Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Races

It's that time of the year again, time to recap all of the races I ran in 2018. This year was definitely not a year of a ton of races (although there definitely were quite a few), but the ones I did held a special place in my heart. I got in 19 official races total - five marathons, ten half marathons, one 8-miler, one 10Ks, two 5K, plus one unofficial ultra marathon that is too awesome not to mention (when the hubby and I ran the Grand Canyon). I was even able to run away with a PR in both the half marathon and marathon distances. But, for me, I enjoy celebrating the finish lines (and who I share them with) more than my finish times. Running has brought so much into my life (including so many amazing friends, a strong work ethic, a way to push myself towards goals I once thought impossible and a platform to encourage others through), and for that I am forever grateful! Now, let's recap the races I participated in throughout this last year, shall we?!

Rock 'N' Roll Arizona Half Marathon

Mesa-PHX Marathon

OC Marathon Half Marathon

Rock 'N' Roll San Diego 5K

Rock 'N' Roll San Diego Half Marathon

San Francisco Marathon

Balboa Park 8-Miler

America's Finest City Half Marathon

Orange County Lexus LaceUp Half Marathon

Ventura Marathon

Rock 'N' Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon

Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon

Rock 'N' Roll Las Vegas 5K

Rock 'N' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon

Palos Verdes Lexus LaceUp Half Marathon

Riverside Lexus LaceUp Reindeer Run Half Marathon

And with that, 2018 comes to an end! It has been an honor and a privilege to run all of the races I have. I thank God for the ability to not only run my little heart out but to also be able to do it with a HUGE smile on my face. Running is something I truly enjoy and am beyond blessed to have found an obsession a hobby that allows me to meet so many amazing people and see so many amazing places. Running has given me a platform, running has given me a passion, running has given me peace of mind, running has given me pleasure, running has given me a push to pursue dreams that I never knew I had (or thought I would be strong enough to tackle). Here's to 2019 being even more amazing!

PS I was able to tally up my mileage from the year and beside the 19 races, I was able to get in 2,600 miles (yes, I did count about a week or so before the end of the year and then made sure my runs hit specific mileage so I could end on an even number [I am that crazy]- if I had more time I probably would have attempted 2,620 but didn't want to push it ;)). {January: 236.1 / February 201.5 / March: 255.7 / April: 214.5 / May: 188.8 / June: 200.7 / July: 217.07 / August: 208.7 / September: 225.68 / October: 177.93 / November: 221.38 / December: 251.94} BOOM SHAKALAKA! I'll take it!

How many races or miles did you run in 2018? Or do you even keep track?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

December Books

I can't believe my goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (ha, I ended up with 88!) has morphed in this passion for books. Let's be real, not having cable TV to keep me "entertained" also gives me more free time to dive into a great book or seven ;)

There were SEVENTY-TWO books in the first eleven months of the year, so when I add December's FIVE that brings my total for 2018 to SEVENTY-SEVEN! If you're interested in what I read (or how I'd rate them), make sure to check out my previous recaps! {January's Books / February's Books / March's Books / April's Books / May's Books / June's Books / July's Books / August's Books / September's Books / October's Books / November Books}

