Lessons Learned by Looking Back

I’m a backward looking individual. I’m always re-examining things past to see where I could have done better, said something more appropriate, paid more attention to signs that were later revealed.

Recently my first love, Toby (my first golden retriever) floated into my mind, as he often does. I used to have conversations with him. Now I revisited his last days and wondered how I could have been more present, been a bit more engaged and taken a bit more control.

At the time, he was battling pneumonia for the second time, likely had other issues impacting his health and in his lovely 13 years looked healthy even when he wasn’t. I visited him at Southpaws to see how he was doing and during that visit the doctor on duty seemed to indicate that despite two different antibiotics, Toby wasn’t really responding to treatment.

Toby at the beachAlone and very overwhelmed I struggled with what I should do. I now know what I should have done, which wasn’t what I did. I should have asked to take him home, spent quality time with him in a familiar environment surrounded by his familiar things and toys, given me and my husband time to reconcile that he would not be getting better and return to the sweet and lovable dog we often took for granted. And when we were ready, we could have said goodbye in a more family type way, making decisions together rather than me on my own.

I know he was not himself but I also know that everything went much too quickly, I was overcome with pressure to make a decision about his continued life and only saw that his prognosis wasn’t good and didn’t want to prolong his pain. However, taking a day or two to properly say goodbye, take appropriate time off work to grieve, and just being kind is exactly how I would have liked to handle his passing. Four years later, I know how I could have been with Toby, my husband, and support network instead of all alone in a sterile vet room saying goodbye to my beloved ball of fur.

I’ll be better the next time this issue comes up. I like to be prepared even for the most challenging situations and know what my heart wants even when it is breaking and can’t really keep up with the head.

Life is Pain and the Enjoyment of Love is an Anesthetic

Life will disappoint you if you let it. Set goals, aim high, expect great things but always be grateful for your experiences, both good and bad, appreciate those who came before you, made sacrifices so you have opportunities, and upon whose shoulders you stand.

A photo by Maico Amorim. unsplash.com/photos/SJWPKMb9u-k

Life is a race. It’s up to you to set the terms.

Just getting out of bed sometimes is enough. Getting up at 6 a.m., exercising, walking the dog, making breakfast and lunch for the family, getting to work on time, contributing in a significant way, getting home, cooking dinner, walking the dog, and enjoying the company of your family is the ultimate day. Emphasis on the spending time with your family, exercise, and walking the dog.  Continue reading

Parents as Teachers of Patience

Just spent several days with my paternal unit and realized several things. I am a combination of my parents and sometimes there are behaviors that we recognize and decide to change. As they have been divorced longer than they were married and likely weren’t a good match at the start, the dichotomy of behavior is often tough to navigate.

parked-bikeI adore my mother but her propensity to allow others to take advantage of her generous spirit is a lesson I’ve learned to modify. I have often encouraged her to set her own boundaries thereby defining exactly how much of herself she is willing and able to give to others and letting her loved ones know how much she has to give. She will take the best care of you for exactly three days. After that, you’re on your own. But for those three days, she cooks, fluffs pillows, and is at your beck and call. A true Florence Nightingale to be sure.  Continue reading

Bicycle as a Prescribed Anxiety Cure

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike! — Queen 

I’m a thinker, in ways that often confuse those around me as I’m hard pressed to explain my full thought process. I once had a friend tell me we couldn’t hang out any more because he had started to think like me. I didn’t see the problem but apparently not everyone likes the random stream of connections I make constantly. lSed5VXIQnOw7PMfB9ht_IMG_1642

I commute to work daily on my bike. This makes my entire day awesome. I have in the past suffered from anxiety to the point that I make myself sick. This goes way back to when my parents would fight and I’d end up with a stomach ache. Many hundreds of hours of therapy, following The Artist’s Way once, and a slew of coping mechanisms, and I am worry free because I’ve worked hard to identify and manage triggers of my anxiety. I need to exercise. I used to call it my cheap form of psychotherapy. I can’t remember to take an anti-depressant or other pill on a regular basis. But I can always remember to ride my bike, walk the dog, go swimming, hiking or any other endorphin producing activity. I’ve found that my mental and physical state depends on me being active. I often experience a seasonal hibernation lull that is tough to crawl out of but I do, I compete, I race, I perform, mostly for the fun, the adventure, the experience but also for the mental benefits.  Continue reading

To Move Ahead, One Must Consider the Path

I rarely consider myself  a writer per se but I was  raised by a pack of English majors, some of their love for words and communicating via language is part of my fabric. I have many trapped thoughts that need a conduit to the outside world so I can be free of them or see them in front of me rather than inside of me. Ironically my current job title is Senior Editor, I was a past magazine editor and consider myself a communications consultant. I cannot diagram a sentence and often write in passive voice.

