31 Dec

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve Cupcake Toppers - LaStudioprints via etsy.com

New Year’s Eve Cupcake Toppers – LaStudioprints via etsy.com


Just wanted to send a quick note to wish you all a very happy new year, and to share a couple of rituals I find comforting this time of year. My new year’s celebrations are simple and consistent – basically: reflect, set intention, eat. Since I’ve written about these before, this year, I’ll give you the highlights in link form:

My all-time favorite reflection/intention exercise comes from Andrea Scher – this year, she put it into a really sweet video message.

You can find some other helpful tools in my January 1 post from last year.

And if you’d rather work together in person to set a strong foundation for the new year, have I got the retreat for you (this Saturday!).

Oh! And let’s not forget the food! Do you do cabbage and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day? This is a tradition that my midwest relatives find baffling, but let me tell you, the biggest display at the front of my Randall’s grocery store today was a bunch of cabbages and black-eyed peas. Peas for good luck, cabbage for prosperity. Can’t hurt, right? I laid out my favorite recipes last January in this post.

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2013!

10 Oct

Picker Uppers

A little over a week ago, something bad happened. And you know, I don’t really want to get into the details of it over here, but still, I felt like saying something.  Just to get it out, I guess.  It feels like kind of a big deal.  Not a someone’s-dying-of-cancer big deal or anything, it’s nothing like that.  It’s just… well, it was just something shitty.

So.  I did some things that I thought would make me feel better.  Like reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants in one sitting.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey

And curling up to watch The Five-Year Engagement.

The Five-Year Engagement

 And taking a trip to Italy with some really awesome friends.





Man, did that movie  ever cheer me up!


In all seriousness, if you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps, I can highly recommend all of the above for turning things around.  Painting in that countryside did sort of take it up another notch, though, if I’m being honest.  More to come…


07 Sep

Weekend Work

My writing today was prompted by this LifeHacker article.  If this piques your interest, I suggest checking it out for more science behind this topic.

What are you going to do this weekend?  Are you looking forward to it?  How do you think you’ll feel when it’s all over?

Okay, here’s another one for you:

Imagine your ideal vacation.  Where is it?  What are you doing (or not doing) while you’re there?  And how will you feel when you get back?

If you’re anything like me, the answers to these questions inevitably involve some combination of sleeping and drinking.  It’s vacation/the weekend!  I’m tired and stressed from a week at work.  I want to unwind, relax.  And while the goal is to feel rested and refreshed at the end, if I’m honest about sleeping in on Saturday and then following it up with a nice long nap, or spending a few days drinking margaritas on the beach, I’m probably not going to feel that peppy come Monday morning.

Do I learn?  Heck, no!  Next weekend, I’ll still be thinking about happy hour and vegging out in front of a movie.  And why is that?  Well,

… we are drawn—powerfully, magnetically—to those things that are easy, convenient, and habitual, and it is incredibly difficult to overcome this inertia. Active leisure is more enjoyable, but it almost always requires more initial effort-getting the bike out of the garage, driving to the museum, tuning the guitar, and so on. (via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work)

So, I still have my weaknesses – especially when I’m tired on Friday and haven’t planned for the weekend – but I guess I’m not alone.  I have gotten better with my vacations, though, and that’s actually a big part of what motivates my vision for Retreat Austin.  Several years ago, I began to recognize that my vacations were a lot more fun – and left me feeling truly rejuvenated – if I planned them around some kind of active learning.  All the better if they also included spending time with a group of like-minded people.  Now, I’ve never been an adventure-sports type, so surfing vacations and mountain-biking weekends were out.  But a writing retreat?  Well.  That hits the spot.

Need more encouragement?  Listen to this:

According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby. The least effective strategies are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours. (via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It)

Do something that makes you feel good this weekend.  Put down that beer, get off the couch, and get to “work”. :)

17 Jan

The trouble with blog writing

I decided to take a break from the 40-day challenge this weekend.  I could have knocked out a post on Saturday night (and Sunday, too), but… why?

Well, because I set a goal, for one thing.  Because I made a commitment.  And I am nothing if not accountable, especially to my own high standards.  But Rachel’s words were still echoing for me – what she’d said about the things we do only because we think we should, and later, her question to me about writing every day (simply, “why?”).  I’d answered her with what I know to be true – a blog needs content, and I want to write content that resonates with people who share my values, people with whom I hope to do business someday.  (Geez, I hope that doesn’t sound too commercial.  The thing is, I find great value in writing for my own reflection and self-examination, but with little exception, I wouldn’t feel the need to post my writings online without a broader purpose.  Let’s be honest: the blog is ultimately here to support my work.)

