Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Size Zero (and Hello to Size Healthy!)


Want to know the real reason I've been living in gym clothes for the past four months?

Because nothing--and I mean NOTHING--in my closet fits me.

It started in June, when I noticed that my running shorts kept riding up, causing my thighs to--gasp!!--rub together and chafe.  Then, my yoga pants started hugging my butt a little too closely, and forget about zipping up a pair of jeans.  Last week, the final straw: not one, but TWO dresses literally burst at the seams within 24 hours of each other.  I had a complete meltdown and then faced reality: it was time to update my wardrobe.

So, I headed into the dressing room at Banana Republic, armed with new sizes and styles, full of confidence and feeling strong and totally secure in my new, healthier body.

I left feeling deflated, huge and completely pissed off at the fashion industry.

No wonder they use human clothes hangers as models, because these clothes do not fit anyone with a hint of muscle or curve.

And I started missing size zero, even though...

Size zero couldn't run up hills without walking; size healthy can.
Size zero got a stress fracture training for a marathon; size healthy finished one, even on a bad day.
Size zero's half marathon PR was 2:35; size healthy's is 1:57.
Size zero had no energy and slept through most days; size healthy has plenty of energy and runs a successful business with two employees.

Two days ago, I tried again.  I literally grabbed every pair of jeans in Nordstrom's, in three different sizes.  I ignored the labels.  I just tried them on.  Some, honestly, didn't make it past my knees.  Others worked beautifully.

So, I'm purging the closet--banishing size zero forever from my presence, and hopefully, eventually from my mind.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why Do We Dress to Impress?

Yesterday morning, I was up by 7am.  I ate breakfast, I showered, I fixed my hair, applied make-up, slipped into a dress and heels and headed into the office.  I was at my desk my 9am.

For most women, this is a typical workday.

For me, it's not.

I grew up dressing to impress.  Pants in church were verboten.  High school was all about having the *right* jeans and shoes.  Guess and Polo reigned supreme.

College was even worse.  I went to the ultimate country club, conversative, prepster university.  Mid-90s slacker/grunge skipped right over Greenville, South Carolina.  Sorority jerseys, hair bows, pearls and dresses were the standard uniform.  I worn jeans *maybe* once a week.  I never once wore pajamas or sweat pants.  I even wore make-up when I worked out and put on a dress or skirt for Sunday morning brunch in the dining hall, even if I'd slept in and not gone to church. 

This dress to impress compulsion persisted throughout grad school and my early working years.  

We're told to dress to impress.  For the job that we aspire to.  For the person we want to be.  For the people we could possibly meet.  For the off chance Stacy and Clinton are hiding out in the Publix with a video camera the day I decide to go--gasp--unshowered and in my 15 year old running shorts to get some groceries.

But here's the deal.  I love heels and dresses and make-up as much as the next girl.  But these rituals are expensive.  And time consuming.  And quite frankly, often unnecessary.

I HAVE the job I aspire to.  I am COMFORTABLE with who I am.  I don't care anymore if Stacy and Clinton catch me off guard wearing workout clothes to run errands, because hey--at least I'll get a $5,000 shopping spree out of it.

And most days, I dress--or dress down--for the sole benefit for my cat and dog.

As women and as a society, we've created all sorts of rules about what's proper and acceptable.  Conversation on recent blogs about the topic have turned into heated debates about whether jeans are acceptable conference attire and the "proper" height of heels and skirts.

But exactly WHO are we trying to impress? 

Are we impressing or just conforming, and to what end?

My friend Allison wrote a brilliant post early this week about this very subject.

There's being professional and neat, and then there's being so obsessed with what everyone else thinks that you're afraid to leave your house without being just *so* for fear of mocking or scorn by anonymous people who could care less about your messy hair, big zit or ratty flip flops.

I totally understand dressing for office culture, for your audience, for the occasion.  I would never wear flip flops to present at a conference, nor would I ever wear anything revealing to anything but a cocktail party.

But I find nothing wrong with meeting a client in my workout clothes before I head to the gym or walking down to my neighborhood restaurant without make-up on.  I'm done trying to be or look perfect all the time.  I can be just as if not MORE productive sitting at home in my underwear as I would be sitting at a desk in an uncomfortable suit. 

And that outfit I wore yesterday to the office?  By 2pm, the seam of my dress was insanely itchy.  My feet were throbbing.  Most of the make-up had sweated off.  I longed to be at home in my PJs, where I could stop worrying so much about how I looked and--gasp--get some work done.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How I Made My Peace with Pizza (and Other Food)

I've always had a really complicated relationship with food.  Over the years, food has been a source of both comfort and pain, not unlike the relationship teenagers have with their parents, needing them and rejecting them simultaneously.

Even as recently as a year ago, I would have said that food was a necessary evil.  That I would prefer to be permanently hooked up to an IV that dispersed the necessary nutrients than ever make a decision about food again.

What a difference a year makes.  Food has become a source of joy, of community, of nourishment.  I look forward to every meal.  I love trying new things and experiencing new flavors.

Perhaps a little too much, according to the scale (which, yes, I know, I need to throw away) and pretty much all of the clothes in my closet.

I KNOW I'm happier and healthier.  I feel strong and sexy.  And I shouldn't let numbers--whether it's the scale or the label in a piece of clothing--dictate how I feel about myself.

And yet, it's been getting to me.  The old feelings of inadequacy, those desperate urges to control and ration and manipulate every morsel and every calorie every second of every day have been flooding back.

Until today. 

Thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert and my girls' night at the movies for Eat, Pray, Love (more on that here), I had a huge craving for Italian pizza. So, I popped over to my neighborhood place, Antico, which specializes in genuine, wood-fired, melt-in-your mouth, drool-worthy pizzas.

The owner greeted me with a huge hug and loudly proclaimed in his thick Italian accent:

Now here's a woman I love!  She loves to eat!  I mean, really, really eat.  Look at this pizza--the sausage, the cheese, the bread--she eats it all!  Bellisima!  I love a woman who eats!

