Creating Your Personal Balance in Life and Work

Buzz words are all around us.  One of my least favorites is “work/life balance”.  You may be wondering why I have a problem with work/life balance (WLB).  Well, I don’t.  I want balance in my life.  It’s just that each of us have our own definition of WLB.  If you are married, single, have kids, don’t have kids, work from home, work outside of the home, all of these are factors that influence work life balance and how we as individuals define it for ourselves.

When I’m consulting or even interviewing with a company and they state one of their benefits as, “work/life balance”, I always ask them to define it for me.  So far, no one has successfully talked about my WLB, it’s always some pablum.

We as women can also benefit by defining what’s really important to us as individuals.  It’s not selfish, it’s empowering.  One way to do this is to make a list (physical or mental) of what’s important to us and to rank each item.

Once you’ve created your list, ask yourself if your work environment supports your life requirements.  If it does – fantastic, you’ve actually achieved the holy grail! If not, it’s a great conversation starter with your manager.  To prepare for your conversation, have your list ready as well as options that you’ve identified to address the gaps in the balance (more opportunities to work from home, no more working on the weekends, flexible work hours to avoid traffic, drop off kids or attend events and then work from home after family events, etc.).  You might also want to bring any stated company policies around anything that talks about WLB.

When you open the conversation with your manager, be positive.  Start with something like, I love what I’m doing, and I’m hoping to improve my performance and reduce my stress by applying the principles of WLB to me and my role, specifically.  I find that there are times I have missed “x” because of work and I’d appreciate having the opportunity to attend “x” in the future.  To that endeavor, I’d like to propose “x” (or a few changes)… A supportive manager and company culture should be able to flex and meet your needs.

Over the years these priorities will most likely shift as we become partnered with someone (or unpartnered), possibility add children to our lives and see those children grow up and move out.  In addition to the family changes our professional life changes as well.  When we start out there are fewer work responsibilities, once you leave for the day you’re done until the next day.  Your job can change and grow overtime until you’re bringing work home with you to meet the added responsibilities. No matter what changes happen to your life, it’s important to keep an eye on your needs and ensure that you’re communicating them to your workplace.

The more that technology continues to evolve the workplace, the more flexibility we’ll need to be to execute our job requirements and not lose our minds in the process. Keep your needs in the forefront of your mind and keep communicate them!  Only you can empower yourself to ensure that you’re happy in both your work and your life!

– Katharine Conroy (1969-2018)

Katharine wrote this blog for me last year and I decided to publish it on her would be 50th birthday.  My heart goes out to her family and friends.  I miss you, Kat. Will think of you always.

#KatjaKokalovic #katharineconroy #celtickat

Go where you are wanted

Go where you are wanted

-Denise Kirkman

“Go where you are wanted”… these words rang out ever so loudly for me a few weeks ago as I read an article on starting over forwarded to me by a friend. It touched me in a place that required me to stop and say to myself “Am I wanted here?”

So many of us spend a great deal of our lives living and moving in spaces where we feel we are ‘supposed to be”. Our quest for the ‘right job’, ‘right school’, and ‘right spouse’ ‘right(fill in the blank)’ can propel us on journeys that are not necessarily aligned with our authentic selves. As a result, we wind up putting considerable effort to stay on the ‘right path,’ when the answer for a healthier and aligned life is to simply “go where we are wanted.”

This advice seems pretty and logical right? Why wouldn’t we want to be in places where we are wanted?  A closer examination of many of our lives however, may expose areas where we are doing just the opposite. “How do I know if I am operating in a space where I am not wanted? And more importantly “What can I do about it?”  There are four ways to determine if you are fighting this uphill battle to feeling value in your job:

  • There is a lack of personal connection with the individuals in the group in which you interact;
  • You experience an inability to get support for ideas and/or recognition of your contributions;
  • You have a constant feeling that you are not being heard by others;
  • You are unable to move either laterally or upward in the organization;

So, what is the answer? I’d suggest looking at your reasons for being in that space in the first place, why do you stay? For me I had to take an honest look at my underlying motives for being where I was. While it was easy to hide behind things like financial benefits and professional opportunity, the real answer was much deeper. What did those things signify for me in my life, what did I believe they said about how I was seen, both to myself and by others? Why was that important? Once I sorted out my motives, I focused on the impact of the work I was currently doing. I needed to get centered and aligned with my true self. I thought about these things:

  • Is this work that I value?
  • Does it excite me?
  • Is the work aligned with what I believe my strengths and talents to be?
  • What do I feel in my body as I do this work?

