Thursday, April 16, 2015

The blog has moved...

In a time of great transition...please check out my new space My Steps In Time.

It is in the infancy stage of launching....

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

50 Shades of Awkward

I have talked to my children, sometimes much to their dismay, about everything related to sex.  I wanted them to hear the information from me infused with my values. I didn't want them to be clueless, or hear from a teacher, or on the bus....or the internet.

Most importantly I wanted them to know that they could talk with me, and no matter how awkward, I would always provide answers and guidance.

This started when I knew they were going to start the "family life" section at school.  I took the opportunity on long car rides, going over 50 miles an hour, when we both could not escape from embarrassment to talk.  I also took advantage of teachable moments when watching TV shows and movies, like Bridesmaids...or the Bachelor.

This week I saw the benefit of all of these awkward conversations when my middle daughter Vicki felt comfortable enough to start asking me questions about 50 Shades.  Let me start out by saying that I did not anticipate this discussion and therefore did not  have the necessary barrel of wine at the ready to get me through the evening.

Over the course of this discussion I was asked the following:
  • Did she like it?
  • Why did he want to do it to her?
  • Did she tie him up?
  • Did she hit him?
  • Is it abuse?  
  • Did they love each other?  
  • What is....(insert any topic in the movie)
  • Do people wear leather?
  • Are paddles made of wood?
  • Doesn't it hurt?  
All this and my daughter did not even read the book.  

I then had the great pleasure (no pun intended) of explaining bondage, S&M, dominant / submissive relationships as I sat in disbelief I was talking with my high school freshman.  I kept to the minimum facts, talked in broad terms, and prayed for the end to come quickly...a few times I prayed for death just to end the discussion.   All jokes aside, we talked about how each person can define healthy for themselves but when requests or activities get uncomfortable it is time to use your safe word...and run away if you are not respected.    I told them that healthy relationships are all about two adults (or more if that is what you are into), coming together to build a life.  Sex is an important part of any healthy relationship (but not the only part) and both parties have to agree.

I was able to reinforce ideas about starting too young (wait until you are 30) can get pregnant, and I took the time to once again bring up the  issues of disease, being safe...and being comfortable.  

My daughter explained to me she was asking me these questions because she was attempting to determine her own opinion about the book and hype....she was struggling with whether or not it is abuse.

 My daughter...came to ask she could form an opinion.  Welcome to Parent Cloud 9.  

Was this awkward?  Yes on many levels.  I sat in amazement and slight horror of all my children are exposed to and understand at such an early age.  There were times I was squirming and at one point  threw up my hands "I can not take it anymore, this is getting too awkward, I'm only taking yes or no questions!"  There was a small residual piece of my uptight upbringing that wanted to send her to her room with the internet so I could sit in quiet denial.  I lifted the binary question requirement and just let the conversation flow...down the awkward river...with no paddles (oh my gosh that is funny)...and remember, no wine.

I did ask where she was learning about Anastaia, and much to my horror, there have been posters plastered all over school regarding the movie and how it relates to healthy and unhealthy relationships.  The hashtag #50shadesofblackandblue  was on the school walls (ok, take a moment to digest that - yes, I was shocked).  Vicki has also seen the TV commercials and read the buzz on Twitter.  There has been controversy over the movie on the news.

If you just said to yourself "my kid is not on Twitter," "we do not watch the news or any TV," "my children do not go to school," "their friends would never talk about this,"...well, then go back to being Amish...or living in denial.  For the rest of you who live in reality....let's continue.

