Happy Heart Health Month Richmond Moms. Let’s celebrate by being alive for our kids!

image Recognize this family? Yep, they’re mine.

They weathered through a 98-degree summer day to get these photos and some footage for our HCA Heart Health commercial for one reason: heart health disease is a killer, and I know. It killed my dad at age fifty.

When I was fifteen, he died suddenly of heart failure. Luckily, one of the last things I ever said to my dad is “I love you.” I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that. I appreciate sympathy, but honestly, it’s been twenty years since he passed away (I’m giving away my age here!) My real point in telling this story is so that people understand why I was chosen for the HCA Heart Health Network commercials, and that there is a real motivation behind my desire to run and to help other women acheive some level of fitness—whether it’s running, walking, or chasing tricycles. We’ve had a blast with our Run Like a Mother team with Stroller Strides and are thrilled that we’ve grown to forty-five women training for the 10K!

Just a few days ago, my soon-to-be eight-year-old son asked me, “Mom, why do you have to run that race?”

I was trying to figure out his reasons for asking me this. “What do you mean?” “Well, you always have to run while we play in the kids’ play area at American Family. What’s the big deal, why can’t we just go swimming?”

So I shared with him the reason why I was asked to be in the heart health commercials, that the grandfather he had never had a chance to meet passed away much too soon. “Well!” my mature little man exclaimed, “why didn’t you just tell me that before?” Then he declared that he was going to start running with me.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no health nut, I’ve done plenty of damage and struggle to make myself excercise, so I’m not trying to preach to anyone. I just hope that by telling my story that I can help other moms, and continually remind myself, that taking care of our own health is imperative if we want to take care of everyone else.

HCA cares about women’s heart health and is offering free heart health tips simply by clicking this link. It’s free, it’s simple, and most of it is common-sense type stuff we are supposed to be doing every day and just need a little gentle nudge to push ourselves in the right direction.

Let’s try to take better care of our hearts this month, Richmond moms. Our families will thank us for it:-)

Confessions of a Messy Richmond Mom, Part Two
by Nicole Unice, messy Richmond mom-of-three, in process to de-clutter

It’s been three weeks since the ladies at A Sorted Affair Humpty-Dumptied my office and then put it back together again. (To Read Part One, click here).
I giddily greeted Olivia at the door on our workday. The giddiness dissipated when I realized Olivia was serious when she called it a “work session.” At my organizing pace, I would have thrown in the towel—or label maker—after just a few minutes of frustration. But with Olivia at the helm, no junk drawer, clutter bowl or crap basket was safe. “Take a look at these,” she said, her hand waving over neatly sorted piles of change, paper clips, and spare keys. “Let’s find a place for them.” Ugh. I rolled my eyes and made a face when she turned away. In that moment, Olivia was like my mean organizing mom, and I was resisting. Laundry, bathrooms, dinner prep—all seemed better in that moment than slogging through my heap of papers and errant computer cables.

Next, we tackled my file folders. As promised, Olivia talked me through each process: what did I need this paper for? How often did I access this bill? What files did I use the most? With a warm but crisp attitude, Olivia tackled folder after folder. I hung with her, sorting and shredding.

With about ten loose papers left in my husband’s basket, I suggested that we create a “Dave Miscellaneous” folder. A thick silence fell over the room. Patty and Olivia looked up at me, eyes wide. I felt like I had just suggested we all run away together to a monastery. “Um…” I muttered. Olivia gracefully cut in, “well, let’s think of where these papers can go. We generally don’t like miscellaneous folders because they end up being a catch-all for everything.” Humph. Of course, I knew Olivia was right. 

In that moment, I knew why all women need a professional organizer. It’s just the kick in the pants I need to keep going. I would have long since given up, left with multiple junk bowls and miscellaneous files. But with Olivia’s help, we saw that organization project to the bitter end. Almost. There is still a blank space on the wall for my perfect bulletin board. But that’s a bit like me. Even when it’s done, it’s a little undone. The desk is clean though, the files organized. I have a system I can use, and I’ve kept the mail sorted and the piles to a minimum. I am the mom formerly known as messy, and proud to be reformed!

Here’s just a few of the tips I’ve picked up from A Sorted Affair:

• Center all your hanging file folder tabs. It makes them easier to flip through.
• One-step cleanup is enough for small kids. Since adding a bench with cubbies and hooks, my children have stopped using the floor as a coat closet. Could be the novelty of it all, but it’s working for now!
• A “Miscellaneous” file is another word for “Future Black Hole”. Unacceptable.
• Process your mail into three baskets: “FILE” and “PENDING”. The third basket is the wastebasket. Throw it out or recycle!
• Use an under-bed bin for your children’s memorabilia. Keep one for each child, and file special art, school papers, etc. into the bin. At the end of the school year, you can keep the best of the best.
• Use a small hanging file box on your desk for your frequently used files. Check out a cute one at The Container Store.
• Develop your organizational system based on your personality. If you lack focus for details, don’t expect a multi-step system to work. Anything that requires high upkeep will fail.
• You can create a wave of positive organizing. My investment in time with A Sorted Affair in my office has given me the riptide I needed to organize my pantry, my drawers, and my closet!

What about you? Do you have a (dis)organized dilemma that you can’t solve? Send a picture to (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). One disorganized diva will receive a FREE organizing assessment ($200 value) from Olivia and Patty at A Sorted Affair!

My kids are never gonna sit still.
by Kate Willoughby Hall, Richmondmom.com Founder, January 20, 2010

It’s just a fact I need to deal with: my kids just ain’t the sit-still type. image

This realization becomes solidified anytime we choose to do any type of group activity requiring my children to follow along with a group. Most of the time, it’s just not happenin’.

Take for example, last night. My littlest kid (pictured here, with the side I get to see of her most often) had class at Core Kids Academy, a weekly gymnastics lesson she eagerly awaits each Tuesday. We all gathered around the mat awaiting instructions from the beloved Coach Cora, and no sooner had we warmed up than my little 2-year-old firecracker hops up off the mat, racing for the trampoline like a soda-induced psycho with a pot of jumping-beans in her drawers.

All the other little girls waited patiently in line while my little princess yells “Pick Me! Pick Me!” or “I want to go FIRST!” jumping ahead of the line. It doesn’t help that she is a full head taller than the other children close to her age. She is a petite dominator of whatever world she steps into, stopping only to say PLEASE may she go first and THANK YOU for letting her lead the pack. Sadly, I’m afraid, she’s a chip off the ol’ block.

It’s not just the little one, either. I’m afraid her two older brothers began this trend by jumping into most social situations with their hands on their hips, ready-to-roll with no fear for the unknown and an energy level envious of long-distance runners. My oldest Richmond kid won the award in kindergarten for the most notes sent home daily for talking in class, making noises and overall being a menace. My middle child requires the least sleep of any human being with his level of energy I believe I have ever witnessed, popping up at 6am daily regardless of bedtime, ready to take on the world.

Could it be that they see their mom, someone who has a problem with idle time, bouncing from activity to activity, always talking to friends? Is it because of me that they not understand the meaning of downtime, for the love of Pete?

Well, I just can’t change me. I’m already too old for that. And, I’ve been told, mostly by sympathetic friends, that active children of today often become tomorrow’s leaders. So when I fall on the couch, pooped-out and exhausted at 4pm, wondering what to make for dinner and how I’m going to answer my emails and have time to watch Modern Family and they run to me and say, “What’s next mama? What are we doin’ now?” I’ll try to keep that in mind.

