second part of Mockingjay, we will get to see how neither side is doing what they are doing for the good of the people, but for the good of themselves.
Watching Peeta slowly grow pale and thin was hard, and watching him attempt to kill Katniss was even harder. Watching Effie manipulate her jumpsuit to form some type of fashionable garb because she found herself to be a Prisoner of War was hilarious. Per the usual, Haymitch was comical relief, despite his imposed, now-sober disposition. And watching Gael be Gael was just, well, the cherry on the cake. It's going to be hard to watch their fates to come, especially knowing what those fates will be. On a lighter note, my sister and I kept leaning over to each other, asking ourselves when the dead would start to rise up, zombie-style. I think we have watched too much Walking Dead. I think at one point, my sister said (after they bombed the hospital) NO SANCTUARY HERE! Ain't that the truth. This movie did feel like a really long, slower episode of The Walking Dead, designed to tell a story rather than be action packed. A filler story, if you will. But those filler stories help you connect more with the characters, so I didn't mind it one bit.
All in all, I was really happy with this installment of the franchise. I am glad we were finally given a break from tons of CGI and shaky camera movements and were able to watch the story and characters unfold a bit more. It certainly wasn't action packed from start to finish, but this part of the novel wasn't either, so readers of the book should know what to expect. I am eagerly awaiting the final movie next year, and am eagerly waiting to watch it at 10 am on Friday morning, when all of those loud and annoying teenagers are in school.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Home Workspaces

I was recently came across a co-working company called WeWork. It's a very interesting concept; it is a workspace that enables people to come together and allows businesses owners, entrepreuners, startups, or a varitey of other fields of work to work along side each other. I have worked in office spaces similiar, but never one that encouraged people to work along side each other. I am highly motivated by working around other people and have done that my whole career, up until now!
I thought I would share a little about my own work spaces at home! First and foremost, we have a bit of a unique situation. My husband works at home full time for his job, so I guess technically, we are "co-working" already. Since my husband sits at his desk all day and I get to come and go, he got the great desk location in the office of the window view.
The desk on the left is my husband's; the desk on the right is one of two desks I use in my house. These desks just happen to be in our home office.
This large desk was a gift from our friend who thought we could use it, and boy, do we ever! I actually have two home based businesses. I am a licensed Realtor for the state of Texas. I also am an independent consultant for Scentsy. Both are things that require me to have storage for different items. This desk allows me to keep my personal business cards, key cards, key boxes, marketing materials, business cards of colleagues, catalogs, scent testers, and order forms. I love that I have so many places to keep my stuff organized.
One of my favorite things about my workspaces right now is that my beautiful dog Bella is a staple on that couch when my husband and I work. She is a great work companion. My dog is a dog, but actually sounds like a cat or a cow, depending on how happy she is. So she will just sit on the couch, and occasionally, we hear her purr or moo.

The man who built our house actually built this room as an office for himself, so it has this great wall of shelves. It serves as storage for all types of things we use, including our file boxes that we use for personal business and work business. And it always looks this clean and organized, it was not at all staged this way for the purposes of this post.

I also need places to keep files, so I have these two helpful file folders. The black (ugly) one stays at my desk, but the cute one to the left, my adorable Thirty-One File a Tote, comes with me when I show houses or do a Scentsy party. It's helpful for me to be able to take documents I need outside the office.

This desk has no light and I need light to function in an office, so this desk serves only as storage purposes and nothing more.

Which is why I have to have desk #2 in a more desirable location!
This area doesn't provide much in the way of privacy, nor does it have a door that keeps little kids away, like the office does. But boy, does it have alot of light and great scenery.
The thing I love about my workspace in here is that my other beautiful dog, Molly, is a staple on this couch. I would love to say I don't allow my dogs to be spoiled and get on furniture, but that would be an outright fib. Molly sits on this couch and looks out the front of the house and protects us from mailmen or dog walking neighbors, so I think that earns her a spot on couch, don't you?

