New York Times best-selling author, slow cooking expert, mom of three
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Totally Together

How to Combine Gratitude with Goal Setting

January 1, 2014 by · 4 Comments 

How to you maintain an attitude of gratitude but still continue to strive towards achieving new goals?

 

It’s a brand new year! Congratulations, you made it!

 

I have a rather radical suggestion for you this new year. I know I’ve shared my love for lists and charts and goal setting in the past, but I wanted to share a new idea.

Gratitude Goal Setting.

I’m sure you’ve heard of keeping a Gratitude Journal ~~~~ Oprah talked about them a lot on her show and she (I believe) talks about them in her magazine (I don’t subscribe to magazines, but read them on planes. and while getting my hair cut! And that’s only because I don’t like spending money and I don’t like clutter and big magazines feel wrong to throw out so then I hoard them on a shelf and then I worry I might turn into one of those hoarder people on TLC.)

(but you should totally subscribe to Simply Gluten Free Magazine because I’m a contributing writer and Carol, the founder, is absolutely wonderful).

Anyway.

So how to you combine an Attitude of Gratitude with Goal Setting? How can you be simultaneously happy, thankful, and thrilled with your current life situation but still sort of want something different/better/more prosperous?

Don’t the two cancel each other out?

No. I promise.

It feels wrong at first to want more when you have a non-leaking roof over your head, your children are healthy, your marriage is (above) average, and you aren’t scrounging to put food on the table. I struggle with this, and do make a conscious effort to give more than receive.

And if you are reading this article, then you ARE VERY BLESSED. You have internet, and you probably have accumulated an awful lot of “wants” to go along with your “needs.”

Take the time to be thankful. Take inventory of all that is right in your world. If writing it down helps, do so. Life is so very very very good, and we are the only species that is able to pontificate our lives, and to self-reflect.

We are also the only species that can decide what is working and what needs tweaking. As Dr. Phil says (I met a camera guy who worked on his show, and heard some interesting stories.  Ahem.),    “how’s that working for you?”

If you have a New Year’s Resolution to work out more and eat healthier, try writing down this year’s goals in the positive — and in a thankful way.

For instance, instead of:

I need to lose my muffin top and start running.    Try:  Thank you for my strong, healthy body that allows me to plank for 90 seconds and run a 10-minute mile.

I need to drink 8 glasses of water a day and cut out alcohol.  Try:  Thank you for fresh, clean water that tastes even better than margaritas.

I need to not yell at the kids.   Try:  Thank you for the patience I have with my children.

I need to put away the phone/tablet and hang out with my spouse.  Try:  Thank you for my awesome spouse who I like spending quality time with.

(I ended that sentence with a preposition. Thank you for not being  OCD.  :-) )

If you are looking for a BIG change, try being thankful for it before it even occurs. Before there is even a glimmer of hope that it can occur.

Here’s a few examples:

Thank you for this home that we all love that we can easily afford.

Thank you for this new job where I am respected and properly compensated.

Thank you for the opportunity to take this dream vacation that has been fully paid for upfront.

It is hokey. It feels childish, and it doesn’t seem like a simple change such as this could possibly work, yet there are TONS of anecdotal and scientific studies that show that your sub-conscious doesn’t know if something has actually occurred or not when you focus on it. This is why dreams feel/seem so real. Yes, you can rationalize them to death and assure yourself that a monster isn’t under your bed, but your harddrive doesn’t know the difference.   (need research? google “do positive affirmations work?”)

So try it.

There’s really nothing to lose.

Give yourself 10 days of writing 10 positive affirmation/goal setting phrases down in a notebook. Don’t refer back to the previous day — your ideas, needs, and goals change sometimes on a whim. What was important three days ago might not be important today. But if you track your thoughts and wishes for 10 days you’ll find a pattern.

This pattern is what is the most important to you. And you only. Your goals are not your neighbor’s, not your mom’s, and not the current Pinterest trend. Your goals are your own and are private.

We are all a work in progress, and it’s okay to acknowledge where you could use some tweaking.

lots of love and a very VERY happy 2014.

related:

How to Have Balance when Looking for Balance

How to Create a (non-cheesy) Vision Board of Your Very Own

Making and Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

This is Real Life, Not a Magazine

Patience, and Other Blogging Virtues

May 1, 2013 by · 22 Comments 

Patience (and other blogging virtues) -  Part of The Business of Blogging series

This is another installment in my The Business of Blogging Series.