Tales from Chubby Kidland
by Kate Willoughby Hall, Richmondmom.com Founder, January 11, 2009

I was a chubby kid. And I’m not talking about pinch-her-cheeks-what-a-little-darling kind of chubby. I was fat.

Being the youngest of four with a working single mom, you could say that I had a lot of time on my hands. I was a bookworm, so my natural inclination was to snuggle up inside with a book. . and whatever convenient back of snacks was near me.

As the weight began to creep on, the problem was only compounded by the fact that my mother, formerly a wonderful cook (for some reason she has no longer enjoys it, which is another story) and baker would ensure that we had wonderful cookies, cakes and goodies around all the time, since she was working hard and couldnt’ be home with us. It was her way of showing us love, and we LOVED it, to say the least.

But, my nearest sibling was five years older, and as time wore on I found myself at home alone more and more. Food was my friend.

But then it wasn’t.

Kids are mean. The sting of their words in the neighborhood still haunt me. “Hey fatty! Want us to roll you around?” “Fatty fatty, two-by-four. . .” You get the picture. I felt like it was beyond my control, that it wasn’t really a choice, this was just, well, me.

Time grew on and luckily I became more active, getting into sports and I shot up unusually tall for my age, which really helped. But I never forgot how awful it felt to be chastised. Even within our own family fat jokes were made, because all of us were overweight. Not terribly overweight, but enough to make jokes. And once you start living with fat jokes in your own home, it just becomes part of, well, you.

Throughout the years I’d gain 15-20lbs then lose it again. It was unhealthy but for some reason I do better with bigger goals, rather than managing a consistent lifestyle. A year ago, though, when I was laid off from my corporate job, I started working out as a means to relieve stress, and running became a regular part of those workouts. When I formed a running team with Rachel Pustilnik of Stroller Strides for the 2008 Monument 10K, running started becoming more of a social outlet and an interwoven part of my life rather than a chore, another item on the to-do list. When we crossed the finish line, each one of us in varying times, we felt an incredible euphoria and an inner voice that said, “See, you are a runner.”

It probably sounds silly but I always thought that other people were runners. Thin people. Athletic people. People who didn’t grow up in chubby households. People whose parents taught them to run and they excercised as a happy little family unit. I’ve learned that nothing can be further from the truth—that anyone can pick up (doctor’s release willing!) and start at any time. It’s a sport that requires little investment and provides quick results.

I’m still chubby. But I’m a healthy kind of chubby. Since my dad died at age 50 from heart disease I know I’ve got a family history against me, so I do it for my health over anything. I run a few times a week (when I’m being good) and even more when I’m training for a race. In fact, our Monument 10K team is kicking up for 2009, and there are still a few spots left if you’d like to join us. We won’t judge, promise. We’ve all had our battles with “you can’t run,” “you’re chubby” and all the other head voices, so all we provide is support.

If running isn’t your thing, check out the HCA Women’s Heart Health initiative and find other ideas on ways to keep your heart tickin’ like a champ. And tell the voices to just clam up. You’re in control now.

In memory of Charlotte Reynolds: the butterfly
by Kate Willoughby Hall, Richmondmom.com Founder

imageIn 2009 I had the good fortune of meeting the Reynolds family. They seemed to come out of nowhere and then they were everywhere in my world Literally. Roger Reynolds first swept—and I mean SWEPT—the Great Dads Promotion where tons of dads were nominated, and he was the grand prize winner enjoying a bunch of cool prizes including a stay at Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg. When we met to share their prizes at the VA Center Commons Chick-fil-A, Roger brought his family: his wife, Rachel, and daughter, Charlotte.

Charlotte had been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year and had been responding very well to treatment, and when we met her that night she was cheerful in her little pink baseball cap, scar peeking out from beneath. They let me know about their blog on which I learned more about Charlotte’s diagnosis and story.

The Reynolds family seems to know everyone. I’m not sure if it’s because they are such good people, because of Charlotte’s condition and the outpouring of love the community has shown them, or because they own a local Romp n Roll center at VA Center Commons—perhaps it’s all three. Either way, they swung back into my world when, during our Mommy Makeover contest, Rachel Reynolds was voted as one of the finalists, then on the night of “big reveal” Rachel was announced as the grand prize winner.image Rachel is pictured here, beaming as her family and friends cheered her on. (Photo graciously provided by Sarah Doerfler of Blue in the Stream Photography.)

It was so rewarding for me to see this amazing, doting mom, who clearly hadn’t had time out for herself in the last year, to get treated to a wonderful afternoon at Salon del Sol, clothes from Fiero Bella! and a grand evening at the Shops at 5807. Roger stood close-by with Charlotte on his shoulders as they beamed when Rachel’s name was announced as the winner.

Later, I joked with them that they could not win ANY more of my contests; their quota was up. As always with a quick response, Roger promised that the Reynold’s wouldn’t enter any more contests. Until 2010.

The Reynolds family had grown on me; their love for each other was infectious and their sense of humor during a horrible situation was beyond my belief. I kept tabs on them and often and hoped for the best.

A few weeks ago, Rachel had emailed to say that Charlotte’s condition had worsened, that they were on their way to Charlotte’s Make-a-Wish trip, and they weren’t sure how much longer they had with her. I read the words in my email, but it didn’t quite register.

No, not that little girl. She was always smiling and beaming. She had told her mom the names of all the medical procedures as they were being done to her, she was a bright and lovely child who was clearly the sun around which her parents revolved.

Charlotte passed away today. I sit, typing, with tears rolling down my eyes for the loss of that little sweetheart and the hole that must be left in her parents’ hearts and everyone who knew her. They called her their “butterfly” as seen on their blog. Please keep this Richmond mom and her entire family in your thoughts and prayers. Remembrance service information may be found here.imageimageimage

Why every kid should see Princess and the Frog (and no, we’re not being paid to say this)
by Kate Willoughby Hall, Richmondmom.com Founder

imageMy almost-three-year old little girl (and only girl after having two boys) had never been to a movie. Until last Sunday.

We braved the icy winds to see the much-talked-about Princess and the Frog at Richmond’s Bowtie Cinemas. I was surprised that my boys (seven and four) wanted to go, and even more surprised that my little gal, Caroline was able to sit on my lap most of the time.

What surprised me most, though, was how impressed I was with this film. Sure, the animation was great. Yes, the music was delightful and of course the popcorn was sinful and finger-licking-delicious.

The story, however, was impressive. And not just the kind of impressive I’d give to any children’s movie—it was impressive on so many levels:

1) Tiana, the main character, was an incredibly hard-worker. Throughout the movie, while her friends partied and frittered around, Tiana was uber-focused on her dream of owning a restaurant. Not sure about your kids, but mine needed a little dose of “hard work is how you get places in life” without me delivering the message. So, thanks, Disney.

2) Tiana was in no way obsessed with being a princess. Now, don’t get me wrong here. After three years of Tonka trucks and Thomas the Train I am thrilled to have a sweet little pretty-in-pink gal who loves to dress up as a princess. But it was good for her to see that not every girl HAS to or WANTS to be a princess. I liked Tiana for that.

3) No matter what, Tiana stuck to her guns. Whether it was not kissing that frog on first sight or pursuing her dream no matter what the costs, that girl had persistence like a kid with a dollar bill in a candy store. She was NOT about to leave without getting what she wanted. I REALLY liked Tiana for that.