  • Hindsight & All The Things I Can't See in Front of Me by Justin Timberlake - I don't remember how I came across this book, but you better believe I love myself some JT so once I saw he had a book I got in line at the library. I wasn't sure of the layout, but quickly found that it was short little blurbs mixed amongst photos and images. The book is about 300 pages, but I was able to get through it quickly (an hour or two) because the words themselves are a small part of the book. Even still, I enjoyed it (but, let's be real, Justin Timberlake is dreamy and I am 110% okay with looking at pictures of him ;)). I wouldn't say I walked away with any deep insights or anything like that, but it was still interested to read a little more about his story. I love how passionate he is for music! For what it was (more of a coffee table book), I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Shade by Pete Souza - When I was looking up the new Michelle Obama book, I saw this as a recommended read so I got on the wait list at the library. Like most books I pick up, I didn't know much about it before I cracked the cover. Pete Souza, the author, was the Chief Official White House Photographer while President Obama was in office. Since President Trump has been in office, he has been posting his fair share of images with somewhat snarky (or shady) captions on his personal Instagram account (@petesouza) in response to some of the things he has been seeing. His posts didn't reference the exact situation, but if you were following the political news of the day you may know what he was referencing. Well, he put his posts together in this book - along with the tweets or news articles that his posts are in response to. The book is about 250 pages long, but because most of it is focused on images or 140 character tweets it is a very quick read (I think I finished it in about an hour). Obviously this is not a book for everyone, but I definitely appreciated it - especially his call to action at the end. For what it was (more of a picture book with captions), I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Bible - Last year, when I got sucked into the world of books, I realized that I had an extremely important book that I was overlooking on a daily basis... my Bible! So I decided I would go back to a reading plan I used in 2012 and read through the entire Bible in a year. I started on January 1st and stuck with it. There was a day here or there that I would miss, but I always did my best to catch up within a day or two and stay on track. I actually finished a few days early! I loved that I had a set time every day to focus on God and His Word. (Also, the reading plan I was using was split up differently than most plans - and I found it extremely helpful. It switches from things like history one day to poetry and then to prophecy - which can be helpful to break up some of the hard to read {and somewhat monotonous or boring} books.) As I mentioned, this is not the first time reading through the Bible in a year, but it was great nonetheless. PS I wasn't sure if I should count it as one book or 66, but decided I'd just stick with the single entry ;) I would give it a 10 out of 10 (DUH).

  • Charlotte's Web by E.B. White - I know, I know, it's probably crazy that I didn't read this as a child, but let me tell you... reading was NOT my jam when I was in school. In fact, I don't know that I read a full book when I was younger - CliffsNotes were my best friend. With that said, I saw this book at our little free library before we were getting ready to fly to Michigan for Christmas and thought it would be a perfect read for the flight. And, wouldn't you know?! I was right! This is such a cute (and touching) little story. I can totally see why it is referred to as one of America's top 100 most-loved novels. And can you believe it was written in 1952?! WOWSER! I love how the beauty of friendship is told page after page - makes my heart smile! I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung - Another book I grabbed from our little free library. Although I wouldn't say that I am looking to lose weight (so I am probably not the ideal demographic this book is meant to appeal to), I was definitely interested in the practice of mindfulness (and how it related to eating, activity, etc). I'll be honest, this wasn't a book that I could read for long periods of time at once, but when I did give myself the chance to delve in for a chapter or two I walked away with not only a new appreciation for our bodies but also a little insight on how best to fuel our bodies. The "secret" to weight loss is expend more calories than you take it - nothing too new here - but the practice of mindfulness helps to remind you to focus on the act of eating (or being active) and live in the moment. I think I will keep this book in my possession for a while and read back through a couple of the chapters again so that some of the info really sticks. I appreciated seeing everything put together from both a Buddhist leader's perspective and a nutritional scientist. There are definitely a few things I want to put into practice in my life. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

With that, December has come to a close. My reading took a drastic halt at the end of the year, especially in the last month (due to my #12DaysOfCarleesChristmas and being out of town for Christmas), but I definitely hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my library wait list!

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read and would recommend to others. Check it out!

What was the best book you read this year?

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Workout Recap - Week 52

Sunday, December 23rd – 10 mile run

Monday, December 24th – Rest Day

Tuesday, December 25th – 4.25 mile run with the hubby (my daddy-o joined for the first mile)

Wednesday, December 26th – 10 mile run

Thursday, December 27th – 8 mile run

Friday, December 28th  Rest Day

Saturday, December 29th – 16 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

As you can see, my stretching and foam rolling was non-existent when we were back in Michigan, but I was still able to get in all of my runs (even with the chilly weather!) - so I'll take that as a win! Still can't believe my first official 50 mile race is in two weeks, but that's reality! EEKS! Here's to hoping I show up to race day rested, ready and raring to rock and roll!

How were your workouts this past week?

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Workout Recap - Week 51

Sunday, December 16th – 10 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Monday, December 17th – 95 minutes on the stationary bike, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Tuesday, December 18th – 4 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Wednesday, December 19th – 12 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Thursday, December 20th – 26.2 mile trail run with a friend, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Friday, December 21st  10 mile run

Saturday, December 22nd – Rest Day

Had to move around some runs to make sure I could get in everything prior to heading back to Michigan with the hubby for Christmas, but stoked that it all worked out (and that I was able to get in some trail miles with a friend!). And I'll totally take 62.2 miles for the week - now it's time to start tapering! Didn't have room to pack a foam roller for the holiday trip, so I'll be slacking on that for the next few days, but am going to prioritize getting my runs done before all of the celebrating!

