Monday, June 11, 2018

I Am Not A Life Coach

Every so often I get a comment or question from a consulting client that I think is worth responding to. One of the thing I make very clear on my Work With Me page and when I talk to potential clients is that I am not a life coach. Recently someone was like "but aren't you though?"

I gave it some thought, but I really don't think I am... and here's why:

First of all, it's not easy to define exactly what a life coach even is. The general consensus is that is has to do with helping people live their best lives. But there are tons of different ways that can happen apparently and different people focus on different things.

And yeah, that can includes things like goal setting and habit forming, which are things that I do. But it also includes more emotional, touchy-feeling things that I do not do. Like helping people eliminate unhelpful thought patterns or have a more positive attitude.

I'm just not feeling focused. Not that I want to make people feel badly, mind you! I just care less about how people feel and more about what they get done. I guess I really do believe -- like that chick in that batman movie -- that it's what you do that defines you.

This can be bad mind you. I express sympathy through well-meaning advice and motivation -- which drives a lot of people really nuts. And I tend to ignore feelings when I shouldn't -- even my own (though I'm working on it). It's not, I hope, because I'm a sociopath. In fact I feel things very deeply and emotional control is something I've struggled with my whole life. So maybe this rational, action oriented mindset is my coping mechanism.

In any case, while it's sometimes detrimental for me, it's more often extremely helpful. No reason you can't benefit from it.

Plus, there's such a thing as being a certified life coach -- which I am not.

What I am is a professional project manager (certified even). Which happens to be a career that takes what would be my most annoying traits like excessive pro-activity and a desire to control everything and turns them into strengths. May you all be so lucky as to find yourself in such a career.

I really do want people to live their best lives. But I guess I'm just not confident enough to assume I know what that is. What I can do though is help you think in an organized way about your own best life and, once you've made a first guess as to what it is, to help you figure out how to get yourself to that life. How to get shit done.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Talking about Organizing Enchantment with Alan Fuller

I was so pleased to be invited to chat with Alan Fuller on his Coffee with the Shaman Witch video podcast! Alan is the author of The Spell in My Pocket (a book that I highly recommend) and offers magic, tarot readings, and Shamanic training on his site, The Shaman Witch.

We talked about the intersection of project management and practical enchantment as well as being a witch, the best way to use the tarot, and how to keep your magic agile.

Check out the episode on YouTube here

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Friday, June 1, 2018

PMPM - Free! Flash Consulting Sessions

Wondering if Practical Magic Project Management consulting is right for you?
Intrigued at how the tools can be used together to solve a real-world problem? 
Like the idea, but are nervous about the cost or commitment?
Have a small issue that you need some help with?

For a limited time, I'm offering free 20-minute flash sessions. Completely free (yes really!), no commitment (I promise) trial-sized sessions.

Here's how it works:
  1. Book a free half-hour intro session below (you will not be billed but I will send you the Agile Magic Manifesto after confirming your email -- also free!).
  2. Email me a single issue or question you need help with before your session.
  3. Skype me at when your session time arrives.
Like lighting we will go over some magical and mundane ideas to get you pointed in the right direction. In 20 minutes I can:
  • Suggest ways of solving a problem
  • Help you learn how to prioritize your efforts
  • Scope a goal
  • Deal with a challenge
  • Provide a tool for making a decision
  • Throw a couple of cards to identify your risks or correct path
  • Give you hints for unblocking or road opening

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Monday, May 28, 2018

Sustain-ability: Three Big Ideas for Household Magic

I'm a big believer in the power of a household. The past four days (it's a long weekend in the US and I made it even longer with an extra day off) we've been focusing on household stuff, which means I have household magic on the brain. Here are a few things to try in your own household.

