Valley of the Dolls


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I say “no” to my only child. It’s hard sometimes but I do it. When Elisabeth asks about a doll though my answer, albeit not right away, always turns into a reluctant “yes”.

Toy store dolls, immaculate and untouched in sharp plastic boxes, are not the “yes” dolls. Elisabeth finds her dolls eking out an existence alone in one of two huge wooden bins at the TROSA store before they come home to us. They are thrown in casually with stuffed lions, Sponge Bobs, elephants, cheap plush sharks, Tony the Tiger and other predators. Legs are bent at awkward angles but frozen smiles and wide eyes are resolutely in place. They are seldom clothed which, for me, adds to their desperation. Always naked, little girl dolls. These dolls are one of the cheapest things at TROSA: 50 or 69 cents. The price is one of the worst things but also one of the best: their low cost makes them easier to save.

And they are being saved. By us. As Elisabeth’s doll collection increases, my hesitation grows but ultimately my “yes” comes down to the same thing: How can I say no to a naked, little girl baby in an unsafe place? These dolls, naked and alone, seem like all the girls in the world who are abused and abandoned.

We don’t have space for endless dolls aIMG_6838nd sometimes I wonder if we’re in too deep already: will they get enough love? In our home, though, Elisabeth makes sure there is enough. She spends time with her rescues, murmuring soothingly. She offers bottles, blankies, beds and milkie even, from her own tiny nipple. I draw a hard line, though, at these babies staying in the car by themselves or remaining behind alone on the front porch. From time to time, I’ve even curbed Elisabeth’s yelling by simply telling her it scares the babies. The dolls are happy though to remain in her single parent, imperfect family. I think they accept Elisabeth’s mistakes and see that she tries hard and wants to do what’s right. Best of all: she’s actually present in this home. They can count on that.

A woman was a child was a baby once. All the lost girls in the world had to have been loved then, even if briefly? But if that is true, it almost doesn’t matter if they all seem to land anyway in the hard purgatory of TROSA. Let me say “yes” then to this small kind of heaven, our home, and help them heal from the wrongs suffered from this hell of a world which doesn’t do well by our girls and even worse caring for the broken women those lost girls become.

Last week, Elisabeth found a new doll with a clunky, hard battery pack. “No,” I said quickly. “She’s scary.” “Why?” Elisabeth asked. I was thinking of Talky Tina but that was too much to explain. I did say that batteries could make the doll talk and that was a little creepy. As we headed out, Elisabeth said she didn’t want that doll. “Why?” I asked. “Because she’s scary,” Elisabeth said. My influence crops up at unexpected times and in this moment, her response felt like more than I could take. I explained Mimi had allowed me to see a movie when I was small which had a talking doll that had scared me. (Forgive me, Mom, I know that’s not exactly what happened). But this doll didn’t even look like that doll, I argued in favor of another baby that I hadn’t really wanted in the first place. Elisabeth seemed satisfied and handed over her 53 cents. We went home to wash up this new baby, find her clothes and come up with a name.

It’s hard to love the inner voice that compels me to do work which offers a reluctant “yes” to these dolls. But they are not hard to love. I swallow and say, “yes, come,” a little more firmly this time.



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I intentionally left my cell phone in my office on my way to Joe Van Gogh for a coffee and told myself, “You will notice what is going on. Just notice.”.

I noticed my shoulders back and my chest out as I walked, happy in one of my favorite dresses that looks fantastic. I also noticed another woman a few steps behind me, heading for coffee as I walked in. I stopped to hold the door. There weren’t many people there but there was one gentleman whom I often see. Just by my intentional use of the word “gentleman” you may know already that is much older. He watched the people come and go, likely me too, but I didn’t notice him until I was waiting for my cortado. I watched him watch the chatty women next to him and thought, “someday, when I am as old as he is, no one will notice me either.” I thought about what this meant. I will be an old woman on a bench sitting a coffee and no one will talk to me, or likely even really see me.