4) Tiana wanted to make her parents proud of her. This was a consistent theme throughout the movie, from the beginning when she took her father’s passion for owning a restaurant on as her own, through the end where it was apparent that her mother was a prominent and special person in her life: Tiana showed utter respect for her parents. I loved Tiana for that.

finally, 5) The cast and characters, albeit a bit scary at times with some voodoo-like-scenes a la New Orleans where the animated film was set, were fun, and completely made you want to invite them into your home again and again. Which is why we’ll be first in line when the Princess and the Frog hits the stores. And, oh yeah, great job of making Tiana an African American. Long-time coming. Well-represented. Bravo. But her character, like everyone’s, is so much important than her color.

Bravo as well to Bowtie Cinemas for keeping such a beautiful theatre uber-clean, with a crew dashing in the door as soon as the credits began rolling.

Note: Disney, nor Bowtie Cinemas is paying for this review. However, if either of you are listening, I’ll work for movies. And popcorn. Lots and lots of popcorn.

What an ex-boyfriend’s death has taught me about second chances

New Year’s eve is just a few days away. Each year I list the things I want to acheive, and reflect back upon the last year. This year, I’m thrilled that, while financially I didn’t rock anyone’s world compared to my former corporate salary, I was able to build a business, help my clients grow their businesses, and publish a book—something I’ve dreamed about for years.

But it also takes me back to thoughts that haunt me, and that I don’t quite know how to digest. A few years ago I received a phone call, mid-afternoon from a dear friend from high school. Unusual for her to call me mid-day, I quickly answered my cell phone. “Honey, I’m so sorry to tell you this. Mike is dead.”

Stunned into silence, even with my little ones squawking in the back seat it took me a few minutes to regain my mental footing. How could this be?

Mike, my first true love—truly—-was dead at age 32.

Like looking into a snowglobe, my thoughts grew snowy thinking about the hot summer days we spent together swimming at his pool, learning how to drive a stick-shift together, shamelessly kissing in the movie theater. He was the first boy to ever tell me he loved me, and at sixteen, I was naive enough to believe it. Although maybe it was really true.

In an attempt to release frustration and utter sadness, I sat down and put pen to paper, creating a thoughtful letter to Mike’s mom. He was her only child, and I knew that she must be completely lost. I included a few photos that I had kept, more than seventeen years later in a tiny photo album, and a few memories we had hanging out with Mike in our large circle of friends as high school juniors.

She quickly returned my letter with thoughts of her own. “Katie, you don’t know how much that meant to me. Mike was my life, and had worked so hard to clean up his life—he had quit drinking—he was really trying. Then he was killed instantly in a car accident. They promised me that he didn’t feel any pain. Now, I’m like a cork bobbing around in the ocean.” Looking at my own young sons, I couldn’t fathom what she was feeling; was frustrated that any mother should ever endure it. We still exchange Christmas cards, several years later.

In-between our sixteen-year-old puppy love and the time of his death, Mike had ventured into dangerous territory. He moved to Pittsburgh, a far cry from our sleepy-small-Pennsylvania village and into the city he was tempted by drugs, tattoos, and the hard life, and quickly became addicted to drugs. Luckily, he was the heir to a large fortune and his family had the means to send him into rehab, with some success (or so I was told). No one ever said if drinking or drugs were involved in the car accident, when he skidded into a telephone pole. Did it really matter?

Mike was a good, kind person, with a smile that could light up a room. Even though I hadn’t spoken to him in years, shared friends told me how much fun he was to be around, and that he never lost that charm. His memory will be cherished.

For some reason, even though he didn’t pass away around the holidays I always think of him, and how his life may have developed had he lived. Would he have had children of his own? That he doesn’t get a second chance is a tough pill to swallow. So, as I approach the new year and new goals and new visions of a bright future I remind myself that New Year’s day isn’t the only day we have to decide to start anew. Each day we wake up is second chance.

Why Christmas shopping is just like having kids
by Kate Willoughby Hall, Richmondmom.com Founder and mom-gone-mad

imagephoto by Hayes and Fisk, the Art of Photography

While attempting to do my last-minute Christmas shopping last night, a strange thing happened. No, silly I didn’t actually stick to my budget—let’s not get crazy—-but a thought occurred to me: Christmas shopping is a lot like having kids. Here’s why:

1) It’s crowded. Oh, Lordie all you have to do is ask an eight-and-a-half-month preggers mama how it felt to have an 8.5 pounder in her belly while trying to tie her shoelaces, buckle her seatbelt, or do, well, just about anything. Talk about cramped spaces.

2) It’s expensive. No matter how much you THINK it’s going to cost, you can just forget it. There’s always one more shiny bauble that will cause your credit card company to send you nasty-grams and cause husbands all over the world to bark, bark, bark about how much you spent. Stockings, swaddled babies or seniors in high school—they share the same evil problem: too damn much $$$.

3) Anybody can do it. That’s right, I said it. You and I both know it: not everyone should reproduce. No matter how far-regressed freaky great-Uncle Frank’s genes are removed, they will resurface in generations-later offspring and can cause dangerous, albeit, astounding results. The same goes for shopping. The diversity of crowds thrown together under the bright flourescent lights of Walmart, men who NEVER venture out until this time of year yearning to find the perfect gift and getting stuck in the tool aisle—these mixed together with screaming babies are sure to cause some sort of explosion.

4) It’s stressful. Oh yeah, I said it. While everyone is decking the halls I’m out here sweating, piling deals into our arms, trying to find the perfect je-ne-sais-quoi when I’d really rather be home in my jammies watching the Office. Sound familiar? Try rounding up a couple of toddlers to go, well, anywhere and you’ll get the same results. The two activities must send stock-prices surging for high-blood pressure prescription pharmas everywhere.

5) It WILL cause strife between the sexes. You know it’s true. Having kids is a magical experience for many women, while most men just sweat it out and pray that they still get to golf and play poker with the boys on a regular basis. The expectation levels are just so different typically. Kind of like on Christmas morning, when the wife awakes to a tiny, sweetly-wrapped box only to find drill bits inside. Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

6) Finally, both produce great results. I mean, after nine months, you have this amazing person, with (hopefully) ten fingers and toes, who is cuddly and warm, sweet to look at, and that you have forever. Be forewarned gentle reader: the same can happen with Christmas gifts. So just say no to anything cuddly and warm that you may not want forever. It may not be so sweet to look at a few years from now.

Merry Christmas. Seriously.

Dear Santa: I’m trying. Really.
by Kate Willoughby Hall, Richmondmom.com Founder

imageThe stockings are hung by the chimney with care. The tree is up, there are ornaments galore, and thanks to my two-year-old, half of them are on the floor. But why oh, why, can’t I get in the mood? Someone please help me get out of my Christmas funk. . .um, dude.

OK, so I’m not great at rhyming. And I really DO love this wonderful holiday. I even work hard to remind our kids what it’s really all bout: the true Holy meaning of the season, not just Santa, presents, and cookies. But this year, I’m having a tough time getting into the spirit.

It could be the crazy book-signing schedule for Richmond Rocks I’ve been adhering to, or the fact that we’ve just moved into a rental house 1/2 the size of our former living quarters, so we’re cramped in a small space with a fraction of the usual Christmas trappings. Or, it could be that I have a to-do list a mile long and a bunch of presents to buy, and I can’t seem to find the time to get to the store without three little kids in tow.

