Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tiny Biz Tuesday: Start Tracking Your Traffic

This is the exciting kick off for a new feature on Welcoming Spirit called "Tiny Biz Tuesdays!"

I recently started a Facebook group called "Tiny Biz Hustle," (and you should totally join us!) and each week we are focusing on just one thing that tiny businesses can do to make the most of their marketing efforts. Why would I do this?

Over the next year I'm studying to become a life coach. And over that course of a year I want to start to take all of the great knowledge I have in my head around marketing big brands over the last 15 years and apply them to a tiny business. My business.

I see no better way to do this than to jump right in and start, and so that's just what I'm doing.

This Week's "Just one thing:"
For this week, and as prep for some larger work (goal setting and other ground work), I want you to download this great spreadsheet and start tracking your traffic.

Why you should do this:
You need to know where you've started. If you and I are going to be focusing on growth and numbers and optimizing content and social media marketing, we need a baseline. The only way to do this is to log it, today. And then make a habit of logging those numbers every month as we work through the next year.

Just for kicks, as of December 29, 2014 here are the stats for Welcoming Spirit:
A few thoughts on this. December is always my biggest month, visitor-wise, because Welcoming Spirit has ranked pretty high for search results under "Ugly Homemade Christmas Sweater," due to a post I put up in 2008. It's a testament to what viral traffic can do for a blog, even years after a specific post is popular. 

I've been working on growing an email list, and just started hitting twitter a little harder.  The rest are a work in progress.

What do your starting numbers look like?
Congratulations on taking a first step in taking control of your brand and it's reach!


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Saturday, December 6, 2014

How To Make an Easy DIY Mason Jar Candle

Zoom and I made some mason jar candles last week. I'd seen these cute candles on Pinterest, and thought it would be perfect thing for a four year old to help make as gifts for the family. I love these because the salt looks a little like snow as the candle light shines through it. It reminds me of being a little girl in Minnesota in the winter!

Easy DIY Mason Jar Candles

To make these, you'll need*:
pint size mason jars - I got mine at Orchard Supply Hardware
- a small candle in a glass votive-  I picked these up from my local Michael's
- Epsom salt - from a supermarket
- ribbon to tie on the top - I picked the jute ribbon up at Michael's as well

Supplies to make mason jar candles

Zoom and I spread out our supplies and started working. He helped by holding the glass jar as I poured the epsom salt. You'll want to pour it the salt about a quarter of a way up the jar, but no higher.

DIY Mason Jar Candle

Then we nestled the candle into the salt. It took a big of wiggling around to get the candle settled in. I'd recommend getting the candles that come in a glass votive. It helps distribute the heat and keeps the mason jar from cracking.

DIY Mason Jar Candle

Next, you can tie some ribbon around the mouth of the mason jar. Then, light and enjoy, or give as a gift. Happy Holidays!

DIY Mason Jar Candle tutorial

*I've added affiliate links to similar products on Amazon. If you purchase via the link, I get a small commission, so thank you. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Trial Run With a Capsule Wardrobe

Have you heard about capsule wardrobes? I first heard about them Caroline from un-fancy.com was on The Lively Show, a few weeks ago. The idea is that you pull together 37 (or so) pieces of clothing and then wear them for three months. The idea is that you choose pieces you love and mix and match to make new combinations.

This sounded fascinating for a ton of reasons. I recently lost weight again and I've got this weird mish-mash of pants that don't fit. I need to just get on with it and get rid of the pants that are too big. I'm also the kind of person that gets very attached to clothes, as in I might be hoarding clothes from high school because they hold bizarre sentimental meaning to me (why would ANYONE keep the sweater they were wearing when they got booted from the Tall Flag team?!?), and this gave me a very pragmatic reason to evaluate my wardrobe and to donate a whole bunch of things over the past few weeks.

So over the past couple of weeks, I've been running some trials with my clothes to make sure that I'm putting things in my winter capsule that I'll actually wear. Here's the play by play with links to the items that I was able to find* - and please forgive the grainy iPhone photos. 

Day One: Gray Pants Apt. 9(Kohl's) and an animal print top (Calvin Klein) with camisole. Proudly Posh Heel shoes (Modcloth).

