Even My Dogs Smell Like Christmas (but for all the wrong reasons)

I've compiled a list I've found vaguely interesting and very personally informative as I've been preparing for the holiday season. Perhaps you, too, will be intrigued. (Perhaps instead you will be alarmed. I understand completely. If you find you are more disturbed than amused, you should totally find a more relaxing blog with a more sensible writer.)

  • We have 8 bins for Halloween decorations, but only 3 for Christmas decorations.
  • One of those Halloween bins is labeled "GRAVEYARD" and is an enormous bin on a high shelf so I can't really access it. I'm just saying there may be an actual graveyard in my storage room and I have no way of knowing for sure. Ce la vie.
  • One of those Christmas bins is so ridiculously enormous that I usually just grab the items I need and carry those upstairs individually. Did not get that memo to my husband, who hauled the giant bin upstairs and said "whatever is in that bin needs to be separated into two smaller, lighter bins" as he huffed and puffed and grabbed his back. His look of incredulity when I announced there are actual bricks in that bin (cute preschool-painted Christmas bricks) was totally worth the price of admission.
  • At least one of our dogs has upgraded from treating the Christmas tree water as vitamin water and gulping it down with wild abandon to actually nibbling on the tree. We assume to freshen his breath. Or maybe for extra protein. We will be keeping the candy canes high up on the tree per the usual this year. Because what the world does not need this holiday season is two naughty Corgis jacked up on sugar.
  • Speaking of naughty Corgis, remember that cute frame my niece procured as a cute little hostess gift (actually a "thanks for getting us a place at the beach" gift) back in the summer? She visited again in October and brought the above photographed fabulously-pine-scented soy candle, which if memory serves she procured at the Memphis Farmer's Market. She totally gets MVP in the gift-giving category, because it smells divine.
  • I once bumped into Morris Day of Morris Day and the Time at a church. I was reminded of this when thumbing through old preschool Christmas program pictures of the girls. Yep, they went to preschool with Morris's child. And no, I did not go up to him and sing "Ohweeohweeoh!"  while performing the accompanying dance moves, though it was encouraged by one of my dearest friends from college. We were in church, people. It didn't seem appropriate, though it was wildly tempting. (Watch a video of Morris performing Jungle Love here, but serious dancing does not commence until the 3:30 mark.)
  • When in need of a tacky Christmas sweater, I would totally rather sew lights onto an old sweater than go to Goodwill to purchase a tacky Christmas sweater. And did so. Evidence below.


XO --

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The Best Cookbook for Thanksgiving Recipes ... or Any Recipe, Really

Last Friday, AKA Halloween, I was full of faux-pity for my fellow parents who were Trick-or-Treating with their youngsters. Why? Because the temps went from long-sleeve-but-no-jacket-necessary weather to freaking freezing cold in a matter of two hours. I was smug in my "my teenage children are at various Halloween parties, thus I remain indoors and toasty warm" stance.

So when karma came back to bite me Saturday morning while spectating at my daughter's cross country race via 40-degree temps and 25-mile-per-hour winds, I really couldn't complain (though I did regularly threaten to set myself on fire to ward off frostbite. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer is one of my favorite books of all time, yet I shall never visit Mt. Everest due to the way those people talk about frostbite with the same nonchalance a girl from Tennessee might talk about a mosquito bite or spotting a possum. There are other reasons I will not likely ever grace Mt. Everest, like the necessity to walk on a ladder over a massive crevasse, having to tether oneself to multiple others while dangling off particularly treacherous inclines, and highly questionable air transportation, but we shall save that discussion for a different post.)

Once we were home and I thawed my bones, I stayed put by the fire pretty much all day. Making chili. Putting away Halloween decor. Watching football. Drinking chai tea lattes. You know, November whatnot.

November. Sheesh.

Which set me on the path of thinking about Thanksgiving, which is at my brother and sister-in-law's this year (thank you Baby Jesus that it is not my year to host.) But I will bring food. Because I like to cook. And because my husband has a very specific way he enjoys his sweet potato casserole (mostly brown sugar and melted butter with a sweet potato smashed in for good measure.) And I have a specific casserole I make and holiday season cannot commence until I have consumed it. Find the recipe here. But there's also the potential I'll try out a new dish or two.

