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Monday, September 28, 2009

Get Lucky

What does it really mean when someone is considered lucky? Does it mean that nothing bad ever happens? Does it mean everything always works out the way they hope? We wish people good luck. Some people carry good luck charms. In fact, there is a whole subsection of superstitions dedicated to what you can do to improve your luck. So short of throwing salt over your shoulder and not breaking mirrors, what can you do to get lucky?

I think luck starts with attitude and expectations. ‘Unlucky’ people like to say how unlucky they are or dwell on how often things don’t work. Whereas most of the people I know who are considered lucky focus on the positive, they think and talk about what is going right. They look at the future with optimism instead of ominous dread.

If you are ‘unlucky in love’, could that have something to do with your attitude about love? Are you expecting more ‘bad luck’? If so, should you be surprised when you get it?

I think lucky people also have more resilience. When they’ve applied for 99 jobs, they continue to put their resume out there, instead of taking time out for a pity party. They look at what isn’t working and dare to make changes. They tweak the resume, brush up on their interview skills, they do something about the situation.

Finally, in my experiences, most lucky people exude a positive energy. You can actually feel it when you are in their presence. Energy attracts like energy. These are people you want to be around and to me that is the key to luck. People and things are drawn to them because of their attitude, their resilience and their spirit.

Lucky people hold on to the positive and then act on it. Lucky people aren’t just thinkers or wishers or dreamers, they are doers.

Want to change your luck?
  • Be positive
  • Be optimistic
  • Be resilient
  • Be a doer

Watch how your luck will change!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How To Feel Pretty

A couple of years the Dove Organization, which runs The Campaign for Real Beauty, surveyed 3,000 women globally. Astoundingly, only 2% of those women considered themselves beautiful. I thought the same thing you are probably thinking right now. Beautiful sets the bar really high. What about cute, attractive or pretty? With other, less loaded words, the results weren’t much better: 9% went with attractive and 7% identified themselves as good-looking or cute, 5% were pretty.

The only two words to garner more than a 10% response were natural with 31% and average with 29%.

I know there is a lot back story involved with these numbers. As women, we don’t want to come across as vain or conceited, and I think that plays a significant role in why we shy away from words like beautiful and, to a lesser degree, pretty and attractive.

But, there is an underlying perception there as well, and that is that a lot of us just don’t feel attractive. We don’t, as the song from West Side Story says, “Feel Pretty.”

Growing up, as one of the few black girls in my class, I didn’t feel pretty. In fact, I felt down right ugly. A fact that was reinforced by several boys in my class who during gym in Middle School made sure I knew that, at least in their eyes, I was “black and ugly.”

I wrestled through high school, college and through my 20’s with this stigma. I even stood up a great guy in college because I just couldn’t believe that he would want to go out with me. I certainly couldn’t see anything good about me and I couldn’t see how anyone else could either.

When I look back, it pains me to see how many years I wasted settling for less because I didn’t feel or believe that I was worth, or deserved, more.

Then, one day, I guess you could say that I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I decided to work on my self esteem, really work on it. With time and a whole lot of effort, I realized that the ‘black and ugly’ seventh grade duckling with the braces and bad hair cut had become, in her own way, a swan.

Here is what I did:

I asked. I asked my closest friends to name something about me that was attractive. They told me I had a beautiful smile and happy, animated eyes. They told me I had a nice figure. They liked my smooth skin.

I looked. I looked in the mirror and at pictures of myself and slowly I began to see those very things. “You know,” I said to myself, “Years of braces paid off, I do have pretty, straight, white teeth. I do have a great smile.”

I was honest. I was honest in assessing that even with the eyes and the smile and the yada, yada, there were still some things about myself that I wasn’t crazy about and might never be crazy about but that was okay. Everyone has things they aren’t crazy about, even supermodels.

I focused. I focused on what I liked about myself and slowly, those positive things, and not the things I didn’t like, were where I focused my thinking.

