Category Archives: advice

Advice For New Moms

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Last year, when several of my friends and clients were getting ready to have babies, I polled some of my already-mom friends to get their suggestions on what friends and family could do to help new moms in those first few whirlwind weeks of life with a newborn. Now it is my turn to have a baby (plus I have a whole other batch of friends who are due in the next couple of months), and so I’ve reached out again to my expanding network of mamas to get some advice on what new moms should do for themselves to make the transition to parenthood feel a little more manageable.

Here’s what they had to say about the stuff  you’ll need, things you should do, and what’s most important to remember about this life changing experience.

Make Time For Yourself

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Find some time every day to step away from the baby, and take a moment for yourself. It may feel very hard or scary at first to break away for even short periods of time, but it was the primary piece of advice offered by my friends who have more than one child. If a well-seasoned mom is telling you that it’s important to make time for your own self-care, you know it’s advice that’s worth prioritizing.

As my friend Nina explains:

…once the baby arrives, a lot of attention gets shifted from mom to baby. But mom is recovering and her world has been rocked–so self care is important, as is asking for help…do your best to do something for yourself each day. Take a walk, take an extra long shower, etc.

Naomi, another mom of two, reiterated the value of a good shower.

No matter what, make time for a shower.
This was the one thing I stressed out about each day when I was home alone for those first few weeks after my husband went back to work – when would I get a chance to shower, if my baby wasn’t a good napper. Well, turns out, kids cry… frequently. And, if you miss the window of showering while they nap, nothing bad will happen if you place them in their crib and they’re safely contained, while you jump in the shower and have 10-15 minutes of hot, steamy YOU time. It does a body good.

She also added that in addition to making a little time for yourself every day, it’s also worthwhile to find time at least once a week to get out of the house on your own, and enjoy a bit of extended alone time.

Once a week, step away from the baby for an extended period of time.
Daddy (plus any other family) bonding time is important for both daddy and baby, so why not use that as an excuse to get out of the house, put on something other than clothes that have spit up on them, and go do something that requires either physical or mental energy for your own benefit and psyche. As much as you may want to sit at home on the couch snuggling with your tiny little human, fresh air and adult conversation (or just listening to music without baby cries interrupting you!) is SO worth it. Go for a walk. Spend some quality time with the dog at a local park. Go to a coffee shop and sit with a warm mug and people watch. Relish in the peace and quiet with a good book that hasn’t been touched since before you became a mom.

 

Spend Some Time With Other Adults

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While alone time will help you feel nourished and sane, it’s also important to spend some time with other adults.

My friend Erin recommends:

…[finding] some friends or neighbors that have young children and might be stay at home moms and try to do play dates/walks/etc.  The first few weeks are hard being in the house all the time so getting out and having some adult conversation is so nice!

She also encourages taking advantage of the fact that little babies tend to sleep a lot, which can make leaving the house with your little one in tow feel a lot less daunting.

Don’t be afraid to go out to dinner or go to get-togethers with friends/neighbors and take the baby with you. Take advantage of the first few months when they sleep all the time and this is actually pretty easy.  This goes for flying too.  We have only done short flights so far (under 2 hours), but every one she slept the entire time and the flight attendants are super helpful and nice when they see you walk on with a really small baby!

Build A Strong Support System

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This was another commonly shared bit of advice. Accept help from others when it is offered. Ask for help when it is needed. One thing I have learned over time is that people do not offer their help unless they actually want to give it. Don’t worry, if someone feels annoyed or put out by the thought of having to help you, they won’t offer in the first place. So trust that anyone who asks how they can help genuinely wants to be available and helpful to you. Take people up on their offers to come over and hold the baby while you shower or nap. Let people bring you food. Let them tidy up while they’re visiting. If you’re having a hard day, don’t be embarrassed to call up a friend and tell them that you need some company or a helping hand. It may feel selfish and overly indulgent in the moment to have people making you dinner and trying to anticipate and accommodate your needs, but trust that life will present many opportunities for you to make it up to them in the future by offering your help when it is needed.

Make Time For Each Other

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Don’t forget that your partner is going through this major change too. You’re in this together, and it’s important to use that relationship to bolster and lift each other up when you are feeling tired and frustrated. Remember, the baby is the enemy, not your partner.

My friend Alyssa‘s recommendation:

set aside time every single day to check in with your partner. It is so weird and hard, and tiring in the first few months, but if feels much less so if you are communicating well and having your feelings (fears, excitement, etc.) heard. It will also help you feel less alienated from your life before baby.

