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Career & Resources, Family, Health

Why Limit Happy to An Hour: One fun interview

When I started this blog I was most excited about interviewing people about a range of topics from building their businesses, to tips on how they implement special things in their life that would benefit others, to general philosophical views on happiness and personal inspiration. I’m so excited, because today I’m sharing an interview with Brian, who shares his life with Tommy, and both are a couple of fun guys from North Alabama. When the blog first began, I had people that I know tell me that they would be the absolute best people to interview. They’ve been together for fifteen years and today they’re talking about a range of things, including their background, their spin on Dubsmash videos, their fun Christmas card tradition and how they stay positive.

Where are you from? Where did you grow up?

Tommy and I are both from North Alabama. Tommy is from Decatur and I’m from Moulton. Although we didn’t meet until college at the University of Alabama, our parents only live about 10 minutes apart. Tommy went to a city school and I went to county high and he’s two years ahead of me in school.

Tell me something unique about your upbringing.

Hahaha, neither of us feel that we had a truly unique upbringing. Both of us had amazing childhoods! Something we have in common is that our parents are still married. Tommy’s until his mother passed away and mine are still going strong! In this day and age, that is something that not everyone can say; not that it’s a positive or negative, it’s just a fact about us. Also, we both were able to know and spend time with all four of our grandparents and those memories are such a treasure!

Tell me a little bit about your daily grind.

Our days start early and finish late! Through the week, we wake up at 5 am, go to boot camp with Erin at 4 Shore Fit, back home to shower, grab lunches, and head to work; we own a hair salon. We work from around 8 am until about 8 pm, then head home to tidy up the lunch dishes, wind down for a few minutes with conversation about our day, and hit the bed as close to 9 or 9:30 pm as possible! On the weekends, we generally host company at our home or are out of town. Our shared hobbies include travel and entertaining. On those random down-time weekends, you’ll always find us by the pool or at the beach, Kindle in hand; we’re both avid readers! We don’t even own a TV, our house is filled with music from the moment we wake up until we go to bed.

People generally see you as a positive person. Where do you think your positive attitude stems from?

Having a positive attitude is a conscious choice! We wake up every morning with a purpose to be positive and share that same feeling! We also surround ourselves with people who share our same outlook- your vibe attracts your tribe! Life happens to everyone, but our reactions are what make us who we are and Tommy and I choose to be happy, positive, and outstanding! We’re the Sunshine Boys!!

Tell me a little bit about your relationship with Tommy and how that came about.

Tommy and I met in college and had a brief fling, but after college, I went back to North Alabama and Tommy stayed in Tuscaloosa. We would bump into each other periodically over the next ten years, in the mall, at a restaurant, anytime Tommy was home for the holidays. Then, one fall, I saw his sister and brother-in-law (whom I also knew) and passed my phone number along, asking them to share it with Tommy. I was planning to be in Tuscaloosa for a wedding and thought we could meet for drinks- no big deal. Tommy called and mentioned that he’d be in near my home in Decatur before the wedding and asked if we could get together then and of course the answer was yes! It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and I was working late at a salon there, Tommy was doing dinner with his family and we agreed to meet afterwards. I get to the meeting spot for dinner and grabbed a table for four (Tommy said that his sister and brother-in-law wanted to come along). The two of them arrived just after I did, then another guy and his wife come in a pull up a table to join us- which turned out to be Tommy’s brother and his wife- then a cute blond curly hair gal comes in a sits down with us (Tommy’s sister from Memphis)- and finally, Tommy showed up, apologetic with good-natured laughter. HIS WHOLE FAMILY IS CHAPERONING OUR FIRST OFFICIAL DATE! But it all turned out as it should and that evening is our anniversary; we haven’t been apart since and we’re going strong 15 years later!

How do you and Tommy hold each other accountable for taking on a more positive spin for life?

We hold each other accountable through conversation and commitment, especially since we don’t have the distraction of TV. We do find that it allows us more face-to-face chat time and those moments and conversations are when we reaffirm our desire to be beacons of light and hope and kindness to everyone we encounter! Each weekend, we do long walks around our neighborhood or at the beach and just chat about the world and everything in it. Sometimes our conversations are light and sometimes we solve all the problems of the world; we can be very philosophical!

I understand you have a ritual for drafting up your Christmas cards each year. Can you tell me a little bit about that ritual?

