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A personal rant about what it’s really like to be a woman in business

I love my business.  I only just started, but I’m doing what I love and it’s going amazing.  But something happened this week that made me question everything.  If you are a man reading this, it may sound like a stupid or insignificant thing.  If you are a woman, perhaps you will understand.  That may sound sexist, but it’s not.  

The truth is, there are differences between men and women and the challenges we face in life and business.  Men who are accepting of women and respectful of people may be blind to this.  The tide is changing and there are more women in business.  That fact is accepted.  But the reality is quite different.

I went to Dublin earlier this week to cover a conference.  While there, I lumped together as many meetings as possible.  One of my meetings was with a man I had previously met with twice.  I had submitted a strategy and proposal, so since he wanted to meet, I naturally assumed it was to close the deal – or perhaps discuss some tweaks before closing.  

In reality, he had entirely different intentions.  He started off praising my work.  We met over dinner, and as the meal continued he alternated between far too forward adoring comments to completely condescending and degrading ones.  Often in the same sentence – “When I first met you I thought you were far too hot to work with… but you’ve gained weight”, “I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it, most girls haven’t”.   He actually had the audacity to ask me outright if he could come back to where I was staying.  I told him emphatically no.   I’m intentionally toning down his comments as to write them would be inappropriate.  Despite his horrendous behaviour, he is married.  I left and he said he would help me find a cab, I thanked him and got in… to my horror, he got in the back.  He and the cab driver started engaging in conversation which is terribly degrading to women.  When the cab arrived to where I was staying, I got out and was horrified when a few minutes later he comes running up behind me.  I asked him what he was doing and called him another cab using Hailo, which is thankfully very timely.  He turned to get in the cab and I went inside and closed the door.  Minutes later he starts banging on my door, calling and texting.  I ignored him, but was quite shaken.

As ill fate would have it, he was an attendee at the conference I covered. I was speaking with a gentleman, and he brought coffee for me, which I refused, and then in front of the other gentleman made some comment about us being together the night before, giving a completely wrong impression.  As slapping such people only works in movies, I abruptly excused myself and went as far away as possible.

I can’t describe how this all affected me, but I felt horrible.  Violated.  I started questioning everything – questioning if I could actually handle this, running a business as a woman.  I certainly didn’t want to be treated like that again.  I questioned my personality – I know I am friendly, I laugh a lot and am outgoing, perhaps I shouldn’t be so friendly?  I questioned my appearance  – perhaps I shouldn’t dress in clothes I find cute or keep myself the way I do.  And I questioned quitting.  I looked at job openings.  I wouldn’t have to deal with any of this.  

It’s a bit ironic, as I had gotten into a couple of conversations recently where men (whom I love and respect) were saying that they didn’t see a difference to the challenges that men and women face, they didn’t think women should receive special support in business and felt the journey and challenges of business are essentially the same, regardless of gender.  

The thing is, I understand where they are coming from.  The men I spoke with are incredibly accepting, friendly and respectful people.  They treat women the same as they treat men, in the sense that we are equals.

It reminds me of a time when I lived in Pennsylvania.  I was at the shop with one of my friends who happened to be black.  That fact is completely irrelevant to anything except the point of this story, as diversity is the spice of life, be it skin colour, personality, background or personal interests.  She was a really fun and engaging person who had that unique gift of making people laugh.  One day, we were at a shop and the cashier was very warm and friendly with me, but treated my friend horribly.  She was icy and rude and condescending and made completely inappropriate racist remarks.  I turned to my friend in complete horror – I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears!  My friend just shrugged “It happens all the time”  

I had been friends with this girl for years and yet I was completely oblivious to the fact that racism was still a thing!  Of course, you read horrible stories in history or expect it in the deep south, but never in my life had I witnessed the reality that racism still exists! (Until I moved to the South, but that is an entirely different story!)

I think this is the same with the struggles we face as women.  The people who are most supportive of women in business, are also the most unaware of the secret challenges.

Part of that is our fault.  I can personalise this with what happened on Wednesday.  I didn’t want to tell anybody what happened, as I felt completely ashamed.  I felt somehow he treated me that way because of my personality or the way that I keep myself or what-have-you.  As women, we can be hardest on ourselves.  We internalise and take blame, where no blame is due.  We question ourselves and our motives, wanting to do everything honorably.  When we do, we question if we made the right decision.

