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Author Archive for Gail

Develop a Budget You Can Live With

“Budgets suck!” my son yelled as he pounded his fist on the table.  “What good is having a budget if I don’t have any money to BUDGET???”

It is a bit of a conundrum – especially for him. He moved out recently and is living with his friend. His dad is asking him to take over a Parent-Plus loan from college while he’s drowning under the rest of his college debt and not yet working in his chosen field.

Seems like every time he turns around something else happens to add one more nail to this ever-growing box of trouble.

But he keeps moving forward, because the only other choice is to fail.

The great thing about budgets is that you learn exactly how much money you have, how much you don’t have and how you can spend that money.

The bad thing about budgets is that you learn exactly how much money you have, how much you don’t have and how you can spend that money.

One of those statements really resonated with you – and if you’re like most people, it’s the second statement.

It’s so much easier to live from paycheck to paycheck and hope for the best than to face the issue head on and know exactly how much you don’t have and wish you did.

BUT, when you look at it a different way, a budget is something that will help you figure out how much extra money you CAN spend each month while still paying your bills and putting away money for that vacation you want to take next summer with your friends.

I have two friends who are struggling now with their budgets. One is getting ready to leave her husband and the other’s husband just cut off spousal support by changing the agreement through the court. He used a family tragedy to prove she didn’t need the money any longer.

Both women need to make drastic changes to their living situations – changing homes, reducing expenses, and learning to live on less. These are challenging situations for both of them, but one that will go much smoother WITH a budget than without one.

Immediately after my divorce the economy crashed and I lost 75% of my business. It was a horrific time – and instead of facing things head on, I buried my head in the sand and began racking up credit card debt to pay groceries and repair my car.

There were no additional expenses, or excessive spending. I didn’t go shopping, buy new clothes, or go on vacation. We didn’t go out to eat or buy groceries at the highend grocery stores. And still, I was swimming in debt.

Had I looked at life realistically, I may have gotten another job and sold my house sooner. I may have had less debt today than I do.

But hindsight is 20/20. 

Learning from past mistakes is one great gift we’re given as humans. Learning from someone else’s mistake is an even greater gift. If there is one thing I hope other single women learn from my past is how to look head on at their situation and take ACTION.

There have been times when I’ve seen my present situation out of the corner of my eye and decided if I could put my head in the sand just a bit longer the whole thing would disappear – entirely, disappear.

I know I’m not the only one, but I hope that my story motivates you to address the financial issues in your life immediately, before they start addressing you. Credit card debt, a huge loss on my home, and losses in my business should have driven me to get a part time job while rebuilding and homeschooling my children. But it didn’t, and today I continue to make payments on money I spent to buy groceries for the children 3 years ago.

The question isn’t whether you can find a budget to live with – but rather how can you live WITHOUT a budget?

Because, truly, a budget is just a structured way of looking at you money.

Successful businesses do it.

Entrepreneurs do it.

Millionaires do it.

And YOU are all those things in the hours and weeks before they happen.

In other words, you are that successful entrepreneur or wealthy individual in the months before the success happens.

Because success doesn’t happen TO you –  you MAKE it happen.

YOU create your success with your hard work and RIGHT ACTION. 

So pull out a pen and paper, or open up a spreadsheet program and start writing down the money you’ve spent in the past three months – where you spent it and on what.

Then commit to creating a budget that allows you a few dollars each month to treat yourself, but also has the line items to pay your bills and put money away for retirement years that are coming much faster than you might think.

And, remember, before that retirement is college education for your children, a vacation once in a while, a new car and a new roof on your home.

In other words, the expenses of living life.

Study – If You Have Children, You’re Likely More Productive Than Most

Quite frequently I consider how I might become more productive – be able to do more in one day or even accomplish more in an hour. It seems that more could be done in a 24-hour period.

In past several decades the ability to be or become productive is so valued that many are promoted when they produce the amount of work that can only be accomplished by putting in nearly 60 hours a week, every week, every month, year after year. While this may garner you a promotion at work, are they going to be standing over your grave when you work yourself to death, extolling your virtues?

Or will it be your friends and family who are grieving your loss? And do these people really care how much money you made or how many hours you put in at work?

As a single mom I would NEVER say that money doesn’t matter. It’s only the truly wealthy – who aren’t concerned about their next meal or paying the rent – who say that money doesn’t matter.

This should not be confused with WORRYING about money. While money matters – it doesn’t come solely from my efforts. When my efforts line up with God’s will then the bills are paid and there’s food on the table.

So . . . money matters, but not enough so that you work 60 to 80 hours a week to make your boss happy.

This comes back to the question of how to get more done in less time.

And – do you really need to?

At some point, you reach the pinnacle or the top of what could potentially be accomplished in a set amount of time.

It turns out that you are already more productive than anyone else.

If you are reading this, you are likely a woman who has children. Those two facts place you into a category of people who are the most productive individuals – both at home and at work.

In fact, some recommend that if you want to become more productive you just need to have children!

A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (1) found that over a 30-year career, mothers outperformed their peers without children at every level of the corporate ladder. The study went on to define that women with two or more children were the most productive of all the women studied.

To evaluate productivity the researchers analyzed the amount of research published by over 10,000 academic economists. They found that fathers with one child outperformed those without children, and those with two or more children outperformed all other men.

The effect in women was even more dramatic as those who never had children substantially under performed those women who did have children. It is important to recognize that these people came from life circumstances that likely allowed them maternity leave, paid sick time and other benefits that not all jobs accommodate.

But, you may have experienced the same thing happening in your own life. The more you have to do on your “list,” the more you get done each day.

On days we have basketball practice and appointments, I carry my computer and get more done between appointments and at coffee houses than I do when my calendar is completely clear and I’m struggling to remain productive throughout the day.

This productivity in the workplace is coming despite the “parenthood penalty” that women suffer far more frequently than men.

The answer may lie in the fact that your days are long but those years are short. Children grow up quickly, so taking time to spend with them while playing the long-game at your job, may grow your productivity skills quickly.

You may also be forced to produce more in less time as you’re racing out to doctor’s appointments, baseball games or picking up your little ones from school. Suddenly the hours after they fall asleep and before your head hits the pillow are prime real estate for completing the final tasks from work, repainting the family room or finishing your college education.

In the study, all women experienced a reduction in productivity when their children were young – so don’t expect more from yourself than nearly 5,000 women. However, those same women became substantially more focused and productive as their children grew up and became slightly more independent.

The researchers theorized that the women who became more productive after having children were likely hard working before they had them. Thus, having children didn’t make a dent in what they could accomplish as they only continued to work hard through the years.

There was a time when I was working two jobs, totally 60 hours between the two, had three children and my now ex-husband had moved to the next city we’d be living in – leaving me to sell the house.

It was STRESSFUL with a capital WORD.

But somehow I sailed through each day and got more done each day than I do now.

Is that a function of a few more years under my belt? Less to do now and so less productive? Or just that I remember those years differently than they happened?

Who knows?

But, what I do know – from case study and anecdotal evidence (my friends count!) – women appear to be more productive in less time than their male counterparts – and women with children seem to get more done.

What do you think?

 

1: Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis https://research.stlouisfed.org/wp/2014/2014-001.pdf

 

 

Prebiotics or Probiotics – What Should You Take and Why Should You Care?

Over the years I’ve done my share of ghostwriting for physicians about digestive health. In those years I’ve learned an amazing amount of information about the importance of gut health to the immune system, digestive health and the impact it has on the foods you digest well and those that trigger migraines or acne.

But your gut doesn’t just impact part of your health – it impacts ALL of your health. And, as you’re a single mom, with likely few resources to call on if you get more than a cold, it’s important to pay close attention to the small things each day so you can be around for the big things.

