Category Archives: Live.

Progress Over Perfection

Hey ladies!  Ok, I need you to be honest for a second.  Could you be guilty of allowing perfection to paralyze you from achieving your goals?  It could be that you avoided a phone call because you were scared of not saying the “right” thing?  Maybe you had a business idea, but squashed it because you told yourself that it would never work?  Or maybe you DID try to achieve something bold, but it didn’t go as planned, and that one failed attempt to stole your desire to give it another try.

As I watched my 9-yr old daughter play soccer this morning, I was fascinated to see her team’s relentless pursuit of their (physical) goals.  No matter how many times they missed a goal, lost control and went out of bounds, or were given a slight correction by the coach, they had smiles on their faces and kept giving it 100%. They played with a bold and brave desire to do their best that was absolutely infectious!

REWARD EFFORT NOT ACHIEVEMENT

I attribute a lot of their brave demeanor to her coach.  I have always admired his style, which is to reward every try, rather than shame any failure.  It sounds a bit soft, but don’t think that he sacrifices top performance because of this style.  In fact, he coaches some of the most elite teams in the area with this method.  In essence, what he has perfected, is a lesson of which all of us need reminding.  And that is, that no matter how old we are we should keep our focus on progress, not perfection.

I recently attended a retreat with other successful businesswomen colleagues where the need for this lesson was reinforced. The retreat was an invitation-only event for those who had achieved new titles and promotions, so I was surrounded by an impressive group of proven leaders.  Our first agenda item during training was to connect with each person’s motivation for starting their business; or our “why” as it is labeled by author, Simon Sinek.  As we went around the room and each woman spoke, there were revelations about childhood, marriage, wanting to regain an identity, achieve a sense of security, etc.  It was a powerful session and the emotional connection through this exercise was absolutely unbelievable.  But the one thing that was surprisingly noticeable in many stories, was an overall unspoken feeling of guarded optimism by each woman that she truly believed she had what it took to achieve her big goals.  It wasn’t that anyone lacked belief in our company, the product we represent or the system we use.  Unfortunately, it was that they still had a shadow of doubt in themselves.  I found this realization completely ironic, because by anyone else’s measure these women had already proven themselves successful.  So why are we as women so hard on ourselves?

TEACH BRAVERY…NOT PERFECTION

The reason for each person’s ounce of self-doubt varied that day, but according to a 2016 TED talk, “Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection” by Reshna Saujani (founder of Girls Who Code) the overall problem stems from the way we raise our girls.  Think about it.  As kids, boys are encouraged to participate in daredevil acts like jumping off the highest playground equipment, playing with weapons, and being bold and aggressive at sports.  Yet, as girls we hear things like “act like a lady,” “be nice” or “don’t be too bossy.” And this kind of subtle societal disparity creates women who will strive, but only to the degree they can achieve perfection.  And if she falls short or attracts any criticism, she starts second guessing her abilities.  Over a lifetime, this breeds the exact feeling I was surrounded by at the retreat.  Unlike men who interpret failure as an opportunity to ask, “What went wrong?” we as women, blame ourselves for an imperfect outcome, and ask, “What is wrong with me?”

I’m not here to say that I’m not guilty.  In fact, I may very well be one of the worst offenders.  I was a straight A student, my friends will tell you that I am obsessed with keeping our house picked up and “presentable,” and I probably will have revised this article at least 5 times before you see it.  Beyond that, where I really notice my insecurity come into play is when I return to the male-dominated military world.  I only have AF Reserve duty in the Pentagon twice a year, but each session brings out an irrational questioning of my abilities.  In my business life, I confidently coach and lead a team of over 7,000 women.  But the second I walk through the Pentagon doors, it can easily seem like none of that success matters and it’s easy to question what I have to offer.  See how this quest for perfection works?  Thankfully, I have had to talk myself through this scenario for almost 17 years and I’ve gotten better at standing my mental ground.

CREATE THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT

All that said, I think it’s important we truly begin to create an environment where we place more value on progress than perfection in our next generation.  I returned home from the retreat with an intense desire to create an environment where my daughter believes:

1)  That her ideas will always be as good as anyone else’s

2)  That she can try and fail, because failure is a natural stepping stone to success

3)  In herself and knows that that belief can’t be stolen by any single person’s words, by any tough situation, or by society’s norms

4)  That progress is worth more than perfection

So, for the sake of the young girls in your life, I challenge you to think about the way you see the world.  Is it perfection or bust?  Or are there small changes you can make to help encourage your girls to make bold, carefree attempts at going outside their comfort zone and tackling big things…regardless of the outcome?  As Reshna Suajani so eloquently stated, “when we teach girls to be imperfect, and we help them leverage it, we will build a movement of young women who are brave and who will build a better world for themselves and for each and every one of us.”