I’m just struggling with the holidays this year.

I so desperately want to go on a tacky lights tour, visit Santa, and shop for Toys for Tots. I just can’t . . .seem to fit any of it in the schedule. The laundry is piled up, the mail stack mountain has slid down sideways on the kitchen island, and my Christmas cards have yet to be addressed.

Which begs the question: Why am I sitting at my computer clickety-clacking away, when I should be checking off my to-do list?

No good answers here. Other than that this is therapy much less-expensive, quicker and more cathartic that I imagine any therapist could deliver. And, that I’m hoping by sharing this message that you, the reader, can breathe a sigh of relief that you are not the only one struggling to deck the halls with a fa-la-la when all you really want to do is take a little power nap.

I’m sure as the next few days unfold, school is out, and we begin wrapping gifts it’ll all come into focus, and the magical season will fill me with the spirit. For now though, there’s only one thing I need to be filled, and that’s my ginormous coffee cup, as I ready for another busy day.

I want, I want, I want
by Kate Willoughby Hall, Richmondmom.com Founder

imageAfter working the Bizarre Bazaar this past weekend to promote new book, Richmond Rocks, some things became very apparent to me. I’d like to share them with you, in hopes that, during this magical-yet-hectic-and-crazy season, we can all learn to cherish the things that are most important to us.

1) All that glitters is not gold. This is an old saying, and one that still holds true for a reason. While glitzy packaging, wrapping and bows can woo us, the real meaning of a gift and thought put behind it is so much more important—almost always—to the recipient.

2) It doesn’t have to be a race. So many folks love to rush through, saying “I’m all done! Isn’t that great! Everyone checked off my list!” This IS great, if it was truly a fun and meaningful gift-buying process, but not so much if it was a race to the finish line. Almost everyone I know appreciates thoughtfulness over promptness any day of the week, too.

3) Words can be the best gifts. I’ve already received the most amazing gift I could ever ask for this year: children are reading and enjoying our book. What a joy to see their faces, and the faces of their parents, at the images and words on the pages, that spring to life when read together with someone you love.  I’ve had so many incredible, thoughtful, kind souls here in Richmond who have supported our efforts and without whose words—and kind deeds—-the spirit of Christmas in me may not have been possible this year!

4) Time is the most important gift anyone can receive. When we got back from four long days of selling books, my four-year old grabbed my leg and said, “Please don’t work anymore, mama!” Even in the exhaustion after the show, taking time out to play wii, snuggle and talk to him was the best “detox” I could receive from the hustle-and-bustle of the busy buying season.image

5) Remove the words “I want” from your vocabulary. This is the toughest. I see cute shoes, bags, and clothes I want every day. But at the core of it all is wanting to feel good about myself, wanting to have time with my family, and wanting to grow as a person. Those are things that can be acheived without a single ring of a cash register—it’s just often a bit more challenging.

Happy shopping, gals. And if you get frustrated, overwhelmed, or just need a break from the long lines, please re-read this and (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Confessions of a Messy Richmond Mom
by Nicole Unice, messy Richmond mom-of-three, in process to de-clutter

A few weeks ago, I stared wistfully at the woman ahead of me in the preschool drop-off line. She had on tailored jeans, high heeled boots and a lovely top. Her hair was combed and she had tastefully applied makeup. She had on earrings. And a belt. She was a put-together mom. If she had glanced behind her, it would have been like staring in a fun-house mirror that reflects the opposite image. I arrived in the clothes I slept in. Though I had been working for hours, it appeared as though I may have just woken up (darn that no makeup), and that I might be headed home for a long winter’s nap. Staring at her, I reached nirvana-like clarity: I am a messy mom. image

On my work, church or outing days, I can look like I’ve got it together. I’ve been known to rock a boot with a dress and throw some dangly earrings into the mix. But my all-mom days reveal who I really am. 

I admit that I don’t prioritize put-togetherness, but my messy-mom mojo is beginning to effect my happiness.

I lose my car keys multiple times a day, every day. Locating a matching sippy cup and top in my kitchen drawers requires the tenacity of a paleontologist. My office is a disaster, with bills, preschool papers, and my writing and business work intertwined like rhythmless line dancers.  At any time, you can find enough shoes by my door to outfit an entire kindergarten, as long as the shoes don’t need to match.

It is time for an intervention.

I rolled a Matchbox car away from my keyboard and quickly found my help: A Sorted Affair, a professional organizing business started by two local moms. I read the company tagline: “We offer both knowledge and hands-on assistance. Combined, they give you unique, intuitive solutions for your organizing dilemmas.” Ah, I thought, but can you clean up this messy mom?? I contacted A Sorted Affair and made them a deal: rehabilitate me, and I’ll let the richmondmom.com readers follow along, in the hopes that others can share in my joy (and pain) of home organizing.

I made a conscious effort on the day I would meet Olivia Acree, co-owner of A Sorted Affair. I resisted the urge to put on my put-together look.  When Olivia and Patty Hoyt, another organizer, arrived, I was sans makeup and in full workout attire. My preschooler sashayed behind me, clad only in a t-shirt and pull-up diaper.  As you would expect, Patty and Olivia looked like professional organizers. They were calm, professional, and able to find everything they needed in their bags. I envied it. I wanted it.

After a minor potty training emergency from the tot, we sat down together to discuss what help they could provide. Olivia Acree began A Sorted Affair with partner Caitlin Shear in 2005. Like many other intelligent women in the business world, Caitlin and Olivia joined forces when they began raising their children. Olivia reflected on the synergy between them: “it all just came together. The people and opportunities came to us!”

A Sorted Affair changed households in Richmond, one preschool morning at a time. As their children grew, so did the business, expanding to Northern Virginia with partner Caitlin’s move, and adding staff members along the way.

“A good organizer wants to hear your story,” Olivia explained. “Lots of organizers bring a system and try to fit you to it. We always fit the system with the person.” I arched my eyebrow, wondering if a system could fit this person. “Take for instance, paperwork. If you aren’t a detailed person, you will never file bills alphabetically and by month. But we can get you a file folder to toss everything in, and at least if you need something, you’ll have a place.” I nodded in agreement, and the first flicker of hope sparked. Maybe I could be different!

“Learning our client’s story is what sets us apart,” said Olivia again as she began to take stock of my office situation. I was already feeling like they knew me too well, particularly when we started emptying baskets on the floor. “What’s this for? And this? What do you use this space for?” I found myself mumbling incoherently when Olivia asked me questions, but she had the grace to save me from myself. “That’s why we are here. Let’s figure out how to make this space work.”

Olivia’s affection for her clients was evident as she shared stories of clutter busting and system setting. “I love the appreciation in this job. People just love you when you help them. They hug you, they cry—it’s like a mini-extreme home makeover.”

A couple of hours later and we had a plan. The clutter-busters (my pet name for my new best friends) helped me decide that we should tackle the entryway situation immediately. Olivia explained that more than one step is too many for elementary school children, so we decided to create a space with hooks and cubbies where the kids could easily hang backpacks and put away shoes. 

My job: find a bench with three cubbies underneath, three sets of double hooks, and a framed bulletin board.  Meanwhile, the clutter-busters took pictures, took notes, and stayed ridiculously calm and organized the whole time. When the dynamic duo left, I breathed a sigh of relief. To have two women devoted to helping make my life work better? What a gift!

