January 2012 - Stratejoy
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I can’t believe this is over. Five months has never flown by so fast! I have loved this little corner of my life, making the time each week to focus on my life- where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I want to be. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that I’m a different, better version of myself today than I was in early September 2011.

When I started writing here, I set some specific goals for myself:

1. Personal– create an authentic life full of joy!

2. Professional– be a grounded, curious, and empathic counselor!

3. Financial– finally get out of debt!

So, how did I do? Well, it was a mixed batch.

I didn’t do a scientific, exact measure, but my life feels more authentic ad joyful. The weekly brainstorming sessions didn’t happen as I had envisioned. I didn’t sit down and journal or make lists or create a vision board on a weekly basis, but if we swap out “weekly” with “monthly” then it was a total success! I registered for, participated in, and absolutely loved the Put Yourself Out There group as well as The Council: Holiday Edition. Both groups helped me create a clear vision of what I want my life to look like and what changes I need to make in order for those dreams to become a reality. I continued to practice yoga weekly, missing only a few classes. And surprise! While training for my half-marathon, I fell in love with running and the time and space it provides me with to be alone with my thoughts.

My professional goals were a flop. I didn’t find a mentor and I didn’t read one book each month. This isn’t really a huge surprise to me since my love for my job began slipping away from me these past few months. I started two books, but they are both sitting on my shelf with a bookmark tucked somewhere in the middle of the pages. I still want to find a mentor and that is something I am going to pursue. I want to find someone who challenges me, supports me, and hopefully inspires me in my professional growth as a counselor.

Financially, I am in such a better place than I was in September. While I cannot cross off any of  the goals listed above, I feel more secure, and have allowed myself some wiggle room from month to month. In December I began the process of consolidating my student loans which means that my monthly payments have gone down over $600! My rent is also about $150 cheaper in my new apartment, so that helps too. With these changes, I am able to travel more, put money aside (what I call my “mental savings account”), and feel much more relaxed when it’s time to pay bills. I can just feel the anxiety melting away!

In addition to working toward these goals, I’ve learned to trust myself over these past few months. I wrote myself a love letter and I faced my inner critic. I imagined my best life and I solidfied my core values. I moved to a new apartment, watched my best friend get married, and I decided to run a half-marathon. I stressed out over money, reflected on 2011, and set an intention for 2012: Savor Growth. I shared stories about my dad and my long-distance relationship, I questioned my career choice, and I answered a bajillion questions. It’s been a journey, y’all.

I feel stronger, more courageous, and more at peace. I feel like I know myself better, which I guess is what you can expect when you spend an uninterrupted hour or two with someone (yourself) each week writing, reflecting, and sorting through all your personal thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

I’m so sad that it’s time for me to go. I have truly loved every minute, every connection, and every friendship that has been built because of Stratejoy. Thank you for cheering me on as I shared a bit of me with you each week. You all mean the world to me. In case you want to continue following my journey toward a life full of audacious joy, you can find me here:

Please stay in touch!

[photo credit: my boyfriend; Me- In front of the harbor in his hometown in Canada]

The first thing I did this morning was change a poopy diaper.  Yep.  That’s the exact same first sentence as my first post for Stratejoy.  It would be easy to get down and think that nothing has changed in the last 5 months.  I’m still a nanny. I still deal with literal and metaphorical crap every day.  But a lot has changed.

In 2004 I was a super senior at Oregon State University.  I had a major, but didn’t know if I had chosen the right one.  If you wanted to find my self esteem you’d have to scrape it off the floor from underneath the spilled PBR and old pizza boxes.  I was starting to gain weight, had just finally given up dating guys I didn’t even like, and had zero plan for the future.  That’s when I started nannying.   It’s no surprise that the job now holds such a negative connotation.   Thankfully this was also the time I met Mister.  Soon after graduation I moved to Seattle.

Life slowly started perking up.  It got better and better.  Especially this last year.   I turned 30.  I got married to my best friend.   I quit one of my nanny jobs.  I really nailed down what I want from my business.  I can certainly attribute a lot of my growth to these things.  But I keep wondering how much of my change has been because of Stratejoy…going through the Joy Equation (twice), sucking up the fear and writing my application to be a season 5 blogger, and for the past 5 months, spending time reflecting on my Quarterlife Crisis through these blog posts.  I am not the same person I was a year ago.  I believe in myself.  I trust myself.  I’m excited about what is to come. And most importantly, as I said last week in the interview, “I’ve realized that the feelings of needing to do more, be myself, and live life my way are not unique to me.”  I don’t feel alone anymore.

And so as I finish my stint as a Season 5 Stratejoy blogger I have mixed feelings.  On one hand I’m so sad that the support of this tribe won’t be there every week like it is now.  I won’t be forced to mentally push through the roadblocks that get in the way of moving forward.  I won’t have to give myself time to think and write about myself every week.  In some ways I’m afraid I’ll forget everything I’ve learned when it’s not front and center in my mind anymore.

But on the other hand, I’m excited.  It’s time to move on.  It’s time to stop talking about where I’m going and where I want to be.  It’s time to just go.  And I go ahead with the knowledge that you are all out there going through the same kinds of things I am.  We’re all in this together in one way or another.  And somehow, that gives me a little bit more confidence.

I don’t even remember the plot of the movie Bounce, but I do, and always will, remember this quote:

It’s not brave if you’re not scared.

And so I step forward into the next stage of my life, afraid, but not alone.  Feeling brave and strong.

If you want to keep in touch, follow my business blog, email me, or find me on Facebook.  I would LOVE to hear from you!  And I’ll be around.  Don’t think you’ll get rid of me that easily.

Until next time, sticky notes, coffee, sweater blankets, and everything good to you!

[Photo Credit:   Mister took this on our honeymoon in Italy]

The past five months have gone by entirely too quickly! It’s still a little mind-blowing to me that I’ve been on the road for nearly four of those five. A lot has happened during that time, and while the big things are obvious, I think the smaller changes are going to take another five months to process. And that’s okay! I want to keep growing and transforming as I continue working through my QLC and settling into my new life. I’m still so honored that I’ve been able to share this journey with all of you!

What are you obsessed with at this exact moment?

Zotter chocolate, yoga, mochas, getting my etsy shop up and running, visiting my OddDaughter in England, my impending gluten detox. (I’m gluten-intolerant, and I have not been careful during my travels.)

You can time travel but only to the past! What time period/ historical event do you go and experience?

This is an easy one! Every time I talk about Coney Island, I tell people that I want to go there during the early 1900s, when it was “America’s Playground”. Coney Island is literally one of my favorite places on the entire planet, and I’d love the opportunity to experience Luna Park, Steeplechase Park, and Dreamland in their heyday.

If you could be any animal, which animal would you be and why?

A tiger. I find them mesmerizing; they’re so strong, and yet still graceful.

Any person dead or alive, who would you have dinner with?

David Lynch. I think he’d be an utterly fascinating dinner companion, and boy, do I have some questions for him!

What is on your life’s soundtrack?

I planned my final yoga class at my old studio around the theme of overcoming fear. This was the playlist for the class, and I think it’s a pretty accurate soundtrack for my life as well:

In addition to that playlist, I’d add these songs that I can’t live without:

I’ve linked to as many of the songs as I could, so hopefully you’ll go forth and enjoy some new music – and if you like it, support the artists!

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

If I could clone myself and simultaneously be with my friends in NYC, Seattle, Minneapolis, Raleigh, St. Augustine, San Francisco, Vancouver, Edmonton, Oxford, Graz, Vienna, Rabat, Melbourne, Sydney, and Okinawa – well, I’d do that. Since that’s not going to happen, I think I’ll stick with wanting to be where I as I’m writing this: Barcelona!

Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout your QLC?

My yoga kula (community): the ladies who completed teacher training with me and several other friends/mentors. They inspire me every day with their passion, bravery, and love.

If money, education, time, or location were not an issue, what would you be doing for work in life?

It feels pretty awesome to say this: I’d be doing exactly what I’m doing now/about to be doing (teaching yoga, writing, taking photographs, traveling)! I just wouldn’t need to worry about my bank account so much in the process. 🙂

What was the biggest mental shift you’ve made from 5 months ago to now?

Over the course of my last few weeks in New York, I was seriously doubting my decision to leave and my ability to keep myself afloat financially and emotionally without a 9-to-5 job. Now I feel certain that I did the right thing, and that I can make this all work.

What’s changed? List 10 little sweet things.

  1. I gave up my cozy Brooklyn apartment for a transient lifestyle.
  2. I don’t really mind wearing the same clothes four months in a row.
  3. I’ve developed and renewed so many amazing friendships.
  4. I miss good tacos and bbq.
  5. I’ve learned, once and for all, that my yoga practice – the reading, the āsana, the meditation – is crucial to my well-being.
  6. I drink coffee!
  7. I’ve visited 13 countries (six new ones and seven return trips).
  8. I’m learning to be less afraid of making mistakes.
  9. I’m a pro at navigating new European cities where I don’t speak the language.
  10. I don’t think I ever want to go back to the 9-5 world.

What’s one thing that you’ve learned – in general or about yourself – over the past five months?

I’ve (re)learned just how important it is for me to have a community. I am fortunate to have amazing friends scattered around the globe, but what makes a place feel like home for me is having some of my people nearby.

What would you have done differently on your Stratejoy journey if you were starting today?

I wish I’d put more time into soul-searching (writing morning pages, completing The Joy Equation, etc.) at the beginning. I feel like I’m only now beginning to tackle some of the really big, deep stuff! At the same time, I think that I needed space to get there, so maybe it’s all worked out for the best.

What song(s) will remind you of the past five months?

What is your favorite thing about YOU?

I am so proud of myself for doing things – from minor items to major life changes – even when they absolutely terrify me.

Name 3 things you absolutely love about yourself.

  1. I love that I’m my quirky self; I rock diverse interests that range from the badass to the absurd, and everything in between.
  2. I love that I’m not afraid to cry.
  3. I love that I don’t need a lot of stuff to survive and thrive.

How are you living life on your own terms?

I quit a steady job to travel the world and move to a new country to start a less traditional career path. Despite the concerns of my family and my slowly dwindling bank account – which will be pleased when I arrive in Sydney and also begin selling my photos – I am overall the happiest I’ve been in my life. Even when I get scared (and it definitely happens), I feel like I made exactly the right choice for me, and I love that I’m listening deeply and following my heart.

[photo credit: me!]