Perhaps you're thinking along the same Thanksgiving-recipe lines, and if so, I'm going to tell you the first cookbook I grab these days --- and for the last several years since purchasing -- if I'm looking for new recipes: Cook's Illustrated Cookbook.

God Bless America, those recipes are dee-lic-ious. One of my favorite parts of Cook's Illustrated (there's a magazine, too. And it is advertisement-free!) is that if they ask you to do something that seems silly (toss the meat lightly from hand to hand until a loose ball is formed -- what the??), they explain it and it makes total sense. So that's a plus.

I bought the cookbook the same week it came out and happily paid the full-price of $40 (and it has been worth every single penny), but if you click that link above you can purchase it for $22.83. I'm not even kidding. It's a great housewarming or wedding or Christmas or hostess gift (and no, they are not paying me to say these things. See above re: no ads.)

It's just that good. And I like to share hopefully helpful information with people for whom I'm thankful.

And that means y'all.



Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. So, if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a miniscule affiliate commission. I only review things I have personally used and loved, and think you'll love too.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 
16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


How to Reorder Work Experience on LinkedIn in 6 Simple Steps

When I'm advising professionals on sharpening their personal brand --  particularly when it comes to their resume, bio and LinkedIn profile -- my number one tip is to move eye-catching, results-based achievements to the top.

For all the many wonderful attributes of LinkedIn, it insists on complete chronology with work experience, so whatever job you're in right now sits up top. Then the last job you held, and so on. It doesn't matter if you were the President of the United States and now you're a professional apple picker ... CEO will be listed second, with your picking profession center stage.

Which is dandy if you're putting politics aside for greener orchards (no one could blame you, really), but if you're looking for a more professional image as you charge back into the working world (or change industries, de-emphasize a short-term job, or after a downsizing) there's a simple way to place your top accomplishments front-and-center.

6 Simple Steps to Reorder Work Experience on LinkedIn

1. Log into your LinkedIn, click "Profile," then "Edit Profile."

2. Scroll to "Experience," and click "Add a Position."

3. On the "Company Name" tab, type a broad category you want to emphasize. For example:
~Marketing Strategist
~Human Resources Professional
~Financial Consultant
~You could even go with something like "Career Highlights" or "Industry Experience." 

4. On the "Title" tab, type in a little descriptive. Think of it as a subheading instead of a job title. For example:
~ Company Name: Healthcare Marketing
~ Job Title: Key Career Achievements

5. On the "Time Period" tab, input a start time that best describes whatever you've categorized. So if you've been in your current field for 10 years, input "2004" for start time. The most important factor is that you input the end time after the next position that comes up! So if you resigned from your last position in May 2014, the end time for this position should be June 2014 or after. Yes, there will be crossover with other jobs, and that's okay. You're not claiming this is an official job you held ... you're listing work experience.

6. On the "Description" tab, include whatever you need to highlight. For example:
~Heartstrong Medical Company: created brand strategy resulting in new product sales of $40 billion.
It doesn't matter if that particular achievement was back in 2002, and you've held 2 different jobs since then. If it's something that needs to be said first, put it right up top.

One point upon which I want to be completely clear: I'm not encouraging you to fudge details on your LinkedIn (or anywhere.) In fact, I strongly encourage you to fact-check all your information for honesty and accuracy throughout LinkedIn and on your resume.

From a personal branding perspective, you must position your career results and achievements in a way that will intrigue a future employer. When you look at the scope of your entire career, success isn't necessarily sequential. So don't let a little technical obstacle on one of the top professional resources on the internet keep you from putting your best foot forward, right at the top of the page.

For a few more tips about pumping up your personal brand on LinkedIn, visit here and here. And if you need a little professional assistance getting that LinkedIn profile in order, send me a note at amyATamymacwritesDOTcom.

Have a great week!
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Is There Such a Thing as a Bad Compliment? (Correct Answer: Yes. Yes There Is.)

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Ah, the well-paid compliment. Nothing adds a spot of sunshine to your day like a genuine effort of admiration given to you by someone you hold in high esteem. Or a well-dressed stranger with a nice haircut. Truly, it matters less who is delivering the compliment and more that it's sincere -- and that the person stops talking before accidentally undoing the compliment. Some real-life examples:

Good compliment:
"Mom! I'm so glad you wear cute clothes so we can share!"

