Angela Chee is an award winning television host, journalist, motivational speaker and voiceover artist. Her career has taken her across the country and her work has been seen around the world.
As a mother of 2, she is also the founder of TheZenMom.com, a resource to help moms find peace and balance in their journey because motherhood isn’t always so zen. Angela shares with us her experience in the television industry and how she handles those not-so-zen days as a mother.
Tell us about your blog – The Zen Mom
I basically started it when I was a reporter. When I had my son, I started using the Internet to access all the information I needed. I’m a reporter; so I’m all about information. Even though there was so much support and resources on the Internet, it was also so overwhelming. So, I started the blog as my journey to find the best information for me out there at each stage and it was a way to share what I learned. It really started as a resource for moms. And then it evolved into everything I believe in. The Zen Mom blog is now about who you are as a woman, how to stay balanced, how to stay inspired and empowered so that you can be good to yourself and then be good to your family. I also do Zen Mom TV on my blog, which I’d like to evolve into a show. Wisdom, Inspiration and Laughter is my overall theme and I write about interesting things that I’ve learned and what I feel people need to know. I love sharing quotes in the Monday Motivator. I write about women entrepreneurs, inspirational women and also whatever makes me laugh.
I grew up in Los Angeles, but I was never a showbiz or a Hollywoodtype person. I grew up as a normal teenager in Cerritos, California. I never really wanted to be a celebrity or in movies or anything, but I always wanted to go into news. I really enjoyed television just for the medium. As a young child, it was something I always wanted to do. It has been a long journey. After college, I started off in the corporate world in the entertainment industry. I helped launch Entertainment Tonight China. But I always wanted to be on air and create content and share stories as a news reporter. However, to do that, you initially have to go to a really small market and make little money. And so for me, I went about it a different way. I didn’t go right off from college to a small market. I worked for about 3 years in Hollywood at Paramount Pictures. I helped launch a show to see how things worked in movies, in television and production. In addition, I worked part-time on the weekends in Palm Springs to get the skills that I needed to feel comfortable on TV. I worked 7 days a week for about a year and a half. And then I worked my way up to the small news markets in different cities and eventually back to my hometown in Los Angeles, which was my dream.
What do you love about your roll as a news anchor?
In general, what I love about it the most is just the medium of television. It is the opportunity to take a story that someone doesn’t know about and bring light to it. And you hope that in your career you can shine light on stories that are positive. That’s why my blog is interesting to me. Now, I get to choose what I put out there, which are wisdom, inspiration and laughter. And not to say news is bad. It’s necessary. But it’s not the everyday, because news is whatever is newsworthy. I love my job in general as a storyteller and as someone that has an impact through a blog post or a video or through hosting a television show. When I see something either inspirational or interesting whether it comes from my brain or telling someone else’s story and think, “WOW other people need to know about it,” that is what drives me. It’s about sharing information to impact people’s lives. It’s something beyond just me.
First decide what you really want and why. Find the true meaning of why you want to do it. Don’t get into the industry just because you want to be on television or to be famous. Get to the true core of what drives you, because if you go into this with the wrong reason, you may end up falling flat. Also, know that there will be setbacks. But take those setbacks, never give up and just go for it. Know your limitations. Set your goals.
When you experienced setbacks, what kept you going for your goals?
I’ve always been a very driven person. I set a goal for myself and I just go for it. I always felt like I was meant to do something more and do something that was beyond myself. So, when I hit a setback I kept my focus on my intention and my goals, which was to be able to influence and impact people. However, I was also realistic. I didn’t believe in sacrificing everything. Working hard and giving your all is important, but I think sacrificing everything is not always necessary. You need to make your own decision of what works for you in your life at the time. I gave as much as I could as a single woman and it worked for me back then. When I became a mom, I reshifted my priorities. Although I may still have the same goals, my priorities have shifted and I made sure that it all fit. The overall picture is to reach your goals, be happy, be fulfilled, but if you just feel like you’re resenting whatever you’re doing just to make it to the top, whatever the top is, then it’s really not worth the journey.
Being able to see so much joy and love in my kids’ eyes. I love just being there for them, impacting them, shaping their minds and watching them grow into wonderful people. Right now, I’m not a full-time working mom. And the interesting part is the juggle. Being able to be there for them (and that’s why I left the news full-time at this point) and see the moments and do the everyday things. I do the drop-offs at school, I’ve had food covered all over me, I breastfed, I did all that. However, there’s a part of me that I don’t want to shut down. I still want to be able to have something that I can do with my own brain and thoughts and be able to share it with others aside from being a mom. I think that makes you a better mom.
What advice would you give to moms who are struggling to find the balance in their lives?
My top three things to stay zen and balanced is first, don’t judge and don’t compare. Judging is easy. We all do it. And on the flip side is that you also compare yourself with others, because everyone has a different way of doing things. Don’t always try to keep up with everyone else and don’t be the critic. That’s hard on other people because we’re all just trying to get through it. Second, appreciate the everyday. It is said that motherhood is when the days are long and the years are short. So, when you’re in that moment where you’re going crazy and trying to do it all, you really have to take a step back and know that this day is going to be different five years from now or a year from now. And third is to stay inspired. Don’t forget about yourself. Do whatever you need to stay inspired and do what you’re passionate about. It could be as simple as going for 5-minute walks or going on vacation or going back to work.
