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.

 

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.

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?

Community that can’t be replaced

I want to take a minute and talk about community. I am a HUGE supporter of the internet and the beauty it brings. The internet has a great way to bring (and keep) people together.

For example, as a person that has moved to several states over the years, I’m able to stay in touch with friends from all over the world because of the internet. I can send emails, view pictures of their trip to China, and they can see our new house in the mountains of NC. This is all wonderful, but at the end of the day it can leave a person feeling alone in a room full of people. You have the world at your fingertips, but without real, tangible community, you are left lonely.

I am NOT saying that you can’t find great community online, but you still need community in real life (IRL). These days, I believe it’s easy to fall into the rhythm of not attending social events and gatherings to play another game of halo, or to hang out and read Wikipedia articles.

But at the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that we need peopleReal, in the flesh, people.

I would be lying if I said my 1-year-old didn’t have anything to do with this post, but in all honesty, he does. We’ve moved and that means finding a NEW church/community home. We desire for Henry to have a community of loving and giving adults and other children he can play and grow with. My son can’t find what he needs on a computer, he needs people. And he taught me that.

Babies, children, teens, and adults all need one another. We need to learn to grieve, love, have fun, and be together as community. We all learn from one another and that doesn’t stop with age.

What is community?

How do you seek out community?

What tips do you have for people new to a community single or otherwise?

Below is a list of IRL events that communities nationwide are hosting:

(in)courage

TED talks– ideas worth spreading

Continuing education

Community Reading programs

 

 

 

 

Pinterest sharing

Since we have blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and more, we have ENDLESS ways to give people insight into our tips and tricks of our daily life/work. Today I don’t want to share anything terribly productive, instead, I’m sharing some of my Pinterest boards that house some of my favorite things. 

For your enjoyment:

Pinterest:

Beer— Here you’ll find some of my favorite beers, from  craft to more mainstream.

My future office— Items for my future dream office/professional style 🙂

Wish List— Need a present idea for me? Check this one out!

What are things you like to share online? Pictures? Life? Achievements?

 

Is email killing you? (It’s crushing me)

I have been wondering lately where my productivity has gone. I started a brand new (awesome) job that I am loving that’s really pushing me to greater heights (it helps that my coworkers and bosses are fan freakin’ tastic). However, sometimes I look down and it’s been 2 hours since I started a project. I need and want to be productive, so I decided that this has to stop.

Last week, I took an inventory of my time, and I realized that I spent WAY too much time just ‘cleaning’ and organizing my inbox.

Everyone has been there with email. You’ve been working on ‘cleaning’ and ‘organizing’ your email to ‘put out fires’ and someone calls to see if you received their novel of an email. Regardless who it’s from, your boss, co-worker, or vendor looking to up-sell  it seems that email has become a life preserver as if to say ‘I held up my end, the ball is your court’.. and I’m done.

Conversations go something like this:

Them: I emailed you that proposal 203 hours and 23 minutes ago with 7 attachments and my edits to your proposal. Have you not read it yet?

Me: Not yet. I’m overloaded from the holidays.

Them: Ha! I know what you mean. I check mine all the time and still can’t seem to keep up.

Wait. WHAT?

So not only are we ‘using’ email as a file cabinet (are those even made anymore?) to make sure that we have a record of the conversation, but we’re never leaving work because we have to constantly keep our ‘desk’ clean by checking and cleaning our email. Don’t even get me started on voice-mail.

So all this begs me to ask: Why am I doing this to myself?

Answers (justifications?):

Because I manage several vendors and it’d be a nightmare otherwise? Vendor management. Oy vey.

Because workplace culture dictates? Maybe.

Because that is the only option right now? Not good enough and not hardly.

There are SEVERAL options out there for project correspondence and collaboration. Think 37signals. But what about day-to-day communication?

My background is in communications and email, in my opinion, IS NOT great tool for proper conversation. Honestly, it’s one-way. Forget about collaboration, it’s not good with that. Maybe if you are having correspondence with one person over time, but then, let’s call that what it is, a freakin’ letter.

Companies like Hootsuite are making a day-to-day conversation tool for communications within organizations, but I can see the comments so clearly…

‘I can’t follow the thread all the time!’

‘Ugh. Not another network to maintain.’

‘I’m not on Facebook,’

You see where I am going with this. While email is crushing me (and everyone’s productivity) I’m also weary on a taking the social network approach. However, I think we MUST re-imagine what communication looks like, and like everything, communication, like culture, is unique to a company.

What does communication look like for me and my company? 

Will I stop using email? Not right now, but I will improve my time management with it so I am able to really be productive.

How are you communicating in your office? Do you use a social type network? Do you love or loathe email?