Christmas cards are a big deal to Tommy! It’s something he looks forward to doing every year! We also work hard to be inclusive of all of our friend; we send Christmas cards, Hanukkah cards, Kwanzaa cards, Solstice cards, and Thinking of You cards. Receiving a card that lets others know we appreciate how a person celebrates the holiday season is exactly what is special about that time of year! We start writing the cards in August, collecting updated addresses, and sorting our list. This all happens on the beach or by the pool and some people have even commented about finding sand in their card! And to commemorate the season, we HAVE to sip on Poinsettias (champagne and cranberry juice) while all of this is happening!

You have a reputation for your humor. Tell me about your dubsmash videos and other things you do to keep things light and upbeat.

Our Dubsmash videos are a highlight of our life together! (PS- the Elvis version was linked for Memphis followers but follow their account for more videos). Laughter together and my persistence for prefect videos makes our dubs shine. We share the spotlight, sometimes the background dance moves can overshadow the lead performer! We take requests and if we go too long without posting a Dubsmash, friends always comment on how these funny snippets of our life are missed. We have been told that we make people’s days and how often they share them with others. We’ve done them by the pool, on vacation, in the car, on a walk, with friends- basically everywhere!! That app is endless hours of fun and excitement! We will think of a singer or a band and just have a weekend of dubbing with them.

Are you intentional about your interactions with others? Do you have a philosophy on the mark you hope to leave on others?

I can’t say that we actually and intentionally deliver happiness on others, we just simply try to share in our own passion for life and living each moment to the fullest. We saw a cocktail napkin once that said “Why Limit Happy To An Hour?!?” and took it to heart!

Any favorite shows, podcasts, books or music that you’d like to share?

As I mentioned earlier, at home our music choice is generally background, upbeat sound, but when we run our 5Ks, we have definite anthems we like to pace ourselves with. Working in a salon, our days are filled with conversation and pop hits so at home it’s a bit more subdued. As far as books go, we love to read for escapism and pleasure. Everyday life is real enough, when reading we look for adventure and get-aways. We love books that invoke emotion within us- laughter, tears, joy, peace- emotions are a gift, and we like to show and share ours freely!! There is a fabulous book by Giovani Livera called ‘Live a Thousand Years: Have the Time of Your Life’– we’ve both read it and do try to stay on point with the message of the book. It’s all about moments and experiences. We also share the book ‘The Five Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman with friends and clients often. It’s about how we each share and receive love, and how we aren’t all the same, but when we know another person’s love language it makes the communication so much more fulfilling!

Anything else to share?

We are currently working on being present in the moment, whether it be by ourselves, with just each other, with a group of people, or one-on-one with someone else, just focusing on that moment and the task or activity at hand. People truly appreciate conversations where you actually look them in the eye, don’t think ahead on the conversation, smile, and give them your full attention. When alone, we try to keep our mind focused on what we are doing at that particular time and enjoying the experience of it. For example, gardening is so much more fun when you put your full mind, body, and soul into what you’re planting. I guess you could call it mindfulness- that’s our new focus!

Career & Resources, Family, Health

Friday Favorites {7.14.17}

Hey it’s Friday! As my son would say, only one more day until we get to “just hang-out”. As working parents we sure cherish weekend family “hang-out” time with our kids.

This past week was my first week back to work after a long stay-cation and I’m hanging by a thread. I’m so thankful I’ll get to charge my batteries soon!

As for fun Friday favorites, I thought I’d share some of my favorite ways on how we recharge.

1.Coffee helps you live longer!

It’s no secret on this site that I love, love coffee. If you love coffee too then you’ll appreciate this new announcement that talks about the new-found benefits to drinking coffee. Coffee is my first line of defense for a mid-week recharge! In fact, our office carries the local brand Ugly Mug  (pictured below) which most of our office is extremely happy about. PS: If you live in Memphis, the I Love Memphis Instagram account is capturing Memphian’s favorite coffee spots.

 

2. This Book

I started reading this book this week and it has been captivating so far. It gets to the point immediately, doesn’t drag on setting up the opening scene and has me wanting to flip to the end to see what happens (no one else does that?) It’s definitely a great read for escaping a busy week.

3. This article

I am doing research for a project a work regarding mentoring and I came across this article. Listen, if you’re not in business that doesn’t mean you don’t need to rely on people to mentor you for guidance and insight. This article reviews ideas on what to talk about with a mentor (which can sometimes be awkward); I found it to be so refreshing. It actually got me excited about my next mentor conversation.