My daughter has been the recipient of some knowledge I’ve acquired over the years, which has helped her to reduce the amount of migraines she suffers and the cystic acne she experiences. Much of the information is about what we eat – sugar, fiber, probiotics, prebiotics  – and how those factors affect the bacteria growing in your gut.

That may sound gross – bacteria growing in your gut . . . but the reality is that you have two types of bacteria residing in your intestinal tract that are responsible for much of your health and the strength of your immune system. Good bacteria, often advertised in commercial grade yogurt at the grocery store, supports your digestion and immune system. Bad bacteria does exactly the opposite. To-date, scientists believe your body has equal number of bacteria in your gut and the number of cells in your body.

By supporting the growth of good bacteria and inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria you also support your ability to sleep well, reduce bloating, reduce your risk of colds and the flu, and reduce the potential for migraines and acne. Interestingly, a strong gut health will also improve your ability to maintain a healthy weight.

There are several different ways of accomplishing this task.

The first, and most effective, method of growing and feeding a thriving community of good bacteria in your intestines – or gut microbiome – is to eat foods that feed your gut. The first set are probiotic foods, or those that seed your gut with good bacteria. The second set are the types of foods these good bacteria use to grow and thrive.

If you’ve watched much television you’ve seen the yogurt ads claiming to feed your gut good bacteria and help you to be more “regular.” The problem with commercially prepared yogurt is the amount of sugar in the product. Unfortunately, sugar is the chemical that feeds your bad bacteria. So with each bite of yogurt you take, you add a little good bacteria and a whole lot of nutrients for the bad bacteria.

The better food to seed your gut is made in much the same way as yogurt. In other words, it’s fermented. Fermented foods like non-pasteurized pickles and sauerkraut are common types of foods you’ll find on your grocery store shelves that are fermented. However, you can make fermented vegetables at home too. This method is a bit less expensive, easy to accomplish and doesn’t contain the preservatives and chemicals that ride along with mass produced foods.

Dr. Mercola has some wonderful recipes for making fermented foods at home that help to seed your gut with good bacteria and cut back those grocery bills as well. This article also explains the benefits to your health in detail and gives you access to the GAPS protocol that may help you heal your gut.

The second step in feeding your gut microbiome is to use prebiotics. This is the food that the good bacteria in your gut uses to grow. While the bad bacteria thrive on sugar, the good bacteria develop into healthy communities with fiber. The fiber inulin found in chicory root, bananas and asparagus is used by your good bacteria to ward off the onslaught of bad bacterial growth in your gut.

Other high fiber foods include onions, garlic, artichokes, and jicama contain a type of fiber your gut can’t breakdown. It passes through your intestines and ferments, to be used by your good bacteria for nutrients.  More high fiber foods include some beans, peas, dandelion greens, leeks, oats and berries.

A high intake of prebiotic foods is linked with:

Low incidence of cardiovascular disease
Hormonal balance
Lower stress response
Improved digestion
Better gut health
Improved immune function
Lower risk for obesity|
Lower levels of inflammatory response
Lower blood glucose and better insulin response (lower risk of type-2 diabetes)

When you don’t have time to make your fermented foods or don’t get enough fiber in your daily diet you may be interested in using supplements. Although eating foods is the best and most effective method, it may not always work in your day.

Current US dietary guidelines are to consume between 20 -30 grams of fiber each day. However, nutritional experts who are more concerned with your gut health than the sugar industry, recommend 50 grams for every 1000 calories consumed each day. That last amount may be more than you can eat each day – and so supplementing may be your answer.

One of the better fiber supplements is organic, non-GMO psyllium husk powder as it’s easy on your stomach and easy to take in either powder or pill form. The important thing to remember is to purchase a product that is organic and non-GMO as you are taking relatively large quantities of the powder to reach your requirements and if it is laden with insecticide and herbicide you are exposing yourself to large amounts of toxic chemicals each day.

 

 

Don’t Make These Mistakes When You’re Looking For a Job

Job hunting can be overwhelming and stressful, especially when you’re the only breadwinner in the family. It would be my considered suggestion – as one who was forced into this situation – you’ll want to have a steady job while you’re growing an online or freelance at home work option.

There are many freelance positions that may be right up your alley, or that you might create for yourself. In fact, most entrepreneurs will tell you that you’ll make more money working for yourself than you will working for someone else. In order to succeed at anything you try to achieve – whether it’s finding a new job or starting a new business – it’s important that you push past the fear of failure to find the success you desire.

Job hunting may initiate feelings of fear, and even comments from your family, like “You’ll never work again!” “Why are you looking for a new job when you have a perfectly respectable one now?” “Do you know how BAD this market is now?”

None of these questions should throw you off your game. They SHOULD trigger questions that you need to find the answers for – but they shouldn’t stop you from going for what you want. But, like becoming an entrepreneur, it’s probably best that you look for a job while you still have one. In this way, you come at the challenge from a position of power. You don’t NEED another job – you WANT another job.

You might not like the one you have now, but it’s still paying the bills.

There are strategies you should use as you start job hunting. These are strategies that help you identify the job you want, the one you should apply for, and how to make those applications become job offers. It’s also a good idea to remember that an offer doesn’t mean you must accept it. You accept the offers only you want to accept. Never accept one job because you want to get out of the job you have now – it’s often like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Other mistakes you might make when you’re searching for another job:

  1. Don’t take a job in another field without first doing your due diligence. Take personality assessments, talk to people in the field you want to work in, talk to the Small Business Association, do research online and read, read, read.
  2. Cast your net wide and deep. In other words, don’t limit your possibilities to just the jobs, companies and people you know about. Network with people on LinkedIn, at church and at other companies. This is exactly how I was able to move from one hospital where my boss was making my life Miserable – with a capital M – to a hospital where I made friends, gained great experience that led to my next great job, and found a home.
  3. Money is never the deciding factor. If money were the deciding factor, then you would be satisfied with the job you have if your boss paid you more.
  4. Don’t expect others to tell you what to do. This includes career counselors. Only you can make the decision about the job you want. If others make the decision for you, then you have someone to blame. In life, the only one responsible for the decisions you make is you. It’s a lesson you teach your children, so it’s time to live out.
  5. You won’t find your next job overnight. Changing jobs or careers takes considered and thoughtful action. Impatience will likely land you in the wrong job, working for the wrong boss.
  6. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. No job, no amount of money, and no promise is worth working in a job that doesn’t fit you, your family or your lifestyle.
  7. Test drive your new job. You are never too old to get an internship or go back to school to gain new skills. But, before spending money on an education you might not use, look for an internship (paid or unpaid) in the job or field you want.

 

Is there a job you want but they don’t think you can do the job? Take a two week vacation from your current job after convincing the boss in the position you want that you’ll work for two weeks “on spec.”  They pay you but neither of you are under any obligation to continue the arrangement after two weeks.

This type of arrangement works best for positions where the work you do in the immediate time period has an immediate impact on the company.

 

If you don’t take a chance then you won’t know if you could have succeeded.

Low – Fat? Low – Carb? Untangle the Mess

Over the past several years you may have become aware of the different camps of people and organizations who publicly proclaim the benefits of low-fat diets, pointing to outdated and now refuted medical studies to back-up their claims. However, years of rising cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease rates, after these changes were instituted in the early 1960s, tends to make you question if low-fat and high-carb diets are really the way to eat.

In fact, over the past 3 decades, the number of individuals who are overweight or obese has also risen dramatically. And for good reason. . . .

Think back to your last pasta dinner or meal high in carbohydrates . . . although you left the table full, it probably wasn’t too much time before you felt hungry again. Some people call it the 2pm slump, when many people reach for a candy bar to fuel their afternoon until they get to dinner.

