#MomBossMonday - Alison Hall

Welcome to the first official #MomBossMonday - I am beyond excited for this weekly series! It's been so awesome hearing the stories of so many amazing, talented women in the Charlotte area, and I cannot wait to share their words with you!

Our first #MomBoss is the FABULOUS Alison Hall - I'll let her begin!

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Hi Alison! Tell me about you!

I have been in Charlotte since elementary school and when I went off to college (at Virginia Tech) I thought that I'd never come back home... but here I am and loving it!  I married another Hokie, Chris, and we have two boys.  Erik is 6 and Lucas is 4... and we are expecting #3 in December.  I'm an architect and have always been very passionate about my career and thus it has kind of become my hobby as well.  I love traveling with my entire crew and checking out architecture around the world!   Our boys are also very passionate about specific things (right now it's animals), so we spend a lot of time exploring new fun places to learn more about their passions!  Our goal this summer is to go to zoos in 4 different states!

What do you do? How did you get started? 

I'm an architect and knew that I wanted to be an architect since I was 12.  I used to design apartment complexes and houses while watching TV when I was in middle school and I actually do that now!  I worked in a firm until my son was born and attempted to work part time after my oldest was born.  This was also during the recession, so I was laid off.  While it was unexpected and threw me off, I wasn't a fan of being on someone else's schedule so I decided to start my own firm.  I started contracting with a local architecture firm and also started getting my own clients for single family homes.  Six years in and my client base has grown, yet I'm still just a one person firm.  I like working with each of my clients from start to finish and continuing to do the 'fun part' of the job... and I realized that I wasn't great at HR, hiring/firing, etc!  I absolutely love the flexibility of my job since I get to set meetings/schedules, but it's hard for me to fully turn off on vacation... and I work most nights after my boys go to bed.  It definitely has its pros and cons, but for me and my family, it works!

What is your biggest challenge (or biggest challenges) in juggling your home and business or job?

Child care has been stressful.  I try to work mostly full days during the week so that I have my weekends with the family.  My boys have usually been in half-day preschool and then I would have to pick them up with a babysitter at home in the afternoons.  Some babysitters were reliable and some were not.  And having to take an hour break in the middle of the day was a challenge for scheduling meetings.  Last year my oldest started Kindergarten and my youngest was part of a reliable nanny share... it was amazing!  Next year, both kids will be in full day care, so I'm looking forward to the consistency of that schedule!  (Although come December when the baby comes, I will be starting from scratch!)  I also learned a few years ago to outsource those house things that I'm not good at... like cleaning, laundry, and yard work.  It gives us more time on the weekends to be with our boys.  

What do you love most about your business?

I love meeting new clients (who often become friends!) and helping them realize the potential in their homes.  Anyone can build a huge house with a room for every need, but I love finding creative ways to reorganize space (or add just a little bit) and make their home work much better for their family.  I love that I can take my mom/wife skills and use those in design to make more functional spaces.  I get so excited about new projects and then I LOVE going into the houses when they are under construction or visiting a client's home after they have moved back into the space and hearing how much they like everything.  Makes all the stress and hours so worth it. 

What is your best life hack or secret for getting everything done?

I have a few... First, a calendar on my phone that has a schedule for everyone in the family.  I put everything in there (specific camps, school holidays and half days (who invented those?!?), who is picking up what kid and when, gym schedules, meetings etc) so that there is no question as to what's happening a specific day.  It's color coded and my husband and I are linked up so we are both on the same page.  Second, a village.  I have many mom friends as well as my parents (who live 1/2 mile up the road) who I can call on in a pinch if needed.  I try not to take advantage of anyone, my husband and I can usually cover any abnormal schedules, but having my village there is key.  And lastly, I really try to prioritize my time.  When it's work time, I am completely in the zone, knocking off everything on my to do list.  And when I'm not working, I try to stay off of email (although I'm not perfect there).  I don't usually answer my phone outside of my 9-4 working hours which annoys some commercial clients and contractors, but my kids deserve my time and questions can usually wait an hour or until the morning!  

What’s one piece of advice or encouragement you’d give a fellow #momboss?

Be upfront with people.  If you set a certain expectation up front (you turn off your phone completely during vacation, you don't take calls after 5pm, you always leave early on Friday, or whatever...) it's a lot easier for them to get used to it.  I know that this is harder in certain occupations than others, but just making sure you prioritize your family or your down time from day one will remind you and the people that you work with that you deem motherhood (and your sanity) a top priority.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far in being a working mom?

That my kids will be okay.  There's definitely mom guilt when I see some friends who have more time to take their kids to special events or to work on some cool craft, but I have to remember that all types of parenting is great and that we are all doing the best that we can.  I also love hearing my boys talk about their mom who 'builds cool buildings'.  It makes me happy that they know that I am a smart and hard working woman.  And even though they are with the nanny or at school most of the day, mom and dad are there every night for dinner, books and snuggling. 

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Friends, I hope you've enjoyed hearing from Alison - and by the way, isn't her work stunning?!  Check out her Facebook page to see more pictures of her work:  facebook.com/alisonhallarchitect.