Near the door, I sshutterstock_196053107aw a poster for the art on the walls and saw the quote “nothing gold can stay” at the top. It felt eerily appropriate in that moment. The quote wasn’t cited and I couldn’t remember who said it*. My mother would have known. She knew poetry and writing and art but, as often happens now, I can’t reach her to ask. Leaving Joe Van Gogh, I noticed that loss. I didn’t think, “Oh why?” but I did think “Oh Y!” which is what I called my mother. If I had been able to tell her about the old man, she would have said she’d LOVE to sit in a corner and have no one notice her. We would have laughed at that, me a little more uncomfortably than she.

When I told someone where I worked last week she said, “Oh it’s the brick building.” And I looked at her and said, “I don’t think it’s brick.” On the way back to my office this morning, I looked up. Outside The Mom Box is on the first floor of the Lane Professional Building at the corner of Broad and W. Club in Durham. The building is brick. But I didn’t notice. I’ve had an office here for over a year.

When I put aside technology for a few moments, during my drive or two weeks, I notice more. I crave that mental click that comes when I make a connection or take a risk as a result of my noticing. It doesn’t happen as often when I’m plugged in. I don’t think it does for any of us. But you need it as much as I do.

When most of us go as fast as we can most of the time, noticing is an act of bravery. But it’s not just my act, is it?

*Robert Frost.

Manic Monday


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Let me explain, dear friend.

I hate having to explain because it reeks of apology. And apologies are so habit-forming. But I sort of want to explain because I don’t want you to feel hurt. You can imagine how the inner struggle! Anyone who knows me is aware, though, that I’m not an over-apologizer so I’m going to offer up this explanation to you:

You are someone I want to see. 

valentines-day-heart-san-serif-hug-kiss-xo-message-free-stock-photoI do. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t initiate contact or when you reached out, I’d turn you down pretty quickly. But I do want to see you and that’s why I offer a date in the future. Yeah. I know, it’s maybe 3-4 weeks away. You likely feel surprised and put off. I don’t blame you. But here’s the thing. Here in the US, we don’t have full-day quality, free childcare for small kids. My daughter is not old enough for kindergarten. While my husband and I pay a considerable amount each month to have her in an extraordinary preschool, she’s there just four, half days a week. Most of the rest of the time she’s with me. I work and see friends like you (and head to anyone else like the doctor or hairdresser) when she’s at school and evenings when my husband is with her. My business and my personal life come after childcare and my husband’s career.

A bit about the business since you don’t work for yourself…as a newer, small business owner, I am the marketing, IT, PR and finance departments. I’m also the main creative, the only trainer, the careful administrative assistant, the eternal blogger, editor and the only community liaison. All of this (plus all individual and group client work) needs to fall within my 25ish hours a week at Outside The Mom Box.

So, you see I have a lot going on. Not more than you, perhaps. And my time isn’t more important than yours. This is all why, though, I can’t see you more immediately. Why I offer that lunch option three weeks away. I don’t have a hard time prioritizing; you are important. I teach clients how to weed through commitments or relationships that don’t work all the time so I’ve got that down. What I do have difficulty managing is the lack of support that our country gives to families so parents, especially moms, can be successful. That includes paid parental leave and sick days, early care and education, flexible work schedules. I shouldn’t have to say “it’s not me,” but I do because it sure looks like it’s me, doesn’t it? It’s no more “me”, however, than it is any other parent who is the primary caregiver in their family.

Until we live in a society where parents who provide the bulk of the childcare are valued equally, by helping moms like me with family-friendly social structures like early care and education, you might need to bear with me. At least for a few years, until my daughter is in Kindergarten. Oh wait, never mind. Nix that “few years,”, we’ll be in the same spot during the summer months.

Explanations are never good enough for anyone on the receiving end. But I don’t buy a “never complain, never explain,” attitude. Too many people are quiet when it matters. And you know me: seldom quiet when I “should” be. I deserve better and so do you. Can we get there together?

Develop a Unique Voice


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I’m back at Seth Godin’s freelancer course via Udemy and have arrived at Lesson 44, that’s Lesson 44, Develop a Unique Voice. In typical Seth fashion, he encourages us to make our discoveries public so mine go here and are routed to FB and Twitter. Here goes-

Part I: Seth says “If you could choose an archetype that you want your business known for, what would it be?” Somehow others have chosen 5 so I chose 5 also.

  • confidence
  • curious
  • empathetic
  • creative
  • service

DeathtoStock_Clementine10Part II: List 5 ways you could express these attributes.