I looked beyond. I looked beyond the physical. When I asked my friends what they found attractive in me, they went beyond the physical and I realized that I needed to do that too. Listening to them, I found that my dedication as a good friend, my sense of humor, and my willingness to help made me just as beautiful as a smile or bright eyes. And that to truly embrace my beauty I had to embrace the total package … inside and out.

So do I think I’m beautiful? Honestly, I’m part of the 98% that would not use that word to describe myself. But I will take cute, pretty or attractive. : )

Monday, September 21, 2009

Go Karyn! It's Your Birthday!

You know that song September by Earth Wind and Fire. The first line is “Do you remember the 21st night of September?” Well, I do! Okay, I don’t remember the exact night in 19-ahem when I came into the world, but I’ve made a point in remembering that day ever since! Today is my birthday!

I know people who don’t make a big deal about their birthdays. They like them to pass without any fanfare or even any major announcements or acknowledgement. Not me – I’m sure many will blame the only child in me but I absolutely love my birthday. I don’t need expensive gifts or big parties but I do like to celebrate my day! Major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and The Fourth of July belong to everyone but my birthday is my special day (okay, I share it with Ricki Lake, funny guy Bill Murray, cutie pie Luke Wilson, and country singer Faith Hill).

Here is a list of reasons why people should make at least a little deal out of their birthdays.

10. Some places let you eat for free on your birthday (and a free meal is always a good thing).
9. You’ve made it though another year and a lot of folks weren’t that lucky.
8. You are officially a year older but you don’t look any older than you did yesterday.
7. If the hubs/wife or significant other forgets, you can milk a few more free meals out of it (I’ll say it again, a free meal is always a good thing).
6. Name another occasion where you can get people to sing to you.
5. Cake
4. It’s like your own personal New Year’s Day! Make new resolutions. Set some goals.
3. You could score some nice gifts, or at least a few gift cards or funny e-cards.
2. You can act as silly as you want and use your birthday as an excuse.
1. No birthday? Consider the alternative.

One thing I never do on my birthday is work. As you read this I’m either:

Sleeping in.
Eating strawberry covered pancakes.
Dancing to my special birthday mix CD.
Somewhere watching a funny movie.
Getting taken out to dinner - which makes free meal # 2 ;)
Digging into my birthday cake
Singing in the car on my way home.

It’s my birthday! Do something ridiculous!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Service with a Smile ... Goes the Extra Mile

I’ve worked in customer service. I’ve trained customer service. And, like all of you, I’ve been on the receiving end of all sorts of customer service. So I can say with certainty, things tend to go better when you are nice, polite and professional. Sure there are occasions where that might not be true but those make up the exception more than the rule.

Many people, unfortunately don’t get that, they come off demanding and condescending and intimidating. Some times that works but more often than not it doesn’t. I once worked at a high-end hotel known for their customer service. As Customer Service Reps we were given some wiggle room when it came to handling complains. We could comp a night or two or have a special basket sent to a room without getting management approval first.

When people were nice and professional and respectful to me, I would go out of my way to accommodate their needs. On the other hand, when people were rude, abrupt and hostile, I was professional, to be sure, but I wasn’t bending over backwards to be extra helpful.

When I teach customer service, I explain to the representatives that a good customer service helps them as much as it helps the customer. For example, you are on the phone with a particularly difficult customer. Finally, you are able to end the call. Immediately afterwards, the phone rings again. Guess what? Your tone of voice is still the same as it was when you were talking to hostile guy! Since people respond to vocal cues and nuances on a gut level, the caller responds in kind with a slightly hostile and defensive tone of her own. Before you know it, what could have been a simple call is fraught with tension and strain.