This feeling of being hungry is triggered by a surge of blood glucose after a meal high in carbohydrates. That glucose triggers a release of insulin in your body. The insulin helps the glucose to move into your cells and results in your blood sugar dropping dramatically – and this leads to you feeling hungry again.

A cycle of eating, getting hungry and then snacking, results in difficulty maintaining your weight or gaining weight when you can’t understand why you have.

It’s frustrating and a cycle I know well.

The original research that supported this insane movement in the U.S. was from The Seven Countries Study led by Ancel Keyes, an economist who believed he had found the reason for lower rates of cardiac disease by evaluating seven countries who ate a diet low in fat and high in carbs. The problem is that the study originally contained many more countries than seven, and Keyes choose to eliminate the country’s data that did not support his premise.

Once published, the American Heart Association jumped on the information. It was published in mainstream media and it wasn’t long before it became a governmental recommendation and made an impact on the food pyramid.

However, at the same time there were multiple other studies that were published that refuted the information from the Seven Countries Study. These were all ignored.

Finally, in 2014, mainstream media giant, Time Magazine, published a cover story proclaiming “Ending the War on Fat.”  For decades fat had been vilified as the cause and trigger for cardiac disease, heart attack and stroke. It appeared that mainstream journalists were now reading and reporting on scientific research.

Then in 2015, Time Magazine again reported that the low-fat recommendations that Americans had been following for decades, should never have been made in the first place. Researchers made the comment that there wasn’t the research to back-up the recommendations and has led to some significant problems in the health of those following them.

Today, there are many who advocate a low-carbohydrate diet to help stabilize your blood sugar and improve your body’s ability to burn fat. When your body burns fat it produces ketones, leading to the term ketogenic diet.

Nutritional ketosis may be one of the most useful interventions you can use to help prevent chronic diseases, and even reverse type-2 diabetes. But the trick is to eat the RIGHT KINDS of fat.

Eating poor quality saturated fats or trans fats will only contribute to poor health and not improve your health. Vegetable oils, traditionally raised meats and dairy, baked goods and fried foods all contribute to poor health.

During nutritional ketosis your body burns fat for fuel. Eating a low-carbohydrate diet allows your body to store the necessary amount of glucose needed in your muscles, without stuffing your liver with excess glycogen (the second place the carbs are stored) or converting them to triglycerides when you muscles and liver are fully stocked.

In fact, endurance athletes are adopting a high-fat diet as it boosts their physical stamina and endurance. The nutritional plan reduces the potential for insulin resistance and has been used as a treatment in seizure activity in children, and adults with Alzheimer’s disease.

Other benefits to nutritional ketosis are a reduction in hunger pangs, eating less food and a reduction in muscle mass loss. High quality fats also burn more efficiently in your body, reducing your oxygen requirement. This is an indication that your metabolism is working more efficiently.

Interestingly, your brain also functions more effectively on a ketogenic diet as your brain prefers ketones for fuel. What glucose your brain does require your body can actually make. No need to add it to your diet.

In one study, after one month of following a ketogenic diet, patients with Parkinson’s disease experienced a 43 percent improvement in their symptoms. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease appeared to experience the greatest benefit with MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil.

The ultimate choice in what you eat and what you experience is up to you. Making the right choices for your lifestyle, family and health can be challenging and difficult. Deciding what is right for you may also be challenging.

But, before you make those choices, get all the information you need from reliable sources.

Because, realistically, the only one who will pay for the choices you make is you.

Awesome Ideas for Your Teen Entrepreneur

Not all kids want to go to work “for the man.” Bagging groceries, selling clothes, baking bread, serving food . . . these may not be the jobs your teen wants to use to fill their pocketbook with extra cash. Some teens would like to grow their own business and earn what they have worked to achieve, not just because they showed up for work.

Sometimes this may be difficult as you may count on some of their income to make ends meet at home. But, if their income isn’t essential for your budget, the teen years are a great time to learn the intricacies of growing and running their own business. This may spark their interest in starting their own business after high school or college, it may give them greater skills to work at their next job, or it may help grow their self-confidence.

Whatever the benefits – and there are a number of benefits to owning your own business – the question may be . . . what business?

Over 10 years ago my oldest son’s best friend started his own lawn business. It’s a common business for young men. However, Luke took his business to the next step, and learned quite a bit in the meantime.

In the beginning he mowed the neighbor’s yards and pushed his push mower to their home. The next year he bought a riding mower and could mow more homes and further away. With the money from that year he bought a ride behind mower and trailer for the family truck. His mother drove the truck while Luke picked up customers who lived close enough that she could go home for several hours while he worked.

His business grew so large that he was recognized in national magazines and has been quoted in articles and books giving advice to young adults who want to start their own business. He choose a landscaping business because he liked working outside and with his hands.

His parents supported his efforts and today he has graduated college and works as an engineer. The skills he learned about pricing, customer service, product development, marketing and communication he has brought to his new company, making him a valuable asset and prime candidate for advancement over the years.

What can your teen do?

Before making a decision about what business they may or may not start, it’s important your teen knows what they like and decide if they like it enough to do it (or supervise someone else doing it) for years. You may want to invest some time and energy into helping them take several online personality and interest tests to determine what may be the best fit for them.

Whatever they decide to do, you’ll be an integral part of the business and growth by giving them advice, support and showing interest in what they’re doing. Whether they show it or not, your teen really wants to know that you are interested in them, what they do, who they are and what they are becoming.

Teens aren’t always the best communicators, so it might seem they have no interest in your interest in them. But, if you take a few minutes to remember back to your own teen years, you’ll likely remember that it would have been (or was) the best feeling in the world when your parents took an interest in what you said or what you were doing.

Your children are the same.

Whatever they decide to do, they will need to learn how to market their product or service, complete the tasks on time, quote an accurate price, invoice their customers, expect payment for their service or product, keep books, and learn when it’s time to purchase more inventory and when it’s time to wait. If this isn’t your area of expertise then hook your teen up with a volunteer from the Small Business Association who has the expertise and interest in growing the next generation of entrepreneurs.

While you may want your child to have an entrepreneurial spirit – it isn’t what every child wants. In fact, while I have loved the freedom and ability that being an entrepreneur has given to me, none of my children (so far) have expressed an iota of interest. My oldest daughter’s husband would love to have his own business – and someday he likely will. My daughter will be right at his side working with him, but she wouldn’t be the one initiating it.

Remember, your child has his own ideas and interests and they will do best when they follow those and not our dreams. Some of these ideas require that your teen has had some training them self – such as working with animals. Depending upon your child’s age and his interest, this may be the direction they want to go.  As you and your teen look through these ideas, remember to look for the same topics on Pinterest. This social network has an amazing number of creative ways of accomplishing tasks that most people would pay for SOMEONE ELSE to do for them!

Here’s a short list of ideas for you and your teen to discuss. Do any of these interest them? Do they want to explore one or another further?

 

Teen entrepreneur ideas:

Lawn maintenance / landscaping / hanging outdoor Christmas lights
Outdoor pot making 
Downspout hinges
Doggie Daycare
Dog Walking
Dog Training
Homemade Dog Treats
Homemade Dog Toys/Cat Toys/Bird Toys
Freelance – Graphic Design, Writing, Proofreader
Computer Repair
Teaching Online Skills
Tutor Other Students (math, foreign language, science, English)
Music/Voice Lessons
Etsy – selling crafts online and handmade gifts
Craft Jewelry
Fixing Bikes, Lawnmowers etc.
Service Lawn Equipment
Party Planner
Virtual Assistant
App Development
Nanny
Garage Cleaning and Organization
Social Media Consulting
Candle Making

If your teen would like a little inspiration from young people this Fortune article should do the trick.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – This Is What It Means To Me

Growing up Aretha Franklin belted out Respect every day on the radio. It was a word drummed into my head by my mother, the priest at church, my teachers and any other adult who happened to pass by.