Day Two (left): Black dress (Calvin Klein via Thredup), green sweater (Anthropologie), Black heels (Gentle Souls) similar.
Day Three (right):  Cloaked in Cozy Cardigan (Modcloth) and black t-shirt (Target), Lucky Jeans, and sparkle gray Mossimo flats (Target)
 Day Four (left): Black Pants (Inc), Patterned shirt, Gray Cardigan, Black shoes (Gentle Souls)
Day Five (right): Black pants Apt 9 (Kohls), patterned tunic (Jones New York), low black heels (Target)
 Day Six (left): Patterned top (Simply Vera Wang floral crepe blouse), Black cardigan, Gray Pants Apt 9 (Kohls), low black heels (Target)
Day Seven (right): Patterned top (Thredup), Army style Jacket (Daisy Fuentes), Brighten Up Circle Scarf in Onyx (Modcloth), black pants, low black heels.
Day Eight (left): Patterned top (Thredup), green cardigan, black pants, black heels
Day Nine: Striped men's shirt (Ralph Lauren) and Leggings (Betsy Johnson), black flats (Halogen).

This weekend I'm planning on narrowing down the capsule and locking my wardrobe for the next three months. The basic formula is that you include 9 pairs of pants, 15 tops, 9 pairs of shoes, 2 dresses, and 2 coats. Accessories are not included in the count of 39. I'm still trying to figure out how those numbers will balance for me and I'll update everyone in the next week or so, along with giving my thoughts on why I love this idea so much.

*there are some affiliate links included in this post. Anything I've linked to is something I've bought and worn and love and I hope that you will love it, too. I get a tiny commission on anything you purchase, so thank you :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Introducing a New Group for Bloggers: Tiny Biz Hustle

 Last week I started up a new Facebook group called "Tiny Biz Hustle." It's geared towards bloggers, tiny business owners, solo-preneurs and entrepreneurs who are interested in collaborating around digital marketing. Or honestly, any one that is new to marketing online.

I worked in marketing and advertising for 15 years, and now that I'm a project manager in a credit union (and working towards becoming a life coach), I find that I miss that world. I also totally realize that while I understand the principles of marketing, well, it's a whole new ballgame when it comes to tiny businesses.

Starting today we're working through what I call "Just One Thing," which is just one thing we're going to tackle for that week. I'll keep it simple. Sometimes it will be a single task, other times a bit of research, or a writing assignment. We're all there to cheer each other on.

The only thing missing is ... well, you :)

So if you'd like to join us, pop on over to Facebook, and look for Tiny Biz Hustle. I'd love to have you join us. It's going to be fun, I promise!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Speaking the Words of Your Dreams: On Being Honest With Myself About Changing Careers

This blog has been such a journey of learning to speak the words of my dreams. It strikes me that even the choice of the name, Welcoming Spirit, was the open invitation for change and love and spirit to enter my life after my divorce eight years ago. And since then, I've been intentionally changing my words, following love, choosing love, following my dreams.

My "Ten in Three" is the continuation of following those dreams, dreams I didn't know I even had eight yeas ago.

What's interesting as well is that if I'm being super honest, if I'm embracing the person I know I want to become, it truly means leaving a few things behind. One of those is my career as a Project Manager.

I'm going to admit that it's not easy to consider that role, that title, that part of me, and say "Thank you, I've enjoyed being a project manager, but it's time for us to part ways, time for me to go follow another dream." It's not easy, but I'm seeing that I'm ready to do that. To Welcome Spirit again, to move on to the next dream.

And it's even harder to admit that maybe, just maybe, one of those "Ten in Three" items is something that I don't even want to complete. But here it goes.

I no longer care about getting PMP Certified. If I'm being honest, I don't know that I EVER cared that much about it, but it did seem very much like something I "should" do. Something good project managers do.

Get this: In some late night soul searching, I realized PMP Certification was something a friend of my ex-husband used to talk about a lot. I had placed getting Certified on my "bucket list" (in the days before anyone called them that) over eight years ago, and I recognize now that it was likely part of my chasing down a romanticized version of myself, one that I thought might fit in better with my ex-husband, with his family. In those days, I got caught up in a lot of "if I just..." thinking.

In other words, I was a dream that wasn't mine, and it was something that had become such a fixture on my bucket list that I'd never reconsidered it. 

This realization put a ton of pieces together for me. My resistance to studying, my inability to focus when I do study for the exam, none of this is "like" me at all. On the other hand, I can spend hours working on blog and retreat stuff every day. My soul ignites when I study anything related to life coaching and mentoring. I lose all track of time. It is all that I want to do.

For me, it's pointing to the fact that I'm beyond ready to make a change. To work towards another dream that is exciting, full of love and compassion and courage and life. It's so close to some of the work I've done leading retreats, and yet it's something entirely new.