4. This podcast

This podcast was actually a recorded public speaking event for Jen Hatmaker. If you listen, keep that in mind that it was recorded at a conference and she does refer to a few things they put on screen that you’re obviously not going to be able to see on the podcast. However all that aside, I just loved the message, how she tied her knowledge and conclusion together, and I always love the personal insertion she incorporates in her speeches of her everyday family life. It is a Christian message and basically indicates the importance of being a faith mentor.

5. We’re gardening!

Well sort of. We bought plants at Lowe’s and we put them in pots with dirt. Every night my son is watering them. This is a huge step for us because I basically kill every living plant. Check out these plant boxes. Aren’t they inspiring? If we get serious we may upgrade to a more elaborate set-up. For now, we’re sitting on our porch, eating ice cream after dinner and watering our plants to help us recharge. I also found the pretty outdoor pillow pictured below at Lowes, because after all this gardening I need a chair with a pillow to relax in!

 

PS: This random picture just makes me happy! A petting zoo came to the kid’s school and my daughter ran right up to the Llama and gave him a big fat hug while screaming Llama Llama! She knows the animal from this book.

What are your Friday favorites? I’d love to hear. This weekend we don’t have much planned other than pool-time and family time. I also get to head to Dinner Club! Last weekend was pretty full so we’re looking forward to low-key plans. Stay tuned for a fun interview I’ll be posting this Saturday. Happy weekend.

 

Career & Resources, Family

This Mom of 3 heads to China Each Day

Today I am interviewing Hope O’Briant. She recently moved with her family to New York, but she’s originally from the small town of Milan, TN and spent most of her entire childhood there. She has an interesting new job that allows her to support her families’ schedule and I thought it’d be fun to share her story for those readers out there that are looking for a similar, more flexible work schedule.


Hi Hope! Tell me a little bit about your background.

I am new New Yorker/city girl! I spent nearly my entire childhood in the tiny town of Milan, TN where my dad is still an optometrist and mom was a special education teacher before leaving that profession to run my dad’s office.

I moved to Oxford, MS for college at Ole Miss and then to Memphis for law school where I stayed for nearly 20 years.  We recently moved to NYC for my husband’s job, he’s in the financial industry. He’s been wanting to make the move to NYC for at least the last couple of years.

Our middle child, Lily Brooks, is a professional actress and was ‘Matilda’ in the US tour of the Broadway show ‘Matilda the Musical’. I am not a big fan of cold weather so I was a holdout.  After Lily Brooks finished her run as Matilda, my husband said it was time for the move and I realized it was time for me to let go of things I love and find new things to love, because a move to NYC was truly the best thing for the majority of our family.

While I still REALLY don’t like the cold weather, I do LOVE NYC and we are thankfully settled into this lifestyle.

I do NOT miss driving everywhere and adore the subway and endless cultural opportunities at our fingertips.

 

 

Tell me about your unique employment background.

I was an attorney until the birth of our second child when I moved to practicing on a contract basis and stayed home with our children.  When our 3rd child turned two years old, I quit practicing law and started a swim lesson business from my home.  I had taught swimming lessons in high school and had been a life guard.  Around the time I decided to stop practicing law, my dear friend, Erin Bladon, who had taught swimming in Germantown for 15 years, announced she was moving to Texas and I asked Erin who I should send other moms to when they ask about a good swim instructor.  She said, “Hope, you should take over for me.  You are a great teacher and would love this!”

I was reluctant because it had been so many years but I also had worked with my own children and other friends’ kids.  It seemed to be a gift and I was passionate about making sure children knew how to confidently swim and enjoy it.  I took my re-certification class and started teacher later that summer.  I have always been intrigued by marketing and worked hard to build Ms. Hope’s Summer Swim School through social media and staying true to my philosophy to give parents the tools/information to help their swimmers to safely and confidently succeed as happy swimmers.

I posted tips every day and shared as much as possible to help parents understand what their children were learning and ways to help them improve their swimming skills before and after my classes. My first goal was to make a difference in these children’s lives and I wanted the parents to know every trick in my book to help their children to become safe in the water. The business part was second.

When you moved to New York, what inspired you to start working again?

Well, NYC is super expensive and after getting the family settled into life here, I knew I needed to find part-time work. I am licensed to practice law in TN, MS, and AR but not NY, so finding an attorney position wasn’t likely.  I love to teach swimming but I realized it wasn’t exactly economically feasible with such limited access to pools.

A theater mom friend whose daughter was in the national tour of ‘Annie’ told me about VIPKid and how much she loved it.  So I thought I would give it a try and see if it fit my schedule. I needed something flexible because we have three children, two who I home-school and one who has auditions often at the last minute. VIPKid has been the perfect fit.