I have been blogging full-time since 2008, and have been hesitant to share my successes “out loud” with very many people because I worry about 1) jinxing it and 2) being show-offy

and I’m not a show-offy person, and I worry a lot about karma and good will and even feng shui.

But I’ve gotten to thinking about why I do what I do and why I started what I started. And honestly, I just like helping people. Specifically other moms.

I like to help people.

I wrote the proposal for the Totally Together Journal way back in 2004 (I was pregnant with my second). I wanted a way to help other mothers, and thought I could be of service in some way. It took YEARS to get that book to the market.

In the mean time, I started the slow cooking site, and wrote the corresponding cookbooks. The very best part of my day is waking up to Thank You emails and tweets. I love that I can somehow help other busy families get healthy, satisfying, budget -friendly (and gluten free, to boot!) meals on the table. I am proud of that.

I worry sometimes about being too proud. I worry about being a braggart, and I worry that others will feel that my success isn’t warranted or that somebody handed me something. I worry that someone, somewhere will think that I must “know someone” and that’s how I got on tv or got book deals, or how I get a lot of people to my website.

and so I don’t talk about my achievements.

or yet I haven’t, much.

 I’m beginning to realize that while I can’t write HTML to save my life, I actually do know a lot about blogging.

I spent last Saturday in Los Angeles with Adam. We flew in so I could speak at the Latina Lifestyle Blogging Convention about Ethics and Blogging (they knew I’m Scottish…!).

And I realized, I know an awful lot about blogging. An awful lot. I’ve learned through trial and error and have been very lucky in my blogging and social media endeavors.

And I figured that EVERYBODY who has blogged for as long as I have has achieved similar results, and am finding out (through talking to friends/acquaintances) that this is not the case.

I make a very good living at this. And I’m having fun.

I make over 100k directly from my websites.

and I do this all, from home, in my pajamas, while I care for my children.

And it’s not that hard.

This post is titled PATIENCE. Because I truly believe that ANYONE, ANYWHERE can have this level of success if they map out a business plan and are patient. The money is out there. The opportunities are out there.

Don’t worry about what so-and-so is doing. Don’t compare your site to anyone else’s. Learn how to write for SEO and give your readers what they want.

I want to help —- my hope is that I can somehow help other people/moms create additional streams of income for their family’s budget.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be living the life I am living, and I would like to help.

If you have questions about future installments for this series, please let me know in the comments below. I’ve finally gotten the green light from Adam to talk candidly (sort of. LOL) and I would really like to offer any help I can. oxox steph

 

OH! and I should probably explain the above photo of the grape vine. I planted that vine 4 years ago, and the leaves promptly all fell off. I kept watering and fertilizing it even though it looked like a dead stick. For 4 years. And this spring? Not only are there leaves, there are teensy tiny grape bundles! Patience. It’s a virtue! :-0

 

This is part of the Business of Blogging series.

Part 1: The Business of Blogging

Part 2: Figuring Out Your Internet Voice

Part 3: Writing for Search Engines Doesn’t Mean Selling Your Soul

Part 4: Is Self-Esteem Tied into Sitemeter?

Part 5: Patience, and Other Blogging Virtues

and other stuff:

10 Best Business-y Books

Creating a (non-cheesy) Vision Board

Working from Home with Small Children in the House

Making and Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

February 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

new year resolutions

We’re approaching the end of February. Do you know where your New Year Resolutions are?

I’ve gotten pretty good at making and keeping my resolutions each new year — and while it’s still not super easy for me to stay on track, each and every year I have a bit more resolve to keep on course.

It doesn’t matter that we’re near the end of February — there is still plenty of time to get your new year goals and resolutions back on track. If you’ve fallen off the wagon, here are some tips to climb back in it and buckle up; there’s a long road ahead until the end of the year.

If you haven’t made any new year resolutions or goals for 2013, or don’t like to because you don’t think that’s “your thing” — okay. But you also can’t change for the better in any way unless you make the conscious decision to do so. And regardless of your personal journey or path, I believe we all could do a bit better each year.

This is it.

You’re not going to get today back again, and it’s okay to want tomorrow to be slightly better.