The Most Important Job…

img_0483This kid.  Some days he frustrates the heck out of us.  He picks on his sister, only wants to play computer and can grumble about just about anything.  On these particular days, I wonder if anything I am doing as a mom is working.  And if his future job might end up being a grumbly garbage man.  But then there are the good days.   Days like today, where I can catch a glimpse of the extraordinary being inside that grumbly, developing body and it causes my heart to swell!

Last week was the first week in our new school and Cole’s 4th new school as a military kid.  It can be scary and nerve-wracking the first few days as the new kid in school and we all brace ourselves for impact with each move for what the first week could bring.  Luckily, for the most part we’ve weathered each move (CA, VA, NJ, and now back to a different city in VA) without too much trouble.  But as a mom, I tend to stress on their behalf each time.  I’m sure most moms, and especially military ones, can relate.imagejpeg_0

To make us all feel better, the kids and I attended the school’s “meet the teacher” day.  One of the hot topics there was what “job” each 5th grader was assigned.  As the oldest members of the elementary school, the 5th graders get the privilege of helping out in many different capacities (which sometimes even results in missing some math).  Since Cole was new, and didn’t get a job assigned to him at the end of 4th grade like the others, he would need to pick a job, so I thought it’d be good for him to hear about the options.  The other kids informed Cole that there was everything from technology team, to art assistant, to grounds helper, to PE assistant to crossing guard.  Some required you to show up to school early (insert Cole groan) and others did not.  But I quickly inferred from these 5th graders that your “job” was a BIG deal!  We left running through the pros and cons of each potential job and headed home to enjoy a long weekend before the first day.

After many nervous questions and a few pre-school jittery feelings, the first day seemed to go pretty smoothly.  I dropped the kids at school, and although I know both were nervous, they handled it like champs.  Me, though–I was absolutely lost with the quiet at home.  I had plenty of work piled up, but for some reason I was completely scattered all day thinking about all the things that could have been happening at school.  Are they making friends?  Do they have someone to sit with at lunch?  Is their teacher nice?  Are they making sure they don’t feel left out?  What would I do if a bully picked on one of them?  Etc, etc.  It was the normal ridiculous line of thought that happens in a Mom’s head when you get too much quiet time- lol!

Yet, all the worrying was for not, when I was met with smiles outside the school after the bell.  They did great!  The only complaint was that they needed bigger snacks!!  In fact, now that the first week has come and gone, it seems like they’ve been here forever.  Both are full-speed into their soccer teams, music lessons and morning routines.  Each have picked out kids they enjoy in their class and also the ones they don’t. And on Thursday, Cole came home elated to tell me he had picked his job!  I was eager to see which one he picked, guessing he would have gone with something in his normal wheelhouse, like the technology team (more time to be on computers). imagejpeg_3

To my surprise, he was jumping-out-of-his-skin-excited to tell me he chose to be a helper for the special needs class.  He would get the pleasure of aiding 4 younger boys with autism who would use his helping hand to assist throughout their day.  He was just beaming as he explained how on the first day they did yoga together, how one of the boys loved when Cole spelled his name instead of said it, and how they even had their own quiet fire alarm, so that it wouldn’t “hurt their ears so much.”  I was literally almost in tears listening to my kiddo truly loving recounting his experience and how he found such comfort in helping these kids.

And what I realized in that blissful moment is that no matter where we live, no matter what school we’re in, or who is there with us, if we love and pour into our kids, they will find their way.  Probably in their own way, and not in the same way we would do it.  But they will find their own, beautiful, and unique path every time.  And on days like this one, we’ll get a tiny little sneak peak into what their blessed future holds.

So as I reflect on a week filled with lots of emotions, I encourage every military mom to take a deep breath and know that all your toils and tribulations are creating something wonderful.  It doesn’t always feel like it when you’re in the middle of it, but the challenging days will come to pass.  They always do.  Just remember that what you’re doing matters.  Every new school you ease them into, every new friendship you help them develop and every hurdle you help them overcome matters.

Each experience is building a strong foundation of service and character that even if you can’t see today, will reveal itself in time.  At the end of the day, our journey as military families may look a little different than the civilian kids down the street.  It most certainly has a few more zig-zags and a lot more speed bumps, but it’s still just as beautiful.  And if my prayers are answered, these amazing little humans will be ready to inherit the world’s most important jobs of the next generation!imagejpeg_2

Milpreneur Lisa Bradley: R. Riveter

Milpreneur Highlight

Some military spouse organizations offer to help spouses find employment through workshops, meetings, and job fairs. Lisa Bradley’s business, R. Riveter, actually provides them with jobs. Leave it to a military spouse to find a way to tangibly help fellow military spouses provide a second income to their household.

