Thursday, May 31, 2012

Eliminate Clutter - Inside and Out

In the midst of a huge life change, problems can feel much bigger than they are.  When your coping skills are challenged, when you're worried and your patience is wearing thin, when you're trying to figure out where you're going to go - small challenges can seem insurmountable.

I have decided that this layoff is going to be different.  I am not going to worry all the time.  I am going to be patient, and if I am not sleeping, I am going to take something to help me sleep.  I am a better, stronger, healthier and happier woman, mother, girlfriend, sister, daughter and job applicant when I am well-rested.

I am also determined to challenge the clutter in my life.  And believe me - there is clutter.  There are the thousands of  "what ifs" and "should I or nots" running through my brain; there are jobs and skills and wants and needs.  There are bills and salaries and schedules and insurance worries.

To begin to clean out the clutter, I began making lists.  I made lists of companies I would like to work for, jobs I would love to have and jobs that I might like to have.  I made lists of bills that must be paid and bills that could be postponed a little.  I made lists of bank accounts and old 401Ks and insurance companies and medications.

I periodically review and revise those lists, but now that they are on paper, they no longer have the power to keep me up at night.  I check websites and apply for positions at the companies I research...then I compile and send my information and let it go.  I pay my bills as best I can, once a week, based on due dates, and I am grateful that I can do so.  I take my vitamins and brush my teeth and make sure that I express my thankfulness for a strong and healthy body daily.  And, I pray.  It doesn't matter, really, who you decide to pray to, but invite a higher power on your journey, and let that higher power carry some of your burden.  It can be too much to carry by yourself.

As I review and declutter these important "rooms" in my head, and in my soul, I am also decluttering my home.  I am going through every room in my house with the intention of eliminating any source of stress or worry.  Anything in my home that isn't useful, beautiful or a transmitter of joy no longer has a place.

Start to think about the things in your home.  Are there piles of magazines that you feel obligated to keep (you did SUBSCRIBE after all) but that you haven't had time to read?  You have permission to recycle them.  Do you have utensils or pots and pans in the kitchen that you never use, taking up space?  Pack them up!  Are there shoes or clothes in your closet that you haven't felt great in for a long time?  Get them cleaned and ready to go!

Don't worry - I am not only giving you permission to declutter your life - inside and out - but I am going to share some ideas for recycling, reusing and even making money from this endeavor.  When you are done, you will feel empowered, relaxed, hopeful and deserving of new opportunities.

To begin this part of your journey, start making lists of the things in your life that seem to demand the most attention.   As you make your lists and review the stressors in your life, they will lose their power and feel more manageable.  Just writing things down can help.  Come back to this blog over the next several days and I will help you on the next phase of your journey...we'll travel together.

Monday, May 28, 2012

God Bless America

Memorial Day weekend is a time for introspection.  I think about all the amazing people that have fought for our country.  I shed a tear for the mothers that have to watch their children - their babies - go off to training and to war...I believe that military service is one of the noblest things someone can do, yet I shudder to think of my son, my nephew, my spouse, going off to serve.  I like to think I am strong, but the thought brings me to my knees!

So, today, I am pausing once again to be grateful - for those who serve, for their families, for our freedom, for this amazing country and for our little community and the people in it.  It puts things in perspective, for me, to think about the amazing sacrifices that have been made so that we can have the life that we have, right now, right here, today.

Thank you and God Bless.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Do What You Love...

During a time of transition, it is important to be gentle with yourself.  Allow yourself some time to wallow.  Not a lot, but some.  Transition, especially when it is due to circumstances beyond your control, can be really difficult.  It can be positive, interesting, exciting and appealing, but it is always challenging. 

Doing something that you love, perhaps for no reason other than that you love it, is really important to your mental health.  It will help you to be optimistic and inspired. 

When you're working, your paycheck and the perks that come along with your position contribute to your feeling of value. They are a tangible illustration of your worth. When those perks and benefits go away, you can waver - what is your value with no tangible validation from a company?

My personal goal is to make a connection - a real connection - every day.  It can be helping someone carry groceries to their car, assisting a child that needs help, volunteer work, just chatting with someone who clearly needs someone to talk to...the opportunities are endless.

