I know you feel lonely. Like you don’t fit in. You have been called stuck up and aloof. You have always felt different. Left out. I know. Because you’re an eagle.
You know how to soar. You know how to spread your wings and let the wind carry you. You know how to lean into the wind, and you know how to soar.
But then the loneliness came. You realized you were all alone. You saw all the other birds and wanted to join them. You tried.
You joined with the chickens and wanted to be productive like they are. You wanted to roost safely at night in the coop. You wanted to be useful—producing new eggs every day. You tried to join in their conversation, but couldn’t relate at all. You tried pecking for worms or corn on the ground—but your beak wasn’t made for that.
You tried to join the ducks on the pond. You saw their graceful landing on the water. You tried to blend in, but they just looked at you funny. When they went underwater to fetch fish for their dinner, you didn’t fit in. In fact, you felt even more lonely.
I know you found the highest tree possible to build your nest. It wasn’t easy, but you laid your beautiful eggs. You sat on that nest while they developed and grew, even though you’d rather be flying.
You weathered the storms and sheltered your brood. You saw the other birds and wished you could join their flock, but you kept your place on your nest.
You see your eagle friends in the distance. They look so beautiful—swooping and soaring and doing their thing. You know that feeling. You know what it feels like to soar. You admire your eagle friends. You understand their flight and their success. Because you’re an eagle, too.
You wish you could soar with other eagles, but you can’t. Eagles don’t fly in groups, packs, or flocks. They fly alone. You’re lonely, because you’re an eagle.
You are majestic and strong. You fly into the wind and soar on top of it. You are at the top of the tree in your nest, not because you’re better than anyone else. No, it’s just because you’re an eagle.
When the storms come, you don't run and hide. No, you fly above the clouds--because that's what eagles do.
You tried to fit in. You tried to join the crowd. You tried to shake off this loneliness and isolation, but you never really will. Because you’re an eagle.
The only way to truly be fulfilled and satisfied is to fly. Because that’s what eagles do best. Feel the wind and soar. Feel the challenge and swoop and dive and fly. You must. Because you’re an eagle.
Perfectionism used to be my drug of choice.
The funny thing is, I didn’t even know it was a drug. I didn’t even know it was a choice. Perfectionism was so hard-wired into my core, mapped into my DNA before I was born, that I was blind to its effects, its grip, and its power over my life.
I was the kid who organized her friends’ toys during a playdate. I loved organizing my room on Saturdays. The books could be arranged by height, color, or size. My mom remarked that my room looked like a store display. I shrugged. How else should it look? To me, the options were perfect or nothing. I didn’t even know how to be anything else.
I worked really hard in school to get straight A’s. Music and writing were easy for me, but math and science was another language I didn’t care to learn. But the drive inside of me to get all A’s was overwhelming. At times, I chose to cheat on a test, just to pull up my grades. I did this over and over in elementary school, then vowed to quit in junior high. I slipped back into my cheating habits just a few times in high school, but hated the accompanying guilt. For all my effort, I only once achieved straight A’s. Every other report card had one lonely B staring at me. It would haunt me and punish me, standing out like it had been highlighted in bright yellow. For me, math and science were like whack-a-mole. I would grasp one, only to have the other one pop up. It was exhausting.
My teachers saw all my effort, and rewarded me, of course. They loved me. I was the “teacher’s pet” and the “star student.” My class notes were beautiful and classmates would ask if they could photocopy them. I became the school newspaper editor and loved correcting all of my classmate’s errors. I attended a private preparatory school, so my classes were very difficult. In college, I easily tested out of 12 credits to bypass the general Freshman level classes.
I had no idea there was any other way to live.
If you look in my yearbook my senior year, I’m pretty sure they labeled me the “perfectionist.” I shrugged. How else was there to be? Of course I had white-out in my purse. Why wouldn’t I? Of course my locker was always organized. Of course I had a planner and everything written down. Didn’t everyone? I was so focused on A’s and perfection that I truly hardly noticed anyone around me. I didn’t criticize them. I didn’t resent them. I just thought perfect was the only way to be.
In college, I pursued a music major and had to work extremely hard to survive the heavy class load. All the music majors around me took 5 years to graduate, but I had life plans and held myself to a standard of completing in 4 years. I also started a business teaching piano lessons, and got married. Stress was high, but it was every man for himself, so I just put my head down and worked. I mapped out 12 hours of my day, assigning a task for each 30 minute time block. I knew exactly when I was scheduled to be in class, when I was scheduled to practice, and when I should study. Dinner was often at 10:00pm when appetizers at Applebee’s were half price.
My senior year of college brought a black cloud of darkness over me. The depression that always lurked in the prereferral of my life came into full view. I could hardly get out of bed. I was numb. I was done. My mom urged me to slow down take one more year to graduate. I stared at her, aghast. It wasn’t even an option. My new husband got me through, lovingly, gently. The clouds broke and I could see hope again. I had no idea that my own unrealistic standards were suffocating me.
During chapel, the day before graduation, I was looking down at the program, half paying attention when my friend elbowed me.
“They just called your name,” she hissed.
“What?!” I replied.
“Go up there!” she whispered.
I had been acknowledged as “Music Graduate of the Year.”
I was shocked.
I had no expectation of winning an award that day. This would start a series of awards in my life that I never aimed to win. But when perfection is your goal, others notice.
