Reflections on a German vacation

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There’s so much to love being here. This is my fourth visit to Germany, to Regensburg a city that I have grown to love. It’s Day #9 and I wanted to put down some thoughts as I’ve been thinking about them-

One of the reasons that I love being in Germany is being able to pass the bulk of the day to day responsibilities on my husband. I don’t speak the language so can get away with pretty much everything. I don’t ever go to the bank to get cash or figure out which bus or train to take. I purchase bread, coffee, apricots, Playmobil and ice cream. Anything more complicated is beyond me.

Stores have plenty of help and clerks are friendly. Unlike Paris. A city that I would be happy to never return to again. A resolution based on the fact that everyone I met there for a week in June three years ago was incredibly, unforgettably, rude…even when I was speaking French. Never again. This stereotype, sadly, was one I found true.

Euros are lovely and completely unlike dollars. Having American dollars in hand is a great way for me to go shopping because I hate parting with them. It has something to do with working for them and thinking twice about purchases. But it doesn’t work that way with Euros. Euros are like play money; so big and beautiful, they don’t seem real. And the coins are small and charming. I am reminded of being able to buy a cappuccino in Florence for a mille lire, with just one coin and feeling brilliant and savvy as I did so. Somehow using Euros is like that.

Is it in part because tax is included? Another nicety that makes it easy to be here and understand exactly what you need to pay for an item, especially if you don’t speak the language. The shoes I like (one of the pairs anyway) are 109 Euros so that’s all I’d hand to the clerk if I were to buy them. If, I said.

Euros can also feel lovely becaIMG_6376use some things are incredibly cheap here. Little rolls and bretzel (pretzel) are 70 cents and they’re not proof-and-bake. Homemade and delicious. A 1 hour Thai massage – a good one at that- for 30 Euros. A slice of the best cake you’ll ever have is maybe 3 dollars. Like the bread, cake slices are everywhere and very, very good. More on this coming.

Speaking of food, Haribo (the gummy bear folks) makes mini bags of their gummy bears and for some reason, they are often given out at restaurants. Beer gardens too. Keep kids happy and slightly sugared? Why not? I say. It’s not bedtime yet.

Kids have it really good in other ways here too. I often see children by themselves. On city streets, no less. You know, the place where “anything could happen”. And I love it. A little boy (maybe 8?) carries his “Mein Buch is Da! Pustet.de” purchase out of the bookstore, grabs his scooter across the street and pushes off. With nary a parent in sight. This is another one of my loves with being here. The independence of the children and the utter lack of helicopter parents.

In Germany I can be anonymous…even if I am hovering on the playground taking pictures. Most of the time people speak to me initially in German and when I fumble my way through the money, they immediately get my limitations. I don’t mind. When you’re taking a break, going on vacation, it’s refreshing to not have to engage anyone in conversation. Although sometimes I want to.

But it’s better that I don’t know German when the woman next to me lights up her third cigarette in 20 minutes. Dirty looks speak volumes. The amount of smoking here is akin to an episode of Mad Men. Everyone, all the time, seemingly as a second occupation, is smoking.

But some things here are similar. I searched for a mailbox for 2 days. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a mailman, notable for his bright yellow bike and rain gear, and consider for a moment flagging him down and handing my postcards to him. Maybe saying “bitte?” as a way to ingratiate myself to him. It wouldn’t have worked, or so I tell myself. Germans are very systematic. (You should have seen the city office where we registered our daughter so she could one day get a German passport!)

FullSizeRender-8Mainly, though, the differences stand out. The utter whiteness of everyone I see. Easily 85% of the people I see on a daily basis are white, or look white. And this, my husband, says is an improvement over what it was when he was growing up. Regensburg is more diverse than Heidelberg is. Everyone in Heidelberg is not only white but also thin and unbelievably beautiful. At least in Regensburg I see some difference. But I’ve still never seen two women holding hands or anyone who even appears to be gender non-conforming. Living a different life other than the “norm” here would be very lonely.