What are you obsessed with at this exact moment?
I am obsessed with the tv show New Girl and my smart phone. I joined the smart phone club a long while after it seemed everyone else had. I can’t believe I can look up things all the time! Fun facts! Hysterical jokes! Youtube!
You can time travel but only to the past! What time period/ historical
event do you go and experience?
The social change that occured in the 60s and 70s has always facinated me, and I would love to go back in time to see some of the events unfold like Woodstock, the Vietnam War, African-American and women’s rights, the Kent State shootings, the rise of birth control…so many incredible events that shaped our nation and our culture.
 If you could be any animal, which animal would you be and why?
A dolphin. They’re incredibly smart, are one of few animals that have sex for fun, and can still take on a shark if they need to. There is nothing wrong with being cute AND badass.Any person dead or alive, who would you have dinner with?
Jesus. Tell me, Jesus. What do you make of today’s religion? Do you feel your life story was recorded accurately? How do you feel about the acts that are performed in your name? I have more burning questions for that man than any other figure I can think of. And, he turned water into wine, so that makes our dinner bill a lot cheaper.
What is on your life’s soundtrack?
“Fire and Rain” – James Taylor
“Fall to Pieces” – Velvet Revolver
“Long Road to Run” – Foo Fighters
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Actually, Cincinnati, OH. I can’t imagine being anywhere else right now for longer than a vacation.  A close second might be moving to Florida to work with animals.Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout your QLC?
The people I’ve met at the zoo. They are people so much like me, with passions and living life on their own terms. I try to embrace the lessons I learn from them every single day.
If money, education, time, or location were not an issue, what would
you be doing for work in life?
Train animals and educate the public with them. Dolphins or birds especially.
What was the biggest mental shift you’ve made from 5 months ago to now?
I love the zoo world enough to possibly devote my life to it. The thought of even doing anything else right now saddens me. I’m going to keep following this path, at least for now.
What’s changed? List 10 little sweet things.
1. I decided I might never get married or have kids. Ok, that is a big thing, but it has changed!
2. I eat mostly vegan food at home now for health reasons
3. I started doing yoga
4. My commitment to “stuff”
5. My environmental education proficiency
6. My weight! I’ve lost 10 pounds!
7. I’ve embraced some key things about myself and shared them with close friends
8. I put more weight in the relationships I have with others
9. I’m more thoughtful about my finances and money
10. I’m incredibly happy right now.
What’s one thing that you’ve learned – in general or about yourself –
over the past five months?
I can be happy doing what I want to do, not what I feel I should be doing based on what all my peers are doing.
What would you have done differently on your Stratejoy journey if you
were starting today?
I got deep, but I could have gone much deeper. There is so much I’ve learned about topics that are still hard for me to discuss with strangers.
What song(s) will remind you of the past five months?
“Feeling Good” – Michael Buble
What is your favorite thing about YOU?
I’m fiesty and a fighter. Those traits push me through a lot of shit.
Name 3 things you absolutely love about yourself.
1. My sense of humor
2. The close bond I develop with animals
3. The infinite amount of love I have to give others
How are you living life on your own terms?
I’m definitely not following the crowd…I’m finally embracing my beliefs and trying to live my life every day as passionately as possible.
{Photo Credit: smiling_da_vinci}
What are you obsessed with at this exact moment? Painting in my house, hot chocolate, making meals in the slow cooker I received for Christmas from my parents, anything on Pinterest, and attacking my reading and movie list.
You can time travel but only to the past! What time period/ historical event do you go and experience? As a historian, I’ve thought a great deal about this. There are many, many time periods that are fascinating and interesting to me, but after much thought and consideration, I would want to be in my late teens at the end of World War II so that in the 1950s I would be in my twenties and involved in the beginnings of so many movements of social change. The only thing I probably wouldn’t enjoy would be the expected wearing of restrictive undergarments, but I’d probably be the first gal on my block to wear trousers anyway!
If you could be any animal, which animal would you be and why? Elephant for sure. First off, they lead long lives and their ‘society’ is based on a matriarch as head of the herd. They have a wisdom about them ( maybe it’s the wrinkles), thick skin to ward off negativity or predators, and are just so darn personable. One of my favorite stuffed animals is an elephant and one of the first pieces I bought for the house after my ex husband left was a small wooden carved elephant. They symbolize strength and perseverance to me.
Any person dead or alive, who would you have dinner with? Tough choice on this but would definitely be Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first licensed female doctor in the United States. I find her life and career endlessly fascinating and would just want to know so much about how she pushed through boundaries and challenged society’s ideals about medicine and women.
What is on your life’s soundtrack? Quite a diverse list for me and just a small selection of my favorites:
Anything by YoYo Ma- nothing like the amazing sounds of the cello to guide me through writing and work projects
Who Says You Can’t Go Home- Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles
Hallelujah- Rufus Wainwright- I find this version so amazing, though truthfully, I love almost any version of the song
Stand- Lenny Kravitz- how can you not want to smile & dance about!!?!
Heart of Every Girl- Elton John
Girls Just Want to Have Fun- Cyndi Lauper
Time Flies- Smokey Robinson- if you have not heard it, YouTube it now. Amazingly poignant
Copa Cabana- Barry Manilow & Waterloo- Abba– because sometimes you need to sing silly songs and dance in the kitchen
Great Day to Be Alive- Travis Tritt- makes me endlessly happy
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown- Jim Croce- Love this song I think because my parents like him and it reminds me of them
Getting Better- The Beatles- because it really is getting better all the time
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be? As I write this, it is ten degrees in Massachusetts. I’d love to be in a quiet, remote spot that is warm like St. Bart’s. I’d love to just be sitting on the beach reading books and writing for weeks on end. Maybe I’ll sit in the sun this afternoon and crank my heat up to pretend haha.
Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout your QLC? My family and friends, Molly and the tribe of girls featured on blogs and through the groups I have been a part of, and so many other internet folks who shared stories of overcoming difficult times or uncertainty. During some of the toughest times of the QLC and working through the divorce, I have tried to keep the ideas of my 16 year old self in mind, especially the dreams and ideas I had about life then. While so many of them have changed as life has happened, the one thing that has remained is the vision of a happy woman smiling her way through life. That idea has definitely helped get me through a few dark moments.
If money, education, time, or location were not an issue, what would you be doing for work in life? A small cafe owner with a little shop that had delicious baked goods and yummy coffee.
What was the biggest mental shift you’ve made from 5 months ago to now? This has been huge for me- basically learning that just because I decided to end a marriage that I am not an un-loveable failure. I stood up for my life and chose happiness and while it is heartbreaking at the end of the relationship that this step will make both him and I better people in life. Because let’s face it, while it hurts me still that I made a vow and it is now broken, life is too short to be miserable for days on end.
What’s changed? List 10 little sweet things.
1. Being on my own schedule, doing my own thing as I want without having to check in with another person.
2. If I want to eat ice cream for dinner, I’m going to do it.
3. Sleeping in the middle of the big queen bed is pretty glorious.
4. Being able to leave clothes and clutter around if I don’t feel the need to put it right away.
5. Spending hours of a night reading in quiet without a TV on.
6. No cable- so great to not have the pull of junky TV every night to escape to instead of facing life.
7. Free weekends to do what I want.
8. Buying small things for the house that make me super happy.
9. Having one whole closet to myself
10. Quiet, sunny Sunday mornings just enjoying
What’s one thing that you’ve learned – in general or about yourself – over the past five months? That I am much stronger than I thought I was- and that I know myself far better than I give myself credit for. I’ve learning that trusting my gut is the one thing I should always rely on and that my judgement of people and their character tends to be pretty spot on. I’ve learned the true meaning of family and friendship, and experienced what real gratitude and being blessed feels like. I’ve learned that in times of crisis or change, you learn a lot about the people around you- who comes to your side, who falls away. I’ve learned that crying is not a sign of weakness and that breakdowns can lead to amazing things. I’ve learned more about love than I ever imagined- love of myself, love and loss of a partner, love of family and friends, and what I want love to look like in my future.
What would you have done differently on your Stratejoy journey if you were starting today? When I found out I was going to be a Stratejoy blogger, not everyone in my family and close circle of friends knew about my ex and I divorcing. It was important for me that people heard it from me first, not the blog. With a few situations, a few people found out from reading the blog which I deeply wish I could have changed. At the same time, going public with the divorce via the blog was also a great step because it often eliminated some of the tough or uncomfortable conversations about the divorce that I was dreading having.
What song(s) will remind you of the past five months? You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up) by Josh Groban, True Colors by Phil Collins, and Save Me, San Francisco by Train ( my trip to San Fran in September was the start of the a new beginning!)

What is your favorite thing about YOU? My love of learning, my insatiable quest for knowledge, and my endless curiosity

Name 3 things you absolutely love about yourself. First I’d like to say that five or six months ago I’m not sure this question would be easy to answer.
1. The ability to have a quiet night in with myself, a cup of tea, a good book, and my thoughts– and to know when I need those nights for my sanity.
2. My work ethic- whether it is in my job or in doing work around my house, I love how I take a project on with enthusiasm and work hard to achieve my goals. The sense of accomplishment and pride at the end of each project is intensely gratifying and self-fulfilling.
3. My strength- there have been so many times over the past six months when I have wanted to give up, but I put my head up and just power through to move forward. I’m doing things now on my own that I never imagined I could ever do.

How are you living life on your own terms? I made a huge life decision that had major implications for my, my ex husband, and our family and friends. I stood up for me and decided that a life apart would make us both happier than a life together. I’m living alone in a house that I making all my own and loving every.single.minute.of it.

What are you obsessed with at this exact moment?
My brain! Is that too self-obsessed? Maybe. Being in school for psychology sure keeps me thinking about how to learn from everything. In class, they say to simply feel from the heart, but I prefer to overanalyze my childhood. I also can’t stop drinking coffee, eating buttered toasts, or saying ‘Fancy that!’

You can time travel but only to the past! What time period/ historical event do you go and experience?
I think I’d like to be a cavewoman. It might be so much easier to communicate without words. Or harder. I guess I’d like to see. I would definitely be a vegetarian cavewoman.

If you could be any animal, which animal would you be and why?
Dolphin. Or Sloth. I used to want to be a bird, but I think I would hate living above the sea and not having hands.

Any person dead or alive, who would you have dinner with?
My dad. Snoozer answer, but I would love to talk to him and be like, “So… about your suicide…?”

What is on your life’s soundtrack?
I have, what some may call, strange taste in music. I’m a bilingual girl who doesn’t keep up with the kids today. So, I like old ballads sung in Spanish. This one by Joan Sebastian is my favorite. I love ‘Grita’ by Jarabe de Palo when I’m sad. And I belt Julieta Venegas or Regina Spektor when I’m happy.
When I want to marvel, I listen to the smartest wordsmith musician I’ve ever heard, Brian Cutean. Favorite lyric is his song, ‘Three Little Letters’: BMW? BFD.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
My goal is to get this question and be able to say, “I am completely content where I am right now no matter what.” Until then, I will say a warm beach in Panama, playing futbol with the local kids while the sun goes down, no to-do list in sight.

Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout your QLC?
Ugh. I hate this answer, but I must speak my truth. When Steve Jobs died, I was like, “Guys, he just made some computers. Relax. No big deal. Bah.” But… He believed he could do things, and then he did them. So, he’s pretty inspiring. I also like to think about how Tina Fey is a funny woman who carved out her own path. I’m inspired by everyone here all the time too– I LOVE anyone who says they will do something and then does it.

If money, education, time, or location were not an issue, what would you be doing for work in life?
I’ve been asking myself this question forever. I think it’s what I’m doing now. Writing! I think. It might be nice to be doing it from a little bungalow on that warm beach though. I’ve been teaching writing workshops, and I love the idea of writing therapy. I’d love to cultivate that in the future and be a writer who spends half the year writing from that warm beach and the other half leading seminars and speaking around the US. I also think being a medical examiner would be so interesting. The human body!

What was the biggest mental shift you’ve made from 5 months ago to now?

There have been many! I think mostly I’ve developed more patience, trust, and the ability to be gentle with myself. I started Stratejoy just as I submitted my book to agents. I thought I needed to sell it ASAP to be considered a ‘real writer.’ If not, I thought I’d be a failure and my life would mean nothing. Since then, I see how things take time. I see how much I’m learning from each rejection I get, so I know that I wasn’t supposed to sell my book immediately. I am trusting that this process is going just as it’s supposed to. I’m trusting my own abilities. And I’m not putting so much emphasis on outside validation. I don’t need that credit to my name to be considered ‘real’ or ‘valid’ or ‘good enough.’

What’s changed? List 10 little sweet things.
-I’m putting myself first more often.
-I’m more gentle and loving toward myself.
-I have a vision board!
-I’ve stopped judging my mom and our relationship has blossomed (not really a LITTLE thing!).
-I’ve alloted more time to game nights and friends!
-I’m taking on only projects I love (what a relief!).
-I’m managing time wisely.
-I’m taking more time to just experience joy.
-I feel a new sense of calm.
-I’ve set a new order of priorities.
-I am trusting that everything is just how it’s supposed to be.

What’s one thing that you’ve learned – in general or about yourself – over the past five months?
I don’t always have to be the best, the most perfect, the first, etc. I am enough how I am NOW! In the past, I’ve spent so much time reeeeeaching for perfect. My teacher asked me, “If you were perfect, how would you know?”

What would you have done differently on your Stratejoy journey if you were starting today?
I’d put aside a specific amount of time each week to write so I didn’t feel so rushed! Time, you elusive bitch.

What song(s) will remind you of the past five months?
This one by Bebe really reminds me of any QLC. I heard it while running a few months ago, and I just burst into tears on the path by the beach. Favorite lyric in that song: Today you will discover that the world is just for you.

What is your favorite thing about YOU?
Just one!? I love my ability to never be offended and to see that everyone means well.

Name 3 things you absolutely love about yourself.
Oh, okay. Three more.
1.) My body! It’s awesome and helps me do everything I want to do every day. Hands are pretty cool.
2.) My willingness to laugh at everything– not in a deflecting way but in a way that means ‘Hey! Life is weird. Let’s make the fucking best of it.’
3.) My brain. It thinks a lot and I’m so grateful for it. I love how I’m constantly learning and being open to whatever might enter my thoughts.

How are you living life on your own terms?
I try to not be swayed by society. I don’t watch TV (besides illegally streamed ‘Shark Tank’ episodes). I don’t keep up with rules. I don’t listen to anybody who tells me I can’t do something. I believe that anything is possible. I don’t let money be an excuse. I make things happen. I love myself.

I can’t even wrap my mind around the fact that these five months writing for Stratejoy and sharing my story with you are almost over. It just doesn’t seem possible. I have loved every moment of it and have learned more about myself than I could have expected. But before we get all mushy-gushy, it’s time for the interview questions. I have loved reading these posts during the four previous seasons, so I hope you will enjoy it too!

What are you obsessed with at this exact moment?

Bloggers in Sin City, training for my half-marathon next month(!!!!!), Greek yogurt, The West Wing (how is it possible that I’ve never watched this show before?!), working toward my goals for 2012, and The Bachelor. Guilty pleasure.

You can time travel but only to the past! What time period/ historical event do you go and experience?

This is a really hard question to answer because I love history and would trade my pinky finger to actually be able to time travel. Just one time period? Okay, let’s go with the 1950’s. I know it wasn’t extremely progressive in terms of women’s rights and the world was recuperating from a devastating war, but idea of wearing a poodle skirt, spending my Friday nights at the local diner eating a hamburger and chocolate milkshake while listening to “Book of Love” on the jukebox sounds amazing.

If you could be any animal, which animal would you be and why?

A penguin, for no other reason than I think they are adorable with their tuxedo-like suits, their inability to fly, and their determination to migrate thousands of miles by waddling through the snow.

Any person dead or alive, who would you have dinner with?

My dad. Spending an evening with him, asking him all those questions I thought were “too boring” or “too personal”, letting him know what he’s missed over these past three years, and telling him how much I love him, just one more time.