How were your workouts this past week?

Friday, December 21, 2018

Friday Favorites {Michigan Edition}

Seeing as we are jumping on a jet plane and flying back to the Mitten this morning for the Christmas holiday, I thought it would be the PERFECT time to share some of my favorites when it comes to Michigan products. The majority of these aren't new-to-me, but they might be new to you if you aren't from the great state, so I thought I'd share them with you!

Michigan Mittens

I don't own a pair of these mittens, but every time I see them I think I should. If you live (or have lived) in Michigan and someone asks you where you are from, you will use your hand as a map and point to the general area of your city. These mittens take that idea one step further and actually ARE a map on your hands! Brilliant, right?! There is also a super cute map bandanaa whimsical wall map and a pack of patches that I'm pretty sure I need too!



Okay, so I gave up pop years back, but if I were to ever throw caution to the wind and get back on that soda train, you better believe Faygo would be the brand of sweet nectar I'd reach for (that and Mountain Dew...). My favorite was always Redpop (with Creme Soda a close runner up), but the hubby is a Rock & Rye guy all the way. That reminds me, I should probably ask my parents to grab a couple bottles for the fridge ;) [PS You can sometimes find Faygo at BevMo! locations.]



The Mitten State

I think I currently have about 8-10 items in my closet from The Mitten State, but that doesn't mean I can't (or shouldn't) add more, right?! And they are always releasing new stuff so my list is never ending. I narrowed down my "need" category to four items I don't currently own, but if you gave me free reign I could definitely do some damage!

Left: America's High Five / Left Center: Wolverbear Glass Can / Right Center: Pictured Rocks / Right: Wolverbear Hoodie

Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story

Okay, so this isn't necessarily a product, and not 100% Michigan, but let me explain. If you know Detroit Red Wings, you know about Probert. He was what you would call an "enforcer", and half of the "Bruise Brothers" during the late eighties and early nineties. (He also played for the Blackhawks, but we will ignore that travesty for the time being ;)) They just released a film about him and the hubby and I are excited to see it. It was officially released in Canada last week, so hopefully we will have access to it soon. If you enjoy the Red Wings or hockey in general (or are interested in the impact concussions have on mental health), I would definitely recommend you keep your eyes peeled for this one!

What are you loving lately? (Extra points if it's special to where you live or grew up!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Walt Wednesday

Some people do a "Wordless Wednesday" post, where they simply share a photo or image, but I thought I'd make a little series out of my Wednesdays. And since I love alliteration so much, why not go with Walt Wednesdays (obviously everyone can use a little break from the seriousness, scariness and sassiness of life - and what better way to help put a smile on your face than with a cute wiener dog picture, am I right?!)... So, without further ado...


When life gets overwhelming, how do you de-stress?

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Why I Will Never Work with FitFluential Again

If you've been around my neck of the InterWebs for a while, hopefully there are three things you know about me (hopefully there are more, but for the purpose of this post, I'm hoping at least these three come to mind when thinking about me ;)).
  1. I always try to #KeepItReal. Whether we are chatting about a product I've tried or a race recap, I do my darnedest to tell it like it is (for better or for worse). I want those who come to me to know they will get the good, the bad and the ugly. I try not to sugarcoat things and you better believe my opinion cannot be bought.
  2. I am drama-free. Sure, The Real Housewives of (fill in the blank) may be a guilty pleasure of mine, but having drama in my life makes me anxious - I do my best to steer clear of it at any and all costs.
  3. I attempt to stay positive in all circumstances. No matter the situation, I strive to believe the best in people and to try to see the silver lining. My mind doesn't immediately go to doom-and-gloom and even when it does, it doesn't tend to stay there for long. I mean, shoot, my blood type is B-POSITIVE for goodness' sake! 
With that said, let's address the elephant in the room... The fact that the title of this post is pretty, dare I say it, negative... And, well, it is. But, it's the truth... and the truth will set you free! Or at least it'll help you say your piece and move forward.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?!