For me, the answer to the last question was the clarion call to signal to me that I was in the wrong place. The tension associated with the work I was doing was overwhelming, but I’d been experiencing the feeling for so long I had come to think of it as ‘normal’ as ‘part of the job.’ Many of us become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, and we ignore signals that we are out of balance physically. Stress is a great contributor to many diseases that affect women greatly, Lupus, heart disease, depression among a few. Recognizing the cues sent from our bodies is an instrumental tool in helping us to operate with true authenticity.

Once you have the answers to the questions above, start to visualize what it would look like if you were being truly authentic. As an Integral Coach, I help my clients meet their goals by using metaphors and personas to visualize their current and future selves. It is a powerful tool to understand our behaviors and how we can change to get the lives we want.  Look at what it would be like for you to work in a place that aligns with your talents and passions. Now how do you convert that into a change? Let’s take a look.

Making the change: Now that you are clearer on what you should be doing, Investigate the following:

  • Are there opportunities to work in those spaces that excite you and use your passion? Having a clearer idea of where you want to be and why, seek out those groups and activities that make the best use of your talents, strengths, and energies. Just the act of looking for new opportunities can jump-start an even clearer vision of where you’d like to be
  • Can I build relationships to help me get included? Networking is key to getting new jobs or invited to join certain organizations. Check your contact list and see who you know who may be affiliated with these new opportunities. Reach out and let them know what you’re looking for and that you’re interested in learning more about those groups. If they don’t have a direct involvement, see if they’d be willing to make an introduction with friends who may be involved and can provide more information.
  • Are there opportunities that I’ve overlooked? Looking back to areas that you may have passed up may also be a good idea and help you find the place where you’re wanted and valued. Revisit those opportunities that you’d discounted in the past for whatever reason and give them a second look. Review the reasons for passing them up and determine if those reasons are still deal breakers, if not go through the previous two steps to try to get reconnected.

In the final analysis, we spend so much of our time and talents charging toward goals that we set because of externally set measures and values. This external orientation, when not balanced by our internally driven set of values can render us a life that is off-kilter when compared to the life we can live authentically. The result of which can be a stressful professional AND personal life, impacting the lives of our co-workers as well as our close family members. When we remove the negative stress associated with being in places where we are not wanted, we can live lives more in sync with our authentic selves. We can bring more harmony, joy, and meaning not only into our lives but into the lives of those with whom we work and love.

A great thanks to Donna Santistevan for creating a space for women to connect, uplift and find camaraderie over topics that concern them.

Peace and Blessings,  Denise K.

About Denise

Denise was my manager on a government project at Accenture several years back.  Denise and I became fast friends sharing not only work but personal experiences, challenges, and goals. Denise inspires me as she is bright and positive and she’s humble about her achievements.  She is also a people person meaning when you talk to her, she listens.  That is something we both share in common.  I look forward to the day when we are in the same town to sit down and enjoy a coffee together.

denise.jpgAfter many accomplished years in IT Systems development, Denise works with senior leadership in her firm as a certified Clifton Strengthsfinder.  She has also facilitated leadership development programs and conducted multiple sessions on management and career development.  Denise has a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems from The University of Detroit-Mercy in Detroit, Michigan and a Masters of Science in Organizational Development from American University in Washington, DC.   She is also the mother of a talented and precocious nine-year-old daughter keeps her on her toes and reminds her every day of the power we possess to create the lives we want to live.


It’s no secret that divorce is hard.

It’s no secret that divorce is hard.

-Emma Palley

Divorce brings with it a lot of unexpected situations and challenges. Some of these are legal challenges, the likes of which may be totally foreign to you. Some of these are logistical and involve negotiation and compromise. They may not be totally foreign, but they’re about to get a whole lot harder. And some of these are emotional.

Divorce is hard for lots of reasons, but in general, it puts you under pressure to do a whole host of things you’ve never done before. On top of all that, emotions are running high.

You can do this! But you don’t have to do it by yourself.

