Internet Inspirations: Last Gasp for Winter

March 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Winter's last gasp!

Winter’s last gasp!

Enjoy these interesting reads from around the internet as we wait for spring to evict winter from Maryland!

Here’s some great tips over at PT Money about checking out a potential employer’s approach to work/life balance. Even in this tight job market, it is still important to align jobs with your values.

We’ve written about how Craig’s List can be a great source for job listings, but as we mentioned, do your due dilligence. The Job Bait scam is described in this Wise Bread article. Use common sense and be careful about what personal information you share.

This article is part of a series on Women and Money over at and includes some good ways to keep your professional life moving forward even when you’re out of the traditional 9 to 5.

I loved, loved this article at the Jane Dough weighing in on the whole women and working debate that has been raging lately. The title alone is fantastic: “Why We Don’t Need Any More Female Billionaires Telling Us How To Have It All”. I really like the point Colette McIntyre makes that not all women have the same advantages as billionaire CEO’s and where are the men in this conversation?

And for something completely different…

I thoroughly enjoyed this guest post over at Mr. Money Mustache from David Cain entitled, “How To Walk Across A Parking Lot.” No, really. Read it and think about it.

Posted by: Heather C.

New Year’s Inspiration Around the Web

January 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

Has your 2013 started off with a bang or do you need some inspiration?

Has your 2013 started off with a bang or do you need some inspiration? (Photo by: Neurovelho via WikiMedia Commons.)

Happy 2013! We’re ten days into the new year! How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Or are you in the no-resolutions camp? Has the time just slipped away and you’re still writing 2012 when you write the date?  We’ve collected some interesting and inspirational posts from bloggers around the interwebs!

Over at Zen Habits, Guest Writer Craig Ballantyne writes about his “Twelve Rules to Live By”. It is an interesting approach. Could you articulate your rules like this or how would you react to utilizing a few of Craig’s?

Time Management Ninja Craig Jarrow has a great post entitled “10 Things Wrong With Your New Year’s Resolutions” with some great tips about realistic goal setting.

Dumb Little Man writer Sumitha sums up the “8 Mistakes that are Sabotaging Your Resolution To Change Your Life”. I know I am guilty of a few of these.

Found this via J.D. Roth’s More than Money Blog. It has a great how-to on how to review your previous year as the basis for planning your new year.

My perspective is that the start of the new school is the best time to embark with January being a good time to check in on my progress. This year I am trying to integrate Gamification to help me stay motivated toward my goals.

So where do you fall? Are you a Resolver or do you think Resolutions are a waste of time? Got any big plans for 2013? What tricks do you have for staying motivated?  Don’t worry, there’s always Chinese New Year!

Posted by: Heather Comstock

Photo credit:  Blue Fireworks.  The Finnish fireworks championship 2007 in Helsinki.  By: Neurovelho.  Sourced from WikiMedia Commons.


Thank You Notes

December 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

giftcircle1newFrom everyone at the Pinnacle Empowerment Center, we wish you and your families a wonderful holiday and a prosperous New Year! As we close the year, we want to take a few minutes to say thanks for the many gifts we have received from our community!

  •  Financial supporters: Thank you to everyone who made a donation, provided pro bono professional services, gave us supplies, and space. Thank you Mama Lucia for sponsoring our Night Out event!
  • Volunteers: Thank you to all the wonderful people who have given generously and unreservedly of their time and talent so PEC could offer real help to women in need and help the organization grow.
  • Community supporters: Thank you especially to the Columbia Foundation for their support this year. We also appreciate the continued support from the Association of Community Services Howard County and the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County.
  • Clients: We are grateful for the many women who called us or came to a Job Club or Empowerment Circle or attended our other events. You are why we’re here and when you trust us to be a resource for you, we feel honored.

Being a part of our community is a gift and we love working with our neighbors. Thank you for your enthusiasm and support in 2012 and we look forward to another fantastic year in 2013!

Finding More Than a Lost Purse

November 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is a post from Coach Maria Shepard-Smith who shared this story about an unexpected Christmas Eve Time Out during a discussion about why the holidays seem to get crazier every year.  We hope you’ll enjoy as much as we did!

Maria finds an unexpected refuge and gift while looking for her missing purse!  Photo credit: Daderot (Daderot) [CC0 or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

 Many years ago I was rushing around at the holiday season on Christmas Eve doing my last minute shopping, after work of course, in Macy’s NYC on 34thSt. I wasn’t alone, unfortunately there were hundreds of others doing the same thing …what were they doing here…didn’t they finish up early…why were they in my way?

