Perhaps you are as guilty as I am of blogging. A lot. Like email, blogging is an instantenous medium that allows us to reach out, connect, and sort through our lives. But at what cost?

When my children come home from school, I devote two hours of undivided attention to their homework and culinary requirements. Thereafter, I expect them to leave me alone for at least an hour while I get work done. But during the lulls in work time, I whip out my blog pad and bang away. It’s rather addictive, really. Life-caching at its best.

The term life-caching is catching on. According to TrendWatching.com,

The LIFE CACHING trend owes much to bloggers: ever since writing and publishing one’s diary has become as easy as typing in www.blogger.com, millions of people have taken to digitally indexing their thoughts, rants and God knows what else; all online, disclosing the virtual caches of their daily lives, exciting or boring. Next came moblogging, connecting camera phones to online diaries, allowing not only for more visuals to be added to blogs, but also for real-time, on the go postings of experiences and events. And that’s still just the beginning.

I’ve started non-blogging, non-digital days, in which I preschedule posts. That seems to be working.

Oh, to live in the Digital Age!

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Rhea J. Brown, a marketing and business development professional, started her blog, The Cocktail Café, out of sheer desperation as a working mom with a need to express herself and connect with other time-starved mothers.  She wanted to create a place where she could celebrate the woman behind motherhood, marriage, and business. Her motto, much like mine, states:

“All moms are working moms and my mission is to empower, entertain, and inspire moms to live their best lives.”

She not only shares a birthday with Britney Spears, she also shares cool advice on her blog every day. I sat down for a cyber chat with her recently. Here’s what she said.

CLH:  When did you realize slowing down was a good idea?

Rhea:  After getting married and having my first child, I became so confused. Between the pediatrician, husband, mother, mother-in-law and single friends offering up their advice on me and my life, I was depressed, stressed, and overworked.  I was a young mother and wife,  yet I felt so alone.  One morning I got up, locked myself in the bathroom, rolled up in a ball in the corner on the floor, and cried until I laughed.

After hours and hours in the bathroom, my husband knocked on the door to check on me.

My response?  “Honey, I’m OK… I’m just having a little ME TIME!”

CLH: Eureka! Me time is an important aspect of our relationship with time.

Rhea: Exactly! It was then that I realized that in order for me to maintain my sanity, I had to slow down.  I had spent all those hours in the bathroom crying and not looked at myself in the mirror once.  When I did (mascara running down my face), I saw someone that I hadn’t before. It was me!

CLH: Inspiring!  How did you go about making the change?

Rhea:  That day, I washed my face off, took a long bath, and went shopping. That’s right, I treated myself to a manicure and pedicure, bought a really cute cocktail dress, and called my husband to inform him that I was going out… alone.  After never having enough for me (baby toys, clothes, food, rhea_mommielaundry etc.), I carved the time for myself, by myself. It felt so good! That evening I came home and my husband cooked my favorite dish. We had a candle lit evening, talked and laughed. He said that he missed ‘me’ and was happy to see her again. Wow!

CLH:  What a great start!  What strategies have you developed to remind yourself about the importance of balance?

Rhea:  Here are a few tips that help me find balance and serve as constant reminders of the things I hold true. I hope that they will serve you well:

  • Focus special attention on your personal and spiritual health as well as your well-being. Whatever it is that helps you find peace, rest and relaxation is necessary to maintain happiness and joy.

 

  • Find a community (physical/virtual) or group for the support and help you seek. As women, we are unique in that helping comes naturally for us – empathy is second nature. When things get overwhelming, reach out and touch someone who will be there for you.

 

  • Focus on those little moments where hope floats. Laugh as much as possible, cry only when you’ve laughed too hard, and always remember to love yourself.

These tips have helped me and continue to serve as constant reminders that I must honor myself first in order to serve others.

Create a place of balance by thinking positively in order to attract the things that are destined to come your way.

CLH: Thanks so much for your insights!

Rhea: Thank you!

Balance Needs Beauty

December 11, 2008

Sian Lindemann is no ordinary artist. She uses art to create not only a powerful, lasting message, but also to create beauty to serve the world. On September 11, 2001, she took action as she saw the world crumbling around her. Balance without beauty is like a mirror without a reflection. In her artist’s mind, they are essential counterparts.

“If one invests wisely in beauty, it will remain with them all the days of their lives” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

CLH: You started your National Living Arts Foundation as a post 9/11 response. Can you tell us how surrounding yourself with beauty can serve as a reminder to remain balanced in life?

Sian: I did indeed create The National Living Arts Foundation in response to the event of 9/11.

As I sat in response to the event unfolding on the television, I decided that living in the next moment, where individuals would be afraid to travel, to do, to participate and to try new things, might be limited.

Creating the Foundation was an opportunity to “make visible” and to assist many more artists to succeed with their works…..thus establishing more public art exhibitions, installaitons and the like….to inspire elevated thought.

It is essential for me to surround myself with beauty, as acquiring art and the appreciation of art, for me is not a luxury, but a necessity to maintain an inspired view on the world…..when things like the present economy and global unrest seem an overwhelming task to accept or to overcome.

