Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 319 Nightly Roundup

Hope you all had a lovely holiday weekend. I was happy to take a complete four day break. Today I was practicing tomorrow's presentation for the mentor group when Greg announced with heartfelt enthusiasm, "You've really come a long way with this business idea!" That was nice to hear and it is amazing what 46 days (365 to 319) can accomplish. I'm wishing all of you milestones as well and would love to hear on day 300 (19 days from now) any progress that you've seen.

Today's 1o goal round-up.

Marriage - check.

Parenting - Got the kids a $6 guitar at a thrift store today and we all sang (off key) a number of kids songs, between an enormous number of angry jealous bouts about who was going to hold the instrument......Yin and Yang;-)

Business - Practiced tomorrow's presentation to the mirror, to Greg, to my five year old (who didn't make it the whole 10 minutes) and in the shower.

Writing - I had to go in for jury selection today. I wasn't chosen but had quite a bit of down time and continued to read the book about creating characters from Orson Scott Card. It's quite an endeavor and seems almost impossibly difficult. Then tonight, when I was walking the dogs with my friend she mentioned an author named Stephanie Meyer who wrote a series called Twilight. It was an intriguing story, so I googled her and found her personal tale. Apparently she didn't read a lot of character development books;-).

Stephenie Meyer's life changed dramatically on June 2, 2003. The
stay-at-home mother of three young sons woke up from a dream featuring
seemingly real characters that she could not get out of her head.
"Though I had a million things to do, I stayed in bed, thinking about the dream.
Unwillingly, I eventually got up and did the immediate necessities, and then
put everything that I possibly could on the back burner and sat down at the
computer to write—something I hadn't done in so long that I wondered why I
was bothering."
Meyer invented the plot during the day through swim lessons and potty training, and wrote it out late at night when the house was quiet. Three months later she finished her first novel, Twilight. With encouragement from her older sister (the only other person who knew she had written a book), Meyer submitted her manuscript to various literary agencies. Twilight was picked out of a slush pile at Writer's House and
eventually made its way to the publishing company Little, Brown where everyone fell immediately in love with the gripping, star-crossed lovers.

Garden - Potted up about a dozen hyacinth bulbs for winter bloom for the house and for gifts.

Spirit/catchall - Lovely, albeit short chat with a good friend.

Health - Walk around block will have to do.

FI - Parked about six blocks from the courthouse to get free parking, and got some exercise to boot.

House - My mini- Christmas village is now all lit up in the bay window. It dates back to before I was married, when Mom and I shopped all the Walgreens in downtown Chicago to collect the set and then dragged them home on a train on a FREEZING winter shopping trip that was our only one to date in the windy city so it has good memories.

Bus. Vocab. -Focus group, asking price, factors of production, Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!! Off to Iowa tonight.

Happy Thanksgiving! I am truly thankful to each of you who are sharing this year's journey. Your presence means more than you know. Best wishes! Eileen

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Day 320 - Nightly Roundup

Marriage - Check.
Parenting - Book reading, but I must acknowledge that I wasn't in the best mommy mood tonight. The house is a bit of a disaster and my neighbor will be coming while we're gone to use the oven for her big celebration and watch Brandi. So I've been trying to tidy up. When I asked the kids to help, Kirk whined/cried for about 15 minutes that it wasn't fair that he had to do more than Kai (who is two) and Kai preferred to just keep climbing into the block bin and jumping on mommy hollering "Rock a bye Mommy!!" Note to self, messy house = WAY less tolerance in general and my nerves do better with some sense of order, especially with a deadline;-).
Book - Greg gave me an interesting book written by Orson Scott Card about developing characters which I am starting to read as I organize the 100 greatest minds boys' book series.
Business - Completed the revised application for the mentor program. I will present it next week.
Garden - Added to the compost pile.
FI - Worked out the first draft of a revised budget to help lower our household costs to account for extra business costs of the Curiosity Cottage.
Spirit- Going to see a movie late tonight with a friend about Coco Channel- very much looking forward to this!
Health/beauty - 30 minutes cardio.
House- Fixed a cabinet door that wasn't closing properly.
Bus. Vocab - Product life cycle, product positioning, promotion, promotion mix

Be Happy In 30 Days or Less - For Free!

I put this together as a reminder to myself as I tackle my book and business ideas and feel a wee bit of stress creep in. I drove past a funeral yesterday coming back from a meeting and seeing all the black clad attendees standing around the funeral home, with a few kids running about the parking lot and two service people in their dress uniforms was moving. It was a beautiful day and the thought of these people's loss was sad.

Later that day when I went to meet my friend/neighbor to walk our dogs, it occurred to me as I strolled up to the front door that in several hundred years, neither of our houses or gardens would likely still exist. And yes, this writing is going to go from a bit morbid to happy;-).

So where does this get us? As our time here on this beautiful blue planet is brief, surely we are meant to experience and give joy and spread goodness of some sort while we're here. I really believe we are meant to be happy and help others to be so as well. And it's a lot easier to spread happiness when you're happy.

The following program uses different techniques I've picked up in 20 years of self-help reading;-). I've used each of these to good success. I'd say 90 percent of my waking hours I'm happy and as I wrote several months ago, getting to that point was a long journey.

So here are the best of the best tips that you can use to enjoy each day. Each one is free and takes only a few minutes an hour. Maybe print this out and keep it on your fridge for the month of December and see if by the 31st, you're even peppier than usual.

How to be happier in 30 days…or less.

12 hour day.

8 to 9 a.m. Act happy, even if you don’t feel it yet. Imagine if you were just tickled pink, how would you stand or sit, what would your face look like, how would your mouth curve, what would your shoulders feel like? Then pretend you're an actress being paid thousands for a happiness scene. Just OOZE happiness for two minutes.

Research that acting happy makes you happy is well documented. Smiling releases endorphins, which help you feel better and loosen up. Here is one interesting study on the "act happy" system.

In the 1980s, psychologist Fritz Strack asked one group of participants to hold a pencil between their teeth, but to ensure that it did not touch their lips. Another group supported the end of the pencil with just their lips, but not their teeth. Without realising it, those in the ‘teeth only’ condition had forced the lower part of their faces into a smile, whilst those in the ‘lips only’ condition had made themselves frown. Everyone then judged how funny they found Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons, and rate how happy they felt. Participants tended to experience the emotion associated with their expressions. Those who had their faces forced into a smile felt happier, and found the Far Side cartoons much funnier, than those who were forced to frown. Other work has demonstrated that this increase in happiness does not drain away the moment people cease smiling. It lingers, affecting many aspects of their behavior, including interacting with others in a more positive way, and being more likely to remember happy life events.

Strack, F., Martin, L.L., and Stepper, S. (1988). Inhibiting and facilitating conditions of the human smile: A nonobstrusive test of the facial feedback hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 768-777.
Schnall, S., & Laird, J. D. (2003). Keep smiling: Enduring effects of facial expressions and postures on emotional experience. Cognition and Emotion, 17, 787-797.


9 – 10 a.m. Do something for someone else with no plan to be rewarded. This could be opening a door, helping someone carry something. Maybe it's jotting a quick thank you or congrats note. It could be letting a driver ahead of you, smiling at your kids, or being kind to yourself. Or do something for the earth. Maximum time five minutes.

10-11 a.m. Identify one goal you want to achieve this year and visualize your dream already accomplished. You can do this in two minutes. Create that image in your mind and visit it and feel like it’s already done and feel the feelings of joy. Goals give you energy and direction.

11-12 a.m. Take one tiny step toward your goal. Maximum time five minutes to goal. If it’s writing a book, do this during your lunch hour. You could use your whole hour or just five minutes. If it’s getting in shape, take a five minute walk or use the five minutes to jot down everything you’ve eaten and calories. This journaling has been shown to work wonders. If you’re creating a business, do five minutes worth of your business plan. If your goal is to meet someone, brainstorm 30 ways to do so.

12 – 1. Do one thing differently. This could be tying your left shoe first, eating with your left hand, taking a new route to work, eating or drinking something new, signing up for a class or planning to go to a pet store and petting a snake. The idea is that when we do something new, we are in the moment and life expands, new synopsis are formed in your brain and you get more out of life.

1-2 p.m. Read something happy. You can read one good quote, lots of inspirational quotes are available for daily delivery via email, or if you have time, read a few pages in an inspirational book. Maximum time five minutes, but you could do this in 30 seconds.

