Can You Work & Learn With Your Kids?

In my search for a life and work that works for our family, I have learned new skills and discovered callings that were long since hidden. Today’s post is short and sweet. It is possible to work and learn with your kids, but you may need to reconsider your meaning of work. Here is a peek inside our work/play/learn day yesterday for our beginning of  “Not Back To School” week.

Just start by exploring treasures just outside your door. The effects of nature on happiness and vitality will allow you to listen to your calling and the time together is good for the soul.

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Downsizing: Deciding Where to Move in Transition

Small Space Living Garden Herbs

This sign is a piece of a crate that has seen better days. My parents bought peaches at a roadside stand over 60 years ago. I found the crate in their attic several years ago.

 

I know what you are thinking… I would go nuts in 1000 square feet with two kids, a husband, and a family pet. Add on top of that the fact that I play (aka work) at home and you probably think I should be in the funny farm by now. I have had several people ask me how we decided where to move, so this post is about the choices we made.

Should It Stay or Should It Go?

One of the things that has helped with this transition is that we only have things we love… well the adults anyways. I have read so many books on how to de-clutter kids, and none work well for us yet. I make sure that the possessions that inspire me to play (aka work) and nurture relationships win a place in our home. My husband frankly, is the least cluttered person of all of us so this was not hard on him at all.

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This was not easy at first, because just prior to our downsizing, I had a small wedding design business. I did about 20 weddings a year. All handmade, rustic, vintage style and I had the props to prove it. I had old doors, farm tables, vintage chairs, and more. Upon deciding to downsize, we decided to shut down the business. We were moving more than an hour north and it just was not feasible to continue. It was a relief in some ways. I started this business with a friend to supplement (replace) my lost consulting income that dried up overnight. She and her family moved and I kept the business going. I loved working with flowers and plants and styling an event. I loved getting to know the local flower farmers.

What I did not love was the actual process of planning weddings. Ironic, isn’t it? We got married on a beach in Mexico, and all I wanted was our families, a beautiful backdrop, and to ultimately end up married to my guy.

I loved teaching my clients about ways to incorporate their own personal style into their decor. I loved the workshops where I taught clients to create their own arrangements for a fraction of the cost of using a traditional florist. I loved creating a space in the studio that drew people in and helped them feel the power of vintage finds, nature, and plants. I had the right ingredients, but the wrong business. As we downsized, I found myself yearning back to nature and plants, but in a new way. As a way to bring peace to our small space.

Key Ingredients for a Happy Downsizing Experience

One of the key stops on our downsizing path came from, where we chose to try this experiment. We had to get real about what we could afford, but we (I) had conditions. I did not want to feel punished. I knew we needed a reality check, but I also knew that I would not have the staying power if I was not at peace about it. Call me weak, but I knew myself well enough to be sure I set myself and my family up for success.

What Are Your Musts?

We chose a Townhome north of Austin with an attached garage. This was important for a mom of two kids that had not lived in the apartment since before we were married. It also felt more like a home. The golf course seems excessive, but it was about the environment. I did not want to feel boxed in, so even if the Mad Scientist could not afford golf (yet) we could see the beautiful rolling grass and nature.

This community looked more like a “village” as the boys called it than an apartment. The amount we could afford when we moved required this radical approach if we wanted to be in a nice safe neighborhood. The community is also nestled back in a master planned community among single family homes. We did not lose the neighborhood feel. Our evening walks would still be a pleasure.

Professional Help

I used a Realtor to find this property. This is the first property she recommended, even though I looked at the others. I was not convinced I had to be in a Townhome. This seems silly now, as most days I feel like I am on a vacation. The property had one other thing that in Texas was a requirement. A resort style swimming pool. The kids still love it and it is a nice break for all of us. It feels like a destination.

Finding a Quiet Place

The last thing that was on my list of requirements for working from home. A quiet place to make phone calls and write when I need it. I use the business center that is available in the community to find a quiet place to work. I also have taken calls in my “micro gardens”. It is a beautiful way to enjoy outside and still get some work done.