At the conference, we created a video.  We wanted soundbites from conference attendees.  We interviewed the first two men we asked.  I had to ask four women before I found one who agreed to be interviewed!  And she was one of a group of four, and the only one in the group that said yes… if with hesitation!   In other words 2 out of 2 men took an opportunity to increase their profile, and one out of 8 women took the same opportunity.  Why is that?

The day after the conference, I met with a lady whom I respect and admire greatly.  She is a successful businesswoman and she helped me with some practical solutions to challenges I was facing.  She listened to me, brainstormed with me and gave me some new ideas.  I felt restored and motivated.  I’m sure a man could have given me the same advice, but in light of the previous days, I found strength in the fact that this woman is friendly, outgoing, beautiful, dresses nicely, and is intelligent and successful.  She’s faced incredible challenges and fought battles to get where she is today.  

As people on a quest to live our best lives and reach our dreams, we will all face challenges and setbacks.  As women, we face unique challenges.  I find huge strength in the support of other women on similar journeys.
So, if you are a woman on a quest to live your best life, don’t let anybody steal your sparkle! And if they try, it’s a reflection on them, not you.  Much of our success is in our own confidence – it starts in our own minds.  Women are notorious for putting themselves down… stop!  Own the person you want to be and keep going in the direction of your dreams!

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“You’re too pretty to be single”

“You’re too pretty to explore life”

Of course nobody would use those words.  How about “You’re too pretty to take time for yourself, to do what you love, to work towards your dreams, to explore new interests”

Chances are you won’t be hearing those words either.

But there is a phrase I’m sure every single girl over the age of 25 has heard more times than they can count: “You’re too pretty to be single.”

I understand this is meant as a compliment.  It’s always irked me.  First of all, I’m not a piece of merchandise sitting on a shelf.  The fact that I am single has nothing to do with my desirability.   I’m personalising this, but the message is true for anybody – if a person is single, it doesn’t mean they are less than desirable.  In fact, I have a lot of respect for people who don’t NEED another person as validation to their own identity.

Being single isn’t a bad thing.  I was married for 12 years.  I got married quite young and have been single for the last three.  Being single is fun.

Of course, I’m a romantic at heart and in love with love.  One day I would definitely like to meet somebody amazing, but in the meanwhile, I’m pretty happy shaping my own amazing life and identity.

There’s a flip side to single life that nobody talks about.  You get to meet new people.  I have met so many people and made some really wonderful friends whom I imagine I never would have gotten to know if I wasn’t single.  Friends of both genders – your relationship with your girl friends is much different when you are single, and in addition to meeting some pretty cool guys, I’ve forged some strong friendships with other single women.

Along this same vein, by living my own life, meeting new people and dating a few guys, I have gained a clearer vision of what I like, how I want to be treated, what qualities matter most and the dynamic I would like to have whenever I do embark on the adventure of a relationship.

When you’re single as a… hmmm… how to identify myself… a 30 something (closer to 40 than 30!), it’s quite different than being single at 20.   The fact that I have kids and have already been married also changes the dynamic.  I’m quite picky.   But the cool thing with that is I actually LIKE everybody I’ve ever dated (including my ex-husband).  So many people speak with such disdain for their exes.  I am friends with all the guys I’ve dated.  I wonder if that would be true if I were so eager to be in a relationship that I didn’t value myself and wasn’t happy in my own skin.   They say in business, what you say ‘no’ to is more important than what you say ‘yes’ to.  The same applies for relationships.  When you are happy in your life and really enjoy your life, you’re happy to hold out for the people you really respect, admire and share a certain spark of magic with.

I’ve had a few incredible ‘stories’ in my single life.  Like the time I had a layover in London and met an American businessman – it played out like a typical rom-com.  He showed me around London, took me to the touristy sites and out for the best sushi in the world. Then I took the subway back to the airport to catch my plane.  Or the time I was in Italy and got my heel stuck in the cobblestone as I was crossing the street.  I looked up and saw a man who looked like he stepped out of a Gucci magazine ad coming towards me.  He helped me with my luggage and took the day off work to show me around Rome.  I’ve had similar movie-like connections here in Ireland, but if I tell those stories, somebody may recognise who I’m talking about!  The point is, there is a freedom and magic about single life.

