9 things I’d tell my 13-year-old self

Photo by Andy Teo

Photo by Andy Teo

During a recent dinner with friends, one casually posed the question, “What would you tell your 13-year-old self?” I’d heard this question before, and typically dismissed it with a silly or smart-ass response (“Spiral perms are never a good idea!”), but this time I took a minute to think about it. And a bunch of ideas flooded my mind – all serious advice that I wish someone had given me when I was a scared, newbie teen who was anxious about everything and struggling with an eating disorder.

So I decided to share, in the hopes you’ll show it to a teen in need of some advice from the future – or that something will resonate with you.

  1. Don’t be afraid. It will all work out.
  2. Be who you are. Make yourself happy first.
  3. Everyone else is insecure about something, too.
  4. Be a child as long as possible. Your dreams will come true. But enjoy today first.
  5. You’re not dying. It’s an anxiety attack.
  6. Don’t do things hoping you will be rewarded with love or acceptance. The right people will love you for who you are, not what you look like, wear or accomplish.
  7. If you need help, there are places you can go and people to talk to. Get the help – demand it – now.
  8. Know your worth. You deserve happiness. You are perfect as you are, but…
  9. Remember that there’s no such thing as perfect.

So what am I missing? What do you wish you’d known all along? Add to the list by posting a comment below.

What I’m loving this fall

Mother Nature, when did you become such a pushover to that bully Father Winter? He gets to show off for three – if not more – long, gray, bone-chilling months. It’s time to put your foot down, and demand he let us enjoy the three months of autumn sunshine and crisp temperatures that we are entitled to.

In the meantime, I will be thankful for the following, which make the plummeting temperatures here in Charlotte much more bearable.

logo“Serial” podcast
Oh. My. God. Stop what you’re doing, go to serialpodcast.org, and start listening now! Produced by WBEZ Chicago, this weekly podcast is hosted by Sarah Koenig, who first learned of a 1999 case involving a murdered high school senior over a year ago and is looking for answers. The case had a lot of holes and a lot of unanswered questions. And Koenig isn’t as certain as the jury was that the victim’s ex-boyfriend killed her.

In each episode, Koenig reveals her discoveries to listeners and guides them through her meticulous steps to learn the truth. We hear from friends, family and acquaintances of the accused and witnesses. We hear intimate details of the victim and accused’s life – their family struggles, relationship issues.

With tension, gossip, he said-she said and a colorful cast of characters, it’s storytelling at its best. And as a former Nancy Drew fan who regularly prayed for a bona fide mystery to land in my neighborhood so I could demonstrate my sleuthing skills, I’m loving the puzzle this podcast presents.

Photo: Amazon.com

Photo: Amazon.com

This scarf/blanket/shawl
At nearly five feet long and wide, this scarf is basically a wearable blanket. It’s thick, soft and a gorgeous neutral plaid that works with just about any color. The tag on the scarf says Zara, but the shipper is a third-party retailer through Amazon. Either way, this will be my go-to cold-weather accessory.

Photo: BurtsBees.com

Photo: BurtsBees.com

Burt’s Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Cream
As soon as the first cold day arrives, my nails grow brittle, and my hands become itchy, scaly appendages. This is the first hand cream to make a difference. If I remember to use it each night, my hands stay soft, my nails remain strong, and my cuticles don’t get scraggly. I also love that it’s not greasy and smells amazing.

All right, spill it. What are you loving right now?

Victory Rituals and the life-changing list

Photo: TASTEdaily.com

Photo: TASTEdaily.com

I’m blessed and cursed to have my brain. I learn quickly, so I get bored very easily. I’m a skilled organizer and rarely lose anything, but I break out in hives around clutter. I’m an over-achiever, so I always have a running list of no less than 20 goals I want to accomplish. All good, but all very exhausting.

So when I read about the opportunity to be part of the Victory Rituals beta group – a program designed to help participants focus on and achieve one of their goals – I eagerly signed up. With so many items on my “to accomplish” list, I was overwhelmed and ineffective. I’d focus on one goal for a week or so, then divert my attention to another, ending up with a bunch of big and small half-baked projects. Not very motivating or fulfilling.

The beta
Led by Nicole D’Alonzo of TASTEdaily (if you haven’t checked out this site, do it. Like now.), the beta has consisted of two 30- to 45-minute video workshops to date. The first focused on optimizing your morning routine so you can practice those Victory Rituals that will get you to your goal(s). Nicole offered up tips on identifying your long-term goal, then establishing your daily trifecta – those three things you want to accomplish for the day.