Soak It All In, But Don’t Feel Pressured To Love Every Minute Of It

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The thing I hear most often from new parents is that the time really flies by. Soak it in and try not to worry too much about what you’re doing right and wrong. And as Erin recommends, don’t fret about all of the other little things you aren’t getting done while you’re busy just enjoying your time with your new baby. The house may get dirty, the laundry might not be folded, there are probably lots of errands you need to run, but don’t feel guilty about letting those things slide while you devote your days to spending time with your little one.

But at the same time, don’t feel pressured to love every single second of motherhood. As Nina so wisely explains:

People will say “ENJOY EVERY MINUTE! They grow up so fast!”

Don’t feel bad if you aren’t enjoying it all. It’s hard. There are so many good moments! But also some really intense ones. So enjoy when your baby smiles, but don’t feel like a bad mom for questioning this whole parenting thing if your baby keeps you up all night, and don’t feel guilty for checking Facebook while holding your baby, or leaving your baby to go get a pedicure.

Other Miscellaneous Advice

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Stay hydrated and well-fueled.

Keep snacks and a water bottle nearby as much as possible.
Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, staying hydrated when you’re body is changing and you’re sleep deprived, is key. It’s easy to have hours fly by amongst the changing, burping, rocking, feeding routine and not have eaten a single morsel. Make sure you have granola bars, trail mix, protein (hard boiled eggs… string cheese…) and any other snacks that you enjoy, within arm’s reach. Portable, pre-packaged snacks are also good – frequent doctor’s appointments and grocery errand runs are great times to refuel!

Things you made need when recovering from a vaginal delivery:

ibuprofen, stool softener, super maxi pads with wings, tucks medicated pads, preparation h medicated wipes, and the little squeeze bottle the hospital gives you. Things down there can be rough for a little while!

Look out for signs of postpartum depression:

postpartum depression and anxiety are common, and the symptoms may be different than what you think they are. If you aren’t feeling right, talk with someone.

Stuff to have on hand:

invest in a good travel coffee mug and use it around the house instead of a mug.  It’s the only way a new mom will ever drink hot coffee.

[Keeping in mind that every baby is different:]

Rock N Play- This is so easy and convenient to move around from room to room or pack up when you travel.  I use this all the time when I need to shower.  I can sit [the baby] in this right outside the shower door and still keep an eye on her.  We have done a few road trips as well and have taken this for her to sleep in at night.  Much easier than packing up a bulky Pack N Play.

Bobby Lounger- Love this for the same reason as the Rock N Play.  You need a lot of “things” to sit them in when they’re really little and this is just so easy to move from room to room with you. [The baby] would nap in hers all the time.

Bibs and Burp Cloths- The amount of spit up and drool is no joke so you can never have too many of these!

Sleepers with zippers- The sleepers with the snaps I found to be super annoying when you’re doing diaper changes in the middle of the night (or anytime for that matter).  Do yourself a favor and buy the ones with zippers…..so much quicker and easier!

 

Lastly, while advice from other moms is helpful and it’s always nice to have a little guidance before you embark down a new and unknown path, remember to trust your own instincts. No two babies are exactly alike (not even those that are genetically exactly alike), and you’ll come to learn what works best for your baby and your family. Trust yourself, and let yourself off the hook if you feel like you don’t know what to do. No one has all the answers. Just like your kiddo, you have to learn as you go. Good luck to all of the new and soon-to-be mamas out there! Wishing you all safe, happy deliveries, and lots of sweet baby kisses.

 

Images for this post were provided by Naomi Caltaldo of Urban Row Photography. You can check out more of Naomi’s fantastic work at the Urban Row Photography blog, or schedule your own Maternity photoshoot today.

On Pushing Away Fear

I am not in the habit of rereading books. When I finish a book,  I tend to move on to a new one and rarely find myself returning to stories no matter how much I loved them the first time around. There are, as is always the case in life, a few exceptions to this rule. Ordinary People was the first “adult” book I ever read way back in fourth grade. The school library copy I was reading landed in a swimming pool when I was on vacation and I was forced to buy it because of the damage. It’s the same copy I still have and I’ve read it countless times since my elementary school days, gently turning the stiff, nearly ruined pages. When I was young, I also read Say Goodnight, Gracie over and over again. It’s an incredibly sad story and I cried every single time I read it. I’ve read To Kill A Mockingbird more than once because it was assigned reading in a couple of different classes. Same with The Canterbury Tales. And I’ve read Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild, several times now, even though it was only published four years ago.