I am not saying it is easy to talk to your children about any of this.  And there is no judgement on my part at all.  If you are deeply rooted in religious beliefs or regularly hang from the chandeliers in your own "Red Room of Pain," it is totally your business - go forth as you wish as long as you can emotionally deal.  And, I don't care at all what you tell your children as long as you are open, honest, and keep it on a level for them to digest. You may say:
  • A loving relationship is centered in Christ.
  • We do not believe in having sex before marriage
  • There should be no physical pain between two lovers
  • Get your freak on any way you like as long as it is consensual.  
The most important thing to realize is that in today's day and age you have to open up the dialog or your children are going to learn their values from the internet and popular culture.  This is about letting your child know they can talk with you...and ask questions.  I can guarantee you that when they hear things and do not know what it is they are embarrassed.  I remember being horrified in elementary school when kids were making fun of me because they could tell I was embarrassed when I did not understand a joke with a sexual reference and was unsure how I could find the meaning.

Our kids have the internet to run to.  Just for kicks, get on your phone and Google the word "porn "  and see what pops up.   Frightening, eh?  Now imagine your 12 year old daughter looking at the same information.   They can just as easily google "50 Shades" and are given a variety of information none of which is related to a color pallet.   Armed with the phone, which is really just a mini computer, they have the ability to enter a world they are not emotionally ready to handle and need your guidance to navigate.

Look, I am not saying these conversations are easy.  And part of your open and honest discussion will be admitting to your child your skin in crawling and this is all very awkward.  But, there will come a time, like I had this week, when you realize that the open and honest communication will pay off.  Where your child will come to your guidance and they start to form their own opinion.

Greatest lesson learned - when you have three teenage daughters, always keep wine in the house - you never - and I mean NEVER know what is coming next.

I would like to thank my 15 year old daughter Vicki, not only for bringing me into her decision, but also allowing me to share it with you.  When asked if I could generally share it she gave me permission to give detail, and hopefully help other families.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

He Will Be Flight Based

You may have heard of Madame Marie, the tarot card reader on the Asbury Park boardwalk made famous by Bruce.  I have passed her stand, now occupied by her grand daughter, over a 100 times and never stopped in for a reading.  I always thought the tarot was for amusement and entertainment, and, much like the horoscope I read in Cosmo, so general it can be applied to anyone when put through an individual's filter and need to find connection.

Then one line changed it all for me...

In April, 2012, my dear sister Susan brought a tarot card reader to her home.  Expecting a hippy dippy long skirt wearing woman with dread locks, I was quite surprised to meet Lee Anne Englert for the first time.   She could easily don a suite and walk into corporate America.  She has a masters degree in counseling, is a certified therapist, and just a normal person.

I was in a period of great transition in my life and did open my mind to the fact that the tarot could give me some insight into the decisions and direction I needed to be taking. Open wide and ready to be amused.  

She gave me the cards to hold (to transfer my energy to them - look...just go with it) and asked me to select 21.  They were laid out in three rows to represent my past, present and future.  She knew very little about me which is why my reading was so startling.  She saw the pain in my past and knew I was struggling with a sense of darkness known by only few.  I had been enslaved in a way and mocked for being different.  She saw my three daughters, the nomadic life I was leading at the time, my business in its early infancy stages, and then, she saw him.  She said that at that present moment he was searching with others but would be coming my way...and he is  whole and complete. Apparently I was not going to settle this next time around.

But, it was one other statement she said would really change the way I feel about her gift...

"He will be flight based."  

She wasn't quite sure what that meant, and did not have details about his sky high status.  She thought it could mean I would meet him traveling, maybe he was a salesman, maybe I would meet him in an airport.  I thought this was nuts, flight based?  I had never known anyone with that qualifier.  So I decided to just let it be and think of ways to spend the frequent flier miles I apparently was going to be accumulating.  She also predicted great success for me and my business and explained he would hold my hand as I walked through some difficult times.  He would never try to save me, but rather would support me.

Sure, it was fun to hear what she had to say by looking in her paper version of a crystal ball.  I was glad "he" would be coming since backpack man, the playa, the captain, and dungeons and dragon's man were entertaining but disappointing to my heart.   I looked at my notes, tucked them away, and thought it would be fun to see if any of it came true.  

