rebuilding a life

rebuilding a life

Growing up, going to school, marriage, giving birth, all these things are the building blocks of our lives.

But what happens when you realize that you aren’t happy with the structure of that life? What if that structure you built is taken away from you?

I was left with these questions a few years ago. The structure of my life was so out of balance it would have made the Leaning Tower of Pisa look stable. There wasn’t one simple brick I could point to and place all the blame on it for this imbalance. From the bottom up, my bricks had been placed slightly off from the one below…over and over and over again. By the time you’re 40, your life is a pretty tall structure. It didn’t matter how hard I worked to hold up my precarious life. It was going to crumble one way or the other.

When I finally stopped trying to hold it all together, I took a look at the foundation and found the problem. It was missing.  There wasn’t a foundation at all.  Just a pile of borrowed beliefs and values from others.

I found that me, myself, and I were missing from this huge structure I had painstakingly built.

After all, you yourself are the foundation of your very own life.

A New Year is just about upon us. Many people are going to make resolutions to “change” their lives by losing weight, paying off debt, and finally getting organized. In fact the media, and economy are betting that you will choose to do that very thing come January 1.

Is your weight, your debt, or your clutter the foundation of your life? They were a part of my life structure, but I believe they were not the foundation of my problem.

All those problems were just symptoms of what was really missing: my beliefs, my dreams, my values.

Tracy and I have teamed up with Lee Chinshue Coello of Becoming Unencumbered and developed what we believe to be a better path to change.

All three of us reached a point in our lives where something just wasn’t working. We had reached a plateau in our fulfillment and personal happiness, and the only fix was to make real changes in how we approached our lives.

While this can happen to anyone, we know this is a particular problem for women. We’ve heard the stories of exhaustion, desperation, and confusion from other women as they try to understand why their lives are not on the track they want or expected.

Having been there, and with the gift of experience we can confidently say that there is an answer. But first, there must be an honest examination of just how your life is working for you…or is it not? Better yet, what do you plan to do about it?

For all of us, the answer was simple: we had lost focus. Focus on who we were as individuals, instead of mom, wife, career title, etc. We had lost focus on what delighted and moved us. We had lost focus on living our unique life experience and not just the one defined by the social worlds we lived in.

The best and hardest part was that the solution was even simpler – get focused. We needed to make choices about our priorities and what we valued beyond the necessary roles of our lives. At first, just the thought of doing so brought on its own emotionally overwhelming experience. Guilt, denial, apprehension, and insecurity all reared their heads and made decision making and taking action a tense process. But it was necessary and ultimately manifested amazing experiences and opportunities for each of us.

Though we each arrived at our refreshed and clearer lives by differing means, it all boiled down to the same thing: focusing on one small area or action in our lives that became the starting place to anchor our daily lives. From there we continued to take measured, mindful steps in each area of our lives.

Our experiences have culminated in the three of us joining together, sharing the perspectives we learned on our individual journeys, and designing a way to help others also take those little steps toward changing their own lives.

The 30 Day Focus is a whole life retreat designed to help you rebuild the structure of your life by building a foundation that includes YOU.  We have developed a year of classes, focusing on one area of your life one month at a time so that you may explore the possibility of rebuilding a life that includes you and your passions.  Each workshop focuses on one small monthly goal at a time.

The 30 Day Focus is a powerful place for growth. Our 30 Day Focus Workshops guide you in making the shift to being able to say yes to both your passion and purpose. 


We will help you to fine tune your systems, sharpen your focus, and integrate new methods for living your priorities.

We invite you to explore our schedule of workshops, and to join us as we begin in January as we focus on Values.

We hope this inspires you to make the new year a time to focus on yourself. It matters, because you matter.

We’d be honored to share in your journey.



Never let your fears…

Never let your fears…

Aung San Suu Kyi quote

It All Begins With Asking Why

It All Begins With Asking Why

The following is a guest post from Lee, author of Becoming Unencumbered

“Creating the best life management system is LESS about WHAT you do & HOW you do it & MORE about WHY you do it & that you actually DO it.”

It All Begins With Asking Why

I spend a lot of time talking and listening to women about managing our lives.  Those lives are busy and demanding.  They need constant maintenance and organization.

In many conversations, there is often an undercurrent of battle fatigue, often times bordering on despair.  Phrases like, “I don’t know what to do, or how to do it, or I can’t …” pop up with regularity.

