happiness

This HeSo is now 30 years old!!!

Here’s what I thought being 30 would look like over the years:

  • When I was 10, I thought I would be a veterinarian and have 4 daughters named Cornelia, Caitlin, Catrina, and Cordelia.
  • When I was 20. I thought I would be running an international non-profit and have two kids names Charley Bell, and Tristan.
  • When I was 25, I thought I would have published at least two books and have one child.

Picture-14

I love picturing my future and coming up with goals, but I think it’s important to constantly reevaluate my path. Here’s how I’m picturing my new 30.

  • Host more¬†amazing writers conferences! (I’m working out the plans for the fall conference already)
  • Get a literary agent.
  • Determine what to do with Brutal First Impressions. (Is this something I want to keep doing or do I want to invest that energy into my writing and other ideas?)

And who knows, maybe this list will change tomorrow. It’s my birthday and I can do anything I want ūüėõ

How can you not lover her???

This baby’s now 30

Ooh La La! An Interview with Jamie Cat Callan

I’m so excited to read Jamie Cat Callan’s new book,¬†Ooh La La!: French Women’s Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day. I loved the lighthearted advice of her book,¬†Bonjour, Happiness!, and the interesting cultural comparisons of ¬†French Women Don’t Sleep Alone: Pleasurable Secrets to Finding Love. I also recommend¬†The Writer’s Toolbox¬†to any writer, or person who aspires to be more creative.

Jamie took some time out of her busy book tour to answer a few questions for us! Jouir de:

When did your love and admiration of all things French begin?

I grew up spending my summers with my French-American grandmother.  She lived simply, without a lot of material goods, but she knew how to enjoy life.  She was elegant, beautiful, and possessed a whole lot of joie de vivre.

What is the biggest difference you notice between American and French women?

The second wave feminist movement played out much differently in France than in America. As a result, Americans inherited a kind of divisiveness between men and women.  We interpreted equality as sameness.  France believes in the power of the difference between men and women. 

Also, France‚Äôs economy is dependent on the culture of women‚ÄĒbeauty, fashion, and perfume supports so many people in France.¬† It can‚Äôt be taken lightly.¬† Women‚Äôs interest in fashion and beauty is serious business, because it supports hundreds of thousands of people.¬† In America, our industry is about finances, Wall Street and heavy industry.¬† So you see, we‚Äôre not as financially connected to beauty‚ÄĒbut I wish we were!¬†¬†

Jamie, in the middle, interviewing some French women.

In this day in age, when people are worried about the economy and international affairs, why should women concern themselves with their beauty and affect?

Okay, this may sound naive, but I believe that attention to beauty and elegance can actually save our economy and prevent wars.¬† First, if we understand where true beauty comes from‚ÄĒour hearts‚ÄĒthere‚Äôs no need to spend a lot of money.¬† I can attest to this because my French grandmother lived through the Great Depression, sewing her own clothes, gardening and cutting back on luxuries.¬† She lived well with very little.¬† This is the French way.¬†

In terms of the threat of war‚ÄĒwell, there will always be the threat of war.¬† That said, what is the point of protecting our countries, our lives, our way of living if not so that we can appreciate the tenderness of simple everyday pleasures, and yes beauty.¬†

I believe that beauty can actually prevent wars.  If we recognize the importance of beauty in our lives, then we will not want to destroy other beautiful things.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Always.  I wrote stories, poems and songs for my family when I was a little girl.  I loved to hear stories.  So, I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer!

What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Write.  Write.  And write some more.  Write on a regular basis and try to create a space that is special to you and your writing practice.  I believe the muse likes to visit you when you show up regularly and honor the space with your words, your thoughts, and  your dreams.  And then aside from writing, I suggest, daydreaming.  Your inner life and your powers of observations are important tools of the trade.

Finally, believe in yourself.¬† Keep the faith.¬† No matter what you‚Äôre doing‚ÄĒfrom washing dishes to working at Kinko‚Äôs, don‚Äôt forget you‚Äôre a writer and all this is your material, your paint box, your brushes and your canvas.

Describe your perfect day in France.