A few years back I applied to be an ambassador with FitFluential. In case you aren't familiar with the program, let me explain. FitFluential is a nationwide network of fitness, health and wellness fanatics sharing their journey and their passion online via social media. FitFluential creates customized social media marketing campaigns for brands interested in partnering with these fitness influencers to reach their audience. So "influencers" apply to become ambassadors with FF and then when brands reach out to FitFluential for specific needs (i.e. "we need women runners in their thirties to try our product and share their thoughts"), they have a pool of potential applicants to pull from. Think of them like a model agency. Instead of a brand going out and holding model searches on their own, they can reach out to an agency (in this example - FF), have them do the leg work and get the specific type of "model" they are looking for. Easy peasy, right?!

So when I was accepted as an ambassador, I was sort of hoping it would turn into more leads on potential blog "jobs" or possible connections. You see, despite what you may think, this blog doesn't make me millions. In fact, there are only a handful of sponsored posts sprinkled in here and there that I receive any type of payment for (and I only just recently - like within the last month - added Google ads to the blog to try and get a few pennies a month from this hobby of mine).

Every couple weeks FF would send out an email newsletter with upcoming campaigns that ambassadors could apply for. I am loyal to a few companies (read: Garmin, Brooks, PRO Compression, etc) so if there were opportunities that arose with competing brands I would just ignore them from the jump. There were a few clients that peaked my interest (or at least ones that I would be willing to work with and not feel as though I was doing it just for a paycheck), so I would throw my name in the hat every once in a while. The first campaign I was accepted for was one with U by Kotex back in April of 2017. (I know, periods... they aren't glamorous, but they're something females have to deal with so I figured why not...)

I was contacted by FitFluential on April 17th with an offer on the campaign. I countered, to which FF went back to their client and got the amount approved. I received the products that I would be posting about as of April 21st and had written my post for approval as of April 23rd. (FF required I submit my blog post and social shares so that they and the client could approve everything before it went live.) As of April 24th I was given the thumbs up on everything I had submitted and it went live as of May 1st. (PS I realize the dates and details may be boring, but I want everything documented.)

Everything seemed to be smooth sailing up to this point. I mean, in a matter of two weeks I had been offered a campaign, countered with my rates, approved the partnership, received the product, written a blog post and accompanying social shares, and pushed everything out onto the InterWebs. As you can see, I am not the type to dilly-dally and got it all taken care of as quickly as possibly. (Even in school I'd do projects as soon as they were assigned - I can't procrastinate!)

Then came the issue... payment...

Like I mentioned, May 1st was when everything went live. Well, I waited a couple weeks and then reached out to my contact at FF to see when I should be expecting payment and what did I receive?! RADIO SILENCE!

I emailed on May 17th, May 25th, and June 16th. I finally received an email back on June 20th saying "I believe the payment process is net 60!" Okay, no biggie I figured... At this point we were already 3/4 of the way through the 60 days.

I emailed on July 10th following up, since the 60 days had since concluded. Then again on July 28th with my mailing info in case they'd be mailing a check and were waiting on my address. (Again, between me posting on May 1st and my email on July 28th the only reply I had received was the one sentence about the 'net 60'.) On August 4th I sent another check-in email. At this point (on August 4th, over 90 days after I completed my end of the agreement) I finally received a reply.
Hi Carlee, 
Thanks for checking in. Unfortunately I don't handle influencer payment so I cannot give you a firm timeline of when payment will go out. I will check in with the team and hopefully be able to provide a better answer! 
The way I took this was that my contact, who had been the only person I had interaction with at FitFluential, was now pointing the finger and saying 'Not my problem.' At this point I'm sure you can imagine, I am getting a bit frustrated, but just keep adding appointments on my calendar to follow up to make sure I get paid for my work. #TheSqueakyWheel

August 18th I sent a follow-up email seeing if she had heard back from her team. Nothing. September 4th another email. Nothing. On September 6th I did receive an email back - HOORAY!
Hi Carlee, Unfortunately I don't have a concrete date on when payment will go out. However, I know we recently received payment from the client on this project (we were waiting on that) and it should be going out within the next 1-2 weeks. So sorry for the wait! 
Instead of yelling and stomping or throwing a fit, I bit my tongue and put another reminder in my phone to follow up in a couple more weeks. September 26th I send another email (giving extra time after the mentioned 1-2 weeks).

