5 Reasons Why I Choose to Live in Canton, NC.

Sorrells Street Park-Canton, NC

I have lived in Canton, NC since May 2013. Before that? Hickory, NC, Minnesota, Alaska, and born and raised in The Lone Star State—TEXAS. I’m proud.

I have been immensely blessed to have lived in amazing places where I’ve found friends that turned into family. Now, with a husband and a young child, we knew we needed to make a move that put us close to family for support. More importantly, we were ready to put down roots, buy a house, get careers. Our stereotypical millennial ‘follow your dreams’ had faded into, ‘let’s find a home, community, and purpose where I can feel settled and calm’. Dreams change (I used to dream about pulling a ‘Promised Land‘, I really dodged a bullet there!).
Our family’s unlikely path lead us back to my husband’s hometown of Canton, NC, where people from outside of town—for some reason—are always asking why we live here. With a paper mill in the center of town, the stigma is high. Over 100 years ago, the paper mill was built and has been a staple of the town since. Besides employment, the paper mill also (and still does) the water treatment. The result, roughly 3/7 days a week there is a smell from the mill. I still smell it, but knowing that the town is actively addressing the water challenges is encouraging, and the smell is part of that.

Regardless of stigma, smell, or small town size, I have fallen in love with this place. Why?

 

Location, location, location. Positioned right off I-40, the Town of Canton is only 20-25 minutes to downtown Asheville (where I work), only minutes away from amazing hiking, and the tourist friendly Town of Waynesville. Canton also has some great amenities, like a Japanese, Southern, and Mexican restaurants, several grocery stores–including Food Lion and a great Ingles (with a Starbucks! I have a problem). For us, we also have family close by (see BONUS below).

Affordability. Canton has a much lower median house price than several areas of Buncombe County (especially Asheville) and even some parts of Haywood County. Rent in Asheville/Buncombe county is painfully high and in short supply. Right now, rent in the area we live in (according to an unscientific poll) ranges from $600-$850/mo for a 2-bedroom 1-bathroom house. I have some colleagues paying double that in the Asheville Metro.

Canton Rec park

Walk-ability to recreation. We live in town, so that means sidewalks that lead to the Recreation Park! While several towns and cities in the region have this as well, it is typically coupled with higher priced housing. Basically, you pay to have access and the views. Here, we have affordable housing that is located in a place where we can take a walk by the Pigeon River, and enjoy the local pool and playground. There are also basketball courts, a small skateboard zone, sand volleyball, and river access.

On a walk around Canton

Scenery. This place is beautiful.  That is all.

Family Friendly. The affordability, the recreation, access to healthcare, the rec park… did I say that one already? The town’s recreational programming team and community works dilligently on family friendly activities and events. From the Labor Day Festival (the oldest Labor Day celebration in the Southeast), National Nights Outs, Shining Rock Riverfest, Christmas Parades, Fourth of July celebrations (fireworks on the 5th, always, because why not?), and so much more.

Grit. I don’t use this term lightly, especially after reading Grit by Angela Duckworth, a book about passion and perseverance. This town was built on the backs of the American worker. It values community and it knows that the paper mill is part of the community because Canton was built around it. When other mills were being closed and outsourced, this paper mill stayed open, Fun Fact: The Canton papermill makes your Starbucks cups!

This community perseveres and fights. They are proud and focused on preserving Canton for the next generation. That could mean ensuring future work training for future generations through pulp and paper vocational training, encouraging chemistry for students in local high schools, and developing and sustaining family owned and small businesses. Count me in.

Hometown band, Balsam Range describes Canton’s history in their award-winning album, Papertown:

BONUS: Last but not least, proximity to family. We live close to family that has been a great support system for us. We can’t do this alone, and don’t want to! You can’t put a price tag on free babysitting… but I have. We’ve saved at least $4,500 in past 3 years living close to free babysitting family. They have picked up my son when he’s sick at preschool when my husband and I didn’t see the calls come through, we’ve enjoy dinners made by someone else when we were too tired to cook, and we get to watch our son grow up knowing family.

So, if you still want to know if it smells, I’d say you are asking the wrong question. Is Canton improving this family’s quality of life? Yes.

I like my question better.

My TV ignorance and what I’m going to do.

Before I graduated college, moved back to the lower 48 from the great white north, married, and had a child, I didn’t watch much television. Many conversations at work, school, and later in church, would go over my head since they would be discussing the latest show developments.