A guy friend was recently telling me about a wedding he attended.  He said how much he appreciated his girlfriend, because at some point she was tired and decided to go home – telling him to have fun and enjoy the rest of the night.  He said he felt really lucky because many of his guy friends have what he calls “The fun quota” – he said it’s like they are allowed to have a certain amount of fun but if it’s not fully involving their partner, there is a limit.

Us singles don’t have to deal with that!  Yet another bonus to single life is the freedom to spend your time as you wish.  If you want to stay at a wedding party until the end, you do.  If you want to work from 8 am to 11 pm, you do.  If you want to drink a protein drink for dinner and don’t feel like cooking, you don’t cook.  If you want to take an impromptu trip somewhere, you do.

I know being in a relationship is magical and wonderful too.  Being single and in a relationship may sound like opposites… but they are both good!  There are wonderful, magical and beautiful moments to be enjoyed, whatever your relationship status!  Enjoy whichever season you happen to be in.

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Bad day?

This post is more of a personal chat over a glass of wine than a formal blog post.  I woke up this morning and received some bad news.  Nothing major, yet it hit me where it hurts and sent me spinning.  I felt overwhelmed and like life is one step forward, two steps back.  Yesterday, I secured a contract that I really wanted and was feeling very happy about the success of my business.  I was telling a friend of mine how I can totally understand how certain high power women stay single.  I get such a buzz from my business.  When things go well, I get this high that parallels the thrill of falling in love – only it’s deeper because it’s rooted in something I created myself.

Today, I got sucker-punched.  We all have those days though, don’t we?  My little bit of bad news skewed my entire life perspective.  Instead of feeling like I can do anything I set my mind to, (a sentiment I believe and ‘felt’ only yesterday) today I felt like it was all a bit too much.  It’s impossible.  I questioned everything.  As much as I believe in the power of women to accomplish absolutely anything they set their minds and hearts to, today, I succumbed to the other side of being a woman – being soft, emotional and vulnerable.   I just felt like I wanted somebody to lean on  – not even a man, my mom or sister-in-law would do just fine.  I just felt alone and not up for the task.

I never write publicly from a low place.  I believe that our thoughts determine our actions which ultimately shape our lives.  I want this blog to always have an uplifting tone, but I decided to write because I realised days like this aren’t a bad thing.  In fact, they are just par for the course.

The thing is, I’m not alone.  Hindsight makes everything sexy.  Oprah, Lucille Ball, Walt Disney and J.K Rowling were all rejected. They all had bad days.  The punch doesn’t hold the power to stop you – it’s your own determination to get back up and keep fighting.

I shared briefly with a friend that I was having a bad day. They made me promise to treat myself, and insisted on photo evidence!  So, I bought myself a bottle of good Italian wine and retreated to the keyboard to write. It’s amazing how powerful a glass of wine is, especially when coupled with your passion.  So, darling, treat yourself.  And if you are having a bad day, understand you are in good company.  It’s par for the course.  But never, ever let go of your dreams!  Pour yourself a drink and put on some lipstick – you’ve got this!

 

 

 

Successful women

Girl Power

Lately I have been overwhelmed at all my girl friends.  I am lucky to know some incredibly amazing and inspiring people – and having amazing girl friends adds so much to your life.  Girls have a reputation for being bitchy and jealous and tearing each other down.  I’ve never had room for that.

It’s funny though, I have met my share of girls like that.  When my marriage was falling apart I was in a really low place – I was working really hard to start a career after taking time to be with my kids so that I could support myself.  I was studying at night and emotionally I was in turmoil.  The day after I separated I was a mess, I went to do what I needed to do but didn’t look my normal put-together self.  I had a friend at the time who I considered to be quite close.  Throughout our friendship she had made little jabs about my appearance, putting me down but in a joking manner.  I had a few girl friends who would do similar things so I just brushed it off.  Until the day after I separated.  She joked loudly about how bad I looked.  I told her that my heart was broken, my life was falling apart and on that particular day, I really didn’t care what I looked like.  But she didn’t stop.  That was the first time I consciously chose to end a friendship. It wasn’t really a ‘big’ thing in and of  itself.  I just realised inside myself that I don’t have the emotional energy to invest in people who will tear me down in the very moment I only wanted a hug or a smile or a kind word.

