One good thing about the COVID lock-down of 2020 was DIY projects! This was our first one and let me just say I'm freaking proud of US! We are NOT handy. At all. Or I guess I should say we were not handy pre-COVID. We've managed to figure a few things out over the last year so now we are almost handy, thanks to Pinterest and YouTube.
Identify the Problem and the Solution
For us, we were trying to solve the mud problem caused by our dogs jumping off of the deck and destroying our grass. We needed a landing zone for their massive weight and momentum. Bonus, turns out it also serves to keep their nails filed down!
Find some pics.
Pinterest took care of that for us in just a few minutes. Here are some of our top picks (haha do you get the pun?)
Measure Your Space
We drew a rough sketch of the space we needed to cover and took measurements across varying points of the diameter, as well as the full length across. With this in hand, we were able to talk to the supplier and get a good estimate on how much we needed for our project.
Get a Grass Cutter
We rented ours from Home Depot for a half a day. No matter how big you think your SUV is, it won't fit. We had to come back with a pickup. We also ran into some issues because the grass was pretty wet and muddy, but once we got the hang of it, it went rather quickly. Ask the Home Depot staff to give you a run down on how to use it - how to lower the blade, start it and stop it, etc. Also make sure you know what is required to turn it back in - clean, full gas tank, etc. We ended up having to clean it in the Home Depot parking lot to avoid a cleaning fee.
We used spray paint to "sketch" out the area we wanted to cut in the grass, and then just followed the lines. It worked like a charm.
You will get some good sod pieces, so if you have a place to repurpose that grass, it's something to keep in mind. You will want to have the area prepped to lay the sod before it dries out.
Find Your Materials
We used a local Landscape Supply company (Ewing Landscape). They were extremely helpful and gave us quantity estimates based on our drawing and measurements. They only had two options for flagstone pavers, but we liked one of them and were thrilled with the price. They offered delivery but the timeline was pretty far out. We had access to some pickup trucks and were able to make the haul ourselves. Remember to bring a cover if you want to protect your truck - it's a messy endeavor!
There are some pretty big and heavy pieces - you will want gloves, a wheelbarrow and some serious strength to get the pavers to your project area. This was by far the hardest part of the project and will likely require some helping hands of some sort. For us, that's what sons are for!
Here's what you will need at the landscaping place:
Here are the tools you will need:
The was the most satisfying part! I have no idea why the sand came in two different colors. We used this step to finalize the grading and make sure it was as level as possible. We were going for an inch thick, preparing for the need to shimmy the stones into place.
Wait. I take it all back. All those things I taught you about being independent and strong minded. To be self confident and powerful. Never mind. I wasn't counting on that making you ready to leave. To fly away into the world. I want a do-over. Let's be farmers. They aren't allowed to leave. Or Germans. They all stay in the same house their entire lives - they just rotate floors. Great-grandma dies and everyone moves up a level. Let's do that. Forget about this college nonsense.
My daughter left me. And went to college. Looking back, I'm not sure she should be allowed do to that. Raising her was hard. My reward is for her to up and leave?
5:40 am. Alarm goes off. Supposed to be down in Colorado Springs for baseball in 2 hours. Check my phone. 12 missed calls and 2 voicemails. What the hell.
Voicemail #1: 1:23 am "Mrs. Bard. This is officer Johnson (this is a fake name - I picked Johnson because Jones seemed too plain) with the Douglas county sheriff's office. I have your daughter Ashton here with me. Unfortunately she will have to spend the night in the county jail if you or Mr. Bard are not available to pick her up immediately. My number is... "
Ok. This sucks.
Voicemail #2: 1:58 am "Alisa its Jim. I have Ashton and Lizzy and Kelsie. I talked to the cop and convinced him to let me take Ashton home with me. So she's at my house. Call me when you get this."
What. The. Hell.
Where is Autumn? He didn't say anything about Autumn. Shit I've lost Autumn and my daughter may or may not be in the county jail. And I have to shower and be at a baseball game an hour and a half away....in 2 hours. This is going to be one crappy day. Wait. JIM has Ashton??? (Footnote / Autumn is Ashton's friend whose parents are vacationing in Hawaii, and of whom I am currently legal guardian for the next 10 days.)
After a complete freak out that awoke the entire household, I went upstairs for a some reason and checked Ashton's bed. There was Autumn. Asleep in the bed. Also there were two human shaped lumps that were apparently created to look like Ashton and Lizzy.
