Sisters Giving Back 2019

We know, as moms ourselves, just how important it is to have support in parenting. The task of raising successful, healthy children is not an easy one and the age old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” couldn’t be more true. As sisters, we are fortunate to have that support in each other, but we know that the experiences and relationships our children have within the community are every bit as important. 

That’s why this year, we’ve decided to partner up with Sefra Kay Photography and Back Porch Flowers in raising funds for a program that benefits the children who need it most in our community. As Sisters Giving Back©, we are raising funds for Rise Up, a local youth program devoted to helping provide low income students grades 3-5 with positive experiences and classes at the Santa Maria Valley YMCA. 

These students, identified as at-risk by local school teachers and administrators, are encouraged in the program to focus on academics (with an emphasis on STEM learning), healthy living habits and social responsibility. They participate in classes where they spend hands-on time doing science and robotics experiments, cooking, and even learning to swim. Many of these children would never receive an opportunity to experience these things without Rise Up.

One of the things that makes the Rise Up program unique is that it offers these students long term support; they can expect to be a part of the program for 3 years. Upon graduating Rise Up, they become a part of the Bulldog Bound program through Allan Hancock College, which “focuses on creating a college-going culture among fifth- through eighth- grade students and their families. The program introduces them to AHC, the campus, and the programs and services available through early outreach events”.

Another way Rise Up goes above and beyond other programs is that they recognize the need for children to experience the joys of childhood as well – and some of the most memorable moments happen at the holidays. Rise Up provides the students and their families with turkeys at Thanksgiving and, with enough funding, gifts at Christmas. 

That’s where we come in as Sisters Giving Back©! We aim to raise enough funds to provide all 30 of these students and their families with gifts this holiday season. The memories made spent as a family are important to us, and the joy of a child receiving unexpected gifts is magic. In reaching our modest goal of raising $150 for each family, we think we can bring a little  magic to these kids and would love it if you would help us! 

Join us for our first Holiday Helping Hour to make your tax-deductible* donation:

Date & Time: December 3rd 4:30-7:30

Location: Back Porch Flowers 4850 S. Bradley Rd., Ste. D1 ORCUTT, CA 93455 

For every $20 donated, you’ll not only be helping buy presents for some very deserving kids, you’ll also be receiving 1 raffle ticket towards prizes valued up to $300! We’ll be serving hors d’oeuvres & beverages, a fun photo booth, and representatives from Rise Up will be on hand to talk about their program. Plus, it’s a great way to get out and meet your neighbors and local business owners!  

If you’d like to make a donation but are unable to attend, please e-mail us at: cathy@betterwithsisters.com !

Thank you for being a part of strengthening this sisterhood to which we all belong!

-Lan & Cathy

*The Santa Maria Valley YMCA non-profit tax ID is #95-2158363. A 501(c)(3) proof of non-profit status is available upon request.


Food For Gatherings!

Halloween has come and gone and we’re moving full-steam ahead into the holiday party season. For us, the more gatherings the better! Being a guest is always fun, but we also love welcoming friends and family into our homes to celebrate the holidays. How about you: does the idea of hosting a party sound fun or is it just stressful? Well, good news – the secret to good hosting is a simple one. Whether you’re a seasoned hostess who loves to make things fancy or are just wanting to gather a few friends for a casual get together, the one thing that makes EVERY guest happy is this: GOOD FOOD!

Trust us, we’ve hosted our share of parties from casual (pizza delivery anyone?) to elaborate (ask Lan about her 40th birthday/wedding sometime!). The one thing that is sure to bring people together for a good time ISN’T the decorations, the fancy venue, or even the drinks – it’s the food. EVERY. TIME.

That’s why we’ve compiled some of our favorite drool-inducing recipes here for you this month. And these aren’t your basic recipes; they’re comfort dishes with a twist sure to be crowd pleasers. So, whether you’re bringing a pot-luck dish to share or gathering everyone at your place, you’re set! Check them out and let us know what you try…

Happy Gathering Season!

How does YOUR garden grow?

For those of you that don’t know, Lan and I are super fortunate to live on the Central Coast of California. The weather here is generally mild and sunny for most of the year; this is in large part WHY so much amazing produce is grown here. In my little neck of the woods, there are several U-pick farms that offer people a chance to go and pick their own fruits right off the trees/vines to bring home and enjoy. During the summer months, that means we get access to incredible organic berries like the ones you see here.

We’re well into October now, which means strawberry season is all but wrapped up, and blackberry & raspberry season ended several weeks ago. So, why aren’t I sharing photos of pumpkins or something? Because the picture above is what’s happening in my garden. For whatever reason (maybe it’s how we water, maybe the sun hits the yard a certain way), all the fruits in my yard have decided to show up late and my plants are continuing to produce. The blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries in that bowl above were picked yesterday…so much later than the pros’ products. And I’m more than just OK with that; it reminds me that in my garden, with my limited skills, my plants will thrive in their own time…if at all. They’re mine and they bring me so much more satisfaction than any box of berries I could buy at the farm-stand or the grocery store.

