Saturday, December 1, 2007

Closing up Shop at Adventures of SS...Business is Booming at Metropolitan Mama

I'm closing up shop here at Adventures of SS. Please visit me at Metropolitan Mama. See you around the blogosphere!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Week in Review

I can't believe it's been a full week since my last post on this blog.

Here's what I've been up to:
* Playing with my little girl (especially outside)
* Working
* Blogging over at Metropolitan Mama (doing product reviews, giveaways, interviews, etc.)
* Jogging 4 times a week
* Reading (I just finished The Vaccine Book and Writer Mama; I just started The Other Mother)
* Cooking (last night, I made Kielbasa Skillet Stew and Cornbread)
* Fleshing out concepts for my new blog design and website for Metropolitan Mama (stay tuned)
* Dreaming of publication
* Feeling content

What have you been doing this week?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

How to Save More Money, Part 2

You may recall that I am a "super saver" (my husband's term for me).

Here are three more great food-related ways to save:

1. Don't order drinks. When you go out to eat, DO stick to water. It's the healthiest option and, besides, soda and tea are way overpriced at restaurants.

2. Don't order drinks. Speaking of things that are overpriced, don't buy alcohol at eating establishments. If you want to sip fine wine or enjoy a cool beer, DO buy your own and enjoy in the comfort of your own home. You'll save money - and you won't have to worry about drinking and driving (double bonus).

3. Don't go to the ice cream shop. DO buy one or two gallons of your favorite flavor at the grocery store. You can even splurge on toppings (Reeses, bananas, bluenerries, gummy bears, whipped cream, etc.) and waffle cones. It's still cheaper than that $6 Cold Stone Creamery creation.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Quote of the Week: Ambition

Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions…Just as soon as you attain one ambition you see another one glistening higher up still. It does make life interesting.” (L.M. Montgomery, 1908, Anne of Green Gables)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In and Around the Internet: Get Connected, Earn Free Stuff

Three things I've been doing on the web this week:

1. I joined LinkedIn, "an online network of more than 15 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries." I'm not quite sure what to expect or what I will gain, but so far I like it better than Facebook.

2. I became a Bzz Agent, "an everyday consumer who believes in honest word of mouth." The website claims that agents receive "new products, services, books, and other cool stuff." I haven't been part of any "campaigns" yet so I can't be excited just yet.

3. I received my first invitation from SheSpeaks to "test a new personalized homepage and get a free magazine subscription." I browsed the new myAOL page and then provided feedback. In exchange, I was able to choose a free magazine subscription from either Health, Money, Entertainment Weekly, or Cottage Living (I chose Money Magazine).

What cool things have you been doing on the web this week?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tucson Tuesdays: La Encantada Shopping Center

I've been to La Encantada Shopping Center twice. La Encantada is an "intimate, open-air lifestyle center with extensive landscaping, upscale shops, walkways, patios and courtyards that invite pedestrian interaction."

Located on the northwest corner of Skyline Drive and Campbell Avenue, the shopping center has a very specific demographic - upper class Tucsonans, who are probably in the 35-75 age range and who probably live in the Foothills.

The stores are not "young" in taste - they are the classy, older set - Pottery Barn, Talbots, Coldwater Creek, J.Jill, and Crate & Barrel. You won't find GAP, American Eagle, Old Navy, Target, or H & M here.

The actual design of the shopping center is nice - I like the indoor/outdoor combination, especially since we live in sunny Arizona where the warm, balmy weather greets us nine months out of the year. The walkways are pretty and the landscaping is well-manicured.

But something seems still and cold about the center. It lacks vibrancy, vitality, youthfulness, authenticity, something...I always feel a bit of a chill there, a strange feeling that I don't quite fit in with the pretension, the brand names, and...yikes!...the price tags!

In my opinion, these factors are what have made La Encantada only a lukewarm success. Many of the store slots are empty and the center is strangely quiet - dead.

By targeting the older and richer segment of the population so narrowly, Westcor has excluded the "rest of us" - the families, the singles, the young couples just starting out, the moms and babies, and the college students. We just don't feel comfortable there. We want more color, more splash, more noise. We want to feel welcome in our Target t-shirts and our Old Navy flip flops. We want to be able to let our babies cry, our toddlers squeal, and our kids run about...without feeling out-of-place.

The La Encantada concept hasn't worked because, when the developers planned it, they forgot about "us."

Of course, I don't like to criticize without offering some solutions. As a Tucson resident, I actually desperately want La Encantada to succeed. Here's what I think the resident marketing specialist should do:

1. Get "younger" stores to fill the empty spots that are still for rent.
2. Start a weekly "Kids Club." It could be anything - a story time, a puppet show, a dance production, a meet and greet with a storybook character, etc.
3. Re-think the marketing campaign. Focus on authenticity and inclusion. Make it a place for everyone.
4. Plan several key events to re-introduce the center to the community. Be especially conscious of families in the planning process. Invite a face painter. Give away a stroller. Offer free lemonade.
5. Create a "Moms Panel." Select 5 social and influential moms (perhaps host a contest of some sort to find them...) to shop at La Encantada and provide reviews about the stores, the prices, and the fun things to do. As the experts say, word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective kind...and moms are an important market audience.

Fellow Tucsonans, raise your voice. What do you think about La Encantada? Is my synopsis accurate? What suggestions do you have?

Monday, October 22, 2007

My Future in Blogging - Nailing down my Niche

For those of my readers who don't know, I have another blog:

Metropolitan Mama is a blog geared to moms in their 20's and 30's who are pregnant or who have little ones under age three (although all moms are welcome!). I blog about fitness, fashion, freebies, and general information to help moms navigate the challenges and wonders of early motherhood.

Metropolitan Mama is quickly picking up speed and I'm averaging over 200 hits per week - close to 1000 per month! I attribute my growing readership to many things, but, first and foremost, to the "niche factor." The blog has a very clear and defined audience - and thus the blog has a magnetic affect in drawing readers from my targeted demographic.

I'm having a lot of fun with my MM blog because motherhood is a topic I'm particularly passionate about. I've made some great connections and built some wonderful relationships with other moms from around the country and around the world (Thanks especially to my many readers in Canada and Australia).

I'm thinking about starting yet another "niche" blog (more details later...) - and possibly closing up shop here at Adventures of SS. I'll keep you posted as my plans unfold.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

E-mail is for Old People (and other technology truths)

A 2005 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project called "Teens and Technology" found that teenagers prefer new technology, like instant messaging or text messaging, for talking to friends and use e-mail to communicate with "old people."

"Teens who participated in focus groups for this study said that they view email as something you use to talk to “old people,” institutions, or to send complex instructions to large groups. When it comes to casual written conversation, particularly when talking with friends, online instant messaging is clearly the mode of choice for today’s online teens."

Yes, that's right. Teens choose to communicate via instant messaging, text messaging, and social networking sites way before e-mail.