And so again, I'm changing my words, speaking of who I WANT to become. Not the words of fear and failure. And this is going to be freaking amazing.

"If you want to change your life, begin by changing your words. Start speaking the words of your dreams, of who want to become, not the words of fear and failure". - Robert Kiyosaki

Monday, November 10, 2014

Three Wedding Cakes: One for the Bride, One for the Groom, One for Our Son

Our wedding last month was gorgeous and wonderful, and one of the things that was super important to me was to make sure that our four year old son, Zoom was included in every way possible. Sean and I both felt strongly that in addition to our wedding being a ceremony around our commitment as a couple, this was a celebration of our family.

One of the ways we did this was with our cakes. We opted to have three cakes, one designed and by each of us! We had the wonderful experience of working our fabulous baker, Franny of Franny's Cup & Saucer in Point Arena to do this. She said it was the first time she'd every done three separate cakes for a wedding.

My cake was a gluten free almond and hazelnut with raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, and a white butter cream frosting. I asked for a design that pulled in the sand dollars from our wedding invitations, and that had fencing reminiscent of the fencing found throughout The Sea Ranch. This cake was gorgeous and delicious.

Here's that famous fencing:

Sean's cake was chocolate with a berry filling, and the design was a nod to World of Warcraft, which is yes, a video game. And, it's where we met. The cake looks a bit like the city of Darnassus, home of the Night Elves, which would be the home town of my character.

Zoom's cake was a gluten free vanilla cake with strawberries baked in. He had a cupcake like this once and loved it. He asked that he have "Lightning McQueen, Master Yoda, a rabbit, and a 'boobot'" on his cake. Boobot is his word for a robot. This cake was the hit of the party!

Photo by Matt Welch of Munkee's Eye Photography

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Sneak Peek of Our Coastal Wedding in Northern California

Three weeks ago, Sean and I got married. We chose a little town, up on the coast for the location. It's a place we love, a place we visit a lot.

We had 30 guests, eight of whom were age seven and under.  It was perfect. Such dear family and friends. We were honored that each of them could make the trip, and felt so blessed to have each of them with us for our wedding day.

Photo by Matt Welch of Munkee's Eye Photography

I wore a gunmetal gray dress by Adrianna Papell, and carried a sage and chrysanthemum bouquet. When Zoom saw my dress, he said, "Momma, you look like the ocean." I'd tried other dresses, but I knew this was the one from the second I put it on. Zoom's sweet compliment made me feel like a princess.

Photo by Matt Welch of Munkee's Eye Photography

On the way to the reception, Sean, Zoom and I took this selfie. Sheer joy. I took the picture while Sean drove.

The reception was held here, at this old Ranch house.

The magical part of this location, aside from the family, and friends, was the view. And this iconic fence. Up soon ... the amazing cakes. :)

*this post contains an affiliate link for my dress.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Recap on the Balance Retreat

Saturday was one of those wonderful, life affirming days. We had a large group of participants, so many participants!

There was a point during the day, when leading one of the sessions, that I felt so fully present and engaged. So in the moment, and so full of gratitude to be able to have the chance to be in the position I'm in. It was really cool when that moment hit me ... It's neat to be in the moment, but also have that same realization that you're totally digging what's going on and grateful to be doing it.

The day went really well, and as always, I feel like I get more than I give from leading a retreat. The big take aways for me were:
1. I should leave more room in my schedule. This is mostly around free time ... personal time, reflecting time, that kind of thing.
2. If I leave more time (and don't pack my schedule or my family's schedule completely full), it leaves moments to be present, to be fully aware with the people I love. It also leaves time for spontaneity.
3. I tend to get hung up on creating lists. When I created a list of "all of the things I'm balancing" I listed several similar things, but listed them all separately. (personal time, spiritual time, time to journal) After re-reviewing the list, it was obvious that I wanted more time to do quiet things, but I think I could consolidate those into "me time" and stop stressing that there are four things I wish I had more time for, when it's really all the same root desire.

I'll get back to making edits to my "Balance" e-course, because I think you guys will really love it, and that it will give you an interesting frame work to analyze, prioritize, embrace or abandon the things you're balancing. The participants loved it :) so I can't wait to share it!

Here are a few photos of the day.

It had rained during the morning, and San Damiano was looking lovely as we approached it:

Here is the courtyard at San Damiano Retreat in Danville, California:

And the fountain in the courtyard after lunch, when the sun had started shining.