My personality type radiates toward more biographies, historical, and sometimes, if I really wanted to live on the edge, historical fiction. As a result, I did often miss out on bonding moments when television was discussed. However, thanks to Hulu, Netflix, and other online streaming services, I am able to see why Grey’s, Pacey, and Olivia Pope are so important to people.

First came the stream, then came the binge.

When I was on maternity leave with my son 3.5 years ago, and was nursing every two hours, I started getting stir crazy. Did I say I was in Minnesota at the time? Yes, nothing like a Minnesota winter while on maternity to  feel cabin fever. When late night feedings happen, sometimes you have to stop sitting in the dark at 1:30am. You wonder how the world is going on around you, however, reading the newspaper becomes frightening, at least it was for me. I had a small life in the world that I was suddenly incredibly responsible for. I couldn’t handle thinking about another recession, the Middle East, and famines while only getting 2 hours of sleep at a time and eating only ‘quiet’ food that could be consumed while nursing (nothing hot, crunchy, drippy, snoozy, doopey… I digress)

After my reading options were exhausted, I would reach for the computer, specifcally Netflix. At the time Grey’s Anatomy was featured, so I pressed play. Previously, a colleague had called me April Kepner. Now, I get the joke.

My sorority sisters would talk about McDreamy and something recalled ‘er’ from years prior. Whenever I was invited to an ‘Oscars Night’, I was pretty ignorant as to what was happening. It’s really confusing to a former TV outsider why people would get so invested in fictitious characters.  Now? I get it.

It’s not just about the story, but the shared stories.

  • About how you see yourself in others.
  • About how stories ripped from the headlines are presented for an audience (sometimes for better or for worse).
  • About how special it is when you see how dreams can come true.
  • About hope.
  • About sadness.

People are all about stories, and sharing them is critical to our social and societal survival. That maternity leave left me thinking about not only my story, but the stories I would tell my son about the things he would never see. Like how his great-great-grandmother would keep Cokes and chocolate chip cookies in her kitchen for our visits while we played with her antique Lincoln Logs. Or how while living in Alaska, I was able to go snowshoeing all winter just by walking a few blocks out of Nome. Or How I couldn’t really read until I was 8, and at three he can read 3 words already. Or where I was when 9/11 happened.

Thanks to the Internet, I can now catch up on stories, for better or worse, for laughs or tears, for fun or torture.

Since in recent years I have realized and accepted television ignorance, I am making a resolution.

My TV resolution: watch all of an infamous NBC show called Parks and Recreation.

With who: husband (big fan) and a work colleague (big fan)
When: at least an episode a week
Why: because I love Amy Poehler, and have already read her biography (proof from the statement in paragraph two)
How: Netflix!

I recognize that I could enhance my mind by learning a new language, reading a new book, or doing something for the home during that time versus watching television, but really, this is for me. I now know that I need some ridiculous entertainment to loosen up and recognize when I am just plain overly stressed. I need to take a break.

I couldn’t do this completely without the internet.

Retailer Price Management: Leaving Customers Behind?

Recently, there was an article from the AP in the Ashville Citizen-Times that stopped me in my tracks. It was a retail focused piece that described how e-commerce sites have been working on and implementing price monitoring systems for the past few years. This isn’t anything new, considering that retail has secret shoppers (humans) that search out competitors, visit stores, and report on prices, displays, selection, and more. Now, they are going into hyper-speed online. How? By using systems that will change prices online based on a competitors online price, current inventory, and the company’s bottom line.

Some people have said ‘What’s the big deal, Kristina? Isn’t that what businesses have been doing for as long as retail can remember?’ To that, I say ‘Of course’. However, last time I checked my Aunt didn’t search and purchase at stock exchange speed. Ok, maybe the sites aren’t that fast, but they are getting closer.

The pricing systems, according to this article, for many large corporations, like Amazon and Wal-Mart, now have the pricing structure so they are able to change prices in minutes. For customers, that means that you can check a price, comeback an hour later, and it’s changed. From a business perspective, to change prices based on the market, bottom line, and several other factors, that can seem like a dream come true. But I have to ask, what about customers? I believe that some companies do factor in the customer’s need for consistent, yet competitve pricing. But from a customer’s perspective, competitive means lowering prices, not yo-yo-ing them up and down.

The airline industry has been doing this for ages. We are used to price fluctuation now for airlines and think we have it figured it all out. However, we all know that it’s still a gamble with those airline tickets to go see Grandma for her birthday or mom and dad for Christmas break from college.

