advice to a mom-to-be

I’m 10 days past my due date, it’s Saturday night, and yep – we’re still waiting! Ha!

He’s doing great in there, and so are we out here, trying to make the most of our extra, unexpected time as a twosome. And I think we’re doing pretty well! Even though it’s been hard at times the past few weeks, and I have my hunches as to some of the lessons, purpose, and blessings from the waiting there is no doubt that this is a special time we will never forget – that’s for sure!

For the past few months I’ve been wanting to share the words of wisdom from one of my baby showers in November 2014. What better time than now?

More than twenty amazing women – most of whom are seasoned moms – ages 28-80, shared the words, love and encouragement below.

WORDS OF WISDOM FOR THE NEW MOM:

  1. Savor the time with just you and your husband. Don’t hesitate to get a babysitter regularly to keep making time for you and your relationship.
  2. Don’t second guess yourself as a mom. Trust yourself and who you are, your instinct and unique personality as a mom. 
  3. The dishes don’t matter – I wish I wouldn’t have cared so much about that as the kids were growing up. Take time for the kids over chores or things that need done.
  4. Be your own mom – don’t compare yourself to other moms.
  5. Find a good church family and pray for your kids daily.
  6. Create songs to help the kids learn – their names, or anything else. 
  7. Say you’re sorry when you’ve wronged or hurt your kids. It’s an example they will remember.
  8. Always put God first, your husband second, your children third, and work last.
  9. Date nights! Make time for the two of you regularly.
  10. It’s important to find ways to make time for yourself, whether that’s shutting the bedroom door for 20 minutes, going out with girlfriends, taking a relaxing bath, exercising, or reading. 
  11. Write down little things as they happen – in your phone or in a journal – so you don’t forget!
  12. Take photos and video of everything – don’t just take photos that are posed. 
  13. As your kids grow up, share stories with them about them when they were younger, family memories, etc. That is something I always cherished.
  14. Be quick about bath time, or pee will get everywhere!
  15. In the first week to 10 days, hang in there. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Give yourself grace as your body recovers and you figure it all out.
  16. Limit your time on Pinterest and don’t compare yourself to other ‘Pinterest moms’ or ‘blog moms’ who seem to do perfect crafts, throw perfect parties, create perfect games and learning materials for their kids.
  17. LAUGH. Live in the moment and in the mess.
  18. Be prepared for weirdness.
  19. Appreciate when your husband helps you. Have fun!
  20. Enjoy the moments, time goes fast.
  21. It’s not too early to start praying for who they will marry, their spouse to-be.
  22. WORK AS A TEAM!

What else would you add?

I’m so thankful for you, all of our friends and family who have helped us prepare, not only mentally, but physically, spiritually and emotionally as best as we can for this new season of life.

Now, let’s meet this little man! ;D Whenever you’re ready Baby E…

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Books that change your life

If you’re one of my girlfriends, chance is I’ve recommended Secrets of Six Figure Women by Barbara Stanny to you over the past few years.

This was a book that completely transformed my view of money, which I had never realized was unhealthy in any way, and was holding me back both personally and professionally.

When I read it sometime in 2011-2012, I had been working at a nonprofit for three years – my first job out of college – and struggling with my health. All of my extra money was pouring directly into doc appointments, vitamins, juicing and organic food.

And I over-drafted my bank account almost every month! (Something I was ashamed of and almost no one knew at the time.) Needless to say, this was stressful and just added to the other stressors in my life.

I think fondly of Secrets of Six Figure Women because it helped me in unexpected ways, to build my confidence and grow at the deepest parts of myself. The things that stand out to me about it now, years down the road, is realizing that I had an unrealized fear of money (of having it, that it would control me – which ironically it was by me ignoring it, and what people thought of me), a negative view (of people with money), that was leading me to subconsciously self-sabotage my own life and well-being. I am so grateful that I came across Stanny’s book because it was a needed companion and mirror at the perfect time in my young life and career.

The Way Women Work Rania Anderson Erin RisnerI am writing all of this because for the past two and half years, I’ve been working with Rania Anderson, who has been an incredible boss, colleague and professional mentor. She’s been working on a career advice book for women in emerging economies (the me’s of Brazil, Russia, China, Jordan, Chile, Kenya, India, etc). The book is called UNDETERRED: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies. Last November, we were in Brazil and Argentina interviewing women for the book (an amazing, inspiring trip!) and the book is packed with 250 relatable women around the world, at different stages in their careers and businesses. Many of these women I’ve Skyped with or interviewed via Skype throughout my time at The Way Women Work.

As I’ve read Undeterred multiple times throughout the editing process, and am now helping to crowdfund it, I can’t help but reflect on the power it will have on young women and their career and business pursuits. I am SO EXCITED for the book to come out in early 2015, and to put it in the hands of women around the world who are seeking career advice, relatable stories, examples, and best practices. A needed companion. A source of encouragement and inspiration. Reassurance and guidance while navigating uncertain professional terrain.

I think of myself — of the books like Secrets of Six Figure Women — that fell into my hands and changed my life, my career. And I have NO DOUBT Undeterred will do the same for aspiring women in emerging markets.

I know this sounds sappy but this is truly how I feel – this project is about the dreams we have — for ourselves, our careers, our businesses — and the often quiet or solitary struggle for confidence to pursue those dreams.

It’s SCARY to admit what you want or dream of (what if you don’t get it?), and then scary to take action towards that thing. It’s scary to talk about with anyone, and it’s scary to take risks.

Undeterred: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies by Rania Habiby AndersonBut the women we’ve met, talked to, and featured in Undeterred are so incredible – they have pushed past what is scary for them, what has stood in their way, and remain undeterred to create a life they dream of. And even though I am not from an emerging economy, I have learned so much from the women in its pages. It is a very powerful book.

Most of you who know me know how passionate I am about my work, and especially this project. I am so proud to be a part of it, and I wanted to give you the opportunity to be a part of it too. I know this book will really make a difference and impact in the lives of women (our goal is to reach 100,000 women with the book!) just as the books have influenced and impacted our own careers and dreams.