When I read that study, I felt "old." I'm 25 and I do instant message. I occasionally text message. I had a Facebook account, but I deactivated it. I still probably use e-mail communication the most.

I really need to stay on my toes. I don't want to lose touch with Generation Z (anyone born between 2001-2041)...that's my daughter's generation. I wonder how she will communicate with her friends 10 years from now.

Friday, October 19, 2007

How to Market Your Product/Service on Blogs (and why it works)

Some innovative companies are starting to investigate blog marketing - and for good reason!

In July 2006, the Pew Internet and American Life Project estimated that the "US blog population has grown to about 12 million adults." That was in 2006. And just in America. And that was in estimate.

Blogging is a huge cultural phenomenon and I see it as another form of word-of-mouth advertising because blogging is all about connections and relationships. Blog advertising is more like a friend-to-friend conversation ("Guess what I bought yesterday?") than an air-brushed commercial. It's more authentic and real (at least it seems that way).

That's why it works.

When I want to buy a specific product, I usually (A) read the reviews on Amazon.com and (B) do a Google search on the Internet (in that order). If blogs come up in the Google search results, I might read them (but usually without much interest). Blog marketing doesn't work like that.

Remember, blogging is all about building relationships and being a part of a community. Yes, people blog to give and receive knowledge, but that's really a secondary purpose.

Marketing in the blogosphere is more about finding influential people in your target market/demographic and getting them to genuinely like your product...and then talk about it. If you can do that, you're well on your way to success.

We know from research that people buy products and services that are recommended by friends and individuals in their social circles. They buy in response to other people more than in response to magazine ads and TV commercials.

Case in point: me. There have been countless times that I've decided to purchase (or investigate) a product based on a blog post (of a blogger "friend," mind you). For example, I read about Johnson's bath time products at Ode to Umbrella Moments and proceeded to put them on my "buy-at-Target" shopping list.

If you are interested in marketing your product/service via blog marketing, start by taking these 3 steps:

A. Find influential bloggers in your niche market. How? Ask people in your "real" life if they blog and then ask them for their address. Visit their site and visit their commenters' sites. You'll soon be able to discover which blogs get a lot of traffic and why.

B. Offer to give a free product to an influential blogger in exchange for a review and a link back to your site.

C. Start a blog yourself (Need help? Read Penelope Trunk's The Easiest Instructions for How to Start a Blog) and enter the "community." Be sure that your blog is helpful, personal, and meaningful - rather than just an ad for your product. Ads don't work in the blogosphere. Authenticity does.

You can find bloggers of all ages and "stages," but you're especially in luck if your product is geared to moms because the "momosphere" within the blogosphere is huge. Or if your product is geared to people in the 25-45 year old demographic - again, lots of bloggers in that age range.

Welcome to the blog world! It's a great avenue for connecting - which is really what marketing is all about.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

6 Tools for Writers

1) A laptop - Desktops are on their way out. Laptops are the current technology trend. Fortunately, laptops are the perfect tool for writers because they're portable. I recommend the MacBook or the MacBook Pro.

2) Steno pads - The mind of the writer is always buzzing with new ideas and, often, brilliant thoughts pops up at inconvenient times - at the grocery store, in the shower, on a run, in the library, in traffic. Having a notepad handy is crucial for retaining those quotes, lines, and topics that will make up tomorrow's best seller.

3) Free Magazine Subscriptions - I enjoy flipping through magazines on everything from business and parenting to fashion and home decorating. Why? Because the glossy pages give me insights into the culture around me. Here are the magazines that I currently receive: Health, Good Housekeeping, American Baby, Babytalk, Working Mother, Metropolitan Home, and Sweet Sixteen. That list doesn't include the catalogs that I receive. Best of all, I don't pay for any of them. You can get free magazine subscriptions by participating in surveys on e-Rewards. You can also find offers for free magazines on Absurdly Cool and other freebie websites. Other magazines - like the ones with links above - are just free to everyone.

4) The nearest bookstore - Browsing through new releases is a fantastic way to scout out what's "hot" in the book market, to find potential agents via your favorite books' prefaces, or to get familiar with magazines that you want to send queries to. If you're extra lucky, your bookstore has cool events - like author readings, writing groups, and storytimes for kids.

5) Wi-Fi at home and abroad - If you're living without wireless technology, you're missing out. Find a computer guru, buy a wireless router, and bring Wi-Fi into your home. You won't regret it. You can also scout out all of the public places in your neighborhood that offer free Wi-Fi and tote your laptop around with you - try coffee shops, libraries, and bookstores first.

6) Writer's Market - I have an outdated version of this book and I'd really like to get the online version, but haven't splurged just yet. The Writer's Market is a comprehensive listing of book and magazine markets (and their submission requirements). It's a very useful resource, to say the least.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Business Idea #4: The Fusion of Dance and Fitness

There are dance studios and there are health clubs, but I have yet to see a successful intersection of these two ideas.

Dance studios generally feature classes in Ballet, Tap, Pointe, Jazz, and perhaps Hip Hop...most of the classes are geared to kids. At prestigious studios, kids dress in black leotards, pink tights, and dance shoes.

Health Clubs and fitness centers generally cater to adults (think: Curves, 24 Hour Fitness, etc.) and offer amenities such as weight rooms, swimming pools, and group fitness classes. The group classes usually range from Pilates and Yoga to Aerobics and Kickboxing, but dance classes are rarely offered.

What I'd love to see is the fusion of these two concepts: A dance studio for adult women with the intent purpose of fitness and without the black leotard requirement. Class offerings could include: Ballet, Funky Ballet, Tap, Jazz, and Hip Hop in beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels.

Most women (including me) have fond memories of taking dance classes as a child and would love to get some of the health benefits as an adult. I would definitely try a Funky Ballet, Jazz, or Hip Hop class with friends.

This could be a brand new business concept. Or a dance studio could start offering classes specifically geared to women with the expressed purpose of fitness. Or a health club could hire a dance instructor.

P.S. I am not interested in starting up this type of business so I am hoping that one of my business-savvy readers will. Invite me to the Grand Opening!

(Photo by: northbaywanderer)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Functional versus Aesthetic Workspaces - Which Do You Prefer?

Husband: We should get rid of this rickety, old desk in your office and get something nicer. Like this. (Shows me photos from an online business furniture store - deep cherry wood, shiny surfaces, modern designs).

Me: My desk is fine. I never really think about it. Besides, that price tag is pretty steep (I like to save, remember?).

Husband: But how can you work in here?

We had this conversation about two weeks ago and we both discovered something about ourselves that night.

My husband prefers an aesthetic workspace. Walk in his office at work - you'll see modern black frames with crisp black-and-white photos that he took and developed himself and diplomas that showcase his undergraduate and graduate degrees in pristine and artistic frames. Even at home, he's bothered by pictures that are crooked, rooms that are cluttered, and colors that don't quite match.

