Saturday, December 12, 2015

I haven't stepped foot in a grocery store in 4 weeks

I'm not kidding. And no, I haven't just been eating fast food for a month.

Sort of like how McDonald's is the joke of fast food companies, Wal-Mart is the laughing stock of grocery stores. We love to hate it. People in my town hardly ever admit to shopping at Wal-Mart. Nope, nope, nope. Wal-Mart is for people who are obviously desperate for groceries.

Well recently, I've started doing all of my grocery shopping with the Waltons. And I love it.

Wow. I've never been able to say that before. Yup, I now love grocery shopping.

But seriously, just 8 minutes from my apartment I can drive over to Wal-Mart, wait about 5 minutes in the parking lot, and an employee will bring out and load my entire grocery order. All I had to do was order online and show up. Plus, I've never paid full price for all of my groceries going this route. In each of my four orders I have gotten $10-20 off just by using a code they advertise right on the site. This is all part of their curbside pickup program that they recently started offering in my city.

I know. Incredible.

Photo credit.
When I was in high school, I had an idea to start a service business where we would grocery shop for our customers. That was the entire business model. You give us a list, we'll do the shopping. I never even tried to get it off the ground though because I hated grocery shopping so much, I didn't even want to get paid to do it.

Now Wal-Mart is offering this service not just for free but practically paying you to try it by giving out discount codes.

What is Wal-Mart gaining from offering this service? I mean, you're not coming into the store so there isn't any impulse buying. Plus, they have to pay their employees to do your shopping. Surely this is a losing battle for the grocery store giant, right?

Actually, they may be on to something.

Ever since I moved in September, I was shopping at a different grocery store not because I'm a snob but because it was across the street. It was convenient. People love convenient. But now, I'm willing to drive an extra couple of minutes in order to not have to step foot from my vehicle. Wal-Mart has made using their store even easier than shopping across the street. And as a result, Wal-Mart is gaining several hundred dollars in business every month just from my purchases.

While I'm sure many current customers will start to take advantage of this service, Wal-Mart is surely gaining new business as well. I believe it's a smart move on their part. As more people shop for groceries online or shop at the "nicer" grocery store, Wal-Mart has to keep up. Eventually they might even be delivering to my door. For now, I'll take advantage of the curbside option. It allows me to cut down on my weekend chores and spend more time doing what I love.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Education: let's actually put some thought into it

I recently listened to a podcast by Jeff Till called "A Complete Case for Home Education (54 Arguments)". You can listen to the full podcast and read the transcript here. If you would like to just look at the list of arguments (although some of them will not make much sense if you don't hear/read the explanation), you can do that here.

Now, before I respond to this podcast and give some of my thoughts, here's a bit about my education experiences...

I was homeschooled for the majority of my K-12 education. The only exception is the year and a half I spent going to fourth grade and the fall semester of fifth grade to public school in a small-ish town. My public school days were fun in a lot of ways, but I also hated all of the time wasting we did. I was all about speed. Waiting on the slowest kid in the class was always annoying to me. As a home schooler, I did my studies at my own pace so I was able to slow down or speed up as I pleased. I may have skimped on a few subjects in high school (such as only completing maybe 1/4 of my Chemistry curriculum), but I was also busy with other activities such as speech and debate club, swim team, 4H, various lessons, volunteer work, working part time, and my own personal hobbies.

Jeff's podcast raises some great arguments to oppose compulsory public education. He also makes a case for home education. As a student who has experienced both but is definitely biased toward the home education side, I'd like to point out a few of my favorite arguments that Jeff makes as well as step back and look at the big picture.

The Argument for Knowledge

Jeff's first argument is one for knowledge. He points out that knowledge is important, but public schools don't deliver. The public education system creates a one-size-fits-all portfolio of knowledge that students remember little of once they graduate (or even after they take that one test or pass that one class!).

As Jeff points out: "How many people learned their career skills through public education?" The only knowledge that is useful is the stuff you can use or the stuff you enjoy. Most people don't even remember what they learned in high school, much less enjoyed it or find it useful to their career today.

My sisters and I used to ask "Why do we have to learn algebra?". We got answers like "studying algebra helps you grow your brain" and "it's part of a basic education". But other learning experiences can also stretch and grow the brain and might actually prove useful later on in life.

The Argument for Powerful Subjects and Useful Subjects

School focuses on math and science. These subjects are truly useful to only the people going into a few specific fields. The rest of us drudge through it until we can graduate and forget it.

What about subjects such as philosophy, ethics, and rhetoric? These types of subjects can help us form our worldview and become deeper thinkers.  What about useful skills such as paying taxes/investing, cooking, and routine car maintenance? These types of skills allow us to function as adults and earn/save money. Public education rarely touches these areas of education.

The Argument for Leaders over Followers and Entrepreneurs over Workers

Public education relies on obedience. In public school, we spent the first two days of each school year just learning the rules and the schedule. We practiced asking to use the restroom, lining up, and taking role. On the other hand, a child who has an opportunity to be self-reliant, self-disciplined, and self-directed can become a leader and entrepreneur rather than a follower and a worker.

What all families should think about in regards to their child(ren)'s education...

Okay, I'm going to stop with those arguments (for now... maybe I'll post more of them in the future). But the bottom line and my challenge to all families is this: let's actually put some thought into this! Some of the arguments Jeff Till makes against public school can be solved immediately by home schooling. But look again at the arguments I pointed out above. Home education does not automatically resolve these issues. Home school families still often use the outdated, narrow school curriculum of reading, math, science, and history with little room for anything else. And just because their child is educated at home does not mean the family avoids strict rules and schedules, leaving little room for the child to be creative or self-disciplined.

Public and home school families: put some thought into your child(ren)'s education. What is useful? What will allow them to be creative? What will make them love learning instead of dreading their studies?

It's unlikely that if we all sat down and really considered the best way in which to educate a child, we'd all come up with the exact way that the American public education system does things.

Be willing to experiment a little. Don't sweat it if your child isn't learning everything they "need" to learn. Remember that Chemistry course I barely started when I was in high school? Well guess what? I'm still a functioning, productive adult without having completed it. 

As a society, I think it's time we took a plunge into some creativity when it comes to our education. Who's willing to dive in?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My family has guts

I know I've been writing about guts a lot lately. I hope you're not tired of hearing about it just yet because it's likely to become a theme on this blog. You see, just as I began going through the "You Don't Need a Job, You Need Guts" ecourse, my mother and older sister began seriously working on their own business project. It's called Crockett Solutions.

My mother is a retired Certified Public Accountant and totally kicks butt at all things taxes and bookkeeping. My older sister has a Communications degree and can design killer logos and websites as well as run an amazing advertising campaign.

Together, they've decided that it's time to offer their talents to the world. Here's what they do:



I'm so proud of them for taking the risk and just doing it! It takes guts to offer yourself up to the public for business. It's much easier to sit behind your cubicle at your company and just do as you're told. Going about it this way, if you mess up, your reputation is on the line. But if you succeed, the rewards are great.

