New York Times bestselling author, slow cooking expert and mommy blogger next door
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Totally Together

10 Business-y Type Books Everyone Should Read

June 29, 2012 by · 6 Comments 

I’m always shocked when I take a step back and realize that I own a business. I don’t feel very business-like, considering I spend most of my day wiping boogers from the walls and typing away at the kitchen table while wearing fuzzy slippers. But my tax lady assures me, that yes: I own a small business.

and I couldn’t be happier.

I have spent the past 12 years reading almost all non-fiction— and I seem to be drawn towards books aimed for entrepreneurs. When I first started reading them, I had no idea the path my life would take, but I found the idea of a kitchen-table business quite alluring, and kept checking the same books or audio disks out from the library. Over and over again.

I’ve read an awful lot of how-to and inspirational books, but the ones on this list are the ones that truly changed the way that I think, and helped me have the guts and determination to succeed, even when I really wanted to just curl up in a ball and hide.

I hope you enjoy them.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money that the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!,  by Robert Kiyosaki

This was actually the very first book I ever ordered off of, and I did so after watching Kiyosaki on Oprah. He certainly was a convincing salesman! I’ve read this book a good dozen times and keep going back to it when I need a pick-me-up. Kiyosaki is to blame (thank?) for my entrepreneurial drive. In this book he describes the difference between a “job” and a “business.” Jobs pay the bills, but businesses accumulate wealth, and they aren’t necessarily the same thing. It’s okay to have a job, but start a side business— whether that’s real estate investing (his personal choice), or consulting, mentoring, writing, etc. Kiyosaki is not without his critics; there’s an awful lot of people who hold him responsible for the housing crash, and although this book is written as non-fiction, it’s actually a parable— Frey wasn’t the only person to pull the wool over Oprah’s eyes!

The Richest Man in Babylon, by George S. Clason

Speaking of parables… this is a quick, fun read written for all ages. In fact, I’ll make sure the kids read this book before they start a summer job. Written in hit-you-over-the-head logic, this book uses short, witty, and inspirational stories to help readers understand the value of money and why you should always, always live beneath your means.

Manifest Your Destiny, by Dr. Wayne Dyer

I read this book in the early 2000s before Dyer was plastered all over every PBS station. My view of him now is more of a salesman than a spiritual leader, but that’s not really a fair judgement of the book. The book is good. I’ve read Dyer’s other books, but like this one the best, although I’d probably recommend listening to the audio since it can get a bit rambly. There are definitely spiritual and religious elements in this book — don’t read it if you’re easily offended by such things. This book, along with Napoleon Hill’s, Think and Grow Rich first introduced me to the principles of The Law of Attraction as outlined in The Secret. (here’s more of what I think about that…)

21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires, by Brian Tracy

I actually listened to this on audio cassettes, and then checked the book out from the library because I couldn’t keep up with all of the note-taking I did while listening the the audio! If I had to pick one book/audio recording from this list, I’d probably go with this one. Brian Tracy is an accomplished motivational speaker, author, and an amazing salesman. I still run one of the quotes from this list of 21 through my head almost daily to keep my on track with my daily/weekly/monthly goals: The Difference Between Successful People and Unsuccessful People is that the Successful People DO what the Unsuccessful Will Not.

Awaken The Giant Within, by Tony Robbins

Save your Tony Robbins criticism. I’ve heard it all, and have probably spent too many hours reading message board criticism of the guy. The fact is, he’s a fantastic motivator. I don’t think he is ground-breaking or revolutionary in the slightest, but boy, can he tell a good story and get you pumped up. Put the audio on in the background while you’re folding laundry or doing mindless housework and let the positive energy penetrate your psyche. One of the most valuable things I learned from this book/audio was to live my life as if I was being watched. Don’t do things you’d be embarrassed by if caught on film, or if caught by a higher power. Powerful idea.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

15 million people can’t be wrong, right? This little book was first released in 1937, and I’m pretty sure every person with a business degree was forced to read it. You should, too. I was raised with the notion that “you should never, ever, ever trust a salesperson. Sales people are slimy, and will get you to do things you don’t want to do.” Maybe not bad advice for me to pass along to my three daughters… But guess what? We are ALL in sales. You’re either selling a product, or you’re selling yourself, and you should understand the psychology of the sale — regardless of your views. There are free copies of this book floating around the internet; a simple google search will find you a PDF.

