Living The Dream

I'm such a literalist that I have a problem when someone asks me "Are you living your Dream?" Why? Well, because if I were living it then it wouldn't be a Dream, would it?

Yeah, silly I know. I know what they mean, but it still annoys me.

Anyway, since I started my business in '07 (legally/officially in '08) I've had a 'dream' that I would be able to support my household (me and hubby) on the business income. And I've been able to do that. What I'm realizing now, though, is that my dream was specific enough. We're making it - barely. I should have had a larger dream that included - supporting my household while living a particular lifestyle.

So, I'm taking stock again of where I am in the business world, what's working and what's not. And I'm doing it now instead of in January or any other time of the year because I've been battling the urge to hit the road.

I wasn't born with the need to travel - but the way I grew up certainly put the traveling feet into me.

  • I've been in this house too long. 
  • There are no unpacked boxes around me and that is still a strange feeling.
  • I'm tired of the view outside my office window.
  • I'm tired of seeing the same people in the same business meetings saying the same things.
  • I'm feeling constrained and restrained - very few people appreciate my views, unless they're in trouble and looking for the truth.
So now what?

When we were first married I told my husband that I wanted to live in an RV and travel around the country. He was all for it - except neither one of us knew how to do it. That was in 1990. I'm tired of thinking about it. It's time to do it.

But I still don't know how to do it, exactly. I know we need an income on the road. I know we need an RV to live in. I know we need to stay at places across the country. That's all I know.
I met Nancy Vogel online in a beading forum back in 2003. I had just started beading and the forum was a great place to learn about techniques, get inspired with ideas, and meet women who loved beads and beading as much as I did.

Then Nancy and her family (husband and twin boys) hit the road - literally. They traveled by bicycle from Alaska to Argentina...read about their adventure. I followed the blog. I imagined me and my hubby with them in pretty much every country. I was glad we weren't there when the temperature dropped to 30 below and the winds were howling. I was glad we weren't there when the heat and humidity topped 100% each. But I followed along and yearned for the ability/motivation/know how to do the same.

Then, just this past week, I saw a Facebook post by Nancy. It talked about Dream: Reboot. I went to the website and knew I hit paydirt. It was time. It was time to re-awaken that dream I had 22 years ago - to hit the road and live in an RV with my husband. And here was the place that would show me how, encourage me to follow through, be with me as we made plans and finally do it. I start tomorrow - wanna join me? Check it out for yourself and if you're ready then I'll see you in the forums!


The Weight Loss Game

So, it's been quite a while since I first posted that I was going to work with someone to help me lose weight. And work I did! I met with my personal trainer 3x/week and focused on weight training and flexibility exercises. For 6 months I did this, and was careful about what I ate. I didn't remove foods from my diet though. I didn't remove sugar, grains and oils. And somethings I overindulged in ice cream because the craving for something sweet was too much to handle. But, overall, when I look back, I think I did okay - not great, but okay.

Results: after 6 months I lost 6 lbs. Disappointing, until I see that I gained strength and flexibility. When I started the effort I couldn't lift my own weight or stretch my legs beyond a certain point. When I finished I could not only lift my own weight but do so in reps. And boy was I flexible!

But, I was still too heavy and very uncomfortable. Then I lost a large client and couldn't afford the personal trainer.

I didn't gain the weight back - and I really haven't lost the strength. I found a YouTube video series that I now use - it's using kettlebell workouts. The series shows beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of use and they videos are short enough that I don't feel like I have to take out an hour or two of my day to follow them. Her name is Kitty and her site is My O My TV. Go ahead, check her out.

In the meantime, I've once again decided to tackle the weight issue by following a restricted diet. How restricted? Well, I've cut out dairy, oils, grains and sugar. High protein every meal in quantities of less then 4 ounces, lots of greens - green leaf veggies and green veggies (cooked and cold). It's been a few weeks, I've lost 10 pounds (mostly, I think, to no sugar or grains) and I'm feeling pretty good. We'll see. I treated myself to a bit of sugar yesterday (Snickers), and it didn't taste that great. Maybe I'm on to something, heh?

Doctor says either do it this way or try diet pills again. Diet pills worked to get me started on a weight loss track, but then I had to take Prednisone again and gained 30 pounds - obliterating any evidence of weight loss via the pills. And I don't like taking pills - so I said no thanks Doc, let's do something else.

