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Cloning Yourself

changeFor the first several years of single parenthood, I constantly felt overwhelmed.   Trying to be the sole caregiver for my little ones, trying to run a business and support us, and managing my overwhelming emotions and fear regarding my failed marriage. And with all this, I often felt the need for more hours in the day or better yet to be able to clone myself to get more done. Needless to say, neither of those things happened.

Fast forward a few years and now I thrive on our busy schedule.  The kids are older and more involved in things, we’ve added the twins and their busyness, I still work constantly to support us and I’m now spreading my wings in a couple of different avenues to earn more money.  And to make it even better, I’ve found the answers to my previous desires: more hours in the day and cloning myself.

First, I’ve found a couple of ways to give me more hours in the day:

  1. Making healthy choices – I start every morning with a pretty nasty shot of fresh squeezed lemon juice, a teaspoon of local honey and a couple of teaspoons of apple cider vinegar all mixed with water.  Not only is this concoction super charged healthy, but more importantly it super boosts my energy.  I am more productive and more active throughout the day.
  2. Make a list – I have a running to do list, so when I’m feeling overwhelmed or at a loss for what to do next, I can simply check the list and it feels great to actually mark something off.  (I spend a few minutes in the morning and evening reviewing the list and adding or removing things as needed.)
  3. Waking up earlier – I’ve always been a night owl, but either because of the healthier choices or maybe just aging I’m naturally waking up a couple of hours before the sun.  In the past, I would have turned over and gone back to sleep, but now I’m up and getting started on my day.

I didn’t force these changes, I couldn’t have.  I’ve read for years about moms who got up before the sun, and even setting an alarm, I just couldn’t do it. I had to wait for my body to be ready, for the motivation to be there…and it certainly hasn’t happened over night.  But I’ve got to tell you, once I learned to embrace the changes with a positive attitude the difference in my life has been phenomenal.

Second, cloning myself.  No, I did not go to some top secret lab and let me take my DNA and then synthetically create a new me, loading it with my personality and memories.  Now, that I type that out, it’s actually more scary then desirable!  What I did do, is learn to live in the moment.  For years, I was always watching and waiting for the next thing whether it was a trip, an event or even a paycheck.  Now, I realize that my time with my kids is flying by and if I spend all my time focusing on what’s going to happen in the future, I miss the present.  I miss the special things happening now, I miss the memories and the milestones, I miss the lessons and the playtime.  So rather than cloning myself I now live in the here and now, right here, right now!  So I focus on:

  1. Playtime – my kids need me, not stuff.  The notice when I am here in front of my computer to the exclusion of all else, so I have to make a conscious effort every day to have playtime.  It’s good for me and GREAT for them.
  2. Being productive – when I sit down to work, I need to work, not lose hours browsing the internet.  This is where my list comes in, it really helps me keep focused on what needs to be done.
  3. Prioritize – let’s face it, we all have ‘to dos’ that are more wants than needs and sometimes, they need to take a back burner.  Keeping things in perspective is key to fitting it all in.

I encourage you to find more hours in your day or at least be open to the possibility and while you are at it, make sure you are living in the moment!  I can’t tell you how much these two things have changed my life!

Financial Management Tenets

As many of you know, I am a featured blogger at Blogging Away Debt which is really cool as its previous writers have all been inspirations to me.  But another one of my favorite financial blogs is Get Rich Slowly and this week as I have struggled with my financial goals for both the summer and debt payoff, I was hit with this post about Financial Tenets.

As I approach my 40th birthday, I’ve finally decided to get serious about my financial life.  This has been inspired by my parents.  They have truly, truly been steadfast examples of wise money management, generosity and self control – pretty much none of which I get from them naturally.

The Get Rich Slowly tenets have inspired me to evaluate my own life and weakness and create a list of tenets of my own for my money management (bear in mind that many of these are inspired from my current debt journey and the Get Rich philosophy, in no way shape or form can I take credit for them, only in how I apply them to my own situation :)

