An Honest Giveaway. What’s Your Poison?

Hello, guys! It’s been a while. And I’m not sure anyone even visits here anymore. ::crickets:: But I made a promise to the only brand I’ll shill for, and so here goes.

We are huge fans of Honest Kids Juices. So much so, we made them permanently available to our kids on our breakfast bar. They sit to the left of the tea and coffee fixins; they’re directly above the wine and liquor; they’re caddy corner to the seltzers and soda. Yes, we currently have our breakfast bar set up like we manage a bed and breakfast. I guess that’s kind of weird. But I set it up like that for Elliot’s birthday party and both Toby and I thought, “Huh. Why not leave it like this for a while? It’s rather useable this way.” So it’s been that way ever since.

But I digress. Anyway, Honest Fizz!

So, the folks over at Honest Tea sent me some free samples of their new, sugar free soda. And they want to give away two cases. Now, I’ll be frank with you because I always said that I would be: I don’t like fake sugar. I’ll take the real stuff any day, all day. I am a baker, after all. And I make and sell lollipops. I have TWO very large glass jugs of sugar permanently on my kitchen counter. (True story!) What I’m trying to say is: I use A CRAP TON of sugar. I buy it in bulk.

But some folks don’t like sugar for a plethora of reasons and cut back on their sugar intake. I get it! And I admire it. So, that’s where this soda comes in. Honest Fizz is made using organic stevia and organic erythritol. They offer 12 different flavors all with zero calories. And I want to give you a case! Free stuff, man!

So, if diet soda is your thing then I would love to offer you a case. My husband drinks it and particularly enjoyed the Honest Fizz Root Beer. All you have to do is tell me in the comments what you’d like to see on our breakfast bar when you stay with and we pamper you.

You have until Sunday evening at 6 PM to play. I will pick two people at random at that time.

IMPORTANT! Don’t forget to leave me a valid email address!

So, here’s my question to you: what’s your poison?

Honestly Finally.

About a year and a half ago a marketer sent me a big box of organic snacks and juices. The intention was to have me write about it, preferably mentioning how much my family loves it—blah blah blah—it’s the greatest yogurt on earth—blah blah blah—OMG you guys MUST go out and buy this stuff—blah blah blah.

Well, needless to say that didn’t happen. I just didn’t find the time to live up to my end of the bargain. What I did find time to do was consume every last drop of all that free stuff, especially the Honest Kids juice. And then after we ran out of the juice, I went out and bought more, a lot more.

And then more time went by and more juice was consumed and I felt even worse about never writing. I wrote her a couple of times letting her know that my kids loved the stuff, particularly the juice, and that I would write about it soon. And I meant it. I wanted to tell her about the time I served it to a child during a play date, a boy who isn’t allowed refined sugar. But since this juice is naturally sweetened (fruit only) he was allowed to have it. He thought the juice was the single greatest drink on earth. He was so into it, his mom and dad decided to pick some up as well. I meant to tell her that.

But I didn’t.

About a month ago, she sent me yet another package filled with their latest juices as well as a cool mason jar I continually drink from. The package also included a whole bunch of guilt. I was reminded of (yet again!) how I’d never written a thing. I mean, how hard can it be to throw something up here? C’mon, Michele.

So, here’s the deal: I’ve promised many times before that I won’t ever become a blogger who writes reviews, or accepts free goods from marketers just so I can lie and tell you how great a product is (even if it isn’t). I am a terrible liar. I also don’t have a lot of time. I honestly have NO idea how other mom bloggers do this sort of thing and remain full-time moms. I started this post three weeks ago, and it’s just now going to see the light of screen (or so I hope). I just can’t keep up with it.

This is what happens when I try and do anything for longer than 15 minutes:

I also don’t like feeling guilty, so I usually don’t agree to accepting free anything.

And even though to some degree advertising got both Toby and me to where we are today, I am not crazy about selling shit to people. I want people to make their own decisions based on their own tastes and needs. What do I know about what you like? Nothing. But I do know what I like, and I can and will discuss that.