And you know what?  I love ME when I eat.  When I really eat.  When I savor every morsel, inhale the smells, detect every nuance in flavor.  Because I'm happy.  And healthy.

So pass the pizza.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why I Hated Eat, Pray, Love

Tonight, I went to see Eat, Pray, Love with four of my good girlfriends.  Cliche, I know.  It's only *the* chick flick of the summer.

As I'm not the greatest fan of books made into movies (name a movie that was better than the book--yeah, I thought so) AND I loathe traditional chick flicks, I was a bit hesitant about wasting $15 and three hours of my life on this movie.  That, and this was the last night my husband would be home this week.  But, I rarely get out with friends and just have fun, and I was in the mood for some escapism, so I decided to go.

So much for escapism.

About ten minutes into the movie, I realized why I'd been so resistant to it.  It wasn't the overpriced tickets, the time away from work or my husband or the quality of the movie.  No, it was fear.  Of being reminded of myself.  Of opening old wounds.

If you've read the book or seen the movie, you know about the scene on the bathroom floor.  When in the middle of the night, Liz pleads for a sign from God, for a way out?  I was there, paralyzed with fear and the chilling realization that the life I'd built for myself, the one I asked for and dreamed of, suddenly didn't fit any more.  And just like Liz, I found myself on the cold bathroom floor at 2am, totally alone, then calmly crawled back into bed and asked for a divorce the way some people ask you to pass the salt.

That scene was so real and so raw, and it left me so shaken and vulnerable and guilt-ridden, that I nearly ran sobbing from the movie theatre.  Instead, I sobbed silently in my seat, wondering if the pain of someone physically stabbing me could hurt as much.

I remember reading the book before I hit that phase of my life.  I found it engaging and poignent, with much too tidy of an ending.  I recognized myself in the bits about meditation (I'm notorious for my fidgeting and inability to sit still), and well, who wouldn't want to spend four months in Italy gorging on the food, language and culture.

And then I had my breakdown.  My lonely, scary, life-changing bathroom moment, and I tried to read the book again.  At first, I bawled.  And then I got mad.  What I wouldn't have given for even a week's vacation, let alone an entire YEAR to find myself, learning Italian, eating great food, meditating, studying life's secrets with medicine men and gurus and making out with a hot Brazilian man, all while getting PAID to write a best-selling memoir ?

It was all too self-indulgent.  For most of us, life goes on.  We can't escape the pain or shift it to a new locale.  We face it every morning, living in the same neighborhoods and same cities, awkwardly running into mutal friends, recounting the story to everyone we've ever know, fighting back hysterical sobs at the slightest reminder, all while trying to "live" a normal life.  The bills don't stop coming, the clients don't become less demanding, people don't stop asking nosy questions--life goes on and on, and while the pain becomes more distant, anything and everything can bring it bubbling to the surface.

Every time I think I've healed, that I've moved on, that I've grown onward and upward, an experience like this reminds me how freshly wounded and sad I still am.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

No Boundaries

When I first started blogging about four years ago, my ex scolded me for being "too public."  I had shared several personal things that I felt compelled to write, among them, depression (a familiar topic in this space), the suicide of a close family friend and my rape.  I'm not ashamed of any of those things and would gladly talk to stranger and friend alike about them, mostly because I don't think we talk about the difficult things enough.  And your response to yesterday's post is proof of that.  Many of you shared your same struggles publicly, others shared them privately, but the fact of the matter is that far too many of us suffer in silence.  We put on masks.  We show only our happy faces.  We strive for perfection.  We don't give ourselves room and time to breathe and feel and just BE.  Our true selves--stripped and bare and vulnerable.

After my ex asked me to remove that first blog (which I now know was just his way of controlling and isolating me, but that's another post), I started blogging under pseudonyms.  And even when I added my name to this blog, I was uncertain.  Not from a personal perspective, but from a professional one.  I'm strong-willed and opinionated.  I write about a lot of personal things.  Would that make potential or existing clients uncomfortable?  Less willing to hire me?

I was reluctant to even link to this blog to my professional website because I didn't think it was, well, "professional."  And I had all of these preconceived notions about what a "professional" blog should be. Neat and pretty and upbeat, stocked with great photos and full of great tips about business and entrepreneurship and PR and social media.  Not some free Blogger template filled with my late night angst and deepest fears.

And then I connected with inspiring, honest and REAL people like Allison Nazarian and Elizabeth Potts Weinstein, people that run successful businesses without losing their identities.  Who write about anything and everything because that's who they are.  The person and brand are one and the same.

And I threw out all of those ideas of what a blog "should" be.  This is my name and my blog, and I can write whatever I want to.  Because I AM the brand.  There is no distinction between Laura Scholz, the person, and Laura Scholz, the writer/speaker/business owner.  It's all part of the same whole, the same essence, the same being.  I am who I am.  No apologies.  And no boundaries.

Thanks to you all for teaching me that very important lesson.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Working In and Through Depression

After a long run this morning and an afternoon of napping and not nearly enough fuel, my husband and I decided to go out to eat.  I was starving, my blood sugar had crashed, and I was desperate for food.  But I could NOT decide what to eat.  Nothing sounded good.  I couldn't make a decision.  I was overwhelmed.  I wanted someone to do it for me.

And after agonizing over dinner choices for half an hour, I realized that I've been depressed.  Not the uber-serious, can't get out of bed or function depression, but the low-grade kind, like that nagging cold that just won't go away.  Simple things--like deciding when or what to eat, returning an email or call to a client or getting dressed--turn into major chores. 

My type of depression--dysthymia--is actually defined as a "low-grade" depression.  Persistent, nagging, irritating, always hovering, yet rarely pushing me over the edge.  In fact, I'm so used to living with it, that's it's "normal" for me, and sometimes I don't even notice these little episodes until I start putting the pieces together.  A few mornings of sleeping in.  A few canceled meetings or social engagements.  Not eating well or at all.  Feeling overwhelmed by mundane tasks, like showering or washing the dishes.