Tell us a little more about the VIPKid program and your daily work life.

VIPKid is a virtual classroom for Chinese kids (approximately ages 4-12) to learn from native North American English speakers. The company provides pre-made lessons for students with varying levels of the English language. Each class is 25-28 minutes long and you (the teacher) click through the lesson slides with the student via a video chat program.

The teaching schedule is based on the needs of the students in China. Right now peak times on CST (I’m on EST time) are 6am-8am and also Friday and Sat evenings. My typical schedule right now is Mon-Sun & Friday from 6am-9:30 am and Saturday evenings from 9pm-11:30 or midnight. There’s a shift in the summer which begins July 1st and lasts until September 1 when their schools starts again.  I hear the summer schedule can be as full as you would like.

VIPKid pays $14-$22/hour, depending on your experience, education, interview success, and work ethic each month. Since it is a Chinese company, the pay is a little different than what Americans are used to. Pay starts at $7-$9/lesson. Remember, each lesson is a 30 minute time block.  Here are some specifics of how the bonus pay works.

*Not showing up for classes and/or not fulfilling your requirements results in a pay deduction. That said, if you are committed to the job, don’t let this pay process concern you.

What are the requirements to start working as an instructor with VIPKid? 

The minimum requirements are to be a native North American English speaker (although you do not have to currently reside in North America), a Bachelor’s degree (does not have to be in education), and at least one year of teaching experience (does not have to be a formal public school teaching job). In my interview process I referenced my 8+ years of teaching swimming and my homeschooling teaching experience.  You don’t have to have a teaching certificate. You do need a webcam and very reliable high speed internet.

The lessons are all pre-made, consist of approximately 25-30 slides, and are based on the student’s current level. They are meant to be very interactive so you may be singing, playing charades, drawing, and otherwise having fun with the students. Teachers are required to have at least a white board, flashcards or letter magnets, and a plushy/puppet – all of which can be purchased very inexpensively at the dollar store, or “borrowed” from your kids.

What advice do you have for someone that would like to get started with VIPKid? 

  • Find a mentor to help you
  • Do your homework
  • Practice, practice, practice for your interview demo lesson and mock lessons

A fellow theatre mom helped me along the way and I know it made all of the difference.

This isn’t a traditional classroom setting.  My friend Sarah says it is 1/2 teaching and 1/2 acting or improv and she is completely right! You have to use your hands to act out a lot to help the child learn. VIPKid has grown so rapidly that their founder is SUPER concerned about finding quality teachers who can adapt to the online classroom style that VIPKid demands. They want positive, encouraging, friendly teachers who make this fun for the children.

 

I am sure the students appreciate your teaching heart so much; what are you learning through the program?

I have REALLY REALLY missed teaching my swim babies. Ok, so I know most weren’t really babies, but I saw each sweet student as my own and I miss their smiles, their victories and being able to feel like I was making a difference by using the gifts God gave me.

I love being able to be goofy and make these kids smile and help them learn in a fun way. I love to help them learn and watch their victories just like I could with my swim students. Most of the Chinese students’ school atmosphere is usually the traditional and a very regimented Chinese mindset so VIPKid wants very positive, encouraging, fun teachers to help the children love to learn English.

What type of qualities do you think it takes to work for this program?

Patience is KEY, lots of energy, great listening skills, the ability to be super goofy to get a smile and not care how silly you look. Being sincere and encouraging is important. Most of the Chinese children see us at 7, 8, 9 or even 9:30 at night when they have class during the week. A lot of these children wake up at 6 am with a school day that runs up to 10 hours, and they have even more lessons after school with a LOT of homework. It is our job to help them enjoy learning at the end of a long day, and most of the time that takes just a little effort to be goofy to get a smile from them.

Are their opportunities for advancement or expansion with the program?

Occasionally VIPKid offers additional positions to teachers who have been around for a while. Typically, these are Practicum Evaluators and Teacher Mentor positions. Contracts last 6 months at a time, and teachers have an opportunity to receive a raise when their contract is renewed, based on their performance during the previous contract period.

There are also a LOT of options for bonuses and incentives. For example some teachers have received bonuses for their 3 month anniversary, substituting, working during the holiday season, referring “amazing teachers,” and if a new student signs up after taking a trial class with that teacher. Every month VIPKid seems to offer some sort of competition, bonus, or incentive program.

Anything else?

People may be interested to know that VIPKid pays once a month via direct deposit by the 15th of each month.