Each situation and challenge requires extra energy and exertion, and each of them can benefit from outside expertise. Put together your divorce squad. Use resources efficiently, make sure you’re getting the right help from the right professional, get it done. These are your #divorcesquadgoals.

Getting good advice, for all the unexpected questions, emotions, and roller coasters that come up with a split is about coming out whole. About being ready to move on with your life once those final papers are signed.

Good friends, family, and coworkers are all part of your squad and will be indispensable. But your friends can’t do everything.

Luckily, there are also professionals who do this every day. Hiring professionals to round out your squad increases your probability of coming out of this financially stable, healthy, and sane.

Talking to a divorce lawyer early on, when you’re considering a divorce, is essential. Lawyers are there to guide you through a dizzying world of paperwork, negotiation, and legalese. The legal part of divorce would be hard enough alone, but combine it with everything else you’ve got going on. You need someone to translate for you.

Having a strong legal advocate on your side can mean the difference between post-divorce financial independence and ruin. Start with a consultation. Many lawyers offer free or low-fee consultations for divorce. This can give you a good view of your options. It will also give you ideas for the range of possible ways forward.

The road to singledom is paved with unexpected twists and turns. Good legal advice is important to navigate it.

At the same time, lawyers—particularly the good ones—can be expensive. A good lawyer can cost anywhere from $200 to $600 an hour, and those hours can pile up fast.

While there are lawyers who will let you cry in their office and let you talk about your emotions, they make for expensive therapists. You want to make sure that you’re using your lawyer’s time efficiently and effectively, and that means not paying your lawyer to be your emotional support.

Divorce brings out high emotions, and it’s easy to feel out of control. Just like a lawyer can guide you through the legalese, a life coach can guide you through the emotional rollercoaster.

Talking through your feelings, how you’re approaching decisions, learning more about the ways you operate with a little help is so important.

There are so many decisions to make in a divorce. Some of these you’ll make with your former partner. Some of them you have to make alone. That’s scary, and it’s okay to be scared. And it’s okay, no, it’s brave and totally necessary, to ask for support and advice on how best to do that.

Professionals aren’t free, and you may be tempted to skimp on one or the other. I can hear you now, “I’ve got great friends!” you say, or “I don’t need to talk someone.” But having an unbiased professional is different than having your family or your bestie. A professional does this every day, and is there, just for you, when you need them.

Putting together your squad means being prepared. Prepared for new emotions and outbursts. For new information and challenges. For the times when you want to give up. For the times when you get angry and want to lash out. For all the things you don’t understand. For making a strategy when you just want to eat ice cream on the couch in your pajamas. For all the times you can’t yet know are coming.

A good lawyer will guide you through the legal battles, and a good life coach can help you make sure you’ve got the emotional strength and wherewithal to make those decisions. Together, with your squad, you can get through this.

About Emma:

Emma and I met through a mutual neighbor about five years ago.  Each time I visit Denver, I am able to see her.  This past year we discussed her work and my work and knew we had a mutual business connection.  Though we have different perspectives, she and I both understand the divorce process and how difficult it can be for some.  She felt that some of her clients could benefit from life coaching.  I admire Emma as she is not only beautiful and smart but warm and caring.  I’m happy to call her a friend. 

Emma's Fashion Social Media Image 176

Emma Palley is an attorney with the law firm Heckenbach Suazo LLP, located in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Emma’s practice focuses on family law including divorce, post-decree modification, and enforcement, allocation of parental responsibilities, child support, and paternity. Find out more about Emma and Heckenbach Suazo LLP at

What Timmy Taught Me (or How to Ask for Help)

What Timmy Taught Me (or How to Ask for Help)katharine2

-Katharine Conroy

A number of years ago, I was diagnosed with a Brain Tumor, which I not so lovingly named, Timmy.  For the record, I don’t have anything against anyone named Timmy, it just seemed like a good name for a tumor and I could address my feelings towards Timmy, the Tumor.

But I digress.  There were so many lessons that I learned, during the time of Timmy.  The most important lesson for me, was that it’s ok to ask for help and how much people really do want to help you (and strangers – think of all of the donations during a natural disaster that people make).