Undoing compliment:
"Except for pants. I don't think we can share those."

The save:
"Only because your legs are longer than mine!"

Just this week:

Good compliment (by a teenage girl who probably wanted to go shopping or something, but whatever):
"Wait, Justin Timberlake is only 33? Dang, you have almost 10 years on him and you look waaaaay younger than him."

Undoing compliment (by another person after hearing said compliment):
"Yeah, Justin Timberlake looks OLD."

The save:
"Whoa, that came out totally wrong. What I meant was you definitely look younger than a 33-year-old!"

I'm trying to teach my girls to look for opportunities to pay genuine compliments to people. To notice their fellow human beings have made an effort and to give them a little love for it. Why? Because a sincere compliment leaves a person feeling warm, and appreciated, and better off for having encountered you that day. And they will generally remember those lovely compliments well after you've crossed paths. Which is nice, too. It does seem, however, we still have a little work to do on the "seizing opportunities" front, as evidenced in my recent Facebook post:

Amy McCormick Dawson

It's a work in progress, people. Also, I would like to genuinely compliment you each and every one for your outstanding taste in blog reading. Exquisite!

XO --

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Today, In Lieu of an Actual Post ...

For several days running my to-do list has featured the task "blog post."

I should tell you ... I have several posts already written out! Fantastic news! Sadly, they are in longhand (my preferred method of first draft on any writing.) Thus, they continue to await me blocking out a bit of time to key in said posts, find an accompanying photo, then edit the post until I'm cross-eyed and snappy because I forgot to eat because I can get a little picky when I'm writing. Also when I'm eating. So. There's that.

Therefore, today, in lieu of an actual post, I shall lull you into complacency with photos of my recent Halloween decorating frenzy! So there's this:

And also this:
Please be inspired to do a pinch of Halloween decorating your own self. (I mean go decorate your house, not decorate your own body. Unless that's your thing. If so, ... please go adorn yourself as you wish.) You can see more pics here (of decorations in my house. Not of decorated bodies. OMG, this is sounding more and more like a horror blog. DO NOT GO IN THE BASEMENT IF YOU HEAR A WEIRD NOISE AND THE LIGHTS ARE FLICKERING!!)

Until next time (which will probably be fairly soon, but I can't be completely sure. Meetings keep cropping up out of nowhere. Which is better than dead bodies cropping up out of nowhere. I have got to quit reading scary books and/or watching the news),


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Report: Corgis of the World Grateful United Kingdom Shall Remain United

My sister and niece gave us this cute Corgi/Union Jack frame from Anthropologie, which of course is a perfect treat for us since we love us a Corgi. Ours are named Watson and Thatcher ... a tip of the hat to their British heritage. Because Queen Elizabeth also love her a Corgi. She has approximately 87 of them at all times.

Anywho, I propped our precious new household accoutrement on a side table in our family room so we could all point and say "awwww, look how CUTE!" in our very poor fake British accents. Which are really just Southern accents projected in a slightly higher-pitched, nasal tone. It works well for us; please hold all judgement.

Then we started noticing bizarre behavior from our pups (they are full-grown dogs, but still behave like wild, untamed puppies, so we treat them like they are loving yet willful toddlers. It works well for us; please hold all judgement.)

It started with Watson hopping up into the wingback chair adjacent to the end table hosting the Union Jack frame and getting his nose as close to the frame as possible without accidentally knocking it over. Sometimes he'd lie down in the chair and prop his little chin on the armrest so he could gaze at the picture in the frame. Lovingly.

Then Thatcher started doing the same thing. Loving gazes. Snuggling up to the frame. Occasionally reaching over for a teensy, tinesy kiss.

Which stoked the flames of jealousy. All the sudden it was like the Montagues and Capulets. It was all "back up away from my girlfriend's picture." It was all "she loves me more." It was all "I'd totally duel you with my giant sword but I don't have opposing thumbs, so I'll just settle on baring teeth and growling and such."