Not to brag or anything, but my family is pretty stinking awesome. They definitely have guts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How I completed over 60 college credit hours while putting nearly $10,000 in the bank

Graduating in May 2014
with my AA in Business Admin,
100% debt free!
Just 12 months after graduating from high school, I was walking the stage for my Associate of Arts in Business Administration. Not only had I completed a 2-year degree, I was also graduating debt free with thousands of dollars in the bank. Not even 12 more months passed before purchasing my used $8,000 vehicle by writing a check.

How many 20 year olds can say that?

It boggled people's minds that I was already halfway to a Bachelors degree and hadn't even filled out a FAFSA, much less taken a loan.

Truth is, it wasn't that hard. It took what felt like a sacrifice at the beginning but turned into a reward once I realized the benefits of my choices.

During my senior year in high school, most of my friends were packing up and getting ready to go off to college. At the time, I wanted nothing more than to join them.

Problem was, I had no idea where I wanted to go to school, what I wanted to study, or even why I wanted to attend college. I kept hearing cliches like "You can't get a job without a degree" and "It'll be fun" and "These are the best years of your life"...

Feeling overwhelmed with choices and hating the idea of taking on loans with no goal in mind, I opted to stay home and attend community college.

Yup, I continued living at home with my parents and attended the local community college.

Don't stop reading! I promise it wasn't as lame as it sounds and the results were worth it. I'll make my case below. 

But first, let’s talk about some important steps I took in high school that would pay off after graduation.

My first car, a 1999 Ford Taurus,
purchased September 2012.
When I was a junior in high school, I got my first job (which paid minimum wage) and that's when I started getting serious with my savings account, socking away whatever I could. When I was a senior in high school, I got my first car. My dad and I split the cost -- $1,000. It had some difficulties and needed some expensive repairs (which we painfully forked up the money to cover, again splitting the cost), but it got me to and from classes both my senior year and the year following when I attended community college. I also purchased a laptop at the end of my senior year in high school with the generous graduation money that friends and family gave me. This was another great tool to my future success.

The other major step I took in high school which set me up for future success was enrolling in a dual credit program through the community college system. The classes I took in this program counted for both high school and college credit. And in my city, the tuition for this program was free! Many community colleges around the country offer these programs, or something comparable for free or discounted rates. (AP classes are another option.) Through this program I racked up 33 college credit hours -- about a year’s worth of college classes. That one year jump start made the next year fly by.

If you can't take advantage of a dual credit program or AP classes, getting two years of college knocked out in just over a year is still possible if you take summer classes the two summers following high school. You can also CLEP out of classes to speed up your education while saving time and money.

So I was on the fast track to finishing my degree even before graduating from high school. But how did I save all the money?

Living at home helps. A lot.

I realize this is not going to be everybody's story. Sometimes parents insist their high school graduate move out and move on. Sometimes disagreements arise and it's the best thing for the family. Sometimes parents want to charge rent after graduation. I get that. But if you have a good relationship with your parents and they're okay with you staying home for another year or two (especially for free or a hugely discounted rent), consider doing it.

It sounds lame, I know. But did you know that 4 out of 10 college graduates end up moving back in with family anyway? Imagine getting a taste of freedom just to find yourself unable to get a job or unable to cover both rent and student loans, then having to take a step backward into your family’s home. I’d rather frontload the benefits of living at home than have to step backwards later. And trust me, you'll be so busy outside of home, it won't matter. You just need a place to sleep and shower. Oh, and freeload on groceries.

Once graduated from high school, I enrolled at the community college full time and drove 12 miles each way, twice a week, to campus (we have five community colleges to choose from in my city and I was within a 25 minute drive of three of them). I was never on campus for more than 5 hours each day because I took some online classes as well (utilizing that laptop I purchased and saving time by not having to be in the classroom or drive to campus more than two times per week). In the afternoons, I worked as a nanny making $12 an hour. I'd work anywhere from 10-20 hours per week, depending on the family's needs.

Tuition and fees at the community college was only $1,000 for a 15 hour semester. This was already affordable but I managed to earn scholarships which completely covered the cost of the already low tuition rate. I spent about $150-$200 per semester renting my textbooks or purchasing them used. The only other things I regularly spent money on were gas and coffee. Gas was necessary, the coffee not so much, but I still got ahead and put money in the bank.

Attending school full time and working part time kept me busy. Finals weeks could feel a bit overwhelming on occasion as it will for any college student. And looking back, it really wasn't all that bad. Living at home actually made it easier in some ways -- I had my family to support and encourage me and of course to bring me snacks ;) For harder classes, I would befriend one or two classmates and we'd share notes or study together on campus. Believe it or not, we didn't have to live in the same dorm or even on the same campus to study together *gasp*.

Over 60 college hours under my belt, 100% debt free,
and spending the best summer ever with my little sis.
We lived just 3 miles from Mt. Rushmore and could see
it from our bedroom window!
One week after graduation with my Associates degree in May 2014, I drove to South Dakota for the summer with my little sister and worked another (nearly) minimum wage job about 30-35 hours/week for 13 weeks. We had a blast exploring the Black Hills and meeting all sorts of cool people in the evenings and on days off. I didn't save much money that summer, but the job paid for the adventure.

In September of 2014, I came home to Texas and started a job working 30 hours/week making $10-15 an hour. This employment was done in conjunction with a program called Praxis. Praxis pairs young people with a business partner to learn about entrepreneurship firsthand by being in the midst of it and just doing it. Participants also complete online coursework, discussion groups, and other assignments. Because I was already "ahead" one year on my college career and I was still unsure about the direction I wanted to go, taking a year to work and do Praxis made sense and was totally worth it! Not only did I get some real work experience and study with some super smart individuals, I also got to continue saving money. At my job, I was netting anywhere from $300-$500/month after paying Praxis tuition and income taxes. I still had to pay for gas, but I continued living at home to save on other living expenses. By March of 2015, I was ready for a car upgrade. So I paid cash for my SMART car.

Just signed the papers and paid cash for my SMART car (March 2015)

Overall, I couldn't be more pleased with how my education and my bank account balance has turned out so far. Especially since I didn't have a clear direction when I graduated high school, I believe it was the wisest choice not to get into debt during those early credit hours. The first 60 college credit hours or so are mostly basics anyway. Why pay 10 times what you need to pay to get the same exact credits?

I had some great professors at the community college. I had a few lazy ones too -- but that's at most colleges. So again, why pay more?

Since finishing Praxis, I have begun working full time at a new job. My college education is currently on hold for a number of reasons -- one of them being that I'm not completely convinced a four year degree is necessary for me to get where I want to go. So again, I'm staying away from college loans and hope to continue to do so, even if I do go back to finish.

If you're set on attending college, I will always recommend starting at the community college. It gives you an opportunity to stay debt free and to put money in the bank. Even if you can't live at home like I did, you can cut major costs on tuition which could allow you to at least stay debt free, even if you're not putting much into savings.

What greater gift could you give yourself than that freedom?

So stay free, my friends. It's not only possible, it's not that difficult to accomplish.

