Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Announcement: Traveling Plans

Getting away from it all without tearing your hair out
(c) 2016 P.Lynne Designs
Warning:  it may contain affiliate links

It has now come to my attention that you cannot go on the annual family vacation because someone decided that they needed to do everything on their vacation.  This option usually costs an arm, a leg, their home, and their first-born child.  Aww, the sacrifices we make as a family these days to make vacation living a fun adventure.
I am here to tell you that you do not have to do that type of sacrifice.  Not at all, my friend. I want to tell you a little secret.
A little announcement ….
I started this project when I had 5 blogs and on the verge of creating what is now forming into P. Lynne Designs. I had to quit because I was burning out.  I have been inching to get back to it, and that announcement is I am going to re-write my Disney Vacation book.  You never saw it because of that burnout.  I was adding too much, and I will be starting over again from the very beginning.  I never truly planned out this book, and that is the second reason why I quit writing it.  I never really planned on how much I was going to write.  I can discuss all of that later.  For right now, I want to get back started.  
OK, enough of that, back to the secret that is a vacation…
The secret to a good vacation is planning.  Notice I did not say the perfect vacation.  If you are a Christian, you know that only God is perfect.  Planning helps out a lot.  Planning keeps you sane and focused of the task at hand, and the plan is to have fun.  Planning for a vacation also helps you:
  • ·         Know how much money to spend
  • ·         What places in that area you want to see
  • ·         Where you want to eat

And so on ….
Here are the areas you need to concentrate when planning
  • 1.      Where do you want to go?
  • 2.      Time off (both parents and children)
  • 3.      Budget.
  • 4.      Where you are going to live for the next few days
  • 5.      Eating
  • 6.      Activities
  • 7.      Transportation
  • 8.      Packing

Now I could go on about this, but for now, I will make it brief.
The first part is where.  I will use Disney Parks as an example.  Let’s go with that for now.  You have dreamed of Disney, your family loves Disney. 
There are 6 different regions that hold a Disney Park Resort:  2 in the United States, 1 in Japan, 2 in China, and 1 in France. So, which one do you and your family want to visit?
For most people, it is obvious, go to the one in your country.  This is a little bit tricky if you live in either the United States or China, where there are two sets of resort parks to choose from.  Well, technically 3 if you are also close to Tokyo Disney.  OK, you decided to go to Disney World. 
Time Off
Once you decided where to go, the next question is when are you going?  This depends on your job and your children’s schedule.  The job is a no brainer.  If you are new in your position or company, wait a year before going.  Why?  Consider this:  There are people who have been there longer than you and have more experience than you.  Your company may operate on the “Low man on the totem pole” method (AKA Seniority) or the “earned time off” Method (AKA PTO).  In either case, it is best to wait a year to ask for any time off, so skip the vacation.  If you have been there for a while, you know by now when you can ask for time off, and when you cannot.  The tricky part is when you have kids in school.
School systems have gotten smarter since my last day in the 12th grade.  I might say “dumber” since my last day, depending on where you live, and how much the school is willing to turn you into children services for a 5-day vacation to the “Mouse’s Florida Home”. As an aunt of 5 (3 of which are currently school-age children, 1 grown, and a great-nephew of age 2), I am in constant watch of the changes within the Columbus and Dayton Ohio school systems.   They are not as bad as some of these school districts across the U.S. and in other countries.  One school system in the UK can impose a fine on a parent if you pull your child out of school for anything but an illness.  Another school district in Oklahoma, U.S. can turn a parent into children services if a child has several unexcused absences (equal to that of a week-long vacation).  If this sounds like your school system, my suggestion is to do the typical Summer Vacation/Spring Break/Winter Break routine.  It works out in the end and no one gets arrested, fined, or working out visitation rights with children services.  Apparently, schools do not see an educational value in Disney.   
What is your budget? 
You can decide what your budget is this way:  What is your income and how much you are willing to save.  Disney has several options to work with every type of budget.  Figure how much you are willing to spend on transportation, living arrangements, food, and activities.  One website mentions a method called “Pre-trip costs”.  They also said to allow for spurges, such as foods you never tried before, activities you never done before (I am thinking about trying a zipline course on my cruise in September, even though I am afraid of heights, LOL), and so on.  If you allow these things, you feel less guilty when you overspend because it is already figured in the budget.
How are you getting there?
 Plane, car, train, or bus.  Teleportation is not yet available, and it probably will not be available in my lifetime, although I am not sure I want my atoms scattered throughout the cosmos for two seconds (thinking Star Trek thoughts, LOL).  Anyway, since the last one is not available, you have to do a bit of snooping around for this part of your planning.  What is the best price?  How much will it cost you to get there and around?  Again, it should be in the budget part of your planning.  For example, from where I live, I can fly for 4 hours at the current rate of $484 (April 19, 2017) and returning April 25, 2017, which is the typical Disney Trip.  (there is also a cheap trip of $107 I found in Google search).  I can drive, which using my car (a 2008 Dodge Caliber), I need to get an oil change (it is screeching that right now), and gas is now $2.13 at the station where I live and in Orlando, Florida, it is $2.10 ($.03 difference, wow).  My car is a gas guzzler, so I might opt for renting one.  The average cost of an SUV per day is $44 (for now).  Trains run about $1,200 for the round trip, and buses run about $141 for the trip to Orlando from where I live.  Let’s rent a car.
Now where are you going to stay?  Disney World has two options:  On-site, Off-site.   This is the typical case for most theme parks today.  The advantage between the two is when you stay on-site, there are a lot of things to do outside of the actual park itself, many of the amenities are free.  Your transportation is free, activities are free at the resort (some, not all).  The problem with Disney is there are so many resorts (which there are 23 of them), and they are divided between value, moderate, and deluxe.  If you are the type of family that does not have that much money in the budget, always on the go, and you use the rooms as a stopping and sleeping point, maybe it is best to have a value resort.  Deluxe resorts are high-end resorts and close the parks.  Some may have eat-in kitchens, and you have lots of money to blow (splurge on). 
Off-site (or Off property) are your Hotel 6, Holiday Inn Express, Sheraton, or even there are some places where you can rent a home for a week (Airbnb is considered).  These places are your home.  You do not have housekeeping to come and make your bed, make cute little animals.  It is like you are living in your own home.   Some properties even have their own pool at each home.  You do need to leave the place where you found it.  I have a link to the advantages and disadvantages of staying off and on site above.

