Please welcome me back

Back in January, I decided to put this project on hold while I launched my law school admission guidebook. It’s now a best-seller on Amazon.com and I’ve been getting a lot of questions from the press about how I started my business and about life as a work at home mom (WAHM).

This morning, I was interviewed by Family Radio on Blog Talk Radio about my 6 tips for success as a WAHM. You can listen to the interview here, and download it as a podcast as well.

So, I guess the bottom line is that you’ll be hearing more from me: More about how to Make More, Be More, and Do More. After all, I did get the trademark on the phrase. I might as well us it to inspire!

Bizzie Mommy Interview

Thanks so much to Bizzie Mommy blog for featuring me as the mompreneur of the day.

What can I do in a month?

Today is January 3rd.

On February 3rd, I turn 35.

35 seems like a big deal, or at least it felt that way ever since turning 34. I find myself at this wonderful place in my life – with kids and happy with the decision to stop at 2 beautiful, healthy, verbal and sometimes too whiny and binky/blanky addicted, little girls.

The business thing is definitely under control, and my plans to expand its growth and potential continue.

I get along nicely with Husband Extraordinaire, who is supportive in all of my endeavors and who offers on-the-money advice when I request it.

As 35 looms, my biggest accomplishment is perhaps letting go of the idea of attaining perfection. My interest today lies more in keeping myself focused, allowing myself indulgences (clothes & shoes, primarily), surrounding myself with caring and supportive and authentic friends, and making sure to actively love my family, and not just say I love my family, and not just assume that saying “I love you” is enough. And, with all things social-drama and work related, I keep this mantra in mind:

Illegitimi non carborundum

So, yes, I feel I’m in a good place as I approach the not-so-big, but big-feeling birthday. And here’s what I hope to accomplish this month:

1. Make headway on my self-published law school admission guidance book so it’s ready for printing and marketing in March. it’ll be here soon!

2. Work, work, work, but not lose my stamina…. the end of my busy season is days away and the end of the season is always the hardest – people are more stressed out, deadlines loom, and expectations may be difficult to manage.

3. Run every day for a week. Then I get to buy myself new running shoes to replace the $30 pair I bought 2 years ago. That’s my motivation for picking back up where I left off with my workouts.

4. Planning my birthday celebration. I’m inviting friends to my house for champagne and cupcakes, and even though I down scaled the original idea to avoid exhibiting ostentatious behavior during our current economic crisis, I still plan to wear my best new strapless cocktail dress from Saks (therefore instilling additional motivation to keep going with the running).

5. Plan my daughter’s 5th birthday, vowing not to go overboard. I swear I’m using e-vite, and not spending more than $250. ($150 of that is for the gymnastics place…..)

6. Enjoy two weekends in Palm Springs: one with my family (involving watching the girls in the pool, watching the girls bike, working during naptimes, and my husband’s BBQ prowess at its best), and one with three close friends (involving premium outlet shopping, tennis, yummy restaurants, a good cocktail or too, and logging some pool time when I am actually able to read a book in the sun).

7. Hosting my book club. Which means actually reading the book I selected. I’ve been so busy reading other things (and I promise to blog about all of the books soon) that this book has so far eluded my attention. Better add that to the list of things I’ll accomplish in Palm Springs this weekend.

8. Welcoming our new au pair from Bosnia. Please, please wish us luck on that one. Please. I maintain such high hopes and faith in people…. let’s hope I don’t start blogging about au pair frustrations anytime soon. (Any good references for Bosnian culture I should know about? Google proves puzzingly elusive on the topic).

9. Lead a nonprofit board meeting by keeping my fingers crossed under the table and praying under my breath, “please, no controversy, please no controversy, please! please!”

10. Get to 1,500 twitter followers. twitter counter certainly says it’s possible. Why not go for it?

11. Continue moving my marketing and web team ahead with changes to my business and to decorating this blog appropriately.

12. Change my business model slightly so I’m not quite so accessible to people who haven’t paid me yet : )

Ok, now I’m off to go for a nice run. Gotta earn those running shoes.

MomwtihMoney’s 6 New Year’s Resolutions

On January 3, 2008, I found myself inside a CAT scanner.  I thought I was having a stroke and spent the time inside the box imagining headlines along the lines  of, “34 year old mother of 2 and Community Leader …” (you get the drift). Thankfully, it turned out to “just” be a migraine headache, but it was one that lasted 6 weeks, overlapping conveniently with a stomach flu that left me bedridden for 7 days (losing just as many pounds) and barely upright in time for my birthday. Just when I started to feel better and ready to work out again, I was hit by a second bout with the stomach flu. The only good news from all of this is that (a) it was only the flu, and (b) I have kept off post of the 7 lbs. I lost.

The best things I did for myself and my family in 2008: Getting an au pair (allowing me more time to work knowing my girls had a loyal and loving honorary member of the family engaging with them and taking care of their needs), finally succumbing to my years of struggling with a self-image issue and getting the nose job I’ve thought about for 20 years, buying a vacation home where wonderful memories are already being built and traditions already being established, incorporating a non-negotiable weekly date night and spending 4 weekends away with my husband. Oh, and I bought some AMAZING shoes this year. Seriously.