{Interested in Praxis? Apply now and tell them Mary Kate sent you!} 

Like what you read? Be sure to subscribe using the box on the sidebar so you won't miss new posts. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Final Thoughts & Future Plans (You Need Guts)



Since my last blog post, I only had about two chapters left in the "You Don't Need a Job, You Need Guts" ecourse. In these final pages, Ambirge covers some lessons she's learned along her entrepreneurial journey and shares some of the adventures it has taken her on over the years.

It's exciting to picture myself following in similar footsteps.

It's also daunting.

With so many people trying to "make it", how is it gonna be me?

But in the end, I realized it's not just about having guts. I mean, it takes guts. Don't get me wrong. But it also takes work.

Smart, hard, consistent work.

Since there is no such thing as job security, though, you may as well give it a go. Better to fail gloriously than to have never tried in the first place, according to Ambirge.

So in my near and my distant future, I plan to take action. I'm not gonna let my life and my livelihood be 100% reliant on and dictated by some company or corporation. It's time to take control, try hard things, and eventually to succeed.

What about you?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Getting Found and Getting Ahead (You Need Guts)


More helpful tips from "You Don't Need a Job, You Need Guts"...

Getting found

There are three ways to drive traffic to your site:
1. Pay for it
2. Win it
3. Earn it

When paying for traffic, it is best to go with Facebook, Google ads, or ads on a targeted website. Start  with a small budget and tweak your campaigns as you go. It's only worth paying for if the impressions turn into sales. If not, rework your campaign.

Winning traffic means you have to put yourself in a position of authority on a given topic. When major media outlets have a theme that relates to your edge, you need to jump in and offer yourself as the expert. Once they realize that this topic is your bread and butter, they'll have to feature you (or risk looking silly for missing an amazing opportunity!).

To earn coverage, you have to actually produce some content that is shareable. Make people read your blog post and say "Me, too". If they can't relate, they won't share. What people share online is like sharing a part of them. Stand for something, and those who stand with you will want to spread the word, for free, to their circle of influence.

Getting ahead

Just like failing to close the sale makes all of this hard work pointless, having to be involved in every aspect of your business makes it difficult to get ahead. If you died in a car wreck and your business immediately collapsed, something is wrong. You're working hard, you're making money, but your business model is not scalable.

Try things like writing a book or course, recording a training, building a membership site or paid email subscription, or promoting what you love and earning a commission. There are lots of ways to get paid online without having to be involved 24/7. Sure, it still takes work, but you'll be working much smarter and maximizing your time spent.

The end is in sight

I only have two more chapters left in this ecourse. I was a little skeptical when I started it but trusted the sources who recommended this content to me. I'll finish the last two chapters and write my concluding thoughts on it soon. However, it's all for not if I don't put any of this into practice. To do that, it's gonna take some guts... and some time. But why not try? There's no such thing as job security anyway, amiright? So it's the end, but it's also the beginning. And I can't wait.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Closing the Sale (You Need Guts)


More thoughts and tips from "You Don't Need a Job, You Need Guts"...

Email is king

Ambirge puts a huge emphasis on the importance of getting email addresses and sending the right people the right emails. She wants you to build a relationship with your business soulmates by coming to their inbox periodically and inspiring, informing, and/or entertaining them. Having this email plan is key. But what happens next?

Closing the Sale

Who cares how much they like you and feel they know you if they aren't going to pull out their credit card and say "yes" to your product? All of your work was wasted if they never purchase anything.

We have to get over the fact that our product might not be good enough. If we believe in what we're selling, we won't feel guilty about asking for money. So don't sell a junk product. Sell what's worth it and believe in that product.

Start small. Make a sales offer to your customer that they won't have to think too hard about. Prove yourself through that first sale and what you provide -- and then grow from there. You can't expect them to pull out their wallet and spend $5,000 on the first purchase. But what about $50? They could swing that. And then you have a chance to further build your trust and relationship with your business soulmates. 

Give the people what they want, not what you're selling

The angle you put on your product makes all the difference. You're not just selling a potholder... you're selling a statement about the person who has that potholder on display in their kitchen. What kind of person would buy your potholder?

To close the sale, you need a sales page. On this page you can outline the problem your business soulmate has, offer your solution and its benefits, frame the cost beforehand, then tell your buyer how much it costs, how to get it, and what happens next. Finally, show the buyer that you're not crazy -- you have a track record of delivering the result they want.

It definitely takes work to get to this point and to start making money. But who said this was gonna be easy? I mean, it says it right there in the title: You're gonna need guts.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Make it about your Business Soulmate (You Need Guts)

“There is a time-tested way to get around the unknown: Find out.
--Ash Ambirge


Okay, so there are still plenty of people using the internet for Candy Crush. But there are plenty of other people trying to make money using the internet. How many of them actually succeed?

As I continue in "You Don't Need a Job, You Need Guts", Ambirge is starting to take me step-by-step in starting my own online enterprise, what that entails, and some of the essentials.

Identify your business soulmate

Long before deciding what to sell, you need to identify just who it is you're trying to sell to.

Ambirge writes: “…consider not only whose able and willing to pay, but who will be DELIGHTED to pay for this?”

Whoever fits that description is going to be the soulmate for your venture.

Once you know who they are, you can know how to craft your message to make them feel seen.

Find your edge

There is noise everywhere. Businesses all over the world are screaming for the attention of potential clients. What gives you an edge over other people selling a similar product or service? Why should people trust you to deliver?

You have to find your edge -- and then you have to use that edge to make you memorable.

In a world full of noise, the last thing you want to do is be forgettable. "Expected is a death sentence."

.com urls only

When you're ready to name your site, name it intelligently and only go with the .com url. Use your edge to help you decide just what the name of your site and business should be.

How to make it online

Consumers are being sold to all the time. They are on the web looking for someone who gets them. They want to have a conversation with this person.

Opening up the lines of communication is key. If you aren't talking with your business soulmate, they're gonna lose interest.

Providing information, inspiration, and entertainment to them for free will allow you to open those lines of communication and build a relationship where they will trust you. Then you don't have to sell to them -- they are already listening to you.

According to Ambirge: "Becoming useful and helpful beyond expectation is the goal. When you go out of your way to help someone when it wasn’t necessarily your job and you aren’t directly getting paid for it – even through providing information, inspiration and/or their entertainment, and later, their money"

Have a plan

Don't just be useful and provide information, inspiration, and entertainment for the sake of it. Make every part of your website serve a purpose to get your business soulmates closer to the goal. The first bit of information, inspiration, and/or entertainment needs to fit the stage they are at. If they're new to your site, you need to treat them like a newbie. Tailor the content to what they need.

Finally, make it about them

They don't care about what you know as much as they care about why it matters to them.

I love this quote from Ambirge: “We don’t want to know what you do, as much as we want to know why it matters to us. In short, we want your website to be about us. Not about you. And even if it is about you, we want your story to somehow be about us.”

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Job Security, the Internet, and Making it Happen (You Need Guts)


Seven days and seven chapters into "You Don't Need a Job, You Need Guts". So far, this is what I've gathered...

Companies don't need you; they need what you produce

You're replaceable. And the less skills you need to do your job, the more replaceable you are to your company. They don't need you, necessarily. The need the outcome of your work -- the product you make.

