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4 Productivity Tips To Make Any Day Efficient

Denise Smith

I know that for many entrepreneurs one of the biggest challenges can be how to stay productive and highly motivated. Whether you work alone as a solo-preneur or you have employees on your team, maintaining peak productivity can be difficult for many. So I’m going to share with you my powerful productivity tips for your optimal business success.

 

Productivity boils down to 2 things:

1.       Staying organized.

2.       Staying positive and motivated.

 

So let’s dive in…

 

To stay organized:

 

Daily checklist:

I am a huge fan of checklists. With all the chaos, stimulus, and distractions we get every single day, it’s impossible to keep all our to do’s in our head. Don’t even try it! So I write a checklist for each day. I draw a little box next to each item and cross them off as I complete them. It keeps me on track and at the end of the day when you can feel like your day sped by and you wonder if you were even productive, you have your checklist to show you how much you accomplished!

 

Weekly goals:

Each Sunday afternoon or evening I sit down with my planner and I outline the weekly goals I have for the business. What do I want to accomplish this week? Where will most of the effort go? I do a list for myself and also separate lists for my employees. That way I can divide up the tasks and assign them to each employee.  Then, I have them ready to go for our Monday meeting.  That way we kick off the week in a productive and strategic way. Everyone knows what they are working on and what the expectations are. It’s a win-win.

 

Now how to stay positive and motivated even amidst the daily stress:

 

One great thing per day:

Each morning when I wake up, but before even getting out of bed, I think about one fun or exciting thing that I have for that day. It can be big or small…that doesn’t matter. It can be big like a new presentation or small like I get to have lunch with a friend, or I get to carve out time to enjoy lunch and read a book I’m really into. Whatever it is, you need to make it stand out for yourself. Finding joy in even the smallest thing does wonders for a positive mindset. Try it! I have done this for years, and it amps up your positive energy like nothing else.

 

Victory wall:

Create a victory wall.  Whether you do this on your office wall, or even in your journal, have a place where daily you can put your wins for the day. So often we focus on the lousy or frustrating things that happen in our day, without really taking note of the successes we have had, whether big or small. Did you sign a new contract today? Or did you have a great collaborative meeting with a client or your staff? Did you meet someone new who could be a great source of networking?

 

Not only does this highlight the positive but it lets the universe know you appreciate these wins, and by focusing on them, more will come because that is what the law of attraction is all about.

 

So there you have it, my four top tips for productivity. Let me know which you liked best in the comment section, and when you put them into practice, which one works the best for you?

As always, please like and comment below, and make sure you subscribe so you wont miss a single of the weekly Hard Hat and Heels blogs! You can also check out the weekly videos on the Hard Hat and Heels you tube channel.I know that for many entrepreneurs one of the biggest challenges can be how to stay productive and highly motivated. Whether you work alone as a solo-preneur or you have employees on your team, maintaining peak productivity can be difficult for many. So I’m going to share with you my powerful productivity tips for your optimal business success.

 

Productivity boils down to 2 things:

1.       Staying organized.

2.       Staying positive and motivated.

 

So let’s dive in…

 

To stay organized:

 

Daily checklist:

I am a huge fan of checklists. With all the chaos, stimulus, and distractions we get every single day, it’s impossible to keep all our to do’s in our head. Don’t even try it! So I write a checklist for each day. I draw a little box next to each item and cross them off as I complete them. It keeps me on track and at the end of the day when you can feel like your day sped by and you wonder if you were even productive, you have your checklist to show you how much you accomplished!

 

Weekly goals:

Each Sunday afternoon or evening I sit down with my planner and I outline the weekly goals I have for the business. What do I want to accomplish this week? Where will most of the effort go? I do a list for myself and also separate lists for my employees. That way I can divide up the tasks and assign them to each employee.  Then, I have them ready to go for our Monday meeting.  That way we kick off the week in a productive and strategic way. Everyone knows what they are working on and what the expectations are. It’s a win-win.