He told me to try the Paleo diet without the oils and grains. So, that's what I'm doing. Another few weeks and I'll start introducing oils, grains, sugar and milk back into my diet. One at a time. If I feel different/icky/ill, etc. then I know what not to eat moving forward.

Oh, and I haven't had a Crohn's flare up in over 6 months. Let's pray that I don't have one for another 6 months, heh?


Weight Loss, Food and the Personal Trainer

So, I’ve discovered something about myself.


No, it’s not that I dislike working with a personal trainer. I am sticking with Maddie and though I’m not seeing or feeling results, I know I will simply because now that I’m moving my body there will be results. And, I wasn’t silly enough to think that I would see results in days. I probably won’t see results for quite a few weeks – it’s how my body works and is built.

No, what I’ve learned about myself is that I love food.

I watch the Food Network and Cooking channel regularly.

No wonder I’m overweight!


Not only do I snack, a lot, I watch shows about food and cooking – which in turn make me think I’m hungry so I snack more.

Therefore, resolved today: I will exchange the watching of Food Network and Cooking channel to ESPN or Fitness channels.


Because it makes sense that if I’m watching people being active I will tend to be more active.


In the meantime, I’ve considered taking up bowling again. It’s a sport I’m good at and I used to enjoy.

So today I’m heading to the local bowling alley to see how well I do. I’m also going to inquire about joining a league.

Working with A Personal Trainer

And our first day was today. Early this morning. 6 am. Not early enough for me, but she just wouldn’t add a 5 am session to her schedule.

I’ve worked out at the YMCA for about 2 years – off and on. And that’s the problem. It’s an off and on relationship based on workout buddies that pooped out on me after a month, two months, one time after a week. I’m good on my own for about 2 weeks and then I find an excuse to stop. Why? The workout buddy kept me interested with conversation. And I could encourage her while she encouraged me. Left to my own devices I got bored. Hey, I can walk forever but if there’s nothing to see in terms of landscape, people, architecture or farm animals than the walk is pointless to me.

Then I hired a personal trainer at the Y. She was good. I asked for a workout to help me lose weight and to get strong (no upper body strength in this woman). We worked with Cybex equipment and the treadmill. I didn’t see a change in my body weight, but I felt a bit stronger after two months. Then I couldn’t afford the trainer and my workout buddy stopped coming to the Y.

This time is different.

I stopped my YMCA membership.

I joined Anytime Fitness.

I hired a personal trainer for 12 sessions of 30 minutes each.

We worked with free weights and resistance.

I could feel the workout in my body as I did the sets.

We’ll be meeting Monday and Friday morning.

I’m to come 30 minutes early (suits my schedule anyway) and do cardio – treadmill is fine for now, can easily go to stationery bike. Then she’ll come get me and we’ll do our 30 minutes.

On Tuesday morning I joined a group of women in spin class. I survived. Actually, I more than survived. I’m ready to go back.

On Wednesday morning I’m to do cardio workout – 30 to 40 minutes.

On Thursday morning I can take a break or do cardio workout.

On Saturday and Sunday morning I’m to do cardio workout in preparation of Monday with the trainer.

After a few weeks I can do the free weights on my own – I’m not to try them on my own until she says I’m ready.

I can say, in all honesty, that this time is different and I’m looking forward to seeing the changes in my body after 6 weeks.


Was thinking of moving....

A letter to my poor neglected followers. I'm sorry I haven't kept you up to date with the happenings of my life. I have been updating my other blogs, and gave serious consideration to closing this one and redirecting you to the other ones. But then I realized that I wouldn't have a place to just let loose! Or to share my bead work. I do have another blog going at charleneburke.com and encourage you to check it out. But I don't feel comfortable sharing the same things there that I share here.

Then again, that blog is on a WordPress platform is much easier for me to type in - Blogger tends to skip lines as I'm writing, then doesn't respond when I press enter to start another paragraph. It's been that way for a long and I've always found it annoying.

But to heck with it. For now I'll handle the annoying issues with Blogger and take it in stride. I foresee a few posts that include a bit of a rant. As well as a few posts that focus on my beadwork.

I'll check in again in a week or so and give you a better update. But for now, rest assured, that I'll be keeping this blog for a while. And if I do decide to move it permanently I'll let you know.


Oh my goodness - it's March already?

I couldn't resist that headline. With the amount of work I've been doing these past two months I am giving serious consideration to hiring a virtual assistance. Two more retainer clients and I will have to.