There is no such thing as job security

I sort of knew this, but Ash Ambirge (the author of the course), made this quite clear. Ambirge claims that "having a job is riskier than Russian Roulette" because at any moment you could have to wave good-bye to your pension, find yourself laid off, or perhaps not even able to find a job after earning your college degree.

We make feeble attempts to "get ahead", and that is about the extent of our career and financial success in life.

We leave everything up to the employer -- how much we make, what we do, and even whether or not we have a source of income in the first place.

Making people feel seen

What if we took charge of our livelihoods and created our own source of income? Instead of relying on the employer, why not create our own job?

Ambirge suggests that what you already know about and can offer the world is exactly what someone else is searching for. If you can make people feel seen, you can sell to them. If you can make them feel like you were put on this planet just for them, you won't be able to keep them away.

Connect around the globe

Most people still use the internet to look at cat photos and catch up with old high school pals.

But it could be used for so much more.

Ambirge claims that you can leverage the internet in just the right way to connect with people all over the world who want to buy exactly what you are selling.

She writes “… no matter what, someone is searching for what you’ve got. Someone wants to know the information that’s in your head. Someone wants your expertise... Someone is hoping with all their might that you exist.
That’s important.
It means that your greatest competitive advantage is no longer your greatest competitive advantage in the traditional sense – price, speed, quality, etc. – but rather, your greatest competitive advantage is YOU.
Exactly as you are. And who you are. And whatever it is that you’re good at. And in whatever form you’re bringing it to the table.”
No matter what you’re selling, YOU are the main product.”

The only question that remains is: do you have the guts? 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Changes (You Need Guts)

After successfully blogging several times a month through my Praxis experience, all good things came to a crashing end after graduating. The finale to my 10 months of Praxis was phenomenal. Spending time in San Francisco with so many brilliant minds and then going on to travel the rest of the West Coast on my own was a great way to finish out my time as a Praxis participant. However, since getting back home, I have gone through several changes. First, I got a new job. Although I loved being a doula and learned so much from being with my business partner for nearly a year, it was time for me to find some consistent, daytime work. I'm currently employed at a call center taking in-bound sales calls. Second, I got married and moved into an apartment with my husband. We've been getting settled in and learning our new normal. 

These changes are exciting but my writing has taken a back seat as a result. I would like that to change. 

In the next 30 days, I will be working through an e-course called "You Don't Need a Job, You Need Guts". I'm using this e-course to give me the kick in the butt that I need. I'm enjoying my job, but it's a job. I know in the end that I'm not only 100% replaceable to my company, I'm also just helping other people get rich without any personal gain outside my paycheck. I want to do and be so much more. 

I'll be posting on my blog at least once a week about what I'm learning in the e-course and will include "You Need Guts" in the titles of these posts in case you want to keep up. Hopefully you'll learn something along this journey with me. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Graduating from Praxis

My 10 month plunge into all things entrepreneurship with Praxis officially came to a close in San Francisco this month when I joined the rest of the Fall 2014 class to celebrate our success. It felt like yesterday that we were all gearing up for this ride on Seabrook Island in South Carolina. It was so great to once again meet in person with the people I've been having online video group discussions and sharing stories with on our Facebook group for almost a year. All eight of us presented 10 minute snippets about our Praxis experience and what we accomplished and learned. Each of us had a unique experience as far as location, business partner, and what we achieved, but we could all walk away agreeing on many things.

My Praxis experience taught me so many lessons for life and business. Here are just a few:

  • The quickest and possibly best way to learn entrepreneurship is to simply do it
  • Skills can be developed in the real world and through alternative means; college is not the only or most efficient place to learn
  • Putting in the extra effort, getting stuff done quickly, and fulfilling commitments are qualities that will stand out to employers and clients
  • I am the only person who can live my life; I have to take the risks, but I get to reap the rewards
  • Own up to and embrace failures; each failure can lead to success later on
  • Surround yourself with smart, successful people who will challenge you to do and be more
  • There is no replacement for action

The bottom line: working in a small business means making a difference when successful and facing possibly serious consequences when you fail. Unlike in college, you can't just drop a class, retake a quiz, or turn in extra credit. Making things right in the real world is a lot tougher. Praxis was not easy for me or any of the participants, but it was worth it. What this experience gave me was something I could never have achieved in a brick and mortar school. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it, for the people who were leading the program, and for all the future successes I will have because of what I learned and achieved these past 10 months. 

If you're interested in breaking the mold with Praxis, there is still time to apply for the Fall 2015 class until July 1.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Post-Modern dystopian books are not that far from reality

image found here
There are several book series set in future America that are extremely popular among youth and adults alike. These post-modern stories include The Hunger Games, the Divergent series, and the Selection, among others. Some readers who are avid fans of one claim the others are mere mimics. The novels each have their own plot lines and deviations, but I would beg to argue that none of them are truly unique. They're all the same story -- they're our story.

We are living out these novels. No, maybe not the killing each other parts or the swinging through the city on a zip line scenes. But the social and economic parts... they aren't too far from reality.

Each series has a society where the people are split into groups (districts, factions, etc.). Rarely do these groups interact or members of each one cross over into another. In one of these series, the females may marry up or down in society but cannot skip classes. In another, you have one chance your whole life to change groups and if it doesn't work out, you become an outcast. In still another, there is almost no chance of reaching a richer status in life unless you are not only chosen to compete in a ridiculous competition but you also outlive the other 23 players. In any of these book series, the chances of a real social or economic change for the characters are rare and there are major risks involved when attempting to make a change.

The result is a society split up into groups with hard lines. There is no mingling, no changing, and no hope for a better life.

This limited economic and social mobility is a reality in America today -- no need to wait for the future. In America, you are free to change classes, if you're taking a step down. The American Dream is a sweet notion, but we overestimate the effectiveness of this "work hard to get ahead" mentality. Researchers have found that like many of the fictional characters in these book series, the real people in America have few chances of changing their path and those opportunities are risky and can fail.

As I become more aware of money as well as explore other areas of my city and country, I realize how rich my family is considered. I thought we had a fine but modest home and life. And compared to some of our wealthier friends and family, our home and life is modest. But when I compare our home and life to some of the one bedroom apartments on the other side of town I visited a few weeks ago, we might as well be millionaires.

When I was growing up, all of my parent's friends had similar jobs, similar educational experiences, made similar amounts of money, lived in similar sized homes, and held similar beliefs. There was little diversity in our circle of friends. This is to be expected. The people who live in poverty rarely interact with those who do not look, act, and live the way they do. The people who are in the top 1% of money earners also tend to associate with other top earners. It does not take a study to confirm this belief -- just consider your own circle of friends. Unless a person is seeking out people of other circles and blending in with them, there is little chance of just happening into one of these other circles. And because you become what you grow up around and you only grow up around people similar to yourself, is it any wonder that most Americans tend to stay in their circle?

These fictional stories I mentioned earlier have another common theme: big government. In these fictional stories, the government controls the big details and many of the small details as well. The authors of these books make it obvious that the government is being controlling, but what about in America?

