Resolving to Do More and Stress Less in 2014

This isn't exactly a New Year's Resolutions list, so much as it's a Stay Sane and Productive list.

I've decided that I've been acting a little bat-shit crazy, at least in my own mind. I'm turning to the internet far too often as a distraction. I'm also over-binging on the binge watching of shows that I missed. As entertaining as that all can be, it's not very productive and it'll make you nuts, if it goes on too long.

But turning to the internet and Netflix is the only way I've been dealing with my overnoodling issue. Overnoodling is my sweet little way of saying Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I tend to obsess and compulse in times of high stress, which this year, were more often than I could handle. We got through it all, but the leftover affect has been an uptick in my hyper-vigilance and crazy making level of overnoodling. Now I'm constantly worried about locked doors, leaving a light on to make it look like we're home when we're not, and, OH MY GOD is that gas I smell??? All these little worries tend to take up most of my thoughts when I'm not careful, leaving me utterly dysfunctional, rolling myself up into a binge watching ball on the couch.

For 2014, I'm promising myself is to stay out of that loop of crazy, so as much as I hate the triteness of resolutions, I'm stating them out loud on my blog so that I have some kind of accountability. And really, there are only TWO resolutions I'm making for 2014:

1) Keep my idle hands and obsessive mind busy.

2) Set up safeguards to set my mind at ease.

Do More

Sewing:

I've decided to give sewing another try. I had a sewing machine in the 90's when I had my oldest kids. By the time I remarried in 2000, and later had my youngest kids, the sewing machine was just a thing in the garage that constantly reminded me that I failed at something so simple.  I'm sure I gave up on it too easily, most likely trying to run before I could walk. Rather than try again, I sold it at a garage sale for far too little.

Now I wish I would've kept it, not only because I don't want to have to buy a new one, but because someone recently told me that sewing is a great way to tune out from the stress of life. It's certainly a great way to do more AND stress less, so it's going to be my number one thing to do this year. I'll just have to remember to take it easy and just sew some basic things with straight lines. I added a few pins from Tonic Living to my Casa Jones board. I absolutely fell in LOVE with these fabulous fabrics.

Aren't those GORGEOUS??? And just bold enough to wake up all the off white and natural woods that I have filled my home with. I plan to make a few pillows for the couches, some seat pads for the folding chairs outside, and some curtains for the living room and dining area…

...just as soon as I get myself a new sewing machine.

Building:

I've also got a few ideas for our patio. Right now, there's a really awful cover over our barbecue island. It's being held up by to posts that are intruding on our small space. Visible just above it are the front neighbor's stairs to her tiny terrace. Hardly anyone is ever on those stairs, but they're sort of intrusive. And if someone IS on the stairs, well, that's when they're completely intrusive. I found a few patio and terrace ideas (while pinning, naturally) that I'm planning to accomplish this year. The first one is going to involve taking down the old patio cover (reclaiming the wood for a future project) and putting up a little something like this:

The plan is to build it high enough to cover the back of my neighbors stairs without losing too much ambient light that a solid wall would surely block. Somewhere at the top, we'll be hooking up one end of a patio cover and adding some strings of outdoor lights. But first, the slats.

Walking:

Ahhh, walking… without it, I'm a flabby blob of crazy. For some reason, I stopped walking around October. I think that was the height of stress here, I'm not sure. It's all a big haze of craze. The one thing I should NEVER have given up at that point was walking. It's a stress reliever and a great way to burn fat. Thankfully, I was asked to join a WiiFitU Challenge for Nintendo Brand Ambassadors and that was all the motivation I needed to get off my toosh and back on the beach for my regular walks. We were each given a Wii U Fit Meter and divided up into four teams, each competing against the others for most steps taken and altitude climbed. I started trying to just get 5,000 steps in every day, but when we kept coming in second, a bunch of us on the Green Team decided to literally step it up, nearly doubling our personal daily step goals.

And that's how we won!!!