Riveter, which sells elegant handbags and even dog collars and handkerchiefs, promotes the idea that there are mobile and flexible careers that spouses can take with them. Every product is hand-crafted by military spouses employed by R. Riveter. The finished item is elegant, durable, and made in America using military-inspired materials.

The Path to Fashion

For R. Riveter’s creator, this is a labor of love rather than profit. “My parents were entrepreneurs,” she explains, “So the ups and downs of running a small business are not new to me.” 12660476_10208976459515282_1924985504_nToday, R. Riveter remains a passion project, but is also a successful online shop. It was what Bradley describes as her first true career.

Prior to starting R. Riveter, Lisa had a string of jobs that she describes as “for now” work that left her feeling “deflated and always having to redefine who I was.” With the support of her husband, Lisa worked with her business partner to create a line of handbags that would give her something to be proud of.

“Moving every two or three years made it difficult to have a resume to be proud of—or that employers would notice.” Entrepreneurship provided the solution. “It was time to quit complaining and do something about it,” Bradley insists. R. Riveter came to mind as a way to help her create a career, and provide employment to military spouses in her shoes.

Four Years Later…

Today, Lisa and her business partner divide and conquer. While Lisa’s partner runs the “production side” from North Carolina, Lisa operates the business side from her home office in Murfreesboro, TN.

Lisa describes her business as incredibly rewarding: “When you grow a business it takes on a life of its own—under your guidance. Knowing that the pains and pleasures are a product of our own decisions and our creation is the most rewarding career experience I can imagine.”

Her love of the pains and pleasures alike has enabled her to grow a business that is so much more than she had conceived of for herself. She doesn’t see it as a business about numbers and profit. For her, R. Riveter was successful the moment it taught her that “being fulfilled as a military spouse isn’t about that dream job or title I thought I needed to define who I was. R. Riveter taught me that you can do so much in this world and have a huge impact on people’s lives.”

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Her business has also taught her what the ideal business for military spouses is: one that’s both portable and flexible. This often comes, Lisa admits, with creating your own business (and employing other military spouses to share the experience). She envisions the perfect spouse-owned business as one that forges a community of spouses who work together, even across the country, to create something.

The process of collaborating with other spouses has been streamlined by social media, which enables all company employees to communicate easily. It has also enabled R. Riveter to share its message of positivity through hardship to military spouses stationed all over the world.

Making a Difference Matters

For Lisa, the entire effort behind R. Riveter is about making a difference. Her business shows her children the value of a strong work ethic, as well as American made products. It also shows them that a mother and wife can still be a successful business-owner. The day-to-day balance is hard, but possible.

She also prides herself on her company’s work to “forge a new way of manufacturing, where there are only goods and outputs. Traditionally the manufacturing industry is riveted with poor working conditions, low wages, and environmental hazards. R. Riveter is providing mobile income to military spouses to work from home, using recycled materials.”

For Bradley, her business is part of a mission to set a great example for other businesses, her children, as well as military spouses. She continues to encourage spouses to do whatever inspires them. “You have to follow your own instincts,” she insists. That’s what Bradley did, after all, and she created a successful business that gives to both its customers and its employees.

Milpreneur Bridget Platt: Daddy’s Deployed

Milpreneur HighlightWe all aspire to spin the “negatives” that life throws our way into “positives.” Bridget Platt founded her entire business on her potent ability to do so. She never seems to dwell on the downsides of military life, instead pushing past them to secure her Master’s degree, establish a career teaching English, and ultimately start a business founded on bringing joy to children with deployed parents.

Sometimes, pilots’ spouses seem to have it particularly difficult. As many military spouses know, pilots are gone a lot. Bridget’s husband, an EA6B Prowler flight instructor, discovered that he would be leaving for four months, then deployed for seven, just 10 days after Bridget gave birth to their daughter. This is nothing new to many military families. The military has a way of turning a joyous event into a new challenge. For Bridget, this changed everything.

As she began searching for books to help her daughter understand her father’s deployment, she realized that there was nothing on the market that put a positive spin on this challenging subject. The books that existed to coach children through deployments were surprisingly negative. Bridget didn’t want her daughter to have any misconceptions that her life would be sad. With that, Bridget wrote what she describes as her “own positive story for her: one that would be brightly colored, a story that would show the strength of a military family.”

Helping The “Tiniest Warriors” Fight Their Battles

In August 2012, Bridget began her business to help the people she describes as our nation’s “tiniest warriors.”  With a tremendous cause but no business experience, she “read every book (The Lean Start-Up by Eric Reiss being her favorite), and learned how to formulate an LLC, register a trademark, obtain a text copyright, and operate a successful online business.”

With her business smarts and her passion at hand, she was able to find success “early on,” in spite of her struggle with being for profit while helping military families. She was able to overcome her concerns about profit after speaking with the president of a business/entrepreneurial magazine who reminded her, “You found a need for a product and you’re helping people. I have to imagine that any family would pay a lot more than $33 for such a fantastic coping tool.” This reassured that it was “ok” to charge for this valuable resource.