It makes you look like a monster if you oppose laws that are put in place with the mission of helping people in lower classes. What many people do not realize though is that these laws can actually keep the poor and young down and dependent. By restricting their opportunities, rewarding non-participation, and convincing them that they are the problem, people continue to stay in their social class or even move down a level.

"Work hard, move ahead" is the mantra of Americans. Unfortunately, the government's way of helping is actually hurting. Realizing this is not an excuse to sit back and accept your social status, but it can allow you to make different and hopefully wiser choices. Instead of believing in the government's assistance, we can work around the barriers that these policies put in place.

In the novels, it's always the protagonist who tears down the government's harsh laws and brings about change. How can we do the same? First of all, we can't wait for the government to bring anyone out of poverty or break down the hard lines that keep people in their class. Secondly, we must fight for a free market and strong property rights which will work faster and better than any government programs at making real economic change in our society. Get the government out of the way, and the people will work to make their world a utopia.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Strollathon Success


I am so thankful for all of the support I had going into the Strollathon event I coordinated. Yes, I forgot one or two things like I was afraid of, but overall the event came together beautifully. We had a great turnout and everyone I talked to enjoyed themselves. I got feedback from more than one family who said they had fun, thought it was a well organized event, and could not wait until next year. The fact that people were ready to do it again made me realize how successful the event really was. I had a blast coordinating and being a part. The event was short in comparison to the amount of prep that went into it, but definitely worth it. 


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Calm Before the Storm

I'm hosting an event this weekend. It's definitely the biggest event I have ever attempted to put on and there is a bit of pressure to make it awesome seeing as people are giving a donation to be a part of it.

I've done lots of prep and worked hard to ensure that I have everything I need so that I'm not scrambling last minute. Although I have a few places to run this Friday in order to be ready Saturday morning, I'm feeling ridiculously calm about this whole thing.

It makes me think... "Am I prepared, or am I just forgetting everything?"

My event is mostly outside which is not the smartest choice for April -- April showers bring May flowers, right? Thunderstorms are on the radar for Saturday afternoon. So yes, there is a literal storm coming. But my event will be over before lunch so I am hoping/praying/wishing that we're going to be a-okay.

Planning, hosting, and coordinating an event of larger magnitude has been quite an experience. To make it more interesting, I have had to ask people for money. Donations. This wouldn't be much of a problem if I was representing the Wounded Warrior Project or the SPCA. Instead, I am asking for funds for a local non-profit with not nearly the name recognition of most other non-profits. And this is our first time putting on this event so there are no photos or stats from previous years. Turns out, people don't want to hand a check (even a small one) to people they don't know they can trust. Shocker (ha). And the people who did hand me a check? Now I have a responsibility to perform for them and make it worth their donation. Eek. That's scary.

It's been a challenge and the challenge isn't over. But, I know once this event is done, it will be worth it. So many of the participants have reached out and told me how excited they are about the event and I'm certainly doing the best I can to make it fun. It's going to be a party of sorts to celebrate the San Antonio Birth Collective and just moms and their kids in general. I'll have to blog about the results next week. I'm hoping that if there is a storm, it's a beautiful one. And after the storm comes the rainbow, right? At least, that's what I'm counting on ;)


Monday, April 6, 2015

34 + 14 = Insanity

Remember that blog post about having 34 bags? Well, I discovered another hidden "treasure trove" in my room today... and it contained an additional 14 bags and purses as well as five sweaters I survived the past two winters without wearing and a bonus flamingo pillow. (I'll be taking bids on the pillow until Friday, by the way.)

Seriously, just as I thought I was getting toward the end of cleaning house I come across this mess? And all of a sudden, this group of bags became... sentimental.

Once these bags are added to the mix, my bag count is almost at 50. Some of the bags and purses I found today I have had for over half of my life. Yet I rarely if ever use them. None of the items in this stash have been used recently (at least two years or more) so you would think I could just get rid of all of them without missing a thing. And I could. But as soon as these old and forgotten items come to view, I suddenly grow attached. Again.

I have theories about material things. They're great, don't get me wrong. I like having stuff. But having too much stuff has many negative consequences:

  • The stuff starts to own you. You may be be the owner, but just try to get rid of something you have even the slightest affection toward. Somehow, that one little item grips you. It makes you want to hold onto it as if it were the last of its kind. It is painful to give that item up. 
  • The stuff keeps you put. Want to move across the country or just downsize? You will have to get rid of excess. For some people, giving up all of their things keeps them from chasing their bigger goals. I know I would struggle if I had to pack up my life into a suitcase. 
  • The stuff encourages risk aversion. Once too much stuff is accumulated, we no longer want to take risks. Taking a risk (especially one that includes finances) means we could possibly lose it all: not just the little stuff but the big stuff like our car, our house... everything. 
Being independent from this stuff means having a physical mobility but also a mental freedom as well. Clearing out and detoxing ourselves of the physical means putting life into perspective mentally. 

Do you have too much clutter in your life? For me, I feel disorganized and chained by all the excess. Having too much does not affect everyone this way, but I personally do not enjoy it. As much as I hate throwing things out, I also hate being chained by it. So I will continue working to stop the insanity. What about you? 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Episode 2: 20 Hours (Ukulele medley)

Here is Episode 2 of The Sitch Podcast. I was going to do just audio so that I could edit and it would actually be a podcast instead of a video, but with what I wanted to show you in this episode, I thought you would rather watch.

The inspiration for this episode came from a YouTube video I watched for Praxis called "How to Learn Anything... Fast". Using John Kaufman's advice, I decided to devote 20 hours to learning the ukulele (something I have been wanting to learn for almost a year but "didn't have the time" to devote to it). Well, in about five hours, I learned eight chords and four of those chords can be used to play tons of pop songs from past and present.

video

I hope you enjoy this example of how you can learn something fast. Will you be world class? Nope. But you'll know a lot more than most people know about the subject and you'll have an idea of whether you want to continue learning about it or not.

What have you always wanted to learn? 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My Cup of Coffee

Many of my college-aged friends were busy from Mach 1-7 talking about finals and then March 8-15 posting pics of their Spring Break awesomeness.

Meanwhile, I've worked 95 hours from March 1-15 plus many more hours in drive time and working on a project that does not pay hourly.

Yes, I'm tired. Yes, I'll like getting my paycheck. No, this is not your typical 20-year-old's Spring Break dream.

So why do I do it?

Even on the weeks where I am hustling, working night shifts, and sleeping less than I should, I do not envy my college friends. They post on social media about needing more coffee, cramming for an exam, and the stupid things their professors say. They spend their days in class, in their dorm, and in the coffee shop. Most of them can't wait for the weekend and they are even more excited about Spring Break -- an entire week away from this routine. Sure, college can be fun. I've been there (well, not the dorms, but definitely the classrooms and coffee shops). But I don't particularly want to go back.

