health · life curation

Amping Up The Self Love

I’m feeling so much more rested today: I’m thankful for good sleep, good friends, and good food LOL! Having a little bit of each of these seems to have really done the trick for me. I’m still a little tired, but such is life when you’re living with fibromyalgia. Some days are much better than others, and when you have good days, you learn to relish them!

I’ve been resting more because I’m feeling affected by a lot of things. Yes, fibromyalgia plays a starring role in my exhaustion, but there was another thing that was bothering me. I noticed that I was starting to feel less than stellar, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was causing it. After spending a little time exploring my feelings, I figured out that my tiredness was due to uneasiness.

Upon further reflection, I learned that my uneasiness was rooted in my lacking self love. It’s funny, because I didn’t think about it before, as I usually don’t feel uneasy or unsettled within myself. But I’ve been experiencing these feelings because I’ve occasionally felt frustrated with my progress on my goals, my health, and my changing family dynamics. I didn’t make the connection before, but it’s clear that my frustration with outside circumstances is starting to feel very personal and it started to affect me physically.

My goal recently has been to amp up my self love. This goes beyond manicures and massages: aside from self care, I thought long and hard about how I can affirm my worth and self love. I’ve been doing positive affirmations daily, sleeping with rhodochrosite under my pillow, and asking myself regularly, “How can I make this experience more suitable for me?”, and “What would make my happiest right now?” After asking myself those questions, I take an action that feels better in the moment. Those simple decisions went a long way in affirming that I am an embodiment of love, I radiate peace and love, and I’m deserving of love and all the good things that life has to offer.

I’m still working regularly on my self love, but I’m already seeing a change in my energy levels. Yes, I’m still tired a lot, but the uneasiness has shifted, and I’m feeling more grounded. Things are starting to look up, and I’m thankful for it.

business · career · life curation

Women and Money: Problems and Solutions

Some of you may not realize this, but April is National Financial Literacy Month. As a woman, I’m fascinated by how finances factor into the lives of women. I feel that most women “know” about money, but there’s a disconnect between knowledge and application. As a financial professional (enrolled agent), I understand many of the pitfalls that women experience as regards wealth-building and debt reduction. What I intend to do with this post is offer solutions and workarounds for the most common issues that exist when it comes to women and money.

  • In most fields, women tend to earn less that their male counterparts doing the same work.

Yes, the gender pay gap is real. It doesn’t apply 100% of the time (for example, women that work in food preparation services and fast food tend to earn more than males in the same job). For most women, changing their gender just to earn more money isn’t a reasonable solution. Most women aren’t clear about how they can minimize or eliminate the pay gap that they are experiencing.

Women would do well to try to eliminate the pay gap that they experience personally. This can be done by learning what the current wage expectations are in a particular field, then comparing this to the woman’s experience, education, and location. After that, it’s a good idea to research the ways to negotiate for a pay raise, and practice the negotiation conversation with a trusted friend, mentor or advisor. If the gap is too large to be successfully negotiated, then it’s worthwhile to research and apply to different employers. Additionally, gaining additional skills can give women an advantage, making it easier to command higher wages (this can be done easily through free online education providers like ALISON, Coursera, Saylor and CPA Academy)

  • Women save money more but invest less than men.

Saving money is great, but the interest rates for savings accounts (of all sorts) is too low to keep up with the rate of inflation. As long as the money sits in savings, it’s missing an opportunity to work harder and generate a higher return. To that point, women are also less inclined to invest than men. Many women have been conditioned to see investing as “too risky”, and thus they prefer safer ways to store money (such as savings accounts).

The solution for this is to focus on investments that feel safer, and building your confidence until you are comfortable enough to take bigger risks. A good way to start investing is to purchase just one inexpensive stock, and start regularly reading about that stock’s performance. Then, invest in more stocks, adding a little more money to invest at each time. Websites like Acorns, Earnin and even Cash App are making it easier than ever to invest small amounts and to observe how the investments are performing.

  • Women have more student loan debt overall.

Education is necessary to earn a solid living, but it’s hard to move forward in life post-college when you have significant student loan debt. Due to the pandemic, many loan companies have opted to provide forbearance to loan recipients, so these recipients don’t have to pay on the student loans while trying to adjust to possible income and lifestyle changes.

There are two approaches that I recommend for studnet debt. If possible, avoid student debt by taking equivalency tests so that certain credits can be awarded without having to pay costly tuition (I wrote a book all about this, titled Degree Hacking: How to Save Money and Get College Credits in Record Time). However, if the loan debt has already been incurred, then I recommend that women research whether their employers offer student loan repayment. If not, seek an employer that does offer this benefit. Also, if the student loan rates are higher than, say, the cost of a line of credit or a home equity loan, then opt for one of these, and use that money to pay off the student loan. Yes, that does mean trading in one debt for another, but at least utilize these other funding sources can save money in the long run.

