Friday, August 26, 2016

Free Money! 3 Tips For Giving Plasma

Today, I wanted to talk to you about giving Plasma. Plasma is the liquid part of your blood that carries your blood cells all around your body. When you give plasma, they use it to make medication, and it also helps patients who have experienced trauma, have bleeding disorders, and more. I started giving Plasma back in 2007 when gas prices were upwards of $4 a gallon in Missouri, where I was living and needed all the extra money I could get. At the time, I got about $40/donation, but now I give through OctaPharma here in CB, with different pricing (It varies based on your weight).

It hasn't always been easy, though. A few years ago, I was unable to keep giving, and I couldn't figure out why. When I went back to try to raise money for an upcoming vacation the first few times I tried, my protein levels were either too low or at the bare minimum, so I thought I'd share some tips that help.

1. Three hours before you go, start eating something with protein. 

I usually give in the morning, so I make sure to eat two large eggs (12g of protein), and then as I'm driving out, I'll drink a protein shake. Doing this, my levels have been steady, and I've had no issues. Remember to also eat protein consistently on your off days, too. It's just good nutrition. I've also noticed that if I add spinach, my hematocrit levels are perfect. You have to be at 38 to give, and mine is usually on the lower side. I've also started taking an iron supplement, which helps.


2. HYDRATE

Storytime! Back in 2011, before we went on our first Disney Cruise, I had been giving plasma to get souvenir money. The week before I left, I didn't hydrate well enough, and when they were returning my blood cells to my body, my veins weren't plump enough to get the blood back through the vein, and I ended up with a huge bruise on my arm. I wasn't able to give again until the bruise went away. When you're hydrated, your veins have extra water to push your blood through, and accept the blood cells back.


3. Bring a stress ball

If you've ever given blood, they usually give you a stress ball to squeeze to help your blood pump out. I'd taken to squeezing my hand in a consistent, medium speed. I can actually feel the vein popping out (Are you getting squeamish yet?). I've found that if I squeeze my hand too quickly, it doesn't come out as fast, and it makes the machine beep. When I do it slower, the lights on the machine stay green, the phlebotomists don't have to keep checking on you, and you're out quicker. At a baseball game a few weeks back, a company gave my mom a stress bathtub, which she gave me to use when giving plasma. It works so much better than just squeezing my hand.



These are the tips that work best for me. There's probably a lot of trial and error, and you should find what works best for you, but I hope these tips can give you a jumping off point for your own plasma journey. It's completely worthwhile and helpful if needles don't bother you, and a good way to make some extra money. I'm able to pay off my next cruise, and extra bills. If you're paying down debt, it's a great option for only a couple hours of your time per week.

Visit octapharmaplasma.com for more information, and donation centers. I'm not affiliated, aside from being a patron, but I think helping the medical community is a worthy cause. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

I Promise I Haven't Abandoned You

Time flies when you're busy doing other things, doesn't it? The blog hasn't really been at the front of my mind lately, because things have been pretty busy.

My last post, back in March, was about writing. I'm still working on finding some freelance work, but it's harder than I anticipated. I think confidence has a lot to do with that. But at the start of April, I focused all of my writing energy toward Camp NaNoWriMo, and I won! My novel still isn't done, but it's pretty darn close. I'm currently tying up loose ends, and think it'd be amazing if I could send it to a couple indie publishers before Christmas.



I also completed Camp NaNoWriMo in July for another book, which I'm focusing on now. Plus, I just got an idea for another story that I might attempt for regular NaNoWriMo

I'm working on some backstory for a couple other books, and learning more about Scrivener. I'm falling in love with Scrivener. I think I can count it as a big reason I was able to write so much of my novel.

I haven't been keeping up with Built By Beks much, either, but I did restart WW, and am doing pretty well with it. I'm working on a morning exercise habit, and I'm starting to notice my new healthy habits are starting to pay off with better sleep and looser clothes. Win!


I've moved to a new client at work. I was pretty sad when they said they wanted to move me, but then I found out that my client was going away, and I felt relieved that they had a place for me first. And apparently some nice things were said about me in the process, which was awesome. I love finding out that the work I do is appreciated.

I've joined a Book Club. Back in September, my library forgave all library fines, which had been what kept me from going there (they added up REALLY quickly back in the day!), so I renewed my card, and have been exploring all of the community activities they offer from craft classes to Book Club. The first book I read with them was The Night Circus, which was amazing. We've also read Boneshaker (It was just meh), Ready Player One (Pretty good), The Heroines (Avoid at ALL COSTS), Station Eleven (Pretty good), and for next week, we're reading The Mists of Avalon. I've seen the miniseries, but I'm having trouble getting into the book.


So, that's pretty much what I've been up to.


  • What have you been doing this summer?
  • Ready for Back to School?