Ah, is there such a thing as a less-than-perfect day in France?¬† Okay, well, if we‚Äôre talking about just one perfect day–I would spend much of it¬† sitting in a caf√© in Paris, watching the world go by.¬† I would walk through the Tuileries, all the way from Concord to the Louvre.¬† I would walk along the Seine and cross the Pont des Arts, to see all the bicycle locks that the lovers have left.¬† Perhaps I‚Äôd even have a little picnic on the bridge.¬† Oh, but I‚Äôd want to walk along the Seine and up to Notre Dame.¬† And then I‚Äôd walk around the Left Bank and visit the places¬† Hemingway and Fitzgerald frequented‚ÄĒCaf√© Deux Magots and Harry‚Äôs Bar on the Right Bank.¬†

 

Speaking of the Right Bank, I would stop by Chanel and pay homage to the Grand Dame of modern fashion.  From there, I would walk a few blocks to Ladurée and perhaps indulge in a macaron or two.  Later, I would go to the market in Belleville and buy some fresh flowers and do a bit of people-watching.  Finally, I would have dinner at Café de l’Homme, where I’d get a table on the terrace, so I could watch the Eiffel Tower lit up against the Paris sky and I would drink champagne! 

Sounds like a perfect day to me. Merci¬†beaucoup! I can’t wait to read your new book, and start infusing my life with more beauty and joie de vivre.

Financial advice everyone in their 20s should know

Hopefully you’ve all finished filing your taxes, but while your mind is still on money I thought I’d go over a few basic money tips that everyone in their 20s should know.

1. Invest in your retirement

A Retired Couple From California Stop to Fish ...

(Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)

It might seem like you’re too young to be thinking about your retirement but now’s the time you should start putting away money. Every month that you don’t put money away for retirement is like another month you’re stealing from an older version of yourself (a version that is too old to go out and work an extra shift like you can). Set up a plan that takes $100 out of your paycheck each month. If you invest in a plan that has an annual interest rate of 7% that $100 will be worth $800 by the time you retire. What would you have spent that $100 on today? Drinks, clothes, concert? What would you spend that $800 on when you’re 79? Medicine, food, clothing? Once you get comfortable putting aside $100 a month, make a goal of doubling that amount each year.

It’s never going to be easier to be poor. You’re young, you can get away with eating rice and beans every night, you can wear crappy clothes, you can live in a crappy apartment. As you get older, and maybe start a family, the expenses are going to rise. So the next time you consider buying $12 martinis or $100 jeans, think of that feeble, sweet version of yourself, and give him/her the money instead.

I use Vanguard to invest in a Roth IRA because the fees are some of the lowest in the industry and they have good research. Read this if the different IRAs confuse you. If your office matches your investment, you need to invest the maximum amount. That’s free money and you’d be stupid not to take it!

The general rule for investing is when you’re young pick high risk stocks and bonds. In your forties, switch to moderate risk, and switch to low risk investments 10 years before you plan to retire. You can use Bankrate’s calculator to figure out how much you need to put aside to reach your retirement goal.

There are only two excuses for not investing in your retirement: You’re flat broke, or you want to invest that money in career development. The latter is an excellent reason because it will help you make more money in the long run. Just make sure you up your monthly retirement payments when you start making more money.

2. Start building your credit score now

Factors contributing to someone's credit score...

Factors contributing to someone’s credit score, for Credit score (United States). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you ever plan to buy something expensive in the future, start building your credit score now. Here’s what I didn’t know about credit scores: it’s not a measurement of how good you are at saving and spending responsibly, it’s a measurement of how good you are at handling debt. ¬†I was¬†using a debit card for years because I didn’t want to get in the habit of spending money I didn’t have, and then I learned that I didn’t have a credit score.

You really want to keep your score above 750. You can use CreditKarma¬†to find out your score for free. I wouldn’t pay to find out my score even if they have catchy songs in their¬†commercials.

Here’s why it’s so important to keep your score high. Let’s say you want to take out a mortgage for $200k. If your credit score is higher than 750, you could get an interest rate of 3.08%. If your score is 630 you might get an interest rate of 4.67%. That might not seem like a big difference, but that higher interest rate will add $70k to your overall payments. It can mean a monthly payment of $852 or $1,034. You can go to My FICO to see other¬†scenarios.