And so…

Here’s the honest truth: I have been buying cases of Honest Kids juices since this particular marketer sent me her package. At first it was just a few here and there. But once we moved to the suburbs last October, and therefore discovered more storage, I started buying cases of the stuff. My mom buys it in bulk as well. She knows how much my kids love it, so it’s at her house as well.

I never wrote the review I promised all that while back and I’ve always felt badly about that. But what I have done is continue to buy the products she sent me. I became a loyal customer. My boys bring the juices to school for lunch every single day. If I forget to include one for some reason, I get an earful. We go through so much of this juice.

I’m even turning it into popsicles.

My family will continue to drink Honest Juices for the foreseeable future. I’ve turned at least two other families onto Honest Kids juices. I have even handed these juices out to the workers who did our roof, cut down our rotting trees, regraded and seeded our yard, and redid our bathroom. I gotta tell you, watching hardworking men and women with filthy fingers sip juice through a kid straw is pretty hilarious.

It only took me roughly 17 months to write, but I suppose in the end, given how much we buy, I suppose in the end I did ok.

On GitHub, Leadership and Holacracy.

I first got word of the GitHub debacle via Twitter from friend, Derek Powazek. Basically, a woman by the name of Julie Ann Horvath was forced out of GitHub due to sexism and intimidation by one of the founder’s wives, a woman who doesn’t even work for GitHub. It’s a pretty convoluted story, but the above link does an alright job of breaking it down. And the story, unfortunately, isn’t anything new for the tech industry, which seems to be notorious for treating its female employees as lesser, if they hire female employees at all.

But I am not here to discuss what happened at GitHub, or the lack of female employees in the tech industry. It’s a messy situation, that’s for sure. But I’m here to discuss why and how it took place and that has to do with leadership or lack thereof.

There is this relatively new business model called “Holacracy” which is what GitHub implements. Basically, there is no boss. There is no hierarchy. There are no managers. No one is appointed to call the shots. No one is technically in charge of telling employees what to do. And this structure, I have learned, is becoming relatively common in the tech industry.

So, how does that sound to you? Pretty great, right? I mean, an office with no authority, no management? No one scrutinizing your every move, checking over your shoulder as you bust your ass to meet a deadline? No one giving you passive aggressive looks as you saunter in at 11 AM with a looming hangover?

Sign me up!

Yes, this sounds like a pretty great idea in theory. But does it actually work? Who does one go to if one has a problem? Who is in charge of making sure everyone is pulling his or her weight? Who makes sure no one is sabotaging another employee when the employee turns them down for a date? Who is the leader? There is always a leader even if one isn’t appointed, right?

Does a hierarchy form anyway? And within that hierarchy, do those who consciously or unconsciously put themselves at the top treat others fairly? Are they working in the best interest of the business overall?

Yes, it may sound like a cool idea in theory, but I don’t think it actually works. I think this idea of having no boss and/or management of any kind is actually pretty ridiculous. I think it’s counterproductive and sets the stage for a toxic, petty work environment.

As many of you know, I am a graphic designer by trade. I went to school for it. At Penn State, the design department is a bit different from other state universities in that you don’t just declare it as a major and then head to class. Instead, one must be accepted into the program and getting accepted takes a lot of invested time and a ton of work. In other words, you have to work hard and even if you do, you’re not guaranteed anything.

Anyone wishing to get into the program is required to take two introductory design courses. Each candidate has to maintain a B average in all of his or her college courses. If they do as much, they can then undergo an intense portfolio review. Every year, hundreds of kids get to that point and every year less than 20 kids are accepted into the program. It is a highly competitive program.

To be accepted meant you were at the top of all those applying, so there is automatically a huge amount of pride associated with entering the major. Being accepted also meant that, once you graduated, you would find a job. So what if you’d have to give up sleep for the duration of the program (2 years) and you’d cry more than you’ve ever cried before and in front of dozens of other people, you got in! And sure, you might not see your friends or family during those two years, but you’d find a job and you’d have a kick ass portfolio to show for it.

To put it simply: the Penn State design program was brutal. The head of the department, while brilliant, was often tough beyond words. He was The Boss. He was who everyone looked up to, respected, and wanted to please. He called the shots. He laid down the rules. He came up with the projects, the overall feeling, the tone. He was our leader and while sometimes he could be a right bastard, he was also the most respected person in the room. We looked up to him. He truly was brilliant.