I have always loved the quote “You will be the same person five years from now that you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet.”  That, along with “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with”.  At the time, I remember thinking I want to have people who support me in my life – positive people.  I wasn’t sure how to do that, so I put my effort into becoming the type of person that I wanted to be.

It’s really amazing to look back on that now.  Now, I look around my life and am blown away by the caliber of people I call friends.  I am surrounded by people with dreams and goals and ambitions.  People that encourage me in my own pursuits and help me see a different perspective when I’m feeling down.   I find it ironic that a painful circumstance was the catalyst for me to learn to invest in people I admire, and not to invest in people who pull me down.   A simple lesson for the practical mind, but not so much for the emotional heart.  Investing in myself, working hard to follow my dreams,  recognising the good in others and encouraging them in their pursuits has been the very best thing in the world for me.   Now, my inner circle as well as my larger circle of friends and acquaintances is practically solely made up of the dreamers and doers and go-getters.

I am the luckiest girl in the world.

They say you create your own luck, and I believe you do.  But you don’t necessarily realise it at the time.  It’s blood, sweat, tears and heartache.  It’s choosing to be the best you can be even when you are at your lowest.  It’s believing anything is possible when everything seems impossible.  It’s valuing yourself and believing in yourself and motivating yourself to always become a better person – and that outlook naturally flows to those around you.  You see the good, you value people, believe in them and motivate them.  It’s cyclical.  But it starts with you.

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Single on Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day is such a fun holiday… when you are in a romantic relationship!  So, what if you’re not?

What is love?

Love is not a thing – something you have or don’t have based on your relationship status. Love is something you give & receive.  It flows – a vibe, a connection, a care.  It’s sharing happiness with another person or people.  It is possible to be completely single and have more love in your life than you had in any relationship!

For Better or Worse…

A relationship doesn’t elevate your status or make you better than you are without one.  Well, that’s not entirely true… there is one relationship that elevates your status and makes you better – the relationship you have with yourself!

Being single has allowed me the opportunity to shape my life, pursue my interests – discover new interests – and meet many fabulous people I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise.  Life responsibilities aside, you are basically free to do what you want, when you want.  Reflect on the perks of single life!

Re-write your Cinderella Story

Society places so much pressure on women to be in a relationship and it starts from the time we are little girls.  Cinderella’s life is changed by meeting the right man.  Snow White is awoken from her death with a kiss, and essentially her entire life turned around because of a man.

Now, don’t take me wrong – I am pure sap.  I love a good love story – real or imagined!  I love to see the chemistry between two lovers and I believe in the excitement and passion between a man and a woman BUT…

…if I were to challenge the Fairy Tale perspective, the irony is that the greatest gift of being single is to rediscover yourself.

I am my own True Love’s Kiss.  It hasn’t been instantaneous like a kiss – in fact, there has been more blood, sweat and tears than kisses – it’s been through overcoming obstacle after obstacle but I’ve turned my life around and am shaping it in line with my own goals and dreams.  And true to the Fairy Tales, I still love a killer pair of sparkly heels!

I may not have Cinderella’s palace or singing mice but my house is full of laughter, love, spontaneous kitchen dance parties and pillow fights (thank god I don’t have the mice!)

There’s something about Valentine’s Day though, isn’t there?

This is my third single Valentine’s Day and the first one where I didn’t dread being single on Valentine’s Day!  Even still, I went to the shop yesterday and saw all the men congregated around the flowers, cards and chocolates and felt a flash of sadness that I wouldn’t be getting flowers or chocolates.  It passed quickly.  Then, this morning there were flowers and wrapped Valentine’s gifts on my front porch!!  … but not for me!  My children’s Dad had left a surprise for my kids.  Another flash ouch!  So, how to handle this?

First, remember you chose to be single.  Any one of us could be in A relationship…but you know you deserve the best!

Second – buy yourself flowers!  Or chocolate or wine…whatever YOU love.  Spoil yourself.  Indulge.