English: Suze Orman addressing a Senate Committee.

English: Suze Orman addressing a Senate Committee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Always pay at least the minimum balance on your credit card. Putting the utility bills and phone contract under your name will help your score, but again you have to pay everything on time. The more credit cards the better, but this can be tricky. It’s harder to keep track of all those balances, and also if they close one of those cards down because you’re not using it, it will end up hurting your score. Also the more times they check your score the more it hurts it, so make sure that if you’re applying for something, you’re¬†guaranteed¬†to get it. Auto loans and student loans help too. Basically if you can pay off a debt in little chunks and meet every deadline your credit score will be good. Read anything by Suze Orman if you want more info.

3. Don’t spend money to save

This seems like a no-brainer, but I fall into this trap all the time. I just spent hundreds of dollars at the container store to organize our storage closet. After everything had its perfect compartmentalized space, I realized that those drawers were filled with junk that I didn’t need. I would have been far better off going through everything first and donating what I didn’t need.

Another time, I was looking to buy a bookcase because our books wouldn’t fit in the three bookshelves we already have. And then I had the brilliant idea of actually looking through all the books we have and getting rid of the ones I didn’t treasure dearly. Now someone else gets to read that Jodi Picoult book I hated, and I don’t have to spend money to keep it in a new bookshelf.

If you’re spending money on a storage unit, or organizers, or on a larger apartment to house all of your stuff, really start to consider if you need all that. If you itemize everything on a receipt, and donate it to the Salvation Army you can get a tax write-off and then you’ll really be saving money.

4. Nothing is free

Sprint Nextel logo

Sprint Nextel logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m always surprised when people expect a free phone for a long-term contract. One of my friend was signing up for sprint at the same time I got Virgin Mobile. She didn’t want to do virgin mobile because she would have to pay $300 for the phone and with Sprint it would be free. This was two years ago. On the Sprint plan she’s paying $60 a month for unlimited text and data. I pay $30 for the same plan (and Virgin uses the exact same service so it’s the same quality). That free phone ended up costing her $1,440 for service over 2 years. Sure I had to pay $300 upfront, but I’ve only paid $720 for the same service. Even when you include the price of the phone, I still saved $420.

When you are offered something free, always do the calculations first. Oftentimes it makes sense to pay up front.

I know all this money talk doesn’t seem to line up with the values of the HeSo project, but it¬†truly¬†does. I see money as the one thing that gives you security and freedom at the same time. Being in denial about your finances causes shame, self-doubt and fear, and if it gets bad enough, you will eventually become dependent on someone else. The sooner you gain control over your money the sooner you will gain control of your life! Making a budget helps you decide what’s really important to you.

The greatest thing that ever happened to me

Have you ever held the most adorable baby in the world? Touched its perfect chubby cheeks? Played with its impossibly tiny toes? What do you feel when you see something so innocent and beautiful? You want to protect it, love it, you want the best for it. You imagine all the amazing things that child will grow up to be. This child doesn’t need to do anything in order to warrant your love – its pure existence is magnificent.

(photo credit: Ghastlydoor.com)

Now imagine seeing yourself as that perfect little baby. How would you treat yourself differently if you could remember how innocent and beautiful you are? We’ve all seen that image of a woman holding her baby right after giving birth – imagine loving yourself with that same intensity.

Now imagine thinking of everyone that way. Wouldn’t it be easier to forgive those who hurt you? Wouldn’t it be easier to make decisions based on love and¬†excitement¬†rather than anger, greed, competition, or spite? Wouldn’t it be easier to open yourself up to new relationships?

This is just one of the ways I see the world differently after taking the The Living Course. I’ve written about this many times before, and I’m going to keep talking about it because it’s something that is so beautiful and profound that it’s depressing to think not everyone will get to experience it. I took this 30 hour intensive course 5 years ago, and I’ve assisted 7 times since then. It only takes one weekend, and I love assisting because I get to watch people completely transform in a matter of hours. This is not a course for people who need to be fixed (although it will help), this is a course for successful people who want to live up to their full potential.

