August Photo-A-Day


We all know I'm exceptional at intentions, but lacking in the follow-through most of the time.

This is half of the reason that our back-yard landscaping has never gotten completed (or started).  (The other half of the reason is because of the dog....but you've heard that story a hundred times...)

Had it not been for the fact that I moved Ty out of his bedroom while I re-did it...I'd probably still be dragging myself in there to finish it up.  (I do still have the unresolved issue of figuring out what I want to do for seating/storage at the foot of his bed, too).

Anyway.  The point is, I typically don't finish things unless I have to.

But not this time (I tell myself).

I've toyed with the idea of a month-long-commitment for years.  Literally.  I planned to do NoJoMo (November Journaling Month) in 2006 and 2007 and 2008....but the time 2009 came around I gave up on ever actually doing it.

Just last week I came across a Drawing Challenge that I toyed with...but since I can't draw, I never got past the intrigue stage of that idea.

But today, I'm committing.

Not to the drawing.  Like I said, I can't draw....though it might be a good way to get better at least.

But I'm committing to a Photo-A-Day challenge for August (since my coworker took such pleasure this afternoon in reminding me that tomorrow is the first of the month). 

Here's the schedule:  (from The Idea Room)


I'll be sharing mine on Facebook, Twitter and my blog via Instagram.

If you decide to join along, be sure to use the #photoadayaug hastag! 

If I fall down on the job, feel free to heckle, pester or harass me to catch up!
Ashley Harris Wife & Mom

Ashley is a thirty-something wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading and decorating their home. Her blogging adventures began in 2006 as a single mother and have carried on through marriage and a new life with a husband, a ten-year-old, and an infant.

Repurposing | Wine Box Wall Storage


Several weeks ago my mother-in-law gave me a beautiful wine box that I instantly fell in love with.


Isn't is beautiful!

The only problem was that I spent weeks looking for anywhere in my house to put it but I just couldn't find somewhere that it was just perfect.

I knew I wanted it in my living room or kitchen area, so it was more visible.

And the it occurred to me...why not put it here!


Not on the shelf...under the shelf.

We always have cables and memory cards and my external hard drive just laying around the computer desk (see on the left side of the computer!)  And while the cat leaves the cables alone...he absolutely adores a new set of ear-buds.

So I decided that this would be the absolutely perfect storage solution...and it would fill the blank space of having to remove a shelf to make room for our monitor.

Literally less than five minutes later, after adding two hangers to the back:


I was done!  And that empty space is now filled with this!


Which is not only lovely to look at, but now houses everything I'm so thankful not to be hiding under or behind my computer right now!


It's a win/win to me!
Ashley Harris Wife & Mom

Ashley is a thirty-something wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading and decorating their home. Her blogging adventures began in 2006 as a single mother and have carried on through marriage and a new life with a husband, a ten-year-old, and an infant.

Murphy Says...


Do you ever have one of those days where it seems like you can't do anything right and everything is going wrong?  July has been one of those days for me.

Cousin Murphy apparently came for an extended stay at the Harris Household.

Everyone knows Murphy. 

He's the one that (accurately) said "What can go wrong, will go wrong."

My Daddy always added that line at the end of it that amended "and at the worst possible time."  And today I say "Amen" to that!

Murphy got an early start in June when he Yellow-lighted my husband's PS3.  Not anticipating any of the following problems we'd face, Jason decided that instead of waiting untill his birthday or Christmas to replace the PS3, he'd rather get a replacement now and consider it his present when those times came up.  At that point in time, we could make it work financially without any major issues.

And that was where it all began. 

Our freezer took a temporary hiatus at the beginning of the month that cost us all of our frozen treats, ice cream, and a good bit of meat, too.  Fortunately, I noticed the puddle of bloody water while most of the meat was still at refrigerator temp, so not all was lost.  Thank the heavens. 

The following weekend the leather on two of my door-panels peeled away after the heat disintegrated the glue that was holding it in place.  Having dealt with this on another door last summer, I knew that to replace it with OEM parts would be $550-$700 per door.  Or to get an automotive shop to fix it would be $75 for the one door.