I am going to stop there because this post is growing as I type.  I know I have a lot of Disney World references in this post, and this is not sponsored by them at all.  As I have explained many times that I am still a big kid at heart, and I love Disney.  Your favorite vacation spot may be a cruise, Las Vegas, Spain, Italy, or even Africa.  It may be a quiet romantic getaway for 2 without the kids, or girl friend’s “get away from it all trip.”  Whatever the trip, the budget, and the time spend away from “normal life”, make it a good one by planning, budgeting, and “enjoying the moments” while there.  The world is not going to cave in a week, and you deserve it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Happy Easter Everyone. We All have given birth to a Baby Giraffe. Life is Back to Normal

Happy Resurrection Sunday to all my Christian readers.  Happy Easter to everyone else. 
Fresh Flowers (c) 2015
P.Lynne Designs
I normally do not write anything on a Sunday.  Sunday for me is a day of rest, going to church, and being with friends and family.  I am going to be honest about the reason behind writing in this moment. (Grammarly is going to have a field day with that last sentence.  I do not care at the moment, LOL)
Ladies, do you feel like you have just given birth to a 6-foot baby?  I do, and I will tell you why.  In case you have been living under a rock since February, April the giraffe finally had her baby.  It is a boy, and all the world can now say, “Awww, isn’t him cute”.  (Yes Grammarly, I meant to say that.  It is not proper English, but I meant it-It’s called baby talk). 
There have been plenty of, “when is she having that thing?” “I could have given birth to 4 kids by now.”  We were pacing more than Oliver, the father of said baby boy giraffe.  We were giving tips on how April should have her baby, April baby showers (after all, what would you get a giraffe who has everything), and tips on feeding.  
Folks, I have some news that will startle anyone …. wait for it…. still waiting?  It’s going to be good… Still waiting ….
There I said it.  Think of it this way, you would not want someone to come into your home, be on baby watch, tell you how to have a baby, and then tell you how to take care of it.  Would you?  Animals are on that natural rhythm cycle that only God has given them.  God knew when this baby was to be born.  Yes, it is fascinating to watch.  I was watching myself for a while.  At the times I was watching, April was pacing back and forth.  Was she in pain?  You bet she was, and she said it through body language.  Oliver, the father was pacing back and forth, like human males do when they want to know what is going on with their child.  The difference between a human birth and a giraffe birth is a human female carry the baby for 9 months.  Giraffes, on the other hand, carries their baby for 15 MONTHS!!! Ladies, how would you like to be pregnant for that long?   My tummy hurts as I write this. Those of you who had kids, can you see yourself carrying a baby for that long?  I asked my mom two seconds ago, and all I heard at the other end of the phone were crickets, LOL. I can only imagine the look on her face when I asked that question.  So relax now, Oh wary one, you can go back to normal life as you know it to be.   
Easter Frantic-How not to take a picture and how to make a basket.
I already have it posted on Instagram, but this is what My Easter Saturday looked like….
Easter Saturday with the kids
(c) P.Lynne Designs

I decided about 20 years ago to make Easter baskets for the kids.  I started first with my baby sister and my oldest nephew (who are now 29 and 21), then it went to the niece and nephews from there.  I love doing it, but you will never see this practice in my shop, P. Lynne Designs, at least not yet.  It is worth every penny that I spend, and I love doing it.   I have scaled down the production, but for my sister and nephew, I had candy, something specific to them personally, and a stuffed animal.   This year, for the niece and nephews, no stuffed animal was included, something specific to their personally, a fire truck for the boys, and the girl got a mermaid doll and some candy.  We did not dye eggs this year.  This is the reason why I decided to make Easter baskets:
Have you seen the price of an Easter baskets lately?  No, seriously, you can pay a credit card bill for the month for the amount you pay for this stuff.  This year, everyone’s stuff came from Dollar Tree.  This is not a sponsored post, but man, I could kiss the person behind the “everything’s is $1” concept.  In recent years, I would go to Target and go for it, and I will admit that next year’s baskets will contain part Dollar Tree/part Target items (The Target Dollar spot is really legit).   
Sorry for being a little with this picture...
(c) P.Lynne Designs
Get a basket, any basket (one was a Longaberger basket, one was a baseball fabric basket, and two pail buckets)
·         Go to the party store and get PAPER filler for grass, none of that plastic mess.  
o   Plop at the bottom of the basket. 
·         Fill with candy, a few eggs (make sure you boil and dye first), a couple toys they like (please do not put a whole basketball in there)
o   If they are older (pre-teen, teen, or adult), put something age appropriate for them.
·         Wrapping is optional (this is not a Christmas or birthday present), and let them enjoy. 
The best part is if you are a grandparent or aunt or uncle, you do not have to see them on a sugar high, send them home with parents.  Your job is done.