Why am I bothering to share this with you? Certainly not to brag about my gardening skills! Case in point: my current social media feed is all apple picking and homegrown pumpkins while my own garden boasts shriveled up squash vines that somehow got nuked by the sun…I can’t seem to grow pumpkins to save my life! *sigh*

So, why, then? Because when I think about this humble little bowl of berries, I’m reminded yet again how important it is to maintain perspective. I could despair looking at my garden and seeing all the plants that aren’t thriving. I could scroll through Instagram and be jealous that my neighbors have so much better luck growing their pumpkins. OR, I could think “wow, how lucky am I that my berry vines are still going strong?!” as I pop said berries into my mouth. I’m gonna choose that last option, in case you’re wondering.

You see, so much of our happiness is a matter of choice. Every day, we have opportunities to compare our lives and our circumstances with what we see around us and what we have envisioned. It’s extremely easy to get discouraged when that comparison leaves us feeling like we’ve come up short. I’ve felt that discouragement before and I’ll likely feel it again in the future. But today I choose to focus on what’s going well in my garden – and I’m not discouraged or sad at all. This little bowl of sweet sun-ripened berries makes me happy. And that’s enough for this brown-thumbed girl.

Hoping you find your happy too,

Cathy

Instant-ly Comforting

It’s Fall, sisters! What does that mean to you? Because, when we think of Fall, we think boots and scarves and pumpkin everything! And when it comes to food, we definitely think warm and comforting. Although, don’t hate us, we’re not the biggest fans of the PSL. It’s just not our bag, but we do know we love what else Fall ushers in…

The beginning of the holiday season! Yep, Halloween is just around the corner and before you know it, Thanksgiving will be here and then Christmas…you get the picture! We’ve got a lot on our plates…literally. So we’re dedicating this month to the wonderfully helpful, ever-so easy, INSTANT POT. It’s been a gift to our families – really, how else do you make spaghetti in 8 minutes, using only 1 pot? So, we say “Bring on the holidays, because with these easy IP recipes, we’ll have more time to make the Halloween costumes and getting the house ready for the guests to come!” 

Check out the delicious recipes we’ve selected for you HERE . We’ve got something for everyone, from a hearty chicken-tortilla soup to a pumpkin cheesecake (YEP, even that’s in the instant pot!).

We also recommend joining a Facebook Instant Pot Community. What’s great about these types of communities is that they offer a pool of knowledge you can draw from. If you’re a beginner, this is an excellent resource for all questions IP related. Once you become an expert, share your knowledge with others…

Warm hugs,

Lan & Cathy

Why Your Words Matter

It happens often… you’re having a conversation with someone and you just can’t seem to get the words out to express yourself. Sometimes, it happens in casual conversation; no big deal! Other times, the stakes are a little higher (i.e. you really need to work through a problem and get your point across!) and it’s just plain frustrating that you can’t express your thoughts the way you’d like. In those moments, you might be wishing you were a more effective communicator. You’re not alone – we’ve all been there!

The reality is there are few individuals capable of saying exactly what they mean, the way they mean to say it, in every conversation. However, there are some people who are more effective communicators than others, and if you are someone who wishes they were just a little better with this particular skill, we have good news – there’s hope! We’re sharing 5 practical tips to help ANYONE become a better communicator.

Everyday chit chat is easy enough – but when you’re trying your best to get your point across, whether for a personal matter or in a professional capacity, the process can be challenging. Effective communication in these scenarios is vital! You can’t get what you want, or what you need if you can’t clearly and concisely communicate that need or want. People cannot read your mind! Every successful relationship between two people requires the understanding gained from an open dialogue in which both parties are actively listening and understanding eachothers’ needs and wants.

One example of a relationship that absolutely REQUIRES effective communication:  marriage! If you’re married yourself, you can probably attest to the fact that your happy days are not a result of dumb luck. Marriage can be really hard work. When we say work, we mean it’s hard to communicate on a constant basis with someone that you love, in a manner that is respectful and at the same time, gets your needs across and met. And at the same time, understanding your partner’s needs and meeting those needs. Communication, when it’s effective, makes that work a little bit easier. But it’s still work in that it requires awareness and conscious effort. It requires respect for your partner and a lot of self-control, because by nature, it’s a personal thing. Controlling those emotions and staying clear in your message is what makes communicating in your personal relationships manageable.

On a professional level, whether you’re talking with a service provider, like calling your cable company to complain about something, or you’re talking with your boss or a colleague, there’s a level of communication that is required. If you want something done, or a problem solved, you need to be able to effectively communicate what the problem is and what the outcome is that you’re looking for…and it has to be something that they can actually do to work with you to accomplish. A lot of people are intimidated by these types of conversations. They don’t like conflict or asking for what they want. They don’t like being the person that’s seen as aggressive or assertive, because it’s uncomfortable.  We want to take the discomfort out of the idea of talking to someone effectively. It’s a much easier skill than people realize.

