25 February 2015

Yoga

I like yoga. I like how I feel when I do yoga, and how I can use it to (gently) push my body to be stronger and healthier.

I used to do yoga frequently, but I've gotten away from it lately. So I've decided to make a concentrated effort to do yoga regularly.

I know my body is not as strong or flexible as it used to be, so I'm starting slowly. I intend to do at least one sun salutation every morning when I first get up with regular yoga sessions three times a week. My ultimate goal is to work up to doing a full yoga session (between fifteen and thirty minutes) every day.

I know it will be a process, and I will likely stumble, but I'm determined to do it, and I know I'll feel better for it.

So one of my primary goals for March is to do yoga.

Do you practice yoga? How often? Do you find it beneficial?

23 February 2015

Finding balance -- spirit

I have a copy of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. I've started it a couple of times, but never finished it.

I've started it again.

I think that where I am in my life puts me in a better position to complete the book and all that goes along with it this time around.

From a spiritual perspective, I am an atheist. However, I do value a connection with the world around me through mindful, compassionate living, and I believe that that connection can be a vehicle through which I can increase my creativity, improve my career, and continue to live my happily ever after.

In finding a mind-body-spirit balance in my life, I had sort of struggled with how to apply the spiritual aspect. How can I have balance in my spiritual life if I do not practice some sort of religion?

However, I have found that there are aspects of my life that feed my spirit (my heart and passions) that I can use to create spiritual balance in my life. One of these is my connection to the world around me--through the natural world and people around me--and another is in my writing.

Cameron's book seeks to combine an individual's creativity with the spiritual elements of life. While she uses the term "God" to refer to the creative energy in an individual or connection to the universe. Though she does indicate that anyone who goes through this journey should use whatever term or concept that best resonates with that individual.

I'm optimistic that going through this book over the next few months will help me remember the importance of creativity in my life, and find the motivation I once had for writing fiction.*

And if I can find better spiritual balance as a result, then I'll count it a success.






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*It is true that I use creativity in my daily career. However, I have not spent nearly as much time writing fiction as I would like to, and progress on the coffee house book has suffered. I keep making excuses, and I'm frustrated with that.

22 February 2015

Renew your spirit with a birthday text

Today is my dad's birthday.

I texted him this morning.

I'm not usually the type to only text for a birthday, especially when it's family, but in March of last year, I had a conversation with my dad about my "lifestyle choice" as a lesbian, particularly since I'd started a relationship with Bo.

It didn't go exceptionally well.

As a result of that conversation, I haven't really talked to my dad in almost a year. We've spoken a few times since that conversation in March, and texted a few times, but it's all be superficial.

When we spoke, I made it clear to him that it would be up to him to decide how our relationship would proceed. I didn't want to push him if he wasn't comfortable. I didn't want to feel guilty about living authentically. So I left it up to him.

And we haven't really talked in almost a year.

When I texted my dad this morning, I honestly didn't expect a response at all. About an hour later, he texted me back, thanking me for the birthday text. A few minutes later, my phone chimed again.
How is work?
Of all the things he could possibly text--How are you? How are the kids? How are things?--he chose the question with the least emotional connection possible.*

I know my dad pretty well at this point. And I know that the reason he texted that was so he could convince himself that he's tried to have a relationship with me. Since he asked that, he can tell himself that he wanted to know what's going on in my life. He's making an effort.

I call bullshit.

Until now, I have kept my distance from him, but kept the door open if he tried to reconnect. He's my father, and grandfather to the kids. I didn't want to completely cut him off if there was a chance that he would want to make the effort to be in our lives.

It is clear he doesn't want to make that effort. So I'm officially done.

I'm at the point in my life that I don't need extra drama. There's enough chaos in my life on a day-to-day basis that I don't need to add to it. So I'm going to simply let go of the idea (hope?) that my dad would somehow miraculously change and realize that staying connected with his daughter and grandchildren is more important than saving face at church.**

So I am moving on, head high, knowing that I gave it a valiant effort to maintain a relationship with him long after he made it clear that he wasn't willing to put in any effort for the same. This really was a long time coming, to be honest. And something I may tackle in a future blog post one of these days.

I don't know what the future holds. But, for now, as far as I'm concerned, it's over.






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*It could be worse--he could have asked about the weather.

**I know. What was I thinking?

16 February 2015

Finding balance -- body

Freedigitalphotos.net / mapichai
On Monday last week I wrote about finding balance in my mind as part of my efforts in living a more holistic lifestyle. This week, I want to talk about finding balance in my body.

I want to be at my healthiest. Not only for the munchkins and for Bo, but for myself.

One thing that has happened recently is that I've gotten out of some of my good habits, and my diet and exercise has slipped.

So I'm making a renewed effort at making healthier food and exercise choices, in order to move toward my health goals (and look good in my dress later this year).

I have found that, for me, a plant-based diet works well for meeting my health goals. So I'm working hard at being careful about what I put in my body and eating plant-based whole foods.