My two micro gardens are always just outside the door if I need a minute or 10 of calm. I always enjoyed gardening before, but micro-gardening is more peaceful. It is all the good parts of a garden, the scents and scenery, with none of the stress or obligations of tending to a large space. I also bring clips of herbs and cuttings indoors to liven up the place. I will write more about how to start a micro garden in future posts.

What you may not know is that I feel more engaged and in touch with a greater level of creativity than ever. Why? A cluttered, complicated life is a recipe for disaster. It is like a layer of fog over your life. More and more families are trying to do it all and be everything to everyone, except the very people that matter… themselves.

I hope this gives everyone a better idea of where to start when downsizing with kids. We have had a happy experience that has changed the way we live. It is not easy in the beginning, but if you take the time to consider what is important you will be glad you took the plunge. The best advice I could give you is to stop worrying about what everyone will think, and just do what is right for your family.

Opting Out of a Frantic Life and Into an Inspired One

Opting Out of a Frantic Life and Into an Inspired One

 

It did not hit me until the “Kindergarten Round Up”postcard arrived from the local public school district that our decision to opt out of public education really sank in.

Opting Out of Kindergarten

Intellectually, I knew that my children already know many of the requirements to exit Kindergarten and that they are already learning organically as they did when they were infants. It still gives one a little pause when you know that you are going against a cultural norm or expectation. Luckily we are in a state, where it is so common to homeschool that you barely get a second look from many.

I was reading an article by writer Ben Hewitt about how he and his wife Penny Hewitt are unschooling their kids – freestyle. The article highlights their two sons and their ability to roam on their property and the stories they tell at the end of the day. They talk about a very small amount of time spent on actual studies and the rest is hands on learning.

We are currently living in a suburban golf course community, but my children spend so much time outside.  We chose this for a downsizing experiment and we have everything we need. Whether that be swimming, local parks, or just playing outside of our small home. The elements of fresh air and open spaces is still available and in my opinion vital to their development. You may not have acres for your kids to roam, but local parks are close by. We often joke that we could be tour guides for the best parks within a ten mile radius.

Nature Soothes the Soul

As much as I would love to live in a country house on acreage, our small living experiment is just what we needed to escape our self-imposed prison. Our two tiny porch gardens are not only a retreat for me and the boys, but also for our neighbors. Many have stopped by on their morning walks to say how much they enjoy our small oasis, and how it brings such beauty their morning walks.

The idea that nature soothes is not a new one, but how far off track we have gotten from enjoying the health and learning benefits of nature is startling. I recently had a conversation with a school psychologist, who remarked how surprised she was to drive through a town recently and to see children outside playing. We talked about the amount of time children spend indoors and how the number of children that knock on her door has increased. Isn’t this crazy?

When we lived in our former suburban nightmare, it was common for the boys and I to go out for a walk or a hike around the lake and not see any children. Not one! These master planned neighborhoods are built with green spaces to promote health and well-being, yet there is no one home during the day to enjoy them.

This is not a judgement against those living that life, rather a message that nature can heal what stresses them. It can give our children a place to run, learn, and grow into the grounded people that know how to handle the stresses of the world. It can give tired moms a place for a personal retreat. It can heal a frantic world.

In Search of a Calling

In Gregg Levoy’s bookCallings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life he writes about listening for your call. I find that modern life has to be simplified to hear that call. This is a terrific book for helping you get quiet and listen to what your life is trying to tell you. It also reminds us that we do not have to change the world, we just need to live authentically in ours no matter what your resume says.

I know this because I am living proof. I was finally able to tune into how to live a life that was truly ours, but it took simplifying our lives to block out all of the noise getting in the way.

You can simplify your life without radical downsizing like we did, but getting quiet is essential for anyone struggling to identify their best work.

It is difficult to find quiet time for reflection, with no “place” for it in your life. This can be as simple as a cup of tea and a blanket. This is a signal to your body that you are taking the time to nurture your soul and by extension your life.