I, on the other hand, prefer a functional workspace. Don't misunderstand me here. My space is organized and clean, but it's also rather practical and plain. That's partially because we don't have unlimited finances and partially because I'm not particularly tied up by "prettiness." I want to have a working laptop, a wireless Internet connection, an organized filing system, steno pads within reach, and pens with nice, dark ink (I'm finicky when it comes to pens). Candles? Paintings of scenic landscapes? Flowers? Unnecessary.

These same "leanings" affect our home too. For example, about a month ago, my husband suggested that we give away our TV and DVD player. My response was immediate: "Okay." After all, we haven't turned on our TV for over six months so it's not very functional.

You've probably guessed that I'm not very sentimental when it comes to my belongings - unless they are useful. I give things away often. Our wedding guest book? Toss it! That little crayon drawing that I created when I was five? Gone! The bridesmaid dress that I wore to my sister's wedding? Sayonara! You get the idea.

This is an ideal place to interject and send out a memo to family and friends - If you give me something nostalgic and don't specifically say that you want me to keep it, there's a good chance I won't. Not because I don't love you or cherish the memory. I just am not fond of keeping things around that aren't useful.

So there you have it. Two different preferences for workspaces. Which category do you fall in to?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

These are a few of my favorite things...

I stole this idea from Musings of a Housewife. These are the items I use every day, almost without fail.

iBook G4 - I know iBooks are a bit old school, but the company that I work for provides it so I can't complain.

Cover Girl Smoothers SPF 15 Tinted Moisturizer - This moisturizer provides just enough coverage with sun protection.

Secret Clinical Strength Deodorant - the best deodorant I've ever used, hands-down!

Cranberry Juice Cocktail - I like Ocean Spray, but the Fry's Cranberry Juice Cocktail is just as good and less expensive.

Steno Pads - I'm a writer so I carry a notepad everywhere - there's one in the kitchen, one in the bedroom, one in the office, and one in my purse.

What are a few of your favorite things? Post on your blog and leave a link here. I'd love to see your list!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How to Save More Money - 5 Tips from a Super Saver

People who know me well know that I'm not a big spender. I save. I give. And I occasionally spend money (but only after careful contemplation). I very rarely make purchases on a whim and I am not the kind of person that a salesman likes to run into because I am not easily swayed or charmed by statistics or smiles.

If you're looking for a few ways to cut costs and save money, follow my lead and try these ideas:

1. Cancel cable TV. TV is, for the most part, mindless and a waste of time. Cancel cable and save every month. Do something else. Go on a run. Read a book. Cook a healthy meal. Volunteer at an elderly home. The key is focusing on worthwhile, action-oriented activities.

2. Boycott movie theaters. The theaters in my area charge $9.25 per seat. Yikes! A movie every week adds up fast - especially if you add in a spouse and a few kids. Rent a movie (preferably, from the library) instead. If you must get the big screen experience, opt for a "cheap theater" or a matinee.

3. Bring your lunch to work. It's healthier. It's cheaper. It tastes better. Period.

4. Don't attend in-home shopping "parties." Just say no to Mary Kay, Discovery Toys, Gold Canyon Candles, etc., etc. They're usually overpriced and the products are almost always unnecessary. Why add more clutter to your home and your life? Simplify!

5. Opt to not have a home phone. You need a cell phone. That's obvious. But a home phone? Probably not. Unless you spend copious amounts of time on the phone, your cell phone plan should cover all of your bases.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tucson Tuesdays: Ask and Ye Shall Receive

About 8 months ago, I wrote a letter to the developers of Passages of Tucson, a planned mixed-use destination development in southeast Tucson (see photo).

I wrote because I knew that it was a HUGE project with limitless potential - and I wanted to share my "requests" for certain shops, restaurants, and services. I don't remember all of the details, but I know I requested:

* Zara
* H & M
* Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack
* Target
* A Movie Theater (not Century Theatres)
* Family-friendly services and features (family restrooms, nursing lounges, kids club, etc.)
* A Women's health club/gym or a Lifetime Fitness

Guess what? The developers responded, invited me to lunch, and gave me the "inside scoop" on their master plan. They listened to my ideas and I listened to theirs. It was a productive give-and-take session.

That's the beauty of community engagement and participation.

I encourage you to take some small action step today to engage in your neighborhood, in our city. Think of one thing that you wish was different. Do you secretly wish that the local bakery would sell blueberry muffins? Tell them! Does the library not offer a book that you want to read? Request it! Do you wish that your child's preschool had a higher adult: student ratio? Volunteer!

Do just one thing. Start today. Our city (and our state, our country, our world) will only improve if we all contribute.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Secret Ambition (P.S. It involves Exercise)

Today, I started a running regime - my plan is to run a 5K this winter. This morning, my husband and I put our daughter in our jogging stroller and went for a 25-minute training session.

Now, I'm on-the-lookout for running advice, especially about running products. Tell me about the most comfortable tennis shoes, the cutest workout attire, the most supportive sports bras, and the most energizing tunes for the road.

***Note to Companies: I am open to doing reviews on products or attire related to health, fitness, and running. Please direct all inquiries to: stephaniesheaffer@cox.net.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Stephanie's 10 Essential Wardrobe Elements

Busy moms desire style, but they also require functionality. Moms need clothes that they can bend up-and-down, stretch from side-to-side, run down the street, and maneuver around in without showing anything (that's reason #1 why skirts and dresses are impractical for moms - usually).

These top 10 wardrobe elements provide both function and style:

1. Jeans - Several pairs in different shades and styles...perhaps a few with embellishments or sparkles. Every woman should have one pair of dark-wash, boot-cut jeans - I have yet to find someone who doesn't look great in that style.
2. Well-fitted Tees - Lots of different colors and variations...perhaps with embellishments or sparkles. I prefer V-neck.
3. Boots - Boots are stylish, comfortable, and professional. You can dress them up or dress them down. I have a black pair and a brown pair that I love.
4. Nice Coat - I have to agree with Tim Gunn here. A nice coat is a necessity because it can bring pizazz to any outfit. Trench coats are a good choice or - my preference - you can buy a quality leather coat. Nothing is quite as sophisticated as leather.
5. Camisoles - These are great for lounging around the house, for working out, for layering under low-coat shirts and sweaters, or for wearing underneath a classy suit. Right now in my closet, I have 2 black camisoles, 1 brown camisole, 1 red camisole, and 1 aqua camisole.
6. Dress Pants - One or two nice pairs of dress pants are essential for those times when you need/want to dress up a bit without having to sacrifice functionality. Dress pants are a great option for parent/teacher conferences, for church, or for work.
7. Heels - They're not for every day "wearage", but I really think heels are a must-have in a woman's wardrobe. Heels really can add a lot of umph to any outfit - whether to jeans or a dress. If you're only going to invest in one pair, choose a 2 inch pump in black.
8. Cute Workout Attire - What you're going for here are items that you can wear running or to hip hop class - AND to the grocery store AND to pick up your kids from school, etc. Consider a matching, well-fitted sweat suit or stretchy yoga pants and a quality tee. (Maybe a velour set from Juicy Couture - pictured).
9. A Dressy Outfit - There are times when a nice skirt or dress is required or desired. Think weddings, date nights with husband, etc. Have one pretty option that makes you feel lovely.
10. A Quality Suit - If you work outside of the home (or even if you don't), I think it's important to have at least one nice suit in your closet. For those times when you need to command authority or show that you're an expert - an unexpected job interview, a charity fundraiser, a board meeting for a local non-profit organization, etc.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

