A Trauma-Informed Approach to Behaviors in the Classroom

A Trauma-Informed Approach to Behaviors in the Classroom

Trauma Informed Approach to Behaviors in the Classroom
If your child has any type of Affective Needs, this blog I just found is a great resource! Whether your child has Autism, PTSD, is adopted, or has other life events that affect the way they react to life, this blog can help.

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center. Her blog is all about Parenting, Adoption, and Adoptive Parenting.

This particular post has a free article download: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Behaviors in the Classroom, which is a letter to your child’s teacher- short, simple, and steeped in science – on why behavior management systems don’t usually work for children with a history of trauma, and WHAT THE TEACHER CAN DO INSTEAD!!!!

I just sent this to our son’s teacher, his therapist’s, and the Director of Special Education. This letter could really make a difference in how your child is treated and how effective their education is. In the letter, she includes the science of why our children react the way they do, but she writes in a way that is easy to read and understand.

If you are having trouble getting the needs of your child met in their current educational placement, this is a great place to start.

Be sure to check out her blog, it has tons of wonderful information. It can be found at      https://gobbelcounseling.wordpress.com/ and her professional website can be found at gobbelcounseling.com

Here is a copy of the letter I sent to my son’s teacher, with certain names omitted for privacy. I don’t want to embarrass anyone, I just want help for my son.

Hello,

Tonight while I was researching schools across the country that might be appropriate for XXXXXXX, a school that understands trauma and are termed as having a”trauma-informed approach to behaviors in the classroom,” I came across an excellent letter that a blogger wrote to teachers to help them understand how children who have experienced trauma react to their environment.

The letter is easy to read and understand even though it is scientifically based.

This blogger is more than just some random person, Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

In her blog post, she encourages parents to share this letter with their child’s teacher in the hopes of better success for all concerned.

Dave and I both found it to be well-written and easy to understand. It explains XXXXXXX so well, as I am sure it does for so many other students.

Many of the studies I read tonight talked about ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences. There are 10 criteria, each worth one point. Children who have experienced even one of the criteria are at great risk. XXXXXXX has experienced 7, possibly 8, of them.

This study focuses on PTSD, it doesn’t take into account his other disabilities. When we look at XXXXXXX, we see a someone who has come so very far. What that child and his brother went through with their mother was horrific. I can’t even think of some of the things without making myself crazy and we have not even shared some of those things with his therapists because he isn’t ready yet. I want the school system to see our amazing son for the incredible person he is, not the survivalist he has turned back into.

Please take some time to read this, we sincerely hope it will help you as an educator to understand the behaviors and reactions of our child. Even if XXXXXXX does not return to XXXXXXX, I feel it will help with your other students so it will not be a wasted effort.

XXXXXXX, (Director of Special Education) I copied you because I think every teacher in the district should read this, not just those dealing with Affective Needs. It would go a long way in smoothing the path for a real relationship with SummitStone, beyond just Sarah Milner. You can’t teach a child if you do not understand how their brain works. I know how dedicated you are to our Exceptional Students and I hope in the future that the school district does something, sooner than later, to remedy this situation.

We were truly blessed as having XXXXXXX as XXXXXXX champion all of these years. We just assumed that all of the Exceptional Student teachers in the district would have the same degree of knowledge and training that she has.

Regards,

Lynn and Dave White

As always, thanks for reading and I hope you are having a great day!

Lynn Marie


 

Best Health Innovations of the Year and Why I am OVERJOYED!

Best Health Innovations of the Year and Why I am OVERJOYED!

The other morning I woke up to hear my husband screaming my name from downstairs, he continued to whoop and holler as he made his way upstairs, shouting for me to wake up, a miracle had happened and I would never believe it.

Well everyone in my family knows that if I have actually fallen asleep they better let me sleep as long as possible since my pain has grown so bad I can only sleep for short periods of time. He was sure I would want to see what he had just read in this month’s Popular Science Magazine, and he was right! 

12 best Health Innovations of the YearI could not believe what I read, tears started streaming down my face. All week I have been re-reading the article. We are actually going to frame the article and hang it in my bedroom because it is something my family has hoped and prayed for such a long time now, that the fact it has come to fruition has filled my heart with such joy and gratitude.

I know many of the people who read this blog have health issues too, all 12 (listed below) of the innovations are worthy of the high praise they are receiving and I hope you take a few minutes to follow the link below and read the whole article.

What am I so excited about, though? What still has me tearing up as I think about it? What made this list that has me so excited? Something I never thought I would live to see the day, has happened. 

The #1 Innovation of the Year is a vaccination for Dengue. 

dengue fever symptoms

 

The 12 Most Important Health Innovations Of The Year
These are the Best Of What’s New
by Alyssa Favreau and Claire Maldarelli 

Sanofi Pasteur’s Dengvaxia: Finally, A Vaccine For Dengue
Dengue—a virus most commonly transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito—infects some 400 million people yearly. It causes high fever, severe headaches, vomiting, and sometimes death. About 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk, and as the climate warms and travel increases, that risk will only climb. This year, the World Health Organization ­started recommending the first vaccine to prevent dengue, and inoculations have begun in hot zones like Brazil and the Philippines. Four viruses cause dengue, so developing a vaccine that protects against all four took researchers 20 years to do. If 20 percent of the population gets vaccinated, dengue cases could drop 50 percent within five years. Controlling dengue could also reduce the $9 billion the disease costs global economies each year.

You can find out more about Dengue here.

Now, most of you have probably never heard of Dengue. I hadn’t myself until almost 9 years ago after I took an extended business trip to Asia. Dengue isn’t just something that you have to worry about when you travel, though. Dengue is now an issue in the US too. It has been a long-standing goal of mine to share more about my health but I could never figure out where to start. This is where it starts, with Dengue. 

dengue mosquitoPeople (especially uninformed doctors) are always asking me what happened in my life that changed me from a person who loved the challenge of working 14 or more hours a day, traveled the world, wouldn’t say no to any kind of adventure, into a woman who is bed-ridden with pain and has a body that has basically turned on itself. It all started with a mosquito bite.

So I have started telling you about my health, but 9 long years is a lot for one blog post. But it is a start and I will be sharing more as we go along now.  Please do read more about the other great innovations of the year that I have listed below.  In future posts, I will share my journey of being diagnosed, but more importantly, how it has affected my body in the long run.

Additional Innovations of the Year
Braeburn Pharmaceuticals’ Probuphine Implant: Easy Opioid Maintenance
Amgen’s IMLYGIC: A Virus That Fights Cancer
Abbott’s Absorb: A Disappearing Cardiac Stent
Withings’ Thermo: A Friendlier Thermometer
Children’s National Medical Center’s STAR: Most Dexterous Robot Surgeon
Olivo Lab’s Second Skin: Stick-On Skincare
Nima: A Pocket Gluten Detector
Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre: A Prickless Glucose Test
MIT’s Rapid Zika Test: A Low-Cost Zika Test
St. Renatus’ Kovanaze Nasal Spray: Needle-Free Dentistry
Shift Labs’ DripAssist: Simpler IV Control

As always, thanks for reading!

Lynn Marie

Product Review :: Watercolor Pencils with Travel Case

Product Review :: Watercolor Pencils with Travel Case

 

watercolor colored pencils with carrying caseNo doubt about it, I love to color and so of course, love colored pencils and watercolor pencils. This is a nice set that is marketed as both colored pencils and watercolors, I use other pencils both ways so didn’t know there was something special fabrication to differentiate. I do know that some sets are more successful than others, and this is VERY SUCCESSFUL at playing both roles.

PROS:
* These blend like butter!
* Works wonderfully with water
* Extras included: Pencil case, brush, eraser, and sharpener *see notes about them below
* Six sides to the pencils so they don’t roll
* Coloring is effortless, you don’t need to press hard
* Easy to get a light shade and a dark shade with the same pencil
* Nice colors, 48 pre-sharpened pencils with no repeats. This set has every color you would need for most coloring projects. If it isn’t included, it is so easy to just blend it yourself!

watercolor colored pencils with carrying casewatercolor colored pencils with carrying case
watercolor colored pencils with carrying case
watercolor colored pencils with carrying casewatercolor colored pencils with carrying case

CONS:
* Once you start using them, you will need to make sure you have your pencil sharpener on hand. They are so soft that you go through them very quickly.
* For good coverage, you may need to go over the same area two times unless you are pressing hard

EXTRAS:
* This great pencil case makes these pencils easy to take with you anywhere. The case is made of canvas with a PU leather pencil guard and trim. The case is very well sewn and the buttons are strong. You can actually roll this up completely or use the extra button and use the extra strap length it gives you to make a little carrying purse. Roll up your coloring books and it will rest inside of your new little purse and you are set to go!
* The eraser that is included is really nice. When I have used it I can’t even see any marks left over! It wipes away cleanly and easily. I am very impressed with it.
* The brush and the pencil sharpener are just your average tools. They work but there isn’t anything special about them. I do have a tip for sharpening pencils, though: Hold your pencil steady and turn the pencil sharpener. You will have less waste of your pencils that way and get a sharper tip quicker.

This is really a great set for beginners to advanced hobbyist. I have certainly been impressed with it and I am very picky about what I use to color with. No two brands that I have tried have ever been the same. The pencils are above average and the case and eraser take this to a 5-star rating!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I ordered this Artustry Colored Pencil Set PLUS Watercolor – Includes: 48 Pencils, Protective Roll Up Canvas Case, Watercolor Brush, Eraser, and Pencil Sharpener on Amazon and received it at a discount in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All ratings are earned and never promised. All opinions and thoughts expressed are my own and I am in no way associated with the manufacturer or seller. I received no compensation other than the product sample. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. (This review was originally published on Amazon before the changes in TOS.)

Secret of Life

Secret of Life

secret of life

Do you know the Secret of Life?   Maybe it is something you have wondered about at times in your life. I know that I have. A very dear friend’s blog post this month was about the Secret to Life. She is a Stroke Survivor and an exceptionally strong woman.  I knew her before her stroke and have followed her progress for over 10 years now. To be honest, when I heard about her stroke, I had little hope. But she has continued to make remarkable progress through the years. She loves her life and has attacked her recovery with every bit of spunk and will that she has in her other life endeavors. She continues to amaze me. 

As I mentioned, her post this month was about the Secret. She shared the story of Barry Zito, a former pitcher for the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants. .My friend loves baseball and Barry’s newest endeavor caught her eye. He has become a  singer and one of his first songs is all about the Secret of Life

After watching the video numerous times, which I love, I was curious to learn more about Barry and what inspired him about this song. I found several videos on YouTube that I watched about his early career that chronicled the ups and downs he experienced. When he started with the A’s he won the Cy Young award two times, When he signed with the Giants he became the highest paid pitcher in MLB history. He led the kind of life any movie star, rock star, or other sport’s star would seemingly love. Then his career took a hit. The fans turned on him. He watched his beloved team go on to win the World Series without him. 

He spent his time off reading self-help books to try and build his confidence to see what he was lacking. Finally, his girlfriend came to him and said there is only one book you need to be reading and she gave him a Bible. He began to read it and found what was missing in his life. He ended up making a huge comeback, but more importantly, he figured out what he thought was the Secret of Life, wasn’t. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlPBmiMQRDI

 

There are many Secrets of Life. Today is my 50th birthday so I thought I would share my Secret:
Faith, Family, and Friends.

I thank God every day for my life. Even though my life is not always easy, I am blessed to have a husband who loves me and takes care of me. I have three wonderful sons and three amazing grandchildren. My life is vastly different than what I imagined it would be, but I have so much more than most. 

I have been fortunate to have some amazing friends through the years. Not all friendships have lasted the test of time, but each one of them has left me with dear memories and lessons learned. 

I hope you take the time to listen to Barry’s new song and watch at least one of the other videos. If you are searching for the Secret of Life, I urge you to look towards Faith. I don’t mean to make this sound like I am preaching, but I can not tell you how much comfort my own faith has brought to me since I was in high school. If I didn’t share my most honest feelings with my friends and loved ones, what kind of person would I be? 