Being an effective communicator isn’t always a natural talent. It’s something you become with practice, and that practice begins from the time you’re a baby learning how your sounds and body language help you navigate the world to get what you need to survive. As you grow, you learn vocabulary that enables you, when you use it, to become more efficient in expressing yourself. As an adult, there’s no reason this growing and evolving should ever stop! As you experience life and navigate different interpersonal situations, you realize there are common threads in the way people speak and behave. You see the patterns in how people respond to you when you choose certain words, tone, and body language. If you’re paying attention and are willing to learn from each situation, you’ll be able to hone your skills as a communicator in every scenario going forward.

Equally important to the ability to speak clearly is the concept of listening and trying to see the whole picture. It takes a lot of self-restraint and mindfulness. This is an integral part of being an effective communicator. Part of being a good communicator is hearing what the other person has to say. You need to process that information, and then share with them what you believe you heard. While you’re not always going to agree with the points being made, showing that you understand the other party shows your level of respect for them. When people feel respected and understood, they are much more likely to meet you in compromise and understanding of YOUR needs and wants.

In discussing effective communication, it’s really important to acknowledge that our body language is a form of communication. Non-verbal communication is also a skill that is developed, because if you don’t recognize that you do it, you can’t develop it. Controlling your nonverbal cues is so much a part of conveying whatever message it is you’re trying to get across. If you’re not aware of how you communicate your feelings and your thoughts with your physical signs, you could be doing harm to your relationships and to your situation. For example, if two people are having a conversation, and one person is rolling their eyes or crossing their arms or leaning away from the other, they’re conveying PLENTY without saying a single word. While they’re technically giving the other person a turn to speak, they might as well be interrupting and saying “NOPE!”. Those nonverbal cues are every bit as important to be aware of and to control as the words that come out of your mouth. That takes a lot of restraint and self-awareness to learn control of these non-verbal cues – but you can do it!

So, how exactly DO you hone the skills required to become a more effective communicator? Well, we’ve got 5 simple tips for you. We encourage you to take these tips and apply them to your day to day interactions. With practice and consistent effort, we guarantee your life is going to be so much easier.

  • Know Your Message: Knowing what you’re going to say and why is possibly the most important part of communication. If it’s not clear to you, how can you possibly make it clear to anyone else? Know what you’re trying to convey… and if you’re going to be asking for something, whether that’s understanding, or compromise, or change of any sort, know what your “ask” is before you start speaking
  • Stay Clear & Concise: If you’re talking about an issue, don’t bring up other incidents or irrelevant details; it dilutes your message. Keep on point about your topic. That makes it easier for the other person to understand what your needs and wants are. Consequently, you’re more likely to accomplish your goal.
  • Listen, Listen, Listen!: And when you’re done listening, listen a little more. Communication is a two-way street, every time, without exception. If you’re not hearing what the other person is responding with, you’re not effectively communicating, you’re just talking. Chances are if you’re just talking, you’re not going to accomplish what you’re setting out to communicate.
  • Be OPEN To The Dialogue: Again, communication is a two-way street. Process the response you’re getting and be flexible with your opinions and your position. There may be information you were previously unaware of that could change your point of view, or other perspectives you hadn’t considered. Treat each communication as an opportunity to learn and to grow.
  • Don’t Be Afraid To Assert Yourself: Having conviction about what you’re speaking to is not a flaw. Knowing what you want and being willing to have the conversations required is a strength. Stay strong in your convictions when communicating with others. But, do it with respect because having a discussion doesn’t necessarily mean conflict. Don’t shy away from having the hard talks. Sometimes, that’s where the real growth happens. You might even be surprised at how easy it can be to accomplish your goals when you know what you want and you aren’t afraid to talk it out.

Communication helps us connect. It helps us grow. It helps us get things done. Whether in our personal relationships or in our professional capacity, our ability to effectively communicate our thoughts is essential to our success. We hope that these tips will help you become a more effective communicator.

With Sisterly Love,

Lan & Cathy

P.S. Check out Episode 21 of the podcast HERE ; we share our own experiences with bumbling through conversations (and teaching our kids how to grow into effective communicators in their own right). 

Holding On To Summer

We don’t know about you, but we’re in no hurry to usher in Fall! In keeping with the spirit of summer, this month’s recipes continue to incorporate fresh, bright flavors that might inspire you to dine al fresco just a little longer.

With the warm weather looking like it’s going to stick around for a bit, we still have access to ingredients like juicy nectarines, vibrant tomatoes and succulent strawberries; we really want to make the most of them while we can! That’s why we’ve curated these recipes for you. 

We’ve got everything from a sweet and savory salad to start the meal off to cold and boozy popsicles that are a fun nod to childhood afternoons spent outside. And don’t worry, there are recipes that call for firing up the grill as well! 