We weren't touching those just yet, though, because it also appeared that I would need new rear brakes on my car, as well.

I priced that out and it was going to be $180 no matter how you diced it.  (Fortunately my Daddy swept in and saved the day and gave my car a complete once-over.) 

During the time that my dad had my car and was working on it, we were preparing for The Boy's birthday party.  I had set aside that Friday night to do all the cooking so Saturday could be a quick clean-up before the party.  However when we came home that night we found we had no electricity.  We got as much done as we could without electricity (which was basically just putting together and filling the favor boxes) and then we hung out as long as we could before we were forced to retreat to a hotel that night for some rest.  The ETA for repairs had started at 6 pm, then got pushed back to 10 pm, 12 am and 3 am.  They finally got it restored at 1:30.

The next day I blew through all the preparations and got everything done just in time.  My dad returned my car in perfect working order.  Whatever was causing the noise when I braked has since ceased and no rear brakes were needed.  At just under 80,000 I'm only halfway into the ones I have.  The lack of that repair bill was such a pleasant surprise that we decided that since I'd already separated the cost of the brakes out of our budget, we'd put that into fixing the leather door panels on the car.  We just had them do all four of them so we'd have it all over and done with.  Since we were doing all four, it cost significantly less than it would have to do them separately at $75 a door.

How soon we forgot how Murphy works. 

Within 24 hours of getting my doors fixed I dropped my new-ish bottle of Coach Poppy perfume and broke the sprayer top off of it.  I didn't lose (much of) the perfume, thankfully, so I can still buy an atomizer and only be out that cost instead of the whole bottle.  (Super glue wouldn't hold the glass together, I tried)

And within mere hours of that, we were driving down Interstate 540 headed to Oklahoma to see my cousin and her new baby when we heard this God awful noise of something hitting my car and my sunroof shattering.

I guess if there's an upside to this it would be that whatever hit us appears to have only hit the sunroof so there's no body damage to my car.  And the glass held in the frame and stayed (overall) intact.  Plus the sun shade was closed at the time so no glass or fragments would have come in even if they'd splintered free (which happened when an 18-wheeler sped past us with such force that it sucked the broken glass up in such a way that it now not only appeareed to have been hit from the inside instead of the outside, but it whistled in the 70 mph wind for the rest of the trip, too.

We got to my cousin's house and her sweet FiancĂ©, Mic, taped it up for us to help weather-proof it and keep the glass from falling in on us (should we open the sunshade).

View from inside the car after Mic taped it up for us.  The yellow tape made finding our car in a parking lot just that much easier!

And of all times for this to happen, it couldn't be during the month-long drought we experienced last month, it has to happen when we're finally getting afternoon showers several times a week.

Thankfully....I'm insured.  While it will cost us a deductible to get this fixed, it will cost us much less than it would to cover it all ourselves.  And thankfully--as my mom pointed out--we didn't have to endure what some of my former coworkers have to deal with when the windshield busted out one hour into a 6 hour trip in the cold of winter. 

However, I still wish Murphy would bugger off and leave us alone!  August can't get here soon enough!
Ashley Harris Wife & Mom

Ashley is a thirty-something wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading and decorating their home. Her blogging adventures began in 2006 as a single mother and have carried on through marriage and a new life with a husband, a ten-year-old, and an infant.

My Little Nut


This is what Ty brought home from daycare today.


His socks, obviously, but they're full of nuts.

"What are you going to do with the nuts?" I asked him.

"I'm going to make a nut store," he replied.

"Oh really?  Are you going to sell nuts for planting or for eating?"

"For planting.  That way people can plant them and grow nut trees."

"Oh," I commented.  "So you're going to be kind-of like a forester?"

He turned to me seriously, "Mama, do you know that being a forester is dangerous?"

I looked at him equally as serious, "It is?  What makes it so dangerous?"

"You could be in the forest and a tree could fall and a nut could hit you on the head and there could be a forest fire.  All at the same time.  And you could be knocked out on the ground and you could die.  It could really happen."

"Oh my," I commented.

