May 25, 2013

Mr. Man's 1st Haircut


Hair is kind of a big deal to me.

Partly because I'm from Texas, where hair is big in general. 

But also because my wild 'n' crazy mane has played an all-too-significant role in my life story. It started off slow-growing. My mom had to put headbands on me so people would realize I wasn't a boy. 



True story. 

And then BOOM. Once I hit kindergarten, there was no turning back. The curls were on the loose. Strangers felt compelled to pat my hair on a regular basis.



Curly Sue? Shirley Temple? Annie? "Do you know how much people pay for curls like that?"

If I had a nickel for every time....

Even though everyone else seemed to love it, I constantly struggled (and still do!) with managing my unruly 'do. Haircuts were a necessary evil - no way to know how they'd turn out. (Why couldn't I just have hair like the "straight girls"?!) 

If I'm completely honest, I was a bit concerned about what would happen if I had a boy with curly hair.

Don't get me wrong: I know plenty of handsome dudes who have made it work. But knowing what a struggle it was for me as a tot, I wasn't sure how it would turn out for my little fella.

To my surprise, howev, it seems Bryson's follicles are heading in the absolute OPPOSITE direction. 

Straight as a pin, his main hair concern is what we could call...uneven growth. Wings. Mudflaps. A reverse mullet of sorts, where the hair right above his ears was completely showing up the rest of crew.

So this past Monday, after almost 19 months of goin' and growin', it was time for the first trim.




Cute name, huh? It's a chain!


 You sure about this, Mom?

We got to the door, and the power was out. They said they couldn't do cuts because the clippers were out. I assured them scissors could do the job, and we were IN ;)


Figured the airplane was appropriate for the "wing" analogy.


Final moments - had to document the reason for the season!



 Totally fine...


...a bit perturbed...


...aaaaand OVER IT.


But Mama packed jelly beans. Crisis averted.


Ta-dah! 
He naturally has mohawk-ish tendencies, so she went with it and put a little gel on top ;)


My dream guys. Just when I thought they couldn't get any more handsome.


So that's the story of Bryson's first haircut. No power, a few jelly beans, and a whole lotta cuteness.

Anyone wanna guess how long it'll be til we need trim #2?

In the comments below, tell me: What's your best (or worst...) hair story? I know you've got one.

P.S.  This post is not directly related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!


April 28, 2013

Progress Check: Little Man at 18 Months

In honor of Bryson's 2nd half-birthday, I'd like to take a few moments to reflect on his current personal profile -- the skills, talents, interests, quirks, and such that we want to save in this digital time capsule of a blog.

I'll follow the formula I established in his 15-month update. Here we go!


Growing
Height - 32.75"
Weight - 25-26 pounds
Head - TBD at 18-month appointment
Runs around like a big boy. True toddler!

Playing
LOVES to be outside.
Gardens (eats dirt) with Daddy.
Still dances if the right beat comes along, but would prefer to run.
Shoes are a must when we go out - he's gotta run free!
Still enjoys a nice pair of shades.
Initiates wrestling with cousins on a regular - gotta watch that.
Favorite play partner - still Daddy! Nobody earns a belly laugh like him.
Still loves pushing buttons - any kind, anywhere.
Will go on walks with me IF I pack enough Goldfish and Cheerios to keep him happy.
Loves to run up and down the sidewalk and between the houses in our neighborhood.
His Gymboree this month is his near 24/7 playtime with cousins!
Total wildman playing on the big spongey wedge cushions at Nana and Pop's.
Likes to scoot on bikes and Plasma Cars.

Socializing
VERY friendly. He has a very quick, straight-up, straight-down "Hi." wave he offers to people.
Likes to blow smoochies when the spirit moves him. Selective with REAL smoochies.
If he's not in the mood to FaceTime, he'll let me know by demanding my attention through (sometiems violent) physical attachment.
Loves going to Ms. Diane's and playing and learning two days per week!
Still not sure about the nursery at church. It's hit or miss.
Has been great about seeing family! Takes a bit to warm up, but then he knows their names and gets right into the swing of things.
There have been days this week when he's been pretty clingy - but I'm okay with that. I'll take extra snuggles any day!
Likes to pat us on the back sometimes when we're holding him :)

Communicating
Usually will say "please" or "thank you" on request (not otherwise!)

Everyday words:
Socks
Blocks
Bolt (Daddy's proud of that one - learned on the playground)
Slide
Shoes
Fish
Bird

Cheese
Cookie
Outside
Go-Go
Binky
I know I'm forgetting lots...I'll come back to update!


Names (new since last update): 
Aiden, Avery, Luke, Leah, Kayleigh, Jacob, Nana, Paw Paw, JoJo, Tutu, Pop, George (as in Curious)

Animal Noises
Cow
Dog
Elephant
Monkey (looooves Curious George!)
Bear
Lion
Snake

Eating
Eats pretty well! Appetite depends on the day.
Pretty good with fork, less so with the spoon.
Still has a bad habit of throwing food when he's "all done" with it.
Favorites/staples: Bananas, grapes, steamed zucchini, peanut butter waffles, colby jack cheese sticks, tiny sneaky bits of sweets (if I'm selfless enough to share)

Still hates having his hands and face wiped after a meal.


Teething
All in, except for the pointy ones!
Big white front teeth, super-useful molars. (Probably thanks to the "tooth juice" fluoride drops.)
Still a great teether - we don't know they're coming til they're already there.

Lookin' Good
The faux-hawk is growing in strong.
I think we'll do a first haircut soon, as the hair behind his ears is looking kinda creepy.
He still gets called a "pretty boy" a lot.
I think he looks a LOT like me in my toddler pics, but he sure is handsome like his daddy.
Eye color seems to be settling into a greeny-gray. (Yes, he can list that on his driver's license.)

Sleeping
Still enjoys kicking back with hands behind his head.
Naps once a day, usually 1.5-2.5 hours shortly after lunchtime.
Usually goes down between 8-8:30. Wakes up around 6 to nurse, then back down til about 7:30.
Started covering him with a light Aiden + Anais blanket to feel more cozy.
Still using a binky and clip for sleeping and "emergencies" if needed in public (church!).
Listens to Hidden in My Heart lullabies (Volumes I and II) on iPod during sleepy times.

Bathtime

Bathtime duty still alternates. Daddy is all about the glowsticks!
Loves to splash. And try to drink the water when the tub is drained.
Always waves "bye-bye, bathtub" upon exit. (That's how he first learned to wave!)

That's it. He's the man. So crazy and fun to watch him grow and develop into a little person.

There's a lot going on in our lives right now, but it's so important for me stop and capture this stuff before it fades away.

What do YOU need to capture before you forget, and what are you waiting for? Open up a Word doc and write it down today! 

P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!


April 18, 2013

Our Worst Case of Jet Lag...Ever.