I struggle with the guilt. I mean, I’m Chinese… C’mon! But I think guilt is natural. I deal with it by remembering the time when it worked out. I let go of the guilt, did what I did and I was happy, the kids were happy and everything worked out fine. And I wondered why I didn’t do it before… why did I feel guilty? We spend time with the guilt, but it really doesn’t help anybody or make the situation any better. Again, the guilt is natural. If you feel it, know that it’s okay and try to do what’s best for you and your family.
Many moms say that balance in motherhood doesn’t exist.
Balance does exist for moments. You have to find those moments. It’s not going to be 100% of your life. That’s not realistic. It’s not about being so happy all the time and that everything is so wonderful every single minute. It’s about when everything is falling apart, when you don’t have time to work out or don’t have time to do the laundry and everything is just so crazy. And, well, you say this week sucks and then maybe next week I’ll get through some of it. And it’s a reminder that you’re a little behind this week and let’s even it out and get back to the other side. So, it’s always remembering how to get back to zen, how to get back to balance… not that it’s always zen and always balanced. I think that’s what’s important. It’s not real to have everything perfect. That’s the whole point. Some days my skin is shiny and I’m happy, life is great. And the next minute, I’ve got food on me and I’m so tired and then I just screamed at my child and then I feel bad. But then it’s taking breathes and remembering that you need to get back to that place of zen and not always getting stuck in a bad place of constantly feeling so overwhelmed, lonely and tired. It’s really easy to get stuck in the bad place.
I do yoga. I try to do yoga once or twice a week, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. I also started meditating, which is a new venture for me. I am naturally a go-go, Type A person. I’m always doing stuff for my kids and also always thinking about the next thing in my head. I think that comes from my entrepreneurial spirit. I can never shut down my brain. So, I turned to a formal meditation just this past year and it has really helped. However, I have fallen off the bandwagon. I started off with half hour meditations in the morning and at night. Now, I’m down to half an hour in the morning. It’s all about having a quiet space whether it’s through yoga or meditation to really quiet down my brain and just focus for a little bit, because I’m going all day. I think it’s important to start off the beginning of your day with some sort of quiet time and/or the end of the day where you can just unwind. And if it sometimes doesn’t happen then it doesn’t happen because the kids wake up early. So, give yourself that space but know that sometimes you’re going to have some setbacks and not be able to get it done. Just try again tomorrow. That’s just reality.
Tell us more about your background.
My parents immigrated from China to the East Coast in the 70’s and then had me. Shortly thereafter, we moved straight to California. So, I’m very much a Southern California girl, but also very Chinese. I speak Mandarin and I teach my kids Mandarin at home. I really appreciate the traditional values and everything that my parents did for me. It was always about working hard and they were just very grounded people. And I think that’s what kept me going; remembering how hard they worked to make everything happen. For me, it’s so important to have that grounded family and those traditional values. And I’m trying to pass those on to my children. I met my husband in high school at a leadership camp. We weren’t high school sweethearts or anything, but we dated for the summer and then kept our friendship going long distance. We stayed in touch throughout the years as friends. We always had our separate lives. And about 8 years ago, we started dating as adults and the rest is history. And now we have 2 children, a 4-year- old son and a 2-year-old daughter.
Share one thing that would surprise someone that knows you.
I am actually kind of shy. Even though I’ve been on TV and I’m a speaker and I do all these things in the limelight, I necessarily don’t need to be the center of attention in my personal life. I grew up in a traditional Asian household and I think I still have that little girl inside of me that’s a little shy, which has helped me stay grounded.
DadLabs is an information and entertainment company that fosters the father/child relationship through media, instructional and retail products. The company provides resources to expecting, new and veteran fathers that will launch them into a more active and creative role in the lives of their children.
Clay Nichols, Chief Creative Officer, Co-Founder, Writer, Producer, and Star of DadLabs speaks candidly about how DadLabs was created, shares his challenge has a father, how he juggles it all and finds the balance in his life.
Tell us about the DadLab website and how it came about.
DadLab is a site about parenting from a father’s perspective. We have all kinds of features on the site, but our main platform is video. We create between 2 to 5 short videos a week on pretty much any imaginable topic pertaining to parenting. It’s informational and some of it is just pure entertainment. We’ve got over 800 videos in out catalog.
How did DadLabs get started?
It was started with two other of my colleagues. We were teachers in a private school and we were doing a lot of work with film. It led us to start conversations about starting our own films and we got together one night a week to kick around ideas for movies. We discussed what it was like with our kids and our pregnant wives and then our babies. We would talk about nursing or sleep deprivation and we realized that a lot of guys were having conversations about this also. However, none of it was available publicly, because everything was geared toward moms.
When we first started out, there weren’t a whole lot of available networks to go out to because we were some of the first dad bloggers. Unlike mom blogs where there’s a network to go out to and communicate with, this kind of thing wasn’t available to us dads when we first started. And now there’s a healthy network of dads. We got lucky. We had some notes in national media and some features on YouTube© that got us circulating. And that’s kind of what launched us. We’ve been lucky to have some new corporate partners.
I think this is just a reflection of what’s going on in our culture. At a grocery store today, there is five times as many men than 15 years ago and that’s just part of a larger cultural shift. We’re redesigning what’s expected of men.
Does your tagline, “Taking Back Paternity” signify that more dads are going out there and being more involved with their kids?