  1. Confidence: modeling it myself in how I live, love and act…both in my personal and professional lives so that clients know I can help them become more confident. They see me, my periodic struggles and can identify with that and trust me.
  2. Curious: showing genuine interest in the world around me as well in the people I come across, whether or not they are clients. Being curious about ideas and, not the nosy parker sort a la Gladys Kravitz.
  3. Empathetic: being with someone as fully as I can be, without concern about how it might look or how I might be perceived my someone who doesn’t get me. I’m struggling with my empathy right now, though, as I deal with some providers who speak so disparagingly about their clients.
  4. Creative: Willing to think outside the mom box about ideas, projects and borings tasks too. Custom designed programs are always on the table.
  5. Service: creating the highest possible level of experience for a client(s), going above and beyond when it’s not expected, wowing someone who wasn’t excepting it and continually being mindful of how I can act in service my clients. This is one of my favorite pieces of my business.

Eight days of Cake


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This is my fourth visit to Germany, Regensburg specifically and the first two times, I found myself frustrated by the lack of good bakeries or pastry shops. At the end of my third visit here, I realized that I was mistaken. It wasn’t a lack of good shops but the fact that I was searching for pastry that was as good as I’d experienced in Italy. That was a lost cause and always will be. Nowhere is there pastry like Italian pastry. In the US, our best baked goods are cookies…although this is obviously somewhat regional. In Germany, however, their best baked goods are cakes. On this visit, I’d adjusted my thinking and set out to sample as many cakes as I could.

Cake is the perfect vacation food. It implies leisure. You have to sit down to indulge in it, which is absolutely one of the reasons why I seldom order cake in the US, at least not in the middle of the afternoon. Who has the time? You cannot eat a cake in 2-3 bites. Ice cream is wonderful on the go, as you circle round a new city examining old churches and considering dinner plans. When you’re eating cake, though, you really must sit there and eat it.

Cake is lIMG_6313ost on small children then. Elisabeth has no time or desire. She wants an ice cream or a cookie and to be on her way. I learned that cake is best enjoyed without an impatient child by your side. So, when I could, I tried to indulge without her. But the first few days of my eight days of cake were with her. Early on, I tried Chocolate Cherry (her choosing) at Anna, my hands-down favorite place for cake. Anna Liebt Brod und Kaffee, a wonderful restaurant cafe near the old city where we’re staying. Elisabeth can’t pass up anything chocolate; she has no good boundaries in this way. I’ve never been a chocolate cake fan but this cake was quite good. It was just moist enough to not get stuck in your throat but didn’t have the “damp” texture which can occasionally lend a soggy texture to some chocolate cakes.

Cake is an afternoon event and as my husband told me, it used to be the Sunday afternoon event. Today, it’s any afternoon excuse for anyone. I like to take my cake between 3:00-4:00 which is the time of day that many of us are looking for a small, in-between sweet to last us until dinner. Cake fits the bill; the slices are never big. They are always just enough of a generous taste to leave you satiated. With my cake adventures here, when the last bite has been consumed, I’m done too. I never want more, which is interesting in and of itself. At home, I’m always ready for another bite of doughnut or additional cookie.

IMG_6405The next day, Fabian was in Munich again so Elisabeth was still with me but this time I asked if she wanted a kinder kugel (80 cents of child-sized ice cream- a bargain!) which freed me up to enjoy my cake un-rushed. Well, for the most part. I opted for lemon knowing it was mine alone. It had a fine, sugar drizzle on top. The lemon was light and delicious. On my third day here, I’d indulged in way too many coffees so instead of opting for a coffee to go with my cake as is intended here (hence the usually dry cake), I ordered a housemade soda with lemon-basil syrup. A lot of lemon even for me but it worked. Elisabeth’s chocolate ice cream gave me just enough time to finish my slice and almost all of my lemonade.

