Monthly Archives: July 2013

How to Make It Easy for Pinners to Visit Your Blog

Last week my guest blogger, Kim Vandel, introduced the Pin It Bookmarklet. It was awesome to learn a new Cool Tool by reading my own blog!  Gentle Readers, today she has a tip in using Pinterest to gain readers, not just pinners. 

imageKim Vandel is a writer and voracious reader from the Seattle suburbs, and she’s the Public Relations Coordinator for Northwest Christian Writers Association. She recently became a finalist in the 2013 Cascades Writing Contest in the Unpublished Young Adult fiction category. You can find her at kimvandel.com.

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Most writers want more readers, but the question is how to draw those readers to our blog or website. There are so many blogs out there that it can be hard to get noticed.

One of the reasons I joined Pinterest was the chance to connect with my target audience. Pinterest boards are a simple but effective way to share my point of view with potential readers. What do I mean by point of view? I’m talking about how I see the world. My interests. The things that grab my attention. The things that make me laugh. People who connect with my point of view are more likely to be interested in what I have to say and check out my blog.

I created a board for my blog when I joined Pinterest, but it wasn’t exactly a success. In other words, I didn’t have any referrals from Pinterest. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Discouraging, yes, but I soldiered on. I’m an observer and thinker, and sometimes it takes a while for my ideas to make their way to the surface.

I was getting plenty of likes and repins of my quotes, but I didn’t like the fact that Quozio and Pinstamatic were getting the credit. I want people to find me and my blog, not a quote-making website, so I decided to try another tactic. Instead of posting a quote straight to Pinterest, I downloaded it to my computer and then uploaded it to my board. A better option, but all the pin said was that I uploaded the quote.

Then I found my new best friend, the Pin It Bookmarklet. I could pin from pretty much anywhere, so why not my blog? Instead of uploading those quotes to Pinterest, I started adding them to the Media Library on my blog and used my handy-dandy bookmarklet to pin them to my Inspirational Quotes board. Since I started pinning quotes from my blog, I’ve gotten more referrals from Pinterest than anywhere else—Google, WordPress, Facebook, or Twitter.

So my Cool Tool for today is really more of a Cool Tip: How to make it easy for "pinners" to visit your blog.

First you’ll need last week’s Cool Tool, the Pin It Bookmarklet. Then check out Mindy’s blog on turning a quote into a masterpiece if you missed it. Use a site like Recite This that will let you download your quote masterpiece to your computer. (It should automatically go to the "Downloads" folder.)

For WordPress users, you’ll find the Media Library on the sidebar menu of your dashboard.

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You’ll see two options when your cursor hovers over "Media." Click on "Add New."

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This will take you to the "Upload Media" page. Click on the "Choose File" button and select the quote you saved in your Downloads folder (Step 1). The name of your file will show up next to the "Choose File" button when you’re done.

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Now click on "Upload" (Step 2).

The next screen will be your Media Library. Three options will appear when your cursor hovers over the title of your quote. Select the "View" option.

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It will take you to a page with your quote.

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Now click on your bookmarklet icon.

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Choose the picture of the quote.

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The "Create a Pin" window will pop up. Select which board you want to pin your quote to and edit the description if necessary.

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Here’s the quote on my Pinterest board. It even encourages a visit to my blog!

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I want to make it as easy as possible for potential readers to find me, and with my blog only a click away, there’s a much better chance they’ll check it out.

Social media can be overwhelming at times. (Or if you’re like me, it’s overwhelming on a daily basis.) Part of social media is figuring out where and how you make the best connection with your readers. It’s a lot of experimenting to find what works for you and what doesn’t. It’s doing a lot of little things that slowly add up to something bigger. Hopefully you now have one more little thing to help you attract readers.

I’d love to hear how this Cool Tip works for you or what Cool Tip you’ve come up with!

I Don’t Have Cancer?!?!

Every six months I have a blood draw to check the status of my  cancer.  Once or twice a year I have a  sonogram to measure the tiny papillary thyroid tumors.