 

Now how to stay positive and motivated even amidst the daily stress:

 

One great thing per day:

Each morning when I wake up, but before even getting out of bed, I think about one fun or exciting thing that I have for that day. It can be big or small…that doesn’t matter. It can be big like a new presentation or small like I get to have lunch with a friend, or I get to carve out time to enjoy lunch and read a book I’m really into. Whatever it is, you need to make it stand out for yourself. Finding joy in even the smallest thing does wonders for a positive mindset. Try it! I have done this for years, and it amps up your positive energy like nothing else.

 

Victory wall:

Create a victory wall.  Whether you do this on your office wall, or even in your journal, have a place where daily you can put your wins for the day. So often we focus on the lousy or frustrating things that happen in our day, without really taking note of the successes we have had, whether big or small. Did you sign a new contract today? Or did you have a great collaborative meeting with a client or your staff? Did you meet someone new who could be a great source of networking?

 

Not only does this highlight the positive but it lets the universe know you appreciate these wins, and by focusing on them, more will come because that is what the law of attraction is all about.

 

So there you have it, my four top tips for productivity. Let me know which you liked best in the comment section, and when you put them into practice, which one works the best for you?

As always, please like and comment below, and make sure you subscribe so you wont miss a single of the weekly Hard Hat and Heels blogs! You can also check out the weekly videos on the Hard Hat and Heels you tube channel (link below!)

Have a wonderful week & as always, stay inspired!

With Gratitude,

Karen Otis

Exercise Without Adding ANY Extra Time To Your Daily Routine!

Denise Smith

Why do we really need to exercise?  The benefits of exercise go well beyond maintaining weight and weight loss. It’s not just about looking good or fitting into those skinny jeans!

 

It is about so MUCH more!

 

Ok, let’s be brutally honest…Does the word ‘exercise’ make you kind of cringe? Do you put it off as long as you possibly can, coming up with excuse after excuse to avoid it?

 

Chances are, unless you are an avid athlete or a devoted workout fiend, you are probably groaning about the idea of exercise…am I right? And know that you are NOT alone! 80% of Americans are not achieving the Federal Government’s recommendation of 2.5 hours of exercise per week. Uh oh! Are we getting lazy?

 

I think that the entire notion of “working out” feels burdensome, time-consuming, and difficult to fit into our very busy lives. But—what if I could give you a way to exercise without cutting into your daily activities at all! Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

 

I have a surefire EASY way to incorporate your exercise essentials into your day without taking time away from all your other obligations, your work, family, or your pass times. You are probably wondering, “what is she talking about…that’s not even possible.”

 

But trust me…it is! But first let me explain why we should even exercise at all. How important is it really?

 

Your body was not meant to be stagnant and idle. It was designed for movement, for walking, running, dancing, etc.   The problem is that while technology has continued to advance, the need for us to really move our bodies has plummeted. Most of us do not walk to work; we drive. Many kids are not outside playing soccer, dodge ball, etc. instead many opt to play video games indoors or be engrossed in social media—both not requiring us to move our bodies all that much.

 

When we fail to use our muscles, they will inevitably atrophy which leads to weakness and loss of movement. This becomes a downward spiral to issues with balance, posture, and body strength. I’m sure you have heard the line, “If you don’t use it—you lose it!”  That most certainly applies to exercise.

So—in answer to the question I posed earlier…YES, exercise is vitally important!

 

 

Your Mind needs exercise.

Exercise is not just a benefit for our bodies—our minds reap the rewards as well. With exercise, your blood flow to your brain increases and it stimulates the brain mass in the hippocampus. This area of your brain is critical for memory retention and for reducing dementia.

 

And you have probably heard about those happiness-creating endorphins which are released when you exercise. Endorphins can powerfully affect your mental and emotional health and well-being as they stave off symptoms of depression or overall anxiety.

 

Your Bones need the exercise.