I'm also trying to exercise more. Some days all I can do is walk (which is good), and other days, I'll do yoga or some other exercise routine. The goal is to keep my body moving as much as possible.

I've read a lot of the articles that show the benefits of exercise not only to the body, but to the mind. So it makes sense that in finding a balance in my life, exercise and healthy eating would be a major part of it. If I want to be healthy in every facet of my life, my body must be included in that.

What do you do to keep your body healthy?

15 February 2015

Renew your spirit with a visit from mom

My mom is visiting. It was unexpected and is open-ended, and very welcome. We've spent the weekend catching up and drinking wine and eating (too much) good food. She went with Bo and me when we picked up our engagement rings, we showed her what Bo is planning to wear for the wedding, and we talked some more.

I don't know how long Nanny will be staying with us, but I can tell you that she will be welcome as long as she wants.

I've missed my mom terribly. It was hard to be so far from her the first time I lived in Florida, and this time was no easier (harder, in some ways). So the more time I get with her, the happier I'll be.

The munchkins come home to us tonight, and they don't know she's here. It will be a good surprise.

12 February 2015

Building a brand

One of the things I'm working on is building a brand for my work. Since I'm moving to a more formalized business structure, I'll have a business name and logo and all that jazz, and it's important to have a brand personality that will not only appeal to the target market, but will help keep my business at the front of their minds when they are looking for what I offer.

A brand personality is, quite simply, the personality conveyed by your organization, which is made up of a set of consistent traits that are carried throughout the business and its operations. It is the way the clients relate to your organization. For example, a law office's brand personality is likely to be more professional and sophisticated than a construction company. These two organizations are appealing to people in different ways, and the brand personalities reflect the persona they want the customers to see and connect with.

So there are a few things I'm doing to develop my brand.

Market analysis

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about marketing and industry analyses. One of the uses for this is developing a brand for your organization. Once you know your target market and the industry better, you can use the information to understand what kind of business will appeal to them. For example, a law office marketing to construction workers will have a different brand personality than a law office marketing to white-collar business executives. The type of person or business you want to appeal to helps guide the personality and platform you create for the brand.

Industry analysis

In addition, the type of industry in which you work helps guide your brand personality. When you think of an industry, it is likely that certain images or traits come to mind. Collectively, construction companies are more "casual" than law offices. If your business works in the construction field, it is likely that your brand personality will reflect the more casual nature of it. That is not to say that certain industries call for brands to be unprofessional. Your brand can be both casual and professional.

Products and Services Offered

In addition, what you are offering to clients says a lot about how your business's brand will be portrayed. Products and services that are more sophisticated require a more sophisticated brand personality from the organization. Conversely, products that are more casual require a more casual brand personality. In returning to our previous example of a construction company: an organization that offers consultation services will likely have a different brand personality than a company that does the actual construction work.

There is more that goes into a brand personality (aesthetics, word choice, company culture, etc.), but these are a few of the things I'm focusing on right now as I (we*) prepare for the expansion of what I do from freelance to actual factual business.

What is your business's brand personality? How did you determine what it would be? Is it effective? Why or why not?

09 February 2015

Finding balance -- mind

Freedigitalphotos.net / tiverylucky
One aspect of holistic living is creating a balance of mind, body, and spirit in life. To that end, I want to talk about the creating balance within my mind moving toward a holistic lifestyle.

My mind is usually where I struggle the most in creating a holistic balance in my life. As an introvert, I internalize a lot of things, and I can get into a "loop" of thinking that is not always beneficial.

So one of the goals I have for this year is to work on quieting my mind and being in the moment. I think this will go a long way to helping me let go of a lot of the mental and emotional struggles in my life, particularly related to my family, and bring me a great deal more peace on a daily basis.

I want to be someone who meditates regularly. I've tried a few times (not seriously), but it never really went anywhere. And yet, I know that when I set aside time for the purpose of quieting my mind, I am happier.

Yoga is meditative to me. I'm able to focus on my breathing and ignore everything in my life. So I'm going to try and do yoga more (which will benefit my physical health, as well).

However, I would also like to sit and meditate. I may start with guided meditation to help get my mind into the habit of quieting itself on a regular basis. Once I'm more comfortable with it, I can move into more free-form meditation.

I think, through meditation, I will be able to let go of some things that I've been struggling with, as well. Not only will this help me to stay in the moment, but will make for a more peaceful, happier life.

How do you keep balance within your mind?

05 February 2015

Passing as straight

December 2014
Earlier in my relationship with Bo, we went to get breakfast at a cute little diner one Sunday. It was next to a non-denominational Christian church, and it was clear from the atmosphere that it was a regular stop for many of the church folks. That being said, there was no indication that the restaurant should have been considered a "Christian" restaurant. Throughout our meal, we made an important discovery.

Our waitress was not actually waiting on us.