September 28th I receive a reply email from my contact (the fourth email in the five months since my posts had gone live).
Hi Carlee, 
My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I am not purposely ignoring you, I simply don't have an answer right now. We have been dealing with some major issues with Find Your Influence properly issuing payments to our bloggers and are working on getting this rectified as fast as possible! 
So here is where I need to explain something. Find Your Influence is the platform FitFluential was using for their campaigns. It was a place where you would submit links, approve offers, etc. They also do something similar to FF whereas they connect brands with influencers, but it isn't specific to the health and fitness industry like FitFluential. I had gone through Find Your Influence on a few separate campaigns and had never had any issues (I had been paid within 14 days of my posts going live, received near immediate communication, etc). I was hopeful whatever the "major issues" were, they would be cleared up soon - especially since as of September 6th I had received word that FF "recently received payment... and it should be going out within the next 1-2 weeks".

I sent an email on October 17th checking in - NOTHING. Another email on October 24th and got a reply on the 25th.
Unfortunately I don't have any updates on this. I wish I could be of more help. I do know FitFluential is working to rectify this as fast as we possibly can. I'm doing the best I can. I am the point of contact on campaigns and unfortunately I don't handle financials for FitFluential.
Kelly has posted numerous updates in the ambassador group. Unfortunately this has become a legal situation with Find Your Influence. We have bloggers who have been paid twice, others (like you) who haven't been paid at all. We're handling it (not me specifically) as quickly and as best we can. 
I read that as "leave me alone", but with the money that lay in the balance I couldn't just 'set it and forget it'. I should also explain a few things at this point. First, you may be thinking "Who is Kelly?" Well, Kelly is the CEO of FitFluential, Kelly Olexa. And, as mentioned, the FitFluential ambassadors had (key word, but we will get back to that in a minute) a Facebook page where we could post and communicate with each other. Multiple ambassadors had posted on this page about different campaigns they had yet to be paid on and Kelly had communicated that they were "working on it". I had seen the updates from Kelly (the last one was mid-August {two months prior} saying "everyone will get paid"), but had yet to get any concrete update as to how my specific campaign could have been paid to FitFluential at the very latest in the first week of September and still, over 7 weeks later, the only info I was getting was "we are still working on it".

On October 25th I received an email back from Kelly directly (apparently at this point my contact at FF had either passed me on or had left the company). In this instance I think the squeaky wheel gets ignored or passed on... not oiled...
I am very sorry about this situation you are dealing with. None of my bloggers deserve this-- and while much of this situation has been very much out of our control, I take full responsibility. We never should have switched platforms, hence why we are back at Tap Influence. I also know- most of the bloggers needing information that are don't grasp how much work this is on our end~~ sometimes they understandably feel we aren't responding as fast as they'd like. I get that. Neither I nor my team is trying to intentionally ignore or avoid anyone. I think all of my communication in the group and with each blogger personally one on one has shown my dedication to being committed and transparent. This situation sucks for ALL OF US. But-- we've had 4 campaigns that we paid-- as shared in the group. And we were told that our bloggers on those 4 campaigns were paid. They were not. I hope anyone understands my position that when I have paid $13K+ to a company and they have misrepresented what was done with those funds, it is wise for me to ensure THAT situation is fixed before I trust them to pay the last 2 campaigns. Kotex is one of the last 2. 
So- in the past 2 weeks, we have provided FYI with the bloggers from the FB group who indicated they were not paid for those 4 campaigns. We also had 4 more contact us- then forwarded those. We indicated we needed an accounting that all these bloggers have been paid- and we have been hearing from these bloggers that they are getting paid. So- the final step is that once we have that confirmation and proof from FYI and confirmed by our bloggers, FitFluential will then be able to address the last 2 campaigns including Kotex. I'll be honest. It scares me that they will create the same situation of delayed payments with these bloggers. But - each time I have attempted to pay a blogger directly, they email us within a day saying oh I just got paid by FYI. I've been in a no-win situation.  
What I finally realized in the past 2 weeks is this. I and my team have spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME on the administrative side of unraveling this mess. Weeks and months and endless hours and conversations with bloggers- about double payments and no payments- incorrect information from FYI and some bloggers also lying about getting paid and getting caught-- I finally realized what's best is to cut our losses and just get this put to bed. I'm losing tens of thousands of dollars on this whole mess. But at this point, I'd rather lose money and just stop having to deal with the mess and figuring out the errors in payments on their end.  
My #1 goal now is to do just that. Get the final confirmation on the 4 campaigns and payments being fixed and then, letting them handle the last 2 campaign and payments. And hope they do the right thing and do it fast.  
On one hand I want to give you and all the bloggers a specific date but on the other hand if I do that, and there is a 5 day delay or 2 days or whatever, I'm dealing with 75 emails. My goal with FYI is that we resolve this in total by the end of November. At the latest. I hope sooner.  
That's all I can do Carlee is tell you I'm working as hard as I can, it will get done, I recognize the nightmare and inconvenience, but I also have to protect myself and keep running the company while I get this finalized.  
Please feel free to email me directly until you are taken care of completely. My sincerest apologies.
I have to say, I was thankful to receive this email. Prior to this point I had only received a sentence or two from my contact in response to my questions. I was hopeful that this issue would be resolved and that the bloggers would, in fact, be paid.