In fact, respect was a concept that many people grew up understanding, incorporating into their character and believing was their responsibility in those days.

And, truth be told, it’s a concept that has been slowly lost in the past several decades. Suddenly, it’s more important that our children understand their self-worth and have self-respect than they have respect for their peers or the adults in their lives. Psychologists have developed a societal norm in which children believe they are the center of the world.

Of course, given the choice between children being treated like a commodity and being the center of the universe – I would probably choose the latter. Neither is healthy for our children. They should be valued and respected, but we should also expect them to have the same respect for us as we have for them.

I just recently finished watching The Gilmore Girls series and the follow up produced by Netflix. What was interesting to me was the group of “30 something” adult-children who wandered the town. The adults in town described them as those who had attended college but couldn’t find consistent gainful employment. They had now landed back in Stars Hollow (the town) and been dubbed “the 30 Something Gang.”

This group hung out at coffee shops, soda shops, candy shops and town meetings – but didn’t work and certainly didn’t act like adults. It was almost like they were a generation of children who grew up, but decided that adulthood was really for their parents and they wanted nothing to do with the bills, jobs, housework, or any type of responsibility.

While the show portrayed the PG version of could happen to children who never grow up, the sad reality of children who live this out is evident all around.

My mother taught me that it was her responsibility to raise me in a way that honored and respected my family and God. To do that I had to take responsibility for my behavior, my actions and respect the people in my life. When it was my turn, I turned away from what I learned in school about raising children the “new way” and went for a moderate approach on the old way.

This is what R.E.S.P.E.C.T. has meant to me:

 

R: Responsibility As the parent and ensuring my children took responsibility for actions taken or not taken.

E: Effort Whether they became garbage men, nurses, doctors, engineers or fry cooks – I expected their best effort in all they did and soon they came to expect it of them self.

S: Service My eldest son has come to live out service in his life as he fed the people living outside his apartment going to school, stopping on the side of the road to help others or giving his time and talent when needed.

P: Personhood In their pursuit of what they wanted to do “when they grew up” we tried to help our children also focus on WHO they wanted to become. Who you are is much more important than what you do. Standing at your grave after you die, people will not talk about how well you did your job but will comment on the type of person you are – because that’s where the difference is made.

E: Engaged Be engaged with the people around you. This is more important for my youngest who has been swept up into a digital world, than for my oldest who started their digital life with flip phones and desktop computers. Look up from the digital devices and engage with the people around you – that’s how you find out who you really are.

C: Communication It’s a skill that helps you to be respectful to the people around you and to improve your relationships. It’s a skill that is difficult for some and easier for others – but one we all need.

T: Try Success doesn’t happen each time, but each time you try, give your best effort, communicate well, stay engaged, and take responsibility.

My kids aren’t perfect, and neither am I. We make mistakes just like everyone else. We hate the mistakes, but forgive the person making them and try to move on. It isn’t always easy – in fact, many times it isn’t easy at all.

But it comes with the territory of respect.

My children don’t get along with everyone – and I wouldn’t expect them to. They aren’t doormats. They have their own opinions and beliefs. But they try to express them in a way that isn’t offensive. They aren’t always successful, but no one is.

That’s the real lesson they learned over the years. They have a goal, they fight to achieve it. They may fall short of the goal, but they give it their best effort and expect the best from themselves. They respect others and they give themselves the same respect.

 

Respect doesn’t come easy and it isn’t easy to practice. But it is well worth the effort.

Top 7 Benefits to Stretching

There is no doubt – there is a fitness revolution going on. In fact, it started with Jim Fixx when he popularized running. It faltered a bit when he died from sudden cardiac arrest due to a heart arrhythmia, as many began talking about how running (and any exercise had to be just BAD for you). But, as time went on and more runners weren’t dropping over from exercise, the revolution continued.

In many cases, fitness experts talk about cardiovascular work, high intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training as the triad of essential fitness work. However, what they often leave out is stretching.

While the first three – cardio, strength and HIIT – work your heart and muscles, stretching your body balance the workload, prevent injury and increases the benefits you’ll experience from any program.

Although I had been stretching since I ran on the track team in high school, it was never a consistent part of my routine until after I was injured because I had NOT stretched.

But isn’t that always the way? When I was a child there was a couple who were both morbidly obese. They ran the “corner store” that carried everything from alcohol to batteries, magazines to snacks and movies.

When I was 13 years old, the husband had a heart attack. Suddenly, everywhere we looked, this couple was out walking. Within months they had both dropped nearly 50 pounds and were feeling better, more active and their doctor’s reports were much better. When my mom talked with them the wife said, “Why is it we all wait until something bad happens before we make a change? Walking is simple. It’s easy and we’re both healthier than ever. We should have started this years ago!”

You may have had the same experience. It might have been starting a strength program when you couldn’t help your neighbor move a dresser, adding vitamins to your daily routine when you kept getting sick, or stopped eating processed food after a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome.

You aren’t the only one! We all do it – just part of being human.

However, you can also change. By understanding the benefits of stretching and moving, it may motivate you to make a change that will change your life forever.

Stretching programs don’t need to take over your life and you don’t need to take up yoga to fully appreciate the benefits to your health and wellness. In fact, stretching is one of the easiest ways to improve your mood and outlook on life. Stretching helps to reduce your stress levels, increase blood movement in your brain and increases your energy – all of which improves your mood.

Seven years ago I broke my kneecap when I decided to ride my bike all winter – outside. In Florida that may be possible, but in Cincinnati you have to make some accommodations for the weather. I thought I had – but apparently not enough, hence the fall and broken kneecap.

The pain made it difficult to walk straight, so I learned to toe out with the broken leg, and the habit stuck. Three years later my lower back was in such spasms that I could barely walk, sit or stand. It took weeks of relearning to walk correctly and stretching tight muscles for my back to relax and my life to return to normal.

But, to this day, I stretch.

Stretching helps your body to work in the correct manner, better posture and with greater flexibility. Each of these reduce the potential you’ll experience an injury, no matter what sport you play.

In fact, athletes find when they include a stretching program, it improves their performance in their individual sport, reduces their recovery time and their potential for injury. You might think that you aren’t an athlete – but when you think about the hours you spend chasing after your children, running laundry up and downstairs, getting in and out of your car, hauling groceries in the house, moving furniture and just “exercising,” you might agree – you are already an athlete!

By incorporating stretching into your daily routine, each of these functions become easier, with less effort and your overall performance improves.

Do you get a 2pm slump every day?

Stretching helps to improve your blood flow and improve your focus and concentration. Just five minutes of stretching at your desk at 2pm can do the trick and keep you far from the candy machine for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

Stretching also helps improve your balance. If you love stiletto heels, get up from the floor frequently or enjoy hiking with your children – you’ll love this benefit.

All-in-all stretching helps keep your muscles strong, healthy and flexible. Every year after 25 you start to lose muscle mass and strength. Then, when you lack flexibility as well, you lose your range of motion and decrease your ability to exercise – like riding a bike with your children, walking the dog or going boating with your new beau.

For example, sitting in a chair all day leads to tight hamstrings (the muscles in the back of your thigh), which leads to restricted walking. Then when you may want to do something strenuous, like rock climbing with the new fitness instructor, you may end up with a pulled muscle.

Don’t be overwhelmed by thinking you have to stretch every muscle in your body or none at all. Aim for five minutes in the morning and another five minutes before bed. Stretch your lower major muscle groups in the morning and your upper body in the evening to keep everything straight.