Dogs in department stores, mainly small ones, are very European in general. I loved when I landed in Italy for the first time in 1995. Dogs aren’t relegated to incessant barking in hot cars (nowhere to park here anyway!) but leashed and brought right into a store, even a grocery store, as if they had some hard-earned cash of their own to spend.

Speaking of which, work is left behind here, when the day ends. Other than myself, I haven’t see anyone on a laptop working outside. Wireless at cafes is nonexistent so that may be part of the reason. But everyone other than Americans have a clearer life/work boundaries. Taking your computer on vacation? Unimaginable. Vacation is intended to get away from work. And Germans, like other Europeans, actually take vacations. They take the weekend off. It’s a lovely reinforcement of work/life balance.

Can anyone be upset when they are woken by bells? It’s 7:00 am on a Saturday and everyone except me was out drinking last night and partying under our bedroom window, but the bells rang out marking the 7:00 am hour and I was awake. What a gift to be woken up not by a buzzing on my phone! What a gift to be here.

B2C Sales

More from Seth Godin’s Freelancer course on Udemy. This is Lesson #24.

Q. “What is your client afraid their husband/partner/friend will say if they say ‘yes’?”

A. “Why are you spending money on that?” “Will it be worth it?”
“How will you know it’s working?” “Why not see a therapist since insurance might cover that?”

Q.” What would your client say to explain why they bought ___from you?”

A. “I want to accomplish ____ and she doesn’t take on clients that she doesn’t think she can help succeed.” “My friend worked with her and she was terrific.” “I haven’t invested any money in me since college.” ”

Q.”What would you like them to tell their husband/partner/friend?”

A. “Coaching is very different from therapy. It’s action-oriented and Elizabeth’s programs center more around accountability and measuring success than many other coaches’ do. We check in at 5 weeks, a little less than 1/2 way through, to see if I’m getting what I need to reach my goal. If I don’t feel like I am, we end our coaching and she refunds the money I invested. I have a feeling that working with her will change my life.”

Ranking Myself

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Oof, this is a hard one. This exercise is from Seth Godin’s Udemy Freelancer course, exercise 13. I can see how some people would start this course and not finish or not post their answers publicly as Seth says to do. It’s hard to be this honest with yourself! But the timing is actually good for me since I’m done with rethiking my brand and am now just putting the new tools in place to announce that to the world. Four months ago though I’m not sure I would have been able to do this one…publicly anyway.

Seth says, “Compared to others who do what you do, rank yourself on: reputation, knowledge, expertise, tools and handiness.” I’ll use a scale of 1 -5.

  • Reputation: I’m well known to my clients but not to the greater community that I live in. My self-score: 2.
  • Knowledge: Whether it’s When Survivors Give Birth trauma-informed training or Bang It Out! coaching, I know my stuff well. My self-score: 4.
  • Expertise: …and I’m good at it. Better than most I’ve seen including some who have trained me and others who do what I do. My self-score: 4.
  • Tools: I’ve got ’em! And the ones I have are my own like my personal values discovery exercises that I use with BIO! coaching clients and in my personal growth workshops. So they not only work but they are unique and completely mine. My self-score: 4.
  • Handiness: I wasn’t sure exactly what Seth meant by this but then I remembered Lecture #6 when Seth  talks about the 5 kinds of freelancers. Level #2 was the handyman: she gets the job because she’s handy, the easiest one to grab. That’s definitely not me. Most people find me by referral not a Google search. My self-score: 1.

Then, Seth asks, “What will you invest in developing?”

Reputation. I want more people in my community to know who I am and what I do.

More tomorrow! Thanks for reading and for your support.

What women get

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Lesson #8 from Seth Godin’s Freelancer class on Udemy is below. Seth advises to share widely, “do these exercises online, in public.” so I’m putting them on this blog. My previous exercise is here.