To read more about my incredible friend Vangi, check out Vangi Uribe’s Stroke Blog. The song inspired her in a little different way, as I am sure it may have for you also. It is a worthwhile read.

I apologize for being offline the last few months. It has been a hard winter but things are looking up. I have a lot of new things to share and, of course, lots of plans for some new things for you!  I hope you have enjoyed my “comeback” post and please do share about what you have found to be Secrets of Life. 

Thank you all for being a part of my life. 

Lynn Marie

Product Review :: KOVOT 11-Oz Glass Milk Bottle Set of 12

Product Review :: KOVOT 11-Oz Glass Milk Bottle Set of 12

KOVOT 11-Oz Glass Milk Bottle Set of 12 – Includes Reusable Lids and Straws
Offered by Sharp Gear

KOVAT milk bottlesThese milk bottles are just so cute, they’re adorable! When I first saw them I thought they would be cute to use as decorations or for a theme party, then I realized that I actually could use them for something I actually needed, milk bottles!

I have a small fridge here in my bedroom that my husband keeps stocked with everything I need for lunch and snacks while he is at work. He makes my breakfast before he leaves for work, but sometimes I am not really ready to eat right then. Finding room in my fridge for anything that can hold milk and does not take up too much room has been a struggle. All of my water bottles are very large at 32 oz.

 

 

With these cute little milk bottles at 11oz, I have the perfect size to hold milk now if I want to wait to have my breakfast cereal!

Since we opened the box though we have found countless uses for these. My son likes to use them just because they are different and cool. My daughter-in-law gave me the perfect recipe for an oatmeal and yogurt breakfast that you can make ahead of time and store in these bottles. They ended up being just the perfect size.

Needless to say, I now have more uses for these than I have bottles: Milk, pre-prepared meals, children’s drinks, theme parties, use to hold individual gifts such as bath salts or lotions, decor, hold my button collection, hold the dandelion weeds my son picks for me, crafts storage, children’s playtime…. Think mason jars, and then smaller and cuter and you have these!

I love that the glass is thick and is not going to break with the slightest little clink. We have of course dropped a few already, one on the wood floor and one on the carpet. Neither one of them broke. The reusable caps are great, They have a partial plastic lining that really grips the edges of the bottle top. I know that whatever I have put in the bottle is going to stay nice and secure until opened again. I am not usually a person for re-usable straws but I actually like these. They are large enough in diameter that you can actually clean them thoroughly and not have to worry about pesky germs.

I think that these are really great and going to be the next big craft craze like mason jars have been. They are practical in so many ways while at the same time offering limitless possibilities when it comes to crafting and decorating.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I ordered the KOVOT 11-Oz Glass Milk Bottle Set of 12 – Includes Reusable Lids and Straws on Amazon and received it at a discount in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All ratings are earned and never promised. All opinions and thoughts expressed are my own and I am in no way associated with the manufacturer or seller. I received no compensation other than the product sample. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. (This review was originally published on Amazon before the changes in their TOS)


 

Product Review :: 7 Day Pill Box

Product Review :: 7 Day Pill Box

Product Review :: Small/Medium Easy Open 7 Day Travel Pill Box, Prescription & Medication Organizer with Pill Case from Stuff Seniors Need

7 day pill boxWhat Seniors Need, and What Spoonies need too! If you are not sure what a Spoonie is, it is a person who deals with a chronic illness that has limited amounts of energy (spoons) a day. I am not a Senior, but I am definitely a Spoonie. I take a lot of medications, of course at different times of the day. This pill box not only helps to stay organized, it helps you and your caregiver make sure that your medication is being properly dispensed and that it is being taken. At times I can be so tired, sick, or in so much pain that I am not thinking straight so, a pill organizer is a must. It is not good for me to miss a dosage or to take a double dosage because I can’t remember if I took something or not.

PROS:

* Helps you to stay on your medication schedule by filling the box once a week
* Saves time by doing it a week at once instead of each time you need to take your medication
* Brightly colored sections, one color for each day of the week
* 4 compartments per day, labeled
* Compartments are easy to open and snap shut
* You can easily slip out a day from the holder instead of taking the whole thing with you if you are going somewhere
* The holder for the individual days is made of sturdy plastic that will last. There are slots in the bottom of the holder that you can use to pop out the individual trays if they are giving you trouble when you try to get them out.
* Nice leather case to ensure privacy. I know I don’t like other people to see what medications I am on or how many pills I have to take.
* This looks much better on my nightstand than 10 different pill bottles!
* Leather case is easy to open with a Velcro tab, when closed it helps to ensure nothing falls open if accidentally dropped
* Nice plastic pocket in the lid of the case that holds a general information paper you can fill out, there is room to keep your medication list on the back of the paper. I like it that it is not permanent, you can choose to have that or replace it with something else if/when needed. You can easily take this medication list with you to the doctor or hospital, making paperwork and questions there much easier. The general information is also great if you leave your pill case somewhere.
* Even before my new case was delivered, I received an email full of really helpful information along with contact information for different services Seniors might be in need of. Even though I am not a Senior, I thought it was great that the company selling these was really thinking about their customers and wanted to give them lots of resources to check into if they were in need of anything. I think it is great that the company found a way to offer their customers more without increasing costs at all. That information could actually be priceless to someone!

CONS:

 

* If you take large pills, they may not fit. I use the third slot for pills that don’t fit where they should. If you take large vitamin supplements, you might want to look for something larger than this.
* Some of the words are already rubbing off of the pill boxes, but you can use a Sharpie to write on these if you have trouble remembering what is what.
* There was a problem with the sewing on my leather case by the closure tab. The person sewing it missed about an inch section, veering off the leather itself. So my case is split open there but it is easily fixable with some glue.
* The plastic hinges on the pill cases are very thin. One problem I have had in the past with pill holders similar to this is the hinges breaking. You then have to depend on the snap closure on the other side of it to keep your pills in place, which doesn’t always work. I am going to monitor this and if I do have a problem with the hinges or anything else on this case, I will update my review.

I am really happy with my pill case. As I mentioned, it certainly takes up much less space on my vanity and looks so much nicer than a bunch of scattered pill bottles. A well put together pill organizer is a must if you are caring for someone who is ill, have aging parents who are taking more medication or are ill yourself. This would make a nice gift as well. It shows that you care and want to make sure that the person you are giving it to won’t forget something or have to wonder if they took their medicine at a certain time or not which could cause them to take too much medicine. This happens more than you know and I am not just speaking from my own experience. By keeping medication in a pill organizer, you can tell at a glance what you need to take or if the medication has already been taken. Chronic illness and age can do many unexpected things to your thought processes. Help your loved ones as much as you can, a well thought out pill organizer like this one is just one of the many ways you can help, but a very important one.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I ordered this Easy Open 7 Day Travel Pill Box, Prescription & Medication Organizer with Pill Case from Stuff Seniors Need, (For Small to Medium Sized Pills Up To 0.75″ in length) on Amazon and received it at a discount in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. (This is an older review I am just now sharing on my blog, created and published before the TOS changes.) All ratings are earned and never promised. All opinions and thoughts expressed are my own and I am in no way associated with the manufacturer or seller. I received no compensation other than the product sample. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Election Results 2016 :: Partisanship vs. Citizenship

Election Results 2016 :: Partisanship vs. Citizenship

My dear friend Mary wrote this on her Facebook page and it really spoke to me in light of the current atmosphere in the news media and on social media surrounding our Presidential election. What she has to say on the subject places the truth where it needs to be and so I wanted to share it with you all.

“Like so many in our country, I am saddened by the events of the past three days. I am deeply distressed by the explosion of hate and anger that is tearing this country apart. I have been thinking back to events that have clouded America just in my lifetime. I am a post-WWII baby boomer. At the end of WWII America was the savior of the world. Returning soldiers were cheered and honored with parades. 

Then in 1950, Harry Truman, a Democrat, committed troops to Korea and American lives were lost again on foreign soil. Mr, Truman was a foul-mouthed, vulgar man who had little filter to his mouth. Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, was elected in 1952. Shortly after his inauguration he visited the war zone for 3 days, ate C-rations with his troops and generals and made a commitment that enough American lives had died. On July 23, 1953, peace was declared. After troops were pulled out of Korea, not one American soldier died on foreign soil during the rest of his term, a fact that no other president can claim. 

Our next president, John Kennedy, a Democrat, had his legacy tarnished as a womanizer, the Cuban Bay of Pigs, the Cuban crisis and the entrance of the Cold War. How many of us remember the disaster drills at school of hiding under our desks if there was a nuclear attack? As if that was supposed to save us if a bomb were to hit. Those were also the civil rights years and our country was divided. I remember rumors that were flying during his campaign. He was a Catholic and rumors were that he had made a pact with Russia that if he was elected, non-converted Protestants were to be sent to concentration camps in Siberia. (LOL). The assassination of JFK was a dark time in our country. JFK was a good president, but he was not considered a great one. 

JFK had sent advisors to Vietnam. Enter Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat. LBJ instituted the draft and troops in mass were sent to Vietnam. Again our country was split and on the brink of civil war. Civil Rights a continued issue, young men fleeing to Canada to dodge the draft, riots in our cities and on our campuses. Men returning from Vietnam were disrespected and spit upon.

Richard Nixon, a Republican, brought the troops home, but, without victory in Vietnam. Soldiers, even POWs, were treated with dishonor, no parades welcomed them. A very sad time in our country. President Nixon’s second term was disgraced with Watergate and his resignation.

Gerald Ford, known for his integrity and openness, tried to curb inflation, revive a depressed economy, reduce government intervention and spending. He tried to re-establish US power and prestige in the world and endeavored to prevent war in the Middle East. He was defeated by Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, in 1976.

Carter’s campaign was “A leader for change”. He promised to never tell a lie. His campaign was tarnished by an interview with Playboy where he admitted committing adultery “in his heart” and made other glib remarks about sex and infidelity. He had narrowly defeated Gerald Ford. Carter was a weak president. His presidency was marred by the hostage take over in Iran in which 66 Americans were held hostage for 444 days, released to his disgrace the day he left office. Carter’s second term hopes were ended by a crushing defeat by Ronald Reagan, a Republican. Carter’s reputation was saved after he left office for his humanitarian efforts and peace saving efforts in the Middle East.

Our country enjoyed a growing economy under Reagan. We enjoyed prosperity and peacetime under the leadership of Ronald Reagan. He was successful in foreign policy of tearing the Berlin Wall down and reuniting east and West Berlin. He designated the Martin Luther King holiday. A fairer tax code was put in place during his presidency. 

George HW Bush, a Republican, became our 41st president January 1989. His desire was to have a kinder/gentler nation. The Americans with a Disability Act in 1990 is his credit. He authorized military invasions in Panama and Iraq. Operation Desert Storm freed Kuwait. His term was marred by economic recession and his bid for a second term was crushed by Bill Clinton, a Democrat,

Economic prosperity ruled during Clinton’s administration. His legacy was marred by an impeachment in 1998 and scandals of infidelity. Under Bill, invasions happened in Haiti, the Balkans, and Somali. There was the bombing of the World Trade Center, WACO, Texas, the Brady Bill, and NAFTA. Clinton was a champion for the LGBT community.

George W Bush became the 43rd president in January 2001. The campaign was a controversial one in which Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election. The White House was trashed and items stolen as the Clinton administration vacated. Nine months into his presidency came the horrors of 9/11. Bush brought unity in our country and lead with compassion and a resolve to bring to justice those responsible. The Department of Homeland Security was established. War on terrorism was launched and invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan brought American into war again. Bush won tax bill cuts, prescription coverage for seniors, signed the “No Child Left Behind” bill. George entered his second term with high voter approval but his popularity plummeted after Hurricane Katrina, and the worse financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Barrack Obama became our county’s 44th president in 2009. As with every other president, he has had his challenges, numerous mass shootings in the USA and a failure to bring home all the troops from the Middle East, Benghazi, Lybia, his Affordable Health Care, race relations. I suppose that historians will determine what kind of a president he was.