I proceeded through spring into early summer doing my thing...planning my business, and dating online.  That last part got a little monotonous.  He was no where to be found, the online dating process was horrific and I decided to concede defeat.  July 1, 2013 I went into POF to delete my profile and decided to do one more search expanding my geographic area.  And then...HE popped up...and three days later we had dinner.  

My doors, blown off.  

It was as if she had waived her magic tarot card lady wand of sage over her cauldron.  

He was a Navy Pilot...can you get any more "flight based" than that?   

He also has the top qualities on my list (steel center core of integrity, phenomenal father, in great shape, matched energy, and just as crazy as I am).  As she saw, he was whole and complete with a life...he is happy...and just my type of crazy.  We have walked through the year and a half, holding hands and supporting each other, always putting the children first.  Right from the start we had the same custody schedule, and like to do all the same things.  The relationship is easy, no drama, and built on a pile of trust.  Yes, I have experienced some darkness and he held my hand, held me up, and at times set me straight.  I have equally and unconditionally supported him and we's all good.

Lee Anne is now off on her own building a psychotherapy practice in Doylestown, PA.  Yes, her gift is now growing a business as she inspires her clients with her wisdom and counsel.  Recently I was struggling with an issue that she saw so clearly and then mapped out a plan with me to work through it.  The tarot showed us my path which is apparently surrounded with an abundance of good energy.  Shameless plug:  if you are looking for any help with social media for your small business, well, my business is the go to place.

I do not believe that a set of cards can predict the future.  But placed in the right set of hands with an intuitive healer completely committed to helping, well, they can shine light and perhaps give you some things to ponder.

If you are struggling for a bit of direction or can not see your way through a muddy situation well, I would recommend you visit Lee Anne.  Be open, be present, and listen to her caring words as she guides you through finding the most authentic version of yourself.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

How to Run a Pasta Party

Your child is a member of the varsity swim team - awesome!  I currently have two on our team.  During the season, parents volunteer to host the team for a pasta party...yes, you feed the entire team (boys and girls) a big family style Italian your home....on a school night.

You may think this sounds awesome or this may be overwhelming.  I have always loved hosting it. Swimmers are the most polite and appreciative kids around, I love my house to be filled, and my children really appreciate the effort.  Great mom moment.

I just hosted one this past Monday evening and was asked a bunch of questions by the moms I recruited to host it with me.  Then on Tuesday I received a call from another parent hosting a party next week looking for guidance.  I thought to myself that it would be a great idea to put some thoughts out in cyberspace so parents had a list to use when it was their turn to host.  So here is my best advice:

Form a team:  You should not even think of doing this alone.  You are feeding 45 teenagers in your home.  They just spent 2 1/2 hours in the pool.  Half are boys.  Cooking the required amount of food will take hours (and cost huge bucks).  This year my team was two awesome moms and my co-parent.  Three families makes the event very very manageable.  You need to adults to handle serving and two to clean-up.

This is not an event to make Great Grandma Gardella's homemade sauce (just for the record, I do not have great Great Grandma Gardella's recipes...any of them...such a loss).   This event is about quantity, and then backing away from the buffet table for the swimmers move through at a rapid pace.  They do not need to be served - they are in high school so they can serve themselves.  You may talk with them, but not at length - unless you want to embarrass your children.  I talked at length with many of the kids - but then again, I am already embarrassing to my when I breathe.

Six trays of pasta:  these are the 9x12 trays.  Each takes about two boxes of pasta.  Need ideas:  pasta with sauce, vodka rigatoni, ziti, mac and cheese.  Do not do anything elaborate like lasagna.  No need.  Martha is not coming.

In addition to the six trays I had one additional filled with two boxes of plain past with just butter.

Sauce:  I put two jars of sauce in a small crock pot - it was not used but I felt better having it.  Also, I like to dip garlic bread in sauce.

Meatballs:  You need to fill a large crock post about 3/4 of the way full with meatballs.  Cover with sauce.  Do not make the meatballs, buy a large bag at Sams.

Garlic Bread:  6 loaves should do it. You should really have seven if I am involved.