Q. “What do people buy when they buy something from you? Leave out the easy, repetitive, generic.”

A. My clients are buying success, support and accountability. Practically speaking, this coaching takes the form of tools that bring their gifts and talents to the forefront and thoughtful guidance to identify what’s not working & how to get rid of that. My clients also buy my authenticity: me working as hard as they are, taking risks, showing up and modeling vulnerability. After the “sale”, my clients walk away with the time, energy and direction they lack, along with the personal and/or professional happiness and satisfaction they desire.

Who Am I? – assignment for Seth Godin’s Udemy Course for Freelancers

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I started this course for freelancers on Udemy only because it is Seth Godin himself teaching it. I’ve bought almost all his books, including his newest, and like the rest of his fans, I feel like he is talking exactly to me and telling me what I need to hear. This course is no exception. A freelancer is an indy worker. She’s a retail shop owner like my pal Wendy who just opened up a brilliant new store in downtown Durham, Indio. Freelancers are people who work for themselves, like me. Perhaps like you too.

The following is an exercise from lecture #5 in Seth’s course. He says, put it out there. Make it public, take a risk, in typical Seth Godin “fail fast” fashion. Here are the questions he asks and my answers:

Q. What do I want to do?

A. I want to help women listen to themselves, make time for what works and say ‘no’ to what’s holding them back.

Q. Who do I want to change and how?

A. Busy women who are smart, capable and connected. They are eager to do things diffIMG_0443erently. I’ll help them change with an individual goal-oriented, time-limited program called Bang It Out! coaching, through personal growth group coaching workshops, a new moms group, and a training called When Survivors Give Birth.

Q. How much risk (1-10) am I willing to take & what would that look like? Tradeoffs etc.

A. 8. Not everything but damn close. In order to make this happen, I’m giving up doing any doTERRA even though it’s fun. I’m also giving some time on weekends with my family. I’ve cut back on volunteering, Tweeting and spending time with people who don’t completely satisfy me.

Q. Does this project matter for the risk and effort?

A. Absolutely. Women needs to listen to themselves so they can recognize the small boxes that they are placed in and then get the hell out of them so they can create their own box life. We must start adding things in that make us feel good and getting rid of the stuff that doesn’t. I’m the best person I know to do this kind of work. I’ve done similar work before but never quite so niched or in such a deliberate, productive, intentional way. No one can do this quite like I can.

Q. Is it possible? Has anyone with my resources pulled this off before?

A. There are other entrepreneurs out there who started with less money and less support. Marie Forleo comes to mind. I have more resources than I did 10 years ago even though I have less overall time.

If you’re considering freelancing or are a freelancer, buy this course. Even if yu don’t start freelancing Head to Udemy here, look for Seth Godin freelancer and enter the code MOVEUP to save $30 on the course when you check out. Deal ends tonight at midnight.

My Mother’s Voice

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I last heard her voice in September, I think. My mother visited over Labor Day weekend, a visit that I really had to push for, and while she tired easily she hadn’t yet lost her voice. That came later in the Fall.

It was almost late December when my mother was diagnosed with ALS. A disease I knew nothing about. I was only vaguely aware of the ice bucket challenge before my brother pointed out the connection. I still don’t know much about ALS. But I guess I know everything there is to know. Unlike cancer or other diseases, there aren’t any medications or treatments. Or so I understand. My three siblings have done the Googling. I haven’t; I won’t. And yet, I still find it unbelievable that medically, there’s nothing to do to help my mother.

Before I moved to North Carolina, I lived in Connecticut. A former place called home where my parents had also lived at one point. Former students of hers would stop me on the street to ask about her, even in their too-cool-for-school late teens, early 20’s, “Your mother taught me to read,” they said. Can you imagine? My mother was someone who taught kids to read. Among other things, I teach adults how to help survivors of past abuse but she taught children to read.

She taught me to read.

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Future reading recommendations for my daughter from my mother.