When it comes to retail, customers like to do their homework, but will that even be possible to do that with a minute-by-minute price changes?

Perhaps, with tools that compare online retail pricing. They aren’t as well known as their airfare counterparts like Kayak and Expedia for example, but they are out there.

Enter Pricegrabber.

Pricegrabber.com compares prices for retail products from toys to TVs. This is wonderful when you consider all of the purchase options that are out there and how exhausting it can be to surf  all the major retailers for the Christmas toys, for example— not that I have a 2 year-old to shop for.

One thing I noticed while being on Pricegrabber, was that there is definitely a time delay on price changes. I looked for a big ticket toy (a play kitchen) and Pricegrabber said it was $129.99 at Target, but when I searched on Target.com, I saw it was $125.99.

Now, that’s not a huge difference, and in about 1.5 hours, Pricegrabber was updated, but I’m not sure how often these competitors websites are crawled and updated.

I am hoping that retail doesn’t 100% go the way of airfare online. It’s one thing to be competitive, but it is another to constantly change prices so often that by the time you get your credit card out of your wallet to make a purchase, the price has gone up.

Finally, me purchasing a $50 is NOT the same as making a$1,230 investment in a first-class plane ticket. If we don’t have consistency in pricing, I think we could easily see more skeptical customers that already doubt pricing anywhere they go. Big box stores say there is room for no negotiation on prices, but with these online systems changing by the hour (or minute), customers will be calling BS very soon.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on how this could RUIN brand loyalty.

 

Why I Adore The Mindy Project

You’re probably familiar with Mindy Kaling, aka Kelly Kapoor from The Office, and her latest and greatest show, The Mindy Project. As the show’s creator, co-producer, and main star, Kaling hits an absolute home-run not only with the overall rom-comedy of the show, but with her character—also named Mindy—and her antics of living, working, and finding love in New York City.

When The Mindy Project first aired in September 2012, I was ready. I not only loved her character on The Office, but her twitter account KILLED me. Her whit, humor, and ability to poke fun at herself was refreshing, honest, and hilarious. As a millennial, I find her highly relatable.

In The Mindy Project, Kaling doesn’t disappoint and her brilliance is apparent throughout the show. Her lifestyle makes me thankful for what I have… basically, I am happy that I am out of the dating scene.

Be who you are.

It is not all sunshine and creatively styled outfits for Mindy. Not only do many of her relationships fail—falling in love with a rich sports agent who turns out to be an addict—but Mindy goes onto show how a person can do a job well AND with passion (not wanting to drop her non-insured patients when a new career opportunity arises. Can I get a hell yeah?), all without ignoring who she is as a person (pop obsessed, awkward, rom-com addict). That is no easy task. Sometimes her personality is her greatest strength and her greatest flaw. But she is always herself, regardless of the result. You have to give her props for that.

Knowing what you want and need.

In Season 2, Mindy is engaged to a hip-hop style mainline pastor, Casey, who has a ‘what-is-my-true-calling?’ crisis. When Casey can’t decide what his true calling in life should be, their relationship gets complicated. Should he be a Pastor? Missionary? DJ? …. Spoiler alert… he ends up being a shoe designer in LA… Mindy realizes what she wants and NEEDS. She needed someone stable. Someone that wasn’t still looking to find themselves. She knew her limits, and the engagement was over.

This was a highly relatable moment. A human moment. People fall in love all the time and realize that it’s not 100% about happiness, but what you  need. I don’t believe this is selfish, I believe it is honest. It takes strength to stop a relationship, but The Mindy Project goes there with a laugh along the way.

Mindy is honest.

She is honest with herself and with others. She may compare her life, and those around her, to celebrity crushes, but she tells others how she feels. It may not feel that way when she’s dishing out her long-winded weekend plans or talking about how she reads Bridget Jones’ Diary when she’s sick, but she will tell you anything you ask, and if she believes you are being rude or invasive, she’ll tell you that too.

This strong female character makes me excited about the future of television.

Thanks Mindy Kaling.

The Mindy Project airs Tuesday nights on FOX.

Surface RT Review

I’ve had my Surface RT since November 31, 2013 (It was an early Christmas/Birthday present), that’s a little over two months now and I’m really impressed with this tablet.

I had been wanting to get a tablet for entertainment, but couldn’t rationalize dropping hundreds of dollars to add another screen ‘for fun’ in our household. However, the more I learned about the Surface, the more I realized that this tablet might be the investment I’d been waiting on.