Salad:  one 9 x 12 tray of salad

Desserts:  You need about 3 trays of dessert.  Think the size of the large cookie trays from Sams Club - that is one.  Chocolate chip cookies are a huge hit - do not waste your time with homemade oatmeal cookies.  Brownies are popular.

Drinks:  Ten (10), 1/2 gallon containers.  We get our from Halo Pub - cheap and nothing beats the chocolate milk.  Get a variety - iced tea, lemonade, fruit punch and chocolate milk.  I also put out two pitchers of water.

Dinner plates, dessert plates / Forks / Knives/ Napkins / cups

Seating:  I set my dining room table for 10, can seat another 10 in my living room on couches and chairs.  In my den, the smallest room I set-up folding table seating for 8 with some couch space.  Most of the kids sat in den - if they didn't get a seat at a table they sat on the couch, the floor or against the fireplace.  The first time I hosted everyone sat in the den - yes, everyone.

So that is it.  Easy schmeasy.  Let me know if you have any questions!

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Nastiness of Betrayal

I've been dealing with some icky feelings this week, those of betrayal.  It is my hottest negative trigger.  Lie to me in any way, betray me, go behind my back in a dishonest way and a blackout is in your immediate future.  A boyfriend decides he needs to flirt with another women via private Facebook message and I find out through her husband...yeah, that didn't go well in that previous relationship.  And this week those feelings of betrayal came back to haunt me as a friend called with some news of her rather new relationship.

She has hit a bump with her man.  They have been dating for five months and she just learned that he had been in touch with "others" during the first two months of their courtship.  They met online dating, a process that it designed to put you in touch with many for the purposes of finding 'the one."  So, it is only natural to assume that even on your first few dates you are both still in touch with, if not meeting up with a few others.  However, as with my friend, once exclusive is said and profiles brought down, it is implied and even formally agreed to that you will both detach from the others.  

Some may think this is extreme.  I do not. It is so easy for communications with others to go awry.  She sends him a message when she breaks up with her boyfriend "hey, why didn't we ever work?" Or someone you met online dating suddenly realizes they should have accepted his invitation to dinner.  A flirt here, sext there.  How about the old "hey I miss our chats, wanna talk?"

And that is where my friend found herself last week when he asked her to pick-up his ringing phone. The voice was female and my friend recognized the name on caller id.  The details are not important but he admitted they had met for a few dates months ago and had kept in touch...flirted...sent some inappropriate messages.  She reached out to him again, he "didn't know how to stop it."

Here is how you stop it its tracks...."hey, great to hear from you but I am working on a new relationship that is already committed.  Your guy is out there and I wish you the best of luck.  It is best if we are not in touch."

As I introduced above, my icky feelings from the past surfaced as I heard my friend's woes.  Now, when the past shows up it is best to shut the door, it has nothing new to say - and I agree, unless it knocks down the door.  I was dating a many who did have quite a little emotional tryst with a women through Facebook private messages.  I learned of their interactions, including her request that they spend a night together, when her husband copied the communications and emailed them to me.

Ya know what came out of that?  A realization that I have no time or space in my life for this drama. Why on earth would you want to spend time on that level with another person when you are with someone else?  Well, it is are either with the wrong person or you have a serious self-esteem issue.  You somehow need the attention.  I don't want to be with that type of person. To the right guy, I am enough...more than enough. In fact, if you have extra time on your hands spend it wowing me - mow my lawn or tackle a small project in my house.  

A bit more about what this all means to me.
Well, I'm not giving up details about my actual relationship, but will tell you that I take interaction with "others" to the extreme (shocking, I know). It is simple, there will be no contact.  Within a couple weeks of dating my guy I said goodbye, to an ex-boyfriend I was still in contact with, a connection without commitment, and a few guys from online dating (some I had met, some I had not).  They each received a simple message of "I just started seeing someone and do not think it is appropriate we are in touch.  I wish you nothing but the best."  (Obviously some were more personal depending on the relationship).  I received thank you's and good wishes back.  They were appreciative I had not just disappeared and also were glad I wasn't dragging them along when I was with someone else.