I do most of the right things.  I take medication.  I've been to therapy.  I do yoga.  I run.  I'm pretty open with close friends and family.  I know the signs.

But none of this changes the fact that this is a significant part of my life, and it affects me the way any chronic illness does.  I have asthma.  Again, I do all the right things.  But every now and then, I have a bad day, and there's next to nothing I can do about it, other than accept it, treat it as best I can and hope for a better day tomorrow.

The complicating thing about depression is that it's not just physical.  It's extremely mental.  So, yes, I recognize the signs, I know it will pass, and yet, it's hard not to get frustrated and self-critical and downright despondent when you wake up one day and struggle to do the routine things of life--let alone, run a business.  Without making excuses, but also acknowledging the reality that on some days, I'm working with a bit of a handicap.

I'm still working my way through this reality, especially as my schedule gets busier, my client roster gets fuller and people make more demands of my time and energy.  I usually give myself one day a month where I can "wallow" without self-hatred or guilt, when I just acknowledge the demons, let myself cocoon and hope for the best in the morning.  But if it goes on two or three days or even a week, what do I do?  I tell close friends and family when I'm not feeling well and need time and space, but what about clients?  It's hard to predict when the monster will strike.  I could have an amazingly productive week filled with good energy, creativity, positivity and 14 hour days, and all of the sudden, I'll crash.  It may be a day, it may be a week.  But deadlines and meetings and obligations don't stop.  I can slow them down, temporarily, but it's much easier to explain to people that you have a migraine or stomach flu or bad case of allergies than to say "I'm sorry--that project will have to wait three days because I'm depressed and don't have the energy to deal with it."

It sounds like an excuse.  And it is and it isn't.  I work through the hard days much better than I did even a year ago.  Even on the worst of them, I manage to get a few things done.  But I also can't expect myself to blow through 100+ emails, plan comprehensive client strategy or attend four straight meetings on a day when I can hardly get out of bed.  And I'm probably my worst critic.  I feel like a failure if I don't accomplish all I think I should in a given day or week.  My inner perfectionist really isn't a fan of "can't" or "rest."  And yet, it's my reality.  Sometimes I can't.  Sometimes, I need to rest.  To give myself a break, literally and metaphysically.  Some days, you power through, and others, you just muddle through.  And it needs to be okay.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Me!


Today marks the three year anniversary of my business. Its inception wasn't the result of a genius business plan, or months of preparation or some late-night creative inspiration. No, quite simply, three years ago today, I lost my job. A job I loved. A job that came with a near six figure salary, a corner office overlooking Peachtree Street and a boss I adored. And it all vanished.

After the obligatory crying, panicking and desperate calls to friends, I sat down at my computer in the corner of my spare bedroom and composed an email to everyone I knew, telling them I was immediately available for freelance writing and public relations work. And Scholz Communications was born.

It's not been an easy path or a direct one, but every twist and turn has led me here, and for that I am grateful.  And I'm most especially grateful for all of you--my family and friends and colleagues and clients--who have continued to believe in me and counsel me through the constant fear  and change and self-doubt.

So thank you, one and all.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blogging: Inspiration or Perspiration?

And yet another week has passed without me posting a blog.  I have plenty of ideas.  I have dozens of abandoned drafts.  And yet, nothing--bribery, guilt, inspiration or sheer will--seems to propel me toward a finished post.

I tried writing for an hour a day.  That lasted about three days.  Then I compromised with half an hour a day, which lasted, well, less than the allotted half hour.  Too tired, too busy, too uninspired, too frazzled, too much "real" work for clients, too whatever--name your excuse, and I've used it.

My real problem--because let's face it, if I have time to stalk high school boyfriends on Facebook or tweet about cheese dip for an hour every day, I have time to blog--is inspiration.  Maybe it's my free spirited nature, maybe it's my own crazy brand of perfectionism, but I have to feel "inspired" to write.  I have to be "in the moment."  If I start a blog one day, it just doesn't "sing" to me two days later.  Which of course, leads to a string of unfinished drafts and even more pressure, frustration and self-doubt.

How do I break the cycle?  How do I write when I don't "feel" like?  Does writing ever become less of a chore?  Is it always a battle of spirit and will?

Help a girl out.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Don't Give Me Diamonds


I am absolutely certain I could not do what I do, that I could not be where I am, that I would not be the person I am today without the love, trust, support, encouragement, humor, honesty and unwavering faith of my amazing husband, Tim.

He's my inspiration for living simply and openly and honestly. 

Don't Give Me Diamonds*

Don't give me diamonds
Don't give me gold
Just give me something
That's true to behold
Walk with me sweetness
Into the light
Don't give me diamonds
Just give me tonight

I never had much of nothing
I never wanted for more
I just want something
That's worth fighting for
Real love comes easy
When your heart is set right
Don't give me diamonds, baby
Just give me tonight

I can see with perfect clarity
The cut and color of your love
Your golden heart, 24 carat to me
One treasure is enough

One thing's for certain
That we can count on
Time is a jewel
That we hold in our palms
We must carry it gently
Hold it up to the light
So don't give me diamonds baby
Just give me tonight

I can see with perfect clarity
The cut and color of your love
Your golden heart, 24 carat to me
And one treasure is enough

Real love comes easy
When your heart is set right
Don't give me diamonds baby
Just give me tonight

*Music and lyrics, (c) BethWoodMusic, 2008.

Reflections

One of the best parts of my recent four-day search for rest and sanity was a trip up to North Carolina--okay, verrrry northern Alpharetta--to Chukkar Farm.  I was introduced to this quaint oasis of horse farms, polo fields and music making in 2008, when my client Beth performed as part of their concert series.

Beth was back this weekend, so we made the trek up past the 'burbs and into the countryside.  The air was clean and crisp and smelled of horses and hay and wholesomeness.  Couples and families gathered at tables and on blankets, sipping on wine and beer, chasing after children and dogs and soaking up the last bit of daylight.