You may even want to do some simple stretches at your desk in the mid-afternoon. These are especially beneficial to keep your mind sharp, focused and creative at your job. Your boss will appreciate your continued efforts, and you’ll be refreshed to begin your evening routine when you’re leaving the office.

 

Are You Thinking About Changing Jobs?

Changing careers can be scary. Especially when you’re the only breadwinner in your home. What if you don’t like the new position? What are your options? Should you play it safe and stay in the same job? Can you learn the new position quickly? Do you have the hours to put into the job in the first three years to prove yourself?

John was moving out of one home with his family and off to a new neighborhood. He had been with the same company for six years, but his new home was almost double the distance from his job as the old home.

He was torn between starting with a new company closer to the new house, or toughing out the new 40 minute, one-way commute twice a day. Eventually he decided to stay with the old company as he and the family were learning the new neighborhood and home.

His reasoning was that each company he had worked for before looked hard at your performance in the first three years. After three years, as long as he did the job well and didn’t goof off, he was golden.

With the new home and move, he didn’t have the extra hours to put into work to prove himself.

Do you have the time in your life now to change careers, learn new skills and prove yourself to a new boss? Or maybe you feel it’s time to make a career change in your life. Maybe it’s time to spread your wings and try something new.

If you:

  • Feel God is leading you make a change in your life
  • Are chronically tired and exhausted when you get home from work
  • Don’t feel motivated and charged by tackling projects at work
  • Think you can handle greater responsibilities or bigger projects
  • Feel your salary doesn’t make up for the frustration and boredom on the job
  • Believe your talents should be used in another – or more creative – way

Then, maybe it’s time for a change, whether you THINK you have the time to put into developing a new job or not. If you’ve been exhausted and frustrated by the work you’re doing, then a new job may leave you recharged and motivated to work beyond what you’re doing now, and still leave you feeling ready for more.

Whether changing your job or making a shift in your career, you will need a bit of focus, research and fortitude. You won’t get immediate “yes’s” to your applications, not all interviews will go well and you may find after hours of research, that you are exactly where you want to be for the time being.

Step One:

Take an assessment of your likes and dislikes. There are several tests you can take online that will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses and match those with potential jobs or careers. You can’t know where you’re going without first doing some introspection to determine not only where you WANT to go, but also where you will FIT best.

Step Two:

Research! Once you have focused on a path you may want to explore, spend time talking to people who are doing the job, find out how much you may have to learn and more about the nitty gritty of the job and not what you imagine it may entail. For instance, you may romanticize the idea of being in law enforcement, but a future of filling out forms, getting involved in domestic disputes and riding for countless hours in a squad car may not be the reality you envisioned.

Step Three:

Training and education needed. Determine any training, education or certification needed to get and keep this new job. Does this fit in your budget? Can you do it while keeping your old job? Will the new job pay for it, or reimburse you?

Step Four:

Network, network and the network. Do this both online and offline. Linked In, Facebook, and even Instagram can be used to network with people who hold the jobs you want and who may be able to help or point you in the right direction.

Step Five:

Would experience look good on your resume? If you don’t have experience in this new job move, you can always volunteer to acquire the skills and time with the professionals. You may cringe at working for nothing, but in fact you would be the one gaining everything. Your volunteer position is an excellent way to get a quick, free education, network with people in the field, get feedback on your skills and get a good recommendation for your job applications.

Step Six:

Determine to be flexible. From your salary to your location, you may have to make compromises to get the job you want, doing the thing you want. Determine what is negotiable and what isn’t before you start putting your resume out and taking interviews. New employers are more impressed with people who already know what they will and won’t negotiate and may even make significant changes to get you on their team.

If you are willing to learn and have a great rapport with the people doing the interviewing you very well may get the job. Your new boss is building a team of people who do their job well and develop the company into the best it can be.

Can you be that person?

Balance a Romantic Relationship with Children @Home

Dating as a single mom presents so many challenges, the first of which is whether you want to deal with the challenges in the first place!  After I was divorced, my sister told me about some of her friends who decided against dating and relationships until after their children were raised and out of the house. In theory this sounds great, in practice it makes for some long, lonely nights.

BUT . . .

What I learned from my marriage – and you may have learned from yours – is that I would rather be alone and lonely than to be in a relationship that just doesn’t WORK. So jumping into any relationship isn’t the answer either.

Being a single mom, it may feel as if you’re at a disadvantage, but most men (and women) understand that when you reach a certain age, there are likely children involved. In fact, some psychologists warn if a man or woman hasn’t married by their mid-30s it may signal commitment issues, or other baggage that is best left alone.

There are some authors who advise you to put yourself and your future relationships first, before your children, but I would beg to differ on this point. While I do believe it is important to put your own health – mental, physical and emotional – before your children, it should also not be at the expense of your time and energy with your children.

The argument is that a happy well-adjusted marriage leads to happy, well-adjusted children. However, the second time around comes with more challenges than being married to the children’s father, so this is the time to take it slow and encourage your children to verbalize their own fears and desires.

There is a balance you must strike where you are healthy enough to care for your children – and care for yourself – against putting your own needs first all the time. The fact of the matter is that you’ll likely feel a little guilty caring for your own needs, but it’s important you do it anyway, while ensuring your children are healthy and well cared for.

It’s the age old problem women have had for centuries. It has been the lot in life of women who bent toward care giving to think first of the people for whom they are giving care and second for themselves. This often leads to burnout, anxiety, frustration and sometimes anger at the people under their care.

There is a mental transition you must undergo between being a parent and being your own person; but with some creative organization you can achieve exactly that. Be honest with yourself and your future partner about how much time and energy you have to devote to dating. This isn’t a first date conversation, but it should be something you’ve ironed out for yourself before saying yes to the first date.

In essence you’ve moved from dating between two people to dating in a crowd – your children, his children and maybe even more extended family. Suddenly you’re trying to work out whether you and he should stay together while under pressure from all sides. It may feel almost impossible – but it IS possible when you create boundaries for yourself and your partner that you both respect AND you insist that others respect as well.

Step Out in Self-Confidence

You might have thought you were “doomed” to singledom until your children have left the nest, but that would be your choice and not something that is expected, unless you believe that it is where God would have you. That said, it’s time to recognize you are a valuable and very lovable individual who comes with a package of children. In point of fact, there are men who are looking for a ready-made, already-started family, stepping past the up-all-night, diaper-changing years.

What are YOU Looking for?

Know whether you are looking for a partner for yourself or a father for your children. AND recognize that once the children have left the house, you are left with a man you may not have chosen as partner material. You may want to consider other strong male figures in your life to help support your parenthood, while looking for a partner you can stick with as the children leave home.

Make Rules

Before you go on one more date, set about making a few rules for yourself. You ARE valuable, lovable and have quite a bit to offer another person. Be sure you believe that yourself before parading through a list of men. Set rules for yourself and your future dates that include how you expect to be treated, how much time you want to spend with someone, your expectations of the relationship and when/how you want your children or his children involved.

Don’t Jump Too Soon

Don’t get the new guy involved in a parenting role too soon – even if it’s more convenient for him to pick up your son on his way over for dinner. This only blurs the lines for your children and your new guy. Wait until both your son and your new guy think it’s silly that he ISN’T involved.

Children Do What They See, Not What You Tell Them

Behave in the same way you want your teens to act. In other words, if you believe premarital sex is fine, then expect your teen will as well. You can’t hide what you’re doing no matter how hard you try. Those little darlings have radar that works as well as yours. So, while you might think they don’t know what you’re doing – they do. And if you don’t want them doing the same thing, then it’s time to think that maybe you might want to wait as well.