Mixing compassion with effectiveness, she has become the consummate CEO. She knows in her heart that she and her team are doing “great things,” which enables her to continue her effort to turn challenges into successes. Her obstacles have become learning opportunities for her. She explains that every misstep she made in the process of growing her business was because she didn’t trust her gut.

Daddy'sDeployed

Late Nights & Early Mornings

When you’re a mother, wife, and CEO, sleep becomes elusive. In order to have sufficient time with her family, Bridget came to realize that she had to “stay up late at night and wake up early in the morning.” But she is quick to point out that balance will be different for every Milpreneur. The important thing to know is that it is attainable. She was able to obtain her Master’s while functioning as a full-time stay-at-home mom with a deployed husband. She still struggles with balance, as do many spouses, parents, and hardworking businessmen/women.

Her knowledge of social media was central to the process of making it all work. A great deal of her business’ traffic came through social media for quite some time; ninety percent was through Facebook. Since then, she has handed her social media management over to another successful military spouse-owned company, Pressed Branding. Remarkably, her business’ Facebook presence has blossomed into “too much” for one person to handle.

BridgetBridget is sustained in her endeavors by the personal relationships she is able to forge with nearly “every family that orders a book.” She explains that they become part of her own family. She is able to enjoy their homecoming pictures, photos of them reading her book with their children, and stories about how the deployment books have helped.

Bridget insists that any military spouse can begin her own business. “We have an unfair advantage,” she explains. “We have programs like Patriot Boot Camp, V-Wise, and INC Magazine’s Military Entrepreneur Program available.”

She has been able to find the distinct advantages in military spouse life, from the lessons spouses can learn from deployments, to the opportunities and resources uniquely available to veterans and spouses.

It may seem like a lonely journey sometimes, particularly when deployments and frequent moves take you far from friends and family. Fortunately, the start-up community is a helpful and welcoming one, and if you ask Bridget, “There is no reason you can’t start your own business.”  Ever the optimist, she believes that “if you take every opportunity available, you will succeed.” Judging by Bridget’s own journey to success, her advice is probably sound. Who knows what you’ll stumble upon simply by keeping your head high, your ambition strong, and your goals lofty?

Learn more about Bridget’s endeavor at www.daddysdeployed.com!

The Waiting Game

Well, it’s THAT time again.

You know it, because you’ll find me obsessively checking my phone for the email with THE NEWS.

If you’re military, you’re nodding your head because you know exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s assignment time!  And I’ve got a bad case of assignment-itis!

Assignment-itis (n.):  a condition periodically experienced by military spouses beginning anywhere from 3 months up to 3 weeks (depending on the severity) before a new assignment is announced.  Common symptoms include:  mild to severe anticipation, bouts of extreme excitement followed by bouts of equivalent dread, frequent daydreaming about life in each location, excessive hours of Facebook research, etc.

Every time we get to this point—and this is our 6th time going through a military relocation—I seem to jump on the same roller coaster of emotions.  But this time, for some reason, I have more anticipation than ever!  With less than 5 years left until the much-awaited 20-year point, life seems to be getting very real.  And now the looming assignment seems to have the ever-slight potential of permanence, which is ironic because stability and permanence are things that I’ve longed for for years, but now that it’s becoming a reality somehow it’s also intimidating! Oy!

If you have someone close to you that is military, it’s good to know what assignment-itis looks like so you can recognize their unique symptoms.  As for me, when I am in the thick of assignment-itis, here are the Top 5 Questions that you find me spending countless hours thinking about and toiling over:

  • Should We Rent or Buy?

Real estate decisions can be tricky as you move around the country.  There is the lure to invest and make money on property, which we have certainly done in the past and we currently rent out our first purchased house in WA state.  However, there is risk involved as well.  The moves are frequent and don’t always land during a healthy time to buy or sell.  Therefore, you can find yourself at the mercy of the market (we’ve been subject to this as well).  So, you just have to do your research and make a decision that fits best within your acceptable amount of risk.  Now that we are later into our career, we will only buy a house in a market that we can see ourselves coming back to!

  • Where Are The Best Schools and Neighborhoods?

As you decide on whether to rent or buy, you’ll also be interested in where to find a house in order to have access to the best schools possible.  Thankfully, we have always moved during the summer and we haven’t had to yank our kids out mid-year, but that is always a glaring reality, so quickly knowing how to find the best school is key.  When looking for schools, I tend to rely on two trusty resources:  1) www.greatschools.com and 2) the recommendations from friends.  Using both data points, you can usually find what you’re looking for!

  • What Is Fun To Do In The Area?