Growing up, I was taught to be strong, that showing any sign of weakness was bad.  I equated asking for help as a sign of weakness, that I couldn’t accomplish x by myself.  This did lead me to take risks early on in work, take on roles that I wasn’t fully qualified and work my butt off to be able to learn and be able to do the job.

And then one Friday, before the 4th of July weekend, I was SHOCKED to find out that not only did I have a brain tumor, it was huge! Luckily, I have the most amazing group of girlfriends.  One of my friends went with me to meet the neurosurgeon and afterwards, the two of us took turns calling the “girlies” to meet up for drinks and potentially get drunk.  One of the girlies was flying out early the next morning on an international trip.  She stopped in the middle of packing and came to the bar to meet us.

It was 6 weeks from diagnosis to surgery and then 6 weeks of recovery to 26 days of radiation.

During those 6 weeks, I contacted friends and family far and wide to tell them about Timmy.  My sister and sister-in-law took turns babysitting me prior to the surgery and then my best friend flew into town for the week of the surgery.  But before any of this could happen, I had to take a deep breath and acknowledge that I just couldn’t do this by myself, I needed help and asking for it wasn’t going to make me weak.

Everyone in my life showed up and showed up huge.  And they didn’t show up as a burden, they showed up because they wanted to.  They came to my house prior to the surgery, they came to the hospital during recovery and they came to the rehab hospital.  We didn’t know about the radiation and I didn’t know how hard radiation would be, so a few weeks after surgery, they went back to normal lives and then I shifted to radiation.

I hope that none of you have to learn about asking for help due to a significant health issue, but in everyday course of your life.  Know that asking for help doesn’t make you weak and your people will want to help – but they need to know that you need help.  Hopefully, you’ll end up with crazy funny stories that you can reflect back on and smile.

About Katharine:

Katharine and I met during a speech class in college and we became fast friends.   Years later, we had the opportunity to work together at Accenture.  She has also been a huge help to me with her marketing expertise.  We have learned a lot from each other throughout our friendship and I admire her for her honesty and courage through hardships. 



Katharine Conroy

Digital Marketing Strategist for Fortune 100 companies

t: @celtickat



by Sofia Leite

It was June, in a beautiful mountain in Picos of Europe, we were sitting under a gorgeous tree. One of my dearest friends said “I wish I had your courage to change my life. You did it, and now you’re doing so well!”. I smiled and said, “Yes, but that’s the very short version of the process I’ve been through, without the painful part.”

Without a doubt, it was the best thing I could’ve done, but along the way, I had constant challenges and tests, that I overcame one by one, one day at a time. I was scared and had many doubts, but my conviction never let me give up.

Here are some challenges I had to face.

1 – Fear

It’s true, there’s always fear, especially when we’re going to leave everything that’s certain and step into the unknown. Fear never goes away, but I don’t let it make any decision. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, me and fear are on this journey together, but fear is going on the back seat of the car and can’t decide anything. It’s not even allowed to touch the radio!

2 – Doubts and uncertainties

It’s another constant, and it’s normal to question if it was the best decision. Many times! I remember once there was a week when everybody who had scheduled, canceled. Even one person who didn’t have an appointment called to cancel! I thought it was surreal and perhaps a sign that something was not ok. I waited and wondered if I was just needing a pause and rest some time. A bit annoyed, that’s what I did, and after a while, everything went back to normal.

3 – What other people say

Conversations like “It’s not going to work. What if you regret it? It’s too risky, too difficult. You better stay where you are, …etc.” Honestly, I have zero interest in chats like this. What we put our attention on, grows, and really it’s not the reality I’m interested in. I always think it might be true for you, but it’s not for me.

4 – It was not what I was expecting

At all. It’s much better! I tried to be flexible (like the bamboo) and experimented several approaches and techniques, and naturally left behind what didn’t work or didn’t like, and develop what gave better and faster results. With time, I dropped my expectations and stopped judging if it was good or bad. I trust in the Universe and know that what happens is always the best for me. I think that usually we dream too small and are almost afraid to ask for good things, be it to have inner peace, heal a health issue or solve a difficult financial situation. It’s always good to leave space and an open door for life to surprise us. We don’t have to control everything. Maybe it’s not the way we thought, but it can be so much better.