Reverse Stockpiling
You know I'm a big believer in stockpiling both magic and mundane things for a future time. However, just putting things aside is only half the work. In order to keep the household magic flowing, you have to use those things. Consider the following very simple recipe (which we made on Saturday:

Green Chili Stew
1lb grass fed beef stew meat
Frozen roasted Hatch green chili
Onion and Garlic
Vegetable broth

Blend chili, onion, garlic, broth, and salt into a thick sauce
Brown mean in oil in pressure cooker
Add sauce and cook under high pressure for 12 minutes
Natural decompress
Eat with corn tortillas

Now consider the actual steps that went into this meal:

Defrost and clean out the big freezer magically as well as physically (an annual event)
Buy a side of local grass fed beef and put in the big freezer
Get a sack of New Mexico chilies from the traveling roasters during harvest and freeze them in small bags
Save veggie ends and tips over time
Once you have filled a gallon ziplock with veggie ends, turn them into broth and bless the broth
Pressure can veggie broth and store jars in the pantry
Defrost meat and chili
Put onion/garlic skins and ends back into the veggie bag for a future round of broth
Open a jar of broth from the pantry
Continue with instructions above

Time to cook: 12 minutes
Time to make: 8 months

The stew turned out really great and we had it with a salad (with Chipotle ranch dressing which we made earlier in the week). But it was just the delicious end point of long history of kitchen management and stockpiling.

When you put something aside for the future, you have to make sure there is a future where that item is then used. It's a cycle of energy where things keep moving and nourishing the household and its members.

Corralling the Chaos
Do you have one of those drawers in your kitchen that gets filled with random detritus? Most people do. Even people who are very clean and organized (like my mom and sister) have locations where stuff tends to clump up.

The way I figure it, every household has a certain amount of natural chaos. The goal of household management is not to eliminate the chaos (which, even if you could, would turn your home into a museum and not a place where people live) but to corral it. That mitigates the chaos from taking over the rest of the house.

When we find things getting crazy around the house, it's usually because one of the corrals of chaos has gotten out of control.

For example, we have a small bookshelf "office" in the living room. It lives behind the book case doors and holds all manner of office stuff including cards and stationary, pens and pads of paper, rubber bands, paperclips, and the shredder which sits on the bottom shelf and is plugged in through the back of the bookcase. When we start finding paper lurking around the house, it's usually because we need to open those doors and do a bunch of sorting and shredding. And shredding is a perfect time for banishing magic. So you can get rid of more than just paper.

Our laundry room is also a mud room and pantry and overflow kitchen supply and storage, so it's a whirl of chaos even in the best of times. But when I find that laundry is out of control, I need to tackle the laundry room (again) and put things in their place. There's a certain amount of overlap between cleaning and cleansing in the magical household, so getting that stuff in order has a double impact to the rest of the house.

And when tools and equipment start appearing in random locations, it's because the garage (which we think of as a workshop since no cars currently live there) needs a neatening.

Removing the Thorn
Speaking of the workshop... sometimes the household doesn't function because there is an ill spot in it. This goes beyond a chaos corral needing mitigation. This is about something that's so unworkable and so dysfunctional that it impacts the entire energy of the house.

Of course this dysfunction can come from the people in the home and their health and relationships. But it can also come from a place in the home that's gotten so bad that everything is else is impacted.

How many times have I mentioned or talked about cleaning a garage on this blog? An unfortunate amount actually. And that's because for a few years, the garage was the thorn in our own household's functioning. There were reasons that this happened and some of the reasons had a strong emotional component (my husband's accident). But reasons or not it was still unpleasant. And once we had the health, time, energy, and money to fix it it was HUGE.

I remember telling my friend how much better it felt and she basically said "well, you never shut up about it, so it obviously really bothered you." And it's true. It bothered all of us. Now there's an organized shop in the garage and the household is getting needed maintenance and my husband is creating amazing things using wood and metal and fire.

Wood + metal + fire

We should have tried to fix it sooner.

The illness that spreads from an unloved part of a home can be energetic (as it was in this case), it can be practical (like not having any place to fix or build things), it can even be potentially sickening (like finding that some building supplies got wet and started growing mildew).

If you have an attic that's a nightmare of spiders, a basement that has black mold, a bathroom that you fear the health inspector ever seeing, a yard that's overrun with brambles and despair? Those places can impact the household on a deep level. And it's not just about having a mess. Your kid's room can be a disaster and still be their sanctuary and safe place away from the stresses of the world. But when the mess starts to hurt the household and its human and non-human members (or the hurt in the household causes a terrible mess) it's time to take action.