So until next time, you’ll find me spending time on lost car keys and sippy cup tops, but not for long. I have a feeling that this messy mom will be rehabilitated in the capable hands of A Sorted Affair.

What will happen when Olivia and Patty create a landfill-sized pile of paper in my study? Stay tuned to find out!

Need professional help? Contact Patty at http://www.asortedaffair.com or 464-9820.

Sometimes being a loser is a good thing.

This weekend, I experienced a humiliating event.

After trekking six hours to my beloved Penn State University, my alma mater, for one of the biggest games of the year, after the painful process of obtaining tickets, hotel room, and gathering the troops to make the trip happen: our team forgot to show up.

image No, seriously. We scored in the first quarter and it were never heard from again. As we sat close together with 110,000 of our closest friends in the statuesque Beaver Stadium our mouths gaped open in disbelief as we watched our previously-strong team fall to pieces at the hands of the evil Ohio Buckeyes.

After a sad, sad 24-7 blowout in which the Buckeyes cleaned our clock in our own stadium, the crowd grew silent as we shuffled out of the stadium, tired from the energy and subsequent draining loss of the day. We had a lone Buckeye in our group. He didn’t gloat—I have to hand it to him. In fact, he was very gracious as this was his first trip to the mecca called Happy Valley and the fact that his favorite team had eaten the Lions’ lunch in their own stadium had to be smug satisfaction enough. We didn’t talk much on the long walk back to the car after the game.

When we loaded up and sat in unmoving traffic on the way out of State College towards our hotel, we started recounting the day: the boisterous tailgate with the most massive cookout ever, the gorgeous sunshine that is rare in the Pennsylvania mountains in November, the laughter than ensued recounting old college-day stories. We kept rolling into the next two hours as the traffic droned on and our bones warmed from the chill of the stadium, and the sadness of the loss started to drip away.

It was then that, even though saddened that my team wasn’t victorious, I realized how important it is to lose sometimes. As a competitive individual with a penchant for setting (often ridiculous) goals I’ll admit that I don’t like to lose. And, being a tried-and-true Penn Stater who returns every year to experience the magic that is Penn State Football, I surely don’t like my Nittany Lions experiencing any kind of loss, particularly on my watch.

Yet, losing humbles us, reminds us of the challenge of the sport, and that, at the end of the day: every one cannot be a winner. Although it can knock the wind out of our sails, a loss can bring us down to our senses and help us to realize that without an occasional loss, we’d never experience the thrill of victory, the roar of the crowd, the waving of the home-team flag.

In the course of fourteen hours, we’d reconnected with old friends, breathed in fresh mountain air, cheered with an unprecendented crowd, and laughed until our cheeks hurt. It was then that it hit me that it really doesn’t matter who wins the game; all that matters is that you show up.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of a death, and a birth.
by Kate Willoughby Hall, Richmondmom.com Founder

imageOne year ago today, my boss, and ironically one of my best friends (still!), asked me to meet him at Starbucks at Gaskins at 7:30. I normally worked from home on Mondays, and was about to go to the gym, so I donned my running shoes and met him there. When his car pulled up next to mine and I saw his expression, I knew.

This wasn’t a casual work discussion. This was it.

For a year prior to this meeting, we had seen the Fortune 500 company that we had helped build over the past five years begin to disintegrate: layoffs of hundreds of people at a time, offices closing, benefits slashed.

Since we were in human resources, it was even more apparent as phones rang wildly in customer service as employees received their RIF (Reduction in Force) letters and called emotionally to, among other things, ensure that their kids would be insured until they could find gainful employment. Our benefits staff was stressed; they were the unwilling participants in the game called “Try to Save our Company by Reducing the 401K Match” and were to say the least, unpopular. And the Employee Relations staff fielded calls from lawyers threatening law suits over layoffs that may have appeared to be without cause. The cause: the company was sinking deeper and deeper as the economy tanked and there were not enough buckets to bail out the big ship.

My last company trip was just four weeks prior to this fateful morning with my boss-er-friend. We had flown twenty or so of us from a large project team to Arizona to network, seek prospective clients and hear our CEO speak about our commitment as a company to market to diverse communities. Although we all knew the situation was dire, each of us felt that by continuing our sales efforts into these untapped communities was one way that we could help dig ourselves out and start to rebuild revenue creatively.

It wasn’t to be so. Just a mere four weeks later, here we were, standing outside, leaning on our respective cars in the cold in the Starbucks parking lot; he holding a large manilla envelope containing my severance package. Funny, I’d seen tons of these letters, but never quite believed I’d be holding my own. “At least buy me a latte,” I insisted, half-jokingly. We meandered inside, ordered and sat down. I found myself trying to cheer him up since after he was to leave me, he’d be having the same conversation with about thirty others, then he’d clear off his own desk.

This wasn’t the first time that we’d had this encounter. Almost ten years prior, with another company, he’d had to cut my position due to lagging sales. That time it was over the phone, since I traveled most of the time in that position. I never ended up leaving the company as they were able to create another position for me; I’d been “saved.”

This time, there would be no salvation for any employees. The company was filing Chapter 11 and portions of the company were being sold to a competitor. All that we had built was either disappearing or transferring to someone else’s leadership in Florida; none of us would be there to see the seeds we’d planted grow.

Over the next days and weeks of trying to determine how to stretch a small severance (before Santa was about to arrrive), file for unemployment and look for another position in a tight market, something amazing began to unfurl. I realized while doing all of these things that I already had a job—and a good one—right under my nose. My new position launched as CEO of Richmondmom.com. The monetary pay wasn’t nearly what I’d been accustomed to, but the rewards were plentiful.

The best of these new-found gifts? My 1st-grader saying, “Mama, now you get to pick me up off the bus every day! How cool is that?!”

Personal myths, dispelled. aka: things aren’t always what they seem.
by Kate Willoughby Hall, Richmondmom.com Founder

imageTwitter has brought me together with two amazing Richmond women—-both happen to be moms—-from two different perspectives, backgrounds, and family situations, in the last week.

Both of these women are smart, savvy, and are working while raising two children.

Both of these women had preconceived notions about me, as I did about them.

For example, I didn’t even realize that one of these ladies was even a mom. From her tweets (or online chat, for those of you not familiar with Twitter) focused mainly on her work life and social exchanges and not on her children, and she looks so darn young that when she laid it on me that she had two teenage kids, it floored me. I thought she was in her twenties, still spending her nights bar-hopping.  “I thought that’s why you wanted to talk to me!” she said, surprised that I didn’t realize she was a mom, thinking I wanted to chat with her about motherhood and the issues that surround it.

Then she blew my mind sharing her experiences raising her kids as a single mom, dabbling in work that most would describe as salacious, but doing anything she could to keep the lights on. She told me about the men in her life that took out their anger on her, the parents who didn’t always support her, and the kids that have grown to be incredible young adults despite it all.  As we met and talked, we unraveled layers of these notions, stereotypes, and images we’d built up about each other in our minds through our online conversations and email exchanges.

I shared with her my struggles in keeping my weight off, why I started organizing running teams to keep myself in shape (or attempt to). She thought I just loved fitness (ha!) because of my tweets about running with our 8K team, and I didn’t go into the fact that I was always the chubby kid until I got into sports in middle school (I was also one of the poor kids, and had terrible skin.). As our conversation unfurled and we dug down into who we are as women, we realized that although our pasts may be polar opposites and even our present situations were quite different, we both share the dream of having our writing impact women and are working hard to make that a reality. Neither of us have continually exuded with confidence.