Join me by donating a book, or truly, give any amount you can – even $5 of $10 is so appreciated!

This is my first crowdfunding campaign and I must say it’s really awesome. I love seeing people come together over one cause. We’re currently at 78% of our goal (WOOHOO!!!!) with 10 days left to go (I totally think we can hit our goal!!!!), with 130 backers who already stood up to support. Are you in?

You rock! THANK YOU letting me share all of this with you.

So now, you tell me – what was a book that changed your life?

 

See what other people are saying about the campaign, UNLEASHING the Careers of 100,000 Women Globally:

be unreasonable & disagreeable

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I have never been in an IKEA so I don’t know what the big deal is with them. But KC is about to get one so I suppose I’ll finally check it out when it opens.

I am currently reading David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants and I have been thinking about this excerpt about the IKEA founder a lot this week:

“…Crucially, innovators need to be disagreeable. By disagreeable, I don’t mean obnoxious or unpleasant. I mean that…they are people willing to take social risks – to do things that others might disapprove of.

That is not easy. Society frowns on disagreeableness. As human beings we are hardwired to seek the approval of those around us. Yet a radical and transformative thought goes nowhere without the willingness to challenge convention.

A good example is the story of how the Swedish furniture retailer IKEA got its start. The company was founded by Ingvar Kamprad. His great innovation was to realize that much of the cost of furniture was tied up in its assembly: putting the legs on the table not only costs money but also makes shipping the table really expensive. So he told furniture that hadn’t yet been assembled, shipped it cheaply in flat boxes, and undersold all his competitors.

In the mid-1950s, however, Kamprad ran into trouble. Swedish furniture manufacturers launched a boycott of IKEA. They were angry at his low prices, and they stopped filling his orders. IKEA faced ruin. Desperate for a solution, Kamprad looked south and realized just across the Baltic Sea from Sweden was Poland, a country with much cheaper labor and plenty of wood. That’s Kamprad’s openness: few companies were outsourcing like that in the early 1960s. Then Kamprad focused his attention on making the Polish connection work. It wasn’t easy.

Poland in the 1960s was a mess. It was a Communist country. It had none of the infrastructure or machinery or trained workforce or legal protections of a Western country. But Kamprad pulled it off.

…But what is the most striking fact about Kamprad’s decision? It’s the year he went to Poland: 1961. The Berlin Wall was going up. The Cold War was at its peak. Within a year, East and West could come to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The equivalent today would be Walmart setting up shop in North Korea. Most people wouldn’t even think of doing business in the land of the enemy for fear of being branded a traitor. Not Kamprad. He didn’t care a whit for what others thought of him. That’s disagreeableness.

Only a very small number of people have the creativity to think of shipping furniture flat and outsourcing in the face of a boycott. And even smaller number have not only those kinds of insights but also the discipline to build a first-class manufacturing operation in an economic backwater. But to be creative and conscientious and have the strength of mind to defy the Cold War? That’s rare.”

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

My inner people-pleaser loves the example of the unreasonable “disagree-er.” What ways can I/we can disrupt the way the world goes about its business now? Where is the innovation waiting? (Because now it seems so obvious to sell furniture in flat boxes that you would assemble yourself, doesn’t it – it’s everywhere!)

This weekend, may your thoughts wander onto the new, innovative and unreasonable…

 

let’s talk about porn, baby

((Disclaimer: I am aware this is a controversial topic, and I am aware that this is MY view and experience. What compelled me to write this piece was to encourage discussion between couples in a relationship, or parents to their kids (or to think about how to talk about it with your kids down the road!); I don’t expect this narrative to represent all situations or people, and I realize this mainly touches on my experience with men. One piece of early feedback I got back was that I might consider balancing it out with the equal female perspective or equivalent to porn. I would say I think the only equivalent is porn itself. While other unhealthy habits or coping mechanisms may form for any person, porn, as you will see below, can take a life of its own in our brain mapping…whether your male or female, this can apply to you.

The people pleaser side of me is very uncomfortable about posting this piece to begin with, nervous what you dear reader or friend may think, as I tend to keep my stronger  perspectives to myself on social media/online . But at the heart of me, without blame, shame or judgment, I want to provoke others’ thoughts as I think about it too. I feel strongly about this topic since I know so many people affected, and from first-hand experience can see what a slippery slope this could be. I believe it is important! With that said, I ask for your grace too.))

in the clouds dec 2013

One of the coolest cloud scenes I’ve ever seen, Jamaica to Atlanta last month. Insert grace here! :)

————-

Starting in high school, for some reason I couldn’t tell you now, I began to ask every guy I dated if he looked at porn.

You wouldn’t be shocked to know that all of them did or had. And through the years (I’m now 28), while it isn’t commonly talked about, I picked up that this was a pretty normal reality.

Out of the handful of conversations I’ve had about masturbation and pornography with friends, I only know one guy friend that has never been compelled to look at porn regularly.

Growing up in the church and running in Christian circles, the context I mostly heard pornography (but rarely) discussed was with “shame” and something guys “struggled” with (because I never heard girls ever talk about it as an issue, but this can of course be the case too!). For the guys I know who have been honest about this part of their lives, most have said it has been something that has had a power over them they didn’t want, but yet they keep going back…

(“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” – Romans 7:15)

Today, I’m glad I started those conversations in my teenage years and became comfortable with that conversation. What I didn’t know then is because of that openness, it has allowed me to unabashedly learn a lot about the issue and the people I know and love – many who have dealt (or are dealing) with this usually hidden part of their lives. And for the people I’ve come to know that have this impulse, it is tied to something deeper that we can all relate to – such as anxiety, fear, the need to escape, curiosity, shame, paralyzation, feeling lost, etc.

(And I think we all have different ways of coping with these feelings! Louis C.K. has a funny but poignant bit on Conan that relates to this, but regarding technology.)