Monday, March 14, 2016

How I Finally Got Started in Freelance Writing


For the longest time, I thought the only way I could be happy writing was if I was writing Fiction. Novels, Screenplays, Short Stories, I wanted to write outlandish stories about people and eventually have the audience of Danielle Steel (That woman has a million books!).

It's amazing how things are so much different in life than they are in your imagination. Looking back at an old list of goals, I was supposed to have been at this year's Oscars. Considering I didn't even WATCH the Oscars this year, it's funny how things actually work out.

When I was in college, I was trying to figure out how to make a living blogging so I could quit my job at HyVee. I was extremely miserable, broke, and ready to take the next step in my life and career. 

My first stop was at one of those Examiner-type websites that you put in what you could write about, and they were *supposed* to find you work, if you passed muster. I didn't have any samples of my writing, except my papers for school, so I found my best ones and submitted them. I got a robotic "Thanks, but no thanks" email from the company within a day.

I had no idea about pitching to companies. I didn't know what I was doing, and with that, I decided to just accept a job at a call center (which turned out to be one of my favorite companies to work for. Loved them!), and continued with school, writing my fiction, and dreaming about the day I could be a writer.

One of the nice things about working in the call center, especially in 2009/10 when I started working nights, I had a LOT of time during the off-season (I took orders for textbooks) to read, write, and practice my craft. I all but forgot about freelance writing during that time, resting back on my desire to write fiction.

With the advent of Pinterest, I discovered different blogs sharing their own knowledge of how to start "Side-hustling" and Freelancing part time. Many even went on to make tens of thousands of dollars per month. Enough that they were able to quit their jobs, and write full time, anywhere they wanted. This appeals to me on so many levels, from the introvert to the girl who wants to work in her pajamas, or make her way to Starbucks to do some writing. It just seems like a fun idea to get to choose where, when, and how often you work. 

That's pretty much why I started this blog back in 2012. I wanted a place to write, where people might see it, and I'd be able to get some writing samples up. It took me a long time to figure out the kind of blogging I wanted to do, though. I originally wanted it to be a blog about writing, but I still feel like I know next to nothing, especially in regards to characterization, plot, theme, all those things that people tell you are important in storytelling. 

In my Pinning frenzies, I discovered the story of Gina Horkey, a mother of twins who started freelancing, and within a year was making $4,000/month. You see these headlines, and can't help but gape and go "How can I do that, too?!" Seriously. It's what I did. I gaped. I asked, "How can I do that, too?"

Luckily for me, Gina has a course on her blog, The Horkey Handbook, all about setting up your freelance writing business. She offers three different tiers for different levels, from very basic (The Starter Package), to pushing the limit (The Growth Package), to I NEED TO DO THIS OR I'LL DIE!!!!!! (Okay, maybe not DIE, but if you have the biggest passion, you'll want the biggest program, right? That one is called The Rockstar Package).

I opted for the Growth Package, deciding that it had everything I needed (and there are options to get the rest later if you want).

The course is an email course that you can set your own pace too. I finished it in three days and marked off everything I'd already done, which was kind of fun. I started searching job boards for potential places to work, and while I've yet to actually get responses from people who PAY (at least to the point of them offering me work), I will be writing for The Daily Megaphone, a blog on filmmaking, and Dig Omaha, an online magazine for people in the Omaha area. Neither pays, but at this point, I like the fact that I'll have samples of my work in places other than on MJA. 

I'm not giving up on finding paying work. I know it's out there, and since pitching is a numbers game, it'll come, eventually. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but it will come. I'm positive it will. If nothing else, I now know what having a freelance writing business takes, and I'm excited to get myself there. 

I'll be sure to do monthly updates to let you know how things are going. I'm really excited about this new venture!

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a percentage.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Weekend Overview: Why I DIDN'T Watch The 2016 Oscars


I have to preface this by saying that I have been watching the Oscars on TV every year since 1998 when Titanic was the big winner.

The last several years the show has been abysmal. It's been, boring, the jokes have been pretty flat, and the only thing I enjoyed was the heartfelt acceptance by all the winners.

Okay, not entirely true. Last year, after JK Simmons won Best Supporting Actor, and Neil Patrick Harris sang the Farmers Insurance jingle with "He won an Oscar. Bom ba dom bom bom bom bom." My family and I still sing this when we see him on TV.

Comedy gold.

Source

Anyway, this year, when the nominees came out, I didn't think much of it. Certainly not of their race. Half these people I didn't know. I didn't see any of the nominees for the "Big" awards, just smaller ones for costumes, animation, and effects (Cinderella, Inside Out, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens). With all of the controversy surrounding #OscarsSoWhite, and Chris Rock hosting, I just didn't really have any desire to watch. I didn't enjoy Chris Rock last time he hosted, and I'm sure I wouldn't have this time.