The next day I was on my own in the afternoon and headed back to Anna to do some work and for my daily dose of cake. While I’ve been here, I’d made a lovely habit of heading to Anna to sit outside and writing for a few hours. Sometimes I had postcards with me but I’ve wrote letters and blogged as well. Writing, like cake eating, takes time. They are a perfect pair for that reason.
We are nearing the end of asparagus season here (it’s short-lived but absolutely wonderful…always, always order the spargelsuppe when it’s on any menu) and so raspberries are close behind. Germans more than Americans tend to use what’s in season so raspberries are coming up next. I saIMG_6447w a lovely himbeerentorte at Anna so I ordered that. It had a creamy center which wasn’t whipped cream exactly but something similar and helped hold the raspberries in place, although they were also suspended in their own juices and a bit of gelatin perhaps? But it didn’t taste gelatinous or have a strange mouthfeel. This was my favorite so far. The sweetness of the cream wasn’t cloying but a perfect foil to the rich raspberries. And this was just visually so beautiful. The picture above doesn’t do it justice. Use your imagination a bit on this one.

Like at home, on vacation we tend to spend our money on food. We’ve bought children’s books in German but scrapped the trip to the Playmobil parkin part due to Elisabeth being just three. So food it is!  There’s a Turkish market near our apartment where we get doughnut peaches, Gala apples, gorgeous peppers, feta and olive salad, and mini cukes on a daily basis. Cake, thankfully, is normally just 3 Euros for a slice. Some places are less expensive. Cake is a cheap indulgence.

On Wednesday afternoon we headed to the train station to take the 3 minute train to see my in-laws. I’d timed our trip to stop at the Anna in the mall, next to the station. Fabian and I both ordered cake and Elisabeth had a cookie. I remember the apple cream from last year (I may have no idea what street our apartment is on but I recall
the important things!) and ordered it. Fabian took the rhubarb crumb. Crumbs on top of a cake are always a good idea and so it was for this one too. We both agreed that it needed a side of cream (not a very German embellishment, however) but it was still IMG_6464excellent. Fabian is a sucker for rhubarb so he wanted more in the cake. I was content.

Yesterday was an off-day. Cake didn’t happen. It was missed. The afternoon was a hot one and without air conditioning or the promise of it, none of us felt much like leaving the apartment. Already today at not quite noon, it’s almost 85. It feels like Durham so much that I have a pang for home. But we leave soon and that will be the end of my cake days. Cake, though, has come to represent ore than indulgence; it’s a reason to step back and slow down. And that I will be taking with me.

Reflections on a German vacation


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There’s so much to love being here. This is my fourth visit to Germany, to Regensburg a city that I have grown to love. It’s Day #9 and I wanted to put down some thoughts as I’ve been thinking about them-

One of the reasons that I love being in Germany is being able to pass the bulk of the day to day responsibilities on my husband. I don’t speak the language so can get away with pretty much everything. I don’t ever go to the bank to get cash or figure out which bus or train to take. I purchase bread, coffee, apricots, Playmobil and ice cream. Anything more complicated is beyond me.

Stores have plenty of help and clerks are friendly. Unlike Paris. A city that I would be happy to never return to again. A resolution based on the fact that everyone I met there for a week in June three years ago was incredibly, unforgettably, rude…even when I was speaking French. Never again. This stereotype, sadly, was one I found true.

Euros are lovely and completely unlike dollars. Having American dollars in hand is a great way for me to go shopping because I hate parting with them. It has something to do with working for them and thinking twice about purchases. But it doesn’t work that way with Euros. Euros are like play money; so big and beautiful, they don’t seem real. And the coins are small and charming. I am reminded of being able to buy a cappuccino in Florence for a mille lire, with just one coin and feeling brilliant and savvy as I did so. Somehow using Euros is like that.

Is it in part because tax is included? Another nicety that makes it easy to be here and understand exactly what you need to pay for an item, especially if you don’t speak the language. The shoes I like (one of the pairs anyway) are 109 Euros so that’s all I’d hand to the clerk if I were to buy them. If, I said.

Euros can also feel lovely becaIMG_6376use some things are incredibly cheap here. Little rolls and bretzel (pretzel) are 70 cents and they’re not proof-and-bake. Homemade and delicious. A 1 hour Thai massage – a good one at that- for 30 Euros. A slice of the best cake you’ll ever have is maybe 3 dollars. Like the bread, cake slices are everywhere and very, very good. More on this coming.

Speaking of food, Haribo (the gummy bear folks) makes mini bags of their gummy bears and for some reason, they are often given out at restaurants. Beer gardens too. Keep kids happy and slightly sugared? Why not? I say. It’s not bedtime yet.