SHOCKING REALITIES TODAY

One of the best articles I’ve ever read on porn is by a ex-editor of a women’s soft corn porn magazine in Britain. In the article,  Experiment that convinced me online porn is the most pernicious threat facing children today, Martin Laubney interviews kids and young teens (ages 12-16) to learn what they have seen or know when it comes to online porn. I think you will be shocked by what he learns, too. Here is one excerpt:

“We found Dr Valerie Voon, a neuroscientist at Cambridge University and a global authority on addiction.

Then, in the first study of its kind, we recruited 19 heavy porn users who felt their habit was out of control and had Dr Voon examine their brain activity as they watched, among other things, hardcore porn.

She was interested in a particular brain region called the ventral striatum – the ‘reward centre’ – where our sense of pleasure is produced. This is one of the areas where an addict will show a heightened response to visual representations of their addiction – whether it’s a syringe or a bottle of vodka.

What we discovered was a revelation. When shown porn, the reward centre of normal volunteers barely reacted, but that of the compulsive porn users lit up like a Christmas tree.

The compulsive porn users’ brains showed clear parallels with those with substance addictions.
Everybody on the project was astounded, even Dr Voon, who admitted she had been ‘sceptical and ambivalent’ about the study at the outset.

If porn does have the insidious power to be addictive, then letting our children consume it freely via the internet is like leaving heroin lying around the house, or handing out vodka at the school gates.
And this toxic effect is filtering down directly into young girls’ lives.

The most shocking testament came from Professor Gail Dines. Regarded as the world’s leading anti-pornography campaigner, she has interviewed thousands of men and women about sex and pornography.

‘When you interview young women about their experiences of sex, you see an increased level of violence: rough, violent sex,’ she says.

‘That is directly because of porn, as young boys are getting their sexual cues from men in porn who are acting as if they’re sexual psychopaths.”

Laubney used to be an outspoken pro-porn advocate, but now, after helping make a documentary called ‘Porn on the Brain,’ he says, “I feel as if an entire generation’s sexuality has been hijacked by grotesque online porn…We have to tell our kids that pornographic sex is fake and real sex is about love, not lust.”

One book that I found extremely fascinating last year is The Brain That Changes Itself, by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Norman Doidge. In Chapter 4Acquiring Tastes and Loves: What Neuroplasticity Teaches Us About Sexual Attraction and Love, he talks specifically about porn addictions (similar to the excerpt above) and the science of how it affects the brain. He helps people literally rewire their brain maps and develop new habits to overcome their previously life-consuming addictions (by life-consuming he means it affects their ability to hold down a job, interferes with maintaining a healthy relationship, etc). Our brain is an amazing, amazing thing!

EXAMPLES & STRATEGIES

I know four couples who have all had pornography wreck their relationship for a season, or even a few. But on a hopeful note, I have also seen how all four couples have grown together through that struggle, and both parties have worked their asses off to not let it interfere anymore (and some still have to work at it!).

If for any man or woman who struggles with porn but wants to kick it from their life – I wanted to share how three men (and sorry, I’d love to share a woman’s perspective here but do not have it here, although I think the steps the men/couples take below are relevant to a woman who struggles with porn too) specifically have (yes, past tense!) overcome the unhealthy power that pornography had in their lives (sorry, so many parentheses!).

As you will see, they have taken what some would call very active drastic steps (and still do daily), with the help of their wives, to keep porn a thing of the past. These dear friends, whom I admire greatly, have shared their struggles and beautiful stories with me over the years, and it continues to be a lifelong effort they take on together. Even though not all of them would call their struggle an “addiction”, it is something they wanted to get rid of their lives, and it was hindering them in different capacities – for some it has meant facing those fears and not fun feelings they were originally trying to escape (and honestly, couldn’t we all afford do that?! Props to anyone who does…)

Here are some examples of how they handle it:

  • The men talk about what they see (be it porn or sexually stimulating images regularly) – even day-to-day things they accidentally see each day (think magazines at the grocery store, woman in yoga pants walking down the street, movie poster,  advertisement with girls in bikinis, etc); OR something they were tempted to look at, or something they sought out but stopped; and if they don’t always volunteer this information, their spouse asks regularly to open up the conversation, check in, be there, keep in stride with one another, offering support and love (yes, that isn’t always easy!)
  • Based on the above, a conscious practice of averting their eyes when they see something they want to look at when out in public or surprised by something online – trying to make the choice to look away and thinking of something different
  • Some of the guys have installed an accountability software on their computer (like X3 Watch) that blocks certain websites, ads, searches, and sends a list of where they go online to certain friends (or their wives)…think accountability
  • Before going to see movies or streaming something on Netflix, they look up the parent reviews to see what kind of nudity/sex is in it; usually they will just have to pass on that movie or show (and if something unexpected/unwanted pops up when watching a movie or show, they will turn away and look at their spouse as long as needed) – teamwork and rolling with the punches!
  • They don’t use the computer unless their spouse is home and in the room
  • They choose not to go to YouTube, Hulu, or even news sites where other videos or article suggestions pop up and may have preview image of a girl in a bikini, or something of the like

These approaches are individual and may not work or be necessary for everyone, but I wanted to give some specific examples of how some people are structuring their lives and choices around what they want! You get the idea. It is unique to the couple and their individual story, struggle, agreement, need, and relationship. That is a beautiful thing!

START THE CONVERSATION

I think it would be foolish to think that if you aren’t talking about porn with the most important people in your life, it isn’t a reality. If you haven’t, I want to encourage you to talk about it with your spouse, your kids, or the person you’re seriously dating.

Ask. Use it as a place to learn; to learn about them, where they are at if they struggle with it, and if they don’t struggle with it, than maybe just their opinions on it! If they struggle with it, use it as a time to learn compassion, to give compassion, to practice listening well, and practice asking good questions. Use it as a time to form your own opinions and feelings. And if they don’t think it’s a big deal, a problem, and watch it all the time – well that will also make a good conversation (I honestly have never talked to anyone that has this perspective and would be interested to do so). It isn’t a “fun” conversation per se, but it might be very important.

And if this is a part of your life, and you want to talk to someone – choose someone you love and trust. I encourage you to bring up the conversation too!