Those steps do burn calories, which is great for weight loss (I lost eight pounds after one month on the challenge… HOLLLAAAA!!), but really, it's more about staying sane! If I don't go out and take those daily walks, the obsessive mind takes over. And that's never good. So now my goal, since I know I can do it, is at least 10,000 steps a day. It's not really that hard to do. It's more about making the time and getting out there. And the Fit Meter connects with the Wii U Fit program on the Wii U, which is filled with all kinds of fun calorie burning games that keep me on a nice endorphins buzz. That'll definitely help with the stressing less.

Stress Less

WeMo Switch

Waking up in the middle of the night in a did-I-leave-the-lights-on-to-make-it-look-like-someone-is-home freak outs when we're away is no way to stay sane. OH! And the iron! Because you know how I'm always wondering if the iron is still on… 

Thankfully, I was given this amazing little gadget that I've set up at Casa Jones to help end those freak outs. The WeMo Switch by Belkin is a WiFi enabled switch that allows me to turn electronics on and off using an app on my smartphone. So now when we're away, I can easily control my lights and electronics!

To really be stress free, the app allows me to set up all of my electronics on a schedule. The WeMo Switch app can handle multiple switches, so we can set a switch for lights in every room. Maybe even a radio or a television somewhere. 

Hmmm… I might be overnoodling again.

NetCam HD 

Another gadget we got to put my worrisome mind at ease is the NetCam HD by Belkin. Also WiFi enabled, the NetCam HD has night vision, a wide angle lens, crystal clear audio, and is accessible through my smartphone. I can even save live video through the app. When we're away, I have it monitoring our home. And when we're not traveling, I can set it up in the learning center to make sure the kids are actually working on their lessons while I'm walking on the beach.

So now I can have some peace of mind being able to access these gadgets anywhere I'm connected through the apps at my fingertips on my Verizon LG G2. 

Sweet!

Here's to stressing less and doing more in 2014!

Did You See It? Our Nintendo #WiiU Ad is Out!

Remember that time the Joneses went up to Seattle to Nintendo Headquarters? Well, we were invited to play with the Nintendo WiiU and tell the nice film crew everything we liked about it and how we've all started playing together as a family again. See...we're a very competitive lot, and family game night had turned into a bit of a blood sport for the Joneses, so we stopped playing altogether. In this WiiU ad, we talk about how it has brought Family Game Night back to Casa Jones.

Funny little side note about this video is that the kids and I all gabbed on and on and on and on... not my husband. He had few words to share. I was dying!!! I was thinking in my head, what about that one thing you said on our phone interview? Or what about the game you like playing with Ryan? Or what about all the fun you had playing at the party we threw? Or just ANYTHING!!!

Well, apparently, the few words he shared were enough, because this is mostly him and the kids. I just show up in a few scenes to kick some Jones butt. ;) Please note the pleasant look on my husband's face when I trounced them all in Luigi's Haunted Mansion.

The Jones Family Playing Nintendo WiiU.jpg

Hope you watch the whole WiiU video. You'll also see links to other families and their thoughts and experiences with the Nintendo WiiU gaming system.

Rethinking the Return on Relationship

I hated the term "Return on Relationship" the first time I read it. I had been screwed over and used by a few people that I considered friends around the time that this phrase was becoming popularized. I wasn't wrong about being upset that people were talking about cashing in on  friendships, but I might have been a little too hurt at the time, making my initial response to the concept pretty negative. Can you blame me? "No" is the correct answer, okay?  This morning, I woke up to a mention on Facebook by one of my favorite Social Media stars, Scott Monty. He was responding to a discussion about why bloggers want relationships with brands, what does that relationship look like, is it worth it for the brand, what were the drawbacks, etc. After his initial cheeky response ("Free stuff"), he talked about working with bloggers in a creative way that was more important and meaningful than just giving random bloggers free stuff.

This is by no means a new conversation, but the questions keep being asked, so clearly, we are all still wondering whether blogger/brand relationships work and who is doing it right. For some reason, I've been lucky enough to work with a few amazing brands, so I thought I'd opine.