Earl J. Rivard is a talented musician, and he provided music for our day. I'm so very honored to call him a friend, and to have been working with him over the last seven years. Brother Mike is also in this photo and I deeply appreciate his support and assistance in making it possible for our retreats to happen.

I hope you're having a great week!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Small Ways to Enforce Balance

The "Balance" retreat is just a couple of days away and I'm really enjoying immersing myself in the topic. It's been great meeting with my fellow leaders, Earl and Tammy, and we are super excited about the day.

Another thing that will be coming out of this retreat is my first e-offering. My idea at this point is to offer either an e-book that includes paired down version of the retreat itself, or to offer a week long series of emails that would send the equivalent of each session out daily for people to enjoy at their own pace. It's exciting to see how the content I've been creating can have a life in a blog-friendly format. I'm really thrilled to be able to do this! It's kind of like a Virtual Retreat!

I'm looking for a few people to review, comment, critique the content before it goes on to "Prime Time," so if you'd like to do that, please leave a comment. I have some ideas on a little present for folks that help out.

As a sneak peek, here are some ways that you can enforce balance in your daily life. This is a list of things I remind myself of as often as possible.

If you're unfamiliar with the idea of "No Toggle," here's a link to a podcast with Kristoffer Carter on The Lively Show. It's pretty much the best podcast I've heard in quite some time.

So happy Friday, and let me know if you would like preview of the Virtual Balance Retreat... :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Morning iPhone Usage, This Time with Intention

Over the past few weeks, I've had a hard time getting out the door and getting to work in a reasonable amount of time. I can make excuses, but I know that  it has to do with my routine. And due to the fact that for a long time, I've used my iPhone as my alarm clock.

But that means that all that stuff - Facebook, email, Instagram, Pinterest, all of it, is sitting just a foot from my head all night. And, when the alarm goes off, I've taken to checking each of those accounts before I do anything else each day.

Here's the brutal truth: I spend 10-15 minutes checking these accounts every morning. And it delays me from getting start on doing things that matter.

Don't get me wrong. I love social media. I want to know if anyone's emailed me. I love checking in with each of my friends and seeing what's going on with Welcoming Spirit.

But, if I'm being efficient, and if I'm being intentional with how I spend my time, social media does not need to be the first thing that I check every day. I don't even really want it to be the first thing I check every day.

I'd rather hug my new husband. Or kiss my four year old, or meditate, or make a cup of coffee, or snooze for 10 minutes. Those are things that bring me joy. Those are things that set me up for a good day, that prepare me mentally for what I need to do later.

Instead, I'd gotten in this routine of habitually checking my phone.

So over the weekend, the phone got put out in another room and I found a new alarm clock to take it's place.  It's an ugly little thing, but it works fine and it's made me feel a little more peaceful about my mornings. Nevermind the fact that I'm getting to work about 20 minutes earlier...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lean In, Maxed Out, and A Retreat About Balance

Somewhere in my spare time (ha! in between planning a wedding, studying for the PMP exam, working and spending time with my four year old), I'm also rather ironically planning a retreat about balance.

I'm obsessed with the topic, ever since my friend Stephanie and I started talking about Sheryl Sandburg's book, "Lean In." I own it, but totally have not read it. Who has time? I'm expecting to be booted off Facebook for this modern day indiscretion at any moment.

I love that there is another book that talks about the life of working mothers, the stress of trying to balance everything, and it's called "Maxed Out."

If I had to go with one of those titles to describe the state of affairs chez moi, you can bet I'd be in the Maxed Out camp. Most days I feel that I can't "Lean In" any further, even though I like my job, love my coworkers, feel passionate about what I do. And I know that at my previous job, when I was miserable, the idea of Leaning In more really would have equated to what I love to think of as a follow up companion book, "Fall Over," or  the third in the trilogy,"Burnt Out." It's a fine line, in my opinion, to give something your all, but not lose yourself (or a bit of your sanity) in the process.

But ... Balance. The real thing at stake in both books is balance. It's a topic that seems to take up a fair amount of our time, trying to find ways to live a balanced life.

So, if you're curious, I totally invite you to join myself and my fellow team members at San Damiano on October 25 for the retreat. You can learn more about it at the San Damiano website.