The things I could have done better: kept up the great fitness level I worked so hard to attain, spent less time doing mundane tasks I didn’t need to be doing, I probably didn’t need to shop quite so much, I spent too much time complaining to my husband about how busy I am and not recognizing how much pressure he must also feel (although he certainly never admits to it), maintained a bit more diplomacy and bit less personal ego investment in my role as board chair of a non-profit organization, and of course I should have documented more of my younger daughter’s milestones so there’s not such a huge disparity in the number of pages each of my daughters has filled with precious moments.

So, with all of that out in the open, here are my New Year’s Resolutions for 2009:

1. I will do things to make my life easier, including (a) buying a Mac so I’m not fighting PC viruses constantly; (2) hiring my personal assistant for more hours each week; (3) using a virtual assistant to help me with more mundane tasks; and (4) letting go of control and deciding I’m ok with our au pair driving my kids around town so that I can work when I need to work and use my “play” time more wisely.

2. I will Work Less and Make More by: (1) giving myself a raise (I’m worth it!); (2) creating demand sooner and giving incentives for people who sign up to work with me earlier so that my income is more balanced throughout the year; (3) diversify my business and not let the hours I am available determine how quickly my holdings can grow – meaning I will employ others to assist me as I “think bigger”; and (4) evaluating each task and really deciding whether it’s something I have to handle or whether it can be farmed out to someone else.

3. I will Concentrate on Quality of Life by: (1) joining a better gym that motivates me and has the classes I enjoy at more convenient times and at a more convenient location; (2) spending at least one weekend a month in our newly acquired vacation home; (3) trying not to work in the mornings before school – that should be my time to really interact with my daughters; and (4) not complaining about how hard I’m working to my husband, who is also working incredibly hard.

4. I will Use My Time More Wisely by: compartmentalizing my day – instead of checking twitter and facebook whenever I feel like it, calendar this time into my day in 3 or 4 5-10 minute intervals, and same with time to blog and time to return calls – that way I’ll feel fewer interruptions and won’t lose time as I reacquaint myself with whatever task I left halfway done to pick up the phone call.

5. I will Invest in My Friends by: writing handwritten notes, making time for coffee, meeting for walks, calling people just because, and surrounding myself with people who are supportive, understanding, authenic, interesting, helpful and fun.

6. I will Share My Values with My Daughters by : selecting toys, books, and tv shows that reflect my values (Free to Be is the best Book/CD/DVD on the planet, hands down), showing them that when I’m with them they have my complete attention, and that when I can’t be with them I am doing something important for our family and providing a service that helps people through a stressful time in their life and/or motivates them to create a better life for themselves and their families.

I’m sure I’ll think of more, and I’m sure I’ll continue to be introspective as my 35th birthday rapidly approaches, so stay tuned. I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and personal resolutions for 2009. I hope it is a happy, healthy year in which we all work to repair the world.

Resolution #4: More Romance in Your Life

We all know how difficult it is to have romantic dinners when the Fiesta Trio from Dora the Explorer is blaring from the living room, and what it’s like to try to have an adult conversation in the car when you’re being constantly bombarded by clever observations and (less clever, less polite) demands for juice and pacifiers. What is the secret to a great relationship?  Making the effort!

How can you make the effort? Here are my suggestions:

1. Stop thinking of marriage as a competition. Who got a night out last? Who changes more diapers? Who works harder? Who makes more money? Who drives the older car? Just stop. Who cares? If you’re looking for your spouse to turn to you and say, “Wow, I can’t believe how much you handle, and how gracefully you do everything.” Then either just tell your spouse that’s what you want to hear, or forget that you want to hear it. Or, here’s a novel concept – say this to your spouse and MEAN IT.  Without any eye rolling or sarcasm, tell your partner that you are impressed by everything he does, what he does well, and that you appreciate him. In my experience, saying something nice to someone leads to hearing something nice about yourself in return.The more you nag, the less someone will want to say nice things to you. The more you complain, the less inspired someone will be to compliment you. Try it with your girlfriend, “Why Sheryl, I just love that color on you.” What’s she going to say? Something mean? No. She’s going to say, “Wow, that means so much coming from you because you always look so put together.” Men are the same way. Just don’t expect the response to be as immediate as your girlfriend’s.  Every marriage has its issues, but competition between teammates shouldn’t be one of them.

2. Now that you’ve created a culture of “nice”, create a culture of sexy. Now, I won’t go into too much detail here, because my mother in law has been known to leave a comment or two on this blog, but c’mon – shave your freaking legs.  How much time does it really take? I never understand women who complain about the 2 minutes it takes to shave, and then complain that their husbands never touch them. Get your hair done, get your nails done. Yes, these things cost money. It’s true. But it’s also an investment, showing your partner that he/she (this is a liberal blog) is worth the effort. It takes time. Yes, also true. But isn’t it worth it? In my experience, these efforts go much further than fancy lingerie. And, Dr. Laura is right about one thing -and arguably only one thing – no one is going to be turned on, or feel welcomed home, to find you in that morning’s PJs or in a spit-up covered t-shirt.