My point is that we are all imperfect people living in an imperfect world. Our leaders have “feet of clay”. Every president has had accomplishments and defeats. Citizens either love our leaders or they hate them. Somehow we must find a way to unity despite our differences or we will be split apart, hate and anger will prevail and there could be civil war and blood shed on our own soil by the hands of our own “American brothers and sisters, friends, and neighbors. May today’s crisis bring us all to our knees to again pray for, “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Mary has really touched on a hard hitting truth. If we can not find a way to stop this needless bickering that gets us nowhere and find a way to move forward, we are at risk of losing everything that we hold dear.


 

Product Review :: What’s Your Favorite Color?

Product Review :: What’s Your Favorite Color?




 

I saw a funny thing on Facebook earlier today from Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons asking, “What’s your favorite color?”

Answer?

myfavorite-color-is-christmas-lights

 

Please note, I received all of these products at a discount in exchange for evaluation and a review on my blog or in social media.

The first five years or so we lived in this house, our outside decorations were the best decorations around. We have a larger home and every line of the roof had dangling lights and there was a blow-up Santa in a sleigh on top of the roof! There were multiple other decorations and ornaments in the yard too. We would have people driving through our neighborhood from Thanksgiving until after the New Year to look at what we had managed to do.

Then I got sick and there were not as many decorations, but still our home looked lovely with the little we could do. The last 5 years or so we have done very little, a few years there were no decorations at all. I felt like we let our neighbors and all the kiddos down but we just couldn’t manage it between my health and my husband’s declining health. 

This year I had a plan. I ordered 4 items; 2 laser lights, one set of curtain lights, and one set of mesh lights. My plan was to accomplish an elegant transformation in much less time than it took to write this blog post, hopefully in less than an hour or so.

What do you think? There were 3 of us to work on this, my husband, my sister, and myself. Granted, we are three disabled adults, but I had a great transformation in mind and my goal was to show you just how easy it can be to decorate the outside of your home.

starry-laser-lights-projection-christmas-lights-moving-laser-fda-approved-star-projector-landscape-lights-with-wireless-remote-green-blueStarry Laser Lights Projection Christmas Lights Moving
Laser FDA Approved Star Projector Landscape Lights
with Wireless Remote (Green & Blue)

 

 

laser-christmas-lights-landscape-projector-outdoor-waterproof-lights-laser-lamp-outdoor-garden-yard-wall-family-gathering-decoration-green-and-blueLaser Christmas Lights, Landscape Projector Lights Outdoor
Waterproof  laser lights Laser Lamp for Outdoor
Garden/Yard/Wall Family Gathering Party
KTV Wedding Night Club Decoration (Green and Blue)

 

 

ActionFly Multi-Color Outdoor RGB 96 LED Mesh Fairy string Lights Twinkle Lighting With US Plug for Wedding Christmas Xmas Thanksgiving Party Events Home Roof Decor Tree-wrap (Blue)Nofonda 300led Window Curtain Icicle Lights
String Fairy Light Wedding Party
Home Garden Decorations 3m*3m (Cold White)

 

 

 

 

nofanda-curtain-lightsActionFly Multi-Color Outdoor RGB 96 LED
Mesh Fairy string Lights Twinkle Lighting With US Plug
for Wedding Christmas Xmas Thanksgiving
Party Events Home Roof Decor Tree-wrap (Blue)

 

 

 

Well to find out, you will have to check back next week…..  I can’t wait to show you the After pictures. Here is the Before picture, taken earlier this week. 

 Our house

#LaserChristmasLight


 



This morning I woke up terrified…

This morning I woke up terrified…

This morning just after 5 a.m. I woke to the sound of bells ringing. It seemed like every bell in town was ringing and immediately my mind flew to the thought that there must be some disaster happening and they must be trying to warn us. Was it 911 happening all over again???

I quickly woke my husband but he just said he didn’t know and rolled over, exhausted, his mind couldn’t even understand what I was saying. The bells continued to ring and I opened the window to see if all the neighbors were up, wondering if we should we prepare for the worst? I was really panicking. 

I turned on my tablet and pulled up cnn.com but only saw more complaining about the election so there must not be a world crisis going on but why were the bells ringing? I belong to a few local Facebook groups that talk about news around town and so quickly went to one of those groups and found my answer.

veterans-day-collageThe bells were not ringing because the world was imploding, the bells were ringing to signify PEACE and to thank our Veteran’s for their service. Imagine my real relief.


Veteran’s Day

Can you imagine what it must have been like when WWI or WWII ended and the bells were ringing here in the US and in so many countries in Europe and in the home countries of other allies? Can you imagine the joy and elation they felt?

I would not mind waking up every morning to the sound of bells, reminding me that we have a lot to be thankful for and that peace is possible. I never again want to wake up to anything like the news of 911.

This morning I woke up terrified…. and my fear turned to gratitude and thankfulness to our Veterans, and the Veterans that are our allies, for protecting our country and our way of life. Whatever your politics are, surely you can acknowledge the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country.

Many of us are sadly at the age where our grandparents are no longer with us to tell us about what it was like to live through the Great Depression and then WWII, much less WWI. Not many Vietnam Veterans are vocal about their experiences so a great deal of history is being lost. I love history myself and combined with reading, I have a great hobby. I have put together some lists of books if you would like to find out more about these periods of time and what went on for the common man, not from the standpoint of generals or politicians.  If we forget the past, we are at risk of reliving it.

But let’s not forget our new generations of Veterans either. We have millions of people now that are Veterans of the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. I am probably missing some group so someone will be kind enough to correct me and I can add them. 

aaron and griff

My oldest son is my own personal hero, a Veteran of Iraq. I am unbelievably proud of him and the man he has become. He not only volunteered for the Army at the age of 16 (that’s a story for another time) but now works in the Veteran’s Affairs office at a college and is an advocate for Veterans at the state level.

Here is a picture of my son Aaron and his son when he came back from Iraq, one of the happiest moments of my life! 

 

 

I hope everyone today is thankful in their hearts for what these men and women have accomplished and preserved for us and to remember that Freedom isn’t Free. Thank you to the men and women just like us who have gone and given something of themselves that not all of us would or could. Thank you also to their families at home for everything that they have also had to sacrifice. 

America's Veterans Honor All

 


Free Kindle books to learn more about the history of Veterans who have fought for us. Please double check the prices before you order, they can change at any time on Amazon. 

Kindle books with good reviews, check at your local library for copies before spending money on them. These are not affiliate links, just links to books I think you might find informative.

For Children

Fiction Series

  • World War I (5 Book Series) by Anne PerryThis series begins on the eve of WWI in England and follows the Reavley family throughout the war. They uncover a conspiracy that could have prevented the war and as the story progresses, they try and track down the Peacemaker, the code name of the person behind the conspiracies to drastically change the war as it continues, leaving the world a completely changed place than what our troops are fighting for. The  conspiracy plot is interesting with many twists to keep you interested. I also found it just as  fascinating to read about what it was like not only for the people left on the homefront but particularly, learning about what life was really like at the front. 

The plot is constantly questioning war and sacrifice and the author reminds us “that love and hate, cowardice and courage, good and evil are always a part of life, in our own time as well as on the eve of the greatest war the world has ever known.” 

Those concepts are as true then as they are now and I enjoyed each novel, though some were hard to follow with the twists of plot and espionage involved. I was constantly researching the battles and real events as they took place in the books and think that anyone who loves history will certainly love these books. As always, there is a bit of romance thrown in also. 

No Graves As Yet

Shoulder the Sky

Angels in the Gloom

At Some Disputed Barricade

We Shall Not Sleep

Unfortunately, there is so much controversy surrounding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is difficult to recommend any book without offending someone unintentionally. I wish I did know of some good books to share with you about those wars and the lives of our brave soldiers who fought in them. If you know of any, please let me know. 

freedom isn't free


 Life is about the map we follow and the treasure we find along the way


 

Book Review :: If You Were Me and Lived in… #Elizabethan England

Book Review :: If You Were Me and Lived in… #Elizabethan England


 

If You Were Me and Lived in… Elizabethan England

(An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time)

 

(Volume 3) Paperback

by Carole P. Roman, Author 

Paula Tabor, Illustrator


* This book was provided to me by the author, all opinions expressed are my own.



If You Were Me and Lived in Elizabethan England

if-you-were-me-and-lived-in-elizabethan-england
is a children’s book that explains what it would be like to live in Elizabethan times.
It is part of a series of books all about historical times written in a way that children learn all kinds of fascinating facts as they read an entertaining story. As a former teacher with a minor in Library Science, this book caught my eye right away. I knew this would be something fun to read with my grandchildren and I had an interest in reading it myself since I have a great love of history also.

I found the book to be fun to read, it presented a lot of facts in a way that was not only easy to read but also teaches a great deal as the book progresses. It starts out by comparing two pictures, one of what London and a girl at home looks like today and one of how it may have looked in the late 1500’s. 

It immediately starts sharing facts about how the world was evolving and people lived, both the rich and the poor, along with the royalty. Anything a child might want to know is included or opened up for discussion. How did people live, what did they wear, what did they eat, what kind of jobs did they have, what did children do, how much did things cost, what things were called vs what they are called today, what did people do for fun; all of this is presented along with detailed illustrations that help to share the story and bring it to life. 

At the end of the book is a list of important people of the era with images and a wonderful glossary to explain any terms that are useful to know.

if-you-were-me-and-lived-in-elizabethan-england-back-coverThe illustrations are in somewhat muted colors, accurate to the times. By using a beautiful blue background for the text, though, they are really set off and seem to actually bring them to life more. Children love bright and colorful things and I think this was a smart move on the book designer’s part to do this. 

I really enjoyed this book and think it is not only something that children in the Second through Fifth Grade would find enjoyable, but it is also a great teaching tool. I can’t wait to read more books from this series and would also like to read some from the author’s other series.

Amazon Synopsis

Join Carole P. Roman and travel through time to visit the most interesting civilizations throughout history in the first four books of her new series. Learn what kind of food you might eat in Elizabethan England, the complicated clothes you might wear, what might influence your parents to choose your name, and what children did for fun. If You Were Me and Lived in…does for history what her other award-winning series did for culture. So get onboard this time-travel machine and discover the world through the eyes of a young person just like you.

 


 

About the author

Named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2012 for her first book, award winning author Carole P. Roman started writing as a dare from one of her sons. Using an imaginary game she played with her grandson as a base, Captain No Beard was born. “Captain No Beard- An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life” has not only been named to Kirkus Best of 2012, it received the Star of Exceptional Merit, and won the Pinnacle Award for 2012. “Pepper Parrot’s Problem with Patience” Book 2 in the series, received 5 Stars from The ForeWord Review The Clarion Review. Strangers on the High Seas has won second place in the Rebecca’s Reads Choice Awards 2013. It has followed with six more books to the series. This year, Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis was named to Kirkus Best 2015. The entire cultural non-fiction series If You Were Me and Lived in… was named Best Series by Shelf Unbound. She has begun work on two new series that will be released in early 2016.

Her new nonfiction series, “If You Were Me and Lived in…” combines her teaching past with her love of exploration and interest in the world around us. The debut book in the series, “If You Were Me and Lived in…Mexico” has won the Pinnacle Award for Best in Children’s Non-Fiction 2012. France, South Korea, and Norway. Rebecca’s Reads has given If You Were Me and Lived in…Norway an honorable mention in the 2013 Choice Awards. If You Were Me and lived in …France won second place. ForeWord Review has nominated If You Were Me and Lived in…France for best in children’s non-fiction literature 2013. They will be followed by Kenya, Turkey, India, and Australia. She plans to do Portugal, Greece, and Argentina next year.

Writing for children has opened up a whole second act for her. While she is still working in her family business, this has enabled her to share her sense of humor as well as love for history and culture with the audience she adores. Roman lives on Long Island with her husband and near her children.