When I make that connection, and feel as though I have helped someone, it lifts my spirits. It takes me away from my worry and alleviates some of my stress.  I am still out of work, but the connection makes me feel useful.  I believe that part of my purpose is to make others feel valued.  Therefore, when I touch someone, and make them feel heard, I feel like I have achieved my purpose.

Only you know what makes you feel truly fulfilled.  For some it is keeping an immaculately clean house,  preparing nourishment for your family and friends, being a good steward of the earth  or crafting.  My cousin taught herself to crochet, and she does amazing things with her hook and her yarn.  While shopping recently, she gave one of her character hats to a small girl in a wheelchair.  She and the child's mother shared a few moments of unadulterated joy and thankfulness and my cousin has vowed to share her creations with children in need.  It made the child really happy, and it made my cousin feel WONDERFUL! 

When you make a concerted effort to reach out and impact the world around you, in whatever way is fulfilling to you - you make the world a better place.  And, in so doing, the world around you becomes brighter and more interesting.  This optimism - this hope - will help you move through this challenging time.  And, confirm for you, that "this too shall pass."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Accept Help and Support

In case these musings haven't made it clear - I am a nurturer.  Until recently, it has been extraordinarily difficult for me to accept help, never mind ask for it. I know that I am not alone.  Lots of people are uncomfortable in the role of recipient and prefer to be the person doing the giving.  It can be incredibly difficult to let yourself be helped. 

My attitude about this changed abruptly after a very brief conversation at church. I had made dinner for a friend that was really going through a rough time.  It was a time of stress and turmoil and challenges...although, thankfully, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  I asked this friend if the family would be home later in the day, so I could drop off the meal I had prepared. 

The reply was "this whole thing makes me so uncomfortable.  It is really nice, but I can feed my family."   That gave me pause...and after a moment, this was my reply.  "I can understand that, but to some degree, this isn't about you - it is about how much we all value your family and our friendship with you, and this is the only thing that we can do to help.  We want to do something to make things better - to feel like we're helping you get through this, and this is for us as much as for you.  You're doing us a favor by accepting our meals...they are all we have to give."

It feels really good to give - and it is hard to receive.  In the gracious receipt of gifts - whatever form they take - you uplift the giver.  People want to help.  You are valued and loved and they understand you're going through a difficult challenge...emotionally, financially, perhaps even spiritually - and they want to make you feel better. 

I am so blessed in that I have an amazing network of support.  Being a born and bred New Englander, I have never strayed far from where I was raised.  I went to college nearby and have spent my entire career within a 30 mile radius (with the exception of a 10 month stint in NYC).  I have great contacts and the most amazing friends anyone could ask for.  I can not even tell you how wonderful it feels to post "I have an interview" on Facebook and have more than 30 "likes" and almost as many comments wishing me luck.

Allow yourself to accept well-wishes, prayers and even meals.  Food nurtures the body, but the love poured into the making nourishes the soul.  Accept graciously what is offered, and write a heart-felt and meaningful thank you.  You will feel grateful and valued, and the giver will feel blessed and appreciated. 

As you travel further toward your destination, embrace the wonderful gifts that you might otherwise overlook.

Monday, May 14, 2012

An Attitude of Gratitude

One of my favorite books ever was a book by M.J. Ryan, entitled "Attitudes of Gratitude."  It changed my entire perspective at a very difficult time in my life.  It was truly life-altering, and the concept is simple.  Be thankful, and, when that is difficult, make a concerted effort to seek out the things in your life you are grateful for.  I used to look for 5 reasons, each day, to be truly thankful.  Sometimes, I was so miserable I was grasping, and all I could come up with was "air conditioning" or "clean sheets."  Soon, however, I was looking, and the list was long...10, 15, only by the time I had to thank God for my blessings.   

My son recently had a birthday.  He was inundated with gifts and good wishes...and it was wonderful, as his Mommy, to see how many people truly love this little boy. 

My rule is that he can't spend his gift cards or money until he writes his thank you notes.  We draft them together, then I write them on scrap paper and he copies them onto note cards.  This is an exercise.  It is time consuming.  It is a lot of work for Mommy...but it is a powerful thing to see them get done, and to talk to that little boy about what it is to be grateful.