So, Happy Easter, everyone, you gave birth to a baby RAFFY, and you children are on a chocolate Easter Bunny sugar high.   You survived shopping for new Easter clothes (I will tell you about my bad Easter Dress hunting later), and now you can rest and enjoy your dinner that took only 14 hours to cook, but hey, it is all worth the effort, isn’t it?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Frantic Friday: Lessons on Adulting, The Tax Edition

TAX TIME! (c) 2017 P.Lynne Designs
There May be Affiliate Links

Today, I am presenting to you, my reading audience, a double dose of pure adventure in my journey of learning new things in 2017: Lesson #3: adulting the tax way.
I am not claiming to be an expert on this topic because there is no right way of doing things.  This is Patricia’s way, the only way I know how to adult with this.
For those of you who read this blog from other countries, April is tax month in the States.  Now there are two ways you can go about this mandatory task in adulthood:  Deal with it, or cry, then deal with it.  Either way, you deal with it, like death (the whole non-avoidance thing of “Death and Taxes”).  My suggestion is to pull up your big girl/big boy pants and deal with it.  I tried the crying method.  It does not work.  You can avoid going to the dentist, avoid getting married, or even having a child, but you cannot avoid death and taxes.  I am not sure how your country deals with taxes, but something tells me that taxes, like death, is unavoidable. 
I have two types of taxes to file, as a person and as a business person.  Now I can avoid filing as a business person.  It is simply, to not have a business.  I can simply go to work like a normal employee, and file the personal portion for taxes.  I have done that since the age of 18.  It is only the last 16 years I have filed both personal and business taxes.   Thanks to the calendar this year, everyone has an extension to April 18th to file their taxes, which is due to April 15th being on a weekend and it is also Easter.
I thank God that I have an accountant, who takes care of the filing for me.  I had my tax “adulting” appointment today.  I know, procrastination at its finest.  This should have taken care of it the first of February.  Yes, February.  You have 3 months, 2 weeks to file your taxes.  Between me being sick, my mom being sick, and me pulling the covers over my head, screaming, “I do not want to adult today”. This lead to this procrastination.  I also thank God for my accountant taking me at the last minute.  I called her yesterday, LOL.  Oh, did I tell you that I and my dad have the same accountant?  Yes, that is how I got her in the first place, three years ago.  No, it is not my mom.
Lunch, the hard way.
So, I made my appointment on time, and after my accountant went over my information, discussed hair and her up and coming trip, as well as my up and coming trip (that how close we have gotten in the 3 years), I left and wanted to try something new for lunch.  I had heard about these Poke bowls that have swam ashore to the Mainland from Hawaii, and there was a place Downtown Columbus that sold them there. Since I like sushi, I thought I would give it a go.  OK, here is how I got a Poke bowl in Downtown Columbus:
Drove down Oak Street, ran into construction, made a left on Third, ran into a problem, and sat for a minute (downtown traffic is no joke around here), made my way to High Street.  Drove High Street to Gay Street, turned right.  Looked for the place (which was at 100 Gay Street). I saw that I had no place to park, so decided against it, decided to feed the car instead.  Drove back home (at least to a gas station near my home), filled up the car.  While waiting for the gas to go into the tank, I noticed that the people who fixed my car did not wash it, so after the car finished eating, I drove down to get the car washed.  After getting the car washed, I did not want to drive all the way back downtown, so I got Captain D’s instead.  While I was sitting in Captain D’s, I called the parents, found out my sister was there, so I forgo getting the Ipad checked out as well.  So that is how I got a poke bowl.
4 Easter Baskets of Goodness
(c) 2017 P.Lynne Designs
A tisket, a Tasket, a cute little Easter Basket
So, my brother came into town with his mini-me (Nephew, 6), and while he and my dad went to get dinner, I and mom decided to fix the children’s Easter baskets.  For 4 children (a niece (8), two nephews (6 and 9), and a great-nephew (2)), they will each receive:
·         3 eggs filled with chocolate
·         A Chocolate Cross (as opposed to a chocolate bunny)
·         2 two toys according to the age of the child
o   A firetruck for each boy; a mermaid doll for the girl
o   Rubik cube-like puzzle for the 9-year-old
o   Cars for the 6-year-old
o   Bunny sunglasses for the 2-year-old
o   I still need to find one thing for the 8-year-old
·         A twisty lollipop
All in a basket for each child
The 6-year-old said he saw what was in his basket so we will see.  The adults (their parents) will get in their Easter basket one hyped up child, LOL.
New Apartments
(c) 2017 P.Lynne Designs
So, as you see, my day has been very interesting in the way of food, driving in downtown Columbus is nothing to sneeze at (I took some photos of new apartments I have never seen before), but it was fun to play Easter Bunny for the evening.  (As opposed to playing Santa, LOL).  So, spring has finally sprung in Columbus, and I could not have been any happier.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

All I want is a Hammer, Internet Connection, and a basket order. That’s all I am asking for