If you are giving customer service, being polite and professional benefits you because it helps you to keep your emotions in check and when you are in control of your emotions, you are less likely to experience a lot of negativity and hostility. When you are the customer service rep:

  • Use the 10 second time out. If you find yourself in an emotionally escalating situation, put the caller on hold and take a couple deep cleansing breaths and a moment to calm yourself. Then return to the call. Don’t leave the person on hold though! That could make a bad situation worse.
  • Wait. Wait a minute or so after a difficult call before picking up the next one. Give yourself a chance to calm down and get the ‘attitude’ out of your voice.
  • Empathize. Remember, people are calling you because you have been trained and you have access to the information they need. Don’t expect people to know everything you know or to have done everything you think they should have done. You are the expert. Walk them through your process.
  • Give the play-by-play. Let people know what’s going on and what you are doing. Eliminate the long awkward pauses. “The computer is slow today.” “Please give me a moment while I research your account.”

However, there are a few tips for the customer who has to call customer service.

  • You are angry at the company not their representative. Most of the time, we don’t get to speak to the person who messed everything up. We are speaking to the person we hope can solve our problem. Unleashing your wrath on the unsuspecting person who just happened to answer the phone will not help the situation; it will only make it worse. Be polite.
  • Save the Sarcasm. It comes off poorly when you are face-to-face with someone and it sounds even worse over the phone. Condescension and a bad attitude will not help you win over the customer service rep. You need them as your ally and not your adversary.
  • Intimidation is not the method. Fear and threats are often used by people intent on “getting results.” On occasion, the bullying method actually works. More often than not, it doesn’t. It just leaves all parties involved frustrated and upset.

When it comes to customer service specifically and just dealing with people in general, a taste of honey goes a whole lot further than a gallon of vinegar.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Karyn Cooks - Sausage and Black Bean Soup

My favorite recipes that are good for your health, good on your wallet and tastes good to boot.

My all-time favorite cookbook is Weight Watchers 5 Ingredients, 15 Minutes. All the recipes have five ingredients or less, or they can be prepared in 15 minutes or less. Weight Watchers released a new 5 Ingredient, 15 Minutes but the original is still the best.

Even if you don’t need to lose weight, this recipe creates a pretty hearty soup. It’s heartly enough to pass the husband test … he won’t even know it’s healthy!


Cooking Spray
6 oz turkey kielbasa sausage, sliced
1 cup diced green, sweet red, or yellow pepper
1 (14.5oz) can fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 (15oz) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup picante sauce or salsa
Chopped cilantro (optional)

Coat a medium saucepan with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot.
Add sausage, and saute 1 minute or until sausage begins to brown.
Add pepper; saute 1 minute.
Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; add beans and picante sauce, and simmer, covered, 5 minutes.

Top with cilantro, if desired.

I find this recipe to be a little thick for soup, so don’t be afraid to add some extra broth and some extra salsa. I pass on the cilantro too.

You can also alter the taste of this recipe by using different salsas.

(P.S. When I make it, I don't use the cilantro so mine doesn't look quite like the picture)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Laugh More

Adulthood is very serious business. There are jobs to go to, careers to navigate, bills to pay, retirements to fund, insurances to purchase, marriages and relationships to maintain, kids to raise, yards and homes to keep straight, and cars to service. A 4-year old laughs and smiles an average of 400 times a day. An adult laughs and smiles just 14 times a day.

We can learn a lot from toddlers. They see wonder and fun in everything. Of course, they don’t have the challenge of finding humor in a tax audit or a micromanaging boss either. Yet, that doesn’t mean that we can’t find a few ways to lighten up.

Think about all the things we take seriously, and actually get upset and annoyed by? Long lines at the grocery store, traffic, gossiping co-workers, finding something to fix for dinner and it goes on. But a lot of these things are things we can’t change, so let’s work on accepting them and not letting them get to us so much. I don’t think we’ll ever come close to 400 laughs and smiles a day but we can manage to at least double the 14.

At Wal-Mart, I have learned to accept that I will probably be in line longer than it took me to shop. I used to get extremely annoyed as I paced back in forth in front of the checkout lines, estimating the wait time of each in my head. Now, I find a line and treat myself to a little tabloid time. I can usually thumb through an Enquirer and sometimes even a Star while I wait.

I also get a lot of simple enjoyment by playing with Marty. He’s always ready to play but a lot of times I get so busy that the only time he gets with me is walk time. Now I try to make a point of playing with him just 5 minutes a day. Talk about a stress reliever!