Knowing how important thank yous are, I made a resolution last New Years that I was going to tell the inspiring, thoughtful people in my life how lucky I feel to have them there.  I have not been as diligent as I planned.  I have the best of intentions, then I get overwhelmed by emotion, or spend too much attempting to craft the "perfect" note. 

That ends today.  I am going to express my gratitude to the people that I care about - the people that are so supportive and kind and generous, and I am going to do it often and well.  And, if I can't do it well, I am going to do it effusively.  Because that is how I feel.

It is easy to get depressed or lethargic during  your job search.  It is also easy, however, to feel better through the simple expression of gratitude.  Look for ways to be grateful today - and express that feeling.  Not only will you feel wonderful, but you will make someone else feel wonderful too.  After all, isn't that why we're here?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

These are my new glasses from
In the interest of full disclosure, I did pay $29.95 for these glasses, they were not completely free.  I have a ridiculously strong/thick prescription, and I decided to get thinner (not the thinnest) lenses.  That is the only thing that I paid for - the glasses would still have been less expensive than a lot of places - just under $200 - but for less than $30, with shipping, it was a very easy decision.  You can't tell in this photo, but they're a really dark purple with hot pink on the inside.  I am CRAZY about them! 

Today is All About Practicality

This is an interesting journey - I have more free time than I am used to - a lot more - but a ridiculously strict budget.  There is not a lot of room fact, there is almost none.  Therefore, my friends, we need to be creative.

Have a business card.  Vistaprint offers insanely low prices, and you can often obtain cards for free.  If you use services like, or Tiny Prints, you will receive discount codes for up to 50% off of prices.  Be sure to include the type of job you're looking for (i.e.  "seeking a position as a manager/director of marketing or marketing communications) and list some of your strongest qualities on the back - great time manager, handles multiple priorities without missing deadlines, strong public speaking skills - for easy reference when someone reviews the card later.

If you wear glasses, check out and your first pair is free!  Whether you wear glasses all the time or just occasionally, these trendy, attractive frames will make you look and feel your best - and they won't cost a penny!  When you're out of work and you can't purchase many extras, this is a wonderful way to update your look and feel attractive - without spending!

I used to breeze into the nearest grocery store and buy whatever struck my fancy, getting in and out as quickly as possible, I now peruse websites for every store in my area, making lists and clipping coupons.  This isn't the quickest way to shop, but it sure saves me money!  I plan meals and drive up to stores like "Aldis" where the choices are limited but the prices are great!

I use the library regularly.  And, when I say regularly, I mean ALL THE TIME!  I always have a book or two going - it's a great distraction when things get stressful - and I have thousands to choose from when I am there.  I also think that it is a wonderful thing to for my son to see me pick up a book rather than turn on the TV or fly around Facebook.  Of course, much of the reading I do is to learn more for YOU - so that I can share my knowledge and be a resource.  This journey, for me, is as much about helping others as it is about getting to the right destination.

Did you know that your local library has discounted passes to local attractions?  Science Museums, literary museums, aquariums and zoos offer passes to libraries for patrons to use.  I have gone all over Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, spending almost nothing in entrance fees, utilizing the library passes. 

I attend association meetings for free, or for the nonproft rate.  When you call to RSVP to an event, please don't be embarrassed to tell the person registering you that you're not working.  They are often willing to allow you to attend the event for a free or significantly discounted rate.  This allows you to expand your knowledge and meet new people; don't forget to bring a business card and have your elevator speech ready!

Do you have a computer or a Kindle?  My wonderful boyfriend and family teamed up last year to buy me the Kindle Fire, and I love it!  That said, you can simply go to and download a free application for ebooks.  Then the fun begins.  Subscribe to sites like Pixel of Ink, Pixel of Ink for Young People or Inspired Reads (Christian books).  You will have the opportunity, every day, to download free books of all varieties - fiction and nonfiction.  I have more than 250 free books downloaded to my Fire today - and I haven't made a dent in the memory yet!  These sites have exposed me to books and authors that I would never have been introduced to otherwise, and some of them are wonderful!  Besides, for the price, there is no guilt!  If you don't like the book - DELETE it!