Customer service calls, when done right, can be a sweet
thing.  (c) 2017 P.Lynne Designs
Customer service is not what it is cracked to be these days.  I am mean really people, I am tired of the automatic response unit, or ARU for short. I call it, Siri’s evil twin (Or Galaxy’s and Cortana’s, whoever you deal with on your device).  Here are the problems with the ARU and customer service.  Yes, it does help route the call in the direction that it is supposed to go.  That is the purpose, BUT it also does not allow you to talk to a human.  Here is my story (short, sweet, and to the point, I promise):
I have AT&T Uverse, the vain of my existence.  I had Time Warner Cable (Now Spectrum, as I am reminded of constantly from the commercials that play a million times a day), but when they kept on charging me over the amount that I was willing to pay, I called it quits in 2013, and got Uverse.  I have no problems with the cable (TV) nor phone, but I have had problems since month 5.  This has been an off and on problem.  There have been times when I would be connected, and then no connection.  Technicians would come out and say things like, “You have old wiring, let’s fix this”, “you have an old modem, let’s fix that”.  Finally, someone came out a year ago and solved the whole problem by rerouting the whole system.  So, I thought.
The problems came back 5 months ago.  Since at that time, I was a night owl, staying up until 6 or 7 in the morning (being an entrepreneur does that to you sometimes), I noticed that this interruption would go on throughout the night.  It would stop my work, video watching, and my Facebook gaming to a screeching halt, and 5 minutes later, act like it never did that.   Since I have been going to bed and waking up like normal folks for 2 weeks now, I have notice that it is doing it during the day too.  I have talked to customer service like a dozen times, changing passwords, rebooting the computer, and so on.  I use MS Outlook to send and retrieve emails, and now I have gotten to the point where I can send an email, but I cannot retrieve them.
I called an hour ago, and the Uverse ARU has a funny way of saying, “you are not speaking to a rep today. Not on my watch.”  Here how the convo went:
It goes through the normal “Hello, I see you are calling about the account associated with (xxx)xxx-xxxx.  Is that correct?”
Me: Yes
ARU:  How can I Help you?  You can speak to me in complete sentences (You really can’t, but eh).  What seems to be the problem?
Me: Internet Connection (there is no sub-category for cannot retrieve my emails on MS. Outlook 2016)
ARU (after repeating everything I said in its own little special way): I will run some tests to see what the problem is.
ARU: Still processing tests, please wait….
ARU: Still processing, sorry for the inconvenience….
At this point, I do not want to bore you, but this went on for 15 mins.  Finally, it said (and I am not joking) …. Wait for it…. This is getting good …..  “REBOOT YOUR COMPUTER”.  I have made a note on your account, and within 24 hours, and you have the same problems, give us a callback, and we will resume where we left off.  (Phone goes silent).
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  WHAT KIND OF TEXTBOOK CROCK IS THAT?  I could have done that myself without calling.  No transfer to a human, nothing.  I rather do chat online than this mess.
Note to companies everywhere:  get rid of your ARUs.  I know they are a wonderful convenience for your company, and it helps with efficiency and your quotas, but how does it help with mine, when I have not retrieved what I needed in the past two weeks.  I need to be as efficient with my business as you need to be with yours.  If you want to increase efficiency, HIRE MORE PEOPLE WHO ARE WILLING TO WORK.  NOT IN INDIA, BUT THE UNITED STATES.    
Sorry, it turned into a rant, but that is the second problem, not enough people, who have a basic high school diploma are hired to work in these companies.  For some reason, and I do not need to know this fact, but it is an individual problem that people who did not receive their HS diploma or GED are not able to get a decent job, such as a customer service center call.  These companies feel that they need to hire someone in India and buy expensive equipment like ARUs to screen calls than to help people who need it the most.  A person should be able to articulate and understand how to give a solution to a situation, and I am sorry, but half of these people who are hired in these companies have thick accents, which can be hard to understand.
A hammer
I cannot find a hammer to save my SimCity’s mayoring life, and I have 24 hours (actually I have 22 hours) to find one. (I am also on my Ipad)
OK, it is a virtual hammer.  I have the real thing.  I have everything I need for the moment to build a building in SimCity BuildIt, but I really want a stupid hammer.
So, if you are not a gamer at all (I am not talking Mortal Combat, which I will never touch, I am talking about cute games here), you do not know what I am talking about, so let me give you a rundown of the game:
You are the mayor of your city.  You build it up, but you also have residents, businesses, things you can find in your “real” city (I named mine “Nope” at first, then recently changed it to “Walt Disney World 2”).  Anyway, I am on level 26, and I need a hammer.  I can buy from other players a hammer if I see one, but no one is selling one right now.  I call it my fun frustration.  I have tasks to fulfill within 24 hours or I have to start the process all over again, which this is my 4th time.  Oh, by the way, you have to please these people who take up residence, and 53% of the people are pleased with me being mayor at the moment.  
One the things I do not like about this game is it keeps going when you are not running it, and the other thing is if you run out of play money, you can use real money to buy play money and points, but I have not gotten to that point in my life yet.  I need my real money for real things in life, not a stupid virtual hammer.  I did that once with Cityville two years ago, and I still feel guilty for doing it since that time.
The hunt continues….
I will now return you to your regular reading channel.   Hope you enjoyed the commercial for SimCity BuildIt.
The changing of the guard, Basket style….
On the other hand, customer service can be a good thing.  I liked it when I was working at a call center. I want to give a shout out to one customer call center who has deserved it lately.  It is the Longaberger customer call center. 
Recently, our back office, websites, and other things received an upgrade, and if you have ever serviced customers in any direct selling company, such as Avon, Younique, Tupperware, et al…, you know what it is like to have customers who want their orders, and they want them two seconds after they have placed the order.   Well, the Longaberger system needed updating, but to me, TPTB (the Powers that be), waited to do that at the wrong time to start replacing back office stuff, especially around tax time. (I have put in a request to find my sales reports as we speak, which is the reason why I know the “send” portion of MS Outlook was working).
Anyway, I cannot find sales report (not uploaded), and so on.  I wrote them an email a couple weeks ago about an order I put in, and Customer service was on it.  They gave me the answer I needed without an ARU.  They have one, but another consultant told me about emailing them instead.
So, thank you, Longaberger Customer call center.  You rock. 