My second surgery to remove thyroid tumors was April 2009.  Doc took out two, three grew back in their place. My doctors ruled out another surgery or radioactive iodine treatment and instead increased my thyroid hormone to suppress Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) in my body.  Any thyroid cell I have would be cancerous.  If the cells are stimulated by hormone, they grow.   I’ve been hyperthyroid for four years, hoping to starve the tumors to death.

My 6 month blood draws and sonograms  have shown progress.  I blogged about Teeny Weeny Tumors in December 2012.  The tumors were smaller and not giving off thyroid antibodies.

The reality is, there are no side effects from the cancer.  The tumors live quietly, minding their own business. The side effects from the hyperthyroidism are the challenge, and  greatly increased after recently being forced to switch thyroid hormone.

I’d been on Levoxyl  for 9 years, until it was  recently recalled and won’t be available again until late 2014. Doctors and pharmacists strongly warn anybody on artificial thyroid hormone to never, ever, ever, ever switch brands.

Now I know why.

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I switched to Synthroid.blog moments 017 (3)

This is the paperwork that came with the new med, listing all side effects, molecular structure and warnings. Look like something you wanna’ take? Me neither. Only I have this missing thyroid gland, so need artificial thyroid hormone in my body.

My symptoms increased greatly. Night sweats, sleeplessness. I can be tired all day, but wide awake during the night. I sleep about 5 hours, on a good night up to 7. Agitation.  Jumpy.  My kids have learned over the years to make a lot of noise when they walk up behind me.

At my recent endocrinologist’s visit to discuss the results of the recent blood work I described my adjustment issues with the new hormone. In conversation I used the phrase “my cancer.”

“You don’t have cancer.”

I looked at my doc in surprise.  After all, it’s been a ten year battle. She looked at me in surprise, as if I should have known.  I tried to remember what she said at our past visit.  Pretty sure I would have remembered being told I was cancer free.

“There are no thyroid antibodies and no thyroglobulin in the blood.  I’d say your cancer is gone.”

I should have been jumping.  I should have been overcome with joy. I was stunned. I was surprised she brought it up almost as if correcting me. To be cancer-free after ten years could have been announced with cake, ice-cream balloons and banners, not an afterthought conversation.

I almost doubted the news. Besides, my past two “cancer-free” times have only lasted a few months, so I was hesitant to get too excited.

 

It took me a few days to grasp in my medicated brain this is  GOOD NEWS! It took me even longer to fully grasp that the symptoms I’d been complaining about resulted in keeping the tumors from producing antibodies. It worked.

I look at those nasty pills a little differently. Would you rather have trouble sleeping or have cancer?  Yea, me too.

But, still, I argue with myself, it could come back.  It could come back in another form of cancer.  The artificial thyroid hormone could cause  bone problems as it depletes calcium from my body or cause heart issues.  If I look forward, I can cause myself undue worry and prove I don’t trust the Lord for His future plans.

If I look backwards at the ten year journey, I can remind myself of the hardships on my body and my family and prove I don’t trust the Lord for His past plans.

So, as many of us have learned through times of trials, we neither look ahead or back, we walk in the moment and look up. We may not understand His plans, but we are always in His presence.

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And today, as I walk with the One who is with me, strengthens me, helps me and upholds me, I don’t have cancer!!!

 

If you would like to read about the time I found the word CANCER in the Bible, read  Do YOU Have Cancer?

The Gifts of Cancer was written after being cared for by an encouraging, caring nurse named Judy.

Your New Best Friend: The Pin It Bookmarklet

 

I try to stay in tune with the social media trends, but get a little lost.  The world invented itself around me and I don’t see the landscape I grew up in of the 70’s,  console television sets with rabbit ears and 20 pound rotary phones with 20 foot curly cords.  I’m blessed to have friends that are not only great writers, they navigate the world of social media so well, they  make it recognizable and useful to me.

Today’s Cool Tool is brought to you by Kim, a friend with great talent and abilities.  She brings calm to my frantic, wings to my ideas and kindling to my flames of inspiration. After reading her post, I hope you have the same head-slapping reaction I did, “DUH? It’s that easy?!?” 

