The Vibration of Home

The Vibration of Home blog post on by Michelle Barry FrancoWe had been driving for hours through huge stretches of pine trees, mountains and desert terrain, broken only by the occasional small town restaurant in desperate need of a new paint job. I was getting tired of driving, though, and really anxious to get to this mysterious town of 300 days of sunshine in Oregon we had heard such good things about.

We entered into Bend, Oregon at the south end of town, our first sights a Wal-Mart on one side and an uninspired housing development on the other. I knew that ends of towns can look like this, so I wasn’t deterred – but I wasn’t bowled over, either.

Then we turned off the highway.

As we made that highway ramp exit curl, my heart skipped a beat. There – filling the windshield view, were the most beautiful mountains I had ever seen through the landscape of a city. Then, almost as though someone had handed me a cup of vanilla chamomile tea and a cozy chair to sit in, my heart fell into synchronized rhythm with the energy of this place.

I was home.

I knew it even though I had never felt it like this before, not even in the places I lived for years prior.

We visited one more time after that first trip, a few months later, just to confirm that it was the right place. Then, four months later, we moved there. We started businesses, got married, and had our three babies there. I made some of my very best friends – the kind you have until you die. We grew tomatoes that never really turned out well, seeded our lawn to no avail every year and became better skiers (which isn’t saying much for me.) It was home, from the very beginning until just a few months ago.

Some people say that home is where your family is. I disagree.

That’s beautiful and I believe that could feel true to those people. But that’s not how it feels to me. I can be with family and not feel at home. I grew up in the Bay Area of California and much of my family still lives there. My family is awesome. I love them. Yet, every time I drive down Highway 101 toward the Golden Gate bridge, I feel less comfortable, less “at home.” It’s like the energy of the place is out of sync with my own energy.

I have come to call this The Vibration of Home.

It’s what we feel when we walk into a place or a room full of people and feel at ease right away. It’s a resonance. It is remarkable only in its simple clarity. We are home.

I know I’m not the only one who experiences this because I have talked with many people about this feeling of resonance with a place. One friend has this sense of home every time she travels to New York City – and when she is in Seattle. Another friend feels this way at the beach, staring at the ocean. Yet another describes his experience of Portland, Oregon in this home-resonance way.

Lucky for me, I have experienced a version of this home feeling again here in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Jim and I came here two months ago so he could interview with his new company and so that we both could check out the area and decide if it would please us to live here. I felt open to liking it, but my expectations were low. I have lived in some of the most beautiful places in the United States, in my opinion: Santa Cruz and Marin County in California and then Central Oregon. (I’ve lived other places, too, but those are the amazing ones.) It was going to be difficult to meet the beauty of those places.

After a long red-eye flight, we drove toward Charlottesville with weary anticipation. “The trees sure are pretty here”, I said. We hit a highway and there was a Walgreens. Well, I thought, at least there will be familiar resources. We drove toward town, passing box stores and some unfamiliar chain restaurants.

Then we turned toward downtown, parked the car and walked the historic downtown mall.

I think this might be home, I thought to myself. But I wasn’t all the way there yet.

We ate. He had meetings. I shopped. People said, “Hello” everywhere I went. I felt warm – at ease.

But it was the country drive later that day that sealed it for me. I was home.

The branches over the road to Monticello create a canopy, even in early Spring before the leaves are in full bloom. The grass is vibrant green. The air is warm and a little bit wet. The people are interesting and courteous. The culmination of the day’s events synchronized into the feeling I had subconsciously been searching for: The Vibration of Home.

We’re here now, living among. There are too many details to keep track of and I know very few people. Yet, I know I’m home – that I’m in the right place and the right things will happen.

I guess it’s a sort of Intuition.

Coaches, friends and counselors have asked me to call upon my “intuition” at times when I have struggled to make a decision. I have always had a conflicted sense of this word, “intuition” (which I will write much more about in upcoming posts.) And yet, I can feel it when I am “home” in a place. I know it is critical to my happiness and well-being that I live in a place that has that resonance because when I have lived in places that don’t, everything feels harder and more confusing. I feel lost and out of place. Oh, there is logic to it, if I pull it apart (I love country roads, I love walking malls…), but the logic doesn’t feel like the whole picture. It’s a feeling. That’s all I can say. It’s in my gut.

So, it’s good to be home.

How about you? What is “home” to you? And how do you know it’s home? Have you ever arrived at a place that didn’t feel like “home”, even when surrounded by people you love?

