Blood Pressure – Know Your Numbers

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how my heart beats.  There’s a family history of heart disease and congestive heart failure. Luckily for me, so far my blood pressure has trended on the low end of normal. However, now that the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have revised the guidelines for interpreting blood pressure (bp) numbers, I’m trending more towards “normal”.

I want low normal back and I bought a blood pressure monitor to motivate me to get there.

Mostly though, I’m a science geek and I want to see how much my blood pressure drops after doing yoga, and for how long that benefit lasts.  (This is the real reason I bought the bp monitor).

Then I discovered there’s quite a bit more to taking one’s blood pressure than sitting down, wrapping the cuff around an arm, and waiting patiently.

Did you know there are eleven elements that go into taking blood pressure correctly? And that only one out of 159 medical students tested in 2015 got all eleven? Most students averaged a 4.1. Meaning out of the eleven things that are supposed to occur before, during and after taking a blood pressure reading, most students remembered to do four of the eleven.  Four.

Also, blood pressure surges in the a.m. So, taking a bp rating in the morning and in the evening is recommended.

And then there’s how to record it. My bp machine has a memory, although I’m not at all sure how to access it. Plus, it’s much more meaningful to me to physically write down those numbers.

So now I take my blood pressure in the morning., 30 minutes after breakfast, and again in the evening, sometime around 8p or so. (and at various times throughout the day because my yoga schedule changes from day to day. Seriously, I’m a geek). I take it twice each time after sitting still for five minutes, with a one minute break in between readings.

And, because I’m a geek, (have I mentioned that?) I made a blood pressure tracker. And I’m sharing it with you.

Remember, I’m a marketing professional and a mindfulness instructor. I’m not a doctor, nor do I have medical training. This is for educational purposes only and none of this is to be taken as medical advice.

Also, home blood pressure monitoring is not a substitute for visits to your doctor. Always consult your physician if you believe there is cause for concern.

Sources:

Don’t Just Get Your Blood Pressure Checked; Make Sure It’s Taken The Right Way

New ACC/AHA High Blood Pressure Guidelines Lower Definition Of Hypertension

Nearly Half Of US Adults Could Now Be Classified With High Blood Pressure, Under New Definitions

Why You Should Check Your Blood Pressure In The Morning

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2017 – All rights reserved

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Thinking About Year-End Charitable Giving

Giving this year is especially important, in my opinion. And it requires more due diligence than ever to identify organizations intending to truly benefit those they serve.

Recently, I evaluated a small non-profit  that looks great online. Professional website, slickly produced testimonial videos and expertly written marketing copy. After maybe 45 minutes researching I was disappointed, though not surprised, to learn that this organization has consistently lost money on their fundraiser year after year, that even though the organization continues to lose money salaries go up, and that over the last fiscal year their revenue was tens of thousands of dollars less than their expenses. How, exactly, are they truly benefiting those they serve with those numbers?

The ways in which a non-profit spends the money it is given is a good indicator of intent.

During my days in non-profit administration, I had the benefit of being mentored by one of the best around. He consistently stressed the importance of overhead ratios : a minimum of 70% of each dollar raised goes back to the programs for those being served by the organization. In other words, no more than 30% of funds an organization raises can be spent on overhead (and frankly, he preferred no more than $15% be spent on overhead).

Charity Navigator, one of the resources I recommend, has developed guidelines outlining how a non-profit’s fundraising dollars should be allocated. Named Financial Efficiency Performance Metrics, Charity Navigator believes “those spending less than a third of their budget on program expenses are simply not living up to their missions”.

Charity Navigator evaluates over 8,000 organizations. However, they only rate organizations with over $1M in revenue. For those non-profits you’re considering with less than $1M, below are some other ways to understand how they manage their money and to determine if the organization is a good fit for your charitable giving.