What is on your life’s soundtrack?

“Mmmbop”- Hanson
“Slide”- Goo Goo Dolls
“Drops of Jupiter”- Train
“Somebody Loved” – The Weepies
“Waterfalls” – TLC
“Brand New Day” – Joshua Radin
“Fearless” – Taylor Swift
“Set Fire To The Rain” – Adele

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

Canada, with my boyfriend. Since we only get to see each other every other month, any extra time together would be priceless and so much appreciated! We would be curled up in bed together drinking coffee and watching The Breakfast Club. Ahhh, perfect.

Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout your QLC?

Of course Molly has been a huge, huge inspiration. But outside of Stratejoy, Brene Brown blows me away. I read her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, last fall and my life was changed. I love her view of courage, vulnerability, and learning to accept who you are. If you haven’t already, please go read this book immediately!

If money, education, time, or location were not an issue, what would you be doing for work in life?

Okay, this goes back to the post I wrote last week about my job vs. my career and I guess this is where I find my answer. I would still want to be a counselor, just in a different environment. I would love to own a private practice and work with teenagers and their families to help them understand that even though life is hard, you are not alone and it does get better. And my big (scary) dream is to somehow begin reaching out and counseling young women through the internet. I know it’s possible, I just have to find out how.

What was the biggest mental shift you’ve made from 5 months ago to now?

Accepting the idea that not everyone is going to like me. When I’m working toward something I believe in, something I’m passionate about, I will be faced with critics, and that’s okay.

What’s changed? List 10 little sweet things.

1. I moved out of my apartment and into a new apartment with my sister.
2. I began training for a half-marathon and after never having run more than two miles, I’m up to 10 miles! 10 miles!
3. Discovering the deliciousness that is whipped cream vodka.
4. On Friday nights, I’m not as worried about telling friends no. I’ve accepted my introvert self and the fact that I’d rather stay in, eat pizza, and watch movies by myself.
5. I fell in love with a little puppy named Louis.
6. Baking soda as shampoo. Yeah.
7. Apparently I’m really good at fantasy hockey… and I don’t even watch hockey.
8. I don’t put up with as much crap from people.
9. I finally know what I want my life to look like.
10. My self-confidence and excitement about life has grown. Hugely.

What’s one thing that you’ve learned – in general or about yourself – over the past five months?

Sometimes people are wrong. Even people who know you really well and who want the best for you, sometimes they’re wrong.

What would you have done differently on your Stratejoy journey if you were starting today?

I would have written more introspective posts and focused on what was happening in the moment. I feel like I spent a lot of time reminiscing and reflecting on the past when I could have used that time to look forward and create my brilliant, bold life.

What song(s) will remind you of the past five months?

“Sweeter” – Gavin DeGraw, “Shake It Out” – Florence and the Machine, and “The Broken Ones”- Dia Frampton

What is your favorite thing about YOU?

My empathy. I love that I genuinely care about people and want to understand them. I love that I can put myself in their shoes, feel what they are feeling, and give them some love.

Name 3 things you absolutely love about yourself.

1. I am not ashamed that I have “bad” taste in music, that I go to bed before 10pm, or that I really hate wearing high heels.
2. When I want something, I make it happen.
3. Even though I’m “shy” and would never say this to your face, I really do want to be friends with everyone.

How are you living life on your own terms?

Standing up for myself and having the courage to say no when how I’m being treated is not okay. Buying that gorgeous new grey nail polish and spending the evening taking a bubble bath. Saying YES! to a weekend in Vegas with 60 of my favorite bloggers. Doing the research to learn how to consolidate my loans so that I am not financially imprisoned. Accepting the idea of wanting to be a counselor, but also exploring other options. Letting myself live freedom, embrace vulnerability, and practice self-love.

[photo credit: Me. Whipped cream vodka, sprite, and raspberries; AKA- you’re new favorite drink]

What are you obsessed with at this exact moment?

Pinterest. Pinterest. Pinterest.  Coffee (always). Notebooks, pens, sticky notes.  My new chocolate brown flat boots.  Babies.  Snow days. The smell of books.  Couples photography.  Words With Friends.  Other photographers’ blogs.  House hunting.  Thinking about how to decorate a house.  Craft supplies.  Sleep.

You can time travel but only to the past! What time period/ historical event do you go and experience?

To be totally honest, I don’t really have an interest in going back in time.  I’m happy to be moving forward.  If I had to choose, maybe I’d go back and meet the grandparents I never knew…

 If you could be any animal, which animal would you be and why?

It is impossible for me to answer this question in a non-cheesy way.  I debated being a caterpillar because of the impending amazing change that would be in my future.  I debated being a bird so I could fly.  Or maybe a bear so I could sleep all winter. But my gut instinct was a dog…a lab or retriever.  I don’t know why…because they love so big?

Any person dead or alive, who would you have dinner with?

I’ve always hated this question because under pressure I can never think of anyone!  I think it’s a tie between Mary Oliver, Dr. Seuss, Maya Angelou, and Oprah.  Maybe a dinner party.

What is on your life’s soundtrack?

Matt Nathanson, Amos Lee, Joshua Radin, Regina Spektor, Tori Amos, The Weepies, Ingrid Michaelson, Augustana, Damien Rice, Ray LaMontagne, Bright Eyes…oh and Counting Crows, Pearl Jam, Bush and always a little Alanis.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be? 

This is such a hard question.  The answer used to be Italy, but we finally did that on our honeymoon!!!  There are a million places I want to see and lots of places I’ve already seen and would like to go back to…maybe I would be on a real vacation with my family somewhere none of us have ever been…in the mountains somewhere by a lake…we’d play games, read, relax, cook really good food, drink wine, Dad would go fishing, we’d all go for a hike, go out on a boat…yes, that sounds good.

Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout your QLC?

Is it vain to say “myself”?  Every time I take another step towards getting through my QLC I amaze myself.  I’ve never had as much confidence, pride in what I’m working on, or urge to move forward and grow than I have this year.  Seeing what I can do makes me want to do more.  But also, Jasmine Star, who quit law school and pursued her passion for wedding photography (and is like crazy super successful now!)

If money, education, time, or location were not an issue, what would you be doing for work in life? 

Writing, photographing couples in love, designing events, and travelling…I’m halfway there I suppose!

What was the biggest mental shift you’ve made from 5 months ago to now?

I’ve realized that the feelings of needing to do more, be myself, and live life my way are not unique to me.  I guess I probably knew that before, but it is so inspiring to know that there are SO MANY women (and men) out there who aren’t willing to settle.  It makes me feel like I’m not a total freak for not wanting a 9-5 corporate job.  The solidarity of the Stratejoy tribe is so uplifting!

That and realizing that I can make my life what I want it to be.

What’s changed? List 10 little sweet things.

  1. I quit one of my nanny gigs and chose a date to give notice to the second.
  2. I talked Mister into helping me squeeze even more furniture into our tiny place and made myself a desk/workspace
  3. I started writing again (like all the time)
  4. I started listening to music again
  5. I take more time for myself to do the things that keep me sane
  6. I take more pride in the way I look – actually dress in real person clothes rather than “nanny clothes” more often
  7. I found a more productive to do list system
  8. I found my “niche” in photography
  9. I make more time for my girlfriends
  10. I’m more comfortable being me (and isn’t that the best thing we can wish for ourselves?!)

What’s one thing that you’ve learned – in general or about yourself – over the past five months?

This sort of goes with my biggest mental shift, but beyond what I already said, I learned to trust myself, go with my gut, pour myself into the things that are important to me, and most importantly, to be unapologetically me.

What would you have done differently on your Stratejoy journey if you were starting today?

I would’ve done it earlier!  You can’t imagine what it does to your perception to have to write about your QLC every week.  It has been that extra push I’ve been needing all along!

What song(s) will remind you of the past five months?

Adele (love her, but SO over played!).
Mason Jennings – Be here now
Rosi Golan – Hazy
Jason Walker – Down

What is your favorite thing about YOU?

I refuse to settle.

Name 3 things you absolutely love about yourself. 

I’m creative.  I have great intuition.  The color of my eyes.

How are you living life on your own terms?

I’m trying so hard to live life on my own terms.  Building a business that allows me to do what I love, trying to surround myself with the things and people that I love, being honest with myself about my needs, goals, and intentions…but mostly I’m trying to live with this in mind:

Express myself honestly and with compassion.
Do what I love.
Always seek knowledge and understanding.
Live with intention.
Treat my body with respect.
Trust myself.

[Photo Credit: Brenda Ulinski]

The dictionary definition of “legacy” is surprisingly boring and uninspiring:

leg·a·cy
noun
1. Law . a gift of property, especially personal property, as money, a will; a bequest.
2. anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor: the legacy of ancient Rome.
3. an applicant to or student at a school that was attended by his or her parent.
4. Obsolete . the office, function, or commission of a legate.
adjective
5. of or pertaining to old or outdated computer hardware, software, or data that, while still functional, does not work well with up-to-date systems.

I always imagined a legacy to be the mark one left on the world after their flame went out; something romantic and provocative that made people remember you and what you stood for. I’m not sure I want to leave a legacy if it only pertains to personal property, the college of your parents or outdated computer hardware. Now, if a legacy truly is closer to my imagined definition, leaving a legacy is definitely worth working on before I die.

However, I’m worried I might be so focused on leaving a legacy, I forget to live my life befitting of one. So many acts in this world, whether of creation or destruction, are done in the name of making a name for oneself so the world doesn’t forget. It can be good inspiration to accomplish something grand, but if all the focus is on a future world without you, the world with you will be unfulfilled and unlived.

Keeping that in mind, I do want to leave a lasting impression on the world. One that is positive and impactful, but I have to realize everything I do might not be as inspiring to some as it is to me. What if people don’t remember my name after I’m gone? What if they don’t continue to talk about my accomplishments? I think…that this is ok. I already shout my name and my accomplishments to the world with my action, but I can’t worry about what happens after. The most important  question will always be to me, not what others think about me after I’m gone, but the feeling of fulfillment I have about life when I take my dying breath.  If I could shout one thing to my peers from the rooftops? Don’t worry about making meaning in your death. Live to make meaning in your life. Right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{Photo Credit: CountyLemonade}

Dear 15-year-old Kat,

The past 15 years have been interesting, that’s for sure. Life certainly takes a much different path than you’re imagining right now, but I think you’re going to love the way it all comes together! There are so many things I want to tell you not to do (namely, guys to avoid), but if I did that, you’d miss so many other opportunities, so…I can’t. Bummer. (No, I really can’t. I know you’ve seen that episode of The Simpsons where Homer time-travels using a toaster, and things get crazy. I know you don’t want a world without doughnuts.)

I’m hoping that I can give you a little advice that will guide you through what’s to come, though. Even though you’re going to have certain challenging experiences, I promise you’ll learn from each of them, even when it doesn’t seem that way at the time.

I can tell you to be less afraid of questioning things, especially when it comes to your family. It’s okay to want what you want, even if they don’t understand it. (Hint: they’re never really going to get it, and that’s okay. They’re still your family and they love you.)

Speaking of your family, spend more time with your grandparents, looking through old photos and learning about your family history. Head over to make pierogi from scratch with your grandma, or have her teach you how to sew. Try to convince one of them to start teaching you Polish or Italian. You won’t regret that.

The love of travel that you’ll develop this coming summer is going to be hugely influential in your life. Run with it. And when your dad gives you his Nikon FM, get a tune-up for it immediately. You’ll want to take it with you everywhere you go. Take lots of photos.

Over the coming years, the saying that your friends are the family you choose will become increasingly true for you. Choose wisely! (Mostly you do.)

Don’t be afraid to be YOU. Be willing to break some of the rules. Let yourself dive into life, even though sometimes it hurts. You have an amazing support network, and they will help you through the tough times. Don’t be so hard on yourself!

Last but not least, I want you to know that you that you’re strong, capable, and beautiful. No matter what the guys you date over the years say – and some of them will say some awful stuff – that you shouldn’t stop believing that.

I love you! Don’t forget to love yourself, too!

30-year-old Kat

[photo credit: me!]

Dear Kristen:

This letter has taken you years to be able to write. Even doing it now seems strange and slightly difficult, but it’s important to say how you feel and express yourself. You have seen what keeping your emotions in can do to a person, so this letter is something that has been waiting in the wings for years.

Kristen, you are so much stronger than you are ever imagined a person can be. You faced great adversity head on and in a remarkable way. I know that you do not give yourself anywhere near the amount of credit you deserve with this, but you should feel so proud of yourself for what you have done.

Yes, the relationship you wanted for the rest of your life ended and that is incredibly sad. And I know that even though you know you made the right decision for you and him, that it still hurts and makes you angry and disappointed.  You have allowed yourself to cry and yell and go through the roller coaster of emotions, which has helped you to understand yourself even better. That is a priceless lesson.