As for bringing it up with your kids – I couldn’t begin to know what to say. I don’t have kids yet and kind of dread what accessibility they will have by the time they young…But I know ignoring it is not a good solution!

A side note on love and compassion: It should go without saying that everyone is different, and like anything else, this topic is individual to each person. I would encourage you not to pigeonhole someone or approach the conversation with a blanket belief about it or them. If this is a conversation you might seek to have, please ask with love, openness, honesty, and truly listen. You’re dealing with a human…a complicated, beautiful, individual person. Golden Rule it!

FINAL THOUGHTS

This topic is something I am still learning about and trying to figure out how I can make a positive impact. What do I even want when it comes to the prevalence and role of porn and sex in our culture? For me, my marriage, my future kids? Why doesn’t the Church talk about it more and address it if is so common (the only site I know is XXXChurch)? And for that matter, addiction in general? How do we best address it?

I honestly don’t know. It can be awkward. It is not fun. People struggle. And there is no blanket fix. And that is both sad and annoying.

So for now, I write.

Thanks for reading.

All my love,

Erin

P.S. I found this infographic interesting, from the Mars Hill website.

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The most surprising thing in 2013?

Denali Mt. McKinley photo by Chad Risner Alaska Summer 2013

Chad’s clear view of Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley) this summer on the train; it is the highest peak in North America at 20,237 feet, AND rare to see it this clear!

“What’s the most surprising thing that happened to you this year?” Chad asked me on Dec. 31. We spontaneously stopped for some of our favorite warm pretzel bread, which we accompanied with red sangria in our cozy corner booth.

My first thought was laying by the schmancy pool at the Four Seasons in Buenos Aires – I was in disbelief that I was even there, period…let alone for work (with The Way Women Work)…less than two months ago. How in the path of my life did THAT even happen? It almost seemed fake, or like a joke. I could have never imagined that scenario!

Then, fast forward to a few months earlier when I excitedly and naively agreed to go backpacking for the first time in the nation’s most pristine wilderness – Denali National Park in Alaska…

Denali National Park backpacking wilderness

Photo credit of the remaining Alaska photos to John Whitaker & Matt Kempf.

backpacking in Denali National Park Summer 2013

Me The Backpacking Virgin (I only lasted 24 hours), and the rest of the experienced crew – Rachel The Fearless, John The Trailblazer & Matt The Calm.

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To say I was underprepared mentally is an understatement. Only 24 hours, three best friends, 500,000 mosquitoes, three grizzly bears, two storms, a million hip-high brush-bushes, a never-ending soft tundra that sucked my legs in one step at a time, some tears, anger, high-alert, one MRE, and a missing bear canister lid later, I knew I was in way too deep.

bears in denali

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Fast forward a few months previous to that, and I was planning a wedding in a three and a half month time span, while living in the Kansas country with my aunt and uncle. and looking for a place to live in Anchorage. We had a plane to catch only five days after we wed! AND we got married (video below)!

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Peppered in those 12 months was a my first time to Seattle, a work trip to Brazil and Argentina, a honeymoon in Jamaica, travels all around Alaska, visits from my parents and eight other dear friends, the worst loneliness of my life sprinkled with newlywed time when he was home from his travel-y job, pushing myself physically to new limits in biking, hiking and kayaking; making new friends and exploring a new city; working remotely, learning to cook scallops, Copper River salmon and fresh halibut tacos! (That Alaskan seafood melts in your mouth!)

Then there has been the adventure of marriage, of moving, selling possessions, selling our cars, finding a new car, settling, transitions, visiting family, family hardships, life-changing books, death of loved ones, and professional growth.

And when I write it all out, in my disbelief it sounds like fiction. THAT is the most surprising thing to me about 2013 – that all of that happened! Such extremes – from luxury travel and hard work, then bare bones camping in the wild unpredictable wilderness…and I was really there. Ha! Inconceivable!

I believe 2014 will also hold more than I can imagine, because that seems to be what God has up his sleeve, each year that passes if our hearts are open.

Chad and I are excited to each pursue our individual creative goals (for him, his art and web comic, for me, video, photography, and my viola) and just have fun together along the way.

Speaking of fun – I haven’t really shared this yet! Our wedding video, by my talented friend and videographer at World Vision, Nathan Shain:

All the love to you! So thankful to take this journey with you.

What will be in your 2014?

relationship as adventure


resonate relationship clinic OP KS logo

It doesn’t matter which adventures you choose first – the real adventure, after all, is who you go with.

Since I last wrote,  I got engaged to a stud at Christmas and have planned a big wedding shindig for April 19! Less than four months, thank you very much. It’s been a blast. (See & enjoy a slice @ teamcherin.com!)

One of the things Chad and I did was two half-day pre-marital counseling sessions. This came with renting the church we are getting married at, and was put on by Grant and Emma Wood of Resonate Relationship Clinic in Overland Park, KS.

I’ve always viewed relationship as the ultimate adventure, whether it be romantic, family, friendship or other. Opening yourself up to real relationship and being vulnerable, is scary.

I am grateful that Chad isn’t shy when it comes to counseling, and we both think it takes courage and bravery to go (so *high fives* if you’ve ever been!). We think there is no shame in it either – both of us have gone individually over the past few years, around topics from anxiety, friendships, guilt, big life changes, depression, wanting to talk through things with someone but not sure what, family crap and more.