How to make New Year Resolutions that You’ll Keep:

1) Write it down. This is such a simple step, yet the majority of people don’t do it. Yes, there are plenty of people who have stuck to their resolve to lose weight or get out of debt by not writing down their goals, but if you DO write it down you have a greater chance of success. And who are we to fool around with statistics? If it feels hokey, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to share what you’ve written down to anybody — just keep it in a notebook or folded up in your purse.

2) Tell Someone. I know. In suggestion number 1 I said you don’t have to share your written resolution or goal list with anyone and now I’m telling you to tell someone else your personal wishes and dreams. I promise I’m not losing my mind— you still don’t have to share your written out list, but you DO have to share what you’re working on.

Accountability to someone else is a much stronger motivational drive than an intrinsic one. This means that you are more likely to disappoint yourself than you are someone else. That’s just how human nature is. We are also much more forgiving to others than we are to ourselves —- so if you veer off track, having a supportive someone in your corner is just who you’ll need to confide in and who can help you retain confidence.

This is what I did with the slow cooker site, and what Jen did with her cocktail site. We told the Internet — it’s a pretty big group to be held accountable to!

3) Review your resolutions every single day. However you do this is up to you. You can pull out your list of goals, or rewrite them every morning. Some people have excellent results by writing their resolutions out as if they have already happened. For instance, if your goal is to lose those final last ten pounds, you might start your day by thinking about  how thankful you are that you can fit into the dress hanging in the closet. You can go a step further and visualize  yourself wearing it and hear in your head all the complements you’ll get from your friends.

I have a vision board. I make a new one every year, and I keep it in the bathroom. It’s personal, and I have sayings and quotes, and magazine cutouts on it. I only share it with Adam, and even he kind of rolls his eyes a bit at how particular some of my visions (picture cutouts) are. But that’s okay. Because my vision board makes me smile and keeps me focused on what it is I’m working towards —  I look at it quite a few times a day, and somedays it spurs me on to take action on a certain writing assignment or to go do a few pushups. Other days I just zone out. I’ve decided to believe that even on my zone out days my subconscious is working on something. ;-)

4) Pretend you’ve already succeeded. Or fake it till you make it. This might seem phony at first, but you’ll get used to it in practice. If your New year’s Resolution was to work out every morning, act like a person who works out every morning. What time does that person wake up? What does she wear? Does she sleep in her workout clothes and works out before getting dressed for the day? What does she eat? Do you need different food in the house?

If your resolution was to write every day on your All American Novel, start acting like a novelist. What does a novelist do? Does she get up before everyone else in the house and write for an hour? Does she have a set of index cards with character names and traits? Does she spend 3 hours a day surfing facebook or pinterest, or does she buckle down and work?

5) Reward yourself. This doesn’t need to be elaborate, nor does it need to be expensive, but you have to find a way to celebrate the tiny steps and milestones along the way. Day to Day life is hard enough as it is — trying to change or adapt is even harder, even if you know it’s for the better.

Human nature is to find the easiest and least resistant path. It’s easier to lay around on the couch than it is to lace up your shoes and go for a walk. So reward yourself. Walk to the grocery store and after making a few laps get yourself a pack of sugarless gum. If you’ve gotten through the entire day without yelling at the kids, take a bath. Paint your toes. Do something just for  you that’s a reward. And there is no harm in using the reward as motivation to keep to your goals — “if I don’t use my credit card but instead pay it off, I can use the extra savings in our vacation fund.”

I’m sure you see what I mean.

You don’t have to be in the first week of January to decide to be a New You. Or a Newer Version of You.

You can do this. I know you can.

and it’s not too late.

It’s never too late to accomplish anything you put your mind to.

xoxoox

Working From Home With Small Children in the House

September 24, 2012 by · 10 Comments 

I’ve been working from home, for myself, for the past 4 years.

When I first began working from home, I had a contract for Bay Area Parent magazine and BlogHerads. This meant I had set hours and a set list of tasks I needed to accomplish on a daily basis in order to get paid.

Now I work solely for myself — I run the websites and I write books. I LOVE what I do, but because I don’t really have a “boss” I find that I spend more time procrastinating and fiddling around online or pacing the house thinking about work than I actually do working.

This hasn’t been too much of a problem for me; I’ve never missed a deadline, and so far (knock wood) I feel happy with the ebb and flow of our days, even if there isn’t an actual set schedule.

Sometimes feel like a kindergartener doing an adult’s job.