So does, “…if I could just do it like…, get it like…, … it needs to be like…, I can’t because it’s not like…” and so on.

I empathize, because I know of those frantic, tired moments where it feels like everything is a whirlwind.  But also, the defiant side of me thinks, “Where did the idea originate in our heads that we don’t know how to manage our own lives?  Why do we believe that someone else has the right answer, or holds the secret, to making everything just right”?  Why do we have to do it that way? and why does the word “like” keep showing up!?”

Like what? Who? Why not like me?


These are not idle questions when trying to reshape our lives.  The answers to these questions can be key to helping us realize that no matter how many tips we read, beautiful pins we see on Pinterest,  or how much advice we are given, none of it matters if we don’t understand and acknowledge our own motivations.

If we don’t understand the why that is motivating us, we could spend a lot of time doing one of many non-purposeful actions, such as:

  • Testing and trying, but rarely achieving. (Because we weren’t clear on our intended outcome in the first place so we risk being more overwhelmed and giving up.)
  • Planning and perfecting, but stuck in start. (Because we are unsure of achieving the vision of some other person’s outcome and insecure.)
  • Trying but not satisfying and feeling like we failed. (Because we think our good enough isn’t as good as what other examples has convinced us is success.)

This is where it needs to be emphatically emphasized that none of this usually requires deep analysis.  It should not be another form of analysis paralysis that keep you from taking action.  Rather, it should be considered a part of the necessary tools and supplies before starting any project to ensure our actions are a purposeful and valuable use of our precious time.

The Importance of Why

Everything we do has a reason or trigger, whether we are aware of it at the time or not. That is the why.

Our actions and behaviors stem from some desire, ideal, or instinct we have either developed from within, or incorporated from outside ourselves (the triggers).  This forms the basis of our habits and those habits become our lifestyle.  Every day, through either our passive or active actions, we either emphasize or reduce certain habits.

So, if we want to change those habits and our lives, we will have to reverse the process that led to them.  We might need to address some triggers, by implementing new ones or eliminating others, in order to create new habits.

And that will bring us back to WHY.

What The Why Can Tell Us

Why we want to do something or not (or think we want to or not).

Why we want or need something a certain way (patterns, influences and examples).

Why this or that makes us feel a certain way about ourselves (leading to an examination of whether that is valid or not).

Ultimately, managing our life is about us.  Our habits, quirks, rhythms, preferences and dislikes.  There is no system that can quantify that for us without our unique input.  It will only work if it reflects who we are.  And while it may never be perfect in practice, it is in form because we have created a system based on our perfectly imperfect selves.

Starting with why sets our foundation and provides clarity.  Oftentimes we will find that what we thought we needed or wanted was not it at all.  Or, how we thought we should do it, didn’t matter very much.

Most importantly, we will (hopefully) realize that all we really need is to get to the act of doing and adapt as we go along.

About the author

Lee Chinshue Coello is a WAHM mother of three dedicated to living simply, but fully.  She is an avid reader, runner, cyclist, lover of crazy workouts and organizing projects.  She describes her life as “raising her three kids as her biggest challenge, being married to her husband as her greatest adventure and striving to live life as she feels it is supposed to be as her personal goal”.

With degrees in International Affairs and Public Health she is very passionate about issues affecting personal health and well-being.   With the birth of her children, she chose to prioritize family life and combined her passions and knowledge to work for herself providing life management solutions for individuals.  Always on a quest to learn about and create the best quality of life, and help others along the way, she writes about life and its lessons on her blog Becoming Unencumbered.


photo credit: Kel Wilson

what not winning the lottery let me see

what not winning the lottery let me see

Like many people in the US, last week I indulged in a little Powerball-induced fantasy. I had quite a few ideas of what I would do if I suddenly had millions of dollars, some more outlandish than others!

One of our family dreams/goals is to design and build a house, and I actually spent some time working on lists of things I  would definitely add if our budget magically expanded. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was totally procrastinating working on something else. :)

I got pretty specific about the kitchen…probably because lately I’ve been really unhappy with the one I have. I made a very detailed list about what I wanted in a baking center. I even looked at the baking tools I have now, and decided what would stay, what I’d replace, and how I really wish I could store these things.

(I told you–I was procrastinating!)

I didn’t win the lottery. But the day afterward, it suddenly occurred to me: I could have some of that baking center, right now…without that much effort, and no cost to start.

All I had to do was clean out a drawer, move some things around, and I had part of what I wanted. A sample…a beta version of the baking center I had imagined.