We hope you’ll find these selections as yummy as we do, and definitely let us know what you think if you try any of them! Check them all out (HERE)

With Love,

Lan & Cathy

P.S. Recipes from previous months always stay up (found under our Recipes We Love tab), so check those out for more delicious ideas…

Back To School: Celebrate It or Hate It?

It’s that bittersweet time of year when summer draws to a close and we send our kids back to school. This summer we’ve been fortunate to make a lot of new memories with our kids traveling and playing through the long warm days. Whether we were enjoying a simple bbq with friends and family in the backyard or schlepping luggage through airports to see new sights, the goal was the same – to create moments that the whole family would remember.

That’s the thing with parenting, right? You’ve heard the cliché warnings – “oh, the years fly by so soak in every minute!”, “they grow so fast, don’t blink!”, “cherish every moment, they’ll be gone before you know it.” We’d be lying if we said we didn’t feel the pressure of time running out ourselves. There is truth in each statement. And, between us we have kids aged 8-20, so we’ve literally got ALL the feels these days. From elementary school lunch packing to college apartment move-ins, back to school means completely different experiences for us as moms.

Typically, there are two types of parents when it comes to school going back in session. Those who are super excited about it (Team Celebrate It!) and those who are just sad to see summer end and their kids go back to school 5 days a week (Team Hate It!). We know, the names could use some work… but you get the idea 😊. No matter what team you’re on, it can be stressful just the same. For many parents, the summer schedule of having kids at home EVERY DAY can definitely be a strain – especially if schooltime usually doubles as childcare while the parents are at work (earning what’s required for those trivial things like shelter and food). Or, if your ears are bleeding from the 800 times a day your kids: ask for snacks/ say “I’m bored”/complain about their siblings – you might also be on Team Celebrate It! at back to school time. No judging here; these are all valid reasons to feel the way you do!

Over here, we’re teetering just a little bit over onto Team Hate It!’s side, and here’s why: we ARE looking forward to having our regularly scheduled days back. Having those set hours from 8-2 Monday thru Friday means scheduling meetings, getting work done and not juggling the kids’ needs at the same time is a relief. But, we’re also fortunate enough to have the type of work schedules that allow us to be flexible when that’s NOT the case, like during summer vacation. So, our kids don’t have to go to daycare, and we don’t feel that extra financial and emotional burden over summer.

Now, if you’ve talked to either of us in the past about the notion of “lucky” – we’re not huge fans of describing our lives that way. We work really hard at every aspect of our lives (relationships, finances, personal growth) to be able to live a certain way, so we don’t like the notion that it’s all down to luck that we get to do what we do how we do. All that said, we know that we have a lot to be grateful for, like an extended family that we genuinely enjoy. From siblings to in-laws to cousins and their families; somehow the different personalities and ages just gel when we get together. Of course, there are moments of miscommunication and misunderstanding from time to time, but they are minor and typically too brief to even remember. When you get to enjoy a summer filled with family time that isn’t stressful, it’s difficult to celebrate that coming to an end!

Whichever team you find yourself on when it comes to back to school time, we get it, truly. Because at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team for our kids… the one where we are doing our best to love ‘em and raise ‘em right. So, Happy Back to School to all of you! We wish your kids a healthy, successful year of learning and growing. And we wish YOU a year of patience, sanity & all the hugs from your little (or not so little) ones.

With Sisterly Love,

Lan & Cathy

P.S. If you want to hear more about what our summer and back to school experiences REALLY were like this year, check out Episode 18 of the podcast HERE. It’s definitely not all sunshine & sandy toes… there might have been a painful glacier hike and some anxiety sprinkled in there, too. 😉.

The Myth of Instant Results

Picture a growing child…”Wow, when did you get so big?! It seems like just yesterday you were a baby!” That experience is growth in its purest, most basic form. The incremental changes that are happening every minute, every day are so hard to see! But, give a kid a year, even just a few months or weeks, and the changes can be drastic, right?

Now, think of your own journey and challenges in this way. Are you beating yourself up over goals you haven’t reached yet? Successes you haven’t realized? This is your reminder to STOP. Give yourself a little break. Because change is rarely apparent overnight.The idea of that is sure seductive, though, right? Ask anyone who’s been on a weight-loss journey, attempted a fitness challenge, or started a new business venture. There are a lot of very enticing “see results NOW”, “make $$$ in 30 days!”, “feel better than ever in less than a week” promises out there. And, we’re not questioning the appeal. It’s so easy to buy into the instant gratification mentality and start judging ourselves with unrealistic expectations.

As we can attest through personal experience, those promises rarely pan out. If you’re undertaking a new challenge or endeavor – that’s your “child”. Would you expect it to grow up overnight? Probably not. Because, you know that’s not how life works. Changes happen like a child’s growth. Real, lasting changes in your personal journey will happen over time, typically as a result of constant and continued efforts.