I'm also really pouring my heart into the topic and I think that the retreat will lend itself really nicely to my first eBook or coach offering of some sort. I'm playing with the format, but I'm planning on pulling this together in a way that other people can use it, ponder the topic, and maybe come out feeling like they understand what balance would look like for them. Exciting!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Excuse Busting: Two Reasons I Make Excuses

Over the last week I've thought a lot about excuses, still, since my time on CreativeLive with Michelle. It's made me really get mindful about excuses when I hear them come up in my subconscious.

On CreativeLive with Michelle Ward in her amazing "Create Your Dream Career" course

Why am I resisting something?
Is it too hard, too much work, not something I want to do?
What's at the root of WHY I'm finding something else to do, or a reason not to do whatever this thing is?

I find that when I'm making excuses, it's usually for a couple of reasons.

Often, the decision or the thing is not aligned with what I really want to be doing. In some instances it's a task I feel obligated to do because I volunteered, or it was assigned to me, or it's on a weird checklist in my head from three years ago. I keep making excuses as to why I can't do those things because, if I'm honest, I don't want to do them anyway. These are the things I need to either power through or let go.

The other reason I know I make excuses is around those things that might be a step in a brave new direction, but seem scary. Maybe I'm putting myself out there, and I'm afraid to be judged. Maybe I'm scared I won't be enough. Fear sits at the heart of these excuses. And if I'm honest with myself, I know I need to meet those excuses with love and courageously confront them.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Free Wallpaper Download: Excuses Rob Us Of Possibilities in the Future

Embracing my new found title of "The Excuse Buster," I tweeted this quote ... "Excuses Rob Us of Possibilities in the Future." It came to me after writing my last post. I paired it with a photo of a passionflower on a cement floor. Hardy and gorgeous, the passionflower grows on anything, anywhere, and looks like an alien plant. I love them. Like most of nature, they have no room for excuses.

So, download the size you want. Use it on your computer, your phone, wherever you need a little reminder to focus on what needs to be done, and bust some of your own excuses.

Excuses Image: iPhone Wallpaper Download
Excuses Image: iPhone 5 Wallpaper Download
Excuses Image: 1280 x 1024 Wallpaper Download
Excuses Image: 1024x768 Wallpaper Download
Excuses Image: 1600x900 Wallpaper Download

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Excuse Buster! Learning to Live Past the Excuses and Why I do It

Tomorrow I get to wake up, put on a dress and a new sweater and go be on CreateLive with Michelle Ward as part of her "Create Your Dream Career" course. She's bringing me on to talk about being an "Excuse Buster," which surely fits me.

I don't know what the questions will be, but I'll admit I've been pondering answers all day.

Where I find myself lingering, spending time, is around this quote, which is not really about procrastination or making excuses, but about courage.

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." - Meg Cabot

It takes great presence, great courage to really show up and stop making excuses. Everyone has a whole ton of valid of reasons why they can not do something, be something, change something.

But, with love and respect, with lots of work, I learned to stop the excuses. It takes asking oneself, "If not now, then when?" and getting real about what that answer will be. If I don't do this thing right now, will I be OK with the result in 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years? 

It's also a lot about intention. If my intention is to tackle my Ten in Three and move in to a new phase in my life, then making excuses is only robbing me of my own future. It doesn't serve anyone, and it only sabotages me. That's reason enough to get stuff done.

I can't wait for tomorrow! I sure hope you'll follow along with Michelle's class on CreativeLive, and tune in at 10am to see me as she helps you Create Your Dream Career.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Dream is Free, The Hustle is Sold Separately: The Recession is Bullhonkey with The When I Grow Up Coach

Today I'm pretty excited because I have a little guest post action going on over at Michelle's blog. She has a cool series she calls "The Recession is Bullhonkey," and in today's post I share a bit about my job journey over the last few years.

Here's my post.

It was October of 2010 and we’d just had our son the month before. I was out to dinner with some friends after going to a retreat with them. My friend Kevin was talking about his job, at a credit union, and how he’d just gotten promoted to a VP spot.

“Do you need any project managers?” I blurted out, knowing I had no desire to return to the job I’d left. The commute, the hot and cold nature of the three owners, the long hours of advertising. All of it left me feeling empty or angry, depending on the day. I could not face going back there.

“Actually,” Kevin said, “We do have a PM that’s going out on maternity leave in January and we need someone to cover her projects for three or four months. It would be freelance.”
My heart skipped a beat. Yes!  And a new adventure! I was totally in.

I loved that job....

Click on over to Michelle's blog to read the rest!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Big News! CreativeLive Interview with Michelle Ward

Big news! One of my favorite people and THE all around awesome life coach, Michelle Ward, is going to be teaching a FREE three day course on CreativeLive on September 11-13.