Long story short the three of them had decided to throw a party at Autumn's empty house, whose parents were in Hawaii. The party got busted and Autumn and Ashton were pulled over for being out after curfew. I had to make an unfortunate phone call to Hawaii and they got grounded.
3 years later after all I've done for her she's leaving me. For college I guess.
"Alisa, put the eggs down we have to drive her to the ER. It's faster than waiting for an ambulance."
Says my friend holding my 2 year old baby in her arms. With my 2 year old baby's blood. All. Over. Her. I took a look and saw her skull through the gash in her forehead and freaked out. I was 8 months pregnant with her brother. There was also another kid there somewhere who was mine. He was one something. I for the life of me can't remember what we did with him. Surely there was a babysitter involved. I'll have to ask Kristen.
OK I remembered - the neighbor came over and watched the siblings. Whew.
So I climbed into the backseat of her minivan and held a wet towel to my baby's bleeding forehead while Kristen raced us 30 minutes into town to the ER. We didn't have cell phones then, and my husband was on the baseball field, so getting ahold of him was tricky. I finally got his secretary to go down and tell him to meet us at the hospital.
When we got there, the ER doctors refused to put stitches in her tiny forehead, so we waited several hours for the plastic surgeon to get out of surgery. Did I mention I was 8 months pregnant? He and the nurses decided rather than strapping our baby down, we would all hold a limb. Good idea if I weren't already quite traumatized (and yep, still pregnant.) One look at the anesthesia needle being plunged into the window to her brain and I suddenly found myself sitting in a chair in the corner of the room being cared for by the nurses. Geez way to be tough.
They all got through the procedure splendidly without me, and 40 tiny stitches later we were on our way home.
I held a towel to your bleeding head. Another reason you can't leave me.
While this is an extensive topic, with loads of opinions on the matter, I have attempted to put together a few key tips for parents trying to navigate the social media waters.
Continued dialog with your kids is critical. Show them you are interested and as they get older, don’t shy away from bringing up challenging issues like sexting, pornography, and cyberbullying. Of course, those things can be embarrassing for you and your child, but you’ll both benefit from the open and real conversations. Your communication with your child doesn’t stop there though.
Privacy settings on most social networking sites are available so that you and your child can choose who can see their posts and comment. Depending on their age, it’s generally recommended that kids keep their privacy settings to friends only.
Use safe settings on all mobile devices but be aware that if your child is accessing the internet using public WiFi, filters to block inappropriate content may not be active. Some outlets, like McDonald’s, are part of family-friendly WiFi schemes so look out for Mumsnet Family Friendly WiFi and RDI Friendly WiFi symbols when you’re out and about.
Talk to your kids about respecting others and how important it is especially on public platforms. Ask them to reflect on how they would feel if that comment was made on one of their posts. Encourage high self-esteem in your kids – they will pass it on! Talk about online reputation. Remind them frequently that anything they post could stay around forever online. Encourage them to only do things online that they wouldn’t mind you, their teachers, their grandparents, and even future employers seeing. Creating a positive digital footprint is vital in today’s world.
Give them trust. Give them boundaries and expect them to follow them. This can apply to screen time, downloads, sites they visit, etc. Of course, if they break that trust then boundaries need to be scaled back and supervision put into place until they can regain that trust. Contact interaction is key.
Remind them how important it is not to give in to peer pressure to send inappropriate comments or images. Show them options available to them such as the Send this instead and Zipit apps which will help them deal with requests that make them uncomfortable.
You should plan on constant interactions with your child. All of these dangers and problem areas we’ve discussed need to be out in the open and exposed. Talk about how we are to treat others, how we need to have daily screen time limits, prioritizing your time, etc. We can dramatically deflate the power of the negative impacts of social media by being aware of them!
APPENDIX: PLATFORMS 101
It can be difficult for us as parents to keep up with the ever-evolving trends and platforms. I highly recommend getting every platform that your kids have. At the very least, become familiar with them and their differences. Here’s a brief low-down:
Founded in 2004, this is the OG of social media, and it’s still ranking #1 in the SMP (Social Media Platform) world. This bit of news is shocking to me, I feel like Facebook has always been around! It’s younger than my youngest daughter.
