Friday, July 30, 2010

Angel In Our Midst

It's rare that you come across a person who is gifted; truly gifted in her ability to reach inside and bring out the beauty in everyone whose lives she touches. Angels are people destined to serve a purpose higher than their own.  They illuminate the way for people to see more clearly what they are capable of.  They are people you may easily connect with, however you're not exactly sure why. 

For those of you who have known or known of her through involvement in the Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis, aka @smbmsp or Java MeetUp Minneapolis, you have been watching this phenomenon much longer than I.  Some have come to know her through her now famous Charity Water campaign. I was one of those people.

 "I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives."  - Tracy Chapman

I was intrigued with Erica Mayer & her selfless campaign to bring clean water to those in countries & communities where it's almost more than a necessity - to people who don't take clean water for granted as we do in the USA. Her 29th Birthday campaign, for which she raised an amazing $11,111, touched us long before the reality of the Gulf Oil disaster hit us closer to home.

So the back-story of this post has to do with Erica deciding to offer avatar photos to anyone who would contribute $50.00 or more to her Charity Water drive. I was one of those people, a job seeker who jumped at the opportunity, as I was desperately in need of professional photos for my new blog as well as for my LinkedIn and Twitter pages.

I went into my photo shoot very open, when in my opinion, the camera had never "loved" me - not that I had never taken a great photo on occasion.  My wedding photos, for example, were fabulous, but everyone looks wonderful on their wedding day.  As a Mom, my focus has shifted to capturing great photos of my child.  I am rarely in front of a camera. 

Erica has a unique way of helping you forget that the camera is even there.  She engages in conversation with her subjects and starts to dig to see what moves them and makes them tick... to draw out effortless reactions, raw emotions & energy.  That's where the beauty lives.  It translates from the soul through the lens, and later into the digital landscape.

Like clockwork, the inner transformation begins.  The excitement bubbles up.  Not only in the subject, but on Erica's face as she discovers that what she has captured is pure, spontaneous and rare.

"When angels visit us, we do not hear the rustle of wings, nor feel the feathery touch of the breast of a dove; but we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts." - Unknown

Every time I see another person tweet about an upcoming photo shoot with Ms. Erica, I get excited for them.  I could be wrong, but I have yet to see anyone be Mayerized and then be unhappy with the resulting portfolio of photos.  Usually, people become overwhelmed with the choices - to find a favorite among the sea of great shots.  Some even involve friends, family or their Twitterverse to help them choose.

For a moment in time, those who were uncomfortable behind the camera and who maybe didn't ever feel they were attractive, are touched by the angel in our midst, who is Erica Mayer. The response when I first posted my pics was tremendous - I'll never forget how good it made me feel.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what your did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

So if you missed the 1st Charity Water campaign, but still want to have a piece of the Puke Rainbows Photography experience, I recommend that you contact Erica & book a photo shoot, whether you need engagement, avatar, or family photos.

Forgive my shameless plug, but Erica has set the wheels in motion for me to love myself more than I have in the recent past.  Who couldn't use a spark to get them back on a more positive internal path, as well as guiding people's perceptions from the moment they first see your new photos, allowing the outside to match the inside. I also love that Erica is a muse & blogs some pretty inspirational posts.  Check it out here.

A special thank you goes to Ms. @alexisjbell , whose new avatar I was anxiously awaiting to see tonight & Missy, @MarketingMamaMN whose late night tweet looking for intuitive tweeps both inspired the brainstorming for this post while on the bus to work this morning.

"We are each other's angels, we meet when it is time." - Chuck Brodsky

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

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Summer Fun On A Shoestring Budget

Doesn't take a ton of cash to have a ton of fun!

Oodles Of Bubbles

Hoola Hoopin!

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Evolution of My Social Networking Consciousness

I barely got a few pages into the introduction of Marketing 2.0 Bridging the Gap between Seller and Buyer through Social Media Marketing, by Bernie Borges, when I found some inspiration for this post.

I've been sitting on a draft which gave my top 3 reasons for using Twitter, but wanted to reach deeper. What's more important than a mere declaration of "Why I Like Twitter" may be talking about how I came to become aware of Twitter & how that new lens on the world has changed me as a person and a marketer. You could say it was a single step in the evolution of my social media & social networking consciousness.

My job layoff, which became official in January of 2009 meant I was thrust into a search for relevant information & adult conversation.  I've posted before about how this manifested in my role as a SAHM, but first I had to be engaged in my role as a job seeker.