Earlier this week, B and I flew through the sky, over the ocean, and across a handful of timezones to visit the Lone Star State.

(His daddy's holding down the rainbow for us 'til we return.)

Writing a post about our flight adventures has been on my list for almost a year now. But this post isn't about our flight adventures. 

This post is about the ridiculous consequences of our most recent one.

When I speak of such ridiculous consequences, I speak of jet lag. To be honest, I used to scoff at the term. Like it was made up or something. 

It's not.

In fact, for those of you unfamiliar with it, here's the definition, courtesy of Merriam-Webster:



Fatigue? Check. 
Irritability? Check. 
Spontaneous emotional breakdown in front of father, sister, son, and bro-in-law? Check-check.

Let's back up a bit.

In the week leading up to our departure, B developed a bit of a mild cough, which disturbed everrrybody's sleep each night. By the time our departure day rolled around, I knew it hit me. I had a cold too. 

All things considered, our redeye flight was pretty uneventful. Out of the seven-ish hours, B probably slept about five. I was in and out of consciousness, making sure he was as comfy as possible, snuggled up with me in the seat. 

NBD.

We arrived, bleary-eyed, but running on adrenaline and the excitement of seeing Texas fam for the first time in months. We got our traditional Shipley's breakfast and cousins came to play. 

B was happy as a clam while I (a bit compulsively) unpacked and got us settled for the visit. 

Honestly, I was shocked (inspired?) by how well he was coping with the time change. He was FULL of energy, running around like a wildman and playing with his cousins. He eventually took a short nap, then came back for more.

All was well, until it wasn't.

Later that evening (or was it afternoon?!), I had a breakdown. My dad asked if he could leave to go handle something up at the office, and I lost it. 

I was SO. STINKING. EXHAUSTED. Just the idea of surviving dinner, bath, and bedtime alone on what felt like half a brain pushed me over the edge. 

I burst into a mess of tears, right there in front of my dad, my sister, Bryson, and my bro-in-law. (Who asked from the safety of the next room, "Aren't you supposed to cry when you're LEAVING? You just got here?!")

My dad, flabbergasted by the ridiculous response (although he really should be used to it by now after raising four daughters...) said, "Well I'm sorry! I won't even think about leaving now!"

I was a mess. Sweet Bryson grabbed a Kleenex and started wiping his face out of precious empathy.

Through the sobs, I laughed at myself. "I'm sorry. I have literally no good reason to be crying. There is no secret emotional cause. I'm just tired! Like exhausted. I just want to relax. I want Bryson to sleep well. Since I don't see that happening, I'm a crazy person."

Minutes later, I snapped out of it. I hadn't had a good cry in a while, so maybe I just needed a release.

Then it was Bryson's turn to take a spin on the jet lag train.

After the cousins were gone and the toys were shelved, it was time to set the bedtime routine in motion. I knew we were in for something special, considering the tiny amount of sleep and massive amounts of playtime we were working with.

We sat down to the table with some strawberries, Wheat Thins, and a peanut butter waffle (don't judge).

The rest of the story speaks for itself. 

(Note: Be sure to turn up your speakers so you can hear/see what happens at :29.)


I originally recorded this just to send to his daddy, who is missing him like crazy. (Thanks for sharing us with Texas, Jerm!)

But then I realized it was too funny/cute/pitiful not to share with everybody.

Immediately after the sleepiest dinner of all time, we headed to a quick bath and got ready for bed. Except for a 30-minute period when he sat quietly in his crib, pondering life's great mysteries, he slept remarkably well for the entire night! 

As for me, his crazy mother, I felt MUCH better after a shower and getting some work done. A day or so later, we're almost adjusted.

As it turns out, our worst case of jet lag of (ever) was pretty entertaining. Even still, I'm hoping to spare the tears next time. Unlike Bryson's sleep-eating, it's just not cute.


What are your best tips for avoiding jet lag? Share them here in the comments!


P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

April 7, 2013

Confessions of a Prom Queen: 10 Years Later


Our senior prom was ten years ago this week.

YEESH.


In honor of the 10 year anniversary, I'd like to share some of my clearest thoughts and memories about the big day and the stuff leading up to it.

Spoiler alert: None of these confessions are scandalous. I was (and always have been) a pretty boring goody-goody. Thanks for being my friend anyway.


Since the whole prom experience was a pretty fun and innocent part of our story, I figure it's worth remembering.

At the very least, this will be entertaining for our grandbrownies to read one day :)


Confession #1: I almost didn't have a date. 

Sure, I had been with my boyfriend (now husband) for almost four-and-a-half years by the time this dance rolled around. We had been to every single dance since eighth grade together. But still. I was a lady.

And he needed to ask.

We didn't have many classes together during our time in school, but this particular semester we shared third period - economics. Our teacher (Mrs. K) had a great sense of humor. She also a dry erase board on one wall of the classroom where she listed anyone who was freely available on the prom date market.

With Jerm sitting right next to me, I raised my hand.

The class laughed, knowing we'd been a couple for a million years in high school time. Still.

"He hasn't asked yet!" I said.

And I was added to the list.

Confession #2: I orchestrated my own prom proposal.

I've always been a pretty direct communicator.

When I knew I was going with a white dress, I casually (or probably not-so-casually) mentioned that it'd be cute if he proposed that I go to prom with him.

(Seriously - Lord help me if Bryson's high school girlfriend is as "subtle.")

On the way to prom, we stopped to take pictures at the Hines Waterwall Park in Houston. Clever boy he was, he busted out a (fake) ring and proposed.

Yes - literally en route to the big event.

Confident little fella.

Confession #3: I picked our first dance song.

Our class vice principal (Mrs. Z) asked me after school one day, "What song should we play for the couple who wins prom king and queen?" I replied, "Well I don't know about anybody else, but if it's me and Jerm, you could play 'My Best Friend' by Tim McGraw. That's our song!"

Crazy of all crazies, a few weeks later on prom night, we found out it WAS me and Jerm!

But we didn't have that moment you see in the movies, when there's an official "first dance." The next slow song, our song, wasn't played until a few songs later. In a way, it was even more special. Surrounded by a sea of our classmates and friends, we knew it was playing just for us.

AND, to add another layer to that special musical onion, about five-and-a-half years later, we danced to the same song, surrounded by many of those same friends.

I was wearing a white dress, and he was wearing a tuxedo.

But this time my diamonds were real.


Confession #4: The dance was WAY more fun than the before and after parties.

I know a lot of my friends had the most fun at the pre-party or the after-party, but for me, the dance was the best part of the night.

Corsaged hands down.

I've mentioned before that I love to dance. Jerm, not so much. His excuse at first was that he didn't want to get sweaty before we went up on stage. So he stood, and I danced and whirled around him.

(FYI: He still didn't dance much even after the stage part...LAME!)