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, by Thomas Stanley

We hear a lot about the 1%, and most of us have visions of people living large: yachts, lavish vacations, live-in help, and gold-plated bathtubs. Oh wait, maybe that’s MTV Cribs. I am fortunate to have read Stanley’s book as a newlywed and it opened my eyes to the fact that although many of my neighbors appeared to have money, they probably didn’t, and were instead living beyond their means. Stanley shares research and personal stories of millionaires— many of whom you’ve never heard of, who are not flashy, but actually quite frugal. And that’s how they became millionaires!

The 4-Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris

Tim Ferris is a blogger, so I was drawn to his book. This is the most recent book that I’ve read that I feel comfortable recommending, and the most up-to-date in regards to online businesses and social media. I agree with much of what he’s written, although I’d argue that in the beginning few years of starting something online you must “feed it” regularly or it’ll die. Once you’re established, you can slack off, but only then. This is a valuable investment solely for the list of resources— it’s a great crash course on internet and direct sales marketing. P.S.: not a fan of the 4-hour body.

The Martha Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as You Start, Build, or Manage a Business, by Martha Stewart

This is a super quick read— I read it in the backyard while the kids were in the wading pool. It’s pretty basic, and consists of a lot of personal anecdotes. Stewart wrote it while in jail, and she also taught this information to the other inmates while fulfilling her sentence. No one can argue that she’s a powerhouse, and that she has found a way to climb every ladder pushed in her way. I look forward to hearing her speak at BlogHer 2012 in August.

Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write, by Elizabeth Lyon

I can’t count how many times I’ve recommended this book. I’ve read dozens of “how to get published” books, and prefer this to any others— it’s clear, it has examples, and it works. I used this book to write my first query letter, and to write all of my book proposals. It lines out how to hook your agent/editor quickly, and how to outline your book idea and clearly define your target audience. Because it’s an older book, she doesn’t go into the importance of having an online and social media presence, but there are many free resources online that will help build that part of your platform.


So there you go! Get to work! :-)

any favorites you’d add to this list?



Write On / Wipe Off Chore Charts

January 8, 2012 by · 16 Comments 

It’s 2012. I’ve spent the last four years of my life on the internet, and I love how I continue to learn new things. I developed a slight addiction to Pinterest over the holiday break (what? it was only supposed to last a week and I stretched it into a month? shhh. don’t tell anyone.) and learned that you can make ANYTHING into a white board with a cheap dollar store picture frame and a dry erase marker.

I think I’m in love.

The above frames were made in about 37 minutes. It took me a while to figure out the actual dimensions of the frame– 8 x 10 means that if you’re using a power point presentation you should size your project for 6.6 x 9.

You’re Welcome!

Another Thing to Note:  the glass at the dollar store breaks really, really easily. I broke the glass on each of these frames, and ended up going out into the shed to find old pictures to steal the glass (one might of been from Adam and his college friends. oops.). I’d maybe find cheapish frames at Kohl’s or Target that match instead.

My kids don’t seem to care that I’ve written a housekeeping journal/planner, or have developed a clever acronym for decluttering. They also don’t care that I get thank you notes every day in my email box which continues to perplex my #butIhelpotherpeoplewhydoesntmyownfamilylisten crazy brain.

it’s okay. I’ve come to terms with it.

Anyhow, I wrapped these chore charts up and handed them to my 7 and 10-year-old daughters (their names are on the charts, but I’ve covered them with tape because I’ve promised Adam I won’t exploit the kids on the internet) as New Year’s presents.

My 10 year old rolled her eyes, but my 7-year-old was uber excited and got to work checking things off her list immediately. If you’re looking for a guideline for age-appropriate chores, this list is a good one. Our picture frame chore charts have now been in action for exactly one week, and so far so good.

How was your New Year’s? Any big ideas for 2012? Did you make a vision board?

it’ll be a good year. I promise.

guest post: Why Working From Home Isn’t Just a Pipe Dream

December 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Please welcome Izzy Woods, a freelance writer and journalist. Izzy first contacted me about a guest post for Totally Together on November 7, then touched base with me again on November 11, November 18, November 30, and then again today: December 16.