Kids have it really good in other ways here too. I often see children by themselves. On city streets, no less. You know, the place where “anything could happen”. And I love it. A little boy (maybe 8?) carries his “Mein Buch is Da!” purchase out of the bookstore, grabs his scooter across the street and pushes off. With nary a parent in sight. This is another one of my loves with being here. The independence of the children and the utter lack of helicopter parents.

In Germany I can be anonymous…even if I am hovering on the playground taking pictures. Most of the time people speak to me initially in German and when I fumble my way through the money, they immediately get my limitations. I don’t mind. When you’re taking a break, going on vacation, it’s refreshing to not have to engage anyone in conversation. Although sometimes I want to.

But it’s better that I don’t know German when the woman next to me lights up her third cigarette in 20 minutes. Dirty looks speak volumes. The amount of smoking here is akin to an episode of Mad Men. Everyone, all the time, seemingly as a second occupation, is smoking.

But some things here are similar. I searched for a mailbox for 2 days. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a mailman, notable for his bright yellow bike and rain gear, and consider for a moment flagging him down and handing my postcards to him. Maybe saying “bitte?” as a way to ingratiate myself to him. It wouldn’t have worked, or so I tell myself. Germans are very systematic. (You should have seen the city office where we registered our daughter so she could one day get a German passport!)

FullSizeRender-8Mainly, though, the differences stand out. The utter whiteness of everyone I see. Easily 85% of the people I see on a daily basis are white, or look white. And this, my husband, says is an improvement over what it was when he was growing up. Regensburg is more diverse than Heidelberg is. Everyone in Heidelberg is not only white but also thin and unbelievably beautiful. At least in Regensburg I see some difference. But I’ve still never seen two women holding hands or anyone who even appears to be gender non-conforming. Living a different life other than the “norm” here would be very lonely.

Dogs in department stores, mainly small ones, are very European in general. I loved when I landed in Italy for the first time in 1995. Dogs aren’t relegated to incessant barking in hot cars (nowhere to park here anyway!) but leashed and brought right into a store, even a grocery store, as if they had some hard-earned cash of their own to spend.

Speaking of which, work is left behind here, when the day ends. Other than myself, I haven’t see anyone on a laptop working outside. Wireless at cafes is nonexistent so that may be part of the reason. But everyone other than Americans have a clearer life/work boundaries. Taking your computer on vacation? Unimaginable. Vacation is intended to get away from work. And Germans, like other Europeans, actually take vacations. They take the weekend off. It’s a lovely reinforcement of work/life balance.

Can anyone be upset when they are woken by bells? It’s 7:00 am on a Saturday and everyone except me was out drinking last night and partying under our bedroom window, but the bells rang out marking the 7:00 am hour and I was awake. What a gift to be woken up not by a buzzing on my phone! What a gift to be here.

B2C Sales

More from Seth Godin’s Freelancer course on Udemy. This is Lesson #24.

Q. “What is your client afraid their husband/partner/friend will say if they say ‘yes’?”

A. “Why are you spending money on that?” “Will it be worth it?”
“How will you know it’s working?” “Why not see a therapist since insurance might cover that?”

Q.” What would your client say to explain why they bought ___from you?”

A. “I want to accomplish ____ and she doesn’t take on clients that she doesn’t think she can help succeed.” “My friend worked with her and she was terrific.” “I haven’t invested any money in me since college.” ”

Q.”What would you like them to tell their husband/partner/friend?”

A. “Coaching is very different from therapy. It’s action-oriented and Elizabeth’s programs center more around accountability and measuring success than many other coaches’ do. We check in at 5 weeks, a little less than 1/2 way through, to see if I’m getting what I need to reach my goal. If I don’t feel like I am, we end our coaching and she refunds the money I invested. I have a feeling that working with her will change my life.”

Ranking Myself


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Oof, this is a hard one. This exercise is from Seth Godin’s Udemy Freelancer course, exercise 13. I can see how some people would start this course and not finish or not post their answers publicly as Seth says to do. It’s hard to be this honest with yourself! But the timing is actually good for me since I’m done with rethiking my brand and am now just putting the new tools in place to announce that to the world. Four months ago though I’m not sure I would have been able to do this one…publicly anyway.