Facebook is the most volatile platform, in my mind. People rant and rave, often using way too many CAPS in their posts. The Facebook Marketplace is a very popular way for people to sell their crap to their neighbors, making the garage sale all buy extinct. There is a myriad of interest groups and boards to be a part of. Facebook Live offers live video streaming as well. Facebook is used by businesses and advertisers alike to engage customers. The age for Facebook users is generally college-age and older. Posts are shared among friends and friends of friends or the general public, all depending on your privacy settings
It’s called a microblogging platform, and it’s been around almost as long as Facebook, founded in 2006. It’s a much more public platform, with character limits to your posts. Hashtags provide ways for followers to see content that interests them and stay up on the latest trends. It’s is fast-paced, with trending topics changing by the hour. GIFs and videos are popular in Twitter posts. Generally, kids start getting in on the Twittersphere around High School age.
Instagram is a visually based photo and video sharing platform, which encourages creativity. Followers can post comments on pictures. Users can add hashtags and captions to their posts, allowing for trends, as in Twitter. This is where the influencer was created and still thrives. Stories are more temporary posts, that disappear after a day. Advertisements can look exactly the same as “real” posts and appear in your feed and stories along with everything else.
One thing that cannot be added to posts is a link. Users can have one link in their profile description. This is a popular platform for high school and college kids.
Snapchat is for living in the moment, according to their own description of the app. Users take pictures and apply filters and comments drawn onto the picture. They are sent to friends (they disappear after being viewed) or added to your story, which disappears after a day. The Snap Map shows the location of all of your friends, which is a popular way for kids to keep track of each other’s locations. Streaks are kept when you send at least one picture a day back and forth between other users.
TikTok is relatively new and has been in the news recently, even becoming a part of the 2020 election campaigns. It’s a highly addictive platform where people post 30-second videos. Once a video catches on, it can go “viral” overnight, capturing millions of views. People gain followers and continue to post, becoming “TikTok famous.” It’s highly political and opinionated, with an equal dose of comedy. Beware, you will waste hours and not even realize what just happened.
These platforms are ever-changing. There are so many more. You can google them to get an idea of purpose and audience demographics:
I know, I do sincerely apologize to the many wonderful women in our world named Karen. But the term has come to represent the people (mostly on social media platforms, but also in real life) who always have something to say, a criticism to dole out, a point to die on. And social media makes it oh so easy for those personalities to reign free.
The worst is the Ring app. Everyone is named “Neighbor 99” and their location is estimated. It’s the purest form of anonymity. And people are horrible. Truly awful in their snide comments, sarcastic shakedowns, and attacks on people’s intelligence, common sense, and decency.
We recently had a driver cut through our corner lot in the middle of the night, leaving deep tire marks across our beautifully maintained grass. I shared the video on the Ring app, thinking another neighbor may have captured other footage of an obviously drunk driver at 2 am. The attacks I received! I was called “petty” and told “no harm no foul” and reminded that people have so many more problems than that in this world. I was made to feel so small – and the anger I felt as a result was palpable.
Follow a Twitter feed or a controversial post on Facebook any day of the week, and you will see examples of this behavior. Social media is making people assholes. Is that a result of their addiction?
Addiction is an inherently selfish situation. Their daily actions begin to revolve around their addictions. They become anxious, nervous, focused on the next hit to feed their needs. They lose sight of the needs of others around them. Their tunnel vision focuses only on the thing they need, disregarding all other costs and consequences of their actions.
You know the feeling. You get into a little tiff and post a controversial comment. How often do you go back and check for a response? Does it consume your every thought? How do your emotions spike after you receive a response? Do you throw your phone, let out a little yell, pace around the house ranting? We don’t react that way in person. At least we aren’t supposed to…
The lack of immediate, face to face, responses has a couple of effects. First, you don’t have to deal with the conflict face to face. You can’t see the hurt and alarm in the face of your victim. Second, you have more time to simmer and fume in between interactions. Third, you can go offline and get “encouragement” or fuel to your fire from your friends. You send screenshots of the conversation. “Can you believe he SAID that? What should I say back?” We get caught up in the wittiness and creativity of our response, we neglect to consider the impact on the other person’s feelings and emotions.
Here’s a little exercise:
Evaluate the situations in your daily life when you are the kindest version of yourself. When do you react out of the interest of others before your own? That can have a very telling impact on how you are being influenced by external forces such as social media.
Before our offices were shut down for COVID, I would walk around checking in on our employees and getting updates on their lives. After one such occasion, a younger girl I've come to connect with said "I'm going to call them Alisa's tips - I'll be expecting a new one every day!"
So, here is my first tidbit I've learned over my nearly 50 years of life, moving often, raising four kids and two dogs and running several businesses.