My business went on to win numerous awards and press attention. I have a series of trophies in my office that feel fake to me. When I was awarded each one, they brought me shame and embarrassment. I didn’t feel I deserved them. I wasn’t living up to my own harsh standards. I was so far from where I wanted to be. In my heart, I couldn’t even accept the applause or praise.
They didn’t know what I knew: I was still falling so far behind.
The curse of perfectionism is that the finish line keeps moving. There’s always another goal, another standard, and of course there is, because what else am I supposed to do? Stop moving forward? Ridiculous. Stop and party? Not for me. Not who I am.
I love the thrill of the chase. I love learning and growing. I love creating.
I love throwing myself into a project from start to completion. I love making things happen.
I keep rejecting the standing ovations.
I’m not good enough. (Sit down, please!) This is only my warm-up. Wait until you see what I’m cooking up next!
No, seriously. This is nothing. The next thing will really be praise-worthy.
I’m just a simple girl. Nothing special. Why are you staring agape at me?
I feel God’s love pulling me, reaching for me, overlaying my life. I love him back, but I reject the acceptance that I’m enough just the way I am.
I must try harder. There’s always an area I’m falling short. I punish myself. I scold myself. My inner critic has a heyday. The shame floods over me, like a dark, warm blanket. My face burns and flushes. I have so far to go.
With others, I show grace. I give mercy. I’m only a slave master to myself. I show grace, but I cannot accept it.
What is grace? Grace feels to me like forgiveness for falling short.
Of course I fall short. Of course I’m not perfect (but, honestly, I want to be).
Growing up, my mom told me, “Life’s not fair.” My logic told me that, of course life isn’t fair, but as long as I can control something (like the schedule for unloading the dishwasher), we could sure try.
My mom told me, “You can’t be perfect.” My retort was that the Bible said Christ was perfect and my Sunday school teacher told me we should be like Christ. She sighed.
Only now, as a 40-year-old mom, my eyes being opened to the impossible standard I have held myself to.
I cannot blame anyone else. It’s in my DNA. It’s my drug of choice, my sin of choice, my cross to bear.
But now that my eyes are open? Grace.
Now that I see clearly the glasses that I have worn all these years? Grace.
My heart was broken when I researched the Enneagram and discovered that my type was a 1. Naturally, I thought I was a 3, the Achiever. Look at all I had accomplished! Look at all the awards I had won! But what didn’t line up is that awards don’t motivate me. They don’t drive me. They aren’t what pushes me forward.
Perfectionism, or improvement, does. The awards are simply a man-made construct that others have awarded me. I didn’t ask for most of them. I just did my best and happened to win. You can take them all away and I won’t care. They don’t define me.
But ask me if my heart beats for improving systems, life, procedures, myself, my world? Yes.
Beautiful grace whispers, like the cool breeze on a summer day. Like a mist coming in off the water. It’s ribbons rippling in the wind flood my soul and bring a balm to my lifelong wounds. There’s grace. There’s rest. There’s forgiveness.
I rest. I sigh. I breathe.
I’m still me, and I’ll keep being me. But now I know. Now I see.
I see the years of striving and punishing myself. I see why I rejected the words of praise and the applause from my audience. I see the root of who I am, and how I was made, and the road ahead.
I’ve always prayed, “Use me, Lord,” and that’s exactly what I pray now. Pick me up, like your instrument, and use me for your glory. I’ll be me, and you take over.
I’ll reach out and receive what you’ve always been trying to give me: grace
I'm a weird mix. I'm super creative and want to fly by the seat of my pants. It's hard to pin me down on details and I much prefer to change my mind every day on what I'm doing and where I'm focusing.
However, I'm also extremely organized and hate clutter. It messes with my mind and makes me anxious. So homeschooling has been a challenge for sure! I want my kids to learn at their own pace, be curious and explore new topics, but I also want clean surfaces and organized shelves. I would prefer to use A Beka and plan out the whole year, but I know that next week I'll change my mind so we don't lesson plan at all (that's for another blog). Plus, to be able to run a business AND homeschool, organization is absolutely essential!
Many of you have asked me HOW I organize our homeschooling space, so I took some pictures and thought I could show you best on a blog post.
This is an actual picture of our homeschool room.
Yes, it looks like our kitchen table. Because it is! We have found over the years that the kitchen is the heart of our homeschool and it works best for all of us to center around this table. Granted, I took this picture before any of the kids woke up, but it's still the main place we hang out.
Because I LOVE books but I also like to HIDE them, we have this big piece of furniture (from Hom Furniture) just across from our kitchen. Behind the doors are all the books I'm encouraging my kids to check out this year. We have lots of games for easy access, because a lot of learning happens while we play games and hang out together!
Notice the OLD encyclopedia's on the shelf. I got them cheap off of Facebook marketplace. Grab a set because it's like having a printed set of Google in your living room for your kids to flip through. (My youngest spontaneously started writing a paper from her research--a rare sighting, but it does happen, my friends! Just give them the tools.)
The big blue yoga ball is #reallife because the 11 year old likes to hang upside down and bounce while reading or learning or hanging out. Here's what is inside all the cupboards. Yes, we have Friends DVDs. That's for parental sanity.
Please notice the giant "SIMPLIFY" sign on the top of the bookshelves. I'm always reminding myself to slow down and simplify my life.
Also notice the globe. Essential for geography and seeing the big picture of the world while we read or explore movies! I have learned so much myself, just from keeping a globe in our family room!