Last week, I spent a day and a half at Verizon's Innovation Center in San Francisco. As we went around the room introducing ourselves, I found that I was surrounded by artists, promoters, popular tech writers, a couple of VP's... and then it came to tell the table about myself. I started by saying:

"Hi, I'm Sugar Jones, and I have no idea how I got in here."

It was an awkward moment that got a good laugh, but truly, when I'm on some of these trips, I can't help but line myself up against the other attendees and wonder what about me got me on the plane and behind the curtain. As I gave a quick background, (sales & marketing, blogger for a few years, decent following on Twitter), it started to make a little more sense. I'm pretty much an average female consumer with kids that has x amount of dollars to spend on stuff. Also, I have a big mouth both on line and off. Beyond that, I get really excited about the things I like. Not only do I get excited about interacting with a product or brand, but because of my sales & marketing background, I get excited (while being fully aware the whole time) how it is that brand is reeling me in.

In case you think I get suckered a lot, I must tell you that I'm quite a discerning person and definitely not a fan of crap. I called the Volt out way back when, didn't I? Okay then.

Knowing I was in over my head with all the pros on the Facebook thread this morning, I still jumped in and gave my plebian response... to which none of the pros responded. I'm taking that as a resounding "Meh" from the elders. That's okay. They were talking about PR stuff. I was just responding as a simple blogger.

Here were the simple points I was trying to make boiled down to their essence:

  • Most bloggers DO just want free stuff. The return on that relationship is going to suck.
  • SOME bloggers are incredibly loyal for the experiences that a brand creates for them, regardless of stuff.
  • Being treated like we belong in the room makes us really freaking happy.

The return a brand gets from a blogger depends on so many factors. You see a bunch of companies (or their PR group) sending out thousands of emails hoping that something will stick. If the blogger responds, they'll ask for the product for free, maybe a payment for the post, and IF they like the product, they might tweet about it. That's all they should expect with that level of engagement.

Then you get a company like Verizon that gathered a group of us together to ask us how they were doing, what could they do better, and how can we work with them in the areas that they are lacking. Then, they wow us with their new technologies and their third party products that we got so excited about, we couldn't wait to snap and post pictures to all of our platforms. Before we left, they gave us a few cool products and a T-Shirt that proves we got to hang out there. What do they get in return? A loud group of outspoken people talking over each other about all of their shortcomings and praising them where they are getting it really right, PLUS, some of us run straight to our Verizon store after our trips to buy (with actual dollars) the cool stuff they introduced to us.

Yes, that's what I did.

Or take Ford. They bring a group of bloggers along with their traditional auto journalists out to Detroit, give them inside information into their technologies, making us swoon with delight at all that they are doing to be better stewards of our world, followed up with some great experiences on their test tracks, including drag racing each other in F-150's, and guess what? They now have boots on the ground talking all of their friends and neighbors into buying a Ford.

Yes, we are still planning to buy a Ford. We're just enjoying a few more months of no car payment.

Then there's Nintendo. They have the blogger relationship DOWN! The group that handles our ambassadorship is constantly delighting us with random packages and fun experiences to showcase the functionality of their products. When you add up how much all of our "free stuff" costs, it's really not very much. I mean, we could all go out and buy these items without a second thought. But the cool part is we get these games before everyone else and in a way that delights us. For instance, for the release of one mystery game, we received a random package with a message in a bottle. The message wasn't visible until we used the blue light flashlight from the second package to decipher it. We knew something else was coming, but had to wait until the next day to find out what that something was. It was a mystery about a mystery.

Delightful!

Brands that are thinking about working with bloggers need to decide what return they want on those relationships. They don't have to take us on lavish trips or send us free stuff all the time, and bloggers shouldn't expect that. With all the noise out there, brands do need to get more creative; be more delightful. Do they just want a bunch of random links leading back to their site or do they want to create an army of raving fans, sold out on their product or service? Do they want to give a thousand bloggers a little tchotchke or do they want to give a smaller group of compelling bloggers a really cool experience? Neither is right or wrong. It just depends on the return the brand is looking for. Regardless of which approach a brand takes, the old axiom rings true:

You get what you give. 