Needless to say, I was harried and rushed and thinking about the hundreds of things I had to do before Christmas day…yes just a measly 6.1/2 hours hence.

Well “I went in” as they sometimes say, you know you hear it all the time ’I am going in’ …knowing just knowing you might not survive the ordeal. Or worse, for me at that moment, that I might not get ‘just the right present’ to add to the lovely holiday spirit and sense of peacefulness that is always being touted at this time of the year, which for me was, at that moment, quickly evaporating.

Yes! I was at the very place where many of us end up, for one reason or another, when it is least expected, and when we can least afford it emotionally…at the brink of extreme angst.

Well, I did survive and in a way that I did not even think was possible when I finally left the store 3 hours later and headed home at the end of the evening.

In the midst of my harried rushing about I had forgotten the real meaning of the season.

As I made my way down the Subway station stairs to catch the train home, I fumbled with my packages and shopping bags for my purse to get a token for the fare. In less then 2 seconds, I realized … I DID NOT HAVE MY PURSE!

I rushed back up the stairs of the Subway, through hoards of folks headed down the stairs. I hurried into Macy’s trying to remember where I could have put my purse down ….you just don’t do that at the height of the shopping season in NY. Well I decided to retrace my steps…going backwards. I made my way to the 7th floor restroom…the last place I had been before leaving the store.

I rushed into the restroom went through the sitting area and checked the stalls…I knocked on the stall that I had used and asked the woman if she saw my purse hanging on the hook behind the door. ‘No ‘she said, ‘there’s nothing here. For a moment, I didn’t believe her, but then I knew that it had to be true…what was she going to do…stuff it in her bag, (in those days my purse a pretty fair size).

Well, with a sinking feeling in my stomach, I began thinking about how I was going to get home. Well, I thought, I’ll give a sob story to the policeman or clerk at the booth. They would let me on the train. After all, it was Christmas Eve. They weren’t going to hold me hostage for the fare…which at that time was .35 cents. Plus, by the time I would have gotten down to the Subway, after my search, I would look like such a sad sack they would take pity on me.

Then of course I began to make a mental list of what important things I had in my purse…not much money…only one credit card…and various other items we all carry in a wallet. The thought of having to plow through the task of unraveling the event of a lost wallet etc. was too much for me.

For some reason, I didn’t lose it, my sanity that is. I just began to settle down. After all, what choice did I have?

With a resigned feeling, I turned to leave the bathroom area to make my way to the other departments in the store where I had shopped. ‘I’ll give it a try,’ I told myself…knowing full well that it would be a futile attempt…but I had to try. I continued ruminating as I walked towards the door to the sitting room. “I’ll head for the ‘lost and found’ department before I leave too,” I said to myself.

As I did so, the matron for the women’s room came into the bathroom area from the outer sitting room. She was a tiny elderly woman with grey hair and glasses. I asked if she had seen a purse. ‘What color?’ she asked. ‘Black’, I replied with a ray of hope. “And how much money was in the purse?” she asked. ‘About two dollars”, I said. ‘Come with me’ she said. She walked me through another door into a small windowless room connected to the sitting area. In this room there were a small table and chairs and some of the restroom supplies. “Is this it?” she asked, as she handed me my purse. I was stunned. Not because she had it, but because it just seemed absolutely impossible that I would get that bag back at all.

I was profuse with my thanks. Perhaps she realized that I had reached the other side of panic, numbness, because she asked me to have tea with her…right there in her little space…and I did. This was a space she used to rest and perhaps to have her meals. She heated water on a small electric burner and took out an English teapot with two matching teacups. As I listened to her tell me a little about her life, while we sipped our tea, I felt a growing sense of peace and gratitude. I had been given a gift…in this little room, sipping tea in bone china teacups with a kind and gentle spirit. I had come upon a refuge…metaphorically and literally.

At the time I was grateful for having been given this moment. I was grateful too because I was able to give her, at that moment…a little gift of companionship on Christmas Eve.

I realized at the time and in looking back at that Christmas Eve, that the genuine meaning of the season or the greater gift is to give of oneself in a simple way.

I also received a bequest, not just a reminder to retreat from the hustle and bustle and share quiet and touching moments with others, but a series of more poignant gifts that reveal themselves each time I relive the experience of sitting in that little room.