If you’re thinking about applying, I would LOVE for you to use my referral link OR referral code-033FLQ.

VIPKid encourages current teachers to help new teachers with the process by rewarding us with a little extra bonus each month. Feel free to contact me if you’re interested and would like coaching through the application process or a mentor once you get started with the program.

So far it has been a wonderful journey for me!


Thanks Hope! What an inspiring career you have had fulfilling so many children and clients with your energy and passion in all these fields. And what a fun and interesting new job you have! 

Career & Resources, Family

A Career Mom Turns Her College Gig into a Calling

This Mother’s Day my mom will be visiting. She used to visit me every year for Mother’s Day, but next year I will have to share her with my sister who is expecting her first baby in August (but I can’t wait for that!).

Being a mom can be one of the most difficult jobs, and I hope your Mother’s Day celebration, either with your mom, as a mom, or for another mom in your life let it be a wonderful celebration of love and merriment.

Today Cherisse Hixson, mom and resident of Tennessee, is sharing all about how she honors moms and got inspiration from her own mom. I chose her to share her story because she exudes an aura of overall cheerfulness in her community and she’s always taking care of other women and lifting them up. She has a way of shining light on her friends and generally everyone she meets.

She carries goody bags in her car and distributes them to strangers she interacts with that may be having a wicked day or season in life. As a Mary Kay consultant she volunteers at local elementary school career fairs to inspire young women by sharing the Mary Kay philosophy. She conducted a make-over challenge in March where she treated 100 women in her community to a make-over that she organized over wine, coffee, in the back of Panera’s and at her home. Her life is a testament to taking care of others. I hope you have a friend like Cherisse; someone that inspires you to live life shining light onto others.

Where are you from? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Park Rapids, Minnesota and we moved to Naperville, Illinois when I was in Kindergarten and lived there until I was in 6th grade. That’s when we finally moved to Memphis and have been here since (or at least within a one hour radius).

Tell me something unique about your upbringing.

From about the time I can remember (starting at around 5 years old until I was about 11 years old) I spent the summers at my grandparent’s lake resort. They owned Big McDonald Resort in Dent, Minnesotta, with eight cabins right on the water, and a lodge for people to come play cards, games and watch TV and it was attached to my grandparents’ home. My parents would bring me up in May and I came back home right before school started in August and I learned at a very young age how to serve others and make them feel important; that was what my grandparents did.

Tell me a little bit about your philosophy on interacting with others and how you find a way to spread joy.

I think it is just something that is inside my soul or in my blood. My mom has raised us to recognize that everyone we come in contact with has a sign around their neck that says “make me feel important”. Not only did she teach us those values but she SHOWED us by example, whether we were at Walmart, checking out at the grocery store or if it was a friend or neighbor, my mother knows no stranger. Even though I rolled my eyes as a teenager, I came to find that more is CAUGHT than TAUGHT.
It is simply the Golden Rule and what we deeply believe inside our hearts exudes out of us and unto others. I am also religious and I truly believe through my faith that we may be the only Jesus that anyone knows. I MESS UP all the time but as a general rule I really do intentionally try and get out of my own head and make someone that I’m interacting with feel special on a daily basis.

Where does your positive attitude stem from?

My mom started her Mary Kay business when I was 5 years old; a business model that adopts the Golden Rule and prioritizes faith first, family second, and career third. My mom also had positive affirmations and scripture all over our home, leadership training tapes playing during our rides to and from school, and goal posters up on her office/laundry room door. This played a huge role in how I learned to have a great attitude.
I remember one time in particular, during a cold winter day, my mom drove me and a friend to middle school, and she had finally heard enough of our bad attitudes. She rolled down all four of the car windows and said, “Girls negativity out the window! Until you girls change your attitude, these windows stay down!” I don’t think my friend ever said another negative word around my mom again; she knew there was no room for that in our home.

Now I’m the one enforcing positivity towards my own son these days.

I know that you interact with your community quite a bit. How are you intentional in sharing your joyful philosophy?

I wish I could take credit for my community involvement, but to be honest it I am not that intentional about making it happen. I stand in awe of the friends, women, relationships and interactions that the Lord puts in my path daily. Honestly, my biggest prayer lately is, “Lord just let me slow down, be still, and be aware of your presence, and walk in obedience. Let me steward these sweet relationships you place in front of me well”. I hope to be known as the woman who loves others really well, encourages them, and when they leave my space, they in turn can pour back into someone else what they have received.

Tell me a little bit about your career and how that came about.

