Monday, May 31, 2010


There's nothing like a long weekend to recharge the soul.   The past few weeks have been hectic, one day bleeding into the next. At the end of the day it's hard to say if I could have accomplished any more with the time I had left. I am especially thankful for this Memorial Day holiday.  

A little more sleep, a lot more time to enjoy with my son. More time to shop for the week, plan meals, do laundry and to read.  I picked the first ripe strawberry from our garden for my son & husband to share. We cut a few peonies to enjoy ~ they will be gone before we know it.

I'm more than halfway through Harvey Mackay's "Use Your Head To Get Your Foot In The Door." One of my favorite chapters thus far is one called "Use Your Head, but Follow Your Heart!" It's the story of how Harvey first met Tony Dungy & the path their relationship took over the years. There was a lot of give & take of opinions & advice between the two - the student & the mentor. The decisions Tony made in his career often took an unconventional turn. Nonetheless the result in the end was priceless - Tony couldn't have made any better choices if he tried & the rewards he has reaped along with his stellar accomplishments have made it all worth it. The chapter's three key takeaways were:

1. "Don't ever give up in the aftermath of a setback."
2. "Accept detours if they contribute to your ultimate goal."
3. Most important of all, follow your heart."

Over the past couple of weeks I've wondered if I've missed out on anything because I haven't had as much dedicated time to network & search for a permanent role.  After all finding a job is a job & it takes so much time & energy to fit all the pieces together and then wait for someone else to agree that the final picture is a thing of beauty.

You are never guaranteed what tomorrow will bring, so be thankful for today & make the best of every minute. 

Harvey consistently reinforces the importance of building & nurturing one's network. It's not a one & done type of proposition, it's a journey of constant discovery.  People are constantly flowing in and out ~ up and down in priority on our personal lists.  You need to regularly re-evaluate what each person brings to your table as well as what you are able to bring to theirs. You need to know that there is a high level of integrity & trust among your network - your connections.  My conclusion: Building and maintaining trust in your business or personal relationships is essential. Don't lose sight of that truth. Always trust your gut. 

In this case, I'm going to continue to trust that this contract position is the right move at the right time and that by being agile & doing things that perhaps I didn't intend to be doing, I'll learn even more than what I expect about what my next role should be. We all should take each day as they come and breathe deeply. After these last few days, I consider myself recharged.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lovely Morning Surprise - Random Act of Kindness

Our family's routine changes on a day by day basis it seems.  I had a late meeting scheduled at work, so knowing that I'd have no chance of making my evening tee time (my Mom's night out), I let my hubby go & play softball for a change.  That meant my schedule was moved around a bit and I would need to catch a different bus in the morning as well as the evening. 

After the morning drop off I settle down onto my seat on the bus only to discover I'd left my breakfast sitting in the refrigerator.  Already behind my usual schedule, I skipped the long line at Caribou and tried a new place "Beyond Juice - Meal in a Cup".  While I was standing in line trying to figure out the menu & what I wanted to order, the woman in line ahead of me turns back & says "It's 2 for 1, you can have whatever you want, on me." I was thinking - you can't be serious, but it turns out 2 for 1 was the special of the day.  My breakfast was free and a perfect stranger had made my day after my hectic early start. It was a lovely morning surprise.

How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it! ~ George Elliston
Since I didn't have to pay, I tipped the kid at the counter, which I normally never do at those types of places. I just hope he appreciated it as much as I appreciated being on the receiving end of someone's random act of kindness.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~Aesop
The best part of the story is that on the way home, a polite middle aged woman with a rolling walker came up to me at the bus stop & asked if I could spare any money to help her pay for a bed in a shelter tonight.  I asked her how much she needed & she said she was trying to come up with $12.50 and that she had $2 and change so far.  I dug into my purse & found that I had $8.00 that I could give her, so I did & she thanked me, moving on to the next person in line who looked like they would listen.  That next person pulled a couple of dollars out of his pocket to give her as well, perhaps he overheard what she was going to use the money for.  I'm hoping that she had enough to get that bed, so she could have a peaceful night's sleep tonight.

I was standing there at a time I normally wouldn't have been because of that late scheduled meeting. I don't think it was a coincidence that she came up to me after what happened to me that same morning.  At least I'd like to believe so.  

What would you have done in that same situation? The trick is to just do something - don't even stop to think. Pay It Forward, do what your heart knows is right and you too will be able to sleep peacefully at night.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy: 
Not You?! You don't look homeless!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Not You?! You don't look homeless!