Really though, there was something magical about such an iconic evening. All night, I kept thinking, "I can't believe this is our senior prom," a classic rite of passage for any American teenager.

We were there at the Hyatt, all dressed up and celebrating with friends we'd accumulated over the better part of a decade. This was the last big hurrah before we went our separate ways. It just felt significant.

As the night went on, the songs got slower. And mushier. I remember slow dancing to "Freebird" (ha!) and "Time of Your Life." I held onto him so tightly. I'm pretty sure I cried a little. I knew it was a precious moment that we'd remember forever.

I had a feeling change was coming soon, and I was right. Just a few months later, we went our separate ways for a while as we figured out who we were on our own. (Not sure what we'll tell the grandbrownies about that part just yet.)

Confession #5: Our classmates are awesome - and maybe a little crazy.

Our freshman class started out with about 1200 people. By graduation, we were down to 950. Sounds like a lot, right? It was.

You wouldn't think you could really get to know many people well in such a huge school, but we did. Our hometown produces some really special folks (and a surprising number of "sweetheart" marriages!).

I think it's safe to say that we got along with everybody.

It was incredibly humbling to be selected for this "honor" by our classmates. As the "old married couple" of our class, year after year we'd be nominated for this or that. One of us would win, the other wouldn't.

The class election stars had never perfectly aligned before, and we weren't crazy enough expect them to for the last go 'round.

When they did, it was a storybook ending to that chapter of our story.

(Thanks again for that, guys!)

Confession #6: It really did feel like a movie, minus the mean girls part.

I mentioned that our class was made up of some great people. That means they didn't nominate meanies for stuff like this. Unlike the movies, the folks who got nominated for special recognition were good people. Nice, friendly people.

On prom night, we shared the stage with some of the kindest people in the whole bunch. That made the whole experience even sweeter.

I'm not gonna lie to you. When our names were called - both, together - it was pretty surreal. Seeing our friends jumping up and down on the dance floor in front of us was pretty fun too.

And breaking it down on the dance floor with them in the moments immediately following was even MORE fun :)

Confession #7: I still have the tiara. And the frog.

Friend, I really loved this tiara. (What girl doesn't love some sparkle?)

I'd gotten a little tiara for homecoming before, but this one was a big mama in comparison.

After the announcement, I danced around the room, sharing the tiara with girlfriends who wanted a spin with the sparkle. (Hey ladies - if you have pictures from that night, send 'em to me!)

I've still got the tiaras, the sashes, the mums, the posters, the dance team costumes, the dresses, the notes...way too many fire hazards...in boxes at my parents' house. I can't let 'em go just yet.

The same goes for the giant purple frog Jerm won for me at AstroWorld. We had a physics field trip at the (now-extinct) Six Flags theme park the day before, and with just $5, he made the "impossible" shot.

(Hey - he wasn't co-captain of the basketball team for nothin'! Should've seen his dunking skills.)

Seriously - how perfect? A purple frog with a crown?

If you need extra help with the appreciating foreshadowing here: We got our own crowns the next night, just months before I officially became a Horned Frog at good ol' TCU - where purple is the only color in the rainbow.

Confession #8: It wasn't all perfection.

Amidst all the fun, glamorous memories and perfect purple frog king, it's important to keep it real. For the grandbrownies.

While I certainly felt like a princess at certain points in the evening, the look took some work.

I had a spray tan, good Spanx (did they exist in 2003?), and had been using Crest White Strips for weeks to prepare. My amazing mama styled my hair, as she had done for all but two dances in my entire "school dance" career. My sister did my makeup - complete with fake lashes, my favorite part!

As for the ol' king and queen?

We had an argument right before hopping in the fabulous red stretch Hummer. I was upset because Jerm had stayed at the beach house the night before, when I wasn't allowed (or didn't really want to...see "goody-goody" reference earlier).

I missed hanging with my girlfriends. The nature of the beast was that there were only so many beach houses and so many people to fit in in each. We were scattered up and down the row, quite a walk away from my best girlfriends. I was sad to miss out on that part.

Best part because it turned out fine: Jerm went to the emergency room the next day after a freak allergic reaction to peeling crawfish. HA! Seriously. Scary at the time, hilarious in retrospect. Poor guy.

That was not a fun way to spend "skip day."

10 Years Later

Mysterious allergic reactions and spray tans aside, it was a pretty magical night.

Now, ten years later, we've been married and living in Hawaii for going on five years. Our little one is almost 18 months old.

If you'd told me then that we'd be here now, I wouldn't have believed you.

I had always considered that we'd end up together, but that night, all I could think about was the next few months. Going off to college, starting an entirely new chapter.

It was such a bittersweet but exciting time.

So. To my future grandbrownies and all high school seniors across America, here's my advice:

Chill out. Yes, college is important, and yes, relationships are too, but take a deep breath. Stop worrying so much. You'll look back and laugh at the things you take so seriously now. 
Cool it with the self-portraits. I'd tell you to take more pictures, but let's be honest. In the age of digital photography, you're probably taking too many already. Take pictures of the special stuff, and the everyday stuff you want to remember, but then delete the others. And never take pictures of something you wouldn't want your grandma to see :) 
Love on your buddies. The friends you made in high school (and before!) will always be special to you, even if you don't see them nearly as often as you'd like. Who knows? You may even live across an ocean one day and have to miss weddings and babies and stuff you swore you never would. That part stinks. But it's life. So take advantage of these last few months when you're all in the same five-mile radius.  
Let each other go and grow. After almost five years together, Jeremy and I broke up that summer after high school. It was ridiculously tough, but I'm so thankful for that time. So don't be afraid to let your "person" (boyfriend or best friend!) go. It's important to know who you are independently before you can truly appreciate who you are together!
Don't rush. Whether you had a great high school experience, you can't get out fast enough, or both, this is a special time in your life. 

Live. it. up.





Okay, "grownups," what's your favorite prom story - good or bad? Do tell. Bonus points if you send photos.



P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

April 2, 2013

The Secret to a Successful Day

Has it seriously been a week already!?

Time is flying over here, friend. Like whoa.

I mentioned last week that I'm finding it harder and harder to make time to write over here. It's true.

And I have got to let go of the guilt.

While I thoroughly enjoy clicking "Publish" at the end of a writing session, it's not what defines a successful day for me.

Planning the Transition
I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate stories about B and our family life on my new site. I'm just not sure how to do that yet.

I know my dream clients will LOVE that I'm a mom (because they're moms too!), so it will be a natural fit at some point. Plus, B is pretty stinkin' cute. Who wouldn't want to hear about him? ;)

Still, while I'm just getting things started, I'll need to focus my efforts on specific content that can help my potential clients. (That content will be related to communicating like a superstar!)

Basically what I'm telling you is: Please don't be disappointed that the mom stories are taking a backseat right now. 

a) That's what Facebook is for! and
b) I'll find a way to keep writing them eventually. Gimme time.