  • Women are more likely to live in poverty during their old age.

This is heartbreaking but true. Living to advanced age should automatically mean comfortable golden years, but this is not always how it works out. The best defense against lives of poverty is cultivating authentic friendships and support groups before reaching advanced age. It’s invariably more difficult to create relations when these are “needed”, so it’s best to start creating these connections before health declined occur.

Once a person is retirement age, it can be very challenging to make new friends. But websites that encourage meeting up (like Meetup), neighborhood town hall meetings, special interest groups and charities are a great way to connect with like minds and meet new friends. After creating these connections, it offers a little bit of a buffer against hard time. People are more likely to support their friends during hard time, but the key is to create mutual benefit. No one wants to feel “used”, so it’s crucial to create a relationship where both parties feel appreciated and enjoy one another’s company.

  • On the whole, women are less financially literate than men.

I recommend that all women take time to read books on finance, as well as take advantage of free webinars and workshops offered by financial institutions (such as banks, credit unions, and government and other oversight agencies, such as FINRA). Below, I provide a few links to books and articles that I find to be wonderful for learning about money.

Important Facts About Women and Money

Women & Money: 10 Facts We Should All Know

Money and Women: Myths and Facts

60+ Stats About Women and Money

Commercial Bank Regulation

MyCreditUnion Financial Literacy Resources

National Credit Union Association Financial Literacy Resources

My finance and tax-related blog (new posts starting in May 2021)

Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach

I hope you all find these tips helpful, and if you need clarity on anything else, let me know in the comments!

life curation

New Goals for 2020

Even before COVID-19 upended our collective plans and intentions for 2020, I knew that I was taking a completely different direction than I had for the past few years.

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Every year, I focus on very tangible goals. My goals could be easily quantified, because I believe in goals being SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound – and I tied my personal value to the achievement of a SMART goal.

But now, my goals are shifting . . . And I like it. Yes, to a degree, my goals are still SMART, but they all aren’t as dynamic as before. I will always have a couple of dynamic goals (that’s my nature) but some of my other goals are more fluid, and allow me room to be gentle with myself. I’m starting to fall in love with my “new normal”, which include practices that support my emotional and mental health, and goals that focus more on who I’m being as opposed to what I’m doing.

With that in mind, here are some of my new goals for 2020:

  • Practice yoga weekly
  • Finish writing and editing two of my books
  • Complete my herbalist certification (did that earlier this week!)

Have you had a chance to revisit and rethink your goals? What direction do you think you’ll be going this year? I’d love to hear all about it!

health · life curation · relaxation

Take a Moment to Feel the Sun

The sun is such a blessing. I feel very connected with sun energy, and I embrace the times where I can go outside and simply feel the sun on my skin. My good friend Diana mentioned more than once that I need to intentionally connect with sun energy, and that’s why I’m devoting this post to her. I’m listening, chica. I’m choosing to regularly connect with this incredible energy source.

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Enjoy the sunshine

This life-sustaining ball of fire continues to remind me of all of the good things about life. Delicious fresh fruit and vegetables grow because THE SUN IS. My skin grows to a deeper chocolate hue every summer because THE SUN IS. Time and all things that we use to measure the span of our lives is possible because THE SUN IS.

So, if you can, take a moment, step outside and feel the sun. Let the rays kiss your skin and serve as a reminder that every day is magical. And then, embrace the other magic that shows up for you: it surrounds you, and it is waiting for you to see it.

health · life curation · relaxation

NOW is the Time to Make Self Care a Priority

In light of current events, I have more free time and energy to devote to this blog. And now, more than ever, I’ve been called to resume my posting and offer encouragement and advice.

Our world has changed drastically in the past five months. I recall tutoring ESL students from China and they mentioned the effects of COVID-19 in its infancy. In a way, I was aware of the virus earlier than many of my family and friends, due to my students that provided me an inside view of what life in quarantine is like.

In the US, many of us are experiencing quarantines and mandatory shelter-in-place while we brace ourselves for the impact of the virus. This is a drastic change from life as we knew it, and the store shortages, sudden school closures, economic instability and unexpected loss of employment are devastating for many.

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I cannot emphasize enough that NOW is the time to invest more in your self care. If you are able to read this post, you’re likely more fortunate and privileged than you realized. Investing in taking care of yourself in small (or significant) ways can do wonders for reducing your stress levels (stress negatively impacts the immune system, which you need to be at peak performance during this time). It also helps you to relax so that you can come up with solutions to your problems or, at least, to simply appreciate the good things that are already present in your life.

