Energy

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about energy.  Well, not as much thinking about it as paying attention to it. And by energy I mean those positive or negative feelings you get when you’re working on something or interacting with someone. You know, those good or bad vibes you get from people, or that happy hum you get when you’re having fun, or that icky heaviness you feel when you’re struggling with something.

Earlier this holiday season I sold my pillows at a couple of craft fairs, and I loved the energy. Local, creative makers, getting together to sell their stuff – the energy was great – positive, supportive, and encouraging. There seems to be such mutual admiration amongst makers. You hear comments like: “Beautiful!” and “I love what you’re doing!” and “What a great display!” and “Wow, that must have been a lot of work! How did you do that?” I’ve had vendors help me with my display, assure me that my prices weren’t too high, and high five me when I sold three pillows to one customer. We chit chat about etsy, selling retail, packaging, and other craft fairs to try. I sold more pillows than I thought I would at these past sales (hooray!), but even if I hadn’t, I got so much out of them. Most importantly I got the validation and excitement to move forward with my craft.

PNA Craft Fair

Last summer I spent a long weekend selling pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival, then on Monday I went to the office to do my web development job, and the contrast in the energy between the two places of business was extreme. At the craft fair I was outside in the sun and fresh air, people were having fun, and I was proudly (yet nervously) showcasing my work.  Back at the office the lights were off and it was silent.  My coworkers were all in their cubicles, staring at their screens with their earplugs firmly planted, not even acknowledging my presence. Don’t get me wrong, these are good people, it’s just that this is how they like to work.

For most of my life I’ve worked in the IT department, and in my experience the energy has not always been that great, especially at my last job, where it was pretty darn negative. In the IT department I never got a lot of “Wow, I love it!” or high fives when I succeeded. Nope. It was all about requirements to fulfill and problems to solve. Not a bad thing really, but there was a lot more “The data is a mess!” and “The site is down!” and a lot less “Wow, that’s beautiful!”

Unlike the craft fairs, the IT environment at my last job often felt competitive rather than supportive. People talked negatively about each other. Feedback was given only at performance reviews, and not by the people you worked with or were helping, but by the person you worked for. And the drive to do better was tightly connected to the drive to make more money, please your boss, and move into the next pay band.

When you look at the work, though, there’s not that much difference between the process of building a website and making a pillow. You go through the same basic steps: brainstorm → design → prototype → build → test → deliver → repeat.  And I really enjoy doing both kinds of work.  So why is the energy so different? Is it the culture? Or my personality? Or both?

Culture definition

When I took my alchemy class a couple of years ago, one of the first things we learned about was energy and frequencies.  I remember learning that the opposite of love isn’t hate; the opposite of love is fear.  That the highest frequencies are love and enlightenment, and the lowest frequencies are fear and shame.  Like frequencies attract and are harmonious, unalike frequencies cause dissonance and are uncomfortable. That made sense to me.

So is it possible then that the difference between the craft fair energy and the IT energy was love versus fear?  Or was it the way my personal frequencies were interacting with those different environments?

Here’s the thing. It’s not like I spend every day at a craft fair selling pillows.  These sales happen only a few times a year. They are a lot of work, driven solely by me, and when I finally get there, it’s like my performance review. Based on that review, I make adjustments that are, hopefully, lucrative adjustments. This pillow business is run 100% by me, and my success or failure is 100% up to me. That is not the case in the IT department of a large corporation.  And that, I believe, is a big reason these environments feel so different.

The other day a mom friend of mine who wants to get a job said “I just don’t know that I can work for someone else.” And I said, “Well, I don’t think anyone likes to work for someone else.  I think we all need to work for a purpose and not a person.”  Often, though, these are mutually exclusive options. Either you work for yourself and your own mission, or you work for someone else and their mission.  It is a very lucky thing to find a job where you work for someone whose mission you embrace completely.

At a craft fair it kind of looks like the vendors are just standing there not doing much, doesn’t it? But really we worked our butts off just to get there, making stuff like crazy, doing work we love, not because we’re making so much money, or because we might get a promotion, but because believe in the work. It makes us happy. We’re not trying to impress our bosses. Our only competition is ourselves, as we strive for uniqueness, perfecting our craft, and finding the people who connect with and value what we’re offering.