I became one of her biggest fans that day all close-up and personal, whereas previously I admired her from afar.

The other Richmond mom, a west-end girl with whom I probably share a bit more in common, had a similar Starbucks meeting. As we sipped our coffee, we learned that, we are both accidental mompreneurs, we both struggle with dirty houses and frustrated kids as we work away inside our four walls.  Although we have few Richmond friends in common and have never really run into each other at social events, we both grew up in the north, have husbands frustrated by our online friendships, and write to maintain our sanity. As we peeled off the layers, we realized that we share a family history of a disease that many are afraid of and avoid in public conversations: bipolar disorder.  She is much braver than I, being more public about her experience as a way to work her way through it; I, much more privately, as a way to suppress family history.

Again, I became a fan, and I see us as allies in breaking down the stigmas behind mental illness.

At the outset we may seem very different: we don’t look at all alike. We don’t run in the same crowds. We don’t even live in the same neighborhoods.

Yet, we are all women in our thirties, living in Richmond. We are all hard-working, tax-paying moms who love our kids. We all love Twitter, cherish our friendships, and enjoy a good Social Media Club of Richmond night out. We’ve all had our hearts broken, struggled through this economy in our own relative terms, and write to live, for different reasons and in various places.

October is National Diversity Month. Diversity, like the photo attached to this article, doesn’t just mean ebony and ivory living together, but rather finding the sameness in others when you peel off the external layers that, in the end, don’t really matter much. It’s about forgetting about what someone looks like (for goodness sakes we all know this change change on a dime), who their friends are, how much money they have, and what they do for a living defining them. Twitter has exposed me to a diverse world inside of Richmond that I may not otherwise have discovered, certainly not within a few months’ time and not in such a unique and meaningful way.

So ladies—you know who you are—thank you for exposing me to another world outside of my own, for making me realize that I’m not so weird (alright, I’m still a little weird), and that although we’ve followed each other in the virtual world of Twitter, I now have a friend in you, even though we’ve just met IRL (in real life).

Why every Richmond mom should own a Snuggie
by Kate Willoughby Hall, Richmondmom.com Founder

imageFirst of all, I am not being paid by the makers of Snuggie for this endorsement. Really. (Special note to Snuggie execs: if you feel compelled to hire me as your spokesperson, let’s talk. I’m available.)

I’m simply compelled to share with you, my friends, how much comfort and relaxation my fashion Snuggie has brought to my life.

For example, when I can sneak away from my three wild hooligans—er I mean sweeties, I dash into my bedroom, don the leopard-spotted snuggie (because, hey, slugs like to be fashionable, too), and curl up into a ball with my favorite book, magazine, or TV show. There’s nothing like watching that womanizing Don Draper on Mad Men from the warm comfort of your Snuggie, or making yourself feel better about not being pencil-thin like those darn Desperate Housewives. Heck, if I never ate a full meal, I’d be desperate, too.

Let’s face it: as moms, one area that many of us are severely lacking in is relaxation. Just yesterday, after running two miles in the cold, packing several boxes (we’re about to move into temporary housing for three months, before our next move), vacuuming and mopping my kitchen floor twice after the pint-sized crumbsnatchers had their way with it, and doing a load of laundry the size of Everest, I decided that I needed-nay DESERVED—a little nappy-nap.

So, after putting my two-year old down and a couple of books, I donned said Snuggie (which is also suitable for outdoor events, as long as the crowd is amenable) and treated myself to a good fifteen minutes of r&r until my boys ran into the calm of my bedroom howling, packing Star Wars guns, knocking over my nice pile of laundry and waking up their sister in the process.

Richmond mamas, please, for the love of all that is good in this world, do your sanity favor and put this one on your Christmas or Hanukkah list. I promise you won’t be sorry.

Our brush with fame: The Martha Stewart Social Media Show!

image OK, this photo’s a bit fuzzy, but hey, it’s a self-portrait taken with a blackberry, what can we say?? And, our hands were shaking from excitement, we were in New York City on the set of Martha Stewart waiting to see Twitter Founder Biz Stone! How cool is that?

imageLet’s start from the beginning. My pal Cindy Bennett, an ultra-cool eco-green realtor (and shop owner of Monkeygrass at the Shops at 5807 here in Richmond) sent me an email one day asking what I thought was a rhetorical question: “Want to go to the Martha Stewart show in NYC with me?”

Does a mouse love cheese? Do birds sing? Does the monkey chase the weasel? Well, you get the picture. Of course I wanted to go. After all, it was Martha’s social media show (for us Tweeters, we used the hashtag #thetechshow) in which she featured the founders of our beloved social media tools like Twitter and Facebook. So, after hauling ourselves out of warm beds in Richmond at o-dark-thirty we boarded a plane for NY and within 90 minutes, hit the streets in search of breakfast, a bit of shopping, then Martha.

We had to be in line at 12:45 for the taping, at which time we took these uber-cheesy photos of ourselves in front of her multi-media HQ in that magical city. We were offered complimentary not-so-scrumptious hot dogs as we waited in line for the show, at which time we were being asked to write down questions we’d like to ask of the panelists. After gathering up our 8 1/2 X 11 sheets with questions scrawled on them, one of the show employees who was all of nineteen, complete with Janet Jackson-headset strode up to me and said, “Would you like to ask your question on national television?” image

Do toddlers throw tantrums? Do babies need naps? Do moms need their wine?  And I immediately regretted not wearing something cuter to the show.

The excitement was growing as they bustled us into one of two “staging rooms” as we waited to be seated for the big show. A jolly, perky guy rolled in named Joey Kola (he later asked us to friend him on Facebook, which I need to get around to doing, for kicks) who was our “host” for the afternoon and would prep us for the show, complete with what to do when he rubbed his tummy and we were to respond with the “mmmmmm” sound. This was kind of like preschool! No sweat.

After waiting in the staging rooms and oogling over Martha’s fabulous merchandise (which you could purchase for just 29.99 and up after the show). We were asked to constantly keep out our “technology” (at which Cindy and I simultaneously giggled each time they said it), because, as aforementioned, this was #thetechshow. We were carefully placed into our seats on the picture-perfect set (think KMart ad on steroids, it screamed white porcelain china) and the music started pumping. One thing I gotta say for her, the lady—or her set hands—rock. They pumped up the jam as we sat in our seats and the four ladies next to me (their “technology” were cool tiny Mac laptops), who work for an up-and-coming site called Urlesque.com and who insisted that I plug my site name when I asked my question to the national mommy blogger, Heather Cabot of TheWellmom.com.

All in all, we were on the set around two hours to tape six segments, and it ended much too soon. We clapped until our hands hurt, smiled until our cheeks were sore, and had spots from all the stars in our eyes.

The result? You can watch it here. If you want to get crazy and skip to the end to see my corny question, that’s cool, too.

Local author and mom-of-three Nicole Unice talks about her mom bone

Yes, you heard right. And all the details are here, on Momlogic.com.Nicole is a great local speaker and writer, and she’s contributed plenty to Richmondmom.com-we love her!image Check out the recent article she wrote on Richmond mom resources, just in time for fall.

Richmond VA business and website launch: Virginia News and Events

imageA dear friend of mine just began working on a seriously cool Richmond business: it’s a site that will list all business events, press releases, gatherings—-everything in one place, and it’s called Virginia News and Events.