Wild is the book I think about most often. It has stuck with me in a way that no other writing has. The wilderness, the solitude, the search for a self that is better and more whole than the person that heartache and self-hatred has forced you to become. I will return to certain passages in this book at moments in my life when I need particular inspiration. The section I go back to most often is one where Strayed writes about fear. As she first sets out for her long journey across the Pacific Crest Trail, Strayed describes her mental processing as the full weight of her decision (and of her immensely heavy, overpacked camping backpack) settles on her:

Within forty minutes, the voice inside my head was screaming, What have I gotten myself into? I tried to ignore it, to hum as I hiked, though humming proved too difficult to do while also panting and moaning in agony and trying to remain hunched in that remotely upright position while also propelling myself forward when I felt like a building with legs. So then I tried to simply concentrate on what I heard–my feet thudding against the dry and rocky trail, the brittle leaves and branches of the low-lying bushes I passed clattering in the hot wind–but it could not be done. The clamor of What have I gotten myself into? was a mighty shout. It could not be drowned out. The only possible distraction was my vigilant search for rattlesnakes. I expected one around every bend, ready to strike. The landscape was made for them, it seemed. And also for mountain lions and wilderness-savvy serial killers.

But I wasn’t thinking of them.

It was a deal I’d made with myself months before and the only thing that allowed me to hike alone. I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.

I am in the middle of a major transition in my life. My most significant transition yet. I find myself repeatedly returning to this passage. “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story…” Whenever I am feeling unmoored and anxious about an uncertain future and all of the hiccups, both large and small, that could greet me on my path, I make the conscious decision to tell myself a different story. I remind myself that I am strong, I am brave, I am safe. I tell myself that everything will be okay, because I have the power to deal with whatever comes my way. It is working. In the past few weeks, I haven’t felt even a little anxious about what the future holds for me. I feel confident and capable. I decided not to be afraid, and I no longer am. I am telling myself a different story and allowing that story to guide me.

It has been about a year since I read Wild in its entirety, but I return to this section probably once a month, pulling the book off of the shelf and opening directly to page 51, where the spine is a bit worn and loose from so much use.

Our lives are made up of thousands of little stories we tell ourselves, and that others tell about us. If you are feeling lost, afraid, stuck or unsettled, try evaluating the stories of your life and make the choice to tell a different one. Tell yourself you’re not afraid and perhaps, before you know it, you won’t be anymore.

3 Ways to Curb Irrational Worries

There is an old pine tree in my front yard that sits just beyond my bedroom window. In the morning, I can watch the birds flying back and forth through its branches while I am still in the bed. When a storm rolls in and the wind picks up, I can see its limbs sway back and forth as I drift off to sleep.

This past winter, we were hit with a blizzard that brought high winds and nearly three feet of snow. My mother called me early on when the snow first started to fall to tell me that she thought we should consider sleeping in a room at the back of the house, far away from the pine tree. She was worried that the wind and heavy snow would bring the tree down, and being in such close proximity to the house, that its branches would come crashing through the house, smashing right through to the bedroom and endangering us in our sleep. “We’ll definitely consider that,” I told her, and then never gave it another thought. This tree must be 100 years old if it’s a day. It has survived other blizzards and hurricanes and countless storms. It is thick and sturdy, and I have no doubt that its roots run deep and long through almost the entirety of our yard. I felt pretty confident that the pine tree wasn’t going anywhere. And it didn’t. It didn’t even lose a single branch.

In case you might think I am sharing this story as a way to poke fun at my poor mother who just wanted to be sure that I was safe, let me share a more recent incident with you. One that has nothing to do with my mom at all.

Our porch light is an old glass light fixture that slowly through the summer fills up with dead and decaying bodies of a bazillion small moths and other bugs. We noticed recently how dim the porch seemed at night and saw that the fixture is about two thirds of the way full of bugs. It is a real pain to clean out because the bottom of the fixture cannot be detached. All you can do is remove the top and attempt to scoop the bug carcasses out with your hand. This is a job I refuse to do because I am too short and it greatly surpasses my gross tolerance. So until my husband decides that he’s ready tackle this disgusting task, the bugs will keep finding their way in and eventually the light may be blocked out entirely. The only harm really is that our porch light won’t be as visible as it usually is. But for some reason I decided the other day that while a bazillion bug bodies pressed up against the light bulb was fine, a bazillion and one would be too many, and the whole thing would almost certainly catch on fire and burn our house down. So I insisted that we shut off the light completely until a time when we can clear out the fixture. I didn’t make this decision the moment I initially saw how full the fixture was, though. I made it later that night, while we were already cozy in bed and I simply couldn’t stop thinking about how the porch light was going to catch fire at any moment.