When It’s Time, Leave

We have a tendency to think of the children first, and that includes breaking off a relationship that isn’t working because you don’t want to hurt the children. Change and loss is a part of life for everyone. It’s better that your children see you respecting yourself, experiencing loss while you can support them and love them, than to watch you stay in a relationship where the guy doesn’t honor or respect you, or that may not be going in the direction that is best for your family.

Don’t Force Your Children

Before you start dating and during the relationship, start a few “what if” conversations to elicit their feelings and ideas. “What if I start dating?” “What if Roger’s kids come over on Saturday?” Give your children time to work out how they feel and express it to you – each of us needs time to process information, and sometimes that process happens well when you’re talking it out with them. It’s wise not to force your children to have a relationship with this new man. They may resent him for taking their father’s place, or just be wary of the role this guy may play in your life and theirs. Instead, offer invitations without expectations – “We’re going to the zoo on Saturday, want to come along?”

Stay Balanced

Falling in love is such a delicious feeling – and totally intoxicating. You may be tempted to spend all your free time with your new love, but don’t. This only taps into spoken or unspoken fears your children have that they are losing you – and may make it appear that you are totally available to him. Neither of these scenarios end well. Maintain balance with your children and your new guy and revel in the fact that there are so many people who love you and want to spend time with YOU.

 

 

Protect Yourself Against ID Theft

My sister has experienced this a couple of times – not to the point where her whole identity was stolen, but definitely some of her credit information. She literally spent hours on the phone to straighten everything out, from just one or two credit card charges. You might think it’s just a matter of simply canceling one credit card and having the company reissue another, but that’s the simple picture.

What I learned from my sister – and her hours (I mean HOURS) of phone calls – is that it is better to prevent the problem than to deal with it later. Unfortunately, the problem can sneak up on you rather quickly, even with strategies in place to prevent it.

Of course, there are services you may consider using that monitor your credit information and notify you when something weird shows up. However, in this environment you’ll likely need this and a few more tactics to reduce the potential someone takes your bank account for a roller coaster ride.

Identity theft continues to rise over the years as black hat hackers and abusers get technologically smarter. This is theft without the home break-in and destroyed furniture. Instead, your credit and future may be destroyed.

Here are 13 different strategies you might consider:

Monitoring company

Before jumping on the first company that offers to monitor your credit report and identity, compare and contrast their services and price. Check with your bank too – some offer discounted services for their clients that are automatically deducted from your checking account.

Secure your passwords

Create secure passwords that are not easily guessed, and don’t include any identifying information. For instance, your password should not be the name of one of your children or your dog – unless it’s followed or preceeded by many numbers and symbols. Change your passwords consistently and record the ones linked to your financial information on paper. While several browser add-ons help prefill usernames and passwords on sites that require a login, never store your username and password to sites that have or store your financial information using apps or your browser.

Secure WIFI network

Use only a secured WIFI network, including at home. Secure it with another unique and hard to guess password so people trolling outside your home network cannot login and access your computer. If you are away from your home network, don’t sign in to any site that carries your financial information using WIFI as others can easily access that information. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) while you’re away from home to add another layer of security to your information.

Check your credit reports consistently

You can get regular and free credit reports from the three credit agencies free. MyBankRate and CreditKarma are two places that offer this service. Check at least one of big three companies at least every four months, and sooner if you think something is a little “hinky.” Trans-Union, Experian and Equifax monitor your credit in order to report a numerical representation of your risk to people who may want to do business with you. Identity theft can trash these numbers, disabling your ability to get a loan, rent a car or raise your credit card limit.

Antivirus and antimalware

Using reliable antivirus and antimalware programs on your computer will add a layer of protection against hackers whose aim it is to enter your online domain.

Steer clear of the phish

You may think you wouldn’t fall prey to a phishing email, but they are getting more and more sophisticated with every passing year. I now receive emails that are well thought out, with the proper logos and grammatically correct English. DO NOT click links in emails from any company you do business with – they will send an email asking you to go to their website, login to your account and click a specific button; they will NOT send you a link to click.

Don’t overshare on social media

Going away for the weekend? Have a birthday coming up? Working with a bank for a loan on your new car?  Don’t post this on social media. It doesn’t require too much information for someone to sabotage your efforts and you’ll be driving your old car for years to come.

Shred, shred, shred!

Do NOT leave a paper trail. Shred it all, including but not limited to: credit card receipts, junk mail with identifying information, credit card solicitation and old bills.

Monitor your bank and credit card statements

Keep an eye on how much money you’re spending, because the money leaving your accounts may not be money YOU have spent. Make it a habit to check the statement on the credit card you use the most every day and your other credit cards and statements at least every two weeks.

Verify your mailing address occasionally

Think you aren’t getting as much mail as you used to? Identity thieves may have turned in a change of address to the post office so you don’t get overdue notices.

Set up a fraud alert or freeze

A fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus will essentially force anyone who is trying to access your credit information (like a bank extending a line of credit) to ask more questions. This is definitely not fool-proof, but just another layer of protection.  A credit freeze with these agencies is more effective, preventing any access with any new company doing business with you. However, while it is effective, it also puts up a few speed bumps for you if you’re trying to get any form of credit. It may take up to three days to lift the freeze and continue on your way.

Safeguard your social security number

There are several pieces of information an ID thief may use to access your information and your social security number is a big one. If someone wants to use it to identify you, ask if you can provide another form of ID.

Opt-Out

Get your name and number off as many marketing hit lists as possible. When you get an automated call, wait until the end and ask to be taken off the list. Call the national Do-Not-Call Registry (1-888-382-1222) or go to their website (https://www.donotcall.gov/)  to register your home and cell numbers. Consider cutting back on your junk mail and opt out of credit card solicitations. You can opt out for five years by calling 1-888-5-opt-out or visiting http://www.optoutprescreen.com

 

 

 

Even Kids Can Make Money

When my youngest son, Nick, was 10 years old he began complaining about money – and a lack thereof. His older brother was 15 and working for several neighbors, mowing lawns and doing yard work. At 10, Nick felt he could too.

On some of his jobs, the older brother took the younger, but not often and not often enough for Nick. So, Nick and I sat down one day and talked about how he could make money, and why he might want it.

According to CBN Finance, teaching your children how to make and spend money may make for responsible and financially healthier adults. And, this (my point) may mean your adult children don’t come home to roost for years.

Years ago children had summer jobs, every summer. They saved for college and for their own spending money. Today, the social norm has changed just a bit. More parents are sending their children on summer excursions to enjoy different experiences and provide them with the spending money they need.

Sometimes that’s still possible for single moms, and at other times it isn’t. But, whether it’s financially feasible for you to offer your children this freedom or not, the real question is . . .  should you?

Learning how to make money, save it and spend it is a function of being a financially responsible adult that may be learned at an early age. While it’s important to watch the number of hours your child spends building his own micro-business (so it doesn’t interfere with his school work), it is also important to help him through the process of building it and making it successful.

And you may get a few ideas of what you can do to make some extra money too!

If your child has a desire to attend college, it’s important to note that while many colleges value volunteer work, they also value work experience. Producing a well-rounded college application may be a challenge for a busy high school student. However, even adding a part-time job in the summer may help make your student more attractive to the college of their choice than the next applicant.

Research has also demonstrated that teens who take on a summer job, or part-time job during their school year, go on to careers that are better-suited to their interests as these part-time jobs show them what they like and what they don’t like. These jobs also help them hone their interpersonal and work skills that are transferable from job to job. They learn how to interact with their co-workers, bosses and customers. And they’re able to interact with adults who can provide letters of recommendation to the college of their choice.

Although research demonstrates teens who work up to 30 hours each week have better career prospects after college, it’s important for you to help them balance their work/school and social schedules.

But, what if your child is younger than 15 and not able to work at a structured job? Do younger children have options?

The short answer is YES!

