Thursday, October 29, 2009

Busy, Busy

Been in a bit of a blur these days. Been building over here. Not much time for posting.

Been working on the website(s)
Been designing my business cards
Received them from the printer today. (They turned out better than expected. Yay!)
Been booking additional seminars.
Been leading the already booked seminars.
Been advancing the upcoming seminars.
Been building on the building I've already done.

One sure way to get me to write that next guidebook is to announce it's release date and book a seminar around it.

After months of procrastination, I have about 2 1/2 weeks to write, edit, proof, and receive back from the printer my next product. Jeez I love a challenge! But if you knew that my first guidebook was raced to the finish line in order to have copies raffled off during a local Mom's Night Out, you'd know this is how I roll. Deadline=Delivery.

Now that I know my way around a Pages layout, you can bet I'll be designing those glossy postcards for it too. (Sharpdots, my new best friend for affordable, delicious promotional cards, bookmarks, postcards by the thousands.)

And I just found out I can have a mobile credit card app on my new iphone. Who says I can't become a mobile merchant and an independent bookseller too?

Did I mention that I have to dye and hem a Halloween costume by tomorrow afternoon's costume parade? Without a sewing machine?

Love to my peeps out there. Have a rockin' Halloween!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Message In The Aftermath

winding path
Photo: Winding Path

A little over a month into the new school year, I find myself standing back and perusing the vista. I've trekked a good long way, but only in looking backward do I find clarity in the path revealed.

A couple of comments my new virtual friend Deb posted recently have been knocking around my brain, reverberating. Regarding A Few Small Repairs and things in my life breaking down in clusters:

"There's always a message somewhere..." and "What will you do when you run out of things to fix?"

...hahaha. Indeed.

You see, in the midst of the hailstorm, head down, body tucked for warmth and protection against the onslaught of elements, one is merely managing to get from point A to point B. Forget C, D and E or the long-held vision of WXYZ. No. A...A.5...A.75 and eeking out a B will suffice. If you get to B you've done a good thing. Kick the ball, get 10 more balls, begin again!

Let me try to explain.

I spent the better part of the last 2-3 years giving out... to the little school, to the surrounding community, the blustery district political policy machine, while many stressed-out parents, school issues, and larger district-wide problems felt like a million little hands of need...need, constant need...pulling at me for attention.

I am, by nature, a giving person.

I am, by nature, a capable problem-solver.

I am, by nature, one who doesn't sit idly by. I have to try. Something.

But I am now, at this moment, removed from being entrenched in many of the immediate issues. I am no longer there.

I am, at this moment, for the first time in many moons, turning the focus back inward. Not out there to the wider community, but back here. To my self. My work. My family. My environment. Our homestead.

It feels good.

It feels much-needed and necessary. As if all things, eventually, return home. OM.

I reflect back to this former post, Cleaning House, and sense the mounting disarray and neglect around our home even then. Years worth of repairs and maintenance got displaced during the onslaught. Freed from the many burdens, I am just now getting caught up around here.

We are no longer in a fixer-upper school. Although admirable, although deeply committed to the cause, although I adore the community of like-minded in-the-trench-warriors, I am absolutely and completely relieved, RELIEVED, to be free from the constancy of effort needed at that little place.

I still have great love and respect for the community and the work being done there. I still lend a helping hand and offer support when I can. I still bump into staff and friends there. We're still there every day at the bus stop. I recently helped lead a grassroots letter-writing campaign that actually saved a no-seniority teacher from being fired last month due to increased class size ratios. (Through the grace of God, the powers that be, and the cumulative power of mobilized, outspoken parents, we were able to get her a waiver.) And even though we're not there anymore, I still do CARE.

But I don't have to feel like I'm holding up the walls anymore.

I can LET GO.

I can revert the focus back here. Back to center. Back to me, my daughter, us.

I've been volunteering in her new classroom every other week or so. This is a luxury she sadly had to sacrifice in the past. At the other school I was too busy with the big picture issues like school-wide infrastructure, policy, communications, professional development, community outreach, tours. I didn't have time to work in just one classroom; I worked on behalf of the whole school. At her new school, I work in her classroom, for her teacher, with her group of kids. I can be present in her experience, once a week or every other week, and it's very rewarding for us both. And the class will survive without me if I don't make it in. There's already a TA in every class. What I bring is bonus support.