10 Essential Wardrobe Elements According to Tim Gunn's Guide to Style

I recently found this list of Tim Gunn's 10 essential wardrobe elements on the Musings of a Housewife blog:

1. Basic Black Dress
2. Trench Coat
3. Classic Dress Pants
4. White Shirt
5. Jeans
6. Cashmere Sweater
7. Skirt
8. Day Dress
9. Blazer
10. Sweat Suit Alternative

The blogger then went on to list which 10 elements she has in her closet and why. I decided to follow in her footsteps:

1. Basic Black Dress - No. I don't have one of these anymore, but I should. Dresses just aren't particularly suited for motherhood. (I do like the black dress pictured, Diane von Furstenberg Leno Dress from Nordstrom).
2. Trench Coat - Yes, I have a khaki-colored one from Old Navy, but I really don't like it. The material is cheap and it wrinkles too easily.
3. Classic Dress Pants - Yes, I have several pairs. Dress pants are my work wardrobe staple.
4. White Shirt - No. Why do fashion gurus always list a white shirt as an essential item? In my experience, white is only flattering on a minority of people. I am not one of them.
5. Jeans - Yes, I practically live in jeans. In fact, if I had to be stranded on an island with only one outfit- jeans would definitely be a part of that outfit.
6. Cashmere Sweater - No, but I'd love to have one.
7. Skirt - Yes, I have one fabulous skirt and about three skirts that are too big now that I had a baby and lost weight.
8. Day Dress - No. See #1. Dresses are not very functional for moms.
9. Blazer - Yes, I have several nice long-sleeved ones. Unfortunately, Tucson is too hot for coats the majority of the year. I need some short-sleeved alternatives.
10. Sweat Suit Alternative - A. What is wrong with a cute sweat suit? B. I don't even own a sweat suit, but I wish I did.

I have 6 of the 10, but I really don't feel bad. I'm sorry, Tim Gunn, but you just have it all wrong. Stay tuned tomorrow for Stephanie's Top 10 Wardrobe Essentials for Busy Moms...

    Friday, October 5, 2007

    Feeling Overwhelmed

    Tonight, I feel overwhelmed.

    I used to feel busy before I became a mother. But I didn't realize the freedom that I had. To read a book cover-to-cover. To dedicate myself to a project completely without stopping. To sit down and write with a cup of tea and my laptop without interruption. It all seems so foreign now.

    My life is much too unpredictable now for such luxuries. I might make plans, but they are likely to be postponed or delayed by an unexpectedly sick baby, a night of teething, a particularly clingy stage, or a plea for playtime.

    Sometimes I wonder how I will ever make room for all of the things that I want to do. I start to panic. I think of my dreams - the Ph.D., the best-selling book I'm supposed to write, the 5K race that I'm going to train for, the magazine queries that lay neglected on virtual shelves. I'm getting old, I tell myself.

    Then, I suddenly realize that I'm only 25 and that there is a beautiful reason for my crazy life. I realize how good I have it. I realize that I would never go back to that life of lazy "frills" - not if I had to forfeit that irresistible smile, that gurgling giggle, those open-mouthed kisses, and that incredible personality that comes out more every day.

    Not a chance. I'll keep my charmed life and the cherished people that feel it.

    Thursday, October 4, 2007

    Is LinkedIn different than Facebook?

    I recently was invited to join LinkedIn by a freelance writer who I respect. I think I might move forward and sign up, but I hesitate.

    I wonder:


    1. Is LinkedIn just another social networking site?
    2. What makes LinkedIn different from Facebook and MySpace?
    3. What benefits does LinkedIn offer?

    Most people know that I tried Facebook and then deactivated my account because I couldn't find much value in it. Will joining LinkedIn be a deja vu experience?

    Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    5 Things I Would Buy if Money Grew on Trees

    The First FIVE Things that Come to Mind...
    1. Cashmere Sweaters
    2. Lots of Books (my own library)
    3. Maid Service
    4. Shoes for different occasions
    5. Tuition for classes or conferences...probably ones about writing

    What would you buy?

    Friday, September 28, 2007

    The Art of the Compliment: Learn It, Apply It

    When it comes to your career, don't underestimate the power of genuine and specific compliments. I try to make it a practice to offer them up often...and I'm not talking about the fake, dripping-with-shallowness kind.

    What you need to do is be observant. Intentionality is key. As you go through your day, think about the people you talk to, listen intently to conversations, watch the way people work. Did your supervisor say something particularly inspiring or powerful at the last department meeting? Did one of your co-workers do an outstanding job on a recent project? Did your administrative assistant decorate for the last office party with pizazz? Tell them!

    Other ways to master the art of the compliment:

    1. Pass it on. This is, by far, the easiest way to start the art of complimenting. Simply, listen for when other people say nice things about (not: to) someone and then pass it on. Example:

    Conversation around the water cooler...
    Co-worker: I was so impressed by Anne's presentation this morning. She's just so articulate and has such composure.
    You: I agree

    Later that day when you stop by Anne's office...
    You: So-and-so was just saying how articulate and composed you were this morning.
    Anne: Thank you. I was so nervous about that presentation.
    You: I just wanted to pass along the compliment.

    2. Take Keith Ferazzi's advice. Give a "drive-by" compliment. Send your compliment to the person's boss for optimal effect.

    3. Be critical (in the good sense of the word) and intelligent on the job. If you're known as an honest and analytical person, your compliments will mean even more because people will know they're not just fluffy sentimentalism.

    (Photo by: Aaron Gustafson)

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    Why I Only Read 8 Blogs a Day

    About a week ago, I did a "productivity analysis." Essentially, I looked at the number of "awake" hours that I have available in my day (7 a.m. to 11 p.m. - that's 16 hours per day, 112 hours per week) and then proceeded to outline all of the things that I do within those hours.