I took a day off on Tuesday in order to attend a Perspectives Series Breakfast - "Homelessness in Minnesota. A Closer Look" at the Wilder Center in St. Paul.  This is an issue that has affected my own extended family in years past, and thus me indirectly.  I was interested in learning more about the key findings of this study, as well as what various organizations are doing differently today to address the core reasons contributing to this epidemic in our communities.

It was also an opportunity to meet @TCManWalking aka D J, who I've been following and chatting with on Twitter. If you happened to walk past him on the street, you would never be able to guess that D J was homeless.  He looks like any other person who might be sitting in a cube or even a corner office where you work. You might say to yourself "Not You?! You don't look homeless!" He has a vision: to raise awareness about an under-served and unacknowledged homeless population.  These are families and individuals both who are living and sleeping in their vehicles, camping out in non-traditional locations, or moving from friend to friend and family member to family member, places where outreach programs typically do not extend.

The morning conversation focused on the latest statewide data which estimates the number of homeless physically counted on October 22, 2009 to be 9,654 people. Of that number, 1/2 are youth aged 21 years or under.  It's hard to swallow that some of those youth are living on their own, without an adult family member at the tender age of 9.  The number of people who are homeless on any given night in our state they suspect to be closer to > 13,100. While there are percentages of this population who are dealing with serious mental illness, chronic health issues and substance abuse, an amazingly high 26% of homeless adults have NONE of those problems.

The usual suspects contributing to the increasing problem include the battered economy, foreclosures on rentals and owned properties, as well as extended joblessness.  Many of the homeless have seen an already low median monthly income of $400 drop 25% to $300 in the time since the last study was conducted.
This isn't the government's problem to issue to be dealt with.  We all have some responsibility to those less fortunate in our communities.  One of the speakers at the conference was Miss Erica Skuta, a senior at Hill-Murray High School.  Please check out this wonderful & inspiring tool for youth that she co-developed for the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless: “A Students Guide to Ending Homelessness.”

There isn't a truly integrated approach to working this problem.  The process of determining what assistance someone may be eligible for is disjointed and cumbersome, plus it assumes that people have easy access to services & technology like internet, a computer & a phone. Cuts in the states budget are directly & negatively affecting the numbers of homeless clients these supporting organizations are able to help.

I asked this same question on Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook the other day: Do you work with a major organization or company who is involved  with funding critical community initiatives? If so, then please read one of my friend D J's last posts to find out how you might be able to help him succeed in his mission: Time is my worst enemy

"May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses.  May those frightened cease to be afraid and may those bound be free.  May the powerless find power and may people think of befriending one another." 
- Traditional  Buddhist Prayer

Everyone should be inspired to reach out & volunteer for a cause they feel is important & where they feel they can make an impact on another person's life for the better.  Everyone deserves to begin & end their days with dignity & hope. My wish is for everyone to get involved somehow - to do their part to make their community a stronger & more secure place for all of us to coexist.

Wordless Wednesday - Anticipating Back Yard Freshness

Basil's Resurgence

Berries Taking Shape

 Oh Tomato!

Herbs Galore & Mint Gone Wild

Awaiting The Peony Grand Opening

 A Bit Of Color

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Survived Week One

I survived week one of the "back to work" routine.  This experience thus far has made me view life through an entirely different lens.  The words I'd use to describe the first couple of days would be restless & unsettled, but by today, it all started to feel somewhat familiar & calm. It's also been like getting to test drive a car & kick the tires a bit before you buy it - a guided tour under the hood.    

Humorous details:

1. The daily scene at the park & ride station in the morning & at the numerous bus stops downtown in the evening are eerily reminiscent of assembly lines in a manufacturing environment. People line up in silence in the most orderly fashion waiting for their turn to board the express buses.  The scene is almost jarred out of balance if someone comes running up the street - late - trying to catch a bus that's quickly driving away. 

2. The similarly silent long line of employees waiting in the elevator bays for their turn to ride up to their floor in the elevator. A totally learned behavior, but far from ordinary if you are an outsider looking on!

3. Caribou has seduced me. I've treated myself to a hot Chai Tea every day since I started. Day 1, I called myself being environmentally conscious, buying a reusable cup cozy on sale for $1.25.  What a steal.  The problem is that on the way home on the Metro Transit that evening, I realized I accidentally threw away my new cozy with my empty cup. Brilliant! Oh well. Hopefully the cleaning person was smart & retrieved it for their own use.  I bought another on day 2, but have managed to remember not to throw the new one away!