I picked up an excellent client recently - Turbo Wheelchair Co., Inc. located online at www.merlexi.com Dr. Jane Hermes is the creator/inventor/designer of the plastic wheelchair, an advocate for elder mobility and an all around fascinating woman. I'm thrilled to have her as an online marketing client. Some of the initial website work is done - I am working with the existing site - and most of that initial work has been in the back-end. My plan for her online marketing efforts are based on building one component on top of the other, which means that now I'm into site content, optimizing existing content, writing new content. *sigh* it's a good thing I enjoy writing.

In addition to Dr. Jane, I have been working with Dr. Nancy Keck of New Directions Unlimited. She provides business consulting beyond anything I've ever seen - no, she's not my consultant, but she is my mentor - and the work I'm doing for her is online marketing related. Right now we're in the middle of building a website for her - then we'll get to content.

Hmm...another project I'm working on is for Greater Louisville Business Alliance - GLBA - a business networking group in Louisville for which I am an officer (Secretary). The project is creating a Facebook Workshop - walking attendees through building a personal profile then a business fan page. We've limited attendance to 25 because I anticipate having to hold the hands of about 10 and don't want to be overwhelmed. Anyway, that's scheduled for April 5 so I'm just finishing up the framework of the session.

Oh yeah, I'm presenting to a small business group next week - an overview of business networking on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. I'm supposed to talk for about 20 minutes (easy to do on social media) then allow for Q&A - very casual so should be fun.

Today I just picked up a client who wants me to teach him how to use the software on his computer - in 15 minute increments on a weekly basis. Based on questions he brings to me. Should be fun :)

Most of my time has been spent at the computer. Most people don't realize that adding a page to a website can take 10 hours, or optimizing content includes research first then deciding where to put the keywords and phrases for best results (which can take 5-6 hours). But in the end, it's only important that my clients are happy with the results I said I would give them - and so far they are.


National Conference of Network Members/Agency Owners Online Marketing

So, I went to another national conference for online marketing business owners/network members a few weekends ago. The conference was held at the Evergreen-Marriott Resort in Stone Mountain, GA. Room rates were reasonable, even better for me because I shared a room with fellow business owner Cecilia Ansola, the food was acceptable and the business owners I met were awesome!

I presented again, this time on Blogging for a Client or yourself. There are many people scared off by blogging, either for their own business or for a client, and I was able to provide a few tips and tricks that would help them along. Then, there were a few that knew there was no way they were going to blog for anyone! and they asked if I was available to contract work to - of course I said Yes.

I met new business owners, connected with some I had met in Las Vegas, and best of all I learned a few new things about keeping myself and my business on track.

My trip to Atlanta/Stone Mountain was strictly business, as was the remainder of my 'tour' through the south. But, I was able to fit in some time with family.

Leaving Stone Mountain on Sunday the 6th, I drove to Homossasa, FL and stayed with Mom at her camper. We spent the entire day, Monday, together...enjoying the scenery, walking the zoo (manatee park), talking and laughing and enjoying each other. Basically, Monday and Tuesday morning were my weekend because I left mid-day Tuesday for Port Orange/Daytona Beach area.

I arrived at my sister-in-law's place in Port Orange on Tuesday afternoon, and she was ready for me! Sweet iced tea, fruit, conversation - yes, she was ready to relax with me. Then came Wednesday. I put my laptop on the breakfast table and started working. I was able to complete a primary research project using my laptop and cell phone, write articles and site content for myself and a client, and enjoy the sunshine through the large windows of Lisa's front room - the occasional strange Florida bird would fly by and distract me for a moment, but it was a nice distraction.

Thursday was fun because Cecilia drove over from Orlando and we spent the day reviewing her businesses and what I could do for her. We reviewed our 2010 plans, helping each other to refine some of the details. I will be writing site content and blog posts for her, while she will be helping me to lose weight (she is a Take Shape for Life coach, having lost and kept off 40 lbs).

Friday was a 'normal' work day spent cleaning up files on my computer, recording notes from the conference, researching a potential market for my online marketing business. That evening was nice because Kevin, Allysa and I went to see Mannheim Steamroller in Daytona Beach. We finished the evening off with terrific Mexican food at their favorite restaurant.