In our home office (which was the dining room, but we added doors and two desks for me and the hubby) we have a wonderful red armoire, which was gifted to me for free from one of my piano students! I LOVE this piece of furniture because I can hide all of our schoolbooks out of sight. When the kids were younger, my house looked like a preschool or elementary classroom with fun posters on the wall, but now that they are older, I prefer to hide everything, unless we are using it.
Here's the other side of the office, so you can see my desk and my husband hard at work. This office is super close to my kitchen table, so everything is easily accessible. We have a printer and a copier (so needed for homeschooling) and a paper shredder in the corner. Below, you can see the barn door closed and how close the office is to the kitchen table.
I love teaching my kids how to use computers, create websites, design graphics, and Lydia (pictured here) loves the website www.alwaysicecream.com for some of her school! I sneak in some of my own work while helping them, and then I have separate times for working when I'm in the office doing coaching calls or time at my music school when I'm meeting with my staff.
Homeschooling has allowed us so much freedom to learn and work from home. I love that my kids can learn at their own pace and pursue what interests them! And I LOVE that I can grow my company beside them!
I'd love to hear about YOUR homeschool. What works for you? And how has it all evolved over the years?
(If you notice the paper chain in the last picture, we are counting down the days until my oldest moves away to college. On the one hand, I'm so proud that he is flying on his own, on the other hand, I can't believe I'll only have three at home this fall! Homeschooling is sneaky. Just when you figure things out, they graduate!)
I'd love to know how old your kids are. Comment below!
Do you have big dreams in your heart? Do you have a goal that feels impossible to reach, and yet so close that you could reach out and touch it?
Maybe life has interrupted your plans and dreams. Kids came along and now life responsibilities weigh heavily upon your heart. There’s not much time for dreaming when the laundry pile never stops growing and hungry mouths are begging to be fed again and again and again. (Seriously, how many times a day do they need to eat?!)
And yet. Deep in your soul there is a longing. A pull. A quiet desperation that you were made for more than this. More than the dishes and the cleaning and the calendar-managing.
I understand. For the last 18 years, I’ve been raising (and homeschooling) kids while valiantly trying to grow my music school into a stable company that can support my family and four kids. And yet there’s still more in my heart. More dreams that sometimes crawl up my throat and threaten to choke me. I know God created me to do more than just be a taxi driver and schedule coordinator for my family. I know I have gifts and talents and abilities that He can use for His glory and to help other people. And yet I want to be there for my kids. I want to be the best mom I can be. The pull and the tug of war within me is not small. It’s there every day and how do we reconcile that? How do we keep going and keep our dreams alive and, at the same time, keep our kids, plants, and husband fed and watered and alive?
Re-define where you are going
I do the only thing I know how to do. I keep re-evaluating my priorities every month, every semester, every year. I make small tweaks and changes when necessary, and I keep straining my eyes down the path, wondering if we are headed in the right direction. Sometimes I make wide-sweeping changes, scrapping what we have been doing, and grabbing the wheel of life to make a hard turn. And sometimes, it’s just a quarter-inch turn adjustment, hardly noticeable. Adding one small habit to my day, eliminating another one. Picking up the phone, making that appointment, getting on my knees and praying. Journaling. Seeking out the wisdom of friends. Or simply hanging on to make it through another day.
Eliminate soul-suckers and time-wasters
Life is exhausting, yes? Going to the grocery story can be a three-hour event. And how many times do I really need to touch each item? Pull it off the shelf, examine ingredients, add to cart. Place on the conveyer belt, now pack into the grocery bag. Place the bag in my cart, then my trunk. At home, grab as many bags as humanly possible (or summon the teenaged boy away from his XBox to help), place on the counter. Take out of the bag. Finally put it away where it belongs in the fridge or pantry. I mean, c’mon! If I think about it too much, I’ll lose my mind! There are orphans and starving children in the world and my day is consumed with the grocery run and all it entails? Sometimes the dichotomy of it all makes me silently scream in my head. And then my kids quietly grumble that the meal that isn’t their favorite? And am I a terrible mom if I let my voice roar and remind them about the starving kids in Haiti? Or am I to keep silent and command them to set the table with a stern look that says, “Don’t bring this up today. Eat what you are given.” It’s all enough to kill the noblest of dreams for dreams are far away and tucked away in my heart—and my kids are right in front of me, needing new socks and shoes because their toe poked right out of the top at camp last week. I sigh. I pray for patience. And when the house is quiet and I’m finally alone, I journal about my dreams and I wonder if anything more is actually possible while these kids need me so desperately.
I order groceries online now, to save myself the trauma from the trip to the store, except when I forget to place that order and back I go, stumbling through the aisles, trying to make the healthiest choice while simultaneously being conscious of the price and all my kids’ preferences of which lunch meat they prefer. My head threatens to explode while I smile nicely at the lady in the deli, wondering if I should ask her why she looks so sad and is she okay?
I try as much as possible to stay in my “sweet spot”—I don’t fix the vacuum cleaner anymore or even attempt to reset the internet router. I know which kids are good at fixing electronics and I try to do what I do best—keeping the schedule on course and hugging the nine-year-old and scheduling playdates and keeping the pantry stocked. But when life threatens to suck your passion and drive right out of you? When you just can’t automate the late-night talks with your teenager? You do what you have to do. You say, “Come here” and you hold that child that once kicked inside of your body and who is now is bigger than you are. You pray silently for wisdom and desperately hope your words will heal and not scar and will bring comfort somehow, instead of bringing a wedge of silence and teenaged eyes that glare, “You just don’t understand, do you?”