 

 

imageKim Vandel is a writer and voracious reader from the Seattle suburbs, and she’s the Public Relations Coordinator for Northwest Christian Writers Association. She recently became a finalist in the 2013 Cascades Writing Contest in the Unpublished Young Adult fiction category. You can find her at kimvandel.com.

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For writers, Pinterest is more than a virtual corkboard for recipes and DIY projects. It’s a fantastic way to gather research, collect writing ideas, and find inspiration for both writing and life. If you haven’t tried the Pin It Bookmarklet yet, then get ready to meet your new best friend. This handy little tool lets you pin from almost anywhere you go on the web, so no more despair when you can’t find a "Pin it" button on the page you’ve fallen in love with. You don’t have to bookmark a bunch of pages, and you don’t have to worry about "stealing" pictures or trying to remember where you saw the article you need. The bookmarklet automatically links your pin to the website where you found it.

To get started, go to the Pinterest Goodies page and scroll down to "The Pin It Button." You’ll have two options. If you’re using Google Chrome, select install now.

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For other web browsers, select the "Pinterest Bookmarklet" link.

Drag the red "Pin It" button to your toolbar to install the bookmarklet.

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When you get done, you’ll see the red Pinterest icon on your toolbar. That means you’re ready to pin!

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I’ll give you an example of how it works. I found a picture I wanted to add to my Visual Writing Prompts board, so I clicked on the icon. It gave me several picture options from the page. The "Pin it" button appeared when my cursor hovered over the picture.

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When I clicked on the button, a window popped up, and I was able to choose which board I wanted to pin the picture to. I also had the option of editing the description.

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I then clicked on the red "Pin it" button, and the picture was added to my board with a link back to the website.

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My Visual Writing Prompts board is one of my favorites. I’m a speculative writer (fantasy, science fiction, etc) and some pictures instantly spark a story idea for me. Other pictures, like the one in my example, provide inspiration for an idea I already have. It helps me visualize the futuristic world I want to create, and I’ll be able to come back to the image when it’s time to describe the setting. Studying the details—the sense of speed, the play of light against dark—will allow me to create a vivid picture in the reader’s imagination.

Maybe you don’t need to build a futuristic story world. That’s okay. (I won’t hold it against you.) Whatever you write—fiction or non-fiction, blog articles or epic novels—the Pin It Bookmarklet will give you the freedom to roam the web and gather inspiration and ideas wherever you find them. So get pinning already!

The Pinterest Me and The Real Me

 

When I got my new office a few months ago, I was ecstatic. My own room. After 26 years of parenting six amazing, wonderful, messy, creative, loud, children, I finally had my very own room.

I began filling it with things that inspire me and taking pictures as I staged each area.

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A chair from the thrift store with only one little spring that pokes me if I don’t sit just right.  A small dresser from an estate sale.  The $3 chicken wire cabinet  from a thrift store.

Apparently, whoever built this room, made the closet opening about one inch too small for the bi-fold doors so it’s always been open or covered with a sheet.  Sitting in the chair one day, frustrated with the view of the messy closet,  I had a burst of inspiration.  My wedding quilt!  It was made by my Gramma Geneva just before she lost her marbles.

Mindy and Gramma Geneva 1993

Yes, prior to Alzheimer’s, my Gramma Geneva was the Quilting Queen.  She made quilts for friends, neighbors, relatives and missionaries for decades.  My wedding quilt was one of the last she made.

I had previously sewed fabric loops on it for hanging, but hadn’t had a wall big enough for it for many years.  It fit perfectly on a shower curtain rod and filled the room with a sense of family, love, and inspiration.

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I bought this inspiring wall art from Target when I was really supposed to be shopping for practical stuff like toilet paper and dish soap. People say you shouldn’t impulse shop, I find for someone who hates to shop, the impulse buy is usually the best buy.  I rarely see something I LOVE, so when I find it, I buy it.

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My little cupboard ready for tea with a vintage ceramic hot pot and two vintage cups. It was a good idea, but I’ve never made tea.