In order to find a job, in this day & age, you rely on generating leads from your contacts, not unlike a sales process.  I had already been in the habit of keeping up with old friends and co-workers, long before it was the fashionable thing to do.  True networking, however, means generating new contacts outside of your circle. I made the conscious decision to open a Twitter account in March of 2009 & thus my handle contains 032009. I originally protected my tweets, but at the advice of @debbieweil , who DM'd me after I followed her and said I'd "get much more mileage out of Twitter that way..." I quickly unprotected them.  I'm so glad I did. Debbie was so right.

"And we're seeing a higher level of consciousness and many more opportunities for people to challenge their present ways of thinking and move into a grander and larger experience of who they really are."  by Neale Donald Walsch
That brings me to the Number One reason I chose twitter - Relationships, Relationships, Relationships.  I can't stress the importance of this enough ~ You can't continue to build a strong network without thinking outside of the norm and those whom you are familiar with. You also need to make a conscious effort to extend & grow those new relationships off-line, in real life (IRL) or face-to-face.

"If you put yourself in a position where you have to stretch outside your comfort zone, then you are forced to expand your consciousness."  by Les Brown
Social sites like Twitter give you the unique opportunity to engage in conversation in real time, or pretty close to it.  That's my reason Number Two. Whatever you tweet, whether it's directed to a particular individual or to any one of your followers, if it's something that resonates, you can always count on a reaction - a reply/tweet back, a re-tweet (RT) or a direct message (DM), which is very empowering.  Whether you choose to believe it or not thousands of real life relationships have been started out there.  It's an interface like none other & it is a great platform to reveal yourself & to exhibit properties that people can connect with & engage in fluid conversations on a regular basis.

So what's reason Number Three? What do you crave? Many people crave validation around ideas, thoughts, concerns & feelings & Twitter provides an avenue to share those things & get honest feedback. As you regularly share information that's important to you with those who may have similar interests people continue to watch & see what's next.

When you build a social networking site profile you are marketing yourself and your personal brand. Defining who you are, what you represent & what you have to offer your reader is paramount. Don't think for a moment that you are not being analyzed over & over when people read your tweets, your blog from time to time, or your Twitter bio - they are. It's no LinkedIn, but your Twitter timeline is telling. It's like the reader/follower has a magnifying glass into your soul, your belief system & your social consciousness. Spend quality time fine-tuning your messages & tweeting thoughtfully. Your true colors will show and hopefully that's a good thing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Google Doodles - The Archives

Did you know you could Google "Google Doodles" & find some wonderfully creative art that you may have missed when Google originally posted them? Many times they only are seen in other countries.  I had the idea to share a few when I saw these 1st two:

From the recent FIFA World Cup Championships

By Designer Josef Frank

Then searched & found even more really cool designs:

For Andy Warhol

Got To Love van Gogh
 "What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?"
~ Vincent van Gogh

Winter Olympics Closing ceremony

For the wee bit of Irish in me

One more Irish tribute


This one is in honor of the Netherlands - FIFA World Cup 
I know at least one twitter friend who will appreciate this one! 

Happy Googling!

Of course these designs are not my own, I just appreciate that 
Google has some brilliant designers working for them to amuse me!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Better Life At Half Full

Thoughtful Thursday:

It's been a very hopeful week.  I am embracing the power I hold within myself to change my existence through my thoughts and actions more than ever.  There is comfort with who I am today and who I strive be.  I am taking risks & am not afraid to fail. 

"...If he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." ~ Theodore Roosevelt

No matter how the next couple of weeks pan out, I know I've offered up my best. No regrets. No fear. There is nothing to be disappointed or discouraged about. I'm leaving it all on the table. No one will be able to say I've failed. 

For all I know, this is my time...the turning point I've been holding out for.  And until I know that it is, I'll be living a much better life at half full than if it were half empty.  The goal? To be full to the brim again & it will only be a matter of time before I'm there.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Life On Both Sides of the Working/SAHM Mom Continuum

Note: This is a re-post of my recent guest blog post.

It was a lazy day after the 4th of July, my son & I still lounging in our pajamas, when I ran across a tweet from Kate-Madonna, aka @GirlMeetsGeek that I felt compelled to respond to:

"Dear mothers of the blogosphere: What is up with the hatred for SAHM or Work Away From Home Mamas? #DontUnderstandIt We're all just moms."

My first response was: "Is there something specific that tugged at you? Or just in general one vs the other? @girlmeetsgeek re: ...SAHM or Work Away From Home Mamas"

And following her reply which included "...seeing too much snark on the blogs and momboards..." my next tweet was: "@girlmeetsgeek I've been on both sides of the experience. They are parallel universes - One does not fully understand or respect the other."