Automate everything you can
I love Amazon. (If only the cardboard that stacks up in my garage could be used to heat or cool our house—that would be more efficient.) I order everything humanly possible to be delivered right to my door and I hold back from hugging the delivery man, because he has saved me a trip to Target and for that I am so grateful. But when I’m on my phone all the time, making lists and ordering things and adjusting the calendar? Do my kids know I’m not playing Candy Crush? Or will they grow up and say, “My mom was always glued to her phone”? These are the things I worry about when I’m driving them all over town, remembering the email I need to reply to, the coffee date I said I would reschedule and then completely forgot about. When I leave the house for a meeting, an interview, or a conference, I worry that maybe I shouldn’t be both a stay-at-home-mom and working mom and maybe I should have chosen a different path. Maybe I’m screwing this all up and maybe there just isn’t one way to do this, so why do we judge each other so harshly and why are moms pitted against each other? I know we are all fiercely devoted to our choices, but can’t we just all love and support one another?
I love the reminder feature on my phone and I beg it to remind me to take my vitamins and exercise and change the cat litter. I know I shouldn’t think of Siri as a friend, but sometimes it happens because she is on my side—she’ll read emails and texts to me, tell my kids how to spell a word, and even ask if I need anything when I just accidentally press down the home button too hard. It’s kind of rude when she accidentally talks to me during church, but she is so helpful the rest of the time, and who can really fault her?
There’s so much to juggle, and although every day I crawl into bed with undone tasks and projects still begging for attention, I lovingly caress my remote and thank Jesus for Netflix, so my brain can relax for just twenty minutes before the parade of kids enters my room, wanting hugs and kisses and advice, and who remind me that they need a blue shirt tomorrow and “Mom, I really haven’t seen my best friend in awhile so can we schedule that?” I smile and hug and kiss and desperately hope my face looks genuine and they can’t read my thoughts which consist of “I really want to watch my show so please leave now and go to bed, please, so I can be alone just for a tiny little bit.”
I don’t struggle with insomnia—I know some people do, but my head hits the pillow and the next thing I know it’s 2:00 a.m. and I’m stumbling to the bathroom because after birthing four babies, I rarely go all night without peeing. I’m sorry for the over-sharing, but it’s true, and frankly, I love knowing the night isn’t over and I still have at least 3 hours and 45 minutes left of sleep. I don’t know why my body wakes me up at 5:45 a.m. every morning. I suspect it’s been trained by the toddlers who thought 6 a.m. was a perfect time for cartoons and cereal and even though I hadn’t even had coffee yet, they were ready to do math worksheets and crafts. So, I gratefully wake at 5:45 a.m., because no one is awake and my brain is finally clear, and I can steal a few hours completely alone, just me and the cat (don’t you dare meow loudly and wake up those kids) and my computer. Facebook is a nice companion in the morning, too, and I know we are all logged on too much and what must my mother and grandmother think? But it’s so much more convenient to message two or three of my loving, caring, encouraging friends every morning than to try to schedule lunch dates and coffee dates and I’m-so-sorry-but-I-have-to-reschedule events. And time zones and continents don’t really matter on Facebook, and so I thank the founder Mark Zuckerberg and enjoy my quiet time, make another cup of coffee, scan my calendar and my to do list, and when the house awakens from its slumber, I start another day of juggling and balancing and work and home and meetings and appointments, and oh, yes, the emails that never end.
Love what you do. Do what you love.
There are mom tasks and life tasks that don’t care if they belong in your sweet spot or if you have a talent for them, they just must be done. Everyone knows this and pushes on and just gets it done (or gets left undone, either way). We smile when needed, and cry when no one is looking. We keep re-evaluating choices of school and work and vacations and budgets and we wonder when we’ll get a little time for that hobby or passion that was such a strong presence in high school or college.
I glance longingly at my piano or that novel I’ve been meaning to read and promise them both that I’ll be back. But for now, I’m up to my eyeballs in running my little company and encouraging my staff. I’m trying to interview more people to ease the burden, and don’t forget the husband that probably feels neglected. We steal away for a quick date night (thank you Lord that our kids can be home alone for a little while now) and we smile across the table and I seriously think, “Weren’t we just 16? Where did all the time go?” You make me laugh and I remember why I fell for you in the first place—you were the only one that could make my stress vanish with your corny jokes and clever sarcasm. I knew no one would ever love me as much as you do and I knew you brought some sanity to my crazy. So now when I resent you for being steady and unwavering and wanting to reduce risk? Aren’t I despising the very thing that drew me to you in the first place? I sigh. I’m sorry. I need you and I love you and I’m so thankful that you balance out my crazy dreams and big ambitions.
Every day I try to do one thing that makes me smile and remember that I’m more than “Mama” and “Boss.” I try to squeeze in one little pocket of joy in the midst of all the duties and unquestionable obligations that fill my days to the brim. Maybe it’s just sniffing my Essential Oils or reading a sappy story on the internet. Sometimes I grab a quick phone call with my dear friend, or I drive through Starbucks and order a mocha—spend too much and curse the prices while gladly handing over my money for just a sip of happiness. I blast my favorite music in my minivan and when the Grandpa next to me at the stoplight smiles knowingly, I sheepishly turn it down. . .a little. These are my moments of oasis and only by lifting myself out of the tangible and into my dreams do I continue to put one foot in front of the other.