You did something amazing- you stood up for yourself and it was not easy. It involved a lot of hurt, for you, for him, for your families. It made you say you were wrong and made a poor decision. But the failed marriage made you grow immeasurably- beyond the stubbornness, beyond the fear. It might seem like selfish behavior to some and even to you at times, and that is completely allowed. But the selfish action was completely necessary for both you and him. For you both to be your most authentic selves, it means not being together. Do not regret the marriage or the relationship because it taught you more about life and who you are than anything in the world could have. It is never selfish to stand up for yourself and what you need for life. Kristen, you now know that being selfish sometimes is needed as long as it doesn’t involve being vindictive or purposely hurtful. Had you been more thoughtful and put yourself first years ago, the situation now would be different. But you would be different too.

Kristen, I am so proud of you putting yourself first, learning how to say no, and really growing into your joyful life, living it on your terms. It has taken months and lots of strife to get to this place. You are allowing yourself the quiet grace to get to know yourself, learn what your strengths are, and improve your weaknesses. You are finding out what you do or do not believe in, your true likes and dislikes, and what you want for you life. I love that you recognize and celebrate the simple pleasures like reading a good book, naps on the weekend, and laughter with family and friends.

I love that you are in a place where you understand the practice of gratitude is much more than saying thank you. You understand now that quiet time to meditate and journal is as essential to you as a hot shower in the morning. I love that even though you aren’t always happy with what you see in the mirror in terms of your body that you are learning to love it and honor it in different ways while you work towards your goals. I love that you are able to work through the sad times with self-care and using your support network. You also recognize that a night in pajamas on the couch with junk food is just one night and not a cause for guilt or self-deprecation.

I love that the woman who you are at this exact moment is exactly what you dreamed you would be when you were sixteen. I love that you have aha! moments when you realize that- whether it is walking on a sunny day or spending the afternoon cooking in the kitchen, you are living the life you once imagined for yourself. The path to this spot was nowhere near as you imagined it, but without that path, you would not have come to this place. You know yourself better than ever before and you will never allow yourself to be less than this again.

Most of all Kristen, I love that you have a new confidence and sense of self that comes out in everything you do. What I love the most is that this new awareness of who Kristen is comes not from your family, your significant other, or your career, but from the deepest and purest part of you. It is all about the happiness you are making part of your everyday life. Now is the time for you to flourish.

I’m over the moon for you,

Me

[Photo: At Yosemite in September feeling great!]

My friend Rebecca* and I decided that we’re going to implement a new test to determine whether we should be dating someone. The name of the test is still in the works, but that doesn’t matter. The point is that we think it’s going to be really useful.

It’s a simple test, really. All you have to do is give someone a zerbert (or raspberry – you know, where you put your mouth against their arm or belly and blow, and it makes a funny sound) and see how they react. Because let’s be honest: if someone can’t handle a zerbert, they’re not cut out for a long-term relationship, at least not one with Rebecca or me.

I haven’t decided at what point I will perform the test, though I suppose I’ll know when the situation arises. It doesn’t seem like first date material; however, I can’t remember the last time I had a typical first date, so maybe it could be. I could ask the basic questions – job (He should have one, and possibly like it.), last book he read (It needs to be something more recent than The Very Hungry Caterpillar, unless he spends a lot of time around two-year-olds.), favorite place he’s traveled (If he doesn’t travel, he gets the boot.), how often he calls his mom (Three times a day is not an acceptable answer.) – and follow them up with a zerbert.

…okay, maybe I should come up with an alternate plan.

I think the most practical application for me will be in bed. Now, naturally, I don’t want to have sex with someone before performing the zerbert test. If they can’t handle a zerbert, why would I want to go all the way with them? I’m thinking that perhaps the first time we find ourselves moving in that direction, I’ll lift up my date’s shirt and attack his belly. If he laughs, we can get it on. If he stares at me like I have three heads, I’ll have to hightail it out of that situation. Because if he thinks that’s weird, he probably won’t be able to cope with my penchant for having Spice Girls dance parties while I cook.

You see what I mean? It’s the perfect test.

This whole conversation started because over the course of my travels, I slept with someone new. Now, I tend to keep this sort of thing to myself – or at least a limited group of close friends, because let’s be honest, we all love talking about sex. I wanted to talk about this hookup in particular because, over the course of analyzing every detail, I realized something: I hadn’t enjoyed myself in bed that much since…2005? 2006?

Over years of worrying whether I look good enough naked, or being pushed away by my ex, or hooking up with inappropriate men, I forgot how much fun sex could be. I forgot what it was like to spend the day in bed wrapped up in each other. I forgot the electricity that can happen when a guy runs his fingers up my arms with fingertips barely grazing my skin. I forgot how good it can feel to get into a tickle war and shriek and laugh. I forgot that we can be silly in bed and that it doesn’t have to be so serious.

I think this guy would have passed the zerbert test.

Now, I do see one flaw with this new plan: someone could pass and still not be a good long-term partner for me. I’ll still have to ask those first (and second and third) date questions, think about whether he’d be a good father to our potential future children, know that he doesn’t hate my tattoos, and so on.

Chemistry and silliness – and the ability to appreciate the unexpected – are good steps in the right direction, though.

*Name has been changed!

[photo credit: me!]

Five months is long enough for things to change, but really it’s not long at all. Since August, things have shifted and and expanded – my massive round belly and I must say impressive rack are both testaments to that – and some things have moved on or withered away – like the the final threads I was holding on to with college.

Today, I feel at peace. I’m in preparation mode, getting everything ready for the new arrival and a little time off and a year of incredible abundance. I’m so thrilled I got to share part of my journey here with you at Stratejoy – here’s to a great season.

What are you obsessed with at this exact moment?

Getting my commitments under control, Adele, mini-vacations, dark chocolate mochas, setting up the nursery, and popping out this sweet little boy – I am soooo over this being massive thing.

You can time travel but only to the past! What time period/ historical
event do you go and experience?

The 1940’s. The drama of the global scene, the music, the musicals, ahhhh! Yeah, I would definitely be a Broadway sensation. Besides, the fashions were made for my body type.

If you could be any animal, which animal would you be and why?

I’m kind of fond of being of the human variety, but I suppose a bird. I want to conquer my fear of heights and gain new perspectives.

Any person dead or alive, who would you have dinner with?

Mae West. They just don’t come like her anymore. Brazen, sexy, and entirely her own kind of woman. I can’t imagine better dinner conversation.

What is on your life’s soundtrack?

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

I’m partial to lounging around my house in yoga pants at this point, so I’m going to answer this question for six months from now – The World Domination Summit, followed the next week by ComicCon. And in November, the big trip for the year – France. Ahh, I can taste the wine and chocolate already.

Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout your QLC?

I’m not really sure. Honestly, I feel like I’ve had to fight so many different battles during my QLC, that aren’t necessarily normal for a QLC, that I’ve had to looks to many ever-changing sources for inspiration. On the short list, I’d have to say Elisa Doucette, Justine Musk, and Danielle LaPorte. Molly has been hugely inspiring, too – having someone around who is intimately familiar with working with this issue is amazing. And finally, I have to say Laurenne. I find so much resonance in her stories and writing voice, and even when things look rough, I’m inspired by everything she brings to the table.

If money, education, time, or location were not an issue, what would you be doing for work in life?

What I’m doing right now. And I feel so blessed to be able to say that. I love running a business focused on using my talents to their best ability. It’s only going to grow and get better and include more speaking and singing and lovely as it evolves, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Okay, I might also work part-time on Broadway. In my free time. It’ll happen.

What was the biggest mental shift you’ve made from 5 months ago to now?

I’m not a freelancer – I own a business. And it’s pretty badass to boot.

What’s changed? List 10 little sweet things.

1. Traveling isn’t a maybe – it’s a non-negotitable, have to do it deal now.
2. My mindset on money
3. I have amazing clients.
4. I’ve got my big vision – and it’s only getting bigger.
5. My business isn’t just me anymore – I’ve got a team!
6. My baby isn’t a baby anymore… 4T clothes, full sentences and questions, and big girl underwear
7. Where I’m living
8. I stood up for what I believed – and let the vampires go for good.
9. I’ve learned pregnancy can be wonderful – now if I can just say the same for labor this next time around…
10. I’ve added Los Angeles to my list of places I’ve been, and I’ve met some amazing people.

What’s one thing that you’ve learned – in general or about yourself – over the past five months?

I am more capable than I give myself credit for. And I can make shit happen in a hurry – even when it’s terrifying.

I’m cheating because I have a second one that hit me last week like a semi-truck. No one cares as much as you do about all your projects and goals- and all of that perceived pressure is going to poison good work and effort if you let it.

What would you have done differently on your Stratejoy journey if you were starting today?

I’d have given myself more time and space for it. I feel like I should have really used this as opportunity to explore a few things more deeply than I have with my writing. Every time I write for Stratejoy or do anything pertaining to it, I am infused with energy – why not relish that? I put too much pressure on myself to stick to a certain format.

What song(s) will remind you of the past five months?

What is your favorite thing about YOU?

If I can’t do something right now, I’ll figure out how to. More than just school or bootstrapping, I can and will figure out how to get what I want.

Name 3 things you absolutely love about yourself.

  1. I’m freaking hilarious. Even if I’m the only one laughing, I like that I can make myself crack up.
  2. I’m vocal and stand up for what I believe in.
  3. I’m hopelessly trusting and optimistic. And that is okay by me.

How are you living life on your own terms?

By refusing to buy into labels. I’m blazing my own path with creativity and audacity and blowing up stereotypes in the process. F*** conformity! By choosing to rebel against what the status quo expects of me, I choose what’s right for me – real empowerment, sustainability, and telling a different kind of story.

Eek! There are only three Stratejoy posts left! The final two are about the journey, so this is the last one in which I can write whatever I’m feeling. This is my last chance to cover this space with whatever I want! With ME!

I asked myself today what I would like to paint here with my last opportunity, and the answer was so clear: honesty.

I’ve always been fairly honest. Mostly. Growing up, my mom trusted me, and I knew that lying would completely disappoint her. I had seen my mom work three jobs to pay for my cheerleading shoes, so the last thing I wanted was to let her down. We had a deal– she would trust me and let me do adult things as long as I told her the truth. So, I was honest. I told her where I was going even if it was illegal. In turn, she let my high school boyfriend sleep over because I told her we weren’t sleeping together. And we weren’t (I swear. Come on– not until prom night!)!

The only things I lied about were my feelings. That desire to never disappoint her was rooted deep inside, and so I held in my feelings and did what she said (mostly). And she for me. We spent years compromising our own wants for each other without even knowing it (Well, I guess I knew. I mean… No mom ever wants to stop watching TV to drive her daughter and friends to a 14 & Over club where they grind on pimply boys.)

For some reason, I was able to ask her to help me with those peripheral needs, but it never occurred to me to ask her for help when I was feeling sad. Or lonely. Or scared. In fact, it never dawned on me that I could share those bits of info ever. With anyone. So, I held them in. I’m pretty sure I even hid them from myself, choosing to fill my schedule with busywork or alcohol rather than face my feelings. In that sense, I was the opposite of honest.

I don’t know what convinced me to do it, but the moment I shared the very first piece about my dead dad, it changed my point-of-view and my entire life. Something (mostly Mike DeStefano) pushed me to tell a story I had held in for a long time, and the feeling of relief was so powerful that I have spent the past two years telling my truth and convincing others to do the same.

Honesty has become my ‘thing.’ I wrote a book that takes a candid look at surviving the suicide of a parent. I host a storytelling show that urges people to go on stage and tell their truths. I post stories on my blog and all over the internet, admitting things most people would keep private.

It’s not just that it’s freeing to have no secrets. It is. My friend’s son always reminds him of Mark Twain’s quote: If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. But it’s not why I so love honesty. Honesty bonds people together. Most people have THE SAME secrets. But they let them fester, shoving them down and letting shame and society’s rules keep them buried. The truth (dare I say it) sets you free!

A conversation in my car the other day:

Girl One: I can’t believe I’m actually admitting this, but I thought about trying to get my boyfriend back by getting pregnant! I could be on a daytime talk show!
Girl Two: I’ve totally thought that before!!! I bet all women think that at least once.
Girl Three: I’ve thought it.
Girl One: REALLY!? I feel so much better.

The more we all just admit our secrets and get honest about ourselves, the closer we’ll be to everyone, the freer will feel, the less we’ll have to remember. There would be no shame in a world of honesty. And no romantic comedies (those plots always hinge on some stupid misunderstanding of a non-truth).

Still, since I’ve jumped into this Stratejoy journey, I have been second-guessing my foray into honesty. I mean, yes, I stand by it. I vow to be honest in every future relationship ever. But, must I write my diary for everyone to see? Am I ripping myself open to vulnerability for a specific reason? Why do I REALLY want to tell such an honest story and reveal oodles about my whole family? If I publish my book, anyone will be able to look up anything about me! WHY am I doing that?

I’ve spent the last few months in yet ANOTHER QLC, pondering my life’s path and why I’m doing what I’m doing. Why am I here? Why don’t I have a shaved head and live in Ecuador? What do I REALLY want to do with my life? Why isn’t my life’s message about healthy eating or copper piping? But when I needed to decide what to write for this last Stratejoy post, it was so clear. My platform is honesty. That feeling of releasing something that has felt ‘wrong’ for so many years is something I want to share with as many people as possible. So maybe I DO know what I’m doing with my life. Maybe this Stratejoy post helped me confirm what I’m good at and what I want. Phew. What a relief! (Quarter Life) Crisis averted!

