Why I don’t monetize my blog

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I also have a podcast. In fact, my friend, Amanda, and I have podcasted longer than I have ever blogged. I don’t really mention anything about our podcast here because this blog has really just been about me, and our podcast is a monthly recap of The Young & the Restless (check out our Facebook page here!) which is a separate facet of my life.

But in the last week, I’ve had three different people ask why I don’t try to monetize my blog or podcast. Amanda and I really do have a serious following on our podcast (which continues to crack us up – sometimes it’s hard to believe people like listening to us drink beer and talk soaps). While we discussed the possibility of trying to make a few bucks off our podcast in the beginning, we decided that podcasting really is entertainment for us. It’s pretty cool that other people listen to us and chat on Facebook, but we are seriously just recording conversations we would already be having and that’s FUN. By monetizing our podcast, it kind of feels like it would become WORK. No bueno!

The same goes for my blog here. I have a deep entrepreneurial spirit (my friends in college could tell you about how eBay paid my rent through college) and love the idea of making money by yourself (in fact, I think more people should do it). But, again, I don’t blog for money. This page (and the bucket lists developed through the years) have become a way to challenge and enrich my life…and frankly if I was asking you to buy something to read it or give donations, then that might change the reliability of my content…my blog might become less about me and more about gaining readership (and that’s not why I’m here).

If you want to make money off your blog, AWESOME – go for it! But I’m just here hang out, try some stupid things, share some resources, and contribute to the freeness of the interweb. I think it’s pretty rad that in 2015, I can post some random writing about my desire to run a 10k at the state prison and people from around the world are reading it…and in turn, I explore their blogs (ok, I admit it – if you “like” a blog post, I secretly troll your profile and read your blog). I think this is what Al Gore was going for when he created the internet, right? (That’s a joke, people).

Anyway, thank you for reading – all I ask is that you possibly send me cool ideas that you think I would be interested in. And if you’re into The Young & the Restless, you should check out our podcast! Find us on iTunes!

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Bucket List Economics

I hold a very deep principle that a bucket list shouldn’t be filled with expensive items. How many times have you seen a bucket list with something like, “Zipline in the Amazon” or travel some place like this?010697e0ed30875371baed9126acfcba I don’t know about your salary and or lifestyle choices, but I’ll tell you that based on my teacher salary coupled with my student loans, these kinds of “experiences” aren’t realistic. I’ve never been to Europe. I’ve never been to Asia. I’ve never been to Australia. Would I like to go to those places? Of course – duh! But working for $8/hr while in college and then scraping pennies to buy a car and all that jazz has left very little disposable income in my bank account. In college, my parents certainly weren’t going to send me to study abroad when I was already calling home begging for more grocery money. Wait – you just ate caviar in Vegas and then saw Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, you say? You’re right. For the first time EVER, I’ve managed to save enough money to splurge on a few experiences. Some of you remember my epic couponing year where I wanted to “live more on less” and I saved over $8,000 but even then that wasn’t money that went in my savings – it was just more to pay on debt. Before you lecture me on first world problems, believe me, I am not bemoaning my “poor little white girl who got to go to college” status. Having had enough students who are homeless and didn’t have enough money to even buy school supplies, I know I have lived a life of privilege. And that’s why I think a bucket list full of all these crazy, wild, extravagant experiences is problematic. Why is it that there is an expectation that a bucket list is chocked full of things that break the bank? You shouldn’t have to spend a gajillion dollars to enjoy life more, or find yourself. At least that’s my opinion. Some of my most memorable goals have been the incredibly cheap experiences. Laugh all you want, but they were specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Top 5 Cheapest Bucket List Items I’ve Completed 1. Learning to play bingo at the bingo hall. For a mere $10, I was treated to a full day’s worth of entertainment; we got to bring our own snacks, and an egg salad sandwich from the “cafe” costs less than $3. I hear you snickering right now, but we’ve been back many times. 2. Learning to build fire with flint. Using my $2.99 flint kit, we learned an actual survivable skill, cheered when there was actual fire, and then ate marshmallows by the fire all night. What’s not to love? 3. Planning my own funeral. This baby costs ZERO dollars, and I’ve been given major peace of mind. It used to nag at me all the time. What will happen to my body? Will they play crappy music at the service? Now I barely think about it, knowing that my funeral party is all laid out explicitly for my loved ones. 4. Joining the Sheriff’s and FBI Citizen Academies. These experiences werFREE. I still can’t believe it. I was treated to see some awesome public speakers, learn more about my community, and shoot guns. And guess what? It’s not over! 5. Submitting food/crafts to the Oregon State Fair. First it was cookies, then the infamous dollhouse, and marshmallows and dollhouse furniture. Every year I have the pleasure of challenging myself creatively and submitting my items for judging and display at no cost – other than my fair admission (of which I use to the full extent). So tell me? Did these experiences not enrich my life and teach me new things? I certainly learned more about my local community, and I was able to share these experiences with my closest friends. Maybe it’s my Italian grandma’s frugal and bargaining DNA that’s been passed on to me, but rather than trolling pictures of epic places I could visit in the world, I like to think of what I can experience close to home. SOOOOOO THAT BEING SAID, I’m going to Europe this summer. And next summer. And maybe even over Winter Break. When it rains, it pours.

