Between two worlds

The whole other side of me
that could’ve been. The other life
I would’ve lived.

The lanes, the friendly villages, the yellow brick walls
soft to touch
hugging my arms around the land, the sticky scratchy earth
cloud busting
across the sky, the spires scatter the view, peeking out and up
churches live like neighbours, the trees familiar shadows
marsh wound wort, scented like bubblegum
pubs: bow your head as you enter, their stories sunk into their wood.

I chose a bigger world
of dreaming, zooming, shining, constant sound, always changing
yet I miss this life, quieter, smaller, kinder, the one that stays the same.

Maybe I am right where I should be?
Between two worlds. Always two halves.

Marsh Wound Wort

Marsh Wound Wort

Linda Brandt on Leaning In

Linda Brandt on Leaning In

When Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In" was published in 2013, it divided opinion. The lovers rejoiced in the message that women deserved to be at the metaphorical and physical career table. Those less enamored saw it as an elitist view that expected women to shoulder an even greater workload without "the how".

The book was just the beginning. Since publication, Lean In has grown into a global, practical movement working to empower women with tools, information and a network of support. 

We caught up with Minnesotan Linda Brandt - well known for her leadership of one of the nation's most successful Lean In Circles. We talked about success, the changing idea of feminism and tangible ways women can support each other. Onward.....

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With these shoulders...

With these shoulders...

At 8 years old, I received my ballet report:

“Laura needs to relax her shoulders”.

How? I thought. They’re just ….there. They're as relaxed as they can be!

My shoulders were my shoulders. Where the ballet teacher thought I was hunching or lifting them to my ears, they were just strong shoulders.

Even though I passed my class, I remember the feeling of discouragement. How can I change something I cannot change? And why does this mean I can’t be a princess in the show?!

Fast forward 30-something years. I have rediscovered my love of tennis. Two hours a week, I’m pounding forehands, backhands, volleys, overheads over a net and BUZZING from the power my body has. If you love tennis, there is no feeling quite like hitting a ball, hard and true.

Guess what I need to hit a cross-court forehand? Strong shoulders.

It got me thinking….

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When hugs mean business - how Mary MacCarthy is building a new future with a fresh purpose.

When hugs mean business - how Mary MacCarthy is building a new future with a fresh purpose.

Being "old" + lonely is not something many of us spend time thinking about. What with our busy days and trying to "live in the moment", the long term future often isn't on our radar. 

Social entrepreneur Mary MacCarthy saw things differently. She watched her 90 year old grandmothers' loneliness and began to realize her purpose of making it easier for us to care for each other.

In thinking about how to "solve loneliness", Mary realized that art could help connect people to each other, so she created "Glorious Hugs".  Named for her Grandmother Gloria, Glorious Hugs curates care packages of art, cookies, scented oils, jewelry and other gifts, all wrapped up with a handwritten note and a huge helping of love. 

Mary has clearly tapped into an unmet need for people to connect and care for each other in a simple, creative way - Glorious Hugs has just celebrated its first anniversary and orders are flooding in from people wanting to make small gestures count. 

We were curious about Mary's journey: she's a mom with a successful healthcare marketing career behind her - what got her to this point and why did she choose this direction?

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When life gives you lemons, get a sidekick! How Molly Keeler is building "happy", one person at a time.

When life gives you lemons, get a sidekick! How Molly Keeler is building "happy", one person at a time.

When fitness trainer Molly Keeler watched her beloved mother pass away, she realized that she didn't have to stand by. She could help others by being a "sidekick" to conquering fear, trying new experiences or creating friendships. Enter "Happy Trail".

Sounds a little twee? Well, not Molly, who brings her own style of no-BS, full-on support to those who want to try something new.

Tell us about Happy Trail - what is it and what are you hoping to accomplish?

Happy Trail is a movement towards connectedness, happiness, and compassion. Of people being there for each other through the joyful and sorrowful, the exciting and the scary. I hope to inspire people to live the life they desire, instead of letting fear dictate their choices or dreaming "what could be". 

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On Choosing Life

Driving down a “Wacky Races” Dallas highway after days of meetings with Big New Global Client, cars streaming around me, late for my plane, desperately missing my 3 year old, I was DONE.

Tears streaming down my face, I realized — this is it. I had been waiting for a wall, and I’d hit it.

Was I just tired? Feeling taken for granted? Embroiled in a dysfunctional work situation? Well yes, sure. Ask any consultant/road warrior and the story will be very similar.

But this was different. I was completely empty. How had I got here?