    My time fell into the following 13 categories:
    1. Spending time with my husband
    2. Playing with my daughter
    3. Reflection/Prayer/Personal Growth
    4. Exercise
    5. Work
    6. Writing
    7. Grocery Shopping & Meals
    8. Kindness/Gratitude/Service
    9. Cleaning
    10. E-mails
    11. Blogging
    12. News articles
    13. "Me" Time

    I then broke down my day in hour-by-hour segments to create a "Master Schedule" (thanks to Melissa Garrett, a fellow blogger and writer, for giving me this idea).

    This exercise allowed me to look into my life from an outsider's perspective. I decided that I spend too much time on blogging - and that I need to increase my productivity in this area.

    Blogging has been beneficial for me - I've received job offers, free products to review, and, more importantly, I've made valuable connections and relationships. Those things said, I think other things in my life yield greater return for my time so I need to be careful how much of my time is spent blogging and reading other people's blogs.

    So I cut down my blogroll drastically and now have 8 blogs* that I read every day:
    1. Brazen Careerist
    2. 5 Minutes for Mom
    3. Ode to Umbrella Moments
    4. Growing a Life
    5. Baby Cheapskate
    6. Melissa Garrett
    7. Absurdly Cool Freebie Finder
    8. Writer Mama

    *Note: My list of blog favorites seems to be constantly changing so I really should say these are my top picks of the month.

    I also have another list of blogs that I read weekly - every Wednesday, but I'll save that list for another day.

    What blogs do you read every day? How do you ensure that you don't spend too much time in the blogosphere? Write a post on your blog and leave a link in the comments. Or just post your thoughts here.

    (Photo by: paulworthington)

    Sunday, September 23, 2007

    Getting Serious about Writing

    I'm planning to "turn up the heat" in moving forward with my writing career. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to create specific goals for sending out queries to magazines and newspapers - as well as for submitting a non-fiction book proposal. I am also going to think about the possibility of joining (or starting) a writer's group and registering for a writing conference. Any tid-bits or tips from other aspiring or famous writers would be greatly appreciated!

    (Photo by: athena)

    Friday, September 21, 2007

    Starting a Business (Maybe I will, Maybe I won't)

    I met with a woman yesterday who recently started her own writing business. It's called Advantage Writing. She basically does the whole gamut when it comes to writing - resume writing, copy writing, indexing, and more.

    I asked lots of questions and she told me how to start a business - log on to the City of Tucson website and pay the $45 fee. Then, license your business name in Phoenix - and kaboom - you're in business!

    Many of my closest friends and family members know that I've considered starting a business many times in the past few years.

    Business Idea #1
    The one that came closest to actually reaching fruition was my idea for a scholarship consulting business. As a high school guidance counselor, I have ample experience in the area and I absolutely LOVE it.

    BUT I'm not sure if that's "it" because I enjoy dispensing that information for free to motivated students and anxious parents in my life.

    Business Idea #2
    Then, there's writing of all kinds - my specialty and my passion. Writing is what I do - whether or not I'm getting paid for it. I don't know how to not write. I just do - I think about writing, I talk about writing, and I write - all day long.

    BUT I'm not particularly fond of editing and proofreading. Yes, I'm good at it. I know the ins and outs of grammar. I know where to put the commas, which adjectives deliver the most pow, how to create a killer introduction. But there's something tedious and non-creative about going over someone else's work.

    So, when it comes to writing, I think I'll stick to my own freelance writing - working on my book, sending queries to magazines, and enjoying the creative [Emphasis on create] process.

    Other Ideas
    Then, there are my other two ideas (that might actually go somewhere):
    1. speaking at various conferences, retreats, school functions, and events.
    2. planning events (think: conferences, expos, and retreats, NOT weddings)

    Or Maybe I Won't Start a Business...
    Or, I might throw all business ideas out the window and start up a non-profit instead. I grow weary of the business world.

    Hence, my husband and I had the following conversation over dinner last night:

    Scene: I had just returned from a business mixer at a swanky little golf club, complete with hors d'oeuvres and door prizes and 30-second elevator pitches.

    Me: (Sigh) The business mixer was so...

    Husband: Boring.

    Me: Yes, and superficial. I wish we could come up with a way to make billions of dollars so that we could just go around and help lots of people...maybe start a non-profit...then, we wouldn't ever have to go to business mixers and networking nights.

    Husband: We will.

    Me: You know how I have crazy, hair-brained ideas every once in awhile and decide that I should go to medical school or enter corporate America or become a lawyer?

    Husband: Yes.

    Me: Remind me to not go the corporate America route.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007

    Wordy Wednesday: one of my favorite poems...

    Tonight, I could blog about business or my career journey or being a mother. But I'm tired and I have so much to do. And I want to take a nice "poetry break" over hot tea.

    The following verse, entitled "Burnt Norton," is the introduction of the first section of the Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot. It always reminds me to treasure time because it is "eternally present" and "unredeemable." I don't want to look back and wonder "what might have been."

    Time present and time past
    Are both perhaps present in time future,
    And time future contained in time past.
    If all time is eternally present
    All time is unredeemable.
    What might have been is an abstraction
    Remaining a perpetual possibility
    Only in a world of speculation.
    What might have been and what has been
    Point to one end, which is always present.
    Footfalls echo in the memory
    Down the passage which we did not take
    Towards the door we never opened
    Into the rose-garden. My words echo
    Thus, in your mind.

    (Photo by: yugoQ)

    Monday, September 17, 2007

    Weigh In on...Getting Paid to Blog

    Lately, I've been investigating several websites that claim to bring companies and bloggers together. Essentially, bloggers sign up and can choose products and/or websites to review on their blogs and get paid for it.

    Here are just a few of the companies out there that offer this type of arrangement:
    www.bloggerwave.com
    www.reviewme.com
    www.smorty.com
    www.shespeaks.com

    On one hand, it seems like an exciting and viable option. I'd happily write reviews of products in exchange for monetary compensation or even the product itself. IF the item up for review is relevant to my blog's purpose and my passions.

    On the other hand, it seems like this arrangement might bring down the quality and credibility of blogs everywhere. I've been to my fair share of blogs that feature WAY too much advertising - both explicit (banner ads) and barely subtle (in posts themselves). The last thing I want is for my blog (or for the blogosphere, in general) to become just one big advertisement.

    What's your take on these companies? Weigh in!

    Saturday, September 15, 2007

    "Many a false step was made by standing still." - Fortune Cookie

    Time is my most prized and precious commodity - and I strive to protect it vehemently.

    I often analyze the minutes that make up my day and scrutinize the value of my activities. Am I investing in what matters most? Am I living life fully? Am I giving my heart, soul, and mind appropriately?

    These questions are probably what prompt me to not watch TV and to not attend home sales parties (think: gold canyon, mary kay, etc.). These same questions remind me to play with my baby, to hang out with my husband, and to write thank you notes.