In the meantime, I've gotta be smart about my time and resources. At this stage of the game, my mom energy is best spent on actual momming, and my writing energy is best spent on biz planning.

To-Do, To-Do, To-Do
Behind the scenes these days, I'm participating in a lovely Good Morning Girls bible study, hanging with my hunky husband, playing with my ever-entertaining toddler, grading papers and facilitating UOP discussions, developing education programs and creating content for my NPS job, flossing, soaking up training videos, meeting new digi-friends, maintaining sanity by walking around the block a time or four each day....

And that's not even including all the biz-building activity up in this piece! Seriously. There's a lot going on.

BUT it's all okay. I know that and I feel that. And I've actually been way less stressed than I imagined I'd be! That's no coincidence.

I think I mentioned before that this year I've challenged myself to do a daily devotional called Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Shockingly, so far I've managed to complete every day, on the actual day, except for two. (Boo to those two days.) This is a BIG deal for me!

Anyway. A lot of the devotions focus on consciously choosing to experience God's peace, feeling joy, knowing Him and being open to His guidance. But one particular message from this weekend really struck me, right in the to-do list-making heart:
"A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with Me, even if many things remain undone at the end of the day. Do not let your to-do list (written or mental) become an idol directing your life."
BOOM.

Even when I get lost in a sea of to-do lists (and wow, do I have a sea of to-do lists!), I'm reminded that this life is just a blip on the radar of eternity. I'm absolutely meant to do what I'm doing, so I should take it seriously, BUT....not too seriously.

Say it with me now:

It's okay I didn't write a new blog post. It's okay I didn't do the laundry. It's okay I didn't make it to the grocery store. It's okay I didn't do my taxes. It's okay!

Okay, we really do need to pay our taxes, and we really do need groceries and clean clothes. Those aren't things we can just forget forever.

HOWEVER... they are things that are SO minor that they don't deserve brain space, stress, guilt, or disappointment on a daily to-do list.

Get what I'm saying?

Here's the secret to a successful day:

Let it go, friend. 

Instead of feeling bad about what was left on your to-do list tonight, focus on the best things that DID get done today. Be present in those fleeting moments that you know will make the highlight reel.

Wanna know the best thing I did today? Check out that picture up there.

I took my little dream guy to the park to burn off some energy before lunch and naptime. It was kinda hot. He found all the tiniest rocks and gave them to me as gifts. We slid, we swung, he laughed, I smiled, and it was fun.

Today was a successful day.


In the comments, I'd like to know: What's your definition of a successful day? How do you unwind when you've got a lot going on?


P.S.  This post is not directly related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

March 26, 2013

My New Adventure: Say it Brightly

Earlier this year, I told myself (and YOU) that I was going to write once a week to strengthen my consistency muscles.

But here's the truth:

I'm having a hard time making time to write over here, and I don't feel bad about it. (Okay, I do a little. But I shouldn't.) Because I'm still writing, it's just not here.

You know that big dream I mentioned a few weeks ago? It's growing wings. Quickly.

Things are really happening, and it's pretty amazing.

The Mini Reveal
I've been reading, thinking, and praying (about this and plenty other things) a LOT over the past several weeks. And I've decided to launch more than just a website.

I'm launching a full-(home)grown business:

Nikki Elledge Brown - Communication Stylist.

There - I said it! I'm a communication stylist. (Yes, I just made that up. But I put a lot of thought into it!)

It's the best way I can think to summarize what I love to do!

My website will be www.nikkielledgebrown.com, and my motto is "Say it brightly."

Why Say it Brightly?
Has someone ever called you bright? Have you ever called someone bright?

To me, it's the loveliest compliment there is.

It means intelligent. Articulate. Even brilliant! It also implies positive. Light. Sparkling from inside.

I love it. 

My mission is to help women (especially those who are growing their families while growing their businesses) communicate more effectively. To say it brightly.

I'll write weekly blog posts about (brilliant!) communication AND the fun (and sometimes chaos) of growing my fam while growing my business. I'm even going to incorporate video (yep I said it - now make sure I do it!).

My favorite part of teaching in the face-to-face classroom was witnessing those "lightbulb moments" in my students' eyes when they really GOT it. So. Since it's my business and I get to do what I want, I'm also offering services to work on-on-one with women on their communication styling.

Lightbulb moments galore!

Another way I'll make this "job" dreamy is to give a portion of all of my fees to amazing organizations like Holden Uganda. If that motivation doesn't get me excited about showing up for work, I don't know what will!

The Bright Start Power Session
As a coming out party for my new biz, I crafted an offer for my fellow entrepreneurs. Not sure if I'll open this up again as an option in the future, but for now it feels like the right thing for where I am. These sessions are exposing me to really great women (from all over the world!) who are really passionate about their unique business ideas.

PLUS, after just a handful of free sessions today, I've already booked my first official paid sessions with three women I thoroughly enjoyed working with! (WHAT?! Pinch me.)

Instead of trying to explain to you what I'm actually doing, I'm just gonna let you read it. (So go on - read it! I'll catch you back at the bottom.)


The Bright Start Power Session:
you + me + 30 minutes of brilliant, wildly effective communication creation. FREE.

Are you a charming superstar in person but a bit of dud in writing? OR… Are you brilliant writer who would rather give herself a paper cut than speak in public? You’re not alone, sister.

And I’d love to help you. Free of charge.

My heart, expertise, and formal education is in communication studies – not just effective writing and speaking, but the actual social science of how and why we communicate the way we do. I am a word nerd. A communication stylist. I’ve spent the last seven years teaching people how to say what they need to say in the brightest way possible. Now it’s your turn.

A half-hour of power will fly by, but we’ll make every minute count. You get to pick how we spend our creative time together. Here’s a freshly minted menu of ideas to get you started. We can…
  • Write the perfect tagline, byline, or headline
  • Polish and edit existing content so you look like the intelligent pro you are
  • Hone in on your ideal customer avatar (and how to reach her)
  • Brainstorm relevant, sustainable blog post ideas
  • Start creating a bio that sells the story of YOU and attracts your ideal customers
  • Jumpstart that reeeally important email or newsletter you’ve been avoiding
  • Build your social networking toolbox
  • Learn how to be genuinely appealing to people you meet face-to-face or online
  • Practice getting those pesky public speaking butterflies to fly in formation
I’m offering ten of these sessions over the next two weeks. Why? 1. To celebrate communication week (Module 3 - woohoo!), and 2. To start my new business with a healthy dose of giving goodness and happy clients.

As you know, it’s important we’re a good fit. As a matter of fact, I’d like these sessions to go to the 10 best “fits” I can find! In order to ensure our brains will storm brilliantly together, please fill out this survey to give me a feel for our communichemistry: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/K7XPL5G.