When I look back at this experience in my life, and I often do, I realize it has become an allegory for me. It was a moment where I learned something that continues to touch my ‘soul’; something about life and how to ‘be’ beyond the moment. It is something that I cannot cognitively explain, except to say that I feel like I experienced a spiritual connection with humanity.

Finally, the memory of this event continues to touch me deeply because, for me, it is a lens through which other difficult events and experiences can be seen and transformed; transformed from a lost cause to a hopeful resolution, from calamity to a silver lining, from disaster to re-birth.

It has many meanings and lessons and I hope it will touch you all in a way to help you move into and through this special season of the year, and perhaps through any trying a time, with the ability to create a sense of peace within yourself as well as for those around you.

Perhaps the experience was a cue to remind me that we have a greater connection to one another than we are aware of or care to believe. Perhaps it was the pathway to the work I do now. Perhaps it is a chance for me to pass on the awareness that we are all in some way responsible or maybe even destined to support and nurture one another. Perhaps once we start to do this we will all be in a better place as I was in that little room in Macy’s NYC, sipping tea with a kind and gentle soul.

Join Maria and other life coaches and career coaches at a holiday gathering at the Pinnacle Empowerment Center and Refocus, Re-center and Re-energize. Take a break from the holiday chaos and join us for some cheer and inspiration as we wind down the year. Come drink, eat and mingle with us as we discuss and share ways to keep from getting overwhelmed and reconnect with the purpose of the season.

**Complimentary coaching sessions** available

Please bring a friend!

When: Wednesday December 12th at 6:00pm

Location: 8180 Lark Brown Road, Suite 301, Elkridge, MD 21075

For more information visit click here!

Maria Shepard-Smith is a Life and Career Coach with 15 years of experience coaching and training individuals and empowering them to find their own answers. Coaching is a way of encouraging and supporting clients on their path as they continue to make important choices in life and in their careers. Tune in for more on about how coaching works and how you can benefit! Call Maria at 410-799-1097 ext 304 or email her at

Happy Thanksgiving from PEC!

November 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

As we wind down this short business week, we take some time this week for Thanksgiving before catapulting into the busy holiday season.  We hope you’ll enjoy these reads as much as we did around PEC!

Permission to Suck

Okay so this is from the folks at MAKE magazine who tend to focus more on engineering and mechanical things, but the reality is, we all have to start somewhere. If you want to wait until you’re perfect at something to get started, you’ll never get going.

Can you Really Have It All? Seven Keys to Finding Balance

As we gear up for the busy holiday season, here are some great tips on how to create the space you need to focus on what’s truly important to you!

The Fermata

Seth Godin ponders the role of the Fermata which isn’t just for music!

Lighting Your Flame

Rochelle Moulton is thankful for those who have helped inspire her and keep her moving.  Who are you thankful for this holiday?

All of us here at PEC are thankful for the wonderful community who support us in our mission.  We hope that you and your families have a wonderful holiday together!

Invisible Fences

March 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

About four months into a new job, I had to attend a sit down supper in a hotel restaurant with the board of directors of the nonprofit where I worked.  I was nervous about my table manners.  Would I spit food on the president?  Launch a roll at the executive director? As I sat nervously at my end of the table trying to remember my mother’s table manners lessons, I looked up and realized that one of my dining partners was licking the butter knife.  Nobody was paying a bit of attention to table manners – they were enjoying the company & conversation! I felt a weight removed from my shoulders and enjoyed the rest of my dinner and subsequently had a fantastic time working with that group of people.  My own perceptions about roles had gotten in the way of me enjoying a great meal and wonderful dining companions.

An article at Get Rich Slowly this week got me to thinking about the roles of social class and our ideas about class and social mobility.  Normally J.D. Roth tries to avoid the topic of social class but recent travel to South America was the impetus for his consideration of class both abroad and at home.  The most interesting aspect of the post isn’t about different classes and who gets what, but J. D. asks the readers to consider their OWN perceptions of class and social mobility.

This article and the 200+ comments got me to thinking about how we let our backgrounds influence our decisions.  In some cases we may convince ourselves that we aren’t worthy of a promotion or we don’t have anything to offer business associates because of our background.  In other ways, it may create a sense of entitlement and the necessary work isn’t done leading to frustration and disappointment when expected opportunities don’t materialize.