I still might join the circus or shave my head, but at least I’ll do it honestly. I definitely have that down.


[Photo credit: New Mexico Tourism]

Psst! Hey, you! Gorgeous girl! Down here!

The Create Your Magical Year program is available right now! Looking for a great way to take a hard look at your 2011 (good and bad) and get clear on what you want for 2012? This joyful, all-about-you program is packed with awesome goodies, inspirational interviews, a soul-searching, colorful workbook, guided recordings, and other little surprises. 2012 is your year, woman. I can feel it. Wanna feel it too? Let’s do this!

As most of you know, I keep my list of favorite courses, resources, and books on the Store page — but sometimes I can’t keep up with the lovely things being produced by my colleagues.  And by colleagues I mean amazing women I know personally, who are truly living life on their own terms and helping others shift or grow in some way…

Transform.  Play Bigger.  Cultivate Gifts.  See the World through Fresh Lenses.  Make Huge Decisions.  Celebrate Joy.

If you’ve been looking for some inspiration in the form of a course or retreat (or are just looking for some new beauties to follow online!) please wander through this round up of things I’m digging right now.

Playing Big with Tara Sophia Mohr

I had the honor to teach with Tara Sophia in Seattle at our Brilliant Women Salon last April.  She is wise, tiny sparkplug of inspiration: uber-smart, truly kind, and grounded in a way that I can only admire from afar as I buzz around, flapping my hands as I speak too quickly and laugh too frequently.  Her own Playing Big journey has been amazing to watch — from launching a major program last year (this one!) , to writing for the Huff Post, to some major TV appearances to spread her message — she has truly  walks her talk and has major skills and knowledge to share.

In Tara’s words…

What is Playing Big?

Your playing big isn’t defined on the world’s terms. It isn’t necessarily owning an empire or making millions. You know what playing big means for you. It’s following that inspiration that is in your heart. Seeing it through. It is getting out there – visible – like the women you so admire. It is your voice, your vision, your unique contribution flowing forth, no longer shrunken down, stopped up inside you, or compromised.

Here’s the good news: if you have been playing small, it’s okay. Most of us don’t play big naturally, on our own, without any support. We need tools, support, training – a process – to help us play bigger.

The six-month Playing Big journey gives women the inner foundation and the practical skills that they need to play bigger. We could call it a “program” or a “course” but it’s a revolution. It’s a movement. Women playing big is going to change the world.

And guess what?  We’re hosting a FREE WEBINAR this Thursday night!  It will be 45-60 minute video conversation about how we “Play Big” in our own lives, full of inspiration, big truths and laughter, I’m sure.

All you need to do? Join us at 6 pm PST/ 7 pm MST/ 8 pm CST/ 9 pm EST this Thursday the 19th! 

 

The Photo Essay Project with Bindu Wiles

This just started yesterday, but it’s definitely not to late to join in!  I’m taking it and really looking forward to having a chance to express myself creativity that has nothing to do with my business!  Let it be noted that I’m also a bit nervous — what if I don’t have time to shoot everyday (although since it’s done on iPhones, I don’t really have any excuses…), what if everyone else is totally awesome and I suck, what if [insert fear that’s yet to be identified]?

But I’ve had the chance to meet Bindu a few different times and have been reading her blog for quite awhile and this is definitely not that type of course.  No real need for nerves or comparison.

Bindu is a gentle spirit who’s been through a lot, and still truly believes in the goodness of humankind.  My kind of woman!  She’s also quirky (see her penchant for bow ties) and an amazing street photographer, armed with nothing up her iPhone and some sweet apps.   I’m truly excited to learn from her during this Photo Essay Project.

In her words…

What amazes me time and time again is the endless range of emotion that can be held in a face

and how much I see my own feelings on someone else’s face, and how my heart extends to that person.

The practice of iPhone photography has increased my sensitivity and my ability to see deeper into the world all around me and be deeply moved by it, and therefore, able to transcend my own pain and suffering.

In this 5-week online course, I will be teaching a black and white portrait class in the tradition of the street photography period that was roughly between 1890 and 1975.

The iPhone and the incredible photo processing apps that are available, are bringing a resurgence to the street photography of yesteryear and which is now referred to as mobile photography.

 

The Well-Fed Woman Retreatshops with Rachel W Cole

I love Rachel Cole.  Last spring she was my lighthouse in some stormy waters — serving beautifully as my personal coach when all I knew was that I was feeling “off”.  I told her I felt disconnected from what I really loved and wanted to jam on creativity, spirituality, and sexuality.  Um… Talk about some broad topics!

I adored getting on the phone with her every week and even more, I loved meeting her in Portland for a lovely dinner at the Ace Hotel.  She’s a breath of fresh air, a courageous soul, and one of my personal heroines for her ruthless (yet gorgeous) commitment to asking and answering for herself and her clients, “What are you truly hungry for?”

And this is the best part.  She’s traveling around the country leading Well-Fed Woman Mini Retreatshops for lucky women in Petaluma, Berkely, Fort Collins, New York, Providence, Northampton, Alexandria, San Francisco,  Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Minneapolis and Los Angeles.  If you live in one of these cities, you need to get your booty into a Retreatshop.  I know it make a difference in your world.

In her words…

Who are the retreatshops for?

Women who want to say yes to themselves instead of no.
Women who sense that they have more greatness to birth.
Women who desire to know and trust their own hungers.
Women who want to trust their desires.
Women who crave the courage to step more deeply into their lives.
Women who want to explore their relationship to themselves.
Women who know the power of women sitting with other women.

You’ll meet all types of women — young and old, dread-locked and bow-tied, at war and at peace with food, religious and agnostic. There is no one type of woman for whom this experience is designed. If you want to know and feed your truest hungers, at and away from the table, The Retreatshop is for you. Each session will bring together just 15 women.

For me, the word hunger has several meanings. In general, however, food hungers are simply doorways into the disconnection so many women have with their deeper hungers in life – in their careers, relationships, creativity, self-care, and spirituality.

We will explore food-related hungers, and how understanding them can help us understand the broader hungers we each experience. You’ll gain important insights into your personal hungers from The Retreatshop whether you are at war or at peace with food.

______________________________________________________________________

Those are the woman making me sparkle right now!  What have you seen online that you’re digging?  I’d love to hear your recommendations, sugar pop.  See you Thursday for the Webinar I hope!

When I started writing for Stratejoy almost five months ago, I was pretty confident and comfortable with my career as a counselor. So, of course now that this journey as a season 5 blogger is quickly coming to a close, I’m beginning to second guess myself and wonder what else might be out there. Of course.

Lately I’ve been asking myself if I really want to be a counselor forever.

It’s a question I asked myself many times in 2006 and 2007. I had just graduated from college with a dual Bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Studies and French. I made the commitment to spend seven months in France teaching English, but after that? I thought I might go to graduate school for counseling, but I wasn’t sure if that was my calling.

I knew I wanted to work in a “helping profession”. I knew I wanted to work with people. And when I envisioned my dream job, I was listening to people tell me their stories. I was running my own private practice as a counselor, spending my days helping others find their way, finding a nugget of happiness in a cloudy world. It’s what I wanted and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. This was it.

With my mind set on this goal, I applied for graduate school, was accepted, and spent the next two years living off of student loans and earning my Master’s degree in Psychological Counseling.

It’s been 2.5 years since I graduated. I’m working at a non-profit counseling agency where I provide individual and group counseling to children in an emergency shelter setting. It’s tough work. The stories are tragic and there have been days where I go home and cry. But then there are days that light my heart on fire. There are days that soar and feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. But the tides are turning and the balances are shifting. I’m growing thin. I’m not excited to go to work ever day like I used to be and that makes me sad.

I thought I could handle it. I thought that I loved it. I did love it, but now I’m not so sure anymore.

By this fall I’ll have earned my LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) which means that I can open my own private practice in Texas. If I decide to move out of state, like to Canada, I’ll have to begin the two year licensing process again. Talk about frustrating.

That’s one reason I’m considering my options. If this job isn’t what I love anymore, maybe I should start exploring and see what else is out there? If this isn’t the career I want, why should I spend more time working toward a license that I ultimately won’t use? Or maybe I will, one day. I don’t know.

There is also this other part of me that feels guilty for even considering changing careers. I have a Master’s degree and I’ll be paying off my loans until I’m 60, so I feel like I should use that degree. Sigh. My pride is talking to me loud and clear.

Maybe if I move to Canada and begin the process again in another organization, I’ll be happier? Maybe if I open up a private practice one day, the ultimate goal all along, then I’ll feel at peace?

How do you know if it’s the job you don’t like or the career?

[photo credit: pinmarklet]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”. – Anais Nin

I’ve created my vision board in two formats.  One is the electronic awesome-ness that is my Pinterest account.  I obsess over each of my boards for hours at a time.  It’s a problem, really.  The other measures 12 inches by 12 feet…yes, I said feet.  Again, it’s a problem, really.  Both are full of typography, textures, my favorite color palettes, inspirational (and mostly not cheesy) quotes, emotional song lyrics, art supplies, pretty soft glowy light, pictures of lists, organized creative spaces, nature, and movement.  My vision boards are my heart on the outside.  To me they looks like love and comfort and calm.  They makes my insides smile.  They makes me feel like I’m breathing steadier, feeling deeper, and just right where I should be.  They sings to me.  Who knew a pile of rubber cement and magazine clippings and an electronic pin board could make me feel like that!

I want to jump inside my vision boards.

Looking around my house, I find very few of the things that sing to me, but a few stand out: an old camera, a vase full of corks, a couple of drawings.  There is a pile of the books I love, a few family photos, and a cable knit blanket, and a rainbow colored pile of sticky notes.

In 2012 Mister and I will be moving into a house.  This 525 square foot condo is no longer doing it for us and we need a bigger space.  And in looking for our new home, I’m looking for my vision board.  I’m looking for lots of windows, an office that I can make into my own organized creative space, a yard, walls that I can paint in creamy warm colors.  Our new home will be a place that I can, over time, build into the perfect manifestation of my vision board (at least as perfect as I can until we build our own home on some land some day).

This year, I will jump inside my vision board and live there.  And not just physically.  I’ve already taken some big steps to mentally live there too.  I’ve stopped watching so much tv.  I’ve been listening to a lot more music which is so me.  I’ve been writing more, creating more, crafting more.  I’m making more room for those things this year.

Oh, and did I mention, I’m quitting my nanny job?  On the last day of February, after attending one of the premier photography conferences in the country, I will be giving notice to my bosses.  I get nervous and excited and sad and ecstatic all at once just thinking about it.  I’m freaking out just a little bit (but more about that later).  I love this family so much, but I am not meant to be a nanny.  And by putting this out here, part of me is panicking that somehow my bosses found this blog, read it, and haven’t told me.  But also putting this out there gives me some accountability.

I am telling all of you, this is my year!  My aunt recently said to me, “Gotta have dreams for dreams to come true!”  So true.  This year, I’m going to live inside my vision board, wrap myself in the things I love, surround myself with the people I love (and who love me), put aside the things that aren’t important, dream big, breathe deeply, let go of the risk,

and blossom.          Will you?

 

[Photo Credit: Hannah D Photography]

There are a few things that I wish I’d known before I started traveling. The first, of course, is about the disconnect that I wrote about recently; apparently, that’s not an uncommon phenomenon. The second is that I wish someone had told me that I was going to put on weight.

Six months ago, I was probably in the best shape of my life. I was doing yoga regularly, drinking plenty of water and rarely consuming alcohol, and eating foods in response to my body’s needs (plenty of fruits and vegetables, protein as I craved it, no dairy or gluten). I’d finally dropped weight that hadn’t wanted to go, and I felt good in my own skin for the first time in years.

Once I got on the road, though, it was hard to maintain this routine. I haven’t been able to find (m)any yoga classes that I like as much as the ones at my old studio in New York, and it’s been hard to practice at home since I’ve been sharing a room. Though I’ve done my best to eat reasonably healthy food, I also tend to stick with the diets in the places I’m staying – and especially at the farms, that’s meant a lot of bread. (And when it’s not at the farms, it’s meant a lot of meat, especially in Central Europe. My love for that region knows no bounds, but cucumber and tomato – out of season, no less – do not a salad make.) I often haven’t been drinking enough water; I don’t relish using the bathrooms on overnight trains, for one.

The point of all of this is that when I recently saw myself in a full-length mirror for the first time in a few months, it was HARD. It’s tough to write that, because I feel absurd for even thinking it. The fact of the matter is, though, that I have a challenging time seeing myself as attractive.

I’m able to look at things rationally and see that my body is strong and capable. I can do yoga. I ran a 5K in June without training for it, and I was really happy with my time. I walk all over the damn place, including to the top of clock towers and such – even though I’m afraid of heights. I’m learning to play lacrosse because I might be competing in a tournament in Budapest – just because I can. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to look at myself and say that I’m beautiful, though, and putting back on weight that I lost a year ago doesn’t help.

