Mindfulness

“I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas already. This year has really flown by!” Like clockwork, we say this every year searching for traces of where the time has gone.

You can’t scroll your favorite social media site these days without seeing references to presence and mindfulness. I became curious about this topic several years ago while studying the teachings of Jon Kabat-Zin who defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

I started reading books and listening to talks. I watched Super Soul Sunday weekly to learn from those who were disciplined in their practice of presence and was deeply inspired by how it enhanced their lives. The more insight I gained on mindfulness, the clearer it became to me that I really sucked at it.

I tend to work better solving life’s challenges through reverse engineering. Starting with the effect, then working backward to isolate the cause. What I've proven is that when I fail to be present, stress and distraction take over my mind.

Stress. That intrusive anxiety that we can’t shake. The emotional strain that takes over our thoughts as we try to be everything to everybody. The silent killer that has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and RBF.

Ok, so maybe just heart disease and high blood pressure, but aren’t those two enough? The reality is there will always be a source of stress lurking, waiting to change the course of your day. Mindfulness will never squash these sources, but it will give you the clarity to keep them in perspective.

Unfortunately, there is no mindfulness switch. It takes practice. I’ve found that starting my day with meditation or a long walk/run leads to the best results. Initially I was intimidated by meditation, thinking it was some out of body experience I wasn’t capable of achieving. However, I’ve learned there are numerous methods (I prefer zen) and it’s as simple as being still and clearing your thoughts.

Stress factors will still come in and out of your consciousness, but you will begin to assess them with clarity and proceed forward with purpose vs. an emotional reaction. If you think you don’t have time to meditate, think about the time lost spinning your wheels or apologizing for a blow up - not to mention the impact on your health and relationships. I’m no expert, but I can say with near certainty that stress will rarely lead to a more favorable outcome.

Distraction. This is a tough one for me. How often are you thinking about a future commitment while working on a current one? You’re responding to an important email but replaying a conversation with your spouse in your head. You’re making dinner while rehearsing your opening argument for tomorrow’s case. Ahhh, some good ole multitasking. We regard it as a professional skill or even claim it as our super-hero power, showcasing all of our impressive simultaneous accomplishments.

Here’s the truth. You’re doing too much. You'll never do your best work on any of your multiple tasks juggling them all at once. Instead prioritize, pay attention and be fully present in the work you’re doing now.

In a culture where success is defined by accomplishment, an overflowing plate has become a badge of honor. If we don’t appear to be busy we obviously don’t have enough to do, so we take on more and more to distinguish ourselves. We’re recognized for investing the long hours and going beyond the call of duty and before we know it, we look at our calendars and say…

“I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas already. This year has really flown by!”

Slow down and take a deep breath. Show up for the current moment, because the current moment is all we every really have. Until we meet again, be the change.

 

 

Moondance

“Ain’t nothing so precious as a first-born child.” Now, I can’t speak to the joys of motherhood but I can share my experience with bringing handbags to life. While my first will always be my favorite, my newest design, Moondance, is pretty special.

Moondance was inspired by a beloved Hobo clutch which I owned for far too long. Every year when spring cleaning rolled around I’d give it a good look over, acknowledge its tattered condition and say to myself, “I just can’t let you go yet, you can’t be replaced. I need you for my girl’s weekends when we dance like no one’s watching. If that bag could talk it would have some adventures to share.

As I was starting my new adventure, I vowed to recreate my own version of this clutch. Truth is the bangle handle and the chain-to-zipper strap created a design more technical than I had the courage to take on as my first project. So, I sunk my energy into Love Letter and continued to carry my old banged up clutch with the “good side” facing out.

When the Love Letter sample was approved and sent to the production team in Bogota, I breathed a quick sigh of relief then eagerly shifted my design work to Moondance. Empowered by my experience completing countless revisions for Love Letter, I felt confident moving forward with this project. After a few productive design sessions, we locked down the specs and sent the patterns on their way for sample creation.

For those of you who held my hand through the launch of Love Letter, you remember the chaotic ride and I am forever indebted to you. Moving dates and challenges in customs kept me awake at night frustrated with delays beyond my control. Because it was my very first product, I went full throttle on previews and teaser communications, only to have to scale it back and push out my date. I’d like to believe this created suspense in addition to the multitude of valuable lessons learned.

Finally, six huge cartons of purses arrived. And when I say HUGE I’m not exaggerating – I personally loaded all 360 pounds of purses to package for Christmas sales. I knew the clutch sample was in one of the cartons, but I was laser focused on the Love Letter launch and put it in the back of my mind. I’ll never forget that morning when I got to the bottom of the very last box…and there she was.