 

Product Review :: Belgian Chocolate

Product Review :: Belgian Chocolate


Napolitains, Dark Chocolate from Bouchard

I absolutely love chocolate. I am one of those people who enjoy food to the fullest, and chocolate is one of my favorite treats. I was so excited to be chosen for this promotion through Bouchard, introducing their imported chocolate for the very first time.

They have packaged five of their most successful flavors into small bites, called Napolitains. I received a package of their best seller, the Dark Chocolate! They also have Milk Chocolate, Dark Mint, Dark Orange, and Caramel and Sea Salt available in Napolitains. 

bouchard-belgian-chocolates

“Indulging doesn’t have to be sinful when you eat Bouchard’s dark chocolate Napolitains. They contain 72% cacao, which leaves less room for sugar.” – Bouchard

When I opened the box the chocolate came in, I could immediately smell the rich aroma of cocoa that signifies high-quality chocolate. It is such a tantalizing scent, one that if you are a chocolate lover you may be able to recall simply by thinking about it. 

I immediately opened the package, drinking in more of the delicious scent. I quickly unwrapped one of the chocolates and slipped it into my mouth, letting the rich chocolate melt on my tongue and fill my senses. Then, my lovely experience was interrupted when I heard the downstairs door open and knew my son was home from school. I quickly grabbed two more pieces and hid them under my pillow and shoved the box under my bed. As much as I love my son, this was a review item and to truly test it out, I owed it to you all to eat every single piece myself right? 😉


Before I get back to my story, here is some information about Bouchard Chocolates. It is always nice to know more about the company, especially when it comes to gourmet food. 

bouchard-beligian-chocolate-logo“We’ve been perfecting the art of chocolate making from the historical city Ghent, Belgium since 1931. We care about our heritage, our employees and especially our customers. We’re your friends in the chocolate world. We’re here to make you the best gift giver and chocolate connoisseur.

We use only high-quality ingredients to bring you the rich flavor associated with premium dark chocolate. When dark chocolate is made well it doesn’t leave your mouth with a bitter aftertaste. Because our Napolitains are made with 72% cacao they are healthy alternative to milk or white chocolate”

bouchard-gift-wrapped

Along with the Napolitains, Bouchard also creates all of the other delicious specialty chocolates that you would expect from a fine chocolatier. They have many different options and they come wrapped in lovely gift boxes, ready to present to the perfect person. 

 

 


While I was thinking about getting back to my hidden chocolate treats and waiting for the perfect opportunity, my thoughts went back to something I have heard many times over the years. Did you know that dark chocolate can actually be good for you? I did some research on this because I wanted some actual facts to share with you. If you are going to eat chocolate, dark chocolate is the best kind to eat. Studies show that quality dark chocolate (with at least 70% cocoa) can improve health and lower the risk of heart disease. Of course, this doesn’t mean that eating a ton of chocolate is good for you, everything in moderation.

7 Health Benefits of Chocolate from AuthorityNutrition.com

1. Dark Chocolate is Very Nutritious A 100 gram (3.5 ounces) bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains:

11 grams of fiber.
67% of the RDA for Iron.

58% of the RDA for Magnesium.
89% of the RDA for Copper.
98% of the RDA for Manganese.
It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.

2. Dark Chocolate is a Powerful Source of Antioxidants

3. Dark Chocolate May Improve Blood Flow and Lower Blood Pressure

4. Dark Chocolate Raises HDL and Protects LDL Against Oxidation

5. Dark Chocolate May Lower The Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

6. Dark Chocolate May Protect Your Skin Against The Sun

7. Dark Chocolate May Improve Brain Function

When I am enjoying a delicious piece of chocolate or two, my mind is not on health but it is good information to know!


Finally, I had the time I needed to sit back and take some beautiful pictures of this delicious chocolate and enjoy some more of it. The two pieces I had hidden under my pillow were a wonderful treat later that night, and just as delicious as the first piece was. I had been thinking about my hidden box of chocolate for over a week, thinking about the smooth, oh so memorable, taste of it. 

The problem was, I couldn’t find my chocolate. It wasn’t where I had hidden it. My husband doesn’t like many sweet things but these chocolates were so good I thought he might have tried them and then hidden them somewhere more convenient. Nope, we looked high and low for days and could not find the chocolate. After a few more days we finally arrived at the truth.

My son said he had smelled the chocolate as soon as he started up the stairs on the day that it arrived. He quietly snooped around for a while until he found the hidden box and took it to his room where he proceeded to eat every single bit of it! Every single bar of my delicious chocolate! I was heartbroken, my chocolate! And my review! What was I supposed to write for my review? I didn’t even have any of my own pictures to show!

I contacted Bouchard and explained the situation and they said they were happy to hear that I loved their chocolate and my son loved it every bit as much. They graciously agreed to let me use any of their images from their website also. 

Although I only ate 3 pieces myself, it was enough to recommend this as something you absolutely have to try. It is rich and delicious, very smooth and not bitter at all. I usually do prefer milk or white chocolate, but I would eat this dark chocolate with the same enjoyment as what I would normally prefer. My son says it is the best thing he has ever eaten!

Please enjoy these additional images from Bouchard Chocolate and be sure to watch for these which are available at your local Costco in California, Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. 

 

 

For more information, please check out their beautiful website, BouchardChocolate.com

#bouchard #darkchocolate 

Product Review :: Essential Oils Storage Box #anjinaturals

Product Review :: Essential Oils Storage Box #anjinaturals

Essential Oils Wooden Storage Case – Holds Up to 74 Bottles – Large Capacity Box with Customizable Slots – Bonus Color-Coded Bottle Cap Stickers and 25 pips


Nice case with plenty of room!

Please note, I received this case for free but all opinions expressed in the following review are my own. 

essential oils storage boxI love working with essential oils and have acquired a fairly large collection. My favorites I keep on my bedside vanity with my diffuser, but I have others stored all over the place. I have wanted one of these storage cases for a very long time now because it is frustrating to have to look for the bottle you want and not be able to find it! I like to keep my things organized and this is the perfect case to do it with.

Advantages:

Able to hold 68 (5-15 ml) Essential Oil Bottles and 6 (10ml) roller bottles

Case is divided with a wooden grid to keep each oil in its place. 

Box comes with a secure latch to prevent accidental spills

Bonus materials include 25 pipettes, aromatherapy eBook on a cd, and a pack of colored sticker labels

essential oils storage box

Disadvantages:

When the box arrived, the wooden grid of squares for each oil was jammed into the box and was too big, making it stick up at an odd angle. My husband had to remove the grid and sand one of the sides to make it fit. 

One of the slats was broken, but my husband was able to glue it and fix it. 

essential oils storage boxOther Highlights:  This box is made of white pine and comes unfinished so you can customize it to fit your needs. Right away my husband had plans for this, he is going to spray stain it in a rich mahogany color. I am also going to place some felt in the bottom of the box and under the lid. Now, of course, you don’t have to do any of this. You can use it exactly the way it comes. This just gives you the option of making your box more decorative or fancy if you would like to. 

Other ideas you could use to dress it up would be painting it or even using decoupage to dress it up in your favorite theme. 

This box wouls be useful to store other things besides essential oils. Right away my son thought it would be perfect for his Lego people.  It would actually for any kind of small collection. Any person that is into crafts could find a myriad of uses for it. Jewelry making is a hobby that comes to mind. 

Recommendation:

I love this box and will undoubtedly get a lot of use from it. I do feel the quality control could have been better. This should have never shipped to a customer like it did with the grid not fitting and a slat that was broken. If I didn’t have someone familiar with woodworking to fix it for me, I might have sent it back.

  #anjinaturals


Life is about the map we follow and the treasure we find along the way


Product Review :: Double Hammock #XLLightweightPortableDurableNylonHammock

Product Review :: Double Hammock #XLLightweightPortableDurableNylonHammock


YUEDGE Lightweight Portable Durable Nylon Hammock for Outdoor,Traveling, Camping, Hiking, Backpacking (XL Blue)


Durable enough to stand up to several rambunctious kids!

Please note, I received this at a discount in exchange for my review. 

I ordered this hammock for my grandchildren to use in the back yard and on camping trips. Our family really loves hammocks and everyone seems to always gravitate to them when they are out. I thought if I got this double hammock it would be big enough to hold a few children and I was right, it is perfect. Two adults can even snuggle up in this for a nice nap.

Advantages:
* Accurate size at approx 108″ x 80″
* Big enough for 2-3 kids under 10, 2 kids and 1 adult, or 2 average sized adults
* Made of breathable nylon, easy to clean, dries quickly
* Carabiners and thick nylon ropes came already attached to the hammock
* Easy to hang and comfortable to use

Disadvantages:
* I wish the carrying case, which is actually attached to the hammock, was just a little bit larger. I found it difficult to get it all packed back up into the bag but it is possible. If you are the methodical type, you will have no problem.

double hammock

This hammock comes in 4 different sizes and 2 different colors so make sure you are ordering the size that you need. I ordered the XL in Blue and have been very happy with it. It does match up to the product description very well so as long as you are aware of what is described in the listing and that is what you are looking for, you should be very happy too.

I think the smaller sized hammock would make a great reading nook hammock in a closet. Kids love hammocks and any small space would do. You could even make a reading area in an unfinished basement or attic by hanging one of these from the beams and simply putting some tumbling mats below it in case of a spill from the hammock. These hammocks are lightweight and durable, perfect for all kinds of different projects with kids, indoors and out.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I ordered this YUEDGE Lightweight Portable Durable Nylon Hammock for Outdoor,Traveling, Camping, Hiking, Backpacking (XL Blue) on Amazon and received it at a discount in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All ratings are earned and never promised; all opinions and thoughts expressed are my own and I am in no way associated with the manufacturer or seller. I received no compensation other than the product sample. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

#XLLightweightPortableDurableNylonHammock


Life is about the map we follow and the treasure we find along the way


Amazon Changes Promotional Content in Customer Reviews Again!

Amazon Changes Promotional Content in Customer Reviews Again!

Amazon has once again made changes to their Promotional Content in Customer Reviews. I thought there would be some changes to their policy, some fine tuning. I never imagined that they would go in this direction.

They have added some “clarification” that seems to negate their last changes, especially what was in the changes on Seller Central which I didn’t even talk about on here.

Here is what is relevant in the new policy:

Amazon Customer Promotional Content Reviews

So what does this mean? To me, it seems like they are going back on their previous ban on getting products through third party websites or groups. However, the Seller can still not ask for a review. They have also put in further clarification prohibiting other benefits besides the product and added that the review can’t affect your membership in a program or club and that the Reviewers ratings or referrals in any club can’t be affected by whether or not they write the review.  It seems also that there can be no monitoring of whether or not a review is written for the product.

If you do decide to start reviewing right away, you MUST include a disclosure (disclaimer).  If you don’t, you could be facing hefty FTC fines. I would go with something simple like “I received this product for free, I was in no way obligated to leave a review.” If you got it at a discount, use that word instead of “free.” DO NOT use the word “exchange” in your review. 

promotional-content-in-customer-reviewsWhat do you think? I am not sure I will jump right back on the bandwagon. Things are changing too quickly, one right after another, and the day to day wondering whether any review I write will remain on Amazon or not is not worth it at this point. After another short period of “letting the dust settle,” I may jump back in… I am interested now in looking at any trends in the reviews that are deleted from our accounts now. Were they from products that we got through a club? Were they from Sellers who just aren’t on Amazon anymore? Has anyone heard of any other bloggers who have been looking at that? Would love to know if anyone has.

I would also love to know what you think and what your plans are!


Life is about the map we follow and the treasure we find along the way


Product Review :: Crystalline Deodorant

Product Review :: Crystalline Deodorant


In the spirit of full disclosure, I received this product at a discount in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own, a positive review is never guaranteed or implied.