In 1985, my Grandma gave me a book called “How to be Successful”. I vividly remember the white manual with its tips for young adults on navigating life. I can’t remember what it told me, but I do remember feeling a sudden, fleeting burden. Then I went back to my Wham listening, Judy Blume reading, mix-tape-making days.

Little did I know that was the moment that I self-inflicted my pressure.

Fast forward — degree from Top 5 University, job at national PR firm, move to USA, more jobs at top firms, marriage to a wonderful man, birth of a precious daughter. Check>> I was successful. I had made it. I had “it all”. But this wasn’t it. Why didn’t it like it was mine? What was wrong with me?

What was wrong with me was that I wasn’t listening to myself.

How ironic for someone who had spent her career listening to her clients. I was ignoring my heart, my head. I was running, running, barely stopping to register if this was what I wanted. I was missing my life.

Then, in May 2015 I had a delightful pulmonary embolism. Cue Blood Doctor: “You’re lucky. The clot started in your leg, travelled through your heart, made it through your brain and lodged itself in your right lung. If it had stopped anywhere along the way, you wouldn’t be here talking to me.”

Gulp.

Now, this PE wasn’t caused by stress. (It was caused by my birth control — Google “Merck blood clot class action” for a bit of fun reading.)

As I gazed out of my hospital window at the lilacs I’d spent all winter waiting for, I realized something. I had to give myself THE BEST POSSIBLE CHANCE IN LIFE.

For an overachieving Type A, that doesn’t sound enough, does it? Best chance…?

What I mean is that shit is going to happen. We’re going to get sick. Life is going to get hard. We need to be as strong as we can be to fight. To make it count.

This strength wasn’t just about my ability to do a Doug Melroe step class. This was about having the courage to listen to myself and create a new path that I really wanted.

So, 30 years after Grandma Marian gave me my book, I am changing.

I am focusing on creating more time, more true friends, more generosity, more calm, more “being me”, more client smiles, more feeling that I have done the right thing, more gratitude, more strength both in my body and my mind.

You forget, after you’ve had a career for a while, that you can choose.

You can choose life.

 

This post originally appeared on Medium. Follow Laura here. 

How a "Half Iron" made Jodi Gruhn feel whole again.

How a "Half Iron" made Jodi Gruhn feel whole again.

Jodi had made a big decision to be at home full time with her kids. At first, it felt right. But she began to realize she had forgotten to consider one essential factor - herself.  

We caught up with Jodi to talk about what it took to get "herself" back. 

Staying at home full-time with the kids was a major decision for a woman with a successful career. When did you realize you needed something more?

One year prior, I decided to step away from work to raise my 2 sons (ages 3 and 5). During that year, playgrounds, pools and libraries replaced skyscrapers, Starbucks and paychecks. Kids replaced adults. Parenting and playing replaced work and happy hours. Slowly, the joy and confidence in my decision to step away from work started melting away and it was taking its toll on me.

Caregivers experience a blessing that I found a curse. Small slivers of time occur when your children are satiated and entertained, offering moments for reflection. A narration began to play in my head during these moments and self-depreciation, disappointment and lack of accomplishment became unrelenting themes. Negativity crept in.

What I failed to realize about staying at home with my children, was that not only would I have a lot of time with them, but I would also have a lot of time with myself. And WITH yourself is very different than FOR yourself. In my case, this wasn’t good. As the pace slowed, I found myself alone with a laundry list of potential self-improvement projects, but without time to execute on anything of meaning. I had become highly aspirational, but felt tethered by my life.

I needed something for me and for me alone.

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How a lay-off helped Jen Helm take action on her "fantasy" business venture.

How a lay-off helped Jen Helm take action on her "fantasy" business venture.

Jen Helm made a career of managing complicated creative projects. Then, she got unexpectedly laid off. This time gave her the space to think about making her fantasy business (a natural popsicle company) a reality.

What inspired you to create St Pops?

My son loved popsicles in the summertime, but I hated buying them. The ingredients were basically water, high fructose corn syrup, artificial color and artificial flavors. Being a health conscious mom this was against all my sensibilities.  I would buy the “healthy” ones at Whole Foods, but these were frozen mashed fruit and he didn’t like the texture (he was a bit of a finicky eater). I kept thinking I couldn’t be the only one looking for something with real ingredients, yet not a frozen smoothie. 