Can I apply that same mentality to web development? I think I can, and I think I am. I really love making websites for people. I really love pushing though the challenges of figuring out the tough stuff. I love working with the business owners. And I love being my own boss. But I think it’s important to pay attention to the energy, and strive for the highest of frequencies.

Christmas is in two days, I haven’t been working much since the kids got out of school, and it’s a totally different vibe right now. The weather has been horrid, we’ve been sleeping in, making (and eating) a lot of cookies, spending time inside, going outside only to get in the car to go shopping. I’ve been feeling a bit anxious, but I know that will all change tomorrow as we celebrate Christmas Eve, and then Christmas, then do some skiing, hang out with friends, and ring in the new year.  I’m really excited for 2016, and to keep the good vibes coming. But I’ll roll with the bad ones too.

Wishing you all the best energy this holiday season and in 2016!

Technology: A Love/Hate Relationship

Old TVOkay, let’s face it, I love technology.  It’s been my bread and butter for more than twenty years, and my iPhone is probably one of my most loved possessions.  I love streaming movies and TV shows on my Roku.  I love Skyping with my family.  I love to blog.  I think the only thing I really hate is that human connection thing that we’re losing.  I hate that when people have their devices on, the people right in front of them become invisible.

Our devices have become strongly embedded habits, and I’m not sure if at this point we can change that.  But I’m going to try and do my part.  I’m going to keep saying hello to people I pass on the street even if they have their headphones jammed in their ears or are texting madly while they walk.  And I’m going to really try to be a role model and not take out my iPhone when I’m hanging out with other people.

But I digress.  This blog is not about hate.  And it’s not about me being so damn superior.  No, it’s about love, and sharing the love.  So today I would like to share with you the technology I really love right now.  Here goes…

My Cozi Calendar

A few months ago on the playground I was complaining about Google Calendar’s interface and said “I wish there was a calendar that would print out nicely and help me schedule chores, meals, and to do lists.”  My friend responded, “There is, it’s called Cozi.”  So I went home, checked it out, and signed up.  I imported my Google Calender, the kids’ school calendar, Miles’s basketball and soccer calendars, and a holiday calendar.  I color coded our schedules by person, and included an FYI category for stuff we may want to do, like an art walk or an event at Seattle Center.  Every Sunday the upcoming week’s calendar get’s emailed to Todd, Nadine, and me, so everyone’s in the know, and I can also print out an easy-to-read copy to hang on the fridge (for Miles).

I look at the upcoming week’s calendar on Sunday and plan a week’s worth of meals and make a shopping list, all of which are stored so nicely on Cozi.  When I go to the store I just take out my iPhone and start checking items off the list.  If I call Todd and ask him to go to the store, he can use his iPad app to see what’s on the list.  And I’ve started making all sorts of other lists:  Suzanne’s To Do List, a Honey-Do List, a list of chores, and To Do’s for jobs I’m working on.

On Sunday nights we have a quick family meeting, and we talk about the schedule for the week and the meals that are planned so that there are no surprises, and everyone can give me their input.  If they complain during the week about what they’re getting for lunch, dinner, or snacks, I’ll say, “You helped plan these meals, so think about what you want for next time.”  It works pretty well.

Todd seems to really like it too.  The interface is beautiful, it’s easy to use, it looks good on all devices, and it’s free!  We’re hooked.  Check it out.

Evernote

evernoteEvernote has got to be my most favorite new app.  Ideas and inspiration are always whipping through my brain, and instead of writing everything down in a multitude of notebooks, I now jot them down in Evernote.  I currently have three virtual Notebooks created in Evernote:  one for Blackbird Iron, one for SuzanneJumps, and a general Suzanne notebook, which has the most notes in it:  movies I want to see, books I want to read, ideas for fabric, funny quotes from my kids, a list of things I’d like to make, and so much more.

Todd started using Evernote last year to keep track of all the details of a really hairy job he was working on, and now he and his partner are using a shared installation of Evernote.  They can create notebooks for a specific client, and then store emails, photos, notes about conversations with clients, and more.  They can take photos with their phone, add notes like dimensions right onto the photos, and then add them to their notes.