Crystalline Salts Premium Crystal Deodorant

All Natural Deodorant Made From Natural Mineral Salts Harvested From the Pristine Mountains of Thailand – Ideal for Athletes. Combats Odor Naturally. No Stains, No Synthetics, Aluminum Free. For Men and Women. Natural Salt Rock

After I started getting interested in essential oils, I realized that there were so many other natural products that I had never given any consideration. I came across this all natural deodorant and thought I would give it a try.

I have had this for over a month, and I must say that I am very impressed with it! It is a little different to apply, you get the mineral stick wet and then apply it. It takes a few seconds to dry but once it does, this deodorant has staying power.

It is very dry, once you have applied it and it dries there is virtually no residue that you find with other deodorants. If you are going to be wearing something special I would recommend this so as not to end up with any residue on your clothes. I can also see where it would be very beneficial for people who sweat lot like I do. It does not wear off until I wash it off.

This stick of deodorant is also going to last a very long time! After repeated applications, it still looks brand new. Instead of monthly, the product listing claims you will probably only have to buy this again once every year, and I can believe it from what I see so far. What a time and money saver.

The only thing to be careful of is to be sure and not apply this if you have just shaved. It is made out of salt so will sting against cut skin.

This product has a money back guarantee if you are not satisfied in any way. The best thing about this deodorant is that part of the proceeds from each sale goes to Avoda – an orphanage in Thailand dedicated to helping children with food, shelter, a home and education.

A great product all around, good for you, the environment, and they help out a very good cause!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I received this product at a discount in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

#crystaldeodorant #naturalproduct #beauty #deodorant #mineralsalts


Guest Post :: Change – It Happened

Guest Post :: Change – It Happened

Don't give up hopeWhen change happens and it is unexpected, it can often seem overwhelming and tragic. Sometimes even when we know a big change is coming, it still tears us up, leaving us angry and/or depressed.

Have you ever lost a job that you really loved? A job where you worked so hard and put everything you had into making someone else’s business a success, and then were let go without a word of thanks?

What about an unexpected break up? Were you ever in a relationship that seemed to be going along fine, things were progressing, but then one day it was over and you weren’t really sure what happened?

Were you one of the people that had your Amazon account wiped or do you know someone who had their account wiped? It can be a devastating experience for some people. In a sense, many people feel like they have been wiped by the recent changes at Amazon. They haven’t lost their reviews or their privileges, but they have lost the way they do things. For many, reviewing was their main hobby and how they spent their free time. Now to not be able to have their routine, how will their lives change?

Change can be hard, but life is full of change. I want to share this story written by an inspirational person who I happened to met along my own Amazon journey. In it, she shares how she handled the major change in her life when her review account was wiped. She actually wrote this guest post two months ago, but something always seemed to come up and I never got it posted. It must be Serendipity because now is the perfect time for it.


It happened.

After reviewing on many of Amazon’s sites between 2010 and 2016, I woke up one day to the dreaded email. You know the one, it reads something like, “You may have violated our terms of service and are no longer permitted to post reviews…” Gotta love that ‘may have’. See, they’re smart. By not giving any specifics, our sue-happy society is hard-pressed to find anyone willing to take on any type of civil case. They did not specifically accuse me of anything – they claimed that I may have done something to violate their very ambiguous terms of service.

Personally, my theory on why this happened to me is basically that I outstayed my welcome. I redeemed literally thousands of promotional codes for free and deeply discounted items on their site. But I’ll never know for sure – perhaps I did violate their terms. In the 2400+ reviews I posted on just their American site, there’s a really good chance that I made mistakes along the way!

I started reviewing when a product royally pissed me off and I felt the need to share my poor experience with anyone I could. The review quickly grew in popularity and Amazon requested I write more. With just a couple of reviews on the site, I was ranked in the 12,000s. Being a huge fan and frequent shopper of the site, I complied, writing reviews from everything from complex reports on books to two-liners on groceries and household goods and everything in between.

I didn’t think too much of my rank, having a good time helping independent authors by sharing my thoughts on their work and I like to think, fellow consumers by sharing my experience with various products. The majority of my reviews included photos and a few had videos.

Eventually, I believe I was in the 8000s window when sellers started contacting me, requesting I try their products. While most people seem to get totally rabid at the mention of “Free Stuff”, I was always pretty selective about what I’d review. I’d stop and think, Do I really want to write about this? If it was something myself or a member of my immediate family could honestly use and something that wasn’t going to be too much of a pain to write about, I’d go for it. As long as it was at least 99% off. That’s another thing I was selective about – it had to be free or pretty darn close to free.

I’m not gonna lie – having dozens of packages show up seven days a week was super fun. I definitely became addicted. My apartment, at times, looked like it belonged on an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive and sadly, that’s not an exaggeration. I joined some of the Facebook groups and watched for opportunities to snag even more free stuff. Many were shady or dramatic or just plain annoying – I left those ones quickly. However, I found some that I really liked, whose admins didn’t nag too much and who tried to keep their terms compliant with Amazon’s. Of course, Amazon’s terms are so ambiguous – there is much debate over how exactly to do that. That’s a long discussion worthy of its own post – so I won’t open that can of worms here.

My reviewing habit definitely got out of control. I was never late on reviews, never legitimately on those naughty lists. I always got them done… but it was extremely time consuming. At one point, I installed Grammarly and according to my weekly reports, I was writing over 50,000 words per week. That is insane. I edit novels that are around that length. Since I’ve stopped posting reviews on Amazon, I’m only writing about 5,000 words weekly. That should give you an idea of the volume of reviews I was posting just on Amazon.

Remember – Amazon isn’t the only place to post reviews. I still review on numerous other sites such as other retailers, traveler sites, etc. I’ve mystery shopped, I’ve test-stayed for Disney – this sort of thing is far from foreign to me. But Amazon is definitely the easiest and seemingly the most popular. Though, many sellers I’ve spoken to are exploring and moving to other avenues because of the mass ‘wipings’ Amazon seems to be doing lately.

Sometime in the last year or so, Amazon became really infamous for wiping accounts, seeming to “crack down” on the scammers, cheaters, etc. (You might notice this is around the same time they publicly came under fire for being infiltrated with fake reviews.) As a result, I watched this wave of panic take over the reviewing circuit. I realized that my time as an Amazon reviewer would run out – the question was when. It could be in an hour or another year. So I decided to make the most of it – hence those 50,000 words per week!

There wasn’t anything that triggered this attitude for me, other than the reality of the fact that – Amazon isn’t stupid. While I shop for literally EVERYthing that isn’t perishable on their site – at full price – I figured they still wouldn’t take too kindly to the thousands of promos I was using. Talk about taking advantage of my Prime membership – that free shipping isn’t cheap for them.

When it got to the point that people were creating Amazon accounts and buying Prime memberships just for the sake of being able to get free stuff, I knew Amazon would soon crack down. And they did. Hence all these infamous wipings.

While I, in theory, seemed safe, I figured in reality no one is. I’ve been a customer of Amazon since 2004. I’ve been a Prime member since 2009 and buying ALL of my household items, pet items and non-perishable grocery items on there ever since. Every month, my Subscribe & Save delivery is huge, every week I get several Pantry boxes – not to mention all of the other random things and the 8,000 eBooks, movies and TV shows in my cloud… Any time we need anything, Amazon is our go-to. I’m far from one of these bandwagon free-stuff seekers. The thing is, it doesn’t matter.

I reviewed my “legitimate” or promo-free purchases, just the same as my promo-purchases. I’ve never sold review items, I’ve never posted a paid review or a fake review. Amazon doesn’t know that. No one can know that – except for me. Amazon doesn’t know about the pages and devices full of notes I took, legitimately and honestly testing products before gathering said notes into honest reviews. I’m guessing they wouldn’t care if they did.

I did receive one warning. There was one time I reviewed a sleep mask, I remember it well. I got trigger-happy and hit “submit” before I’d finished the review! I thought, Shit! I’d left out the disclaimer! I immediately hit ‘edit’ and of course, added a disclaimer and saved the review. It didn’t matter. They emailed me stating that, because I’d left out a disclaimer, my review had been suppressed and if it happened again, I “might” have my reviewing privilege revoked. I emailed back and forth with them, explaining it was an honest mistake, which they could clearly see by my immediate edit. None of that mattered. I’d given them a reason to put me on notice.

That was over a year before I got wiped and to my knowledge, it was an isolated incident. I was never warned or reprimanded by them again. Until the dreaded message in which I was informed I’d been wiped.

One of my authors actually noticed before I did. I had a message from her, “Your reviews of all of my books are gone.” I knew in that instant that my time had come. I checked my email and found the confirming email. Of course I went through the motions of appealing. I even emailed Jeff Bezos and got a personal response that included an email for the Communities team that differs from the one everyone knows, encouraged to reach out. However, I never heard back from them, unsurprisingly. If they reversed their decision for me, they’d be more pressured / expected to do it for others. They’d lose some of the upper hand they have going on how. Plus, reversing my ‘wiping’ might send out a message that they do make mistakes. We can’t have that now, can we?

They’re citing “relationship with seller/author” in my case. They’re not wrong. When I love a book, if I don’t already know the author, I reach out to them. Social media has made that possible. Obviously, in order to obtain a promotional code from a seller for a free item, I’ve talked with them at least a little bit too. Depending on their definition of “relationship”, we all have a relationship with every vendor/author we’ve ever reviewed. More ambiguity.

While I was reviewing with the realization that it wouldn’t be forever, I always thought that when the time came, I’d be devastated. I had a lot of reviews to lose and a lot of time invested and I was really enjoying all of the free and deeply discounted goods. I was wrong.

The only way to make sense of changeAfter confirming that my profile was gone and I could in fact, no longer post new reviews, I felt relief. SO MUCH time had just been freed up. I realized I didn’t actually need anything. I never pitched sellers, just opted into fun things that came to me. So, I’m not really ‘out’ anything. I looked at it as taking what I could get and enjoying it while it lasted. Now – I do enjoy being able to try out the majority of my purchases without stopping to take notes and pictures along the way!

I had a great time while it lasted, and like most good things, it had to end some time.

There Is Life After Amazon !!!

Sellers still pitch me constantly, even though my profile has been gone for, I think it’s been about 6 weeks now. Many are sellers I’ve worked with before, but many are new to me. If the item is something I’m interested in, I explain that I cannot post to Amazon any more but I’d be happy to post anywhere else (my blog, other retailers, social media sharing, etc.). So I still review a ton – just not at the obsessive hoarder level I was at before. And a weight has definitely been lifted from my shoulders.

L.j. Redding – PelicanFreak


I remember being online the morning L.j. found out she was wiped, I felt devastated! I knew how hard she worked on her reviews and how much she loved doing them. I was so nervous to bring it up, I didn’t want to make her feel worse than she already did but knew I had to let her know that I was sorry she had been wiped. When we started chatting on Messenger, I could actually feel her relief myself! I could tell she was more relaxed and enjoying doing things she hadn’t had time to do in a while. She was baking up a storm, coloring, and of course, reading. And she was truly happy.

Don't be afraid to changeThere are many things that can help us through the unpleasant changes in our lives. Faith and hope come to mind. Sometimes it is our attitude that will carry us through the rough times. L.j. chose to be happy instead of bitter and allowed herself to recognize and acknowledge the actual relief she felt. I think the biggest lesson here is sometimes what we think we need in our lives, isn’t really what makes us happy. 

Thank you L.j. for sharing your story!


How about you? Can you think of a change in your life that you just knew was going to be awful but turned into something else?


Life is about the map we follow and the treasure we find along the way


Reviewing 🌟 The Dust Has Settled, What’s Next? Even Better Things!

Reviewing 🌟 The Dust Has Settled, What’s Next? Even Better Things!

keep-calm-and-experience-serendipity🌟”Late Reviews”  🌟ARAT  

🌟Blogging  🌟Social Media

🌟Other Opportunities  🌟Amazon

🌟What’s Next!


