4.15.2014

If You've Hot-Glued Anything in the Name of Easter, Please Don't Read This Post

Easter Craft
This morning, while taking a break from catching up on the 976 things I didn't do while I was on Spring Break, I hopped (getting the Easter reference there?) onto Feedly to peruse some of my favorite blogs. I have an important takeaway to share:

In the blogosphere there is significant pressure to do a bunch of crafty, awesome stuff and then photograph it in soft lighting before posting with 18 simple steps so you, too, can do something crafty-awesome. 

Are these people for real?

Y'all, there are people right now making moss-covered eggs and attaching them to floral sprigs so their Sunday brunch will look appropriately spring-like and Easterish, and I'm just trying to decide if it's inappropriate to put concert tickets in my kids' baskets. (Last year we put bikinis in their baskets, so I'm not sure why I feel conflicted. I think once you've given lycra for Easter, you've passed the point of any respectable return.)

Don't get me wrong ... I love nicely arranged, tasty food. I love to sew, and enjoy whipping up throw pillows, or window treatments, and even occasionally a baby gift or some such. I have what could be considered a mildly obsessive connection to my label maker, and very much enjoy creating order from chaos in a closet or drawer, then gently bullying my family into following my newly labeled system for world domination. Or junk drawer domination. Whatever.

I'm just saying, if you're ever in a downhill spiral of "who the hell has time to DO all this cute crafty stuff?" and you're pressuring yourself to knit your dog a sweater because CHRISTMAS IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER I BETTER START FREEZING COOKIE MIX RIGHT NOW, I want you stop by right here at the Amy Mac blog where you can relax, knowing you may leave here confused ... but will never, ever leave feeling the need to organize anything, clean or paint anything. Or hot-glue moss to anything, heaven forbid.

So now the question becomes: if my daughters receive concert tickets for Easter, are they then required to wear bunny ears to said concert? I say yes, then I will post the photos here as my craft for the year 2014.

Whew -- I feel a sense of accomplishment already.

XO--
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3.18.2014

If the Saying Were "The Early Bird Gets the Tory Burch Sandals," More People Would Actually Want to Wake Up Early


So I started one of those awful group texts this morning about getting kids hither-and-to, and it pinged around until finally someone said "this is an awful lot of planning before 8 a.m." and someone replied "the early bird catches the worm!" (For the record, I only started a text that early because I knew all parties involved were already awake. Unless, of course, they were sick or sleeping in, in which case I feel terrible and apologize.)

You would think the entire situation would have sent me back on my tangent about the evils of group texts and reply alls, but in fact it sent me down a completely different yet equally compelling path:

Why would anyone, ever, think "catching a worm" would incentivize human beings to wake up early? Yes, I understand the point is if you get the first crack at something because the normal folks are sleeping you're more likely to get what you want, especially if it's in limited supply. I also grasp it's a phrase from way-back-when (though I doubt even Englishmen in the 1600s were super-interested in consuming worms as a reward for awakening before dawn), but people today need better encouragement. Us modern-day earthlings have higher expectations. Let's blame that on electricity and Google for now, but in the meantime I have a few proposed alternatives. What if ...


  • "The early bird gets candy or cash -- user choice."
  • "The early bird gets a pedicure replete with lavender-scented salts."
  • "The early bird gets to eat nachos whenever they want with no weight gain whatsoever."
  • "The early bird gets their all their household laundry done by someone else."
  • "The early bird gets a cute pair of Tory Burch sandals" (see above: pedicure.)
  • "The early bird gets clear answers on what the hell happened to that Malaysian Airlines plane, because certain birds take issue with airplanes that vanish with 200+ people on board 'probably' over an ocean with a depth of 15,000 feet, give or take."
  • "The early bird gets a portable, personal PA system to holler at people doing stupid stuff on the roads/at various athletic events/from the den at family members when the bird is bored" (something I've been asking for for YEARS, yet never seem to get for my birthday. Or Christmas. Or Any Holiday. I feel under-appreciated.)
Per the usual, there is no moral to this story except to say in my mind early risers are weird and probably like eating worms, and until someone rewrites this little proverb with the end-user in mind ...