With my mother’s voice gone, so is my tolerance for the small stuff. Apparently Pieces generally are a pretty empathetic lot but I’m done engaging with people who are over-committed or have a hard time saying “no” so keeps rescheduling or allow long lapses of time to go by without a hello. I turn down more Facebook “friend” requests than I accept. Clothes that I don’t absolutely LOVE and look good on me are headed out the door today. A fear of less or scarcity is not good enough reason to hold onto something, anything. Small talk (never my strong suit), random “likes” of Instagram photos that don’t really strike a chord with me and engagement with Twitter ignorance have all gone by the wayside. Ignorant jerk? No excuses, you’re blocked. I’m doing work that I love. And am making real changes to do only that work. I Tweet when I feel moved to, not out of a need to “be out there”.

When my energy is going toward choices or behavior that has less personal meaning, I tire more easily and have less time for what is truly important. I’d rather spend some time texting with my mother, while she can. Or holding my husband’s hand as we talk, when we haven’t seen each other all day. Not moving through the world as if busy is the new black.

Sometimes, I save voicemail messages. I have one from my grandmother who passed away two years ago and many, many from my husband. “What if I never hear this person’s voice again?” I think, superstitious to the core. (Just like my mother and her mother.) Remembering that I did this, I searched on my phone yesterday for one from my mother. We are so similar that sometimes she drove me crazy. I didn’t always save my mother’s messages. But I had one. Nothing out of the ordinary but the energy in her voice took my breathe away.

I keep playing it.

What I wouldn’t give for a birthday call today. We texted already. But boy, in a day where we all get what seems to be a million texts a day, I would give so much just to hear my mother’s voice again. The old voice, the one that I know is as familiar as my own. One more time, on my birthday.

Looking at the affects of #violence on #women and #girls

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One of the worst aspects of abuse or neglect is that even when it’s over, it’s not over.

1 in 3 women will suffer from physical, sexual violence or stalking in their lifetime. 4 out of 5 women will have children. That’s a lot of pregnant survivors and survivor moms out there. But what about the women who cannot have children, due in part perhaps to that abuse or neglect? Their lives matter too, even if those are exact numbers we don’t have.

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Penny Simkin and I in February 2015

Last summer I was certified by Penny Simkin and Phyllis Klaus to be an educator of their landmark program, When Survivors Give Birth. (If you aren’t familiar with this landmark book, click here for a brief video featuring co-author and DONA co-founder Penny Simkin.) As someone who has worked with survivors of violence for over seven years, I’m so excited to be able to offer their program locally, here in Durham next month.

My offering of When Survivors Give Birth will be targeted to birth workers: doulas, midwives, childbirth educators. The content will expand beyond the impact of childhood sexual abuse and by including a broader look at intimate partner violence and rape.

Participants will learn about how adverse childhood experiences like abuse, even decades after the fact, can continue to haunt the survivor and what a care provider can do for a woman, even if she has not disclosed a history of abuse. We’ll discuss triggers and themes, the power of active listening and vicarious trauma. And much more! If you are a birth worker of any kind, you won’t want to miss this unique, powerful learning experience. This program is also approved for 7.5 DONA CEUs.

Join me Monday January for a free preview webinar to learn more. Or click here to register for the February 7 or February 13 sessions. Questions, let me know that too. Contact me by leaving a comment below (always anonymous) or by calling me at Outside The Mom Box office: 919 237 2370.

Intentions for 2015

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I prefer setting intentions for the New Year, not resolutions. “Resolution” sound too rigid, too laden with perfectionism to be attainable to anyone. Success for me comes with putting forth an intention, a determination to act in a certain way. An intention gives me space to try again tomorrow when I inevitably fail. I’ve come up with three  intentions for 2015. They are: Love, Write, Play.

Love. This is the most important. My husband told me around the first of the year that his priority for 2015 was our family’s happiness. This really hit home for me. The truth of busyness in cultivating a new business is convenient and true but that’s not good enough. Love for me also means not yelling. I’ve talked before about being triggered to yell by Elisabeth hurting or harassing Baci but he’s no longer with us. I’ve started reading Yell Less, Love More by Sheila McCraith creator of the Orange Rhino Challenge. Yelling isn’t my default but I do yell occasionally and I want that to stop. “Love” embodies mindfully nurturing my relationship with my husband and daughter without excuses.

