Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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My Word for 2017

vertical-logo-w-taglinelargeThis year’s word was easy, peasy! I saw it coming from miles—actually, months—away, and I’ve been very excited to share it with you. But it took way more prep work than usual.

The word, you ask? SIGNIFY.

And that is because it’s my new business name! If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that I left my full-time job last May to start my own company. Now, I serve cause-focused organizations through writing, consulting and strategy. I want to help these purpose-driven companies improve their marketing and business communications so they can focus and shine. And I especially love helping small businesses get noticed and grow. You can read more about the background of my business here.

Since I’ve been practicing a word for the year tradition for a number of years, I used the same criteria to choose my business name: I like single words with multiple meanings in the form of a verb. It took me several months to figure out my organization’s name, but I’m very happy with it. And the website just launched yesterday, which is the prep work I mentioned. It’s been quite the adventure so far, and I’m sure that will continue!

So, basically, even though I had this business the latter half of 2016, this means that 2017 will be focused on getting this business off the ground and running. I have been very blessed to have spent the first seven months working for friends, and that sustained me. But I knew that wasn’t realistic for the long-haul, so that meant building a website and all the bells and whistles that came with it.

My verse for the year is one I hold very near to my heart. It’s one that continues to inspire me, has influenced my business, and especially seems like a good motto to live by these days.

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

There you go! That’s it. My word for the year. As always, I can’t wait to see what the year has in store, and how I’ll view it through the lens of SIGNIFY.

You can read about last year’s word, RENEW, right here, if you’d like.

Did you choose a word for 2017? If so, I’d love to hear it!

___________________________________________________

If you’re new to this whole word for the year thing, it is basically a way to take a proactive stance to the year. Instead of just arriving in December and taking stock of what happened, having a word of the year is a way to be proactive. We all have goals, wishes and hopes for our year, and sometimes those happen, and sometimes life gets in the way. Having a word for the year helps me to be intentional with my days and my time, and sometimes it also helps me make decisions that help to define outcomes. It’s a practice that some of my friends and I have done for probably almost 10 years now, and it is always a highlight of my year, especially when we’re able to discuss them together.

If you haven’t done this before, and want a little more guidance, here are a couple of resources to help you out:

One Word That Will Change Your Life

My One Word

Wishing you a joyful and productive 2017!

 

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RENEW: 2016 in Review

0srgmqwaxz0-wayne_ooone-wangWhew—What. A. Year. It’s been a crazy one, but mostly in good ways!

If you recall, my word for 2016 was RENEW. It came to me instantly, and was a breath of fresh air. I was really looking forward to this year because I couldn’t wait to see what these months would hold in the face of such mental exhaustion just one year ago. And it didn’t disappoint!

The first few months of 2016 were all about setting up to leave my job well. I had a date in mind when January began, but I had a lot of work to do in the meantime. Not only did I have several events to manage with my job, but I also wanted to put more systems in place to make it easier on my replacement. And I think I did a good job on both. I still have great relationships with my old co-workers, and love the mission of the company, so I wanted to make sure things were taken care of. It wasn’t just about not burning a bridge; it was about being someone of integrity.

I left at the end of May, and took most of June off. It was a very welcome respite! Of course, I would’ve loved to have a six-month vacation, but finances just didn’t allow. So, I enjoyed every moment of the down time mostly by sleeping, binge-watching TV shows and catching up with friends. It was glorious, and I look forward to my next extended vacation!

July was my official first month. I’d already been working on a freelance project, actually my first to sign on after I announced self-employment, but this is where I kicked in high gear. And several people had also already told me they’d like to work with me when I made the leap, so I reached out and was soon consumed with work! July was actually my most lucrative month.

From August through December, I’ve had steady work as well. Some months were, of course, better than others, but I knew that would be the case. It takes time to grow a client base. However, I’ve been extremely blessed to work so far solely with people I know first-hand and referrals. In the less busy months, I’ve worked on my own website and branding, and am excited to show that to you in a couple of weeks! There were also plenty of admin tasks to keep me busy. I also just hired a business coach, and have enjoyed that process. It’s quite challenging, but it will help set me up strong for 2017.

So, that’s the business side of things.

On the more touchy-feeling aspects of life, those have improved as well. I’ve seen additional improvement in my health now that I sleep more and work less, and am not wasting as much energy on brushing my hair and getting dressed most days! I do miss my long commute for the purpose of listening to audiobooks, but I’m learning to enjoy podcasts more now.

And the mental exhaustion is sooooo much better. I still have stress, obviously, because who doesn’t, but it’s different. It’s self-imposed now. I really dislike bookkeeping and HR duties, but the tradeoff still can’t be beat. I also love being my own boss, and the flexibility in my job.