And, get this, she's asked me to join her on that Friday to be part of an interview session! I was really honored and thrilled that she asked me to talk a bit about "Feeling the Career Fear but Diving In Anyway." Or, as I see it, the story of how I found my way to my big Ten in Three project.

So, if you know me (or you don't, or you haven't seen me since high school or YDS, or that time we worked on the Olympics together at Quokka Sports), I'd love to have you tune and and catch me "On Air" with Michelle around 10am on Friday, September 12. I'll be in studio with Michelle, since the CreativeLive offices are here, in San Francisco. The interview should last 15-20 minutes.

And, this is a great chance for you to get a free three course with Michelle, which is totally unheard of. So head over and RSVP :)


via CreativeLive: Michelle Ward, the When I Grow Up Coach

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Puff the Magic Dragon: A Boy and His Dragon

My three year old son, who's nickname around here is Zoom, loves dragons. I can't say just when the fascination started, but it must have been a couple of years ago. It doesn't completely surprise me that he loves the beasts, I too adored Elliot (Pete's Dragon), and Puff.

Puff the Magic Dragon is a song that I strongly equate with childhood. We sang it at my house growing up. We sang it at summer camp, and later as a counselor at Kennolyn, we sang it with our campers around the campfire.

And so when Zoom was about a year old, I showed him a silly little video about Puff. And he loved it.

In Pacific Grove, California - Zoom and his Dragon!

This week, on the morning of first day of preschool, Zoom asked me to play the Puff video. We sat on his bed, watching. I sang along.

Zoom got so quiet. And I looked down and he was crying near the end of the song.

"What's wrong," I asked.

"Momma, what happened to Jackie Paper? They said he stopped coming to see Puff. Where he go," he asked quietly.

"Jackie grew up, Zoom. He got to be a big boy and stopped playing with dragons," I tried to explain.

"Momma, I never want that to happen to me. I always want to play with dragons," he told me. And this last line tore at my heart and made me cry. "Momma, why are you crying?"

"Because I want you to always play with dragons, too," I told him. And then we hugged and sang along and we were fine.

I'm grateful for this boy who loves his dragons, who can't imagine a world without them. I'm grateful that he's allowed me to remember so many of the things that I loved in childhood, and that he's let me relive those moments again. And, I'm touched by this moment, on a morning before he goes off to his new big boy class, when he quietly tells me that he is a boy full of magic, of wonder, of light and goodness and love. And I'm grateful for every second that I get to spend with him and his dragons.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Struggling to Live a Balanced Life: How "Shoulds" Effect How We See Things

My search for the last year has been specifically around finding balance, and it is the topic for the next retreat I am leading. And my experiences over the last year have been full of not only searching for balance, but also in trying to actually define what balance would look like.

And here's what I wonder...

Is Balance the choice to actively juggle every ball that is thrown my way, and keep everything moving?


Is Balance really about defining boundaries, making choices about what is best for myself and my family, learning to say NO to things that don't work (or no longer work), and finding an equilibrium between the "shoulds" and the "want tos"?

Recently, I've come to define balance as the latter. Balance is an active choice. It's deciding what works, what a person wants, what one needs in their life. And it's about walking away from things that don't work.

"When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give time for the right things to catch up." - Rachel Ann Nunes

Truly, a lot of the "wrong things" are the same thing as what I've labeled as "shoulds." This is the stuff that each of us thinks we "should" do, often without a specific reason or notion as to why we "should" do it. For me, it's often the vague, nagging sense that society expects it of me, or is judging me against a mythical woman who does everything she "should."

I should stay in a "good" career like project management and stay the course with my job because I have a child and a family and it would be unwise to risk our stability.

I should have a second child (or get a dog, or both) because my son needs a playmate / is lonely, or because families should have two children.

I should be able to do everything - keep a clean house, cook, get groceries, do laundry, exercise and sleep eight hours a night.

For me, chasing all of these shoulds and wrong things often goes hand in hand in the search for balance. And for that reason, I've come to realize that the word "balance" is often used as another word that is similar to the word perfection. It's another way that we end up judging ourselves, because we think we "should" balance everything.

Instead, though, Balance is about finding the good mix of what a person wants, what they long to do, and finding a way to make a living doing that. It's not about doing all of the things, but about doing the right things. It's not about going for broke emotionally or physically to do all the things one "should" do. It's about making brave choices about what one wants to do with their life.