I think in some ways it was sort of a joke. Maternity has just warm positive implications. It is something that’s to be celebrated. When you think of the word Paternity, you think of lawsuits to get men to live up to their obligations and it’s a very negative connotation. Paternity should be just as positive of a word as maternity and that’s our approach. What we’ve produced so far has been funny and lighthearted. It is important for guys to participate in the lives of their kids and also to talk about it with other guys.
Share with us what the book is about?
We’ve put out two instructional DVDs a long time ago and those are out of print. A few Father’s Days ago, 3 years or 2, we published a traditional book called Guy’s guide to fatherhood, pregnancy year 1, and it’s basically a funny handbook for guys to look at pregnancy in the first year. The people that have read it have had great reviews, many people find it useful. Just recently we’ve begun publishing a series of eBooks that are a little more practical and a little more specific and less oriented towards dads, more general and we’re galling it he sane parents guide and we just published the sane publics guide for getting g young home ready for a baby and we’ve got 5 more titles in the series the will include things like mobility, like strollers that will come out next month and so on and so forth over the next 6 months we will be publishing these eBooks. It’s a great opportunity for creators and parents to get together and that’s been our talk from day one. You don’t need a publisher, a TV show; you can sue the tools out there to talk directly to parents.
I think this is true for a lot of guys. If you go home, sometimes it’s hard when the rubber meets the road because I want to be completely present for my kids, be an equal partner to my wife when it comes to taking care of the house and kids. I want to fully inhabit this new role and at the same time there’s the pull of stereotypical things like spending more time at the office, I need to be working harder and earning more money. The traditional male roles still have a grip on me and dictate things that won’t necessarily make me the best dad. Balancing the old model with the new model is a challenge for me.
One of the hard things for all parents is the juggle of three kids with work, the birthday parties, etc. Everything works fine until one kids gets sick and the whole house melts down. You have to be with the one kid. The hard thing these days is balancing all our obligations as a family.
Wow, so it’s not really too far off from how we feel as moms with the balancing and juggling.
Yes. I think that as time goes by our concerns are going to be converging. Moms are working more and dads are contributing more at home. So it’s not a surprise. Ultimately, one of the big challenges for moms is feeling compelled to get everything done. Moms feel like they have to get all these things done. One of the big problems we see as this new household model emerges is that moms are going to have to give some stuff up for dads to do, but as they do that they have to really give it up. They can’t pass it to dad and expect dad to do it just as mom would do it. It may be the way dad folds the laundry. Moms need to let go a little and let dad do it his way. It’s not wrong, just a different way of doing things, but it gets done.
What do you enjoy most about being a dad?
There is not a lot about it that I don’t love. Reading to them, sitting on the sideline and watching their sports games, hearing how their day went as school, listening to them talk to each other when they don’t know that I’m listening. Those are some of my favorite moments. There’s so much about fatherhood that I find endlessly fascinating.
Of course, there are hard times and bad times. And you hate to see the kids struggle or get ill or get in conflict, but they enrich my life that it’s not possible for me to conceive a life without that.
I think it’s about you having to be present. The biggest challenge to men and to parents is to be present as much as you can. At minimum be in the same room, and at the maximum be unplugged, focused and listening and you’ll learn everything you need to know about being a good dad. The key thing is just to be present and that means sacrificing a little bit like giving up golf for a little while or coming home in time for family dinners. Set aside things that you think are important but really aren’t.
Number two is being able to laugh at yourself and have a sense of humor with what you’re doing. Kids offer the opportunity for us to learn about ourselves – the good stuff and the bad stuff.
Moms need to do certain things to feel balanced, what do you do to stay balanced?
There are two things I do. I run and I drink wine. About 5 years ago, I decided that I was going to go to bed when the kids did and get up earlier than them to take time for myself and go for a run. That developed into a nice hobby and a great release for me. The other thing I do is my wife and I have a long-standing tradition where we sit down in our family room every evening, which has no television, and we have a glass of wine and talk. We don’t really have to offer an invitation or any inducement, but our kids find a way of wandering in to sit down and listen to what we’re talking about. If their friends are over, they join in on the conversation and it’s been a way of making sure that my wife and I are connected, that the kids are aware we are connected and to invite them in to be part of the conversation.
Being the multi-passionate entrepreneur she is, Michelle Ghilloti is a marketing and branding expert. She also is a yoga teacher and a writer. She is currently writing her book, “How to Be a Walking Momtra™”, which is aimed at stretching the happiness of all moms and empowering them with tools to get rid of the story that they can’t do what they want in their lives.
The piece she loves the most is this mesh of coaching women on the nuts and bolts of business while also creating and building their brands. “We don’t call any woman’s business a “small business” at Michelle Ghilloti International, she says. “No woman is small in her ability and creativity and no business is small in possibility or success.”
Michelle shares with us her journey that led her to create the Walking Momtra blog, her experience with post-partum and how she finds happiness and balance throughout it all.
I have this belief and passion to help mothers focus on creating balanced and peaceful lives, so they can really raise happiness. Our kids are such a mirror of us.
After I had my son, I went through the journey of postpartum depression for quite a while. I thought it’s what all moms felt and I was just going to come out of the other end soon. But a year later, I was still saying the same thing and I was obviously in a dark place. My son, Nolan had different issues, like sleep terrors. Over time, I found it hard to get out of the house or to start turning on music and dance in the living room, which was something I regularly did. I’m naturally a very joyful person. So, when I didn’t really want to do the things that used to make me happy, I pushed myself to do them. This is when I saw a change in Nolan. His night terrors lessened and we really adjusted to where a nice connection between us was forming. I think you have to go through the motions to come out the other side.