PS: Bloggers... this goes for us, too. ;)

 

I'm Game

As a typical teen of the 80's, you could usually find me at the roller rink, the movie theater watching the latest John Hughes flick, or... at the arcade.

I spent too many hours and quarters playing Ms. Pac Man, Asteroids, and my personal fave, Centipede. I'm proud to say, you could almost always find my initials on the leader boards. If someone knocked it off, I'd spend my whole role of quarters trying to get back on. In our little world, it was like being famous. Sort of.

At home, my sister and I spent hours playing Pong, later graduating to Donkey Kong, Frogger, and Tetris. Most of the time, I played with other guys. Not too many of my girlfriends wanted to spend a lot of time at the arcade or in front of the TV playing video games. They preferred to slap on some Bonne Bell lip gloss and Maybelline mascara and head to the mall to check out the boys. They didn't seem to get that the boys were at the arcade. Duh! Not wanting to be left out, I gooped on the gloss and followed them to the mall.

But I really wanted to be at the arcade.

Then I grew up and had kids. No more arcade days for me. But after paying my dues with years of having The Elmo Song stuck in my head, the kids finally grew up and got into gaming. I was so excited!!! Except for the fact that most of my favorite games were "retro" when retro wasn't cool, it was nice to have an excuse to play again.

But these days, we don't need an excuse.

Gaming has become a regular part of life for everyone. When we were kids, adults would laugh off our video games. But adults of our generation will push their own kids aside to rock out to Rock Band or kick some ass on Street Fighter. Unlike our parents, we get gaming, even if they still don't get us still playing. Just the other day, I was showing my mom Draw Something on my iPhone. She thought it was interesting, but before I could finish demo'ing it to her, she asked, "Doesn't this just waste time?"

"Yes, it wastes time," I told her. "That's kind of the point."

I love tuning out with a game. A few of my favorites to tune out with come from PopCap. I have Bejewelled Blitz on my iPhone, Solitaire Blitz on Facebook, and Plants vs. Zombies on my Nintendo 3DS. With all that playing, you'd think there wasn't time to get anything done. Actually, gaming is helping me cope. It's like Zoloft but without the whole losing-interest-in-sex thing.

Picking up a device or flipping over to another window to play a quick "casual game" between answering emails and working on articles or posts is a fun reward for getting my work done. Plus, it's a simple little pleasure that helps me get through the day. And I'm not alone.

More and more women are jumping into gaming. With the popularity of "casual games" on our mobile devices and the ease of connecting with friends with a quick game on Facebook, women are finding gaming a nice escape from our routines and responsibilities. But us girls are attracted to gaming for different reasons than the guys. Men mostly want to compete. Not that women don't want to compete, but as Melanie Morris of Ireland's Image Magazine found out, "Females seek something different in gaming to men. They're looking for coping methods, and they like the positive affirmations. It transports them to a safe environment where they can go into their own world." That's not to say that women aren't competitive. We just like the warm fuzzies of gaming, too!

I recently co-hosted a PopCap sponsored roundtable discussion at Splashes in Laguna with a group of female bloggers that enjoy a good game. Pop Cap is best known for Plants vs. Zombies (which I recently downloaded onto my Nintendo 3DS). We were talking about some of our favorite games and why. One feature we all agreed on some games is a chat feature. Being able to flip behind the game to chat with our friend/opponent is part of the fun. Most everyone at the table was only slightly familiar with Solitaire Blitz, but by the next morning, we were all tearing it up to the top of the leader board. Two weeks later, we are sharing virtual silver and bottles of rum with each other. We also have a private Facebook group where we're goading each other on for high scores. We're not a competitive bunch at all. ;)

One thing we all agreed on at the PopCap luncheon:

Recharging with a little play time is a really good thing.

So what games are you hooked on?