In small ways, with artists, one at at time, or now as we develop group educational programs, I feel that contributing to the ongoing inspiration to the artists to continue is an essential part of my work.

CLH: Some people feel they aren’t creative. In what ways can people invite art into their lives?

Sian: It is true that some people do not feel as if they are creative. It has been my experience that many of my benefactors and supporters do not feel that they are particularly creative. They have expressed that following me, following my activities, and / or acquiring the works that I present to them, is an act in which they can participate to encourage and support this broad development, and they do so as a vicarious “taste” into creativity.

CLH: How does creativity help people in therapeutic ways?

Sian: Creativity and the expression of one’s creativity is a healing proposition. I know that if I cannot get clear on a particular topic in my day….I sing, or I write, or I journal or I paint, as a way to “connect” with my internal intuition and unique “voice.” Yes, sometimes even I drop the thread to that internal peace.

Developing creativity is an essential activity, I believe, and it need not be for_sian_3

limited to that which is art, per se.

It can be developing a creative twist on one’s immersion in family life or business……All of this is a healing and soothing process that brings about greater peace.

CLH: How do the arts serve to counterbalance negativity in the world?

Courtney Milne, Photographer 

Sian: Great question. We can lift humanity throught the arts. I, in fact, had a complete spiritual epiphany with a collection of works from one artist, now many many years ago.

**You can enjoy 365 days of beauty this year with a desktop art calendar and journal. Go to www.poolofpossibilities.com. PROMO CODE: F101.

50% of the proceeds go towards Sian’s foundation to benefit artists.

Life Balance Found in Taos

December 10, 2008

taos

Brandon Schmid just wanted to be alone. A hard-working lawyer from Seattle, WA, he escaped to the rugged landscape in Taos, New Mexico, in the middle of winter. A rugged outdoorsman, he decided winter camping might be just the thing. Sad thing was, he forgot the matches…Read on to find out what he discovered about himself, his life, and his filmmaking abilities…

Humanity isn’t about efficiency and accountability, but a balance of that with empathy and community.

CLH: Can you tell us what happened to turn your life around?

Brandon: I went snow camping outside of Taos, New Mexico, without any matches or a lighter (I forgot), and while freezing to death (not literally – but it was sub-zero in the negative teens and I was considering hiking back out) I had a vision for a movie — not just any vision, but a complete vision complete with characters, story, beginning, middle and end, what happens, why it happens, themes and everything in vivid detail — all in a matter of moments.  For the past five years, I had been working as a business associate in a couple prestigious law firms in Seattle — Heller and Ehrman,* and Perkins and Coie — working my tail off, long hours, etc. billing and recording every six minutes of every working day for various clients.  I had been to Taos several times in a row over a series of months back in 1999.  But this time, I stayed for a whole week, as I had recently decided to switch firms and take two weeks in between to unwind.  On the way down to Taos, I was reading Tuesdays with Morrie on the plane and couldn’t stop crying — the walls and boundaries I had built up in order to function and succeed in such a highly competitive and demanding profession over the past 5 tuesdaysyears came crumbling down. I realized how mechanistic and attuned to efficiency and accountability I had become — very inhumane in the sense that humanity isn’t about efficiency and accountability, but a balance of that with empathy and community, right?  

CLH: What advice do you have for workaholics whose lives are off kilter? 
Brandon:  I’d say take an inventory of what you have and cut out the excess to get down to what you really enjoy and need — and then adjust your work accordingly.

CLH: Have you developed a more positive relationship with time, and if yes, in what way? 

Brandon: Once you throw it all away once – in this case to make a feature film – you get a better perspective on how you have been spending your time in the past — which helps you decide how you want to spend that time in the future.  but, unfortunately, the best teacher for developing a more positive relationship with time is time itself.

 
CLH:  You are currently on the film festival circuit, showing your movie, Toas. When can viewers enjoy your film in theaters?

Brandon: As soon as a distributor is willing to pick it up and pay my publicist to market it! 🙂 The film was a self-financed production. I guess those long hours slugging away at the clock paid off (just kidding!).

CLH: I appreciate your taking a moment to answer these questions.

Brandon: Thank you! 

*Heller and Ehrman dissolved in October 2008.

 The daughter of a foreign correspondent, Nanine Hartzenbusch spent a good deal of her childhood in Bonn and Frankfurt. Our biographies intersect on many levels, including our passion for balancing kids with career. Once a high-powered staff photographer for the likes of Reuters, AP, and New York Newsday,  Nanine downshifted to Charlotte, NC, to raise her nine-year-old son and reclaim some sanity in her once fast-paced life.

When you say “no” or are selective, you keep room in your lives for the things that count.

 She generously shares her thoughts about the power of slow living below.

CLH: You have had a tremendous career as a photojournalist. What caused you to downshift?

