Weight Loss Reality Check

CookBook

I had my 10th weigh-in at Weight Watchers today, and am down 1.6 pounds since before Christmas, for a total of 4.6 pounds since...October. Not exactly burning up the scales.

I keep my WW membership booklet/weight record in a little carrying case, and as I was putting my guide away after weigh-in today, I noticed/remembered that I have kept all my booklets from each time I have re/joined WW. I got them all out and looked through them, noting how many years - and pounds - had passed. Therein lay some significant, sobering truths.

To further impress upon myself these truths, I created an Excel spreadsheet to map out my weight loss journey. It ain't pretty.

  • I've joined WW 12 times, the first time in January 1999. So pretty much every year, I try again.
  • I've lost weight each time - proving I *CAN* be successful, when I stick with the program.
  • The first time I lost a total of 25.6 pounds, and was 13 pounds from goal.
  • The first time I was a member for 17 weeks, the longest I have ever stayed on the program.
  • I've also gained the lost weight back nearly every time I stopped attending meeting/unsubscribed from the program.
  • I gained back 24 of those first 25 pounds lost in 5 months, after going off program.
  • Three times I have stopped going after the 10th week. Interesting I discover this on my 10th week on the program this time around.
  • In the 12 years since I started WW, I've lost 90 pounds, but since I also gain it back, then lose some, then gain more, am currently just 10 pounds lighter than when I started back in 1999.

I don't need any celebrity trainer to berate me on national television to force me to face reality - these numbers tell the story just as coldly.

Bottom line - I have wasted YEARS and HUNDREDS of dollars by going and quitting and going back again. If I'm going to DO THIS and stop wasting my time, I need to PAY ATTENTION and really do this. I need to do my food journal every day, drink more water, and move more. For realz.

Who's with me?

[photo credit: MCScola]


Inbound Marketing Certification


Certification Criteria

I am pleased to report I recently completed the certification process at Inbound Marketing University - I am now an Inbound Marketing Certified Professional. In their words, here's what that means:

The Inbound Marketing Certification acknowledges the recipients proficiency in Inbound Marketing principals and best practices. These principles include: blogging, social media, search engine optimization (SEO) lead conversion, lead nurturing, and closed-loop analysis. In order to receive the Inbound Marketing Certification, the recipient must pass a comprehensive certification exam with a score of 75% or higher.

The Honors Distinction is awarded to graduates with an exceptional understanding of inbound marketing. The top 15% of exam takers with a 90% score or higher receive this honor.

 

Posted via email from Angie Pedersen's Posterous


My own QR Code

When I was at a recent Social Media Club meetup, I met Sarah Evans, and was greatly impressed with her custom nametag. She had generated a QR code with her contact information, and added it to her nametag. Very clever idea, I thought.

For the uninitiated, per Wikipedia:

A QR Code is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994. The "QR" is derived from "Quick Response", as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

QR Codes storing addresses and URLs may appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards, or just about any object that users might need information about. Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader application can scan the image of the QR Code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network, or open webpage in the phone's browser
.

So I could be cool, too, I created my own QR code at Kaywa, using my LinkedIn profile URL as the 'base'. I plan to use it to make my own nametag for group social events.

qrcode

And here's one that redirects to my Card.ly page:

qrcode

Feedback welcome - I'm curious if someone could "shoot" their smartphone at a computer monitor and still be able to decode the image. Also, have you experimented with QR codes at all?


Job Search 2.0: "Elevator Speech" for the Ideal Job

As a part of my ongoing job hunt for a marketing communications position, I attended a couple of job club meetings this week. Each provided me with the opportunity to present/practice my "Elevator Speech" for what kind of work I'm looking for.

At the first meeting, I said something like, "I'm looking for something in marketing communications, writing, ideally with some components of social media marketing, like updating blogs, websites, Facebook Pages, and Twitter, stuff like that."

All the key points are there, but not exactly hard-hitting or powerful.

At the meeting I attended tonight, I said something like, "I'm in marketing communications...I'm a writer. So I'm looking for some position with writing, updating things on the web, stuff like that."

Not exactly an improvement.