Please note: In addition to building my biz, I’ve got a day job and a 17-month-old lil buddy to love on. These time slots are very specific. If our calendars and expectations match, I’ll get back to you ASAP to schedule our power sesh. If they don’t, I’d love to thank you for your time by offering an A to your burning communication Q here in the Facebook group. Just be sure to tag me in it!

Sound good?

Get excited, lady! This is gonna be fun.
I had 34 business owners respond to this survey yesterday. I reached out to the ones who I thought would be the best fits, and once the spots filled up, I thanked everybody else for their interest (and offered help via Q&A).

I booked every session I made available (and then some, actually!). And as I mentioned, just from today's sessions, I've already got at least three lovely ladies who want to continue working together.

Is that confirmation that I'm on the right path or what?! (Thanks, God. This is awesome!)

Whew.

That's the scoop, amigo. Ever since I started to take quiet time and pray at the start of each day a few months back, this flood of ideas and inspiration has come down the pipe. I think it's NO coincidence.

You know what else I think?

This is gonna be fun.

What do you think? Am I crazy? (Because I'm doing it anyway.) Got a dream nagging at your brain? Need a kick in the booty to start before your ready? (Because I can help you with that too.)

As usual, I'd love your thoughts and comments below. Get to typin'!

P.S.  As mentioned, my business is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. If you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

March 17, 2013

How to Build a Well with Your First Car*


*with the funds from selling your first (or any) car, item, or service.

Mind if I share something REALLY exciting with you?

Before we begin today's storytime, please note: I'm not sharing this for kudos of any kind! The old "I'm the faucet, God's the water" analogy fits, well, perfectly here.

Okay. Now we're ready. 

Here's the story of how we built a well with my first car.


A couple of months ago, my husband and I sold my first car, a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I’d had “Black Beauty” for almost 13 years, since just before my 16th birthday (thanks again, Mom and Dad!). 

For a variety of reasons (even though she was still rockin' out and in beautiful shape), it was time to let her go. I’m not one to be emotionally attached to “things,” but I knew that I couldn’t just SELL her and leave it at that. There needed to be more. 

There are plenty of ways to donate a car, but according to my research, that's not the way to go if you really want to maximize your donation. There are plenty of third party organizations whose job it is to handle the paperwork for you and make it "easy." They'll even come pick up the car for you! But then they sell it at auction (for less than you'd make selling it yourself), and take a commission before giving the proceeds to your organization.

That wasn't the best option for us.

I realized the solution would be to sell her ourselves, then donate whatever we made from the sale. I used all the sales and communication skills I've got to create the perfect Craigslist post. {Fun fact: I started drafting a listing for the Jeep years ago. I knew it was coming one day. But every time I revised it, I convinced myself how great she was, reinforcing that I wasn't ready to sell her yet!}

The next step was to find the right organization to partner with.

Holden Uganda
Enter Holden Uganda Foundation, an amazing water organization founded by my sister-in-law’s college friend and her husband.

Sarah and Chet Erwin founded this organization shortly after losing their son Holden at 38 weeks gestation. Their initial goal was to build just nine wells, one for each month he was alive on earth. They’ve now built over 100. Holden’s story had always been in the back of my mind.

When I went to the website and watched this video, I saw the dire yet SIMPLE need for water these people face. I cried my eyeballs out. I knew this was a match!

Our last day together. YES, I took pictures.
Within days of posting (what I'll go ahead and say was a pretty great Craigslist ad), we found a PERFECT family to buy the Jeep. Like my husband, he’s in the military. He’d just returned from another tour in Afghanistan and happened upon my Craigslist ad while waiting at the airport.

They had three little girls and needed a second car to drive around the island. They appreciated what great condition we’d kept “her” in, and were happy to pay the exact listing price. No negotiating needed.  (When does THAT happen in a Craigslist sale?!) I told them what we planned to do with the funds, and they were excited to be a part of it. (Told you they were the perfect buyers!)

We made the transaction, sent the check to Snyder, Texas on January 31st, and yesterday, less than two months later, Sarah sent me the most exciting email of my life.

The Kaleke well, our well, is now complete, providing fresh water for 1,300 people in Uganda.  



Is that crazy or WHAT?!?!!(!!!)

It's ah-mazing to see the smiling faces of our brothers and sisters in Uganda with that beautiful clear H2O and think we played a tiny part in making it possible for them. We take our water for granted, but it is such a precious resource.

For example, did you know that approximately 1.8 million children die each year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation? That's 5,000 per day.

It's heartbreaking. 

But that doesn't mean we have the right to tune it out and ignore the problem.

I wanted to share this to publicly thank the sweet Lord (and the Holden Uganda family!) for the opportunity to serve like this, and hopefully to inspire you to give how and where you can. You see, my husband's enlisted in the military, and I work part-time for the government. We're not rolling in the dough over here, people.

Please don't read this and think, "One day when I have enough to give...."

You DO have enough to give. The fact that you're even reading this blog post from a computer or smart phone or wherever you are with internet access is proof...you have enough to give.


We chose to list Hebrews 10:24 on our first well because a) 10/24 is a special day in this house, and b) its message says it all:

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."

Being a part of this is such a crazy and humbling thrill, friends. And that's because we were CREATED for this stuff!

Hawaii's Jr. HUF Spokesman ;)
This first well won't be our last.

This experience has inspired me to donate at least 5% of my (future!) business to Holden Uganda Foundation and other organizations that have my heart. My clients will get to pick who they want to support through our work together. I cannot WAIT.

I hope that reading this story makes your heart happy and inspires you to give too. Every little bit helps. And if you're feeling a tug on your heart as you read this, I think that means you're ready to find your little bit.

Trust me:

You have enough to give. 

Here's how.

  1. Don't ignore it. Find more water facts at HoldenUganda.org and other water sites like CharityWater.orgWaterAidAmerica.org, and Compassion.com
  2. Conserve water. Appreciate it for the precious resource it is. Turn off the faucet when you're not using it, take shorter showers, use every drop you can...you know. Hippie stuff! ;)
  3. Spread the word. If our story got you thinkin', please share it with your family, friends, and colleagues who might get to thinkin' too. Thinkin' could lead to doin'. 
  4. Get involved! Start contributing to a well of your own, or help another family finish theirs! Visit www.holdenuganda.org to learn more about how you can work with their amazing organization and help get fresh water to the people of Uganda. (Tell 'em the Browns sent you!)


What's your favorite non-profit organization and why? What's your favorite way to serve others, either here in your own neighborhood or across the world? Please tell me here in the comments. I'm always on the lookout!


P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

March 9, 2013

My Public Display of Imperfection

Second grade. Spell "sassafras!"
Always take the work seriously. Never take yourself seriously.
~Paul Newman

I've always been a good speller.

Back in elementary school, I was usually first to finish the spelling tests and the multiplication quizzes. And I'd ace 'em. 