A few DMs later & Kate-Madonna asked if I'd be willing to guest blog on that very subject to share my insights.  I was happy to do so.

As a few of you know if you've read my blog from the beginning, my career life was turned totally upside down back in December of 2008, when I first learned that over 600 co-workers nationwide, including myself, would be let go the following month. The first thing out of my husband's mouth was, well, I guess we should take our son out of daycare.  My heart sank.

And just like that, I negotiated with my husband that I needed two days a week to be free to look for work, as well as fit in a workout. I had no idea how difficult it would be to reinvent myself & become a Part-Time Stay-At-Home-Mom.

Those first few trips to the park were interesting indeed.  As an outsider to a SAHM group, the moms rarely stop & speak to you despite the fact that your children are playing together. 9 times out of 10, it was me initiating small talk with those moms.  These clusters of FT SAHMs seem to have this routine all together.  They coordinated their elaborate lunches, their kids all played together & then stopped playing at the same time & ate together.  In comparison, we arrived to the park later than them & often stayed later. I carried drink boxes, fruit snacks, maybe some pretzels & goldfish. We would run home to have our lunch & on many occasions my son fought to stay awake in the car & lost the battle, so lunch might have come after he crashed for naptime.

I scoured the web looking for parent/child classes to help fill our days together, which was a lifesaver - adding a sense of structure for both of us.  I looked into local playgroups.  I discovered what life in my neighborhood was like for the moms who didn't work.  It lived & breathed.  Every day that I drove off to the office, I had been missing out on the SAHM routine.

Initially, whenever I was around SAHM's, I was left feeling like an outsider - not part of the cool clique.  I seriously doubted that any of them ever had to work for a living.  I was almost certain that that they could not relate to me as a driven career-woman.

Usually, when you have a room filled with divergent opinions, one side thinks: "I wonder what it would be like to be that other person & share their opinions because the grass is always greener on the other side." In the case of SAHM's I found the complete opposite to be true. You might call it "Mommy War Games."

Most loved their lives & couldn't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to be home with their young children.  Some had willfully given up past careers & others had never worked & were proud to be "only a mother" during their days. Some were very judgmental about those who valued their career at a point in their lives when raising their kids "should be a mom's first priority."

I didn't relate to that sort of reality.  I love having a career as much as I love being a parent.  There was so much of my identity wrapped up in the fact that I balanced being a wife, a super-productive employee & last, but not least, a mother. I did it well & didn't feel like my life was lacking because I made a financial decision not to stay at home with my young son. It was a challenge for me to understand why setting & meeting personal goals such as that wouldn't be important to every mom.

I have to admit after a few month of being a PT SAHM, I realized how difficult the routine really was.  I found myself on the one hand feeling blessed to have the time to share with my son in a critical time in his life, when he is learning & growing mentally by leaps & bounds.  On the flip side, I worried that I wasn't doing enough & that he were better off being able to play & learn with his friends at daycare/preschool.

Eventually, I found a wonderful local playgroup, with whom I continue to stay in touch with via Cafe Mom - a wonderful online community & social resource. They eventually welcomed us in, even though my son & I had taken a different path to get there. The group is very structured with two types of gatherings: public, open to anyone & held in neutral locations and private, by invitation only & often hosted in homes.

The public events foster the opportunity to get to know the new SAHM on the surface and to observe how the children interact together. Initial conversations were not inquisitive, but rather were centered around past & future group events. A newcomer quickly feels left out.  It was more about what you were able to contribute to the group, rather than early acceptance.  In the long run, will you fit in & conform? Will the new mom say anything to make the group feel cautious or even confrontational?  You could even call it an initiation of sorts.

Expressions of an ideal way to parent are subjective and so personal. Opinions run across the board with a wide spectrum of beliefs & convictions. Some moms are by nature more open than others. It comes down to trust and whether you are willing to explore views outside of your usual boundaries.

"Lord, show us where there is loneliness, that we may take friendship. Show us where individuals are not seen as persons, that we may acknowledge their identity.  Show us where there is alienation, that we may take reconciliation." 
- Prayer for Women's World Day of Prayer, Jamaica

I prefer to compare it to any business relationship.  You utilize listening skills and negotiate to reach common ground.  Through my actions, I was able to lower some of the walls & show that I was more like them than they had first imagined.  I stood up another mom's child who was being bullied when I saw a parent who didn't care to discipline their naughty child.