What I love about this series is that it's 100% about making music.  It's like jumping back in time and eavesdropping on the Carter Family harmonizing over the campfire on a chilly autum evening, voices weaving above and below and around one another as logs crackle and spit and frogs and crickets chime in.  Songwriters, true musicians--not ones manufactured by record labels, hidden under layers of autotuning, elaborate costumes, heavy make-up and concert-stage theatrics--stripped bare, completely exposed, singing, playing, harmonizing and making music together.  On the spot.  So organic and real.

And then I thought these musicans, all of them hugely talented, ambitious and driven.  But they haven't sold out.   They're not playing major amphitheatres or getting mainstream radio play, touring the world on private jets and trashing swanky hotel rooms.  They're bunking in each others' houses, playing in every-day clothes in tiny venues across the country where people actually LISTEN to the music.  They're earning each and every dollar the hard and the decent and the right away.

It resonates with me, especially as I try to figure out how to grow and scale my business and still be "me."  To provide a service, to share what I see as a gift, in a very simple, raw, honest and authentic way.  Maybe it's idealistic, but maybe, just maybe, it's possible.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I Took a Vacation So I Could Work

Yes, I recognize the irony of posting a blog about not hiding and then essentially going into hiding.  For two weeks.

I'll be honest--I wasn't well.  I was overwhelmed, depressed and physically and emotionally exhausted.  I had given others so much from my own well that mine was completely dry.  

When you're a solopreneur, taking time off seems impossible.  Indulgent.  Incomprehensible.

Until you find yourself like I did last month--completely worn-out, anxious, bone-tired and completely useless to myself, my clients, my friends and my family.

So, I took a break.  A REAL break.  Four days of nothing but amazing food, people and experiences.  I stopped trying to control and plan and manipulate every single second, step, decision, workout.  I stopped trying to "power through" and let my mind and my body rest.  Of course, my definition of "rest" included a 10K race!  But my approach was different.  It was quiet, meditative, open--more about the experience and my energy and effort rather than some must hit or I'll-wallow-in-self-pity-for-two-weeks-because-I-clearly-suck time goal.

So, here I am, rested, peaceful and determined, diving into the second half of my year determined to figure out the meaning of this unfamiliar concept called "balance."

Monday, June 21, 2010

No More Hiding

Over the past few days, I've written this post several times in my head.  Each time with a different title or slightly different angle.  At first, it was going to be about "putting on big girl panties," and well, sucking it up and doing things that I need to do, but don't really feel like doing--like getting up early to get my workouts in, eating my vegetables, keeping track of business expenses, sticking to a budget, putting away laundry and paying bills.  That morphed into a treatise on "self care"--eating well, working out, sleeping, writing, oh yeah--and remembering to breathe.

And then, well, life got a bit more complicated.  Two very special people in my life went through major crises last week.  And suddenly, I grew tired of my own petulance.  Bitching about not being able to sleep in anymore just seemed inconsequential and downright childish in comparison to real problems.  Nothing like a crisis to bring about clarity.  Suddenly, the "shoulds" don't seem like "shoulds" anymore.  They are blessings.  An opportunity to live and live well.  To become a grown-up.

I don't want to hide any more.  From the pain and joy and the full range of emotions that come with living an open and honest life.  We all use crutches--food, alcohol, sleep, bad relationships and a range of unhealthy things--to cope.  To hide.  To numb the pain and the hurt and the exhaustion and overwhelm that is life.

If that means up at 6am to get a run in, giving up my afternoon nap, or forgoing that evening cocktail, I'm all in.   And I need to know what is real and raw and honest--without distractions or crutches or burying my head in the sand.  Please hold me accountable.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Running on Empty


So, I have something to confess.  I slept almost all day yesterday.  Maybe it was the red wine, maybe it was the allergies, maybe it was the hormones, but mostly, it's because I'm exhausted, and I haven't been taking proper care of myself.

Nearly two weeks ago, I hurt my calf during a routine Saturday morning run.  I didn't have my phone, so I limped nearly three quarters of a mile down Peachtree Battle to a friend's store to call my husband for a ride home.

If you know anything about me, you know that I get depressed and cranky when I can't run.  And when I'm depressed and cranky, I don't eat well.  I indulge in too much cheese dip, chocolate and red wine.  I forget to work out.  I don't sleep well.  I lack energy and focus.

To top it off, I've been horrible about managing my schedule.  I'm overbooked, exhausted, running on empty and have no one to blame but myself. 

I usually prepare for the upcoming week on Sunday afternoons--cheery, optimistic and organized.

Four days of endless proposals, meetings, calls, events and late nights later, I collapse in a heap on the sofa, lacking the energy to even return a simple email.  I become paralyzed.  Disillusioned.  Every.  Damn.  Week.

Something has to give.  I can't keep up this pace, or I'll never make it through marathon training this fall or build my business the way I want to.  I need to take better care of myself.  I need to learn to say no.  To trust my gut more.  To delegate.  To give in to the exhaustion and go to bed at 9pm some nights.  To give myself time to breathe and reflect and write and dream.  To spend time with my husband.  To recharge.

Because this pace is unhealthy, it's not smart, and it's making me crazy.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Moving On

So, my ex-husband got married again this weekend.  It's been just about two years since our divorce was finalized, and since I remarried over a year ago, it's not surprising that he's moved on too.  What IS surprising is just how emotional it's made me.  Not because I didn't know he was getting married again (googling took care of that several months ago), or because I want him back, or because I don't want him to be happy.  But because as much as I talk about my journey and my truth, I rarely talk about this one: that after nearly a decade together, I wasn't truth for him.

Yes, I was the bad guy.  I left.  I asked for the divorce.  I refused counseling or reconciliation because I was done, because I knew those Hail Mary-type efforts would only prolong the inevitable.