The neat thing about this site is that it brings all types of opportunities—from training to new businesses opening to updates on existing businesses all in one place: not just those that are chosen to appear in various print and web media in Richmond.

You can register free, and the goal is for this to be the “go to” site for Richmond businesses and Richmond consumers alike who are seeking networking, learning, and relationship-building opportunities.

A double-hurler kind of day

Richmond parents: be forewarned. Some turn-your-stomach language is involved in this article.

imageEver seen the movie Stand By Me? There’s part of the movie where they have a pie eating contest, and one kid barfs, then the rest of the kids in the contest and everyone around them start barfing: it’s a barf-o-rama.  image

I experienced a miniature version of this myself yesterday. The perpetrators are pictured here.

I took my two younger kids to the pediatrician because they had been hacking as if they had a pack-a-day cigarette habit, and I was getting pretty concerned. After careful examination, the doctor told us they probably had a little summer cold/virus and gave us a script for antibiotics, which she noted, probably wouldn’t work at this stage of their sickness.

Feeling relieved, and in need of some milk, we headed to our beloved Ukrops. Of course, the kids were instantly hungry so we grabbed each a slice of pizza and snagged a table. That’s when the trouble began.

“Mama, my belly is full!” cried my two-year-old, who hadn’t yet eaten a bite. Her face was pale. Her lip was quivering. I held her close just in time to hear the rumble in her tummy, and felt a warm gush all over the front of my t-shirt and shorts. Her belly suddenly was not full anymore. And I’m pretty sure that part of the contents of her belly landed on the shoes of the nice ladies sitting next to us, who were kind enough to grab us some towels.

There would be no grocery shopping for us. We jetted out the door as quickly as our feet would take us, apologizing profusely to those around us who had suddenly lost their appetites.

As we drove away, she fell asleep. Feeling confident I couuld squeeze in just one more errand, I headed towards the bank. As we rolled away from the drive-through window, my 4-year-old cried, “Mama, my tummy hurts!” and no sooner did he get the sentence out than he hurled all over his car seat, his clothes, and his sleeping sister (who somehow remained asleep). At this point I was hoping for a space ship to come and beam me out of the car and this entire situation. My seven-year-old was yelling: “Mama it smells in here!” He wasn’t kidding.

Hours later, after both kids were scrubbed up and in their jammies, happy, I cleaned the remnants of said barf-o-rama from the backseat of my car, and reflected on the day’s activities with a smile. After all, it coulda been worse. .  .it coulda been a three-hurler.

They say the baby stage goes by so fast. . .

Note to all new Richmond moms: it’s true. It’s all true. What those old ladies in the mall tell you. I promise, my friend.

imageIf I had a nickel for every time someone said, “Honey, don’t wish this baby stage away!” Well. . . .I’d probably have a few bucks now and could buy a latte at Starbucks.

Beyond that, though, is the realization that all of those comments, were in fact, completely true.

Seven years ago (and a few months) my first son was born. After giving birth to two more children within a five year span, going through at least four strollers, five thousand diapers (this may be on the light side actually), twelve hundred pacifiers (again, I underestimate), and let’s just say TOO MANY sleepless nights, I am here to report: it does go by so fast.

My spunky, mess-of-a-twenty-eight month old, pictured here, recently became potty trained. That means that we are the proud parents of a kid who no longer needs diapers, and that we have a few more bucks in our pocket every month. More importantly though, it marks the end of an era: there are no more babies in this house. No more pregnant bellies, baby swings, baby carriers, playmats, pack n plays. Wistful? Perhaps.

I relished every moment with my babies—even the long nights up feeding them by myself—I knew it was an incredible bonding time, a once-in-a-lifetime, and honestly I got over the sleep deprivation and ache from surgery so quickly because my maternal instinct was a force stronger than any physical suffering.

After seven years—-what seemed at the time to be seven long years at the time—-I’ve come to realize that all those people giving me unsolicited advice were doing me a big favor: they were gently reminding me that every first tooth, every night rocking away an ear ache, every first step upon chubby little legs, is a gift. No on to the next adventure. . .

Since giving birth. . . the amazing journey of the last seven years

It struck me, while driving the other day, the incredible journey I’ve been on in the last seven years. To best illustrate the intricacies, difficulties, and exhilarating happiness that motherhood has brought me, a few snapshots and numbers:

Two corporate jobs, both flexible and hard-fought. Currently, one entrepeneurial job that feels like two, because I’m often working until two (a.m., that is).

Three amazing pregnancies, three c-sections, one back surgery, and currently, one healthy body. (Knock on wood).

Three children, two boys and one girl. Three incredible hooligans, one princess, two rough-housers. Make that three.

Two houses, within two miles of one another. 4 bedrooms, and both way too much to keep clean.

Three—whoops—make that four cars, all volvos. What can I say, I’m a loyal volvo nut? Several door dings, two tickets. Road trips too numerous to count.

One PMP certification, three distinct, yet complementary career paths: HR, project management, marketing/communications/pr.

One challenge to begin running. One 10K. One 5K. Over a hundred miles this year. Working on an 8K. Still a few lbs. to lose (no numbers being listed, purposefully).

Between friends: Eight divorces, at least twenty-two babies, four miscarriages, six friends trying to conceive. Tears too numerous to count. Subsequent unbridled joy, overflowing.

Twelve hundred boo-boo’s, sixteen hundred diapers, four hundred night-time feedings.

One tae kwon do membership, two soccer seasons, two up on waterskiis.

One pink slip. Countless opportunities to grow, challenge, thrive.

Thousands of hours developing Richmondmom.com, hundreds of new friends made, countless lessons learned. Thanks for reading this random rant. I’d love to read your story, too: (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Richmond’s Social Media for Social Good

Attending the sold-out house at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts last night for the Social Media Club of Richmond, listening to Gradon Tripp of Boston speak was a bit like watching a jello mold materialize: I had a feeling I knew what the message/outcome would be, but it was still fun and fascinating to enjoy. (OK, so maybe I don’t get out much!)

Watching Richmond’s top marketers, entrepreneurs, non-profit gurus plunk away on their iPhones (and for some of us old school folks, blackberries) as Gradon Tripp spoke was like a show in-and-of itself. Why use social media? It’s the new wave of marketing. How to brand oneself? It’s a conversation—listening as well as consistently branding your message is paramount. How to make the transition from branding to requesting donations (ie how non-profits exist)? Do it well, tie it to a campaign, and set a short time frame.

The after-conversations resonated with me, as a Board member of CHIP,experiencing the constant struggles of a small non-profit providing essential services to the Richmond community being consistently overlooked for donations.

To me the conversation leads to, Who will Richmond’s new philanthropists be? This question was posed by Jonah Holland That conversation has been rocking on Twitter lately, and has been bouncing around in my head this week. Philanthropy is not just the multi-million dollar estate left to charity, philanthropy is true engagement in the community in which you live; the giving of time, goods, and yes—-money—-to support non-profits that support communities and ultimately help individuals live to their full potential.

Philanthropy—and Social Good—is the ten dollars you put in the bucket, the crisp check sealed, stamped and sent, the day spent sweating and toiling, getting your hands dirty for someone else. It just happens to be talked about—or should be—on Twitter, Facebook, and new social media.

If you’re reading this message, have a PC, have a roof over your head, you’re a lot luckier than you think. You’re probably a budding philanthropist, too. If not you, me, then who?