I have lots of tips like this, and will share more over the coming weeks.  We need to indulge our minds and take care of ourselves on this journey!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Mommy, if you doubt it, it's not going to happen"

My very wise 8 year old was telling me a story this morning.  He was praying while he was getting ready for school, and he shared his prayers with me.  What he was praying for - a baby brother - is unlikely at best.  When I told him I doubted that was going to happen,  his response was, "Mommy, if you doubt it, it's NOT going to happen."

WOW, right?  How many times a day, whatever journey you're on, do you doubt yourself, your abilities, your choices and decisions?  How many times, conversely, do you focus on what you really want, REALLY need, and know, with absolute conviction, that those things are going to happen?

I am absolutely positive that, by the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend, I will be working at a job I love, for a reasonable salary, with people that appreciate me.  Whether that means I start next week, or that Tuesday, there is not a doubt in my mind that I will be where I should be.  How do I come by that conviction?  I am not sure.  Positive thinking, "The Secret" and the power of prayer - or some combination thereof. 

This is not to say that I am sitting on the couch, eating bon bons and waiting for my wonderful new boss to pick up the phone and offer me my dream job.   I am under no illusion that this feeling of certainty doesn't require a significant effort on my part, only that my efforts will yield the results that I am wishing for.

I am reaching out to everyone I know, and people are amazing.  I have  job leads forwarded to me regularly, and several are very interesting.  People are recognizing strengths in me that I was not necessarily emphasizing, leading me in directions that are exciting and energizing.

Think about what you really want, and go after it with a sense of purpose.  Do not doubt your abilities, your self worth or your aspirations and dreams.  Put it "out there" and what is right will be.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Practical Solutions

I recently ran into someone who has been searching for a job for several months.  She told me that she was starting to get discouraged, and feeling desperate.  Her financial situation was tenuous, and she was finding herself getting more and more depressed.  She wasn't getting out of bed every day, she rarely left the house, and she lived in sweats and pajamas.

This is not unusual.  Motivation doesn't just happen...and rejection is hard to take.  That is why I stick to such a strict schedule, and schedule almost as much time NOT job hunting as I do job hunting!  The last time I was out of work, I made it a full time job to seek employment for the first couple of months.  I never left the computer and I constantly had a knot in my stomach.

Five months after I lost my job, I took a consulting job that was a great experience.  I loved the people and loved the work.  The company was too far away to be a viable full time option, but the work that I did and the money that I made allowed me to stretch my savings and spend two days a week searching for a more permanent position. 

Equally important to the money was the motivation.  It got me out of bed and dressed in the morning, had me interacting with intelligent, interesting people and made me feel valued.  You need to feel valued when you're going through a job search.  No matter how many times people tell you that
"it's just business," it often feels VERY personal.

Motivation gets harder and harder.  It is tempting to roll over and go back to sleep, to try and ignore stress, rejection and financial worries.  Try to overcome that urge.  You WILL feel better if you get up, shower and get dressed.  Not in sweats, but in "real" clothes. 

Pretend you're playing a role, if you have to.  Put on clothes that make you feel good, do your hair, and put a big smile on your face.  Then, leave the house!  Go to the library, a support group, take a walk - do something that inspires you to face the day.

More on motivation in the coming days...there are lots of ways to get inspired, and I am going to share them with you!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Jen Lancaster, one of my favorite writers, got her start as a writer when she was laid off 10 years ago.  She is snarky, hilarious, and an inspiration.  On today's "Chick Lit Isn't Dead" blog, she had this to say:

"DO live in the moment. I got my start as a writer when I was laid off ten years ago. In that time while I was searching for a job, I never once just enjoyed the moment. Granted it’s hard to unclench when the wolves are at the door, but I feel like if I’d ever stopped for one second and thought, “For the next couple of hours, I should quit worrying and just appreciate that I don’t have eleven bosses telling me what to do,” then I probably would have been a lot less intense in my job interviews. In retrospect, I am very happy with how it all turned out, but I wish I could have cut myself a small break now and again."

While looking for a new job, prioritizing bills and (some days) trying just to get out of bed in the morning, we can often forget this very important advice.  This time around, I am hoping to remember it and live it!