During the meeting, I reworked things in my head a bit (I wasn't impressed with the speaker). How does this sound?

"I'm looking for a marketing communications position where my compelling web content will help build and promote brand awareness for a company's products or services."

Too much? Not enough? I'm thinking it's a work in progress... I welcome your comments.

But while I am still working on the presentation of that, I did fine-tune an "ideal" job description. I have a couple of friends working with me on the same contract, and as such, theirs ends the same time mine does - at the end of June. So we discuss our respective job hunts, and try to pass along leads to each other. To make it easier for them to recognize what would be a good lead for me, I copied and pasted several job descriptions from job boards, and pared it down to the essentials of what I would ideally like to find, along with several possible job titles.

=================================

Possible Job Titles:

  • Web Content Writer
  • Digital Content Specialist
  • Social Media Coordinator
  • Marketing Communications Specialist
  • Content Manager - Web
  • Content Specialist
  • Associate Editor – Web
  • Online Marketing Professional

General job description: Act as company ambassador/evangelist: Develop company’s strategy to reach and attain new clients/customers, stir discussion, and drive traffic to company website and social media platforms. Responsible for writing and publishing Web content; maintaining and updating Web pages/blogs; monitoring and responding to user-contributed website content; and participating in social media efforts for the company.

=================================

If you're looking for a job, I encourage you to put together your ideal job description. Not only will it help others find the best potential matches for you, it will help you better refine/define what you want for yourself.

Another job hunt success for me this week was the completion of my online resume. While I have essentially the same information posted to my LinkedIn profile, I'm 'hedging my bets' with more content posted elsewhere, for whatever search engine juice it might provide for me.

What have you done to make progress toward your goals this week?


Job Search 2.0: A Work in Progress

As you may or may not know, I left my position as a Data Analyst at the end of January to accept a position as a web content writer. My background is in writing, particularly marketing communications, so this new position is a better fit for me.

Unfortunately, there is now talk of budget cuts, with my 'new' position possibly being absorbed at the end of June.  So, I am currently looking for a permanent full-time job in marketing communications, ideally generating web content and coordinating a social media presence.

As such, I thought I would track and write about my job search efforts, as it's a very different world out there, and it takes a variety of tricks and tools to find the right job at the right company at the right time. I plan to write about the different techniques and vehicles I try, and just provide an overview of my process.  Feel free to chime in with comments with any tips or insights you might have.

State of the Job-Search Union

I've been looking for a job since early March, when budget talk started wafting through the ranks.  I started with the usual - updated my resume on Monster and CareerBuilder, with no real effect.  Though I did get a number of emails and calls from recruiters from different companies, all apparently trying to fill the same position - in St. Louis.  I guess since I live in Kansas City, Missouri, they figure anywhere in Missouri is close enough.  It took me several weeks to get them to stop presenting this "opportunity" to me.

As a part of my Monster and CareerBuilder accounts, I set up "job alerts", where the system automatically emails me with any job listings that match my criteria.  I also set up an alert at Indeed.com, a site that aggregates listings from multiple job search websites.

From the various alerts, I have applied to 11 positions since March 7th, and have received one call that turned into a phone interview, that I thought went very well.  The corporate hiring manager indicated the local supervisor would call to schedule an in-person interview in two weeks, but that call never came.  I failed to get the corporate contact's name, so I had to resort to emailing the generic "jobs" email address to try to follow up, but received no response.

I also created an account at Dice.com, a job search website specifically for IT-related positions.  While I would prefer a marketing communications position, if a technical writing/documentation position came up, I would definitely apply for it. I've gotten a few calls from that, but nothing that led to an interview.

So now I believe I need to get more aggressive, and creative.  I am tapping in to more social media tools (which only makes sense, really, since I'd like that to be a significant part of my work). 