Letters of April

April isn’t even over but my four letters have already been sent. Actually, I wrote five letters. BOOM!

This month I took a break from writing to my former students (well, mostly).

I chose two friends who don’t live in Oregon anymore. Even though I can text or email them, or see pictures on Facebook, getting a letter in the mail is kind of fun. I also got to use my new kawaii stationary:

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(You know you want this stationary…)

Then I wrote to two “mentors” who have helped me professionally. One I am currently working with, and the other I haven’t seen in three years. (No, I did not send them the cat stationary LOL).

My 5th letter was to my former student, who I wrote about in February when I found out he was in jail (read it here). We’ve become pen pals, of sorts, and his letters are pretty hilarious. For a young guy stuck in a detention center in a remote part of Washington, he sure can make light of his situation. For instance, he told me that it’s “saw season”, meaning the inmates are trained how to use chainsaws to go out and cut down trees, supervised by one unarmed guard. “Seems like a great idea, right?!” he joked.

He was also a talented artist, and since I love art and integrate it into my lessons daily, he sent little pictures of stuff he has drawn. He bemoaned a complete lack of art supplies except for a mass amount of pencils and paper.

They’ve got chainsaws, but not markers. Think about that for just a minute, will you?

How I Rented the Runway

Was it just last weekend that I was in Vegas, dressed to the nines while eating meatballs in a casino?

A lot of people have asked me about how I rented a designer dress, so this post is dedicated to how it worked for me, and why I think I’m officially hooked. If you’re a dude, you might want to tune out right about now…

First off, my budget for buying a dress specifically to wear in Vegas was about $100. However, I had a feeling the type of dress I would buy wouldn’t be the kind I would be pulling out a couple weeks later to wear to work, or even out to dinner. In my brain, there were visions of gold, sequins, glitter…

So I got on Rent the Runway. I didn’t know anyone else personally who had rented a designer dress, but I feel like usually I’m the guinea pig of my circle. An hour and $40 later, not only had I rented a dress, but I had texted my Vegas buddy, Kelly, and she also rented a dress. That way we could be uber fancy twins.

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Ok so you pick a dress (from a huge selection). Then you choose 4 consecutive days on their calendar and “reserve” your dress. My $600 Slate & Willow dress costs $40 to rent for an extended weekend. Worried it won’t fit? You get to select a 2nd dress size for FREE. There are also lots of customer reviews (with pictures) describing how it fit them. The two dresses arrived on a Thursday, and included a pre-paid UPS envelope to ship them back on Sunday.

We didn’t have to worry about dry cleaning or even finding mailing envelopesEverything about renting our dresses went seamless until we drove around Vegas for an hour looking for a damned UPS dropbox that was open (note to self: figure that out ahead of time).

Rent the Runway also has handbags, jewelry, sunglasses, jackets, and a few other pieces. Rental prices are all different, but all of the dresses I considered, they ranged between $35 – 60. The calendar is easy to navigate, and insurance is included.