(photo credit: alexxstuart.com)

I’ve told everyone I love about this course (ad nauseum) because to not do so would be the most selfish act in my eyes. How can I tell someone they have to try an amazing brand of ice cream but not tell them about a course that will leave them happier and more empowered? My supreme wish is that you, my beloved reader, will take an insane risk and sign up for the next course. It runs from Feb. 8-10 and it’s in White Plains, NY. This is not something you can talk yourself into doing – you just need to take a leap of faith. So far 10 of my friends have taken the course and the one thing they always say is, “Why did I wait so long to take this course?”

Will this be the moment you decide to live your best possible life? Sign up now!

P.S. I AM IN NO MEANS GETTING COMPENSATION FOR MY ENDORSEMENT.

Here are some other posts I wrote about this course:

An interview with Massoud Adibpour, founder of Make DC Smile

I’m so lucky to have amazing friends, like Sarah Shores, to introduce me to the amazing people in their lives. Sarah called me up and told me I had to tell my readers about Massoud Adibpour. I could not agree more. Massoud started Make DC Smile only a few months ago, and it’s already received lots of press coverage, and more and more people are joining.

What is Make DC smile?

Make DC Smile is a movement with hopes of getting people to smile. Whether it be holding up poster-size signs with positive messages during rush-hour traffic on Monday morning, or posting positive signs around town. We’re hoping people will stop and think a little differently about their day when seeing some of our positive messages, even if it’s just for five seconds.

 
When did you start it and what was the impetus?
The project started in February 2012.  I saw this sign on tumblr, which I thought was brilliant because it was completely different than any other tear-away post I had seen in the city.  I created my own copy to start off the project, posted it in my neighborhood and noticed that people were tearing away the words, which made me realize that maybe people needed more positivity in their lives than I imagined. I put them up every few days or weeks, but each time I would go out, I would include a new batch of different signs such as:
“Today is Awesome.”
“Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”
“Make Today Count”
“Smile”
“When was the last time you did something for the first time”
¬†I started to make copies of the signs at work because I didn’t have a printer at home. ¬†One day I accidentally left a copy of some signs on the copy machine and my co-worker found them and asked me why I was printing out so many positive signs, which led to my explanation on what the signs were all about. ¬†She encouraged me to add an email address so people could contact me, but I was hesitant since I wanted the project to be¬†anonymous. ¬†I felt that posting these signs up¬†anonymously¬†would have a greater impact if people had no idea who created the signs.¬†
I gave in, and created a new email account and put the addresses on the back of a¬†“Take What You Need” tear away sign. ¬†I told myself that If I didn’t receive any feedback from that one post, then I would continue posting signs anonymously. ¬†Late at night I placed the lone flyer at an intersection outside of my house. The next day I went to work and checked my email to see one message. ¬†It was from a 13 year old girl who said that the tear away post made her day while walking to school and that the people in DC needed more signs like the one she saw. ¬†I saw her email as a sign to continue the project, so I continued to include the email address on all the signs. ¬†Before you know it I started getting lots of encouraging and positive emails from complete strangers. ¬†
 
This was one of the things on your bucket list (which he carries in his wallet at all times). How long do you plan to do this, and will you move on after a certain point?
There isn’t a defined end for this project. ¬†I’ll keep doing this as long as I have the opportunity to discuss and share the movement with students. ¬†A teacher from¬†Freedom High School in Woodbridge, Virginia¬†reached out to me once The Washington Post article was published. ¬†A few others who are involved with the project and myself held signs with the students in front of their school, discussed the movement, and in the end, they truly inspired me and made me realize that this project was much bigger than I ever imagined. ¬†It was easily one of the most rewarding days in my entire life. ¬†The icing on the cake was that the students have since committed themselves to holding up positive signs in front of their school during the first Monday of each month for the entire school year!
We’re currently building the website makeDCsmile.com. ¬†The site will allow anyone to download signs from their home and to spread the positivity in their home, workspace, community and anywhere else others can benefit from the message. ¬†Signs will be available in a number of different languages so we can reach people in all parts of the world. In addition, the site will explain how the movement started, ways that others can get involved ¬†and allow photo submissions from users to be posted on our site. Just last night I started up a tumblr & twitter page so we can reach out to people using different social media platforms.
 