W.A.H.M. Talk: My life as a work-at-home-Richmond-mom
by Jennifer Gurley, Richmond mom and mompreneur

My daughter is hovering again.  She’s bored and wanting my attention.  I shouldn’t complain – she’ll only be small for a little while, these are precious times and all too soon, she’ll be in school all day and too busy to want to play Go Fish with her mom.  image

But right now, I really wish she’d go somewhere else. 

I’m a work-at-home mom.  Having recently lost my not-at-home job, I decided to pursue my own interests and start my own business.  I’ve worked at home before, as a marketing freelancer.  I’m familiar with the routine, and feel lucky to have this opportunity. 

The fantasy of this situation is that I’m at home to enjoy all the little moments my children offer me, and I get to make a little money on the side and fulfill that desire I have in me to be my own person and do my own thing.  It’s flexible, I get to exercise my creative muscle and be my own boss.  And I get to be there for my children when they need help with their homework, want to play a game or even just snuggle.

Right now, though, the gosh-honest truth is that I’m annoyed with her whining.  I have things to do.  I NEED to get this article written.  I have laundry, the vacuum needs to be run and I have shirt orders to fill.  I’ve already played “Moms” with her and let her play with my hair.  I’ve painted her nails.  We’ve watched Madeline, her favorite movie.  And we’ve read all her Madeline books. 

I look at her little face and I’m so conflicted. 

On the one hand, I have filled my mommy duties – I mean, I can’t devote every second of my day to her.  She’s 6, after all.  On the other hand, isn’t this why I want to work from home??  I mean, I’m so lucky!  Right?

I’ve tried to establish parameters with regards to Mommy’s work time.  I find that works best – devoting certain times of the day to work, and certain times to play.  My children seem to respond well – I get my work done, and the kids get dedicated mommy time.  Structure makes our little world go ‘round.

But sometimes, like today, it just doesn’t work.  The whining and boredom overtake the understanding of the arranged schedule.  She’s getting frustrated with me, my mounting frustration is turning to anger…

Is it really worth it??? 

You know what?  It is.  I AM lucky.  But hear this (and I know other WAHM’s know this too) – this is not easy.  It’s not easy to balance the time you need to devote to your business to make it thrive, with the time you need to devote to your children so they’ll do the same.  There aren’t enough hours in the day.  Sometimes I miss being able to leave work behind…coming home and just focusing on being wife and mom and nothing else.  Often, my children go to bed and my work day begins.  My sewing machine works the late shift on many an occasion.  The rare quiet times in my house are devoted to just trying to get SOME work done, when what I’d really love to do is sit on the couch and have some quiet time myself.  Just once.

It’s grueling.  It’s exhausting.  It’s a lot of compromise.  And a lot of sacrifice. 

It’s also exhiliarating.  And precious.  And wonderful.

You know, I’ve come to realize there’s no such thing as the woman who does it all.  Or not well, anyway.  To the outside, I may seem together.  I have friends who’ve accused me of being a witch because I seem so organized and clean and put together.  The reality is that my office/workshop looks like a bomb went off in it, I haven’t showered since Wednesday (God bless pony tails), there’s 3 weeks worth of laundry to put away sitting in piles on my bedroom floor like land mines, and the shower hasn’t had a good scrub in months. 

But my children aren’t in daycare all day, which makes me happy.  I get to spend time with them, taking them to the pool and gymnastics and the park, which makes us all happy.  The laundry is at least clean, which makes my husband happy.  No one’s happy about the shower, but oh well.  My business is growing, my creative juices are flowing and I get to pursue my passions.  So, difficulty aside, I’ll treasure this while I’m lucky enough to have it. 

And you know what?  My daughter will be OK if I tell her “no, not now.”  She may stomp off in a huff, and give me an earful of attitude on the way out the door, but she’ll get over it.  She might go aggravate her little brother in her frustration, but she’ll lose interest in that soon enough.  And eventually she WILL find something to do to entertain herself. 

And if not, there’s always that shower…

Jennifer Gurley co-owns a company called Kikibonan with darling kids’ clothing and accessories.

The birth of a Mom.com enterprise
by Kate Willoughby Hall, Richmondmom.com Founder image

If someone had told me eight months ago I’d be a mommy-blogger/mompreneur/entrepeneur/work-at-home mom, you could have knocked me over with a feather.  In fact I may have even said, “I could never do that full-time.  . .”

But, here I am post layoff from a 130-year-old financial company who is now no longer in existence, managing Richmondmom.com with over twenty business partners sponsoring the site, ten thousand visitors per month, four thousand e-subscribers, and three little kids at home under eight. My days now consist of Twittering, diaper changes, Facebooking, grocery shopping, boo-boo fixing, Wii-playing, email marketing, sales calls, laundry, pb&j-fixing, more sales calls, networking; ok I’m tired now just writing about it.

So, to conquer the boredom I often encounter (insert laughter here) I’ve launched another enterprise, www.getyourmom.com because I’m certain there are other smart, motivated women out there who are in similar situations (downsized, laid off, transitioning to/from the workforce in some way) and searching for that opportunity. For a relatively small fee I’m sharing my business plan and what I’ve learned so that other marketing-minded mamas can do the same thing while promoting great businesses in their markets while making some dough for their family. Know someone who may be a fit? Refer them to me and I’ll gladly pay you a $500 referral fee when they agree to work with me: (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Oh, and never say never.  . .

3/50 Project is realistic step forward!

My friends and I were talking about the small businesses that had recently gone out of business in Richmond—Lane Sanson being one of our favorites—and how we hope the trend doesn’t continue. Many of my clients are small local business owners in Richmond & surrounding area, so I’m taking a keen interest in helping them thrive during this difficult time.

Someone Twittered this article on the 3/50 Project and I was immediately fascinated by the sheer simplicity of this concept: if only 1/2 of the employed population spent $50 a month at a local, independently-owned business, it would generate more than 42.6 BILLION in revenue. Because such a higher percentage of revenue from these businesses goes right back into the local community—$68 for every $100 in fact—it’s a winning strategy to get the economy rolling again.

What about the “spend it online and nothing comes home” part of the 3/50 project? There are several examples of businesses right here on Richmondmom.com that offer products the national chains offer at reduced prices (online and in person!) that would benefit the community. Examples: By Invitation Only and Tweed at the Shops at Westgate, Monograms for All Occasions in Twin Hickory, Weebsworld in Short Pump, It’s Hip to Be Round in Carytown, and USA Baby & Kids.
I ‘m making a concerted effort to shop locally as much as possible—not saying that the “big guys” are the enemy and that we should drop all big-box spending and run for the boutiques. In fact, the big guys employ Richmond folks and should be supported, but this simple 3/50 concept is an easy one for most to integrate into daily spending, and start making a difference.

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St. Catherines School prek and kindergarten

Richmond Favorites

  • USA Baby & Kids
  • Theatre IV
  • Chick-fil-A Richmond VA
  • Romp n Roll
  • Sewinit Richmond VA
  • Core Kids Academy
  • HCA Hospitals Richmond VA
  • Real Life Studios
  • Weebsworld
  • Mathnasium Richmond VA
  • Momentum Resources
  • Dream Dinners
  • The Learning Experience
  • Sunny’s Goodtime Paints
  • Call Federal Credit Union Richmond VA
  • West End Academy of Dance
  • Great Wolf Water Park Resort Williamsburg VA
  • Tuckaway Child Care Centers Richmond VA
  • VA 529 Plan
  • Science Museum of Virginia Richmond VA