Category: life

How To Give People A Watered Down, Exhausted Version Of Yourself!

Are you constantly asking "Why am I so tired?" Most of us are. The solution is both simpler and more complicated than you'd think. Click through and find out how you can have more focus, more energy, more calm!
For years, the question that ran in a loop through my brain was “Why am I so tired?” In those exhausting years, before blogging was even a proverbial twinkle in my eye, I was an ESL teacher.And I looooooved it.
I was that teacher who came early and stayed late and brought in themed snacks to match the books we were reading. I sang songs about colors with exaggerated gestures and those facial expressions unique to teachers who are trying to get people to sing along.
I come from a long line of teachers (education is the family business) and we’re all equally committed. I remember my dad creating all his own worksheets for his Social Studies class and my mom’s holiday-themed clothes that kept her second graders endlessly entertained. (Christmas tree earrings, FTW.)
Like many passion professions, teaching expands to fill the space you give it. You’re never ‘done.’ You never look around your classroom and think “Welp, that’s it! I can go home and stop thinking about work because I’m finished.”
You can easily spend every evening and weekend poring over the curriculum, planning new units, fussing with bulletin boards.
And I frequently did. Slowly but surely, like so many teachers before me, I started to burn out. I’d check my email while my students practiced their keyboarding skills. I’d assign “silent reading” while I silently read my most recent issue of Real Simple.
This wasn’t who I wanted to be! Disappointed and overwhelmed, I called a huddle with my veteran teacher parents. I was hoping for some time management tips or a pep talk that would return me to my high-energy, super-engaged self.
But what they told me was a lot more realistic and a lot more useful.

“Well, of course, you can always do more. But if you do too much, you’re not giving them your best. You’re giving them a watered-down, exhausted version of your best. They don’t deserve that and neither do you.”

This applies to just about every area of our lives, doesn’t it?
When we have eight social commitments each week, it’s difficult to really be there for our BFF when she’s blindsided by a breakup. When we take on a zillion projects at work, it’s hard to give our passion projects the attention they deserve. When we post seven times a week, it’s hard to create the meaningful, longer pieces we’re really proud of.
Being exhausted and overwhelmed serves no one. You deserve to actually enjoy your job and relationships; they deserve the best you have to offer.
Are you guilty of taking on too much and then doing a less-than-amazing job on all of it? Where could you cut back? If you’ve stopped overdoing it – what did you stop doing?
photo credit: moore christophe // cc

Good Idea: Baby Shower ‘Thank-You’ Text Messages

This is an occasional post series I’m trying out! Short and sweet, sharing clever ideas I’ve picked up from my ridiculously smart and well-mannered friends.


When you enter your thirties, everyone you’ve ever met will begin to have babies. You will become well-versed in Facebook pregnancy reveals (my favorite was a runner friend who changed her profile photo to include a tiny pair of running shoes next to hers!) and you’ll spend every Saturday afternoon at baby showers.

Common etiquette tells us that when we give someone a significant gift – especially a baby or wedding gift – we can/should expect a thank-you note. But when someone is preparing their life for a loud, sleep-depriving new human? Those thank-you notes are probably low on their priority list.

And then they might feel guilty. And you might feel annoyed.

So let’s all steal my friend Laura’s idea: instead of that new mom spending her limited free time handwriting thank-you notes that you’ll immediately recycle, how about she texts you a photo of her baby using the gift you gave her? 

It’s way easier and lots more fun. Just have someone take notes on who gave her what and their phone number so she can photograph and text at her leisure!

If you’ve got any tips for making baby or bridal showers easier or more fun, I’d love to hear them!

photo by Vanessa Kay // cc

7 Honest Ways To Spring Clean Your Life + Mind

What if you could spring clean your life? What if you could clean your mind of unkind thoughts, grudges, and hangups? You sort of can! Click through for 7 tips to get you started!
Don’t you love that fresh, green energy that comes with spring?
Allofasudden it’s 50 degrees, people are wearing shorts, and believing that, yes, anything is possible. It’s enough to make you want to spin around in a field, trilling about the way music sounds.

And if you’re Type-A like me, it’s also the time of year you throw open your windows, drag your rugs out into the sun, and start scrubbing the baseboards with a toothbrush.

What if we applied some of that spring cleaning energy to our hearts and minds? What if we took a proverbial toothbrush to some of our more base thoughts? What if we dragged some of our grudges and assumptions out into the sun?

Here are 7 ways to spring clean your life


3 Things Clients Want In Their Dream VA

If you’re finally  ready to outsource some of your work – we have a post that’ll help you hire The Best VA Ever.

If you want to become a VA so you can work from home or a sunny, beachy locale – we have a post that’ll help you land your first clients.

Conveniently, they’re the same post! Head over to my small business blog and check ’em out!

True Story: I Live On A Commune

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Heather and her decision to move to a commune in Costa Rica. 