Even at a young age, children who start their own business learn about public speaking, sales, customer service, inventory management, financial management and marketing. Each of these are skills they may use in other jobs and in college.

Children who start their own business also quickly learn the value of research and understanding everything about their product. When any sales person truly understands everything about their product, it increases their confidence and credibility – leading to more sales and better customer service.

Self-esteem anyone?

It started in the 1980s when psychologists began warning of the danger to children who failed – at sports, on school papers, in social situations, or on stage. And thus began an all out war against failure. Many children didn’t experience rejection until they reached high school – and then it came as a big surprise.

Suddenly, without prior experience, children were expected to intrinsically know how to handle being cut from the team – any team.

I am not advocating going in the opposite direction – as I’m afraid may have happened with the growth of social media – but, it is important to understand that we all must face, and learn how to deal with, rejection.

The way in which some children (and adults) have started using social media to bully and bash others in the relative safety of anonymity is not about rejection because your efforts weren’t enough to make the grade – but rather about making someone feel powerful by making someone else feel small.

This is what running your own business teaches you – how to handle rejection from clients, potential clients and customers. In a real world situation your child learns real world skills.

And that alone is worth the price of admission.

Nail Your Next Interview

It can sometimes be overwhelming . . . . most everything falls on your shoulders, including keeping the family financially stable. So, heading into an interview for a new job, or consideration for a promotion, may carry with it more stress than you’d like.

It’s stressful enough to place your ideas and YOURSELF on the line for a new job in front of a stranger – but worse when your success or failure affects more than your career goals – but also your ability to put a roof over your family’s head.

And THAT is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when you walk into an interview.

When I was married, I think the most fun I had was going on interviews. My ex-husband was the primary breadwinner, so it felt more like I was interviewing the company to determine if they fit MY needs than the other way around. This fact alone was probably the biggest reason for my relative success during interviews.

It just didn’t matter as much to me as it COULD have.

Today, interviewing for a freelance writing position causes me more stress than when I sat directly across from a CEO or medical director. My current “interviews” are nothing more than filling out applications, sending samples and answering a few questions. I’ve never spoken to the majority of my clients – but the stress is greater because the risk is greater.

No job, no money, no food, no roof.

Over the years of interviewing in front of single people, groups of people and over a computer screen, I’ve picked up a few tips. I also spent a couple of hours researching other tips from Forbes Magazine, Monster.com, Huffington Post and others to gather as many in one place to help YOU nail that next interview.

Use Your Ears First, Mouth Second

My mother used to say that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Of course, my mom wasn’t the first to say this – but it’s the first place I heard it. Interviewing is nerve wracking, and you may be focused on giving a good answer – but your best strategy is to focus on the question the interviewer is asking before forming an answer in your head.

Take a few minutes to notice how your conversations go with your friends in the next weeks. You might notice that you, like almost everyone else, starts forming your answer before your friend even stops talking!  Start listening and then take a minute to form a considered response to the entire question.

Do Your Homework

When you interview with a company you are competing against a number of other candidates that are likely as competent as you are. It’s your job to stand out from the crowd. One way to do this is by learning as much about the company before the interview as possible. In this way your questions for the interview are intelligently formed and your answers pertain to the company culture.

You’ll probably be asked the age old question, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”  While this pair of questions has been played to death, it will get asked on a regular basis. Forget the answer that turns your weakness into a strength – I’m a perfectionist, I’m too much of an achiever, I work late too often. Instead, answer the question honestly choosing your mildest weakness and a moderate strength.

Ask the Right Questions at the Right Time

The interviewer is interested if you are a good fit for the company and if you’ll excel in their corporate culture – but you are also interested in whether the company is good fit for your particular strengths.

During the interview is a good time to ask questions about the company – not about vacation time, lunch hours or schedules, but rather about the goals this department has for the next year and how your potential position fits into the plan.

Showcase Your Abilities Using the Right Adjectives

Every job position has a “perfect” employee list of adjectives. My son is interviewing for a position and was asked to write a statement about his goals and strengths. So we did a quick online search for the characteristics most sought after in this position. We picked the character traits he actually had from the list and highlighted those in his statement.

Know what the company may be looking for – independent worker, team player, compassionate, conflict resolution, negotiator – and then in short and focused responses to their questions, use the adjectives that define your real skill set in your answers.

Use examples and remember not to drone on – keep the answers short and to the point.

Positive, Positive, Positive

NEVER, NEVER badmouth a former supervisor, employer, company or co-worker – or anyone else for that matter. Your interviewer is looking for someone who fits in their company and can play with a team, even if you’ll need to be an independent worker. Negativity always loses.

Gaps in Your Employment History

Most of us have these, and your interviewer will notice them on your resume. They aren’t the red flag they used to be, but they may be relevant. How you answer depends upon your situation. Were laid off with scores of others? Did you have trouble getting a new job and so took several temporary jobs to tide you over? Be forthright, since being caught in a lie later could spell large amounts of trouble (not to mention that lying is never the answer!), but don’t dwell on the negative of the situation. Instead highlight what you learned from the situation.

Where Do You Want to be in Five Years?

Where DO you want to be in five years? Do you know? While most of America believes everyone is scrambling up the corporate ladder, this may not be your goal. First know where you want to go – or what you want to be in five years. Determine if this is part of the company you’re applying to and work it into your answer.

If it isn’t part of the current company – you’re applying for a CPA position but taking art classes at night and hope to become a sculptor – you might want to mention your love of the arts, how creative you are and how this can be an asset to the company.

After the Interview

Before you leave the interview have an understanding of the company’s timetable and what the next steps will be. If you don’t hear back within that time period, consider following up with the company. Remember to be persistent, polite and patient.

After leaving, send a personal, hand written thank you note to everyone who interviewed you. Get business cards from everyone you speak with and use them to write a short note about the person on the back. When you sit down to write your note you can include a personal comment from the interview. Send them the SAME DAY of the interview, which demonstrates your enthusiasm and organizational skills.

These notes may also be emailed – and depending upon the company may be better if emailed. A tech company will be impressed if you send them from your phone in the parking lot, while a traditional law firm may be more impressed with a hand written note.

Navigating a Relationship at Work

Once you graduate from high school or college, your immediate access to meeting people and forming intimate relationships rapidly diminishes. I remember when I left college and began working in a job heavily weighted with women; I was a nurse on a pediatric unit that was staffed with ALL women.

The only men I saw during the day were medical students, interns and doctors. This was before Internet dating – when personal ads in the paper were all the rage. It felt downright WEIRD to post a 150 character ad about myself, or even to answer one.

But I did it anyway. Being weird hasn’t seemed to stop me from trying something that didn’t put me into too much danger. I couldn’t stomach answering any of the letters that came though – so I didn’t meet anyone.

It was two years after graduation and I wasn’t meeting anyone. I had broken an engagement with a man who had hid his alcoholism (and later grew into a successful motivational speaker) and was meeting absolutely no one.

I didn’t go to bars because I didn’t want to meet someone who enjoyed going to bars. I never had time to talk with any of the male doctors who visited our unit and meeting guys anywhere else just didn’t seem to be happening.

In the interim I got a dog to keep me company at night. And then my neighbor introduced me to a guy she worked with and within 9 months I was married. To say it was fast is an understatement – engaged at three months. And, definitely something I would never do again – or recommend that you do either.

No matter how much you think you love someone – there are things you learn over time and you want to learn them BEFORE you get married.

So now you’re left with meeting guys through your friends (who likely work in the same place you do!), online or in other groups you may belong to.

My sister and brother-in-law met at work. I have two other friends who met their spouses at work. But I also know several who dated guys at work and when it ended the work environment was poisoned by their dislike of each other. It wasn’t long before the boss was asking one or the other to transfer or quit – or just act like they didn’t know each other.