Resources:

990 Finder   My favorite tool, honestly. Next to an annual report (which some smaller organizations can’t afford to produce) a 990 tells me how an organization spends their money. I look for organizations that spend at least $.85 of every $1.00 on programming, and the 990 helps me figure that out.

Charity Watch – I use this for the “articles by keyword” feature. When searching for an organization, Charity Watch will also return results for articles with that organization’s name as a search term.

ProPublica has a nonprofit explorer that I use for visual representation of a non-profit’s spending.

IRS Exempt Organization Search  Basic due diligence here. Used to find EIN numbers, federal deductibility status, and a link to those non-profits who have had their status revoked.

State SOS offices:   Most states require non-profits to register with the state. Conducting a “business name search” on the SoS website will allow you to determine if a non-profit is in good standing with the state and will show if they file the required paperwork on time. It may also give you access to the organization’s articles of incorporation, etc.

Additionally, annual reports and audited financial statements are a great way to gain insight into a non-profit’s intent.

It cannot be overstated–Older, established non-profits deserve just as much scrutiny as smaller, less well-established non-profits. In some cases, I might argue that they deserve more scrutiny, if only to guarantee that their mission and program funding have remained stable and in line with those they serve.  Case in point: Red Cross Executive Director doesn’t know what portion of donations go to Harvey Relief (8/30/2017).

VIP.S. Tax reform will impact charitable giving. PBS has conducted an analysis here.

Also, this.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2017 – All rights reserved

Net Neutrality Is A Big Deal — UPDATED

(12/15)     The FCC voted yesterday to kill net neutrality. We’re keeping this space updated with what that means for us, how (and when) it will affect us, and what we can all do about it.

First action item: Call your members of congress.  This link gives you their contact information.  Note: This info. is only for their Washington D.C. office. Click on each member’s webpage to find their local office contact info. Then call both locations for each of your congress members. Pro tip: Put it in your calendar to call them on a regular basis.

______________________

Communication, however imperfect, is the fundamental to society. To our society. Enabling debilitating access to information obtained via any format suppresses free speech, places an even heavier financial burden on public school budgets, and contributes to insurmountable challenges for small businesses.

An open internet does not stifle investment or innovation.

In three weeks (Dec. 14th) the FCC will vote to end net neutrality.  That vote could negatively impact us. All of us.

Let’s protect our right to go where we want to go and do what we want to do on the internet. 5calls.org and jointhebattleforthenet.com offer many ways to make our voices heard, from calling and writing our members of congress to ready-made alerts and banners for our social spaces.

The plan to end net neutrality explained here.   The FCC’s proposal here.

Why preserving net neutrality matters: 
Explainer video here (:34).
Another explainer video with more detail here (6:19)
Article here.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s position in favor of net neutrality here.

Nov. 27, 2017 letter from hundreds of businesses to the Chairman of the FCC in favor of preserving net neutrality.

Op-Ed from member of the FCC in support of net neutrality. “Net Neutrality is the right to go where you want and do what you want on the internet without your broadband provider getting in the way. It means your broadband provider can’t block websites, throttle services or charge you premiums if you want to reach certain online content.”
Her profile here.

Regardless of political orientation, this affects us all. We will all suffer the consequences of ending net neutrality. 

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2017 – All rights reserved

13 Nights Of Halloween

My all-time favorite Halloween decoration.

I love Halloween.

Last year we blatantly borrowed from Freeform’s 13 Nights Of Halloween and created our own. It was so much fun we’re making it a tradition. This year we added a couple of books and some TV episodes to our movie mix from last year.

Here’s Our List for 2017:

Note: Harry Potter is our Thanksgiving movie marathon tradition.
Note 2: All of our choices are available thorough Hulu, Netflix, or the Public Library. 

If you’re interested in creating your own 13 days of Halloween here are some ideas to get you started:

Movies
Here’s a whole list of TV movies and marathons for Halloween 2017.  Turner Classic Movies does Halloween right.  Note to self: We might make next year’s Halloween movie list all classic suspense movies . . . .