Per Kelly's email, it seems as though FitFluential sent $13K to Find Your Influence for four campaigns that FF claims FYI never distributed the funds correctly. She also mentions that she wants to rectify those four campaigns before moving forward on the final two campaigns that lay in the balance. The way I read that is FitFluential has not paid Find Your Influence for the final two campaigns (mine being one of them) so FYI doesn't have the funds to pay me in the first place. But whatever the case, my issue is the fact that I was contacted by FitFluential for the campaign and have yet to be paid.

Since Kelly alluded to it, I want to mention it - I realize FitFluential is a business, but if they wanted to "make it right", I believe they should've paid the bloggers themselves and then dealt with FYI however they needed to. Again, I may be reading into her email details that aren't there (that FF is withholding payment for the campaign I'm owed on until FYI fixes the issues with the four prior campaigns), and maybe I'm expecting more than I should, but if I was in the situation, I would hope I'd take care of 'my people' and then if I needed to take legal action against the company I'd do so to recoup my loss.

Of course I was frustrated about not getting paid, but what was also maddening was FF was continuing new campaigns!

After Kelly's October 25th email, I waited till November 17th to email again. And then December 15th. On December 18th Kelly replied and asked me to send screenshots of the agreed upon amounts and proof the completed work (which I sent immediately). On January 18th, 2018, when I still hadn't heard anything, I sent another email and finally got a response.
Hi Carlee,
I've made the decision that we will execute payments directly for the bloggers at this point. I do not trust that our funds will be distributed appropriately by FYI since we experienced issues with that the majority of last year. What I will need from you is to 1) confirm your rate that you are owed and 2) provide a screen shot of your contracted rate from the FYI platform. Then 3) we will be sending you a release form we'll need you to sign, releasing FitFluential and FYI from future demands for payment. If you are ok doing these actions, please advise. Then next week we'll have the form ready and once that is received we will confirm the date you will receive payment. Please also confirm your PayPal address. 
Thank you,
Finally... It appears I may get the money owed to me. I sent (again) the information she requested (seeing as she had requested it in December and then went silent), although she never included the release form she mentioned so when I sent over what was required I asked if she'd send the form. A few days later she responded, but still without the form.
Carlee I am sorry that you have had to send this information more than one time. I don't think you or any of the other bloggers realize how much work I and my team have to do manually- on each blogger that has not been paid. It's a TON of manual extra work to track down, compare emails, create our own spreadsheets since we receive no accounting information from the FYI platform or team (if they provide something it is an excel spreadsheet and then we usually find more errors or duplicate payments and then the process begins again.) 
For each blogger- and there have been about 50 bloggers total affected by this mess, give or take, I'm guessing I and my team have spent at least a full day or more of our time working on the issues at hand. I literally lose money every hour I spend on this, and I 100% understand -- that's not your problem. That's not your concern. But I have spent a TON of time trying to get all of you taken care of and I swear I am working as hard as I possibly can and as fast as I possibly can on a problem that I did not create. I finally took some time off from this for the Christmas Holiday, hence why you did not hear from me or us while our offices were closed. 
Okay, okay, I know I shouldn't get my hopes up, especially since it's been almost a year at this point of waiting, but we are closer than we had been... right?! WRONG! After the email I received on January 23rd, I sent an email on February 8th checking in - crickets. February 26th I sent another email and I eventually got the following response:

At present our new attorney is handling all direct dialogue with FYI and their legal reps to ideally reach an agreement ASAP. As soon as we have a settlement all remaining open items can be finalized. Stay tuned and my continued apologies for all of your inconveniences.
Hope?! Nah... At this point I had pretty much written off the money I was owed... especially since Kelly had archived the FitFluential Ambassador Facebook page. Now, the reason has never been mentioned (or at least not one I remember seeing), but I would assume it had to do with the fact that when folks would comment about not getting paid other folks would jump in to voice their concerns or issues. I'm not saying it would have come to a class action lawsuit or anything like that, but I would have to assume Kelly and her team didn't want somewhere frustrated individuals could get together and communicate about the lack of payment on their watch. They didn't want it easy for the disappointed people to unite.

Although I had all but written off the money, I sort of felt like I had to see it through, right?! April 10th I sent another email following up. What I received back was more of what I assumed was lip service, passing the buck and pointing the finger.
As of last week our attorney informed me that she has been unable to get a reply from the FYI legal rep- she and I have a meeting today at 3pm CST and we hope to make headway and get this to a settlement ASAP. Please stay tuned.
May 12th I sent another follow-up email. Isn't it such a coincidence that they always seem to have "just heard from someone" when I reach out?! Strange that they are never the ones freely providing this information to us...
We actually FINALLY heard from their lawyer just on Thursday- they had not replied to our attorneys since the week of April 15th when we gave them a settlement to agree upon (either letting them or us pay the bloggers, and the correct amounts etc.) and their lawyer wrote ours saying he'd been in trial and too busy. So-- our representation wrote back and we hope to hear from them next week. We may actually be nearing the closure mark of this infinitely long drama.

One more month went by and I sent yet another email on June 13th. (I'll be honest, every time I would get an email in my inbox from them touting another campaign they wanted people to apply for it was like a extra twist on the knife. How could they be signing up more campaigns {and paying out on them} when they can't handle the existing ones?!)
Thank you for your continued follow up.  
We are now offering campaigns in a totally different manner. We offer campaigns now where either the brand pays the influencer directly or we do via PayPal. In fact many of these new campaigns have successfully completed with influencer payments going out flawlessly.  
We have zero control when an outside party executes payments and as you've seen, we have experienced issues with major discrepancies in accounting and many situations where blogger payments are not being processed. This is precisely why I made the decision that going forward we would manually execute payments for any influencer campaigns ourself-- which adds a LOT of extra work and accounting tracking, but it eliminates these issues we've encountered the past 2 years.  
I'd certainly appreciate it if you would recognize that 1) these accounting issues were discovered by us and were not executed by us and 2) we have made changes in our systems so we can pay bloggers ourselves, to protect them and us. Your email infers that we are just going on about business as usual without a care in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm having to pay a law firm and a financial advisor to deal with the issues we uncovered for 2017 with FYI. I'm suffering from a six figure loss in revenue to my business because of all of this. Perhaps you could consider those implications as well. I understand your inconvenience, and I hope you understand how much work we all have and are putting in to getting this resolved. 
As of this week, we have not been able (our law firm) to reach the legal representative for FYI nor have we heard back from him in response to our settlement offer or demands. As such, we must continue to pursue the resolution but we need his participation.  
I understand your frustration and if I could pay you directly I would. Sadly I learned the hard way that's a bad route as I have paid bloggers directly and they were then paid by FYI and - these bloggers refuse to refund the overpayments.  
As soon as I have news to share I will. I'm always here to respond to your questions.

That email was received on June 14th. I sent follow up emails on September 25th, October 5th and October 30th to no avail. No reply, no nothing. At the beginning of November (OVER 18 MONTHS after completing my part of the agreement) I finally decided to go to social media. You see, I had kept this information off social media (expect for in the FitFluential Ambassador Facebook page when it was still active) because I was hoping I would get paid. I was worried if I said anything on social media I would absolutely never get the money. I kept my lips closed, continued to professionally (as politely as possible while voicing my frustration) follow-up and crossed my fingers that I'd see the money eventually.

