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Elizabeth Barbour, M. Ed.
The Revitalized Business Woman
Missouri City (Houston), Texas

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Wednesday
Dec132017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Smart Gifts for Busy Professional Women

Season’s Greetings!

I’m all about keeping gift giving simple during the holidays so when you can find gifts that are beautiful AND personalized, too, it’s a win-win for all!

In 2015, I suggested experiential gifts, books and more.

In 2016, I suggested sensory gifts and more books.

But after living through Hurricane Harvey this year, many Houstonians have realized that we don’t need a lot of the stuff that we have.  During the evacuation, most of us protected family heirlooms, art, and jewelry. The rest of our “stuff” didn’t matter.

So this year, I’m recommending artistic gifts … and of course a few more books!

My favorite artistic gifts to give this year:

  1. Art you can wear! My dear friend Mista Whitson lives in the gorgeous mountains of Asheville, NC and she is a gifted watercolor artist. I hired her to paint Eric’s family farm as a wedding present to him and then she surprised us with a wedding present of a watercolor of the two of us from our wedding day. They are two of the most treasured pieces of original art we own! Now Mista is designing tiny watercolor pieces of art that you can wear as jewelry! Necklaces and earrings that are simply delightful and always make me so happy to wear them. She will create custom orders for you and ship anywhere in the country. The price is right and she’s delightful to work with. Tell her I sent you!
  2. Stunning jewelry that feels good. My first “real” job at 16 years old was working at Cappiello Brothers Jewelers in my hometown of Ridgefield, Connecticut. I learned about fine jewelry during those years and still remember taking more than a year to save up $400 so I could buy myself my first piece of “real” jewelry – an amethyst and diamond ring. (I still have that ring and plan to give it to Riley some day!) Other than books, jewelry is probably what I buy myself the most often. I saw one of Heather Chappelear’s stunning Coptic Crosses in a photo a few months ago and knew I had to own it. What I didn’t know is that the beads are made of white turquoise which is a very healing stone and every time I wear that necklace, I feel balanced and beautiful. Amazed that a piece of jewelry can make you feel that way? Buy one of Heather’s creations and see for yourself!
  3. Whimsical art. I’m not usually one to buy street art, but when I passed Katie Leese’s booth in New Orleans, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her adorable birds. Bright, colorful and with positive messages, these make great little gifts and the price is right!
  4. Heirloom art. If you want to give a meaningful gift to a loved one, look no further than commissioning Catherine Gauche to create a masterpiece of your child. I adore Catherine’s process because she invites the child to her studio to paint the background… Riley had a blast! Then, Catherine goes back and paints a portrait of your child over the canvas that your little one created using a photograph that you furnish as a guide. When I received this piece of art yesterday, it literally took my breath away. I can’t share it here because I’m giving it to Eric as a Christmas present, but it’s definitely one of the best investments I’ve made in giving a meaningful gift from a brilliant artist.

And of course More Books – When in doubt, buy books! While I love to give books that I’ve personally read, it’s important to keep in mind who is receiving the gift and what their hobbies and interests are. A few of my favorites from this year:

  1. Patti Digh’s The Geography of Loss. For anyone who’s experienced loss, this is a stunningly gorgeous book helping us to create maps to navigate the journeys of our lives.
  2. Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B. I got to hear her speak in Houston earlier this year and I was so inspired by how she faced the sudden death of her husband with such grit and grace. This book is about how to live life to the fullest, even when it doesn’t turn out how you think it’s going to.
  3. Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and Turning Pro are excellent gifts for anyone in your life who is creative but gets blocked from time to time (um, that’s all of us, right?!) They are small books with a BIG impact. If you buy these for a friend, be sure to buy some for yourself, too.

Hope you got a few good ideas here. If you have more creative gifts to share with me, I’d love for you to hit reply and tell me about them!

Here’s to smooth and easy holiday gift shopping for all of us!

Elizabeth

P.S. And by the way, if you’re a woman entrepreneur in Houston, you may want to give yourself the gift of a Vision Board Retreat  with me on Friday, January 12th. A great gift for yourself and your business (or a friend and her business!) to help set you up for success in 2018!

Wednesday
Nov082017

Gratitude Rituals for Thanksgiving Time

Rituals matter.

When you think about your life and some of the biggest moments in it, chances are good there were some ritual involved.

Rituals are time honored traditions, ceremonies or other actions performed that create intentional space for people to come together and be present with one another. Whether celebrating at a wedding or grieving at a funeral, these sacred containers of time and space allow us to suspend ordinary reality for a few hours or days and be present with ourselves, with our community, and with God.