Critiques would bring many of us to tears. Stress-induced nosebleeds were a common occurrence, one dealt with by stuffing tissue or paper-towel up the noncooperative nostril. I watched kids accidentally cut themselves with an X-acto blade, a cut in need of stitches and instead of hitting the ER, they’d wrap it up with duct tape or glue it shut, whatever it took to stop it from bleeding all over their project. No one wanted our professor to zero in on that blood stain the following day.

Yes, there were days we hated our leader, and I mean hated him. He was asking too much from us! How could we possibly get done what he wanted us to get done in the time he’d given? This man was trying to kill us. What an asshole! GOD, WHY DID I AGREE TO THIS?

In turn, we became a tightly knit group of people. My graduating class consisted of thirteen people. THIRTEEN out of 20 possible spots. We became a team. If one person suffered or needed help, help was had.

There wasn’t time for petty bullshit or backstabbing because we had a deadline, god dammit! There wasn’t time for weird cliques; cliques got in the way of making sure we completed our work on time because if one person showed up with crap, the entire class suffered the consequences. Tough critiques became even more intense. Our class, and the work we put forth, was only as good as the weakest member on any given day, so we worked together as best we could.

There definitely wasn’t time for idle gossip, a corrosive killer within any work environment.

Our professor set the stage and we acted. Together. He gave us instructions and we worked alongside one another as smoothly as possible. To this day I am in awe of how well we worked together. In most work environments like the one I experienced at Penn State—where people work in such close of proximity of one another for extended periods of time—people succumb to pettiness and cliques. Leadership is formed naturally and unfairly and things start to fall apart.

All these years later, I still see how important his leadership was for our team and the overall success of the design program. And we later found out his tactics were often intentional. If he saw cliquish behavior forming, he would immediately redirect everyone’s negative attention back onto him. And somehow, every last one of us respected him even though he could be such an asshole. We looked up to him and desired his respect in return. Yes, he was often a tyrant who made us cry during critiques (even though it was never personal, it was always only about the work). Yes, sometimes we hated him. Yes, sometimes we wanted to quit. And, yes, sometimes we thought of him as a dictator, a nazi, Satan himself—all the terms many of us have used to describe a boss.

But he was who we hated when we needed to hate someone, as many employees are wont to do. He was who we directed our anger toward whenever something wasn’t going our way. We cursed him whenever the computer crashed. We blamed him when things weren’t working out. We didn’t take it out on our teammates. We didn’t have time or energy to form weird cliques. Basically, he needed his team to flow seamlessly and well. And in order to cultivate such and environment, he was the leader whether we liked it or not.

So, yeah. Call me old fashioned, but give me a leader. Show me a manager. I’m OK with hierarchy. I want someone to be in charge. (All the better if they’re awesome and worthy of my utmost respect.) The concept of not having a leader or management of any kind sounds really, really messy to me.

Lastly, I’m willing to bet that if GitHub had some form of hierarchy, this hostile environment never would have formed and Julie Ann Horvath would still have her job. If GitHub had a boss in place, they wouldn’t be enduring a slew of bad press right now. But most importantly, if GitHub allowed for some sort of appointed leadership, I bet they’d have an even better product to show for it.

I’m In How Magazine!

I’m in How Magazine this month. Please stop by and read the interview.

Back when I was a full time graphic designer, I got a few pieces in How, but never an interview. And I never would have predicted all those years ago that I would one day be interviewed for candy. So cool! So weird! So awesome! So grateful for the opportunity. Thank you How!

Lollipop Special!

It’s the holidays which means I’ve been busting my ass making lollipops, fulfilling orders, making faces happy. It also means, I have a variety of extras! So every year I sell the remaining suckers at a discount.

Today I’m offering 5 lollipops of my choosing for $5.00 (plus shipping).

This offer ends Thursday, December 17th. They make killer stocking stuffers and great last minute office treats.

Introducing: The Heisenberg

Perhaps the only good thing that came out of being sick for 15 weeks was the birth of my new lollipop. You see, while ill and lying in bed at my mom’s house, I watched all 5.5 seasons of Breaking Bad Netflix had to offer. (I’m still not caught up, so shhhhhh.) And behold: The Heisenberg was born.