 

🌟 “Late Reviews”

Keep calm and just say noI am still hearing about some people receiving pressure from Sellers or admins to finish reviews that you were holding off on. Keep Calm And Just Say No! It will in all probability be taken down by Amazon anyway and you could lose your account. Anything published after the 4th (I believe that is the date, they supposedly gave one day for the policy to go into effect) is subject to the new policy and if you didn’t use your own money to buy it, don’t review it. Let anyone that is pressuring you know that it is against Amazon policy and offer them an alternative posting on one of your social media accounts. If they are still adamant, I would consider reporting them.

If you did post a review after that date for anything that involved any type of agreement, I would delete it. That is my personal opinion only, I have no facts to back that up. I know I have always said in the past not to delete any reviews, but the rules have changed now.

As far as I am concerned, and the consensus among people that I trust, is that the dust has settled and it is time to move on from posting reviews involving anyone else at all, on Amazon. If you haven’t read my post Questions and Answers With Amazon About Writing Reviews I really encourage you to. If you have read it, you should take a look at some of the Comments people have left.

I always love reading Comments, they are the favorite part of my blog. The additional information, corrections, questions, and insightful thoughts really make for great reading. We have had some really great participation the last 2 weeks, it seems to help when I write a post, lol. I love the interaction with you all, your thoughts and opinions, just learning more about you. Thank you!

🌟 ARAT

keep-calm-and-download-a-copy-of-your-reviews-with-aratIf you still haven’t backed up your Amazon reviews using ARAT, do it now. How To Back Up Your Amazon Reviews Using ARAT  It doesn’t take that long to get a copy of your reviews and you never know when they might come in handy! You have worked hard and you should always keep a copy of your work. Who knows, save it and in 20 years publish it as a “Remember When” funny commentary about products we used in the early part of the century! If you only have an iPhone or Mac and don’t have access to Windows, which is required by ARAT, contact me I will make a copy of your reviews for you. I do not require your Amazon password to do this.

🌟 Blogging

keep-calm-and-enjoy-blogging-5If you are planning on starting a blog and have a copy of all of your reviews from Amazon, courtesy of ARAT or your own foresight, you have ready made content! Just because they are still on Amazon today, doesn’t mean they will be there tomorrow. Remember, Amazon is sifting through the reviews with their new algorithm removing content if the Reviewer was excessive or did not follow policy. Amazon Removing Some Reviews

Even if you already blog, you might be like me and only have a small percentage of your reviews on your blog. Having more reviews on your blog is a great way to showcase your work to potential sponsors (Sellers who either give you products or money in exchange for a potential review or endorsement.)

If you need to start a blog I recommend WordPress. You can get a free account and they even have free templates. They have a great Support Forum too. I can post some places for free tutorials for WordPress and I can offer some support to other WordPress users if you have a problem with your blog. There are other places to get free blogs but I don’t know as much about them, if anyone wants to recommend what you use, I would be happy to add it to this post.

If you are looking for a company for a self hosted blog, I use SiteGround and have been extremely happy with it. It is only $3.95 a month. If you already have a blog but want to move for some reason, you can get free site migration and up to 6 months of free hosting bonus added to your new account for unused time with your current host. (Please note, I do receive a referral bonus, but that is not the intent of this post.)

🌟 Social Media Reviews

keep-calm-and-review-on-social-mediaSocial media just keeps growing and growing and Sponsors are taking advantage of people like us who are usually micro-influencers! A micro-influencer can sometimes market products more effectively than an Influencer who has hundreds of thousands of followers and up. (Blogging is technically social media but for my purposes right now I am keeping it separate because it takes more effort to get started.) If you haven’t already, create your social media accounts and start to build up your network, your followers and friends. The number of people in your network is one of the things that Sponsors look at when choosing who to work with. I will share some tips on how to do this if you want, in the meantime I would recommend these as the most popular social media sites to be on: Facebook with a Facebook Page, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. For YouTube you need a Google+ account which you may have already if you use Gmail. Do you have to do all of them, of course not! Especially if you are new to any of them, go ahead and create your accounts but concentrate on 1 or 2 at a time or you may quickly become overwhelmed.

As you are creating your new accounts, or even if you have existing accounts, think about branding. First of all, do you want your personal and review accounts as the same account? Second of all, think about your name. If you have a blog, your social media accounts should reflect your blog name in some way. This can get tricky, especially if your blog name is long, not all social media accounts allow the same number of characters in your name. Some of the services will let you change your name, on others it is harder to do, so think about it first.

🌟 Other Opportunities

keep-calm-and-review-on-other-online-retailersMany other online retailers have successful review programs. There are a few FB groups that I know of that are already working with many retailers, if you know of any that are looking for additional members, please let us know! I will share a list once I have the admins approval. There are also a few websites I can think of that put you in contact with different brands. So if you just enjoy the ease of posting on one site, similar to what many people did on Amazon, those opportunities are out there.

🌟 Amazon

keep-calm-and-keep-reviewing-your-own-purchases-on-amazonReviewing on Amazon is not going away. You can still review books. I plan to still review what I purchase myself. I just enjoy writing and it makes me feel productive. We buy an awful lot of things on Amazon because I am home bound and need an easy way to shop. I know some people feel like Reviewers have been treated poorly by Amazon and I agree that there are things they could have done differently. They have a huge challenge ahead of them to now improve their Customer Service from top level management down, not just at the Help Desk level.

However, they are still the largest online marketplace and a great place to show off your ability to write a well-written review and/or your talent making videos in order to be found by Sellers looking for people to do posts on social media. Don’t forget, you can still pitch to Sellers on Amazon to do reviews on your blog or other social media accounts.

🌟 What’s next for this little blog that started out to help other people learn about Reviewing on Amazon??? Well, it has turned into much more than I planned and I really love it. At times my health gets in the way, but no worries, I always show back up!

keep-calm-and-remember-that-life-is-about-the-map-we-follow-and-the-treasures-we-find-along-the-wayIf there is interest in learning about social media reviewing, I would be happy to share what I know and research what I don’t. There are lots of other things now that I talk about on this site and maybe there isn’t enough interest in reviewing anymore. I plan to send out a survey to see what you all are interested in. so you will really have to let me know what you all enjoy, want, and need. I love still being able to help other people because I learn so much myself along the way.

👑 Coming up I have some inspirational quotes, coloring links to add, craft ideas for colorists, some boring health updates (that help my soul to share, thank you!), and some re-blogging of some really wonderful things from other incredible people I have been wanting to share!

💗 Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Life is about the map we follow and the treasure we find along the way


 

Questions and Answers With Amazon About Writing Reviews

Questions and Answers With Amazon About Writing Reviews

Last week I promised you I would be asking some specific questions about reviewing to Amazon and then sharing with you what I learned.  

questions-and-answers-with-amazon-about-writing-reviews-frostedI addressed my email to Jeff Bezos himself so that I could be sure that whatever answer I received was carefully considered and not just from someone at the Help Desk who may or may not really understand what I was asking, much less what the right answers are. I wanted an answer from a top-level executive at Amazon that I could trust.

After receiving my email, Jeff asked Jennifer P. (why does no one who works at Amazon ever use their full last name?) to respond on his behalf. Jennifer, who works in Executive Customer Relations, responded right away and let me know that she would need some time so that she could work directly with the Communities team on my list of questions.

Here is the text of the letter I sent to Jeff.  You can see full screenshots of the email that I sent and the emails that I received in response by clicking here.



Dear Mr. Bezos,

There are multiple emails from executives at Amazon circulating among the Reviewer Community that seem to contradict one another. By going straight to the top, my expectation is that I will have the answers that are needed so that responsible reviewers will be in compliance with Amazon’s policies.  I can then help distribute this to other responsible reviewers to share with as many other people as possible.
 
I am going to try and keep this cut and dried so that nothing is left to interpretation. All of these can be answered with a Yes or No.
 
1. Are hobbyist Reviewers going against Amazon policy if they use the services of a website, Facebook group, email group, or other organizations to come in contact with Sellers who are offering products at a lower than advertised price, as long as the TOS or rules of the business state that there is no expectation of a review in exchange for the product? 
 
1a. Once they receive the product and test it, are they going against Amazon policy to write a review?
 
2. Are Reviewers going against Amazon policy if they accept a gift that is shipped directly from the seller, and then write a review for that gift, as long as there is no expectation of a review?
 
2a. Are Reviewers going against Amazon policy, in the same situation as above, except that the gift is shipped via Amazon? 
 
3. Are Reviewers allowed to use gift cards supplied by a Seller to order products if they are for the full price of the item and nothing more, or are only promotional codes allowed to be used? 
 
3a. Just to verify, a gift card ends in 4 digits and a promotional code in 6 digits correct? 
 
4. Is a disclosure (disclaimer) required when you leave a review if it is written for a product you received at a lower price than what is currently advertised on Amazon if there was no expectation of a review when the product was offered?
 
4a. Does the disclosure have to stipulate whether it was free vs whether it was received at a discount, or is a general disclosure permissible? 
 
5. If no disclosure is required, isn’t that against FTC guidelines? 
 
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. I know that if Reviewers have some concrete answers to these questions, you will find that every effort is made to follow the policy by the vast majority of people who write reviews. 
 
In the past, problems have gotten out of control because there was too much left open to interpretation. In fact, it would be wonderful that if a disclosure is required, you gave us a specific one to use. Just as the Vine Program is clearly identifiable by their badge and no disclosure is necessary, if hobbyist Reviewers had a common disclosure to use it would make things much easier for everyone. 
 
With My Sincerest Gratitude,
Lynn Marie White


As you can tell, I really took into consideration the questions I have read going around in all the different groups I belong to, questions anyone sent me, and things I read on message boards and forums.
I wanted everything to be very clear so nothing would be left to interpretation and no one could argue the facts. I really did try to  make it so specific that a Yes or No answer would be easy for Amazon to provide. Many of these executives are so used to speaking in legalese that perhaps they forget that for the average person, reading their TOS, Community Guidelines, or page about Promotional Content can leave some of us confused at times. I must say, they are getting better and I do think this last change in wording helps define our role more than it did previously. 

At times, change comes with chaos, though. There are so many emails from Amazon executives making the rounds that contradict one another, messages from the help desk that also contradict one another, and some that don’t even make sense. Maybe we should have a contest to see who has received the craziest answer to a recent question about reviewing from Amazon!

That chaos is only taking into consideration the written content from Amazon that I have seen. The rumor mill is out of control with all kinds of crazy speculation from Reviewers, Sellers, Admins, and website representatives too. I will caution you strongly to not believe everything you read and I hope that you have followed what I suggested when the news of the changes started making the rounds, Wait Until the Dust Settles! 

So what are the facts?


First email I received from Jennifer P. 

Hello Lynn,

I’m Jennifer of Amazon.com’s Executive Customer Relations. Jeff Bezos received your e­mail and asked me to respond on his behalf.

Thanks so much for sharing your questions regarding Amazon’s review policies ­­ we appreciate our reviewers wanting to be in compliance and I’m happy to answer your questions.

Lynn, because I want to ensure you’re provided the most accurate response to each of your questions, I’m collaborating directly with our Communities team and it’ll take a bit longer than usual. I truly appreciate your patience and I’ll have a thorough response by 4 PM PDT on Tuesday October 11, 2016.

You’ve been a valuable member of our Prime family for 5 years and we appreciate your patronage. I’ll be in touch Tuesday and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

We’d appreciate your feedback. Please use the links below to tell us about your experience today.

Best regards,

Jennifer P.
Executive Customer Relations

Second email I received from Jennifer:

Hello Lynn,

As you recall, I’m Jennifer of Amazon.com’s Executive Customer Relations. I appreciate your patience while I collaborated with our Communities team regarding your inquiry.

We updated the community guidelines to prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program.