I'm sleeping in.

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2.24.2014

Five Percent


I'm 100 percent certain that though this tree is only 5 percent of my yard, the blooms and the blue sky are excellent indicators spring is around the corner ... and that makes me 1000 percent happy.

You know how you have conversations that impart wisdom that sticks with you over time? A couple of years ago, one of my youngsters wanted to be moved down a level in one of her classes. She maintained the coursework was too difficult, I maintained she was capable and looking for a way to decrease homework time in order to increase social time. So I called in her teacher to act as a referee.

We shared our opposing viewpoints, the teacher agreed with me, therefore confirming I am always right. The end.

Kidding! No really, here's what he said:

"With just a tiny bit more effort, and I mean like 5 percent more, you can go from being a solid student to being the top student in all your classes."

{Sidebar: why is it educators tend to be so wise? Seriously, so many of the conversations that resonate with me come from teachers. Does having to wrangle a mass of children daily, plus deal with crazy parents, plus adhere to government-mandated educational standards put in place by non-educators make them smarter than the rest of us? Is it something they train them for in college, like "Educator Wisdom 101," or are they born with it?}

The reason this 5 percent more concept sticks with me is because so often we hear of a person's success as a result of doing something insane. You know, exercising for 12 hours a day while consuming only kale smoothies and BAM losing 30 pounds. Or of a former janitor becoming a best-selling author by getting up a 3 a.m. and writing every day before heading out to sweep floors. Or really anything where the vast majority of us would say "good for them, but that sounds like non-stop misery and I KNOW MY LIMITATIONS."

But 5 percent is tiny. It's doable. It's like half an hour or less per day. And statistically speaking, it's small changes made consistently that create a snowball effect for other, more significant changes. (If you haven't read the book The Power of Habit, I highly recommend it. It's where I found this tidbit of information, along with other fascinating insights on how habits -- good and bad -- impact our lives.)

Now whenever I catch myself checking my phone unnecessarily, or zoning out in front of the TV, or whining about being exhausted, I just think "5 percent." Because if I have to pick starting a big project at 8 p.m. or watching Downton Abbey, those crazy Crawleys win every time. But if I just need to spend 15 minutes on a task, I know the sense of accomplishment from disciplining myself to "do something" versus "watch something" will be huge. And that I will feel less guilty when I do finally sit down to see what's up with Lady Mary and the rest of that British bunch. (For those of you that watch, Bates is starting to really creep me out.)

Now, when one of my kids hits that wall -- whether it's with studying, practicing for their sport, or cleaning their room -- I try to remind them "c'mon -- 5 percent." Because it turns out doing 5 percent more is 100 percent rewarding.

Turns out the teacher is almost always right.

XO--
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2.20.2014

Back to Work Blog Series: The Secrets to an Attention-Grabbing Resume

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Welcome back to the Amy Mac Blog Series Back to Work: Everything You Need to Know to Get Back in Business — a playbook of strategies to dust off your skills, your resume and your moxie as you change careers, launch a business, or head from the mom force to the work force. Catch up on previous posts here.

In the last post we talked about becoming a social media powerhouse -- how to use social media to stay in the conversation in your industry, find job leads and establish yourself as a competitive, knowledgeable professional in any field.

Today, we're talking about how to craft a winning resume ...

Pulling together an impressive, cohesive resume can be one of the trickiest parts of landing the right job when you’ve been away from the career world for a time. Not only must you make sure your resume is relevant with current achievements, it’s essential to set yours apart from the scads of impressive resumes floating around in today’s competitive job market.

Here’s a tip: treat your resume like a 30-second television advertising spot. Copywriters are paid big, Madison Avenue bucks to distill a message using the most captivating words and phrases to convince the consumer do one thing: buy their product. And they only have 30 seconds to make it happen - which is about the same amount of time you have to capture the attention of your potential boss.

So when you sit down to spiff up that all-important document, pretend you’re a modern-day Peggy Olson on Mad Men. You’re on deadline, the competition is nipping at your heels, and your job depends on knocking this ad out of the ballpark (because it does.)