If you’re building your business, of course you’re celebrating the big milestones. Frustration when profits aren’t rolling in just yet is normal; but tweak your approach and move on. Use the hurdles you encounter as lessons to help you grow as opposed to evidence of failure. If anything is true, it’s that giving up is the surest way to fail.

Which is why we encourage people to take the time to celebrate the small victories. If you’re on a weight loss journey, focusing on the end goal can feel intimidating, especially if you have a large amount to lose. If you’re working on bettering your fitness habits, celebrate your personal records. Taking note of every time you make a choice to treat your body better is a victory. Each half pound loss is a step in the right direction.

Instant results are rarely (if ever!) instant, so we challenge you to do this: reframe your idea of success. Results really mean change, so start celebrating the small changes as success in your journey, instead of waiting for the END result and being disappointed in yourself and your efforts along the way. What if you could view your progress as success? Every step forward is an improvement from where you once were, and improvement (or progress) IS success!

Don’t believe us? Consider the most “successful” people you know, or know of. Are they wealthy? Well-traveled and highly-educated? Healthy? In seemingly “perfect” relationships? They likely all share something in common BEYOND their success. That common factor? Their journey is on-going!

Wealthy people typically don’t STOP making money; they always want more money. Travelers are always seeking new experiences and exploring new places. Relationships are constantly growing deeper and stronger. The educated are always eager to learn more and expand their knowledge. In essence, the bar is raised and the journey continues. In their efforts to keep growing, successful people stay focused on the daily steps needed to help them grow. They just happen to be further along on their journey than others!

Success isn’t a fixed end-point. It’s a series of goals or milestones reached over time. In reframing the way you view success, you can allow yourself the grace to stumble and learn along the way without succumbing to false and unproductive feelings of failure. You’ll also be able to see just how successful you already are – and that’s worth a lot.

With Sisterly Love,

Cathy & Lan

P.S. We’d love to hear from you; what journey are you focusing your efforts on today? Share with us in the comments below and let us celebrate your milestones with you!

Want MORE on this topic? Check out Episode 16 of the podcast; we talk about reframing success and how we apply this concept in our own lives as well!

Light & Easy Summer Eating

The rain has abated and the sun is OUT here on the central coast of California. Definitely an indicator that SUMMER IS HERE! That means we’re craving light, easy meals and snacks that leave us feeling satisfied but not stuffed. Summer is a great time to gather friends and family over a meal that doesn’t take all day to prep, but still tastes like it does, right? We take that gathering time very seriously; our family has always found ANY excuse to get together and eat. That’s when all the great conversations and laughter are shared. 

Considering all of the fond memories we’ve created over summer meals as a family, we’ve decided to share recipes this month that evoke all the nostalgic flavors and textures of our favorite Vietnamese meals – some with a twist!

Check them out (HERE). We’ve included everything from a light shrimp salad to a luscious creme caramel…and don’t forget the ubiquitous Vietnamese coffee – enjoyed by caffeine lovers everywhere. You know how we love a good coffee! 🙂 We hope you’ll try out a few of our selections and enjoy them as much as we do. Let us know how your dish(es) turn out!

With Love,

Lan & Cathy

P.S. Recipes from previous months always stay up (found under our Recipes We Love tab), so check those out for more delicious ideas…

What’re You Wrapping Up For Mom?

Stumped for gift ideas for Mom? 

Mother’s Day is just over a week away, and it’s not too late to get that perfect gift to make Mom feel loved and pampered. We’ve rounded up a list of fun and sassy gifts that are sure to make your mom feel like the fabulous woman she is. Whether she’s an active woman on the go, more of a “relax with her toes in the sand” kind of gal, or simply loves to glam it up – we’ve got you covered. Click Here to check out our 2019 Mother’s Day Gift Guide and cross shopping off your list today!

With Love,

Lan & Cathy

P.S. If you’re a mom yourself – we hope YOU’RE pampered this Mother’s Day, too! 

Spring Eats

Spring is in full swing, and with the sunshine and flowers also comes the FRESH PRODUCE! As California natives, we LOVE this time of year. It’s a time we can start getting our delicious favorites, like locally grown strawberries, lettuces, snap peas, blueberries, and so much more. We’re lucky to have easy access to farm-fresh produce like this and incorporating these delicious ingredients into our everyday recipes is so satisfying.

This month we’re sharing tried and true recipes (CLICK HERE) that highlight all the fresh flavors of the season. From a refreshing watermelon and arugula salad to a decadent strawberry-rhubarb crisp (highly recommend you serve this a la mode!), we’ve got something for every palate. We hope you’ll try out a few and enjoy them as much as we do. Maybe even make one or two to share at Easter? Let us know how your dish(es) turn out!