3. Date Nights. Date Nights. Date Nights. Jessica posted that a monthly date night is among her resolutions. I would  argue that this is a good start  but not enough (especially for people with “free” babysitting available by grandparents). Weekly date nights – every Saturday night – I put on makeup, heels, and get ready for a nice walk, dinner (even if it’s sharing a burrito or sushi and a beer) and coffee or ice cream before heading home. 2-3 hours. No movies. Only talking, interacting, and no talking about Diapers or issues relating to the kids. Finances are fine. I always encourage  productive discussions about finances. And even sex. But not about kids.

4. Plan a weekend getaway. If you’ve never done this, schedule it now. Arrange the babysitters, days off, hotel. Instead of fancy birthday gifts, give the gift of a getaway. It doesn’t need to involve an airplane (although one of our friends really impressed me by whisking his wife away to Mexico and never telling her where they were going until they made their connecting flight).  If you already do one weekend away each year, plan a second. I really believe in getting away, just the two of us, every 2-3 months.

Which of these will you try to implement this year?

Resolution #3: Learn to Ask For Help

When I first started my business in 2004, I did everything myself – figure out how to accept credit cards, organized a free template of a website, read up on google ads, created and managed my own campaigns, all while handling our finances and our daughter, our grocery shopping, etc.

As business grew, so did my responsibilities. Each time I felt overwhelmed, I solved the problem by asking someone else to handle things. First – getting a financial planner to make the decisions for me and tell me how much to save and what to do with the savings. Then, an accountant to tell me what to do with my taxes. Then, someone to design a website for me. Then someone to design an even better website for me, then someone to come up with a web marketing campaign for me, someone else to manage my advertising, then a personal assistant and -most recently- a Virtual Assistant to take care of my mundane business related tasks.

I went from having a part time babysitter, to part time preschool to full time preschool, to an au pair (the best quality of life decision I made for myself and my kids other than starting my business). My best friend/personal assistant helps with grocery shopping, sending out holiday cards, cleaning my disgustingly piled-upon desk, making my -numerous – returns to various retail outlets, and generally keeping me sane.

The purpose of all of this, of course, is for me to have more time to do what is really important- the things only I can do that cannot be farmed out – mothering, wife-ing, serving my clients, exercising, knitting, reading and spending time with my friends.

There are lots of ways you can ask for help to concentrate on what is really important to you:

1. Arrange a child-care swap with a friend so you can get your nails done, get to the gym, run errands, meet a friend for lunch, or work.

2. Cut back on your cable bill (for example) in favor of a babysitter an extra couple of hours.

3. Make conscious choices. Rather than just doing everything you always do, prioritize the things that you think have to get done in a normal week and think about what someone else could do just as well as you.

What things do you ask others to help with? What do you know you need more help with in your life? What are some solutions? Feeling overwhelmed by everyday life is not necessary or beneficial. After all, if  you have backup systems in place, then on those days you don’t feel well, or you have to take care of someone else who doesn’t feel well, or if something else unexpected occurs, you will have someone else (or a few different someone elses) to call upon.

Don’t assume there’s only one way to organize your life (the way you’ve always done it). Really think about what makes you feel overwhelmed and what can be done about it. Come up with a plan and involve others if that’s what it takes to make things happen?

Please comment with your ideas and resolutions in this regard!

Resolution #2: A Healthier Version of You

Good health encompasses so many aspects of our lives – what we eat, how we exercise, monitoring our health. The abundance of things to contemplate in this regard often overwhelms. However, it’s impossible to think about New Year’s Resolutions without considering making ourselves healthier. Here are some ideas:

1. What You Eat: This past year, thanks to reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” byBarbara Kingsolver, I completely changed the way I eat and shop. By eating local, organic produce I am feeding myself and my family healthier foods while helping farmers working to sustain the planet.

2. How You Eat: If one of your goals includes losing weight this year, here are some New Year’s Exercise Tips.

3. How You Spend Your Time: Instead of meeting a friend for lunch or coffee, how about a walk or hike?  Instead of spending an hour a day twittering, how about limiting it to 30 minutes and doing some sit ups and push ups? (Ahem, ahem – talking to myself here).

4. What You Read: Put away People magazine and pick up SELF or Fitness instead. Make fitness and health a culture that surrounds you – the magazine in the bathroom, the book on your nightstand-inspire yourself.

5. How You Punish Yourself: Deprivation doesn’t work. I absolutely must have a dark chocolate fix two or three times a day. That’s not the right thing for me to swear off on my quest for better health. But I can restrict cheese (I eat a lot of cheese and I don’t really need to) and sour cream and would save myself a lot of calories and fat as a result.

Remember – as you work to embrace better health in the New Year, don’t try to change everything about how you eat and exercise. Small changes are best. Start with one thing, you’ll see you don’t miss it -like soda, I haven’t had a soda in years- and then it’s not so hard to cut the next thing. One small change at a time.