I listen to my soul and when it’s screaming “I don’t want to do this! I hate this! I’m not good at this!” I delegate and ask for assistance. It helps. A little. I try to do more of what energizes me and less of what drains me. I try. There are pockets of time during my day when my soul soars and sings and I think, “This is me. This is what I was made for” and then I go into the kitchen and see the crumbs and the dishes and I sigh. And this is real life and this is not worth grumbling over, so I turn on the music, call the kids to help, and get the job done.
Life is filled with the tasks of life and motherhood and while we try to pursue our dreams, we still anchor ourselves to this life we signed up for—raising kids and nurturing hearts and smiling at neighbors and attending church, just to reconnect with our community. We all do the best we can and isn’t that all we can do?
We may have one foot in each world, but this is the life we have been called to.
Those dreams are still tucked in my heart. They whisper to me and I whisper back, "Some day. Some day."
There was a day when I hated my life. The credit cards were maxed out and the bank account was zero. I didn’t know if my marriage would survive, and eerily, there was another baby on the way. I dreamed of escaping and starting over and maybe I married the wrong man? Maybe this wasn’t supposed to be my life.
I drove and I prayed and blasted the music and surrendered. Maybe this was all wrong, but it was mine. And what could I do? What could I control? What little did I possess in my hands that I could turn around for good? I did the only thing I knew how—I grew my little side business. I poured my heart and soul into creating classes and lessons that people would love. I focused on giving them value and meeting a need. And it worked. And slowly we climbed out of our pit of debt and despair and the light broke through the clouds and the sun began to shine. I never took my eyes off the goal—the mountaintop that seemed so far away. I only looked down to find the next foothold, the next step in front of me. I kept pressing on, even when my foot slipped and I was face down in the mud and the mire. I pushed myself up, forced myself to enjoy the view while still pressing on forward. This is real life and this is hard. But it’s not worth lying down and surrendering. I won’t give up. What good would that do? What then?
The tears squeeze out of the sides of my eyes. This life is hard. It just is. But I have so much to be grateful for. I can always find a little glimmer of thankfulness. And my God is my rock and my anchor. He is the one to whom I run and find shelter. He leads me on my path and lights the way. He hands me a flashlight and says, “Go that way,” and I do.
I’ll never fit in anywhere I go. I remember one business conference I attended. I presented a short segment about advertising using social media, won an award, and was walking to dinner with some friends. I casually mentioned that I homeschool my four kids and my friend beside me halted at a dead stop. People behind her almost crashed into her. “What?!” she said, incredulously. “You do what?!?” I downplayed it, brushed it aside, and went changed the subject to more common ground: marketing and hiring and liability insurance. I’m fluent in that language, too, and it’s like I’m from both countries: the stay-at-home-mom world and the working mom world and yet I’m not at home in either.
Both my roommates in college, ironically, were missionary kids. They struggled with fitting back into the American culture, asked me about which socks were appropriate with which shoes, asked how to pronounce words they had only read in books, and couldn’t laugh at pop culture references from our childhood (they didn’t have the same cartoons that we did growing up). They belonged to both countries, and yet neither. And that’s how I feel.
When I’m at the pool party with the other stay-at-home moms I can laugh and contribute to the jokes about potty training and nursing and getting teens to do their chores. When we talk about homeschooling, I know all the various curriculum choices and exactly what to say to encourage a new mom starting out. But when my phone rings and I step away to take the call, what do they think? When I check my email on my phone every hour, do they glance sideways and wonder why I’m being rude? When I arrive at the park day dressed up more than they are, do I make them feel badly about their yoga pants and messy ponytail? Do I explain that I have a meeting after this or just let it slide and commiserate about Band-Aids and making dinner? I’m fully versed in both worlds, yet a foreigner as well.
I was driving down the freeway when I asked my girls, “Would you rather I hire a nanny to take you to the pool? And when I’m off work, I’m done working?”
“No!” they exclaimed. We want you.”
“Even when I’m busy and distracted and doing a phone call right before we go swim?”
“Yes!” they chimed.
It was unanimous.
They like their mama home, even though she is a bit frazzled and has a computer on her lap a lot. Granted, they don’t know life any other way, but I like to think we picked the perfect blend of our life for our family.
And I’m not asking for approval or understanding—I don’t need anyone to give me permission to live this life we’ve crafted and I won’t judge you for sending your kids to daycare or public school or going back to work. You do you, and I’ll do me, and although I feel that I have my feet in both worlds, I’ll figure it out and walk it out, because I love both worlds.
When I feel like I have multiple personalities, living multiple lives, I console myself that I’m just “multi-passionate” and I’ll let my soul soar because I get to be both business-owner-Jen and homeschool-mama-Jen.
I truly love both lives.
And when awards get handed to me and I don’t feel quite worthy?
When people clap for my accomplishments and I think to myself, “I’ve only just begun, please stop clapping” I smile anyway and look ahead.
There’s another mountain to climb and I’ll never quit.
I’ll keep pressing on. And if my journey inspires anyone at all to climb their own mountain and keep pressing on, I’ll consider that a little pebble in my pocket—a little souvenir that made this journey a little more worth it.
I don’t feel inspirational and I don’t feel worthy of any titles or prestige. I’m just me, climbing this mountain, making the climb. I’ll accept the challenge because it was what I was put on this earth to do. It’s my purpose. It’s just who I am.