In yoga, we talk about saṃskāras, or mental and emotions patterns. I like to picture them as the squiggly ridges on my brain, each groove representing a thought pattern that I developed over time. This one about beauty is very much present and accounted for, though I have no idea where it began. All I know is that it’s been reinforced over years of ex-boyfriends pointing out “flaws” in my body, of seemingly not being noticed by the men I find attractive, of constantly telling myself over and over that I’m not pretty enough.

It’s an awful way to exist.

I realized something important as I looked into the full-length mirror a few weeks ago. As I saw myself standing there, extra pounds and all, I finally understood the yogic practice of ahimsa. It’s often translated as non-violence, and it’s the reason why many yogis don’t eat meat. I’ve also heard it translated as compassion, though, and that day, something clicked. I’d always thought about compassion being directed externally – be kind to others, etc. – and then it hit me: practicing compassion needs to be internal, too. It seems like a simple thing, and yet, it’s really not, at least for me. How can I be a compassionate person when every day, I tell myself that I’m unattractive or not enough? How is it okay to look at my body and think horrible thoughts about my appearance?

So, here it goes: I am strong, capable, and beautiful.

Writing that feels difficult and vulnerable. It’s hard to read, and even tougher to believe. But you know what? I can’t keep telling myself awful things and expecting others to see me differently, though. Changing this thought pattern needs to start with me, right now.

How can you treat yourself with greater compassion?

[photo credit: me!]

Dear Elyse at 15,

There are many times I wish I could go back in time and tell you how the world is 10 years in the future. You looked at things so differently back then with a very narrow view of the world, but that’s ok because you haven’t experienced life yet. Times seem very dramatic right now; you worry about friends and getting good grades and if that one guy might ask you to the homecoming dance. Don’t worry, he will. He’ll end up breaking your heart in two years, but your experience with him will lead you to the city of your dreams, Cincinnati, so cherish the good times with him and make some memories. I know you want to go to Bowling Green State University, but that town is not for you. Your dreams need a bigger venue.

You want so badly to be a music teacher, but always keep your mind open for other possibilities. There is a really good chance that you may end up in a field you never expected. Remember how much you hate biology? Yeah, funny story…you’ll be doing more with biology than you ever imagined. You’ll cradle baby armadillos in your arms, you’ll carry on conversations with macaws and you’ll wrap snakes around your neck as if you’ve done it every day of your life. How did you get here? Well, that’s a really, really long story, one you’ll end up writing for yourself.

One of your biggest pains is about how you have so many casual friends, but don’t feel truly close to more than a few. Embrace that part of your personality because it will lead you to meet so many incredible people in college and beyond. Right now, from where I’m sitting, you have several groups of friends that make your life so special. If you weren’t as social as you are now, you’d never have such an eclectic and beautiful group of people in your life.

You take religion very seriously right now, so seriously, that I’m afraid you don’t see the forest through the trees of life. There are things you believe now that you will question and possibly renounce because after many years, they no longer make sense to you. You’ll always believe in God, but religion might not always be for you. The day you realize that life is more complicated than religion would you lead you to believe is the day you feel free to explore your beliefs and the world around you.

Last, but not least, be prepared to change. You will always be the core parts of your personality, but you will grow up quickly and change for, what I believe, is the better. You will enjoy life more than you ever did as a teenager; you will embrace a life of exploration and beauty. You’ll feel like your true self for the first time in your life. It is a bumpy road and even at the point I’m writing to you, you won’t have everything figured out. Don’t worry. Your life will be full and a never-ending journey.

Love, Elyse at 25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{Photo Credit: churl}

On the last Friday of 2011, I went on my first ever date with myself. I have eaten alone before, but always in a coffee shop or while traveling, and never, never on a Friday night.

After a particularly low time at the end of October, I had a personal coaching call with Molly at the beginning of November and she gave me the action item to go out for a solo glass of wine before the end of the year. It was not just my busy schedule through the months of November and December that delayed this self-date, but also my own personal fears of doing it. I know it sounds silly to say, but the thought of going to a bar or restaurant and sitting alone for longer than a meal seemed incredibly daunting to me.

What was I afraid of? People eat alone all the time; it is not that big of a deal. I do other things alone like errands, but that time spent alone is task oriented. The frugal aspect of me I think comes into play too- why go out for a glass of wine and dinner when I can do the same thing in my house in my pajamas for much cheaper? To me, going out to eat as a single seems so vulnerable. I am ashamed to say that in the past I made judgments of people who were out eating alone, though as I think about it now, perhaps it was a longing and jealously of them that they were that self-aware and comfortable to be eating at a table for one- something I thought I would never be.

I realized the second week of December that I promised Molly that I would go on my date before the end of the year. I wrote my date for myself in big inked letters in my planner and told my family and friends about my self-date. I needed people to know it was going to happen because I needed accountability. I know myself well and that when it comes to pushing myself to do new things, that I can and have talked myself out of many activities or nights out in the past. This is due to the strong inner critic who I listened to more than the positive Jiminy Cricket. I did not want this very important date and goal for myself to be one of those things that I kicked myself for not doing.

Even as I drove home from work that Friday, my interior monologue went back and forth at least five times about whether to go or not. I had chosen a restaurant in Providence that is quiet and laidback, yet chic- I debated changing the venue a few times, not going at all, waiting to go until after the new year, or just getting take out from a local Thai spot, etc. As soon as I got into my driveway, I ran into the house and changed out of my work clothes, put on a cute top, jeans, and heels, fixed my makeup, and rushed out of the house. If I was going to do this, I needed to do it right away- if I lingered too long in my warm, cozy house, the inner critic would have won. And if I was going to do this, I had to feel great and confident about myself- wearing my tired work attire was not going to cut it.

One of the things I thought I would struggle with was saying “just one for dinner” to the hostess. The inner critic was telling me how sad and pathetic this sounded, but when I got to the restaurant and said it, the waiter smiled and seated me in a posh room with a comfy chair by a fireplace. The only awkward moment came when my waitress came over and asked me if I wanted a drink while I waited for my guest; when I said it was just me, she apologized. That was it- most awkward moment was not even that awkward. After those two moments I dreaded were over, I said to myself- “You’re here and everything is OK.” And I realized how long overdue this night was.

The night was DIVINE. So relaxing, so self-assuring, and all me. I armed myself only with a journal and pen to document any introspective thoughts I had. I twittered a few times to document and share the experience with the world. I drank the most delicious glass of malbec, dined on a goat cheese, sundried tomato, and spinach crepe, and had a scrumptious red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting for dessert (this spot is known for their crepes, tea, and cupcakes).

But the personal gratification and happiness that came out of that night far surpassed any aspect of the delicious meal. It was an important step for me to go out and spend the time and money on myself because I deserve a night out every now and again (as budget allows) and that I don’t need another person with me to do it. I treated myself and gave myself the gift of time. Time to think, to process, to savor, to enjoy, and to love myself. I ended the tumultuous year of 2011 on my terms. And I showed myself I can do it- I can put myself out there on a Friday night alone in a restaurant and be confident in my skin. If I can do that, overcome my inner critic and do something that always scared me, I can do absolutely anything.

[Photo credit: Delicious cupcake & wine!]

So You Think You Can Write…

We’re very excited to announce a juicy opportunity for YOU not only to have your writing featured on the Stratejoy blog for the whole interwebs to see, but also to win some serious moola!  We’re talking $500, baby!

What would you do with $500? Decorate a room? Pay your rent? Donate it to charity? Take a class? Buy a smashing little black dress and flaunt it in a hot photo session? Here’s your chance to win some extra dough with a side of Stratejoy bragging rights…

Introducing: The 1st Annual Stratejoy Essay Contest!

We get to hear from 10-20 women each year on the Quarter Life Crisis blog (which we freakin’ love), but we want to hear from more of you. We see the heartfelt and loving comments you leave on the blog posts, the Facebook Wall and on Twitter. We know you have more to say, and we want to hear it!

If you’re spreading the word about this Contest, please use the hashtag #essaycontest and mention @stratejoy. Thank you darling!

Got questions? Let’s try to cover ’em all.

**How do I enter the Stratejoy Essay Contest?**

We’re going to try and make this as simple as possible – we’ve even got your writer’s block covered.  The topic for the essay contest is:

“How do you live life on your own terms?”

Answer that question (in essay form) and send it in to katie (at) stratejoy (dot) com.

That’s it. You’re entered!  And yes, all entries need to address that question in some way, shape, or form.

**Is there a word limit?**

Try and keep your entry at 1,000 words or less.

**How do I know if you received my entry?**

Katie will shoot you a quick response letting you know she got your entry.

**I’m a Stratejoy affiliate / current QLC blogger / QLC blogger alumni /current client of Molly’s/ past client of Molly’s . Am I eligible to enter the essay contest?**

Yes. Yes. and Yes. This is open to any and all women of our tribe.

**What type of format should I send my entry in?**

Please send your essay contest entry in a Word Document. Please don’t send a PDF or any other non-editable format. We want to be sure we can copy and paste your text! Also, please use a readable font (like Times New Roman, Arial, etc.) While we love your creativity, sometimes hot pink/curliques/hidden picture essays are a little rough on our eyes.

**Can I include Pictures, Links, and Vidoes?**

Short answer?  No.  For this contest, we’re really looking for writing content — please concentrate all your love on the written words.  If you are chosen as a finalist, we’ll contact you for a short bio (where you can link it up baby!) as well as a picture for your post.

**Can I submit something that has been published somewhere else?**

Sorry gorgeous!  We are looking for original essays, created specifically for Stratejoy and for this contest.  If you’re not selected as a finalist, you’re welcome to publish your entry anywhere you like!  If you are a finalist, we ask that you allow the contest to reach it’s conclusion (when we announce the winner and hand over the cash!) before you republish your essay on your own site or blog.

**When is the deadline for entry?**

All eligible entries must be received by Wednesday, January 25th, 2011 at 11:30 PM PST. Any entries received after that will not be considered.

**How will the finalists/winner be chosen?**

After all of the entries are submitted by January 25th, 20 finalists will be chosen by the Stratejoy Team (Molly, Katie, and Nicole) based on a number of criteria — knocking our socks off, amazing stories, soul stirring truths, crystal clear writing, motivational mojo, and  adherence to all rules of submission.

Each of those finalists’ essays will be featured (one per day) through the month of February and we’ll be spreading the word far and wide.  We want to show off our talented Tribe!  At the end of February, we’ll open the public voting for one week and one week only. The grand-prize-money-maker $500 winner will be chosen by the intrawebs based on highest number of votes, not by our Team.

**How will the voting happen?**

On February 29th, we’ll post the link to the voting ballot for all of the essays. Then, you can have your friends, family, co-workers and everyone head on over and vote for you! Each person can only vote once! So spread the word! Of course, you’ll also get tons of love from the Stratejoy Tribe who will be casting their votes for the best essay. Also, voting will only be open for 3 days! After we tally the votes, BOOM, we’ll announce the big winner and everyone will throw streamers and sparkles all over. Sound good?

**If I’m a finalist, how do I get people to vote for my essay?**

Blog about it.  Tweet about it.  Shout it from the rooftops. We’ll give the specific details on HOW to vote once all of the finalists’ posts have been featured.  Feel free to start rallying your troops early. More Love = More Votes!

**When will the winner be announced and what will they win?**

The winner of the Essay Contest will be announced on or around March 2nd, 2012. (Or as soon as we tally those votes!) You’ll not only win some serious bragging rights and congrats from us via Social Media Land, but you’ll also be the sole recipient of the $500 Grand Prize!  And Molly will probably call you to squeal in excitement…

Any additional questions? Shoot Katie an e-mail and she’ll gladly answer them for you. (katie (at) stratejoy (dot) com).

Remember, the deadline for entry is January 25th (2 weeks!).

Molly Mahar is the founder of Stratejoy, a positive corner of the Internet that provides thousands of women the tools, strategies and camaraderie to lead authentically joyful lives. She is a full-time coach, facilitator and creator of the online Joy Equation Course , Joy Juice Prompts, and Create Your Magical Year Kit.  A dynamic speaker, Molly has lead workshops for lululemon, The US Army, Ladies who Launch, The Junior League, and CRAVE Business.  She helps women live life on their own terms, celebrate their worth, and change the world through individual fulfillment.  With enthusiasm! And action!  Molly adores any excuse to travel, belt 80′s tunes, drink red wine, and discuss the meaning of life. Oh, and she was just named to ProBlogger’s Top 20 Bloggers to Watch in 2012 and will be speaking at SXSW Interactive Conference this March. Wahoo!

Dear 14-yr-old Laurenne,

You are a beautiful, worthy, intelligent young woman. I know you don’t believe that right now, but YOU ARE. One day you WILL believe that, and it will change your life.

One day. Right now you’re obsessed with your hair and with being cool. That’s okay! But one day you’ll wake up without even thinking about your hair or being cool (phew!). I promise! So try not to think either is too important right now. (FYI: you will have great hair one day.)

I know you think flirting with boys is of utmost importance, but relax! You don’t need to find a husband in high school. You’ll discover that you actually love spending time alone. Plus, you’ll have plenty of dates and boyfriends in your life, and you’ll learn from each one. Some will be quirky and whisk you off to the Cayman Islands! Others will be brooding and convince you that you would like a boyfriend who stays in a dark room playing video games all day (Don’t worry; you’ll change your mind again.). Mostly, boys will respect you, so you don’t need to try hard to impress them. Just be yourself!