I am a worrier. My mother is a worrier. Her mother was a worrier. Some families pass down antique jewelry from generation to generation. Ours passes along an irrational fear of incredibly unlikely worst case scenarios. It is no more likely that my porch light will catch fire (as it didn’t last summer in the same situation) than that the giant pine tree in my front yard will come crashing through my bedroom and impale me in my sleep. And yet, while I can write off my mother’s concern as an over-the-top needless worry, it is much more difficult for me to rationally evaluate my own bizarre fears and let them go without another thought.

Over the years, after many pointless concerns have eaten away at my sanity and sleep cycle, I have developed a few methods for addressing these irrational fears and putting the breaks on my worrying before it has a chance to get too far beyond my control.

Designate someone as your rationality meter.

My husband is a very practical person. When something goes wrong, my instinct is to say, “okay, let’s make a list of all the ways this problem can spiral out of control and ruin our entire lives, and then we’ll sit together on the floor and cry about it for an hour.” Whereas he is more likely to suggest that we take a minute to think about how we might resolve the issue, and then simply go about fixing it. I guess his method makes more sense.

Whenever I feel a deep or nagging concern about something I will ask him, “is this something I should be worried about?” and if he’s immediately like, “absolutely not,” I know that I need to just let it go. I like to set my baseline at a state of constant low-grade worry so that if a real concern should arise, I’ll be ready. He only worries when there is actual cause to worry. So if he shows absolutely no concern about something that I assume deserves my full attention and diligent alertness, then I know it’s time to drop it and move along to the next worry. Don’t share your worries with a fellow perpetual worrier. You don’t need to fuel each other’s fires.

Imagine that somebody else has shared this concern with you.

Let’s return to my mother’s worry about the tree. At the time, I couldn’t believe she actually called me to suggest that I sleep in a different room for my own safety. It seemed like a completely unnecessary fear and one that I had no intention of indulging in my own mind for even a second. But again, it’s really no more absurd than my concerns about the stupid bug-filled porch light. And yet, because it was coming from her and not from my own head, I could brush it off as irrational and move along in a way that I can’t with worries I create in my own mind.

It can help to take your own worry and imagine it as a concern that someone else has shared with you. If my mom called me up and said that she was worried that if my porch light got any more bugs in it the whole house would burn down, would my reaction be to think, “well that seems like a completely unnecessary concern”? Yeah, it definitely would be. It can be hard to see a fear as irrational when it is your own fear. Imagine it as someone else’s fear and evaluate its rationality that way. If it would be ridiculous coming from someone else, it’s just as ridiculous coming from you.

Arm yourself with knowledge about what to do in emergency situations.

Trying to anticipate and predict every possible bad outcome no matter how far-fetched doesn’t actually do that much to stop emergencies from arising. Bad things happen. Freak accidents occur. You can’t stop things from going wrong by trying to dream up every worst case scenario ahead of time. Having a plan for what you would do in the case of various emergency situations (how would you get out of your house in a fire? who would you call in the event of an accident? where would you find your insurance info in the event that a pine tree came crashing through your roof?) gives you a greater sense of confidence that you can handle problems as they arise. I used to be concerned that if I was ever in accident or had to be rushed to the hospital or something, my husband might be in a meeting and I wouldn’t be able to get through to him to let him know what happened and get his help if I needed it. So we agreed that if either of us should have an emergency, we would call the other person twice in a row and then send a text that read 911 and that meant, no matter where you are and what you’re doing, drop everything. The only time I ever got into a car accident, go figure my husband was in an important meeting at the time. But when I called twice and sent the 911 text, I knew he would immediately call me back and felt instantly assured that everything would be okay because I knew I would be able to get through to him and he would be on his way to help.

If you do nothing else to try to address your worries, simply having a plan and trusting in that plan for emergencies can go a long way to reducing your fears.

These tips are meant to serve as ways to address concerns that may linger in your mind and make you feel unsettled, but that do not otherwise upset or infringe upon your general quality of life. If you find that you suffer from persistent worry and anxiety that you cannot move past or properly address on your own, or if any of your fears cause you to change your daily habits, or negatively affect your health and lifestyle, you should seek out the help and advice of a mental health professional. While it is true that the world can often feel scary, and that bad things can happen suddenly and unexpectedly, living with persistent, untreated anxiety is not ideal and will not guarantee your safety and wellbeing in the long run. While you may not be able to live a completely worry-free life, you deserve the opportunity to live in a way that is not guided or tempered by fear. Most trees stay standing even in the worst storms. Most lightbulbs burn out long before they can burn anything down. The world is mostly good and safe, and it’s a much better place to live when you can learn to enjoy it rather than fear it.