"So that's why I'd rather play in the woods than the forest."
Ashley Harris Wife & Mom

Ashley is a thirty-something wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading and decorating their home. Her blogging adventures began in 2006 as a single mother and have carried on through marriage and a new life with a husband, a ten-year-old, and an infant.

Facebook Fail | Facebook Etiquette for the Oblivious


"I'm tired of Facebook."

Who here hasn't heard that line whined to them in the last month?  (Or been the one to make that statement themselves)

And it's usually followed by a string of reasons why Facebook annoys them.  So instead of fussing and whining about Facebook (and its lack of etiquette), I decided to educate instead.  There are a lot of social rules that are being bent, broken or completely disregarded and they lead to a lot of frustration  

Privacy

This is probably everyone's biggest complaint about Facebook, so let's start there.  Too many people put too much stuff out there.  Keep your private life private.  Many things on Facebook just shouldn't be made available to the whole world. If you have Taco Bell for supper and it doesn't agree with you, that's really something better left between you and the toilet.  However, if this is something you feel you absolutely must to share with a few of your friends, keep your overall audience in mind and learn how to use groups to control who can see what.


It's Facebook, not a Diary


If you want to document every little detail or event in your life, you should probably invest in a diary or journal (or do like me and join a free diary site!)  In the old days there were two categories of communication:  "Things that are okay to say in public" and "Things you shouldn't say in public".  Anything that falls in the latter category (gossip, fights, rants, etc.) would be better suited for a private diary than on Facebook.  Or--and here's an idea--if you have a problem with someone or are currently fighting with someone, you should probably sit down together and have a real life grown-up conversation with them so you can express your feelings, hear their feelings, and then figure out a resolution to whatever problem you have with them.  You know...like in the old days.

Consider your Audience


I think everyone has the same issue that I have; I have probably 10 good "real life" friends (not including family) and yet I have close to 700 Facebook friends, of which, only around 100 make it into a group that I feel like I can actually be myself with.  So when I want to post a comment or picture to Facebook that might not be something all of Facebook would be interested in (or have any business knowing or seeing), I limit it to a group (mine is generically named 'Favorites') that I feel like I can trust or share more about my life with.  This also applies to my security.  Certain parts of my information are only viewable by my 'Favorites' because some of my friends, I don't know well enough to know if I could trust them with it.  This is also why, when I'm on vacation, I change my statuses and pictures to only be viewed by those 'Favorites'.  Obviously, I could trust them to know that I'm out of town and my home would be easier to break into without incurring hospital (or funeral) bills as a result.  The other 600....I might not be able to trust so well.  So I simply change my settings so that those other 600 aren't privy to that information.

Oversharing

Just like the Taco Bell scenario above...there are some (actually, a lot) of things that you're going to do during the course of the day that aren't really Facebook material, even if you really want to share with the world that your flossing your teeth at that very moment or that you bought a bag of carrots at the grocery store on your lunch break today.

The more uninteresting and mundane your content is, the more likely you are to lose readers, subscribers, or 'friends'.

This also applies to photos.  When you're uploading photos to Facebook, try to narrow it down to the most interesting or the ones that best tell the story of what was happening.  Sure, it was cute when your one-year-old grabbed a fist-full of cake and smeared it all over their face, but instead of posting 10 nearly-identical pictures taken within a 5 second time-span, try taking pictures that are noticeably different.  The less overwhelmed your audience is, the more likely they are to "ooh" and "ahh" over what you're sharing.

Friending and De-Friending

Speaking of friends...did I mention that I have close to 700 friends on Facebook? 

Many of my friends on Facebook are only my friends on Facebook.  I don't know most of them.  If all of my Facebook Friends were to stand in a crowd together and I had to name each of them (without the assistance of Facebook), I guarantee, there's no way I could match a face with a name on more than half of them IF I was provided with a list of names to choose from.  I just don't know most of them well enough. 

I know of them, at least, or I wouldn't have allowed them to add me as a friend.  But there's not a real relationship there.

On the flip side of that coin, as I stated above, there are about 100 of my friends that I know and I know well enough to consider that I can trust them or share more things about my life with them than I could the general public. 

If I defriend someone in the first group, it's less likely to mean something to them than I would if I defriend someone in the second group.  And so I keep that in mind. 