(Also, if you are intrigued by the concept of home, you might like the book “Shelter for the Spirit” by Victoria Moran, a book about the power of creating home and the feelings we associate with our space. I love that book.)

How to Find an Extraordinary Nanny

One of the ways I deal with my conflict over motherhood and work is by finding a truly amazing caregiver for our girls for when Jim or I are away from them. I have had exceptional luck with finding truly loving, compassionate, awesome people to take on this role and I have been asked often how I find them. Here’s how:

I post an ad on Craigslist.

People are often surprised by this, but here’s why I do it:

  • I can write as much as I want in the ad, describing what I’m looking for in a caregiver.
  • I get a lot of responses – plenty to pick through.
  • Lots of cool people use Craigslist to look for jobs.
  • It’s free and easy.
  • I can change the ad easily.

I compose a Nanny/Caregiver Wanted ad with a lot of detail.

It shares not only the basics of what I need (days, hours, times) but also describes our parenting approach, our “no technology” rule, our desire to find a long-term caregiver, lists the pay range and tells them how much we will appreciate them if they take great care of our babies. I believe that this longer, descriptive, over-communicative (they might as well learn early on that I’m an over-communicator!) ad narrows the responses down to people who are attracted to a situation like ours.

I collect responses to the ad in an email folder for 4 days to a week.

Depending on how many responses I get and how quickly, I wait a bit to see what the “pool” is looking like. I make notes on a pad of paper to keep track of my first impressions from their emails. Basically, I write their name then things like: “really fun” or “focus on loving care” or “loves crafting and park play.” If I’m not impressed, I write “unimpressed.” This way, when it comes time to respond (and I try to respond to everyone who writes a meaningful response to the ad), I know who I want to say “no thanks” to right away.

I call the top 3-4 applicants and have a casual conversation with them.

I ask them things like, “So, what made you respond to our ad?” and “What do you like to do with kids?” In my experience, it’s less important that they have years of Nanny experience (though they have to have cared for kids before to take care of three girls for long periods of time.) It’s more important that they are excited about being with kids and that they get it about what makes kids happy. They also must have fed, diapered (when ours were in diapers) and put kids to bed before. Those are totally higher league ball games than just playing with them and I don’t want to do all of the training there.

We talk a lot about driving and technology.

Since I have taught college classes for over a decade, I know that texting has become a huge communication medium (and often obsession) for many college people. Since college students are the vast majority of respondents we get to our Nanny ads (we only look for part-time), we have a direct conversation early on about the use of technology. Essentially, we make it very clear that we have a “almost no technology” rule. Unless they are texting with us to check in, doing a very quick plan text or phone call with someone in their lives or using the computer for dance music with the girls, there is no technology allowed while they are “working.” If this bothers them early on, then we are not the right family for them. I have found that the people that work out for us in our family are totally happy with that program. Our latest caregiver, when given the “texting speech” said, “Oh my gosh, we are going to be too busy playing outside and having fun to use technology!” That’s what I’m looking for!

As for driving, they must have a clean driving record. They must never talk on the phone or, of course, text while driving (<=this is a link to the story of a girl who died retrieving a text while driving, just to bring the point home) with the girls. It’s just that simple – but we make sure they are on board with this.

If that initial phone conversation goes really well, I invite them to our house.

Often the phone conversation narrows us down to two or three people – sometimes just one person. I try to keep the in-person meeting down to two people (or less) because the girls get involved here and they can get attached easily. This meeting is primarily to get an energetic hit on the person and how the girls – and Jim and I – connect with her. I can tell really early into the meeting how much she genuinely enjoys kids and whether it will be easy for us to communicate. I am looking for both enthusiasm and a sense of confidence as both are critical in taking care of kids.

I call references.

Whichever person seems like the best fit – and this is usually really obvious at this point – I call at least two child care references. These calls tell me a lot about how the relationship might play out. Our best caregivers have references that say things like, “Oh, if I could have her back today, I’d take her. You are SO lucky!”

Finally – nope, we’re not done yet – I invite her for a trial day.

I’m expecting that everything will go beautifully at this point but before I commit, I want to see and hear her in action on her own with the girls. I want to hear how the girls respond to her when I’m not there. Except, I stay home. I go work in another bedroom while she cares for the girls. I can hear them through the door and peak out windows when they are outside. I have never had one of these change my mind, but I always feel so much better doing this last step. I pay her, of course, for her time.

Then, I offer her the position.

I am as clear as possible about pay and hours (though our hours change so much that “clarity” is a little murky.) I offer pay that beats many other jobs available with the kind of flexibility of our caregiver position. I think this helps attract really good people. I thank them profusely for going through the process and tell them how excited I am to have them with us (because I am VERY excited!)