Speed and precision, baby. That was me. 

While out and about, I’d even ask my parents, "Ask me how to spell something. Anything!" in a thirst to hone my skills. (I'm not making this stuff up.)

Whether by default or actual job description, I've been a writer and editor for years. I try to present "areas for improvement" in a loving way. With my college students, I make notes in orange, not red. With my friends, I usually don't bother mentioning a typo unless it's clearly important. With myself, I read and reread and reread until I’m as certain as possible that the text is error-free before publishing. 

But there’s always a possibility that something will sneak by me. 

Let's call it: a public display of imperfection.

The Most Meaningful Typo of My Life

I’ve recently embarked on a new digi-adventure that required me to type up a profile. I needed a one-stop shop to share all of my social media links – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

I realized my Facebook URL wasn’t “nikkielledgebrown,” so I hopped on over to change it real quick. No biggie. I clicked on Account Settings – Username, typed in my name, and clicked “Submit” (or whatever the button said).

All was well. Until it wasn’t.

You see, as I clicked “Submit,” I read some tiny print at the bottom that said something about only being able to change the username once. I thought that was strange, but it didn’t keep me from clicking.

Then the meaning of that sunk in a bit, and I looked a little more closely:

www.facebook.com/nikkelledgebrown...wait...I MISSPELLED MY OWN NAME!?!?!

Yes, yes, I did. 

And there was no way to change it. I felt like I was on Candid Camera. These Facebook guys are practical jokesters. I can figure out anything with a quick Google search. Surely there’s a way to get around this rule!

Trust me, friend. I have searched high and low, via Facebook support and via Google. They have these username changes on lockdown. Apparently people abused the privilege, so they moved from a free-for-all model to a request-approval model, and finally to a one-time only model. No ifs, ands, or whiney but(t)s.

It's like a misspelled tattoo.

Sliver Silver Linings

I have to admit, it still kinda bugs me. (And if there’s a way to fix it that you know of, I am all ears.)

At the same time, whether it’s fixed or not, I firmly believe there’s a silver lining to every cloud. The silver lining for me is that it makes a great story. As I move forward with plans for my new website, I'm armed with a tale to tell, and a lesson to share: It's okay (and liberating to openly admit) that you're not perfect!

Other valuable lessons worth revisiting here include:
  1. Read the fine print. It will usually remind you how important it is to…
  2. Always always ALWAYS double-check before publishing something. We all make mistakes every now and then. More specifically...
  3. Don’t change your Facebook username until you’ve had at least three people look over your shoulder and confirm it’s exactly right. Mmhmm.
Last, but not least:

    4.   Don’t take yourself too seriously, woman!

For real. Think about this.

Anybody and everybody who knows me can appreciate the irony of this situation. And if you don't know me yet, I hope you can see it too. As a distinguished star speller, grammar guru, queen of commas and capitalization, I have now permanently misspelled my own name for the world to see.

And I’m okay with it.

Don't be fooled...
I really don’t try to be too cool for school (literally – I love school and have always worn my nerd badge proudly). I don’t even want to pretend to be perfect. I am far from it. And pretend perfect is boring. This fiasco is a quality reminder of that.

The truth is, few people will ever notice my Facebook URL. (Except for those of you who read this blog, of course.) Still, most people won't type in my URL to find my profile. They'll click it from a link somewhere, and they won’t think twice. 

I will look at it though, in its second-“i”-missing glory, and use it as an opportunity reflect on my imperfect humanity. An ever-present reminder of why I’m in desperate need of grace.

And spell check.



What do you think? Do you try too hard to be perfect in certain areas of your life? How do you keep from taking yourself too seriously? Care to share the tale of your greatest public display of imperfection? :)

P.S.  My business is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. If you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

March 5, 2013

The Question I'd LOVE to Ask You

Hello, friend!

After my “Dreaming Big” post two weeks ago, I got a lot of great feedback from you. Oddly enough, that post is now about to knock out B’s 1st birthday extravaganza for the #1 spot! I like to think it's because you'd like to join me on this next adventure.

Anyway. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I know it’s easier not to, but at this stage of the game, every constructive comment I get plays a role in the decisions I make moving forward.

You are my market research!

You told me that you enjoy reading this blog because it’s relatable, fun, practical, everyday stuff. Some of the stories take an otherwise mundane part of life and make it more exciting. Some of the stories touch you because you’re there in that same phase of life.

You were just packing for the hospital, your ideal birth plan was also turned upside down (get it??), or perhaps you also had your iPhone stolen and falsely accused an innocent Craigslist poster.

We’re simpatico!

If that’s what has drawn you to the blog, don’t worry. I’ll keep writing about the everyday stuff in some capacity. I just want to grow a bit (okay a lot) more and put more intention behind it.

What I want to add is a more helpful element. I am more than thrilled if something I write entertains you, makes you laugh, makes you cry (in a good way), or makes you think. That’s amazing!

But what I really want to do in addition to all that is to use my unique set of interest, skills, and talents to make your life better in some way. I’ve got a lot of interests and experience to offer, but in order to be effective, I need to get a bit more focused.

Here’s where you come in.

I’ve got a survey for you. There are 10 questions total, but there's ONE in particular that will be absolutely key to helping me figure out where to focus. If you've only got 30 seconds, this is the one you gotta answer.

The Background Breakdown

First, if you don’t know me that well, here’s what you need to know about my experience before filling out the survey:
  • I’m married to a man who proudly wears a US Navy uniform to work every day.
  • I’m the mother of a precious 16-month-old fella named Bryson. 
  • I live a good 4,000 miles away from my extended family, so we’ve got the long distance thing covered.
  • I’ve got two degrees in Communication Studies. (No need to call me master.) 
  • I work mostly from home, and work-life (family) balance is very important to me.
  • I’ve been teaching communication in an official capacity since 2006. 
  • I. love. teaching. 
  • I've got big dreams, and I'm not afraid to go after them. Starting now.

Take the Survey!

K. Now you're all caught up. Time for the Qs.

As I  mentioned, late last night I crafted a survey to ask you some burning questions. If you’ve enjoyed reading the stories here and want to join me on this next adventure, please take a few minutes to fill it out.

I know most of you don't even comment when you click on over here, and that's totally fine (although I'd always love to hear what you have to say!). But this is hugely important. Come on. You can do eeet!

If you don't think you've got a few minutes, but only like, 30 seconds, to spare, let's cut to the chase: Question #4 is the heart of the survey. If you're short on time, please answer at least that one.

I would LOVE to know what you think!

Here it is. 10 questions, just for you.

Go on and click. I’ll wait!

Need the link again? Here you go.

K. Did you do it?

Excellent! Thank you so much!! I seriously can't wait to read your responses. It'll be like Christmas morning, only instead of socks, it's guidance for my business plan.