2-3 pm. List verbally or in writing five things you are grateful for. Maximum time two minutes.

3-4 p.m. Smile at five people. If you’re alone, smile to yourself five times. Maximum time 30 seconds.

4-5 p.m. Think about one quality you admire about yourself. Maximum time 30 seconds.

5-6 p.m. Think about one quality you admire about your spouse, significant other, children, parents, friends, family, coworkers – focus on the positive. Maximum time 30 seconds.

6-7 pm. Do one thing for your body. Eat something healthy, walk five minutes, do five minutes of stretching, take a vitamin, drink water. Maximum time 5 minutes.

7-8 p.m. Stay connected. Send out one email or voicemail or face book announcement or short letter or phone call or set up one lunch or coffee outing or movie – staying social makes you happier as a person.

8-9 Play some sort of subconscious tapes that feed your subconscious with happy and positive thoughts. I use them all day. The ones by Steve Halpern area especially good.

Go to sleep and know you've done a LOT this day to be a happier person and to help others be happy too.

Day one

8-9 a.m. Act happy. _______ check 2 minutes
9-10 a.m. do one thing for someone else or the earth. _______ check 5 minutes
10-11 a.m. visualize your dream as already accomplished _______ check 2 minutes
11-12 a.m. Take a tiny step toward your goal. _______ check 5 minutes
12-1 p.m. Do one thing differently. _______ check 2 minutes
1- 2 p.m. Read something happy. _______ check 30 seconds
2-3 p.m. Think about or write down 5 things you’re grateful for.
_______ check 1 minute
3-4 p.m. Smile at five people. _______ check 1 minute
4-5 p.m. Think of or write down one quality you admire about yourself.
_______ check 1 minute
5-6 p.m. Think of one quality you admire about someone else.
_______ check 30 seconds
6-7 p.m. Do one good thing for your body. _______ check 5 minutes
7-8 p.m. Stay connected to friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, etc.
_______ check 5 minutes
8-9 p.m. Listen to some subconscious tapes. _______ check 5 minutes

Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 321 - Nightly Roundup

Marriage - Check
Parenting - Played monster trucks for close to an hour. That may accord for mom sainthood....;-)
Business - Had a wonderful meeting with the investment banker. She could not have been kinder and more helpful. To recap, I'm not at the stage of looking for funding, but she agreed to meet me to talk about the concept and her ideas were very helpful.
Book - Another chapter (they are only about five pages long) in Chapter after Chapter.
Health - 10 minutes yoga.
FI - Continuing the updating of accounts.
Spirit- Going to read a chapter out of The Soul of Success which has a quote from Deepak Chopra on the bottom stating "This beautiful book shows us how glorious life can be when we go within to find the deeper aspects of success."
Garden- is having its 60 percent off sale, so I'm putting in an order and dreaming of spring;-).
House- Another trash bag of 15 or so summer sandals out of the front closet to store in the basement.
Bus. Vocab - Parity products, patronage motives, penetrated market, per inquiry

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 322 - Nightly Roundup

Marriage - Check;-)
Parenting - We rode our bikes to get bagels, then went to a park, then home to play outside, so lots of fun time together, topped off by pizza for supper. Kirk earned a nickle helping carry out the recyclables.
Book - Read another chapter in "Chapter After Chapter" by Heather Sellers.
Business - Began reading through the research that the person I hired for 10 hours of research came up with. I'm learning a lot as I go through it.
Garden - Filled a cracked clear container with dirt as a mini-greenhouse to get ready for winter-sowing.
FI - Continuing to update accounts.
Spirit- Will read more of the Power Of Now tonight.
Health- 30 minutes cardio.
House- About three minutes and a decent size box of donations cleared from the basement.
Bus. Vocab. -Nominal scale, Norms, Objectives, Observation

You Must Be Small To Be Great - Tama Kieves

A tree that can fill the span of a man's arms grows from a downey tip....a journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath one's feet. Lao-Tzu

From the free library magazine exchange bin, I pulled out the Oct. 19, 2009 edition of Forbes magazine, among others. An article entitled Inspirational Entrepreneurs talked about Elizabeth Tarpley's company Targeted Technology Systems which includes a keyboard for kids. In the article she states, "Seeing the MYPC keyboard being sold at places where I actually shop for my daughter was one of my biggest "wow" moments - seeing my vision travel from an idea to reality."

She goes on to say "I am a much stronger woman than I was three years ago....You really have to say to yourself, "Don't give up" and you have to stay firm on your dream and your goals. These have probably been the hardest three years of my life, but also the best years. I continue to get stronger and stronger."

When I read about women who've achieved a great deal, I have mixed emotions. Part of me is inspired, part of me is almost discouraged. It somehow seems even more impossible when you see the gleaming final image.

Tama Kieves addressed just this in her book, "This Time I Dance." She writes, "My writing sounded like a kindergartner's compared with Barbara Kingsolver's or Pat Conroy's, so I figured why bother.....Comparing your business potential or art to those who have already established themselves is cruel and pointless. Nobody starts out a gold medallist. Nobody begins at the Grammys."

She goes on to talk about reading everything she could get her hands on by John Steinbeck. "
And here's the amazing thing. His first novels were okay, but nothing to write term papers about....even John Steinbeck didn't write like John Steinbeck in his new-kid-on-the-block years. If we can't allow ourselves to be bad, we will never allow ourselves to be good......If we can't allow ourselves to be awkward and inept, then we will stay nothing but awkward and inept in one of those thin, dim hallways of creative purgatory."

And so I remind myself Elizabeth Tarpley didn't start out seeing her company's goods at the stores she shopped in, nor did Martha Stewart or anyone else. I'm going to guess there were some business plans along the way that needed some serious refining, but the thing is they hunkered down and kept at it. Best wishes to all of us in our awkward days;-). Eileen

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 323 - Nightly Roundup

Marriage - Check
Parenting - Football time with my kids and four neighbor kids who came over to join us. Kirk was in his glory.
Book - Read a bit more in Chapter after Chapter.
Business - Went to the Women's Expo and got ideas for a future booth.
Garden - Used our dolly to haul some giant pots into the garage.
Spirit- Reading a book so funny I laugh aloud by Sophie Kinsella entitled Twenties Girls....sort of laugh candy.
Health- New rule at dinner for mom and kids (Greg is usually working) is that we have to eat at least two fruits and two veggies with each supper or no post-meal treats.
FI - Downloaded a coupon for the expo for free admission, then walked a ways to avoid parking charges. So other than one Dr. Pepper, it was a no spend day.
House - Tackled another kitchen cabinet - making progress here.
Bus. Vocab. - NAD, Narrowcasting, National brand, Ned unduplicated audience

Friday, November 20, 2009

Day 324 - Nightly Roundup.

Greg and the kids doing the morning bus routine. You can see Kai carries his own transport;-).

Marriage - check.
Parenting - Lots of time at the park today.
Company - Set up a meeting for Monday with an investment banker who very graciously agreed to give some feedback on the concept.
Book - I'm rereading a book my published friend highly recommended and gave me as a gift called Chapter after Chapter, and it's as wonderful as she told me it would be. One phrase I read tonight (about 2 minutes reading) was 'Writers get stuck because they haven't been writing. But they think exactly the opposite. They haven't been writing because they are stuck." And this reminded me what I'd read in This Time I Dance, that the work itself IS the way out. How's that for multiple messages from the universe all in one day?;-)
Health - 30 cardio
FI - Continuing to update our accounts now that we've got Quicken installed. It's a bit dismaying to enter so many receipts and realize how much those bagel and other outings add up when at a day's glance, so little seemed to have been spent.
Spirit- Connected with some long lost friends and relatives via Facebook
Garden - Brought in a tiny sweet alyssum that was still flowering along the front walk and it smells great!
House - 2 minutes on the front hall closet, enough to bag up about 15 pair of an insane number of summer sandals to store in the basement until next year;-).
Bus. Vocab. Marketing mix, marketing research, media strategy, motivation research

Showing Up Always Shines - Are you "busy-lazy"??;-)

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity. Thoreau

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I'm reading a wonderful book called "This Time I Dance" by Tama Kieves. Tama was a Harvard educated lawyer who left a big firm to write. She had no safety net, no family support, and yet she did it. Reading her book has been like drinking some sort of vitamin cocktail that nourishes my very hopes and dreams. Here is an excerpt from the chapter titled, "Showing Up Always Shines". She talks about writing her book, but her thoughts encompass any endeavor, building a business, going back to school, or becoming an artist.