When we fail to exercise our bones start to lose mass and they become thin and frail. This leads to an increased possibility of fractures and falls. For this reason, staying active and using some weight resistance even if they are very light, helps to maintain bone health.

 

 

 

Your Heart and Lungs thrive on exercise.

Doing any form of cardiovascular exercise, requires your heart and lungs to provide oxygen to the muscles. This makes the heart pump faster so that it can delivers that oxygen to your cells. All this dilates your veins and arteries and keeps them from building any unhealthy plaque or any clots.

 

When you regularly exercise, your lungs increase their capacity so that you build your stamina and don’t get out of breath. Cardiovascular exercise is critical for the prevention of strokes and other forms of heart disease.

 

Ok….so I think we can agree that exercise is important and vital for our health and well-being. And we need both of those in order to achieve our goals, live happy lives, and be our very best both at home and at work. But, I know that life is BUSY and oh so hectic…

Stay with me…I have an innovative solution to this endless problem we face.

 

For me, I like exercise, but it does take a lot of motivation to get me going. So I have found over the years, that staying consistent in my exercise routine can be a struggle. But, to stay fit, stay toned, and healthy, I do the 4 essentials and I painlessly incorporate them all into my life daily. Here is how:

 

Essential #1: (abs and core)

Driving in my car or sitting at my desk at work, I do pelvic tilts. It is basically tucking the tailbone and pulling your hip bones up towards your navel, creating a scoop in your stomach and a curved back. Then tilting the pelvic back to beginning position. This is wonderful for the abdominals and your core. I do 25 at a time, and as many sets as I’m able. You will find that not only is it a great stretch while sitting at work, but it can make your commute to work go more quickly while also being highly efficient! For a video tutorial check this out:

https://youtu.be/PdEKzbBFZrE

 

Essential #2: (arms)

While I’m watching tv at night, I stand up for a while and work my arms. Usually I get restless sitting for a whole evening of tv watching. You do not have to use any weights; you can just use some resistance, of if you are like me,  I like to use little light weights (typically 3 lbs). While I’m watching tv I work my arms (bicep curls, triceps, shoulders ) etc.

https://youtu.be/9pTEzkJu6TU

 

Essential #3: (legs and booty)

This is an easy-to-incorporate exercise that you can do while showering and/or brushing your teeth. Every time I am conditioning my hair in the shower (and I want to leave the conditioner in for a few minutes) I do squats. Yup, you heard that right. And when I brush my teeth (morning and night) again I do squats. I promise that you can multi-task while brushing your teeth and you haven’t cut into your schedule at all!

 

To make sure you are using good form, check this quick tutorial:

https://youtu.be/aPYCiuiB4PA

 

Essential #4: (arms, core, abs, back, and chest)

While I am in tv watching mode, I also do push ups. I prefer the Pilates push-ups which really help to tighten the arm pits as well. These are usually tough to get to, but the Pilates push up sure helps! Do 10 at a time, and then rest, do more reps.

It is VERY important to have good form with these, so check out this:

https://youtu.be/Ny0qFffcemg

 

 

So did you see how you didn’t have to carve out ANY extra time for your exercise routine? It didn’t cut into your morning, or your happy hour meeting friends, or your relaxing evening after a long day at work. Genius right?

 

Let me know if this works for you. I love hearing how you are putting this to good use. I promise that it is the MOST painless way to get your exercise on a regular basis. Go for it!

 

And I will leave you with this inspiring quote:

 

“We do not stop exercising because we grow old—we grow old because we stop exercising.”

-Kenneth Cooper

Choosing a Career Dilemma: How Do You Know What The Right Choice Is?

Denise Smith

Stuck in the Career Choice Dilemma?

 

It can be a daunting task to choose a career for yourself. Sure, there are things you enjoy doing, things you are passionate about, and things that hold your attention for long periods of time; but are those the only factors that should determine your career choice?

 

Whether you are just embarking into the professional world for the first time, or you are at a pivotal crossroads where you want a career change, you need to consider many factors. Without this type of inner contemplation, you run the risk of engaging in a career that will not match your skills and talents, or not bring you the happiness you desire.