In perspective, life is amazing and grand and I have so much that complaining seems petty and small. But we all struggle with what we are asked to bear at any given moment. Without a list, it is difficult to inventory and take stock in just how much is taking place but suffice it to say that family, life, work, and balance are all of the things competing for priority currently. Is this any different from anyone else? No. Is it a bigger weight or challenge than most? Not at all. Yet it is new to me, and in my effort to keep things in control, in check, moving ahead, sometimes I feel I’m not doing enough.  Continue reading

Spring is almost here but winter is not yet ready to go

As I sit here watching snowflakes swirl around outside, gently landing on the 3-4″ of snow already on the ground, it’s hard to imagine that just a few days ago, it was 65 degrees and sunny and that the first day of Spring (March 20, 12:57 p.m. — also our 5th wedding anniversary) is only a few days from now.

I wrote an article, published on the blog for Transformational Acupuncture, and wanted to share here.

Seven Opportunities to Get Outside, Explore DC, and Move Your Body

I love being outside and will ride my bike in nearly all types of weather, rain, cold, sleet, but my favorite type of weather is sunny and warm. I lived for a time in the Los Angeles area and 90% of the time the weather was conducive to being outside, hiking, biking, rollerblading, beach going or just sitting.

I moved to the DC area in 1997 and had a bit of a difficult time transitioning out of my car but now avoid driving at all costs. My husband and I together own more bicycles than necessary but they are tools to explore the city and a testament to a lifestyle we’ve chosen. [Read More]

I’ve been wanting to write more frequently on a variety of topics but haven’t made it enough of a priority on a regular basis.

An early morning commuter walks through snow covered Franklin Park in Washington, Monday, March 17, 2014. (AP Photo/J. David Ake). WASHINGTON

I’ve been writing letters to property tax assessors, to potential volunteers for multisport events, to regional club leaders to inform them of discounts and opportunities for their memberships, to vendors to explain why the design they’ve sent me isn’t meeting my needs, and to energetic and enthusiastic people to engage and empower them to take leadership roles in the administering of work (long story). All of the above is worthwhile and necessary writing but it isn’t terribly creative or soul satisfying.

After the demise of what seemed like a dream job, I’ve been having a difficult time regrouping and putting out feelers and applications for other sorts of work. My acupuncturist tells me that I’m still grieving and maybe that’s true. I am vowing to move on to create my new existence and apply my communication and writing expertise to a variety of potential clients. My part-time work at Ris at Union Market gives me an opportunity to work with the owner and develop a plan to expand the community of Ris-lovers and engage them via social media without too much effort or expense.

As I’m sorting all of this out, I’m also exploring the possibility of becoming a license real estate sales person since I’m constantly eyeballing potential houses for sale and seem to be pretty good at networking and connecting people to services, other people, and things they need. I feel it’s time to spend some of the energy I’ve been extending to others on myself and focusing on reaching my full potential. Stay tuned for more exciting news!

Trends of the Trade: Traditional Versus New Media

This article originally appears on the WWPR blog, posted on August 16, 2013

I just received my latest Fast Company (September 2013) and the cover story is all about Jeff Bezos, or as the text reads “King Bezos”. The issue went to press before the announcement that Bezos had agreed to buy the Washington Post for $250 million, cash. This announcement was on the heels of the sale of the Boston Globe for $70 million to John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Socks.

When the Boston Globe sale was announced, the scuttlebutt had more to do with the difference between the purchase price of $1.1 billion in 1993 to the sale price 20 years later of $70 million. Makes one wonder, not for the first time, about the future and value in the market place of traditional print media. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that this trend is a new one. Print journalism and traditional media outlets have been struggling to find a balance between business as usual and new ways in which consumers receive and interact with news stories.

(Read More)

Trends of the Trade: Achieving Audience Engagement

This article originally appears on the WWPR blog, posted on July 26, 2013

If you attend any of the networking events hosted by the myriad of PR and Communications groups, including WWPR and PRSA, you’ll likely hear discussions about audience engagement. It’s the ultimate goal for any public relations campaign and the ever-elusive goal for many organizations.