With Love,

Lan & Cathy

P.S. Recipes from previous months always stay up (found under our Recipes We Love tab), so check those out for more delicious ideas…

#IWD2019

We’re proud to be part of a strong sisterhood that makes up half of the world’s population. A sisterhood that’s powerful, in part, because of the work put in by women throughout our history. These women fought to lay a foundation of progress, upon which we must continue to build. We’re thankful today, for those women. We’re equally thankful, though, for the women in our lives who show up: as leaders, innovators, thinkers, teachers, supporters, and friends. You inspire us daily and we consider each of you a sister.

We started Better With Sisters as a podcast and community because we believe in the importance of having an open dialogue with those around us. We believe the insight that we can give to each other as women is invaluable. We’re curating a space where our sisters everywhere can join in the conversation. Where we share our perspective and invite you to share yours. Here you can voice your questions, solutions, thoughts, feelings, and ideas. We invite you to do so because we believe that when we lean on each other to learn and grow, we collectively become stronger.

Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.Jane Goodall

On this International Women’s Day, we want to remind you that your perspective is important. We encourage you to speak your mind and heart daily. Your voice is important, and we’re always here to listen.

With Sisterly Love,

Lan & Cathy

P.S. Leave your comments for us below or visit us on Facebook & Instagram @betterwithsisters 

 

The Morph Project: Women Helping Women in Crisis

How did 2 normal women use their personal experiences with homelessness, addiction, and trauma, to create an organization that has helped hundreds of women and children, brought together dozens of volunteers, and is now partnered with 9 local non-profits (& counting!)?

Just ask Hill & Hil (also known as Hillary Tish & Hilary Motley). They’re the powerful women of The Morph Project. At first glance, they might not seem like the likeliest of duos, but make no mistake- these two are the best of friends and have the strongest of bonds.

Their friendship, as they shared with us on our most recent podcast episode, began when Hilary Motley brought her newborn to the pediatrician’s office where Hillary Tish (we call her “Blonde Hillary”) was working as a certified medical assistant. As they struck up conversation, Hilary M. shared that she was suffering from post-partum depression, among other traumas. Her open-book attitude about her trials struck a chord with Blonde Hillary and the rest, as they say, was history.

As their friendship grew, Hilary & Hillary learned they had much in common – most importantly, their shared desire to help women in crisis. Blonde Hillary had been going to Hilary M., a full-time hair stylist, for salon services and during one such visit, they discovered that each had a unique way of giving back to those in need. While Hilary M. regularly visited half-way houses and shelters to provide free haircuts on her days off, Blonde Hillary would take her spare cash and scour thrift stores for gently used clothing to hand out to women who would otherwise not be able to afford it.

Both women were doing what they could in their own private, small way, to ensure the women they helped were seen. Seen as more than their situation, seen as more than their problems, seen for the beautiful women they were inside. The women they were before they were in crisis.

Just like that, The Morph Project was born. Although, in its first iteration, it was called Hil & Hill’s Boutique. Both women wanted to curate an event where women in crisis could attend and receive a free haircut & style, as well as “shop” for as much clothing as they needed. The goal was to remind these women of who they were inside and to help them see their inner beauty reflected in the mirror. As the project began to take off and the girls saw the transformative effects of their work on these women, the new name became inevitable.

Now, just over 2 years later, these women have much bigger goals in mind. With the rapid growth of The Morph Project (thanks in large part to the power of social media!) Hilary and Hillary are more impassioned than ever to see their organization become the charitable foundation they’ve always dreamed it could be. These women are working hard to create strong partnerships with other non-profits, learning the ropes as they go and helping as many women as they can along the way. And, have we mentioned they do all of this IN ADDITION TO their full-time jobs?

They are fueled by their passion for lifting those in crisis. They are encouraged by the support they receive from volunteers and partners. They are energized by the results they see in the faces of the women they help. They are empowered by the sisterhood of women lifting them up in their efforts. We’re proud to be a part of that sisterhood and can’t wait to see what more they will accomplish.

To learn more about these amazing women and to support them in their cause, please visit www.themorphproject.com

To hear them tell their story, listen to our latest podcast episode right here:

 

With Eyes & Arms Wide Open…

It’s only January, and we’re finding ourselves in complete awe of how much has already transpired in 2019, how much we have ahead of us, and how much we WANT to do. Life is like that, sometimes, right? You can be in a routine for so many months, weeks, even years… and then, like the weather, everything changes in an instant.

The question is: how do you handle change? Both of us have experienced major shifts in our lives over the past several months, and the new year has brought with it a wave of changes. Some were expected and planned for, some not so much. But, with incredible support from our loved ones (and plenty of self-reflection), both Lan and I have made similar decisions – to welcome these changes and embrace them on our own terms.  

See, that’s the thing. MOST changes we encounter on a day to day basis will present themselves in the form of a CHOICE. It’s all about perspective. And your perspective can make all the difference in the world. Some choices are easy – Do I stay in bed and cuddle the baby for 5 more minutes, or get up now and have more time to get ready? (CLEARLY, stay in bed! 😊 ) Some choices are harder – Do I invest money to further my education or save the money to buy my first home? (Depends on your long-term goals!).