It started out as a normal meal, for the most part.* She took our order, not making eye contact with either of us. She seemed rushed and as though she was flustered. We decided at the time that it was probably due to the large number of customers that were there at the time, and she seemed to be one of only a couple of servers in the restaurant that morning. She was just busy, right?

However, as the meal progressed, we noticed other things. It took a long time to get our meal. Despite the fact that she was buzzing around to other tables checking on customers, she never once checked on us to see if we needed anything (including refills on our drinks). When we were finished eating, the manager cleared our table and dealt with our check. We could clearly see that the waitress was still on her shift, but the manager had taken over our table by that point.

It was weird.

Afterward, Bo and I discussed it, and we came to the uneasy conclusion that the waitress was not comfortable waiting on us because of our relationship.

Yes, we were in a relationship, but she had no way of knowing that. We weren't holding hands or making out over our breakfasts. We could have just as easily been two friends or cousins or sisters who went out to breakfast together.

She assumed our relationship, then changed her behavior toward us based on that assumption.

During the course of the discussion about it, Bo indicated that it was probably an assumption that came from Bo's appearance more than the dynamic of the two of us together. Bo has short hair and wears clothes that some consider masculine. She told me that when people give us sideways glances, trying to determine if we're together, it's most likely that they're looking at her.

She said, "You pass as straight."

I suppose she's right. I typically keep my hair a bit longer (chin length, at least), and wear clothing that is generally identifiable as feminine. I'm not a "girly girl," but definitely on the feminine side of the spectrum.**

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I suppose it's beneficial to be able to "pass" as straight in general society. I don't get stares when I'm in public, and there's little awkwardness from people who are uncomfortable around the queer community.

On the other hand, I am not ashamed of who I am, so I don't feel the need to hide any part of that. There is part of me that wants people to look at me and identify me as a lesbian because that's how I identify myself. I don't try to hide that part of me because I feel no need to.

Of course, in an ideal world, it wouldn't matter. People would mind their own business instead of judging others based on who they love and with whom they share their beds.

I mean, if people spent half as much time advocating for the marginalized in society as they do shaking their fists at The Gays, our society would be a whole helluva lot better. But that's a post for another day.






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*In looking at the experience in retrospect, it's clear now that there were more indications of the waitress's feelings about us than we noticed at the time. As this post is retrospective, it will address those indications.

**Because gender is a spectrum, not binary. That's just how it works.

29 January 2015

The role of holistic health in my life

Image source
Holistic health is an approach to life that seeks to find balance in mind, body, and spirit for optimal health by recognizing that these three factors of health are interrelated.

This is something I have been working toward achieving in my own life. So far, I have been moderately successful, but I haven't gotten to where I really want to be. But it's a process, so I'm still taking steps toward balance, one day at a time.

This year, I am renewing my efforts at living holistically and finding balance. This is not only so I can achieve my health goals this year (some of them have a timeline), but because it will be highly beneficial for my work as I make changes this year.

I've been hinting at a big change that was supposed to happen sometime this year, then at the beginning of the year, and now back to the summer. This change is officially happening this summer, so I am ready to start talking about the change and what it will mean for my life and career.

The work I have been doing as a freelance writer for the past seven years has been going increasingly well. I have good clients, a great deal of experience, and a clear vision of what I want to do in my career. To that end, this summer I will be taking the step to establish myself as an official business and shift from doing work as a freelancer to focusing on doing marketing work for small and midsize holistic health and wellness organizations. In addition, the marketing work we'll be doing will take a holistic approach to the business, seeking to benefit every facet of the business with its efforts.

I look forward to integrating my holistic lifestyle and my career as a writer/marketer. I hope that my passion for holistic health will not only benefit the business as we take this new, adventurous step, but will further benefit my personal life as I learn more about maintaining a balance of mind, body, and spirit in my life.

26 January 2015

Marketing and industry analyses

As I'm preparing for the next big adventure in my career, one of the things I'm doing is conducting both a marketing and industry analysis for my new business plan.

The industry analysis gives me an idea of what's going on to see what my competition is, what I offer that they don't, what I need to be mindful, and things like that. It will be a bit more broad than what I'll be doing because of the specifics of the business (details to come soon!), but it will still be very valuable as I'm moving forward.

The marketing analysis will help me identify and reach my target market, and help me develop a marketing strategy for both short- and long-term goals. This will also include competitive information, but from a marketing focus rather than an industry focus.

Analyzing both the industry and your marketing is valuable to do periodically. I'm doing it now because I'm getting set up to go in a new direction with my career, which includes launching all new services and quite a bit of re-branding, but once we're set up and working, we'll likely do these analyses at least annually (probably twice each year) to help keep tabs on what's going on and where we stand in the industry and within our target market.

I know that this part of the work can be tedious and irritating, but I also know it's valuable in order to be successful. So we'll compile data and insights and analyze information and use it to provide better services to our customers and ensure that they know exactly why investing in [COMPANY NAME REDACTED] is beneficial for their businesses.

Do you do regular analyses? How have they changed how you operate your business or services?