Tell us a bit about yourself! 
Once a country bumpkin, now even more of one? I spent my childhood in a tiny town southern Maine, and generally hopped around the northern realm until I moved to Montana in my mid-20’s. These days I call northwestern Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Peninsula home- in a community called PachaMama.
I wear a few different hats in my professional life: here in the commune I do social media and marketing, as well as teach yoga. On my own, I am a life coach and work remotely with people all over the world. And I kind of can’t believe it, but I’m 30. 30!
For those of us who don’t know, what exactly is a commune?
This is a tricky one- it can mean so many things, depending on the intention of the people who create the space! In our case, we’re international- though a large number of the residents here are from Israel, so we’re kind of modeled after a kibbutz. There are about 70 residents, individuals as well as families, who choose to live together in a community because we are drawn together by a unifying purpose and intention.I’ve only been here for a little over a year now, so I can only speak to the current expression of the commune- the path of meditation and silence, inner work, living closely to the spirit of the land, and creating a ‘mystic school’ of sorts. We host retreats, workshops, cleanses, and other transformational events and experiences throughout the season.

Our commune isn’t entirely self-sufficient in the way that many would think- here in the jungle we’re still learning how to use the wisdom of permaculture to grow our own food. It’s tough going with all the creatures and the extremes of the climate! We harvest a lot of the super foods that grow around here naturally and do our best to make as many of our own products as we can, though. And of course- there is a big emphasis on creating as little impact on the earth with our lifestyle as possible.
I’m sure when a lot of people hear ‘commune’ they imagine polyamory and soy milk. In your experience, what are some of the biggest misconceptions about commune living?
Hah! I think you nailed two of the biggest ones, right there.
What I actually see most often, to be quite honest, is a total projection of what it must be like to live in a perceived utopia. That everyone always is happy-go-lucky and totally in love with each other. That money grows on trees (yes, we still need money to exist, even in a commune!). That nobody ever gets stressed, or sick, or tired.In reality, it’s like living in a constant workshop. Every day is an opportunity to look closely at your judgements, your fears, your self-doubts, your communication skills, your personal agenda- because in a small community like this one, it’s in your face, 24/7, being reflected back to you for your care and attention. There’s still heartbreak. There’s still stuff to fix in the house. The kids still throw temper tantrums. We’re regular people living in a magical place, sure- but there’s still Real Life stuff to take care of.

What appealed to you about living in a commune rather than just, say, moving to the country or sharing a house with a few friends? 

It actually just kind of… happened. A calling on the astral. Who knows. I came here a few years back to do a yoga training without any knowledge of the full depth of this place, and completely fell in love. When I left to go back to the US I knew I had to come back for longer to really drop in and meet the essence of the community. I knew there were untouched depths. I wanted to know more and to dive deeper. The energy of an international community really inspired me to expand what I believed to be available to me! I’m fortunate that my work as a coach and yoga teacher allows me to do my work from here.
It’s possible that moving in with a few friends could’ve somewhat scratched the itch, but living in a very dynamic community just feeds a part of me that always craves adventure and challenge. I meet new people constantly as visitors come and go, and I’m constantly learning from everyone’s journeys… it just suits what I need in life. I think a lot of those who live here fall in that category… we’re seekers. Travelers. We’re always looking for opportunities for growth and expansion.
How did you get into the commune? Did you have to ‘apply’? Do they have a set number of openings? What are the logistics surrounding membership?
Becoming a part of PachaMama is more based on staying here for a while as a guest, getting to know the community, the energy, the intention of the place, and learning whether it’s a good fit on both sides. One has to be really, really in tune with the intention and energy of living in a commune for it to be a beneficial adventure!From there, a conversation is had with some of the longtime residents around making the commitment- it’s a much more heart-centered process than logistical. It’s really becoming a part of the family- sure there are practicalities, like weekly meetings for making decisions and keeping everyone plugged in, but it’s just got to feel right.