Honestly, this is my favorite part of moving!  There are so many treasures to discover in a new area, no matter where in the world you move!  I got some great advice early on in our Air Force life and was told to focus on the positive aspects of every move.  What can we get excited about?!  What teams can we go watch play?  Where are the best museums, restaurants, historical sites and theaters in the area?  Who do we already know living in the area that we can rekindle friendships with?   When living in CA we always made a point to visit the beach as much as possible and spent a ridiculous amount of time enjoying the sun outdoors (yes, skincare friends it happened).  In NJ, we have loved having access to Broadway in NYC to show the kids our love (aka addiction) to the theater!

  • Will It Be Hard On The Kids?

This concept scared the heck out of me as a young mom.  I grew up in the same small town, with the same friends and the same church for all of my childhood.  So the thought of multiple moves and schools was terrifying!   Add to that, that we frequently get asked if our kids have a hard time moving from outsiders as well.  But honestly, so far, I can confidently say that my response is NO!  My kids are 7 and 10 and they have loved every single move and have never complained (at least about the move….the drive, the weather or the food might elicit the normal kid complaints).  I attribute our success in this arena to some great advice I received from a spouse early on in our AF career.  She told me “that their attitudes feed off of ours.”  And she was right!  If I am positive about all the excitement of a move, then so are the kids!  They love to dream about what their new room might look like, what they can do in their new backyard and what potential friends will be down the street.  Other than the first day of school jitters, it has been rare that I hear anything negative specifically about the move itself.  Our system must be working pretty well, because my 10 year-old literally just months ago discovered that most people don’t move every 2-3 years.  He thought everyone did and that we were totally normal for doing so!IMG_0025

  • Is It Time To Use The F-Word? Could We Imagine Staying Here….Forever?

This last question is a new one for me.  As we near 20 years of Air Force life, the reality that we will finally land somewhere for good is quickly approaching.  And honestly, that brings with it a whole other set of questions.  Will I get antsy to move after a few years?  Is this the perfect location?  What if I don’t like it?  Will this meet our needs after we retire, etc.?

The questions go on and on…..but there is one thing I know for sure:  I will never regret this beautiful military life.  The vast experiences, the incredible friendships and the way it has bonded our family tight are things I wouldn’t trade for the world!  It may not look like everyone else’s life, but it’s been perfect for us!

PS….As I was writing this blog “the news” of our impending assignment finally arrived!!!!  It looks like we will be headed back to the Washington DC area in July!!!!!  Already online and infatuated!!!

Milprenuer Courtney Slazinik: Click It Up a Notch

You’re in Okinawa, Japan, a mother and military spouse in a foreign country. You’ve got a degree in education in your pocket, and ambition driving you. But where do you go from there?

When you marry a military member, you rarely think about what would happen if you moved overseas. You try not to dwell on what it could do to your career, your friendships, and your time with family members. Then the move happens and everything changes.

Courtney Slazinik made all of those changes work for her. She began her time in Okinawa exploring her love of photography. She started in the way a lot of successful people begin: by simply learning everything she could about something she loved. Her journey began photograph by photograph.

Courtney took photographs every day as part of a Project 365, taking one picture daily and posting it on a personal website.

She was at home with her kids, doing something she simply loved, not for money but for passion. This was in 2010. Five years later, she now has another website that has blossomed into a work of art, not only for the photos it showcases, but also in its elegant web design.

She turned it into a business, which is evident from the professionalism of the site, the photography workshop she offers online, and the eBook she launched. It has sold over 2700 copies.

“A Roller Coaster of Emotions”

Her journey was not without difficulty. Courtney recounts calling her mom regularly, telling her that she wanted to quit her business. “I spent that first year learning, reading, and working for zero pay,” she recalls. “But I knew it would be worth it in the end since it takes about 3 years to grow a successful website.”Courtney Slazinik at Click it Up a Notch

With this knowledge, she pushed through balancing business with her third pregnancy. Every time she said that she wanted to quit, a new opportunity came along that drove her to continue.

In one such instance during her second year of business, a camera lens company contacted her. They asked her to share their product on her website. It turned into something more when they purchased one of her images to use in magazine ads. These kinds of successes helped her stay resilient, buoying her confidence in her growing business as she moved from one country to another just seven weeks after having her third child.

She didn’t lose her career during this move. Instead, her online business continued to thrive.

Socializing on Social Media

Courtney’s business has grown due to good business sense, as well as a flair for social media. It’s a vehicle for socialization that’s especially pertinent for military spouses. As military spouses move, social media enables friends from old assignments to stay in touch, and facilitates long-distance connections between family members.

Her experience leveraging social media as a military spouse came in handy; Courtney used Pinterest-friendly posts like DIYs, tutorials, and recipes to promote her site. She also optimized Facebook for her business, doubling her likes from 20,000 to 40,000 per month by posting to her page at the ideal times of day for garnering attention.