The weekend was fun, too. I took out the laptop for a short time, but decided that because I was traveling Monday I would use Saturday and Sunday to relax and have fun. And I did. Lisa and I drove Kevin to the airport Saturday morning (he had to fly to Taiwan for a day), then we went on to a 'stamping class'. New to me, but I am always so impressed with Lisa's creativity and craftiness that I agreed to the offer - and I had a good time. I don't believe I will become a stamper of her caliber, the woman has as many stamps as I have beads, but I learned a few techniques that I will be using to make personalized greeting cards.

Sunday was spent drinking coffee, talking and getting to know each other, shopping for basic things, and overall just girl stuff - and it was great.

Monday I headed out mid-morning to Birmingham, AL. I was going to spend the night with friends in Alabaster, then meet with a client Tuesday morning, then head home after meeting with the client.

I met Martin at a coffee shop in Hometown (suburb of Birmingham) and we talked about his upcoming product launch via the internet. He's old school advertising and marketing, which means he's very leery of what the internet is all about. I took out my laptop and showed him some details about websites and blogs, advertising, landing pages, etc. He's still very uncertain. After about 3 hours I realized that I had to get back on the road or not be home before midnight. Saying my good-byes to Martin, he handed me samples of his product to try and assurances that he's much closer to putting the online marketing and website into action.

I rolled into our driveway at about 9 p.m. Tuesday the 15th.

I really enjoyed the road trip - it had been almost a year since the last one I had taken and I was getting itchy-foot to hit the road. I was gone for well over a week, but it felt like just a few days...until I parked in our driveway. Then I realized just how good it is to come home.

The trip was successful because I was able to work, pick up a few clients that should start using me by February 2010, and deepen the family and friend connections. It doesn't get much better than this.


Thanksgiving 2009

This year I spent the afternoon and evening at the Kelly house in Clarksville, Indiana. Rick and I decided that going to Warsaw was going to be too much for him to tackle. He's been working 7 days a week, 5 days out of town and at least 1 weekend day on a side job here in town. He's tired. We talked to Mike and Tammy and look forward to seeing them for Christmas.

Then, Rick asks me if I'm okay with him going hunting on Thanksgiving Day. Knowing that he hasn't been hunting but once this season, knowing how much he enjoys being in the woods and contemplating the issues of the day while sitting under a tree, knowing how much he want to fill our freezer, I realized that he would be a better 'Rick' if I let him go. That left me here, at home, wondering what I was going to do with myself on Thanksgiving Day. I had many options available to me, it was just a matter of deciding which one best suited me.

I could stay home - by myself - on a holiday that is best spent eating/dining/sharing with others.

I could serve meals at the local shelter - they put out a list of volunteer needs and I fit a few of them.

I could join a group of travelers and loners at a local club, meet new people, exchange interesting stories.

I could join the family of a fellow Toastmaster - she initiated the invitation to me as soon as she heard that we would be in town.

I could join the Kelly family.

I decided that I would join the Kelly family, at least those that were in town and able to gather at the Kelly house.

The Kelly's have become second family to me, and now to my husband. We've had a key to the house for over 20 years. When we lived in Indianapolis, Mary and Terry would visit with us on weekends. We traveled many times from Indianapolis to Clarksville and spent weekends at the Kelly house.

The house wasn't full this year, but was still warm and cozy. We all acknowledged the absence of Terry (Pop - died in 2008) and Jamie (Brother - died in 2004).

Mary and Erin cooked the meal. Here's Mary putting the finishing touches on the feast and not knowing I snuck a picture of her:

Dallas, Jamie's widow, joined us with her new husband (actually Kenny didn't want to join in the meal). Here Erin is frenchbraiding Dallas' hair for the evening.

Joe Heuser, joined the Marines on the buddy system with Jamie, still a Marine now stationed in Japan.

Kevin Kelly was there, with Buck, a friend and roommate.

Erin Kelly was there with her two children, Maresa and J.A.K. (Joseph Kaiser, called Jack).

We ate. We laughed. We played. Rick was able to join us late in the evening. Though he didn't get a deer, he looked calm and refreshed, so it was a good thing that he went hunting.


It's been an icky few weeks here...

Most of you know that I have Crohn's Disease, and a few of you will be surprised to learn this. Anyway, these past few weeks have been physically draining and I can honestly say - thank goodness I work at home! The hardest part of being physically drained is the mental tiredness that starts to set in.