But I didn't leave just because he wasn't right for me, but because I wasn't right for him.  Sure, he thought I was.  But I couldn't live up to his ideals, his expectations, his illusions of who I was and who I'd come to be.  And I became resentful.  Bitter, angry, withdrawn, sullen.  Not myself.  And no good to myself or to him as a partner.  I did and said many, many things I regret.  I thought I'd made my peace with it a long time ago.  But I really haven't.  Because it's hard to acknowledge that I played a role in the marriage's demise.  That it wasn't just him.  That it was also ME.  And that there's someone out there that can do a better job at being a spouse to him than I could.

"She will love you more than I could.  She who dares to stand where I stood."
- Missy Higgins


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's Not Always About Being Liked

You Like me!  You Really Like Me!

I like people.  Well, most of them.  And I like being liked.  I was never the popular girl in school (except when people needed help studying for AP exams) and have always been quite shy, which I think has only fueled my desire to be well-liked.  To fit in.  To conform.

And even though I've been willing to step out every now and again and say or write things that may be unpopular, to live my own life and not one predetermined for me, I still haven't let go of one thing--being liked.

Being liked feels good.  It's validating.  It's comforting.  It's comfortable.

But life isn't always about comfortable. 

I try to be kind and compassionate and friendly.  But sometimes, people aren't going to like me.  Or what I say.  And it needs to be okay. 

Life isn't always about being liked.  It's about LIVING.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day: Remembering "Mom Mom"


I wrote this two years ago in the Charlotte airport on the way home from my grandmother's funeral.  She died two years ago today, a few days shy of what would've been her 92 birthday.  Even though she wasn't your typical sweet and cuddly grandmother, I still miss her and hope this does her life and spirit justice.

Tonight, I drank a margarita in honor of my grandmother, Elizabeth, whose ninety-one long years of life my family celebrated this morning. Mom Mom, as we called her, wasn’t a particularly big drinker, but I distinctly remember the first time I visited her in her assisted living facility in Florida and asked her what she had done the previous day.  Expecting to hear about Bingo or perhaps an excursion to a local concert or museum, I was surprised when Mom Mom said “drank margaritas at our Happy Hour.”

Granted, the margaritas were probably glorified lemonade and were served in those small Dixie cups, but still—they were margaritas to her, and they gave her something to smile about, something to choose for herself in a world where those choices were becoming limited.

Mom Mom lived autonomously and proudly for the first eighty-eight years of her live, driving herself to and from “rummage” sales, church activities and the homes of far-away friends and relatives even after my grandfather passed away in 1994.  Fiercely independent, “assisted” living was certainly not her favorite dwelling place, though she tried her best to make it her own with her knickknacks, familiar books and pictures of family, all the while referring it to it as “prison.”  She managed to maintain that independence, sending countless staff members running from her room by screaming “get the hell out of here” if they were unfamiliar or didn’t treat her with the dignity and respect she deserved.  She refused to eat dinner if the meals weren’t pleasing to her palette. She selected stacks of books to read and re-read, and at her age, deserved the right to cheat more-than-occasionally during games of Upwards—most of which she could win outright without even bending the rules.  Her brain was sharp to the end, and she had an astounding vocabulary, probably gleaned from her love of literature.  Even in her advanced age and deteriorating condition, she commanded respect and was stubborn, even to the end—holding on out of sheer refusal to go before she declared it time.

These qualities—spunk, independence, and tenacity—probably not considered very “lady-like” for her generation are the ones her daughter, my mother, imparted to me and my sister, and I can only hope I live up to her great example.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

La Vie Boheme

Some people have mission statements and goals.  I have theme songs. 

Spurred on by my not-so-inner musical theatre geek (thank you, Glee, for making show choir cool), I chose Defying Gravity as this year's theme song.

Why?  Because I needed to let go of the fear.  

Of success.  Of failure.  Of what people do and don't think of me.  Of the unknown.  Of being unabashedly, unapologetically, authentically ME.
So I closed my eyes.  I leapt.

And with the help of so many of you, I found my way to the truth.  About my work.  About my life.  And yes, it's constantly evolving.  But it's also worth celebrating.

So, La Vie Boheme.*
(And sing along--you know you want to!).


To days of inspiration, playing hooky, making something out of nothing
The need to express, to communicate
To going against the grain, going insane, going mad

To loving tension, no pension, to more than one dimension
To starving for attention, hating convention, hating pretension
Not to mention of course, hating dear old mom and dad

To riding your bike midday past the three piece suits
To fruits, to no absolutes
To Absolut, to choice, to the Village Voice
To any passing fad

To being an "us" for once
Instead of a "them"
La vie boheme
La vie boheme

*
lyrics (c) 1996 by the genius Jonathan Larson.  Used only for sing-a-long and enjoyment purposes...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Confession: I hate PR


I have a confession to make: I HATE PR.

To be more specific, I hate being a PR practitioner.

Why?  Because of the unusually difficult expectations I place on myself and the inevitable disappointment; because I hate being pushy, especially with strangers; because in its traditional form, it's dying; and most importantly, because it doesn't feel authentic to me any more.

Which doesn't mean it's not the right profession for others, or that there aren't others practicing PR in new and exciting and pitch-perfect ways.  Because there are.  But I don't want to be one of them. 

When I initially started freelancing, I wanted to be a writer.  But PR opportunities kept falling into my lap.  And I kept taking them, because, let's face it, in the beginning stages of entrepreneurship, any money is good money.

And while my business philosophy has evolved into a more holistic approach to communications, I'm still known as the "PR girl."  And I still feel compelled to take on business that doesn't excite me, just because I can and it pays the bills.

At least I did until two weeks ago, when my oldest paying client and I parted ways.  It was an amicable parting (they are moving on to bigger and better things), and while disappointing, it was ultimately freeing.

I don’t HAVE to be a publicist. I don’t HAVE to take on work that doesn’t excite me. I don’t HAVE to do or be anything I don’t want to do or be.