Part of my journey for the last year has been looking at each of my "shoulds" and mindfully determining if it's still a fit, if it's do-able, if it has a place in my life. I've replaced quite a few of them with things that fit me now, and things that feel truthful and honest. I'm still in the middle of it. The three shoulds from above had turned into something closer to:

I will stay in my current job for now, and move into something more entrepreneurial over the next few years. I'll create a solid plan for myself and my family so it's not a huge risk, and Sean and I will make an educated decision together to except any risks that it entails.

We might get a dog in the next few years because Zoom would like one. We will wait until he's old enough to help care for an animal. A fish has been a good place to start.

I can't do everything, and that is OK. The house is clean-ish. Sean cooks dinner and I do breakfast. We often have groceries delivered because we prefer to spend the time as a family on weekends. I'm aiming for around 10,000 steps a day and I'm working on getting more sleep.

It's been a real learning experience for me, turning shoulds around, and questioning them. I like that my idea of "balance" has changed. It's manageable. I'm less anxious about it, and I've stopped worrying so much.

If you're struggling with "balance," it might be worth writing down all of your internally assigned "shoulds," and listing all of the things you're trying to juggle. Are they all things that you chose to own? Are some of them items that you took on because society, your family, your friends thought you "should" do? Write them out and give yourself some time to think on them, and then decide what you might be able to let go, or rewrite.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How One Business Trip Changed My Life, Or That Time I Went to New York and saw Kinky Boots

In January, when I was still at my last job, my team was flying to New York for a bit meeting with out client. All of the agencies were gathering together for an annual meeting, and it was being held at BBDO New York.

After what had been a very rough set of projects for the client, and because we'd let go our account manager, it was decided that I should go with the team. I knew the business, the client seemed to like and respect me.

And so during the "Polar Vortex" of 2014, we hit New York. I'd lived on the East Coast while attending Yale for grad school back in 1998, and I had an idea of how cold it would be. For some reason I thought that meant I could walk from Bryant Park to my hotel on 52nd (10 blocks) in 19 degree weather. I'd forgotten how that kind of cold can burn your nose. But I made it. And then my coworkers and I went skating at Rockefeller Center at midnight:

Ice Skating in Rockefeller Center at Midnight during the Polar Vortex of 2014

There was plenty of real business going on during the trip. We'd prepared several presentations and were meeting with the other agencies that worked on the account. But, I did book myself an extra night for that Saturday because, good grief, when in the near future would I be on the East Coast and have the chance to explore New York again on my own?

Saturday became a truly life changing day. After shopping and exploring, I met up with my own life coach, the one and only amazeballs Michelle Ward for cookies and fun.  After having worked with Michelle for four months over the phone, during an especially turbulent time, it was really lovely to get to meet her face to face. Why we did not get a picture together is beyond me. She's chatty and personable, and as wonderful as you'd gather from working with her or watching one of her videos. She also hung out with me when I ate at The Shake Shack ... so tasty.

Broadway at night

My next stop was to see Kinky Boots. My only introduction to it was their performance on the Tony Awards for the previous year, and I knew they'd won Best Musical. And that Cindy Lauper wrote the score. I did not really know that it was a musical about drag queens and making boots for queens. And frankly, the characters and the score stole my heart, while simultaneously capturing a crap ton of the emotions and feelings I was already going through having had the worst set of jobs in the world.

And yeah, I know that's a tad cheesy. But I'm that same girl who cries all the way through Rent, every freaking time I see it.

But here's what stood out for me that night, and became the soundtrack for my next three months. Charlie is trying to figure out a way to save his family's business and in the midst of doing that, and reinventing a shoe business (to be a high heeled boot business for drag queens), he changes. In the song "Step One," he sings -

I may be facing the impossible,
I may be chasing after miracles.
And there may be the steepest mountain to overcome.
But this is step one.

I was so overcome by the show that I stayed afterwards, to meet Stark Sands and Billy Porter (the two leads). What I didn't know at the time was that many of the leads had already announced they were leaving the show. I got their signatures, and I got pictures with them. It was a really special evening.

With Stark Sands (he plays Charlie Price) of Kinky Boots
 And that's truly what that weekend, that day started to represent for me. I knew that I very much wanted to become my own boss. Having rubbed elbows just the day before with folks at one of the biggest agency's in New York City, and then sitting across from a successful entrepreneur and being surrounded by the magic of New York, well, it just solidified what I knew I needed to do. I needed to take "Step One."