 

1.       What are you passionate about?

To really attain that career bliss, you need to choose a career that aligns directly with your passion. That is the surefire way to enjoy your work, be highly motivated and driven to succeed, and to assure longevity in a career path. But you are probably wondering, “What in the world am I passionate about?”

 

The best ways to discover your passion is to think about what tasks or activities you like to do so much that when you are involved in them, you literally lose track of time, because you are so engaged. That is most likely your passion.

 

Another method to reveal your passion is to remember how you used to play as a child. What did you like to do? What did you like to do as a teenager? Most likely these will guide you to discover your passion.

 

2.       What is your talent or skill set?

Each person has a talent or skill that comes easily to them. Aligning your career with the talent that comes naturally to you is the best way to insure your success. You may not even think that it qualifies as a talent, but more often than not, it probably is your unique gift or skill. For example, maybe you are a wiz at organizing. You might think that wouldn’t be considered a talent, but it is since not everyone is good at this. Certain people can bring a fresh sense of organization out of what was previously a disastrous mess!

 

3.       How do you envision the job?

For many of us, the “idea” of a certain job seems great, exciting, and even glamorous. But is it really? It is important to research and ask a few people who are actually in the career of your choice to explain what their day-to-day looks like. What tasks do they typically do? How stressful or how fun is the job? What are their responsibilities? Make certain that your chosen career still holds your interest even when you find out the details.

 

4.       What training or education will you need?

Determine what education you will need to obtain a job in your chosen career. Don’t panic if you do not have that degree or certification yet. If it is truly the career that you dream of, would you be able to set yourself on this education path? Sometimes we think that we must have all the requirements in order to select a career. But, I encourage you to set your sights on the career that you truly WANT, and do not let education hold you back. Embark on the training you will need, because learning is always possible. And in the end, you will reap the rewards.

 

 

Remember that you are a unique individual, and figuring out the exact career that suits you best is essential to your ultimate career happiness. There is not a universal answer to what career is best. It takes individual introspection, research, and perseverance to determine the very best career path for yourself. I have come across a fantastic career quiz that I think asks the right questions, sorts out your likes and dislikes, and can offer some career possibilities you hadn’t thought of. Just make sure that you do not use ONLY this quiz. The four steps that I outlined above are by far the most effective way to make your decision. But a quiz is always fun, right?

 

Check out the quiz below! Once you do the quiz, share what you discovered in a comment! I love seeing the different results.


 







As always, stay inspired!



With Gratitude,

Karen Otis

Truth and Courage in a Conference

Denise Smith

“Networking has been cited as the number one unwritten rule of success in business. Who you know really impacts what you know.” -Sallie Krawcheck

 

This past week, I attended a conference in Phoenix Arizona, and I left there a changed person. Yes, the content that was covered was exceptional, but what I wanted to share with you is how valuable and life-altering conferences in general can be.

 

For many of us entrepreneurs, our work can be lonely—especially if we do it alone which is the case for many solopreneurs. Being in the presence of other professionals with different insights, varying degrees of experience, and a cornucopia of expertise offers so many unforeseen benefits. This kind of networking is vital to maintaining and growing your business. Here’s why:

 

1.       Networking is key. When you open yourself up to networking, you have a much larger pool of people with whom to connect. You may want to grow your target audience, and getting acquainted with others through networking offers you the opportunity to be introduced to their contacts, people you might not otherwise reach. In addition, the person you meet at the networking event can give their contacts a personal recommendation which can be invaluable.

 

2.       Broaden your circle of friends. For many of us, our circle of friends have been cultivated over the years. We may have some friends from childhood, some from our teenage or college years, and others from various stages in our adult life. And, we may have evolved dramatically since those days. So let me ask you, do you have friends that are engaged in the type of work that you do? Do you have friends following a similar career path as yours? Attending conferences offers you the opportunity to meet other like-minded people who might be facing similar obstacles, pursuing similar goals, and who can relate to your drive and motivation in ways that some other lifelong friends may not.