If there's one conversation that I've had with myself a hundred times, it runs as follows: "I'm afraid to sit down and write because I'm afraid of flat and limp words, crappy sentences, writing in need of an emergency room team. I hate to see failure before me." Suddenly I want to brush again my already bald cat or catch that sale on men's socks at Target except I don't know a singe barefooted man. Evidently I want to flee. It's not exactly fun to face your own sense of powerlessness.

Here's the thing, though. Facing powerlessness gives you power. "Sit," says my inner guidance. "Showing up always shines."

....Only the work heals. The work will make you feel like working. Do the one thing. Face your work. Small deeds build strength. Take the tiniest step you can imagine toward your dream and you're back on track. Even five minutes can wheel destiny around.

When I read this, I thought of Trent Hamm's blog, The Simple Dollar, in which he wrote busyness is laziness and I saw the connection. The "busyness" is brushing the already bald cat or shopping at Target when you have nothing to buy. It is killing time to avoid studying for a test, starting your book, or beginning a business. And we keep busy to avoid doing the thing we fear, but that thing just keeps lurking there, or hovering, waiting for us to simply pay some attention. And when we finally do, we always feel better.

So may we all keep showing up this year, and keep taking the tiniest steps, and find ourselves too busy pursuing exactly what we want to be caught in busyness....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 325 - Nightly Roundup

Tapped out today and really just want to crawl under the covers and snooze. But I feel like I took off three days for the book signing, so baby steps I WILL do! And a quick shout out of thanks to Antoinette for the encouragement on those daily steps! Greg gets home tonight after four days in D.C. That will be awesome! Above is one of two giant oaks we lost to oak wilt. Thankfully we had takers from Craigslist who want a lot of the wood, but I think there will be plenty of mess left to clean up before that beautiful, groomed bird sanctuary becomes a reality;-).

Marriage - check.
Parenting - Volunteered in Kirk's class today, which helps me better understand the dynamics of his day.
Book - About two minutes.
Business - Half an hour on the revised business plan.
Health- 30 minutes cardio.
Garden - Yet another ivy geranium making its way indoors from the garage.
FI - Sold a snowsuit for $5 on Craigslist, then as always, cash in hand, wanted to conserve it by turning off extra lights and packing away any uneaten food to avoid waste.
Spirit- Reading a wonderful book called "This Time I Dance"
House - 2 minutes on the basement.
Bus. Vocab. - Lifestyle segmentation, List broker, Loss leader, Loyalty index.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 326- Nightly Roundup

1. Happy marriage to Greg. check
2. Enjoy and nurture the kids - We met my parents halfway tonight for Kai to come back from his visit. He had a hard time saying goodbye to Grandma, but we were thrilled to have him home.
3. Build the Curiosity Cottage into an extremely successful educational company that helps many people. Started keeping records of costs such as having my business cards made, the conference, and paying the person for the initial 10 hours of research. This should help during tax time.
4. Successfully publish my book. About two minutes of adding to chapter one.
5. Spirit/catchall - Reading a wonderful book called "This Time I Dance" and watched a bit more of Ellen today - she definitely makes me laugh!
6. Be and feel healthy and beautiful - 30 minutes cardio - So glad we bought the elliptical when our health club closed down five years ago. It's been worth every penny and handy beyond belief when you can exercise in your pjs.
7. Create a beautiful, groomed, bird sanctuary - Started rounding up seeds for winter sowing, which will begin on the solstice.
8. FI in 2010 - Spent lots of time updating our accounts now that we finally have the Quicken program working.
9. Create and organized, beautiful home. When through a big stack of papers and mail and made considerable progress.
10. Become an excellent business woman in part due to an excellent vocabulary - cumulative voting, keeper, key success factors, leave behind.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Starting a Company. Questions 101.

According to the entrepreneurs conference, the first step in starting a business is consumer/market research. The message pounded home in about 8 sessions was: KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER.

As a reminder, my company is called the Curiosity Cottage. I wanted to create an educational company that would help kids learn, and eventually I narrowed this down to a story line that would incorporate history (my son's favorite topic) in a way that was fun and interactive. I thought it would be cool if kids could "play history".

So it will be a series of stories of three brothers going back in time to meet the 100 or so greatest minds. There will be a set of action figures to accompany the books. In addition, my original idea of learning products for the home will be incorporated. If the story line is about a famous mathematician, we will also have the towels, cups, plates, etc.

And so I begin. I made a list of questions that I thought would help. I gave them to a freelance writer/researcher on Monday and hope to have some answers by Friday. Since then, I have had other responses back from the Craigslist ad from students and others offering to do further research using "Qualtrics" and analyzing data using "chi square test and conjoint analysis". Needless to say, my vocabulary skills in this area need some work.

Here's my question list, really based on just my own thought processes. I'd love to hear suggestions you might have to add to the list, either in the form of questions or answers.

1. What is the size of the market - boys aged 6-12?
2. What are the most popular current boys' toys for that age?
3. What is the most effective way to market to that segment?
4. What is the closest product on the market now to this for boys?
5. What was the very, very, very early development of American Girl? Was most of their customer base people who bought multiple dolls or just one?
6. What is the current "pain" in the market for parents of boys? We were told again and again if we couldn't prove there was a problem, then we had a problem;-).
7. How much do parents spend per boy per year on toys?
8. How important is education in the toy market to parents?
9. What is the sales model for Magic Treehouse and Rescue Heroes? How many books do you need to sell to even start to make a profit?

Best wishes to those of you starting your companies. This is a fun and interesting journey. Eileen

Day 327 Nightly Roundup

Learning as I go! I find if I don't post this and just try to keep a checklist, I'm not as dedicated;-). So I am back to the old system.

Happy marriage to Greg. Check.

Enjoy and nurture the kids - Kai is at grandma and grandpa's until tomorrow so Kirk and I played hockey, did some math homework (measuring using pennies), worked on our art skills, and read books, a great time!

Build the Curiosity Cottage into a highly successful educational company- Contacted a person about doing market research. On a suggestion from a fellow entrepreneur at the conference, I posted an ad on Craigslist for an initial ten hours of research. I had about 15 responses. The person we chose will submit research on Friday and that will give us a starting place to look at the viability of the model (I'm getting this business lingo down. Note I did not simply write - we'll see if this bird could fly;-).....

Publish my book in 2010- Five minutes on outline.

FI in 2010 - Posted another item on Craigslist. Updated my Amazon account to collect for books sold.

Create a beautiful, groomed, bird sanctuary in the yard. Gave all my overwintering plants a good drink.

Spirit/catchall. Give and receive joy, be in the moment, laugh at least 20 times per day. Watched the Ellen show today - and definitely got in some good laughs. That was the first time I'd seen the show, after I saw her interviewed on Oprah and that may be an easy way to jump up to the laughter quotient;-). Thanks Ellen!

Be and feel healthy and beautiful - 30 Minutes cardio.

Create a beautiful, organized home that adds to our happiness. - 10 minutes on the chaos that is also known as our basement.

Be an excellent businesswoman, in part due to an extensive business vocabulary. Cash and carry trade, Hawthorne effect, team, leveraged loan.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends......

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends....Mm, Gonna try with a little help from my friends! The Beatles music is hopefully accompanying you in your mind as you read this.;-)

It was a lovely weekend. I got to meet my girlfriends who have been friends since fourth grade for our friend Kathy Orton's book signing. In the picture, we are at our hometown's Pizza Hut where we spent many an hour growing up. Often, we were using quarters to pay and hoping we had enough. This past Saturday, the waitress, aged 18, could have been one of our daughters. Life goes on;-).

Kathy's book, Outside the Limelight - Basketball in the Ivy league, is a moving look at a group of players and coaches who often don't get the publicity of the Big Ten. During the book signing, she talked about how she was drawn to the stories of perseverance and dedication in a group who knew they wouldn't be going on to the NBA, but wanted to excel, even outside the limelight.

And as I listened to her presentation at the library, it occurred to me she was probably drawn to those stories because she herself has those same attributes. She told us about how hard it was to get a publisher, the doubts that creep in, the final joy of getting a publisher, the deep disappointment of being dropped from that first publisher a year and a half later, the determination to see her "baby" through to another publisher and all the ups and downs in between. She herself was working outside the limelight, while a full time writer for the Washington Post. Now that is some dedication!