Which doesn't mean my current clients won't benefit from my expertise in traditional PR and media relations, or that PR won't pay a role in future communications campaigns.  But it's only one piece of a much more comprehensive strategy.  I want to teach my clients how to create their own content and opportunities, to find their unique voices, to become their own best advocates.  I want to be more than just their publicist.

And that is something I’m passionate, excited and honest about, something I would be proud to market and sell to others.   Because it’s MY truth.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

On Motherhood

This morning, I read a brilliant piece by my favorite writer, Anne Lamott.  Of Mother's Day, Anne writes:

Mother's Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings...I hate the way the holiday makes all non-mothers, and the daughters of dead mothers, and the mothers of dead or severely damaged children, feel the deepest kind of grief and failure.

While this may not be a popular sentiment, it's a very real one.  I love my mother and remind her of that as often as I can.  I admire my friends who are mothers.  But I also have friends who are struggling to become mothers and who have lost their mothers, for whom this day is a very painful reminder of that which they have lost and that which they may never have.

I have real issues with the whole cult of motherhood.  Mothers are no more saints or sinners than the rest of us.  And yes, being a mother is a wonderful experience and an amazing endeavor to be treasured and valued.  But not at the expense of those of us who through circumstance or choice are not mothers.  Who never will be. And yet still believe we possess the same grace, selflessness, tenacity, kindess, affection and love that we honor mothers for this day.  Let's celebrate that AND our mothers and surrogate mothers.  Daily.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Image Journey

I've always been a fashionista, as this early photo will attest.  And I'm the ultimate girly-girl.  My idea of the perfect day is lunch and shopping with girlfriends.  Nothing makes me happier than a new pair of shoes.  I drool over fashion magazines.  I fantasize about the dress Carolina Herrera would make for my Oscar appearance (should Renee Zellweger be a no show).

And while I think I've always been well-dressed and stylish, I've never really had A style.  I'll be the first to admit that my wardrobe over the first ten or so years of my professional life consisted of the typical PR agency girl's staples: black pants, conservative cardigans, sensible but colorful pumps.  I loved my long, crazy curly hair, but was forever putting it back in a bun because I didn't really know what to do with it.  And while I possessed entirely too much make-up, I never really had a clue how to apply it, so I'd rifle through a drawer full of stuff and end up wearing just lip gloss and mascara.

Add to this the fact that nearly halfway through my 30's, but most people I meet still think I'm 25,  and that after nearly three years into owning my own business, my idea of getting "dressed" for a meeting is taking a quick shower--well, it was time for a makeover.

The first step was cleaning out my closet.  I was only wearing a small fraction of the clothes in there, so I dumped anything I deemed too corporate, too fussy, to prudish, too boring, too young, too expected.  I donated every single suit I own, and my mom will be thrilled to know that black is no longer my favorite color.

Then it was on to my unruly mane.  Enter hair magician Stephanie Erxleben Turner, a friend from childhood who also got the heck out of Florence, South Carolina and has done well for herself in the big city.  Through the magic of Facebook, she contacted me and offered to cut my hair. 

I like to mock those people on What Not to Wear who bitch and moan about getting their hair cut, but honestly, I'm the same way.  But my hair had become a crutch and a burden and quite frankly, I was close to pulling a Brittany Spears because I was that tired of dealing with it.

And there's something about someone who knew you when your hair was bigger than your head, when you tight rolled your jeans and thought New Kids on the Block was cool, to inspire trust.  And Stephanie did not disappoint.

Best. Haircut. Ever. I immediately felt sexier, sassier, more confident--exactly the image I want to project.  And it was SHORT.  Yes, not short compared to most people's standards, but short to me.  Who knew?  I'm a short hair girl!

Then, it was on to make-up and what my friend Alyson Hoag calls the Image Journey.  What I love about this process is it's just that--a process, thoughtful and personal.  Aly created a look for me--using mostly the contents of my chaotic make-up bag--to develop a style that's uniquely me.  Inspired by not only pictures of some of my style icons (Cate Blanchett, Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johannson) and designers (Chanel, Valentino, Oscar de la Renta, Alberta Ferretti), but words  and impressions (confident, fresh, flirty, feminine, soft, lucious, glowing, dreamy, graceful, clean).

The end result:



And what I love about this transformation?  It's still me, but it's grown-up, more confident, more poised successful entrepeneur me.  And yes, I still feel confident running to the store without make-up or meeting friends in my running clothes, but I now feel like the outside matches the inside.  That I'm projecting an image of strength, confidence and even boldness.  I now look the part.

And maybe, just maybe the next time I meet someone, they'll really believe I'm the president of my company, not the intern.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mental Health Day

From a few weeks ago...



I'm not an extrovert, but I play one in my life.  This week, I had no fewer than twenty meetings and six evening commmitments--including a networking event I hosted for nearly 100 people--in the span of four days.

Needless to say, I woke up exhausted this morning.  And then when I rececived an email with some not-so-good news, I did what any overworked, exhausted and completely depleted person would--I crawled back into bed, swaddled myself with sheets and bawled. 

This latest round of self-pity lasted for over an hour, at which time I could no longer ignore the beckoning sunshine and the crisp spring air blowing through my matted morning hair.  It was simply too beautiful of a day to stay indoors.  To mourn that which cannot be changed.  And then I had a realization--I should take a day for myself.  To do whatever I wanted.  No work, no rules, no obligations.

And then I sat there.  Nothing.

A run?  Well, that's kind of like work.  Write?  That would involve the laptop.  (hence why I originally wrote this with old-fashioned pen and paper), which I had zero interest in opening.  TV?  Too much stimulation.  Pilates class?  Another obligation.  Shopping?  No money.  Massage?  See the previous statement.  Walk?  I didn't feel strong enough to get out of bed.  Read?  Too much thinking.  Piano?  Too fragile to hear what I sound like after years of neglect.

It's scary to realize that you've been going, moving and doing for so long that you can't even remember what it is you'd LIKE to do, given complete and utter freedom.  I had absolutely no idea.