To create a place to nurture your soul can be as simple as a small spot for plants and a place to sit and enjoy them. Even in our 1000 square feet, we have nature tucked into places to bring as much peace and harmony into our very active household as possible.

Whatever your plan for the upcoming autumn, take a few minutes today to find a small spot to begin soothing your soul to hear your call to your best life.

How to Turn Up The Volume on Your Intuition and Mute Your Fears

 Tune Into Intuition and Drown Out Fear

A few days ago, I called my Aunt to wish her a happy 84th birthday. We had not spoken in some time, not by phone. Life gets in the way, but we have a great bond that began many years ago with a letter.

I was 19 when my Grandmother, her mother, passed away. My Grandmother was a writer and wrote to all of us often. I can still see her secretary where she wrote those letters in my mind. Photographs tucked into the woodwork and glass above the desk. She wrote to the people in the photos. She wrote to me at times when I needed it most, although I never knew how she knew that I needed her. Losing her was this first time I had experienced a profound loss.

My Aunt, her daughter, took up her place as my supportive pen pal. Not often, but the timing was always just what I needed. I am sure my father had something to do with this. Over the years since, my Aunt Nancy has always been there in the background, when things were tough reminding me of who I was and that I would find my way. She was at my wedding, telling my husband that he found a good one. She was there to remind me to believe it too. She was there in letters, when my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in my twenties both rocked my world and saved me.

She said, “you sound so good honey.”

It was more than just a statement. I knew she felt it through that connection on the phone. I am happy. I did make it.

We talked about writing and how hoped I would I help someone else as much as she and Ma (my grandmother) helped me. I am the current generation of “the writer” in our family.

As I was working with a client a few weeks ago, I knew that she too was not trusting her intuition. I had traveled this path and could see it clearly. She had one persona for her work and the other that was just there in the background if you read between the lines.  Her truest self was there, but it was hiding. She needed to know that those subtle pieces of her soul did reach her audience unless they were really paying attention. It was hidden in the very few photos on her blog with her family. This was a huge part of who she was, but she had separated it from her work. She needed to serve the others and herself, by letting them see it too. She needed to trust herself.

Here is a little of what she wrote back to me, “…you really hit at the core of me… I want to say thank you though. You care so much. And you help me think about myself in a new way. ..”

The ultimate betrayal is when we betray ourselves. Worst yet, we cannot share our best work with the world if we are hiding the very pieces that define us. Those pieces when you can feel joy over a phone are the ones that are the truest part of you. Just talking to my Aunt reminded me of how far I have come, and how much I have to share.

We are always on our right path, but somewhere along the way you muted your intuition, you stopped trusting it.

This is what Jeane and Nancy would say…”you are strong and gifted. You can move mountains. You just need to trust your gut.”

Why Movement Makers Need Advocates

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“You have great talent as a writer and a coach.” Jeff Sandefer, Acton Academy Austin

I just completed work for an educational movement that I wholeheartedly believe in and not a moment too soon. As an advocate and coach, I know my role and it is my greatest joy to be able to do this kind of work knowing when it is time to move out of coaching and back into my role as an advocate. The world of education is experiencing a revolution and not everyone is happy about it. Many people are afraid of change, just because of the uneasy feeling of not knowing what lies ahead.

It is particularly difficult when you become a parent. I had a higher tolerance for risk before the boys were born, but I have learned that fear holds you back and that is what we will teach our children. I want them to explore their world and how to use their gifts in it.

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was afraid to do it. It was not practical.  How do you make a living as a writer? This was before, during, and after music. Writing unlike music has always been there.

“Come on now, buckle down and find a real job” is something that would knock around in my head…and I did just that over and over again until I identified my ideal work.

I loved writing as a kid, and it was not until my first college creative writing class that I ever experienced the red pen of death. It was like a death for me. I lost confidence. I lost my voice. The one that was not afraid to say what needed to be said. I am brave when I write.

The world of work is changing and movement makers are building companies, brands, and tribes, but they need something. They need the champions of the brand. The advocates of their vision to show the maker the things she has hidden from herself. Seth Godin talks about having your customers be your brand advocates and I take this one step further. What if those advocates are also connectors and amplifiers?