If someone is showing up in my feed too much or I don't agree with things they have to say or if they're just getting on my nerves, I look at what group they're in.  Do I know them personally?  Do I value their feelings?  If yes, I hide them from my news feed.  I have several options for this.  I can opt to see "All Updates", "Most Updates" or "Only Important" updates from that friend, or I can unsubscribe from them entirely, which means that they're still my friend, I just don't want to see their activity in my news feed.  Then I'm not bothered by them and they're not going "Well that was rude, Ashley unfriended me!"

Or, say I have some frenemies on my friends list that I want to keep tabs on (or let them see how fabulous my life is), but I don't necessarily want them seeing everything about my life, then there's a delimma, right?  Wrong.  This is where it goes back to privacy settings.  My little 'Favorites' get to see every little thing I do, think or post.  My frenemies, however, are quite limited.  They're the ones that will pick apart and judge anything that doesn't fit into their neat little box of who they think I am or should be.  So I put them in a neat little box of their own in what I allow and don't allow them to see.  No unfriending necessary.

Cause unfriending on Facebook is often viewed as rude.  Or childish.  Or evasive.  Or any other negatively associated adjectives.  So unless there's a major issue between myself and another person that warrants my de-friending them...I just adjust my own settings to allow for what or who I do and don't want to see.  And if there is a major issue between myself and another person, I tend to think that it would be better to sit down together and have a real life grown-up conversation with them so I can express my feelings, hear their feelings, and then figure out a resolution to whatever problem I have with them before I defriend them.

Tagging

Let's have a quick lesson on what tagging is.  If I'm uploading a picture and one of my Facebook Friends (or their child or spouse who doesn't have a Facebook page of their own) is in it, I would tag that friend to show them (and their own friends) that they're in that picture.  Or, if I'm writing a status that directly involves a friend, I would tag them so that they know I'm talking about them. 

Now that we've established what tagging is and is meant to be, let's move onto the fact that tagging unrelated individuals is VERY over-used. 

Instead of showing that someone is in or directly related to a photo or post, it's come to be an "I'm tagging you because I want you to see this" kind of thing. 

Except that by tagging them, you're no longer giving them the option to view your content, you're forcing (or demanding) that they do which can come across--understandably--as rude.  Especially if you're a frequent or repeat offender.

Application Overkill

So you like to play games or read your horoscope or see if the latest app that promises to tell you who's been checking out your page really works?  Good for you!  But be aware that the rest of Facebook probably won't be interested in knowing your high score so be careful with what applications you allow to post on your behalf and use a little bit of self-control when it comes to sending out game or app invites to your Facebook friends.

Poking

I don't think this unclear Facebook feature is as widely used anymore (not in the 16 and up crowd, at least) as it once was, but should you opt to use it, poke with care.  Because this feature is vague in what it means or is supposed to mean, it obviously means different things to different people.  For some, it's like waving as you pass them on the road...just a quick "hi" gesture.  For others it has a more flirtatious meaning.  So be careful in starting a poking contest unless you know how your recipient is going to interpret it. 

Runaway Status Conversations

We've all had this happen before. You post a status and two (or more) of your friends start having an unrelated conversation in the comments section of that status and you're held hostage to every little notification that results from that unrelated conversation. 

Not fun.

Don't be that friend.  Either take your conversation to the other individual's wall or have it in a more private venue via a message.  I would say "Your friend will thank you", but they wont, but at least they won't inwardly curse you, either.

The Group Message Reply All

This is yet another travesty we've all fallen prey to at one time or another...  One person send out a message to a group of people, including you, and every reply to that conversation thread is distributed to every individual that received it.  Even better is when the reply is personal or private in nature but is distributed to 50 strangers.

When you get a group message, take an extra second to make sure that you're replying only to whom you intend to reply to.  If you want all of the recipients to know how amazing your date last night was with recipient #37's (recently) ex-boyfriend, then by all means, reply all.  But don't say I didn't warn you!

Event Invites

No one wants to be discluded from the latest and greatest of going-ons in their area.  But the key word is "In their area".

Would you believe that I got invited to a birthday party for someone I don't even know?