Izzy’s credits include writing for the US Daily Review, Organic Health, Wiki-bee, and Capitol Macintosh. She shares her work-from-home story with us below but I can tell you right now why Izzy has succeeded: she never, ever, ever, ever gives up. And neither should you.

also: the Big Dreams Mama site is running an interview they did with me about *my* big dream, and is hosting a More Make it Fast giveaway.

2012 is going to be a wonderful year—- I just know it.

Why Working from Home Isn’t Just a Pipe Dream

I’ve never been one for the nine-to-five. Even when I first entered the working world, I knew that I couldn’t stick to such rigid hours. To start with, that caused me quite a few problems – not least of which was paying my rent! It was then that I stood back, took stock, and decided what I really wanted to do was become a writer. I knew that simply writing a novel or short story wasn’t going to ‘bring in the bacon’, so to speak, so I decided to become a freelance copywriter.

It wasn’t easy, and it’s taken a long time, but I can now say that I make a decent living from writing online. And best of all, I can do it all from the comfort of my own home. I’d like to share with you exactly how I did, and offer some invaluable advice straight that I wish someone had told me when I was getting started!

Sharpen your skills

The first step you need to take before entering the world of freelance writing is ensuring that your writing skills are up to the job. The last thing you want to do is secure a large contract then be unable to provide the quality content your client will no doubt be after. If you think your writing ability needs a little polish, there are plenty of courses available online that can help with your spelling, punctuation, and grammar. It’s a great way to ensure you’re providing the best possible service.

Know how to find new work

Once I was ready to start working, I hit a bit of a roadblock: where am I going to find work? I’d heard so many horror stories about scammers and the many problems that freelance writers can have, so I was understandably wary. In the end, I decided that a career path such as this inherently contains some risk, and the main thing to do is limit that risk as much as possible. That means that when you reply to a job posting, you should always thoroughly research your clients. I’ve had at least two or three over ten years that were very unscrupulous and ended up not paying.

That’s when I learned: always get a signed contract.

It will protect you from scams, and keep everything above board from a legal point of view. Once you’ve got this nailed down, you’ll be able to enjoy a huge array of potential clients, from golf shoe manufacturers to websites that offer coupons. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

Be proactive and reactive

I started out by finding a lot of my writing jobs on sites like Craigslist and other job boards, but recently I’ve started using ‘Pay Per Click’ advertising like Google Adwords. Both of these methods can be successful; however I’ve found that I get the best quality jobs from PPC adverts linking to my personal website. This way, the client is actively looking for help, and is generally less likely to be a scammer. Always be cautious when applying for advertised jobs; my golden rule is and always will be ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’ I remember one job when I was starting out, the pay was huge for the amount of work required and I thought I’d hit the jackpot! Of course, I never saw a penny and lost hours of work. The lesson was to always check out prospective clients, always get a contract, and always be realistic about what a client is offering.

The freedom of working from home

With the words of warning out of the way, let’s focus on the positive. By becoming a freelance writer, I’ve been able to enjoy a much higher quality of life. I generally set my own hours, and I’m always comfortable at home. I don’t have to worry about bosses because I’m my own. Being a freelance writer has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done –  and I’m proud of the time and effort I’ve put in to get here. If you want to follow the same path, just remember that you’ll need plenty of time, plenty of effort, and (perhaps more importantly), a boat load of patience!


Winning the Game of Life. (wait, is this all just a game?)

October 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

This is the exact game box that’s collecting dust on the closet shelves in the family room at my parents’ house.

I haven’t played with it in over twenty years.

because it takes too long.

… insert metaphorical psycho babble…

When things are going well, does that mean that you are #winning (thank you Charlie Sheen!) the Game of Life?

Does that mean that others are losing?

if you are sick, or hurt, or hungry, or worried, or disorganized, or scared, or poor, does that mean you are #losing?

Does that mean that your situation was just the luck of the draw, or that you must simply play the hand you’re dealt?

that can’t be the case. it just can’t be.

No one has all the answers on how to play this game. No one can anticipate all the wildcards and roadblocks Life brings. The only thing that seems to work, is to pull out the directions, smooth out the creases and recommit to staying on course.





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