    I've been browsing through Timothy Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek over the past few days. Although I don't necessarily agree with his entire outlook on life, his experiences intrigue me because he has managed to pack so much into his not-yet-thirty years. He's traveled the world, started several companies, danced tango professionally, published a NY Times best seller, and learned multiple languages. This "do it now" attitude speaks to me. I totally understand that passion, that spark, that fire - and I want to embrace it.

    Thursday, September 13, 2007

    The Best Movie I Saw Last Year (this may come as a shocker)

    Last night, my husband and I watched High School Musical, starring Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. I checked it out from the library and we decided to watch it rather reluctantly. We were expecting something exceptionally corny since it's the favorite movie of our 9-year-old next door neighbor and almost every kid that we know (from elementary to high school).

    But that is precisely why we decided to watch it. Who can ignore a TV movie that has been seen by nearly 200 million viewers worldwide?

    We were pleasantly surprised by the energy, the innocence, the vivacity, and the the positivity of the film. Sure, the song numbers were a bit cheesy and the storyline was predictable. BUT the songs were catchy, the choreography was mesmerising, and the casting was exceptional. AND, even more importantly, the themes of the film were universal and uplifting...try new things, have the courage to do something outside of the status quo, say you're sorry when you mess up, show kindness, I could go on.

    The film so perfectly captures the essence of what high school should be - fresh, innocent, fun, full of friends and new experiences. It also successfully and ingeniously portrays the budding romance between Troy and Gabriella as being beautifully awkward and wholesome.

    Noticeably absent were bad language, violence, and sexuality (implied or explicit).

    Although I genuinely enjoyed watching the film, I couldn't help but think about what made this movie a blockbuster hit. Tweens and teens everywhere don't unite on most movie preferences, but this one was different.

    I think the reason lies in a desire that every tween and teen has, but one they can't always express. To have a high school experience that is devoid of the clutter of broken homes, bitter and oversexualized relationships, and pressure to "stick to the status quo." To have a high school experience that is young, fun, and free - one where a budding romance might occur, the kind where a kiss on the cheek is about as far as physicality goes.

    Whatever the reasons, I'm proud to join the adoring fans and I will gladly chime in with my 9-year-old neighbor to say, "I LOVE HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL!"

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007

    I remember 9/11

    I had gone to work before 6 a.m. I walked from work to an early morning class on Northern Arizona University's campus in Flagstaff, Arizona. I walked in and noticed the hallways were crowded. Some people were crying. Others looked shocked, white, silent. The TVs were on. I asked what was going on. "You haven't heard?", no one in particular said in an echoey tone. I looked at the TV...goosebumps...chills...fear...Tim.

    I called Tim - he was still in bed. "Turn on the TV." He did. Silence. Eyes watering. I couldn't believe it. Then, the second plane collided. The images. The smoke. The people running, crying, wailing, wondering.

    I walked into my philosophy class. The professor turned off the TV. He said we'd go on with class as usual. He lectured on Aristotle or Socrates - something that I couldn't pay attention to, something I knew I wouldn't remember. Something about it felt wrong - us sitting there, listening to the Ph.D. orate about things that didn't matter.

    After class. Headed to our little apartment in married housing. Hugged Tim. Called family. Tried to think about if we knew anyone in NY.

    Stories began to circulate. Todd Beamer. Let's roll. Sacrifice. Pregnant wives and little children and husbands left behind.

    I'll never forget. The smoke. The tightness. The courage.

    (Photo by: wallyg)

    Monday, September 10, 2007

    Business Idea #3: Career-Themed Scrapbook Supplies

    On Saturday morning, I stopped in at a local scrapbooking store to pick up a few supplies for my daughter's baby album.

    One of the sections of my scrapbook will include pictures of when I brought my daughter to work with me (from 4 months old to 8 months old). I was hoping to find some cute "business-themed" scrapbook stickers and papers...briefcases, business suits, laptops, cell phones, bulletin boards, planners, desks, office chairs, copy machines, you get the idea.

    I looked for a short while. Then, I asked an associate. She said they didn't carry anything like that. Instead, she directed me to the "career" items - all of which featured doctor, nurse, and police officer-related items.

    When I got home, I searched online and realized that this is a niche market that I could certainly develop since the pickings are slim-to-none. It seems like this would be a fun side project. BUT I'm just not sure how to go about creating a scrapbook line. Business-savvy readers...help!

    (Photo by: Paul Watson)

    Sunday, September 9, 2007

    One year ago today...

    I was in the greatest pain of my entire life. I was trying to breathe - taking warm showers, sitting in varying positions, holding on for dear life.

    Just when I thought I couldn't go on - wonder of wonders - a little life emerged.

    She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. Her rose-petal lips, her button nose, her deep blue eyes, and her soft flawless skin amazed me. At one glance, I knew I would do it all over again for her.

    It is, perhaps, one of the world's greatest ironies that such great pain can bring such great and incomparable joy.

    I am forever changed by her presence. She has brought new and glorious colors into my life and I will never be the same.

    Happy Birthday, little one!

    Thursday, September 6, 2007

    Wednesday, September 5, 2007

    Wanted: A Local Writing Group that Isn't Weird

    About six years ago, I attended a writing workshop that was hosted by the local community college. The average age of attendees was probably 45-50. Most of the attendees wanted to write novels. Most were a little on the strange side and were probably introverts by nature.

    I definitely felt a little out of place. I wanted to write non-fiction. I was young. I was a socialite, active in my community and ambitious in my career.

    Ever since then, I've hesitated to get involved in a writing group. I'm always afraid that I will end up in a hole-in-the-wall place on the shady side of town with a group of free-spirited romantics.

    But I keep reading about authors who say that writing groups were their savior. And so many trade books echo that sentiment. They say, "Be in a group of people who can keep you accountable, get your creative juices flowing, remind you about deadlines, and encourage you in your goals."

    It sounds nice, really, but I have so many reservations. How does one go about finding a group of normal writers? Will it be a useful or futile use of my time? What if somebody steals my ideas (juvenile, I know...)?

    I went on Flickr and searched "Writing Group" and found the picture above. I know. They look like they are quite normal people - having fun, sharing insights, etc. So, there's gotta be groups out there like this...

    Somebody, convince me.

    (Photo by: Bud the Teacher)

    Monday, September 3, 2007

    More on Fringe Benefits - how to keep your employees happy...and healthy

    The exercise and diet choices of your employees are a personal matter. You certainly can't control how much Pepsi your secretary drinks or how much your colleagues work-out at the gym...or can you?

    Healthy people are happier people. They are less depressed and less sick - and, in turn, usually live a lifestyle that promotes health for their entire family. As a manager or CEO, you benefit when your employees make good fitness and dietary choices - and it doesn't hurt to encourage [and model] the desired behaviors you want.