Meanwhile, I am still searching for hammers.   I will continue that game later.  Ohhh, Pinterest items.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How to stay relevant in writing

Stats for My Abience Life.
On this day, it is not wordless Wednesday, it is Writing tip Wednesday.  I am starting to become less sporadic in my topics, trying to stay on topic, and trying not to write about the current and sometimes stupidity of topics of today.  Yes, I have had my moments (Black Lives Matter, the current new administration, and so on).  I have not written about Ms. Abby Lee Miller either. I can tell you this, unless you enjoy current topics, writing and arguing about your opinions to others, and other things like this, stay away.
When did I notice that I needed to change the writing of this blog?  There were two things that that alerted me to the problems I was having with this blog. Actually, three, but I will tackle the third on a later date. 
The first was a physical notice.  I was feeling more stressful when I wrote on certain topics.  My body would tense up and I would start to get uncomfortable.  I have often said to write outside your comfort zone, but Black Lives Matter and other topics like that made me so militant, and I am not that type of person.  Yes, I am concerned, and I want what is best for my race of people, but there are other ways of doing this topic without yelling protest and marching (which the next march in my downtown area I plan on going), but not on my writing blog.  If I choose to start a blog on these topics, this is where the platform will lie, and as of this date, I have not plan on starting a blog with that in mind.  (Too stressful)
I was more relaxed when I did topics such as telling a couple that their wedding day is their day and do not listen to anyone else, being a Dutiful Daughter, the fun aunt, or my opinion on a writing prompt from BlogHer. 
Tip #1:  Write on topics that relax you, not stress you out.
Individual blog post
The second thing I noticed it is something that I will go more into depth, later on, is a topic called “By the Numbers”.  Blogger is not the best judge with this, nor do I recommend it, but if you are a blogger and you use Blogger as your platform, you can still see the numbers.  There are better programs out there, including Google Analytics, which can track your pageviews better.  If you care about them.  In a later post, I will get into the numbers, and why you should care about them. 
Tip #2:  These numbers will help you monetarize your blog, get sponsorships, and more traffic.
Tip #3:  Reading your favorite blogs and finding out how they make money on their blog will also help inspire you to try their methods, but only try one or two.  All monetarizing techniques do not work for everyone.  Find what works best for you and your situation.
The last thing that I noticed and it goes along with the numbers game is to find out what the trends are for your niche (topic or subject of choice).
I want to pick on my own blog for the moment.  This time it is P. Lynne Designs the blog.  I have not written in it for a while because I am trying to transfer it over to the WordPress platform and make it part of my e-commerce site, which I am in the process of creating, through the teaching of Renae Christine. 
In case you are new to me and my blog/website, P. Lynne Designs is a stationery website, and I also have an Etsy store which I will attach to as well.  In the store, itself, I create greeting and note cards, scrapbook albums and pages, Notebooks and journals, and freelance writing.  Among this is also the wedding, graduation, and birthday invites and party favors.  On the blog, I talk about the subjects that back these products.
With the blog (as well as the website), I need to be on top of what is trending, questions being asked, and address them head on.  Yes, that question has been asked some zillion times on the internet, but a client may like my answer, or they may like a better answer. It is just my opinion, but I may have also answered for my readers, who may not use the search engine for that answer.  They could be thinking about it as they are reading.  I may never know.
This is how you can bring people to your website/blog.  Well, at least one way.  There is still the marketing aspect of bringing people to your blog. It is also another topic to cover soon.
Before I close, I want to point out two websites that will help you answer life’s burning topics for your blog/video/social media platforms.
Answer the Public
The first one is called Answer the Public.  This is geared towards the answers people have when searching on search engine websites like Google.  I am trying it for the first time, and already I love it.  (This is not a sponsored site).  When you go on Answer the Public, you want to type a Keyword.  For this example, I typed in the word, Mini Book, which I am starting to replenish on my Etsy site.
The results look like this:
As you see, it looks pretty much like a brainstorming session.   So, I am sold on it.  You can use this for when you are stuck, need more views, or want to get to the top of a search engine page (#1).

Keyword tool.IO
The next one is called Keyword tool.IO.  If you are familiar with keyword apps, you know that this type of app is also used for getting your post or video top ranking, but if you want to know how to gear your post or video towards a specific problem they are having, click on the tab, Questions, instead of keyword suggestions, and you will know which direction to point your post.   
I will go into more depth on these two at a later time.  There are many more websites that do this sort of work, and you do not need to pay for it too.  In fact, if they want payment or some sort of registration and this is a one-time search, leave.  But so far, there isn’t a charge for these two or two others that I use for my handmade business.  Marmalade, which you can sign up without being charged, a one other keyword tool, which I cannot think of right now.
The bottom line is that these are helpful IF you want to make money off your blogs, writings, videos, and handmade goods.  This is for your information.  I am not an expert on this and I give out information on things that have been helpful to me and what I like. 