The second workshop focused on getting enough sleep so you can be truly productive, as well as the benefits of rituals. By becoming habits, rituals open up space in our minds so we can focus on the bigger picture. And as we work toward the big picture, we get that motivation and fulfillment those day-to-day tasks just don’t deliver.

So here’s what I did and didn’t do
I decided to focus in on exercising consistently, preparing healthy meals and fitting in time for relaxation as part of a larger goal to become healthier physically and mentally. The first few days after the workshop #1, I was gung ho, setting and accomplishing my trifecta each day. Then I lost steam. My overachieving side was fighting back.

“What about writing that book? When are you going to that?” It taunted.

“And how are you going to get that Project Management Professional certification if you’re busy exercising and relaxing. Seriously, relaxing? You have too much to accomplish to do that!”

But rather than give in, I got out a sheet of paper and wrote down all the goals whirling around in my head. Then I ordered them, with 1 being the most important. And I made a deal with myself. I wouldn’t even think about #2 until I did something that day to work toward #1. And #3 would be but a shadow in the back of my mind until I did something to get me closer to #2 that day. And so on.

By prioritizing my goals, I gave myself the mental room I needed to work – or not work – toward them each day and make actual headway.

The results: I’m down seven pounds, physically stronger and less anxious, and I can finally prepare a healthy dinner for myself without setting off the fire alarms. Success!

While I’m still not a morning person (sigh), Victory Rituals did set me in the right direction toward achieving my goals.

Interested in creating and working toward your own Victory Rituals? Get on the waitlist for the program’s official launch.

What I’m Loving This Summer

Despite being born and raised in New England, and spending my first 33 years residing in the northeast, I’m a warm-weather girl, through and through. As you can imagine, I’m not happy about the speed with which this summer has passed, or the fact that Labor Day is next weekend.

The silver lining is it stays warm late into the year here in Charlotte. Last year, we were lounging at the pool the first weekend of October, searching for local fall festivals. And these recent (awesome) discoveries will help ease the seasonal transition, too.

OmmwriterI must thank blogger Jeff Goins for promoting this tool during his webinar earlier this week. This simple software makes writing more fun, offering music and various backgrounds to serve as your inspirational backdrop. My favorite part: the keyboard sound effect options. As I write, I hear the clickety-clack of a typewriter, and the nerd in me is over the moon. If you’re an easy distracted person, this may not be the software for you, but if you can enjoy, then move on from the bells and whistles, I highly recommend Ommwriter. The best part? You choose what you pay for it!


Photo: iTunes store

Photo: iTunes store

All the Social Ladies podcast
I recently stumbled upon this podcast, and it’s become my inspirational companion on walks and drives. In each show, host Carrie Kerpen, CEO of Likeable, interviews a woman who is kicking serious social media butt personally and/or professionally. She’s interviewed some major influencers, including Sarah Evans of Sevans Strategy and Nicole D’Alonzo of TASTEdaily. I love the conversational, ladies-over-coffee nature of the roughly 20-minute interviews, and the guests’ energy, positivity and courage inspire me to take risks and generally bring it every day at the office.


Photo: Essie.com

Photo: Essie.com

Essie Fall 2014 Collection
I love color on my nails, but working in a corporate environment, I’ve felt pretty limited with my options. With each trip to the nail salon, I gaze longingly at the bright colors, only to select the neutral pale pink… again. But at Ulta last week, I spotted Essie’s fall collection, and my hope returned. The collection consists of simple, yet striking, options like a deep red and inky cobalt blue along with a variety of muted neutrals blended with more daring hues – Take it Outside is a gorgeous taupe with pink undertones, and The Perfect Cover Up is a gray with hints of teal. I can’t wait to try them out and switch up my mani.

So what are you loving during these last days of summer? Share below or DM me @bakinginpumps. I’m always looking for new things to try, and if I love ‘em, too, I’ll share and happily promote your blog or website.

3 killer storytelling techniques from AMC’s “The Walking Dead”

the-walking-dead-onlineWith the season 5 premiere in just three months, I thought it’d be fun to share this article I wrote. While I discuss my career or work issues often on this blog, this is the first time I’m actually sharing some of it. It doesn’t fit with the topics I usually write about, but I know many of you have blogs of your own and am hoping you may find some inspiration. If not, hey, it’s about “The Walking Dead”. That’s fun enough, right? 