Grant and Emma, who facilitated our pre-marital counseling sessions, said how much healthier would relationships (marriages specifically) be if everyone looked at it like a bi-annual dentist appointment, or annual doc checkup. Instead of waiting for crisis, why not go when as a preventative measure? We are all evolving, learning, growing humans, and I agree that it would could just water to the soul, to your love!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve been asked by friends and family what I learned in our sessions. This is my way of compiling and sharing! Read & proceed at your own risk…

INTIMACY

  • Intimacy = ‘Into me, see.’
  • Emotional awareness & emotional engagement will keep your marriage together.
  • Think, what’s my partner dreaming for, longing for?
  • Protect your relationship, what you tell other people (especially family).
  • Nothing is gossip between couples, nothing is off limits.
  • If your spouse has been hurt or is in a conflict, seek to understand first. Dress the wound for your spouse, listen, soothe.
  • Empathy, validation, support, affection, responsiveness.
  • We are wired to connect — all of us long for it.
  • How to stay attached – always be thinking/asking yourself about your partner “Where are you?” to be tuned in…gauge what is going on between you two, emotional closeness.
  • Attachment is knowing we exist in our partners mind and heart (a wonderful thing!)
  • SAFETY & SECURITY needs to exist in order to communicate clearly & openly, honest, connected – then you can be sure of your love.
  • Distance (emotional) is alarming – this is always a problem for marriage.
  • 4 Horsemen that threaten marriage: 1) Criticism, 2) Defensiveness, 3) Contempt, and 4) Stonewalling (dead, icy pattern)
  • Men have just as many emotions as women.
  • A sense of meaning & dreams: talk about your dreams for
    1. The way we treat each other
    2. How we spend leisure time
    3. Children & parenting
    4. Where we live
    5. Vocations
    6. Our spirituality
    7. What we do with our resources
    8. Rituals & rhythms

CONFLICT

  • Healthy couples fight.
  • Solve the solvable problems.
  • Bend, don’t break.
  • Lower your expectations of your partner.
  • Yield to each other!
  • Create the posture of how you do conflict, interact.
  • Work on acceptance.
  • What are the ‘DANCES’ you and your partner get into?
  • Make the pattern of your conflict the enemy, NOT the person.
  • You & your partner are on the SAME TEAM.
  • Negative typs of dances:
    • Pursue –> –> Withdraw
    • Withdraw <– –> Withdraw
    • Attack –> <– Attack
  • Recognize your dances, name them so you can call them out in conflict.
  • Raw nerves that can draw up hurt/conflict (these need to be communicated to one another):
    • Fear of rejection
    • Abandonment
    • Feeling not good enough
    • Feeling like a failure, or fear of failure
    • Feeling unloved
    • Feeling controlled
    • Not being accepted or valued
    • Approval wound
    • *These are all “file cabinets” of related past hurts that come up every time a negative thing happens or hurts in your relationship 
  • THE GOOD NEWS: Every moment, every fight, every tension is an opportunity for intimacy, for getting to know your partner more…
  • Look up terms like “Flooding,” “Stonewalling,” “Fight or flight”…how people can react.
  • Learn to self-soothe (or calm the eff down, haha).
  • Be non-reactive.
  • Focus on your own life/goals, not changing the other.
  • TOXIC: blaming the other person.
  • Learn to think: what are the issues under what we’re talking about?
  • Our thoughts & emotions are there to guide us & show us things – they are great teachers but horrible masters.

FAMILY OF ORIGIN

  • Plan a date night to talk about your families, how you grew up, memories good and bad.
  • Talk together – what patterns do you want to repeat, or what do you want to stop and leave behind?
  • What new patterns do you want to create together for your new family?
  • Topic ideas, such as how each of your families handled conflict, spontaneity, criticisms, expectation, struggle, siblings, the good, unwritten rules, geography, ancestry, boundaries, etc.

SEX

  • Ask one another: What’s our dream of how this looks in our lives?
  • Sex should be a regular part of what you talk about.
  • It can sometimes be an appetizer, sometimes be a five-course meal.
  • Sex is HEALING for the relationship.
  • Sex should be a priority &  a habit.
  • Hinderances to sexual intimacy:
    1. Habit of criticism
    2. Anger & resentment,
    3. Failure to communicate
    4. Lack of trust
    5. Anxiety about appearance or body image
    6. Self-consciousness
    7. De-emphasizing the value of sex
    8. Predictable/mechanical sex
    9. Lack of sensitivity
    10. Absence of non-sexual physical touching (affection)
    11. Too much television
    12. Lack of exercise
    13. Poor nutrition
  • Everyone is different – do what works for you! You & your partners’ needs.
  • Foreplay is an endangered species.
    • Focus on the senses.
    • Take TIME.
    • Variety.
    • Communicate fantasies, dreams.
  • Plan at least FOUR GETAWAYS together a year. Studies show sexual satisfaction skyrockets on getaways.
  • Talk about things like:
    • How often do you prefer/expect sex?
    • What do you need in order to be in the mood for sex?
    • Do you feel comfortable initiating sex? Why or why not?
    • Your views on masturbation.
    • What sexual activities do you enjoy the most?

MARITAL SPIRITUALITY

  • Your individual pursuit of God is so very important (a secret communion always going on inside of you).
  • “Constantly practice the habit of inwardly gazing upon God.” – A.W. Tozer
  • Spiritual exercises:
    • Fixed hour of prayer – sacredspace.org, gateway.org
    • Journaling
    • Fasting – it is really feasting when you seek God! To increase our appetite for what God has for us
    • Seeking mindfulness
    • Service – scheme together, how do you want to serve – the community, God; both physically giving of time & energy, and financially)
  • Talk about what traditions you want to start together? With your family?