Is this your full-time job? How do you pay your bills?
The short answer is, no, but at times it feels like a full-time job. ¬†Lots of time is spent on reaching out to people, responding to emails, updating the Facebook page and other social media, making new signs/posters and also dreaming big to come up with new ideas on how we can promote positivity in the area. ¬†It’s something I’m passionate about, so I’ll spend as much time as needed to get this movement up and running in all parts of the nation, and eventually the world.
I work full-time as the director of contracts and as a concert promoter at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC.
 
What is the funniest reaction someone has had to Make DC smile?
My friend, Maggie, was holding the “HONK if you love someone” sign and a guy driving on the other side of the road slowed down and said “I love¬†YOU“. ¬†It definitely put a smile on everyone’s face that morning.
 
What do you get out of doing this?
Positivity is infectious. The joy of seeing people have a positive start to their work week undoubtedly brings a smile to my own face. ¬†When you see commuters with a serious look on their face, then do a double take and slowly change their blank stare into a smile is evidence that something this simple can change the way people think. ¬†I have no idea what they’re thinking inside, but if I can get someone who was having a bad morning take their mind off of something bad for a few seconds, then mission accomplished. ¬†I used to hate getting up early during the first day of a work week, but for the first time in my life, I actually look forward to Monday mornings, which says a lot.
 
What were your friends and family’s reaction when you first told them your idea?
It wasn’t well received because the initial idea is crazy when you explain that you plan on holding up signs at a busy intersection on a Monday morning. ¬† Asking my friends to help out wasn’t an easy task, but once we went out our first time to hold signs, we quickly realized that we’d be back the following week.
My friends and family are happy to see how far the project has progressed and that’s led to a big part of the success with this project because their support means more to me than they will ever imagine.
 
You do so much for strangers. What is one thing a stranger could do for you that would absolutely make your day?
I see too many blank stares everyday when I’m walking down the street, so a stranger who greets me with a smile would make my day!
 
You’ve gotten a lot of your friends involved. How important is it to do this as a team?
Having my friends involved in this project is a big reason why this project is where it is today. ¬†Without their help or support, this project would be nothing. ¬†I would have never gone out the first week of holding signs if my friends weren’t there by my side.
 
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I’ve received a lot of great advice from a number of people, but the one that sticks with me right now is, “Why not?” ¬†It sounds cheesy, but whenever I have an inkling of doubt in my mind when making a decision, I just ask myself, why not? ¬†By asking myself this I think things through instead of making a rash decision.
If you’re interested in spreading some joy in your community, don’t hesitate to contact Massoud at MakeDCSMile@gmail.com . How awesome would it be to have people championing happiness in every city. And don’t forget to connect to him through his ¬†tumblr,¬†twitter¬†and¬†¬†Facebook page!

To dream the impossible dream

I’m a little speechless after watching this video, so please forgive me for not giving you much of an introduction. I just warn you, watch this in a place where it’s ok to cry. Thank you to Daily Dose of Noor for bringing this video to my attention.

Wow another 2 day deal!

I’m all about discounts, and here’s one that’s priceless.

I talk a lot about The Living Course (TLC) because it had a huge impact on my life. In three days you’ll gain a whole new¬†perspective¬†of your life. It’s challenging, eye-opening, and most importantly, empowering. This is not a course to take when you feel like your life is a mess. This course is for intelligent,¬†competent¬†people who feel like their life can be better.

When I first heard about it, I thought it sounded ridiculous. I went to art school where self-reflection is a part of the curriculum. I knew what my problems were, but I also knew that there was no way I was going to solve them in 3 days. And the course was so expensive (almost $800!).

By the time I left, I knew exactly what I needed to do to make myself truly happy. The problems I thought I had seemed so superficial – they were all just symptoms of much deeper problems that I never recognized until I took the course. I look at all the changes in my life since the course, and I can’t believe I ever thought that I wasn’t worth $800. I would pay that on a professional development course, so why not on a personal development course? YOU ARE WORTH IT!

Since I took the¬†course (almost 5 years ago), I’ve assisted with 6 more courses. I’m still surprised by how it works with so many different people. I’ve seen brain surgeons, unemployed actors, housewives, principals, stockbrokers, you name it, they’ve all taken the course and they’ve all said that they wish they took it sooner.