Early Retirement

If money were no object and you could do anything in the world you wanted, what would you do with your life?

Chris asked me that very question after my dad died 3.5 years ago, and the answer was easy: I'd take a ton of art classes, paint all day, and become an artist. He's has been trying to talk me into doing this ever since our conversation, but honestly, I've been afraid. 

Finally, I'm doing it. As of June 1st, I'll be an artist full-time.

I can still remember the exact blend of tempura paint and clay that gave my elementary art room it's distinct smell. All through school, art was my favorite class - I lived for the days we had art because I enjoyed the freedom and excitement in creating something. I even considered studying studio art in college, but I didn't because it just "wasn't practical." Not that practicality has ever stopped me from doing anything before... but this time, it did.

So what happened? Well, I think I heard the phrase "starving artist" one too many times, and my love of tacos and fear of starvation forced me into a different career path. I mean, a girl's gotta eat, right? In all seriousness, I was afraid. What if I'm not really that good? What if no one likes my art? What if I fail? What if I don't make any money? What if people talk about me? What if... what if...

I've let negative self-talk and self-doubt hold me back for YEARS, and now I'm taking a GIANT leap of faith to create a life doing something I've dreamed of doing my entire life. I love teaching elementary school and I know I'll miss my sweet students, but I have to do this. Not just for me, but for my girls. I want them to see that at 33 years old, their mother stepped out into the unknown and was brave enough to follow her dreams.

Forgetting failure, focusing on success.

Ignoring negativity, allowing only love.

Leaving behind self-doubt, believing in myself. 

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50 Day Challenge: Feel Happier and Healthier With Your New Morning Routine

morning routine

I don't know about you, but mornings are easily the hardest time of the day for me, especially during the winter. When it's freezing cold outside, there's nowhere else I'd rather be than snuggled up next to my sweetie in our cozy bed! But I also know that mornings set the tone for the entire day - before kids, I could hit snooze a million times and then jump out of bed 15 minutes before I had to leave, throw on something cute, spray some dry shampoo in my hair, brush a few swipes of makeup on, and I'd be out the door! Now that I have two little people constantly pawing at me, my morning routine has become sacred. It's that peaceful, quiet space at the beginning of the day that's reserved for me - a special hour before the madness begins.

I want to share this with you because I believe that if you create your own sacred hour first thing in the morning, you will be happier and healthier in no time. I came up with a 50-day challenge that I'd like for you to try just to see if it makes a difference in your life the way it has in mine. Are you ready?

4:45am - Alarm goes off. I hit snooze. 

4:50am - Alarm goes off. Again. I reluctantly pull myself out of bed (like I said, warm and cozy) and hop into my favorite yoga pants, sports bra, workout top, and socks and shoes. Depending on the weather, I'll have on a running hoodie or something like that.

5:00am - Curl up in my favorite chair in the corner of my office with my Bible, journal, and First 5 App. I spend about 15-20 minutes reading, praying, and studying God's word. I come back to my Bible for another 15-20 minutes at the end of the day to do more reading, praying, and studying. If I'm participating in a Bible study or reading in a particular devotion book, I'll do that reading now as well as in the evening. I've found that giving my first moments of the day to God really sets me up to have a great day and puts my mind and heart in the right place.

5:20 am - This is my normal morning workout routine when I am NOT training for a half marathon. I'll tell you all about that beastly routine sometime soon, but for now I'm saving that for another day and another blog post. 

Quick workout routine - do TWO or THREE rounds of each exercise, meaning go through this list two or three times. It might be wise to start with two rounds, and then as you feel confident, add a third! If you don't know what an exercise is by the name, click the highlighted part and a video will pop up for you to see the moves (nope- they aren't me. Thanks, YouTube!). Most of these videos have ads, but you can skip them around 5 seconds in.  

5:50am - After I've worked up a good sweat, I head downstairs to make my breakfast shake and take my daily vitamins. My dear friend Hope got me hooked on Juice Plus about 6 months ago, and y'all - it's awesome! I take the Orchard, Garden, and Vineyard capsules each morning and evening (one of each with my breakfast shake and all three again right before bed), and it has made a world of difference in my overall health. I have much more energy, and I like knowing that I have all the essential nutrients I need. I make my shake using Juice Plus Complete Dutch Chocolate (recipe below), and it's perfect for an on-the-go meal. 

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake

  • 1 scoop Juice Plus Complete, Dutch Chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon Tru-Nut Powdered Peanut Butter
  • 1.5 cups Almond Milk (I like the vanilla flavor)
  • Blend for a few seconds in the magic bullet and you're good to go! I make this for my girls all the time as a special treat - and it's good for them!

I'll take my shake with me as I head upstairs, and by 6am, I'm hopping in the shower and getting ready for the day. 

50 DAY CHALLENGE DETAILS:

If you're ready to feel happier and healthier, take the 50 Day Challenge! Do this morning routine every day for the next 50 days and see what happens. Comment below with your email address if you're committing to the challenge, and I'll send you encouragement along the way! You can do it, and I promise you'll feel like a new person by the end!