2 Drinks and a Benadryl Make for the Perfect Flight
That's pretty much it. I used to hate the discomfort, noise, boredom and exhaustion that inevitably comes from flying. The stress of not being able to relax, having strangers all around me, hearing crying babies and grumpy toddlers express their frustrations, left me stressed out and anxious.
But then my husband's job took him to living on the east coast 9 months out of the year, and one of my sons went to play college ball in Kentucky, and I found myself taking 3-plus hour flights almost bi-weekly. I had to be able to enjoy my visit and return refreshed, often landing on Monday morning and heading straight to work. So I can't afford to be sleep deprived on my return.
So here's my recipe for a perfect long flight.
Disclaimer: This really only works on the way out, I am not recommending 2 drinks and a Benadryl before you have to put in a full day's work. I've found if I arrive rested I am perfectly fine working or doing other things (and not sleeping) on my flight home.
Give it a try! You might even find yourself looking forward to the break that flying can afford.
YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL OF YOUR OWN FEELINGS!
All of a sudden, in the last 5 years or so, every single person you know has their phone on them at all times. We don’t even carry them in our pockets or purses. Nope, they are in our hands. Always. We have them connected to our Bluetooth in our cars, and our smart speakers in our homes, allowing for contact tracking of our every move.
By now, we’ve all done experienced the results of talking about a certain product for which advertisements then magically start to appear in our social feeds. “Hmm…” we think, “That’s crazy, we were just talking about this yesterday!” SMH. If you haven’t tried this yet, do it now! Talk about something you have never looked up before and watch what happens. (I’ve always wanted a macaw from Costa Rica, for example.) Watch the advertisements for bird feed flood your platforms within a day.
Did you also know that the platform bots are also able to identify our wants and desires with just a picture? My sister sent a picture (screenshot) of a product to me and didn’t mention the name of the product, or even what it does, and voila – I’m being sold that same product on Instagram. I had never seen it before in my life, and now it’s being pushed at me from every direction. Gotta take advantage of the first few hours of interest, I imagine.
So are we now collectively a social experiment? Are we being hypnotized and even controlled by invisible outside forces that actually know more about us than we do? What sort of returns are the social media conglomerates getting from their extensive, highly intuitive algorithms? What type of videos are you drawn to? Which ads do you linger on, even if you don’t physically click anything? We can only assume these conclusions go all the way to how you will vote in the next election. I’m guessing there are some power-hungry politicians, with deep pockets willing to pay dearly for this data.
What about our moods? Advertisers can even detect when you are feeling anxious, or lonely, happy, or confident. They are ready to pounce on our vulnerabilities and offer what can only be seen as the solution to our current problems. Can we even call that advertising, really? Is it manipulation? Control? What about actual spying?
What can we learn from the study of behaviorism here? Are we behaving like well-trained dogs or even lab rats? How far does it go? Behaviorists have long known that you can train someone using behaviorist techniques, without that person even knowing it. There’s a scene from the “Office” where Jim is giving Dwight a mint every time he hears a certain sound on his computer. Dwight starts putting his hand out when he hears the sound, without having any idea why he’s behaving this way.
So how big of a deal is this social media situation? And once we establish that, what is the burden we have to protect our kids? It’s become standardized normal behavior. Are we ready to allow ourselves to be manipulated in ways we don’t even understand?
Does anyone care?
How do the people benefitting from these targeting practices feel about their actions? Let’s look at what Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, had to say:
We need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever… It’s social-validation feedback loop…exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology… The inventors, creators – it’s me, it’s Mark, it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people – understood this consciously. And we did it anyway…it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other…It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains. 
Did you catch all of that? Our children’s brains are at stake! They don’t care what the effects are, they are plowing through their consciences for the big payoff. Chamath Palihapitiya, who is the former vice president of user growth at Facebook, has the following lament:
The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback looks we’ve created are destroying how society works… No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. This is a global problem…I feel tremendous guilt. I think we all knew in the back of our minds – even though we feigned this whole line of, like, there probably aren’t any bad unintended consequences. I think in the back, deep, deep recesses of, we kind of knew something bad could happen… So we are in a really bad state of affairs right now, in my opinion. It is eroding the core foundation of how people behave by and between each other. And I don’t have a good solution. My solution is I just don’t use these tools anymore. I haven’t for years.
YEP, YOU READ THAT RIGHT. THE FOUNDERS OF SOCIAL MEDIA ARE NOT ON SOCIAL MEDIA. THEY KNOW BETTER.