My parents are totally willing to help subsidize my college education and the sought after "college experience". You can go anywhere you want, they tell me. We'll pay. But now that I've tasted a real work week, I don't want to go back to college life. In my opinion, it's a lot more fun to be working at a job I enjoy, creating value for other people, and getting compensated for that effort than there is sitting at a desk, drinking another cup of coffee, and getting deeper in debt. Rather than accumulating facts which I may or may not remember later, I'm building skills that can be seen. I'm learning how things work "out there" in the "real world". Instead of getting a scheduled break from the hustle, I have to request the time off. Rather than looking forward to a week of exams and then a week at the beach, I look forward to a week of solving real problems by creating solutions and seeking out answers -- not just memorizing them. If I fail, I can't just retake the test. I have to keep trying until I get it right. And when I do succeed, there is real value created -- customers recruited, money earned, etc. It's not everyone's cup of coffee, but it's the coffee that the real world brews, and I'm enjoying my cup.



Friday, March 6, 2015

Life is Fragile, Life is Fast

Two posts about life back to back. It's just that kind of week.

Yesterday afternoon, I received the shocking news that a member of the Praxis family passed away. He was only 25 years old. I only met him in person once, and I am truly thankful for that. We also chatted via Facebook a time or two and my older sister met him when they attended the same college a few years ago. From the little time I got to know this young man, I could tell he was a busy, committed, focused, fun, ambitious guy. Now that he has passed, I am seeing just how much he was loved and how involved he was in other people's lives. I don't think he wasted a single moment.

In addition, a friend of mine (in her late 50's) was taken via helicopter to the hospital last week where she spent seven days in ICU. It is predicted she will be in the hospital for another month. Although she was finally able to walk today, we did not know what her fate would be last week. She's lucky to be alive and on the mend.

Also on my heart this month has been a special family I have known for much of my life. They are about to remember the one year anniversary of the death of their seven month old baby girl. She passed last March.

My heart goes out to all of these families and I am humbled to remember that it could have been me -- it could have been my family. Life is fragile and life is fast. One day we're here, another we're gone. As trite as this saying may be, it is weeks like this one where I remember that the only uncertainty in life is that life is uncertain. Each day truly is a gift. Tragedy and even death can affect any of us at any moment -- no one is immune.

So today, I'm first going to be thankful to be alive and breathing, and then I'm going to try not to waste this gift.

Sorry for a short, choppy post. I just felt the need to share and perhaps help others remember to live each day to the fullest. As one friend put it last week, you can be driving along just fine and suddenly your tire blows out. Life can change that fast. So be thankful and take advantage of each day.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Own Your Life

We spend our whole lives trying to fit in, to conform, to do what's normal.

We wear the right brands, say the right things, participate in the right activities, get into the right schools, and follow the right career path.

Right for who? 

Right for you? Maybe.

Who suffers the consequences if following the normal route ends in bitterness, depression, and wasted time?

You.

Who reaps the rewards if following a possibly unconventional route leads to satisfaction, success, and a full life?

Also you.

No one can make choices for you, but they will try to influence you to fit their mold.

How they view the world, what makes them happy, what satisfies their reason to go on living -- it's going to be different from yours. You have to find the right path for you. 

I would argue that most people aren't truly happy anyway. They work a job they hate. They have debts. They buy things only to impress. They have little adventure. They don't try in their marriage. They ignore their hobbies and interests. They stopped dreaming a long time ago.

And yet they try to tell you how to achieve success and happiness.

Here's the deal. Only you suffer the consequences or reap the rewards for your decisions. These advice givers, these "normal" people, lose nothing based on your choices.

Don't let others dictate your path. Take solid advice from trusted allies to heart, but own your decisions. If you manage to do this, you will own your life.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

First Podcast: An Interview with Colleen Crockett about Chocolate!

Finally! An actual podcast is going up on sitchpodcast.blogspot.com. It's about time!

My little sister, Colleen, agreed to be my first guest. I interviewed her about her current goals in life. She has some lofty ambitions!

video


Main challenge she faces: her age. It's illegal to handle the equipment in a chocolate shop until she's 18. She also can't attend a chocolatiering school until she is out of high school.

What she's doing to overcome this challenge: practice making chocolate at home and sharing with friends/family for feedback and reading about chocolate and chocolate making.

Main take-away: instead of flip-flopping career choices, Colleen is going to explore this option until she knows for sure it's NOT what she wants to do. She may do chocolatiering forever, or for a few months. But she won't know it's what she loves until she gives it a go and gets her hands dirty.

My favorite quote: "I hope I don't spend years trying to figure it out, but I can't do anything by just sitting around and thinking about it."

Thank you, Colleen!


Interested in being a part of the podcast? Send me a message via the contact form on the left. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

My Body Shouldn't Belong to Me

The vaccine debate rages once again on the internet (although I may be behind a few days as the internet seems to have moved on to a raging debate about that movie coming out tomorrow on Valentine's Day). Scrolling through my Facebook feed a few days ago, I found a pole on the Biz Journals website asking if the government should mandate vaccination for the measles. I was shocked that at 3,910 responses, 53% said yes. I posted a screenshot of the results with the comment: "This is scary. Even if vaccines are a good thing (which I personally do not believe), why would you want the government to force you to get one?"


I find it scary because I don't believe that anyone, especially the government, should control what goes into my body. Since I took the pole four days ago, there are now 6,781 responses with 55% saying no. Pew, thank goodness. But still -- why would even just one person want to mandate vaccines onto others? Or mandate any medical injection onto others? You're basically saying that my body shouldn't belong to me -- it belongs to the government and to the "good of the whole".

I would never try to tell another human being what they should and should not put in their body. As one of my friends commented on the photo, "What's next, forced sterilization? The government should not be allowed to dictate what goes in my body". And this is exactly why I thought the results were frightening.

Basic human boundaries start with skin. My skin, my body, is the basic boundary that no one should be allowed to cross unless I give them permission. Sticking a needle into my arm and loading my body with a vaccine by force would be a clear violation of this basic right. Mandating vaccines could lead to even more control over my body (as my friend mentioned above).

Another good friend of mine argued that mandating vaccines isn't a bad thing if that vaccine is "tried and true" and been around for a while. She argued that measles vaccines were responsible for eradicating the disease in the U.S. This friend is studying science in university and is extremely smart. However, I still don't buy her analysis. I don't think any of the vaccines are infallible. In fact, there may have been more deaths caused by the measles vaccine than the actual disease in the years 2004-2014. Not to mention that  when drugs and medicine gets tested, usually only the positive results get published. There are many unknowns about vaccines and until they are proven to be safe and effective, I might prefer to opt out. Even if they are "proved" to be 100% safe and effective, does the government have the right to mandate I get one?

If you answer anything other than 'no', I fear for what other freedoms you are willing to give up for the sake of the whole. Surrendering our individual freedoms for the sake of "herd immunity" (which doesn't even work as evidenced by the recent "outbreaks") means giving the government a foothold into other individual liberties. When will we start respecting each other's decisions and freedom? It's dangerous to start surrendering these decisions -- once it starts, it will be nearly impossibly to stop.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety" 

-Benjamin Franklin 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Fast Food Challenge: Update

Instead of trying to have 57 New Year's resolutions and work to achieve them all at once, I'm focusing on one goal per month. January's goal was to avoid all fast food or food on the go. The exception was when I was going to sit down inside with a friend to eat. 