Some situations can lead to downright “analysis paralysis”. You know, that phenomenon of getting so caught up in weighing out every detail, pro & con, potential outcome, etc. that you end up unable to make a decision at all! We’ve all been there, right? The struggle is real and while we’d never want to diminish that for you, we want to offer you a little insight to make your next tough choice JUST a little easier to make.

It’s as simple as this: Even when it doesn’t feel like it, YOU’RE IN CONTROL. It’s true! Please understand that we’re not implying all life situations are controllable. What we mean is – in every scenario where you get to make a choice – you have some control. That knowledge, sisters, is empowering! It means you have the chance to determine the direction of your life. Just as you have the ability to decide between coffee or tea in the morning, you have the ability to make the tough choices with as much confidence. And when you embrace that fact, you realize your strength.

We’ve decided to face recent changes and choices in our lives with our arms and eyes wide open – because we know we’re strong enough to think things through and, when necessary, come up with our own solutions. We’re smart, capable, strong women who are not going to let a few unexpected changes rile us up. We’re going to view them for the opportunities they are: opportunities to be strong, opportunities to be brave, opportunities to learn and grow. We hope you’ll join us in recognizing your strength and trusting in your ability to choose how your life unfolds. You’ve got this.

With Sisterly Love,

Cathy & Lan

P.S. We’d love to hear from you; what life-changing choices have you had to make? What helped you reach your decision? Share with us in the comments below.

A Season of Giving…& Giving Back

While the holidays are a time of elaborate winter decorations, festive traditions and buying and receiving gifts from the people we love, it’s also a time to show support for those who need it most. Whether you’re buying gifts for a family in need, volunteering at a local shelter, or making a charitable contribution to your favorite non-profit, giving back during the holiday season is incredibly impactful. While this is “the most wonderful time of the year” for many of us, it’s often easy for us to forget that for a lot of people and families in our own community, it’s not so wonderful.

We consider ourselves fortunate to have been raised in a loving home with parents who taught us by example just how important it is to be a conscious member of society. Our table always had room for one more person to join us for a meal, our wallets were never too empty to buy a box of cookies to support the local scouts, and there were visits to the nursing homes to spend time with lonely folks at the holidays. The lesson was taught often and clearly, Give When You Can. We are conscious of how that lesson has shaped us, especially so as parents ourselves, now. The idea of making an impact by giving when you can, what you can, is something we try to impress upon our own children.

In addition, we are using our small platform with our last message of 2018 to implore you to give back in your own way. Many families go without gifts during the holiday season, and sometimes even without a hot meal or a warm place to sleep.  It’s easy to fall victim to the commercial nature of the holiday season, but the true spirit of the holiday comes from giving back, giving thanks and lending a helping hand to those in need. So, if you can, please join us in giving in any way you can!

Not only does giving back make you feel amazing, but giving back to your community is a huge part of how our society functions. There are plenty of ways you can help make the world a brighter place this holiday season, even if you start out small. Get your family, children and coworkers involved and we promise it will give this time of year even more meaning. And, you never know just how far the effects of your kindness will extend!

Here is a list of some easy, inexpensive ways to give back this holiday season:

  • Pay for the person behind you at the coffee shop, grocery store, etc.
  • Organize a food drive at the office
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen
  • Buy gifts for a program like Toys for Tots
  • Visit a nursing home – the gift of your time can mean so much
  • Hand out bags of snacks and essentials to the homeless
  • Clean out your closet and make a clothing/toy donation
  • Buy gifts through companies that donate a portion of their proceeds to a charity whose mission aligns with your core values.

We wish you a wonderful rest of your holiday season, and a very Happy New Year!

With Sisterly Love,

Lan & Cathy

Sisterhood

“Helping one another is part of the religion of sisterhood.”

– Louisa May Alcott

Intro: Better with Sisters

Welcome to the SISTERHOOD!!!

We are sisters who spend a pretty good amount of time together. We’ve found that life is just easier and a whole lot more fun when you get to share the experience with sisters. Which is why we decided to launch our podcast, Better With Sisters. In each episode, we’ll share with you things we’ve discovered, experienced, and learned on our many journeys. So, if you haven’t already, make sure and subscribe or follow the podcast wherever you listen!

We realize, though, sometimes we have more to share that we just can’t get across in audio format; some things you have to see! And so, the Better With Sisters brand was born – Website, Facebook, Instagram. Here, you’re going to find links and resources to items and topics we mention in our podcast, tips and articles to make everyday life and work just a little easier, and fun exclusive content just for being a part of our BWS sisterhood! Enter your e-mail address below, and we’ll make sure you don’t miss out on upcoming giveaways and updates!

Last, but definitely not least, we’ve made it easy for you to be able to contact us directly; share with us your thoughts, questions, and let us know if there are any topics you’d like for us to address on a future post. Just reach out to us on our website, comment/message us on FB, or send us a DM on Instagram. We invite you to be a part of the conversation, always.