It really goes back to my childhood with my grandmother who raised 5 kids throughout a lot of trials and tribulations. She rescued us from an abusive home and took us to the United States from Guatemala. From that moment on, I lived under this roof of a happy, well-adjusted woman. This is where I realized the value of creating happiness at home and how it was probable for me.
He wasn’t saying much to me because it was very obvious. It was almost like we didn’t need to verbalize it. We were living in Amsterdam at the time and our friends were in the US. So, support was minimal. My husband would come home from work and find me crying on the ground with the baby. He would get on the ground and cry with me. He is the most supportive human being on the planet.
When we moved back to the states, I still had these feelings, but it was getting better. He would come home early from work, leave later in the morning or get up with Nolan so I could go to yoga or go for a run and be on my own to take some time for myself. And the key to doing all this is consistency. It’s great to do things a few times but the secret to success is to be consistent. How I got through it was the feeling of emotional support, lots of talking and the consistency of getting out and doing my own things.
How did your business, Michelle Ghillotti International, come about?
I was a corporate girl in advertising with big brands, like Nike, Got Milk, and Hewlett Packard. My husband and I like to travel and we moved around a lot. After moving from San Francisco to Los Angeles, I wanted to be mindful in the decision I was making. Did I want to go back to corporate in the way that I was or did I want to do something different? And through my self-discovery, I realized that I didn’t want to go back to corporate. I wanted to follow this desire to start my own business. So, I got started primarily doing design work and then expanded to branding and marketing. I now use my expertise and mesh that with what I love, which is helping women create what is at their core that really makes them happy in their business.
I love so many things. I would say being able to gently and lovingly challenge my clients to be more visible, comfortable and confident being themselves and to express that in a unique and professional way. It’s not just making it a business, but also a human connection business. As women, we are so giving and so passionate that we need to be fully expressed. When we’re in that full expression, we’re just so much more magnetizing and we can attract ideal clients. It’s not as hard as we think.
Do you find it hard for your clients to be themselves in their businesses, especially when they’re first starting out?
Absolutely. I would say it is the number one conversation that I have with my clients. I get complete joy to see my clients confident and excited to express their uniqueness and convey that in their marketing, on their website and their blog. I had a client recently who said, “Michelle, thank you so much for making me see my own light.”
I just sat with that because we teach what we most need to learn. It’s a journey we’re all on. When I saw that message, I thought it was so beautiful. When people talk about branding, it’s so technical. However, it’s not… my version is not. It’s about chipping away at all the societal conditionings that has made us believe we need to be X, Y or Z, and knowing that we’re going to be a different version of ourselves at 25, 36 or 45. It’s ok to be authentic. When we are authentic, the skies open up, the sun comes out and everything becomes brighter and happier because we’ve given ourselves permission to do that.
That’s an easy one. I love showing my son what it’s like to have a mom who is happy. I adore him and I love that I am so present with him and for him. After I’ve done something creative or come out of a meeting with a client, I have new stories to share. I have new energy and I feel like a new person when I’m nurturing these other parts that make up my complete self. I love that he has that example in a woman, in his mom.
What is the most challenging part of being a mom entrepreneur?
Let’s see. I would say it’s probably that guilt I feel the days when I’m really busy. Typically, after 3pm when I walk to pick my son up from school, I tell myself that I’m on mamma duty. When I can’t do that for myself and for him, and it happens, I get that weight that I feel and I really have to coach myself through it. I communicate and explain to him what’s going on. Then, tomorrow is a new day and I work on my schedule to fit it all in. It’s hard and it’s not perfect. Most importantly, my son knows that he’s not less loved by me.
Having your own business is so amazing and there’s such freedom, but you’re called a solopreneur for a reason. It’s almost like being a mom for the first time where you’re kind of isolated. So, from the get go, collaborate, collaborate and collaborate. Make sure you’re getting out and inviting women that you have chemistry with and network. Have others hear you and your ideas and visions and really listen to these women that you respect. Continue to polish the business and you’ll feel so much more confident.
The other one I mention a lot is to make sure you’re proud of the framework of your business, the way you’re presenting your business. It’s an extension of us. Many clients want to rebrand themselves with me. They’ve been doing their business for a while, but never loved their logo or appear shy when they hand out their business card. It’s the energy you put out there. It’s not about having the most savvy look. It’s expressing confidence.
You’re a busy mom. How do you stay balanced?
The first thing for me is doing yoga. When I first started it 7 or 8 years ago, it was a physical practice, but it quickly became everything but physical. It was quiet time for me. It’s not about the physical movement. I stay balanced by really quieting the mind.
Also, I go out on dates with my husband and that makes me feel very balanced. We have so much fun. We usually have a weekly date night. However, these last 3 months we’ve been so busy that it hasn’t been weekly.
In addition, I usually get up at least 15 minutes before anyone else. I’m so much more present when I’ve just sat there, read a meaningful book or worked on a task. And then I hear Nolan waking up and I go upstairs and I’m so happy and say “Good Morning!” I am more grounded this way.