I share my gratitude regularly.

We have wonderful relationships with our previous caregivers for the girls – every one of them. They are family to us. I truly cannot think of a more important job than this one in our lives. I try to let them know this as often as I can, whether it’s bringing home a coffee from the coffee shop when I’m out or trying to come up with the birthday present that I think will truly make her happy and surprised. Mostly, I just tell her how grateful I am and try to get to know her and be meaningfully connected. I want to – she’s amazing, that’s why we chose her!

I know how hard it can be to hand your babes over to someone else so you can get some work done. I feel so lucky that we have found such amazing women to partner with us in caring for our girls – the kind of people that we are excited to leave the girls with because we know they will have a fabulous time. I hope this window into our process helps you in some way get out there and get more of your important work outside your home done, too.

Now, I’ve got to go find myself a dress so we can attend the wedding of one of our most excellent caregivers next weekend! A wedding at which our girls will be the flower girls. That’s how good it can get!

I’d love to hear your process for finding great caregivers for your kiddos. Please share tips, suggestions, stories, thoughts in the comments below.


Thank you, Pink Sherbet Photography, for the vibrant image!

Location Independence & Moving Across Country

We are moving across the country in less than one month.

Like, totally across the country. If you look a map, put your finger in the center of Oregon on the West Coast, then drag your finger straight across (and south a little), then you will reach Charlottesville, Virginia, and you’d be touching our new home.

When you move a whole family across the country, many questions arise – not the least of which is…

“Do I really need all this CRAP?!”

And since I’ve known that the answer to that  is a resounding “NO!” for many years, I’ve taken this opportunity to give away, sell and otherwise “release” a LOT of Stuff. (How can we not watch this George Carlin clip on Stuff as we broach this topic?) It feels good to slim down, for sure. But it’s also disconcerting. What does it mean that I have kept all of this crap for so long? And, the opposite really, what if I need it again and I end up having to go out and buy it? I can’t answer either, really, until I make the trek and see how it all shakes out.

Location Independence

Meantime, I’m thinking a lot about my goal of the last few years of location independence. This cross-country move is a real test of how successful my venture toward location independence is turning out to be. Essentially, for me, location independence means that I can live and travel anywhere and still make money from wherever I am. It doesn’t mean I don’t work. I’m not looking at early retirement (not yet anyway.) It means that my systems are set up such that I can make my coaching calls, create products and deliver consulting services from anywhere in the world in a way that delights and provides genuine awesome value for my clients. I’ve tested this out many times on vacations, while participating in coaching and consulting calls and providing consulting services while on vacation and it’s worked beautifully. Therefore, it should work very nicely with this cross country move.

Only this is a little different.

Where business isn’t easy.

For one thing, a number of my clients seek me out because I run my business in a place where growing a successful business is not easy (we have an over 13% unemployment rate.) They believe that my experience of substantially growing a business in a place where business is difficult will help them grow businesses where they are. I know that my actual location has nothing to do with my ability to provide coaching and consulting that helps them grow their dream businesses, but that’s not the point. That I am moving away from the difficult spot makes it seem like it’s not possible. Or maybe it’s just that I’m afraid they’ll think that. (I should ask them.)

I learned what works the hard way.

And for the record, it does matter that I learned how to grow a business in such a tricky location. But at this point, I get it about what works and doesn’t – even in a difficult location – and that I can share from any location.

Hell, maybe I’m just afraid that it actually won’t translate. That it’s all been a fluke. That’s possible, too. Rationality doesn’t always sync up with emotions – and my emotions are on a bit of “alert” right now. Truthfully, I know that this stance will serve me with my clients even better than not being connected to the inner turmoil of a cross-country move that tests my location independence (aka business growth success.)

For now, I pack.

Right now, I know that my most important move is to keep getting rid of crap, be sure I know where my headset and iPhone are at all times, and that I spend as much time as possible with my girls as they also traverse the mix of emotions that is a move like this one.

I’ll keep you posted on how it all shakes out. Meantime, if you know anyone who needs infant gear or a box of old sand toys, please send ‘em my way. Oh, and if you’ve got any great tips on how to make a West Coast to South East Coast move go more smoothly, you are warmly invited to send those my way, too.

Thank you, bfhoyt, for the perfect picture of moving boxes. If only mine looked so beautifully organized.