Just be yourself. That’s probably the weirdest advice to give you because you won’t really know what that means until your late twenties. And then, when you hit 31, you’ll examine what that means again. And probably again and again. But I’m confident you’ll know what it means one day.

One day.

One day you’ll be grateful for all the stuff you’re going through right now, even though it’s really confusing. One day, you’ll look back fondly on all the memories you’re making right now, especially the ones with your parents. Spend time with them! Enjoy them. I don’t want to freak you out, but your dad might not be around as long as you’d like him to be. So, make sure you call him a lot. Soak him up as much as you can. Your mom too! She knows way more than you think. And she’s funny. Just listen to her once in a while!

Oh, you’re going to lose your virginity to someone just because you’re in love with his story— he’s a quarterback and you’re a cheerleader. You’re drawn to good stories, which sometimes tricks you (but it will help you in the long run because… spoiler alert: you become a writer). Don’t be too hard on yourself for the virginity thing. And don’t be too hard on yourself for anything else either! Your life is full of lessons, and you are going to learn a lot. A LOT!

Have fun. Stay out late. Don’t follow every rule. Ride in lots of convertibles. And most importantly: DO NOT put anyone on a pedestal. Everyone is equal no matter what. It goes the other way too, so don’t talk down to people either. We’re all the same, and everyone is just as confused as you are right now.

But, guess what? You’re never alone. I know you think you are. I know you think that you have to stay in your room and cry by yourself and figure out everything without asking questions, but that is not the case! Once you’re honest with your feelings, people will come out and support you in droves. Humans are amazing, and there are so many who love you. Especially me.

Stand up straight. Believe that you’re worthy. Fear less. Jump in. Wear hats. Don’t worry so much about matching. Don’t think twice when you get that scholarship— your move to California will be worth it.

Everything is going to be okay. There’s nothing you can’t get through. There’s really nothing bad that can ever break you down. Life is good, and all you have to do is see that. Open your eyes and enjoy. You’ll do it one day, but if you do it now, you won’t have to wait for One Day.

I love you!

Laurenne, 31

PS Buy stock in Apple and Google.


[Photo credit: some school photographer in 1994]

Psst! Hey, you! Gorgeous girl! Down here!

The Create Your Magical Year program is available right now! Looking for a great way to take a hard look at your 2011 (good and bad) and get clear on what you want for 2012? This joyful, all-about-you program is packed with awesome goodies, inspirational interviews, a soul-searching, colorful workbook, guided recordings, and other little surprises. 2012 is your year, woman. I can feel it. Wanna feel it too? Let’s do this!

The first phone call I received on January 1st was from work.

They were letting me know that one of our clients, our kids, had lost her baby. She was 8 months pregnant and we had spent hours planning her baby shower and helping her prepare for her bundle of joy. No one can explain what happened, except that she didn’t feel the baby move for a couple of days, was taken the emergency room, and they couldn’t find a heartbeat.

It was a devastating way to start the New Year, full of pain, grief, sadness, anger, and confusion.

I was in Canada visiting my boyfriend when I received the phone call, so there wasn’t much I could do from 2,600 miles away. When I let the reality set in and began to grasp what had happened, I had to be honest with myself. I was glad that I was so far away. I was glad that I was removed from the situation and able to get updates through text messages and email rather than the nurses at the hospital.

It was easier and less painful.

Death is a fragile thing for me.

I feel like I understand it, I know how I prefer to react (being sad and letting myself cry), but I have trouble helping others with it. If you want to sit, I’ll sit with you, but I’m not good with words when death is surrounding us. It’s always becomes too personal for me. I stop thinking about you and I start thinking about me.

My dad died May 23, 2008. He was an alcoholic and drank himself to death. He drank so much during those last few years that his liver shut down. He spent the last few days of his life in ICU, a hospital room, and then a nursing home. He was 56 years old.

It was the hardest day of my life and the months that followed seem like a blur now. I was living in NYC at the time, smack in the middle of graduate school. A week after the funeral, I flew back to Manhattan and began my 12 hours of summer classes. I didn’t have many close friends in the city, so I kept to myself most of the time. Three months later, my boyfriend at the time and I broke up. Then I began therapy.

I was too open, too raw, to do it on my own anymore. I needed someone to talk to who would just listen. Over the next year, I met with my therapist once a week. I told her funny stories from my childhood. I shared pictures of me and my dad hunting for Easter eggs and dressing up as ballerinas. I told her how angry I was at him for choosing alcohol over me and our family. I began understanding what addiction is and how it changes people. I told her about that dark day at the funeral home when I kissed his cheek and told him how much I love him, for the last time. I cried.

Grief looks different for everyone. When my dad died, I made a pact with myself. I knew the grieving process would be long and I knew there would be moments that felt like rock bottom. But I also knew that I wanted to be honest with myself and with my feelings. I wanted to accept myself where I was each day, each minute. I wanted to be kind to myself and non-judgmental. This time of my life sucked enough as it was, I didn’t need to make it worse.

So I kept going to therapy. I blogged. I let myself cry to sleep at night. I became closer with my roommate and I began dating again. And each day was a little easier.

But that’s not what someone wants to hear when they’re in the thick of it, when they’re just experienced a massive loss. At least, that’s not what I wanted to hear. I didn’t want to hear anything. The worst thing that someone said to me at my dad’s funeral was, “It is what it is”. What does that even mean? I still hate that phrase to this day. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that there’s no quick fix. There’s not some magical condolence you can give someone that is going to take their pain away.

There are still days I miss my dad terribly and I cry. I think about him every day and I always wish he was here, but there are days when it’s almost unbearable and my heart feels like it’s breaking, just like it did almost four year ago.

That’s why it’s so hard for me to be so close to someone who is grieving. I know that pain. And when I see it on their face, it brings me right back to that night in May 2008. It’s not that I don’t want to be supportive and show that I care. It’s just that I’m not sure I’m strong enough. I can be with you and share the sadness and silence, but if you want more? I can’t offer that.

All I have is my understanding and my faith that it does get better.

[photo credit: My mom; That’s me and my dad!]

 

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” – Cecil Beaton

This quote has been on a sticky note on my desktop for over a year.  Every few months I re-post it on Facebook or Twitter, just feeling the need to share.  This quote speaks to me more than any other I have read, and until today, I had no idea who Cecil Beaton was (which is a little embarrassing now that I’ve looked through his work!).

According to Wikipedia, Sir Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton was an English fashion and portrait photographer, diarist, painter, interior designer, and Academy Award-winning stage and costume designer for films and the theatre.  Cecil Beaton makes my heart beat faster.  But not for the reason a handsome, creative guy might normally make a girl’s heart beat faster.  To me, he represents everything we can be.  He wasn’t just a photographer or a costume designer.  Beaton chose his own path (way back in the 30’s!) and did all the things he loved.  And he did them well!  He was published in Vogue magazine (among others), won countless awards for his costume and set design, published his diaries.  He lived big.  And he inspires me. (Oh, and guess who taught him photography?  His nanny! I love that!)

I guess it makes sense that words that speak to me so much come from a man who lived his life in a way that speaks to me as well…but it still surprised me to read some of the details.  I kept saying, “Wow!” over and over again.

And so I started to look at a lot of the people who live big lives.  Who do what they love, who I admire so much.  People that I’ve looked up to and some days even wanted to be.  I’ve always thought they had something special.  That they were lucky, or super talented, or insanely courageous…and they probably are all of those things, but guess what? So am I!  I have doubts, fears, and road blocks…but I guarantee you, so do they!  And it kind of hit me.  They’re just people too.  Every amazingly wonderful, inspired, creative, brave person I look up to is just like me.  And just like you, too.  Which means that with a little bit (okay, a lot) of work, some passion, and some support from those who love us, every one of us can live our dreams.  Every last one of us can live big.

And really, don’t you think the world would be a better place if everyone was happily working hard at something that they love doing?  If everyone felt like they were being true to themselves and their dreams every day?  That’s the world I want to live in.  I’ll leave you with two more of my favorite quotes ever, and a wish that if you’re not already, you too will find what you love to do, and do it.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade wind in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover” – Mark Twain

“Don’t ask what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” – Harold Whitman

[Photo Credit: Cecil Beaton]

Psst! Hey, you! Gorgeous girl! Down here!

The Create Your Magical Year program is available right now! Looking for a great way to take a hard look at your 2011 (good and bad) and get clear on what you want for 2012? This joyful, all-about-you program is packed with awesome goodies, inspirational interviews, a soul-searching, colorful workbook, guided recordings, and other little surprises. 2012 is your year, woman. I can feel it. Wanna feel it too? It’s not too late to get this year off on the right foot.Let’s do this!

“I’m looking forward to looking back,
Looking forward to looking back on this day.”
-Over the Rhine

New Years Eve always comes with a lot of expectations for me. It is kind of like the reset button; I get a chance to start over yet again if I feel the previous year didn’t go my way. I usually succeed at making the evening epic with exciting parties and close friends. I set a bunch of resolutions, attempt to stick to them, and ultimately fall flat and get disappointed by January 31st. Commercials encourage me to get more organized, lose more weight, start a new diet, improve my day to day life, but usually they just get make me feel like being lazier.

So, I’m trying a new approach this year. I have no expectations for 2012. No resolutions. No big plans. I just want to see what happens and what unfolds. I rarely am ever a true participant in my own life because I’m too busy worrying about what is happening rather than stepping back and really looking at what I’m experiencing. I spent a lot of 2011 changing bad habits, and I’ll keep moving forward but not because it is 2012, but because I should continue to change and grow no matter what day or season this is.

Usually I hate looking back on the year prior and am so ready to move forward, but I was actually thrilled with 2011. I started the year at a 1920’s Speakeasy party with good friends. My mom finished her chemotherapy and was declared cancer free. I turned 25 and went on an epic road trip to Florida. I celebrated the un-Rapture and attended or participated in several weddings of good friends. I moved to an epic location in Cincinnati. I ran the Warrior Dash (using the word “run” loosely here) and had an epic weekend at a cabin in the woods. Went to Chicago and started Americorps at the Cincinnati Zoo. I met Over the Rhine, Hulk Hogan and got into a Twitter fight with Adam Richman. I helped write and stage manage a show for the Emery Theater. I celebrated the epic end to the Harry Potter movie series.  I learned Taylor Lautner looks suspiciously like a llama.

So, I shrug and move into 2012 with the same momentum I left 2011 with. I sign my checks with a new year, but I’m not pretending some epic turnover just occurred, and I have to immediately change all the things right now. I’ll settle for what has already changed.

 

{Photo Credit: Summerbl4ck}

 

Psst! Hey, you! Gorgeous girl! Down here!

The Create Your Magical Year program is available right now! Looking for a great way to take a hard look at your 2011 (good and bad) and get clear on what you want for 2012? This joyful, all-about-you program is packed with awesome goodies, inspirational interviews, a soul-searching, colorful workbook, guided recordings, and other little surprises. 2012 is your year, woman. I can feel it. Wanna feel it too? Let’s do this!

I have never been more ready for the end of one year and the beginning of the next.

While 2011 was the year I stood up for myself and made steps to become my best and happiest me, the majority of the year was spent in various states of emotional unrest and tumultuous events. I am more than happy to wrap up the book for that year and push ahead.

In the past, the New Year has never meant all that much to me. I’m not a big fan of all the fuss and pressure of having awesome plans on New Year’s Eve, plus I find the actual event a tad anti-climatic. I tend to not make New Year’s resolutions, not because I don’t believe in making goals for myself, but because I like more short-term, attainable goals. When I was in college and grad school, I used to make ‘resolutions’ for myself at the beginning of each semester, things like “always go to bed on school nights by eleven pm” or “go to more lectures outside of class.” Now that I’m a working gal, I like to make goals for myself on a fairly regular basis, usually at the beginning of every season- things like “ drinks on lawn by ocean on a Friday in summer” ( I have yet to achieve that one by the way).

This year though, there is such a level of excitement and promise to 2012. I truly, truly feel like this is the beginning of a new chapter in my life- the life I imagined I would live when I was a bright-eyed sixteen year old. To be completely frank, I feel like my 2012 already started the minute I decided that I could no longer stay in my marriage. My 2012 began the minute I rearranged my furniture and made my house a home. My 2012 has been showing its promise and possibilities everyday I make a decision to be happy and to smile instead of being in a situation that was not good for me ( or him).

I was super fortunate to participate in Molly’s Holiday Joy Council in November and into December (Create Your Magical Year is the product of that which you should totally check out). This exercise in reflection of 2011 and embracing the new year was something totally different for me. In the past, looking to the New Year seemed to me to only be looking forward to major events that were happening in that year like a wedding or vacation. I never really thought ahead about allowing myself a framework for happiness to guide me throughout the year’s ups and downs.  Being able to reflect and wrap up 2011 in a new way too was helpful- literally writing down all the bad things about the year and destroying them ( I shredded them- so so cathartic) was a big step in leaving the negativity of the past roller coaster of a year behind and starting fresh for 2012.