I would say start small. I know that many moms say go to yoga or do meditation. However, a lot of times for various reasons, that’s just not reality. The micro movements to meditation are reflections. Reflect at the end of the day or the morning by sitting for 5 to 7 minutes and reflect on how yesterday went and what you can do for yourself today that would change the mood or the flavor of the day. It’s a building block towards mediation. You’re not trying to do something that isn’t natural, like sitting still for 30 minutes. Starting small is huge. Micro-movements are worth a lot.
Share something about you that would surprise people who know you.
Juicy! I had a friend the other day come up to my room to show her around the house and she looks around with amazement. I put those huge Post-it Notes© all over my room. I take compliments from people and inspirational quotes and post them all over my house. They’re just reminders to stay focused on what I want from my life.
Another thing is I dance by myself a lot at home. I mean I dance like a 23 year old. If it’s a busy day or my energy is funky and I know that my brain needs to finish this project, I turn on hip hop and I go for it! I am very silly. My son, Nolan has gotten into the groove and he’ll see me dancing where I’m totally in the moment. My eyes are closed and I then look over at him giggling and he takes his hand and slaps his forehead like “oh my goodness”.
When summer is in full swing, people are more than happy to take advantage of the great weather, bright sun and outdoor activities! It gives us a chance to explore and reconnect, not only with people we may not see as often as we’d like, but also with the outdoors and ourselves.
Many people may not realize that summer also offers a unique opportunity to freshen their décor. Whether you decide to make design and decor changes indoors or outdoors, your choices will refresh your space and help you feel like a special guest in your own home. Even still, as an adult, the mere mention of summer brings the word ‘happy’ to my mind. Summer is a lighthearted, playful time of year, and with a little time and effort, your home can reflect this carefree attitude. Here are a few ideas to get you in the spirit of the season.
Move the Living Room Outside
Extending your living area outside and connecting with your surroundings seems natural during the summer months. There’s almost something decadent about having another separate living space outside. I mentioned in a recent blog post that outdoor patios and porches are perhaps the most underutilized area of our home. They offer an amazing opportunity to expand our living space and our square footage. During the warm summer months, outdoor spaces should be a continuation of your interior spaces, and making them mirror your interiors is an easy way to do so. Create a living area outside this summer and see what happens! Include seating to encourage guests to sit, socialize and relax. Anchor the area with an outdoor rug that echoes your décor inside. Using outdoor chairs and ottomans that are comfortable with colorful fluffy pillows and cushions made from weather-resistant fabric is an excellent way to make an inviting area no one will want to leave! There are also numerous accessories available that will help thread the look of your interiors into your new outdoor living spaces, such as art, mirrors and wall clocks that will make any outdoor room look complete. Don’t forget to add end tables and a coffee table for convenient places to set food and drinks.
To create the ultimate outdoor living room, consider having an arbor added to your backyard that incorporates the use of fabric panels to create your own personal cabana. I’ve found that adding a pantry area for clients to house candles, matches, plastic plates, cups, barware, napkins and a few serving pieces is a welcome addition to their outdoor area and saves unnecessary trips back and forth to the kitchen. The finishing touch for kids and adults alike is an outdoor fireplace or fire pit to help them stay warm on cool, early summer evenings, and it is a perfect place to roast a few marshmallows after dining al fresco with friends. Remember, it’s summer and it’s all about light-hearted fun!
Whether it’s indoors or outside, the kids probably need a quiet space for summer reading during their three month break from school; or you may need a space to get away from the kids! A reading nook is the perfect place to escape. Take a look around your home or outdoor space and get creative, as long as it’s quiet and comfortable, with adequate lighting. Most importantly, a reading space should be a peaceful area free of noise and the traffic of a household. Surround yourself with objects, colors and textures that make you feel at ease, and be sure the area is relatively clutter-free. Don’t forget to incorporate the use of a small table to make room for a glass of water or an afternoon cocktail! This is all about time for you.
Create a Summertime Tablescape
Summer is the perfect season to entertain family and friends and who doesn’t love a summer meal? Since the heat of the day is in the afternoon, guests will enjoy an early brunch or an evening dinner party. Have fun arranging the dinner table with tasteful, lighthearted summertime elements, like shells and flowers, candles and glass candle holders. Whether you favor formal or casual, eclectic or traditional, try using a variety of different colors, textures and patterns. One of the easiest and most cost effective ways to make an impact is with the addition of fresh flowers and potted plants. Freshly-cut, brightly colored flowers from your own garden or from the floral section at your local store make such a difference in your home and at a table! Avoid using heavy, dark or bulky vases and let the flowers take center stage.
It’s no secret that color has an impact on our moods and plays a major role in any design project. Understand that colors behave in three basic ways: active (reds, yellows and oranges), passive (pastels, blue and green), and neutral (crème and white). Dark colors are sophisticated and cozy and they give large rooms a more intimate appearance. Light colors are expansive and airy and they make rooms seem larger and brighter. Personally, I enjoy combining both in my designs for clients while maintaining an overall feel, because I want them to be uplifted and happy when they use their rooms. Since summer is all about a fresh, happy feeling, take advantage of the bright summer sun and increased light levels and choose bright and airy colors or patterns, using those that incorporate the feeling of the season.
You may also enjoy incorporating fun summer accents like brightly colored vases, vintage glass bottles filled with sand or shells, a few antique frames and wicker baskets. Summer is also an excellent time to replace your throw pillow slipcovers with bright, happy designs or just replace your pillows altogether!