I don’t pray for an easier path—I pray only for just enough strength to keep climbing.
I was sitting on a curb. The marching band was coming by. It was a hot day in southern Iowa and I was little. Seven or eight years old. I heard the music and my ears perked up. I saw the high school kids in their shiny uniforms marching by and then I saw the flutes. The beautiful gleaming silver flutes. I sat up straighter. I glanced at my mom. She smiled knowingly. I knew the flute was my instrument and one day I would learn to play.
In sixth grade we were invited to try a band instrument. I had my meeting with the director and confidently announced that I wanted to play flute. He gently warned that it was a very popular instrument, but I wouldn’t be swayed. I knew it was meant to be.
I remember our first lesson and learning 2 or 3 notes. I wanted to jump ahead in my book. I could already read music because I had been playing piano for five years. It was a different instrument, but easy and familiar at the same time. I already knew the language.
Other friends wavered and switched instruments, but I never did. I carried my small black case to and from school on Tuesdays, for my group lesson. In junior high and high school, I progressed and played with bands and orchestras.
And then the spark went out.
The flute became boring. I was one of twenty flutes in my high school band and I wasn’t motivated to get any better. Piano was my passion and it felt like it didn’t even matter if I actually played my flute or just faked it during rehearsal.
No one was really listening to me anyway. I sighed. What was I doing here? Did anyone even need me? What was the point?
Occasionally I would get asked to accompany the band on the piano. The piano part was quickly drowned out by the massive sound of the band, but it was a fun challenge and I loved it.
My senior year, I took a deep breath and approached the band director. “Could I, maybe, I mean, do you need…” I stuttered. “I’d like to play percussion,” I squeaked out.
Immediately he beamed. “Yes! We could use you on bells. Since you play piano, you should be able to catch on quickly!”
I was stunned. I didn’t expect a “yes” at all, and certainly not an exuberant one. I packed up my flute without sadness, only excitement, and headed to the back of the room. I finally had a new challenge. I recognized the music easily, of course, but I would be playing with two mallets, not 10 fingers. I bit the side of my cheek and tried. Yes, it would take some adjustment, but it was easy and fun.
Later that year, I would get to play bass drum, which was extremely easy, and powerful. I got stern looks from the conductor if I started going too fast. I was pulling the entire band along with me. I grinned. It was fun to have so much power.
At church, on our worship team (led by my parents) I longed to play piano and sing, but those spots were occupied—by my parents. I settled for playing flute, and really never enjoyed it at all. But, it got me out of my high school Sunday School class, and I got to hang out with my friend Chris before and afterwards, so I endured it. I played flute on worship team all the way through college, and grew to resent it more and more. It wasn’t until I married that boy Chris and we left our church to help start a new church that I would finally play piano and sing during church, which I did for the next 12 years.
In high school, even though I was growing tired of my flute, I often prayed, “God use me. Pick me up like a flute. I am your instrument. Flow through me.” I surrendered my life to God’s plan and sought to live up to a higher standard than my own. I just wanted God to use my life.
I’ve been married twenty years now, and my flute is still in my closet. I see it every day.
Sometimes I still feel like that high school girl, who wonders if anyone can hear her at all. There are so many voices out there. So many Facebook pages and blogs.
Does my voice get carried into the wind? Does it matter at all?
I recently approached a highly successful mentor of mine and very timidly asked if I could “play percussion” in her band (figuratively, of course) and was stunned when she jumped at my suggestion. She said I was perfectly qualified and she was thrilled. The timing was perfect and she needed me. I was stunned. I packed up my things and off I went on a new adventure. I thought of my high school band and realized you just never know when boredom will convert into a promotion.
When you are faithful with what you are given, and you show up doing the best you can, something new and wonderful could be just around the corner. I am embarking on a new adventure and I think I’ll always keep my flute in plain sight. It reminds me where I came from, and it represents my continued prayer, “God use me. Flow through me. YOU make the music. I am just the instrument. Pick me up and hold me. I’m yours.”
As a mom and business owner, I often feel like I’m jumping from piano to bells to bass drum to flute. I have different jobs and different roles. Sometimes I feel like no one hears or sees what I do. Sometimes the music cuts through the noise, like the high clear sound of the bells. My roles may shift and change, but I’m still the same person inside. And it’s all music that I’m playing.
And I’ll continue my prayer, “Lord, use me. I’m yours.”
Every week I've been adding new private coaching clients to my monthly calendar. I can actually hear the relief in their voice when we start working together. I wanted to take a quick moment and explain what coaching can do for you and your business.
1. One-on-one coaching gives you personal attention so we can focus on exactly what you're going through.
2. One-on-one coaching tailors our time exactly to your personality and learning style.
3. One-on-one coaching gives you tangible, actionable steps to move your business in the right direction.
If you're tired of wondering if you're doing the right thing, it's time to get a business coach on the phone so you can confidently grow your business!
Which one are you?
Ramp up Rhonda:
You're at the beginning stages of your business. Sometimes you have so many ideas that you're not quite sure where to focus next. You're making money, but not enough. Your biggest challenge is needing a strategy. You want to be sure you're headed in the next direction. You need a plan and you're tired of flying by the seat of your pants. You know you're meant to do something big. You just need a little help getting there.