IMG_0443Write.  When I’m writing, I create better work / home boundaries and more realistic goals for myself…both essential to ending overwhelm. When I’m writing, I have less time for social media. I’m reflective and slower while getting more work done, working in pulse mode as Brigid Schulte learned and later adopted in writing her own book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has The Time.  I unsubscribe from what isn’t useful or beautiful not just in my home, but in my life. When I’m writing, I remember to let go of what isn’t serving me. I listen to my gut instinct more and respond quicker, wasting less time, because I’m less reactive to events around me. Writing always makes me better. When I’m writing, I’m a better coach and counselor because I’m there too. I wouldn’t ever ask Soraya Chemaly, Bernadette Jiwa or Stephen King where they get their ideas. I have so many, they are note-booked. What I don’t have is time blocked in my schedule on a daily basis to put them on paper. That changes this year.

Play. I haven’t yet gathered my thoughts for a review of Overwhelmed but I’m carrying a few of Shulte’s best lessons with me. One of them is Play. I thought that I did play. I go for coffee with girlfriends and sit down on the floor to construct towers of blocks with my daughter. But neither of those are play. A lot of our play as adults seems to center around eating. Did this start in college when our “socials” were intermixed with baking cookies or a run to Ben and Jerry’s? Eating, even with friends, is not play. Neither is engaging in an activity your child wants you to participate in with them. That’s life’s invisible workPlay is remembering what you love and doing it again…or discovering it for the first time. It’s about creating opportunities for your body, brain to think and move in different ways, whether that’s street hockey or painting with a group along the Eno. Soccer, scavenger hunts and capture the flag are on my agenda for 2015 as I bring in Play.

An intention also means “the healing process of a wound”. With my 2015 intentions, maybe I am healing the wound of past years and beliefs. I like the idea of it. Rebirth, not failure, is implied. A wound isn’t absolute, like chronic pain or a death sentence, it’s elastic and adaptable, ready for change. That’s exactly where I am. Right now anyway.

The Last Greyhound

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I put Baci, my almost fourteen year old greyhound, to sleep Tuesday morning. He hadn’t eaten the roast chicken that I’d prepared the day before and he was struggling to stand. When Elisabeth stood behind him after the failed breakfast and pulled on his back fur, causing tufts to come off into her hands, he hadn’t tried to get away. The end was here. Not “near” because I have no idea if his death was imminent. All I knew was his misery and that I was the only one who could do anything about it.

Greyhounds are a stoic bunch. An ancient breed who were once noted as the companions of kings and pharaohs, by the 1930’s they were being raced here in the United States. Greyhound racing continued and thrived for the next forty years before casinos started to hone in on the industry. Happily, it’s been a dying industry since the mid 1980’s. When I adopted my first greyhound in 1998, a seven year old ex-racing greyhound named JK Go Moonstruck, there were almost fifty greyhound tracks in fifteen states, including two in Connecticut where I lived. Today, there are twenty-one tracks in just seven states. The biggest culprit being (wait for it…) Florida, of course, where there are twelve tracks.

Baci 1 7.07 SSBaci, however, was not a retired racer. I adopted him at eight weeks, well into the thick of my six year greyhound adoption / advocacy madness. At the time, he made number four. Jackson, Reuben and Cleo were siblings from Mississippi living together with my ex-partner and I. A puppy wasn’t ever on my radar and after Baci, it certainly wouldn’t ever be again. But he came home with us and my life hasn’t been the same sense. Hadn’t.