Consider swapping your traditional front door for one that’s a little more charming. Though we live in coastal Southern California, I’ve spent a lot of time on the East Coast. So perhaps this is why I’m so drawn to this little-used feature when I see it here. A Dutch door is divided horizontally into two half-doors, and either half can be left open or closed, letting in the warm, summer breeze. If you don’t want to change your front door, consider installing one leading to the back porch. Keeping the top open allows conversation to flow easily during parties between the house and backyard or when the kids are playing outside; and the kids love the cool factor of having a door that opens in two places!
Summer entertaining isn’t complete until you set the mood with lighting. There are so many options from candles and chandeliers, to candelabras, sconces and hurricane lamps. When considering an evening with friends, I always, always, always brighten a table and dark corners with candles. If your outdoor area is large enough, weave several strands of garden lights through the trees or highlight a path, stairs or pool edge with luminaries. Luminaries are containers or sacks filled with sand and a candle and there are gorgeous upscale ceramic or metal versions available through outdoor living stores. Candlelight will twinkle through the holes in the luminaries, allowing light to bounce around and flicker in the dark, throughout the evening.
Summertime is a time when we are energized and full of ideas, so it is an excellent time to incorporate new ideas into our home décor and design. This summer, give yourself permission to let your imagination go a bit and see what kind of changes you can incorporate into your own living spaces!
Summer is birthday season for my boys. Conor, the Leo, begins his third year of teenager–hood this summer, while Kiki, the Cancer, enters his second year in the world of double digits. Despite the unbelievable speed of these developments, many things about their birthdays have remained constant throughout the years: the candles blown out on Krispy Kremes instead of cakes, the birthday morning treasure hunt for presents, and their tireless requests to hear stories about the day they came into the world.
Another constant is how their birthdays always have the power of leading me to reflect upon where I am as a parent, where my children are, and how we are connecting together. Beginning with those earliest days and months of their lives when they were so dependent on me for most of their needs, and shifting with each successive year, I am continually amazed by this “connection” dance of dependence, independence, and detachment.
So what is healthy connection?
On one hand, the more connected I feel to my boys, the more I am able to feel empathetic to their perspective, and what they face in the world. When I am in tune, it’s so much easier to see my eleven–year–old’s testiness and impatience in relation to the amount of homework, fatigue, or other pressures he faces at various times in his life. To see that it’s not that different from when he was young and missed his morning nap, or accompanied me on too many errands and inevitably a meltdown ensued. In each circumstance, he is conveying his need for space, refueling, or rest.
Feeling connected also helps me understand that my teenager’s constant testing of what he can and cannot do on his own, [which] is his way of researching the push and pull of independence and security. It reminds me of when he was first able to walk away from me at the park as a toddler. He loved going far away but often looked back, sometimes to make sure I was where he left me, other times to see if I would come and set a limit on the path he chose. And even though he doesn’t always like my limits, when I feel connected, I see that at each stage in his life he has the same need for Mom, his “safe harbor” to be there for him, as he explores the world.
Yet, the other side of connectedness is not being so connected that we follow our children to every emotional place they go, and everything they experience becomes our experience. This is especially true, as we all know, when it comes to their struggles, heartaches and fears. Practically, this means not letting our egos allow us to take all the credit or blame for their choices, behaviors or achievements, no matter how tempting. When my boys experience success or challenge, be it athletically, academically or socially, it’s so difficult not to feel and experience the same joy or pain they do. Yet, when I am connected, I know that in order to determine the appropriate action or response to these situations, I must remain a little detached–to see these moments as ultimately their journey (not mine), where once again I remain their safe harbor, if and when they need me.
This detachment also includes knowing what information we need to know about our children and respecting there are things we never need to know. Especially now with the tweens and teens upon me, I see this happening more and more. How much of my boys’ experiences, interactions and feelings do they need to share with me? How much did I want to share with my parents when I was their age? As the Kabat-Zinns observe in their book, Everyday Blessings, The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, “The quality and warmth of our connections with our children will be proportional to how much we continue to do our own inner work, and keep a sense of appropriate boundaries… according the same freedom and respect to our children as they transition every year from total dependency… to independent and interdependent adults.”
So in closing this summertime, birthday reflection, I would like to share a poem I revisit often, given to me as a new mother by my parents, that speaks so beautifully to this ever shifting, constantly challenging, yet powerful journey of connection:
On Children by Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
We are so fortunate in Southern California to have beautiful weather throughout the year and the natural beauty of mountain ranes to the ocean side surrounding us. All beautiful settings to fall in love in, but many times we can find ourselves in the busy pace of life asking… “where is the love?”
We want to share the work of Dr. Gary Chapman as a compass to finding the love that is there, but perhaps is not being translated into your “love language”. Dr. Gary Chapman is the author of a series of books all surrounding the topic of The 5 Love Languages®. He has also provided therapy for couples and families and found a common theme that kept surfacing. In simplicity, he found that how one person showed or expressed their love to another may not have translated correctly to their partner, child, family member. This loss in translation could leave one feeling unloved when in actuality they just were not speaking each other’s love language. Dr. Chapman identifies the following 5 Love Languages® to describe how one interprets love:
- Acts of Service: Receiving help makes this person’s life easier which shows compassion and expression of love.
- Words of Affirmation: Compliments, hearing “I love you” and why can send this person to the moon.