A HAPPY, LASTING MARRIAGE

  • “When you marry someone you marry a set of problems.”
  • Their (and your) personality/instincts/temperaments won’t change – don’t try to change one another. Think, ‘At their core, what makes them tick?’
  • You don’t really ever know each other. Become a student of your partner.
  • Create a culture of appreciate & fondness.
  • The 20-Minute Stress-Reducing conversation: A common factor for all couples who stay together, asking ‘How’s your day?’ &  listening to one another.
  • Pick your ritual (for the stress-reducing convo)! Whether pillow talk, a tea/coffee/glass of wine after dinner, etc, just make time to download each other’s days. Crucial to the health of your relationship.
  • Rituals you share together are important. Create & cultivate (examples: taking a bath together every Friday night, drinking coffee on the porch every morning, etc…whatever you both like and want to enjoy together).
  • Be self-responsible. No blame of other(s).
  • Go to battle for each other.
  • Always side with each other. Use phrases like “What you’re feeling makes perfect sense,” “I would feel the same way,” and  “I can see why you feel this way…”
  • The real masters of marriage DO NOT do marriage based on feelings.
  • Sometimes you have to fake it til you make it – play the “I choose to like you” game when things are tense (as a ‘repair attempt’).
  • Treat your spouse like your best friend to develop positive sentiment if things are hard or distant between you.
  • ALWAYS BE REACHING FOR EACH OTHER.
  • Know that your ways of loving change over time.
  • Emotional responsiveness & attunement will keep your marriage together.
  • Practice and cultivate good SELF-CARE – that means for you individually in community, spiritually, emotionally, physically, self-responsibility, choices…take a HOLISTIC approach to your own life. (We all need togetherness and separateness).
  • Go on a DREAM HUNT: share your dreams with each other at every level, regularly talk about and ask one another (vocation, finances, dates, kids, community, family, leisure time, friendships, hobbies,  future, etc)
  • It is up to each one of you to BE ALIVE! “I have come so that you may have life to the full!” – Jesus
  • Know neither of you are the sum of your thoughts & emotions – we are MORE than that.
  • Reflection: carve off time (put it in the calendar, or do on a date night!) –
    • Structure fun time each week without problem talk.
    • Structure 30 minutes each week to reflect about self, others, your marital relationship, children, life & purpose.
    • Occasionally look at the rhythms of your week & take turns to plan an ideal weekly structure.
    • Look at the rhythms of your year & select times for the ‘feeding of the family soul’
    • Ask “what’s working & not working right now?”
    • Anchor an annual trip together that STAYS.
  • BE PROACTIVE! Invest in one another, invest in your relationship. If your spouse is your priority, does your time, money/bank account, effort, thoughts, conversations, etc, reflect that?

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No & Take Control of Your Life (almost done reading it now and it really has been changing my life – so liberating! Definitely recommend it to everyone!) 
  2. The Gifts of Imperfection
  3. 10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married
  4. Gift of Sex: A Guide to Sexual Fulfillment
  5. A Celebration of Sex
  6. Intended for Pleasure
  7. Passionate Marriage

All of this was just SOME of what they taught us in the sessions. I took mad notes, and then we got a huge packet of tools, worksheets, and conversation starters. We also took a relationship test called “Prepare & Enrich” which compared our answers to one another and gave us a lot to talk about. It was all extremely valuable for Chad & I both, and we’ve continued to talk about many of the things above.

We are SO THANKFUL we can begin this exciting new adventure together, which such incredible encouragement, examples, hope, and guidance! I pray the same for you…

“THEN WE SAT ON THE EDGE OF THE EARTH, WITH OUR FEET DANGLING OVER THE SIDE, AND    MARVELED THAT WE HAD FOUND EACH OTHER.”           – Erick Dillard

wild polar bears FACE TO FACE!?

GASP! One of the few things I subscribe to is the awesome travel site Matador Trips. What a delightful, adrenaline-raising pre-thanksgiving treat, but a Twitter contest to win a trip to see wild polar bears face to face in the Canadian Arctic (what?!)…

Pardon my many tweets this week as I have fun entering this incredible opportunity! I’m not one for contests normally, but wowzers – I might die if I won!

Inspired by the smell of adventure in the air, as well as a trip to Colorado TOMORROW (3 days with Chad’s family for Thanksgiving, then back to the Ozarks for 3 days with mine, WAHOO, so excited!), I thought this was the perfect time to post some recent pics from my travels.

Back to San Francisco for work, play in the country, walks, puppies, dogs, trips home, my love, and more…

Until next time! (With polar bears!)

oxo,

Erin

The millions of women you don’t hear about

This article is something I am passionate about, and helped write for one of my clients, The Way Women Work (it is in her voice, as founder – she has a remarkable story). I think the topic is so so interesting and wanted to help spread the knowledge a bit more! :) (Also, it’s Global Entrepreneurship Week! So I’ve been having fun with that.) Thanks for letting me share!

——–

The Millions of High-Growth Women Entrepreneurs You Don’t Hear About

Originally from the Middle East, Founder of The Way Women Work Rania Anderson grew up in the developing world and then came to the United States at age 16 to attend university and grad school at Georgetown University. After a successful 16-year corporate career at Bank of America, she started her own executive consulting business that thrived for 15 years. Now: Rania helps accelerate women professionals and entrepreneurs in emerging and developing economies.

I have a question for you. Where in the world do you think these women work?

The founders and CEOs of: an architectural firm with multi-country business and acclaim, a nationally recognized PR firm, an animation company, a multi-country high-tech company, a mobile application development company, an online review site, a consulting firm, an event planning business, an eco-travel business, a gaming company, and a business that transforms antiquities into beautiful home furnishings.

If you guessed the United States, Europe, or Canada, you guessed incorrectly.

These women founders and CEOs are from Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Russia. They represent a very small sampling of hundreds of women that I have had the immense privilege to meet, interview, and study as the founder of The Way Women Work.

This level of achievement among women in the developing and emerging markets may be surprising to some people given that the vast majority of images and stories about women in these countries show them as victims, oppressed, uneducated or struggling. Although we don’t hear nearly enough about them, my research indicates that there are millions of high-growth women entrepreneurs in emerging and developing economies.

My research indicates that there are millions of high-growth women entrepreneurs in emerging and developing economies.

My son’s generation is sometimes called the “first globals.” And although I was technically born at the tail-end of the baby boomer generation, I consider myself a global citizen. Originally from the Middle East, I grew up in the developing world. I have lived all over the Arab world as well as in England, Iran and India and have traveled extensively. I attended high school in Bahrain with students from 40 different countries. The girls (and boys) I went to school with were intelligent, confident and driven. I came to the United States at age 16 to attend university and grad school at Georgetown University where I continued to study with incredibly intelligent women and men from all over the world.

Like many entrepreneurs in developing countries, my professional experience started in the corporate sector. I had a wonderfully rewarding 16-year corporate career at Bank of America, and its predecessor banks contributing in a variety of capacities. Achieving results and with the right assignments mentors and sponsors, I attained a senior leadership position. In 1997, I left the corporate world to launch my own business. Over the next 15 years, I successfully built an executive business coaching, business consulting practice where I worked with and mentored men and women around the world.