I don’t write this to sound dismissive and flippant: certainly plugging “self care” when people are suffering around the world may not come across as the most politically correct position to take at this time. However, I’m an advocate for self care in its minutest forms: that can mean doing some deep breathing to help calm your nerves, or stretches in the morning to loosen the tension that your body is holding, or even reminding yourself to drink more water (hydration is important).

Please continue to take care of yourselves, and I look forward to sharing more with you all tomorrow. Goodbye for now!

life curation

Let Inspiration Lead You

Happy Saturday, friends! I recently experienced a major positive shift in my energy, and I wanted to share what happened that turned things around a bit. Now, the positive shift doesn’t mean that things are completely perfect; in fact, nothing is truly perfect in my life right now. However, this shift was powerful enough to give me a significant “push” when I wasn’t feeling inspired to do anything at all.

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Letting inspiration guide you is as simple as letting go

Earlier this week, the word “lagniappe” crossed my mind. Lagniappe is a Creole term meaning “a little something extra”. It’s a little gift or token that may be given for anything or nothing. Usually, little shops in New Orleans (though this might also happen in other parts of Louisiana, I’m specifically referring to New Orleans because I’ve been there) will throw in a little extra gift when you purchase something, or even give you a little token just for stopping by and chatting with the staff for a bit.

neworleans

A common sight in many shops in New Orleans – masks with all sorts of fancy designs

I hadn’t thought of the word in years but here it was, on my mind. I just figured that meant it was time to plan another trip to New Orleans (which would be fabulous!) and let the thought pass. I went on with my day as normal and didn’t think any more of it.

Two days later, I went online and read some posts in one of my coaching groups. I saw a post from a member that was unclear on what she needed to do to resolve the issue that she was facing. I thought a writing technique that I first read in Write It Down, Make It Happen by Dr. Henriette Anne Klauser. I flipped through the book, located the technique I wanted to describe to her, and posted my response.

After writing the response, I flipped to the back of the book, right before the bibliography. Right there, in the middle of the page, was the word “lagniappe”. For clarity, Dr. Klauser is not Creole nor does she write about life in Louisiana or anything else related to that part of the world. Literally, the word was on the page, like a beacon, telling me that what I needed was sitting on my bookshelf all along.

I’ve been languishing a bit because my dreams need fine tuning. It’s funny: I actually have almost everything that I want. I’ve spent years getting clear on my desires and successfully co-creating everything that I’ve wanted. I’ve traveled to places that I couldn’t imagine that I’d ever see in person. I’m in my dream field: the one that took me NINE years to get into. My family is healthy and happy, and I earn enough to do everything that I want to do (with proper planning, of course). By all accounts, I’m happy with my life and everything is great.

But my daily passion is lacking. I knew that I needed to get clearer about my art career goals as well as a few other “bucket list” items. I didn’t realize how much being “comfortable” and uninspired could negatively affect me, but now I know. So the next few weeks will be all about getting clear and finding my passion again. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love my life and find a lot of joy in it daily. But my drive was gone because I’ve already gotten so many of the things that I wanted.

I mean, what do you do when you got everything you wanted?

It’s simple: you find new dreams. You get some new goals. You find a new passion because that passion is what keeps us going.

So I’m taking some time to get quiet and let inspiration lead me. I think I know where it’s going to take me: there’s a dream that I’ve been tossing around for a bit, but I needed a little extra clarity on how I’d like for it to look in my real life. So I’m going to reread Write It Down, Make It Happen, spend some time just doing what sounds like fun (because having fun is great for setting things in motion), and allowing my new dreams to reveal themselves to me.

Have you all had to “recalibrate” your dreams? I’d love to hear how you did it: feel free to comment below and let me know how you tapped back into your passion after a period of feeling uninspired.

Take care, and enjoy your Saturday!

life curation

April’s Joy Challenge: Join Me!

Happy Sunday, my friends! I hope you’ve had an enjoyable weekend so far.

Whenever I come across something that I think you all would enjoy or find useful, I make sure to share it here. It’s my pleasure to share something with  you today that I can personally vouch for: I participated in this event last year, and I saw major changes in my life within 30 days!

Joy

(photo courtesy of Orfordville Lutheran Church)

Every April, Amina Makhdoom of Lunch With Cinderella hosts the Joy Challenge, a 30 day program designed to help participants reach their goals through the magic of including JOY in their day-to-day lives. Amina’s group is an amazing, encouraging group that helps keep joy at the forefront of the conversations being held.

Since I’ve completed the challenge, I can confirm the quality of the content and the efficacy. Amina has even won the Best Law of Attraction Program Award for the Joy Challenge. Best of all? This program is free of charge, and it is a great way to get a feel for the work that Amina does.