As makers, they are often so deep into their world of making that there is a language they develope. A hidden world that is not always transparent to those wanting to peer in to get a closer look. Makers guard their vision. They have to in some way or their vision would never become anything. They can work to share their vision without intrusions into their world.

How does a maker use the skills of an advocate to share their message?

It is a delicate balance of two very different skill sets, that actually do not work together well in an organization. If an advocate is to do their best work, they have to be shielded from the day-to-day necessities that go into building a movement. Their excitement and passion for the cause will be affected if they are too in the actual making. They will know too much. Advocate types soak up emotions like rays of sunshine and for that reason the day-to-day running of a business is not a good fit for them. It deletes their energy. It affects their effectiveness.

So, how do advocate types create a living? First, they need to know that they are an advocate, and they have to use their skills in advocacy and sharing on themselves. They need to see how their talents and gifts are needed in the new economy. More importantly they have to understand the makers.

Understanding the makers and helping them understand your talents of bringing their vision to the world is a recipe for unbelievable success.

I am an advocate. I will champion causes that will change the world if I believe in them. Advocates feel compelled to do something that leaves a legacy.

Many of them know this, but are afraid to say it out loud. They accept jobs just to have income, instead of designing or seeking the perfect fit.

There is a perfect fit for the advocates. There is a place for a champion of a cause. That cause can be anything, from the writer who must share her struggles through stories that might help one child overcome their struggle in life. It might be a photographer who feels a need to document the lives of ordinary people in such a profound way that leaves their mark on history. It might be the mother who strives to create the most nurturing home school environment for their children. It might be the coach who wants to help others own their future.

It might be you.

I coach advocates, champions, and artists. It is my calling to bring their art into the world, and to keep reminding them that the world needs their art. The world needs to hear their song.

What is your calling? Are you brave enough to name it?

 

 

How Minimizing Career Choices Open’s a World of Possibilities

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Over ten years ago I read the book, Do What You Are, by Paul & Barbara Tieger. In it I learned that my personality type was ENFP. Actually truth be told, like all ENFP’s I waffled a little in the beginning, considering all the possibilities. I learned so much about myself, but putting it into practice took me more time than I would like to admit. It was through coaching courses, that I was finally able to make sense of these possibilities and how to dial into the ones that led me to my best work.

As a freelance consultant, it is easy to fall into the trap of doing everything a client wants, but minimizing your roles will actually serve your clients more in the long run. It does the same in every area of your life.

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, and I am glad to have landed back at home. Last week, the kids and I traveled to the northern part of the state to visit my family and sadly for me to sing at the funeral of a dear friend’s mother. I studied music most of my life, even continued those studies in college for a couple of years. I am grateful to have a well-developed classical voice, and enjoy the fact that I can express myself in this way. I have not been involved in performance singing since the boys were infants.

After the service, many people came to thank me for singing and as usual one person stopped and said ,”Don’t ever give up on your gift. It is a gift that must be shared. ” I have heard things like this many times, and as an ENFP,  it could get me off track. “Should I be pursuing music? Is that the plan for me? Maybe, she’s right.”

The difference now is that I know something that took me years to understand. I am using my gift. I use it in the most intimate way a person can use a gift. I sing when asked by people I love. Sometimes it is a wedding, other times a funeral. I consider it an honor to say goodbye to a loved one in such a personal way. It  is hard and wonderful at the same time.

Do you have gifts that are creating confusion? Are you having trouble deciding  which one to choose?

After that trip, I was home for a day and then off to a music educator’s conference for a client, sans kids.  Although I am a gifted singer, I am not dedicated to that craft. You must be dedicated for hours of practice.

I am however dedicated to my craft of understanding people and wanting to help them. At that same conference, I was able to use the gift that I do practice and craft. It is in strategic engagement, specifically how to reach the people who need what you have to offer. My clients were preparing for a product launch. The product was in development and it is now time to design the launch strategies. I am at my best in these types of sessions.  I get invited to many lunches just to begin the spiraling of strategic ideas that spin from one idea to another. There is nothing random about it, rather insightful well researched strategies that admittedly sometimes seem out of thin air.