I draw strength from her stories and accomplishments. And I draw strength from my friendships as a whole. I realize we are all here to root each other on, though we all have a different set of goals and dreams. When I'm down and call or email a friend, I'm always a little stronger for the chat, making a connection with someone who cares.

And I include in my group of "supportive friends" the authors of many of my favorite books. While I wouldn't dream of phoning a girl friend at three in the morning (short of a disaster), these other "book" friends are always there waiting with their own stories of accomplishments, hopes, set-backs and advice.

And those of you here are also friends and I really, really thank you for your comments and just your little icons that show up at the top of the page. That support means a lot!

So yes, I get by with a little help from my friends, and I'm gonna try to reach all ten of my goals with the help of my friends. And I hope you all are reaching out to your goals with the help of friends too. Let me know how I can help!


Leading a "Charmed Life" Among the Great White Sharks....

About three nights ago, I was on a flimsy dinghy with Greg, trying to get to the other side of the river while the monstrous gray heads of great white sharks bobbed up all around the boat....waiting. We finally made it to shore safely and I wanted to kiss the sand.

Greg, much less perturbed, turned to me and mentioned he'd really like to go to a good bar that night that was on another island, but that this time we'd have to swim across because someone else needed the boat.

I was flabbergasted! SWIM????? Did he not see the sharks?? He said he did but thought we could get across safely. That's when I realized he expected me to go with, just to get to a bar for heaven's sake, and I lectured him on the craziness of doing something so foolish when we have small kids.....and awoke.

Thus you see my subconscious is not fully on board with the new business plan and will need some wooing;-).

I think the dream was telling on several points. My life for the past five years or so has been literally and figuratively, safely on shore. I was teaching part-time in an area that I know well. I had time to garden, to visit friends, and to read. My stress levels were pretty low. And part of me is questioning why I would leave the shore.

The fact Greg wanted us to head back into the water to visit a bar is also telling. A bar is a pretty superfluous destination; no one needs to get to a bar. And a part of me questions taking on the risks of a new business when we have a good "safe" income and could simply keep saving and putting money aside for our eventual FI date.

So why go into the water?

As usual, Oprah gets this one. She had a show that I wrote about earlier on going outside your box and taking risks and chances to become more of who you can become. To grow as a person is valuable. Taking on new, sometimes scary tasks lets you know that you are more than you thought you were. And I loved her idea of getting a charm bracelet and giving yourself a charm for each time you really did something that took courage, something so personal and different to each of us, that only we can decide whether an act is "charm worthy".

This past week I attended the entrepreneurs conference and felt out of my comfort zone, worried about looking foolish. Then I attended a women in business event and really felt out of my zone as I only knew one woman at the event and mixing and introducing myself is SO not something that comes naturally to me. I did meet one new person, spent a fair amount of time standing about feeling a bit foolish and then scurried home. Greg asked how it went and I told him I considered even that a success as the first few times you do anything, it's pretty hard.

While I might not have done any one "charm" worthy thing yet, if I do seven more of these little things, I think that first silver bauble will be headed to my wrist. I dug out my old charm bracelet from when I was a kid as inspiration.

If you too like jewelry and stretching yourself, and wonder if it's time to get out of some sort of rut or box you're in, come and join me in this year's journey. If we all put our minds together and draw from each other's experiences and ideas, perhaps we can even get out of the shark-infested water and just build a bridge to the other side.... Best wishes! Eileen

Friday, November 13, 2009

Off to IL for three days!

Lots and lots of progress the past few days on the business concept. I'll look forward to sharing when I get back. I hope those others of you starting companies are also seeing forward steps! I am off to see my family and my friend who just had her book published. Good wishes to you all and goodnight! Will check back Monday night. Eileen

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 329 - Slight changes to goals and format.

Second day of the conference and it was extremely helpful. I was a bit more comfortable in this new role and found again and again the sense that most of us there wanted each other to succeed. I found myself rooting for each person I met and racking my brains to think if there was someone I knew or some connection I had that might be even a bit helpful.

We watched something called the "Elevator Pitch" Olympics. About 20 would-be entrepreneurs got up and gave their pitch to a panel with investment experience. And you really started to see the key things that were needed, which I'll share here for those of you that are also starting businesses.

And before I get into the four specifics, let me add three other observations. There really is a sort of playbook for lack of a better term to increasing your odds to succeeding in a new venture. Prior to the conference, I would have thought the very concept of working on an "elevator pitch" seemed kind of mechanical....I'm not sure the term I want, but something like being a "pure" artist who doesn't want to taint their ideas with commercialism. ;-) But after I heard about eight experienced business owners and investment bankers and venture capitalists hammer home the point that your elevator pitch is crucial, I began to see the truth to this.

The second point was stated again and again and again. You really have to know your market. Who would buy this product? Why would they buy it? The term at the conference was that there needs to be a pain that you are fixing, a real need. And you also need to distinguish who is the purchaser, the end user, and the buyer, and these are not always the same. So I plan to start learning about the basics of market research. Tonight, a friend told me she took a business class 20 years ago and had to find out if pantyhose sold at 7-11's on the counter next to the cash register would be a hit. She had to identify what would drive the consumer, what she would pay, etc. And she hit the business school library and its resources, trade journal, etc. for several weeks to answer these questions.

And the final point would be that people are your greatest resource. So many gave me tips and pointers, many of whom were fellow entrepreneurs, but also the speakers. Those of us starting out want to help each other and those who've already succeeded are incredibly gracious with their willingness to share their experiences and opinions. I could not recommend highly enough attending a conference like this to get your feet wet.

And the four points that the investors wanted to hear specifics on were as follows:
1. What is the problem - and prove that there is a real problem.
2. What is your solution - and have some evidence it is indeed a solution.
3. Who is on your team - a key here seems to be to find advisers who have experience in all the areas you lack to fill in the gaps. Just to give one example, a woman had come up with a great idea for a new kids' drink. She is planning to mix herbal tea with juice rather than water as the herbal tea has so many anti-oxidents and no caffeine. The judges liked the idea, but most liked that she had managed to get someone from Pepsi as an advisor, who obviously brought a lot of experience to the table.
4. How the idea will make money. And they wanted specifics, not projections that you would capture 98 percent of the market in two years;-).

After giving it a lot of thought, I've decided the goals to write a book and to start a business in the same year may be over stretching, so I'm planning to focus on the business and setting the book aside for at least a year.

In addition, while I still plan to keep up with my daily goals, I think I'll just keep a checklist on the fridge in order to more fully focus on building a business. And I definitely plan to remain frugal! If anything, this opportunity has shown me even more strongly how valuable the skill/habit of thrift is both in personal and business life.

Best wishes to you all! Eileen

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Day 330 - Nightly Roundup

Big day at the conference. I definitely was out of my comfort zone, but found many of the mini-sessions helpful. In one we had to practice our "elevator pitch" and I realized that in a room of 50, while a handful had it down pat, most of the rest of us were struggling, feeling nervous, or even a bit confused. It felt strange to hand out business cards, but I'm sure all of this will seem more natural with time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day 331, Nightly Roundup

A busy day as the conference starts tomorrow. I picked up my business cards from a local printer - how fun! And though it would appear I suffer from compulsive price disclosure, I must admit pride in snagging my briefcase (not leather but nice looking) for 50 cents at a garage sale this summer before the whole business idea really took hold. Build it - they will come. Buy the briefcase - the company will be founded???;-).

1. Happy marriage to Greg - Check.

2. Enjoy and nurture kids. Lots of fun time reading and putting together puzzles today. We celebrated picking up my cards with a pack of gum for Kirk and a Rice Crispy treat for Kai and a Dr. Pepper for mom. Celebrations and sugar you know....

3. Build the Curiosity Cottage into a successful dual use educational products company. Lots of time brainstorming and coming up with my 30 second "elevator pitch" for the weekend.

4. Publish the Frugal Millionairess in 2010. A wee bit (two pages) in the New Writer's Handbook.

5. Complete the four sides and center of the back yard into a beautiful, groomed bird sanctuary. More mulching with leaves. This is incredibly effective in reducing weeds if you've never done it and builds fabulous soil.

6. Spirit/catchall. Give and receive joy, be in the moment, laugh at least 20 times a day. Took a neighbor's dog for a long walk as she doesn't get out much.

7. Be and feel healthy and beautiful. Did the four veggies (spinach, broccoli, carrots, and potatoes) and four fruits (apples, grapes, juice, apricots).