A lot of people have one or more unsavory interests. Maybe you're fascinated with serial killers or infestations or medical oddities. I happen to be fascinated with hoarding. I'm not a hoarder, though I do tend to fall more on the save side of the spectrum between "we may need this" and "get rid of everything" but I still find the disorder really interesting. If you ever watch the trashy TV show Hoarders (and if you even need a kick in the pants getting your house cleaned, you should) you can see how as is interior of the home, so it the interior of these folks' minds.

No cleaning is ever entirely mundane. Creating order in your house is an act of creating order in the world and inside yourself. It's about health and safety and happiness.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

EBER Project -- Crossroads

In case you are coming in late to this, the Early to Bed, Early to Rise (EBER) Project is a three-year personal project with the goals of Health, Wealth (really prosperity), and Wisdom for our household. By the way, I reworked the overly long Index page into sub-pages, so you can see all the EBER posts right here.

I haven't blogged about this project in a bit, but that doesn't mean I'm not still working it. After my year end wrap-up I decided that an interim phase was warranted to reset my thinking. This is exactly the sort of thing that works great for really long projects. After all, if you create an initial plan and never look at it again, there's no way you'd be on target at the end. There's just too much chance for change.

I'm kind of at a crossroads in this project (and considering it's length it probably won't be the last one). I have some really good baseline stuff in place, but there are some decisions to make as to how to move on from here. Here's my process during this major project check in:

First, it's important to revisit the goals you've achieved to see if they are meeting your needs. For example, one of my goals was financial and it was a big success. But after a few months I see that there is a need to focus on follow up processes in order to make sure it stays a success and the need to set next up goals so that I don't lose momentum. So the next phase of my EBER project includes Operation Budget Analysis! (it kind of sounds better in my head honestly). The goal will be to set us up for maximum options for comparative decision making during the final phase of the project.

Next steps: implement a couple of budgeting tricks to keep our finances on track. I may blog about this because a couple of people have asked for more details on how I keep my family budget (in a spreadsheet of doom of course).

Second, it's good to make sure that your focus is correct. I had an information gathering goal that was a success, but only in the short term. So I'm dusting off this goal but setting my sights longer (not "what next" but "what then"). This is important because the end of this project has several major external drivers coming in all at once (economic predictions from Martin Armstrong, some weather stuff I'm following, and the kid graduating high school) and my work is going to intersect with all of that. Timing is going to be critical and tricky.

Next steps: it's time for me to spend some money on a qualified astrologer. The good ones are always booked way in advance too, so I'm going to try to get on someone's radar now.

Finally, a little distance is good for objectivity. While some strides have been made on the health goal, I have to admit our household as a whole has to do more work together to make sure we're all headed in the same direction. Plus I feel like I have more work to do to make sure we've got appropriate luck magic and protections in place since things have been a bit chaotic on that front. This is supposed to be a year of more illness (again as per Armstrong and other indicators I follow) and I need to keep on top of that.

Next steps: the bullet ephemeris has been working OK for me. But the gap is that it it's a daily kind of checking, where some magic I want to do relies on hour-level timing.

It seems crazy to take like a multi-month review period in a project, but when compared to the 36-months I intent to run this thing, it's not so odd. Plus I play these breaks by ear. Sometimes life intervenes with hints as to what I need to contemplate. And frankly, it's easy to burn out. The first part of this project included a huge amount of stress and work (magical and mundane) to come off correctly. We needed a break.

When you are project marathoning, this is the kind of stuff you have to consciously do to get to the finish line.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Robin Hood 2018: Thank Your Local IT Geek

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled posts to bring you a public service message on security.

A wise person once told me to always befriend your company's admins. They basically run the place and suffer under the yoke of having lots of accountability but little authority. Another person at your company you should get to know is your IT person. Because they have useful knowledge that can help keep you safe at home and at work.