- Quality Time: This person thrives on uninterrupted attention, and being made like she or he is the only one that matters.
- Receiving Gifts: Receiving gifts shows this person she/he matters.
- Physical Touch: This does not necessarily mean sex, but this person enjoys being touched in a loving manner.
Identifying which language(s) speak to you is only part of the equation. The other important piece is finding out what the love languages are for those around you. For example, if “Words of Affirmation” speaks to you but your partner is “Acts of Service,” how do you learn to communicate your love and also feel loved in return? Can you learn a new language?
You can assess your love language at www.5lovelanguages.com/assessments/love/. Then you can ask those around you to do the same. You can do the following assessments for wives, husbands, singles, children, parents of teenagers, and languages of apology. You can do this with the whole family.
If you choose to do this with your family, have everyone give examples of how that love language looks for them. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you want. This is very important, so no misinterpretation happens and your needs are getting met. Please note there may be more than one love language that you may speak. Start with one and give ways to implement it. Check in and see if everyone is feeling the love.
When it comes to our children, it is so important that they feel the love. As we know, how a child interprets love during their formative years can help promote healthy self-esteem, self-confidence, and security. Learning your child’s love language can help fill their cup, so to speak. Dr. Chapman will also be releasing a children’s book soon on helping children
identify the different love languages. It is never too soon to have the discussion or observation of your little or not so little one(s).
In our practice we often see couples struggle while juggling the transitions in parenthood. Please use this tool to support each others needs. Take the time to refill each other’s cups. Cheers.
Most adults associate childhood with carefree-living and having no worries. As parents, we have lived through the challenges of childhood, and we know the outcome of most daily situations, but as a child, everything is new. They do not know the outcome. From going to a doctor’s office, to overhearing a dispute between their parents, these issues seem minor to an adult, but can be intense in the eyes of a child. As hard as we try we cannot keep them from these feelings. They are going to encounter stress. Teaching them to use positive stress correctly and lowering the side effects of negative stress is a life skill that will give your child an advantage for the rest of their life.
Teaching our children how to cope with stress properly is a life skill sometimes overlooked by parents. We are so focused on giving them as many experiences as we can, we forget to slow down to listen to their feelings. In fact, as parents, we have become so accustomed to rushing from place to place ourselves, we need to practice stress coping techniques as well. Our children are little sponges, and our example is the best way to teach them. When parents are not coping properly with daily negative stressors, our children are learning what not to do.
The term “stress” is thrown around so much, many people don’t understand what stress is and what it is not. In fact, most adults have different ideas about what “stress” actually means. I break stress down into two categories, positive stress and negative stress.
When is stress positive?
Stress encourages us to achieve greatness. It pushes us forward to accomplish our goals. It is necessary to create the right inspiration that lights a fire within us. Another way stress is needed in our daily lives is when we encounter situations and adrenaline is needed to get through a moment. Our bodies’ natural response to danger is “fight or flight” which brings about heightened alertness, higher levels of perception, and quick decision-making skills that can mean the difference between life and death.
How can we teach our children to use positive stress to their advantage?
The answer is so simple, yet most people don’t take the time to teach their children. The answer is goal setting. It is a valuable tool a parent can give their child. It allows a child to make their own decisions as to what they want to achieve, gives them something to strive for, and creates a sense of pride once the goal is achieved. Most people with specific goals are the ones who are happiest in life because they are working towards a grand result.
Stress Release Reminders journal technique is the easiest way to teach children about daily goal setting. Each page is designed to insert a daily goal, a daily affirmation, and just a few highlights from the day. It takes less than 5 minutes and is a powerful tool because children can go back and easily read their past accomplishments. Also, it gives a parent the quality moments we long to have with our children. Asking them, what do they want to achieve today, and how did it make them happy, are two questions a parent should know about their child. It gives the parent an insight into exactly what the child will want to do with their day. Most parents discuss the goals in the morning and write them down at night just before bed. This is a great way to finish your day and the children are more eager to share because they are prolonging their bedtime.
I know what you are thinking, “Who has time for journaling?” This brings me to another great stress management tool, which is time management. Teaching our children to slow down and prioritize what is most important will keep them on track with their goals.
When is stress negative?
The two biggest factors of negative stress are worrying about the future and dwelling on the past. These are the most damaging of stress and I call it useless mind chatter. It is an internal stress that many people live with daily and has become their way of thinking. In fact people even become addicted to this kind of hurried, tense, lifestyle.
For children, internal stress can be terrifying mostly because children’s imagination is their only outcome in scary new experiences. They have no idea what will happen next on the simplest of situations. They are going to have fears and worries. It is part of life. However, we can teach them the skills to over power future fears and let go of past events and quiet the mind chatter before it becomes an unhealthy habit.
What can we do to teach our children how to quiet the negative internal stress?
Teaching children at a young age to silence the useless mind chatter and focus on the present moment will give them a foundation for a healthier, happier lifestyle. Like any bad habit the sooner you bring awareness to it, the easier it is to overcome.
Awareness is the most important factor to silence internal stress. Taking quiet moments to examine your thoughts will help with awareness. I place Stress Release Reminder decals throughout my day to remind me to quiet the negative chatter of dwelling on the past and fearing the future.
With children, this process is much easier, because bad habits have not yet been formed. It is all about communication.
- Remind yourself to initiate conversations using Stress Release Reminder decals.