And that is exactly where I’m feeling the most stuck with my business right now.  I want to connect with people – that’s what Retreat Austin is all about.  I believe that real, personal communication is essential to making those connections.  And for me, social networking – Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc. – seems more like a threat to building real connections than a tool that fosters them.

You can see my dilemma, right?  Here I am, trying to build a business that brings people together, to be present with each other face to face – and the best way to inform people that this awesome business exists is by way of a website.  Grr.

So what did I do in the face of this struggle?  I decided to face it head-on.  Stop avoiding the enemy.  In fact, spend some quality time with it.  Write to it every day.  Talk to it.

Only, I don’t really have that much to say on an every-single-day basis.  My interaction with this blog seems more like the small talk I make with the barista every morning than the kind of substantive conversation I have with a friend over dinner.  That’s my relationship with the blog (and by extension, you) right now – first date, when I’m shooting for old pal.

I suppose I hope that keeping it up like this – at least for a while – will make things more comfortable.  That the relationship will become more familiar over time.  But then, I’m trying to trust my gut, too, and recognize that every single day is probably not necessary.  It’s okay to take a break.  Sometimes that’s how you know you’re getting closer, right?  When the silence is comfortable.

How do you use social networking to build relationships?  Is the internet bringing you closer together, or does it have you feeling a bit disconnected?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

14 Jan

Tomorrow’s Retreatshop with Rachel W. Cole

Tomorrow, I’m heading to Rachel Cole’s first Well-Fed Woman Retreatshop, right here in Austin, and I just can’t wait.  Rachel coached me through my biggest changes this year: leaving an unfulfilling job, taking time to rest and listen, developing my vision for Retreat Austin and my financial consulting work.  She held my hand, cheered me on, asked the tough questions, pushed me to consider options I hadn’t allowed myself to see.  Working with a life coach was an experiment for me – I hadn’t worked in that space before, and I didn’t know what I would be getting with Rachel.  I am so thankful for what I found.

I expect that tomorrow will be quite different from our coaching sessions, and I’m still contemplating my own intentions for the Retreatshop.  As part of the registration, Rachel asked, “What are you truly hungry for?”  My answer was “connection”, and that is true.  I wasn’t certain at first that the Retreatshop would be the right fit for me, given that Rachel and I had already spent so much time together, and in the end, it was the promise of communion with other like-minded women that convinced me to go ahead and sign up already.  Now, I can’t imagine not having this on my calendar tomorrow.  After all, how could I have considered skipping out on a retreat?

Still, I am wondering what the afternoon will bring.  Will there be connection?  Creativity?  Growth?  I’m trusting Rachel (and my gut) on this one.  I can’t wait to find out.

10 Jan

You just never know when someone’s going to want to see your website

I had an awesome chance meeting with another creative business owner this afternoon, something that made me realize it’s time to stop procrastinating on a handful of items relating to my own business.  Some of that is related to this website, so I’ve updated the Retreat Austin page, and I’m working on (re-)creating that dreaded About page.  I would love to hear your feedback on the site.  Seriously: what’s working and what’s… just not?  Let me know in the comments or drop me a line.

Thanks for your patience.  Back to our regularly scheduled 40-day programming tomorrow.

07 Jan

Snow Day

Can I tell you one of my favorite things about the contract work I do?  Don’t be jealous.  You know how you have downtime at work?  I mean, not like the times when you’re in some kind of slow season, and you feel like you can finally catch your breath and tackle some of the chores that have been on the back burner for a while.  I mean down time.  Like, a power outage or a computer that just went blue screen on you.  If you work in finance, for example, you know there’s always going to be a day – sometime right in the middle of your budget cycle, when you’re really crunching to get things done – when the planning system breaks.  Templates won’t save, models won’t calculate, whatever.  You’re stuck.  And it’s not something that you can fix, rather, you have to wait around for someone who works for the planning software company, or a tech in your own office, to get around to fixing it.  So you wait.  Sometimes there is thumb-twiddling.  By several team members.

Do you know what I do when this happens?  I go home.  Win for my client (she’s not paying me to sit around and wait), win for me (unexpected free time, plus I’m not sitting around and waiting).  It’s like a snow day.

So, as far as weather goes, there certainly wasn’t any snow on the ground – it was almost 70 degrees and sunny around these parts (which made it the BEST SNOW DAY EVER).  But for those of you who hail from a wintry climate, you know what I mean.  I thought I was going to be at work today, so it’s not like I made any other plans (chores, to-do lists, commitments)… and all of a sudden, there’s just this free stretch of time, with which I can do anything I want.