So do we have options? Are they good options? Are they realistic? As a parent, I feel it relates a bit to the homeschooling movement in the 80s and 90s. Do we have to go so far as to eliminate social media from our lives? How does that affect how our kids are able to socialize? Is that damage of isolation worse than the damage of social media itself?
Social Media companies seem to finally be trying to fix some of these situations that have come to pass at their doing. But is it just eyewash? Are they doing enough? What more can be done?
Our first step is to open our eyes to the problem at hand.
Technology changes fast, and website design trends are no different. Design elements and website features that were once modern and innovative may have become tired, overdone, and cliched in recent years. The last thing you want as people arrive at your site is to lose conversion because your website looks outdated or ignores critical web standards.
There will always be aspects of web design that are never going away – user-friendly navigation, data security, and fast load times should just be a given on your website. However, you can keep your site at the forefront of design and search engines by adding some of these innovative website features and elements.
One of the most important web design standards is ultra-fast load time. Quick loading times have been essential factors in UX and SEO for years, and it continues to be a top priority for websites that want to rank well and convert better.
Studies say that more than half of internet browsers expect a website to load fast and no more than two seconds after clicking a link. If it takes more than three seconds to load your site, your visitors most likely will leave, and it’s not likely they’ll be back, ever again!
Website performance has a direct impact on a companies bottom line. Pinterest reduced perceived wait times by 40%, and this increased search engine traffic and sign-ups by 15%. (citation)
Inclusivity and accessibility are more than a trend, but there is a growing need for web design to factor in the needs of people with disabilities. Having a site that every visitor can navigate and interact with is more than just part of good customer service and providing an excellent experience. It can increase conversion, boost your SEO, and help you reach a bigger audience.
Elements that improve accessibility include:
Geometric shapes were a big website design trend in 2019, but in 2021, it’s all about organic shapes. Organic or fluid shapes are anything that doesn’t involve straight lines. Think of the shapes that happen in nature, like hills, the edges of a lake or river, and how they are asymmetrical and winding.
Fluid shapes are a great way to break up sections of a website without harsh lines or angles. They’re also great to use in the background, like how Android uses circles behind products on their homepage.
Minimalism, sometimes called “flat design” isn’t a new trend in web design. Still, it has typically been associated with a lot of white space (think Apple.) In 2021, we expect people will be experimenting with colorful minimalism. It doesn’t have to be all white to be minimalist.
A great example of a site that does colorful minimalism well is Shopify. Each page of their website features a bold background color with clean text and minimal design elements to create an attention-grabbing and easy-on-the-eyes page. They’re proof that minimalism doesn’t have to be stark or boring.
Excellent website design is crucial. At the most basic level, constructing a website that is both appealing to the eye and simple to use is critical for the conversion of clicks into customers. Think of web design as a first impression: if a new visitor is turned off by the looks or functionality of a website, they are not going to stay for long, and they certainly are not going to buy anything. So, what are some of the key characteristics of a well-designed website?
On the homepage, a good mixture of above-the-fold CTAs - especially those that offer more information or helpful training - allows a business to appeal to as many different types of visitors as possible. Plus, if those next steps following the CTAs allow the business to collect information about the visitors, the marketing team can determine who is qualified for their product or service before passing leads along to the sales team. Testimonials, case studies, trust icons, and other forms of social proof are also key for a good homepage; it’s best to be personal and specific, and videos work great. It is also smart to offer content - whitepapers, webinars, etc. - in exchange for visitor information.
Across the website, a business must make sure to appeal to both visitors and search engines. When it comes to the former group, a user-friendly and clutter-free interface is essential; make it easy and make it pretty. Oh, and make it relevant: the vast majority of online sessions begin with search engines queries. If a first-time visitor accesses a website through a SERP and does not quickly find something to relevant to their search, they will bounce and likely not return. Clearly and concisely presenting good information is the name of the web design game.
When it comes to search engines, site structure and navigability are crucial. The more easily Google or Bing can crawl a site, the more content it can index, and the more relevant that content is to search queries, the better a business performs in search engine results.
Marketers in the web design industry must take all the above information into account when crafting their strategies. Make sure prospective clients understand the risks they undertake - and the profits they forgo - when they do not invest sufficiently in their web design. Present lots of clear and informative data regarding the benefits of a good website as well as the dangers of a bad one. Consider the AdWords Grader we offer here at WordStream: tell the potential client what they need to improve and how you can get them there. Our blog is another point of inspiration: consistently produce great content to drive traffic to your site and capture leads.
I have always loved to write. Over the years I've put my thoughts, experiences and opinions on paper. Some of these posts are old and some are new.