If you do find this post helpful, please share, like or comment on this post.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Story Time or Storyteller: Your worst vacation

Illustration photo by P. Lynne
Designs.  (c) 2017
Hello and welcome to Storytime. In this segment, to be determined when is the next time this will appear and depending on the response I get, I want to talk about my worst vacation.
Actually, it was not all bad, there were some pretty good and funny moments (read to the end), but the beginning and the end were bad.
I want to take you back to 2004, April, and my trip to Disney with my family.  I mentioned in the last post that at that time, I was a Disney Vacation Club member.  This was, and still is Disney’s way of owning a timeshare, based on in the point system.  I had gotten my first 150 points, and 2002’s points (150), and 2003’s (150) points as a way to say thank you for becoming a member.  For a family of 5 (me, my parents, my sister (age 15 at the time), and my nephew (age 8 at the time)), that was a very generous vacation week.  I had set the vacation for Easter week, which for Columbus, Ohio, USA Public Schools, this was the time when the children (and some college students) took a spring break (I still like the European system of vacation and hope one day we would adopt that system). The dates were for April 9-14, 2004.
After I book the stay at Disney’s Boardwalk Villas, I got dizzy one day after choir rehearsal, and I scheduled a doctor’s appointment.  My doctor sent me straight to the hospital, and I found out I had high blood pressure.  Not good for me, and I wondered if I had to cancel this vacation.  They put me on some medication, and it is under control today.  On with the trip.
They scheduled a follow-up for April 8, one day before the trip, which I was not happy about, but, OK.  That was not the only thing that was about to happen.
I was at my home, packing for our trip, and my sister called me.  She wanted me to pick her up from the church that was around the corner from my parents.  I refused, telling her that she can walk herself home.  My mother was packing, my nephew was playing with some friends, and dad was at work.  I also told her that I needed to get some sleep for my appointment the next day, so she got mad at me and hung up.
She got home, got into an argument with mom about staying out late, and stormed into her room.   She lit a candle for a minute.  Apparently, it was longer than a minute because she fell asleep and had knocked the candle, which was still burning.  She smelt the comforter burning and ran out the room to get something to put the fire out.  That woke up mom and my nephew, who tried to open the door to the room, but the door was stuck.  The alarm sounded, and the people from the alarm place called to see if everything was alright.  This company does a double calling.  They also called my aunt who lived on the next street over, and he called my dad to come home from work. 
In the meantime, no one called me.  I was still up, trying to pack some of the clothes I had washed for the trip. I was told later that had they called my house, I would have panicked, which I would have.  Thank God no one was hurt.
The next day, as I prepared to go to the doctor’s appointment, something told me that something was wrong, but I did not know what.  So, I got dressed, got in the car and started driving towards my parent’s house, which was on the way to my doctor’s appointment.  As I drove down the street, I noticed something strange about the house, but I could not put my finger on it.  I was pretty early for the appointment, so, I decided to stop in to see if everything was alright.
As I got closer, I noticed a big black hole where the windows of my sister and nephew’s rooms used to be, and on the side of the house on the right side was a burnt mattress.  I sped around the corner on in the driveway, got out, and ran to the front door.  There were people taking clothes out the front door and dad talking to an insurance person.  I went to the kitchen and asked mom what happened and she told me.  I am trying to make sense of everything and mom told me not to worry about it and go to my appointment. 
I got a clean bill of health to go on the trip and stopped by the house after the appointment.  Me and my parents were talking, and I had to address the elephant in the room, “were we still going on this trip?”  It would be a waste if we did not. 
So, that night, I packed my luggage in my car, locked up my house, and headed towards my parent’s house.  The plan was to pack up my car, stay the night at a hotel, which was the plan before the fire, then the next day, we drove down to the airport, parked my car, and got on the plane to go towards Disney World.
Getting lost and bad food…
We got off the plane and dad had rented a Jeep Grand Cherokee (do they make those anymore?).  Nice car for 5 people.  Roomy, I had the whole back seat to myself.  Score.  Now it is time for us to find Disney.  One of the things I like about Disney now is if you fly into Orlando Metropolitan airport and you are staying at a Disney Resort, they do have the magic Express Bus.  Not the case if you are flying from Rickenbacker Airport to Tampa International airport.  If that was the case, then three adults, a child, and a teen would not have been seen wondering through the streets of Tampa and Orlando, before reaching their destination.  The kids fell asleep, I fell asleep, and mom and dad were talking.  Nothing like a quick stop to Burger King to put us all in the mood of La-La Land. 
When I woke up, dad was trying to find the entrance.  There are 50 ways to get into Disney, and we had to pick the one that was the less noticeable.  Well, we turned around in a parking lot of a church and went back in the other direction.  Soon, my nephew, who was the only one that was alert asked, “are we looking for the entrance back there?”  We had passed it again, so we turned around once more, this time in a parking lot for all things Disney souvenir.
We pulled in and started looking for the resort.  At Disney, there are plenty of signs, and it took a minute, but we found it.  Since the reservations were in my name, I had to check us in.  Once in the suite of three bedrooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms, and our own private viewing of the pool with a clown for a waterslide, we began to rest for a moment, then prepared for our first dinner reservation of the trip, Boma.
Boma, which is located in the Animal Kingdom, is an African Buffet Restaurant.  I liked the food, the parents and kids did not.  I am the only one who is adventurous in my family, except now I can add my nephew to the mix (at least he will eat sushi with me).  When he was 8, he only ate hamburgers and French fries (now I see where my other nephew, his brother gets it from).  When that happens, I consider that a bad meal.  I cannot enjoy a meal when your family is sitting there complaining about it.  So, for future trips, we will not be going to this place.
The Rest of the Trip…
I realized this is a long story so I will tell you later.   I thought I had a copy of the posts from my Traveling to The Mouse’s House, which was a trip report (also another form of storytelling) of this trip, but when my computer had to be decluttered by Geek Squad last October), the blog file was not part of the files restored.
A couple of things to note about this trip of mine:
The last day at Disney (we had two more days before catching the flight home, which you can read about in the last post), we went to a restaurant called Ohana, which means “family” Polynesian, and if you have watched Lilo and Stitch, it also means “everyone is family and no one gets left behind”.  I do want to warn you, if you are vegan or vegetarian, this is not the place for you, although I think they have since added those options to the menu.
Anyway, we ran late (which was no surprise when you have a stubborn teen in the mix.  Our reservations were for 7 pm, and we got there at 7:15.  So we waited.  While waiting, the child and teen got into it, and dad had to issue a “no talking zone”, and to sit away from each other.  Mom got restless and started looking at the drink menu.  (Insert comic moment- things you don’t do when bored and not a drinker): Ask about the drinks.  She wanted to know what was a Backscratcher.  We told her that it would put her under the table.  Then she asked about what was in the other drinks.  Thank God, the hostess rescued us before we got into THAT conversation, LOL.
Next dad started calling everyone “cousin”, which is the proper way to greet family.  So, we had a cousin waiter, a cousin hostess, and so on.  My family is really humorous.
The other thing was once you leave Disney, it is best to go home.  We did not leave for the flight home until Friday.  Between the Wednesday, we checked out of Boardwalk Villas to our new home, a dilapidated hotel (or should I say motel, because you enter the rooms from the outside, not a lobby), and it was "Boring City" after that.  Me and my sister did not want to go visit one of Dad’s friends with them (nephew had to go because his friend was there), and I spent most of the day trying to find a place within walking distance to file my taxes, and she was in the pool. We had Domino’s pizza, and my parents came back after that.  We sleep a couple of hours before headed towards the airport. That was Thursday.  
We dealt with a string of plane issues.  One pilot was sick so another one had to be called in.  Then, he forgot that he was called, so we had to wait on him to arrive.  Once we got up in the air, we were 5 mins from home, and the plane turned around.  Something fell off the plane while in the air, and then we had to get a replacement, so, back to Tampa, we go.   We sat a couple more hours in the terminal, then we switched planes.   Finally, we got home for my parents to deal with a home with two burnt rooms.