Courtney also highly recommends using a newsletter list to interact with website readers. “Go do that right now,” she urges. “It should be your number one focus…to reach your readers.”

Otherwise, if a website like Facebook or Twitter is down or “closes up shop tomorrow, your community will be gone,” Courtney explains.

Balance, A Constant Struggle

Courtney Slazinik at Click it Up a Notch 4All military spouses feel like single parents at times. Imagine having kids while sustaining your own, at-home business. Courtney devotes herself to her work for most of the workweek, but allots time after 3:30 expressly for her kids. Weekends are also family time for her. It’s about “scheduling my time,” she acknowledges. It’s not about being the best businesswoman all of the time, nor is about being the best mom all of the time; it’s about finding a balance between the two.

Ultimately, being a military spouse entrepreneur and mom isn’t about being perfect and having it all. It’s about being happy. That’s why Courtney recommends to all military spouses that they explore what they love, and try to turn it into a profitable business. “It’s going to be hard, you’re going to do a lot of work for a little pay, and you may start to doubt your efforts,” she promises. “But don’t, because all that hard work is going to pay off when you create a business you love.” This may sound to some military spouses like a great promise. But it’s attainable, as Courtney’s experience proves. Military spouses are resilient and creative. Starting your own business is yet another opportunity to prove how true this is.

Check out Courtney’s website at www.clickitupanotch.com.

Enduring the Stayployment

So…..I’m just sitting down and taking a breather, after what feels like an endless three weeks with my husband’s absence for his Air Force work. I like to call them “stayployments.” Kind of like the opposite of a staycation? LOL! I’ve been doing stayployments for 15 years now, and much as I’d like to wish they got easier, the reality is that THEY DON’T!!! We are 15 years into this AF life, and when he is gone, I still miss him just as much as when we were newlyweds (sniff, sniff). However, over the years, I DO think I’ve gotten better at keeping things in perspective (aka, I’m not as whiney). And I have been through enough to discover some tips to make the monotonous days a little easier:

1. Give yourself a break

No matter how you slice it, time away from each other is hard. Parenting is a two-person operation and when it’s just down to one parent it makes life a lot harder, so don’t be too hard on yourself. I talked to a friend the other day whose husband is gone for a year and she was lamenting the fact that she and her daughter had a tough week as they transitioned into school. She described lots of kiddo button-pushing (isn’t that their job?) and lots of mommy frustrations, subsequent breakdowns and yelling! As much as we don’t want to admit it, this is what happens. It’s just the truth. We don’t want to have buttons pushed and we don’t want to yell, but in the end, kids are just kids and moms are just moms and we each have our limits. It’s okay. It happens. And believe it or not, through those trying moments we all learn a lot from it. So, take a deep breath and stop beating yourself up. Go find something to reward yoursef with when you make it through those extra challenging days (my personal guilty pleasure is Starbucks….and lots of it) and know you are just doing your best. That’s all anyone can ask!

2. Keep busy!11911157_10207951459010910_501396973_n

I know idle time at our house means lots of kid in-fighting and picking, and me nagging. The kids end up hearing a lot of, “Clean your room…..time for math…..how many times do I need to remind you to do XYZ.” Thankfully, we have a great neighborhood and my kids find many hours of entertainment playing with various friends on a daily basis, but the bottom line is that if we are at home together for too many days in a row, we all start to get sick of each other. So…..knowing this after many experiences, I went into this three weeks loaded with tons of ideas for how to keep us busy! We went sightseeing in our local Philadelphia area, I signed the kids up for fun camps, and we made a trek out to the Lancaster, PA Amish country. The thing I find about activity-filled days is that we all come home fulfilled and exhausted and we never find too much time to lament Daddy’s absence. Sleep comes quickly and nobody lets the emotions get the best of them. In fact, last night, nobody even fought the bed-time routine. Which means Mommy actually got a few hours of me-time to watch a show and get some work done in peace!

3. Look for the fun

11938880_10207951458970909_810566114_nNow, I self-admittedly am not the fun parent of the two of us. Daddy is THAT guy! I’m the eat-your-breakfast, do-your-chores, finish-your-homework, and get-everyone-where-they-need-to-go lady. Most days, I feel like if I goofed around as much as Daddy, we’d never get anything accomplished! But…..when he is absent, I recognize that I have to play both parents, so I am acutely aware of the fact that I have to find silly, fun moments during the days to fill that space in my kids’ hearts. Last night, I channeled my inner-Daddy in a goofy dance session where the kids critiqued my “Whip, Nae, Nae, and Stanky Leg” moves. And if you don’t know what those are, you need to immediately go Google them because your kids probably already know how to do them! If they don’t, you’ll win total “cool points” if you teach them!   Plus, they look absolutely silly to the uneducated dance novice, so either way you’ll win with your kids!