This post first appeared on Cursive Content’s blog last week. I used to work with the insanely talented ladies of Cursive Content, and it was wonderful to team up again. If you are a writer, blogger, marketer – or just interested in learning more about all of the above, check out their blog. But first, read this!

I have the entire “The Walking Dead: Season 4“ in my DVR queue, courtesy of the 4th of July weekend marathon on AMC, and it’s eating me alive (pun intended). My husband and I recently started watching on Netflix, and have had way too many binge-viewing sessions over the past few weeks than I care to admit.

As I gazed longingly at my queue this weekend, wishing I had a free hour to sneak in just one episode, it occurred to me that the reason I am obsessed with this show is its incredible storytelling.

The storyline elements that make the show so popular (it’s the #1 show on TV among 18- to 49-year-olds) are the same as those that draw people to your content and drive business. To get your audience to tune in regularly, makes sure your content accomplishes these three goals.

1. Create tension

Simply put, nail biters draw people in. If the characters on “The Walking Dead” think they’re safe, but the camera pans out to show hordes of “walkers” heading in their direction, my eyes will remain glued to the screen.

Create this tension and sense of urgency in your content to capture your audience’s attention, too. Focus on current and potential barriers to your audience’s success, using your customer and industry knowledge as well as your own perspective to set the scene. 

2. Introduce your cast of characters

A sheriff who’s a dead shot, a veterinarian with a wealth of first aid skills, a former pizza deliveryman who moves swiftly – these are just a few of the characters whose specific skill-sets have saved themselves and fellow survivors time and again.

Bring your story to life through the voices, perspectives and insights of your “characters” – those employees who have helped shape your business and, in turn, craft your story. In doing so, you’ll demonstrate the strengths of each employee, and how they uniquely position your company to “rescue” your audience.

3. Save the day

On “The Walking Dead,” Sheriff Rick’s group of survivors is tough – possibly the toughest group out there battling the dead– and others in need of protection have begged to join.

Your content should clearly communicate the approach and solutions you offer and why your business is the best – or perhaps the only one – to address those threats.

Consistently incorporate these three elements into your content, and you’ll establish your business as a go-to authority with a unique perspective and solutions. Like Sheriff Rick, you’ll be the one your audience turns to for consultation – or the next time they need to be rescued.

What I’m Loving This Month: May

May has been a busy month. I’ve been gearing up for three major launches at work, and B had a sinus surgery that knocked him out for a few days. The silver lining? We capped off the craziness with four relaxing days on the beach in Ocean Isle, N.C.

Having just returned yesterday, I’m relaxed and rejuvenated – and wanting to share some awesome discoveries I managed to make in between everything else going on.

Photo: Target.com

Photo: Target.com

$5 beach bag (seriously)
I got this adorable mesh tote at Target right before leaving for Ocean Isle. I went with no intention of buying a beach bag, but, as we all know, aimless browsing often leads to unplanned purchases at Target. (I imagine even the most disciplined of shoppers can’t resist the store’s range of amazing and inexpensive items.)

The bag is roomy, folds up easily for packing and has a handy front pocket for easy access to your phone, camera, etc. I got it on sale for $5, but the normal price, $9.99, is still a steal. If you’re not into polka dots, browse the website. The totes are available in a range of patterns and colors.

My Peggy Li bracelets

My Peggy Li bracelets

Peggy Li custom word bracelets
I love Peggy Li’s jewelry – all of it. And I’m not alone. If you watch Switched at Birth, American Idol, Vampire Diaries or Hart of Dixie, among others, you’ve seen her jewelry. It’s simple, chic and reasonably priced.

These custom word bracelets are among my favorite of her creations. I love the idea of wearing words that I can glance at throughout the day to center myself. Especially because I’ve been feeling off lately.

I can’t explain it other than that I just haven’t felt like myself. I’ve been anxious, moody, tired – just out of sorts. So I’ve been focusing on what keeps me balanced: exercise, eating right and, most importantly, being creative and simply giving myself time to breathe and be. Hence, my two new bracelets – one that says “breathe” and one that reminds me to make time for what I love, “create.”