Rituals can also be the simple things that we do every day that gives our lives meaning and invite us to take time to slow down and pause. Perhaps you savor your morning cup of tea in your grandmother’s china teacup. Or call a long distance loved one at the same time every week. Maybe you say the exact same prayer with your children before you tuck them into bed each night.

Ever since my mom died last year, I've been thinking a lot about the importance of rituals in our lives.  The white rose ceremony that I held for my mother here in Houston and then at her funeral in Clearwater, Florida helped me, and others who loved her, to let her go with love and respect, honor, and dignity.

As we approach another holiday season without her, I think about her a lot and the rituals she created in our little family of three when I was growing up.

In the summertime at the peak of berry season, it would be a grand treat to have strawberry shortcake on Sundays for lunch. Not dessert. But lunch. She would make these huge flaky cat head size biscuits and she would soak the strawberries and sugar overnight. She made homemade whipped cream and slathered the biscuits with fresh creamed butter. This was a summer ritual for our family. YUM!

For our birthdays, whoever's birthday we were celebrating got to choose their favorite meal and Mom would make it. Mine was always lamb chops. Thick juicy lamb chops that we would buy from the butcher at Brunetti's market in downtown Ridgefield, Connecticut where I grew up.

Every Friday, we would get pizza from Venice Pizzeria and then we would go to Baskin Robbins and get jamoca almond fudge for my mom and mint chocolate chip for me and my dad.

And of course, there were always holiday rituals. We had to have pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, open one present on Christmas Eve after going to church and my parents threw their festive champagne infused New Year's Eve party every year when I was little.

When I think back on the happy memories of growing up, it's these rituals that I remember the most.

Now that I have my own little family, also a family of three, we are establishing our own rituals. Both my husband and I are very mindful of teaching our daughter the importance of expressing gratitude. We believe it’s important to live your life from a place of thankfulness and to count your blessings every single day. We’ve had several loved ones die in the past year and have a few other beloveds who are battling difficult diseases right now. Every minute we have on this Earth is precious and cultivating a regular practice of gratitude is good for the mind, body, and spirit.

Here are three Gratitude Rituals for Thanksgiving Time for you to consider incorporating into your family and/or business practices. 

November is a great time to start because there is an attitude of gratitude that is pervasive in our communities, but of course, these rituals would be appropriate at any time of year.

1. Start a gratitude bowl. At work or at home (or both!), start a practice of recording your gratitudes on slips of paper and then putting it in a special bowl dedicated to this purpose. Then once a week or once a month, have a team or family meeting to sit down and one by one, review the gratitudes and savor them again. It's a conscious way to connect with your colleagues and loved ones and it's a terrific exercise to foster good will in the work place and to teach children the value of sharing our gratitudes on a daily basis.

2. Express your gratitude directly. People like to be appreciated for a job well done, a goal achieved, a risk taken, or simply for being kind. Some easy ways to do this:

  •  Give someone a shout out on social media (Facebook and Twitter are great for this!) or a recommendation on LinkedIn, Amazon or Yelp (depending on their business).
  • Send a personalized card (and maybe a gift, too) using Send Out Cards. This system is a great way to really send a heartfelt thank you. (Want to learn more? Send me an email! It’s one of my favorite systems in my business!)
  • Pick up the phone and CALL someone. (Not a text, not an email!) It’s guaranteed to brighten their day.

3. Keep a gratitude journal. This is a practice that was popularized by Oprah years ago so you've probably heard of it. But have you ever kept one? It’s an excellent discipline to help you shift your focus from what’s missing in your life to instead shine the spotlight on the abundance you already have in your life! Once I started keeping a gratitude journal, it helped me to be more open and receptive to the abundance of good flowing my way. Simply dedicate a journal to your gratitude practice and write down 3-5 things each day that you’re grateful for.

Giving voice to your blessings sends a message to the universe that you are grateful to receive which tends to prime the pump for more abundance and goodness to flow your way! If you already have a gratitude ritual that you do, I’d love to hear about it – send me a note! Or if you decide to try one of these, let me know how it goes.

As always, I’m GRATEFUL you are here in my community,

Elizabeth

P.S. I’ve decided to resume publishing my e-zine once a month so we can stay connected. If you want more regular contact, please come say hello on Facebook!

P.P.S. If you’re in the Houston area, I want to be sure you know about my upcoming one day retreats! New Year, New You! Business Planning Retreat for 2018 – December 7, 2017 from 9-3 and the

Vision Board Retreat 2018 – January 12, 2018 from 9-1

Wednesday
Oct182017

On Sabbatical, Harvey and Paying It Forward

 

A lot has happened in the world in the last four months...we continue to be assaulted by bad news from hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes, mass shootings… it doesn’t seem that we can catch a break, does it? I, like you, am grieving with those impacted most recently by the tragedy in Las Vegas and continue to have a heavy heart for those who are recovering from the California wildfires, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and other natural disasters.