There are some really wonderful things about my career, and I have amazing people in my life because of where I have been.  But, there were also some really challenging days, and some times when there was a LOT of STRESS!  It is ok, during this journey, to take time out and just breathe.

I am a "list girl" so I take my calendar every Friday afternoon and I block out my "search time," my "free time" and my "project time" for the following week.  All those outstanding household projects that were regularly hanging over my head (kitchen cupboard purge, anyone?) and the hobbies that I haven't had time for are actually scheduled in.  Even exercise makes it onto the list.  Once you write it down, it's official!  That is not to say that things don't change, but the commitment is there.  I have found that if I have my job search hours scheduled before I give myself permission to do other things, I can relax and enjoy the positive aspects of this time; significantly reducing my anxiety level.  It feels REALLY good to check things off of my lists!

I am at the beginning of this journey, but I have taken a similar trip in the very recent past.  So, I know, this time, I am going to do it differently - more effectively and more efficiently - with MUCH LESS STRESS!  I am going to accomplish things outside my search, and in doing so, I am going to feel stronger and smarter when I go back to work.

And, I WILL go back to work.  I have that on my calendar, too - and out in the universe.  I am confident that the right job is out there waiting for me - and your job is out there, too.  Let yourself just "be" sometimes, and you will find your path.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Have you read "The Secret"?

There are days...days when life seems really hard.  Days when it seems like you have had more than your fair share of ***, days when things seem really unfair.

I have been very blessed.  I know it.  That doesn't mean that there are not days when I am frustrated, tired or fed up.  That does mean, however, that I will not wallow.

It stinks that I was laid off.  I miss my job, I miss my friends, I miss feeling useful.  I miss having a really great answer when someone asks me what I do.  I don't miss the stress of the last couple of months at my job, or the uncertainty, but I do miss the satisfaction of a job well-done.

All of that said, I am convinced that I am going to end up in a position I love, in an organization that makes a positive impact on the world around us.  I am absolutely certain that will happen, and that I will have found that position by Labor Day, 2012. 

Keeping that optimism can be difficult, yet I have no doubt.  There are lots of reasons to be optimistic:  I am good at what I do.  I have tons of support from family and friends.  People believe in me.  I work hard, and I am tackling my job search like I do the other projects in my life - with dedication and an intolerance for failure.

There are just as many reasons NOT to be convinced:  the job market is crummy.  Marketing and public relations are positions that are often eliminated, and not always refilled.  Lots of people work hard, and many of them are smarter than I am.  There are some really, really great professionals looking for work at the same places I am. 

So, what makes the difference?  The Secret makes the difference.  Spend your time focused on the positive; set your goals and put them out to the universe.  BELIEVE in yourself and your goals and repeat them over and over.  Post them to Facebook, Linked In and blogs.  Talk about them to everyone you know.  BELIEVE...

If you are convinced, and convincing, others will be convinced too.  You are as strong as your convictions...and you're going to be successful if you truly believe.   I am going to be successful on this journey, and you're going to be right there by my side!

Where and Why?

"I am sorry to say we are eliminating your position."  

Ten words you NEVER want to hear!  The First time I heard those words it was April, 2001; I was approved for a mortgage for my first home on Friday afternoon and lost my job on Monday morning.  Fortunately, the economy was thriving, companies were growing, and I had another job within the month.

The next time I heard those words it was 2009, and the recession was in full swing.  It took me 14 months, but I found my "dream job" and moved forward enthusiastically - dedicated to a mission and adapting to a much lower salary than I had been making, for the reward of working to make a real difference in childrens' lives.

The week before the hard-hitting storm Irene battered our neighborhood in October 2011, I heard those words again.  It wasn't a shock, but it was a huge disappointment. 

So, here I am; a single parent, turning 45.  At a huge crossroads in my life - emotionally, financially, professionally and personally.  

As I decide which path to take, how to define success, how to emerge stronger, happier and more productive than ever, I am going to document the journey, and hopefully take many people with me.  I am seeking to inspire and be inspired, learn, grow and share.

If the information "out there" is accurate, there are tens of thousands of people in the same position I am; making similar decisions and struggling with some of the same challenges.  It is always easier to have someone to lean on - 

Lean on me, and I will lean on you, and we will arrive at our destination better than we were when we started the Stepping Stones Journey.