With Tony Award Winner Billy Porter (he plays Lola) of Kinky Boots

By the time I got home I was looking for a new job. I knew I needed to make room in my life to get back to doing what I love, and leave room to train for what I needed to do next. And that's how I got to my "Ten in Three."


Monday, August 11, 2014

My New Fitbit One and Losing Weight

Over the last year, I gained about twenty pounds. If you're a regular reader, you know I'm 4'10" and so that's a rather substantial amount on my frame. Twenty pounds is nearly as much as I gained when I was pregnant! This last round of weight gain was from stress, and from having zero self control around the large snack basket that my previous employer kept stocked in the kitchen.

Me jumping for joy in the kitchen on my last day at that job ... lol, someone was making drinks and so we were goofing around taking pictures:

Losing weight and getting healthy is not specifically included in my "ten in three" plans, but I've adopted it as something I need to do anyway. I'll admit that I'd like to get my weight down for the wedding, but it's also because I'm just not happy with the way I look or feel. This time around, the weight gain has been mostly around my middle, which is a new and not so awesome way for weight to settle. I've joked before that every 10 years the body changes how it stores weight ... well, the 40s must be around the gut.

I'd gotten back on the Weight Watchers, which had worked for me before. This time around, not so much. I lost a pound or two and stalled.

I felt like I needed more information to figure out WHY I wasn't dropping pounds, so I bought a Burgundy Fitbit One Wireless Activity Plus Sleep Tracker. (I like the color, and strangely, it's $12 less than the black one on Amazon.)

It's just been three days, but I already love it! It tracks steps taken, calories, stairs climbed, sleep activity, and in the app you can track the food that you've eaten that day. I love that you then have a very clear picture of the calories in versus the calories out.

Simple math will show if you're going to gain weight or lose weight.

And, it makes it so easy to see if you've had enough activity in a day; 10,000 steps is the goal. Today I met my goal!

Here's a screengrab of the app itself. Easy to read and the FitBit One will sync with your iPhone over Bluetooth. It was super easy to set up.

I've lost about half of the weight (I lost 7 pounds before signing up for Weight Watchers), and with my new digital scale, it looks like I'm trending to lose weight this week. That is good news!

Do you have a Fitbit? Do you like it? I'd love to hear, or answer questions about it if you have any.

(Note that the link to the FitBit above is part of the Amazon Affiliate program. If you click over and buy a Fitbit, I get a tiny commission, which will go towards my life coach training tuition. I hope you'll love it!)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How to Study for the PMP Exam When You're Busy

As part of my "Ten in Three," I'm studying to become PMP (Project Management Professional) Certified. It's a crazy four hour test that covers the contents of the Project Management Book of Knowledge, and if that doesn't make it sound fun enough, it's also a requisite of my current job that I pass the exam during my first year of employment.

My current plan is to study through October and then take the test itself before the end of the year. If I don't pass, I have until April 2015 to try again. I'm currently through about half of the material.

"Study" from Niya on "we heart it" - clearly I need to buy a cute owl mug :)

Here's how I'm tackling it:

1. I've signed up for Cornelius Fichtner's "PMPrepcast." Cornelius is out of Los Angeles and has been podcasting about project management for years. He does a decent job of keeping the content as interesting as possible. The podcasts provide about 50 hours of instruction and qualify for the required 35 hours of instruction to sign up for the test itself. I like that I can listen to the prepcast in my car as I commute, and I like that I bought the package that also has a set of practice tests.

2. Reading the PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge) Guide*. I'm reading that sucker cover to cover, twice. This first pass I'm timing it to match with the content I'm hearing in the prepcast. To make time for it, I've been reading in the lunch room while I eat my lunch.

3. Head First PMP  book*. This is one of the O'Reilly guides, and it is a bit more light hearted and graphically interesting than the PMBOK (which isn't hard to do). I like that the authors present many of the topics in ways that are very relate-able. At the same time, I find some of it too corny.

I am going to try and take as many practice exams as I can. Most everyone who has taken the exam says it's hard, and suggests that you take practice exams until you can score about 80-85% reliably. At that point you've absorbed most of the material and you're likely to pass the real test.

So that's the plan. I've been having a really hard time finding the time to study, but it's really one of those things where I've just got to hunker down and get to it.

*The links in #2 and #3 above include an affiliate link out to Amazon. (That's where I got my copies of both books.) If you click through and purchase with Amazon, I make a tiny bit of money.