It’s naturally blueberry flavored. And it’s awesome.

Also! My holiday lollipops are available again! The First Snow, Red Wine, Eggnog Latte and Trick Or Treat are all available. Stop by!

Animals, Running, and a Favor From You.

Edited to add: There is a TL;DR at the bottom of this post.

I love animals. Everyone who knows me personally is aware of this. Those of you who have been reading this site for a while are also probably aware of it. And when it comes to donating money, I usually pick animal organizations. That’s not because I don’t love humans; I donate to human groups as well. It’s just that animals are terrible fundraisers.

I also love running. Running has changed my life in ways I can’t even begin to explain. The physical payoffs are obvious; I don’t need to remind everyone how important exercise is for the body. And it’s been instrumental in my weight-loss. But that’s not why I run. I run because it eases my anxiety, which is often quite high. It puts my personal problems into perspective; they don’t matter nearly as much during or after a run. It is, for lack of a better word, my antidepressant. It is physically impossible to feel badly about oneself after a run.

Anyway, I run a lot. And sometimes I try and run with something or someone in mind. Usually, I pull inspiration from my life and that makes those difficult miles—where I’m just not sure I can go on—a little easier to endure. I finished the NYC Half thanks to a newborn baby who was fighting for his life in the NICU. I thought about him at least a dozen times along the way and he gave me the power I needed to continue. I thought: if that little guy can fight so hard to stay alive (and survive, btw!) I could finish 13.1 miles for him. And I did.

Running the distance is often easier and more rewarding when you have someone or something bigger than yourself in mind.

So, when I received the email from NYRR stating that this year they paired up with CrowdRise making it possible for every single runner to raise money for an organization of his or her choice, I hit the ground running—literally!

I went out for a 6-miler and thought about which group I would like to choose. I knew I wanted it to be a local organization, and I knew I wanted it to be about animals.

It was so difficult to choose just one! There are dozens of organizations I support in some way or another. I wanted to pick them all. But in the end I chose City Critters (and Kitty Loft). City Critters cares for homeless animals, rescues animals from the city (kill) shelter system, and takes in animals abandoned by the public. Kitty Loft works tirelessly at TNR. (Trap, Neuter, Release.) Both are all-volunteer, non-profit organizations. Both have animal welfare in mind first.

So, here is where I ask you for 10 bucks. I could have probably just said as much from the get-go, but I tend to be a wordy one! If you’ve got it to spare, awesome. If you don’t, that’s awesome too. I have my goal set at $1,026.00 (actually, I had it set to 1,026.02, but they stripped my cents!) so every little bit counts.

Thanks for reading, friends! I can’t believe I am actually going to try and run a marathon. The idea of running 26.2 miles scares the shit out of me (hopefully not while running!).

P.S. You don’t have to give money to crowdrise. They have this automatic add-on at the end. If you don’t wish to give them a percent of your donation, just click the orange link next to that “processing fee” and hit zero. I am not sure why their default is to add money.

TL;DR: Wanna support me for the marathon and donate 10 bucks to City Critters? Click here.

The Tom Yummy!

It’s been a while since I came out with a new flavor and I’m SUPER excited about this one. They are toasted coconut and lemongrass. Thanks to Jon for the name suggestion; he won himself a free batch of lollipops for the help. Anyway here’s The Tom Yummy!

Stop by my shop if you have time. Lollipops go perfectly with this time of year if I must say so myself.

New Art: Modern Day Stormtroopers.

I got Toby this print for Christmas. I love it. He loves it. We framed it and hung in our bedroom.

What you’re looking at here is Toby’s sad, little “Man Corner” where he geeks out with modular synthesizers and shit with blinking lights and lots of wires. We live in NYC, and apartments in Brooklyn aren’t exactly vast. So, this is his space. Anyway, I wanted to share the print because I find it totally awesome. And I keep reading more and more into it. Especially given where it sits in our apartment—above Toby’s hobbies and stuff. The stuff he enjoys. He works to afford stuff like this.

Anyway, visit Engram on Etsy. They also sell t shirts with this image.