4. Remember, what we do is freaking cool

Many nights, as I lay down and feel like grumbling about the broken air conditioner I dealt with, the bee hive holding us hostage at the front door, and all the things I “wish he were here to do,” I have to remember that being a military family really is an honor that I can’t take for granted. What other work-family could tout the same caliber of people? And who else has a bigger reason for enduring hardship than protecting our country? We are blessed to surround ourselves with some pretty rad comrades….like the Airman and his friends who were ballsy enough to take out a lone terrorist on a train in France, with no weapons to protect themselves…or, the two women who busted through a long-running proverbial glass ceiling to become the first females to graduate from Army Ranger school. When you can step back from the current situation and remember why our military exists, there is no doubt ever, that we should be extremely proud of what we are all supporting! It truly is an honor! And you should fall asleep knowing each night that what your family is a part of is about as freaking cool as you can find!11909822_10207951458810905_546550705_n

5. Reach out to someone else…it will instantly make you feel better

Lastly, I will always believe that no matter how hard a deployment or trip feels, there is always someone else you can look to to instantly stop your own personal pity-party. There is no question; it is such a good feeling to reach out to someone else who might be in a situation longer, harder or more arduous than yours. In my case, as I was complaining about the hardships of a three-week trip, I was quickly stopped in my tracks after I was made aware of an amazingly strong military spouse who’s husband is on a year long deployment and she remains home with their daughter who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer and requires frequent chemo treatments. As this woman’s friend describes, this military spouse has remained “fearless and so strong holding up the homefront during the worst storm of her life. Doing it ALL alone.” I plan to send her a little skincare goodie in the mail to make her day a little brighter. Little does she know, but being able to pay it forward to someone else in a tough situation has encouraged me to finish this three-week trip with a LOT less complaining and WAY more perspective.

So, we’ve just got one more day….and then Daddy will be home again and all will be right with the world. I’ll have my bee-fighting companion back, the kids will have their silly dance partner back, and I’ll relish in a little more freedom again. But, I know it won’t be long before we’ll do this crazy routine again soon and I’m certain it won’t get easier. But I DO know this for sure….when we can stay busy, make it fun, reach-out to help others and continue to be honored to do our best at this badass life we lead, we gain a whole new perspective on enduring stayployments!

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Why Cinderella is a MUST SEE for Entrepreneurs!!

Once upon a time….

My kids looked over and caught me crying about 5 times….

Yep, I’m THAT Mom.

The new Cinderella movie had been on my kids “to do” list since the previews started months ago.  Since it was opening weekend this past weekend, we decided to go!  I was fully expecting for it to be an over-the-top depiction of the age-old story.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was not only wonderful for young kids, it also had great application to me as an entrepreneur!  I found so many parallels to my business….here are just a few:

1.  We All Start With a Fairytale Idea

Don’t we all have a rosy picture in our mind when we start our businesses?  We’ll work hard, people will want what we offer and the world will be a better place because of our amazing business concept!  Just like Cinderella’s family is the picture of perfection in the beginning of the movie, most entrepreneurs have an idealistic picture of what they want their “fairytale ending” to look like.

2.  Setbacks Happen

And then reality sets in.  Cinderella’s parents die and her evil stepmother and sisters move in.  Even though she works harder and harder with the best of intentions, Cinderella still finds herself as a slave in her own home.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?  How many entrepreneurs could say the same thing?  No sleep, working round the clock, and burning the candle at both ends to keep up with the never-ending hamster wheel of work in order to achieve the beautiful life they envision?  Despite vision and drive, it is not uncommon for entrepreneurs to have Cinderella moments where they can become slaves to their own businesses.

3.  Emotions Are a Part of the Process

That kind of passion and servitude can sometimes bring out the water works.  Several times throughout the movie, I looked over at my tenderhearted son, and saw giant tears rolling down his cheeks–both for the happy and sad parts.  (Of course, I was sobbing right along with him).  And I couldn’t help but think of how many times I’ve ridden the rollercoaster of emotions in my business as well.  There are days where you feel like nothing can stop you as you work on Could 9, and there are other times where you get stuck at what seem like insurmountable roadblocks that cause frustration, fear, and at times, tears.  But here is thing.  The emotions are what make the journey as vivid and as memorable as a Disney picture.  Sure, there are highs and lows, but it’s all because of the deep passion you have for your product or service.  And without the emotions behind the tears, it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting a ride.

4. Your Values are Tested

Before she died, Cinderella’s mother reminded her to “have courage and be kind.”  Despite being treated poorly and losing so much, Cinderella remained steadfast to her mother’s advice. Eventually, her commitment to those values would lead her to her happy ending.  And in the everyday grind, we as business owners inevitably will also encounter situations where we feel the tug to stray from our values.  It might be the lure of a new strategy here, a quick fix there, an unethical offer under the table, etc.  The slippery slope can be tempting and often easier.  But if you stick to the values that ring true for you, you’ll find yourself in a better place.  Have courage and be kind to yourself by always keeping your compass pointed at true north.