 

3.       Knowledge is golden. To stay abreast of trends, new technology, and cutting edge techniques, you need to immerse yourself in constant learning. You may be an expert in your field, but oftentimes when working, we are following a proven pattern or routine rather than exploring new possibilities. How will you discover the latest in your industry? By attending conferences you will expose yourself to consistent learning that can be critical for your growth and your company’s overall success.

 

4.       The fun factor. For most of us, work can begin to feel monotonous if there is no variety to it. Conferences offer you a nice change of pace to your work that can even be fun! Most conferences spice up their event with some fun socializing opportunities. I have been to some conferences that host a wine tasting, a happy hour, or an interactive magic show. It’s a great way to mix business and pleasure!

 

I know that many of you may feel uncomfortable putting yourself out there in this type of setting where you don’t know other people and you feel awkwardly vulnerable. Trust me, I get it! But remember that everyone attending the conference is in the same boat, and they too are eager to meet people. So be dynamic and put yourself out there. The benefits absolutely outweigh any temporary discomfort you might feel.

 

“To be vulnerable - to really put yourself out there, and lean into it – is to live courageously.” -Brene Brown

Stay Inspired,

Karen Otis

If You're Brave Enough to Say Goodbye, You Will Be Rewarded With a New Hello

Denise Smith

For me, home is a sanctuary. It is a place that gives us security, a sense of belonging, shelter, and serenity. It wraps its arms around us, basking us in its warmth and comfort. I have always taken great pride and joy in my surroundings, striving to create the most blissful and peaceful spaces possible.

 

A few years ago, Jeff and I embarked on the journey of creating our first home together in Redondo Beach, CA. It was without a doubt, a labor of pure love. I learned what he likes, what he needs, and how to create a space that embodied both of us. We collaborated, we shared ideas, and we poured our hearts and souls into making a home that would enhance our every day.  And, during that year, Casa Gertruda was born.

 

And, we have enjoyed every minute in this beautiful home. I feel lucky to have had this amazing opportunity to forge a life with Jeff and have it reflected in the place we call home.

 

As summer comes to a close, Jeff and I are starting a new chapter. We are preparing for our move to Fountain Hills, Arizona where we are building a new “Casa,” and I will be opening up Otis Architecture’s second office located right in the heart of Fountain Hills. While many people would run away from such an endeavor, Jeff and I look at this as another exciting adventure in our life together.

 

But, before leaving our Redondo Beach beauty, I wanted to share the images of the house we have come to love beyond measure. I hope you enjoy!

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Is Entrepreneurship Right For You?

Denise Smith

Have you been contemplating starting your own gig? Are you looking to be your own boss?

 

There are so many upsides to being an entrepreneur. You get to set your own schedule, when to work, how to work, and where to work.  This allows you to set up a remote career if you choose. What exactly is a remote career? It is the ability to work from anywhere you want. You could be sitting on a beach with your laptop—and there you go! There is incredible freedom when it comes to entrepreneurship, since you can create your “office” in basically any setting. For those that want to travel, this can be a much appreciated perk of being an entrepreneur. Imagine sitting in a European café handling your biz remotely. Nice huh?

 

I actually started my architectural business while raising my kids. The flexibility of my schedule as an entrepreneur was a huge plus so that I could be the one raising my kids as it allowed me to coordinate time to be at all their events and activities. There is something to be said about the freedom that owning your own business brings. You can literally create it in the way that suits you best.

 

Another perk of the “be your own boss biz” is the room for financial growth. There is immense financial opportunity since the sky is the limit. There truly is no cap to the amount of money you could potentially make. Since you are the captain of your own ship, you can decide how to navigate it, what course to set, and the speed you want to take to get there. On the other hand, as an employee you are typically paid a set amount, and that is your cap.  Working harder does not guarantee that you will make more as an employee. Unless your work is commission-based, you are more than likely capped at your salary.  This benefit can also be a double-edged sword, but we will get to that later.