The Secrets to an Attention-Grabbing Resume:

Develop a clear objective. Have you ever seen a commercial and wondered “are they selling apple juice, facial cream, or trying to convince me miniature pigs are delightful household companions?” Make it easy for your audience: state your objective in clear, simple terms. Want a leadership role as a health care recruiter? Say so. Looking for an entry-level position as a public relations specialist? Put it in writing. Main goal in life to be a trainer of miniature pigs? Ah …. I might leave that out.

Be results oriented. There’s a reason advertisers spout statistics like “preferred by 4 out of 5 dentists”: it proves positive results. You’re more likely to capture attention if you say “led team to a 40 percent increase in sales in the last 12 months” than if you simply say “increased sales.” In this situation, you want solid numbers where you increased profits for the company, or saved them a lot of cash.

Discover and use “Flash Words.” Target audiences tend to have “flash words” – words that make them take notice, make their heart race … and make them want to jump in their car and rush to buy what the advertiser is selling. Good flash words for any resume are: leader, results-oriented, award-winning, and summa cum laude. (I’m just saying, that couldn’t hurt.)

Be a Benefit. Effective commercials start by telling you how their product will improve your life, and your resume should focus on how your skills will improve your new place of business. Ask around and see if you can discover anything about the job you seek – did the last assistant show up late every morning, resulting in her ultimate demise? Emphasize your attention to detail, organization, and punctuality. Are they seeking someone to lead a team in a new endeavor? Clearly state your recent experiences in leadership in new product development.

Brag, and be quick about it. Once you’ve shown them how much they need you, it’s time for your hard sell. Your resume is one place where it is essential to boast about your accomplishments. This is not the time to hide the fact you were quoted as an expert in the Wall Street Journal on page 3, deep in the “personal interests” section. Nope, that goes right up at the top of the resume – set the tone quickly so the reader is intrigued enough to keep reading.

Resumes are your calling card into the business world. Ask yourself: if this were a 30-second commercial, would I jump in my car, rush to the store, and buy this product? Using the above tips will vault your resume into the “must interview” list – no matter what your dream job.

Peggy would be so proud.

Next up in the Back to Work Blog Series: Network Like You Mean It.

Thanks for reading! (and please ... if you have any questions related to going back to work, send them my way!)

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2.17.2014

To Every Thing There is a Season

For having the fewest days, and short ones at that, February seems to me to be the longest month of the year. In general, my attitude toward winter is poor. I get cold in December and don't warm properly again until April. If we're going to get sick, it's in February when we're cooped up like chickens in a pen. Throw in a little (lots for Atlanta really) ice and snow and then an earthquake (what?) and I'm looking for spring like a kid in a smocked dress hunting up Easter eggs ... that is, with nearly maniacle abandon.

As a reminder to "habit yourself to the dazzle of the light, and of every moment of your life," (thank you, Walt Whitman) I decided taking pictures every day this month would help remind me winter does have its ways of redeeming itself. Here's what I found:

Corgis are suspicious of snow.


They smile bigger if you'll just leave them inside.


Even with the flu, energy can be summoned to play in the snow.


Green is greener against icy white lace.


Velveeta is back, and cheese dip is divine any time of the year.


Spring officially begins in four weeks and three days. Not that I'm counting... because winter can, in fact, be pretty dazzling when it wants to be.
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1.15.2014

When No One's Watching


Have you seen this Duracell commercial about Derrick Coleman, a fullback with the Seattle Seahawks? He's the first legally deaf player to be part of an NFL offense. Watch the commercial (this may be one of the finest advertisements I've ever seen -- well worth the watch) and you'll discover ultimately it's about perseverance. One of the best lines: "They told me it was over. But I've been deaf since I was three. So I didn't listen."

But the part that tugs my heartstrings is when he says "I was picked on, and picked last."