I really started my own business with Mary Kay unintentionally. I called home as a scared, broke and very lonely 18-year-old, living in a new city and reporting to a college campus, complaining about all of the above to my mother. I mentioned to her that I had looked everywhere for a part-time job that would work around my school schedule and I kept coming up short and frustrated.
Of course, my mother being who she is, saw an opportunity for me to meet friends, learn business skills, people skills and Mary Kay values, all while earning the extra income I needed in college. Unbeknownst to me, my mom filled out my MK paperwork and gifted me a MK starter kit and business! At the time I was not very grateful, scared out of my mind, and feeling inadequate, but she believed in me and never let me quit on myself.
I am forever grateful that she always told me “you can do it” and “just keep going”. It was her encouragement along with the other women I had the opportunity to interact with through the MK business, that have mentored me for over eighteen years, why I have been forever changed. My son Drew, and husband Matt, have also been impacted by thousands of woman I have been able to meet and come into contact with over the years. They have influenced and inspired all of us.

Mother’s day is a special holiday and you’re a mom. What are you especially thankful for this year on Mother’s Day?

This year on Mothers Day I am thankful all of the blessings I have been graced with! I feel so many prayers I have prayed about over the last decade have come true: closing on a home of our own in a neighborhood we have aspired to live in, having a community of friends who gather at our home weekly and encourage us in our marriage, as parents and as individuals, and a church family that surrounds us and helps us grow. As I go through this list of things I am most grateful for, I could sum it up by saying that I am most grateful for the relationships we have an opportunity to experience.

What does your Mother’s Day usually look like?

This is so funny to think about, but if my mom were in town she would say all she wants for Mother’s Day is to be with her kids, but she would also say she wants some KFC! I have no idea why she thinks that is so incredible but that is what she has always wanted on Mother’s Day.

How do you honor other moms on mother’s day through your business?

Honoring moms should be something all of us do more than just one day of the year because being a mom is seriously one of the hardest things we as woman do. The best way I know how to love on moms all year long is to invite them over, allow them to slow down, brew them a cup of tea or coffee and place it on a girlie cup and saucer, and serve them well. I allow them time to share their hearts with me and just listen. Sometimes I even share their story and encourage other moms! What a gift to allow women a break from serving someone else for even just an hour and allow them time to share their heart.

I truly believe the Lord lays friends on our heart that could use some extra prayer or even just an invitation to have coffee and spend time around a table visiting and sharing life. I am so guilty of being on my phone or computer and I intentionally work on being more present by getting off of social media and reaching out to a friend by saying: “Hey would you like to come over for coffee. It would be so nice to just have time with you”. I heard the best quote from a man named Soup Campbell (really that’s his name) and he was teaching that “we are known by the feet who are gathered around our tables”. I love that!!

Anything else to share?

I heard a great piece of wisdom from business coach, Bob Williumsun, who is an Executive Coach for many CEO’s here in my city and also a dynamic marriage coach. He said that two things to focus on daily that can have a compound effect on our lives immensely are these:
1. Make it a goal daily to grow in a personal relationship with Jesus and get to know him more through spending time in His word.
2. Ask yourself daily: Have I added value to someone else’s life?
If those are my ONLY two goals each day, I can lay my head on the pillow at night and know that I had a win for today and over the entire course of my life!

Thank you Cherisse! I am so inspired by your positive attitude and positive influence over others! Have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend everyone!

Career & Resources, Health

The Best Salsa Dancers Wear White Pointy Shoes

Once upon a time I went to a restaurant called Bongos, owned by Gloria Estefan, and I fell in love with Salsa dancing. It’s a Cuban restaurant, and in the center is a very large dance floor where you can find, on occasion, very experienced Salsa dancers, of all ages, showcasing their talent right there while you munch on chips and dip. The thing about Salsa is that draws you in with this whisper of hope that makes you believe that if you had just the right amount of lessons that you could competitively hold your own on an episode of Dancing with the Stars (says the very hopeful and inspired two-left feet individual).

Salsa Lessons, Level 1

I eventually stumbled upon Yuca, a restaurant in South Beach that had early evening lessons organized by Salsa Fever Dance School, and a post-lesson dancing forum. The school taught Cuban Rueda style salsa, which is a choreographed, circle, group approach to the dance where you switch partners (often and quickly) and a lead quickly belts out the next move over music. The move names are in Spanish, and this fun fact, paired with my previous dancing history, lead to one big social experiment for me. Thankfully, when I casually mentioned that I was going to be taking Salsa lessons to my Latin America and Caribbean- blooded co-workers, about five of them exclaimed, “we are coming with you”. I took this to be more of a demand than a request. And so, we all headed to South Beach’s Lincoln Road every Friday for liquid courage and lessons. Our weekly routine consisted of practicing our moves during breaks in the office each week, while the rest of our co-workers observed and critiqued, intrigued and entertained by our newfound hobby.