So, it is finally your turn:  What was your worst vacation, and write about it?  It does not have to be as long as mine, but it sometimes it may help.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Lesson 2: How to be a Time share owner or not.

(c) 2016 Walt Disney Company DVC Logo
I know, I know, I have not been writing a lot lately. I have, however, been busy doing other business things. But it’s no excuse to not write in this blog. This post is not sponsored in any way.  These are only my experiences and the experience of others.  This post should not persuade you to think one way or another.

 Today’s lesson is all about cold calling. More specifically when you are trying to find customers in the vacation home market, otherwise known as timesharing. In case you’re not familiar with the term of time sharing, it specifically means a vacation home, you spend some time at, like a vacation spot, such as Disney, or the Florida Keys, or some villa off the coast in France.  You own a piece of the property. (correction: you own the right to stay at the property). This is how I saw it over 10 years ago when I bought into The Disney Vacation Club or DVC for the rest of the post.

Now, there is no surprise here that I like Disney. I have mentioned it on several occasions. In this situation, I became a DVC member in 2003. I have heard about DVC sometime before that but thought that I would never be able to afford to be a member of DVC, not to mention to be part of the thousands of people who would become timeshare owners.  It seemed so impossible to do such a thing but I was determined to see what this was all about.

 Before I go into what happened today, let me take you back to 2003 for a moment. Like most people, I wanted to find a way to go to Disney every year, without trying to save a whole bunch of money to stay at a resort. Like most vacation spots in Florida, Disney does offer a solution. I did my usual research and looked into it. I found out that it was indeed possible for me, my current single situation and my future family to go to Disney at least once a year, and still be able to do everything money-wise.    It is that simple, or is it? 

So, Randy, my sales rep, made it sound so simple, and next thing you know, I am using my credit card for a down payment.  It was that simple.  A few days later, my paperwork arrived. Oh, there was one little catch, they do check your credit and I passed with flying colors. Anyway, I got my paperwork, which seemed like a gazillion pages long, and you have to either sign or initial your name on the line.  Once done, you take your paperwork to a place to get it notarized. Even though the property was in Florida and I was in Ohio, it still needed that little thing to approve it.  Once notarized, place your stuff, I mean, paperwork in the envelope provided, and send it on its merry little way. If this sounds familiar, yes, it is like buying a home, and if you ever have gone through the process of buying a home, this is it- vacation style.  

I waited like a month before I received a package from DVC, and when I opened it, the first thing I saw was “Welcome Home”. I have arrived, and I was the newest member of DVC.  They sent me a backpack (still got it), a picture of my new “home” away from home, and my first points. Also in the package, it explained what the points allow you to do, which is to make a reservation to spend time at Disney and your lovely vacation home.  You pay dues once a month, annual fees once a year. I planned out my first trip to the mouse’s house as a new member.  As I was saying, I became a member in mid-2003, and our first vacation was Easter week 2004.  My family and I had a blast. We stayed five nights and the sixth night, stayed one night in the shoddiest hotel near the airport the day before we left to come home.  I think dad wanted to teach us all a lesson in don’t forget where you came from. Compare to the Boardwalk villa at Walt Disney World, it was bad. You had to carry your suitcase up a flight of stairs (Because there was no elevator), and the rooms were not much to look at. But enough about the last day in Florida, let me continue with the days before. On second thought, I will save that for another post.  I owned a piece of Disney until 2006, and sadly, I had to give it up.