Of course you would!  It's Facebook!  We've all been invited to birthday parties for someone we don't know.  But the kicker was that the party was in Canada!

And I'm in Central Arkansas! 

Obviously I wouldn't be able to make it to the birthday party.  And obvioulsy the person who was sending invites sent them to every person on their friends list. 

Be courteous of your friends, don't save a few seconds of your time by wasting a few seconds of theirs.  If they're not in the same state or country as your event, they're probably not going to be able to make it unless you or the purpose of your event just mean that much to them.

eCommerce via Facebook Statuses

So you're trying to earn a little extra money by selling (insert latest fad here)?  Great!  You should start a Facebook PAGE for your business to promote it. You should invite people to join it that you think might be legitimately interested in what you have to offer.  You should get an online presence out there so that people see what you have to offer.  However, you should not use your personal Facebook page as your main solicitation point.  You should not spam every single Facebook friend with invites, messages, or photo tags about your latest money-making scheme effort.  You should not let your business content overshadow your personal content.  

The point of Facebook is to connect personally.  

If you become that person who gets hidden from everyone else's News Feeds because you're only using it to promote your business....you're the person who is no longer connecting or promoting your business.  No personal connections equals no financial connections.



So in short--or not short, you know I can be long-winded--basically it comes down to being mindful of others.  Without all those friends on your friend list, your Facebook experience would be lacking.  You'd have no one to like, look at or comment on your content and we all know that those little notifications on the Facebook bar are the first things we look at when we log in.

Be more like that person you enjoy seeing in your Facebook feed and less like the one you hide from it.
Ashley Harris Wife & Mom

Ashley is a thirty-something wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading and decorating their home. Her blogging adventures began in 2006 as a single mother and have carried on through marriage and a new life with a husband, a ten-year-old, and an infant.

Doctor Do-Little and the Blood Pressure Bill


A month ago I went to go subject myself to the humiliation of an annual gynecological exam. 

The horror of the exam alone is enough to give you nightmares, but this particular instance has been even worse after-the-fact than they typically are.  And not just immediately after-the-fact (I hate that squishy feeling.  I know Eve ate the apple and all, but does the the Curse of Eve have to be so all-encompassing?)
 
 
Anyway.  Anyone remember this instance? 

What an expensive conversation THAT turned out to be!!  Because my blood pressure was high, the OB/GYN asked me to go see my PCP to get my blood pressure checked.  So I made an appointment for the very next day, which I went to, paid my $30 copay, and was told to monitor and document it for the next month and come back and pay another $30 copay when I report my findings.
 
 
So, I did.  Today was my follow-up appointment with my PCP (The Doctor actually providing the care for the temporary blood pressure issue).  All is well and good.  Case closed.  "Come see me if you need me."
 
 
Except that the OB/GYN made a note on my chart that my blood pressure was elevated.  So their office billed two separate visits to my insurance company totaling $385.  (Note:  I was there for one visit only.)

They charged my insurance $185 for the examination that I was actually there for.  And then they charged my insurance $200 for a separate visit (Again, I was only there for one visit....) because the doctor made a note on my chart that my blood pressure was high that day.  $60 of that bill is being reallocated to me as a specialist copay.

Because, you know, of all the doctors to see for high blood pressure, I'd choose to see a gynocologist....

And because, you know, asking me to go see my PCP to get it checked out really constitutes providing billable care or treatment.

So my expenses on this little issue are now doubled because of a note made on a chart that had nothing at all to do with that visit or any care received by that doctor's office on that date. 

Needless to say, I'll be checking out other OB/GYN's in the future.  Whenever we decide to expand our family someday we'll have enough bills to worry about without getting bogus nonsense like THAT thrown into the mix.


Sidenote:  During the exam in the awkward conversation that you have with the doctor as you try to pretend they're not doing what they're actually doing, I commented on my dislike of the squishy stuff and she laughed and said she couldn't force herself to do the exam without it because of how horrible THAT would feel....if only her office staff extended the same courtesy.
Ashley Harris Wife & Mom

Ashley is a thirty-something wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading and decorating their home. Her blogging adventures began in 2006 as a single mother and have carried on through marriage and a new life with a husband, a ten-year-old, and an infant.