Another list that includes TCM and adds in the Hallmark Channel Halloween movies, too.

The Witchiest Movies of 2017

A good list of non-scary stop motion movies to watch is here.

TV Shows/Episodes
15 Best Halloween TV Episodes and another list here.

If you’re into scary, here’s a list.

ANY of the Doctor Who Weeping Angels episodes, BlinkThe Time Of Angels / Flesh and StoneThe God Complex  and The Angels Take Manhattan.  Bonus, The Empty Child and Tooth and Claw are super scary, too.  The Empty child has one of my all time favorite Doctor Who lines, which will spoil things if I quote it here.

Books
Cozy Mystery Halloween book list, and here and here.

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s list of spooky but not quite scary books is here.

A list of Halloween picture books, Common Sense Media’s recommendations here, a YA list here, and several kids / YA lists mixed in here.

And, because Pinterest is the place for everything, here’s a board with all kinds of Halloween cozy mystery suggestions (with some Autumn suggestions, too).

If you’d rather, and you have access to Freeform, here’s their 2017 schedule.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2017 – All rights reserved

Update – My 16 Year News Addiction

Recently, I wrote about my 16 year addiction to the news (you can read about it here).

It’s been over 30 days (38 to be exact) since I’ve logged on to any news website or turned the TV t0 24/7 news.

As I sat down to work this morning, it occurred to maybe it’s worth spending a moment to think about what’s changed.

I noticed that even the thought of TV news makes me a bit nauseous now.

I noticed a need to supplement my mindfulness curriculum with activities based around kindness (a most mindful thing) and took steps to incorporate kindness in every mindfulness class I teach.

I noticed I have a lot more ideas for blog posts, both here and over on Irish Yoga Chick.

I’ve noticed I’m a lot more creative in general.

I noticed it’s been 4 days since I’ve checked Twitter. At all. And that it’s been a little tougher than ditching the news on the web and the TV.

I noticed a significant increase in the number of entries to my yearly book journal. Most of them are cozy mysteries I’ve read on my tablet (Yep. I made it into the 21st century and now read ebooks. Sometimes.) Some of my favorite series are Molly MacRae’s Haunted Yarn Shop series, Hannah Reed’s Scottish Highlands series, Sheila Connolly’s County Cork series, and Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series.

I’ve learned about the Agatha Awards, named for Agatha Christie and presented to authors in the cozy genre.

I’ve noticed I ditched a lot of TV shows on my Hulu watchlist, mostly those with over the top violence. Definitely not Jane The Virgin, though. And Kevin (Probably) Saves The World. tThose shows are just FUN.

If I were into analyzing myself, I’d think what I choose to read and DVR directly correlates to how the constant culture of violence and flat- out meanness has negatively and deeply affected my spirit, and it wasn’t until I removed the platforms that serve as constant reminders that I realized just how damaging the impact has been.

I’ve noticed I now make my bed every day. I don’t know how, or if that correlates. I’ll take it, though.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2017 – All rights reserved

cross posted to Irish Yoga Chick

If You’re Struggling

  1. Walk away from the tv, the computer, the cell phone. Even just for 5 minutes. Take a few deeply conscious breaths, go outside, or call someone you trust. Your Mind Matters.
  2. Recovery International offers in-person, online, chat and phone meetings.
  3. IMAlive offers immediate chat with volunteers.
  4. 7 Cups of Tea offers instant support and online counselling, too.
  5. Therapy For Black Girls is committed to making mental health issues more accessible and relevant for Black women. There’s a podcast here (weekly, I think).
  6. The Trevor Lifeline 1-866-488-7386 gives support to LGBTQIA youth.There’s also a text option. Text “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200.
  7. AAAl-Anon and Alateen host in-person and online meetings all over the US.
  8. The National Alliance For Mental Health (NAMI) offers a phone HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) available Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET if you want help finding resources in your area.
  9. NAMI’s 24/7 crisis text line is reached by texting NAMI to 741-741
  10. The National Suicide Prevention Line answers the phone 24/7 800-273-TALK (8255).

