Good For You

Women's Week: The Boss of You Book Review

Welcome to my week-long women's series. It's no secret that one issue that I'm passionate about is female empowerment. I used to answer a domestic violence hotline, coach cheerleading, lead a girls technology club in my local middle school, and meet with a monthly girls book club. I'm currently on the board of our county's domestic violence program and doing some writing for the Maine Women's Fund. My point is it's certainly been a common thread in my life no matter where I am or what I'm doing.

So this week, it's about the ladies, and of course money (as usual). Enjoy!

Bossofyou I was drawn to this book at my local library while looking for something new to read. "The Boss of You: What Every Woman Needs To Know To Start, Run, and Maintain Her Own Business" definitely caught my eye with it's fun, sensible cover and complete title. As a woman trying to run my own part-time business, I thought this might me some great professional development information.

I find books like this tend to be one of two things: 1) a little scatterbrained with lots of tips and tricks but a lack of cohesiveness or 2) dense with information and a little on the boring side.

This book was a good balance of case studies of other female run businesses (tips and tricks) but was also well outlined with cohesion throughout.

Sure you can get lots of books about how to write a business plan but there is lots of information in here that works whether you are before or after the BP stage. I enjoyed the exercises where you figure out what you're good at and how that translates to your business as well as the you-can't-do-everything-and-that's-ok attitude.

Emira and Lauren (the authors) are the kind of smart women you want to be friends with and their advice is clearly from the trenches. I know most business people who'd write a book like this would use it to talk about everything they did right but it's more helpful (not to mention realistic) to hear the not-so-ideal parts too. And if I had a business for years, I could still see myself getting something out of the book.

Since the librarians won't speak to me if I renew this one more time, I guess I'll have to surrender this copy next week and ask for my own copy for Christmas to keep as a reference. Oh and if you're more the abbreviated info type, check out the back index full of useable resources (with websites, yay for authors who get the 21st century).

Anyway if you're a woman wanting to start your own business who refuses to buy a book that implies that she's a "dummy" (a little personal bias there), this one is fabulous. I even took it on vacation which means it was worth lugging on a plane in my carry-on.

So learn and enjoy! I continue to myself.

Check out Lauren and Emira's blog here, where you can also order the book.
A good article about self employment taxes from Moolanomy.
Some helpful links for women starting their own businesses via USA Today 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Secrets of a 60 Year Marriage

I came to Fort Kent this past weekend to celebrate my grandparent's 60th wedding anniversary. We went to a restaurant which was also the dance hall where they had their reception.

They got married in October because that's when they had their money from picking potatoes. They had both worked all summer to save up the money for their wedding. It was a whole day event involving an 8 am wedding ceremony, lunch, visiting families, then having a big dance.

After they were married, my grandfather invited her back to live at the family farm (which is what his other married siblings had done) but my grandmother said "No way". Instead, they got their own apartment. It cost $5 a month. They made due and by the time they got their car ($25 a month payment), their rent had gone up to $5 a week.

If we think about it today, it doesn't seem like a lot my grandfather said tonight but I am pretty sure back then it was substantial, especially for a young couple starting out.

I asked what the secret was to staying married that long. My grandfather leaned over.

"Well, I didn't tell her I loved her enough at the beginning but then I started telling her more and more."

"When was that?" I asked.

"About 20, 25 years ago."

"What else?"

"I always tried to give her more then she gave me, and she did the same."

My grandfather is a quiet man who doesn't say a lot so when he does talk, you tend to listen well.

Maybe it is that simple. It's nice to think that doing your best for the other person can help gather a family 60 years later for a nice meal.

Tonight, my grandmother insisted on paying. She laughed when she opened the check; it cost more then her entire wedding had all those years ago. I'm lucky to have such kind generous people in my life.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

How To Pack Light

When I studied abroad in college, I schlepped a huge backpack-o-stuff to Europe. I could hardly pull it through the airports myself it was so full. I was afraid if I didn’t bring all those things with me that I would have to do without something I needed or, worse, spend unnecessary money.