I was talking with my husband about this later on. He pointed out that what I’d done was really no different from all the other things Kel and I talk about on this site…about not waiting for the “perfect someday” to get started. “We all think that since we can’t do the big version of our thing right now, we can’t move on it at all,” he said, “but maybe that’s not true for anything. We just overlook the small things we could be doing to start moving the way we want to go.”

It worked for writing…it seems it works for baking centers too. I believe that imagining what I wanted in detail is what let me see the parts of this baking center I could make happen right now. I think it might be time to look at some of those other big plans and see what teeny tiny steps I might be able to put into play.

I’m curious: Do you have a big dream that you feel like you’d need “magical” intervention to make happen? Have you spent any time thinking about it in detail, or does the size of it keep you away from visualizing what you really want?






PS: I want to congratulate our reader Geni (who guest posted last week)–she and her daughter reached their stretch goal for their Kickstarter project, Mechanical Animals! Congrats, ladies!!

Kickstarting change

Here on WMC we like to highlight real women making real changes.  Today’s post is from Geni Tunstall, a friend of Tracy’s who has ‘kickstarted’ a project with her daughter.

If you, or anyone you know, would like to share their journey of personal change, please contact either Tracy at or Kel at  Your change doesn’t have to be big.  Even a little change can make a world of difference to someone else in the form of inspiration.

When Tracy asked me to write a guest post for this blog, I jumped at the chance.  I love reading this blog because the ideas here resonate for me.  Creating change in my own life and doing something I love to do every day is so important.  Reading this blog inspires me to keep moving forward – it is an affirmation that I am moving in the right direction.

I work in a corporate setting as an attorney, drafting contracts, so the work I do on a day-to-day basis is pretty dry stuff.  For awhile now, I felt like I was suffocating from the monotony and desperately needed to make some changes in my life.  I have always enjoyed creative projects but realized that I hadn’t been making time because I was too caught up in work.  There was no balance in my life.

Over the last year or so, I’ve started, little by little, adding more creativity back into my life.  When a co-worker’s baby shower was being planned, I decided to crochet a baby blanket for her.  Then, I made a sock monkey to give as well.  Of course, my kids wanted to join in with many of my projects.  Suddenly, life was much more enjoyable as I was rediscovering who I really am.  Hanging out with my kids making stuff was exactly what was missing from my life!

My son suggested that we make a steampunk project and I thought the style was pretty cool.  I learned to make hats just so that I could make a steampunk top hat.  For one of my steampunk projects, I bought some watch gears and other watch parts.  Just messing around recently, I made a monkey face from some of the parts.  Pleased with it, I added a jump ring and turned it into a necklace.  My 13-year old daughter Chloe was inspired to make her own animal necklace (an owl) and a project was born.  We began looking for animal shapes in all the watch pieces.  There was no stopping us!

an example of the pendants Geni and Chloe make

I had heard about the KickStarter website through a couple of friends who had done projects on it, so I suggested we try it.  Chloe was game, despite being a bit skeptical about whether anyone would back our project.  We really had no idea what to expect, but figured it would be pretty cool if a couple of people bought a necklace or two.  We have been surprised and delighted by the outpouring of support for our little project. (You can view Geni and Chloe’s Kickstarter page here.)

(If you can’t see the video, click here.)

I am so grateful for all of the support we’ve gotten from friends, family, and complete strangers.  I love being creative with my kids and this project has proven to be a great vehicle for that.  Adding creativity back into my life was exactly what I needed to regain a sense of balance and purpose.  Each day that I spend doing and creating makes me feel happier and more fulfilled.  It is a welcome change in what had become a boring routine.  I don’t know where all of this change will ultimately lead, but I can feel more change brewing as I keep moving toward living a more creative life.  I am excited about embracing whatever changes life has in store for me!

I’m glad Geni shared how she’s been creating change in her life, bit by bit. I really like how she thought a little out of the box to address the financial aspect of making a change a bigger part of your life. So often money becomes an excuse to put things off–but Geni turned this into a challenge that ended up connecting her with a community of supporters as well!


The Winds of Change…

The Winds of Change…

Last month I had a 3 hour drive Up North to Land O’ Lakes in Wisconsin to visit my daughter who is away at a boarding school. There wasn’t very good radio reception up there and being that it was a spur-of-the-moment trip in a borrowed car meant that I didn’t  have any entertainment with me outside of my own thoughts.