It’s time. Courage 🙂

About Sofia:

I met Sofia last year on the Camino de Santiago along with friend, Marisa Carvalho, both from Portugal. Sofia walks the Camino every year.  I was drawn to her for her spirituality, kindness, and dedication.  After the walk, we met again later in Portugal and have remained friends since.  We plan to get together and walk a different route of the Camino together in the future.  Thank you, Sofia for the engaging conversations and look forward to joining our forces together in the future.

Sofia has a degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Porto and has worked in the pharmacy area for seven years. She has taken courses in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Graduate Studies in Energy Medicine with Dr. Tran Viet Dzung.  Sofia is a Reiki Master.  She believes that more important than to choose one specific therapy is to chose the therapist. We can only understand, interpret and transmit the reality till our own level of development, and that affects directly the way a therapist works.


Mindfulness – Trend or Way of Life?

Mindfulness – Trend or Way of Life?

by Liz Rutledge

There has been a lot of discussion in the last few years about this thing called “Mindfulness.”   In this world of smartphones and free wi-fi, it can be challenging to find stillness.  The more busy schedules get, the more we are expected to multitask, eat on the go and rush through life, the more Mindfulness is desired.

What is it exactly?

Mindfulness is “being present and aware in a moment without judgment”. 

That’s it.  Getting still and letting our nervous systems settle is critical for balancing ourselves.  If you can sit up in a chair with feet on the floor, place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.  Close your eyes.  Feel your belly, then your chest, rise, and fall naturally, listening to the air come in and out of your lungs.  As you repeat this, try counting to five on the in breath and down from eight on the out breath.  Then repeat for a few, slow, deep breaths.  Do this for a minute any time you need to reduce anxiety, calm down and focus.  This is a great breath pattern for settling down to sleep at night as it is calming.

A lot of scientific research has shown that Mindfulness helps improve focus and concentration and reduce stress and anxiety.  And the most beautiful thing about it is it’s just breathing.  And, we have our lungs with us from the moment we are born until the moment we die.  They are always with us, and they are free.  Finding our breath puts us in a happier mood, helps us sleep deeper, reduces anxiety, helps our hearts be healthier, and improves our air intake among other benefits.

It’s as simple as taking one, slow, deep breath to deepening the Mindfulness Meditation experience to three, then five, then 10-20-30 minutes.  More experienced meditators can meditate for an hour or more.  The Dalai Lama meditates for something like seven hours a day.

The beauty of Mindfulness being trendy in the information age of smartphones, the Internet, tablets, and iPods is that there are free and low-cost apps available to guide us through Mindfulness meditation.

Some of the more popular apps are*:

  • The Mindfulness App (free)
  • Headspace (free)
  • Calm (free)
  • MINDBODY (free)
  • Buddhify (Price: iPhone, $4.99 and Android, $2.99)
  • Insight Timer (free)
  • Smiling Mind (free)
  • Meditation Timer Pro (Price: $0.99)
  • Sattva (free)
  • Stop, Breathe, & Think (free)


Additionally, there are hundreds of free guided meditation videos on YouTube and Vimeo.

Some of my favorites are:

The Honest Guys’ 10-Minute Guided Meditation is a great first thing in the morning right after you wake up.

Yoga Nidra Body Scan Meditation is great if you have a little more time.

And this one from Michael Sealey is good any time to help reduce anxiety and stress:

About Liz:

I have known Liz for over 25 years, but it’s not until recently I have been inspired by her devotion to her family, the environment, and well-being.   Her transparency and friendship is something I admire about her.  Thank you, Liz! 


SustainableThree founder Liz Rutledge is deeply passionate about the environment.

She has been doing Mindfulness in one form or another since she was 10 years old. She teaches Mindfulness at schools in the Denver area and is in the process of getting her Mindful Schools certification.

Mindfulness is about taking care of ourselves, our community, and our planet. Liz teaches people how to compost, garden, recycle and other sustainability activities. She is a blogger and has written the blog on since 2014. In addition, Liz is a freelance writer and dabbles in novels, editorials, and other blogs.  She loves to garden and travel as well as being a wife and mother to three children.