I learned this from one of my closest friends who lives in New York and is the only other single mom friend I have.  She is amazing – gorgeous, smart, talented, funny, wise and one of the strongest people I know.  She juggles her career, kids and shares my perspective on seeking to live the best possible life.  One of my favourite things I have learned from her is to do something nice for yourself every day – be it a manicure, a both with candles or savouring a glass of wine.

The Greatest Love of All

The most important love relationship is the one you have with yourself.  So, buy the flowers, eat some chocolate – indulge yourself and do something you love!

 

(I couldn’t resist posting this classic Whitney Houston song – I love this song!)


 

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What is it really like to be a single mom?

I remember the season in my life when I searched online to find what life would be like as a single mom. I remember the unparalleled pain. Needing that pain to end, not knowing how and being scared to death.

I had three small children. I lived in a different country than my family, albeit on the same continent and within a ten hour drive. To leave would mean the end of life as I knew it. They say the monster you know is better than the monster you don’t. I searched the internet for stories of what it’s like to be a single mom. I wondered if I could do it. At the time, I resolved that no – that wasn’t the path I wanted for my life and fought to save and rebuild my broken marriage. I loved my husband. I loved my children and I wanted the best for them. And how could it be possible that a broken family was ‘the best’?

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Looking back, I know I tried. I gave my all. I sacrificed a lot – so much so that I died inside. I lost myself. Or rather, I gave myself – until I disintegrated. There are all sorts of quotes and jokes about how terrible exes are, but it’s possible that the person who caused you unparalleled pain, also gave you happiness, and times of excitement and love and wonderful memories. My then-husband and I went through some heartbreaking, exceptionally difficult times that nobody but he and I will ever fully know – but he is a wonderful man. An amazing father and a genuinely good person (who has done bad things – like me!) The first year after our separation, of course, I didn’t remember any of those things. Only the bad. As time has passed, I love and respect the father of my children and understand that all of us are human and all of us make mistakes. Sometimes, horrible mistakes. We both love our children and we are both good parents. (I also want to interject that I caused him pain too. Life is messy. I don’t believe in victims and bad guys. But there are mistakes and there is pain and there is no magic button to turn back time and undo anything)

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And so my first word to any newly single moms is to take the time to let time pass. The first year is the hardest. And yet it’s a mix of emotions. There was so much stress in my home before I left, that I cherished the amazing relief of being able to sing and laugh freely in my own home. I hadn’t experienced that for a long time. And then there were other times that I wondered if I would be able to take even one more step.

During that first year, you have to give yourself time to rediscover yourself. Experiment with life. Try new things. Make time for yourself. Laugh with your children. Tickle them. Play. Feed on positivity. I used to carry motivational books around with me that first year, like The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins. It’s almost impossible to read either and stay in a negative state. When I started to feel alone and hopeless and wonder ‘how the heck am I going to do this?’ – I would read one of those books. I also discovered meditation. Developed my love for wine. Learned salsa. Went back to school to get my degree.   I worked hard to become the type of person I wanted to be, and took the time to explore in my own mind who that ideal version of me would be.10425467_10152492241822978_4872088511917437536_n

Although I feel more settled in my identity, I am still working hard to create the life I want. My situation is probably different than most single moms, as I am living in Ireland – an ocean away from my family. This has created a whole new set of challenges – not having a plan B or a man to call when my furnace breaks or I need to move something heavy. ( Nevermind the challenge of things being different in Ireland – who knew you had to flip a switch to have hot water…and you need to turn it off?! ) I remember when I assembled my bed I felt like Superwoman! “Who needs a man anyway?” It was an entirely different story when I attempted to BBQ – although I have since mastered the art.😉

Barbeque

(My first attempt at chicken on the grill!!!)

That’s sort of what it’s like as a single mom. You face challenges, things that seem so intimidating and impossible and so incredibly frustrating when you try to do something you have never done before and you just don’t get it.   But then, you become incredibly strong. Incredibly resilient. I’m never scared to try something new. Okay, sometimes I’m scared – but I never ‘don’t try’. I feel like I can do anything – and most of the times I’ve been right. But that has come from the times where I have honestly thought, “I can’t do this. I can’t.” But I did.   Mind you, there are certain things I’m terrible at. My kids make fun of me for my feeble attempts to light a fire.  I often make fun of myself and the crazy antics that follow me and my journey as a single girly-girl mom alone in a foreign country! Believe me, there have been plenty!