Tell us about commune’s lodging and the day to day! 
This is another common misconception, at least here! Although in the early days of the commune everyone lived in tents, now that’s not the case. I’m blessed to live in a beautiful, simple house- since we are in Costa Rica, most of the houses are some sort of open design, sometimes with one entire side of the house open to the forest. With electricity and internet, yes- though those are sometimes subject to the weather and the stars it seems!
We do have a commune “restaurant” that serves three meals a day, which is especially important for the times of year where we have a lot of visitors here for workshops and retreats. A few of the residents staff the restaurant and, I must say, make incredible vegetarian, high vibration food! We do also have kitchens in most of the houses, so I usually do breakfast at home.
Most of the residents have some sort of job in the community… whether working in the office, caring for the facilities, tending the gardens, or working in the school. And we have a thriving volunteer program- these travelers bring so much life and new energy and teachings to the community and help keep everything flowing, so this program is really vital.
With 70+ residents, I’m sure conflict is bound to arise. How do you guys work through that? 
We use many of the same techniques we use in our group workshops- sharing circles and processes, offering a safe space for people to air their concerns and grievances. You know, I’ve already learned so much from living with so many non-Americans about communicating clearly and honestly. Other cultures aren’t so afraid to say what they mean, clearly and concisely. It’s been a real deprogramming of my American sensitivity to what we perceive as “harsh” truth!
The ‘leader’ question is always an interesting one. We have a teacher, a spiritual guide, and an inspiration named Tyohar. He was the catalyst for bringing this community together years ago, when the original group of intrepid adventurers pitched the first tents, and he continues to be a guide in this grand social experiment. He’s incredibly committed to the vision of the community, and protective of the meditative space. The “Buddha Field”, he calls it.
He’s also an incredible DJ, wildlife photographer, and rabid football (soccer) fan 🙂
What personality traits does someone need to ‘be good at’ commune living?
You can’t take things personally… otherwise it’s easy to get offended daily because you’re with the same little community through thick and thin, and people are bound to be in a bad mood at some point! Flexibility is also key. If you’re attached to planning and predictability, you’re setting yourself up to go crazy. Clear and direct communication is a must, so you need to be willing to express what you really think and feel in a given moment. A desire to live in a constant state of problem-solving and growth. There are always challenges to be addressed, and we’ve got to approach it as a unified community! “Status quo” just doesn’t exist in this kind of community.

What has surprised you about this?
I think perhaps what I underestimated the most was just how differently we all approach daily life. I’d met people from a wide number of countries before but never fully understood the depth of those subtle differences! Like I mentioned before, as an American I’m in the minority here, so I’ve really had to learn how to connect and communicate all over again. Pretty much everyone else in the world communicates way more clearly and directly than we do. That was a challenge at first.
How long do you anticipate staying there?
A good friend of mine says the title of my autobiography should be, And Then, We’ll See. I don’t know, to be honest! At the moment I’m super happy living here. And I could imagine myself being here for quite a long time. But I’m also completely open if life guides me on another adventure along the way!
What’s one thing you’ve learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives? 
While you’re looking at a group of friends, imagining yourself to be an outsider, they’re looking back at you and wondering, “Why doesn’t she come and say hi?”
Exclusivity is almost always created from within, and projected on others 🙂Thanks so much for sharing, Heather! Do you guys have any questions for her?

P.S. True Story: I gave birth at home and True Story: I live with the hill tribes in Thailand

Do you fit your name?

Don’t you think I could pass for a Sloane in these photos? Or maybe a Lauren?

I’m totally a Maggie here.


Oof. Such a Sarah-with-an-H in these photos.

At a party a few weeks ago, a friend and I were joking around when he said something that totally got inside my head.

Like, one of those comments you find yourself considering at stoplights and during conversational lulls. You keep (annoyingly) bringing it up with all and sundry, seeking their feedback. It was the psychological equivalent to the hole left after you get a tooth pulled – a dark, weird place you keep sticking your tongue and then immediately regretting it.And what, pray tell, what the mind-shaking thing my friend said?

“Well, you don’t even seem like a Sarah with an H.”

To which I replied that HE didn’t even seem like an Aaron. HE WAS TOTALLY AN ALEX.

Now, I’m not even particularly attached to my first name. It was one of the top five most popular girl’s names for nearly twenty years. Once, I was one of three patients in a doctor’s waiting room and when the nurse came out and said “Sarah?” we all stood up.

Really, I was supposed to be Anne (with an e, obviously) but my cousin had the nerve to be born first and usurp the name. And because both my parents were school teachers, they had a difficult time choosing a name that wasn’t tainted by memories of horrible students. When you’ve taught hundreds of eight-year-olds there’s nearly always a stinker of a Megan/Ashley/Miranda. Sarah was one of the only names that hadn’t been ruined by spitballs or late homework. A friend in high school insisted that I was really a Rebecca which I can totally see.
Does this name connote trustworthiness and sincerity?
Does this name seem like someone who’d watch your stuff while you went to the bathroom?
Is this the name of your babysitter or that camp counselor who knew the theme song to Ghostwriter?

Sigh. That’s me.I have an inordinate number of friends with unusual names – Darcie, Rica, Shanda, Brekke, Helene, Cleo, Cadence, Shanai – which really only exacerbates my name envy. And for a while I wanted a sexier, more exciting name. When I moved to New Zealand, I briefly considering going by ‘Von’ (part of my last name) but I’d dissolve into laughter anytime I tried to introduce myself that way.

But my parents’ thought process holds: I’ve never met a Sarah-with-an-h who wasn’t lovely, hardworking, trustworthy. The Sarahs of the world are high school English teachers and pediatric nurses. They run Girl Scout troops and cross country ski. They have well-behaved rescue dogs and when they host book club, they totally serve themed food.

It may not be the world’s most exciting name (not by a looooong shot) but we are a solid people.

What about you? Do you fit your name? If you don’t, what name would be a better fit?