It is easy to get depressed and overwhelmed by the troubles of the world, but it’s important to remember that there is so much good here, too. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a bit about my summer sabbatical, what happened during Harvey and how I’ve been privileged to serve the greater Houston community.

You may remember that I announced in May that I was taking a sabbatical. My goal was to “Rest & Write” because I needed more time to grieve my mom’s death, craved more time to write and honestly wanted more time with my family. In early June, my adventurous 6 year old daughter Riley and I traveled 2,000 miles over three weeks, where we visited more than 50 relatives and friends in North Carolina and Tennessee. We visited our family farm in Pinehurst, she got to attend farm camp in Bristol and I got to visit with some of my best friends in the world in my beloved mountains of Asheville.

After that epic road trip, I took a five week spiritual writing course with the Center for Creative Non-Fiction which motivated me to submit my introduction and the first two chapters of my book to my teacher. [Gulp!] That was scary to share with others and I felt really vulnerable doing it, but it also was a very decisive action in moving forward and committing to my book. Eric, Riley and I had one final vacation for a glorious week in Minnesota. During those lazy summer days at home, I had chunks of time where I could truly be and breathe. I was able to go through more of my mom’s things and took time to write in my journal. I also continued to do my grieving journey as it approached the one-year anniversary of when my mom died on September 11th and I facilitated a simple ritual with some friends that day. 

I thought I would be returning to work in September but hurricane Harvey hit Houston on August 25th and devastated our region. For three days, the storm ravaged Texas. We experienced a tornado that damaged 50 homes in our neighborhood just a mile away, several house fires due to lightning strikes and flooding of biblical proportions very close to our home. Everything that you saw on the news was real and I felt like we were living in a Hollywood blockbuster disaster movie as we hid in the pantry for 138 tornado warnings, evacuated our home in just an hour and drove through standing water on the highway, not knowing if we would make it to safety. We were under mandatory evacuation for six days for fear the levy surrounding our community would break. 

But we were the lucky ones. Our house didn't flood and after a week, we were able to return and help our community to rebuild. I quickly realized that it was not time for me to return to work just yet, and that my work was instead volunteering to help others in need. It was so heartwarming to see our neighborhood come together and help each other out. Friends helped friends and strangers helped strangers. People mucked out homes, ripped out drywall, pulled up floors and schlepped debris to the curb. Others made meals, passed out water and Gatorade and provided supplies for those who needed them. 

I’m not exactly a “muck-out-your-house” kinda gal, so I decided that the best way for me to help was to raise money. Hundreds of my friends and relatives followed our story on Facebook as I shared updates each day chronicling the rains, the tornadoes, the fear, the ultimate evacuation... I had friends praying for us daily and several said they were crying as they imagined the nightmare that was unfolding before us. I knew that if I continued telling stories of Harvey victims – our friends and neighbors - it would inspire people to give generously and I could get the money directly into the hands of people who desperately needed it. Here are some links to my Facebook posts about the evacuationthe return home and the fundraising.

Over the past 6 weeks, together we raised almost $7,000!!! Thank YOU so much --- my generous community of family, friends, clients, and colleagues. I’ve given out more than 85 "Micro Gifts" ranging from $50-$250 to families that flooded or to small local organizations that are doing great work in our community. Here’s just one Facebook post to give you an idea of who is receiving the money. We still have a little bit of money left to disburse and the need continues here in Houston. It is going to take years for Texas to recover from the utter devastation that Harvey inflicted here. Thank you for your continued thoughts, prayers, donations and love. It matters. It all matters! If you’d like to contribute, let me know and I’ll send you details on how to contribute via PayPal, check or gift card. 

What a rollercoaster ride it’s been since I last wrote to you. Ups and downs and all arounds. That’s life, though, isn’t it? Through it all, we’ve been reminded of the importance of community, generosity, gratitude, rest, and renewal. All important lessons on this journey of Life.

I started back with a few coaching clients earlier this month and have space for three new clients. If this is you, get in touch. In addition, I plan to keep facilitating my networking groups, writing my book, and volunteering my time. I have a few speaking engagements lined up for 2018 and of course we’re busy here with an active first grader and the approaching holidays! Riley’s going to be Wonder Woman for Halloween which will be lots of fun. 

Thank you for reading and for caring. I’m not sure when I’m going to return to writing my e-zine regularly, but wanted this to be a check in note to give you updates from Houston and I’d love to hear from YOU, too! Tell me what’s new (and up, down and all around!) in your world. I love hearing from you.

 

Blessings, 

Elizabeth