Each of these resources is free or low cost (sliding scale) and are available to all religions, sexual orientations and skin colors. Some are staffed by trained volunteers, some are staffed by licensed counselors.

We are all in this together, and there’s no shame in admitting that sometimes we all need a little help. #IDontMind

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2017 – All rights reserved

cross posted to Irish Yoga Chick

My 16 Year Addiction To The News

A photo I took shortly after the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.

Last week, subscribers to my newsletter learned about my 16 year addiction to the news. (You can read it here).

As of today, it’s officially been 14 days since I’ve watched any news on tv. Additionally, I haven’t randomly gone to any news websites, either.

I’ve also made some progress in breaking my addiction to Twitter news. I’ve rearranged  how my tweets are delivered, making a specific “news” tab that I check a max of 2x a day for 15-20 minutes. And I have not checked Twitter in the middle of the night once in the last two weeks. Yeah, that’s progress.

Instead of my constant need to have the news on in the background, both day and night, I now subscribe to 3 news aggregation emails that I read every morning. I also have a couple of podcasts lined up, however I just realized I haven’t listened to them in the last two weeks, either.

My favorite news aggregation email is The Morning News (probably because it’s delivered just like Twitter. The irony is not lost on me.) Politico’s Playbook and Morning Media round out my three. Both of the Politico subscriptions are pretty wonky. The Skimm is another good one. It’s less less wonky, too.

As for podcasts, The Daily is a short, in-depth look at one current topic each day. Vox’s The Weeds (semi-weekly), Lovett or Leave It and Pod Save America (weekly — and really, all of the Crooked Media podcasts are informative) are my go-to. And, of course, my local NPR podcasts.

My fear that I wouldn’t be prepared, or that I’d somehow be “sticking my head in the sand” if I wasn’t focused on the news 24/7 hasn’t played out that way at all. If anything, I’m more aware of what’s going on in my neighborhood, my city and my state now because I’m choosing where to focus my attention and not depending on ratings-hungry media companies to decide for me what’s important.

Completely random, Austin Kleon’s newsletter today has several links on just this topic as his #1 of “ten things worth sharing.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2017 – All rights reserved

May Deal – Pay What You Think Is Fair

A couple of weeks ago maybe, as I was sitting in my office staring out the window, I was overcome with how much my life has changed and how overwhelmingly grateful I am for so much.

A couple of years ago life was upended. All at once. As is life’s prerogative. Initially, this was not o.k.

Not. O.k. At. All.

I was fond of saying “It’s fine if my work life is chaos as long as my home life isn’t.” And vice versa. This was not that. This was all chaos all the time.

A couple of months ago, the last of that chaos worked it’s way out of the picture.

And that’s how I came to be looking out my office window a couple of weeks ago. That office, that window, that view, are the end result of all that chaos. And the view feels good.

HeyAmyLou came to be during all that chaos. And now is the time to celebrate.

So, HeyAmyLou is making May Pay What You Think Is Fair Pricing Month for our newsletter production and design services, mailing list development and maintenance, or website development services.

You tell us what you think is fair pricing. HeyAmyLou will  give you the same great service, product and attention you always get.

HeyAmyLou is a company built around ethics, respect, family, and fun. We take pride in the ability to meet our client’s needs. Pay What You Think Is Fair Month is our virtual cake and candles celebration. A big WHOO-HOO! We MADE it!

We want you and your business to make it, too.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2017 – All rights reserved

*image created with Canva.

Newsletters Are The Backbone Of Any Good Business

We just spent more time than most people would consider reasonable researching award-winning newsletters.

And after we write this post, we’re probably going to hide the rest of today’s to-do list in a drawer and conduct even more research (research should probably be in quotes here, because this certainly doesn’t feel like work).

Want to see some award-winners?