With Sisterly Love,

Lan & Cathy

Holiday De-stress and Simplification

“According to one survey by the American Psychological Association, 44 percent of women and 31 percent of men reported an increase in stress during the holidays. 59 percent of respondents testified to feeling nervous or sad, and 51 percent reported symptoms of fatigue.”

Are you heading into the holiday season already resigned to the idea of it being spent overly tired, stressed and exhausted? Do you want this year to be LESS stressful, LESS overwhelming, and JUST SIMPLER? We know how you feel!

Let’s face it; the sheer number of things that have to be accomplished at the holidays can seem daunting when tacked onto your already full plate. If, on top of your normal work and life load, you’re also trying to figure out: how to carve out time to turn your home into a Pinterest-worthy winterland, what gifts to buy everyone, when to bake the gazillion holiday treats, what holiday events you have to attend, how you’re going to navigate those tricky moments with the extended family (you know what I’m talking about!)…the list is endless and you’re probably exhausted before you even get started!

We’ve learned, navigating these same stressors over the years, that the holidays DON’T.HAVE.TO.BE.PAINFUL! You really can get it all done, and you really can enjoy yourself –  without faking it. How? By using 7 simple de-stress tips that we want to share with you.

If you haven’t already, give Episode 2 of our podcast a listen. We break down some examples of how stress during the holidays affects us, and we also share with you how we’ve learned to manage the stress. We talk about how we simplify life a little so we can enjoy all the great parts of the season. You can also subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll send the tips straight to your e-mail!

We hope you have a chance to relax and really enjoy the very best of this holiday season!

With Sisterly Love,

Cathy & Lan

1 Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (12 December 2006) “Holiday Stress Report Final APA””

Braver With Sisters

As 2018 comes to a close, many of us are mentally taking stock of where we are in life, what makes us happy, and what we want to change moving forward. As a direct result, we often find ourselves making New Year’s Resolutions. Perhaps you are resolving to make a small change, and maybe you’re thinking of something bigger. Or…maybe you’re not planning on making any resolutions because you haven’t exactly followed through on past resolutions?

The thing is, a resolution is a goal, right? You’re resolving to make some change, big or small, and here at Better With Sisters, we want to help you reach your goals. If you have, like us, given up on resolutions in the past, or are worried about the success of upcoming resolutions, let’s talk about what’s probably holding you back.

We’ll start by sharing a little about the plans over here at BWS. Lan and I decided our team resolution for 2019 was to Stop Procrastinating. It’s a BIG one for us, and it took some honest talks to acknowledge that procrastination is something we’re guilty of more often than we’d like to admit. So, we’re resolving to change our habits!

THIS website and the December podcast launch are direct results of that resolution! Full disclosure, we had a lot of reservations about this new venture. We’ve never produced a podcast before so there was (is) a lot to learn. On top of which, the idea of putting our personal stories and voices out there to be heard and judged by the public was simply daunting.

We discussed all of the reasons why perhaps waiting until January to launch all of this would be a better idea: we would be less overwhelmed with holiday tasks/commitments, we’d have more time to tweak our sound, perfect our logo, optimize our website, get better photos taken…you get the idea.

It’s arguable that we had a lot of very valid reasons to put off launching this venture before year-end. But, in talking it all out, we realized that the end result was the same: we were not moving forward. Why were we wanting to put off this task to an arbitrary date of January 1? Was it because we absolutely couldn’t accomplish all of our tasks? No. Was it because our resources wouldn’t allow for us to finish any of the components required? No. Would we actually have a perfect product in January (or EVER)? NO.

Why, then? What was holding us back from committing? FEAR! Fear of being judged for a less than perfect podcast and website, fear of being vulnerable with the public, fear of failure. Every single reason we had really was just an excuse; they were excuses we had for giving into our fears. So, we are resolving to BE BRAVE. We’re going to lean on each other and accept the fact that, while each of those fears is valid, none of them are good enough reasons to stop us from moving forward.

Because, friends, that’s ultimately what fear does: it stops us from moving forward, from reaching our goals in life. And we’re making 2019 a year of not giving in to those fears any longer… We’ve made the first steps towards OUR resolution. Now, how can we help you achieve YOUR resolutions?

We’re going to start by challenging you to take real steps towards changing your patterns and making effective changes to reach your goals. Start by deciding what your resolution is for the new year. Then, ask yourself how fear (in any form) is an obstacle in your path to reaching that goal. Finally, resolve to be BRAVER THAN YOUR FEAR and get started. Do so with the confidence that you have, here, a sisterhood that you can lean on for support and encouragement as you move forward on your journey.

Don’t forget, we always want to hear from you. So, comment below with what your goal is, and let us be the first to encourage you! You can also share on our FB page and use #braverwithsisters.

With Sisterly Love,

Cathy & Lan