They also have an “Unlimited” program where you can have any three items at a time, and keep them for as long or a little as you like. Yesterday I was wandering around Banana Republic and thought to myself, “Why the hell would I ever buy anything again?” Sure, I’m probably delusional, but I swear this might save me money in the long run.

So check it out: Rent the Runway

New Goal! #26 – Run an Oregon State Penitentiary Race

You might be saying, Did I read that right?? Run at the penitentiary?! And yes, you did. Just the other day, my friend, Renee, sent me a link to the sign up form for a 5 or 10k race AT THE STATE PRISON. She wrote something like, “I thought of you when I saw this…” Man, did she hit the nail on the head. As a generally law abiding citizen, I’m fascinated with jails and prisons – particularly the workouts of inmates. I fully admit that I once spent a good chunk of my free time at a local bookstore poring over a book called Felon Fitness….61eW1qbpKZL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_
I didn’t buy it, but I sure wanted to.

On a less ridiculous note, I have also been very interested in the programs that work to humanize and rehabilitate inmates since the process of being incarcerated is so absolutely dehumanizing (just today I read a news article about inmates and unwanted pets finding love – awwwwww).

What I have now gathered, with Renee’s help, is that our state prison holds several races a year, where community members come run races with inmates to give them something to work towards, as well as help them feel normal again. Apparently this program was spearheaded by Steve Prefontaine in the 70s, and after he died it continued. (Read more details here).

Running? Prison? A commemorative race bib? I’m sold!

At the beginning of the year I was racking my brain to come up with a creative fitness goal for myself (since the normal stuff never seems to appeal to me). I think a 10k through the state prison is about as creative as it gets.

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Madonna Moment #2

I’m still recovering from my Gaga weekend, but I promised to post many favorite “Madonna Moments” until also seeing her live in October.

When I was in 5th grade, Dick Tracy came out on the big screen, starring a bunch of people I didn’t know, AND MADONNA. I bought the soundtrack and listened to it constantly. I remember one night my dad came into my room, raised his eyebrow, and asked, “Do you really like this music?” And when I shrugged and said yes, he blurted, “This is the kind of music grandpa likes!”

(To which point I think I started listening to the big band AM radio station my grandpa had tuned to in the car…so your attempt to thwart my music selection failed, dad.)

It’s hard to believe this was almost 25 years ago, but I think people often forget Madonna’s iconic role as Breathless Mahoney. Even though she was killed in the end, we ALLLLL know that Dick Tracy obviously should have ended up with Breathless, and not that frumpy, stuck-up Trish. Even at 10 years old, I knew that relationship wouldn’t last. If she’s already imposing rules on you before you’re even married, it’s time to move on to the hot mysterious blonde. But alas, Hollywood loves to kill the blondes and stick the leading men with more “stable” characters.

But hey, Madonna, if you’re reading this – I haven’t forgotten…

#1 – Taste Expensive Caviar & #24 – See Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett Live. Checkkkkkk!

Live from Las Vegas, it’s my blog!

I’ll admit, Las Vegas is not my favorite town…but after a fabulous Halloween and this weekend’s whirlwind trip, it’s growing on me.

Last night, my friend, Kelly, and I checked into the Bellagio Hotel with our suitcases full of rented designer dresses and glitter heels in anticipation of a classic and glamorous Vegas experience: Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga live, singing their new album Cheek to Cheek.

I had never seen Tony Bennett before, but I have seen Lady Gaga (blogged as one of my top five life experiences) and I’ve been dying to see her again. When Kelly invited me to see Gaga with Tony Bennett in Vegas, it was a no brainer. But we had to do it the right way.

First off, we both rented designer dresses from Rent The Runway, riddled with sequins, and booked a room on the strip. When we checked in, Kelly sandwiched a $20 bill between her ID and credit card and smoothly said, “Anything you can do to make our stay more enjoyable would be appreciated…” A few minutes later we were upgraded to a better room and given complimentary late checkout (because you know it wasn’t going to be an early night).

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We put on our party gear, and headed to dinner at a fancy place called Yellowtail. Now eating caviar was never in my original Vegas plan, but when I saw Toro Caviar on the menu, and there we were looking like we owned the place, I insisted we splurge a little…ok well a lot.