 

 

 

 

5 tips for beautiful wedding photos on a tight schedule

Wedding season stress relief continues! While I’ve already addressed how to reduce at least a little bit of wedding planning stress, it’s time to delve in to some simple ways to keep your wedding day as low stress as possible. I figured who better to ask for a little day-of planning advice than someone who knows what it is like to be right in the thick of it from wake up to last dance, and whose job it is to capture all the happy moments in between. Naomi of Urban Row Photography is back with some insider tips on how to plan for gorgeous wedding photos and reduce day-of stress. Take it away, Naomi!

 

1. be reasonable with your timeline of the day – build in some flexibility since no matter how punctual you are, there are lots of variables that can throw your schedule off.

View More: http://urbanrowphoto.pass.us/melissajimwedding

here are just a few of the considerations involved in the morning of your wedding…hair, makeup, flowergirl and/or ringbearer (who usually have a mind of their own!), weather, nerves, transportation, getting ready location, first look, flower deliveries, empty tummies, family dynamics, etc. the last thing you want is to feel like you’re running from one thing to the other and constantly trying to makeup time rather than enjoy the moment.

I suggest my couples break down their timeline into 2o-30 minute segments for rough planning purposes in the beginning and then get more specific as necessary, as the day progresses from ceremony to reception.

2. hire a photographer whose style you absolutely love and whose personality you enjoy being around.

View More: http://urbanrowphoto.pass.us/melissajimwedding

do you like drama and expressive lighting in your photos or are you more attracted to a natural light, bright and airy look? are you envisioning posed, editorial-type portraits or a more journalistic and candid, storytelling approach to your day?

your photographer is the one vendor (other than your planner, if you have one) that will most likely be with you from getting ready early in the day through the end of the night… you (and your groom!) should feel comfortable having them around, as if they’re just a friend who happens to carry a really nice camera! 🙂

by the way, if you answered yes to either of the latter parts of both questions, let’s chat… 😉

3. consider hiring a professional coordinator/planner or designating a close friend or family member to be the point person the day of.

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in my experience, planners are INVALUABLE and money well spent. they are masters of (realistic!) timelines and innovative designers who suggest things that are way more unique than what you’ve seen on Pinterest and has been done at the last 3 weddings you’ve been to! they are looking out for you AND your guests, and can make sure your dress is bustled in super-quick fashion and the flats you want to wear during the reception are ready to go on the side of the dance floor so that you can minimize any time spent away from guests! even if your budget doesn’t allow hiring a planner, consider asking one of your close friends who’s not in the bridal party, to be there to help direct group family photos or rally the troops when your photographer is looking for uncle joe and he’s nowhere to be found as the sun is going down and that golden light is quickly disappearing! 😦 I’ve seen the chaos happen more than enough to know that having a point person is immensely helpful for everyone involved. You can’t do it all – and this is the one day to delegate tasks when people want to help!

4. take engagement photos (and plan your hair and makeup trial to coincide with your engagement session)!

View More: http://urbanrowphoto.pass.us/sarajakeengagement

in the last 4 years, I have yet to meet a couple who was 100% comfortable and at ease in front of the camera the first time they were photographed. Establishing a relationship with your photographer long before your wedding will make your wedding photos more enjoyable, more natural and more specific to the two of you since it allows us to learn about you two as a team; your quirks, your personalities and how you interact together. It is almost impossible to become comfortable having your photos taken for the first time as a couple, on your actual wedding day. No matter how long you’ve been together as a couple or how comfortable you are at your wedding venue, practice makes perfect. 🙂

having your hair and makeup done the day of your photoshoot not only gives you more confidence, but it allows you to see how both will look in photos and let your stylist know if there’s anything you’d change!

5. consider a first look!

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some people are worried that doing a first look will take away from seeing each other at the ceremony for the first time. we did a first look when we got married and so do 85% of the couples I photograph; I know from first-hand experience that doing a first look is a whole different emotional experience than seeing each other as you walk down the aisle.

your first look is an intimate, private moment with just the two of you and your photographer shooting out of sight until you’re ready; typically opting for a first look will also result in more bridal portraits and calms your nerves immediately, when you see each other.