I have just one more favor to ask.You're on a roll!

If you know of a few friends who would enjoy reading this blog, please pass this post along. I am hoping to get as many responses as possible to help guide my decisions behind the scenes before creating the new site.

I can't tell you everything I've got planned because, well, it's not planned yet. (DUH. That's why I'm taking the survey.)

But everything else is falling into place around the unknowns. This is going to happen, people! 

And just to make a public proclamation so you can hold me to it: I'm planning to have the website up and running by June at the latest.

Get excited.

P.S. If you don't have time for the survey now, but will later, like when you're in the bathroom or laying in bed setting your alarm for the morning, here's the link again. 10 Qs for YOU.

I appreciate you! ;)

photo credit: Oberazzi via photopin cc

Exciting update! My business is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. If you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

February 24, 2013

Time Management for Real People: 7 Tips to Keep Your Sanity


What do the president of the United States, a college student who sleeps until 2:00 pm, and you have in common?

You all have 168 hours in each week. (Yep. I did the math.)

What you choose to do with those precious hours is up to YOU. Whether I want to admit it or not, the busier I am, the more I accomplish. The more free time I have, the more time I waste. Sad, but true.

The lesson?

Busy people get things done.

It's not about having more time. It's about doing a better job of managing the time we have.

The next few months will be the busiest I’ve had in a while. Between a couple of jobs, participating a bible study or two, taking a trip across the ocean, turning a big dream into reality, being the wife of my hunky husband and the mom of my favorite little person, there’s lots to do.

It’s time to dust off my laser-focused time management skills.  

Since I’m pretty sure you’ve got a lot on your plate too, I thought you might like to revisit them with me.

Time Management for Real People
1. Write it down. If you write it down, it’s real. Back in my Mary Kay days, I used to fill out a weekly plan sheet each week. It has space for each hour of the week, from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm daily.
The idea is to be intentional about your time. Take 15-20 minutes on Sunday night to plan what you’ve got coming up for the week. (Bonus points if you color code for work time, business time, family time, personal time, etc.)

Action step: Print one out. Or buy a planner that fits your needs. Fill it out. Not every hour has to be filled in at first, but try to account for as many as possible (think Dave Ramsey envelope system). Use pencil if it makes you feel better.

2. Work in chunks. If you’re anything like me, you check your email, Facebook, or Twitter accounts all throughout the day. It’s become a reflex. In some ways it’s great. We feel more connected. In other ways, it’s awful. We always feel connected.

It’s best to set aside one or two dedicated chunks of time to sit down to work. If you do a little bit here and there, all throughout the day, you will feel like you’re working all. day. That’s the fast track to burnout. (I know.)

Action step: Plan realistic chunks of time to complete your work. Slap yourself with a wet noodle when you find yourself letting work sneak into personal time. That email can wait until its designated appointment.

3. Sit at a desk. If you do a lot of work on a laptop, you may find it helps to sit at a desk as opposed to the couch (or somewhere else that’s perfect for napping). Sitting at a desk just makes things feel more official and focused.

Action step: Select a designated workspace. Make it enjoyable! De-clutter the desk. Find some music that gets your creative juices flowing. Avoid working where you play.

[Full disclosure: This one should be easy for me. I recently knocked our personal laptop off of our desk. Our desktop is now my number one (only) option ;)]

4. Unplug. Mentally and/or electrically. (I’m talking to myself here.) I have to be more intentional about my time off. When you work from home, the lines can blur so easily. It’s hard to mentally check out when there’s always something productive you could be doing.

It’s tempting to stay connected to gadgets and gizmos for fear of missing something. Check out anyway.
Whether you need to unplug to fully be present, or whether you need to unplug to just veg out for a bit, do it.

Action step: Turn off your phone. Focus on the lovely people in the room with you (especially if they're your kiddos!). Take a brisk walk or leisurely stroll. Curl up on the couch and watch your favorite show (yes, that requires a plug-in). Set your brain to cruise control for a minute. Don't worry about being "productive."

5. Take time for you. Put on your oxygen mask before assisting those around you, friend. Most mornings over the past few months, I’ve woken up before my little one. Even if it’s just an extra 30 minutes. That time helps set the tone for my day.
I wake up, get my makeup on, and get dressed before I come down the stairs. Honestly, on some days, if I don’t do it then, I may not do it at all.

I mentioned I’ve been doing a bible study. Having a dedicated time to reconnect with my Creator each morning gives me peace and perspective. The day is in His hands. (Whether or not I choose to trust Him to handle it is the question!) If I miss that morning time and wake up late, it’s the last thing I do before bed. I have to have that time.

Action step: Make a date to recharge your batteries (I vote morning!). Don’t break it. Even if it’s just five minutes, locked in your bathroom. Don’t be a martyr and say there’s no time. There is. Find it.

6. Be flexible. Now that I’m a mom, of course, flexibility is more important than ever. Several hours of my weekly plan sheet will be blocked just for “playtime,” naptimes may vary from day to day, and some tasks and errands will take longer than I anticipated. That’s okay.

The plan is a goal. Things change. Life happens. If I have more intention behind each day, I will have more to show for it.
Action plan: Chill out. Set a goal, but don’t feel like a failure if things don’t go as expected. Lots of the best stuff happens beyond the plan sheet.
7. Don't get crazy. Life will probably keep getting busier. Future me will look back at 2013 me and say, "Really, Nikki? That was too much for you to handle?" 
Wanna know the truth about all these plates I've got spinning? They're great plates. They're blessings. Jobs? Dreams? Trips? Family? My cup runneth over! It's important to keep that "stress" in perspective.
Action step: Stay motivated. Do what you need to do. But don't lose sight of the blessings amidst the busy-ness. Instead of being "stressed," be thankful. As Matthew 6:34 says:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Couldn't have said it better myself.
So here we go, friends. Lord-willing, this crazy week is going to pass whether we make a plan it or not. What will you do to make it count?



I’m interested in how you make the most of your time! In the comments below, please share: Which of these tips and action steps will you try? What are your secrets to effective time management?


If this post is helpful to you, share it with three friends who would benefit from it too. The more who join the discussion, the merrier!

P.S. My business is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. If you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!


photo credit: H is for Home via photopin cc

February 18, 2013

Dreaming big. Who's with me?

When you're a freshman in college, it's inevitable that you will be asked the following question, in many different forms:

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

One summer break after a weeknight church service, myself and several of my high school classmates were faced with the question. Seated in a circle of the finest quality folding chairs, we sat and listened as each person spilled his (or her) guts vocational goals.

"I want to be a teacher."

"I'd like to become a doctor and open my own practice one day."

"I'd like to travel the world!"

By the time my turn came around, I said the first thing that came to my mind:

"I want to be happy."

Cheesy, yes? (And would you expect anything less from yours truly?)

Seriously. That was my answer. It was true then, and it's true now.