8. FI by 2010. Changed the furnace filters today, hopefully reducing operating costs.

9. Create a beautiful, organized home that adds to our daily happiness. Took a lot of the kids' art work and posted it up on doors, including the front door, which now look quite colorful and the kids are walking tall....

10. Be an excellent business woman with an excellent business vocabulary. House Agency, Image Advertising, In-Pack Premium, infomercial.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day 332 - Nightly Update

1. Happy marriage to Greg. Check.

2. Enjoy and nurture kids. Some fun family football time today - felt almost a Kennedy;-).

3. Publish the Frugal Millioniaress in 2010. Read more in the New Writer's Handbook.

4. Grow The Curiosity Cottage into a successful company. Quite a bit of brainstorming as I wheelbarrowed bags of leaves.

5. Complete the four sides and center of the back garden into a groomed, beautiful, bird sanctuary. Have next year's vegetable garden almost done.

6. Spirit/catchall. Give and receive joy, be in the moment, laugh at least 20 times a day. Two hour meditation class, most of which was in the moment. Just call me Guru Eileen....

7. Achieve FI - Have a big crockpot of lentil soup waiting to be plugged in tomorrow.

8. Be and feel healthy and beautiful. Made my four fruits (grapes, apples, apricots, pineapple juice) and four veggies (potato, carrots, green beans, corn) and really realized how few of these are in my diet.

9. Create a beautiful, organized home that adds to our happiness. Organized 1/4 of one kitchen cabinet. Tossed at least 10 items!

10. Be an excellent business woman in part due to an extensive business vocabulary. Holding power, holdover audience, horizontal discount, horizontal publications

Saturday, November 7, 2009

One week challenge - Starts Sunday, Nov. 7 - Eat 4 different fruits and veggies each day! Even a bite counts!

When Kirk and I were at Super Walmart on Halloween stocking up on candy (I can't have anything like that around for more than an hour before I go into some crazed candy eating monster), our cart also held bagels, cream cheese, and a box of cereal.

The man in front of me in line had a cart loaded with fruit and vegetables, including fresh pineapple which I've never in my life attempted to chop and eat, and some green leafy things I didn't even recognize. He may have been a recent immigrant and I only noted this as when I taught in Chicago, many of my students were recent immigrants from Eastern European countries, Africa and Mexico. And these student were regularly seen munching on an apple between classes. They eschewed the vending machines unlike the faculty, and whether this was based on cost or coming from a culture that ate more produce, I'm not sure. Regardless of the reason, they were making smart choices.

There are days when I will have a bagel and cream cheese and a Pespsi for breakfast, which my neighbor (not a pop drinker) thinks this is a bit disgusting;-). A cheese sandwich, chips and a Diet Coke for lunch and pizza and iced tea for dinner. Do you hear the resounding lack of fruits and vegetables here?

I'm really trying to get into the habit of sitting down with the kids for dinner and our eating at least something that came from the ground. So I thought I'd try this one week challenge of eating four different types of fruits and four different types of vegetables each day for a week. Even one bite counts. Hope you'll join me!

Day 333 - Nightly Update

1. Happy marriage to Greg. Check

2. Enjoy and nurture the kids - Kai and I had lots of fun one on one time at home and the dog park as Kirk accompanied Greg to the Iowa game, wherein the Hawkeyes lost their 9-0 record....enough said.

3. Publish the Frugal Millionairess in 2010 - Worked a tad bit more on a query letter to an agent. I may send off what I have and get some feedback, even if it's a snort and a reply that I'm not there yet;-).

4. Build the Curiosity Cottage into a successful company that helps kids and adults learn and enjoy knowledge. Started a list of existing dual use products - and it's mighty slim! I only have five items to date: math clock, SAT shower curtain, constellations night light, bird song alarm clock (teaching the individual bird sounds), planets nightlight.

5. Be and feel healthy and happy. 30 minutes cardio.

6. FI in 2010 - Used up the last of the apple orchard picks to make my aunt's apple, walnut crock pot cake. Also used up all the vegetables in a big pan with olive oil and spices. Feeling very Martha...

7. Spirit/catchall. To give and receive joy, be in the moment, and laugh at least 20 times a day. Planning to call a good friend tonight.

8. Complete the four sides and the center of the back yard into a groomed, beautiful bird sanctuary. By the time I started to update this tonight, it was dark so I turned on all the yard lights and hauled some of the infinite number of bagged leaves that neighbors have been dropping off in the drive to the back yard. I'm seriously thinking of getting one of those portable work lights that you see at night construction jobs for late night gardening as fall is a great time to be out there, no mosquito's is a BIG plus. The only downside is we are a community of dog lovers and as soon as I start crunching about the dried leaves, my neighbors' dogs on four sides start crating a cacophony of barking, so I tried to keep the work session short.

9. Create an organized, beautiful home that adds happiness to our lives. Three more minutes on an upstairs closet.

10. Become an excellent businesswoman in part due to my extensive business vocabulary. Gross audience, gross impressions, gross rating point, hierarchy of effects.

Oprah, Boxes, A Red Dress, and A Lightbulb Moment!

I watched a very moving show on Oprah about women stepping out of their boxes. First was Ali Wentworth, the comedian, who dressed up and performed as a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader. When Oprah commented about the guts that took, Ali responded that she had been nervous, "But when I let go of my ego, I was empowered."

Then four women who felt they were in ruts with divorces, job losses and other challenges, were invited to step out of their boxes. They became roller derby queens, sky-dived, and went skinny dipping on national television! And by the end, you could see they had taken a quantum leap in their self-confidence. When one of the women was struggling with the roller skating, Ali reminded her, "This is not about being good at it, it's about doing it!"

Several of the women worried about whether they were being the role models they wanted to be to their children. They wanted their children to take risks, not let fear hold them back, to go out and take life on, but prior to stepping out of the box themselves, they weren't "walking the walk".

And by the end, one of the women declared with tears, "That voice in my head that I'm not good enough, that I can't do it, it's just gone!"

As I watched, I had one of those light bulb moments. I had stepped out of the box at a wedding reception in San Juan in 2007.

To put this in context, I never went to my prom or homecoming in high school, nor a single dance in college, because I was absolutely petrified of dancing. The very thought of "shaking it loose" on a dance floor gave me the hives. This came from two sources. First I have the proverbial two left feet. My husband and I have taken no fewer than three ballroom dancing classes to no avail. At the last, the instructor kept walking over to us and saying, "Just listen! Just listen to the beat." But that beat person wasn't talking to us....

Second, I'm simply inhibited. I could get through the ballroom dance class, though not with any grace, because I didn't mind following a teacher's instructions, left foot here, right foot there. And if I'd lived in the 1800's, I probably could have gotten through a country ball since you were taught where to put your hand and how many steps to take. But just go out there and trip the light fantastic...NOT.

In a college speech class, we were asked to do something difficult for us and report back. I went to a pet store and touched a live snake, after about an hour of false attempts and an impatient staff. But in class, when the girl after me announced she was going to demonstrate how it was hard to dance with a drink in one hand, then nodded to another student to hit the boom box as she free styled it up in front of the room, fake beer in one hand, I squirmed to even watch. I think I'd finally glimpsed what purgatory might be for me, and yet she seemed unfazed.

When a friend last year begged me to take a NIA class with her, I thought it was an exercise class. I have no problem with a step instructor yelling for you to hop on the step, hop off, wave your hands, you name it. You just follow instructions. When the NIA instructor had led us through a few exercises then started playing new music and the twenty or so of us in the room were to "let go and let our inner goddesses free" and women started swaying their bodies or lifting their arms and then moving around the room to stand in front of others in a free dance exchange, I thought I might pass out. I dodged the last ten minutes hiding in the bathroom and came out when the music ended and needless to say, never went back.

But for one brief moment, a little over a year ago, I was shaking my booty in my red dress, fearless.

Greg and I had been invited to a wedding in Puerto Rico and as I wrote earlier, arrived via the private jet of his clients. The night of the reception, the bride's family, who are from Puerto Rico were all out on the dance floor doing amazing things to Latin music. Sitting at a table in my Gap bargain $15 red dress, I was drinking my rare cocktail (I've never liked the taste of alcohol). It occurred to me that much of this music was like what we did in my new Zumba exercise class. After I'd finished my gin and tonic, Greg dared me if I'd drink one more, to the last drop, he'd go with me to the botanical gardens the next day. An offer not to be refused.