If you’ve made it all the way through those tips, you deserve a piece of cake… right now! 🙂 I’d love to answer any questions you may have specifically – feel free to email me at naomiscphoto@gmail.com so we can chat! And last but not least, thanks for having me, Claire! 🙂

As an additional thank you for stopping by, I’m happy to offer a limited-time promotion to take 10% off any 2017 wedding package when fully booked by July 15, 2016.

*fully booked requires retainer payment and signed contract. mention code: WELLNESS*

 

Managing Wedding Planning Stress

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Last Wednesday, I celebrated my 8 year wedding anniversary. Since Memorial Day Weekend seems to mark the start of wedding season, I thought I would take the occasion to offer a little advice to newly engaged couples who find themselves in the thick of wedding planning. Now that I’m 8 years removed from the experience of planning a wedding, I can look back on it with some fondness, but boy did it feel stressful at the time. I have both planned a wedding (with some significant budget concerns), been a maid of honor, a bridesmaid, and a guest at many a wedding at this point, so please trust that these insights have been well researched.

1. Try not to get too caught up in details.

Weddings are memorable at the macro level. There’s an overall feeling of love and joy that is captured in a good wedding, and while the little details may help contribute to that feeling, they aren’t as important as they seem when you are in the process of choosing between all the little ways to make your wedding feel extra special. Don’t get too stressed out about choosing your color scheme, or flowers, or having the most delicious cake anyone has ever tasted. I have been to LOTS of weddings, and I promise you that I don’t remember what the flowers were at any of them. Not a single one. I can’t tell you who had large centerpieces and who had small ones. I don’t remember anyone’s bouquet, or if they had flowers decorating the ceremony. I went to two weddings last fall, which is not that long ago, and if you put a gun to my head I still wouldn’t be able to tell you what the flowers were at either of those events. Do you want to know what people will think about your wedding cake? That it tasted like cake. Have I ever eaten a chocolate wedding cake? I don’t know. Maybe? I don’t remember. All cake tastes like cake in a person’s memory. The only wedding cake I remember at all sticks in my mind because it had green frosting. But I still couldn’t tell you what the flavor was. If you need to cut cost, and save yourself some stress, do so by winnowing down these smaller items. If you are trying to choose between two different place settings, go with the cheaper one. Decision made.  No one will know the difference. No one will remember them at all. These little things all mesh together in people’s minds overtime and just become “wedding things” rather than specific elements of any one particular wedding. I have had people compliment me on how delicious the cake was at my wedding. That’s pretty weird, because I didn’t have a cake. Don’t sweat the details, they really don’t matter.

2. Focus on what makes your relationship special.

Your wedding is a celebration of your relationship, your union. Make it about you. By that I do not mean become completely obsessed with yourselves and make outrageous demands on your friends and family, but rather use your wedding as an opportunity for everyone to get to know you better as a couple. There may be a specific formula your ceremony has to follow, especially if you’re going with a more traditional, religious service, but try to find ways to incorporate private stories and little known anecdotes into the official proceedings. When I got married, our rabbi did not know either of us ahead of time. She asked each of us to write her a letter about the other person that she would then use when putting together the ceremony. We both wrote very personal letters that included stories about each other and our relationship that were not really widely public knowledge. She ended up reading each letter in its entirety during the ceremony. At first I was horrified, but I have to admit that it gave our ceremony a wonderfully personal quality, and made our wedding feeling deeply meaningful and poignant. Find small ways to open your relationship up to your guests and give everyone a peek at what you two mean to each other, without any reservations or sense of guarding. Be vulnerable and your wedding will feel more meaningful, and memorable. Those are the details that are worth spending your energy on, and coming up with them together will be a nice reminder of why you decided to get married in the first place.

3. Make time to talk about anything but the wedding.

Wedding planning can be very all consuming. Pick a week each month where you don’t do any planning. Take a break and just enjoy each other’s company as you did before you had to plan a major event with far too many moving parts. It’s important to step back from the wedding part of things and nurture the parts of your relationship that got you to this point. There are two things that are true of every wedding I’ve ever been a part of: no matter how well you plan, you’ll be rushing around to get things done on the weekend of the wedding, and it all will come together in the end. So don’t worry about taking some time away from your planning each month.