Yuca Lounge, South Beach

I bought salsa shoes, struggled through steps, attempted to learn Spanish, researched the history and types of Salsa, and I squashed a whole lot of feet. Here’s the thing about immersing yourself in someone else’s culture: It has this tendency to sneak into your being slow and steady, and all at once it’s overcome you as if you were part of it all along. Through my struggle to keep up, I had a heightened awareness of how unique and intriguing the whole experience was, and at times I would stop in awe that I was even a part of it.

Graceful, Pointy, White Shoes

When arrived at my first class and I snubbed my nose at the white shoes of some of the male salsa dancers. I gawked at the unfashionable, pointy, glaringly awful white shoes. But guess what? These shoes were the key to picking out the best dance partners; the ones that could carry you along and promised not to step on your feet. I learned to shut up about the shoes and pay attention to the presence of an individual and their interaction with others. I learned to appreciate the mere grace that a partner would provide me, after I ungracefully stomped on their feet over the next several hours. That grace transpired through the flash of a smile, and the guidance to the spot on the floor where I was actually supposed to be, selflessly making me look seemingly flawless.

Me in an awkward dip with an instructor who wore white shoes

The men with the white shoes were also some of the older gentlemen that would arrive during the open dance portion of the evening. They could very well be in their 80’s, on their arm toting a matching 80-something Cuban bride. I will tell you, without exaggeration, that I would never in my life dance anywhere in close proximity to that couple because they were wining the Yuca Dancing with the Stars competition. I, however, was was shamefully scurrying to the deepest, darkest corner to hide. Wasn’t it past their bedtime?!? THEY WEREN’T AGING! They were showing up every single person on the floor and I was limping away with blisters, fifty years younger. This is when I decided that I wanted to be Latin (I joke, I joke- no really I wished that a Latin family would adopt me nearly an entire year).

Salsa Level 1, the basics

When Salsa Steps Inspires Confidence

It is a special thing to learn a culture in an environment where people give you grace. When I was completely butchering their language and stomping on their feet,  these people extended their hands and gently took me aside to teach me the way and revealed to me that attitude was the most important part. Forgetting my self-consciousness and opening my eyes to the celebration of life was what Salsa, my instructors, and my co-workers refined in me. These dancers taught me that it wasn’t about the age or the shoes, it was about self-assurance and practice,  commitment to learning the dance and showing up again and again after feeling like the worst dancer in the room. This experience was about setting heights on dancing into my 80’s, well after eleven PM, with unmatched poise and a passion for living la vida loca, “the crazy life”.

 

Part of my confidence came from Salsa lessons! What scary and daring situations have you tried that has built you up?

 

Career & Resources

Visual Notetaking

For the last two years, I have had a hard time deciding how to take notes at work. I think it’s the slow transition of disappearing paper, my constant aching back from heavy notebook-filled bags, the phenomenon of this visual social media age, and my recent obsession with the computer program Microsoft One Note. Although, popping open your computer and typing out notes isn’t acceptable in all scenarios. Sometimes hiding behind your computer screen gives the seeming impression to others that you’re not listening. Detailing multiple pages of notes with pen and paper also seems ineffective.

Enter my new fascination with visual note-taking. I was first introduced to it when my company hired someone to visually take notes for a large meeting, representing one massive collage of ideas. It was a three-day documentation depicted on one large paper, presented in a very graphic format. It was as if watching the visual note-taker, and how they presented the information from the speaker, was as engaging as the actual speaker. In the end, people took pictures of the masterpiece, a forever, and beautiful summary of the meeting highlights. Instead of filling up notebooks full of details, it forces one to summarize a take-away on one page.

I’d love to put together a visual note coloring/doodle sheet for my audience when I give a presentation and see how it’s perceived. I think it would be a lot less paper and invite people to write their own notes. After the meeting attendees would have a one sheet leave-behind of the content merged with their ideas and insight on the discussion. This could also work for displaying development plans in a more visual way. Core77 has a list of tips for visual note-taking that could be helpful. For more visual ideas, check out Pinterest.

Do you take visual notes at work? Would you try it? Here are a few fun examples on the web.