Photo: GretchenRubin.com

Photo: GretchenRubin.com

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
I realize I’m a little late to the game, since this book by Gretchen Rubin was released in 2009, but I’m sharing in case any blog readers haven’t read it either.

Following an epiphany in which she realizes 1. she’s not focusing enough on what truly matters and 2. she could be happier, Rubin embarks on her Happiness Project. During this yearlong journey, she adds a few resolutions to her list each month to nurture her friendships, health, marriage, parenting, spirituality, work, etc. Each month, she tackles resolutions under a new theme.

For example, in January, her overarching resolution is to “boost energy.” To do that, she sets out to get organized, go to bed earlier, exercise “better” and “act more energetic.” She shares her experience working toward each of these resolutions with humor, personal insights and supporting research.

By the end of the year, she’s indeed happier, and has discovered Splendid Truths of Happiness – light bulb moments about happiness throughout her adventure that she carries with her. She summarized the truths in this great Huffington Post article a few years back (bonus: there’s a link to read sample chapters from the book at the end of the article).

I loved every second of this book. Rubin is a great storyteller, and as a perpetual list-maker and goal-setter, I was in heaven.



In September of her Happiness Project year, Rubin sets out to pursue a passion: books. She soon discovers Lulu.com, a site where you can easily create and publish books. She creates books of her kids’ drawings, of blank books she filled in with her daughters, of her blog posts… the list goes on.

As someone who finds a level of happiness in bookstores and libraries that is second only to that found at home and at the beach, I was giddy as I read about her projects.

That night, I checked out Lulu.com, and it was everything Rubin said it was. I love that you can customize your book, from the size to the cover material to the page design, and print bulk quantities at a reduced price (if you’re self-publishing).

I’ve since begun my first, long-put-off project – getting all our wedding photos into a beautiful coffee table photo book. Sure, our wedding was two and a half years ago, but better late than never, right?

And I’m already thinking about what I’ll create after I finish this big project. A book of short stories? Blog posts? The book nerd in me is clearly over the moon.

What have you discovered this month that you’re loving? Share below!

Blasted birthday

The Toxic Cleansing NutriBlast - before

The Toxic Cleansing NutriBlast – before

Last week, I mourned celebrated my 34th birthday with friends and my husband, B, who completely spoiled me. Among my birthday bounty was a NutriBullet. B had noticed me dragging out the blender every morning to mix up my smoothies and thought this smaller blender would be easier to use and clean.

As I read up on this amazing contraption, I quickly realized it’s much more than a blender. This mighty little mixer breaks down nuts, fruits and veggies, extracting vital nutrients. The NutriBullet folks recommend replacing one meal with a NutriBlast (what NutriBullet calls its concoctions), then having another later in the day. That’s a lot of fruit and veggies, so I decided to start with one per day and go from there.

I took it for its first spin (pun intended) this weekend, starting with the Toxic Cleansing NutriBlast. I loaded the six servings of fruit and veggies – a mix of spinach, pear, apple, pineapple, banana and water – into the cup NutriBullet provides, attached the blade top, flipped it upside down set it into the power base, watching as it turned the fruit chunks and leaves into a thick, green frothy smoothie.

Doing its thing

Doing its thing

One it was done doing its magic, I took a closer look at bright green blend, which smelled faintly of spinach. Not exactly my usual delicious almond milk, coconut yogurt, banana smoothie. But I took a sip and tasted pears, apples and a bit of pineapple.

What I like
After finishing the two-cup mixture, I was surprisingly full. In fact, I had to take a break halfway through to let it settle in my stomach before continuing on.

Five hours and a 30-minute power walk later, I started feeling a little hungry. Not bad! My typical smoothies hold me over for three, four hours tops.

Today, I whipped up the Energy Elixir Smoothie, which consists of mixed greens, pear, red grapes, walnuts, apple and banana. While I didn’t experience a noticeable jolt, I spent the rest of the afternoon doing a Pure Barre workout, putting away laundry, dusting the blinds, crafting and blogging. So it seems it gave me steady, sustained pep.

The finished NutriBlast

The finished NutriBlast

What I don’t like
My only issue with the NutriBullet? All those organic fruits and veggies add up at the grocery store checkout. Buying enough for five to six NutriBlasts set me back about $70. Next week, I’m going to check out some local farm stands, where produce tends to be cheaper, to see what I can find.

In the meantime, if you’ve used the NutriBullet, let me know what you think. Which are your favorite recipes?