Memphis Zoo | June 30, 2012


Several weeks ago Jason and I started tossing around ideas of what we could do to kick off Ty's birthday week (which he is--of course--sufficiently excited about!). Since the weather is both setting and breaking high-temperature records in the same week, I was initially leaning towards something indoors.

We're members of the Mid-America Science Museum here in Hot Springs, and we have season passes to Magic Springs, as well so those were obvious options...but since we're there so often, they might not be as special for Ty as we wanted the trip to be. So I start thinking about other options, still trying to factor in air-conditioning.

But the idea that struck Jason and I the most was the zoo. The Little Rock Zoo has a new penguin exhibit that they didn't have when we were there last (in the fall of 2010). So that became the tentative plan. Until a coworker insisted that we should try the Memphis Zoo. I was initially turned off by the thought of a 3 hour drive, but then I checked out their website and was sold!

Penguins, Pandas, Polar Bears, Primates and even a Prehistoric Dinosaur Exhibit!

So Saturday morning we woke Ty up bright and early, got him ready to go and gave vague answers to questions for 3 hours about where we were going! His first guess as to where we were going was a Museum. His second guess was an "Animal Habitat Place" (Really? Not only was he spot on with where our frames of mind were when trying to plan the thing, but what almost-seven year old uses that terminology?!)

We still didn't give it away to him until we went to turn in and Jason told him to check out the signs. Of course, he was stoked by the Dinosaur Exhibit sign that helped to mark the way.

It was at that point that I pulled out my Canon Rebel to snap some pictures of the signs to document our trip and I discovered (with a disgusting, sinking feeling) that the SD card for my camera was still in the card-slot on the side of our computer three whole hours away.

Never fear, where there's a gift shop, there's an overpriced SD card available. And so $25 later I was in business with a 2 GB SD card (as opposed to my standard 8 or 16 GB High Capacity SDs that I can get for the same amount...)

I thought it was interesting, as we approached the zoo chose Ancient Egyptian mythology for the decoration and style of the zoo.

But then we headed into Cat Country and I noticed a statue of Sekhmet (an Egyptian goddess).  One of her major followings centered out of Memphis, Egypt, so she's also referred to as the Goddess (or Queen) of Memphis, as shown on her statue. 


Theology/Mythology aside, we moved onto the purpose of the trip!  The animals!  We appreciated very much how the zoo was laid out where outdoor exhibits were spaced with indoor (climate controlled) exhibits that gave us a break from the sun and the triple-digit temperatures.

You could tell that animals from other climates weren't as bothered by--and even enjoying--the sun!


There were all sorts of animals, bird and creature there.  Even some that looked rather prehistoric, such as this bird!


I would not have beleieved that it was not only real, but alive, had I not witnessed it for myself.

The penguins were probably a personal favorite for me.  I wish we'd been in that part of the (large) zoo when they were doing one of their little shows, I could have sat and watched them much longer than we had time to.


Ty insisted that this little feller was actually a White Tailed Deer.  There was no convincing him otherwise.


And just a few more pictures of some of the animals we saw:


And then here are a few pictures of us at the zoo.  

And the Dinosaur Exhibit.  I think we all three pretty well enjoyed it!


After that, we let Ty play in the fountain in the zoo that all the kids were cooling off in, and then from there, back to the gift shop where Ty picked out a King Cobra stuffed animal for a souvenier (as well as a "dinosaur skull" necklace).

After that we attempted to drive past Graceland (Jason had never seen it) and then spent an undertmined amount of time missing turns to try to make it to a food-stop that we eventually gave up on and dropped by McDonald's instead (Pokemon Happy Meals were a consolation prize for The Boy at least).

The trip home took more than an hour longer than it would have if they hadn't been doing road-work, but we finally made it to my parents house for the evening where we pretty literally crashed and burned for the night.
Ashley Harris Wife & Mom

Ashley is a thirty-something wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading and decorating their home. Her blogging adventures began in 2006 as a single mother and have carried on through marriage and a new life with a husband, a ten-year-old, and an infant.