Doesn't that just make you want to go back in time and give a very stern talking-to to every child (and adult) who allowed their impatience, ignorance and fear to eclipse kindness, inclusion and love? (A category which, though I can't remember any specific incidents, I'm sure I squarely belong.) Since that sort of time-travel isn't possible (to my knowledge -- please advise if you've discovered otherwise), we will have to make do by teaching our children to look for people who stand out for not quite fitting in and make their day a little better.

This is a particularly tall order when you're in middle school, which I think we can all agree is the most ruthless time in one's academic career (if not life), when you're all braces and acne and social awkwardness and mood swings and hormones and whatnot. (On second thought, if you do know if time travel is possible, keep it to yourself. I'd hate to catch the wrong time-continuum train and wind up in 7th grade again.)

This is why when a teacher recognized my daughter for "going out of her way to be kind to a student who doesn't see a lot of kindness from others" I was happy for her. When I discovered this act was done when she had no idea anyone was watching, I was thrilled she'd already discovered one of the great secrets of life: being kind to others without expectation of recognition is balm for the soul.

Now before you get all "geez Amy Mac is so braggy about her kids," please allow me to assure you I have caught many an unkindness in progress and am certain there are many more that have been conducted under my finely tuned radar. Just yesterday I busted up a swiftly escalating verbal altercation over a missing pair of Uggs (I kid you not), where everything from stewardship of possessions to overall fashion sense was called (loudly) into question in a 10-second span of time. Kind it was not.

Here's the thing: we can teach our children acts that are kind. We can model for them what kindness looks like by being kind ourselves. We can correct them when they are unkind, give suggestions at times they can step in and be kind to another, and catch them when they are being kind and reward them richly with words of encouragement ... but we cannot enforce kindness when we aren't watching. That's all them, and it can't necessarily be taught.  Because in the end, the feeling you get when you have been kind is its own reward, and the feeling you get when you have been unkind is its own just punishment -- and each person has to figure that out for themselves.

Ultimately, the goal is to teach our children empathy for others, and that being observant and acting in situations where they can be kind is a fine habit to cultivate. That they can change someone's day with something as simple as a smile. That they can change someone's life with something as simple as a ride on a day when the bus pulls away without you.

That was the case when A.J. McCarron offered a ride to A.J. Starr, an Alabama football fan and student with cerebral palsy. If you've not watched the video, please do so right this instant, then show it to your kids when they get home from school. Say what you will about McCarron, about Alabama football (and I have said many an unkind thing about Alabama football), and about the ill-advised decision to bring Lane Kiffen back into the SEC Family (Kiffen strains my ability to be kind into very thin shreds) ... but McCarron was kind without expectation of recognition. He could have been done when they reached their destination, but he wasn't. McCarron knew deep down inside that at the end of the day, kindness toward someone who could really use some feels better than throwing the best winning touchdown of your life.

His act of kindness could almost make me pull for Alabama. Well, not quite. But I'll root for him in the NFL draft, and I'll definitely be rooting for Coleman and the Seahawks against the 49ers this weekend. I'll probably even buy some Duracell batteries next time I'm at the store.

Seems like the kind thing to do.

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PS -- I think every child and adult should read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio about a little boy with a facial deformity, and how friendship and kindness -- his and theirs -- make all the difference in his world. It's a shot of empathy we could all use.

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1.10.2014

Sound Bites in my World



Sound bites (in the world of public relations) are carefully crafted statements used by an authoritative source to convey a memorable piece of information to an audience.

When your kids get to the ages of my kids (one is a teen, one is almost a teen, both think they are 25), you start to realize your days are limited to impart a world of knowledge ... with the hope they will permanently weave the most important ones into the fabric of their being.

As such, I've started creating sound bites (in the world of Amy Mac.) These are life lessons I hope to impart upon my daughters, and recognizing their lack of desire to listen to verbal dissertations on my life's philosophies, I have distilled them into relatively brief notions and layered them atop a chevron pattern -- which I have recently discovered captures the attention of nearly every teen girl alive today.

Here's hoping your weekend is adversity free (but if it isn't, that you remember you are bigger than any problem that comes your way. And that cute design cures most ills.)

XOXO--  

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