Did I use everything in my suitcase? Of course not. Some of the clothes I brought, though travel-appropriate, were neutral colors and kind of boring so I didn’t wear them. (Later I found out my host family thought I was depressed because I didn’t wear color for the first month I was there!)  On the other hand, one major item I didn’t think to pack was school supplies. When I got to France, I had to buy the usual student supplies of notebooks, pens, and markers. Oh no, not spending money! I lamented but it was unavoidable. When in Europe I guess.

My point is, even when I was staying somewhere six months, there was no reason for me to pack a big bag. After this experience, I was a converted light packer.

I headed to Las Vegas Friday with a carry on and a purse. I have quite a range of items (ranging from pool loungewear to something fancy to wear to a show).

Here are a few ways I pulled it off:

1) I brought lots of easy to wash items: polyester blends that could easily be refreshed in the hotel sink if need be.
2) Small containers of liquids and gels are needed for a carry on (a quart sized bag is not a gallon sized bag as I learned. Good thing I was able to cram everything in a quart!).  It would be really fun and easy, however, for me to purchase small containers at a drug store at my destination rather then bringing with. (I love seeing stores in other parts of the country, especially convenience and grocery stores. Talk about culture!)
3) Charge all devices before your trip. My iPod will probably last my entire trip on the one charge I gave it last night, as will my digital camera. Prioritizing on all those cords is key to keeping your bag light.
4) Multitasking items.Need I say more?
5) You can always ship home. When I went to San Fran and bought some new stuff, I shipped a box of dirty clothes home my last day there to make room in my suitcase. It was sure worth having that extra space in exchange for the $10.

You'll be happy you packed light. Trust me!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Last Words: Things I Learn From A Dying Friend

I found out late last week that an older woman I used to work very closely with is dying of pancreatic cancer. The message was passed on to me from a friend of a friend. I was hoping that this illnesswould be similar to the breast cancer she had a few years ago: a difficult battle but one that may be ultimately successful.

I called up M who was very truthful about her condition. "Je suis proche a mon Createur. (I am close to my Creator)," she said over the phone. She didn't sound particularly depressed or dramatic so much as honest. I've always loved M's ability to be really honest and pragmatic but at the same time warm. She was happy I called and all I could think of after our conversation was that I needed to see her.

So Saturday morning, I loaded up Sadie and a small bag into my car and drove north five hours in the driving rain. I dropped the dog off with my mom, ate some soup, and said I'd be back much later, though I didn't know when. In my opinion, the visit could have been twenty minutes (if she was really weak or if it was feeling too tramatic for both of us) or it could be several hours.

I went to M's house like I've done many times before. Her garden was still nice, her yard well kept. There were onions drying on her garage floor.

"You look the same!" she said. She hasn't seen me in a couple years and I haven't seen her, only heard from her from time to time. For the most part, she looked the same too but a lot thinner. She moved slower but still had the same mannerisms I remembered: a bounce in her step, a slight squeal to her giggle. 

We talked a long time, about some old things, about some new things. Most of it was in French. And I learned a few things from my brave friend:

1) Take the time you have as a gift. So M is aware that she is going to decline to the point where she'll be spending her last days in hospice care. She thanked me now for our friendship in case the next time I see her she's not as well. While some people would take a ticking time clock as something to be depressed about, she has taken the opportunity to see friends, take care of her affairs, and appreciate life's small things, like a card from her seven year old neighbor.

2) Don't whine about what you can't do: deal with it and (occasionally push it a little). So M found out the hard way she can no longer digest dairy products, rice, or chicken. She has since modified her diet. She does miss some foods but relished telling me how she got away with eating homemade french fries and a lobster roll that she made the other day. She wants to try KFC chicken next (and if Fort Kent had a KFC within an hour drive of it, I would have got her some!).

3) Listen to your body. A modified sleep pattern is keeping M rested. When she's hungry, she eats. She's not up to going anywhere, thanks. She knows her limits and respects them.

4) Be understanding. M told me she has friends who feel they can't visit. They're afraid they'll cry. She understands and is not offended. Even facing the end of like, M doesn't expect the world to revolve around her.

5) Rely on others. When M decided she didn't want chemo or an operation (both very risky for an almost 80 year old), the hospice hooked her up with a team of nurse and a social worker. Her priest comes by and visits her. She needs other people to help her out. Life and death are two hard things to do alone.