Seth says, “Compared to others who do what you do, rank yourself on: reputation, knowledge, expertise, tools and handiness.” I’ll use a scale of 1 -5.

  • Reputation: I’m well known to my clients but not to the greater community that I live in. My self-score: 2.
  • Knowledge: Whether it’s When Survivors Give Birth trauma-informed training or Bang It Out! coaching, I know my stuff well. My self-score: 4.
  • Expertise: …and I’m good at it. Better than most I’ve seen including some who have trained me and others who do what I do. My self-score: 4.
  • Tools: I’ve got ’em! And the ones I have are my own like my personal values discovery exercises that I use with BIO! coaching clients and in my personal growth workshops. So they not only work but they are unique and completely mine. My self-score: 4.
  • Handiness: I wasn’t sure exactly what Seth meant by this but then I remembered Lecture #6 when Seth  talks about the 5 kinds of freelancers. Level #2 was the handyman: she gets the job because she’s handy, the easiest one to grab. That’s definitely not me. Most people find me by referral not a Google search. My self-score: 1.

Then, Seth asks, “What will you invest in developing?”

Reputation. I want more people in my community to know who I am and what I do.

More tomorrow! Thanks for reading and for your support.

What women get



Lesson #8 from Seth Godin’s Freelancer class on Udemy is below. Seth advises to share widely, “do these exercises online, in public.” so I’m putting them on this blog. My previous exercise is here.

Q. “What do people buy when they buy something from you? Leave out the easy, repetitive, generic.”

A. My clients are buying success, support and accountability. Practically speaking, this coaching takes the form of tools that bring their gifts and talents to the forefront and thoughtful guidance to identify what’s not working & how to get rid of that. My clients also buy my authenticity: me working as hard as they are, taking risks, showing up and modeling vulnerability. After the “sale”, my clients walk away with the time, energy and direction they lack, along with the personal and/or professional happiness and satisfaction they desire.

Who Am I? – assignment for Seth Godin’s Udemy Course for Freelancers


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I started this course for freelancers on Udemy only because it is Seth Godin himself teaching it. I’ve bought almost all his books, including his newest, and like the rest of his fans, I feel like he is talking exactly to me and telling me what I need to hear. This course is no exception. A freelancer is an indy worker. She’s a retail shop owner like my pal Wendy who just opened up a brilliant new store in downtown Durham, Indio. Freelancers are people who work for themselves, like me. Perhaps like you too.

The following is an exercise from lecture #5 in Seth’s course. He says, put it out there. Make it public, take a risk, in typical Seth Godin “fail fast” fashion. Here are the questions he asks and my answers:

Q. What do I want to do?

A. I want to help women listen to themselves, make time for what works and say ‘no’ to what’s holding them back.

Q. Who do I want to change and how?

A. Busy women who are smart, capable and connected. They are eager to do things diffIMG_0443erently. I’ll help them change with an individual goal-oriented, time-limited program called Bang It Out! coaching, through personal growth group coaching workshops, a new moms group, and a training called When Survivors Give Birth.

Q. How much risk (1-10) am I willing to take & what would that look like? Tradeoffs etc.

A. 8. Not everything but damn close. In order to make this happen, I’m giving up doing any doTERRA even though it’s fun. I’m also giving some time on weekends with my family. I’ve cut back on volunteering, Tweeting and spending time with people who don’t completely satisfy me.

Q. Does this project matter for the risk and effort?

A. Absolutely. Women needs to listen to themselves so they can recognize the small boxes that they are placed in and then get the hell out of them so they can create their own box life. We must start adding things in that make us feel good and getting rid of the stuff that doesn’t. I’m the best person I know to do this kind of work. I’ve done similar work before but never quite so niched or in such a deliberate, productive, intentional way. No one can do this quite like I can.

Q. Is it possible? Has anyone with my resources pulled this off before?

A. There are other entrepreneurs out there who started with less money and less support. Marie Forleo comes to mind. I have more resources than I did 10 years ago even though I have less overall time.

If you’re considering freelancing or are a freelancer, buy this course. Even if yu don’t start freelancing Head to Udemy here, look for Seth Godin freelancer and enter the code MOVEUP to save $30 on the course when you check out. Deal ends tonight at midnight.


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