Like many goals, my excitement and stamina got me through the first 10 days with little difficulty. Sure, I still wanted to stop for a coffee or snack, but the urge wasn't too hard to fight and I started packing my food and bringing drinks. 

As the days passed, I started making more frequent stops at the grocery store. I still picked up "convenience foods" and sometimes would go inside to purchase a single meal (as if I was going to get fast food but instead had to park and go inside rather than just drive through), but the food I bought at the store was always healthier than the food I would have purchased out (and it was cheaper). The fast food meals I normally buy are packed with sugar, fat, and tons of calories. The food I buy at the store was fresher, healthier, "real" food and it was about half the price. Instead of $7 on a burger, fries, and soda, it was more like $3 or $4 for a salad, hummus, and pretzels or perhaps a green drink and a sandwich wrap. 

As the month wore on I did deviate slightly from my path. I purchased several coffees and sodas from fast food establishments. They aren't that expensive ($1-$2 per stop) and I still avoided the food, but they are marked up extremely high and can easily be purchased at the store ahead of time. I was definitely paying for lack of planning and convenience when I made these purchases. 

Overall, it was a great experiment and I plan to continue avoiding fast food and cutting my consumption in the future. It saved me money and the food I would pack myself or run into the grocery store and grab was yummy and much healthier. 

Tips for trying out the same challenge:

  • Plan ahead! Make grocery store runs and stock up. Have a lunch box and plenty of ice packs handy. Give yourself 5 extra minutes before leaving so that you have more time to pack your snacks and meals. 
  • Leave the cash at home. I don't know about you, but I'd rather pay for my fast food habit in cash so that I don't have to be reminded of my spending later and others never have to know. If this is you, stop carrying cash. 
  • Go out with a friend. If you get the craving for a latte or just want some junk food, I get it. But invite a friend and make it a social activity. Don't just eat it to eat it. 
  • Track your spending. Keep a piece of paper in your car and write down your fast food habit there or keep a note on your phone. Seeing the amount of money you spend and the frequency of your purchases might give you motivation to slow down. 
  • Find quick foods you love at the store. Find convenience foods you can stock up on at the store. These will be cheaper and probably healthier. 
Good luck to those who have a New Year's goal. My goal for February is to finish my Postpartum Labor Certification. I am half a book and one essay away. There is no excuse not to finish! 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

I have 34 bags and probably use two of them

I read mommy blogs now. No, I'm not a mom, but it comes with the job of being a doula. If you're not familiar, a mommy blog simply refers to a blog that is written by a mom and is dedicated to all things mothers enjoy (namely baby and childcare as well as cooking, organizing, books, self-care, etc.).

I came across one of these blog posts recently that made me laugh but also had great application to my own life. In the post the author, Katie, describes walking into her son's room and catching him as he peed on all of his toys. This is not a joke. So she did what any mother would do -- she took all of his toys away.

The result might be even more shocking than the crime the son committed, though. Instead of sitting in his room crying all day, Katie found her son playing with shoes, things he found out of the garbage, or with rocks in the front yard. Her son didn't need toys. In fact, he was fine and dandy without them.

Nearly two weeks after taking the toys away, Katie's son asked for only one item back: his football helmet.

After reading this post and wiping away tears of laughter (as my mother has also threatened to take away or even throw away toys on countless occasions), it made me think about how adults can often behave in the same way the 3-year-old son did.

Instead of using our "toys" and all the other things we have the way they are meant to be used, we complain about what we have. We might not physically do something to them (like Katie's son did), but we complain with our words or wish we had the latest and greatest. Even when we have excess, we want more. 

What would happen if all the things we did not appreciate were taken away? I seriously doubt we would come up with unconventional ways to cope like Katie's son did. We'd probably be asking for them back, or just going out to replace them ourselves even if we didn't have the funds. Alternatively, we might not miss them at all.

I lived away from home for 13 weeks last summer and took plenty of stuff with me. But, I left even more things at home. When I returned late August, I was on a mission to start cleaning out items in my room that I never use. I believe that the more we have, the less content we often are, so it was time to start cleaning house. It's been slow-going to get rid of the excess, but I'm getting there.

Earlier this month, I worked on cleaning out excess bags and scarves.My start count was 34 wallets, purses, totes, and backpacks. Yes, you read that correctly. 34 bags. I managed to give away or donate more than half and my new count is 16. In another few months, I plan to look through the remainder again and see if I can make myself part from a few more. The majority of my bags and purses go unused for months at a time... do I really need them? If they were gone for two weeks, would I miss them? Probably not. I also had 15 scarves in my closet and I narrowed it down to eight. Again, some pretty decent progress, but of the eight scarves I kept I probably only use about three on a regular basis.

Is there something cluttering up your life that you don't appreciate anymore? Maybe it's time to say good-bye and free yourself from those items. It's not easy, in fact some researchers claim that it causes pain receptors in your brain to go crazy, but a less cluttered space (and mind as a result) could be worth it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What are you doing? (part 2)

This post is far overdue. I wrote part 1 back in October about six weeks after starting the Praxis program. However, the online curriculum, group discussions, opening seminar, and oral exams are just part of the program. The other major component of the Praxis experience is the business partner that each participant is matched with for 10 months. Each participant has a different partner. My business partner is a doula service agency called Tranquil Seasons.

Working closely with the founder of the company, Anne Croudace, I advertise events and services, contact clients, and complete other projects. My major project this year is a fundraising event for the San Antonio Birth Collective which I am super excited about heading up.

Lately, I have been doing a lot of the actual doula work even more than I have been doing the administrative and social relations side of things. Since starting with Tranquil Seasons in September, I have worked over 400 hours in postpartum doula care. This time has been split almost evenly between twins and singletons and most of those hours were spent in overnight care. As a doula, I serve the entire family unit with emphasis on the mother and baby. Overnight care means I normally feed, change, and comfort the baby (or babies) while the mother and father catches up on rest. I also pick up the home, cook breakfast, do laundry, or take care of other tasks that will make life easier for the family the next day. My job also includes just being an encouragement to the parents and an encyclopedia to answer any of their questions about babycare. I have also received training in areas like postpartum care for mothers and lactation support. Just this week I spent time assisting a new mother as she learns to breastfeed her baby.

Even when clients find out that I am young and do not have any children of my own, they never question my abilities as a doula because I have already shown them by that point that I know what I am doing. In fact, only one person I know has alluded to the fact that I may not know what I am doing because I have no personal experience. As I wrote on Facebok one day:

Some people wonder how a 20 year old who has never had a baby could possibly be of assistance to new parents. Training to become a doula is just like training for any other job. You read and study, you get training, and the rest you learn on the job.
I have spent more time with infants and read more books about pregnancy, birth, infant and mother care, and breastfeeding since becoming a doula than many women do before becoming a mother.

The word doula means servant. She is there to assist with mother and baby care as needed. She is there to support new moms and dads as they journey into parenthood. She is there to pour out love and support to the family. She doesn't have to have all the answers, but her love for learning will help her find them. In America, where a woman's needs as a new mother are generally underestimated and under served, a doula can play an invaluable support role as the mother transitions into life with her baby (no matter the doula's own personal experience in child rearing).