I view flexing my social muscle as something that has to be periodically worked.  To that end, I take a deep breath and wade right into situations that make my palms sweat.  I have taught literature classes to recovering drug addicts in a jail and I have mingled with women who can trace their lineage to the Mayflower and everywhere in between.  And you know what?  In every situation, I have found a common ground and experiences to share with them.  In the process I discovered, the only perceptions holding me back were my own.

When we consider our mission at the Empowerment Center, our primary focus is bringing individualized coaching to an audience of women who could benefit from the one on one approach but because of economic situations, would not be able to pursue it.  Part of the work Cindy and Maria do on a daily basis is to guide women through a process of understanding her value and how to communicate that value, thereby overcoming her own self-imposed limits. No woman is “just a mom” or “too old to get another job”.

Have you ever realized that you have imposed limits on yourself or imagined what other people think of you only to find the exact opposite was true?  What advice would you give to someone who is pigeon-holing herself and not living to her full potential? How are you going to charge past your invisible fences today?

Posted by: Heather Comstock

Jumping In With Your Clothes On

February 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Our Social Media inspirations - Alice Settle-Raskin and Kristin Mentz tweeted and Facebooked throughout the Women's Empowerment Conference.  Photo by Nancy Arsenault.

Our Social Media inspirations - Alice Settle-Raskin and Kristin Mentz tweeted and updated Facebook throughout the Women's Empowerment Conference. Photo by Nancy Arsenault.

Social media.  Everyone has very strong opinions on the topic. Regardless of your own opinion, it is certainly a powerful tool.

In the last year at the Empowerment Center, we have gotten a major education in the various uses of social media.  We’re still learning – as is everyone else.  But, we’ve seen the power it has to connect us to people who share our vision and want to be a part of it. Thanks to Mickey Gomez and the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County for the inspiration to get out there! Here’s some of the lessons we’ve learned!

Getting Started

First and foremost, just jump in!  Try it.  There’s something out there for everyone whether it is Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and of course the new hot one, Pintrest. Just know that you might have different purposes for various networks.  Facebook may be for connecting with far flung family and friends where LinkedIn is more about connecting with others in your industry.

Electronic Cocktail Party

Initially my experiences with Twitter were uncomfortable as I was getting followers.  That’s a lot of pressure knowing there are 25 people out there mildly curious in my thoughts in 140 characters or less. In the end, I just decided to treat it the same way I would a professional networking event or any other group setting where you never know who you’re going to meet.


Mercifully, if you do something that is less than effective or silly, remember, the half life for social media is quite short and most people will move on.  Have fun.  The point is to start a conversation, make some connections, create a voice for yourself that is heard by others with similar interests.  If you’re having fun, the people in your network will have fun too.  Keep your purpose and audience in mind.


Remember though the internet is not Vegas and whatever you put out there will stay out there.  Use good judgment about what you put out there.  Don’t publicize information that could be used to hack any accounts or guess passwords.  Don’t tell people you’re going on vacation for three weeks to the Caribbean leaving your brand new 60” flat screen tv home unsupervised. Respect your family’s decision to not be included. Do I really have to point out that posting nude pictures of yourself is not a good idea? There’s a high school gym teacher in Maine who learned that painful lesson last week. Let’s hope his social media acumen is better as he’s looking for a new job.

Never Stop Learning

Avail yourself to the resources available to learning more about how to use social media effectively.  There are many books, blogs, and articles about them.  Ironically, you’ll find them on the sites you’re using!  There’s a lot of great information for using LinkedIn for Job Searching or building a business on LinkedIn.  Twitter abounds with many great bloggers and writers on Twitter and social media methods.

Sharing the Love

If you’re a supporter of a charity, fan them in the social media sphere.  Most nonprofits have a presence on Facebook or Twitter (and if they don’t – what a great volunteer opportunity for you to flex your social media muscles!).  You sharing your support to your network online is a valuable contribution to the organization and helps get their message out to a broader audience! You can start with the Empowerment Center! on Facebook on Twitter

Social media is a great tool to stay connected with family, friends, and work colleagues.  It can help you advance your career or build your business.  It can help causes get in front of people who can make a difference.  Give it a try and jump in – just keep your clothes on.

If you want to learn more about LinkedIn as a career advancement tool, check out our Girl’s Night Out Series: On Linkedin? So What? Getting started using Social Media with Presenter Cindy Virtue on Thursday, March 8th from 6:30 -8:30 p.m. Registration available here.

Posted by: Heather Comstock

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