Last night, I read a great article on running and meditation, so I decided to give that a try.  Much to my cat's consternation (she's a big fan of the wallow), I reluctantly unwrapped myself from the twisted sheets and sat down on the floor.  I tried to breathe, to stay present, to relax and let go, to listen.

And then I decided that I wanted to go to the park.  Not to run, not to walk, just to be.    

I grabbed a blanket and some of my dog's toys, packed her into the car and took off--no agenda.  We played with balls and sticks and dirt, basked in the sun, and then took a short jog.  No watch, no goal, no plan.  I didn't get annoyed when she stopped to sniff or mark her territory.  I tried to soak in the colors, the air, the breath, the joy.

Then I was hungry.  And I'd been craving Chick-fil-A.  So, I got the usual--eight piece chicken nugget meal with lemonade.  I got home and the food made me think of more food, so I decided to watch Top Chef Masters on the DVR.  While eating fried, processed food.  I giggled a little, then cheered on a friend of a friend, grateful for the opportunity I had to eat at his restaurant back in January.  Grateful for food and for friendship.  The darkness lifted a little.

I decided to watch some 24.  To turn off the Blackberry.  To scream a little at the scary parts.  To just escape a little.

And then I put some clothes away and vacuumed the bedroom.  Not because I had to, but because I wanted to.  I put on loud music and danced.  Naked. And I'm currently sipping on some wine and enjoying the view from our rooftop deck.  I'm more relaxed.  I'm centered.  And I haven't touched work all day.

It's so easy to get stuck in the hamster wheel, to keep running and running until even the things you used to enjoy aren't fun any more.  Until you don't even know who you are or what you like.

Sometimes, you just need a day off to discover yourself again.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Running Uphill

Do you ever have one of those days when you lack total energy and focus, mostly because you're avoiding something you know you should do?

Today, I was avoiding many things, but chief among them was hills repeats.

For you non-runners, hill repeats are pretty much as awful as they sound.  Run up a hill and back down.  Repeat.  Again.  And again.  Until your quads are quivering and you curse yourself for choosing such a torturous hobby.

I love running, I truly do.  But I'm a fair weather friend.  I love running when it's 60 degrees and sunny; when the roads are flat and empty; when I've had 12 hours of sleep and just the right amout of fuel; when there's no pollen and my asthma isn't acting up; when it feels fun and free and easy.  Which pretty much means one day out of every 100.

In running, as in life, I bargain with myself.  Maybe I'll skip today's run.  Or maybe I'll just run two miles and skip the hills.  Or maybe I'll quit after the first hill.  Or maybe after the second.

When you're in baragaining mode, it's pretty easy to talk yourself out of most any and every commitment.  But what I've learned in running--and what I'm trying to apply to my entrepreneurial life--is that there IS no perfect day.  You'll never have enough time.  Or enough sleep.  Or enough money.  Or enough energy.  But you have to put one foot in front of the other.  It's the only way to get to the top of the hill.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ask and You Shall Receive


I've written a lot lately about my need to get more aggressive with my business.  To stop giving things away for free, to be more assertive about selling, to commit to it 100 percent.  And in the past week, I've learned a very valuable lesson: just ask.

It's really that simple.  Set your intentions clearly.  Speak them aloud to the universe.  And then go forth and DO.  ASK.

You can't sit around and wait for opportunities to fall into your lap.  You have to create them.  You have to get out there and ask, sincerity, graciously, but without fear or apology.

You'll be amazed at the results.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When You Work for Free, We All Pay

So far this year, two blog posts have really inspired me and the way I think about business.

The first was Elizabeth Potts Weinstein's manifesto, "I'm Not Sorry About Selling," which contains my favorite words in the history of entrepreneurship: Dude. This is not a freaking non-profit.

The second was Nicole Jordan's brilliant "No. You Can't Pick My Brain," a phrase that me and my entrepreneurial friends invoke on an almost daily basis.

I think both women hit one of the issues that inhibits both the growth of our businesses as well as those of our fellow entrepenereurs: we give things away.  All. The. Time.

A huge chunk of time here, a string of free tips there, until we have nothing of value left to share or sell.  And it's bad enough that we're undervaluing our own worth, but we're also undercutting the value of others' products and services, because all of this "free advice" floating around out there creates the expectation that you can get anything and everything for free.  Which means no one gets paid. 

If you know anything about me, you know that I have a huge heart.  Probably too big.  I'm the first one to offer advice, a connection, an introduction--for childhood friends and new acquaintances alike.  I truly believe in the power of the loconomy, of relationships, of partnership and collaboration.

But there's a difference between a free food sample from your favorite restaurant at a local festival and sitting at the chef's table at that same restaurant for a six-course meal with wine pairings. 

Nibbling is great.  Nibbles turn into bites which turn into meals.

But you can't build a business on nibbles, and every time you give away a meal disguised as a sample, you might as well tack that "closed" sign on your door right now--and to that of every business around you.

We need each other, and we need to start valuing and supporting each others' work.  And sometimes, that means opening up your wallet and shelling out some cash.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Finish Line


When you train for your first marathon, veterans always say "don't worry about the time.  Your one and only goal should be to finish."

Which, of course, it should be.  But if you've been running for a long time, and you're super competitive (like me), you can't help but have a target time in mind.  And even worse, we all entertain visions of the Boston Marathon in our heads, even if we've never completed the full 26.2.

My initial marathon goal was fairly conversative.  Five hours seemed fair, since that's what most of my friends of similar fitness did their first time out.  But the more I ran, the faster and stronger I got, and the lower and lower my target goal became.  5:00 became 4:30 which morphed into 4:15, maybe even 4:10 and an outside chance of sub 4:00.

The mind is a dangerous thing.  Because the truth is, as much as you train--for the miles, the fuel, the pace, the course, the conditions--nothing prepares you for the actual feeling of the marathon.