Before I'd completely finished my second glass, my toes were tapping and I felt like I could show these people some of the wonderful moves my teacher had us do each week. For the first time since the day we met in the law school library over a decade ago, I turned to Greg and asked if he wanted to dance. He looked out at the gyrating crowd of Latin salsa dancers and declined.

To his right was the client who had flown us down and I asked him. He said he didn't dance period. In fact, he said the reason he'd asked his wife to marry him (they've been married ten years) is that she also hated to dance. So I turned to his brother, who had also flown down with us and he said sure.

I got out on the dance floor and started doing my exercise routine with a flair even I didn't know I had. Not long after, the singer announced in her luscious accent, "We have some VERY brave people on the dance floor tonight."

I started rounding up other dead beats that were sitting at their tables. What's to fear? Get up! Dance!

At some hazy point the night ended and we retired to our room and the next day we visited the botanical gardens and a week later were home. When the pictures came back, I realized my dress had been a wee bit too tight, my hair flat as a pancake in the humidity, my eyeliner slightly smudged, my face flushed and my visions of how I looked out there dancing were just that - visions. I strongly suspect I wasn't quite the female Fred Astaire I thought I'd been;-).

But for that one brief moment, aided by a few glasses of brew, I was the fearless one all wrapped up in one red dress. And it was nice, for those few moments to be free of inhibitions.

Short of pouring gin over my granola cereal each morning, I wasn't quite sure how to get that free spirit back each day. But I kept the red dress just in case....And now, as I think back to that Oprah show, I think I get it. It's not just courage, liquid or otherwise. It's more about stepping out of my box and not letting my ego dictate who I can be. It's being okay with looking foolish and realizing that my ego's need to protect some created persona is not worth the costs.

I just did a google search for improvisation classes at a nearby theater. The current ones are done November 11, and I emailed to ask for the schedule of the next set of classes. Give some thought to how you could step out of your own box - and let that inner goddess free! Best Wishes! Eileen

Accomplishing Something Every Day

As I start into month two of my year of goals, I find again and again that having a clear cut direction of what I hope to accomplish each day gives me peace. Prior to this, many a day passed by without my even being able to remember what I'd done.

I came across an interesting statistic today in a book entitled Simple Secrets for becoming Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise - What scientists have learned and how you can use it.

People who thought they were making progress toward their goals-regardless of how much they still had left to accomplish-were 51 percent more likely to be satisfied with themselves than people who felt they were stagnating. (DeShon and Gillepsie 2005).

Only one or two of my friends are even willing to set goals. Most have a deep fear of being disappointed, either in the outcome or in themselves. Maybe it's just a new way of looking at what success is that's needed. If you're trying to eat healthy or exercise more and you "fail" nine days out of ten, but one day do a great job, then you are one day further ahead than you would be if you'd not undertaken the journey to make your life better. You have not failed, you have one milestone crossed and can set a goal the next twenty days to get one more or maybe two such days. And look at those days that didn't work out as wonderful experiments to tweak your system. As Edison insisted - he did not fail those 700 times he tried to create an electric light bulb, but rather found 700 ways that did not work.

On the days you fail to save money, exercise, eat right, be patient with your kids, meditate, etc. just ask yourself with a gentle curiosity that night, "What happened? What can I tweak? How can I do even better tomorrow?" And realize that's probably long term as beneficial as a "good" day would have been. As I keep telling my five year old son, if he tries to read hard words or take on a math problem he's unsure of, THAT is how he's going to get better.

So best wishes to each of you. May you accomplish something each day and that accomplishment might be figuring out what doesn't work. And may you and I keep taking baby steps to our dreams.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Day 334 - Nightly Roundup

1. Happy Marriage - Check

2. Enjoy and nurture kids. We met Greg downtown, created some amount of havoc in the office as Kai managed to shatter a Hawkeye snowglobe that was on a bookshelf and Kirk broke down into sobs ordering Dad to "Get another JUST like it -NOW!". From there we walked to our favorite Chinese restaurant and all had a nice time.

3. Have the Frugal Millionairess published in 2010. - Had an earlier blog entry on my $20,000 experiment in happiness published on the Thrifty Fun site, which as its name implies, is both fun and thrifty. And in the mail, my friend's book arrived in the mail from Amazon. Her book is Outside the Limelight - Basketball in the Ivy League. You can't believe how cool it is to see her picture on the jacket. I've known her since fourth grade, so it is inspiring to see her now in print and gives me hope.

4. Build the Curiosity Cottage into a successful business that enhances learning and education for both kids and adults. Lots of time brainstorming this afternoon.

5. FI by 2010. Found an outdated coupon for drycleaning. I called and spoke to the manager of the store who agreed they would honor it and told me they did this regularly. Of old, I might not have even bothered to ask, so this was a good outcome. I'm channeling Heidi Klum's motto: No ask - No get!

6. Create a beautiful, groomed bird sanctuary in the back garden - Gathered seeds today to swap this winter at for winter sowing. Start gathering some if you want to be in on the big first sowing which occurs on the winter solstice, this year December 21.

7. Be and feel healthy and beautiful. Will have to count a walk around the block tonight.

8. Spirit/catchall. To give and receive joy, be in the moment, and laugh at least 20 times a day. Signed up for a two hour guided meditation on Sunday. As I tend to get antsy after 5 minutes, this will be an interesting experiment.

9. Create a beautiful, organized home that adds to our happiness. Three minutes on an upstairs closet. And even that shows some progress.

10. Become an excellent businesswoman in part due to a strong business vocabulary. 4 Ps, full position, full service agency, galvenometer.

The Newly Revised Business Plan - Your Thoughts?

On Thursday, I met for an hour and half with a former venture capitalist to get his ideas for my company. I bought lunch, he talked;-).

He had a lot of creative ideas and many were different than my initial ideas. He stressed that most businesses go through many changes as they develop.

He felt I would need a brick and mortar store to be close to the customer and not see it necessarily as an income generator, but a way to "build wealth". He said ecommerce - just having a website with products - has a very, very low actualisation rate - people put stuff in the electronic cart, then leave it there. He quoted something like 15 percent of things even clicked on are actually purchased. He also said that outside Amazon, there are not a lot of successful web marketplaces as there simply isn't a lot of traffic to most independent sites.

He, like my husband, kept insisted that there needs to be some bigger picture, some "brand" around which you are building. He said I needed to find a "mantra" that sums up what I'm trying to do, then partner with people that have the skill sets I lack. He suggested I try to go into a partnership with some of the former VPs of marketing or procurement that were from big companies like Gap or American Girl or the Children's Place that had a strong knowledge of how to get things made, how to run a store, how to market to a large audience.

And I must admit, sitting there, that I found it highly unlikely this part-time teacher was going to draw a lot of former executives from publicly traded companies just beating down the door to join forces, but hey, you gotta think big!

On the way home, I was thinking about my letter to the founder of American Girl and it caused me to wonder why there had never been an American Boy. The company's model is very creative and educational with dolls placed in different time periods with an accompanying book and story line.

Coming home, I typed in American Boy and found a website of other moms who had also thought this would be a great idea.

Further brainstorming and talking with my older son, made my enthusiasm for the concept grow.

So now I'm thinking of a set of stories with both boys and girls who are in historic settings and meet famous people of their time, maybe Lincoln, or Copernicus, or Martin Luther King, or Washington. The goal of the story will be for the reader to have a historic understanding of what was happening in that time period, what it really meant to be in the French Revolution, why Napoleon reached such heights of success and why he eventually was exiled.

To try and get across these historic concepts, in each story, the kids will visit a "curious looking cottage" in which some sage older person will live that will "teach the lesson".

And this cottage will be filled with knowledge and learning and as per my original plan, clocks with math equations, quilts with maps, and drinking glasses with French phrases. And these items will also be offered for sale, though I'm not sure how it will all fit together.

I'm not sure how it will all unfold as I type tonight, November 6, 2009, but I'm excited at the idea of kids learning about the Russian revolution or Gandhi's feats through the eyes of a child who lived then.

What do you think??? Still in the brainstorming stage. And are any of you doing a new business?? Eileen

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Day 335 - Nightly Roundup - 30 Day Milestone for All of Us!