When it was time to go, I didn't know how to. What would I say? We hugged and M said "A la prochaine, Nicole." I thought that was quite appropriate. Until next time indeed.

This whole thing made me realize how much I have to learn. But with teachers like M, maybe I'll learn sooner.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Hired Help: Not Just For Rich People

I met my friend Sally for coffee yesterday. She is far from an extravagent person. Actually, her practicalness and willingness to tackle projects are two things I really like about her.

As a woman who works full time (actually she has two jobs) and maintains a house/garden, she gets pretty tired. She sounded guilty when she confessed that she had hired help. A neighbor helped her with a bunch of yardwork this spring for the day and she paid him to mow her lawn once every two weeks this summer.

"Good for you, Sal!" I said.

"I just couldn't do it alone." she admitted.

I don't understand how someone can work full time and maintain a house by themselves. In my years living alone, I had whole weeks  that my yard looked fieldlike and the house didn't get vacuumed. Sean and I are two people and we have a hard time getting it all done.

"It's really nice to drive up to the house and have the lawn looking so nice." Sally said, smiling when she realized I was very supportive of this development.  

One reason not to hire help is you can do it yourself. Sure, it doesn't mean that you will or that even if you do, it'll come out well but you are an able bodied adult. You can probably do a lot of things for yourself.

Also, people hesitate to hire help is you don't necessarily have something in the way of a physical object or product to show for it. (Sometimes you just have something to not show actually.) We ask ourselves, Is it spoiled or extreme to pay someone $30 to mow your lawn? $60 to clean your house? In our culture,we like to have a physical object to show for our money spent. If your friend told you she spent $100 on a pair of jeans or $100 on a garden consultant, which do you feel more subliminally judgemental about? Exactly.

Finally we're uncomfortable with hired help because we aren't comfortable with the inequality that is created by the hirer and hiree. A relationship with someone you've hired can be delicate. Don't we spend our lives in disfuctional relationships? Why create another?

I run into this when discussing creating content for or marketing a website with a potential client. I can tell what they're thinking. I can probably do this myself if I put in some time, effort, and research. What will I have to show for it in the end? Do I want to create a relationship with this person? All valid questions when thinking of paying someone to help you out.

But why try to do everything yourself? To be Superman? To prove you don't need anyone? So that if someone ever asks if you did it yourself, you can say yes?

Ok, I've made my point. If it's worth paying for help on a project or chore and you can afford it, you should. Because hiring help says "I can't do it all, and that's ok". And isn't that a pretty healthy way to look at life?

The alternative is I wax my own eyebrows. Not pretty.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Book Review: Fired!

I took this book out of the library last week in part because of its bright almost obnoxiously yellow cover. Also who isn't a rejection junkie? (When it comes to other people, that is.)

Firedjacketart2 Fired! Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, and Dismissed is a collection of stories of people getting fired. Getting fired is not something in general most people talk about but when asked, there is a sort of cathartic release in telling the story of a tramatic situation like this. I only wish I had a story; I actually have never been fired. (Though as mentioned in the book there are two kinds of people: those who have been fired and those who haven't been fired yet.)

What's fun about this book is you hear some juicy stories, some from people you don't know but many from people you do. Famous actors, comedians, and others in the enterainment industry (which is particularly known for rejection) share their stories. 

The stories are short, allowing you to sneak in "just one more".

The author Annabelle Gurwich was inspired to compile this book when she was fired by her idol, Woody Allen. I went to her website and thought she looked kind of familiar…

Annabelle used to host TBS's Dinner and A Movie, a favorite Friday tradition of my friend Laura and I. TBS would show a movie and hosts Paul and Annabelle would comment on the movie while cooking a dish very loosely related to said movie. Fake example: Dirty Dancing would be played while making Don't back baby into a corner ribs with watermelon salad. If you haven't figured out before, I am quite a corny person so this show appealed to me on a number of levels. Anyway, Annabelle compiled this book! And it was this fact I was excited by as much as reading how Sarah Silverman and some guy at a beta tape video store got canned (by fax and security cameras, respectively). 

So if you want some light breezy reading about rejection (or want to know how to better deal with this rejection yourself) check out the Fired! book or the upcoming movie.

Check out the Fired!/Annabelle's website….
Share your story at Fired the Movie website…

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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