Next Level Natalie:
You've been in business for awhile now and you have people working for you. You're contemplating changing the name of your business, moving to a bigger location, or really turning up the volume on your marketing so you can get to the next level. Your challenges are having enough time to get it all done. You need a plan and you need it fast. You're ready to really grow, but you want to be sure you're doing everything at the right time and in the right order. You know that with a few strategic moves, your business could really take off.
Benefits of Never Alone Coaching:
1. Monthly one-on-one 30 minute calls. We'll lay out a concrete plan so you know exactly what to focus on next.
2. Personality and strengths assessment, to really understand how you're wired and how this affects the growth of your business. Together, we'll discover how to turn up the volume on what you do best so you can LOVE your business.
3. Website assessment to fully optimize your online marketing approach. You'll receive a video with feedback about your website--what's working, what's not, and what we recommend to get your business moving in the right direction.
4. SEO assessment to ensure your business is showing up online in a big way. We'll give you suggestions on what you need to improve to maximize your online presence.
5. Facebook Page assesssment to unlock the potential of Facebook for growing your business. You'll receive a personalized video with feedback about your Facebook Page so you can crack the code on marketing on Facebook.
6. 9 week Video Course to help you assess your systems. If you can create less stress, more sanity, and more systems at HOME, then you'll grow your business faster.
7. Self-paced journal to help you focus your vision and know exactly where you are headed next.
Is Never Alone Coaching right for you? Let's talk. Book a call HERE.
What is a business? A business is simply seeing a need and filling it. Having a solution for a problem.
If you sell something or provide a service for something that people need, and are willing to pay for it, you have a business.
That's it in a nutshell. When you boil down what we do, we find a need and we fill it.
How do you grow your business? Well, people need to know about your solution! You have to express that you understand their problem and clearly explain the solution. But this is complicated, isn't it? Sometimes it's hard to relate to the people we are selling to. Sometimes we don't like to promote ourselves. And sometimes we are so busy providing the solution, we actually don't have time to promote at all!
Here's where systems come in. You have to have stable, dependable systems to promote the solution to the problem that your people are facing. You can use your website, email, Facebook, direct mail, word of mouth, etc. But you can't decide to promote your business only when business is slow. Honestly, your marketing and advertising needs to be a system in itself! Do you have a repeatable process that is a checklist that you complete every single week?
If you don't have enough people seeking the solution that you offer, then focus on your marketing. Focus on improving your messaging. Make sure you are speaking to the need that your customer already knows they have. They have pain--and you have the solution. Simply put, that is marketing and advertising.
Need some help with your marketing? Let's talk! Book a call here:
I wait in the car for my kids to come out of their theatre class. The heat is blowing full blast and my seat warmers give me a reprieve from the negative temperatures of our harsh Minnesota winter weather. I dare to take off my gloves--only to grab my phone. I check my email and Facebook, and then remember that I have been meaning to sign up my kids for summer swim lessons. I flip to Safari and search. Some websites I find are still desktop versions--I have to pinch and squeeze and zoom in. Others are clearly missing content--I can tell I've landed on a "mobile" site that is a stripped down version of their real website. I sigh. Frustrated, I flip back to Facebook.
This scenario is happening to moms everywhere. They are sitting in carpool lanes, thinking about YOUR services, and they are googling you. First of all, are they finding you? Are you ranking on page 1 when they search for what you do, in your town or city? Secondly, when they land on your website, is it a frustrating experience? Do you have 12 pictures all in a row that they have to scroll through? Can they click on your phone number or email address? Can they easily fill out a form--on their phone--to get more information?
As a busy mom of four kids, ages 9 to 16 (and I thought babies were busy! At least they napped. Now I'm constantly in the car, bringing my kids to one activity or another!) my phone is my lifeline. It's how I touch base with friends, order groceries, text my house cleaners, check on my staff, touch base with my husband, track my calendar, keep lists for buying gifts, and where I keep my to do list. I used to settle down on the couch for the evening with my laptop on my lap---but not so much any more. Almost everything I do as a mom is on my mobile phone.
When I flip to wearing my "business owner" hat, I can see that 70% of our website traffic for our music school is coming from mobile devices. So I know I'm not the only high-tech mom using my phone on-the-go.
Google is taking note.
In 2016, studies say that nearly 60% of searches were done on mobile phones. And the number just keeps climbing. More and more people are moving away from desktop computers and moving to tablets and mobile devices for their everyday use and for searching.
Because of this shift, Google is making a major change in 2017. Since the beginning, Google has been searching the desktop versions of websites to get their search engine results. In the past few years, they have also started crawling the mobile versions of sites as well. The new change is that Google is going to start to stop crawling the desktop versions of websites. This change will slowly roll out throughout the year. This is the biggest motivator to get a Responsive theme installed on your website ("responsive" means the layout changes for ANY device, large or small). We recently moved to responsive themes on our business' website and it wasn't too painful. The hardest part was just reading through every page and making sure that nothing was affected by changing the "theme" of the website. Yes, the "look" of our site changed, but it had to. Our site was looking dated and it is now easy to view on phones, iPads, etc.
Now here's the trouble. In the last few years, many businesses added a mobile version of their website, but didn't optimize it with the best organic SEO and they didn't include all the same content as the "full version" of their website. This is what Google is trying to make you change. No "full version" and "mobile version" is needed anymore. We need to have one website that is responsive across all sized devices. I'm sure you've noticed the crazy different sizes of phones and tablets that are out there--there is nothing "standard" anymore for phones or devices. We need to be ready for our readers (they are our clients and our prospects!) no matter what device they are using!