Simple pleasures:

1. Getting in 8 of 9 holes of golf this week - First the bus was late & then traffic was horrible, so I was late for my tee time. Even had to change in the back of my car! The starter was a dear & drove me up to the 2nd tee, so I wouldn't miss playing another hole.  It was a beautiful evening & it was so relaxing & mind clearing to walk and play those eight holes with some wonderful ladies.

"Giving thanks for the moment is the only way to glimpse eternity."
- Modern meditation from Seville, Spain

2. Realized this evening that our Irises had finally begun to open up & snapped a few photos. Our neighbors with different exposures had Irises which opened up earlier this week:

Should be interesting to see how week two of "back to work" shapes up!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - A Few Varieties In My Renegade Garden

I love my landscaping, 
but this particular garden has grown out of control on me.

(My favorite)

Endless amounts of 'Gardenview Scarlet' Bee Balm

 Chives everywhere

(At least that's what they look like to me)

Asiatic Lily 
(one of 3 Lily varieties) 
Should I try to save it? 
Or start all over from scratch?!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Revisiting Work-Life-Balance

Photo Courtesy of:  
EA /

And so it begins. Back in the rat race again. One can't help but be thankful and fortunate during this fragile state of our economy, yet at the same time, I'm having all sorts of mixed emotions about what lies ahead. This time it's a little like the 1st day of school as an exchange student. You're only there for a short period of time, but while you're there in a strange country, you do your best to blend in, learn the culture of the family that's hosting you & the expectations of the school that's teaching you. It's truly a peculiar place to be in your career during your early 40's.

Our family is having to find our new normal. New schedules, responsibilities & expectations all around. We'll be searching to find a balance between the comfortable life we had before I was laid off, the cautious reality of the past fifteen months and the relative uncertainty of the months ahead.

 Photo Courtesy of:  
Simon Howden /

I'll miss the limited amount of alone time I had.  Doing those simple things on every mom's to-do list in solitude, like shopping for groceries, doing the laundry, planning meals, cleaning house.

Photo Courtesy of:  
Mantas Ruzveltas /

What's my greatest wish? To have the patience and the strength to begin each day with purpose outside of myself & to end the work day prioritizing the most important people in my life - my son & my husband, what their needs are, but not to forget my own. 

I'll squeeze out time for my workouts, to get my hair done, and maybe have a massage once a year.  I'll ask my husband for his help & support when I need it, because I really don't have to play Superwoman to be successful. 

"Night is drawing nigh -
For all that has been - Thanks!
For all that shall be - Yes!"
An Evening Affirmation by Dag Hammarskjold

But more importantly, I know that it will all come back to me... remembering how I did it before, how I found the time in every day to get it all done. I will find my Work-Life-Balance.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A New Chapter

Well starting late next week, a new chapter will unfold as I start work at a contract position for the next several months.  I tossed the idea back in forth in my head, discussed it with family & a couple of close friends.  I've also heard in the past several days that more people in my personal circle would be losing their jobs. 

Everyone should learn to stretch beyond their comfort zone. 
- Harvey Mackay  

It's such a sobering reality. Things just may get worse for so many before they get better. There are no promises to be made - no guarantees - only what life dishes out day by day.  It's a matter of how you choose to play the cards you've been dealt and where you continue your journey from there. My prayers go out to them. I also said a little prayer of thanks that some good fortune has found it's way back to our family. It will mean some big changes for how we manage our lives, but we all will adjust.

"Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." - Calvin Coolidge

It's amazing how small victories give a person strength & courage. Only you can work to make sure you are in a better situation the next time a major challenge tests your will to survive. Only you can decide to thrive. I am empowered to write a new chapter.

The search goes on for a permanent career opportunity - still a work in progress. I never imagined a plot twist such as this, but I'm willing to take it and see how my character develops - in more ways than one.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Jack Dorsey: The 3 Keys to Twitter's Success (via @the99percent)

There are some days that start off great from the start & you know it's going to be a very productive one.  I was looking to do a bit of research this morning & to gain a bit of guidance about some decisions which have been swirling in my head for the last couple of days. 