The Surface RT really seemed to fit the bill.

How I’ve used the tablet:

Work:

  • Downloading spreadsheets and word docs for presentations
  • Splitting the screen to do an internet search or check analytics to insert onto the spreadsheet
  • Reading up on current events and industry news
  • Editing docs on-the-go

Entertainment:

  • NETFLIX! This was amazing when I was ill in bed.
  • Twitter. I have tried to give up this social media outlet, but I am addicted to the 140-character format.

 

What are some pieces of technology that you can’t seem to live without? How did you choose them?

 

5 items I appreciate

As I approach 30, I’m noticing that there are items and places that make my life easier. The past few years, our family has been focusing on making life simpler instead of accumulating ‘things’. From clothes for work to the tech we buy,  I now know that less, is indeed, more.

Below I have a list of items and places that have helped with the ‘less is more’ mentality when it comes to self-care, finances, and productivity.

1. The Happiness Advantage.

Self-care, Finances, Productivity

A book. And, no, it’s not all fairies and rainbows. If you’ve ever wondered about the science behind happiness, read this book and learn how happiness is the start, not the end result of success. This book reminds me that happiness is a choice, not a perk of completing something, and how ‘things’ (including degrees and recognition) wont fill you up.

2. Trader Joe’s.

Finances, Self-care

Now, I know that this place isn’t perfect. But we watch sodium, saturated fat, preservatives, and food dyes in our house, and TJ’s  makes it easier.  There are limited options at each store compared to a regular grocery store which prevents me from getting too distracted in the sweets aisle. Also, with their budget friendly prices, we can afford to try new things and not brake the bank.  

3. Surface RT.

Productivity

Purchased on sale for $200, it was a Christmas/ Birthday gift. This was a splurge, but it has been awesome (it was on sale for Black Friday and we called a few stores the following weekend to check availability, and some of the Best Buy’s in more rural areas still had some)! Since I’m able to use Windows on this tablet, I can pull up spreadsheets and reports in meetings for reference instead of shuffling papers. It’s been a great tool for testing email templates too (part of my job as an Email Marketing Manager) since we don’t have smartphones anymore.

4. Library Card.

Finances, Self-care

When I was little, my mother took us to the library on Saturdays when she wasn’t working. We spent time reading books, checking out videos on dolphins, and reading Highlights. Over time, I have come to appreciate the library again (since I’ve been out of college for a few years). Now, I can check out an e-magazine on my Surface, books that I otherwise would have bought for professional development, and even audio books for my long(-ish) daily commute. Also, my son really enjoys going to the children’s room at the library to color and play with puzzles- win for winter!

5. Real Things.

 Self-care, Finances, Productivity

I know, this seems ridiculous. But when I was in college, I—like so many others—I consumed poorly. From ramen noodles to lots of cheap products all around. I didn’t think about what I was buying and consuming, I just knew that I could or couldn’t afford the item. Now? Well, we’re still on a tight budget, but we know that spending extra money on food or decent chemical free products is more beneficial to us in the long run. Yes, it’s more expensive, but we’re making choices with our money. 

We also learned that when we buy ‘cheaper’ items, we spend more money in the long run replacing the item. It’s true, you get what you pay for.

What about you? What do you appreciate more now that you didn’t think about before?

Turning 30

I have been thinking about the future lately. I suppose it has to do with the new year that arrived and the fact that I’m turning 30(!) this year. The big 3-0 is something that I’m welcoming with open arms. My twenties were crazy. From college graduation to Alaska to getting married and moving (again and again)…Oh, yeah, and having this adorable kiddo!WNC Nature Center 011

I welcome the thoughts of settling down and making some tough choices. Choices about money, where we live, work, play… the list goes on. The choices I make now, are not only for me, but for my family.

Things I think about as I turn 30:

  • My choices are my own, only I can make them, and they impact people around me.
  • My choices are exactly that. Choices. I may make the wrong one, but I’ll learn.
  • It’s  alright to try new things… and it’s alright not to like them, no matter how ‘cool’ they are.

When I was in my early 20s, I would read countless articles from women that said that they were more comfortable in their own skin in their 30s than they were in their 20s. I never understood that. In my 20s, I could do anything, be anything, and move anywhere. And, for the most part, I did.

What is more comfortable than all that freedom? Man I was naive.