Note, I'm not currently wearing a hoodie

Disclaimer, I'm not a security expert nor do I play one on TV. You may disagree with some of these points, however the advice was given to me by people who should know, including my workplace, my bank, etc. Here's a short todo list for those of you don't have as much exposure to or tolerance for IT security:

  • Call your cell phone carrier TODAY and restrict number port access with some kind of long and hard to crack passcode. There's an exciting new scam going on where someone will steal your phone number by porting it to a different carrier. They then use your number and other information they have nefariously found out about you to reset your passwords and steal your money. You know how if you forget your password, places will offer to send you a text to reset it? Yeah, like that. This happened to me on Wednesday, though they didn't have a chance to steal any money because I reacted fast. But it was an epic, epic pain in the ass nonetheless. You need to do this because you also need to...
  • Turn on dual factor authentication for everything you can. This is that thing where it will text you a code to type in in addition to your password. Give me access to your email and I can figure out where you have accounts, reset all your passwords, and steal all your cash. Your email is probably the most valuable thing you have. Gmail is one place that does this and I recommend that you point all your password resets to this account and then turn on dual factor authentication using the phone app. 
  • Speaking of phones, make sure yours is encrypted. This is where the information on the phone is munged up before you put in a passcode, so if someone got your phone and pulled your chip they still wouldn't get anything. I'm skittish of biometrics, though the jury is out. If you regularly go to protests you should to turn off iris scan or facial recognition because cops don't need a warrant to use them to open your phone (or leave your phone / take a burner -- talk to the experts who are probably coordinating the protest). I'm more paranoid about things like iris scanning because if someone stole your digital iris (not your eye mind you, but the picture of your eye the computer uses to compare to) they could get into your stuff and unlike a password you CAN'T CHANGE YOUR EYE.
  • Monitor your credit cards for small, innocuous-looking charges (like .99 to iTunes). Scammers run this kind of tiny charge to test the CC numbers they've stolen to see if they are live. If the small charge goes through, many larger ones will follow. If you see a charge like that, call your bank immediately and put a lock on your card. This happened to me some years back, which is why I know about it. But it might be passe' since recently they don't even do the small charge anymore, they spoof your electronic card onto a fake card and buy stuff in person. This happened to me last year. Someone walked into a Walmart in Arizona and bought a bunch of stuff with the physical card I had in my wallet at the time. You need to be checking your accounts every couple of days and as soon as you see a weird charge, call your bank's fraud line. This happened to our family THREE TIMES in the past 18 months.
  • For credit cards you don't use (like emergency cards) have it text or email you when a charge is made. That way you don't have to remember to keep an eye on the account. Some cards even allow you do turn them off when you don't need them, so they won't actually work. Remember, someone doesn't have to have your physical card to use the card data to steal all your shit.
  • Turn off overdraft protection. Based on a recommendation from my bank, our family currently has two household checking accounts. One account is used for paying all the household bills every month. These are auto-drafted out of the account and paychecks are auto-drafted into the account. These transactions are slightly more secure than day to day spending. Day to day spending is a separate checking account that gets a certain amount of money every other week and no more. Neither account has overdraft protection. Why? Because if someone gets your card number they can quickly clean out your account, and it can take weeks so sort it out. Image how much worse that would be if they also cleaned out your savings account through overdraft protection.
  • Change all your passwords. It's probably long overdue. And note that really long passwords made up of tons of words strung together like "HorsesAreSomeOfMyClosestFriends4Ever!" are currently considered more secure than short l33t speak ones (NE1410S?). I have a password I use for stuff where no money is involved and there's a low risk to account theft -- like my Ravelry password (a knitting site, don't judge me). I have a password I use for stuff where money is involved that's much longer and newer. I have a password I use for critical accounts (bank, email access, etc.) that's redonculous and a huge pain in the ass. They all recently got changed after the phone number issue so fuck you scammers. 
  • Consider locking down your credit reports. This is where no one can attempt to do anything that requires pulling credit (like get a new credit card using your information) without you unlocking it first. This is an epic pain in the ass as there are three credit reporting agencies and they are all different and, frankly, all suck. Should I be elected potentate, I would immediately outlaw them.
One of my wise readers sent me the following and was kind enough to give me permission to include it here:

Regarding passwords, they should all be different and add spaces and special characters (Shift + Number keys) in there as well. As an example, "HorsesAreSomeOfMyClosestFriends4Ever!" might change to “Hor#sEs ar* sOme $f my Cl&sEt Friends 4(ever!” Put spaces in at different intervals (i.e., don’t do 4 characters, space, 4 characters, space, etc. – mix it up). I know that banks and some security people tell you that you shouldn’t write your passwords down. I’ve read more arguments to the opposite and I’m very pro-writing down because it allows your passwords to be bigger and more complex (i.e., more German-like!). Also, the only way that you can have a different password for each login is to write it down (unless you’re a total memory geek – which I’m not!). I’m also NOT a fan of those on-the-computer password keepers. Only 1 password would have to be decipher to get the keys to the kingdom!