I’d love for you all to join me for this April’s Joy Challenge! You can sign up here for the challenge. I can’t wait to see what magic you create during the month!

life curation

Preparing for 2018: Before Setting Your Goals …

Hello friends! Thanks for stopping by. In a previous post, I discussed the fact that I prepared for the things that I wanted during 2016 and 2017. I also touched on the fact that things don’t have to already be perfect in order to create a better reality in the year to come.

Today, I’m talking about goals. If you’re expecting the same kind of chatter that you would get from your average Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat “life coach”/”guru”, I’m going to disappoint you. I don’t repeat the words and sentiments of charlatans that make their living spouting off cliches and charging $97/$197/$997/any figure ending in “7” for exclusive “workshops” to tell you what you’ve already heard. I also have no interest in positioning myself as an “expert” in anything but how I choose to live my life.

Goals are as personal as fingerprints: no two people desire the exact same things. Because of this, I can only give you some general advice on setting goals for 2018. But this is the advice I’ve followed, and it worked for me, so take it for what it’s worth.

-It’s okay to start out vague. Most of the time, we are told that our goals must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achieveable, Results-Focused, Time Bound). The truth is, our biggest dreams are usually fuzzy and not very specific at all. That’s because our big dreams often are some general emotion that we want to feel (happiness, joy, love, contentment and satisfaction, secure, confident, etc.,). The problem with SMART goals is that the concept disregards the WHY behind the goal. Every goal is rooted in how it will make us FEEL. So it’s far more important to understand the desired FEELING than to have a SMART goal.

Improvisation News

(plucked from @ImprovUpdates on Twitter)

-It’s important to be honest about how you feel while aiming for particular goals. As the phrase goes, “Happy endings do not come from unhappy journeys”. To the greatest degree possible, avoid taking “unhappy” journeys in an attempt to “justify” your success. In other words, you don’t have to be uncomfortable in order to deserve good things. We often take to heart the phrase “no pain, no gain”. Yes, we can learn a lot from our pain and missteps, and yes, there are often sacrifices that must be made when going for our big dreams. But don’t torture yourself on the path to reaching your goals, simply because you *think* that the only way to get to the goal is to do it the “hard way”. The “hard way” isn’t always the best way. Personally, taking uncomfortable actions doesn’t work for me: the action must either feel neutral (doesn’t make me feel happy but doesn’t cause discomfort) or feel good to me. If the action doesn’t feel good, then it doesn’t serve me in the accomplishment of my goals.

-Get very acquainted with how you want to feel when you reach your goal, and tap into that feeling regularly. What I found is that regularly activating a particular emotion can reveal the fact that I’m much closer to my goal than I initially thought. Some emotions are harder to activate than others: activating a feeling isn’t always a clear, easy-to-do task. How can you feel “secure” when you don’t know if you will have a job next week? How can you feel “love” if you’ve never had a nurturing, satisfying romantic relationship? In cases where it’s hard to generate certain feelings, your best bet is to find someone that easily exhibits that emotion and emulate them and associate with them. Birds of a feather …

If the previous points resonate with you, try putting them into action before you get specific about what you want to realize during the upcoming year. Getting clear on your feelings prior to pinpointing your goal will help you get much closer to what it is that you really want.

 

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life curation

Preparing for 2018

Happy Monday, beloveds!

Can you all believe that we are THREE short months away from 2018? I’m blown away by how quickly 2017 has passed! This has been a monumental year for me: so many milestones, so much growth!

I had to take some time to think of the little things that made my 2017 spectacular, and I’ve already started setting myself up for an incredible 2018. As it turns out, you CAN pave the way for a spectacular year to come, and paving that way doesn’t require, nor does it have to involve:

-getting major cash windfalls

-meeting “the one”

-dropping tons of weight/getting to your ideal body

-landing in your dream career

Yes, all of those things are wonderful and can greatly enhance your enjoyment of the following year. But these shouldn’t be prerequisites for living well. Living well is about establishing a day-to-day (even a moment-to-moment) cultivation and appreciation of everything that gives you joy, fulfillment, peace and delight.

I know for a fact that everything doesn’t have to be “perfect” in order to create a wonderful life. For that reason, I’ll periodically share what I’m doing to pave the way to a spectacular 2018. I’ll try to make this a weekly series and I’ll aim for consistency. These weeks leading up to the end of the year will give you all a behind-the-scenes peek into how I am setting myself up for a fabulous year to come.

I hope you all will try some of these exercises with me and see the difference that preparing for the next year can make! I’d love to have some company on this journey. If you’re interested in practicing some techniques for a fabulous year to come, let me know in the comments below.