As Google starts crawling mobile versions, don't let your rankings drop because you don't have your full content on your mobile site. Check the following:
1. Do you have good organic SEO on your mobile version?
2. Is all the content the same on your mobile version as your desktop version?
3. Better yet--are you ready to change your website to a "responsive" theme so you don't have two versions but, rather, one website that is optimized for ALL devices?
If you're ready to make these changes on your website, so you don't have frustrated moms leaving your site without contacting you, just email us. Let's talk.
2017 is going to be an exciting year of growth! Don't get left behind.
I have to tell you a secret. My kids are the motivation for streamlining and systematizing my business. They are the reason I hire staff and spend so much time training them. They are what drives me to learn new technology to simplify my systems.
You see, when I first started my business, I did everything. I taught piano lessons, I scheduled the lessons, I tracked the tuition, I hired the teachers, I bought the books, I scheduled the meetings, I did the advertising, I rented the recital hall, I printed the programs, and I even designed curriculum and wrote exams for my students. (The only thing I didn't do was make the ice ring for the recital--one of my teachers volunteered to handle that. How nice.) After I had baby #3, I realized there was no way I could continue at this pace. Something had to change. I scaled my company back a little, and then had baby #4. I felt stuck. I didn't want my company to stay small, but I also didn't want to put my kids in daycare and work all day long. It was time for big changes. I started ruthlessly researching and reading dozens of business books. Two books changed my life forever.
"The E-Myth, Revisited," made me realize that I had started my business because I am wired to be an entrepreneur. However, by running every detail of my business, I had hamstringed myself into a position of never being an entrepreneur again. I was so busy running the day-to-day operations that I couldn't create new ideas for growth. I couldn't add new programs when I was so busy maintaining what I had started! It was time to put really strong systems in place so I could scale my business and finally grow (without more stress).
When I read the book "The Four Hour Workweek," I was challenged to think about my purpose in life. If I could clear all the stress and the tasks, what did I really want out of life? I realized that my children were my inspiration. I longed for more quality time with them. I hated that I was constantly working and always stressed out. I wanted to be the best mom possible. I wanted to take them on vacations. I wanted to travel and show them other parts of the country--and even other parts of the world. In my mind, I created a vision for my life where our family could be together more often, having fun and learning together. And this is what motivated me to completely change my business model.
Now, our family takes multiple trips every year. We spend full days at museums or the mall. We go out to eat, laugh, and go to the movies. We are rich in time. For time wealth is really what matters, isn't it?
When I got serious about growing my business, I hired my first administrative staff member and wrote my operations manual. I documented everything I did to get a student, enroll a student, and get that student started with a teacher. I wrote training manuals. I spent hours putting my brain onto paper so someone else could do what I had been doing. Little by little, as I could afford it, I increased my admin's hours. I focused all my efforts into learning about marketing. I realized that if I could be good at marketing, then my business could finally grow.
Because I wanted quality time with my kids, I was ruthless with my schedule. I determined when I would work and when that time came, I didn't waste time. I was super focused and I got more done in 6 hours than most people do in a couple days. When tasks popped in my head, I jotted them down, but I didn't deviate from "mom-mode." I begged a friend to watch my kids one day a week so I could focus on marketing and growing my company. I felt a drive deep inside. My motivation was my kids.
As we enter a New Year, so many of my business friends have been sharing with me that they want more intentional, quality time with their family. How do you accomplish that? By putting more systems in place.
Want more quality time with your family? Here are goals to run after:
1. Hire staff and train them properly.
It's not enough to hire people if you can't trust that they will do things correctly. Spend several weeks in training and you'll be able to step away from tasks that are currently consuming you.
2. Document everything.
Is it time-consuming? YES. But once it's done, it's done! Write everything down that you usually do. Every step. Make checklists. Don't skip anything. Imagine if you had to have surgery and were out of commission for a week. What needs to be written down so someone could step in and do the work that you usually do? Use this motivation to do a brain-dump so you can finally create an Operations Manual.
3. Create your weekly schedule.
If I don't schedule time with my kids or time with my spouse during my week, it just doesn't happen. Appointments get scheduled. Emergencies arise. People need me. It's just a reality. The important things get squeezed out by the urgent things. I have to be super intentional about my time and make my kids and spouse a priority. My desire to be the best mom and wife possible is what drives me to keep improving my schedule. I check in with each kid and ask them what they need from me. Sometimes I'm surprised by the answer. It's often more simple than I imagined. Mostly, it's just a request for more quality time without distractions. I go on coffee dates with my kids. I listen to them. I even schedule meetings with them! I call them "Mentor Meetings," because I want to spend their childhood being their mentor and guide as they grow into the person God designed them to be.
My kids keep growing and changing, so I keep assessing what needs to be changed and improved. We never "arrive" at a perfect system or schedule. But when I look back 9 years ago, I remember a crazy-busy, stressed out mom. Today, I'm fulfilled and doing what I love. I have lots of time with my kids. And I actually like being with my kids. (They are turning out to be great human beings!) I feel blessed to be their mom and I realize that in only 9 years, they will all be graduated. The days may be long, but the years are definitely short. I want to maximize the time I have and be intentional about my time.
Maybe you've been meaning to add more systems or staff to your company this year. Best way to implement those changes? Keep your kids as your motivation. I'm cheering you on!
Hi, I'm Jen Hickle!