To kick the whole thing up a notch (me?  shocking I know).
I walk around in the world, in personal interactions and in cyberspace, as a very taken women.  I am in a committed relationship and would never do or say anything that would give another individual any idea that I might be interested or available.  I would never embarrass or insult my boyfriend in that way, ever. And I expect the same out of him. Look, he has the privilege of dating me, and vice versa.  The appearance of impropriety is impropriety in and of itself.  If he needs to flirt in the real-world or online with others to feed some insecurity then he is not the guy for me.  Clearly made when we met and given his center core of integrity I don't doubt for a second he lives by his promise.

Hey look, when you are a whole and complete person you don't need validation from another. You are not out in the world to see how many people you can connect with so you feel better about yourself.  You know you rock, and look for someone who appreciates your awesomeness....

...or as I like to say, your matched crazy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Me and My Buddy Marcus

There came a point in my life when I realized (accepted) that the universe did not send me to earth with a natural support system.  While I am a very independent chick, this lack of a group presented a huge problem.  I craved a naturally given circle around me accepting me for whom I am and enjoying each other's company with unconditional love.  Once I accepted the fact that I had to put my own group around me, well, he walked in.

Who is he to me?  A mentor, a friend, a business coach.  Sometimes a brother, plays the part of uncle, and has at times even stepped in with fatherly advice.  I joke a lot and call him my guru, he really doesn't like that. In fact, he prefers not to be labeled at all.  Let's just go with his name then, Marcus.  

I was recently speaking at a networking and Marcus attended.  I was honored beyond words with his presence.  I quoted him several times during my presentation and afterwards several participants commented that we have "quite a relationship." They asked "how can I get a relationship like that for myself?"  Each time I replied with the same message, "you can not "get" this type of has to be sent to has to be has to be nurtured and held sacred.  You have to find the right person."  Marcus and I are both unique individuals and our mutual crazy and vibrational levels match, almost in step with one another.  Ours is a friendship that developed from a mutual admiration and respect for one another.  Kindred spirits both build from an authenticity rarely found.

Marcus entered my life years ago when was battling a serious medical condition and wanted his naturopathic wisdom.  Over the next few years we kept in touch largely through Facebook and I watched him move into the Google+ sphere.  In fact his knowledge and use of social media brought me to his door for professional guidance when a job required me pushing out a strategic social media campaign.  At our first meeting I was ready to roll, pen in hand prepared to hang on and write down his every word.  Yet, he had a very different agenda in mind and his was the plan that we actually followed.

It quickly became apparent I was not leaving his den without a full examination of my spirit.  He called into question many aspects of my life.  He had been watching, very closely on Facebook, and had reason for great concern.  I sat defensive in my chair and started lying through my teeth.  "Everything is fine, better than fine, I'm really happy."  He asked me about my dissertation, my children, the state of my current romantic relationship.  I silently wondered how the heck he could sense problems - from a few pictures on Facebook no less!  It is only now that I realized he was able to see my soul without judgement, saw the darkness I was harboring and wanted to help me out. 

With his unwavering help I positioned that business I was working for to first page rankings on Google search (shameless ad for my skills) all the while Marcus and I developed a very comfortable relationship based on a common interest in each other as people.  When I found myself making an unexpected and shocking turn in life, it was Marcus who helped me see the opportunity.  It was his texts,  (almost daily), that lifted me as I moved through the end of my dissertation.  

Marcus is the first one I went to when I had the idea for Your Social Media Hour.  I can remember wanting to share with him my 10 page business plan and shell of a website I had created.  At that time I honestly thought he was going to give me a huge hug, tell me to polish my resume, and go and get a real job.  But instead he saw great value in my idea and the passion I held in my heart.  His stamp of approval on my plan meant the world to me.  