We started on day 365 and now we are to day 335. Have you seen any progress on any of your goals? Please let me know if you have. And if you still want to start - today's as good a day as any;-). Best wishes. Eileen

1. Happy Marriage - Check.

2. Enjoy and nurture kids. - Good playtime session tonight. For the record, despite the picture above, Kai is not "baby genius". He wanted a Bingo card like his older brother and then little red squares to fill it in. But the venture capitalist I met today does apparently have a kid genius who is doing an on-line homeschooling middle school sponsored by Stanford University - neat!

3. Build my company - Had an hour and a half meeting with a former venture capitalist who had a lot of ideas. I will go more in depth later when I'm back up to par. But it was a very helpful and thought provoking meeting.

4. Have the Frugal Millionairess published in 2010. - Read more in the New Writer's Handbook

5. Complete the four sides and center of back yard into a groomed, beautiful bird sanctuary. - Yet another neighbor brought three wagons of chopped leaves and we spread them on a new bed. And while I have OODLES of bulbs, if you're in the market, check out BLOOMINGBULB.COM which has some bulbs up to 60 percent off. I've had really good luck with this company. While the bulbs are not always really big, they've been good bloomers and when I've occasionally gotten some moldy ones, they were replaced. Right now you can get 100 pink hyacinth for something like $28 or 100crocus for $7.00. And if you did this, imagine your yard next spring! Hyacinths are also great for forcing.

6. Be and feel healthy and beautiful. Hair cut and the first manicure I've had in three years. I can't believe how nice my fingers look. As a die hard gardener, I never mess with my nails, but after my trip to Chicago, where I saw so many "groomed" women, I vowed at least for the winter months to take some care here.

7. Spirit/catchall. Be in the moment, give and receive joy, laugh at least 20 times a day. Just started reading a wonderful book called Chocolate for a Woman's Dreams, which is sort of like Chicken Soup of the Soul, and reading it is like laying a warm blanket just out of the dryer across my lap;-).

8. FI by 2010 - Rereading the Tightwad Gazette for inspiration.

9. Create an organized, beautiful home that adds to our happiness - Hung a lovely
antique Norse (??) wall hanging - hand woven - that I had gotten awhile back in this odds and ends thrift store for $32. On the bottom it reads I(J?)NGEBORG VED HAVET. Anyone here know Norse??

10. Become an excellent business woman in part through having an excellent business vocabulary. Knowledge capital, flighting, dollar duration, focus group interview

Goodnight. It's a cup of chamomile tea and a big dose of NyQuil and off to an early bedtime.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 336 - Nightly Roundup

Way under the weather. I think I'm coming down with whatever yucky thing the kids had. But I'm going to try to channel the post office - through wind and snow and rain....and the at least baby steps.

1. Happy marriage. Check.

2. Enjoy and nurture the kids - We spent some time trekking about the arboretum.

3. Publish the Frugal Millionairess in 2010 - Read a few pages in the New Writer's Handbook

4. Grow Curiosity Cottage into a highly successful online market place for dual use educational items as well as creating a line myself. I found out I will have to do a ten minute presentation to the board of the organization where I hope to be matched with a mentor. The presentation is to be Dec. 1, but I just got a notice of jury duty that overlaps those days so I'm hoping we can reschedule if necessary. I also started drafting a letter to the founder of American Girl, who also lives in WI in the hopes she might be willing to meet with me at some point to discuss my business.

5. FI by 2010 - Cut grocery costs down to $105 this week from an average of $130 to $140. But I will have to see if I end up eating out more as I bought lots of produce rather than ready to eat food.

6. Complete the four sides and center of back garden and create a lovely, groomed bird sanctuary. Three neighbors dropped off leaves the last few days and I've been mulching with these.

7. Be and feel healthy and beautiful. Got lots of fresh produce and fruits this grocery shopping day and I am hoping that I'll eat at least five servings a day, to move up to ten in time.

8. Spirit/catchall. To give and receive joy and be in the moment and laugh at least 20 times a day. Will have to count the arboretum walk for this as the trees and leaves were lovely and we spotted a large group of wild turkeys.

9. Create a beautiful, organized home that adds happiness to our lives. Spent at least an hour cleaning using Fly lady today.

10. Have an excellent business understanding by having a broad business vocabulary. Open economy, outright rate, fixed sum per unit, flat rate.

Off to walk dog then a nice glass of Nyquil and sleep. Goodnight! Eileen

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Taking off until tomorrow;-). Nary a goal seeking action until 7 Wednesday morning!

I had a wonderful trip with my friend to Chicago. And now I'm getting the house back in order, having a good time with the kids and Greg, and giving Brandi some extra attention. Will restart at day 336 tomorrow. Wishing you all a great night! Eileen

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Off for a two day bus trip to Chicago! Will check in Tuesday night.

A good friend and I are taking a two day bus trip to Chicago, leaving tomorrow morning. I hope you all have a wonderful couple days and I'll check back in on Tuesday night. Best wishes! Eileen

Baby Steps and Milestones;-).

Today was a day of milestones, the culmination of many baby steps. I sent off my mentor application, with attached resume and executive summary. The summary is not at the stage it could be shown to venture capitalists, but it is good enough to start getting some feedback from a mentor. And I'm a big fan of the phrase the perfect is the enemy of the good;-). Working around a two and five year old will do that to you.

In addition, I've found my company name and bought the .com rights to it. My company shall be the Curiosity Cottage. The tagline will be something like, "Where the bits and pieces of daily life you (your children) touch, also teach." The rights are $15 for one year. If I want the email or webmail, that will be closer to $35, but for now the .com address will be enough. As I mentioned earlier, if you are ready to name your company, you can do an easy and free search at Sarah Manski, the CEO with whom I met, strongly suggested you get the .com rather than .net or .org as it is more widely used.

Below is the executive summary of my new company. If you're in a field that sees these regularly, you will quickly realize the need to polish it and the additional information I will need about potential customers, a more specific understanding of the size of the market, and other things, but it is a start and I'm thrilled to have it and my resume on their way to seek more help.

Many, many, many thanks to all of you for your ideas and suggestions. They all went into the mix. Wishing you a lovely night! Off to the land of Nod. Eileen

The Curiosity Cottage

The Curiosity Cottage is an on-line marketplace that brings together items from many different companies that serve a dual purpose of being a necessary household product and also a learning tool.

The idea behind the company is that everything a child interacts with could be a teaching tool. Rather than be "branded" by Elmo eating cereal in a bowl each morning or going to bed with a Bob the Builder nightlight, a kid could be using these items, along with towels, rugs, and cups as a learning opportunity. And there is a variety of interesting, scattered random products out there. The Company store might have an alphabet quilt or Pottery Barn a series of bowls with Spanish verbs. There is a company that makes math equation and SAT word shower curtains and some woman in CA making a series of kids tee-shirts that have space and planet systems. But as of now, there is no one marketplace bringing together all these dual use items that capitalize on kids' natural curiosity and items that they will interact with each day anyway.

In recent years there has been a spate of studies showing that afterschool classes in Japanese and math tutoring on weekends can result in the “overscheduled child”. Kids need downtime and playtime too.

Addressing this need is an entire new toy industry called Edutainment, which refers to the overlap of entertainment and education. This market of education and entertainment is growing. A recent article from Entrepreneur magazine notes the Toy Industry Association estimates that the traditional toy industry (which doesn’t include electronics such as video games and handheld electronic games) is worth an estimated $22 billion in annual sales. Educational games like Cranium have enjoyed huge mass appeal. In the eight years since its inception, this board game, together with its sibling titles, has sold more than 15 million games in 10 languages and 30 countries. Educational toys like the LeapFrog learning laptops have also been popular. Industry observers believe that educational toys’ mass-market appeal will only continue to grow, as parents continue to search for meaningful enrichment activities for their children.

There is then an active need for products that fit that education/entertainment concept and a niche waiting to be filled in the enormous number of daily household items a child interacts with on a daily basis. In addition to creating a marketplace for the items already available, I have a long list of other products I would like to produce, from a nightlight that shows addition, subtraction, and multiplication to bath towels with the states, dinosaurs or the periodic chart of the elements.

Part of the concept of the company is to use the same tools as McDonalds or Coca Cola, but to put them in the hands of parents. Those companies spend millions on advertising, in part, due to something called the exposure effect. The exposure effect (also known as the mere exposure effect) is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. Why not use that concept to make kids like geometry, the works of Monet or the basic principles of gravity by regular exposure during the day?
Similarly, many sites on education stress the need for repetition in learning. In an article about learning:
Repetition reinforces a student's understanding of learned information. Even students with extremely high aptitude will find it difficult to learn from presentations made only once. Depending upon the frequency and duration of each training session, entire sessions should, at times, be devoted to reviewing what students should already know.