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I blogged about the cool To Do List I made out of a vintage window.  I use the vintage typewriter to make my graphics for my posts, then I  imageand imagethe graphics to draw traffic to my blog. I story candy in the enamelware pot.

Others might look at my pictures and be jealous or frustrated because:

  • I have my own office.
  • I have time to shop at the thrift store.
  • I found cheap vintage items.
  • I am so crafty.
  • I am perfectly happy in every way.
  • I have a wonderful family.
  • I have my life perfectly under control.

But, I’ve only shown you the part of my life I wanted to show you.

 

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I’ve shown you The Pinterest Me, the part we show to the world to say, “Hey, look at me! I did something cool!”

There’s nothing wrong with that.  We need to share our bursts of inspiration, whether it’s in the kitchen, the craft room, our faith or in relationships.  We need to rock what we do well and share it with others.  It’s part of our purpose, our passion, and even our ministry.

But, that’s not all we need to show others.

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We need to show them the other side of the room.  The messy side.  The “I haven’t finished this” and “I can’t get it all together side.”  The office is a work in progress, just like The Real Me.

When you only see people in church on Sunday, you get part of the picture. When you see them driving, eating, dealing with their kids and cheering at a softball game you see a more complete person. image

When we blog in a way that shows only the perfect parts of our lives, we may be alienating others who are struggling.

I  have had days where I was totally accepting of cancer, witnessing, drawing closer to the Lord and appreciating each day with my family.

I have had other days when I was frustrated,weary and weepy and wanted it to all just go away.

I have had days as an inspiring mother,  imparting wisdom and love into the hearts of my children.

I have had other days where I have yelled in frustration and wondered why I became a Mom, because I am such a failure.

I have had times when I made amazing meals.

I have had other times when I ordered pizza three times in one week.

I quit reading a blog because every post showed how perfect her life was. She whipped up a vintage dress from an old pattern while her teenage daughter made exotic baked items.  She showed  gardens that never had weeds, children that never misbehaved, and the dinners that were never burned.  I couldn’t relate.

Her blog only created envy and disappointment in my heart.  Her house was bigger and older, her talents greater and her spending seemed unlimited. Nothing ever seemed to go wrong in her life.

  • I wanted to know how she fit sewing into a life with many kids.
  • I wanted to know how she inspired her teenager to make so many meals and treats for the family and smile like a model the whole time she was in the kitchen.
  • I wanted to know if she ever dreaded waking up in a day because she had too many things on her To-Do List she could never accomplish.

She didn’t give me anything to help me attain the talents or peace she possessed. She was wonderful, she was amazing, but unapproachable.

I’m not for showing all the dirty laundry and spewing secrets about friends and family that aren’t yours to share.  I’m talking about showing both sides of your world, the successes and the failures.  Show the real journey.

  • It makes you more credible, because you show you’re human.
  • It makes others more willing to confide in you because nobody wants to admit to a perfect person they’re not perfect.
  • It gives your readers hope.  If you overcame, so can they.
  • It makes everyone more honest.  If you’re willing to admit failure, you give them permission to be honest with others.

How can we bear one another’s burdens if we don’t know what they are? 

How can we lift someone up if they’re too afraid to tell us they’ve fallen?

How can we comfort someone if we don’t know what’s breaking their heart?

Showcase your strengths.  Blog, Pin, Tweet and Facebook your talents and victories.  Share what you’ve been blessed with to others who might need that recipe, decorating idea,craft, writing tool,  spiritual encouragement or just a laugh. Do what you were created to do.

In the right timing, in the right way, showcase your weaknesses.  Admit failure, admit struggles, and tell how you overcame. 

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Show The Pinterest You and The Real You.  Your readers need both.

Adventures in Odyssey Giveaway Winner

 

Congratulations to Tandis, who blogs at ~

 

 

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It’s not a blog about skiing, it’s a fun blog about her busy life
with a husband of Polish descent,
affectionately called SKI, and their four adorable daughters.

(Click on the icon to find her blog.)

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They will be receiving “The Imagination Station”
books #1-3 in the mail soon.

Congratulations!