  1. Money is all about the mind and very little about the money itself. In my experience, making money has not been a problem.  I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, I do not over-value myself and I truly enjoy working; however, not having self control or self discipline can ruin any financial success very quickly.  This is my biggest problem.
  2. Without a plan, you will not ever go anywhere. Without financial plan, there’s  good chance you will grab the first ‘shiny’ that is put in front of you without forethought of the consequences or future impact.  With goals you are working to attain, savings become much more important and delaying gratification can be much more palatable.  It’s a work in progress but this is where I am at now.  I have a plan and am working on the savings and delayed gratification.
  3. Love what you do. Work, it’s a fact of life.  Paid or unpaid, we must all work.  With that being said, find something you LOVE to do.  This is something I have been so blessed with over the last few years and has made a HUGE difference in my quality of life. (I’ve been on the opposite side too, and even making much more money, life was not as joyful as it is now.)
  4. Giving back is a must.  Whether you have money to give or just time and talent, finding somewhere to contribute to society that satisfies a passion of yours is truly worth the effort and any sacrifice you have to make to do it. Whether it’s animals or children, disease research or political campaigns, giving back keeps your life in perspective, there will always be those whose lives look better/easier, giving back gives you an opportunity to appreciate the very many blessing you have that somehow we are blinded too in the tough times.
  5. Explore the alternatives. There’s a saying I heard that I believe came from sports, if you always do, what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.  So change it up, explore alternative medicine, explore frugal tricks and tips, explore the areas off the beaten tracks.  Not only will the world open up a bit more, but you might find something that makes you happy, healthy and/or completely satisfied.  Not to mention, the really cool people you can meet along the way.
  6. Consider all advice, educate yourself, but make your own decision. What do they say about opinions…oh yeah, everyone’s got one. Listen to people, ask people, seek experienced counsel, do all that and do it thoroughly, but in the end make your own decision.  You are the one who has to live with the consequences, whatever they may be, so make sure the decision is yours and yours alone.
  7. You can have it all, just maybe not at the same time and certainly not without consequences. I honestly believe in self fulfilling prophesy, it’s somethign I learned about long ago when studying for my social work degree.  I believe that if you visualize it and work towards it, you can achieve it.  Now I’m not saying that will always turn out like you want it too, but you can do it.  You can do and achieve anything, just be careful of what you give up, step on and sacrifice on that journey, if you don’t keep your eyes open and explore the alternatives (see #5) you may pass something by worth stopping for.
  8. It’s more important to be happy than it is to be rich. Don’t be obsessed with money — it won’t buy you happiness. Sure, money will give you more options in life, but true wealth is about something more. True wealth is about relationships, good health, and ongoing self-improvement. (Ok, this one is an exact replica of Get Rich Slowly’s 15th tenet, but I could not have said it better myself.  Finding true joy in your life is worth WAY more than finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.)

Naturally everyone’s financial philosophy will vary, not making one better than the other as everyone’s circumstances are different.  As a single mom, sole caregiver and entrepreneur my financial plans and resources look very different than the stereotypical family household with two parents, two income and a variety of support.  I have been searching out women who have walked similar paths to mine to get their advice.  Here are some of the blog posts regarding single moms and money that I have found most helpful:

So tell me, what is your financial philosophy?  Would you add some to my list? Would you remove some?

 

Easter – A Throwback Version

crossI thought I would share a letter I wrote and actually mailed to my family back in April, 2001 as the Easter holiday approaches.

April 3, 2001

Dear Family and Friends,

Many days have passed since I last sat at my computer at a loss. Tonight I am. There are many things I should be doing right now . . . working on a graduate school assignment, writing a training manual for work, designing a web site, scanning pictures in, or doing research on the internet. Instead I find myself contemplating the upcoming holiday and what it means to me.

Growing up, it meant a wicker basket filled with plastic green grass and lots of candy (mostly that I didn’t care for, I never could stand those “candy eggs” and “marshmallow chicks”.) It meant a new dress and having to sit through mom fixing my hair and listening to a long boring sermon at church of a story I had heard a “million” times.

Later in the day, after hearing the same story every year in church, a neighborhood egg hunt. As I grew older, getting to hide the eggs rather than search for them. People laugh. They all look wonderful in their new clothes. There were no chores, no eating food I didn’t like (I could fill up with candy.) But that was it . . .

Now, I’m 26. There are no kids around to entertain with an egg hunt. There is no new outfit. And most years, I don’t even attend the church service because it will be too crowded. It’s just another day. Not even a special day or Sunday anymore.

As I see this, I am saddened. This day commemorates the . . . wow, I’m at a loss again. The Creator of this entire, complicated, beautiful, intimidating, and awe inspiring world sent his Son to live here, experience what we go through. I mean He went through it all. Having parents. Being teased by other kids. Pimples. Not being the most popular person in school. Puberty. Insecurity. Wondering how to make ends meet. Everything that we go through growing up and on.

He then allowed His Son to be killed, not just shot by a gun or electrocuted in seconds, but hung for hours in the sun (Matthew 27:45), dehydrated (Matthew 27:34), bleeding and covered in whip lashes and sores from being beaten (Matthew 27:28-30) until he died (Matthew 27:50). On a cross.

My dad (and mom) wouldn’t even let me fall down with out checking my knees and kissing my head. My dad would speak sternly to another child, teenager or adult if he/she did something remotely harmful to me (even to this day.) He would fly my mom at a day’s notice up to be with me when I am sick. There is no way he would allow me to be treated like that. My dad hurts when I cry and supports me in every way possible.

Can you imagine the pain, seeing your only Son . . . hanging from a cross, in more physical pain than is imaginable, abandoned and denied by those He called friend (Matthew 26:75), dying? Can you imagine having the power to put a stop to it and not (Matthew 51-54)? God did. I’m sure that it was so hard for Him that He turned His back on His Son and wept (Matthew 27:45), knowing that it was His creation that had done this.

In that moment, through those hours of His suffering, He took everything I have ever done wrong and He paid for it. He suffered for me. He suffered for you. And He gave up His son.

There’s no Christmas present worth that. There’s no basket filled with candy that can symbolize that kind of gift. There’s no personal sacrifice that could be the equivalent.