    Try this...
    A. Partner with a local gym to offer free or discounted memberships to employees. If you want, put conditions on the offer. For example, it's only free if they go to the gym three or more times a week.
    B. If you have space, consider adding a gym and/or cafeteria and/or walking track on-site at your company.
    C. Have a local bagel shop or healthy eatery drop by in the mornings or afternoons to sell healthy snack options (bagels, fruit cups, yogurt, trail mix, etc.).
    D. Give all employees pedometers and create some kind of competition so that employees keep track of the number of steps they take per day.
    E. Let employees leave one hour early once or twice per week IF they can show proof that they went to the gym or exercised instead.
    F. Put together a company team for a local marathon or race.

    Saturday, September 1, 2007

    No-Iron Business Attire

    I'm always on-the-lookout for classy, stylish business attire that I don't have to iron or dry clean.

    Thanks to a special article about "Travel Business Wear" on Forbes.com, I just discovered the "commuter" suit separates at Lands End. The website claims that these suits can be washed and worn without ironing.

    I'm curious if these garments really hold true to their claim and, if they do, why more companies don't make similar items.

    How to Make a Job Offer More Enticing (and how to keep your current employees happy)

    All organizations (from banks to schools to coffee shops to law firms to police departments) want competent, creative, committed colleagues to join - and stay - with their organization.

    So, how exactly do you attract and keep the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the creme de la creme?

    Maybe try this:
    1. Offer relationships. People want to work with people they like - people who are positive, fun, friendly, non-gossipy, successful, forgiving, kind, high-achieving. The more you hire people that fit into this category, the more you will attract the kind of people you want. Be selective - especially of leaders and especially when you're starting a new division/department/business.
    2. Offer service opportunities. People want their work (and their life) to mean something, to count for something bigger than themselves. Why not host organization-wide service initiatives? Or give employees a personal day that can be taken specifically to complete an individual service project.
    3. Offer professional development and mentoring venues. These can be formal or informal. Pay for part or all of your employees' tuition at a local college or university. Pay for conferences: in-state and out-of-state. Have on-site trainings and workshops (perhaps even a full-fledged conference) throughout the year. Host "Career Advice and a Slice" sessions where you give pie (or pizza) and have speakers that address various career topics.
    4. Offer fringe benefits. Go above and beyond just vacation days and a 401K plan. Try other fun benefits that will cause a stir in the community. Offer flex-time work arrangements, modified schedules, and work-from-home options. Give employees a "birthday day." Put together an "all-company-read" wherein everyone reads the same book. Be creative. Be spontaneous. Your hair-brained ideas will probably help you in your hunt for the best.

    Thursday, August 30, 2007

    Fitting Fitness In

    Exercise is important to me.

    The benefits are too many to list in one blog post (lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, reduces risk of all kinds of cancers and diseases, more energy, better self-esteem, improved appearance, etc.).

    I've been thinking about how to best fit fitness into my life. My calendar is already overflowing with my marriage, my baby, my friends and family, working, blogging, reading, volunteering, cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, the list goes on.

    Before I go on, I must say that I am relatively healthy compared to the norm. I walk for 20-30 minutes every day. I rarely drink soda (as in, once every six months). I avoid excessive sugar. I drink A LOT of water. We "eat in" almost every night. We don't watch TV. And, of course, I chase my toddler around the house.

    But I don't get the kind of heart-pumping, muscle-building work-out that I should. I used to play on a womens soccer league, but I don't think that's feasible now (too much on the calendar). I considered a gym membership for about a millisecond, but I think most gyms are overrated (dirty, unimaginative, embarrassing...I'll save that for another post). We had a treadmill, but we sold it on CraigsList (too boring).

    I think the best option is probably running. Yep, good old-fashioned fitness. Low expenditure (good running shoes), high return.

    Now, if I can only fit it in...more on this on another day...

    (Photo by: timtak)

    Monday, August 27, 2007

    Values and Priorities and Blog Specializations

    I've been trying to decide what this blog should be about. Right now it's really a personal blog, which is great, but unlikely to draw a sizable audience or following. After all, there are literally millions of personal blogs out there.

    I want my blog to POP - to stand out - to make people say "wow!"

    Three of my top values are: family, education, and health. Perhaps I should blog in one of those categories. But even those "categories" are too broad.

    How did you pick your specialization? Did you just wake up one day and say, "this is it!" or were there some practical steps that you took to discover it?

    (Photo by: MontanaRaven)

    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    I Like Nice People('s blogs)

    Last week I blogged about why I read people's blogs.

    To re-cap: I read blogs that have thoughtful, solid, well-written content.

    I also read blogs that are written by nice people. I read blogs that are written by people that I would go out to lunch with or have over to my house.

    Of course, I can't say for sure if they are really nice or if they're just putting up a nice facade, but there are general rules that help me decide. Most of the people on my "must-read" blog list have a positive outlook on life - they rarely complain (unless its constructive) and they see the sunshine behind the clouds. They don't say "bad words" and they have good manners. They value things like family, health, and education. It's actually easier to ascertain "niceness" than you might presume.

    So, I read blogs of people who are nice...

    ...AND who update their blogs regularly (go a week without updating and - poof - you will probably disappear from my blog roster). Even if you're nice.

    What blogs do you read?

    Monday, August 20, 2007

    Worthwhile Writing Conferences (I'm trying to find one or two)

    I have never been to a writing conference and I've been thinking that it might be worthwhile to explore attending one. It seems like a great place to get the inside scoop on the book, magazine, and online publishing industries. It also seems like it would be productive and beneficial to meet editors and writers, to attend workshops, and to hone my writing/marketing skills.

    As I begin this investigation process, I'm wondering if you might be able to help.

    Pray, do tell...

    Which writing conferences have you:
    • attended and liked (and why)
    • attended and disliked (and why)
    • dreamed of attending (and why)
    Thanks for your help!

    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    Creating my Goals Book

    I'm "reading" The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, cocreator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul. I put parentheses around "reading" because I'm really "skimming" because the book is a whopping 473 pages and it's only halfway interesting.

    There's nothing particularly new or inspiring within the 400+ pages (and it could have been a much shorter book), but many of the concepts that he writes about are timeless and solid concepts.

    For example, Canfield suggests that the reader create a Goals Book, "Another powerful way to speed up the achievement of your goals is to create a Goals Book. Buy a three-ring binder, a scrapbook, or an 8 1/2" X 11" journal. Then, create a separate page for each of your goals. Write the goal at the top of the page and then illustrate it with pictures that you cut out of magazines, catalogues, and travel brochures...review the pages of your Goals Book every day."

    This process will not be entirely new to me. I write down my goals often. And I've done the "vision book" concept before (okay, it was when I was twelve...), but I think I'm ready to create a new one.

    Here's a sneak peek into my pages:
    • Travel to all 50 states.
    • Write a book that appears on the NY Times Best Sellers list.
    • Run in a marathon.
    • Be a "reviewer" (books, restaurants, products, travel destinations, etc.) for a magazine, newspaper, or blog.
    My goals will be much more specific when I actually create my book (Ex. I will X by 9 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2009), but that's a "sneak peek."

