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Total Gratitude Tuesday: Volume 44

 

So that’s how MY week has been…how about yours?

I went to Hoopla. What is Hoopla, you say?

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Nope – not that weird thing from Spongebob.

It’s KEEP Collective’s annual conference. This year it was in Charlotte, North Carolina. My husband went with me, and though we had a bit of a bumpy start to the trip (his car leaked oil the whoooooooole way to North Carolina and the whoooooole way back – tip: don’t deal with KIA dealerships in the Charlotte area), and I was incredibly anxious before we got started, I can honestly say that the four days I was there changed my entire outlook.

To start with, I finally got to meet some of the amazing women I’ve been Facebook friends with over the last 8 months that I’ve been with KEEP. And they’re even more amazing in person than they are online! I’ve always said that I’ve never met a more supportive, encouraging group of women than my KEEP sisters and I know now how right I was. Every single woman there was cheering everyone else on and that is a tremendous thing to see. It was 4 days of motivational speeches, rewards, encouragement, sharing, tears, laughter, dancing, hugs, and learning. And a little alcohol. haha

I learned so much, and most of it really wasn’t just about how to run a business or how to be rich. It was about how to stop doubting myself so much. How to see opportunity when it’s right there in front of me and realize it really isn’t just for someone else; it’s for me, too! It was all about how to learn to close my eyes and leap instead of clinging to the ledge and worrying myself into missing out. I learned that I have everything I need already, so there’s no need to wait. And I learned and had reinforced over and over and over again that I don’t need to listen to the naysayers (even when one of them is me) because I have thousands of people rooting for me every step of the way.

Most of all I was reminded of just how lucky I am. And I really am. I could list out a million reasons why I’m lucky (and I guess that’s kind of what I do here every week) but most of them come down to admitting that I have a really good life. I have a really good marriage to a guy that I LOVE being around, even after almost 30 years together! I have 3 extraordinary kids that I love with every bit of my soul and who never cease to amaze me with their kindness, humor and drive. I have an extended family of funny, down-to-earth, supportive, genuinely good people. I have an amazing best friend that supports me in every single thing that I do and loves me even when I’m a total pain in the ass. I have a wonderful “job” that allows me to meet strong, funny and caring women and help them bring their dreams to life and design beautiful things that show off what they’re most proud of.

And I am AMPED, y’all! Not just for new opportunities with KEEP, but for new changes in every aspect of my life. I’ve committed myself to some new habits not only with regard to the KEEP opportunity, but my health, my relationships, my marriage and even my mental health. There’s been a change brewing for awhile and I think that Hoopla was the spark that I needed to ignite the change. So while “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was our official Hoopla song, this one really shows how I’m feeling about life right now, so…

And now, I am headed to Cleveland with my son to see one of his favorite bands, Fifth Harmony. So I hope you have an absolutely extraordinary week or two! (I’m going to be in Quebec next Tuesday, so I won’t post because this is a strictly no-work vacation).

Much love. – Mama Bear

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Happy Firstaversary!

That’s right – Mama Bear Said So is one year old! They grow so quickly, don’t they? *sniff*

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I wish I could say that I deliberately skipped “Total Gratitude Tuesday” to celebrate the first year anniversary of this blog, but in reality, the holiday weekend messed me all up and I went around all day yesterday thinking it was Monday. Just FYI – it wasn’t. So today’s post is a combination of a celebratory post and a gratitude post. A two-fer, if you will.

I’m not sure if the blog has evolved as much as my attitude about it has. It’s very easy when you start blogging to get too caught up in all of the chatter about monetization and ads and audience and numbers. There’s a constant push to get your numbers up, to work on SEO, to get your name out there, to make money…it gets exhausting, especially if you’re the type who doesn’t have any desire to become a millionaire motivational speaker and isn’t terribly concerned with how many thousands of followers you have on social media. I basically just wanted to write, and it’s taken me a long time to be okay with that being my main ambition – not money or followers or fame.

But like most things in life, it just takes a little bit of peace and quiet and ignoring outside voices to find your own true voice. And trying to keep up with all of the reading and advice on how to make this blog bigger and better was exhausting and took a lot of the joy out of blogging for me. But I’m finally realizing that staying true to my own ambitions and wishes for this blog, and being authentic to my own vision is what will make this venture a success. It may not ever be a success according to the blog gurus, but if it feels like a success to me, that’s all that matters. So, with that in mind, I plan to return to blogging on a more regular basis and do it my way. It’s so much easier to enjoy yourself when you’re focused more on the journey than on the destination, whatever that is.