Webby has you covered.  Here’s 2016 and 2015, for starters.

There’s more inspiration here and here, as well as here and here.  Mailchimp makes inspiration a part of their routine. Constant Contact does, too, although their inspiration isn’t really that inspiring, ioho.

Let’s back up, though. There’s a lot of work that goes into actually designing an award winning newsletter. And, even if you’re not out to win any awards, designing and managing a newsletter is lots of work.

Here at HeyAmyLou, these are some of the tools we use:

Mailchimp is our email marketing platform. It’s user-friendly, fairly robust and cost-effective for most small businesses.

Canva for creating graphics, either with our own photography, or images supplied by Canva.

Creative Market and Death to Stock Photo for images.* When we don’t have our own and Canva’s just aren’t doing it for us, we’ll reach out to one of these three for commercial-use photos. Creative Market is priced by the image. Death to Stock Photo has a basic pack that’s $15 a month and has a sizeable library.

Pictaculous and Paletton for color schemes.

We like Easel.ly for infographics, although Canva is a good option, too. We recently completed an infographic for a client’s annual report depicting the different countries where her subscribers live.

From there, it’s all about the marketing. That’s what a newsletter is, right? Email marketing. It’s all about branding, design responsiveness, effective communication, and compliance.

Newsletter design isn’t for everyone and there’s no shame in that. Chances are you went into business to do anything but design newsletters, right? And it’s probably taking up more of your time than you want it to. Or worse yet, you’ve put off doing it simply because you know it’s not something you want to spend time on.

Here’s the thing, though. We wrote a post on the very fact that email is not dead. In fact, it’s one of the best methods of generating revenue for your business when used correctly (as in, no spamming, quality call-to-action when applicable). Plus, unlike social, email marketing is still controlled by the user, not the platform. In other words, online friendships (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, all those platforms we’re told will revolutionize our marketing) do not change the fundamentals of friendship. Or loyalty. Email marketing can, when used correctly, foster loyalty to a brand.

Hiring someone to design and manage your newsletter doesn’t mean hiring someone to do the fun stuff:  picking colors, making infographics and writing the content for your newsletter, although a quality newsletter designer also works with your brand color scheme, designs infographics based on your content, and formats your content to fit the chosen design.

Hiring someone to design and manage your newsletter means  hiring someone to manage compliance, DMARC, mailing list maintenance (bounces, duplicates and unsubscribes) and deal with every glitchy design platform that never puts the text box/photo/headline/video were you want it, no matter how much time you spend trying.

Hiring someone to design and manage your newsletter means hiring someone who gives you back the time to do what it was you wanted to do when you went into business in the first place. The thing you do that doesn’t feel like work. The thing you’d do for free if money weren’t an option. Is that thing producing newsletters? For HeyAmyLou, it is

So, why not hire someone to design and manage your newsletter? What’s stopping you?

*As with all content, always, always, always abide by the terms of service, and credit the work.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2017 – All rights reserved

 

I Like Newsletters

I do. It’s true.

As A reader, I look forward to seeing them in my inbox. I have complete control over what lands in my inbox, unlike Facebook, Twitter and other platforms that want to “curate a user experience” for me. I can read them on my time as opposed to having to drop everything and read it right now or run the risk of watching is swallowed up by the increasingly unmanageable “timeline”.

As someone who not only reads them but creates them, I believe they are one of the most cost effective, efficient and client-centric ways to communicate. I wrote a post here discussing the benefits of newsletters. Short answer: developing and sharing content of importance to your clients is one of the best ways to illustrate loyalty and commitment to your clients, as well as showcasing your expertise. Newsletters, done correctly, are personal.

As a reader, some of my favorite newsletters are: Austin Kleon, DO Lectures, and HeyAmyLou.

As a creator, I find inspiration from Really Good Emails, CreativeMornings curated list, and Mailchimp’s Look What You Can Do.

© copyright HeyAmyLou 2017 – All rights reserved