The state of relations in America is worse than ever. Personally, I don't know what to do about it, but I think that cutting news stories to fit a narrative (both sides are guilty of this) isn't the answer, and compassion is. Unfortunately, no one knows what compassion is anymore.

The Oscars used to be the creme de la creme of acting awards, showcasing artistry and innovation. I believe in certain awards, like costuming, music, and effects, they do still showcase this. But the big six, Picture, Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, and Director seem to be polarizing, and not necessarily the best job done.

I never really watched any other awards show, but I think watching The People's Choice and The Golden Globes would be a decent start, as the People's Choice are based on the viewers, and are movies people have actually seen, and the Golden Globes, which I always referred to as the Pre-Oscars, is a lot less stuffy and a lot more fun (See Amy Poehler and Tina Fey's hosting).

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(Basically Lauren and I)
When I was a kid, winning an Oscar was my dream. I went to the Donna Reed museum in Dennison, Iowa during the Donna Reed Festival in 2000, and saw hers in person, which only pushed the desire. In the last several years, with everyone in Hollywood getting on their soap box, and pushing a political agenda during their acceptance speeches, I'm not entirely certain I want to be in that group anymore.

I did catch the awards for Best Actress, Actor, and Picture. Brie Larson's speech was refreshing and genuine. She thanked everyone who took part in making a project she was proud of, and her friends and family who supported her. Leonardo DiCaprio had to make a political plea to the masses, which lost me.

It'll be interesting to see the ratings for the show. If there were a lot of people who boycotted because it was #SoWhite as they say, or because they're like me, and they like their drama to stay in the movies, and not in the real world.

  • Did you watch? 
  • Did you boycott?
  • What did you think of the show or the controversy?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Keeping Your Pet Healthy With Primal Treats (Sponsored Post)



I love my pets. They are my babies, and they make my heart feel light. I can't imagine ever being without a pet of some kind (preferably a furball).

My favorite would have to be my dog, Charmin. Charm was born in 1996, the youngest pup of my sister's dog, Rosie. Charm was my best friend, and I could never bring myself to imagine life without her.

Charm with two of her siblings.
One Sunday evening in 2010 my mom called me, sobbing, and told me that Charmie was sick. My dad and sister took her to the vet to see what was what, but she was suffering from Gastric Torsion, which is when the stomach fills with air and flips, cutting off circulation to her lower extremities. It happens without warning, and sometimes can be fixed with surgery, but Charmin's age and current physical health made it impossible (her lower spine looked like it had fused itself together). She probably never would've woken up from the surgery.


In the days that followed, I did as much research on Gastric Torsion that I could. I found out that it was a disorder that usually affects bigger dogs, and it's usually caused by diet.

Frisket is thirteen and a half, almost fourteen years old. He's definitely slowing down, but he can still be the rambunctious little pup that he used to be. Feeding natural, whole foods without fillers are always going to be best.

Turkey Liver Munchies by Primal Treats are just that. They're freeze dried, no added salt, sugar, or preservatives. Plus, they're for dogs and cats. Frisket loves them. Jane's not too sure about them, but she's finicky.

Frisket is mad about them, though. He can't seem to get enough, so it's probably good that we don't keep them where the other cats can reach them. Henry and Frisket seem to be in cahoots, where Henry tosses stuff from counters onto the floor for Frisket.

Charmie would've turned twenty this year if big dogs lived that long. I still miss her, and I sometimes wonder if I could've saved her, but thanks to the research I've done because of her, I think I can prevent it happening in another dog. At least, I hope so.

This post has been sponsored by Chewy.com. They provided the product in return for my honest review. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

When the Writing Gets Hard: 3 Ways to Refresh

It's been my goal this year (so far) to write a lot more than I did in 2015. Don't get me wrong. I did write a decent amount in 2015, even winning at Camp NaNoWriMo in July, but that story still isn't finished, and I've started other stories since that time.

Probably not a good thing to do when all I want to do is publish several books, and make a living from my writing.

Add to that, this month I've been battling a nasty cold and sore throat. It's absolute misery, and nothing sounds good, except watching TV and eating an excess of junk food. I did manage to get a decent amount of writing done when I stayed home from church with a fever, but fevered writing can sometimes be a bit jenky. Or absolutely brilliant. I'll let you know when I'm back in my right mind.

So what's a person to do when the "Muse" is being fickle, and not helping you do your job?

1. Sometimes, you have to kick her to the curb and write anyway.

When I was in college, one of my teachers told us that sometimes writing will suck. You will type out absolute garbage, but in a way, you're clearing the garbage out of your head to make room for the good stuff. Besides, first drafts aren't supposed to be good. They're supposed to be blueprints.


A few years ago, I had a story on this website, which is now defunct, Five Sprockets, that I wrote whenever I just had to clear my head. It was trite, annoying, probably took a little too liberally from where I wish my life was, but it helped me to get into a zone so I could transition into a story I preferred working on. That story eventually became Sugar & Spies, which is currently in the process of rewrites (and holy frijoles, does it suck!).