4. You can’t please everyone.

Some people are sure to gripe that the date you picked is inconvenient for them. Some people might not like where they are seated at your wedding, or complain that they couldn’t hear the ceremony. Others might be unimpressed by your food choices. Some people will piss and moan that the bartender won’t let them order shots. Some people just love to be sour about everything, and you’re never going to please them no matter how hard you try. Let it go. Most people will have a good time at your wedding because it’s a party and most people enjoy parties. If you have fun and feel happy, most of your guests will join you in that feeling. If you find out either in person or through the grapevine that one of your guests wasn’t especially pleased with the festivities, oh well. Thank them for coming and for the lovely new blender they got you, and then move on with your life.

5. Keep the comparisons to a minimum.

I was the first of my friends to get married, which was sort of a blessing and a curse. I didn’t really know what I was doing and didn’t have other weddings to look to for guidance, but I also didn’t have a bunch of other weddings to compare my planning to. There will be things you love from other people’s weddings. Incorporate those elements into yours if you want, or if you can, but don’t feel pressured to make your wedding live up to anyone else’s. It’s your event, your budget, your priorities. Do what makes the most sense for you, and remember, in the long run, no one will really remember all of the little differences between your wedding and all of the other ones they’ve been to anyway!

 

5 Tips For Working At Home

When I first started my business, I worked out of my house. I set up my massage studio in our basement, and would operate my administrative and marketing efforts from our dining room table. Business was slow to start, which gave my days an aimless, unstructured feeling. It was hard to force myself to sit down at my computer and work on my business plan, but so easy to plop down on the couch and waste a few hours watching TV. To this day, a good chunk of my work still takes place from my home: scheduling, marketing, service planning, continuing education, bookkeeping, etc. I give massages at my studio, but all of the other work for my business is still done at my dining room table. As telecommuting and flexible scheduling become increasingly popular, I am meeting more and more people who put in at least some of their work hours from home. In many ways, working from home is glorious: no commuting, no in-person meetings, no small talk with coworkers, no uncomfortable work clothes and high heels, no freezing cold offices. But without the structure of a regular workplace, it can be hard to get yourself going in the morning, and stay productive throughout the day. If you’re just starting out with telecommuting, or struggling to make working at home work for you, here are a few tips to help you out.

1. Put on pants.

Establish a routine for your mornings and stick to that routine. Get up and get dressed like you would if you were going into an office (though, in more comfortable clothes. You don’t need to sit around in a suit, but you also should avoid wearing pajamas all day), have breakfast, make a cup of coffee. Creating a routine gives your day structure and shifts you into the right mindset for working. I used to wake up and shuffle my way through morning without any particular routine and often found that I’d look up and it would be 2pm, and I was still wearing my pjs and no matter how much I had managed to get done that day, I suddenly felt like a gross, lazy, unproductive person. Brush your hair, put on real pants. Act like a person who is at work, not like a college student on a Sunday morning with a bad hangover.

2. Sit in a chair.

I have so many clients whose back, shoulder, and neck tension have become worse since they started working from home. Do not work from your couch, or your bed. Yes beds and couches are very comfortable, but they also all but guarantee that you will slouch and hunch over your computer more. Try to create a space in your home that replicates an office setup. Put your computer on a desk or table. Sit in a chair that has some support. Do not sit on your couch with your computer in your lap. Your back will thank you in the long run.

3. Get out of the house from time to time.

When you work from home, you can easily find yourself spending a full day without stepping out into the world beyond your front door. Take a break in the middle of your workday and get outside. Go for a short walk. Meet someone for lunch. Take your computer and embrace the coffee shop telecommuter aesthetic. Talk to other humans from time to time.

4. Step back from the computer screen.

If there are tasks you can do that don’t require a computer, then do them away from the computer. Give your eyes a rest. Eye strain from staring at screens is a real thing. If you get a lot of headaches and feel very fatigued at the end of the day, try cutting back your computer time and giving your eyes a break.

5. Set a start time and an end time and stick to them.

There seems to be a belief (and concern on the part of employers) that having people work outside of a traditional office will mean that they work less and waste more time. But the opposite is just as likely. Not having the structure of an office environment and a clearly defined workday can lead people to work all day long. In fits and starts, and little chunks, they remain constantly available to respond to work inquiries and address last minute issues and assignments. If you want to keep your work life from bleeding over into your personal life, give your workday a framework. You don’t have to stick to specific hours like you would in a traditional work environment, but it’s helpful to have a sense of when your workday will begin, and when it will wrap up. Set a time to end your day and avoid dealing with any work-related matters after that time. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean your whole life has to be about work. You still deserve time with your family, friends, and for yourself without work intruding on those experiences.