Dropbox

dropboxIt seems like Dropbox has become an ubiquitous standard for cloud file storage and sharing.  It also has a great interface for storing and presenting photos.  It’s free for 2 GB of storage space, but you can get up to 16 GB through referrals.

When I’m building a new website one of the first things I do is create a folder on Dropbox that I share with my clients so that they can drop in their content and images files, which I can then access from anywhere.  Dropbox makes it possible for me to easily work at home or at ‘the office’.  I’ve set Dropbox up for Blackbird Iron so they can easily store, organize, and most importantly share and access all of their contracts, drawings, and photos from anywhere .

Email stinks for file sharing and storage, yet that’s what so many people still use.  I think the combination of using Dropbox and Evernote is an amazing way to organize your business and life and gives you the freedom to work anywhere.  Hooray!

Freshbooks

freshbooks-iconFreshbooks takes accounting to the cloud, and is what I’ve been using to invoice my clients.  It’s free for up to three clients, which works great for me so far since I currently only have two paying clients.  Besides the invoicing feature, it also offers expense tracking (which I will start using now that I pay rent), time tracking, and reporting – like profit & loss, balance sheet, and what you need to pay your taxes.

I learned about Freshbooks through the Mogul Mom, an awesome blog I subscribe to, filled with all kinds of great ideas and advice.  Wouldn’t it be nice if some day I could call myself a mogul mom?  Or ‘mom tycoon’ also has a nice ring to it…

WordPress

wordpress-logoMy blog was built using the standard WordPress Twenty Eleven theme, I built Blackbird Iron’s web-site and Carolina Whole Health’s website using purchased themes that I customized, and I am building a new web-site using the free WordPress Responsive theme.  So I guess you could say WordPress is my web development framework of choice.  I totally love it.  It’s easy to use, free, open sourced, based on PHP and MySQL.  There are millions of people out there developing sites with WordPress, so if I have a question about how to do anything, a quick Google search is usually all it takes to find an answer.  When I’m done building a site I turn over the content management to the business owner.  And if you just want to build your own totally free blog or web-site, just go to WordPress.com to get started.

New York Library Public Domain Image Library:

nyplI ♥♥♥♥ The New York Public Library!!!  They have most graciously scanned and provided access to hundreds of thousands of public domain images from the library’s holdings.  When I’m looking for an image for my blog, if I don’t have a photo or a drawing of my own, I always turn first to the New York Library’s Public Domain Image Library.  It is the most amazing resource for images.  Check out this incredible collection of art deco images.  I really can get lost in this space sometimes.  Not only do I find amazing images here, I get to travel back in time, and get exposed to all sorts of inspiration.  I really truly love the generosity of people and organizations that share freely on the internet.

Wikimedia Commons:

wikimedia commonsWhen I can’t find an image from the NYPL, the next place I turn is Wikimedia.  It is a repository of free-use on-line images and other media which, like Wikipedia, is sourced and maintained by volunteers.  Anyone can upload their media and become part of the community, and there are millions of files available to use.  Pretty incredible.

And finally…

My Roku:

rokuRecently we moved the TV out of the TV room (now Nadine’s room) and into the living room.  In the past we would have had to figure out how to rewire our cable connection, but now there is no cable (woo hoo!) – just a little Roku box, about 4″ x 4″ x 1″ that plugs into the TV and runs on our wireless connection.  It allows us to pick and chose the TV we want to stream (Netflix, Hulu+, PBS, TED Talks, Amazon, and the list goes on and on) and has games (You Don’t Know Jack) and specialty programs, like my yoga channel.  I love it!

Last night I was so happy to finally get cozy in my bed and watch the latest episode of Downton Abbey on my iPhone.  My kids can’t fathom having to watch their favorite TV show on a certain day at a certain time.  They have no idea what a TV Guide is.  And that’s not a bad thing.  But I am nostalgic about the olden days when all of America gathered around their TV sets to watch Happy Days at 8pm on Tuesdays, followed by Lavern & Shirley at 8:30.  And those cheesy commercials!  They just don’t make ‘em like that any more…

I love not having a cable hookup or paying for cable, but I think I may actually have to go out and buy some old-school rabbit ears to hook up so we can see the Winter Olympics next month.  I just LOVE the Olympics!!!

Could you feel the love in this post?  I hope so!

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