2. Get out.

Do it. Go out. Get out of your home, bedroom, office, wherever it is that you write, just leave. Try someplace new. 

My sister and I take sister dates, occasionally. We used to go to this coffee shop in Omaha, Legends, which is also a Comic Book store. We're super geeky, and enjoy looking at collectibles for sale, while also settling down to write. We're there with our headphones, our coffee, and Pandora, and just the change of scenery helps a lot.

I'm planning to test out my local library as a place to write very soon. But last time I was there, someone let their kids run and scream through the place. Not so quiet anymore, I guess? (And yes. I'm totally shaming people who let their kids scream in a library. Deal with it).

But if you're suffering from some kind of block, sometimes switching things up helps. It might be difficult, even in winter (especially in the Midwest, where we seem to be getting a blizzard every other week, which is really starting to annoy the hell out of me and my sinuses).


Go for a walk, go to the gym, go shopping, go to a museum, go to the zoo. Just get out, and get some air. Being cooped up does not help the artistic process. If you're in the Omaha Metro Area, the Joslyn Art Museum permanent exhibit is free, and they have some amazing pieces. They even have a Jackson Pollock! Art usually gets the juices flowing.

I also recommend finding a new book to read. Reading helps my writing more than not reading ever did. Comparing my manuscripts from when I've been reading a lot to when I've been watching a lot of TV, the difference is astounding.



3. Take some time off.

Yes, this contradicts the first two on the list, but hear me out. Sometimes, I will go for days without writing, because it is physically impossible for me to put words out into the universe. I know that sometimes, you just want to be hard on yourself, and like I said, write through it, but sometimes, it's physically impossible, and that is OKAY. Sometimes, you just need a break. Give yourself a day or two, but don't take too much time off. It's hard to get started again once you've stopped (like going to the gym.


Nine times out of ten, these tips really help me to decompress and get right back to writing. Sometimes, it's all the push you need.

  • How do you push past periods of hard writing?

Friday, February 12, 2016

5 Netflix Offerings to Watch on Galentine's Day.

In the past, I haven't tried to hide my distaste for February. Truly. Despite the fact that it's my dad's and best friend's birthday month, this isn't the best month for me.

Then, Parks & Recreation came around with the idea of "Galentine's Day." Galentine's Day is February 13, and is a day set aside to celebrate your best Gal Pals. My best Gal Pals are spread across the country, so I can't see them all at the same time.

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Starting last year, my sister and I celebrated with getting Marvel-themed Build-a-Bears (I made a Captain America dog, she got Toothless, the dragon from How to Train Your Dragon, and put him in Avengers pajamas). Afterward we went to Olive Garden for dinner (and they gave us ALL of our food at once. That was weird).

Anyway, I was thinking about how to celebrate this year (Kiri and I are planning on seeing Deadpool), but what I loved doing most in college with my girlfriends was watching movies. I thought I would list five things to watch on Netflix to watch with your Gal Pals. Make a night of it. Order pizza, drink wine, and have fun!

Parks & Recreation "Galentine's Day"

You can't experience Galentine's Day without seeing the episode that started it all! In this episode, Leslie treats her best friends to breakfast (the most amazing meal of the day!), and gifts. For her mother's gift, though, she tries to set her up with a lost love, who turns out to be insane. It's pretty epic. 




For a Good Time, Call...

FYI, this movie is rated R for sex and language. This is the story of two women who become unlikely roommates, and in the process of starting their own business, go from enemies to best friends. This is one I'd watch with Lauren (and all of our Stephens friends, actually). It's funny and quirky, and highly inappropriate. Seriously, unless you're over 17, and like raunch comedy, don't watch it.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

This is another quirky movie that puts to unlikely characters together. Yes, it's a man and a woman, but I think when it comes down to it, if the world were ending, I'd want to be with the people I love the most. My family AND my best friends. It's fun.  


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You're Not You

This film is about a concert pianist (Hilary Swank) who gets Lou Gehrig's disease, and while losing both her ability to care for herself, and also losing her husband, she befriends her ne'er-do-well caretaker (Emmy Rossum), who helps her enjoy her last few months. It's very sweet. Plus, it's about a classical musician, which is close to my heart. 

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Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2

Again, this one is rated R, but for violence. It's Quentin Tarantino, who loves his blood and guts. And while it might seem to be a bit odd watching a Revenge movie on a day celebrating Girlfriends, but before all hell broke loose, these women were close. It reminds you that you should keep your friends close (and your enemies closer). I would also watch this with my friend, Kaity, who introduced me to Quentin Tarantino (I still don't understand Resevoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction). 
So, those are my Netflix Picks for Galentine's Day! What movies or TV show episodes would you add to the list?