This desk doesn't offer much in the way of space, but I do love working out here. I feel like I am out in the open and can see what's going on, outside and in.

Oh, and it also has a tremendous view of the television.
Not that I ever get distracted watching it.
There is one of my favorite co-workers following me around, now!

And if I need more table space, here is my "conference room." I have had clients sign documents here before, so it really does do double duty.

All in all, I do love working at home and I do love that my husband and I get to see each other as much as we do. I love that I don't have to pack my lunch every day and drive to the office, so the fully stocked pantry and coffee maker in my office kitchen is a nice "perk."
On the other hand, I do miss working in an environment with others. My previous bosses have told me on numerous occasions that they love having me around because of my social tendencies, but it's also a detriment of mine because I tend to do alot of talking. There are many workers out there who hate cubicles, but I have always loved them. I love being right in the middle of the action, being able to get up on a small break, get a cup of coffee, and visiting with the person next to me. As we come into the holidays, I miss talking to others about what their plans are and what they are going to get their loved ones for Christmas. I also love walking to my office in downtown and seeing this view.
One of my favorite past times (and hopefully more than that, someday), is blogging and writing. I would love to be able to work in an environment that encouraged creativity and bouncing ideas off other people. If you ever want to remove the motivation from me, put me in a corner office, away from all other people. Most people strive for a large private office with a door and lots of beautiful paintings over gorgeous couches. Not me. Banish me into solitude and I shrivel, but make me do my job at the receptionist desk, and I am a happy, productive camper!
Just looking at WeWork, it looks like a great environment that encourages exactly the ambience and work space that would make me happy. If you are interested in learning more about what they do and if there are any locations near you, I encourage you to click the link for more information!
What would your ideal office enviroment look like? Would you love to work at home or in an office?

Avery's School Thanksgiving Feast

I know I shared this picture on Facebook already, but I seriously can't believe how old she looks.
And yes, I told you I was getting ready for Christmas already!

Today was Avery's Thanksgiving feast for her Monday/Wednesday school program. I got to go hang out with her, and it was so much fun!
She was SO HAPPY I got to come and eat with her.

Yep, I think it's safe to say she's my mini-me.

It never escapes my mind how blessed I am to have the freedom and flexibility to be able to participate in her life for events like these. Watching her grow up and seeing her participating in school activities is such a joy. This is our final week before she turns 4 and I just can't believe it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Is It Worth It To Be A Salesman?

I've never been interested in selling products as a consultant. While I would host parties to get free stuff for products I love and use, I never had any interest in selling it. I really don't know why, but in September my mind changed. I went to a party for Mary Kay and listened to the consultant's story of why she started selling makeup. Suddenly, it occurred to me, that my story was similar. She started selling to help her family financially, to get free product, and to help with taxes at the end of the year. I started thinking more and more about what I could do to add more income to our budget. I am a Realtor as well, and while being a Realtor has a far bigger pay off, it's not always an immediate payoff. It also can be a process. I realized I loved the idea of putting in efforts and seeing a pretty immediate pay off. I realized it had to be a product I loved and was already using and paying for...I had always said the only product I would even consider was Scentsy. Here are some of the things I have learned and why, so far, being a Scentsy consultant has been a positive experience and what to look for is selling product is a route you've been thinking about taking...

1. The investment was incredibly small and it is not required to purchase or keep inventory on hand. \

I paid $99 to become a consultant and had made back my investment, plus $111, within 15 days. That was really encouraging. With my $99, I received a whole kit of useful products. I could have used that product for myself, for parties, or to resell. I decided to try everything in my kit that I had never used, mainly the Layers products so I would know what to tell people who asked me about them. I also received my large tester kit which has been the key to helping new customers. 