Since I was first diagnosed in 2000, I have learned how to manage pain through mental diversion and meditation; Rick and I both have learned to be flexible with our traveling schedule, as well as simple things like accepting dinner or outing invitations; I have learned to adjust my daily activities to match my physical abilities; and in general I can handle minor flare-ups without difficulty - minor being relative, of course. Most minor flares last about 2 weeks because additional medications begun within the first few days start to work on my body. This time, though, I found myself taking the additional medications, but not getting relief until well into the 2nd week...meaning I'm just now getting back to feeling full functional.

After the 2nd week of having my body fight internal infection, reject foods other than water, iced tea, toast and potatoes, I'm tired physically. Into the 3rd week and my thinking slows down. Then I take two days to make a decision that should take an hour. Or instead of making 10 phone calls, I'm only able to make 2. Keeping organized is difficult and something I'm going to work on...meaning I'm in search of a different system for keeping my projects for work/clients organized well enough for me to stay on top of everything. I know, difficult request.

I have had a challenging project that I have been working on for almost 4 weeks now. Yep, at the beginning I have a flair, which means I'm going to be squeezing most of the project into this week. *sigh*

So, that's why I haven't updated here - I've been trying to focus on business, clients, blogs for business and additional revenue streams. Obviously not all at once - but one at a time.

Rick has been working out of town, coming home on weekends. He'll be out of town for about a year - and we're both glad of it because the pay scale in Illinois is much higher than here in Louisville and means that the stress of my making more than my initial revenue goal/week is relieved for a bit - which in turn is good because it reduces my stress.

So, that's it for now. My hope is that next week I can post something much more interesting, maybe about how excited my client was after receiving the results of the project he entrusted to me! Until then - be well, take care, and say a short prayer for me please.


Training via Webinar and 3 Things I Learned

On Friday the 30th I gave a training session via webinar to 27 business owners and learned a lot. The training was about Online Reputation Management. Another business owner and myself created the training early this year and presented it in Las Vegas in May to members of a national network - with great success and kudos given from attendees. 
Last month I received an email from the national network, asking if I could provide this same presentation/training via the internet and telephone. Of course I said Yes! Who am I to turn down the opportunity to teach, train and present? Three things I really enjoy about being a business owner.

So, I reviewed the powerpoint file from May and realized how much the internet has changed in these short few months. New statistics are available, new sites have been launched and flocked to, social media is exploding with Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. It is truly an amazing thing to watch because I know that there currently are no limits to what the internet can become.

The powerpoint file needed to be updated, and because the other business owner's name was on it I considered re-doing the entire training module. But after some thought I realized that it was effective in Las Vegas, so why mess with a good thing? I updated statistics, tweaked a few words here and there, and went with it.

During my introduction I made sure to credit the other business owner, mentioning that they are no longer focused on online/internet marketing, but that their expertise in Online Reputation Management was certainly evident in this presentation and that their contribution was invaluable.

The training lasted about 40 minutes and there were many questions afterward - all of which I was able to answer (yay!). Hey, sometimes there's a question that throws me and requires investigation - and yes, I know that "I don't know" is an answer, but I prefer being able to provide something more concrete if possible.

Some things I learned during the training:

  1. I really appreciate having face to face contact with my audience. Because I couldn't see their faces I found myself 'assuming' their reactions as I talked and pointed out things on each slide. It felt awkward because I couldn't respond to a reaction, a noise, a facial expression.
  2. My lower jaw locks up when I get anxious. This was an interesting development and something new. Even in Toastmasters I've not had this happen. But it did on the phone, and it did when I did an interview online via webcam. I felt the locking start about 3 minutes before the training was to begin, and to combat it I stretched my mouth as wide as possible ... repeatedly. This worked initially, but after about 15 minutes I could hear the change in my speak as my lower jaw got tighter and tighter.  I'll be looking for an answer to this in days to come.
  3. Although a webinar training module is supposed to be trainer talk, attendees listen - I like having interaction throughout a training session. I did not like having to answer questions at the end about items that were covered in the beginning. Hmm. The only answer I have for this is to layout the slides in a grid on the screen so everyone can see what the questioner is referring to. I'll have to look into how to do this the next time.
Overall I think I did well. I've not received emails or telephone calls about my performance, but I did speak with the moderator and she told me that she received emails from some attendees that gave good feedback and kudos for my performance. I hope evaluations are sent in because it's the only way I know that I can improve. Constructive criticism is vital to a presenter - it's the only way we can rid ourselves of annoying, distracting and ineffective ways of communicating.