Looking Forward

Over the course of several future posts, I plan to write about my adventures with:

  • Reading Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0, by Jay Conrad Levinson and David E. Perry.
  • Guerrilla Resume Revamp
  • Updating/Beefing up my LinkedIn profile
  • Networking via LinkedIn
  • Researching target employers/companies
  • "Rebooting" my Facebook Fan page (or "Like" page, as the case may be)
  • Setting up a Posterous account
  • Adding content to AngieWrites.com
  • Local job club(s)
They say looking for a full-time job *is* a full-time job, and I'd have to agree with "them". I come home from work, make dinner, chat with the family, then get to work on job-hunt stuff. I must admit, it's hard not to feel discouraged by the lack of response to 11 job applications, and second-guessing my abilities, but in the words of Stuart Smalley, gosh darnit, I'm good enough! I know I am the answer to someone's work-related "pain", and I have something valuable to contribute.  I just need to find that person, and they need to keep the faith that I'm out here, looking for them, too.


Scrapbook Canvases, 3 ways

My pastor sends out a daily email newsletter that usually includes some thought to keep in mind throughout the day.  A thought he included in a newsletter last fall really struck home for me, and I knew immediately I wanted to preserve it on a canvas. Since they were his words, I thought he should get a canvas too.  And because I was going to make multiples, I thought I would do each one a little differently.

I wanted to give him a "traditional" scrapbook canvas - that is to say, scrapbooking paper adhered to a 6x8 canvas - because I wanted the texture of *real* paper.  I thought that would look nice sitting on his desk or shelf (or wherever it ends up).

I figured I would take this opportunity to try getting a canvas printed at Artscow (referral link), and when I went to order, they were having a special on canvases, so I ended up ordering two different images (with free shipping! Nice!)  For these two "digi" canvases, I created two different images in Photoshop Elements.

I am very pleased with how the Artscow canvases turned out, and plan to order others in the future. The colors were very true to what I saw on my monitor, with nice crisp images.

Here are my three versions.

 Pastorgaryquote-paper-web 

^^ Traditional paper ^^

 Pastorgaryquote-artscow-flo
^^ Digital printed on canvas #1 ^^

Digi credits:

Background: Cherry Cheesecake kit by A Work in Progress (Vicki Parker)
Pattern paper "under" quote: Digital Scrapbook Day kit by Corina Nielsen
Grunge Photo Mask by Jessica Sprague
photo taken during my husband & son's hiking trip at Philmont

 Pastorgaryquote-artscow-dig
^^ Digital printed on canvas #2 ^^

Digi credits:

Background: Cherry Cheesecake kit by A Work in Progress (Vicki Parker)
Pattern paper: Evoking Damask kit by Joyful Heart Designs (Jennifer Howland), and Digital Scrapbook Day kit by Corina Nielsen
Clipping Mask from Crumpled Old Cardstock AddOn by Debra Tope

A couple of notes on the canvases - the canvas face is 5x7, but they do wrap the edges around.  To compensate for that when creating my digital image, I made my Photoshop canvas/image 6.5x8. That left enough room for wrap, and put the image right in the middle of the canvas.

Part of the quote/wordart on the sunflower canvas was VERY small, which was my misjudgment, in creating the image.  Just something to keep in mind - if something looks too small to read in your order preview, it probably will be too small once it's printed. Fortunately I'm keeping that one for myself, and I already know what the quote says.  ;) I may also "alter" it, and cover up the part that is too small with some embellishement like ribbon, then print out that bit and adhere it at the top, like I did with the traditional canvas.

In case the quote is too small for you to read...

"Look for those good things that do not scream for our attention, but quietly proclaim God is with us."

~ Pastor Gary Blakeman


Coders4Charities: Geeks Giving Back

image from coders4charities.org

From the C4C website:

"The 3rd annual Coders 4 Charities weekend is scheduled for Friday, March 26 through Sunday, March 28, 2010 at Centriq Training in Kansas City, Missouri. The weekend pairs up teams of web developers, designers and analysts with representatives of local charities who receive "extreme makeovers" of web sites or full online applications for their use in just 48 hours.

In the spring of 2008, five area non-profit organizations received complete online solutions or "revamps" from nearly 30 developers and designers in the Kansas City area between Friday night and Sunday afternoon. In the spring of 2009, there were eight area non-profit organizations and nearly 40 developers and designers.

Volunteer programmers and designers will work intensely at all hours throughout the weekend, fueled by a steady stream of catered meals and energy drinks from local sponsors, taking occasional breaks to play "Rock Band" in a room set up especially for that purpose, taking time to convene in conference rooms with whiteboards to plan strategy with charity representatives.