At the new school, they assign a value system for everything you donate, a point per half hour of volunteer time, a point per every $5 spent on either a fundraiser or supplies, tabulated monthly. There are built-in incentives like class parties for the class/grade with the most points accumulated.

I can't even begin to describe what assigning a value unit to donated time and services has done for me in terms of re-thinking the value of my efforts, and how much I have accumulated over a period of time. It makes me conscious of what I choose to give and how much, because now I am logging it in. I can't even fathom how many points our family would have collected over the past years with everything we used to do for that other school, me with my full-time load, my husband as booster club president.

So as the focus shifts back homeward, trusting that this new school has its systems not just under control but organized and thriving, I am beginning to relax. Catch up. Repair and replace my own fix-it list. Update. And also, gestate new ideas.

We found ourselves sitting around the living room at 9:30 the other night not with a stack of school-related issues to delve into or a 2-3 hour debate about it, but instead deciding which movie to watch. (We ended up playing games on our iphones. Dreaded Word Warp! Seriously, if you love playing with words, stay away!) I actually hosted a dinner party for friends last week and instead of a burden, it felt lovely, fantastic. It reminded me that even though I used to love to host gatherings, I had no capacity to host much of anything over the past few years, so I just didn't. But now I am craving a more relaxed, social, you-know, joy-filled life.

I find myself making homemade pasta, fresh rolled empanadas, and developing new seasonal cocktails. I feel an abundance all around. I am taking time to breathe in the sun streaking through the glass, casting its brilliant particles of vibrancy and possibility all through and around me. At night the moon cuts through the sky in a swath of brilliance, lifting my heart, beckoning me to wake up, embrace the purity of its loving illumination. Lit from within, I become that same beacon of light radiating outward in my life.

I am happy. Possibilities abound.

I spoke to a group of parents at a preschool the other night and walked away on such a high. I get to share my wisdom, my passion with others, and the exchange is palpable. I love what I do. It is meaningful work. I feel I am making an impact. I could go on and on.

I suddenly feel that as I clear through the backlog and get current around here, the path that I had been on becomes even more clear. The work I am doing, and the book I want to write about it all seems just that much more tangible and within reach. I couldn't write it while my head was so deep in the trenches. I had no perspective there. I was just getting by, surviving moment to moment between rounds of mortar.

It is only now that I am removed from it all that I can see the vista, that I can even begin to write about what just took place and my path through it. And there is a lot to tell.

The message is: it takes a lot of courage to chuck out all that work and start somewhere fresh. Sometimes that is the best thing one can do.

In honor of another friend, Ms Link, and her courage to start over as well, may we be filled with the wonder of what is unfolding in this NOW moment... as we gain perspective on where we've just bushwhacked through.

Many thanks...

The stone steps wind through the woods for a long ways.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Growth Of An Idea

It started innocently enough. Back in April '07 I was about to get mentioned in the LAT (LA Times) for my little Westside Guidebook (thanks to Sandra Tsing Loh), and thought hey, what a wasted opportunity it would be if the fine folks of Los Angeles couldn't point and click their way to a site, any site, to find me. Quick! Get me a url.

A You Are What?

Being the nascent blogger that I was at the time, (not even a year into it), I knew nothing about websites. But I knew how to blog, I knew how to post.

So I quick grabbed a Blogger address (I was already GoMama; ok then, GoMamaGuide) used the book title as the blatant title all across the header, uploaded an introductory post announcing the Guidebook, a coupla images, a table of contents, and a quick text link to Paypal in one day. (I'd figure out that "Buy Now button" code later. That was advanced stuff for me.)

Whew. A site. Made it to deadline.

A few months earlier, my Guidebook had been "released" (and by that I mean I was printing it out of my computer at home, burning through ink and staying up nights strip binding batches of them.) It was being hawked locally through email, through word of mouth, through posting on the online moms groups, on yahoo parent groups, other social networking groups, spreading virally, with copies being raffled off at local moms-night-outs or preschool auctions, and of course I was selling them in person at my occasional speaking events. Just doing my part to shed light and help my fellow stressed-out moms on this crazy public school choice thing...

LA. Public Schools. What a mess. Here, I can help...