Repositioning Photos on Facebook

Sometimes, a simple skill brings great change and empowerment. I  used that word because I used it in my blog title yesterday and I have to prove I’m practicing what I preach. Can I hear an AMEN?  OK, maybe not…

So, people from the Midwest love to use this word to begin and end sentences, I put a photo on my Facebook author page with myself and two other women.

With the new double-column look of FB, the pics appear cropped and you don’t see the entire picture until you click on it.

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Stink! I didn’t show up in the picture on my own page.

But, I wanted it about me.  All about me. ‘Cuz we all know if Momma Mindy ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Anyhoo, I clicked around because there’s always something new on Facebook. Maybe you don’t remember I blogged about my mantra,  Click Until You Conquer?  I don’t know if Facebook sneaks things in when I’m sleeping, or if I never notice them, but I clicked around until I found a Cool Tool, so…

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So, it’s called….drum roll please….

 

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Pardon my shaking mouse finger where I circled in red, but hover your mouse over the right hand corner of the photo status until image appears.  Click on the little Pencil until the dialogue box drops down, then click Reposition Photo.

Then grab your picture with your trusty left mouse button and move it where you want it.

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We have all learned the hard way what happens when you don’t click that magical little SAVE button, especially in the Olden Days before Word developed Document Recovery.

Talk about empowerment, I turned two Mindys into Cyclopses. But, at least it shows  there were three people in the picture and if anybody wants to see both my eyes, they can just click on the pic. (Just a side note, should the plural of Mindy be Mindies?  Ya’ know the change the y to i and add es thing? And is the plural of Cyclops Cyclopses? Just wondering….)

 

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The other option is to leave out one someone.  But, having one eye cropped out is better than having your whole body cropped out. Unless you wanna’ crop out someone, but I would never say anything about mother-in-laws or those not-really-friends in public, no sirree, I wouldn’t.

So, there ya’ have it.  A Cool Tool that empowers you to reposition people in and out of your pictures on Facebook.  Not applicable to personal lives.

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Making your home sing Mondays

Moms Need to Embrace, Empower and Expect

Sunday night was Disney night when I grew up.  My mom would make a bowl of popcorn and the six tow-headed Brainard kids would slouch on mom’s avocado green crush velvet couch to watch ~image

I loved Tinker Bell’s fairy dust!

When I started parenting, I wanted to give my kids the same wholesome entertainment. 

Jungle Book

We were the first in the neighborhood to buy Jungle Book on VHS and regularly hosted viewings in our living room, the neighbor kids huddled on my dusty pink Olefin thrift store couch eating animal crackers.  Now our media cabinet contains shelves of VHS, DVD and Blu-ray movies.

I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration,  a blogging conference they took on the road to four cities this year. As you can imagine, after revealing above I raised my kids on VHS, I was one of the oldest mommies there.  But, I still got excited when I walked into the room filled with Disney balloons and stuffed animals and heard the Disney songs.

It got a little intimidating when the younger moms started Tweeting and updating statuses, but HEY, that’s why I was there.  To learn.  I am wise enough to know a mommy learns from the older and younger moms in her life.

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I guess it’s safe to say -  now that they can’t uninvite me – that I’ve never been to any of the Disney Parks, but I really wanted to learn more about social media.

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I also wanted to network. I hung out with my mommy-blogger friend, Nan, who blogs at  “Mom’s the Word” and is way funnier than I am.  I’m pretty sure funnier is a word now, and I’m pretty sure I will never chew blue gum in public again. She was the other “experienced” mother in the crowd who has a Justin Bieber lookalike son. (Guess what?  Bieber isn’t in spell check yet. He must not be that famous.)

 

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They keynote speaker was Mindee Doney, inventor of Boogie Wipes. Her light bulb moment came when she was moving in for the boogie kill with a bulb syringe and saline solution.  Her  baby daughter’s nose was crusted over and Mindee was determined to get those boogies so her daughter could breath. The freaked-out reaction caused a quick retreat and change in battle strategy. 

Mindee reached over to the wipes container, sprayed one with saline solution, and gently wiped her daughter’s nose. Baby’s boogies were gone and Boogie Wipes were born.