Charities often do not have the funds to implement a new website, intranet or database solution, while software developers may not volunteer for charity work because the needs are not adequately publicized."

Here's a list of the charities they'll be helping this year:

1st Breath
Hope House
Kansas City Hospice House
Kids and Cars.org
LIVESTRONG Army of Kansas City
Harvest Home Inc.
Community Services League
The Gifted Learning Project
Merriam Christian Church
Redemptorist Social Services Center

Being a proactive sort, I contacted the event's coordinator, to see if they might also be able to use some web content/copywriting help, in addition to the mad coding going on.  It sounds like the thought hadn't really occurred to him, but he talked with some charities, and they were interested.  So I'll be the lone copy girl at the event.  :)  I expect to tweak some content messaging, as well as create some technical documentation for the web functionality created during the weekend.

Here's a video of highlights from last year's Coders4Charities event - I'm really impressed by the whole deal.

Coders 4 Charities, 2009 from Buck Sommerkamp on Vimeo.


Recycled Crafts: The "Plastic Bag" Bag, and a Comedy of Errors

I have been wanting to try "plastic bag fusion" since I saw the video demo on Etsy's blog (also displayed above).  Actually, I take that back - I did try - twice - but was not entirely successful/pleased either time. So I signed up for a "Plastic Bag" Bag class at local craft mecca, Urban Arts + Crafts. If I got nothing else out of the class, I wanted to conquer the fusing.

Turns out that *was* about my only success at the class - I experienced near total "Craft Fail" while at the actual class. I have never felt so slow, so inept, so LAME in a crafting class before.  And it was all me - the instructor did just great - took a lot of time with each person, had plenty of tried-and-true tips - all that I expect from a good crafting teacher.  I just apparently forgot to hit the "on" button on my brain before I got there!

I've only been to the store once before, so even though I had my trusty MapQuest directions, I still got a little turned around on my way there (I spit in the general direction of Downtown KC!), and arrived at class about 10 minutes late.  Everyone was already well into their projects, and spread out on the tables in the main classroom.  Not to worry - there's a whole table empty and waiting for you, Angie -- over here in the corner. By yourself.  No problem - I'm an outgoing person, and have no problem speaking up with questions or comments.

So the instructor got me started on the bags - trimming off the ends and laying them out to make my "canvas" before ironing. (the trick is to sandwich the bags between pieces of a big dry cleaning bag, so everything is all contained). So I got it all laid out, then realized I had half the pieces facing the wrong way (which meant they would be upside down when the bag was assembled). So I rearranged those bags, and got everything all smoothed out, and she helped me carefully walk it over to the ironing board.

I won't give you a play-by-play of the ironing process, because that would mean you would be sitting here for TWO HOURS.  For some #$%&**! reason, it took me FOR-EV-ER to get my plastic "fabric" all fused together.  I don't know if I just didn't have it turned up hot enough, or if I didn't linger long enough in each spot, or if my iron (easily 15 years old) just sucks, or what.  Obviously some sort of user error. I couldn't believe it took so long! 

So there I was ironing and ironing, back in my little corner, and everyone else had moved on to the sewing portion, and was laughing and having a great time, sharing little crafting stories and tips.  And I'm like, in a soft little voice in my head, "I like crafts, too!"  Like I said, LAME!

So by the time I finished with the fusing, there's an hour left in class, and I still had the whole bag to cut out and assemble.  The instructor included a great little cardstock printout of the bag pattern and instructions - very detailed with diagrams and everything. Very well done.  But also two pages long, and me with an hour left. <grumble>  It was really a simple little pattern, and I eventually heard people start packing up - they finished the entire project from fuse to finished bag in three hours. Me, I'm still over in the corner, and couldn't get my plastic fabric to "square up".  I had my rotary cutting mat, and a big acrylic quilting ruler, and I coulldn't get it to consistently lay flat the same way twice so I could cut a 36x20 rectangle.

Then the instructor came over and in a very apologetic voice informed me they had another class after this, so I kinda needed to wrap things up. Which led me into a round of internal "Serenity Now!" chanting.