My God loves me. So much that He would be separated from His only son for me. He would have His only son, tortured and killed for me. Because He knew it was the only way to reconcile His relationship with me . . . I meant that much to Him, even before I was a twinkle in my parents’ eyes.

So what does this “holiday” mean . . . what should it mean? Easter symbolizes the final reconciliation of my relationship with my Heavenly Father. His son rose again, having paid for all my sins. He allowed me to be seen again as clean and pure in His eyes. Easter means that I have Hope again. Hope in my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Hope in me.

Yes, but what does that mean really. I mean, the preacher tells me the same story every year . . . To me it means . . .

  • I am loved beyond anything imaginable. All these days and nights I spend feeling lonely and sorry for myself are for naught because I am loved so completely. (I John 4:9-11)
  • I am accepted. No matter how little I like how I look. Or how I may not seem to “measure up.” I am pure and clean and perfect in His eyes, and no one is a better judge than that. (Colossians 1:21-22)
  • I have potential. Everyone stumbles. And, man, I fall flat on my face quite often. But He gave me the opportunity to pick myself up and move past that. Past my problems and weaknesses. I can be complete and whole, healthy. He took responsibility for all of those. (Colossians 2:10)

I have so many struggles, just as I am sure that you do, and this “gift” is one that I need to re-open every day rather than once a year. So rather than an Easter card or candy this year, I wanted to share this story with you in my way and why it means so much to me.

I am so blessed to call you family or friend. Thank you for being a part of my life. Thank you for sharing yourself with me. You will never know just how much that means to me.

Sincerely,

~hope

A Dozen Aspects of Business You Must Learn About as an Entrepreneur

Several years ago, I wrote about how I decided to Strike Out on My Own in business and a list of pointers if you were in that place yourself.  Now as I have set a goal to make some more money, I am exploring strategies for building my business once again.  From everything I’ve been reading there are about a half dozen different aspects to being an owner/operator of a business, and to succeed you have to have strategies in place for each one.

Here are the aspects I am reviewing about my own business in an effort to make an educated step for expansion and growth:

  • Sales and Marketing Strategies
  • Systems Strategies
  • Financial Management including Increasing Profit Strategies
  • People Strategies including being a great Leader
  • The Customer Experience
  • and one that touches on them all Communication Strategies

Over the next few weeks, I plan to write a synopsis of what a small business owner should consider when reviewing these strategies for his/her business, and by small, I mean mom and pop shops.  I think as a owner/operator with even just a couple of employees, outsourcing many of these avenues is not financially feasible, but sometimes you have to consider that avenue when it is obviously something that is 1) not the core of your business and 2) not one of your strengths.  This is where I am at right now.  I am spending far too much time on things I’m not necessarily the best at and I need to consider finding some other way to get those things done.

Sales and Marketing – This is very obviously not my strong suit.  I have been so blessed over the years that sites like Guru and Elance have helped me put my business in front of people who need it, but as the virtual work world changes, I need to expand my marketing and sales avenues.  And I’m finding that when I do it myself, I waste precious time that I could actually be doing work.  This is where I’m starting.

Systems – This could also be known as your Toolbox.  Systematizing the day to day operating of your business intrinsically frees you up to focus on the core of your business AND if you do have employees or subcontractors it let’s everyone “stay in their lane” to prevent waste and confusion. Tools in this not only include your email, custom software, etc. but also the procedure with which you use them.

Finances – Understand where your money comes from and where is goes is the key to being a success at business.  Controlling your overhead in a virtual workspace allows you to offer very competitive rates and make a decent size profit, but you must remember to plan for the future and the day when you must increase your out going monies to stay competitive whether it be with education and/or equipment, having a solid understanding of your finances and a long term plan in place is important.

People – Whether you are a one person shop or a mid-sized business having good people skills is important, whether you use it for sales or support, hiring or management, knowing yourself and how to influence are important.  We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses, that’s life, but being aware and being willing to admit and address those is vital to maintaining a healthy , joyful work environment and who doesn’t want that!?

Customer Experience – I don’t know who said it, but I know you’ve heard it. Word of mouth marketing can be the best or the worst thing for our business ever.  A happy customer is going to talk about it, a customer with a bad experience is going to talk about it exponentially more, thus managing the customer experience is key not only to your day to day work environment but also to the healthy longevity of your company.  There are lots of strategies out there for this and I am looking at them all!

Communication – Let’s face it, in this technology filled age it’s really easy to put the word out about something.  You can blog it, Tweet it, Post it, Take a Picture of it, Pin it…you get the point.  The key though is to have effective communication, communication that is actually heard.  We will explore the tools, the branding, the scripts and the theories.  I’ve found my key over the years is to communicate the way a client hears it – as much as I don’t want to, there are some clients I MUST pick up the phone and call and small talk before we can tackle the root of the call whereas others would greatly prefer a short text, understanding who you are trying to communicate with is the secret!

I can’t wait to dive in and share my findings and resources with you, and I am sure that I will learn as much from you in the process!