After a long & inquisitive conversation, I got off the phone feeling more confident than ever about some choices that may present themselves over the coming days & weeks.  I sat at my desk & glanced over at a piece of paper which says simply:

Step 1: Ask
Step 2: Believe
Step 3: Receive

Those steps are from "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne & references the "Law of Attraction." A few minutes later, a video presentation was referenced in a RT by Jack Dorsey. 

I really felt that what Jack tried to communicate in this presentation is a great example of  "Ask; Believe, Receive";  steps you can take to turn your fantasies into reality.

Jack talked about:
1. "Getting ideas out of your head", getting them down on paper, and "sharing them with others."
2. "Luck" & "Fortune:" "Recognizing opportunities for a build-out of ideas."
3. "The importance of iteration": a continued evolution of your build-out edited based on adaption to service offerings & utilization of ongoing user feedback.

If you've got a free 16 minutes & 20 seconds to kill, just click the post's title link & enjoy Jack's presentation.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Great Titles To Include In Your Personal Library

No young career woman (or man) should be without these titles in their business library!
Get reading!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Networking - It's 100% Mental

A friend sent me a facebook message recently asking if I'd consider going in with her on some Personal Training sessions.  She really wanted to start going, but it was going to be much more affordable for her if she could convince someone to train with her.  I thought "what do I have to lose - I'll give it a try & help her out in the process." If I don't like it, I don't have to continue going & I'd be off the hook.

I'm no stranger to a good workout.  Health & Fitness has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, but honestly I've never paid anyone to train me. For 8 years, I was in competitive sports.  After college, I started teaching group fitness classes & trained competitively for bodybuilding.  So why should I need anyone to tell me how to train & get results right?

Flash forward to today & my life has changed dramatically.  My family has become my priority & my own fitness level has moved to the back burner.  I golf for networking & social reasons & I casually make appearances at the club to justify keeping my membership, but to say have time to train like I used to is a total understatement.  It just hasn't happened. There's no time.

So when this opportunity came up, I committed myself to give it an honest try. Last week's session seemed doable while I was doing it, but oh my goodness, it's been a long time since it took 3 solid days to recover from a workout!  I knew this situation was the kick in the rear I've needed for a long time. Without this Personal Trainer having been in my friend's network, we never would have met. I wouldn't have known she existed or started this little journey.

Networking is a very powerful tool & learning to do it on a regular basis is not second nature for most people.  It is work - it's a job - at least you need to treat it this way in order to see any benefits from doing it. If you don't intend to take it seriously, you might as well not even bother. It could be providing information, a product referral, the name of an associate - it takes many forms.

"For most people networking is a learned behavior... It is a gradual - and often painful, even scary - process of trial and error, small incremental steps, and finally a few breakthroughs." 
- Harvey Mackay

The other thing I believe networking to be is 100% a mental game.  It's mind over matter.  It's putting yourself in situations you don't necessarily understand or feel comfortable in - in order to think outside of yourself & ponder what you can do for another person. It's not "all about you." It's about learning to see the potential in other people & finding what from your base of knowledge you can use to benefit them.  The upside is that you might also gain a new friend in the process.

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." - Dale Carnegie

Take this new trainer of mine for example. If you stood the two of us side by side you'd think "what the heck do those two people have in common? What can they possibly do for each other?"  She's a 30-something ex-competitive soccer player turned ultra endurance athlete.  I'm a 40-something ex-competitive track & bodybuilding athlete, turned career woman, mother & golfer.
I was pleasantly surprised that she was quickly able to tap into my mental toughness - that innate tendency to not want to let a workout get the best of you - to dig in, give it 100% & to exceed your coach's expectations. Once you've learned it - that type of drive really never leaves you, it just gets pushed way down into your consciousness.

"Your role models also can become your mentors, helping you, advising you, guiding you, even lending you their network as you build your own." - Harvey Mackay

So this story isn't over - I signed up for 10 sessions of total body whooping, which means I have 9 more to go. Getting through the intense workouts so far has been 100% mental - remembering how to push beyond the limits my mind is trying to set for me, when I know my physical body is more than capable of doing more.

I'm challenging you to take a good look at your own networking opportunities.  Are you stepping outside of yourself & challenging yourself to help others, without expecting anything in return? Are you giving 100% toward finding a benefit for the other person? Are you truly vesting yourself, expressing genuine interest?  If not. Why bother?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day 2010

It seems like such a short time ago that God blessed my hubby & I with these ten little toes on my son's two perfect little feet.  How time has flown.  Those now 3 year old feet are wearing size 10 1/2 shoes! 