This is no different than an artist who crafts a painting unsure of their destination, but for me I did not always see my abilities as art. There was a time when all I could see was business. As a creative that might as well have been a curse word. If you could have felt the disdain I had for it, but then something changed. I could see how my gift of strategic engagement combined with my genuine caring for people was a way to serve. It was a way for me to help people.

That is how the work you do changes. If you are like me, and have had people say that you are so talented you just need to pick something, maybe you do. Just not the way you are thinking of it.

 

 

 

Transparency Is a Gift – Embrace It

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“When you’re authentic and transparent, there’s nothing to hide, nothing to defend, nothing to prove, nothing to outrun, because all of a sudden you’re living inside your truth.” Lisa Nichols

I read something, that I am not sure that I was meant to read, but needed to hear. Knowing the source, I think it was intentional transparency, even if it was painful to read.

There are times when we need to hear the message. These messages can help us hear the voice inside of our head and heart. These messages simply turn up the volume of our own voice.

As I navigate this new map, I found myself the last couple of weeks wondering what was my next “big fat goal” (BFG).

If you are open things will come your way, but you have to be paying attention. The idea of simplifying your life involves some large, complicated stepping stones. Being careful where you step is vital. Especially using simplicity to stepping our way to our best work.

Notice I did not say career, but work. I consider my work to be of me serving in some way, and the linear career path would not work for me. Coaching, writing, and speaking are all part of the way I serve, but it was time to get more intentional about it.

The Mad Scientist’s key to simplicity in work, is going to work. He thrives in an environment where he contributes to a collective goal in the lab. He has aspirations of course to develop his work, but his is a linear path. He serves as part of a collective.

How Transparency Is a Gift

There is a freedom in transparency, but freedom only exists alongside being brave. Bravery might be reading words on a page, and then have a good cry if you are so inclined. It also means knowing when it is time to get to work. Bravery serves you. Bravery gives you the power to change course.

Years ago, before I fully embraced this journey, I hired a coach. I thought if someone could just help me pick something for my work focus, I could be off and running. Many people have different views on coaching. Some think you need a coachable goal to begin, some believe that coaching is there to help you walk through this wild new world and find where you are headed. The second is the camp I agree with most often, but it is the hardest for me to do.

My first coach, Cara Lumen, is no longer coaching, but she serves by sharing her writing with the world. One of her messages found its way to me a few days ago. Her message appeared to me as if “like magic,” said fellow messenger Chris Brogan.

Chris is the founder of OWN, a digital magazine that is about owning your life. Well, it is a business magazine, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. It is about how to live your work, serve who you are meant to serve, while still serving those that make it all possible, you and your family.

Embarking on a journey of exploration without knowing exactly where you will end up makes my heart beat a little faster and my shoulders tense. That queasy feeling in my stomach is that little voice saying – oh just pick something already! The good news is that I did not listen to that pesky little voice anymore and have come out the other side happier for it.

So, what do you do when someone’s transparency is hard to hear? What if… in your heart you were already feeling this, but were afraid to say it out loud. What if that was because you knew you needed to follow a dream and path that was uncertain? That did not come with a guarantee?

Do you say yes to this opportunity? Are you neglecting your own personal work? As I spent the last week contemplating my new BFG, messages and signs were popping up everywhere. A post from Penelope Trunk about ENFP’s, and their uncanny ability to tackle the wrong projects just to have a project. If you want career advice that is as transparent, you need to be reading Penelope’s blog. As you may know, I am an ENFP, and before becoming aware of my strengths and the perfect way to work, I might have missed the signs as they were happening.

How do you work through something? Do you have a coach? Do you write? Do you read? I do all of these things, and reading is usually first.

The one thing that will always guide you in the direction of your truest life, the one you are meant to live is transparency and the freedom it brings. So read those messages and listen to your own voice. It will always lead you on the truest path for you, one complicated stepping stone at a time.