2011 is The Year of the Table

As you may know if you have been reading for a few years, every year as one year rolls into the next in celebratory glory, I declare a theme for the coming year. This past year was The Year of Opening. The year before was The Year of Sleep (possibly my most unsuccessful theme of all at that time). Previous years, before I was blogging and such, included: The Year of the Body (went to intensive, fabulous massage training and LOVED it), The Year of Spirit, The Year of the Mind… you get the idea, right?

So, this year is The Year of the Table.

I’m so thrilled about this year’s theme because it embodies so much of what I want to focus on for the coming year: collaboration (some really exciting business joint ventures coming up!), clean eating, quiet family time, increasing my volunteer time and financial contributions… can you see how the table theme can thread through all of this?

In some cases, it is literal.

I want to eat at a table with my family all together more. I want to have a more beautifully set family table. I want to eat really healthy, clean food.

But the table is also a powerful metaphor for many business things coming up and some personal goals, too.

I have a couple of really exciting business collaborations going on with people I really respect and enjoy. I am totally re-inventing this website and blog (again – but this is the last time!) to reflect my deepest overall commitment and message, which feels so good and right and centered. I am coaching clients one-on-one more – and in entirely new domains (personal, overall business coaching, work/life decisions) and loving that connection and Contribution, very much a “sharing a table” kind of feeling, even as we are doing some fabulous, deep, high-impact work.

On the personal front, I am trying to stay home more. My tendency is to pack up the family and go a lot, even just for car rides, running errands, whatever. I want to minimize that this year and enjoy our home more – and the simplicity that comes from not packing and unpacking three sets of snacks, drinks and various other kiddo accoutrements multiple times a day. I am being extra thoughtful about who I spend time with personally – do they feel like someone I’d like to share a table with (or who would enjoy sharing a table with me)? I tend to say “yes” readily and I need to say “no” more if I am going to really enjoy The Year of the Table.

There are other pieces to this, too. And I know it will evolve as every theme does every year. But for the most part, one week in and counting, things are looking very yummy for 2011. I’m excited to share more with you as it all evolves.

How about you? Do you have a ritual you engage at the start of each year – or any other time of the year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section (or email if you are feeling private about it.)

Thank you Lane & Anne for this lovely table photo at which I can imagine you all shared a gloriously cheery Thanksgiving. How can you not, with that beautiful yellow theme?

Who Are You? And, What Are You Trying to Say?

I got a phone call four nights ago from a good friend’s husband.

While she and I were really good friends about seven years ago, and have maintained a caring friendship across many miles and life changes, I didn’t know her husband really well.

Which is why my heart sank when I heard who it was on the other end of the line.

“I’m really sorry to be calling to tell you this. Terry passed away five months ago.”


Seriously, it’s impossible in that moment to process the information.

Terry? There’s no way. She was only 44. She was strong, healthy and passionate about too many things. The part in my brain that understands death is nowhere near the region in my brain that holds Terry’s image and life. And they weren’t moving any closer together then, even as he told me the details of her passing.

Terry was the Executive Director of an environmental organization in Homer, Alaska when she died. Before that, she was heading up the Red Rock Forests advocacy organization in Southeastern Utah. Mostly, Terry was a passionate advocate for trees, animals and natural habitats. She loved dogs. She loved hiking. She loved making things better. Spend an hour with Terry and you knew who she was and what mattered to her.

It’s not that other things don’t matter to Terry, too. She adored her husband and stepkids. She was a kind and thoughtful friend. I’m sure that in the last six years when miles and life changes made our contact infrequent, she had many interesting things going on in her life beyond what I knew of her. But what I absolutely know for sure is that my sense of Terry from way back then is the same driving sense of Terry that those who met her six months ago experienced: committed, loyal, tireless-fixer, saving the planet in big and small ways, laughing at the dogs’ latest shenanigans all the while.

Ever since I got that call from Harold, Terry’s husband – between memories of little things Terry and I did together, conversations I so enjoyed with her -

I keep thinking to myself this:

I love knowing exactly who Terry was – it was always so crystal clear. She was both a wonderful listener and an eloquent, passionate and thoughtful advocate for what she believed in.

What is my version of this expression in my own life?

I knew who Terry was and what she believed in – and she didn’t have to scream it from the rooftops. It was clear by the way she chose to spend her time, the conversations she was inclined to begin and the places she put her energy and attention. I want to be even more of that kind of clarity of self-expression. She’s a meaningful guide for me. Thank you, Terry. Every Red Rock, ocean view and goofy-faced dog will remind me.

Thank you, Alan Vernon, for the beautiful Red Rock image.