Over time, I saw a gap and a great need. In my travels, research, and conversations, highly successful and aspiring business women around the world repeatedly told me that they didn’t have enough confidence, qualifications, mentors, sponsors, role models, networks, information, access and/or funding.

Highly successful and aspiring business women around the world repeatedly told me that they didn’t have enough confidence, qualifications, mentors, sponsors, role models, networks, information, access and/or funding.

So two years ago, I took another leap in business to create The Way Women Work, a free resource and the go-to place for women globally to seek and share business and career advice.

I’ve always been weary of the barrage of images and talk about obstacles and barriers women face because I’ve regularly seen women  in emerging and developing countries (including myself) who overcome and work around obstacles to succeed. Yet we continually hear more about their obstacles than about business women who are succeeding and how they got there. This is why at Way Women Work, our approach is different. Our approach is : “They did it – so can you! And here’s how…”

At The Way Women Work  we believe that when women share their successes, they inspire ALL women to succeed professionally. We:

  • Focus on successes and workarounds, not obstacles
  • Share women’s progress, not their plight
  • Are driven by optimism, hope, confidence and equality
  • Believe that women are heroes not victims
  • Provide a place for self directed learning where women learn from and are inspired by the stories and advice of other women, virtual mentors and role models.
  • Feature and celebrate women entrepreneurs, professionals, women in corporations and family businesses, women who are just starting out, women at the top, and women in the middle, from developing, emerging, and developed nations
  • Introduce women globally to the organizations and resources that support and enable their success

This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week. No matter your country or position, we CELEBRATE YOU and hope will join us in celebrating the millions of high-growth women entrepreneurs around the world!

Join the conversation and our fast-growing global community, @TheWayWomenWork or on Facebook.

(Originally published on thewaywomenwork.com)

do not despise your inner world

I spend too much time fighting with my inner feelings, dialogue, thoughts, and expectations. “I should feel ______, I need to do ______, I shouldn’t feel ______, why do I think ______or feel like ______, I have to ______, I can’t believe I still haven’t ______, Why can’t I/When will I______…”

While there are times interspersed in my day when this is inner world is complimentary, positive and empowering, it is definitely rarer. So too often, the result is I am too hard on myself. It’s not very enjoyable, peaceful or healthy. (The “Exploding Soul” name/identity came as a reflection of all things swirling in me, GOOD and bad, ideas, passion, drive, love, and more, often feeling like I am about to burst with it all!)

What helps? I rely on good friends to make fun of me (thanks Stef!), mentors to give me perspective (thanks Rania!), people to talk me through it when I’m stuck (thanks Chad & mom), friends to make me laugh (thanks Chad & Rach!), friends to encourage me (thanks SMont!) lots of prayer, naps, writing, grace as I learn, time in nature or traveling, disconnecting from technology of any kind, and overall, telling myself: “Ease up babe! Give yourself an $%^&ing break :) You’re doing beautifully, you are great. It’s all ok. Seriously, relax.”

And then today I read this excerpt from a BrainPicking Weekly email, a breath of fresh air:

Do not despise your inner world. That is the first and most general piece of advice I would offer…

Our society is very outward-looking, very taken up with the latest new object, the latest piece of gossip, the latest opportunity for self-assertion and status. But we all begin our lives as helpless babies, dependent on others for comfort, food, and survival itself. And even though we develop a degree of mastery and independence, we always remain alarmingly weak and incomplete, dependent on others and on an uncertain world for whatever we are able to achieve.

As we grow, we all develop a wide range of emotions responding to this predicament: fear that bad things will happen and that we will be powerless to ward them off; love for those who help and support us; grief when a loved one is lost; hope for good things in the future; anger when someone else damages something we care about. Our emotional life maps our incompleteness: A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger.

But for that very reason we are often ashamed of our emotions, and of the relations of need and dependency bound up with them. Perhaps males, in our society, are especially likely to be ashamed of being incomplete and dependent, because a dominant image of masculinity tells them that they should be self-sufficient and dominant.

So people flee from their inner world of feeling, and from articulate mastery of their own emotional experiences. The current psychological literature on the life of boys in America indicates that a large proportion of boys are quite unable to talk about how they feel and how others feel – because they have learned to be ashamed of feelings and needs, and to push them underground. But that means that they don’t know how to deal with their own emotions, or to communicate them to others. When they are frightened, they don’t know how to say it, or even to become fully aware of it. Often they turn their own fear into aggression. Often, too, this lack of a rich inner life catapults them into depression in later life.

We are all going to encounter illness, loss, and aging, and we’re not well prepared for these inevitable events by a culture that directs us to think of externals only, and to measure ourselves in terms of our possessions of externals.

What is the remedy of these ills? A kind of self-love that does not shrink from the needy and incomplete parts of the self, but accepts those with interest and curiosity, and tries to develop a language with which to talk about needs and feelings.

Storytelling plays a big role in the process of development. As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves. As we grow older, we encounter more and more complex stories – in literature, film, visual art, music – that give us a richer and more subtle grasp of human emotions and of our own inner world.

So my second piece of advice, closely related to the first, is: Read a lot of stories, listen to a lot of music, and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and lives of those you love.

In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others.”

– Philosopher Martha Nussbaum

I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

– Excerpt from Rainer Maria Rilke’s 1903 classic, Letters to a Young Poet

Wishing you, wishing ME, more self-love, patience, music, reading & overall being enriched/guided by others’ STORIES!

You are amazing.

Erin

P.S. All photos are taken by me, from my travels the past few months – in order of appearance – Kansas (I live in the country now :) ! ), Niagara Falls, Colorado, San Francisco, Grand Tetons/Yellowstone.

wild and free!

“Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel.”

– Alan Moore

Thinking over the past view months since I last wrote three months ago: WOWZERS. So blasted much has happened. (Proceed at your own risk!)