But over time, my little help-out-a-fellow-mom-with-her-public-school-choices, has led to save-the-little-neighborhood-school-that-could, to use-your-voice-for-change, and then get-involved-in-the-public-school-reform-political-drama... this has BECOME my life. This is my work. This is what I DO. My Guidebooks are just one tiny part of it. I have grown. GoMama has grown. And the GoMamaGuide has become a brand. An identity. An umbrella or lighthouse of many possible opportunities and outcomes.

Meanwhile, this little url was bursting at the seams with added content. It needed to grow too.

One thing that I am very proud of is that every part of this "business" has grown organically, intuitively, from a sudden inspiration to execution, from word of mouth to shared ideas and connections, from solving a problem to growing a new platform, and I am both humbled and amazed by that growth. It's not like I ever sat down and devised a business plan for this kind of grew me.

But as I/we grew, I began to cram so much stuff into the limited confines of the Blogger template that the site was getting unwieldy and hard to navigate with its endless scrolling content. (And here I was, the mama offering navigational services.) It deserved better.

Time for a url upgrade.

But being the cheap, I should say, non-profit mom that I am, I just don't have the budget to hire fancy graphic designers, or web designers, or find web hosts and the like, and even if I did, I'm fairly certain I would still be leaning over their shoulders, controlling every little detail myself. That's just how I am.

"Minutia," my husband calls it, exasperated at me.

"Detailed-orientated and cost-effective," I counter. A do-it-yourselfer through and through.

So somewhere back a few weekends ago, perhaps feeling a bit over-confident after having played around with adding some widgets and a new custom background to this site, (love my new look here, btw), I decided to give my ole GMG url a makeover too, thinking it couldn't possibly take more than an afternoon or two, right?


Suddenly that list of a few small repairs mushrooms into a dandelion patch in a windstorm...

I'm not going to go into the whole process here because I've forgotten more than I remember, plus I got a lot of online help, but here's a brief outline of my Project GMG upgrade:

Inspired by the many free background wrapper sites for bloggers, (such as TheCutestBlogOnTheBlock and HotBliggityBlog) I spent hours trolling the web for ideas and how-to's, collecting screenshots of inspiration as I explored the possibilities of change. Many a night I was up 'til dawn. My MacBook desktop looked like someone threw up squares of colored confetti during this phase of Operation Search.

The next part was a big one. Actually making the commitment to dive in. To indeed commit to change.

Change isn't easy. Change takes time. Change requires patience... for the inevitable screw ups and longer-than-expected unexpected learning curves. Change changes the things around it, the things that touch it. Change is contagious. In the middle of it all, change is a mess. You might regret ever stepping into change. I know that feeling well. But then you push through, guided by a vision, some unknown nudging, and the transformation is your reward. That and the power you gain from going through the transformation.

Change is empowering. Change is GOOD! Change is part of LIFE!

* * *

Steps of Transformation:

Go into Layout. Take everything away. Fade to white. Everything white. It's a virtual white out.

Insert sound of clinking, clanging, banging, frustration, and rapid heartbeat...problems, delays, learning curves, work-arounds....then putting things back, adding content, fixing layouts, streamlining pages and adding links....and eventually, out comes...

Ta Da!

Ladies and gentleman, without further ado I give you:

A new url.

GoMama Go!!

Finally, there's rest for the weary!

Except that business cards need to follow....but hey, I can navigate a layout in Pages now, so....

...and btw, did you see that line-up of speaking engagements!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Nope. There's more.

Somehow the date just crept up on us, as if pretending it wasn't there would make it go that river in Egypt....

Add prepare 2008 receipts for our tax appointment tomorrow to my list. The list that just keeps giving.

I know, I know, it's way late already, but last year was such a blur we gave ourselves the gift of an extension.

I guess we've extended long enough, so here we sit amidst manilla file folders and piles of last year's loose receipts, crunching the we're-freelance-take-everything-you-possibly-can-for-a-business-expense numbers that bare their past in front of us.

On the plus side, it's pretty cool to see the bump in my guidebook sales and the continued expansion in speaking events from 2007 when this whole thing started for me. And 2009 is already poised to be more, more, more. Who knew that there was going to be a whole business emerging from this swamp? And who knew it would continue to grow?

On the other plus side, this number-catcher thing will all be delivered and out the door by tomorrow. happy times.

Then I can get to telling you about cracking the code...