The sweet spot to achieving successful audience and client engagement lies in the intersection between content marketing, targeted communication, and technology.

While creating quality content that customers and audiences want is always the challenge, sometimes the larger challenge is ensuring that they are receiving said content.

More than a few tools exist that can help you organize, track, distribute and proliferate your messages. Here are some that can get you started.

Gaggle Amp is “the social marketing platform that lets companies amplify their social media reach by leveraging individual employees, customers and partners.” The application allows companies, non-profits, political campaigns, and major brands share information and engage more of their audience by managing their social media channels and measuring the impact of campaigns.

Zamba.me SoapboxTM is a service that helps expand your Twitter network by introducing you and your tweets to a new community of like-minded individuals. By refining your profile to identify the types of individuals and organizations with whom you’d like to converse, Zamba.me Soapbox finds quality new followers who are tuned into your message, resulting in more robust sharing and conversations. Greg Chase, an advisor to vTricity, the company that created Zamba.me, says that Zamba.me Soapbox lends a hand in building quality and credible audiences by engaging users and promoting Twitter handles to an as yet unknown network of influencers. The result is the same if you had the time and energy to do it yourself, Zamba.me just makes it easier in a shorter amount of time.

Kapost is a content marketing platform that allows users to plan, organize, manage workflow, distribute, and analyze content across a variety of platforms. Managing where content exists, who’s seeing it, and how successful campaigns are in achieving their goals is invaluable to an organization. Kapost also has a wealth of resources for companies in any stage of the content marketing process. From strategy and ideation to distribution and analytics, Kapost has eBooks, videos, presentations and blog entries to help users refine and plan their best approach to their audiences and messages.

Creating, delivering, and measuring messages can take teams of staff to ensure an organization is spending valuable resources in the right place and on the right messages. The tools above can help an individual or a team maintain and manage messages to maximize return on investment.

Vinyasa in Virginia October 18-20

Need to relax and recharge? Look no further!

Come enjoy great yoga and excellent gourmet food with Kelly Melsted, yoga guru, and Cory Churches, gourmand, in the glorious venue of the Shenandoah Valley October 18-20 for 2 nights and 3 days of yoga and freshly prepared meals sourced from local farmers.

Experience the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley while also refining your yoga practice surrounded by Mother Nature. Meals will be both vegetarian and omnivore friendly and local sources are used whenever possible.

Retreat can accommodate between 6 and 8 people. Save $50 if you sign up before Sept 30.

Kelly in a variety of yoga poses.

Kelly in a variety of yoga poses.

What: Vino & Vinyasa
When: October 18-20, 2013
Where: Shenandoah Valley
Who: Kelly Melsted and Cory Churches
Contact: Cory.Churches@gmail.com or KellyMelsted@gmail.com to register


For 2 nights

$400 per person (before Sept 30)
$450 per person (after Sept 30)

Price includes meals, vineyard tours and transportation and accommodations for 2 nights, 3 days.

For Saturday night to Sunday only:

$300 per person (before Sept 30)
$350 per person (after Sept 30)

Price includes meals and accommodations for 1 night, 2 days.

Sign up here

A sample schedule for the weekend events:

Friday Oct 18:

1 p.m. Arrive at valley cabin and relax with a late lunch of gazpacho and locally made bread.

5 p.m. Greet fellow retreat guests over wine and cheese and relax with a gorgeous view of the valley.

7 p.m. Dinner with fellow guests and time on your own.

View of the Shenandoah Valley

View of the Shenandoah Valley

Saturday Oct 19:

8:30 a.m. Morning yoga to start your day of with focus and purpose

10 a.m. Breakfast

11:30 a.m. Partake in a variety of activities including hiking, visiting local attractions or meditating.

5 p.m.  Optional restorative yoga.

7 p.m. Dinner with fellow guests.

Sunday Oct 20:

8:30 a.m. Morning yoga

10 a.m. Breakfast

3:00 p.m. Depart for home.

Possible Wine Tour:

Wine country in the heart of Virginia

Wine country in the heart of Virginia

We have the option to follow a portion of the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail and visit between 3-5 wineries depending on time constraints. The tour will be chauffeured to allow guests to enjoy the full experience of the winery and the tour. Wineries along the trail include Wisteria Farm and Vineyard, Wolf Gap Vineyard and Winery, and Bluestone Vineyard.