I think a lot of the time, parents do something similar with the kids. Getting so caught up in school, running them to practices and play dates, and the obligatory feeding and washing, that they forget to have fun with the kids and just take time to enjoy them. A few minutes of fun with the kids can double that 14 laugh statistics in just a couple of minutes.

There are enough things we have to take seriously without having to add to that list. Thinking about your life, what can you stop taking so seriously?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I love to be busy - always have. Growning up, I had to be busy or at least doing something. I remember lingering too long in bed or laying too long in front of the TV, one of my parents would ask, "Don't you have something to do?" If not, they were always available to help. "If you don't, we could find you something do to?"

To this day, I like to be busy. Even now, if I get some free time, I find that voice in my head asking, "Don't I have something to do? Maybe you should find something to do!" Yet, there are still times when I need to calm myself down and literally go sit down somewhere.

I took some time off this weekend because I needed to. Between the release of Get It Together Girl, my day job, my weight loss efforts and a handful of personal and professional obligations and freelance projects, I was tired. Really tired. I was ripping and running and running and ripping when I hit the wall. Well, when I actually hit the wall, I was walking. Getting my 90 minute walk in. I was headed back to the house when it hit me like a ton of bricks. A wave of exhaustion literally swept over me.

When I got back home, I was useless. Although I had a few items left on my to do list, I realized they weren't going to get done. I've wasted too many evenings trying to force myself to work through the tiredness. Now, I know better.

Instead, I did something I never would have done, in past years. I took a look at my packed weekend and I pared it down. I eliminated all work projects and only left the social ones that I was really looking forward to.

As I've gotten older, I have found it easier and easier to say "No." I have yet to lose a friend over it. While some have been mildly annoyed by it, they've gotten over it. Listening to my body and taking what it is telling me seriously has made a huge difference.

After I get the rest, after I take the break, I can come back stronger, more focused and more alert than I was before. It does make a difference.

Now, when I'm taking a break and I hear that old voice asking, "Don't you have something to do." I have an answer. As I'm rolling over in the bed, or watching a movie, or taking a nice long drive, I smile and say, "Yes, and I'm doing it right now!"

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s my favorite month … and not just because of my birthday (21st). Summer ends in September and all the kids head back to school; but I really like the ‘back to business’ feeling that comes with September. September represents a renewed focus that comes after a restful and relaxing summer. We’re ready to come back and come back with a vengeance!

Unlike January, this isn’t a time for setting new goals, for most people it’s making one last big push to achieving the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year. The day after my birthday, September 22, marks just 100 days left in the year. If there was a time to get down to business, this is it. Think of it this way. Do you want to ring in 2010 with the dame goals you set for yourself at the beginning of 2009?

Here are five tips too keep you focused.

Write it! Don’t leave your goals swimming around in your head. If you haven’t already, commit them to paper. When you write out your goals they seem more real and more tangible.

Plan It! Think of your goals and then think of what you’d have to do each month between now and the end of the year to make your goals a reality. But, be realistic. You will probably accomplish more in September than you will in December when the holiday season is in full swing.

Work It! Every day do something towards your goals. I’ve written entire screenplays by committing to writing just 30 minutes a day. Do something everyday that will move you closer to your goal.

See It! What does success look like. If your goal is weight loss, that’s easy. Success is a particular number. The same goes for sales, your goal would be a specific target. Whatever it is, see it in your head. Imagine what success would look like. Is it an A or a B in the class you are taking? Maybe it’s just registering for your class? It could be weekly date night with the hubs. Whatever it is, paint a picture of success in your mind. You can’t hit the target if you don’t know where it is!

Share It! This can be a tricky one. Do not share your goal with everybody. Make a list of people who will support you and share your goal with those people and those people only. It is hard enough to muster the determination and overcome the procrastination that will make your goal a reality without having to deal with the naysayers. Share your goal with people who will support you, encourage you and keep you on track.

Good luck and have fun!