3 Self-Employment Insights

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I will often get asked why I decided to become a massage therapist and my answer is usually a confusing amalgam of desires to be active and engaged, but caring and therapeutic, with a focus on health, but in a way that was flexible and adaptable, and would allow me to work with a wide variety of people, but with the opportunity for a targeted focus, and so on. The more simple answer, though, is that I wanted to work for myself and this seemed like a good way to make that happen.

I am in my seventh year of being self-employed and I have found that, like all things, really, it has its ups and downs. For anyone who is considering making a shift to being your own boss, or has just started out on the self-employment path, I have a few insights to share that I hope will help you in your planning, and in creating a new direction for your career.

Your personal schedule is not as flexible as you may have hoped, or as other people think it is.

My friends and family often assume that I can take as much time off as I want, whenever I want, since I set my own schedule. While I may not work a standard 9-5, 40 hours a week schedule, being self-employed has not afforded me an unlimited wealth of free time and flexibility. When I was first starting out I would take any and all clients I could get, and would often bend over backwards to accommodate their schedules. In the first few years of my practice, I had very few free evenings to spend with friends, because evenings are when everyone else is done with work and wanting to come in for a massage. I was afraid to take any vacations beyond a couple of days, because I didn’t want to miss too many opportunities to schedule new clients. Nowadays, my schedule is so busy that I am often booked up about a month in advance, which means that if vacations, time-off and social gatherings aren’t planned well in advance, or don’t happen to fall on one of my off days, odds are I won’t be able to join in. I can’t duck out of the office an hour early like a lot of people can. If you want to see me on short notice, you need to be free around 1o in the morning.

The struggle for work-life balance doesn’t go away when you’re your own boss. In a lot of ways, I’ve found that it becomes even more difficult. Try to establish clear boundaries for your time and your energy from the start. Set a time when your work day will begin and when it will end, and try to stick to those times and avoid engaging in any business-related activities outside of that range. It can be hard to do, but if you get in the habit of separating your work life from the rest of your life early on, you’ll be happier in the long run.

Your successes and failures are your own, which is wonderful, and terrifying.

During the first three years of my practice, I would get waves of new clients out of the blue and I would feel wonderfully successful and excited. It’s all happening, I would think. I have arrived! But then the next month would be stunningly, impossibly slow and my mood would come crashing down and I believed that surely this meant I was doomed to fail completely and no one would ever come back again, and I would have to return to working for someone else, because clearly I wasn’t cut out for running my own practice. I know now that this is just how these things often work. It takes time to establish a steady, reliable business. It takes time to build up a regular, faithful clientele. Even though my practice is well established at this point, I still have some weeks, or even some months that are slower than I would have liked or expected.

You need patience and resolve, and a healthy does of faith to run your own business. Accept that things will ebb and flow for a while, and that’s natural and to be expected. Celebrate those periods where you’re really busy and feeling super successful, but try not to beat yourself up or get too gloomy about those times when the work isn’t coming in. It doesn’t mean that everything is falling apart.

It helps to make connections, get creative, and build a network of support around you.

Make friends with other self-employed people. Connect with people who run businesses that are similar to yours. It has never been my experience that separating yourself from your competition will make you more successful. It is helpful to connect with people who understand how your particular business and market works. You can get ideas from each other, learn from each other’s mistakes, get insider tips that will help you save money and make better financial and marketing decisions. I have several friends who are massage therapists. If I can’t fit someone into my schedule, I will refer them to one of my friends, and I have had several clients who have found me on the recommendation of another therapist who either couldn’t fit them in, or wasn’t the right style for their needs. The more people who know you and know about your work, and can help spread your name, the better. Don’t make yourself an island.

It’s also helpful to connect with people who are in entirely different fields. You can get a lot of great ideas just from talking to other people about their businesses, and I have found that it is really helpful to get an outside perspective about marketing efforts, services, or events that you are planning. Sometimes when building up your business, your focus can really narrow and it becomes hard to see beyond your specific target market and your established way of practicing. Plus, you would be surprised how often these connections can lead to interesting and unexpected collaborations. I am all about sharing ideas and advice with people who are just starting out with their own businesses. I don’t assume that I have all of the answers, or that what worked for me will work for everyone, but I think it’s nice to have someone to turn to with questions, someone to bounce ideas off of, someone who has been there before in the early days of self-employment who can say, “hang in there. It gets easier. You’re doing great.” It’s not easy being your own boss, but if you can create a network of support around you, it makes it a lot more fun.