    What would you put in your book?

    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    Old-School Fashion Rules That Still Apply

    Like...
    • It's better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. Remember the awkwardness of the "I showed up in jeans to an event with neckties" moment.
    • Your shoes matter. Spend more money on your shoes. Even if you have only one classic pair.
    • Cleanliness and hygiene are not overrated. Brush your teeth. Wash your face. Comb your hair. Floss. Apply deodorant. Fresh, natural make-up. You get the gist.
    • Dress who you want to be like. People should judge you on your intelligence, your compassion, your sense of humor, your work ethic, etc. People should, but they often don't. Many people will judge you on your appearance and clothing choices. Dress accordingly.
    • If you're young(er), dressing up can give you credibility. You don't want to send off the "I'm your son/daughter's age" vibe.
    These are the tips that I generally consider when I pick out my outfits. I'm not a fashion expert. In fact, I plan to splurge on an image/fashion consultant when I am rich and famous.

    Until then, I'll stick with classic (but stylish) pieces, nice shoes, and good hygience. Oh, and I'll error on the side of formality.

    (Photo by: Strevo)

    Friday, August 17, 2007

    Gen X/Y: How to Dress for Success (don't wear pantyhose)

    I confess. I love reading business/leadership/self-help type books. I like to read about how people network effectively, lead efficiently, and communicate powerfully. Perhaps that's why I am so enthralled by other people's career journeys. I often find myself asking friends, acquaintances, and strangers questions like: "What did you major in?" "Where did you work before...?" "What are your future aspirations?" "How did you get from point A to point B?" I want to soak it all in.

    So, it will probably not be a shocker to you that I have read my fair share of books about professional dress. You know the ones I'm talking about - the manuals in the "dress for success" genre that tell you to "tuck in your shirt," "wear pantyhose," and "wear monochromatic colors."

    Those books are going out-of-style quick, not only because fashion changes so rapidly, but because the new rules for fashion success in the workplace are...well...different.

    Old Rule: Wear pantyhose.
    New Rule: Put them on if you are under 60 and you will certainly be a fashion pariah in the workplace. They are old school. Period.

    Old Rule: Don't wear open-toed shoes.
    New Rule: They can be professional and stylish. Choose wisely.

    Old Rule: Always tuck in your shirt.
    New Rule: Sometimes you can tuck. Sometimes you can untuck. Shirts are designed for both.

    Old Rule: Carry a briefcase.
    New Rule: What's a briefcase? Laptop bags, oversized purses, and other utility bags are the rage.

    Old Rule: Always dress up. You need to show your authority somehow.
    New Rule: Dress down sometimes. It will make you more approachable and authentic.

    Stay tuned tomorrow to hear about the fashion rules that have stayed the same.

    (Photo by: Tim Cummins)

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    How to Be a Better Blogger (and writer)

    I just read several excellent articles about - you guessed it - blogging (and writing).

    The first one is entitled "The easiest instructions for how to start a blog," written by Penelope Trunk.

    The second article, written by Marci Alboher, appeared in the New York Times: "Tools and Tips to Create Buzz Around Your Ideas."

    Marci A. also wrote an excellent piece about getting published in the print world: "Getting your first byline."

    Since I am on a perpetual quest to be both a better writer and a better blogger, I thoroughly enjoyed the tips and tidbits shared in all three of these articles.

    (Photo by: Lost in Scotland)

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    Little Known Fact About Me and T.V.

    We haven't turned on our T.V. in at least six months...hmm...maybe I should make that almost a year. The little black box sits in our living room, lonely and forsaken. Every once in a great while, we'll look over at it and comment that we almost forgot it was there.

    In many ways, our T.V. watching habits (or lack thereof) happened unconsciously. As newlyweds, we were both attending loads of classes and working part time so it never quite fit into our crammed schedules. As the months and years passed, we, quite frankly, didn't understand its appeal. It was a screen of dancing images that required neither intellect nor interactivity. Instead, it encouraged a certain apathy and inertia that we were not particularly fond of. Then, our little girl entered our lives and created a contented sort of chaos - and we simply forgot about T.V. No specific rhyme or reason to our choice; we just found that the busyness of our lives left no room for it. In between work, writing, blogging, cleaning, cooking, laundry, walking, playing, reading, singing, sleeping, volunteering, talking, and making to-do lists...there is little time left for lethargy.

    So, that's my little secret. I don't watch T.V. It's a bit counterculture (and, for some reason, I avoid the topic because people tend to think that you must be somehow strange or snobby if you are not in tune with the "telly"), but it's just a simple fact of our lives. Don't judge me because I don't watch American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. Oh, and please don't assume that I don't know the big shocker from the latest episode. I do. I hear about it constantly on the radio or by reading stories and blogs of news reporters online.

    So, strike up a conversation. I may not watch T.V., but, in our society, you don't really even have to watch it to get the inside scoop. (Maybe that's why we don't turn it on.)

    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Sept. 24: National Thank You Day (thank someone today and win free chocolate)

    I'm a big fan of writing thank you notes.

    I write them for almost everything. I wrote two yesterday - one to a family friend who bought my daughter a gift and one to the former editor of the community newspaper where I freelance for writing me a glowing recommendation letter.

    When I am grateful for someone's kindness or generosity or friendship, I like to actually say it.

    So I was excited when I stumbled across the National Thank You Day contest. All you have to do to enter is write an essay of 150 words or less about someone you would like to thank and why. If your essay wins, then your nominee wins a prize of your choosing (up to $20,000). Plus, ALL eligible nominations will receive two boxes of chocolate FREE.

    Go enter today and express your gratitude (and don't you dare do it just for the free chocolate). :)

    The deadline is August 24.

    Sunday, August 12, 2007

    Query Letters for Magazine Articles

    I have several magazine articles tucked away comfortably in my computer folders, waiting for me to dust them off and send them to a magazine for consideration. The articles are patiently awaiting adoption by an editor who will give them residence on the glossy pages of a publication.

    Today, I pulled up one of those articles and then set about to do a bit of research on a few magazines that might be interested in it. I googled "writers guidelines" (it would be much easier if I had a subscription to Writers Market, by the way) and began my investigation, dreaming of my name in print.

    I came upon what I consider to be one of the great mysteries of freelance writing for magazines: why editors prefer receiving a query letter (one-page "pitch") to the actual magazine article itself. I certainly understand why this would be the case with a full length book, but why would an editor prefer to read a sales pitch as opposed to a full-length article (especially when both documents are about the same length...)?

    If you are a magazine editor (or even a more informed writer than I am), please do enlighten me on the reasons for this archaic tradition.

    P.S. Here are some magazines that I'd like to write for/get published in: American Baby, BabyTalk, Fit Pregnancy, Time, Business Week, Working Mother, and American Girl (for starters).