Last year I wanted to taste a fine wine, just to see if it was really that different, but it ended up being a memorable experience of “Remember when we ordered that expensive bottle of wine…?” I thought maybe tasting an expensive caviar would be a educational treat for a special occasion. Admittedly, I don’t know anything about caviar, other that it should come from a sturgeon, and Tom Hanks didn’t like it in Big. Our Toro Caviar wasn’t cheap, but when the server asked, “What can I bring you tonight?” and I replied, “Definitely the caviar,” it felt pretty baller.

We also shared several other fancy plates, but we really took our time with the caviar (as it was only 4 tiny portions):

photo After taking our first bite, we looked at each other (much the same as my wine experience) and went, “Well ok..I guess that’s good…?” Mind blowing, it was not; but perhaps that was because our palates just aren’t as expensively refined as we looked.

After dinner, we headed to the show, and it was awesome. Gaga changed outfits many times, each one as sparkly and feathery and classic you would expect. After seeing Britney Spears lip sync an entire show on that same stage in October, hearing Gaga and Tony Bennett actually belt out their tunes (and they both killed it) reminded me just how impressive their showmanship was.

With all the lights and movement, getting a good picture was impossible (but I didn’t want to have my phone out and miss the show anyway), but we had great seats and you could really see the Gaga’s glittery make up and their pretty distinctive chemistry. It’s hard to believe Tony Bennett is almost 90 years old because he sang like a rockstar (no pun intended) and Gaga’s voice puts other pop stars to shame. Ultimately, their silly banter with the crowd made it an incredibly entertaining show and you could tell they were having a good time, too.

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It was a night of extravagant luxuries in a variety of ways, and I’m headed back home in a couple hours. When I’m cutting coupons for groceries later this month, I’ll be remembering the taste of caviar and the sound of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

9 Miles and counting

This is the first year that I haven’t made fitness goal one of my “bucket list” items. Now that doesn’t mean I’m not exercising, or don’t have goals, it just means I’m taking the pressure off a little bit. Also, now that I officially have 83 push ups all in one set, one mile in 6:23, 5 miles under 35 minutes, and a burpee mile under my belt – I was feeling a bit lost on what my next goal might even be!

A lot of people ask me why I don’t run more races, or shoot for a marathon. My stock answer has always been that my knee won’t make it, and succumbing to reality has been far more challenging than anything else. Two weeks after blowing my knee, I was sent to physical therapy so that I could simply be ready for them to cut open my knee for surgery. On the office wall was a picture of a previous patient crossing the New York Marathon finish line and they had written “8 months after ACL! Thank you!” I thought, Ok, if he’s running a marathon after 8 months, surely I’ll be good soon. About 16 months later, I was limping through six miserable miles.

But last week I was out in Kansas for work and I had to pleasure of talking to an acquaintance about Iron Man. Her goal was to run it before 40, and last year she cruised through the whole thing. I mentioned that I didn’t think I could ever run a marathon with my knee still stiff and sort of crooked, but she said, “No one runs the whole thing! They just run the first half and then walk really fast.” Suddenly I couldn’t stop asking her questions: where did she train? what did she eat? how long did she prepare?

Yesterday when I got back into town, I threw on my running shoes and went outside to run for an undetermined length. A little over an hour later, I returned from 9 miles:

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Let’s just be clear that 9 miles is not my status quo. And 9 miles at 7:26/mile is even more astounding. But as I was running, I was thinking about that Iron Man, and if my knee would actually hold up to something bigger. Frankly when I got home, I was positive I could have powered through a few more miles. (Granted, I took one hell of a nap later).

This is not blog post proclaiming, “I’m going to run Iron Man!” but instead an admission that I can push myself more. I’m not sure if that means signing up for a legit race, or just running an unofficial half-marathon for fun (because I torturing my body is my version of fun).

Sometimes I can get stuck in a mental rut, and seeing that other normal people can achieve monumental goals is a good reminder that my head can get in the way of my body.

And guess what! I not even sore!