Disclosure: I'm one of the #PopCapMoms Group and a #NintendoEnthused Brand Ambassador. That means I get paid with cash and/or games. My mom STILL doesn't get it.

2011: What a Year!

I knew it was going to be a big one, but I had not idea what was coming.

The year started off with a fabulous trip to Ford headquarters in Detroit. You know what? 9 degrees in January is really not that bad! As part of a group of bloggers and journalists hosted by Ford, I got to enjoy the North American International Auto Show where Ford unveiled more cars with green technology that makes sense. A pleasant bonus was being introduced to The Head and the Heart at a show sponsored by Pandora one evening. They're a cool indie band from Seattle that I absolutely fell in love with. Needless to say, my new favorite Pandora station is named after them.

Spring sprung with all kinds of interesting fun.

My husband and I got back together, for one. Right after that, I returned to Austin for SxSWi with a blow up doll. Judy was a big hit, standing out in the crowd and getting her picture taken all over the place. Quite a success since she was wearing my client's logo the whole time. Word of caution: always take a spare blow up doll... just in case.

In April, my friend, Sondra and I, along with a bunch of usual suspects in the San Diego social media scene raced through the Gaslamp looking for answers to clues in the Fiji Scavenger Hunt. SO much fun! We definitely need to do that again. That same month, my Fab Over Forty friend, Kari Solyntjes asked me to be her So Cal correspondent for the Redbook party in honor of the Kardashians Mother's Day cover. It was a great party and I was loving Kris and Kim... which makes the whole sham marriage scam even slimier for me. Oh well. The cupcakes were awesome. Ask SweatPantsMom.

And just like I envisioned on my dream board, I was featured in our local rag, the San Diego Magazine as part of the Best of North County issue! I got to spotlight a few things I love about the seaside town I was living in: Oceanside. That issue came out in May, just in time for my birthday. What a gift to unwrap!

That summer, Blogher came to San Diego! I was pleased to answer questions about the event at our local station, KUSI, although I was a wee bit hoarse from the Vicks party at East Village Tavern + Bowl the night before. No worries, though. I had plenty of cough syrup to soothe the throat! One special event was a dinner hosted by Sony Pictures. We got to preview Pan Am, a show I am still ticked about being canceled. Jets and swank... how can you say no to that? Aiming Low hosted its first official BlogHer party, Come As You Are. Robin Plemmons tattoed me with some nice words on my arm ("I will cut a bitch") before we headed down to jump on beds at the CheeseburgHer party. It was so great seeing all of my favorite bloggers in my town. I'm pretty sure the consensus was that everyone wanted to return to our fine city. I know it's far for many, but oh my lanta, it's worth the trip.

Also that summer, I was part of a group I like to call "The Strawberry Girls." Five bloggers from across the country convened on the strawberry fields of Monterey to learn all about my favorite berry from the California Strawberry Commission. We learned about the safety and transportation of the strawberry, as well as tasting some incredible sweet and savory dishes and drinks flavored with them. We each hosted a party in our own regions. The LA party I got to host was the final leg of the tour. The food and presentation was a big hit with all my guests, as was discovering the California Strawberries app that holds all kinds of nutritional information and recipes in store.

Fall came and it was back to business. Kids went back to school and I went to work. I even got myself an office, cuz I'm all serious like that. So serious that I painted purple tulips on the wall. Sondra and I soft-launched Smart & Social, hosting a few social media seminars and strategy sessions for beginning bloggers and business women. We've also been strategizing on some webinars to get more bang for our bucks; bucks being time.

The end of the year brought a couple of trips to my high school workplace, Knott's Berry Farm. The kids loved the trips so much, they now want season tickets. Another sweet experience was going to the Pantages for a symphony performance in honor of 25th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda. It doesn't suck being a brand ambassador for Nintendo. :)

And just for giggles, I launched Stuff Mexicans Like. Orale!

My year is coming to a close with a new beginning. I'm enjoying the sweet serenity of a new home to start the new year and the next chapter of my life off right. I'm excited to see what 2012 has in store!