Secondly, and this is my own kinda thing, you know how you can set up those security questions where they ask you personal information like your pet’s name, your father’s oldest sibling’s name, etc.? Select as many of those as you can and fake it! Make up a fake life. Make up names that have no connection to your past. Hackers can dig up your life on the web and the dark web, but they can’t dig up a fake life that didn’t exist! If your dog’s name is Fido, then call him Peter on the question! Obviously this would also have to be written down so you don’t forget! Whatever you do, write it on paper, not on the computer

So, that's all boring and tedious and a huge pain in the ass. But you should probably do it anyway.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sustain-ability: The Dishes of Life

When I was a young woman, I had this theory that I called "the dishes of life." It was a modern take on the Zen "before enlightenment chop wood, carry water...." The idea being that no matter what weirdness or enchantment or, yes, enlightenment was going on in your life, the dishes still had to get done.

It just resonated more with me than chopping wood. And it was also closer to how to be an adult in our modern world. Yes, the dishes "have to" get done, but not because you'll freeze to death or go thirsty without them. It's because being in the world requires a certain amount of ongoing order creation to be manageable. You don't really have to wash the dishes, right? You can use paper plates or get takeout or just scrub the one pot or plate you need when you need it. Doing the dishes is about maintaining order in your life.

After a recent post that talked about my various personal maxims, a dear friend of mine jokingly suggested that I make a Dishes of Life post. Now, I wasn't really going to make this post because there's not a lot else to this idea. You want to live a magical life? Great, but you don't get a pass on doing all the other grownup things that have to get done. Simple.

But then the other day, the Daily Stoic shared the following with me in email:

The Taxes of Life

...People have been complaining about their taxes since the beginning of civilization. And what has become of it? Taxes are higher than ever and they’re dead. Death and taxes. There is no escape. So let us waste no time and create no misery kicking and screaming about it. Let us not add to our tax bracket the cost of frustration and resentment.
Taxes are inevitable part of life. There is a cost to everything we do. As Seneca wrote to Lucilius, “All the things which cause complaint or dread are like the taxes of life—things from which, my dear Lucilius, you should never hope for exemption or seek escape.” Income taxes are not the only taxes you pay in life. They are just the financial form. Everything we do has a toll attached to it. Waiting around is a tax on traveling. Rumors and gossip are the taxes that come from acquiring a public persona. Disagreements and occasional frustration are taxes placed on even the happiest of relationships. Theft is a tax on abundance and having things that other people want. Stress and problems are tariffs that come attached to success. And on and on and on.
There’s no reason or time to be angry about any of this. Instead, we should be grateful. Because taxes—literal or figurative—are impossible without wealth. So what are you going to focus on? That you owe something, or that you are lucky enough to own something that can be taxed.

Now, in case you don't know, Daily Stoic is awesome and I highly recommend you sign up (it's free!). But it was also really relevant to, and resonant with, my original point. You do the dishes not only because it's part of being a functional adult, but because you have dishes to do and you have food to eat off of those dishes. Looking beyond the chore and the maintenance of order is gratitude that you have those dishes in the first place.

In fact, this hit me personally because a couple of years ago I decided that instead of the random assortment of chipped IKEA plates we had, I wanted NICE DISHES. So our household holiday gift was a set of plain white bone china dishes and serving platters. So how fortunate am I do be able to wash these lovely plates and bowls? And how blessed that washing in this context just means putting them in the dishwasher and letting it do the work?

Seneca was right and (unlike wood chopping for most of us) his point is still highly pertinent today. Everything we do has some kind of tax -- it can't be helped and in the end there's no point complaining or stressing about it. In fact, if looked at the correct way, we can celebrate the annoyances that are born directly from the good things we have.