 Me rocking Moondance in my pjs the morning I found her, proving it is a good look for any occasion.

Me rocking Moondance in my pjs the morning I found her, proving it is a good look for any occasion.

The tears came. I was exhausted from the rush, but so proud of the final product. After a few minor tweaks Moondance was born. One of my primary goals for my handbags is to design them in a way that is complementary to your other accessories. Keeping that goal top of mind, I chose to use metallic finishes in silver, gold and rose gold for this collection.

This clutch lights up your wrist with a gorgeous bangle handle giving you a hands-free peace of mind when it’s on your arm. It’s perfect for getaways, girls night out or a romantic date with your boo.

I’m thrilled to add this bag to the Snapdragon collection. After all, it’s a marvelous night for a Moondance. Till we meet again, happy shopping!

24K Magic

24K magic was definitely in the air last night at the Golden Globes. I’ve been waiting to drop Bruno into my blog and the Golden Globes earned it. I watch like I’m actually in the crowd, clapping and laughing out loud, so these are my highlights from the show.

Jimmy Fallon was on point. Jimmy’s choice to have Questlove DJ, so on point. The Chris Rock impression and “Insane in the Membrane” cover were both standouts. In summary, he killed it. I anticipate the typical social media backlash on the political jabs, but let’s be honest, comedians can only feed themselves because the world gives them sh** they can’t make up. They’ve been doing it for years, it’s us who became so sensitive. Now on to the good stuff.

Looks: Chris Pine on the red carpet was the best thing I’ve seen all year. While reporters say the beard is for his role in “A Wrinkle in Time”, he’ll tell you it’s because I prefer salt and pepper these days. Reese Witherspoon was a close second. Her dress (Versace) in that yellow, the killer slit, the criminal legs behind the slit, her nail polish, those rings/necklace. Everything was magical.

 Image of Chris Pine (PC: Getty Images)

Image of Chris Pine (PC: Getty Images)

Moments: It’s hard to dole out props to Reese on her choice of yellow without mentioning Viola Davis. However, it wasn’t Viola’s ravishing look that took the show last night. She was the essence of grace as she accepted her first Golden Globe win (after 5 nominations) for Best Performance: Actress in a Supporting Role. My heart was warmed by Viola’s introduction of Meryl Streep for the Cecile B DeMille Award. Not only was it a genuine display of admiration for years of exceptional work, but a timeless example of class and how women should empower each other with our words.

My second favorite moment was Billy Bob Thorton’s acceptance for his role in “Goliath” (Amazon Series). “This is not track and field. You don’t break a tape; people have to choose.” Such a profound remark and applicable to many aspects of art both on and off-screen. 

Industry: Coming from a retail background, I have a deep respect for Amazon. Amazon is that brand other brands loves to hate. After all, they have digitally reshaped the landscape of a century old industry in less than a decade.

Not only was Jeff Bezos (Amazon Founder and CEO) subject of a Fallon joke during the opening monologue, which is the ultimate sign of relevance, but Amazon picked up 2 wins for “Goliath” and “Manchester by the Sea”. While Primeing the universe, they somehow sneak into the Golden Globes and win 11 nominations. Truly amazing after just breaking ground in this industry in the past couple years.

Names I must drop for their effortless Golden Globe swag before I close; Sophia Vergara, Ryan Gosling, Donald Glover, Priyanka Chopra and Pierce Brosnan. Thank you to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for another year of creative excellence and a great show. Standing ovation.

Love Letter

LOVE LETTER. Clever name for a bag designed to fold over neatly, like an envelope. To carry your most important belongings. But it’s so much bigger than that.

The Love Letter collection is not only my passion project, but a design I’ve been working on for almost 10 years. It is symbolic of many things, not the least of which is me finally making the decision a year ago to write my own story.

I kicked off this project back in January and have gone through 4 revisions of the bag. There was no rushing or cutting corners; I carried it for 3 months, critiqued it, revised it with my production team, then carried it again for 3 months and repeated the process. A “start small” business plan has allowed me to tinker and refine, with an open canvas for my obsessive eye for detail. 

Some features that didn’t make the website:

1.       Purse feet: This bag is designed to be flexible and fluid, so this feature makes it secure on its feet, even when it’s just resting.

 Purse feet to match the zipper tone and hardware

Purse feet to match the zipper tone and hardware

 

2.       Durability: Love Letter took its first vacation to Belize back in May. It was checked with my luggage because it was an extended trip and I needed more than a travel sized portion of lotion. I had several girlfriends over for the big unveiling as they had not seen anything but photos to this point. A whiff of coconut greeted me when I opened my suitcase...my precious prototype was drenched in lotion. True to form, we all sprung into emergency care mode, only to find that it wiped right off with no staining. The beauty of a high quality, vegan suede/leather is that you get a rich fabric without the fuss of having it marked by every little oopsie.