So a giant thank you to everyone that’s come along with me on this journey. I hope you’ll stick around for the next leg of the trip!

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And now for this week’s helping of gratitude…

We had a big holiday weekend! Saturday night we went out to our friends’ house for their annual July 4th bash. It’s always a big to-do with fireworks and lots of great food and fun. Sometime during the evening, there’s also a ritual sacrifice of a stuffed toy so that none of the adults operating any fireworks will be injured. This was this year’s victim:

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Yeah, I’m sure you have a lot of questions about this, but let’s just leave it alone, ‘kay?

Later that night, in spite of having had nothing to drink most of the day, I wound up getting a bit tipsy (or maybe a lot) and schooling a few young’uns at flip cup. And then I got all maudlin about Prince and a few other things and sobbed for awhile and went to bed. Overall, a really great day, even with the sobbing! We also got to spend some time on Monday with my extended family, who I don’t get to see nearly often enough. Again, great food, great company and a lot of fun just hanging out with the people we love best.

And last night, we had a great meeting with Equality Springfield. It was a long one and emotional, given all that’s happened in the last month or so. We talked a great deal about how to open dialogue with people who perhaps don’t necessarily share our views on equality, and how important it is to keep the conversation about the violence in Orlando going and to remember those lives lost in a meaningful way. I’m so glad we found our way to this group. Equality is something I’ve always been passionate about, but it’s frustrating to feel that you can’t find a way to put your passion into action. Finding a group of other people who think the same way and want to put their efforts toward making progress toward equality has made a real difference. It’s also helped to keep some of the pessimism that’s set in lately at bay. It’s easy to forget how many good people there are in the world when the news is full of danger and turmoil and violence.

And wow, yesterday was a fantastic mail day! For starters, we got this bit of loveliness in the mail:

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It’s the wedding invitation for our son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law! It’s just a bit over two months now until the wedding, and we couldn’t be more excited! Somehow seeing the invitation just made it more real, I think.

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And then I got my stack of “Skinny” bracelets from Color by Amber yesterday, too! Aren’t they gorgeous? I love supporting fellow direct sales sisters, but especially when I can get something so pretty, like these little resin beauties! I especially love the map and novel ones.

So it’s been a pretty big week! And the next couple of months are going to be just as big. I’m really looking forward to what the coming months will bring!

Take care and have a beautiful week!

Much love. – Mama Bear

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How to Figure Out What You Want to Be When You Grow Up – Pt. 1

Go After Your Dream

That’s a pretty bold claim, isn’t it? I mean, show of hands – how many of you know what you want to be when you grow up? Second question – how many of you ARE what you want to be when you grow up?

Obviously, this is a blog so I can’t see how many of you held up your hands (also, I guess I should’ve warned you not to actually do that unless you’re alone – you’re gonna scare somebody) but I’m guessing there weren’t a whole lot of you. And I get it. I really do. It took me until the age of 45 for me to figure it out and guess what? This blog is it!

So how did I figure it out after all that time?

First of all, it wasn’t easy. If you’re like me, you started getting the questions your last few years of high school. “What are you going to do after you graduate?” And rather than being honest and admitting how much that question scared the hell out of me and that I had no idea at all what I wanted to do, I usually gave some lukewarm answer about college and maybe tossed in some acceptable day job to shut people up. The summer after junior year, I hit crisis point. My parents were laying it on pretty thick and I felt a lot of pressure to pick something, anything, just so they would get off my back. And that pressure lead me to make a huge mistake – I signed up to join the Army.

Now, I’m not implying that joining the military is a mistake, but for me, it would’ve been disastrous. If you haven’t caught on by now, I’m a bit prissy, I’m not at all comfortable with guns, I cry when someone gets in my face and I am not overly fond of manual labor. Luckily, about six months later, during my first few weeks of senior year, after having handled an M-16 for the first (and only) time, I figured out that it had all been a really bad move for me, and I dropped out.

So I was back at square one. My next genius move was to sign up at the local community college – my dad’s alma mater. I also signed up to major in my dad’s preferred career – accounting. You guessed it – my second stab at figuring out what I wanted to be was also made just to please my parents. Accounting would’ve been equally disastrous a career as the military.