My ex-sister-in-law and brother-in-law made a decision early in their relationship that was incredibly mature – and required one of them to make a compromise. Once they started dating and realized it could be serious, one of them transferred out of the department.

Have you ever watched the tv series “The Office”? In the sit-com, there are several relationships that come and go, and one that culminates in a marriage. But, at almost no time does this small office deteriorate after one women is found to be engaged to one man and sleeping with another. Nor does the atmosphere become toxic when one woman has an on-again off-again relationship with a guy in the office.

But this is NOT reality.

When relationships dissolve there is usually one party who feels they’ve been wronged – and that person will likely have a difficult time accommodating to working in the same place as the person who – cheated, left them for someone else or decided they were not looking for a serious relationship.

So how can you navigate having a relationship and still keeping your job?

Here are 5 tips to get your started . . .

Check your HR policy:

Some workplace policies forbid dating co-workers. In some companies you have to notify HR and sign an agreement. But, most companies DO have an HR policy about dating people who work in the same department – and sometimes in the same company.

Stay away from flirting in the office:

You might have a relationship with someone outside the office, but everyone in the office isn’t interested in watching your romance blossom. Flirting, touching, and other public displays of affection are in bad taste and bad manners. They also make it more difficult to go back to working together if the romance fizzles.

Avoid conflicts of interest:

Dating your direct superior – or the person ABOVE your direct superior can make it difficult for the people in your office. When I worked at a hospital in Indianapolis one of the people in my office was dating a manager three levels above me. It didn’t bother me, but it irritated my boss no end. She kept thinking Sue’s boyfriend and then husband would get upset with her if Sue felt slighted in the least.

People react differently so it’s best to avoid any conflict of interest and to remember that, for the most part, relationships are very important in life. If this relationship feels like it might be serious, it could be worth discussing a transfer or a different job with your amour.

Prioritize your schedule:

Working all day with someone, and then seeing them in the evening can quickly become overwhelming. Plan your time and schedule so you each have time to be apart from each other, which will help your relationship to grow.

Avoid gossip:

This is good advice no matter what. If you and your guy do break up, steer clear of talking about him at work, gossiping about what he’s done or is doing. This is a two pronged problem – if people hear you gossiping they will assume you also will gossip about them. And it’s likely the gossip will get back to your guy.

Of course you need to talk it out – so choose a good friend, talk with them and then let it go. The advice is easy – the execution may be more difficult.

The Power in Vitamin D

 

I remember when information about vitamin D began hitting the media. The “Big Idea” was that although vitamin C was important to your immune system and preventing colds and the flu, vitamin D may be even more important.

Over the following years, and reading past research, it turns out vitamin D has more power than you may have learned in the popular media – and there are forms of the vitamin you can purchase on the store shelves that may be dangerous to your health.

It occurred to me that while health and wellness information is incredibly important to us as single mothers, this topic was one that should be addressed more sooner than later. After all, we are the teachers, drivers, cooks, housekeepers, chief breadwinners and a myriad of other roles – none of which you can afford to take a day off from.

In the past years I’ve ghostwritten quite a bit about vitamin D for different physicians. It’s time I shared some of this information with my own readers, whose families may ultimately benefit from the knowledge.  Because there is so much, I’m going to list out the more important points first. In the coming months we might cover more to help you keep your health tip-top.

Despite the name, vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone that your body naturally manufactures with exposure to the sun, or from some of the foods you eat. Many of the abilities of this steroid hormone is due to the ability it has to influence your genetic expression.

To break that down . . . you have genes and DNA that determine specific ways your body acts and reacts. Your genes can be turned on or off by environmental factors and nutrients – including the bacteria living in your gut and vitamin D.

When your gut bacteria contains too many unfriendly bacteria it can adversely affect your health through genetic expression. The same is true of vitamin D. When your levels are not optimized, your genes are turned on or off depending upon the availability of the hormone.

Vitamin D is also involved in the biochemistry of all cells and tissues in your body – so when your body doesn’t have enough, your entire system struggles to function optimally. As a general rule, it’s best to optimize your vitamin D levels naturally – through exposure to the sun. However, working inside, living in the northern hemisphere and winter weather prevents most people from achieving this goal.

The BEST way to get vitamin D is from the sun.

Although traditional medicine would like you to believe damage from the sun leads to melanoma (one of the most aggressive forms of skin cancer with a high fatality rate), the truth of the matter is that it’s much more complicated than that.

Safe sun exposure will actually reduce your risk of developing melanoma. The real damage happens with sunburns, which you should avoid at all costs. Instead, getting sun exposure during the warmest times of the day for short periods helps your body produce vitamin D and several other biochemical reactions that keep you healthy.

Not all sunscreen is created equally

In fact, most sunscreen contains nanoparticles of chemicals designed to sink into your skin and prevent sunburn. Unfortunately, your body absorbs those particles, increasing your risk for disease over time. Instead, check out the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Cosmetics Database for a sunscreen that meets your needs to prevent a burn, but doesn’t increase your risk of exposure to toxic chemicals and disease.

Some sunscreens are actually linked to higher risk of skin cancer, especially those containing retinyl palmitate, synthetic fragrances and oxybenzone. The substances that are safest for the environment and for your skin contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide – but not with nanoparticles!

If you supplement, it’s important to choose the right one

Research has demonstrated those who use vitamin D2 supplements (which are sold over the counter), have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack than those who use no supplement or those who take vitamin D3.

The safest form of supplement to take is vitamin D3, which is more bioavailable to your body and more bioactive once absorbed. The only way to know that you are taking the right amount of vitamin D3 is to have a serum (blood) test done. Your blood levels should be between 50-70 ng/ml.

Include vitamin K2 MK-7 with vitamin D3 supplement to protect your arteries.

Normally, your body manufactures vitamin D from the sun in a form that doesn’t create problems in your blood vessels. However, the supplement form needs vitamin K2 in the MK-7 form to prevent hardening of the arteries. Be sure that it’s the MK-7 form. The usual combination is 100 mcg of K2 for every 1000 IU of vitamin D3.

Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Macular Degeneration and more affected by vitamin D

The importance of normalizing your vitamin D levels can’t be overstated. Research in the past decade have pointed to less than optimal levels of vitamin D levels associated with specific forms of cancer, in the active growth of many different cancers, macular degeneration, multiple sclerosis and more.

Health conditions rooted in chronic inflammation are affected by your vitamin D levels. Rheumatic diseases, bowel diseases and pregnancy are also included in the list of conditions affected by your level of vitamin D. In fact, one study demonstrated that pregnant women who had low levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to have children with developmental language difficulties.

Low levels of vitamin D linked to premature death and dementia

Researchers found those with lower levels of the vitamin doubled their risk of premature death from all-cause mortality than those with optimal levels of the vitamin. Vitamin D also plays an important role in your brain health. People with low levels have an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin D is essential for mineral balance in your body

Minerals are essential for your body to function and prevent disease. In order to keep your minerals balanced, you need optimal levels of vitamin D.

 

At this point it may have become obvious that most of your bodily systems are interrelated.

This means that addressing problems in one area of your body, without considering how it may affect the rest of your functioning is a poor choice. Unfortunately, it’s exactly how modern medicine has evolved over time. It is only recently that some physicians are beginning to recognize that creating an imbalance in one area may negatively affect the rest of your body.

This becomes very obvious when you consider side-effects from many of the medications being sold by pharmaceutical companies. In order to reduce your blood pressure, the medication may cause a whole host of side-effects and problems – most of which your doctor wants to treat with more medicine that have more side-effects.
The ultimate answer is to address the health of your whole body and not see your body as a conglomeration of  individual systems.