Visual notes from sunnibrown.com

 

Visual post from magamaps.com

 

 

Career & Resources

Renting your Home Online: One Homeowner’s Experience

A few weekends ago my family and I met in Birmingham, AL for a few days. It’s the perfect meeting place halfway between Memphis and Pensacola. I was especially excited to pick out our AirBnb house.  I chose the “Cozy House on the Bluff”, a house described to be located in Bluff Park, atop a more mountainous area, perfect for six people, and not far from a popular mall with lots of shopping and restaurants. The weather was giving us a spring tease and the picture of a porch overlooking a large-sized backyard caught my attention and I knew I had to scoop it off the market for our fun weekend away.

We had a chance to enjoy the yard before we left.

We had a convenient check-in and once we were all settled, and noticed the especially well-kept cabinets and organized drawers, we couldn’t help but wonder more about the rental process for someone who resides in home when it’s not rented. Erica, owner of the “Cozy House on the Bluff” and native of Birmingham, AL, was kind enough to share her experience with me.


Q: What made you decide to start renting your house through AirBnb?

I try to travel frequently and often use AirBnb, Inc. myself, so I decided to start hosting to help me save for an upcoming trip to Thailand. Once I got into it, I realized I’d have the money saved in no time & could also start planning some home renovations.

Q: How long have you been renting out your home?

Not long at all! I’ve been hosting since December 2016.

Q: How often do you rent your home?

When I started to host I figured I would wait to see if it was even worth doing. Once I got the first booking they just kept coming in! Who knew a Birmingham suburb would be so popular? I rent at least every other week, but lately it’s been almost every weekend. I even have some week-long bookings coming up.

My son enjoying the hammock in the backyard.

Q: Where do you go when your place is rented out?

One of the reasons I knew I would be able to host is because I have several homing options when I have guests. I usually stay a few minutes away with family, and in some instances I have been out of town myself.

Q: What do your friends and family think about you renting out your home?

Most people I talk to think it’s a great idea. My brother-in-law is even considering renting out a room in his house to enjoy a little extra income.

Q: What are some of the strangest things people have left after their stay?

Luckily, no one has left anything strange. All I have come across so far are socks and food left in the fridge.

Q: What are some of the strangest questions people have asked or requests people have made?

I haven’t had any super strange requests, yet. Most of my guests have come to the area to see family. I do have a pending request from someone to barter services. The proposal came from photographers and they are offering pictures in exchange for two nights- I’m still undecided!

Erica’s cozy porch

Q: Have you met any interesting people through this experience? Have you ever kept in touch with any of them?

I’ve had all kinds of different guests, everyone has been very respectful, but no one I’ve kept in touch with.

Q: Are there any hidden perks to renting through AirBnb (besides the rental money) that someone may not have considered?

There are some tax write offs available (mostly items you buy for guests). I’ve had a few guests leave me gifts too!

Q: What’s the thing that worried you (or still worries you) the most about renting out your home?

There are lots of things that make me a little nervous to rent out my house. For starters, I live in a family-friendly neighborhood, so I’m always worried that guests will not be respectful of the neighborhood. My neighbors are aware that I rent out my house, so at least I’ll know if something happens. I also get worried that I’ll come home and my house will be ruined, thank god for insurance! It does bother me a bit that people sleep in my bed and I thought that might be a deal breaker, but I’ve been ok so far! It helps that I use different linens and comforters than those I provide for my guests.

My son snuggled up like a bug in the “Cozy House on the Bluff” bed.

Q: What surprised you the most about renting your home through AirBnb that you may not have known or thought about before you started?

I was surprised how easy it is. AirBnb handles all the financial components & really all the host does is accept inquiries and get the house ready. The biggest issue when I come home is doing laundry. I hate folding laundry and making beds!

Q: What you would tell someone that is interested in participating in AirBnb?

I would recommend double checking your insurance policy. I had to add a policy for short-term rentals so that guests would be covered. Also, be sure to look into tax information for your state. Alabama already takes out occupancy taxes, so I don’t have to worry about that, but that’s not always the case. I would also tell them to leave their house the way they’d expect a rental to look. I want to go somewhere that is comfortable! And somewhere that has coffee, because I don’t want to go straight to the store when I travel.

My husband and I enjoying a little coffee on the front porch.

Erica has a dog and she encourages her guests to bring their furry friends with them by making her home dog-friendly with dog toys and a backyard a dog could dream about.

Thank you Erica! I want all the drawers in my home to be as neat and tidy as the ones at her place. 

Have you used AirBnb? Would you ever consider renting out your home?