2. Scentsy is a solid and quality product. 

I would never sell anything I didn't use regularly. Home fragrance has always been an obsession of mine and I have never gone without some type of candle, spray or plug in. When I received a warmer and bars as a gift once, I was hooked. I have used Febreze, Glade, Bath and Body works, you name it, I've used it. I love candles and have found certain brands of candles to be the only scent that comes close to Scentsy. The warmers look beautiful, the bars last and are affordable, and there are so many different types of scents. Don't ever sell anything you aren't completely hooked on and passionate have to love to talk about it. 

3. I can sell for 30 days and get a commission check for what I sold the whole month right after. 

I love that every month, I get to start fresh with a new opportunity to sell more. I started off with 20% of my sales and have now graduated to 25%. If I sell $1,000 this month, on the 10th of December I will get a deposit of $250. It's that simple. 

4. Scentsy is a product that needs to be replenished.

I go through bars like kids go through Halloween candy. I have 7 warmers in my house, so you can imagine that bars around here don't last long. This is true for everyone who has Scentsy. While it might take some people longer, they will still eventually need more. I didn't want to sell anything where people would buy one then I would have to constantly find new customers. I have a lot of friends who love Scentsy and I didn't know anyone in my circle who was still selling it. 

5. I love that I can host my own parties, then get free stuff AND commission on what I sell. 

One of the reasons I love selling Scentsy is because it's a great housewarming gift and thank you gift for my clients as a Realtor. Win win!! I get to buy the products I love, then turn around and get commission on what I sell. That's pretty awesome.

6. I do not ever feel pressure from anyone to add people to my team. 

I know in a lot of companies, it's encouraged and expected to get lots of people to sign up under you. I don't feel that at all. I love that I am not bullied constantly to get more consultants to sign up. If you want to, great! I don't even think I've asked one person because I don't want anyone to sell something they aren't 100% excited or motivated to sell. 

If you've ever given thought to selling product, I hope this list has given you some food for thought!! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A New Hat

There is nothing at all going on right now to write about, EXCEPT that I will be decorating early for Christmas this year. I usually protest the decorating of a holiday before another holiday, but have decided that the earlier I decorate, the longer I have to enjoy it. So, take that.
Here are some pictures of my 13 year old daughter. I meant, 3 year old daughter. She just looks so old...we found this new hat at Target, and she says to me, "Am I so cute? Mom, do I look cute??" I don't think we will have any shortage of positive body image in our house :-)