3.       Space: This isn’t your average crossbody. This project was born because I could never find this style bag in a size large enough to accommodate all of my junk. So, I made one. This purse will not only carry your wallet, but a bottle of champagne if you need it to. Bringing a whole new meaning to “brown bagging”.

4.       Fair Treatment: My commitment in this endeavor is to work with partners who not only pay their people fairly, but also create a work environment that is good for the community. Love Letter is not only a reflection of a true love for practical style, but also love for the folks who are bringing it to life. 

Now that the product is ready for prime time and the online store is live, we will begin to layer in social media outlets and expand our campaign…be on the lookout for updates soon.

This launch has been exhilarating and has given me a new-found respect for small business owners. Until next time…support your local businesses! And of course, hit the “shop now” link to check out my collection. 

Presence

I’ll admit, the first time I read about the power of being “present” I thought it was a bit conspicuous. I was so distracted by my opinions that I couldn’t see beyond the physicality of presence.

It wasn’t until I watched a Super Soul Sunday interview with Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn on this topic I realized how little I was present in my day to day life. He used a simple exercise to illustrate the concept and challenged, “the next time you are in the shower, check and make sure you are in the shower”. I chuckled.

It took a few mornings for me to remember to check. Sure enough, I wasn’t in the shower. Mentally, I was in a meeting I had later that day. After all, it was going to be a difficult call and I had to prepared. I did this exercise for a few consecutive days, becoming more aware of my thoughts. I was obsessing over my day, planning my grocery list, remembering what I forgot to do the day before.

 Grace Bay, Providence, Turks and Caicos.

Grace Bay, Providence, Turks and Caicos.

When it became clear that I was really never in the shower, I turned off the craziness in my head and let my meetings wait for me at my desk. It was only then that it hit me that millions don’t even have clean running water. Let alone the water at the perfect temperature and a loofa full of suds that I was taking for granted every morning. 

This simple morning ritual of being present and grateful led to tremendous growth over the past couple of years. Over time I’ve learned that there is an infinite span of regret from past decisions or anxiety around future obstacles if I choose to let my mind live in that space. These are some of the tactics I use to reel myself back into the present moment:

  1. Music: Obviously, there is a time and a place to crank your favorite playlist, but it almost always clears the mind. Throw on your buds and get lost for a while. 

  2. Meditation: Anybody who’s anybody in the personal development world will tell you the one thing fulfilled people have in common is a practice of mindfulness or meditation. Many choose to assume the meditation position (legs crossed, thumb to finger), but don’t be intimidated; there are many ways to quieten your thoughts like prayer, exercise or being one with nature. Find the method that works for you and enjoy the clarity.

  3. Listening: As an extravert with a dominant personality, it takes discipline to listen with a purpose. Listen to relate and to understand, not just respond. The only caveat here is to be selective and surround yourself with sources of wisdom and growth.

Be present. Don’t miss the scenery around you because you’re looking in the rear-view mirror or worrying about traffic ahead. Roll your windows down and cruise…till the next time, enjoy the ride!

Fashion District: 101

In early Fall I was invited to participate in Airbnb’s City Hosts beta test. The concept is quite simple. You choose from a variety of City Hosts (experts in the city you’re visiting - chefs, musicians, artists, etc) to show you around their local scene. As fate would have it, one of my options was “the style genius” in LA, which focused on exploring the fashion district.

 Shot from Michael Levine, DTLA Fabric District

Shot from Michael Levine, DTLA Fabric District

This was my first visit to LA's Fashion District, but I had visited NY's Garment District several times and was thoroughly overwhelmed. I’m not afraid to dive in and figure it out, but I knew there had to be a better way. Then, along comes Janine, my City Host.

 Janine modeling one of my Spring 2017 fabrics.

Janine modeling one of my Spring 2017 fabrics.

Snapdragon’s brand commitment is fashion without tradeoff. In addition to fair treatment (of workers), wages and prices, I am also committed to sourcing vegan products that guarantee no harm to animals in production. Finding high quality materials that meet each of these requirements hasn’t been easy. Then along comes Janine.

Janine led me to the most beautiful vegan leather that is so soft and exquisite you would never believe its faux. See the fabrics I found below:

 Beautiful pastel faux leather.

Beautiful pastel faux leather.

My quest for a soft, pastel outer fabric was complete. Now I needed to incorporate balance with an edgy, inner lining. We scored a grayscale camo with hints of pink that pairs like a dream with the leather choices. Now we get to turn this thing into a bag…here’s how it works.