Oh, and did I mention that before the class, I had to stop at Joann's to get class materials, and I had to stand in line for 20 minutes to get 1 yd of fabric and 1½ yds of belting? And then after my various misadventures in class, found out I was a yard SHORT of said belting for the bag handles? And that after class I had to go BACK to Joann's to wait ANOTHER 30 minutes in line for that yard of belting so I could finish the flippin' bag and be done with it?? OY!

But all the crafting fail aside, I did, several hours later, eventually finish the bag.  The sides didn't line up perfectly, but it was done.  I sought reassurance from my family, and they deemed it good enough to give as a gift, so I wound up giving it to my mom for her birthday the next day. 

I was very strong, and resisted pointing out to her everything that was wrong with it, and graciously accepted her polite-mom-like oooh's and aaaah's.  "Handmade gifts are so much nicer than anything else," she said.

So maybe it wasn't a total crafting fail in the end.  But it was sure a heck of a journey to get there! :)

And, always the glutton for punishment, I immediately started on my own bag the next day. ;)  I was able to cut the ironing/fusing time in half, and then the bag went together pretty quickly from there.  I'm actually considering making a couple for my church craft bazaar, but we'll see. ;)

The 2nd bag I made was very 'green', in that I re-used plastic bags that I had corralled in the kitchen, and used some fabric from a pillowcase I got at a thrift store.  I love re-using something that was something else in a previous life!  That way I'm not contributing anything to the world's 'waste stream' - I'm using something that was already there! Yea me!

If you've stuck with me this long - feel free to share any of your Crafting Comedy of Errors stories in the comments.

Here's how my bag turned out.

 Plastic-bag-bag-3
Plastic-bag-bag-4


Handmade Christmas: Fabric Gift Bags

Last year I experimented with wrapping Christmas presents in fabric, and while it wasn't a total failure, it wasn't a complete success.  I basically hemmed large squares of fabric with iron-on hemming tape, and tried to create closures with adhesive velcro dots, but they didn't stick so hot.  So I tried stitching the dots on, but hand sewing doesn't work so great with adhesive velcro.  The needle gets all gummy, and the seamstress gets grumpy.

So this year I have a couple of sewing classes under my belt, and am able to take advantage of the loan of my mother's sewing machine.  I "whipped up" some super cute fabric gift bags with which I am greatly pleased.  I say "whipped up" in air quotes because, while the actual bags do come together in about 30 minutes, the research and development phase took significantly longer. 

I scanned webpage after webpage, looking for simple and easy, but many seemed to be much more elaborate than I was looking for (or capable of).  Many were lined, and that was intimidating to me.  So I finally settled for sort of a half-lining, just enough to peek out the top when the bag is tied shut.  I also managed to square off the bottom so it sits slightly flatter.  The end result - 7 seams, some iron-pressing, and done.  I'm in love.

I just finished five small bags for my Knitting Group, none too soon as we are meeting at my house for the Christmas get-together the day after tomorrow!  :)

I hope to get together some sort of tutorial, because if they're easy enough for me to mass-produce, surely the tutorial would be worth sharing for other sewing newbies!

(Below) This is the complete set of bags for my knitting group, each bag different (though not necessarily by recipient personality, but rather fabric available in my stash!)

Fabric-bags-small

(Below) Closer view of a blue calico bag, with sort of a blue bandana lining, and white polka dot ribbon.

Fabric-bag-smallblue

(below) closer view of another bag, red with small white polka dots, and a sweet holly lining.

Fabric-bag-smallreddot

(Below) This bag isn't for Knitting Group, but is a variation of the style.  I made it taller/longer, so it's the perfect size for a rolled-up tshirt!  I LOVE this fabric because it reminds of the chairs on UW-Madison's Union Terrace.  I hope to keep this bag "in the family".  ;)

 Fabric-bag-madisonchairs 

(below) another tall/long tshirt-shaped bag.

Fabric-bag-reddot-tshirt

Please feel free to share links to pictures of your own fabric gift bags, ideas for reusable gift wrapping, or links to tutorials on making your own bags, in the comments below.