Brave Confessions From an Older Woman

Brave Confessions From an Older Woman – by Kim Salisbury

I am an older woman. I am an older woman. I am an older woman. I guess if I try to say it enough times it might stick. I had an interesting ah-ha moment recently. Someone had seen a picture of me in an intense pose and commented that they hoped that they looked like me when they are older. When I first read the comment I remember thinking, “What older woman?” “Who are they looking at?” Well, ME! I was the older woman. Yet it can’t be me. I feel the same as I did at 29 years of age. I missed the entire beautiful compliment from that person because of the sting of the label. But the fact is that I am an older woman.

I remember my parents at my age and thinking they are so old. And when I get very real and look deep into the mirror I can do nothing but realize that the outside is older than the inside. The face I see has lines and sags and age creeping in on it. Don’t get me wrong. I work hard to turn back the hands of time through nutrition and exercise, but the fact still remains I am aging.

In the society in which we live it is almost criminal to get old. With all the injections, surgeries, pills and powders, we are taught to fight aging as if it was a matter of life and death. We are taught that beauty is wrinkle-less, no expression, puffed up faces that have no movement or character. We are taught to do whatever it takes at all costs to look young. Now I’m not entirely against these things. I have tried some of them and researched others and ultimately I believe a woman has the right to do whatever she wants with her body and face without any judgement, shame or guilt. But the examples I see before me are tortured women that have become manic in the race against time. They have become obsessive about staying young to the point of looking plastic and feeling value less because of chronology.

I refuse to become that. I love a face that moves. I love a face that laughs and crinkles and turns up or down. I also love when I see an older woman that is aging gracefully walk into a room and light it up because of her smile, posture, grace and inner light. Yes, there are days when I peer into my face and struggle with the changes that are taking place, but I have to let go and surrender to the way things are supposed to be. The natural progression of life and the natural changes in the body. I have to surrender to other things changing as well. This is not giving in but instead accepting the fact that there are some things that no matter what are inevitable. Having an inner peace and love for yourself is true beauty to me. I hope that I can continue to embrace these beliefs and embrace myself no matter what age I turn, no matter what society insists and no matter what I see in the mirror.

 BECAUSE THIS IS ME – by Kim Salisbury

My forehead wrinkles. I have lines and creases going against the grain.
Do I no longer SMILE?

My thighs wobble and giggle each time I take a stride.
Do I no longer WALK or RUN?

My skin is sagging. I have ripples around my knees and lumps and bumps that I have never seen.
Do I no longer WEAR shorts?

I look awkward and stiff. I don’t know the latest moves.
Do I no longer DANCE?

My shoulders begin to round. My spine is not as straight.
Do I no longer STAND tall?

My ears are less precise. I ask “What?” a few too many times.
Do I no longer LISTEN?

My eyes have to strain. I adjust back and forth to be able to see.
Do I no longer SEEK?

I am fearful and anxious and filled with concern for what is to come.
Do I no longer LIVE?

I am broken and changed and bruised and beat.
Do I no longer LOVE?


I will continue to SMILE, WALK & RUN, WEAR short shorts, DANCE, STAND tall, LISTEN, SEEK, LIVE & LOvE.

Because this is ME!

No matter how much I am reminded of my mortality. I will continue to find JOY & PURPOSE & AUTHENTICITY & INDIVIDUALITY & LAUGHTER & PASSION & HUMILITY.

Because this is ME!

About Kim:

I remember seeing Kim for the first time as a freshman in high school years ago.  To me, she always had an angelic face and and a glowing smile that still is contagious.  Today, she inspires me with her bright, colorful photos of healthy food and amazing yoga poses.  I hope she inspires you as well.

Since being a teenager Kim Salisbury has always been drawn to all things physical. Moving her body in all different sports and activities has always brought her immense satisfaction. Kim understood from a young age the benefits of keeping active, connecting the mind and the body and the release that was brought on by physical activity. It was no surprise that she would choose a career that would carry out her passion and share her beliefs with others.  Kim believes in the power and science of yoga with the tools of breath work, meditation, asanas or poses, mantras, bandhas and more. Her philosophy with working with clients is not just about getting fit, losing a few pounds or inches or fitting into a smaller size, but more so working towards helping them find and live a healthy, centered and joyful way of life that is found on the mat. With an addition of a certification of Psychotherapeutic yoga, Kim is passionate about working with special populations, injuries and sickness, specifically focusing on stress, anxiety and depression. Yoga therapy for the wellness and strengthening of the brain and nervous system.

You can visit Kim at

Kim Salisbury