But luckily, fate intervened. I found out I was pregnant soon after graduating high school. Admittedly, I didn’t see that as a stroke of luck when I got the little + sign on the pregnancy test, but it was. Because after giving birth, I found something I was really good at – being a mom. I wound up having three kids total, and in between raising them, I struggled with the idea that there must be something else that I’d be good at; something I could turn into a career. I worked part-time jobs and went full-time once or twice but nothing ever stuck. We’ve homeschooled our kids, too so that made having one of us at home pretty important. So I’ve been a stay at home mom most of my life, and have never really regretted it. But I knew the time would come that I’d have to figure it out, and that hit really hard once my youngest entered high school. I have an Associates degree in Communications, but that doesn’t necessarily make you someone that headhunters are going to fight over. I’ve been out of the workforce for awhile, and that gap in employment isn’t going to look great on a resume either. My prospects looked pretty bleak – at least to me. I even tried direct sales a couple of times – wow, talk about a bad fit!

Meanwhile, my husband and friends and family have been in the background all along, chirping quietly about writing. And it’s something I’ve always loved to do. The problem was, I had a very narrow view of what being a writer meant. To me, being a writer meant you wrote books. And I knew I didn’t have it in me to write an entire book, at least not a fiction one. Writing fiction or poetry or anything of that nature isn’t the slightest bit enjoyable to me. But all along, I was writing in my journal, writing a personal blog, writing letters, writing long-winded comments on other people’s blogs and articles and I was getting a lot of praise for what I was writing.

So what in the hell took me so long to figure it out? Why didn’t I just listen when a bunch of people told me I was pretty good at writing and maybe I should give it a shot? Two reasons: lack of self-confidence and narrow-mindedness. In short, I didn’t think I could do it and I didn’t bother to think that maybe I could use my writing skills in ways that I’d actually enjoy!

And those two things might be the biggest dream-killers out there – not thinking creatively and not being confident in yourself and your dreams will ensure you stay right where you are in life. For instance, let’s say you love cooking and you’re good at it. But you don’t have the time or the funds to go to cooking school. Does that mean there’s no way you can use those skills in a productive way? No, it doesn’t. You could open your own catering business. You could open a cupcake store or bakery. You could work in a restaurant. You could even write a recipe book or blog about cooking or make cooking videos.

The world is full of so many more opportunities now than it was even 10 or 20 years ago! With the advent of the Internet and the ability to harness the power of the Internet to reach people, the possibilities are limitless. But that also means that you can get easily overwhelmed at all your possibilities. So how do you narrow down your options and figure it out for yourself?

The first step is to quiet your mind a bit. Let go of your parents’ aspirations for you. I know that’s hard to do. None of us want to feel that we’re disappointing our parents, but in the end, you’re the one who’s going to be doing the work so you have to do it for yourself or you’ll never be fulfilled. Let go of “keeping up with the Joneses” (or anyone else). Let go of what your spouse/kids/significant other/boss/pet hamster wants for you or expects of you. Also, let go of society’s expectations and their definition of success. Let go of all of that and just be quiet and listen to your soul for a minute.

What do you want to do? What makes you jump out of bed ready to take on the world? What inspires you? WHO inspires you? What are you passionate about? If you could do any job in the world without having to consider the financial aspect of it, what would you do? What do you do for fun? What makes you feel successful? What was the last thing you did that made you feel really happy and whole?

I mean it – sit down and ask yourself the hard questions. Write down the answers. Or if you deal better in visual images, make a vision board. Don’t know what that is? It’s a kind of visual collage of what you’d like to have more of in your life.

Now – is there an image or response that keeps popping up repeatedly? Then that is something you need to think harder about and expand your thinking upon. I’ll tell you what happened when I did this for myself – writing and helping people keep coming up over and over again. And then I considered the fact that I have a very short attention span and a 10-year book project just was not going to work for me. And I noticed that I spent a lot of my spare time reading other people’s blogs. Right in the middle of all that frustration and confusion, those three things were staring right at me – writing, blogs and helping people. Also, I have a real tendency to give advice whether people want it or not, so that figured in as well!

And here I am. The woman who never had a clue what she wanted to be when she grew up. The woman who never made any plan farther out than six months. The one who really figured she was just going to float along from job to job until she was too old to work anymore. I have found my passion. Has it made me rich? No, it hasn’t. But that’s not to say it can’t. It’s just not where my focus is right now. I have found what I want to be and that’s the first step. I have confidence that the rest will come along as I continue to plan and work hard and stay passionate about what I’m doing.

If you’re where I was and still haven’t figured out what you want to do with your life, stay tuned. We’re going to go on this journey together, step by step. And by the end, I hope that you’re able to find a way to find what makes you excited about your life and what you’re doing with it.

Also, here’s some Ryan Gosling to inspire you.

What Do You Want

Sit down, ask yourself the questions and report back with your results in the comments section, on the Facebook page, or on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you! – Mama Bear