We do not permit tying a free or discounted product or other benefit to a review, whether or not a review is expressly required. These reviews are prohibited, whether or not the benefit is disclosed in the review:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201929730

In order to preserve the integrity of Community content, promotional content is only allowed in limited circumstances, and must always be clearly and conspicuously disclosed as promotional content if not obvious from the context:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_left_v4_sib?ie=UTF8&…

Please note we do not have information in addition to what is already provided in our help pages and we’re not able to offer additional insight on these matters. We appreciate your understanding.

Best regards,

Jennifer P.
Executive Customer Relations

Thank you.
Amazon.com


 

blue transparent checkmarkThe fact is that unless you are in the Vine Program, do not write a review on Amazon for anything* that you have not purchased yourself with your own valid credit or debit card.  

I would recommend that you not even load up gift cards anymore and use those to make purchases, especially if you might write a review for the product. I know loading up gift cards can often entitle you to a credit, but now, your gift card purchase could result in a loss of your account privileges if you forget and write a review for something you ordered with it.

* There is one exception to this policy, if you are a bibliophile like myself, you will be happy to know that this does not apply to books. The following statement is from the Community Guidelines page. “Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.” A disclosure is required to be in compliance with Amazon’s policy in regards to Promotional Content. 

I understand that there are people telling us that it is okay to write a review because no one has asked for a review. Here is what Amazon has said that addresses that statement:

“We do not permit tying a free or discounted product or other benefit to a review,
whether or not a review is expressly required.
These reviews are prohibited, whether or not the benefit is disclosed in the review:”

I have been going through the multitude of emails I have received from websites and some of the groups that I have belonged to that ran promotions. I am sure you are getting them too. They are all saying that the rules have changed and they have changed with them. 

Many are changing their rules, guidelines, or TOS and saying that a review on Amazon is in no way required in order to receive a product promotional code through them. They are claiming that the choice is totally up to you whether you want to leave a review, and in fact, you won’t be breaking Amazon’s policy if you do leave a review. They are calling sellers and reviewers 2themselves shops and stores and you are now a shopper or some other similar term, anything but a Reviewer.

It is true that their rules have changed and they don’t require a review to get a code. You can go to Amazon and order the product, the code you get will work just like it did before. But if you write a review on Amazon, you are in breach of Amazon’s policy. I know some of you are thinking that there is no way that Amazon can track people who are doing this, there are so many Sellers and so many Reviewers that they will never be able to find out if you do,

My background is in software development and business management and I am telling you straight up that I know for a fact how easy it would be for Amazon to track this and wipe the Sellers and Reviewers who are participating in this type of activity, It is my opinion that the long periods between updates in rankings have not just been computer glitches or periods of time to just wipe groups of reviewers. They have used that time to upgrade their servers, work on their database structure, develop algorithms (software scripts that analyze data to do things like track Seller and Reviewer interactions, reviewing patterns, review content, Reviewer to Reviewer relationships, and anything else you can imagine), write and develop new software, test it all out, and assuredly have it up and running by now.

Amazon has already let us know that some of our reviews will be deleted retroactively if they are excessive or do not comply with the previous policy. You can read about that here in my post, Amazon Removing Some Reviews.  I really believe that the operative phrase there is “if they are excessive or do not comply with the previous policy.” I do not think they will remove every single review all of us ever wrote in exchange for a promotional code. As long as both the Reviewer and Seller were in compliance when it was written, it should not be deleted. I know many people didn’t think about what a Seller might be up to and were just concerned about being in compliance themselves. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and it has been and always will be a symbiotic relationship, remember the article about Keyword Searching, Wishlisting, and Other Seller Requests where I talked about how working with someone who did these types of things put your account in jeopardy, even if you didn’t do the special request but did a review for them. It is too bad that at times we weren’t aware of some of the tactics Sellers used or the ones to avoid.

So, do we all stop writing Amazon reviews? No, if you really enjoy writing reviews there is no reason to stop, as long as you write the review for something that you paid for yourself. In fact, there are many reasons to keep writing reviews on Amazon, one of the most important reasons being your ranking. Having a solid ranking is still a great way for Sellers to discover you. I will share more about the other benefits of continuing to write reviews on Amazon later, this post is long enough as it is!

Promotions and free products are not going to go away. They have always been a successful way of marketing, especially for new products. In the future, I will be writing more about other social media reviewing and how to market yourself to Sellers differently now. 

Looking at the facts that Amazon provided, do you agree? Even here on my blog, I urge everyone to look at the facts. I always try to show some evidence if I am saying that things should be done a certain way or in explaining what something means. I can be wrong just as well as the next person, so don’t feel shy about speaking up if you disagree. None of us can learn if we don’t share our knowledge and beliefs with others and be open to discussion about those differences.

I am looking forward to this next stage of development and feel more confident knowing whether I am doing the right thing when it comes to writing reviews on Amazon. The uncertainty surrounding the interpretation of Amazon’s former TOS can be put to rest and we can move forward together. Even those unfortunate Reviewers who were actually honest and good at what they did, but lost their accounts, have huge opportunities moving forward.

Those reviewers who took advantage of the system are out of luck. A  Seller won’t be giving anything to someone who does nothing valid to promote their product.  On Amazon, some Sellers put up with it because perceived sells, the number of positive reviews, and many other metrics improved their Amazon ranking.  Social media reviewing is a whole other game, you need to know what you are doing and not just be a number to the Seller.

if-it-looks-like-a-duck-and-quacks-like-a-duck-then-it-is-probably-a-duck


Thoughts? I would love to hear what you think about this post and how Amazon responded. Do you agree with my conclusion? Do you disagree, if so, why? I love hearing from you all, it is the most important reason I do my blog so let’s hear from you!

Life is about the map we follow and the treasure we find along the way

We have a new map going forward with Amazon and Reviewing in general. You all are the treasures I have found along the way!


Reviewing :: Backing Up Your Reviews With ARAT

Reviewing :: Backing Up Your Reviews With ARAT

keep-calm-and-back-up-your-reviewsARAT, which stands for Amazon Reviewer Analysis Tool, was developed by Kirk Hodges as a tool for his wife to use. She is a hobbyist reviewer who enjoys writing reviews on Amazon like many of us. Talk about a great gift for your wife, way to go, Kirk!

In light of Amazon’s announcement (read more here) that they may be deleting some of our previously published reviews, many people are wondering what they can do to get a copy of their reviews. Having a copy of your reviews is always a good thing to have and is especially important right now. If you have copies of all of your reviews, it will be easy to turn those into a blog if you haven’t already. 

If you haven’t downloaded it yet, here is the link: ARAT kghodgessoftware  I use the full version myself. Kirk has provided excellent documentation on his website on how to download and use this great tool. 

I know most of you are just going to use it to download a copy of your reviews. It has some great functionality built in though that I will talk about when I post about being a well-balanced reviewer. 

I think this information posted on his website is a great overview:

Currently, ARAT provides functionality to:

  • Extract data from existing reviews in order to graph rating tendencies across reviews.
  • Store data from previous ARAT extractions in order to graph rating tendencies over time.
  • Organize data from extraction in order to chart voting behavior on reviews over time.
  • Analyze Vine selections to chart the reviewer’s review percentage on received Vine items.
  • Extract unrated purchase data in order to help the reviewer decide what to review next.
  • Automate extraction runs through a command line interface that can be programmed to run on schedule.

Along with the wonderful documentation, Kirk has provided, another reviewer recently made a video on how she uses it. A huge shout out to Meghan Robledo for allowing me to use this on my blog! Please take some time to check out her blog at Robledo Reviews. She is just transferring over from a different service, so give her a bit to have it moved and fixed up, but be sure to check it out! It is so kind of her to share this with us!

In regards to Downloading and Saving your reviews, Meghan shows you an excellent way. I do it a little bit differently so that everything is easier for me instead of being in Notepad. Once you have all of your reviews displayed on the ARAT screen, go to File ~ Print ~ Reviews. It will process everything into a file but it isn’t saved yet. Go up to the Print icon in the top left corner and click on that.  You could print everything out onto paper if you want, but I use the dropdown menu that will now be displayed and pick Print to PDF instead. I can then save an electronic file that is easy to work with, I just have to copy and paste the text into what I want. 


This will not work on Apple products. If that is all you have, let me know and I will see what I can do. You will have to give me your Amazon profile ID though in order for me to run a report for you. I don’t need your password, just the letter/number combination from your profile. 

Please let me know if you need any help. 


Life is about the map we follow and the treasure we find along the way


Amazon Removing Some Reviews

Amazon Removing Some Reviews

If you are a Reviewer on Amazon, some of your reviews may be removed. The key word here is may. Make sure you read until the end of the post to find out how to tell if any of your reviews have been removed and one way to save a copy of your reviews if you don’t already have one.

 

Yesterday Amazon sent out a copy of this email to all Reviewers.

amazonemail-we-may-remove reviews

Please read this carefully. It says that reviews are being retroactively removed if they are excessive or do not comply with the previous policy. If you followed policy before, you should not be affected too much, if not at all.  What is excessive? Of course, we do not know what they believe excessive is. If you are submitting more than 100 a month, that is probably excessive, but that is only my opinion. What was the policy they will probably be looking for? Having the correct disclosure displayed prominently on all of your reviews.

There is one other thing that may have been out of your control and could have gotten you wiped before now or will affect whether some of your reviews are removed.  Remember, you are not in this alone. Think about who you got the product from and what Amazon is also looking for when it comes to Sellers.  There are many Sellers who are losing their accounts too now. If a Seller loses their account, all of their product listings are taken down and so that means that your review is also removed. I know I have mentioned in several different posts about working with Sellers that you know do things that are against Seller TOS. Even if you don’t do their special request but do a review for them, Amazon only sees the data relationship between you.  They aren’t going to go to each Reviewer and ask you if they fulfilled a request for something special. They are just going to wipe those reviews that are associated with that Seller and product.

Remember, your disclosure has to have said if it was for free or if it was a discounted item. Having a general disclosure was not acceptable. An example of a general disclosure is: I received this as a promotional item. I received this for free or at a discount. I received this in exchange for the sample. The words free or discount(ed) had to be in the disclosure according to Amazon. For the full article about Disclosures, please click here. 

free-vs-discount-product-for-review-amazon-tos-changes

How will you know what Amazon deletes, if they delete any of yours? If you have not been keeping copies of your reviews or at know how many reviews you have written, now is the time to take notice. You can find the number of reviews you have written by looking at your Public Reviews Written By You page on Amazon. You have to be signed in to see this page. If the link is not working for you, you can get to it by going to Your Account and scrolling down to the bottom to Personalization. 

I use ARAT to keep track of my reviews, I will get a quick tutorial together on this asap for anyone interested. The directions the developer has written up are actually very good.  In the meantime, you can download it here: ARAT kghodgessoftware  It is a great analysis tool that not only lets you keep track of the reviews you have written, but run various reports on your reviews. You can also print copies of your reviews from ARAT.

keep-calm-and-dont-write-reviews-until-the-dust-settles
For now, I recommend you to take a break and relax. Do not do anything. At this point, we need to set back and see what happens in the next few days. I know some people and groups are urging you to write your reviews with no disclosure (or disclaimer as it is sometimes called). It is against the law to write a review without a disclosure according to the FTC. The FTC trumps Amazon. The fines can be very high if you are caught doing this. Even if you are writing short reviews on social media, they need a disclosure. 


Life is about the map we follow and the treasure we find along the way


Product Review :: Valentia Fresh Mist Calming #Toner

Product Review :: Valentia Fresh Mist Calming #Toner


Valentia Fresh Mist Calming Toner – Natural and Organic Ingredients – with Witch Hazel and Vitamin C – Refreshing – Balancing – 4.0 Oz  from Valentia Skin Care


This toner makes me feel fresh and cool!

Valencia skin tonerI really love a good toner. If you don’t currently use toners in your beauty regime, I highly recommend you give one a try. This one is a fantastic one for anyone new to toners or a toner true believer like I am.  I love that it is full of natural ingredients that I have learned about and know from experience that they work. Magnesium, Witch Hazel, Vitamin C and Tea Tree Oil are all proven natural ingredients that are great for your skin and many other things.