And if you think back to learning your multiplication tables, this makes sense. Many things need lots of repetition and reinforcement in the learning process, and why not make the house or car time a part of that?
Another benefit of surrounding kids with learning tools is the concept of subliminal learning. A 2008 article in Science Daily discussed this idea in an article on subliminal learning. Research showed that images shown to participants led to learning without the conscious processing of contextual cues.

“Although the idea that instrumental learning can occur subconsciously has been around for nearly a century, it had not been unequivocally demonstrated. Now, a new study published by Cell Press in the August 28 issue of the journal Neuron used sophisticated perceptual masking, computational modeling, and neuroimaging to show that instrumental learning can occur in the human brain without conscious processing of contextual cues.”

The concept behind the Curiosity Cottage could be expanded in time to adults. According to a 2007 New York Times article, Americans see 5000 ads a day!

And if advertising is essentially a way to get a person to feel they need to buy a ABC product to make them happy or that without XYZ product they are somehow lacking, unfulfilled or not quite up to par, that's a lot of heavy duty subconscious programming. By using the same concept, but turning it on its head, so that in your own home, you are SURROUNDED by positive messages whether from Emerson, Lincoln, Plato, Aristotle or Descartes, particular messages that you chose for yourself, rather than a group of marketers, it seems this would help balance things out a bit.
And if that sounds a bit new age, there are adults as well as children out there who are learning all sorts of new languages in this global marketplace who might learn from all things Spanish (plates, dishtowels, towels, etc) or all things German, French or Italian. Or the budding scientist who would be well served by a room of all things science or all things marine life.

And for the adult or child who is trying to improve his or her cultural literacy, what about the great works of art? If a child or adult went to sleep with a quilt showing 20 of the greatest works of Monet or Picasso or Renoir, would this also provide a bit of visual education and sense of well being?

Additional ideas, whether for a moving nightlight or other products could include the following:

planets, dinosaurs, alphabet, numbers, multiplication tables, presidents, shapes, Spanish, French, German - basic nouns or verbs with pictures, famous women in history, land forms, shapes of states, parts of atoms, types of rocks, types of birds, types of asteroids, invertebrates, parts of the body, fractions, volcanoes, public service workers - police, firefighters, nurses, historical time lines (westward expansion, Civil War, Revolutionary War, Incas, Mayans, Aztecs), nutrition, parts of the cell, parts of the brain, mini-pictorial biographies or Lincoln or Washington, weather patterns, sports, mammals, various nursery rhymes, Monet's or Renoir's mini-paintings, parts of plant.

The Curiosity Cottage has a three stage development plan. The company’s first stage is to create an on-line marketplace of dual use household items that educate children ages two through 12, including the areas of languages, math, science, literature, reading, space, letters, numbers, and art . The company’s second stage is to expand into this marketplace by developing its own line of dual use items. The third stage is to expand the marketplace to adult consumers and positive thinking materials.

Day 337 - Nightly Roundup

1. Happy marriage - Check.

2. Enjoy and nurture kids - Set the timer for several 20 to 30 minute periods today where I completely focused on playing with the kids and didn't check emails, fold laundry or even pick up candy wrappers. After the bell would go off, the kids were usually content to have me get some work done and play independently.

3. Found and build an educational products company based on dual use items. Two big milestones - application done and name chosen.

4. Have the Frugal Millioniaress published in 2010. - Will have to be the blog for today as practice writing.

5. Complete the fours sides and center of the big back garden into a groomed, beautiful bird sanctuary. - Brought in about 15 clay pots to winter over in the garage.

6. Be and feel healthy and beautiful. - 30 minutes of cardio.

7. Achieve FI 2010 - Didn't spend a penny today! Yahoo!!

8. Spirit/catchall - Give and experience joy, be in the moment, laugh at least 20 times a day. Will read a bit more of the Power of Now tonight.

9. Create a beautiful, organized home that adds happiness to our lives. - Spent about five minutes on our closet and it's showing some progress.

10. Have a solid understanding of business by having an extensive business vocabulary. - FCC, equal time, exposure, eye tracking.

Phobophobia and Nike!

Often the test of courage is not to die, but to live. -Vittorio Alfieri

When I was a summer associate at a large law firm in Chicago, I was a basket case of stress and stomach cramps, a nervous Nellie in my peach wool suit from the time I boarded the diesel spewing 151 bus each morning until it delivered me back to 2930 North Sheridan Road each night.

I was on tenterhooks that I was missing some important case when writing a brief, some case that would entirely disprove everything I had just written. I LOATHED all the social stuff. Small talk with partners at "summer associate events" and lunches to "see how the summer was coming," were surefire opportunities to make a schmuck of myself, not know which silverware to use in a multi-course meal or saying the wrong thing. I was afraid at some level of being found out as not quite up to the task, a mistake in their hiring system, a fraud.

I wondered if this fear of screwing up was just mine. The other summer associates seemed so confident in comparison. I had as my mentor, a truly wonderful litigation partner, who was in her mid-forties. We sat down to chat and I noticed the pictures of one-year-old twins on her desk. As I knew she worked 80 hour weeks, I asked her about this and she acknowledged it was a tough balance. Then I asked her more directly when the fear of blundering went away and she answered, without blinking, much of it goes away in about ten years. Ten years!! I didn't see my own personal psyche handling these day to day anxieties for a decade. I was afraid of being afraid for so long and there is an actual term for this, phobophobia (the fear of being afraid).

And I copped out at the end of the summer. Rather than see if I would get an offer for a job, I feared beyond words not getting one. Somehow, not getting an offer would be my own scarlet letter forever branding me a failure. So I wrote the firm a letter saying I had decided not to pursue a career in law and sent it the last day of the summer program. This was not exactly the thing to do. You were to wait and get the letter and then could choose to politely refuse or accept if offered a job or suffer in silence if you didn't. But I was unwilling to "not be asked out" so I said no first.

Looking back I cringe a bit when I think of the hiring partner who took a chance on me. To be hired, you were to have been in the top ten percent of your class, and I was in the top fifteen. But I had the extra degree in journalism, and a strong interview, made possible by the law school's placement services and their video taped practices. At the time I was writing my letter, I hadn't thought about the fact he went out on a limb a bit for me and my letter might make him less apt to take a risk on someone else out of the exact hiring parameters in the future. Fear doesn't make you real sensitive to the others' situations.

Twenty years later, I have seen that everyone has some fears. My friends include a trademark attorney, a patent attorney, several stay-at-home moms, a CFO, a doctor, and others. And each has admitted there are times they simply don't know the answer and they just have to go with their gut and hope for the best. The moms hope they don't screw up their kids and the others fear being sued or losing their jobs. My brother, who took over the family business, admits he sometimes worries he's going to run the place into the ground, despite working 12 hours a day and having been in the concrete business since he was about eight years old.

Somewhere along the way, I realized my professors at Stanford and my husband's clients, including many multi-millionaires, still fear screwing up, losing face or money or being proved wrong. One recently had his company written up in a scathing review that will take some time to recover from.

But here's the thing. These people all felt and still feel the fear, BUT THEY DO IT ANYWAY! And that's why they are able to raise a family or a million dollars from venture investors. One of the successful entrepreneurs said his greatest fear was his company failing and not being able to pay back investors, which included friends and family.

So Nike and I are both saying, "Just Do It!" That's my message to myself and to those of you starting a business or writing a book or starting in on any other big goal this year. Yes you may fail, you probably will at least for awhile. You may even look the occasional buffoon. People around you may tell you your idea is crazy, but what the heck. Don't let stage fright, skittishness, qualms, heebie-jeebies or nerves keep you from taking chances. So what if you look a little foolish at points? You will be out there living.

And the simple straight-out fact is we will all, in time, hear the death rattle. That's not negotiable. While I suppose it is conceivable as your hearse goes rolling down the road someone could be snickering, "Oh my GAWD did you hear about when she......" it won't matter. Your body will be safely cocooned in a silk cushioned coffin or a beautiful jar of ashes and your spirit (newly nick-named by the angels "The Lionhearted") passing onto the other side will at long last be impervious to such whisperings. You will just smile and wink, and in the puff of wind whipping around the funeral attendees, you'll be hallooing, "That's nothin' baby, you won't believe what my next big plan is...."

Best wishes! Eileen