I loved hearing the funny, candid, and sometimes gut-wrenching, journey of her personal and business life from the creation of Boogie Wipes to the sale of the company. As the challenges grew, so did the stakes.

Early in the game, the name of her company was criticized by another mommypreneur prior to appearing together on the television show The Big Idea.  She thought Boogie Wipes was disgusting and thought something like "The Salt of the Earth" would be more appropriate and less offensive.  Mindee justified the name and gave a hint of the marketing strategy that helped launch their product successfully.  "Our target demographic has poop under their fingernails."  She was a mom, she knew moms, and knew their needs.

They utilized the power of moms and formed  a Boogie Brigade, similar to a book launch team.  Women dropped off samples for the company and wore free Boogie Brigade t-shirts when they ran in races. But when they tapped into Mommy bloggers, the impact was really felt.  Mindee said that moms not only reviewed the wipes, they videoed them, photographed them and took them on vacation.

Mindee encouraged bloggers, "Whether it’s  product,  content, message or a mission…you’re impacting people and lives.”

She’s a marketing genius and a brilliant strategist. But, instead of getting on stage and telling us how great she is, Mindee was honest enough to share her mistakes on the journey. 

During the rise to success, which included the financial benefits, interviews and  television appearances, Mindee realized what she had lost with this gain.  "I had let go of all the things that mattered to my heart.  I stopped going to church.  Stopped exercising.  I was working all the time. We all have periods of our lives where we work a lot; the problem was, I was never NOT working."

She had an 18 month old, 4 year old, 7 year old and a pilot husband who was frequently gone.  At a low point she said, "Time out.  I am broken.  I am done.  I have nothing that matters in the depths of my soul for what I want for the next five years."

Between leaving the company and getting divorced she confessed to spending "a year with lawyers and therapists."

She is joyfully back in the groove with her family and business, and  freely gave us what she learned through the agony of losing it all.

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“You can be Super Mom, but you can’t be Super Mom at everything.

There is something about you that is SUPER, but you can’t do all those things SUPER.  You have to respect what those things are.  Find them.  Embrace them.  Rock who you are.

If people don’t know what your blog is about, that’s your fault.  You aren’t telling them what you are good at.    We all need to do our job the best we can, in businesses, life, and as a person.

She illustrated with a conversation with her son:

Son "Mom, I think we’ve been robbed."
Mom "Really?"
Son, "Oh, I’m just kidding.  Our house always looks like this."

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Mindee urged the room of mommy bloggers to use two words moms hear but don’t use themselves – Help and No.

“Help is not a 4-letter word.

And when you get help, from husband, friend, relative…learn to say, it’s not MY way, but it’s OK. When you step away, but don’t really step away, you come back to the same space you were in before.

Learn to say NO. If it takes away from what nurtures you and what you do, then say NO.”

 

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Expect life to NOT go according to plan. The hardest choice is if you are going to smile about it or be grumpy.

What goes up must come down.  What goes down must be lifted.  Eventually you have to lift yourself up.

Specific things to stay IN the journey:

(There is an exception to rule, but when exceptions become the rule, there’s a problem.)

1. Laptop stays in office.

2. Schedule is sacred.  Give full attention to what you’re doing.  No distractions.

3. To do lists find me.  I used to make lists.  At night I think about what the next day’s needs are.

4. Don’t promise things the next day.  I use vague terms.  "I’ll work on it and get to you at end of week."  If I set a deadline I can’t meet, I change the deadline.

5. When kids say "momma’  stop and look at them.  Connect. Communicate. 

6. Leave your phone.  Just leave it. If you set the precedence that you’re always available, you’ll  be expected to be always available.

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Moms struggle with balancing their lives.

If we give everything to business or ministry, we may regret not making our family a priority.

If we give everything to the family, we may regret not putting ourselves on the calendar.

Mindee provided great advice and encouragement to make the right daily decisions to fully show up in all a mom’s worlds; wisdom  made more precious by the cost.

 

 

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If you want to read more about Mindee’s journey read:

Making your home sing Mondays