I sketch the design format with dimensions and hardware preferences. I provide the sketch to my pattern and sample partner who transforms my sketch into a pattern, then into a tangible sample using the fabrics sourced in LA. From there we evaluate every aspect, texture, zipper pull and I personally wear the sample for several weeks to test its functionality. Then it’s off to the manufacturer to be produced.

 Sneak peak of sample, coming in February for Valentine’s Day.

Sneak peak of sample, coming in February for Valentine’s Day.

My personal pre-production testing gives me a strong level of confidence around the quality of my designs. Not to mention the satisfaction when someone says “I love your bag”. It's endlessly fulfilling to have someone love a piece that you loved designing, and this applies to any trade. 

If you are considering picking up a new trade it is critical to immerse yourself, and I highly recommend considering Airbnb City Hosts to do so. Not only was it so much fun to explore with a small group of guests sharing similar interests, but it was the push forward I needed in launching my brand! The City Hosts service should be launching soon, so keep an eye out! 

What Matters

I received several notes in response to my initial blog from folks who are personally going through or have a loved one going through a similar transition. In response, I wanted to share what I believe to be my greatest learning: 

 This photo was taken from a trail in Manarola, the second smallest town in Cinque Terre, Italy.

This photo was taken from a trail in Manarola, the second smallest town in Cinque Terre, Italy.

Oh, how I wish I had lived by this when it counted, but hind sight is 20/20. I wasted countless cycles trying to balance truth and perception. I lost sleep over how I would explain myself, or even in some cases defend myself. I doubted my judgement. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you give the world the middle finger. It simply means to invest the time in advance to figure out who matters, and accept that any risky decision will come with resistance. Three important steps anyone making a major life change should know:

  1. Hire an executive/life coach: The stars aligned for me that one of my dearest friends has a finely tuned moral compass and steady approach to managing chaos. He was also in the process of completing an executive coaching program while I was planning my resignation. I would have no doubt fumbled at the finish line without his guidance, so if you are interested in working with him, PM me. 
  2. Know your tribe. Seriously make a list of the people who matter. The ones who you know put your best interests above their personal opinions. The ones you don’t have to think twice about breaking your confidentiality. If their name isn’t on your list, you can’t let them influence your story.
  3.  Accept that there will be people who disagree. Expect push back, questions, crazy looks. You will without a doubt get them. Everyone has an opinion, so ask the right questions of the right people and move forward. 

I’m certainly not the first person to emphasize the importance of finding your tribe. Value those in it, and respect those who aren’t, but don’t get caught up in their feedback – when you make it to the other side, it won’t matter that much. 

This principle applies to any major change; a career move, a breakup, a new hair color. If you wait for everyone to get on the bus, it will never leave the station.

My Fight Song

This blog is about finding the courage to follow your dreams.  May my words inspire and remind you that your story isn’t over. 

Exactly one year ago on November 12, 2015, I turned the page on a 15-year career in technology sales. For years, I planned to take a pre-retirement sabbatical. I read heartbreaking stories about hard working people who took all the right steps to prepare for retirement only to find themselves in failing health when they got there and unable to enjoy their finest years. Somehow, this would not be me.  

I realize the concept of "taking a sabbatical” seems insane for most professions. Trust me, some of my best friends looked at me like I was stoned and didn’t believe I would ever make the leap. I knew I had to start doing the hard work to prepare myself.

I paid off loans and committed to a no new debt policy. I saved every bonus. As I prepared myself I quickly realized that if I waited for the right time to walk away, it would never happen. So I prayed, not for a specific outcome, but for clarity. Clarity to make the tough decisions at the right times. I will blog more about this later as I believe it is a game changer. At least for me, the stars started to align when I let go of the results I thought were best and focused on clarity.

After months of soul searching and support from family and friends, I made the leap. It was the most painful experience of my life and toughest conversation I ever had. As I sit here today with butterflies in my stomach anticipating the beginning of my new chapter, I realize that what was a painful goodbye one year ago was really the beginning of something much bigger for me.

 This is a photo I took of a beautiful flamenco dancer in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.  

This is a photo I took of a beautiful flamenco dancer in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.  

I’ve traveled extensively, reconnected with my family, and enjoyed the opportunity to come back to my roots for a much-needed reset. I've journaled throughout this transition and collected hundreds of quotes (like the one above) that have inspired me at different points along my path.  Oh, and did I mention starting a business? 

Check back for updates like:

  1. What the heck have I been up to for the past year? 
  2. Travel tips and photos.
  3. Lessons and inspiration for making major transitions.
  4. Launch of Snapdragon Fashion Coming Soon!

Thanks for coming along for the ride…I wish you peace in the coming days until we meet again.