The Lindsay Rules: 2-3-1

It was one of those conversations where everyone is sitting around discussing what characters from TV shows everyone identifies with. You know, what Sex & the City Character are you? Or Game of Thrones? or Golden Girls?At some point, we touched on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (where I’m pretty sure no one wants to identify with any of the characters) and both my husband, Thor, and my bff, Courtney, simultaneously looked at me and said, “You’re a Dennis!”

The world goes black.

I’m a DENNIS?! I mean, sure they are all horrible people…but Charlie is endearingly goofy, Mac’s delusional action hero daydreams are hilarious, you can’t help but pity Dee…even Frank is somehow physically disgusting but fully amusing. BUT DENNIS??!! He’s like the most self-absorbed, self-satisfied, smirking asshole on the show.

Then Courtney says, “You have all these rules you live by,” to which I paused and was like, “Well…yeah…”

So ok, fine – I’m a Dennis. Supposedly.

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Tonight I’m packing for a quick work trip to Kansas, and my two colleagues were texting me, “What are you going to wear? What are you packing?” and up popped one of my most important and self-created rules: The 2-3-1. Tonight, I will share my secret rule with you.

Here’s the scenario: You’re going to be meeting a lot of new people over multiple days, in a professional setting. These can be consecutive days, or spread out over time, but basically it’s the same group of people. What do you wear to be remembered, and also communicate your professional competence while not forgoing your true personality?

That’s where my 2-3-1 rule comes in.

Day One: First impressions are key. You don’t want to underdress, but if you overdress you can seem stuffy or unapproachable. I shoot for a “2”, meaning my outfit is polished and professional, but toned down. For me this means kitten heels, basic colors, cool and classy. Maybe nice jeans with pearls, and easy but definitely styled hair and make up. People will say to themselves, “Say – she looks smart and classy!”

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Day Two: Now you’ve set the stage that you can look classic professional, and it’s time to turn up the dial. I dress as a “3”, meaning a great dress and high heels (not porno high), hair definitely up and make up that is more bold. Maybe one piece of jingly or sparkly jewelry; definitely a great handbag. Now people are possibility intimidated because you look goooood, but they’ve met you once before so their first impression is still forming. They are wondering if you are cool or super high maintenance…and you let that suspense hang…

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Day Three: Just when people think you are all about climbing your way to the top, I take it down to a “1”, meaning it’s all about cool and casual. For me this is skinny jeans (or my favorite leather pants!), Converse, and cool sweater and maybe a leather wrist cuff. People subtly realize that you are also down for a beer after work, but out of the 2/3 times they’ve seen you, you look dressed up so you’ve solidified a professional, yet personable persona to your new network.

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There you have it: my “2-3-1″. If living by rules seems a little constraining to you, that’s cool. But just remember one thing: I’m a Dennis.

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Letters of March

It’s funny to think that back in January I wasn’t sure who I would be writing letters to all year, and now it’s snowballed to the point that I can’t seem to write enough. By writing letters to some of my former students, it’s opened a floodgate of letters written back.

In February, I posted about writing a letter to a former student who is currently in jail, and this month I received a long letter back. The teacher in me was immediately impressed how much his handwriting, spelling, and conventions had improved. The human in me couldn’t believe how heartfelt and wise his message to me was. It might be the nicest letter I’ve ever received in my life, and it was funny, too!

He mentioned he had just finished a book, so I went out and purchased a couple new ones and mailed them back, and at this point, I’m pretty certain I’ll hear from him again.

I also wrote two new letters to other former students who are getting ready to go to high school.

The fourth letter sucked. One of my students from last year was an incredibly talented boy from Colombia who had moved to Portland to learn English while living with his aunt. For anyone who knows about language acquisition, it was astounding that he entered at a Level 1 (basically zero English) and by May we had literally exited him from language services as a Level 5 (basically proficient). I didn’t even know that was possible. Two weeks ago, he and his mother were killed in a car accident back in Colombia. Thus I sent a letter to his father and aunt in Colombia. I had my students each make an Identity Book (inspired by a friend who posted her 7th grade version on Facebook). My plan is to somehow return the books to them when they graduate high school (yeah – we’ll see how that goes…). Since I still had his Identity Book, I made sure to include it to his family.

So there it is – letters of March.