The more I thought about this the more I realized how this could be a nice simple business that could supplement our family income. The kids were getting older and were going to need jobs soon - so I thought why not create a business where they could work too? That’s when I started to fantasize about the business plan. One summer we went to NYC and were walking down the High Line and low and behold - there was People Pops! Like so many things in my life, someone beat me to it. As it turns out, People Pops just started a trend and now there are ice pops businesses in almost all major cities. It was so helpful to see their business model and others that I could use to educate myself.

Then the fateful day came when I got laid off from my job that I had been doing for the last 17 years. I had never been laid off before and it hit me pretty hard. I found that I really needed to take some time off and examine my life’s path. I had spent years going after my career - chasing the “carrot” - climbing the ladder.  I was tired and not very happy. I decided to slow down and let life come to me for a while. That’s when I decided to make my popsicle fantasy real. 

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How "F! It!" helped Jen Kreilich believe in her own creativity.

How "F! It!" helped Jen Kreilich believe in her own creativity.

Experienced marketer and arts lover Jen Kreilich has lived in the creative world for almost twenty years. This week, she launched her own jewelry line - J.Lux. We asked Jen to tell us about her journey so far. 

You’re an advertising pro and now have launched your own jewelry line. What inspired you to start a second path? 

It’s been a long road. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and have been inspired by creative types, so my career has served me well. However, I was always having daydreams and ideas about ‘what I really wanted to be when I grow up’. My inspiration wasn’t a lightening bolt. It was a slow awakening and a perfect storm of circumstances that enabled me to realize 1) I am an entrepreneur and 2) I can be the creative. 

I found the last little nudge with the amazing entrepreneurs and artists I’ve met the last two years through my independent consulting clients, my time on the board at Public Functionary (a social art space/gallery in NE Minneapolis), and the supportive network of other MN women making beautiful things.

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How reclaiming mornings helped Hannah Barnstable reclaim her career.

How reclaiming mornings helped Hannah Barnstable reclaim her career.

To some, New Zealand means Kiwis, All Blacks and Lord of the Rings. To Hannah Barnstable and her husband Brady, it became the inspiration for a new business - and a new life as creators of the “Seven Sundays" brand of muesli. 

Five years ago, Hannah was a successful investment banker in Manhattan, on “the career track”, logging the road warrior miles and killing her assignments. However, she began to realize that her lifestyle of travel and long hours was far from sustainable.  

Newly wed, she and her husband Brady chose New Zealand for their honeymoon (“our ideal vacation was in a tent in the middle of nowhere”) where they stayed in small B&Bs and explored the vast, beautiful land. As they travelled, they fell in love with the country but also something more unusual -  muesli - the healthier version of granola that many New Zealanders eat for breakfast. They began to relish the space and quiet given to breakfast each morning. It was that space that gave them the inspiration to change their lives. 

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Not all rainbows and butterflies! How Allison Ballou followed her curiosity to change her path.

Not all rainbows and butterflies! How Allison Ballou followed her curiosity to change her path.

After the sparkle and fizz of party season, one might think finding your confidence is a doddle. However, many of us seem to be on a perpetual journey of finding our real voice or a version of confidence that feels right. We'll explore this in our January "Buzz Session" event, led by Twin Cities professional coach, Allison Ballou - herself no stranger to career change.

We caught up with Allison to learn more about her path, and why she's excited to share her ideas with us. 

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The Law of Baking: how Anne Rucker created a new path from an old love.

The Law of Baking: how Anne Rucker created a new path from an old love.

Can you imagine leaving behind a successful law career to open a bakery? Many dream of it, but few actually take the leap. Anne Rucker - founder of Bogarts doughnuts, did just that. We sat down with Anne to learn more about her journey, and ended up with a powerful conversation about redefining success, believing in yourself and following your heart.

How did your upbringing influence or prepare your decision to start your own business?

“I did all the right things, but I never fell in love with Law. I never felt that deep passion for it, like I assumed I would. We are taught that if you work hard at something, you get the grades and the job offers, you will succeed… it's a societal and cultural thing - you find a steady good job, you meet someone, you start a family, it’s the pie in the sky goal especially when you’re young and in college wanting to be a “real adult”. I definitely fell into that trap.

"It was the idea of being happy in my life and thinking if I never take the risk, if I never try, then I will never know."

What made you make the decision to give up your law career?

"For me, it was very gradual. My mindset was more about "if I don’t try this I will regret it" and that was a very scary thought, because I had a wonderful upbringing, I grew up thinking I could do whatever I wanted, you can change the world, and the older I got not doing that was hard for me. It was the idea of being happy in my life and thinking if I never take this risk, if I never try, then I will never know. 

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