About the organizers:

About Kelly:

Kelly is a full time yoga instructor and trained life coach. She teaches yoga at George Washington University and various studios around the Washington, DC area.  In addition teaching yoga, she coaches clients and students in designing beautifully aligned lives.  Kelly’s uplifting presence and vigor for life compels her students and clients to embrace living life at their highest potential.  Kelly believes we are blessed to create movement and expression of our truest selves. She feels that the dedication and time we spend on the mat will undoubtedly find its way into our lives creating deeper happiness, beauty, and compassion for ourselves and others.

After practicing yoga for years, she received her first yoga teacher training (200 hours) from Yoga District. During this time she instantly fell in love with teaching and sharing yoga. She continued her training in the yoga tradition she first fell in love with, Anusara, an alignment-based yoga tradition. She is completing her 500 hour teacher training in a movement based style of Prana Flow. You can find out more about Kelly and her practice at her website kellymelsted.com

About Cory:

A long-time foodie, Cory has recently completed an intense 20-week culinary training course at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg and is eager to bring her new found skills to you. Cory’s enthusiasm for fresh ingredients, supporting sustainable farming and family farmers, and creating delicious and nutritious meals is evident in her menus. Often Cory is found pouring over cookbooks and seasonal ingredients and devising menus such as summer gazpacho, panko-crusted halibut over wilted spinach with shitake mushrooms and stone fruit compote. Cory is also a key member of the production team for the Luray Triathlon. She is an ardent advocate for the multisport lifestyle and encourages anyone who is even remotely interested in training for and racing in a triathlon to drop her a line.


Trends of the Trade: Influencers and Game Changers

This article originally appears on the WWPR blog, posted on June 10, 2013

In this season of graduation speeches and life advice for emerging youth leaders, there is an overflow of “words to live by”. From  Steve Case at UNC to  Joss Whedon at Wesleyan University, inspirational words are conveyed to graduates and non-graduates alike.  Case lists his three Ps: people, passion and perseverance, while Whedon tells his audience to pay attention to contradiction and see things from a different perspective. What you absorb and implement can have a great impact on not just your personal life but also your career path, your interactions with colleagues, and your choice of future employers.

Even the most erudite professionals know that you never stop learning.  Tapping new sources for new ways of thinking, approaching business, and interacting with colleagues and clients is a great way to stay on top of trends and continually refresh your approach to your chosen profession.

Written in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People has been on the shelf of aspiring business leaders since its publication.  Many of those lessons are still applicable today. Books, podcasts, networking events, and paid workshops are ever present and teach you the latest skills to stay attuned to the most effective ways to reach clients and influence people.

But which ones are really worth your time? As  Washington Women in PR prepares to evaluate the latest crew of nominees for the Emerging Leaders Awards, it’s worth taking some time to review some influencers and resources that can help propel aspiring communicators to become tomorrow’s leaders and game changers.

Obviously we each have different interests and drivers but one thing we do have in common is our interest in communicating and reaching an audience.  Evaluating what inspires you to do your best work is a great place to start this exercise.  Determining your “personal brand“ is akin to evaluating your value proposition and again, what inspires you.

Tapping into  mentors in your organization or during events such as WWPR’s Minute Mentoring event in April helps you learn from the experience of others and put these life lessons to work.

I subscribe to Fast Company as a way to keep tabs on trends in business, design, technology and communications. Articles are timely, topical and offer insight into business trends and creative innovation.

I find authors such as Chip and Dan HeathDan Pink and Malcom Gladwell universally appealing regardless of your industry. The information they impart make you think, stretch your imagination, and maybe help you conceive of a new way to approach a problem or make a decision.  Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind, touts design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning as the six essential aptitudes on which professional success and personal fulfillment now depend.  Business Insider has an interesting list of their  top 15 thought leaders in marketing.  I encourage you to take a look and see who strikes your fancy.

TED speakers and seminars are also great sources of inspiration and innovative ideas. Some of my favorites are Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight and Oliver Sacks’ talk about hallucinations, Hans Rosling: Stats that reshape your worldview and Susan Cain:  The power of introverts but there are many others.

So in the end, take to heart the information and advice you glean from influencers and game changers, and figure out what inspires you.  As you incorporate more information and tap into your inspiration, you will end up doing more of what you love to do and we will all be better for your efforts!