The thing I thought about most was change.

I feel like the winds of change are getting ready to blow again in my life.  It’s pretty hard to “put your finger” on the wind and see what might be coming or going but there have been events that lead me to believe something is stirring in the branches of my life.

The last time I felt this feeling was about 6 years ago and within 4 short months my two best friends moved out-of-state (Tracy was one of them), we stopped being active in our home schooling group, and my children started doing community theater.  There were big changes in my marriage too.

Of course I’ve been working to bring about personal changes in my life for a couple of years now.  Everybody has a different relationship with change.  Some can’t stand the sight of it, others embrace it every time it shows up. Change is something I’ve been looking for.  But if we love it or hate it, it comes just the same.

What was really surprising was that when I arrived at my daughter’s school and we sat down to talk, she started the conversation with saying, “Mom, I feel like things are going to change.  Not anything bad, it’s just that everything has felt the same for so long, and now I think somehow it’s not going to be the same anymore.”

I’m sure my eyes must have been getting bigger and bigger as she spoke.

Being away at school for the first time, I wasn’t surprised that she had that feeling but I couldn’t let go of the surprising coincidence of her bringing it up.

What is it that makes me feel that change is coming?  The following are just a few of the things that make me believe I’m starting to feel the winds of change:


There are several things ending right now for me.  If they aren’t ending soon, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Of course, most endings mean that a beginning is somewhere nearby.  Endings and beginnings by nature, involve change.

One of the things ending for me is home schooling.  It’s something I’ve done for SO LONG and now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  My daughter will be applying to colleges when she gets home.  My middle son has only one year left with me.  My youngest is considering going to high school, which he is free to do.  Home schooling isn’t ending tomorrow but there is a big shift happening.

Are there any endings in your life, now or in the near future?

Is there anything you need, or are ready, to end?


Turmoil always signifies change.  As I get older and (hopefully) wiser, I’ve noticed that very often turmoil is created by individuals who really need a change to take place but just don’t know how to make their needs known without creating turmoil first.  The turmoil gives them the excuse to make the changes they need.

My home school group is experiencing just such turmoil right now.   I have been able to remain mostly uninvolved.  Many of my friends are very involved and it’s forcing them to make choices and changes.

Is there turmoil in your life?  Is it helping you make some changes?  Are you able to make change without turmoil?


Finding answers to long sought questions usually means change is occurring.  I’ve had just such an experience with my sinus issues.  I’ve been struggling with this problem for a long time and it seems as if real help is finally going to happen.  This isn’t the only health issue that I’ve discovered an answer to recently.  The constant antibiotics have caused some serious digestive issues and I’ve found some help with that as well.

Is this a magic wand and everything is perfect?  No, but it’s more than one step in the right direction of wellness.  My fingers are crossed for more positive changes in this area.

Completed Circles

I’ve had two, completely unrelated events that felt like circles coming to completion.

1.  This summer I spent a great deal of time with family.  It was both wonderful and surreal as I don’t spend much time with them.  We have all lived very far away from each other for a very long time.  I learned things about myself and my relationship with them.  It’s as if I never really understood my place within my family until this summer, and it’s a huge feeling of peace to have found this understanding.  It felt like a huge gap was shut.

2.  The upheaval and turmoil within our home schooling group meant a change in the leadership.  My good friend ended up the leader and asked if I would help her lead the group with one other woman.  I said I would out of love for her.  The weird thing is that I started this home schooling group with Tracy and one other mom.  I never imagined when I left leading it all those years ago that I would end up doing it again.  Yet, here I am…full circle.

These are just a few of the rustlings in my life that make me think change is coming, or is this the change I’ve been seeking all along, building up its momentum and pushing forward into my reality finally?

How about you?  Have any of you ever felt those winds of change blowing?

Here are a couple of great posts on change that I’ve read this month.

Tara of wrote a beautiful post on how to change a belief.  She has a wonderful little worksheet on how to change a belief at the end of the post that you can download.  What one belief can you change right now?  Me?  Just this week I’ve realized that I feel helpless in the face of all the sugar laden foods that are everywhere during the holidays.  I didn’t know that I felt that until I really took some quiet time and looked at it.

Alyson B.Stanfield of the Art Biz Blog wrote this post on change.  She says you have to stretch a bit out of your comfort zone to see the change you want to see.  Do you think that’s true?  I do.


leaf circle image credit: Rawich

falling leaves and leaf photo credit: Kel Wilson