 

As your own boss, you also don’t really have to answer to anybody else. That can be tremendously liberating. That feeling that you could potentially be fired or reprimanded is GONE! And, you really are in charge of your own career destiny. There is an overwhelming feeling of ownership and pride that comes with being an entrepreneur that is not easy to find as an employee. Feeling that pride in a job well done may be hard to come by as an employee. Yes, you may be able to feel that on a project you are working on, or the part that you worked on and can take credit for; but you rarely get to feel pride in the entire production, outcome, or process. As an entrepreneur, you connect so much more deeply with your work as it basically has your name on it. That feeling of pride in what you build is rewarding beyond measure.

 

Running your own business definitely gives you the opportunity to follow your dream. You create the vision for your career, and you create the business to achieve it. As an employee, you are typically following your boss’ dream. You may be fully supportive of it, and you may be 100% aligned with the vision your boss has set, but there is nothing like charging after your very own dream. That can be exhilarating.

 

But…there is a downside to consider. And I would be remiss if I didn’t point those out too. In 2015, studies show that only about 5% of the working population are entrepreneurs. That number has gone up to approximately 7% in 2017.  With such a low percentage, there must be some serious downsides or everybody would jump on board the entrepreneur train. Let’s take a look at some of the negatives to running your own company.

 

One of the biggest has to do with money. Here is the double-edged sword I mentioned earlier. As an entrepreneur, you are not guaranteed a steady paycheck which can be stressful. Counting on a regular paycheck becomes a thing of the past when you make the decision to go it alone. And for many new businesses, financial stability takes a while to achieve. Studies have shown that it typically takes a new business three years to reach a profit.  And studies indicate that first time entrepreneurs only have an 18% chance of succeeding. Yikes!

 

Given those statistics, entrepreneurship can be a risky proposition which many people cannot stomach. You must have the stamina to undertake starting a business, since it will not reach profitability overnight. It will take lots of grueling hours, a whole lot of faith in it and your abilities, and the motivation and drive to sustain you.

 

Entrepreneurs can also find it difficult to maintain a good work-life balance since you are not really clocking in and out of your work. Most employees apply themselves at work during their work hours, and then can separate themselves from it, leave the office, and enjoy their personal lives. For entrepreneurs this separation becomes a bit blurred. Whether you find it difficult to break away from work or if it stays on your mind well after “office hours,” it can be a struggle to create a healthy balance that your family would appreciate. While many people think that you can work less hours as an entrepreneur, it is completely the opposite. Typically entrepreneurs work much longer hours, with an ever-increasing list of duties. You will have to take on administrative tasks that may not have been a part of your job as an employee, and you now also have the task of managing employees which can be difficult at times.

 

Another downside to being an entrepreneur is that it can be lonely up there. While it sounds exciting to “have it all,” it can be a scary and lonely place when you are the one fully responsible for your company’s success or failure. The stress associated with this responsibility can be a tough one to control or manage.

 

So now that we’ve covered the ups and downs of the “be your own boss gig” do you feel that it is something you want to try? Or have I scared you away?

 

I can speak from experience that while the challenges as an entrepreneur have been great, the rewards have been even greater. Mark Twain says it well…

 

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

~Mark Twain

 

If you are ready to embark on entrepreneurship, check out the YouTube for how to start your own gig here….

 

And if you are wondering if you have the personality to go on your own, check out this blog….

 

And remember to “like” either one if you find it helpful!

 

Until next time—

Stay inspired!

Valencia

Denise Smith

Visiting Valencia Spain

 

Valencia is one of Spain’s best kept secrets. Most people tend to visit Barcelona, Madrid, and the Southern towns such as Malaga. But, this past April, Jeff and I traveled to Valencia and were instantly enamored with this beautiful city.