Today, I’m still shocked that seasoned professionals grabbed me and kept me focused. From awesome managers to tremendous mentors that still check on me from time to time.

Now I am more confident and sure of my choices than I have been in my entire life. Yes, all 29 years. I enjoy the work I do and the people I work with. I make choices on who I work with and for. That is liberating. 

Another thing I never new would bring so much freedom is security.

Yes, I said it, security.

20s are not as glamorous as everyone makes them out to be. Seriously, my idea of a fun weekend was taking the bus to Borders (yes, it’s now closed), getting a magazine, and going home to cook dinner. Glamorous? Glam cost dinero. I had none.

Knowing I have a job, a family to come home to, a car that works, or money to try some new recipes is the best I’ve felt since… ever. They are simple things. But I love simple.

Sure, the days I didn’t have a car and rode the bus all over the Twin Cities was… humbling. But now? I’d rather have a car to run errands with a toddler.

Today, I know what I need, what I like, and what I can do to keep me and my family happy and healthy. I know and trust God to guide us, and if I truly desire to be successful in my life’s relationships, work, and health, I need the help of others. I need community. People better than I am. Friends and family that love me. In my 30s, I want to nurture that.

Bring on my 30s!

20s- I know you’ll always be there because Facebook will always remind me.

Skip Facebook?

I used to tell small business owners that Facebook was a cost effective way to connect with their customers. I have to say, that it has never been free. Your time is precious and costs money.

Now, after so many businesses logged on, bought in, took the time to integrate Facebook into their businesses and marketing plans, what does Facebook do? Hold their fans hostage.

How is this one social network doing this? Well when you insert a status update on a brand (business) page, you have to pay to reach your whole audience. It has been this way for a while, I know. So what is a small business to do?

Ask yourself these 5 questions:

  1. Who are my customers and how do they interact/purchase with my business?
  2. Where are my customers? Are they online only? Or are they coming into your brick-and-mortar location(s)?
  3. What messages resonate with your customers and are those messages best delivered on Facebook, or would another medium be better?
  4. How are you able to measure you marketing initiatives now?
  5. Are your marketing goals aligned with business goals?

#5 is probably a better place to start if you really want to see if it is worth the investment to put money toward Facebook posts. In my mind, funding for marketing is always worth the investment if… IF you are measuring the return and if your initiatives are based on business goals.

I have read blog posts about companies leaving Facebook. If you have built an audience by putting in the time and money already, that can be a painful business decision. There are also people that might be married to Facebook, which makes the decision a much harder one.

What are your thoughts? Are you leaving Facebook?

Email Marketing Holiday Message Overload

The past few weeks have been crazy in my email inboxes. I have been bombarded with holiday messages about savings and specials the last 6-8 weeks.

One common thread that I have noticed is that several businesses have sent out the same email multiple times. The same email, even if I opened and clicked through previously. Same image placement and copy. That leaves me wondering, what the marketing people were thinking when they decided to send the same email? Were they focused on getting me to convert this time? Did you think I didn’t see the great free shipping offer?

I can also relate to tired marketers during the holiday season. However, when you send the same content over and over again, customers will only see the same content.

What are some reasons to send the same email to the same audience?

 

Update: No more smart phone

You know those people that say once you go ‘smart you can’t go back’? Well, they would be correct.

This. Is. Aweful.

Some would say that I need to be more ‘in the moment’, versus addressing the nagging feeling of wanting to narcissistically tweet out my thoughts, prayers, food, or check-ins.

I thought everyone wanted to be ‘in the moment’ with me. Is that not the case? Do people want to address their daily lives without reading about my son’s first trip to the Thai Food restaurant?

I have had a ‘dumb’ phone for about a month now and I can’t stand it. Yes, sometimes I find it glorious that I can leave work and really leave without the nagging feeling like I need to check my email. But now, that anxiety builds for HOURS until I am able to check my email and make sure that nothing is wrong (even though I know that nothing is blowing up).

I know this anxiety doesn’t have to do completely with not having a smart phone anymore, but I can’t help but get the feeling that this is the world we live in now. Do I need this connection? Is this the only way people are communicating now? I know people still communication face to face and so on, but the percentage of my day/week is very limited. How can I change that?

I can see how smartphones and technology are rewiring our brains. Am I acclimating? Yes. Do I like it? NO.

Will I stay smart-phone free forever? Probably not. But for now, this millenial mom is enjoying the extra $170/month.

 How are you engaging with the world around you sans technology?