And when I’m asked by readers how I go about organizing my work day, I sometimes don’t have a very clear answer.

and that’s not good.

So I’ve decided to pay attention to what I do when I’m on a deadline — because as we all know, deadlines are really the only way to get things done. Here are the tips and tricks I use when I need to ACTUALLY GET THINGS DONE.

(but on the days I don’t need to actually get things done? I procrastinate. It’s human nature, and I’ve found it’s best to just not fight it, but instead embrace it, and move on to the next day. We can’t always be on task 24/7.

This is real life, not a how-to book or magazine article.

YOU HAVE TO HAVE A SCHEDULE.

NO, REALLY. YOU DO.

1) Print out a 5am to 9pm daily schedule

2) Fill it out —- fill out every slot, if you can. Write in waking the kids up, making breakfast, lunches, getting them out the door, etc. If you have little ones at home with you, schedule in outdoor play time and wear them out so you can then (hopefully) count on nap time so you can get some work done

3) Schedule business calls during nap time.  If this isn’t possible, schedule them during times where you know the littles will be happy and can be occupied with a movie/favorite TV show. Try to let unscheduled calls go to voice mail — your clients will quickly learn that you need them scheduled.

Working when kids are always around:

4) When on calls with kids awake, have a full-on snack prepared, sippy cups filled; etc. I usually do microwave popcorn and apple slices, and a juice-box. My kids don’t get juice boxes very often, so they are a treat. I start the TV show right before getting on the call, or press “play” right as I’m dialing the phone

5) Take phone calls out of sight from the kids — in a closed bedroom, or the backyard or the garage. Usually with kids over the age of 2.5 or so, they are safe watching TV and if mom is out of sight, she’s out of mind (of course use your best judgment, etc. etc.; you know your kids best).

6) Always inform whomever you’re on the phone with that you are working from home today with small children and you’ll need to keep the call under 20 minutes (or whatever).

Sometimes a Mom’s Gotta Do What a Mom’s Gotta Do.

7) If you have to write a report or have quiet “thinking time,” I suggest working when you can be fully off-duty as a parent. If you have childcare help, or the kids are at school, use that time. If not, I suggest using the early morning or late night hours, depending on your own personal biological clock.

for me, I’m much more focused early in the morning. When I’ve got a deadline for a writing assignment, I set an alarm and get up at 4 or 4:30 am. It’s just me and the coffee pot, and I can crank out a good amount of work before Adam’s alarm goes off at 6am. When I wrote for Bay Area Parent, I regularly worked what I called “the split-shift.” I went to bed at 8pm with the kids, then set an alarm and worked from 12-4am; then went back to bed until 7am when the kids got up. It may not be a long-term solution, but it definitely works if you’re in a pinch.

and let’s face it. You’re working from home. You’re in a much better position than many, many working people, and there’s no need to complain. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

Life is good.

8 ) There is no End to the work day. I don’t care how many work-from-home books there are that tout putting away the computer or the phone or the book at 6pm to fully “unplug” and be present with your family. It just doesn’t exist when you work from home and are also in charge of the family. There will always be more to do — and there’s no need to make yourself feel guilty for checking email while you walk through the living room, or stop to answer a call if it rings during Jeopardy. You are home. You are lucky. Don’t make arbitrary rules for yourself that you have no intention of keeping.

That said, don’t be obnoxious.

Don’t be the person on her iPhone during the Saturday morning soccer games or text during church. Don’t put the phone next to your dinner plate, or use it in a restaurant. If the kids are talking to you, close the laptop and pay attention. Yes, you’re “always on” but you’re not a neurosurgeon. Get over yourself.

Accept Help Graciously

9) Enlist help. One of the cool things about working from home is that I can pop in a load of laundry in between tasks, and go outside and weed during a conference call. I love that I have this flexibility, but there are times when I just can’t do anything more than put out fires online, or over the phone. I expect my kids to do their chores, and I expect that my husband help out, too. We follow the Daily 7 as a family, we have regular Family Meetings, and the kids each have a chore chart. If this isn’t an option for you, then hire help.

Don’t try to do every last thing yourself. Not only is it not healthy for you, you’re not being a good role model for your kids.

I feel incredibly fortunate that I have this opportunity to provide an income for our family while being the full-time caregiver to our children. It’s not something I planned — but I couldn’t be happier.

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