I love being a doula.


I am also training to become a labor doula (supporting a woman and the partner through the labor process). I have attended one labor so far but did not get to stay until the baby was born. My first labor client is due in early February so I will soon have another chance to serve a mother and father through the experience of childbirth. I love this aspect of the doula work!

As I continue to do both the doula work and the administrative/social media/advertising work for Tranquil Seasons, I am learning about how a small business runs and what an entrepreneur looks like. My boss is extremely ambitious and has more projects on her mind than she will probably ever be able to complete in a lifetime. That's what makes her a great mentor. She's passionate about everything she does and never quits working. In four months, I have learned a multitude of things about entrepreneurship, business, and not to mention babycare. I know I will continue to learn from Anne as a Tranquil Seasons employee and Praxis participant.

All of this preparation will either allow me to continue with my business partner or strike out on my own as an entrepreneur and business owner.Whether I start a doula agency or another company is not important. The point of Praxis is to learn about running a business in general which I am getting a great taste of with Anne at Tranquil Seasons.

Interested in having a similar experience (except maybe with less babies? Unless you like babies, of course...)? Visit discoverpraxis.com

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Stop Being a Miserable Cow

My mother has said it all of my life: "Attitude is everything, pick a good one".

Oh how I grew to loathe that phrase. I mean, how much effort does it take to have a lousy attitude? Almost none. How much effort do I have to put into having a "good" attitude? A lot. A lot of effort.

So what did my mother get me for Christmas this past December?

Let me give you some hints: it's made of metal, it's obnoxiously large, and it has one of her favorite quotes on it.

You guessed it. She bought a sign with her favorite quote on it and gave it to me for Christmas. And she expects me to hang it up in my room. In fact, she bought the same sign for my sisters as well. Now we can all remember her famous words.

The exact sign my mother gave me for Christmas.
Image found here

I loved making comments all of Christmas day about how "great" my present from mom was and how much I just "loved" it. The first time I cracked the joke it got a few giggles, but my jabs soon grew old. Finally, one of my sisters stepped in and said what only a sister can: "Mary Kate, stop being a miserable cow."

Ouch. Not only am I miserable, but I'm also a cow?

As the years pass, I have come to realize the wisdom in the words of my mother's favorite quote and the power behind choosing your attitude. Actually putting this principle into practice is a different story, though. It takes a lot less thought and effort to feel miserable. And let's face it -- who doesn't love being miserable every once in a while? I sure do.

But it's definitely not the attitude I should try to adopt frequently and certainly not daily. Negativity can act like a poison and squash our zeal for life.

We have a lot to live for. And if you don't believe that, maybe you should take 5 minutes and make a list. I'm sure you can think of something, even if it's small.

A good attitude might not be "everything" but it certainly helps keep us from becoming miserable cows. So if you are a depressed animal, chewing grass and spitting it up mindlessly and mooing occasionally but not really interacting with your other cow buddies and enjoying the sunshine and the green pasture, then consider getting yourself one of these signs and hanging it up where you (and others) can view it daily. Maybe even hang it up in your work place. Who knows? It could boost productivity.

Oh, and a note to my mother... This is my public proclamation. You are right. I can control my attitude and I might as well pick a good one. 

Okay. I said it. Now please don't use this post against me.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Own Your Real Estate

Recently I explored possible places to invest my savings. I'm tired of it sitting there, losing value with each passing day as inflation continues to devalue money. But where should it go?
Image found here.

Real estate has interested me for quite some time. I blame TV shows like "Flip This House" or "House Hunters", but the thought of investing in real estate excites me. So, I began looking around. My savings isn't that much, but it might be enough for a down payment on my first rental property.

The more I explored this possibility, the more I realized that it is not the right time for me to make this investment. But that doesn't mean I can't own something and call it mine.

In fact, I already own a piece of real estate -- right here on this blog.

As much as I love to hate the internet, it does give each of us a unique chance to make something our own. It allows us to put ourselves out there with minimal cost or effort. Setting up a blog or website and updating it regularly takes almost no cash and can be accomplished in minutes. Even without a computer or internet access at home, most people know someone with these tools or have access to a library.

Many people use the internet to post photos they took of themselves or what they cooked for dinner.

Why not use it to make your voice heard?

Sure, maybe your mother will be the only one visiting your cozy little blog for a while. But that could change. And you won't know until you reach out and own your internet real estate. So grab it, use it, own it. You can't lose out on this investment.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

January Challenge: Fast Food Free

In a month with 31 days, I worked 20 overnight shifts. That's about twice as many as I normally work. I'm thankful for the hours, experience, and paycheck, but it has pushed me further into a nasty habit I have been forming -- buying fast food.

Image found here
I have not tracked my spending on fast food in the past month but I know I have gone far too often on my way to a shift to get a coffee or a meal and I have even stopped on my way home from nightshifts and grabbed a breakfast taco once or twice this past month. Not to mention running into the corner store to grab a snack. It adds up, and not just in money but in inches around my waist. 

We all know that fast food is one of the worst choices in terms of nutrition. Sure, it's getting "better" with revised food items and posting calories for all to see, etc. But, the food is usually still greasy, packed with sodium, and fatty. Not to mention the use of frozen (rather than fresh) ingredients and plenty of fillers. Fast food is not providing me with the same nutrients as food I could prepare myself which means I'm not going to be as healthy and could also contribute to weight gain. 

The quality of the food and its affects on my health is not my only complaint. Fast food is also expensive. Whether its feeding a family of four or if it's just for a single person (like me), fast food can actually cost twice as much as making the meal at home. For someone who needs to penny pinch, preparing food from the grocery store is actually the cheaper option! 

So in order to try to break myself from this lazy, unhealthy, money-wasting habit, I'm going fast food free for one month (and this includes my corner store stops as that is food on the go that I purchase due to poor planning/convenience).

That includes everything from McDonald's to Starbucks. I can still go sit down at a restaurant with family or friends, but I can't stop when I am alone and on the run. Nope. I will have to wait until I get home or pack my own food before leaving the house. I'll even have to brew my own coffee (gasp). 

In order to achieve this goal, I will have to take extra steps of planning and preparation:

1. Grocery shopping. I detest grocery shopping and I think part of the reason is when I'm checking out because it feels like I am spending a lot of money on food. But, knowing that I can actually save money in the long-run by planning meals ahead makes me feel better about the grocery bill. 

2. Cooking. I don't cook much, not because I don't like it but because of time. Well, looks like I'm going to have to make time (at least this month). I can't let the nightshifts and crazy schedule keep me from providing the best meals for my body. 

3. Packing. I can't wait until I need to leave for work to think about food. I need to prepare and pack food ahead of time and have it ready to grab and go. 

I don't expect this challenge to be an easy one for me because fast food is so convenient (and often delicious). But, perhaps by taking a one month break from drive thrus and corner stores, I will develop new food preparation and eating habits while craving the junk less. 

Do you love your fast food? Or do you prefer to cook at home?