I was in no way putting Kelly or FitFluential on blast... I simply asked "Has anyone had any communication with Kelly Olexa or FitFluential recently? I am owed over $1,000 for work done in April of 2017 and Kelly has stopped responding as of mid-June 2018... #FitFluential". I received a few replies from ambassadors or past ambassadors with contact info for people who may be able to help (who were still with the company or may have additional information). I emailed one of the people I received contact info for and received quite the response. Maybe I caught her on a bad day...
Good morning Carlee,
Thank you for your email. The answer to your email question is the same answer you received from us previously and that is, this case is being handled with the attorneys for both companies. These matters unfortunately take a very long time. Fortunately for you, you don't have to pay the legal fees that we do in order to correct the fraudulent activity committed by this other party. 
It has come to our attention that you have posted information online not only tagging the CEO of this company, but also making direct statements about the company and the CEO that are defamatory and highly inappropriate. You might want to consult your attorney or do some googling as to what constitutes slander, libel, defamation per se, and harassment. You have been responded to numerous times by multiple team members of this company, and your public statements on social media are not only juvenile and unprofessional, they carry legal consequences if continued. Your statements contain misinformation and half truths and portray both Kelly Olexa and this company in a false and negligent light, which could not be further from the truth. The company at fault for financial mis-practice is not FitFluential. FitFluential is the victim as are the bloggers who remain unpaid.  
Your statements and public activity have been forwarded to our legal counsel. If you continue to misrepresent the matter at hand, which is confidential, you will be contacted by one of our attorneys with a cease and desist, followed by whatever necessary legal action they deem is appropriate. It is disappointing that we have to educate you on these matters, but you have chosen to disregard all past communication and publish libelous, harmful and defamatory content with no discretion.  
We will let you know as soon as we have any information regarding this matter.

EX-SQUEEZE ME?! You have got to be kidding, right?! I was flabbergasted when I read that email! I feel like I have been BEYOND understanding and patient in this situation. Of course I have been persistent in following up, but this is not a $10 payment they owe... it's over a thousand dollars we are talking about! And I have not posted anything "juvenile or unprofessional". Shoot, I hadn't posted anything at all in a social manner except for the simple question I posed on my Facebook wall. I couldn't tell if I was being punked or bullied or if they were bluffing, but I felt like I was taking crazy pills.

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I hate drama and conflict. When I read the email I got a little panicky and worried. I was being scolded and wanted to know what I did wrong so I could fix it... But then I went back through all of my emails and the single public post I shared and I couldn't find anything I did that could have been considered slanderous or insulting. And to boot, the way I read the reply was I was being unjustly threatened to keep my mouth shut "or else".

At this point I am wiping my hands of it. Maybe that's what they were hoping for... Unlike what the final email I received was claiming, I have never misrepresented the situation, been defamatory or inappropriate. I have kept my mouth closed, didn't rock the boat and believed the best in the company and people involved. I have always hoped that they would rectify the situation, but if you ask me, all I've seen is finger pointing and blame shifting. I have included dates and quotes as to not distort the situation. I am owed over $1,000 for services I provided as of May 1st, 2017 (and, as of December 18th, 2018, I haven't received a single penny). I guess I will just have to consider this a VERY EXPENSIVE lesson.

And the only reason I am going "public" with this now is because I don't want anyone else to experience something similar (although, unfortunately when I did post on my Facebook asking if anyone had contact with the brand recently I heard a few similar tales that has me believe others are not immune to the same situation). Maybe we need to require payment before our work is done, maybe we need to require payment within 14 days of completion of work. Consider this my dumb tax that I paid on your behalf. I realize putting this out into the world will almost certainly mean I'll never see the money I am owed, but I doubt I would've any way. People come to me expecting to hear my honest feedback, and this is my truth.

I will never work with FitFluential again.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Workout Recap - Week 50

Sunday, December 9th – 6.75 mile hike with the hubby and pup, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Monday, December 10th – 90 minutes on the stationary bike, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Tuesday, December 11th – 4 mile run, 90 minutes on the stationary bike, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Wednesday, December 12th – 12 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Thursday, December 13th – 8 mile hill run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Friday, December 14th  Rest Day, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Saturday, December 15th – 24 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

48 miles done and the body is still feeling good. It's crazy to think that my 50 mile race is less than a month away and soon I will start to taper, especially since last week was my longest single run at "only" 31 miles, but that's where we are at! Gonna have to shift a couple runs around next week since the hubby and I will be heading back to Michigan for the holidays, but still planning on getting everything in (just with a few more layers on than I am used to ;)).

How were your workouts this past week?