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Located on the eastern coast of Spain, Valencia is well known for its architecture by world renowned architect, Santiago Calatrava. His futuristic design of the City of Arts and Sciences buildings is a must-see. His space-like forms and intensely stretched tensile elements are unlike any other. I was awed by his creative genius, which has left quite a powerful legacy for Valencia. The interactive nature of the City of Arts and Sciences was remarkable. It was fascinating to see families with young kids enjoying it all.  My favorite attraction was the big bubble balls that float on the water of the reflecting pool that kids get to play in.

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It is situated in the Turia park which was once a riverbed for the Turia river. This park was full of people strolling, playing, skateboarding, biking, and exercising stretches lengthwise along the city. When we visited the park it was a Sunday afternoon.  The park was bustling with local residents enjoying the weekend sunshine. This is definitely a must-do outing. With all of its bridges and water elements, Turia Park has stunning photo opportunities.

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I also highly recommend the little café located at the center of the park.  The “tortilla” was delicious! It’s not what you would consider a typical tortilla—it’s more like an egg quiche. And the sangria was just right. You order by the pitcher, either ½ or whole liter. We typically shared a liter, and it soon became our new favorite drink.

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We were thoroughly impressed with how clean the city was.  There was no trash strewn on streets or sidewalks. The Valencian people definitely take pride in their surroundings. We walked all throughout the old part of the city, enjoying wonderful architecture, and beautiful parks.

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We even came across a huge marketplace with all kinds of goods, artisan wares, and cafes inside. It’s the perfect place to pick up fresh flowers, gourmet items, and some pretty jewelry too. The architecture of that space was quite spectacular with its classical, almost Baroque, exterior in contrast to its modern interior that boasts high ceilings and network of steel trusses.

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We went to a phenomenal authentic Valencian restaurant that I want to share with you called Raco del Turia. It was so utterly delicious that we went back the very next night! But—you MUST make reservations because it is always sold out. The staff was friendly and went out of their way to make our dinner spectacular. We enjoyed the Valencia salad, a mouth-watering ribeye and roasted vegetables. And the Cabernet was flowing. Oh, and they even had gluten free bread for me! That seriously put it over the top!

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One other site not to be missed are the puente de las flores, the bridge of flowers. All year long, the flowers are maintained and it creates a beautiful photo opportunity. The urban planning of Valencia is spectacular with well-thought out parks, greenbelts, and bridges.

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 And if you are looking for some great fashion shopping, Valencia has beautiful leather goods not to be missed. In fact, at the airport as we left Valencia, I bought a stunning red leather jacket for a fantastic price!

 

And then—there is the beachfront.  It is a bit separated from the center of the city, but definitely worth seeing. There is a luxurious upscale hotel right on the boardwalk, Las Arenas. We walked along the boardwalk and by chance came across a great little café called Pura Vida. We ordered our liter of sangria and a tortilla which as we had figured out is that egg quiche with different meats or vegetables. It was a perfect respite from sightseeing!

 

After several days of thoroughly enjoying this picturesque city, we took a quick 1 hour Vueling flight to Barcelona. Goodbye Valencia, you have stolen our hearts…and we plan on returning soon!

 

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Unconventional Families

Denise Smith

This weekend I did something fun…..I took my Mom to see the movie “Mamma Mia: Here we go again.” First off, I need to say that I utterly loved it! There’s not much I love more than good old ABBA music! Anyway, I was happily surprised that the sequel was as engaging as the first one: lots of laughs, even a tear-jerker moment…

But, here is what stuck with me after the movie ended.

 

In the sequel, Donna (who was played by Meryl Streep in the first version) has passed away and the movie begins one year after her death.  I promise that is NOT a spoiler, because you find that out in the first couple of minutes in the show. Anyway, what struck me was that the daughter, Sophie has a solid sense of family even without her Mom. And it is a VERY unconventional family, but family nonetheless. Her three Dads, and Donna’s lifelong friends step up in such nurturing ways, that it left me thinking how different our definition of family has become.