Part of the goal of The Council is to create a theme for the upcoming year based on your goals, desires, and action items. For me, my theme is: Savor and Focus. I will focus on myself and what I want whether it be figuring out what might be next career wise or just making sure that once a week I take care of myself with some self-care and relaxation. I have always been caught up in what’s next or what has to get done that I so rarely take time to savor the everyday and just enjoy. I want to live in every single moment and smile at the excitement and amazement around me.

This weekend when I take down the Christmas decorations and put away all the amazing gifts I received from family and friends this holiday, I will be making my first act for me for 2012. I am moving furniture in the living room, creating my long desired reading nook, and setting up an office space. Before I do all of this though, I’m doing a bit of energy clearing of the house by burning some sage, a gift from the truly fabulous Laurenne.

A bit of 2011 will follow me into this new year as my divorce hearing finally happens in early February and various other legal things with the house wrap up in the early spring. Even though not so enjoyable aspects of life will enter into my 2012, I know that keeping in mind the goal of Savor and Focus will allow me to keep these potentially down days in perspective, as well as make me realize that the decisions that caused these events to happen were some of the best I could have ever made for myself.

2012 means finally giving myself the opportunity to spread my wings and see what happens in life, love, and career. My plan is to not really have any big plans. I want to finally get going on my Pinterest projects. I want to be better to my body and improve my health.I’m going to finally attack my reading list, write like crazy, watch movies I have missed over the years, spend weekends scouring through antique and thrift shops looking for things that bring me joy. I’m open to anything that comes my way. If a friend in Philadelphia calls me on a Wednesday and asks me to come visit for the weekend, I want to be spontaneous and free to say “Hell Yeah!” So 2012, bring it on- I’m ready to savor and focus on it all.

[Photo Credit: The inspiration for my office space via HGTV ]

Psst! Hey, you! Gorgeous girl! Down here!

The Create Your Magical Year program is available right now! Looking for a great way to take a hard look at your 2011 (good and bad) and get clear on what you want for 2012? This joyful, all-about-you program is packed with awesome goodies, inspirational interviews, a soul-searching, colorful workbook, guided recordings, and other little surprises. 2012 is your year, woman. I can feel it. Wanna feel it too? It’s not too late to get this year off on the right foot.Let’s do this!

Well, hello there, January. You know, as excited as I am to see you, I wasn’t quite ready for you to get here yet. Really. I’m seriously behind.

I’ve hit 33 weeks in my pregnancy, and the basketball under my shirt has begun to really take over my life. As in, the darling bean hasn’t arrived yet, and he has already developed a very strict sleeping schedule he insists I adhere to. As in, he doesn’t sleep. Anyway. Come on inside, January.

Well, January, as you might imagine, this has made getting all of the work I need to rather difficult. I’m not a fan of resolutions because willpower is a resource we have limited amounts of. That said, I’ve got big plans for 2012. It’s gonna be big – dare, I say, legendary.

This is my year of thrilling performance. Onstage and off. I want to exceed my own expectations this year – which means learning to say no, embrace this moment for what it is, and release that which no longer serves me. This year is about upping the vivacious factor and being so audacious that I can set the world on fire.

You’re right, January. It doesn’t sound like I’m taking it easy at all. I’m on my way to overcommitting.

That’s why I thought you’d like to hear my goals – ones steeped in as much self-love as tribe-love.

– Indulge my love of music – which looks like it will easier than I thought! I ran into my old music instructor, and he’s starting a new group he wants me to join.
– Kill my overcommitment problem so I can overdeliver – to my family, friends, and clients
– ComicCon – As Jean Grey. The spandex 80’s costume. This is also my getting into shape post baby goal.
– Publish 2 books, both with a print option – They are cooking already, and good gravy, there is something about knowing how sexy and tangible they will be. Can you say giddy?
– Travel – On the list so far is France, Iceland, and a couple of stateside locations I’ve never been like New York and San Diego.
– Cultivate my community online and off
– Hit the six-figure mark with my business
– Start my speaking career – I’ve got my first pitch nearly ready to send out, and it sends my heart a-fluttering every time I think about it
– Take two vacations, in addition to taking the whole month of March off for maternity leave – And they are both scheduled already! YAY!

January, you are such a good listener. You just bring so much freshness after a dreary winter. Let’s do this again before you’re off for another year.

 

Psst! Hey, you! Gorgeous girl! Down here!

The Create Your Magical Year program is available right now! Looking for a great way to take a hard look at your 2011 (good and bad) and get clear on what you want for 2012? This joyful, all-about-you program is packed with awesome goodies, inspirational interviews, a soul-searching, colorful workbook, guided recordings, and other little surprises. 2012 is your year, woman. I can feel it. Wanna feel it too? Let’s do this!

2011.
What a year.
365 days of learning.
You know how some parents say, “They grow up so fast?” Well, that’s how I feel about myself right now. IT’S TOO FAST!

I don’t want another year to pass. I want to stay here. Or, I want to go back. I want to be little and worry-free and eating weird liver sandwiches in the pre-school cafeteria. I want my first priority to be yellow hula-hoops and my second to be folding dryer lint into shapes.

Yet, the years float on. And the truth is that I do like growing up. It’s hard, but it’s rewarding. And if I really could go back, I would probably be frustrated. I’d want to drive myself to kindergarten. And I’d be pretty annoyed at the order of priorities in my twenties.

Each year has been full of lessons. I’ve spent some years avoiding those lessons. When I was 19, I didn’t learn a thing besides how to wear pleather pants. The past few years, though, have been major, major periods of growth.

2011 has been the year of figuring out what I really want (still on it)! It’s been a year of writing. A year of thinking. A year of trying out new relationships. A year of school and studying. A year of solitude and new friends. The year of my first broken heart. A year of putting myself out there and a year of more rejections than ever. A year of equanimity and attachment. A year of standing up for myself. A year of accepting my body. A year of trapezing and trying new things. A year of feeling grateful for where I am and being all over the place.

On this New Year’s Eve, when most people were glueing on their fake eyelashes, I lit a candle and burned some sage. I made a list of all the things from this year I wanted to release: co-dependency, fear, self-doubt, anxiety, overwhelm, judgements, and perhaps a few others that I don’t remember because I burned them right up. Bye bye. Gone.

Then, I made a list of all the great accomplishments from the year. As I get older, this list gets more personal. What was once ‘Got Barbie Dream House’ is now ‘Finally became aware of my pattern of seeking validation from my mother.’ Ha! Growing up can be so boring, yet so interesting.

I then chose a theme for 2012: Authenticity.

I have goals that I’d like to reach in 2012: sell the book I wrote, speak at universities about suicide, move to Spain. Sure, they’d all be great. But I don’t want to achieve anything unless the desire comes from a truly authentic place– not a place that is seeking approval or a place that thinks it’s what I’m supposed to do.

So, my goal for 2012 is to keep myself on an honest track. Hopefully, it will lead to the things I truly want, whatever they may be.

So far so good. It’s been three days, and I’ve been pretty honest. I even told my friend she looked fat when she asked (not really.)

I hope your 2012 is the best yet.
And thanks for spending these past few months with me!


[Photo credit: http://artatm.com/]

Psst! Hey, you! Gorgeous girl! Down here!

The Create Your Magical Year program is available right now! Looking for a great way to take a hard look at your 2011 (good and bad) and get clear on what you want for 2012? This joyful, all-about-you program is packed with awesome goodies, inspirational interviews, a soul-searching, colorful workbook, guided recordings, and other little surprises. 2012 is your year, woman. I can feel it. Wanna feel it too? Let’s do this!

After reflecting on 2011 and seeing where the past 12 months have led me, I began brainstorming, scheming, and dreaming up my goals for 2012. This past year was all about being brave, taking chances, and setting boundaries, so in the upcoming year, I wanted something different.  I had a few specific goals in mind, but mostly it was just an overall feeling and lifestyle that I want to create. When I imagined my most perfect and amazing year, I imagined one full of growth, intentional inertia, and moments reserved for savoring the change.

Thus, my theme for 2012: Savor Growth.

I want this year to be one for change. I want to end somewhere different than I began. I want to grow. I want to expand my viewpoint, learn, stretch, and reach out. I want to recognize the growing pains and savor them because I know they are necessary to get to where I want to be. I want to be in the moment. I want to taste, to smell, to see, and to hear, and to touch, and to feel.

In order to create these savored moments of growth, 2012 will be filled with 9 Life Buckets, inspired by Nicole’s delicious plan.

My Life Buckets include Self-Care, Relationship, Family & Friends, Exercise, Fun, Career, Food, Blogging, and Money.

I have set goals for each Life Bucket and each goal with have a monthly action step. If you do the math, that adds up to 27 monthly action steps and I know that sounds crazy, but I’m excited about this plan. I’m excited that, for the first time, I’ve mapped out where I want to go in the new year.

My goals include things such as “Do 25 Nice Things for Myself”, “Move to Canada”, “Monthly Date Nights With Mom & Sister”, “Run 3 Half-Marathons”, “Watch 50 Movies”, “Read 15 Psychology Books”, “Make 20 New Recipes”, “Comment on 15 New Blogs”, “Save $1,500”, and more.

I am hoping that each goal will lead me toward the direction toward the life I imagine by the end of 2012. A life with more authenticity, healthier choices, more connection, and less unnecessary stress.

It’s not going to be an immediate change, obviously, but I love the idea of doing something small each day that leads me closer to the huge, scary goal. It’s like when I started training for my half-marathon and I could barely run one mile. Now that I’ve been running for over 6 weeks, I’m stronger and healthier, and I ran 8 miles last weekend. Running four days a week helped me reach that goal without making it feel intimidating or overwhelming.

So, that’s the same idea behind my goals for 2012. Smaller steps equal less intimidation and more likelihood of following through. Here’s to a happy 2012 and one of Savored Growth!

[photo credit: Sally_12]

Psst! Hey, you! Gorgeous girl! Down here!

The Create Your Magical Year program is available right now! Looking for a great way to take a hard look at your 2011 (good and bad) and get clear on what you want for 2012? This joyful, all-about-you program is packed with awesome goodies, inspirational interviews, a soul-searching, colorful workbook, guided recordings, and other little surprises. 2012 is your year, woman. I can feel it. Wanna feel it too? It’s not too late to get this year off on the right foot.Let’s do this!

To me there is hardly anything as anti-climactic as New Year’s Eve.  Everyone gets dressed in their best (sparkles or glitter for the girls!), looks for the most exciting party, goes out with great intentions, and more often than not, it seems to turn to this:

 

There’s the dramatic countdown 10, 9, 8 to……what exactly?  7, 6, 5…where’s my date? I’ll have no one to kiss!  4, 3, 2…Oh he’s way over there I’m never gonna make it. 1…Happy New Year! It’s the next year, yes, but you’re still at the same lame party.  Nothing has changed really.  My friend shared this poster with me and it made me giggle.  I guess I’m getting old or something, but that just no longer sounds like fun to me.

So this year, we’re headed to his house.  Eight or so of our closest friends will drink beer, play games, watch a soccer game on tv, and just hang out.  We’ll probably remember to pay attention when the ball drops, but who knows, we might miss it.  And really, I like it better that way.  Isn’t it more symbolic to spend the first few minutes of the New Year with a bunch of people you care a lot about, doing something you enjoy anyway?  Although, I will still wear a sparkles and glitter.  I’ll probably just wear them with jeans.

With that said, I still think 2012 is my year, and I’m ready to own every minute of it.  But the whole year, not just the first few minutes.  I’m excited about my theme “Effective”.  I’m excited about my mantra “I will not be more loyal to my fears than to my dreams”.  I’m excited about my goals and the direction I’m moving.  But I also want to be sure to make room for the big fun stuff!  For the sparkle and glitter that lasts all year.  To avoid the feeling of the anti-climax on Dec 31st, I followed Molly’s suggested (I forget where, but I’m pretty sure it was her!), I have made a list of 20 things to do in 2012.  I know I have a bazillion lists and that I was JUST talking about how I need to take it easy on the listing, but this one is different.  Twenty just for me things.  Twenty things that if they don’t get crossed off, that’s okay!  Twenty fun things, with no goal about them, no higher motive.  My thought is that on a weekend when I don’t know what to do with myself, or a slow time in the business, I can look to this list for inspiration and a good reminder of the things I’d like to do.  So without further ado:

My 2012 Sparkles and Glitter

  1. Finish my wedding scrapbook
  2. Go on a road trip
  3. Rearrange one room in our place
  4. Write someone a silly note and mail it to them
  5. Go out on a boat
  6. Go to the Grand Canyon
  7. Visit Colorado (where I was born)
  8. Paint
  9. Decorate for a holiday other than Christmas
  10. Go on a rollercoaster
  11. Swim in the ocean
  12. Do something nice for someone
  13. Make my own wine
  14. Spend all afternoon in a bookstore
  15. Get a massage
  16. Go on a mini-shopping spree
  17. Go on a girls’ trip
  18. Take a weekend away with Kyle
  19. Make something
  20. Play games with friends

The last thing on the list gets crossed off the first day of 2012! How’s that for a start?  Do you do goals?  Resolutions?  Intentions? Just for fun lists?  What’s something you want to accomplish in 2012?  Happy New Year, friends!

 

Psst! Hey, you! Gorgeous girl! Down here!

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