5.  Who is Your Fairy Godmother?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m pretty sure there aren’t any wand-waving fairies in business (at least my kind of business)!  But we all have them in our lives.  Just like in the movie, they may be disguised as bosses, colleagues, friends or neighbors, but they hold power, nonetheless.  Our fairy godmothers are mentors that can pick us up and dust us off when needed.  They are there in our lowest moments when we have self-doubt and we think there is absolutely no way to make magic happen in time for our royal opportunity.  They offer us a piece of advice, a pat on the back or some necessary tools to get the job done, but they are all around us if we stop and make time to look for them.

6.  Does The Glass Slipper Fit?

The story of the glass slipper is such a great analogy for the evolution of a business.  As business owners, sometimes we want something (a certain business model, strategy, idea) to fit so much that we twist, and we push and we grind our way into the shoe.  But the second we stop worrying about all the exterior issues; what people think, how do I compare to the next girl, what is the secret sauce, etc., things can change.  Redefine your inner Cinderella, who is focused on working hard, helping everyone, and finding the good in the world, and you’ll probably see that the shoe fits effortlessly, as it should.

7.  Happily ever after is possible!

In real life, no business will ever be flawless or beautiful every single day.  But if you believe; in yourself, in your true love for your mission, and in the good in the world, there is no reason you too, can’t achieve your “your happily ever after.”  So get out there and show the world what you’ve got!  Have courage, be kind, and believe….your Cinderella story can’t wait to unfold!

For Once I’m Loving Wrinkles!

Christmas DressAs I was reflecting on the year while writing our annual Christmas letter (this year we embraced the obvious and made it a play on National Lampoons), I found myself chuckling that two of my most
treasured experiences in the past year involved a very unlikely group of people; seniors!

The first experience began as I was getting my daughter into a Daisy troop so she could meet some friends when we arrived in New Jersey (and for me to meet some too). While on a field trip, another Mom (we’ll call her K) and I were lamenting the fact that neither of us exercised as much as we would like, despite the fact that we both have YMCA memberships. So we agreed that we would attend a class together. Later in the week, K texts me, “Let’s go to Zumba!” I cringe (because I’m THAT girl in a Zumba class), but I reluctantly agree and tell her I’ll meet her there on that Friday.

So, picture this:  On the day we meet up, I show up to class just in the knick of time and pop into the Zumba studio doing my best to play the part, wearing Zumba-like gear, my hair pulled back and pumping myself up, only to find that this class is not just any Zumba class…….it is…. ZUMBA GOLD (which is advertised for older adults with limited capabilities). And besides K and I, the entire room is at least 30 years our senior and all have white hair!  The music begins pumping, and I’m surrounded by crazy, cat-calling women in their late 60s and 70s who like to “shake it” and my friend and I are swept into the class (they even shook it to Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass)!!   As is always the case in Zumba classes, the  instructor is an adorable Latina who mesmerizes you and makes you hate her (because her hips do things yours will never do) all the the same time. So, for an hour, the ladies and I danced our booties off (to the degree that I can). I forgot all about the day, the work I needed to get done, my anxiety about my husband being gone for 3 months, and just ENJOYED MY SENIOR DANCING ZUMBA BUDDIES!  I seriously think it was the highlight of my week!  I have since returned and have found these ladies to be some of the neatest and most carefree bunch.  They give me hope that I may one day be as confident, uninhibited and in love with life as them.  And I think we are a match made in heaven because I get to help them age beautifully with my skincare business!

Coincidentally, I have also been volunteering at our local Thrift Shop and enjoying the company of some pretty amazing seniors there too.  They have their operation down to a science that surprisingly involves NO technology.  Though they are very capable, I have enjoyed introducing them to social media platforms to help them gain a bit of an online presence.  I don’t think I’ve seen ladies get more excited than when they reported to me last week that they have 133 followers on Facebook!  I swear, it’s the simple things like this that feed my soul.  So, if you want to really give them a New Year’s surprise (because chances are good they won’t check til then :)), go like their Facebook page at: Moorestown Friends School Thrift Shop.  Needless to say, I have enjoyed my “senior moments” this year and feel like my life has been blessed in new ways because of them.

The moral of the story: In our crazy military life and with all our frequent moves, we get the chance to meet all types of people.  The best part is that no matter who it is, and how unsuspecting they may be, they can provide you invaluable lessons for life!  So I encourage you to hug an older person in your life, and thank them for providing you with their wisdom, perspective, and zest for life!  I have definitely seen firsthand this year that some things are better with age!!

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