I wasn't concerned what the offending child's parent would say or think - I acted from my heart.  Other moms in the group respected me for that reason & that one simple act.  It was a virtual turning point, reversing their thinking.  They were able to put aside any stereotypes about me, who wished to be a working mom again. It also led to deeper conversations at future play-dates.  We were no longer on opposite sides of a virtual battle field.

My wish for all moms on either side of this reality is to feel first, think second & speak third. Stop playing the Mommy War Games. Leave your generalizations at the door & get to know the individual you encounter from the inside out.  Try to step into their shoes & empathize what it would be like to be them - to be living their day-to-day existence. Every mom deserves respect. You might find a bit more compassion & understanding than you knew you had the capacity to have.  And I guarantee you will become a more genuine & empowered individual as a result.
Update: In case you missed them, here are the comments published on the guest blog. Do you have a different experience? Or do you just want to say - "I can relate," please leave me a note below...
1.        erica ( @ericamayer) Says:
July 10th, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Great insights. I think even us “non” moms can learn from it. Your “feel first, think second and speak third” line is a mantra to live by.

2.        jenn Says:
July 11th, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Monika –
As you know, I work four days a week, and find myself playing the role of SAHM on the fifth day. We often run into SAHM’s at Target or the Wading Pool and I do feel like an outsider, but I’m okay with it. I also love having a career as much as being a Mom. I also feel it’s great for our kids to see us enjoying our careers. Thanks for you insights!

3.        Missy Says:
July 11th, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Great to hear your experiences, Monika. Interesting about your initiation into the playgroup. Ya know, I wouldn’t rush for sororities in college, and I’d probably not do well in that situation either.

I remember being out for a play date (on a weekend) one time with a bunch of friends and felt totally out of place when I realized I was the only working mom. They were comparing notes on ECFE classes and cloth diapers and other things I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) choose to do as a full time working-out-of-the-house mom. It was awkward and I sat there dumbstruck – wanting to talk about career topics, or even something neutral like child development! Anyhow, it only happened once… although funny I never forgot it.

Thanks for sharing –

4.        Jen Says:
July 11th, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Interesting experience. I’ve been a SAHM full time for a year now and if there is some kind of coordinated park/lunch routine in my city, I know nothing about it. Granted, we don’t leave the house that much because, well, it’s just too much work. But when we do go to the park, there are only a few other kids there and I might make small talk with the parents but I never even get their names and rarely see them again. The only SAHM I coordinate things with is my daughter’s best friend’s mom.

5.        Molly Says:
July 12th, 2010 at 10:45 am

Monika, I loved reading this. When I had my second son, I went from working 5 normal days to working 4 long days to have one extra day at home with the boys.

I signed up for classes and playgroups aplenty. And I tried to do it all in my one day. And I was an outsider. I hated it. I wasn’t doing anyone any good. I was trying so hard to fit into both worlds and failing miserably.

And so I stopped. I went back to working full time. And I learned to accept that I just couldn’t be all things all of the time.

This was a great post!

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy:
Revisiting Work-Life-Balance

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Guest Appearance on GirlmeetsGeek's Blog

My 1st guest post is up on #GirlmeetsGeek. "The power of Mommyblogs. Can't they all just get along?" 
Be sure to stop over & check it out!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Starting my Christmas Wish List Now

This may possibly be the coolest thing I've seen come a long for the kitchen in a long time. Moms, I know you'll appreciate this. Another reason to love Williams-Sonoma ~ The Zoku Quick Pop Maker.  They even offer an "Ice Pops cookbook."  

This gift idea is so perfect, I might even buy one & put it under the Christmas tree for myself so I don't miss out.  I'm betting they sell out quickly. People, do you agree?! Or am I too nostalgic? (Don't you remember making Tupperware Popsicles with your Mom growing up? - They weren't anywhere near this neat though.)

P.S. No, Williams-Sonoma is not sending me a free one to jabber about this product - I just think it's awesome.

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Sidewalk Chalk + Imagination = Fun

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Goodnight Wordless Wednesday - Where Would You Rather Be ...

The air today was thick & steamy.
Where would you rather be on a day like that?

Just close your eyes & imagine...

Goodnight Wordless Wednesday... Sweet Dreams

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July 2010

So many things have changed in our world (including my son) 
in the two short years since these photos were taken at our 
family's 4th of July celebration.

Hold on to the memories of all the good things & 
volunteer to help change the rest. You hold the power.

Happy Independence Day 2010!