I've never really had ONE dream job or career path, but several. At one point or another, in no particular order, I've wanted to be a news anchor, a TV host, a college professor (check), a mom (glorious check!), a counselor, a published (and worth reading!) author, a fundraiser, a professional speaker, and a professional organizer. (Really thought about that last one, then realized I should probably have all my own closets organized before I consider calling myself a professional.)

In some ways, I've done a little of each of these. But in many ways, I know there's more I'm called to do. I've been thinking about it, praying about it, and reading about it until I couldn't keep my eyeballs open any longer, and I've got a new, much, much bigger dream.

Here's the scoop.

Lessons from a Screensaver
When I first started Stories from a Screensaver almost exactly a year ago, the point was to share stories from our life out here in Aloha Land. We live too far away from most of you, and I wanted to keep you in the loop AND keep record of these precious moments and memories before they're flushed out of my brain forever.

The response was so much more than I expected! By just a few posts each month in the year since then, this little corner of the blogosphere has welcomed over 1,100 unique visitors and over 8,200 pageviews. Sure, half of those are probably from my mom, and a handful of visitors have accidentally arrived by googling "Park Ranger Barbie" - but still. I think this means we're onto something.

Pageviews and visitor counts aside, what means most to me is your encouragement. I have received so many sweet messages from you, letting me know that you enjoy reading what I write. It's insanely humbling. And I really think it means something. I take each one of your messages of encouragement to heart. To me, each is affirmation that I'm on the right path.  

Thank you for that!

The New Dream
So here's what's going on. I'm going to start a new website at my own domain. Not a mommy blog, not a total business blog, but a fusion of the two. I'm not ready to tell you what it will be called just yet, since it's not set up! But I think you'll love it.

The content will be very similar to what you've read here, but it will be less about me, and more about YOU!

I want to do what I can to use what I've got to help you, the reader. Since the biggest focus for me right now is my role as Mama, most of the focus will be on that. {NOTE: I know that you may not be a mom, and you may not want to be a mom just yet, or ever. I hope you keep reading too!} I will definitely keep telling our stories and using our experiences to provide context and keep my own flavor, but the goal of most posts will be bigger than that.

I want to make your life easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. I may do that by sharing a list of must-haves for the hospital, or by sharing a fun video of my favorite tiny dancer. I may research an important topic to provide you with the key takeaways, or I may pose a provocative question to start a discussion worth having.

I want to build a community. I don't want to just spit out information and personal stories and leave it at that. I want to engage with you. I want to engage with your friends! A huge part of this dream is that you will share content that you think is worth sharing, encouraging others to do the same. That's the best way to grow. I want to create a community where we can learn from each other and laugh at ourselves, knowing that time we spend together in this space is worthwhile.

I want to provide tangible help. I've always wanted to write a book, and I've got some big ideas that just keep popping back into my brain. These are books I want to read, but they're not written yet. (So I better get busy, right?) This new website will be a great way for me to test out those ideas and see if you think they're worth pursuing. Your honest feedback throughout the whole process will be crucial!

Eventually I'm hoping to find a seamless way to incorporate everything I care about - not just toddler mom stuff, but pregnancy, military life, faith, career, writing, presentation tips, then of course one day he'll be a teenager, which will be a whole new mom level...

The possibilities are so endless, it's crazy. And so exciting. I just gotta stay focused and start.
  
Your Support Means Everything
As I mentioned, your support means everything. It really does. First, if a blog posts in a forest, and there's no one around to read it.... you get the idea. Without anyone to read what I write, this is a glorified diary. Second, I'm a pretty confident person, but I can't count how many times I've called myself a bit crazy over the past couple of weeks. 
  • Why would anyone want to read what I have to say?
  • It'll be boring. No one will care to share it.
  • Everything there is to say about [motherhood, communication, basket weaving] has already been said. Why do they need to (want to) hear it from me?
These are legit questions that I will wrestle with on a regular. Turning a dream into reality is scary, people. Exciting, but scary. I mean, I'm really about to put myself out there (and here I am, telling you about it)! There's no turning back now.

I'm trying to drown out the negative and focus on the positives. 

Thankfully, I hold onto those positives for rainy days! That way, when I'm feeling cynical, I can reread some of the amazing encouragement you've sent me over the past year, and I do. 

To me, these gems are like messages sent from angels, guiding me in the right direction:
  • "Btw, your blog is amazing! You are truly an incredible writer."
  • "I think you've got a great blog and the uplifting messages are wonderful to read...you could write something publishable that could be appealing to a large market...in turn helping many mothers out there."
  • "I love your blog. You have such a gift with writing, and I cannot say that emphatically enough. Seriously, keep writing." 
  • "I enjoy reading every blog you write. Please write a book." 
Seriously. Have I mentioned that your support means everything?

Preparing to Launch
Even though I feel like this is the right thing to do, I know it's not going to be easy. 

I know I will doubt myself along the way. Not all of the feedback I receive will be sent via butterflies traveling over the rainbow, and that's okay. 

When all is said and done, I want to use the gifts and talents God has given me to make life better for the people I get to "do life" with. If I can find a way to help support my family by doing that, well, I'd be livin' the dream.

I don't have an official launch date, since there are plenty of details to work out. I just wanted to write this to keep you in the loop. I'm putting a lot of thought into this new digital home of ours. I want to make sure the name is just right. I want to make sure the design and layout are just right. And I want to make sure the first few posts are just right. I genuinely believe this could be the start of something big, friends, so I want to give the best first impression possible!

What I'll do for now is continue to post here once a week while I'm working behind the scenes to get everything ready for launch in the new 'hood. I want it to be just right the first time you see it! 

Who's with me?
So that's the scoop. I feel like I just publicly committed to running a marathon (I didn't. Let's be clear on that.). Back when I was in college, I attended a career conference and inspirational speaker Patrick Combs gave each of us a dream bean. He encouraged us to find out what we were passionate about and pursue it. To work at it. Find time to "water" it each and every day. 

For all these years, I've held on to my dream bean, not knowing what form it would take. Now I think I know (and now you know too!). I hope you hold me accountable and don't let me stop working on making this dream a reality. 

Even better, use my public proclamation to inspire your OWN, and start working on the dream that's been tugging at YOU lately! This new business-building, dream-chasing adventure will be a lot more fun with good company.


Are you with me? 

 

 I'd really like to know what you think! In the comments section below, please tell me: Why have you been reading Stories from a Screensaver? What would you like to see more of? How can this new site help you and make your life better? What are the questions, issues, problems, dreams worth discussing over there?
 

If you want to provide more detailed feedback (which I would LOVE), please send me a Facebook message or reach out via Twitter (@nikkielledge).

Can't wait to read your comments!


Exciting update: It's decided! My business is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. If you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!


candy heart photo credit: Nomadic Lass via photopin cc