Born on Valentine’s Day, Baci (a word which means “kisses” in Italian) was sweet in a doggedly fierce way. He was the most un-greyhound like greyhound I’ve ever known. Harsh words or admonishment didn’t melt him as they do with most greyhounds. He was seemingly impervious to criticism. The heartiest greyhound I’d ever had, Baci ate only a raw diet for almost ten years. He’d been vaccinated only for rabies and was never sick. Most greyhounds are described as “velcro dogs”. Not Baci. He loved people but “his” people weren’t everything to him, as they are with most greyhounds. He loved action, other dogs, adventures of all sorts. Strangers meeting Baci for the first time would remark upon his scars, “oh, the awful life of a greyhound,” they’d murmur sympathetically. But Baci’s scars came from hard play, not a hard racing life. Baci hadn’t been afraid of anything, ever. I remember him once carrying a massive, dead groundhog into the house and proudly dropping it at my feet, its neck broken. Only in the past few years had Baci stopped taking risks.

DSC01983Baci was the last of the greyhound gang that was five when I arrived here in Fall 2008, Done with a bad relationship and ready for all kinds of healthy changes. When the vet talked to me Tuesday morning about what might be going on with Baci, I didn’t listen. “I’m done, he’s done,” I said instead. I didn’t want to wake up and find him dead one morning. Or unable to stand and whimpering in pain. Then I would know that I waited too long. That it had been about me, and not him.

In a way, Baci’s death seals an old door finally shut for good. That sound is a breathing light, though, among all the loud sadness that hangs heavily. Can I speak the words, though, when asked: “we have one dog.” (My husband’s from his previous life). How can I have just one dog? It seems so few. The old skinny white dog who barked so stubbornly when I came home, but not at strangers or other dogs, isn’t here anymore.

The Things We (Women) Carry

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DeathtoStock_Creative Community8And I don’t mean diapers and Cheddar Rockets. I’m talking about your emotional baggage.

I talked to a group of pregnant women and their partners on Tuesday morning at Women’s Health Alliance in Durham about expectations and worries postpartum. Like the rest of us, most had done a really good job of taking care of the essentials before the baby arrives: getting the car seat installed, setting up a crib or co-sleeper, taking care of the responsibilities of work before we take our leave, etc. What was missing, for them, is preparation for the essentials that come after the baby arrives. Sure, we or friends have set up a meal “service” like Take Them A Meal but what about other essentials? Essentials like support from other new moms, permission to let the housework slide, time to take deep breathes, heal and be present with the emotions that we are experiencing.

Pregnant or not, as women, we’ve been conditioned to believe that we can do it all and that we should do it all. And that’s our first mistake. This impossible promise, though, is much more realistic (or feels that way) when we don’t have a child in the picture. As soon as the baby arrives, however, the gig is up. It quickly becomes clear that the social expectation of having it all/being it all/doing it all is not only unrealistic but also tightly packed with more shame, guilt and anxiety than we had ever imagined when we’d first stepped into those tight shoes. But once we’re got them on, they’re hard to just kick off.

In order to live with peace, be present with our children, sleep soundly at night, stay in good health and leave work behind when we shut down our computer, we must get rid of off these awful shoes. No matter how hard we try, they will never really fit us. And we are not the problem! They don’t fit any woman. We need to shrug off what’s not working because it’s costing us a lot. Even as I type these words, I know how hard this is for me. Unless I get the pinwheel of death, for example, I never actually shut down my computer. I’m not alone on this one. It saves me time to keep the computer on, to just open it and begin to type. Doesn’t it? And, is that short-term timesaver “enough” to balance what I’m giving up long-term?

To start casting off what’s not working, we need to look carefully at (state aloud, document, get an accountability partner, etc.) what our essentials actually are. And that’s a small, tight list! Once we know that, then we can start eliminating some of the emotional baggage of the “stuff” that we carry with us that prevents us from spending time on those essentials. There are additional costs associated with carrying emotional baggage which doesn’t serve us. Intangibles like energy, creativity, money, focus.

We will talk about some of this in Toddler Group because the baggage that we carry also affects our relationships with our toddler, our partner of course, and other important people in our lives. When you’re overwhelmed and feeling guilty, how do you think you’d deal with our impetuous toddler? Yeah, kind of like that.

What can you stop carrying?

-Originally published 12/18/14 at Outside The Mom Box