- Then ask them “Have you had any concerns today that may have made you anxious, excited, sad, or scared?”
- Then teach them how to make a Plan of Action
- Ask, “Can they change the concern to make it better?” If yes, help set goals to resolve the concern. If not, then let it go and replace the thought with a positive alternative.
This process will give a parent a wonderful view into their child’s outlook on life. Making a plan of action is a great complement to a night-time routine of goal setting journaling.
If you’re like millions of Americans, you woke up on January 1st and vowed to turn over a new leaf – run three miles a day, lose a pound a week, cut out sugar, save $200 a week, whatever. You actually imagined a better you and felt a sense of excitement to start your “new you” journey. But then, come late January or early February, 3 miles a day turned into 1 mile a week, you stopped being able to resist those M&M’s on your co-workers desk. In other words, you slipped back into your old habits.
Well, guess what? I’m here to tell you the brutal honest truth. Summer is coming whether you get yourself in shape or not and it’s time to revive those resolutions. There was a reason you set those goals and if you dig deep and remember your “why”, you will be able to focus on the bigger goal in the face of your immediate desires. Before you start down the path of reviving your resolution, it is important to remember why you set that goal in the first place. On tough days, it is your “why” that will get you through. Think about the things you will be able to do that you can’t do at this unhealthy weight and visualize what it will feel like to do it. For example, if your goal is to have more energy to play with your kids, visualize what it will feel like to chase them up a hill, picture yourself laughing and enjoying those moments. Willpower is a skill you can strengthen through visualization. When the urges to scarf down a handful of M&M’s© strikes, you will be able to conjure up those images to help keep you on track.
Every goal must be treated like a road trip. In order to achieve that goal, you must map out your path to success by outlining the steps that will help you achieve your objective just as you would chart the route to your destination. Whether you are trying to lose pounds or run a 10K, identify the actions that will get you there like packing healthy snacks or scheduling regular workouts.
Last fall, I became a promoter of the Body By Vi 90 Day Challenge. I set a goal to lose 15 lbs. and ended up surpassing my goal by one pound for a total weight loss of 16 lbs. After struggling with my weight for the past fifteen years, this was a major accomplishment for me. Of course, exercise and the right nutrition were a huge part of the weight loss, but here are a few more strategies that helped me finally win at losing.
- Know that you deserve to be healthy and happy. Everything starts with your own belief system and if you don’t believe that your health is a priority, you won’t be able to develop the behaviors you need to accomplish your goal.
- Post photos on your fridge of yourself at your desired weight or a bathing suit you have your eye on. This will serve as a friendly reminder when temptation sets in. If you don’t have a photo of yourself that you like, post a photo of a role model or the body you would like to achieve, but make sure it is reasonable and not some super twig Victoria’s Secret model. That is just going to frustrate you.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. Accept the busy stressed person you are and find a program that fits into your lifestyle. Weight Watchers© works but all that point counting does NOT work for me. After I accepted that and started on a program that fits into my lifestyle, I was finally able to stick to the program for longer than 2 weeks.
- Set small incremental goals and celebrate each milestone. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym every day to lose weight. Real life doesn’t allow for that and if your goals are too big, you are more likely to blow them off altogether. 30 lbs. is a lot to bite off and can feel overwhelming. Start with a goal of 10 lbs. Reward yourself when you reach that goal and then set a new goal. The same is true of exercise. If you are not active but have vowed to get fit, start by fitting a 10-minute walk into your day and then try to build up each week.
- Rethink your environment. When your surroundings stay the same, so do your ingrained habits. You can’t keep junk food in your house and expect your willpower to hold up every time. New habits take time to develop. Don’t expect drastic changes to take place in a week. You have to commit to being in it for the long haul.
- Start your day with a protein smoothie. Research has shown that starting your day with a protein shake can boost your metabolism by up to 35%. It also stabilizes blood sugar, which will reduce cravings and hunger pangs later in the day and therefore keep you from overeating. Load it up with fruits and greens for even more fiber and nutrients.
- Envision how you will achieve your goal. Visualization is one of the most powerful tools for achieving a goal and is even used by Olympic athletes. Picture yourself eating healthier foods, imagine yourself feeling healthier, how it will feel to be able to fit more comfortably into your jeans. Anticipate obstacles like feeling too tired to hit the gym and then imagine how you’ll overcome them
- Ask for what you want. I have become the person who asks the chef to hold the cheese, to cook my meal without butter or bring the dressing on the side. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy myself when dining out. It’s OK to splurge a little now and then, but make up for it the next day by working out a little longer.
- Get your family on board for support. My family knows that I am much more enjoyable to be around when I have gotten my workout in and it always gets scheduled into our plans.
- Figure out what centers you. My life is filled with activity. I am constantly on the go. But there is a thrill I get from figuring out how to fit it all in each day and when I don’t, I just strive to do better the next day. I find it essential to make time to stay healthy and fit or I am no good to my family. I’ve pledged to make my workout just as important as everything else. It’s a commitment to me, a pledge to myself that I know I can not compromise or it disrupts everything else.
Exercise boosts the production of endorphins and serotonin and enhances the body’s ability to absorb these feel-good chemicals, which is why you will often finish a workout with a sense of bliss. But perhaps of greater importance is that it leads to overall mindfulness of living a healthy life. And if all that weren’t enough, exercise keeps me in balance and I do it because I love the way it makes me feel.