I'm not even kidding. Here, I have photos to prove it:
I mean, what?? First of all, the frame isn't even that big ... I'm stunned they even noticed it, because generally unless it makes a loud noise (the vacuum, the blender, the battery-operated toy helicopter my husband purchased to freak them out) they really aren't interested in the items in our house. And also, how did they make out that this is a female? I don't know much about dogs, but I'm assuming tiny reproduction drawings cannot be in heat? Or maybe it isn't a female, and our dogs are trying to tell us something. Which if they are, we want them to know we love and accept them just like they are, and will support them forever and always.

The bottom line is Corgis all over the world are relieved that last week Scotland voted it shall remain a part of the United Kingdom, otherwise crossing the border was going to become a total nightmare when zipping from their London digs to the Scottish countryside to frolic alongside the Queen and such.

Also, it keeps our dogs' dream alive that one day they shall be united with the object of their affection.(Of course our dogs are terrified of even taking a short car ride, so I'm not sure transcontinental flight is in their future.)

Writing this post reminds me I've not been to Anthropologie in forever, so I think I'll dash and do just that ... right after I tell the dogs again to use their best manners while they work through their jealousy issues.

Happy Weekend!

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Back to Work Blog Series: 5 Steps to Confident, Smarm-Free Networking

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 steps to Crafting a Winning Resume -- today, we're talking about how to network strategically (without feeling like an infomercial salesman) and land that perfect job.

Now that have several important building blocks in place — the 30-second pitch, your resume, trend awareness and social media — it’s time to start building your network in earnest. In my experience, women who have been out of the work force for a while (or are switching careers) tend to quickly discount current connections as viable networking opportunities.

Recently, an accountant friend ready to make the leap back into full-time work said “a dad on my son’s baseball team is a VP in marketing at a local Fortune 500 company. But since he’s in marketing, I’m sure he isn’t be able to help me land an accounting job.” Let’s dispel that myth once and for all: first, I’m sure the company has an accounting department. Second, as a local business leader, he likely has a personal accountant and knows several more.

Start building your network as soon as you begin thinking of returning to work — you’ll be amazed at how many opportunities find their way to you. If your scene has been more playgroup than boardroom the last few years, the options might seem overwhelming. Start with these five tried-and-true networking strategies:

Design a Digital and Traditional Business Card. Make it easy on any contacts who want to stay in touch. There are many options online to design and print business cards. Have some very simple cards printed with your name, contact information and your industry with the word “freelance consultant” after. For example, a retiring teacher looking to continue to work part-time in some capacity would say “Education Freelance Consultant.” Take the same information and create a digital signature for all of your emails.

Pitch to Personal Networks.  Armed with your 30-second pitch and your business cards, start letting everyone you know you’re back on the professional market. This is a time to make an expansive list — everyone from your neighborhood, church friends, parents on the sidelines at your kids’ sporting events, to colleagues you worked with 10 years ago should be on this list.

Connect at Professional Networking Events. Almost every local Chamber of Commerce holds a monthly networking event, not to mention local chapters of various industry associations. These events cost about the same as a typical lunch at a restaurant, and are usually full of leading local professionals smart enough to keep their eyes and ears open for potential new talent.

Invest in Professional and Personal Development Seminars. Seminars on sharpening career and life skills are everywhere these days. Find one that piques your interest and invest in the fee — not only is it an excellent networking opportunity, but it’s also a new skill for your resume.

Scan Local Newspapers and Calendar of Events Listings. Most newspapers have “Calendar of Events” listings. Some of them even helpfully section out the business-related events. Make a point of reading these at least once a week to stay abreast of networking opportunities that will further your job search.

Remember ... when you have a networking opportunity you must have a goal in mind. For example, if you’re at a Chamber meeting, be determined to meet at least 3 new people, learn what they do, give them your pitch, and exchange contact information. Otherwise, it’s easy to settle in at the table for lunch and be monopolized by your seat mate.

And if you’re nervous about pitching to an acquaintance, try the soft-sale approach: ask them a question about their business (something like “what do you do in a typical work day?” or “who are some of your clients I might recognize?”) which then segues nicely into you telling them about your skill sets and career goals.

And don’t get discouraged if you don’t get any bites right away. I have people that I met weeks, months even years ago reach out and say “not sure if you remember me, but I need some help writing a news release…”, so just keep on networking — even after you land that dream job!

Next up in the Back to Work Blog Series: You're already a CEO ... here's how to use it in the working world.

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

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