And it was glorious.  I ran a quick errand (returning shoes that I totally did not need, which meant it was also like I was getting paid for the afternoon), then spent the rest of my day doing the raking and hedge-trimming that I haven’t been able to bring myself to tackle for months now.  And that may sound like a to-do list, but here’s the thing.  It was the most beautiful day.  I was already out and about, and planning on working (so there wasn’t that weekend-y temptation to stay in PJs and read).  And I have so wanted to clean up that yard.  At the end of the day, I felt refreshed, rewarded, and a little bit sunburned.

Tomorrow, I’ll start early to make up for the downtime.

05 Dec

New home page, with help from Wordle

It’s been a rainy, gray, chilly Sunday here in Austin, and thank goodness for that – I finally found that stretch of time that I’ve needed to make some good progress on this new website.  I’ve been futzing around with the home page for the past hour or so, and I just had to share.  I made this using Wordle:

made with Wordle at www.wordle.net

So fun! And completely free! Thanks to Brene Brown for pointing me in Wordle’s direction. Now go give it a try yourself!

04 Dec

Weekend Update

Over the past few weeks, I have been working a different creative muscle (wow, that could be taken in the completely wrong direction) (ahem), which has kept me a bit removed from Retreat.  (On a side note, my friend, Spike, suggested that my choice in business name is having the unfortunate subliminal effect of literally causing me to retreat.  She offered up Sally Forth as an alternative.  She may have a point.)  I certainly don’t want you, dear readers, to think I’ve forgotten you, though, so let me provide you with a brief update.

Retreat Austin is alive and well, albeit in a state of… incubation, shall we say?  I’ve taken a little break from the full-on, what-is-my-true-purpose-and-how-will-this-all-happen search to let some of those ideas breathe and see which ones hang on without my intense, control-freak-y life support.  I am a bit amazed at the results.

I’ve set a goal to have some really clear information on my business out in the world by January 1st, and that information will certainly be accessible here.  Please (please) stay tuned.  That’s not to say that I’m signing off until the end of the year, but sparse and infrequent posts will likely be the norm.

I should also say, in all honesty… it’s feeling a lot like the week before finals around here.  As in: the house is clean, all of the dishes are washed, laundry is in the dryer, files are organized, and I’m thinking of driving to Office Max to get those pens that I really need.  Anything to avoid the important things, work to build my business and writing to feed my soul.  That’s okay, I know, it’s all okay in the end, it’s just funny to me that this is always how it seems to work.  Oh well, the house needs to be cleaned from time to time anyway.

04 Oct

You guys, I totally made this.

I finally finished this project that I started almost two months ago at Stitch Lab. I got everything arranged on the kitchen wall yesterday morning, and I’ve been dying to show it off here – I just couldn’t figure out what to say about it. I keep putting on my blog voice, you know?

So… here’s why I want to share this piece with you:

1. I think it’s awesome. Yes, I am concerned about going a bit overboard about my little arts and crafts project, but c’mon – it’s awesome, right? :) I am not an artist, and this is the first project I’ve ever done like this. But Kat‘s class description sparked an idea, and I thought it would be a fun way to use my craft love in a new way. There is a poster in my living room which says, “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong” (Joseph Chilton Pearce). I referred to it constantly. The other day, when I was almost done with it, I was SO EXCITED about how it turned out (except for the lips, which is a whole other story). I started planning out the kitchen wall, and then the judgement snuck in. Should I really put this in the kitchen? Where everyone will see it? This is kind of stupid, right? So I thought, maybe I will hang it behind the bar, in the other room, where just about nobody ever goes. When my best friend came over for dinner on Saturday, though, I couldn’t resist getting it out. And she loved it! Her excitement gave me some courage, and onto the kitchen wall it went. Lessons: art doesn’t have to be perfect, you’re not the only judge of what looks good, and when in doubt, invite your friends over.

2. I got to make it with my mom (and some other fun girls over at Stitch Lab). Maybe I’ve mentioned this arts-in-community thing? Visits for my mom and I actually tend to include some kind of project – we’ve sewn a shopping bag at Christmas, built a hidden medicine cabinet when I was getting ready to sell my place in Chicago, made dishcloths during a fall visit (she crochets, I knit), put together our own “deluxe” pin cushions from fabric scraps (you can see a picture of mine – at least for now – on the home page for Retreat Austin). My mom is a whiz on the sewing machine, and she continues to amaze me with the power tools she’s able to master. So I learn a lot from her (and sometimes she learns from me), and the work feeds our relationship, and then of course, we usually end up with something tangible that’s pretty cool. This project was a bit of an accident – not sure I would have suggested that we sign up for the course together, but I’d already registered when she booked her trip, so I asked her if she wanted to come along. We had a great time in the studio, met some fun and interesting women in the class, and had something to work on for the two weeks she was visiting. I love this.

3. Courage. Do you mind if I digress for a moment?
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