This is my fourth Mother's Day & every one that approaches makes me feel so blessed & fortunate to have a life so precious totally dependent on us.  What a huge responsibility it is, but I will be forever up to the task. I am determined & focused on my goals.

Motherhood has a way of putting everything into perspective.  Nothing in your life or in your heart is quite the same after you give birth to your child & thank goodness nothing will ever be quite as important.  Not even the uncertainty of the job search process.

"Our real blessings often appear to us in the shapes of pains, losses and disappointments; but let us have patience, and we soon shall see them in their proper figures." - Joseph Addison

Motherhood helps give me all the patience I need to continue my journey towards the next leg of my career - however long it takes.  I 'm determined to find the right role - that perfect fit for both myself & my future employer.  I refuse to give up hope - I'll continue searching, applying & networking until my search is over.  And when that happens, I'll be squeezing my son & thanking God that he gave me the strength of Motherhood to help get me there. 

For every generation celebrating this Mother's Day 2010, I wish you much peace, joy & happiness.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mama Robin's Safe Haven

The threat in the weather forecast for snow today made me think of more pleasant Spring/Summer days.  We were blessed last year to have this Mama Robin lay two sets of eggs in a nest beneath a bistro table on our deck.  It was so much fun watching the whole process; from her laying the eggs until the last bird flew away from the nest. Here's a mini photo documentary of how it went:

 Mama Robin's safe haven - 2009

Welcome to the world

The awkward looking phase that all creatures go through!

"Lunchtime!" says Mama Robin

Getting so big!

Ready to Fly!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Will You Make A Difference?

Loved this very simple idea for spreading the "Pay It Forward" concept. Please check this out at

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Anticipation

I love the start of golf season! 

Step 1: Clean the clubs.
Step 2: Inventory the bag.
Step 3: Prepare to enjoy the great outdoors!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Embracing Inspiration

As I'm sure is true for most writers, when a source of inspiration hits, you just need to get it down on paper or you'll lose it.  That was true for me this morning as my son & I are celebrating giant leaps toward successful potty training.  It's been a long, long journey for this very happy Momma - perhaps not so much for my son. 

"It is God's will that not only should we be happy, but that we should create our own happiness - This is the true moral." ~ Immanuel Kant

He first expressed interest at 18 months, so he's had the traditional BabyBjorn potty seat since then, but it was really nothing more than a toy. Thank God because I could never stomach the thought of having to empty out & clean that thing every time he used it. Luckily, I found a replacement seat with an attached kid-sized smaller seat, which tucks away into the lid. It's worked fabulously for his bathroom. In our main floor guest bathroom we are using a Calliou insert, which he also loves. 

I tried months & months of sticker charts, M&M and toy bribes, none of which worked. My son just recently turned three.  The past week it's been like a light turned on in his little head & it all made sense.  Going on the potty is something he could control & do for himself, so it quickly became a challenge he was going to conquer. At this rate, I'm hoping he'll make the underwear leap in no time. He finally found his inspiration.

So I've been writing about my quest to translate the networking I've been doing this past year on-line into face-to-face meetings.  I've really felt a need to build new relationships outside my normal circle of friends, including many past coworkers & vendors which I've maintained contact with, even though that network is quite large & diverse.  I've taken a couple of baby steps & hopefully with the help of the brain child of Ms. @alexisjbell , who is starting a new Minneapolis job seeker's club,  I'm inspired make a few more good connections. Not sure yet if I'll be able to attend the meetings themselves in person or in spirit, but I plan to link up & meet up with some of the members, when it does fit into my schedule.

"The more you exercise your networking muscles, the stronger they get - and the easier networking becomes." ~ Harvey Mackey

Harvey is an aphorism junky.  A couple of days ago, I dug back into my @HarveyMackay library & after starting to read "Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty" again, it hit me how content from great writers remains relevant over time. Even though that book was published back in 1997, it still has some great truths which are still applicable for today. He says that when you first meet a person, you should immediately be thinking about what you can do for that person, without expecting anything in return. 

If you spend time and energy doing good things for others, I truly believe karma will reward you in due time.  It might not be today, tomorrow, or even next month, but it's destined to happen.  You just need to be patient & genuinely care about people. I know it's one thing in my life I can always control.  So, I'm starting off my week embracing that idea as my inspiration.  What is inspiring YOU today?