Toners provide your skin with multiple benefits. If you use them as part of a beauty routine, it is best to spritz it on after cleansing your face and before applying moisturizer. A toner helps take your clean routine one step further by removing any remaining oil or dirt from deep down in your pores. A good toner like this one will help balance the PH in your skin, which helps it stay clear of bothersome acne. My favorite thing about a toner is that it helps minimize enlarged pores. The Witch Hazel in this toner is the perfect ingredient for that. It is a natural astringent. 

Valentia facial toner radianceI actually keep this toner by my sink and another on my nightstand and use it anytime I pass by, and especially when I need something to help cool me down. This toner has a light fresh scent that I love. If I am feeling the heat, I just spritz some of this on and then as the fan circulates by my bed, the moisture on my face and neck help to cool my whole body.  I actually use toner so much in the summer that I don’t need a lot of my moisturizer anymore.  In fact, for the last few months, I haven’t done anything special to my face beyond using a cleanser and then toner multiple times a day. My skin looks fresh and clear, and most importantly to me, my pores are smaller. 

Thanks, #valentianatural #toner

In the spirit of full disclosure, I received this Valentia Fresh Mist Calming Toner – Natural and Organic Ingredients – with Witch Hazel and Vitamin C – Refreshing – Balancing – 4.0 Oz  for free in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All ratings are earned and never promised; all opinions and thoughts expressed are my own and I am in no way associated with the manufacturer or seller. I received no compensation other than the product sample. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Life is about the map we follow and the treasure we find along the way


Amazon TOS :: Fact or Fiction, Again!

Amazon TOS :: Fact or Fiction, Again!


Amazon TOS ChangesAre the words Amazon TOS and change coming up in your thoughts and in discussions too much lately? Are you having trouble keeping up with the changes and don’t know where to go for answers right now? Are you feeling more and more confused? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone and I do have some great advice for you. 

I took a quick look around on the internet today and stopped in at some of the “watering holes” where reviewers congregate. I have read multiple emails from different companies and individuals involved with the Reviewer Community, many of from the Seller side of things also. I have read and re-read the new Guidelines for Amazon.com Community ParticipationThe section that affects those of us who love to write product reviews is under the Promotions and Commercial Solicitations section. 


Promotions and Commercial Solicitations

As that reads, it seems that writing a review is no longer allowed on Amazon if a review has been, or is, requested. I know I have many open reviews that I promised to do on Amazon, three of them are very expensive products and now the Sellers are left without a review. I have been trying out the products so I can’t return them, they are no longer new.

Do I publish them with a different disclosure, or maybe no disclosure at all?

Are the different sites where we often find products going to shut down and if they don’t are they breaking TOS?

Can Sellers contact us directly and ask us to review a product? Can we pitch to Sellers?

What about the FB groups and email groups, so many of them are handing out conflicting information, who is right?

The best thing any of us can do right now is to sit back and wait for the dust to settle.  My advice to you is to take a break and do not to publish any reviews on Amazon at all right now.  If you are on a deadline for something, contact the Seller and discuss different options like posting to social media. If you go to them with a plan in mind I think they will readily agree with you.  You do not want to make a mistake at this juncture and jeopardize your account.  If there is someone pressuring you to publish a review on Amazon, please consider whether or not that product, that person, or that group is worth the possibility of losing your account.

In the meantime, I am sure there will be more information forthcoming from Amazon, or at least from different people that have contacted Customer Service and have some verified answers to these questions and more. Consider this a vacation, you deserve one anyway! Take some time off from Reviewing and relax. Enjoy the Fall weather and the changes all around us. Do something special for yourself or a neighbor who could use a helping hand.

I will let you know what I come up with, probably sometime over the weekend or at the first of next week. I know that may seem like a long time when we are so used to being on deadlines and in a hurry. This is really going to be a time to reflect on if you want to continue writing reviews and then consider the best way to go about it if you do want to continue. If you still have an account after all of the wipes the last few months, so many of them senseless, then you really do need to do everything you can to safeguard your account. Giving yourself a few days to consider what you have learned and what I can verify is more than fair enough considering the major changes that have been made lately.

If there are other specific questions you are concerned about, please leave them below so I can gather lots of feedback at one time as I go about verification of  my own questions and yours. It is easier if they are shared here instead of individually through email, thanks!


Life is about the map we follow and the treasure we find along the way


Amazon TOS :: No More Reviews in Exchange for Samples

Amazon TOS :: No More Reviews in Exchange for Samples

Amazon has once again changed their TOS. If you currently write product reviews in exchange for free or discounted products, the rules have changed and we will no longer be allowed to do this on Amazon. You can certainly still publish your reviews on other outlets, but it seems like the average reviewer will be out of luck when it comes to finding products to review.

If you have huge followings on social media sites, you may still have many opportunities available and it is not too late to build up those social media accounts if you would still like to review products.

If you enjoy reviewing books, you may still receive an advance copy, but they can not ask you to write a review. The Amazon Vine program is also not going away.

I see more emphasis being placed on their new badges of Enthusiasts but who knows where that will go. Encouraging people to ask and answer questions about products is not the way to go in my opinion. How many times have you read 6 answers to one question that all tell you the exact same thing or someone who answers that “they don’t know” to every question posted!

For myself, I am going to hang back and see where this leads. My blog gets pretty good traffic at times so I may still have the opportunity to publish reviews here. I have several commitments to finish in the meantime also.

Even without reviews, my blog won’t be going away. 🙂


Product Review :: Home Security Camera

Product Review :: Home Security Camera

Smarson HD WIFI Home Security Camera, Baby Monitor, App Controlled, Up to 5 Viewers

Easy set up, fantastic child monitor, loads of functionality

I ordered this WIFI camera to use in our kitchen and dining room area. We have had it about a month now and I am so happy with how it is working out. I have it paired with my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Bluetooth 4.0, Android 5.0.

We have other security cameras set up in the house and have tried to work with a few inexpensive cameras that were better off returned. My husband and I are both amazed at how easy this was to set up and with the functionality of this.

Advantages:
Easy to set up
No wiring needed, everything is through WIFI
Camera is easy to operate through app and camera
I can have 5 preset views
I can pan and zoom, left and right, up and down
Two-way communication
You can set up motion alerts

Disadvantages:
The directions could use some refinement when it comes to details. With a little common sense though it is easy to figure out.

If you are looking for a baby monitor I would highly recommend this. We have a camera in our youngest son’s room just so I can easily keep an eye on him. He is old enough now he doesn’t really need it but since my health makes it difficult to get around, it really helps. Since it is a fixed mount camera I can only see certain areas of the room. When he is anywhere on the floor playing or in his reading nook, I can’t see him. A camera like this would be much more helpful in a young child’s room as a monitor. With the two-way audio, you could soothe a young child back to sleep with a few comforting words without always having to get up.

The reason we wanted a camera in the kitchen once again has to do with my health. Since the stairs are almost impossible for me at times, my youngest does a lot of the leg work around the house for me. Now that he is in middle school, his chores have increased, especially in the kitchen. With the great features on this camera that make it possible for me to follow his every move, I can ‘virtually’ help him out with his chores by lending advice on the best ways to clean certain messes or where certain things need to be put away. He can hear me great without any added speaker on the camera. If you are handicapped, a camera like this can be extremely helpful with your older children as well as your younger ones.

We also like to be able to send our son to the kitchen for a snack and not have to worry about him getting into something he shouldn’t have. He loves sugary snacks but is borderline diabetic. If there is sugar in the house, I swear that child can smell it! Now I can watch and make sure he isn’t searching through the baking supplies or sneaking a treat his dad has saved for a special treat.

I haven’t been able to use it with any Kindle tablets but those are compatibility issues that many apps and hardware combinations are finding. A Kindle, or should I now say Fire tablet, runs on a hybrid Android system so not everything works as it is supposed to.

As far as rating this security system goes I would normally deduct a star for poor instructions but the actual ease of set up and use more than makes up for it. If we were able to rate with partial stars, this would probably rate at around 4.80 all things considered.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I ordered this Smarson HD WIFI Home Security Camera, Baby Monitor, App Controlled, Up to 5 Viewers on Amazon and received it at a discount in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All ratings are earned and never promised; all opinions and thoughts expressed are my own and I am in no way associated with the manufacturer or seller. I received no compensation other than the product sample. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

#smarssen


Life is about the map we follow and the treasure we find along the way


Product Review :: #Smarssen Heart Rate Monitor

Product Review :: #Smarssen Heart Rate Monitor
Product Review :: #Smarssen Heart Rate Monitor


Smarssen Portable Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor, iOS and Android Compatible


Accurate and Comfortable

I experience sinus tachycardia when I move around so I like to keep an eye on my heart rate. I have been considering the different ways to do it. In the past, I have had to wear a portable holtor monitor prescribed my doctor for various lengths of time but to purchase one of those on my own would be too expensive. I was fortunate to come across this Bluetooth heart rate monitor because it will work with various apps and I have found several that work for what I want. I need something that I can wear that will monitor my heart 24/7 so that I will not only have verification of any immediate problems but also have access to data that both my doctor and I can look at to recognize any patterns or trends with my heart rate.

The phone I paired this with is a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Bluetooth 4.0, Android 5.0.

#Smarssen Heart Rate Monitor

Advantages:
* Works with multiple apps, you can find the one that works best for your needs
* iOS and Android compatible
* Accurate – I measured this against 2 different oximeters and BP monitor
* Band is comfortable to wear, adjustable for many different sizes
* You are able to wash the band, huge plus when you wear something constantly
* Device attaches/detaches easily, no tangle of wires
* Easy to manage by myself
* I can see right away when my HR is staying high for too long a period of time and then do what i can to get it down myself with medication or rest vs going to the ER.
* With the advantage of working with so many apps, everyone is bound to find one that tracks the kinds of things they are interested in be it just plain HR shown on the display of your phone to elaborate charts and graphs displaying your HR data along with your exercise statistics.

Disadvantages:
* The directions could have been a little more explicit when it comes to how the device pairs with apps (it doesn’t pair through Bluetooth scanning, but through scanning within each app) and the need for the band to be very moist in order to work. I really don’t like that the band has to be wet to work. It is not only uncomfortable, once it dries I loose my connectivity and then have to go through the pairing process again.

#Smarssen Heart Rate MonitorIdeally, it would have been nice if this monitor came with its own app. Many of the ones that were recommended didn’t work because of different updates to them or changes in compatibility. I am not done searching for the perfect app yet, but for my use as a 24/7 monitor I have been using primarily BLE Heart Rate Monitor, HRMonitor, and MotiFIT which I found all on Google Play. I will update this review as I find more apps that are useful for monitoring your HR 24/7. I am not really interested in all of the apps that were recommended in the first place since they are more for monitoring your heart rate during exercise. My exercise is walking as far as the bathroom and brushing my teeth.

In fact, the change you see here of an average HR of 75 to a high of 121 was when I simply walked into the bathroom and back.  You can see that something as simple as walking raises my HR, so it is important that I keep a close eye on it so that it doesn’t get dangerously high.

I am excited to show my doctor this heart rate monitor on my next visit along with some data, once I decide which app I like the best. This is such a reasonably priced product (under $40.00 at the time of this review) that anyone who has an interest in or really needs to be monitoring their heart rate will be able to justify the cost easily. It is probably much less expensive than your copay if you have to wear an holtor monitor or event monitor for any length of time.

Please note, many of the pictures are of the apps I have been using. I wanted you to be able to get a feel for the kind of data you will see and so you will know that it was actually tested and used. What you will receive when you get this is the monitor, elastic band, battery, and battery compartment tool. Which app you choose is up to you.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was selected to receive this Smarssen Portable Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor, iOS and Android Compatible at a discount in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All ratings are earned and never promised; all opinions and thoughts expressed are my own, and I am in no way associated with the manufacturer or seller. I received no compensation other than the product sample. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

#Smarssen


Life is about the map we follow and the treasure we find along the way