As my business started to grow a bit Marcus took on the monumental task of getting me to start living from my heart.  As a analytical, list making, Type A personality this was a challenge I thought might break us both.  We called it the "get out of your head and into your heart tour, 2013" and, to his credit and possible exhaustion that mission was completed.  The repositioning of life shifted everything I did and life got hopping.  I would share my trials, tribulations and successes with him often and there were times he believed in me more than I did myself. My favorite text from him of all time:

"Whose ass are you kicking today princess?"

As we keep in touch, just about every day, he acts as one of my closest confidants and advisors.  He impacts every aspect of my life from children, friends, family, and my business.  He is the male confidant I was not given in life and he fills that cup to the point where it is overflowing. He is like a chameleon in my life, bringing forth the guidance I need at any given time just as I need it.  Always adjusting the delivery and intensity of his support and always providing unconditional love as I need it.

It isn't all peace and love all the time, sometimes he has to take out his proverbial 2x4 and whack me upside the head hitting me squarely in my craziness knocking me back to reality.  That is the balance to having Marcus in my life...the greatest care and compassion but if you slip into victim, pity or uncertainty, well brace yourself.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Client: "I Have Been Waiting for This Moment"

Me:  "And I am Honored to Share it with You."  

This week I had the great fortune of meeting with Kay and Sparky, a husband and wife team living in Central New Jersey.  They asked for a consultation appointment with me to help understand, plan and build their social media presence for Adornamentals.

As I sat down at their dining room table Kay said to me "I have been waiting for this moment."  She has been sewing her fingers to the bones for years building a very unique product.  And while holding her hand through the process, Sparky has helped her start to lay plans for the actual business side. They have built a product and a small business poised to go to the next level with a strategic internet marketing campaign.

And they had selected me for this next step. 

Upon learning this I had goosebumps.  My name and service came highly recommended to them through a local small business association. They had heard I dedicated my work to helping small business owners put plans in place for their website, blog and social media footprint including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  We spent just over two hours together.  I explained how to maximize the time they spent working on their website including pages to add (and a blog of course).  We discussed the importance of a strong social media campaign and how progress could be made without overwhelming their schedules.  They set an overall goal and we worked a few manageable steps.  We agreed to check back in about a month.

Kay's product is exquisite and I am almost at a loss for how to describe it (stop laughing, yes, I am at a loss for words).  It is a home furnishing item that goes beyond anything I have ever seen in a store.  Kay uniquely and individually crafts one of a kind ornaments for you to hang. Looking for something to fill a corner, bring color up to the ceiling and tie it all together with a beautiful fabric?  That is where she fits. They can hang anywhere, but when they talked about filling a corner that really made sense to me. They have a house full of samples, fabrics and multiple spaces dedicated to their business. In the way that the talk and live, their passion to build and succeed shines through.

Sitting with this couple I closely watched their dedication to the business as well as to each other and the experience reaffirmed a few ideals for me.  First, finding love a second time around is possible.  When you are a small business owner out in the dating world you are not just looking for a mate but for a business partner.  You never know when they are going to get sucked into your enterprise and since you walk, talk, and breathe your business it is going to mesh with your personal life.  You need someone who can support you through the good and bad of your business and also stand proudly and represent you - because by extension, when walking around in the world, they are part of who you are.  For instance, you may have a social "significant others included" networking event and you best have someone awesome to bring with you. Like I am doing, for the +Network Now Connections LLC  anniversary party with my buddy +Jamie Broderick in a month.

And lastly, as I sat with Kay and Sparky I realized I am absolutely in the right business for me.  I loved working with this couple, answering their questions, providing them with the information they needed to promote their business.  When we first sat down they had a list of questions and were very confused about where to begin.  By the end they had clear direction, an action set to complete before we meet again, and peace of mind that their marketing goals were achievable.  As I often say, I'm not a good cook but if you need someone to teach you and then help you promote your business on the internet, I'm the gal to call.