 

Family used to be considered blood relatives that lived together in the same household. But, in this day and age that is a very narrowed view that has exploded into so many more possibilities. Families are certainly changing. Today, family is a group that loves each other immensely, supports each other, has history and shares values. 

 

According to new studies by the Pew Research Center, “Two-parent households are on the decline in the United States as divorce, remarriage and cohabitation are on the rise. While in the early 1960s babies typically arrived within a marriage, today fully four-in-ten births occur to women who are single or living with a non-marital partner. As a result of these changes, there is no longer one dominant family form in the U.S. Parents today are raising their children against a backdrop of increasingly diverse and, for many, constantly evolving family forms. By contrast, in 1960, the height of the post-World War II baby boom, there was one dominant family form.”

 

Some family comes to us by birth without choice—but others are family we choose. And the ties that bind us in each are both just as enduring, with deep roots, and boundless love.

And it may be that divorce or tragedy has splintered the traditional definition of family, but regardless of the catalyst,  I think our need for security, belonging, affection, and understanding keeps us forever forming families to hold us up, and tie us to other human beings.

 

Family fulfills many of our needs, and here are just a few:

 

1.       Security and Stability: our world can be chaotic and unpredictable.  It can leave us feeling stressed, unsafe, and vulnerable. But, having a family circle that you did an lean on instills for us a sense of being secure and having a stable life even in the midst of the chaos or calamity.

2.       Belonging: Human beings crave for a sense of belonging. We are not meant to be isolated. Human connection is vital for our sustenance. No matter what changes your life may bring, having a deep-seated sense of belonging to a “community of loved ones” helps us to feel grounded and loved.

3.       Feeling understood: As human beings, our emotional needs are vast. One such need is being understood. Our family knows our history, they know what we have gone through. Family understands how we have evolved, grown, and survived the struggles we have needed to face. Being understood reassures us that we are not alone.

4.       Being cared for and loved: One of our deepest needs is to be loved. We crave being loved and cared for. We want to have the sense that others worry, care, and show concern for us. This fulfills our need to be significant, to matter. Feeling like others consistently care and love us makes us feel treasured and appreciated.

5.       Support: Life has a way of being very unpredictable and often riddled with rough patches. But, feeling that you have a safety net underneath you no matter what you will face is profoundly reassuring. Family gives us the certainty that should we falter, family will have our back. Family will scoop us up should we need it. Family will not let us stay downtrodden. They are the strong arms that lift us up when we fall.

 

So what does your family look like? Who do you consider in “your circle?” I know that for me, I do have my nuclear family (my mom, brother, and sister). Sadly we lost my Dad last year, and the loss of a family member definitely affects and changes the family dynamic. Relationships get tousled around as everyone tries to cope with the loss.

 

My kids Marlea (24) and Jacob (27) are most certainly my family. And Jeff, my love mate is my family. Together we have forged a life with a clear vision of our desires, wants, and direction for the life we share. He has become my “home” irrespective of where we choose to live.

 

But I also have amazing friends that have formed for me another type of family. There is deep rooted love, history that has taken us through decades, and an understanding that feels familial. And this type of family is equally important and equally meaningful.

 

Rather than be saddened by what may be lacking in our families, we need to embrace all the types of family we do have.  As human beings we will always crave the sense of belonging and community. Though the form of a family has certainly evolved, it is still just as important and necessary. Family gives us a sense of support unlike any other. It provides that “safety net” that no matter how tough things get, no matter what you face, you do not have to face it alone. Family gives us the sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. Human beings do not thrive being isolated, we need and desire a community that gives us a solid sense of belonging and unity. So if you are feeling a bit lonely, a bit separated from those in your nuclear family, reach out to the other “family” that surrounds you. Create an unconditional bond that can withstand time, inevitable changes, and the ups and downs that define life.

 

And if that loneliness persists…get up and dance around the living room to “Dancing Queen” because nothing lifts the spirit more than that!

 

Until next time…stay inspired,

Karen

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