I am (have become?) an incredibly independent person and have done a lot in my life. I’ve faced a lot of challenges – and won. People don’t understand how it’s possible to travel alone, build a career, get an education, raise three kids alone in a foreign country – yet not know how to change a tire.

Sheeps Head

I have a single friend who stayed with me for a while and told me, “I’ve decided I want to be a single mom. You have children you adore but also have your own life. It’s perfect.”     My god, it’s not perfect! It’s hard. I’m a happy person. I laugh a lot. I work hard. I play hard. I have amazing friends. Lots of interests. I’m lucky. But believe me, I fight an uphill battle. I work ridiculously hard, and sometimes, it feels like life is beating me. I still have moments where I feel like I just want a chest to lay my head against and someone to be fighting in my corner. This is not a luxury of a single mom.   You are that chest. You’re the one fighting. For your kids and yourself. So, as the saying goes – pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together.

pour yourself a drink

Sometimes you feel like you have two lives. I have single friends and friends who are settled in relationships with kids. I don’t think either category fully understands the other half of my life. I’m single, but not fully… I have kids. I have a family, but not ‘fully’… I’m single. Life is completely different in each stage and yet my life is a blend of this duplicity.

I adore my children. They are the greatest thing that ever happened to me. We laugh. They make me laugh. We share sweet moments and we have an incredibly strong bond.   Before I left, I worried about my children – and although there are many aspects of this new life that I wish were different for the sake of my children, I have to credit them for being amazing.  The great part about kids is they push you to happiness. There have been days where I felt like the world was caving in – until my kids and I would spontaneously burst into a karaoke dance party in the kitchen or a full on tickle explosion.

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They say you only live once, and yet in a sense I feel as though somehow I’ve had the opportunity to live a few lives. I practically ran an entire college when I was in my 20’s. (A season I often try to delete from my memory!) I did the children and housewife thing – complete with regular dinner parties and entertaining almost daily.   I did cake decorating – as a hobby and then as a business. I started my own e-commerce business. Then, when I separated I dove headfirst into building a career – went back to college, worked full time, contracted on the side – in addition to being a newly single mom. Now my kids make fun of me because I always seem to burn their sausages – because I’m always doing ten things at a time! They talk about meals I used to prepare and tease me, “You lost that skill” – except for their birthdays, and Christmas and Easter – somehow my domestic self lovingly shows it’s head. Apart from the things I’ve ‘done’, I’ve also lived in very different cultures – Canada (mostly city life but a year of country life), America (from Pennsylvania to New York to South Carolina – the cultures and different lifestyles in America are incredibly vast!) and now I live in Ireland.

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I’ve decided there is no ‘right’ path in life. Sometimes life is messy. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes life is amazing. Sometimes you look back on the hard times and see they were a catalyst to something better. Sometimes you look back on the times that you thought you couldn’t take another step – and look where you are now! And then you find yourself with the ground pulled out from beneath you – but you’ve done it before, now you know you can do it again. Life is full of amazing people, opportunities, experiences, laughter, things to learn and discover, skills to master, wines to try! Like a tapestry – on the back it’s a messy conglomeration of coloured string that resembles nothing but chaos. On the other side, is a beautiful, handwoven piece of art. This is life as a single mom.

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Womens little Christmas

Women’s Little Christmas

There is a sweet little tradition in Cork – I’m not sure if it’s an Irish thing or native to Cork. But today, the sixth of January is Women’s Little Christmas. It’s a night devoted to women, to let their hair down and celebrate. The idea is that typically women cook Christmas dinner and essentially work all day to create a lovely holiday for their loved ones. Today is their payback. Men take care of all household duties and women either host parties or go out to celebrate with their friends, sisters, mothers and grandmothers. Some say the idea is a bit offensive, encouraging sexism. But, I think it’s sweet. And it’s huge in Cork, where I live. I’ve never actually celebrated it – I’m off to a birthday party tonight – but love the idea of it!