Friday, November 18, 2011

Thankful for a Job I Love

Last week my youngest son's teacher asked me to speak to their PreK class as part of the "Community Helpers" section. Basically, bring your Mom or Dad to work to talk about what the heck they do all day. I practically jumped for joy.

See, the last time I did this I realized I needed to quit my job. The twins were the same age as my youngest is now - 4- and when asked to do this little talk I couldn't thing of a single redeeming thing about my job, particularly as it relates to the PreK crowd.

Sure I had a nice title at a fancy management consulting firm, but when asked about what I did all day I had no response. Professional meeting attender? Power Point slide builder? Oh wait, I know, I know, Conference Call expert! Although I had fair pay and a modicum of schedule flexibility, there was just no passion in the work I was doing. But even before the Great Recession that felt like such a high class problem. Was having a job you love that pays the bills and allows you to have time with your family even possible?

Four years later, we can unequivocally say yes. For the first time in my life I'm so passionate about the work we're doing I sometimes find myself working ALL the time (despite owning my own schedule and all of the flexibility in the world) because I just love it so much. Call it an occupational hazard.

We didn't get here overnight, there are some pieces of the job that I love less than others and there have certainly been some lean quarters and rough patches, but this year I'm thankful to know that yes, it's possible to have a job you love, that pays the bills and gives you time with your family.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Make the Holidays Your Own

OK, this is where the Momentum Resources team really shines. I know my colleagues are amazing business women and mothers, but I had no idea they had such an incredible creative side! Here are some of their fun family traditions; adopt, expand and make them your own.
  • Packaging. Tanya (aka "Queen of Christmas") has found dozens of ways to creatively wrap cash, letting those hard-to-shop folks on her list know that she really cares about them and that she took the time to put together a gift that's meaningful. Some examples include a small laundry basket with dollar bills clipped with wooden clothespins. Makes a $20 spot look like a million bucks! She's also a fan of the plastic popcorn container stuffed with theater-sized candy boxes (both from the $1 Spot at Target) , microwave popcorn, yellow crinkle-cut paper and cash or movie passes for the movie- lover on your list. She also likes to stuff cash in a Chinese food takeout box topped with reusable plastic chopsticks, sneaking in some fine motor exercises with her gifts!
  • Decorations. Whitney's family has spent the last three years putting custom-decorated wreaths on the bedroom doors for some upstairs holiday flare. She bought faux wreaths and each year she and her twin boys pick a theme (From Virginia Tech to Lightning McQueen). She even did a wedding memory theme for her bedroom door, replete with invitations and photos from the big day. These also make terrific gifts. Whitney's in laws are avid campers and she made a wreath decorated with camping gear and cutouts from each state they had visited that year. Shelby applies the same idea to small trees in her daughters' rooms.
  • Outings. Our family picks one night to hop in the car in fuzzy PJs and coats, thermoses of hot chocolate in hand, and drive around to view all of the holiday lights. Whitney has a friend whose family dons reindeer antlers and Santa hats to hand-deliver homemade baked goods. Don't feel compelled to attend the fancy Breakfasts with Santa or expensive holiday celebrations, pick one thing that's meaningful to your family and make it a tradition.
And if all else fails, check out Pinterest! Our latest obsession provides endless inspiration for a fun-filled, creative holiday.

Keeping the Holidays Under Control

As promised, here are some tips and tricks of the trade from some of Momentum Resources' finest on keeping the holidays under control:
  • Go to Gift. Last year Tanya found some really cool metal wine toppers. Just pop one on top of a bottle of wine for a “go-to” hostess gift. Add a holiday colored dishtowel around the neck so it looks like a reindeer with a scarf. Super cute, and if you stock up after the holidays during sale time you'll have plenty for years to come.
  • Order Labels in Advance. Tiny Prints has some terrific ones, order some customized labels as early as possible to slap on a cute tag to make a homemade or store bought treat special.
  • Pick 1 Really Great Recipe. Find one thing that you're really good at, like Whitney's dark chocolate and sea salt or Julie's hand-mixed BBQ rub, and share with friends and family. Add one of the aforementioned custom labels and the gift is done.
  • And 1 Really Great Party. Per group of friends, per weekend, per whatever. She with the busiest calendar in December doesn't win. Be selective, enjoy the time.
  • Limit the List: In our family, only the kids in the extended family exchange gifts. Embrace Jill's extended family tradition of drawing names from a hat. Make that gift really, really special and smile knowing that you've kept the time/energy/money vacuum trifecta to an absolute minimum.
  • Avoid Scope Creep: Make your lists and menu plans, and then stick to it! Don't second guess yourself, instead, applaud your project management skills! You'll have time to sit back and enjoy the holidays instead of an 11pm run to Target.

Reign in the Holiday Madness

Early this weekend I had quite the calendar surprise: Thanksgiving is next Thursday. Right.

It's that magical and oh-so-stressful Double Diamond Downhill slide from Halloween straight to New Year's Eve and it seems that all personal and professional responsibilities are colliding. You're on the phone with the Benefits department to choose your new health plan for open enrollment and shopping online for forgotten teachers' gifts all the while figuring out who's going to attend the Holiday Program at school that's happening right when your big new client pitch is scheduled. You want to just enjoy the magic but when the kids are handing you Santa Lists while you tell the accountant you can't possibly have year-end projections ready this week, it's hard not to feel a little Grinchy.

To try and keep everything under control I turned to some of the smartest, most organized and thoughtful women I know: the Momentum Resources Team. I asked for one tip from each and they each poured out some amazing advice on schedule sanity, gift-giving and most importantly, how to make the holidays a meaningful time for you and your family.

Stay tuned, great tips coming your way!