The BEST part about this hard year / huge changes / new path is the real confidence and contentment – not the fake it til I make it attempts – that has finally taken root and is blooming in me, more than ever before. It feels so so good to say I feel happier now than I have been in a long time (maybe ever, as far as self-satisfaction and self-love go), and am learning to embrace MY OWN way, my unique journey, not to compare or care what others think (easier said than done), and how much I am capable of…I am so thankful.

“In the depth of winter, I found in me an invincible summer.”

– Albert Camus

In April, I founded ExplodingSoul LLC and since leaving Water.org have been pretty heads down with my two awesome clients/jobs: I am Director of Digital for The Way Women Work and Marketing Director at SpiderOak [both about to launch new websites within the next month!].

The Way Women Work: the go-to site for women around the world to seek and share business and career advice.  (I work with the founder, Rania Anderson – an AMAZING woman who I feel so privileged to support and learn from on a daily basis. I began doing freelance for her last November, just a few hours a week, and I always hoped that an opportunity to work more/closer with her would develop. You really need to read about her here.)

SpiderOak: like Dropbox, but for the privacy conscious – the only 100% private online backup / share / sync provider in the cloud. (This connection came from a good friend; they have 27 employees around the world, and I work regularly with Alan Fairless, its CTO. He is a co-founder and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I love getting together with him on a regular basis, learning from him, and am encouraged by his great faith in me!)

As you can probably deduct, there are VERY different jobs, but both are developing a wide-array of new complementary skills in me, sharpening my strengths, are each fascinating in their own right, and I really enjoy and appreciate them each for different reasons. Overall, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE the flexibility and freedom of working for myself. It of course took awhile to settle into learning how I work best and balancing each, but I think the past few weeks I’ve found a lovely good stride. The intense stress I was feeling in my previous job left almost immediately, and because I enjoy this work so much and its timing in my life and soul, it is just a completely different and fuzzy feeling all around. I work most often at coffeeshops, from home, and sometimes at friends’ houses.

I’ve also been on the road quite a bit!

Park City, Utah, with Rania in May to begin our work together…

Chicago to visit friends for my birthday, as well as meet up with some SpiderOakians who live there…

Went to Memphis (twice actually, one was a quick weekend trip, one was a week-long visit) to enjoy my grandparents, the pool, and see an old friend there as well….

It’s worth noting that on my way to Memphis (trip #2) I fulfilled one of my life goals, and picked up hitchhikers! I had a “good gut feeling” about them and that I should do it, and even had a debate with myself and God before I went through with it, but it was such a great experience. We shared a three hour car ride from Mammoth Springs, Arkansas (photos right below), to Memphis. The two 24-year-old guys, Matt and Colin, had been living on a commune in Tecumseh, Missouri, gardening and such. They were so nice, and they said their moms worry about them (just as mine did after I told her what I did! Ha!) It was nice to be reminded of other ways of life, and share in a journey together. It was a great start to my trip and I will never forget them or the experience.

“Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.”

– Kurt Vonnegut

My brother and I played a song he wrote at my cousin’s wedding (I wish I had more photos!) It was a hot, windy day in Kansas…

And the most recent escapades – after three years of struggling with my eczema and only going the natural route (and seeing a HUGE improvement mind you), per my yoga teacher’s prompting via a meditation she had about me and my skin (crazy! cool! weird!), I went to a dermatologist again and got a steroid shot in me bum, and a topical steroid cream. Well I’LL BE DAMNED. My skin has not looked like this since MAYBE high school, but maybe even never this good. It is completely foreign to me, as someone who has been in so much pain, so self-conscious, and never wearing shorts or short sleeves because of it…I feel like a whole new person! (I know this also contributes a huge amount to how I feel in confidence and my ability to focus completely on my work and enjoy where I am in life!) So there you go…I have no idea if this is it, or if I’ll have to get one again in the future. But I am for the first time ever, comfortable in my own skin!!! And there is nothing better than that feeling. Thank you God!

Another huge update! I have ALSO had plans for the past six weeks to move to Denver with one of my best friends, Maggie. I had told everyone, and we were excited and almost ready to go!

She is in a similar place in life, faith, and love, and we have the current circumstantial freedom (my lease is up at the end of the month!) and thirst for adventure. We love Denver (she used to live there), and so we thought, why not? I could use some cool mountain air, dependable sunshine, and new beauty-full adventures…But just last week, we still had been unable to secure our temporary living arrangement. Then, there was a new development that it looks like Rania and I will be heading to India in September (UMM, YES PLEASE!!!). So Mags and I decided to put it on hold. We/I can always go later, or anytime. We can both honestly say we feel really good about this, relief, and peace :)

New plan: I am going to move in with my wonderful aunt and uncle who live in the country outside of Lawrence. It is so beautiful there, and I know I will enjoy them and their amazing space, to work and rest. I’m happy it’s close to KC so I can make trips in weekly as needed. My two new “roommates” are on the right (below) ;) ….

Farm friends, and views from my new home-to-be. The pic below is out the dining door and onto the back patio (not too shabby!)…

And now being lease-free, I can take advantage of this time in my life to travel and visit friends and family around the country! Upcoming trips already in the next six weeks: Fraser, CO, Park City, UT, Erie, PA, Springfield, MO, McPherson, KC, and Jackson Hole, WY (Yellowstone/Grand Tetons)… Can’t wait!!

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

– Terry Pratchettfrom A Hat Full of Sky

Mom and Dad were so kind to come help me move a few of my things into storage last weekend. We had a lot of fun too. Mom, and some city pics (I have too much fun with my iPhone and Instagram)…

And all that is just the HALF of it! ;D

“I have found adventure in flying, in world travel, in business, and even close at hand… Adventure is a state of mind – and spirit.”

– Jacqueline Cochran

A little bonus, should this be of interest (and you have even more time to kill! Ha!)- here are some highlights / articles I’ve written / exciting mentions I’ve had with The Way Women Work and SpiderOak:

As always, thanks for joining me on this crazy, fun, sacred, beautiful road. I truly hope to write more (always), and especially in my travels in the good months to come. I hope this finds you well and seizing up all the potential adventure in your daily life…

(you just have to be open to it...)

major love, you marvelous gem,

Erin