I wasn't feeling very anxious going into the race, though I didn't get a chance to do my normal routine of light yoga and deep breathing.  I felt amazing at the start, which probably led me to commit the cardinal sin of marathoning--going out too fast.  No, 9:30 pace isn't THAT fast, but for me, the queen of 10:00+ first miles and negative splits, it was probably a little too fast (but of course, I had in the back of my mind that 9:30 splits=4:10 marathon.  Again, the mental part of this game is the hardest!).  I didn't feel anything until around mile nine or ten, when I noticed my breathing was more shallow than normal.  And where was my rescue inhaler?  Um, back in the gear bag.  Not my brightest move.

I made it to the half marathon point around 2:05, and my legs were still feeling great, but my breathing was becoming increasingly more difficult.  My friend Katie caught up to me around mile 14, which calmed me down, but I still could not get my breathing under control.  I tried stopping, deep breathing, yoga, walking, slow jogging, but nothing worked.  I couldn't find a medic, either.  So I kept going, but was becoming increasingly more anxious and started to panic.  Around Emory (mile 15, I believe), I saw a Team in Training coach.  She could tell I wasn't okay, and I said I needed an inhaler.  We jogged a bit, hoping to find a medic, but ended up in front of the CVS on North Decatur Road.  She suggested we buy an inhaler there, and luckily, I had a prescription.  The pharmacist was amazing.  She found a cheaper version of my prescription (Jessica, the coach, only had $20 in cash--lesson number 573, carry cash on the course!) and had us on our way in a few minutes.  I thought that would be the end of my struggles.

I was wrong.  About half a mile later, as I entered infamous Druid Hills, I started to get extremely nauseous.  And then I puked.  In the bushes of some two million dollar home on Lullwater Road.  I was hoping that was it and kept running.  And then I had to stop.  Every time I ran, I felt nauseous.  I couldn't eat any GU, and I could barely keep down water.  So, from mile 16 until 22, I repeated the torturous cycle of running for a few minutes, stopping to retch what little was left in my stomach, walking for a few minutes, trying to run again, repeat.  And the irony--my legs felt great!  They weren't even sore!

When I finally saw my husband at mile 22, I nearly cried.  He walked with me the last four miles, and I was so grateful to see many of my amazing friends--Angela, Erin, Sara, Lindsay, Mallory, among others--along the way. Right before the finish, I saw our head coach, Tommy Owens.  He gave me a hug, and I ran the rest of the way in.  I don't know how I managed to smile in the photo my friend Sarah took of me at the finish, because immediately upon stopping, I puked again and was escorted to the medical tent, where I spent the next hour hooked up to an IV for fluids and trying to figure out what--in the five hours, eight minutes and eighteen seconds I'd been on the course--caused everything to go so horribly wrong.

Because the truth is, I thought I was prepared for anything that could go wrong.  Blisters from the rain, my right hip seizing up like it had my last few runs, running out of fuel.  I'd done everything I could to prepare.  I'd run on the course four weekends in a row.  I knew every hill and every turn.  And I didn't alter my routine.  I had the same food the night before and that morning; the same hydration and fuel during the race; the same shoes, the same clothes.

But there's a reason less than one percent of the population completes a marathon.  It's gruelling, not just physically, but mentally.

But I made it to the finish line.  Why?  Not just sheer stubbornness, but because of the color I was wearing, because of the logo on my shirt, because of a cause I represent much larger than myself.  I'd never been prouder to be a part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program than I was yesterday.  Because five hours of a little physical pain is NOTHING compared to what cancer patients and their families go through day in and day out, without the medals or ceremony or fanfare.  You don't get a t-shirt for dealing with chemo.  Or a medal for being a survivor.  For them, the finish line is a moving target, uncertain and fleeting.

And until that finish line is certain and guaranteed, you can find me out on the streets.  Running.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Go Big or Go Home


Yesterday, I was really inspired by Allison Nazarian's amazing blog post, "You're Either Following or Blazing.  End of Story."

Why?  Because being an entrepreneur is all about taking risks.  About blazing new trails.  Living on the edge.  Daring to be different.

If you're committed to success--real success, not just the this-is-kind-of-a-nice-hobby-and-better-than-a-corporate-job-but-doesn't-really-pay-the-bills mentality we've all been guilty of--at some point, you either need to go big or go home.

Back in December, I made the decision that this was a make or break year for me.  I was tired of mediocrity.  Of doing the same projects over and over again.  Of not getting the clients I wanted.  Of barely making enough money to get by.  Of not being 100% invested. 

It's scary to be bold.  To take risks.  To be different.  To blaze a new trail.

I threw out almost everything.  Clients, revenue models, processes, services.  And then I did some even crazier things.  I took on ANOTHER business.  I hired a staff person before I could really afford it.  I thought beyond news releases and monthly retainers and the same old tired, boring tactics.  I stopped hiding behind others' voices and opinions.  I dared to be ME.

It's a scary, uncertain path, though I'm lucky enough to have an amazing support system.  And at the end of the day, I feel much better knowing I went all in.  That I tried.  That I took risks.  And I'll take that over a known path any day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Old News

Last night, I watched the live stream of #journchat from SXSWi.  The brainchild of PR wunderkid Sarah Evans, #journchat is "an ongoing, open dialogue between journalists, bloggers and public relations professionals" that takes place on Twitter.   I generally enjoy these chats--it's a great way to share with peers and build relationships in the virtual space.

Last night's session was a little bit different than the usual Monday night chat--no engagement or participation from the masses, just a pretty basic Q&A with some of CNN's social media heavy hitters.  And the more I listened the more I thought...

When will we STOP reporting social media as "news?"  Yes, one of the CNN panelists joked that someone joining Twitter isn't newsworthy, but I have news for you:  Neither is the fact that you can build relationships via Twitter.  Or pitch a story in 140 characters.  Or that you should vet your sources carefully.  Or be there before the pitch.  That stuff is PR 101, just translated to a different medium.

Yes, we get it.  You're on Twitter.  We're all on Twitter.  And foursquare and YouTube and Facebook and dozens of others.  So what and now what?

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