Nanine: I had worked as a newspaper and wire service staff photographer for 20+ years in Washington, DC (Reuters), New York City (NY Newsday), Philadelphia (Associated Press), and Baltimore (Baltimore Sun). 18 months ago, my husband and I moved to Charlotte, NC. We moved for several reasons: he for a good job and I for the chance to work smarter. I now have my own business using my skills as a photojournalist. We each used to have one-hour plus commutes – we lived halfway between Baltimore and DC; now we live in the city of Charlotte.  My husband commutes 20 minutes, and I work out of our home. Occasionaly, I travel to my freelance work and for family photography photo sessions. We both have more time to spend with our son and be more involved with our community such as youth sports, volunteer work, church activities, and the PTA.

CLH: How do you view work-life balance today?

Nanine: Our work-life balance is so much more in synch today than it was several years ago. We still are doing what we love career-wise, but I have time to cook great meals, volunteer on PTA, participate in our church, and be able to drive our son to choir practice, sports activities and play dates without being frazzled or stressed out. My husband doesn’t spend three hours a day commuting, so he’s able to spend more time with our son than before and do hikes & bike rides and be at our son’s games during the week (something that never would have been possible before).

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*Photo used with permission from Nanine Hartzenbusch.

CLH: What advice would you offer others struggling to make their lives work?
 
Nanine:
Set limits or parameters to your work day. My goal is to do all my work during my son’s school day and schedule appointments only then. I save the afternoon for homework help, playdates, afternoon activities, and errands we can do together. My husband is a good time manager and is home by 7 pm. He still has time to work out in the morning.  I do family shoots on the weekends, because that’s when families are available, but then my husband can spend time with our son (without me).

Your spouse/partner needs to be an equal contributor  with the house chores, parenting decisions, etc. This works for us because my husband helps with some of the homework and projects, bakes on the weekends, does the laundry, picks up milk and other groceries on the way home. We all clean the house together once a week.
Time management as a family – I keep a calendar on a laptop in the kitchen. We discuss the week ahead, and talk about the things we need to do and the things we’d like to do as a family at the dinner table. (we eat breakfast and dinner together most days). We discuss opportunities for work and fun, and make it possible for each of us to have enriching experiences.

Balance – important to do things as a family, but also as a couple. we found a great sitter, and go out a couple of times a month. Also important to get together with girlfriends and for my husband to do things with “guy” friends. so we try to do a little of each.

Learning to say “no” – probably the most important piece of advice. when you say “no” or are selective, is that you keep room in your lives for the things that count.

CLH: Spoken like a true work-life balance pro! Thank you for this chat!

Nanine: Thank you!

For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to add this to the sidebar. It might get annoying after a while anyway, so here it is as a one-shot post. For your listening pleasure, I present you a few songs that sing of slow or are slow. Click on the pop-out player button in the middle.  If you don’t like rock or blues, forgettaboutit!

cool-earthSlowing down not only refers to our pace of life, but also to the way in which we treat the Earth. Cool Earth is a charity that gives individuals and families a tangible way to join the fight against climate change by allowing them to personally protect endangered acres of rainforest. These acres are in turn vested back to local communities who take responsibility for their long term sustainability.  Cool Earth and its global donors (including Tony Blair, Ricky Gervais and Minnie Driver) already protect over 400,000 acres of endangered rainforest, locking up more than 100 million tons of carbon.

A gift of $50 will protect half an acre of rainforest.  This will lock in 130 tons of carbon dioxide – effectively offsetting a household’s annual emissions by a factor of five.  Donors will receive a rainforest certificate in his or her name as well as updates and news from Cool Earth’s local monitoring team.  Most importantly, people can view and monitor their particular half an acre online at www.coolearth.org.

Why is this important? It is estimated that every year, 50 million acres – an area the size of Britain – are cut down, emitting 2 billion tons of CO2. On top of this, the same amount of area is being damaged. In 1950 rain forests covered about 30% of the earths land surface, this is now reduced to 6% and it is still being destroyed.  Tropical rainforests are the richest stores of carbon we have and protecting them must be a #1 priority in tackling climate change.  The remaining standing forest contains 1,000 billion tons of carbon, or double what is already in the atmosphere. Rainforests are the world’s thermostat. They play a central role in global weather systems, helping keep hurricanes at bay and providing more than a fifth of the world’s fresh water and oxygen. They are home to two thirds of all living species on the planet, and it is estimated that up to 50,000 species a year may become extinct through the destruction of the rainforest.

It’s About Time

December 7, 2008

Does this not say it all?

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See Ted Goff’s site for more funnies.

Snap it off

December 5, 2008

Lately, I’ve tried something new. Instead of turning on my computer before I run my morning errands, I wait until 10:30 am to turn it on after I done other things. Because I work globally, most of my US-based clients aren’t up before well after lunch time in Germany. I leave my desk for lunch with the kids, then pop back on around 2:30 pm. By the end of my business day, which often lasts until well after 8 pm, I snap off my computer. It seems to be working. I’ve gotten more media placements working efficiently than when I hang on my computer surfing endlessly for the PR Holy Grail.

Go slow. Snap it off.

Good news for a great day – Friday!