I was also able to travel a good bit this year, and you know I loved that! As before, conferences made up a good bit of my travel schedule. But I wouldn’t really have it any other way. My biggest travel milestone also came this year when I took my first solo international trip to Barcelona! It was a place I’d wanted to visit since I was in high school, and it was fantastic! I hope to go back one day.

On my Barcelona trip, I turned 40! Another milestone. Wow—so hard to believe! I think I handled it well, but it’s still rough looking back to see the things I would’ve changed. I think that’s human, though. The hardest part, which has been mostly out of my control, is knowing I have had health challenges since I was 35. I spent the entire latter half of my 30s sick. That’s not fun at all, and it makes me really sad to see how much time has passed. I’ve still been able to do some incredible things over the past few years, but it definitely held me back in a lot of ways. All I can do is look forward, though, and make the days to come count. I’m holding on to RENEW for a little longer.

Like many of you, there are goals that I didn’t hit. There are things I wish I’d done better, or done at all. There are things I regret. There are short-comings and wishes and plenty of what if’s. But tomorrow, God willing, we all get another chance to try again. I just watched Finding Dory on my last plane ride, so when things get though, I’ll “just keep swimming.”

I’m mostly quite happy with RENEW. It has served me well, and taught me a lot. And really, that’s exactly what a word for the year should do!

I’ve already got my word for 2017, and I’ll share it soon! Until then, be thinking of yours!


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Merry Christmas!

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-10-28-07-am“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

You’ve probably heard that line. It’s one of my favorite holiday stories. In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun. It’s gone on to become the most reprinted newspaper article in history. And, in my opinion, it’s absolutely beautiful.

A few years back, I decided I wanted a nice copy of it, so I bought this book which recounts the tale. I read it every year because it’s full of hope, joy and magic. So, if you’ve heard of the story, but never read the actual article, I wanted to share it with you:

“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, “If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.”

——

“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

 

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. It’s been a rough year for our country, and our world. And we all need a little more to believe in.

May you be blessed, and share the blessing.

Merry Christmas!

 

(Source: Newseum, which by the way, is an awesome place to visit.)

(Note: Amazon link is an affiliate link.)

 


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My 2016 Reading List Recap

pexels-photo-46274If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably realize how important acquiring knowledge is to me. I love learning! And up until June, I did most of that through Audible books on my commute. However, now that I work from home, I didn’t make it through as many books as I normally would during a year. That was probably the only bummer about losing my commute. But I made a big attempt during the first half of the year to compensate, and I’ll certainly squeeze in another one or two during my holiday travels.

Here’s my recap:

If you need more suggestions, here are my previous lists:

And if you’re in a short or no commute situation like me, but you still want to learn, try podcasts. I began substituting more podcasts for books since they are shorter, but still convey a lot of information. Here are the ones that top my list:

Interested in trying Audible? Click the image below.

*30 days of membership free, plus two free audiobooks to keep.
*1 credit a month after trial, good for any book regardless of price.
*Exclusive members savings. Get 30% off any additional audiobooks.
*Easy exchanges. Don’t love a book? Swap it for free, anytime. Seriously.

HAPPY LEARNING!

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My Wizarding World of Harry Potter Tips

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-4-34-44-pm

Hogsmeade Village, Orlando

I just returned from Orlando a couple of weeks ago—after seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, of course. The company was good, the weather was perfect, and Harry Potter was all around!

I first visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010 with some girlfriends, two of which were fans of the movies, and two (including me) were complete Potterfiles who had read the books and seen the movies multiple times each. We were all completely wowed by the park! So, now that they’ve opened Diagon Alley, I had to see it! These are some of my favorite books and movies of all time, so to see them come to life in a theme park was simply . . . MAGICAL!

My two girlfriends that accompanied me this time weren’t huge Harry Potter fans, but they enjoyed the movies and were up for a road trip. And that’s all I needed!

Coincidently, I also had another friend who was going the week after me, so I made sure to take some mental notes for her. And I thought I’d share them with you too:

  • If you haven’t been to this resort property before, there are two full theme parks, collectively called Universal Orlando Resort. The individual parks are Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Islands of Adventure is where the original Harry Potter stuff is, complete with Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade Village. The new section is in Universal Studios and focuses on Diagon Alley.
  • If you have to choose, I’d say the original area in Islands of Adventure is still better. I mean, how can you top the castle? Simply put: You can’t. But please try to make it to both lands. They’re fantastic!
  • To do both HP areas, you’ll need a park-hopper ticket. You can take the Hogwarts Express between the two. But, even if you decide you want to check out some other lands or rides, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure only take a few minutes to cross between them, very much unlike Disney World.
  • Speaking of tickets: My two friends got theirs through AAA. It only saved them about $5, but hey, that’s a bottle of water. 😉 I paid for mine with Chase Ultimate Rewards points thanks to the reminder on this blog.
  • Download the Universal Studios Orlando App. It’s really helpful, especially for wait times. I also favorited all the rides/shows/shops/restaurants I wanted to see and do for easy reference, and then un-favorited them as we went along like a to-do list. Tackle the longest lines first, if possible. They usually grow throughout the day.
  • If you have a birthday in your group, go to guest services when you arrive to get birthday buttons. Sometimes the employees let you use it like a fast pass, but nonetheless, it’s really fun for the employees (and sometimes other guests) to wish you happy birthday all day long!
  • The are more fun HP drinks at the Leaky Cauldron in Universal that aren’t available in Three Broomsticks in Islands. But you can get Pumpkin Juice and Butterbeer (regular, hot, frozen) in both. And the Pumpkin Juice comes in bottles, so you can get it to go. Since we were driving, I picked several of those up as gifts for friends who couldn’t come. The Butterbeer has a butterscotch taste, and is very sweet to me, so like the Pumpkin Juice, I can’t finish it by myself. But the Butterbeer Ice Cream tastes kinda like a vanilla custard, and is only at Universal. You can also get Butterbeer fudge in Islands at Honeydukes, which is where I got the Pumpkin Juice to go. It tastes more like white chocolate with a hint of butterscotch. If you get Butterbeer, either get it with your meal, or at the Hopping Pot in Universal or Hog’s Head in Islands. Those lines are MUCH shorter than the main Butterbeer line in Islands that’s out in the middle of Hogsmeade. #amateurs Other than with your meal, Hog’s Head is at the back of the Three Broomsticks, and will have the shortest line.
  • And I’d suggest one of you getting the Butterbeer in the collectible cup because you can use it for water fountains and tea/coke refills in restaurants, and share it, so you don’t have to buy bottles of water if you don’t want to. There’s a water fountain by Three Broomsticks and a few other places too. I think you can also take refillable water bottles into the park, but check the website.
  • With all the fun foods and specialty drinks in both lands, I suggest splitting them when you can. A lot of the portions are pretty big, and that way you can try more without spending your retirement fund.
  • The restroom by Three Broomsticks is also where you can hear Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom. Totally worth it.
  • I think the castle ride (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey) is my favorite theme park ride ever. I LOVE that one. If you do the single rider on that one, you miss part of the castle tour, FYI. When I went before, we did the regular ride all together to see the whole castle, and then went through as single riders to do it again faster. But if anyone has motion sickness issues, they need to stay off this ride and the 3-D ones! Please trust me on that.  
  • I always send my mom and a couple friends post cards when I travel. And because we were there, I also sent post cards to some friend’s kids. If you do this, get the post cards at Islands because I think they’re better. However, they don’t sell single post cards anymore, so you have to get a pack of 10. Bummer. But you can also get special Hogwarts stamps. And, they’ll put a Hogwarts post mark on them at the spot where you drop them in the mail! Get the post cards and stamps in Flourish and Blots, and you mail them right outside the Owl Post.
  • One of my best pieces of advice is to take drawstring backpacks rather than big bags or purses. And, of course, they also work for both males and females. It was so nice to not have to carry anything like a purse, hold something with your hands, or situate anything as you walked over your shoulder. And since they are small, you can share the same lockers for any rides they don’t allow you to take your bags on. The weather was pretty cool for us, so I kept my cardigan on all day, but having the drawstring backpack gave me an option to stow it if I’d wanted to. And my friend who got the Butterbeer mug kept hers in there too. They’re also smaller and less bulky than regular backpacks. Definitely worth the small investment.
  • Along those lines, if you plan on taking lots of photos or using the app a bunch, it’s wise to bring an external battery along. This one is compact, this one is a little more powerful, and this one charges multiple devices at once.
  • I don’t know what your experience will be, but late afternoon when the sun started setting, the park got much lighter, so the rides and restaurants weren’t crowded at all. We were there the weekend before Thanksgiving, so the sun sets much earlier. I know that won’t be the case during the summer, but was awesome for us and we were able to ride several things very quickly at the end of our day.
  • The nighttime show at Universal is back by the Harry Potter area as well. It’s not near as spectacular as Disney’s, but lots of fun movie montages and lights in the water. But, if you decide to miss it, not a really big deal. If you want to do it, however, I’d say to start in Islands so you can finish in Universal and see the show rather than having to go back and forth between the parks twice.
  • I’ve been to Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure before Harry arrived, and then as I mentioned, with only the one HP park open. This time, I only wanted to do the two HP parks. And it did take us an entire day to do them both. So, if you want to fit in any other rides or shows not HP affiliated, you’ll have to cut down on the HP stuff or plan on going for more than one day.

So, those are my tips! I hope they help. Universal really did a tremendous job in designing these two lands, and both of my friends also had a great time. One just starting reading the books as a result!

And if you make it to either Orlando or LA for a Harry Potter visit, I hope you have a magical time too!

View all of the photos here.

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