If you live in the New York area, even if you live hours away, TAKE THE COURSE! If you sign up by tomorrow you can save $95! The course runs from Oct. 12-14 and it’s in White Plains.

Don’t over think it. If any part of you says this sounds interesting, sign up immediately, or else you’ll talk yourself out of it. Don’t let fear stop you from living your best life. SIGN UP TODAY!

I do not work for TLC, I don’t get paid to do this. My only reward is watching people change their lives, and knowing that I had just the tiniest part of it!

Just say no

I used to have a costly addiction. It started in college and it only got worse as I grew older. I, Tracy, am addicted to cosmetics.

I used to spend about $40 a month on beauty products. I had boxes full of half used curling gels,¬†unopened¬†¬†blush compacts, lotions, hair dye (I don’t even dye my hair) and every scent of shampoo and conditioner. I used to get bruises from showering because there were so many bottles and I couldn’t help but knock them down on myself. I was afraid to open the cabinet under my sink for fear of the inevitable, forgotten cosmetics¬†avalanche.

When I quit my job over a year ago I decided to look at my credit card bills and see where I could curb my spending. It was easy to see that my CVS (Duane Reade/ Rite Aide/ cosmetics aisle of the supermarket) obsession had to go.

I knew at the core of this problem was a deep down feeling that I wasn’t good enough.¬†If I could just find the right anti-frizz¬†serum my hair will be perfect and then I will be perfect. If I can just find the right shade of lipstick I will have the grace and confidence of a cover girl. All I need is the right¬†deodorant¬†and then…But there was always something that needed to be fixed and it was easier to think that I could buy a solution rather than admit that I had a problem.

I had to¬†accept¬†that a¬†new and improved product wouldn’t make me new and improved. I’m perfect just the way I am – hair frizz and all. So I decided that I wouldn’t buy a single new cosmetic product until I ran out of everything I already had. A year later, and I’m not even close to finishing everything.

Here are some of the positives of my hiatus from the cosmetics aisle:

One day the only things that will clutter my bathroom will be the wine and candles.

1) I’ve saved about $500 a year.

2) My skin is better because I’m not irritating it with so many different chemicals.

3) I feel more confident because I know that I don’t need all that extra junk.

4) My bathroom is more organized.

5) Now I can read a makeup ad and laugh at it rather than think I need that new shade of “lip butter.”

Do you have any embarrassing addictions? Any success stories about curbing your addictions? I’d love to hear about them!

My One Year Anniversary of Blogging!

 

Wow it seems like yesterday when Mike was suggesting I should start a blog, and I agreed to try it for a month (just to get him to stop suggesting it). I’ve never been able to keep a journal or diary for longer than a week so I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve kept up with the HeSo Project for a year!

I know you’re dying to reread all my posts from the last year, but you’re super busy. So I’ve done the hard work and picked out 10 of my favorite posts for you peruse:

Commitment:

I wrote this in my second month of blogging when I was considering giving it up. I’m glad I was honest about how hard it was to continue writing because all my favorite posts were written after this post and it helps me remember that there are always hurdles in the beginning.

The Power of Vulnerability:

I watched this video about 10 times. It was so motivating.

A Lesson from my Dad:

Simple yet so true.

Top 10 Most Amazing Places #8: Nicaragua

This was an example of how blogs make the world a smaller place. After writing this post someone contacted me to let me know she had just visited the same village I wrote about and the people there still talk about us!

Three Reasons Why my Body is Smarter than my Brain:

I’m still running every other day, and I’m still reminding myself of these rules.

Disposable Creativity:

I meet with a group of women twice a month to reflect on the Artist’s Way process. It’s truly a fantastic guide for anyone who wants more out of life.

All You Ever Need to Know:

This is perhaps my favorite post of all. I wish everyone would try this.

The Roller Coaster of Making a Prototype:

I love looking back on my entrepreneurship days. I was so motivated РI even motivate myself.

Blessings in disguise:

Rereading this post reminded me of how crazy I was to ever think about buying a house.

The Challenge Day:

I forgot what an incredible program this was.

And as an encore:

Flamenco Changed my Life