Since that time, I have received every phone call known to mankind, of sales people who own these companies who buy back timeshares, and there are plenty of timeshares other than Disney.  Oh, you have heard the same spiel before. They call you by name, and they introduce themselves. Yesterday, I heard from Rachel, today, I heard from some guy who had a workshop in Reynoldsburg that will teach you how to sell your property.   My answer is always the same, “I sold my timeshare property in 2006.” Their response, “I’m sorry to have bothered you, we will update our records. Have a nice day”.  My question is “why are you operating on 10-year-old records in the first place?” I understand that business is slow, but if I still had the property, why would I want to sell when I love the thought of going to Disney once a year?  These people are a trip. 
Another name for the so-called sales people is called the resale market. They are looking for anyone and everyone who has the slightest problem with their timeshare property and try to buy back your property, to sell to someone else. This could also be a scammer who could be putting out feelers for a gullible person to be tricked into accidentally giving out their information.  In either case, do not be fooled by these people. After all, if you are a timeshare owner, the first reason why you bought into your particular property, even if it’s not by Disney, is so you can get away for at least a week, and have a place to go to on a yearly basis.
Now there are other ways to do it, such as buying a piece a vacation property, where you can go anytime you feel like it, but the problem with that is you own a second home.  With second homes, it sometimes looks like it is abandoned, and you do have to schedule upkeep for the property.  
You are probably wondering why would people want to buy a vacation home or even invest in a timeshare if it brings up so many problems.  It is like anything in life.  It is a matter of preference.  You like an area, but you want a place to escape to.  Mines happen to be Disney World.  Some people like the beach, while still others want either Europe, the Mediterranean, South Pacific, or the family farm. Again, it is a matter of preference.  Some people find this sort of thing ridiculous and meaningless. 
Do I miss it?  Of course, I do.  Some of the benefits of having the DVC are
·         10% off of Disney Merchandise
·         Ticket discounts, including Annual passes
·         Discounts on your dining
·         Events exclusively for DVC members
·         A discount (or exchange of points, can’t remember which one) for places such as
o   The Disney Cruise Line
o   Other timeshare companies who will exchange Disney Vacation Club points for their point system
o   And the Adventures by Disney program to name a few.
The whole concept of missing a program is to have the ability to sign up again.  This time, I have learned a few lessons about being a timeshare owner. I am preparing to own again with this program.  Disney has graciously erased the last one from my credit report, so it is like I never owned before.  That is between me and my new sales person.  I have already checked a year ago, but I was not quite in the position to go through the process. Could I go through one of these resale programs who annoyingly call my phone each morning to see if I want to sell my old one?  I could, but I will not get the benefits part of the ownership.  Disney stopped people who buy from a reseller rather than through them, from benefiting from their gracious offer to people who do buy DVC through Disney as of April 2016.  Now, I can buy from a reseller, then turn around and then buy an additional 25 or more points through Disney.  This is called an add-on, and I would get the benefits package that way. 
Keep in mind, I am not an expert in all things timesharing or DVC.  I am a person who is very interested in the program and in timesharing.  My aunt has a similar timesharing program with another company, and we benefited staying in one of the cabins at Pigeon Forge, TN, November 2015.  The cabin was very roomy, enough for 5 families to stay there.  In addition to renting the cabin, we also had an additional smaller cabin for one more family to stay in (they housed all the teens).  She frequently takes trips with her daughter and anyone else who wants to come along.  Getting back to my old DVC membership…. I was able to allow a complete stranger use my points in 2005.  A member does not have to be present in order for someone to use their points.   I did have to claim the family, which I did.  The woman and her family had a wonderful time while at Disney, and I was happy to do it.  She did pay me for the stay.  

So, this is lesson 2 for me.  It was not really a lesson in learning new things but it is a way of learning, period.  It is also a lesson in be careful who you talk to. 

My takeaway for you:  If you plan on becoming one of the thousands who enjoy taking a vacation via timeshare, I highly recommend it, but before you do, here is what you need to do:

1.      Plan.  Where do you want to vacation at?  Is it a different city or one place each year?  How much do you want to spend on a timeshare?  Keep in mind there are 3 fees:  The down payment (which is a one-time payment), an annual fee, and a monthly fee for loans (you can also pay cash to avoid a third fee and no credit check is needed).  What will you accept as a benefit?
2.      Research.  Researching several timeshares will help you know what you want in a timeshare.  I presented one timeshare, but there are several out there.  Do a search on “timeshare properties in X”.  Disney may be your destination, but there are other theme parks you may want to visit, for example, does the property you are looking at have some benefits theme park hopping as well.  If so, DVC may not be for you.  Make sure you have an out (see #3 for further details).
3.      Financial.  Make sure you are able to be financially fit to take on a timeshare.  As I said, you have 2-3 fees each year until you decide to sell it (or get out of the contract).  When I was no longer able to afford my old membership/timeshare, I contacted a resale timeshare company, not the other way around.  I had been on several DVC groups with the person, and I researched her before trusting the owner to help me sell my property.  Also, Disney had to approve the sale, which they did.  This made the transition much easier for me and the new owners, so make sure you have a financial out, should there be problems with your finances or you grow tired of going each year. All timeshares should have an “Out” clause in their contract.  Never sign anything, unless you have an “Out” clause.  Make sure there are no leans on you financially.  In other words, follow the rules of buying a home because that is the way it is treated by the company, the state where the property is physically located at, and the United States law.  (I cannot speak for the rest of the world).
On a final note:  be aware that there are people who would love to talk you out of your timeshare.  When they call (and they will) if you are not ready to sell, say, “No thank you, please take me off your list.”  Do not get mad and yell.  It is their job (or scam).  When you are ready, you look for them, not the other way around.  Research the resale company.  After all, you are in control.