Monday, November 10, 2014

On Being a Stepmom - Five Years Later

I got the honor of receiving some very kind words this last week from a member of Jason's family that I have had a chance to spend some time with. She talked to me about being a stepmom and told me how proud she is of me and how I am with the kids. As a stepparent, it is such a nice encouragement to hear that you are doing a good job at raising that kids that weren't born to you.
I have written several posts about being a, here, and here, to name a few. It's been a little while since I've written any new thoughts on this topic, so I thought I would add a few now.
As I've watched the kids grow, as we've spent more time together, and as they get older, I can honestly say our relationship has changed, it has matured, and it has become different, in a good way. I remember I wrote once that now that I had a child of my own, I know that my love for all three kids is different, and that is OK. I don't think I feel that way anymore. Not that it's not OK to feel like that, but as our family has been a family for a while now, I just think the love for the kids is evolving - I think of all three of the kids as "our kids," I treat them all as "my kids." I love them all as "my own." I never thought of the kids as bonus kids or extra kids. I just came into this parenting thing, not sure what to expect and not sure if I was making the right choices. I watched Jordan go through being a boy to being a pre-teen (with an attitude sometimes) and now almost to being a teenager (who has become one of my favorite people to spend time with). I've watched Sophia as a girl who would talk constantly, even though we couldn't understand what she was saying most of the time, become an almost ten-year-old with thoughts and opinions and a nearly unsinkable spirit. I thinkt we have almost gone full circle - Avery is almost the age Sophia was when I first met her, I feel like I've finally been around this block before and know what to expect, although I don't know if you can ever fully know what to expect where kids are concerned.
I've learned what things with kids are phases they go through and what is really unacceptable behavior. I used to take things really personally, even though the kids never meant anything by it most of the time, but things were said that would hurt my feelings. There were times I wanted to hide in my room all weekend because I had a hard time expressing myself in positive ways. I don't want to paint our history with only a rosy hue and I don't want people to think that just because we've had it more smoothly than most blended families, that it didn't come with it's share of uncomfortable moments and mistakes. It did. But what I have learned is that my stepkids are two very resilient kiddos who luckily, have short term memories and are very forgiving. And for that, I will always appreciate them and will always be grateful.
I have learned to talk to other parents and have taken solace in the fact that whether my kids are from a blended family or not, most of the things they are going through are normal phases of growing up. Biological mothers are just as annoyed with their sons and daughters as I can be with mine. Something about that made our relationship better for me - knowing that it's not just "this way" or "that way" just because I was their stepmom, it was like that because it was like that for all families. When the kids would go through phases that made me want to ground them indefinitely for being smart mouths, and I thought,  "Why am I having such a hard time liking them right now?" I realized that the feelings I was having was a feeling all mothers have gone through at some time or another, and it made me feel more normal and less awful for feeling that way.
I learned to appreciate all three of my kids for their individuality and unique personalities. Instead of trying to make them handle things "more like I would" or like the things I liked, I tried to stop forcing the issue and going more with the tide. I let the kids be who they were. I let them reap the consequences of their own actions and stopped allowing myself to become so emotional about it. I told them when I loved them, I told them when they could do better or made a wrong choice, and I told them when I was proud of them. Even though they are not just like me, I have really worked on loving them for what they bring into my life and our family and appreciate them as human beings, not just tolerate them as kids. I started being OK with them having feelings. We expect kids so often to be obedient, robotic-like entities that accept everything we say with a good and grateful attitude, but often forget that even though they are 6, or 12, they still have feelings that should be discussed and accepted, even if we don't like them. I am not saying disrespectful. I am saying, if someone told me to constantly have a good attitude about having little to no control over lots of things in my life, I might not be a great person to be around a lot, either.
I started looking at the kids as people whom I was responsible to help raise, but also as little people who would one day be adults. I wanted to be a person that once they had a choice about seeing, that they would still choose to hang out with me. I saw Jordan getting engaged, Sophia walking down the aisle, Jordan getting his first job and Sophia telling us she was pregnant, and I yearned to be a part of those times. It is not mandatory they spend time with me or include me in any important event in adulthood, and it become really important to me that I create and invest in a relationship that they felt was meaningful and loving so they would want to include me, even though they didn't have to. I think this last paragraph really changed my mindset - I stopped being so focused on the problem at hand (this too, shall pass) and I started thinking long term. I am not saying that the kids are never held responsible for their actions and are never corrected, or that nothing is expected out of them. But we deal with the problem, then move on with our lives. "You made a bad choice, here is the consequence, don't do it again, now let's move on with our lives!" I think all parents could learn from this a little bit, but it helped me tremendously.
All in all, I am so excited to say that things over the years have become so great. We've had experiences and memories as a family, we have allowed ourselves to have a sense of humor about each other. I can honestly say that when the kids aren't here, I genuinely miss them. When we have a party at church or friends over and they aren't here, it makes me sad, and I feel like a piece of our family is missing. I think that is a good indication of how well things have gone and the growing pains we've been through haven't all been for nothing.
I leave you now with a picture that we took last weekend that sums up my feelings in a smile...

I love my family. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Things That Made My 3 year Old Cry Today...

(All things said in a whiny, crying voice, usually accompanied by a fit in which she fell on the ground...)
"Mom, you handed me your phone upside down!"
"I can't blow on my pizza!"
"I can't get my socks off!"
"I can't reach my Barbie! (Said while sitting in her carseat)"
"I don't like the white Jelly Bellys! Take them all out!"
"I spilled my crackers!"
"I want to sleep in your bed!"
"My tears are making me itchy!"
Ah, 3 year olds.
And now, pictures of my 3 year old making funny faces.