Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Shifting and Shaking things up at Sea During the Permission to Hustle Retreat #PTHCarnival

Disclosure: Thank you Carnival Cruise & Permission to Hustle for hosting our group during such a mindful & inspirational retreat. Vera and Audrey, this was amazing! Xx 

"Before your Life Shifts........... It's Going to Fall Apart First" 


It’s just insane how quickly days fly by and even more noticeable when you realize you haven’t been devoting as much time as you’d like to your own personal growth and passions. Lately, I'd been pretty disappointed in myself and I knew I needed to shake things up ASAP, I needed to be doing more!

Two months ago I was setting off to join 40 female creatives and entrepreneurs at sea with Carnival Cruise Line for the Permission to Hustle retreat, hosted by Vera Sweeney of Lady and the Blog and Audrey McLelland of Mom Generations. When these two dynamic mompreneurs, content creators and besties announced that they were planning to get back to the roots and magic of blogging I couldn't wait to get the scoop on what it entailed and how to sign up.

As founders of the facebook community Permission to Hustle , Audrey and Vera had an ingenius idea to host an intimate conference that would tackle the trends and changes everyone was buzzing about, all while creating a greater sense of community among bloggers and creatives at different stages in their careers.

If nothing else we all had one thing in common, we love what we do and hustle to design the life we want. Having a true passion for sharing ideas/advice//tips with the goal of helping other women grow and develop their own online identity is one of the pillars of the PTH Mastermind Retreat at sea.


There was absolutely no doubt In my mind that I had to be there! I’ve always been truly impressed by Vera and Audrey's hustle and how they’ve been able to build and leverage their personal brands to elevate their career paths all while supporting each other’s individual endeavors, collaborating as business partners and inspiring other women to stay driven while pursuing their dreams. These two women put in work! I've appreciated their authenticity and transparency and knew that attending was a great step if I wanted to shift into a lane that was meant for our family within and outside of this industry.


Two months had passed since my father's major heart attack and I couldn't get back into the swing of things, my writing groove was definitely lost in stress. Our family rallied up like we always had,  rotated our overnight hospital stays and shifted our work schedules so that someone was always around when the doctors made their rounds and more importantly to keep daddy in good spirits. It was surreal when the doctors told us he had a 100% blockage and that they were incapable of handling a case as severe as his. Transferring him from our Queens hospital to one uptown in the city was never questioned if it meant better care but lawd, did that complicate things. We made sure there was someone to do school picks ups, homework, and dinner for CJ and Tristan and to care for my two-year-old nephew baby Q and our 2 dogs.

We made it work, regardless of how physically tired or mentally burnt out we all were. Dad was rushed to the hospital on the 1 yr anniversary of our Uncle Poncho's passing. Honestly, it was losing a second father. After my maternal grandmother (his mama)passed away,  he was the glue / the funny bone of our family.  Barely 8 months after that having to unexpectedly say goodbye to my sister's partner of ten years, Jason at Only 30 years old, really messed us all up.

Neither passing made sense, especially not to our boys and the thought of nearly losing dad left us all nauseated and numb. After the first 48 hours w/ dad in the hospital, we went home and I remember Mike just sitting on the edge of the tub.  I put down the toilet seat lid, plopped down and we both broke down into tears over the idea of having to go through this again. To have to explain to our kids that another influential man in their life was ............ I can't even put into words.

It was moments like these that made me appreciate the flexibility in being a content creator and event director who could work from practically anywhere. To still be able to contribute to my household financially while watching Peppa Pig with my nephew so that my sister could go to work, or so that my mom could take my dad to physical therapy has been a blessing.

Looking back just two years ago, in the midst of mourning two uncle's, I had to turn down a position within a luxury real estate firm as we prepared for my husband's emergency knee surgery. The timing was freaking awful, and I just couldn't believe he was going to need this procedure to repair his ACL, for the 2nd time.

We trusted the universe, I cleared off my desk & have been working from home ever since and I am damn proud of the strides I've made. Once registered for the Permission to Hustle retreat we were asked to identify our "why" for attending and it's always been focused on family. Blogging and the tribe we're a part of us has inspired new beginnings time and time again & if nothing else, from reading my posts I hope that we are positive examples to our readers to live their best life despite their circumstances.

Mercury in Retrograde had been kicking our butts quite a bit these last few months, the teen's cellphone shattered during gym,  a tablet cracked on our train commute home and our dog tripped over the Xbox cord. Yes, of course, causing it to land hard enough on the power button to never work again.  When my laptop hard drive crashed literally the week before leaving for the retreat I guess I wasn't very surprised. I refused to let the crappy timing in being computer-less kill the good feels I got thinking about all of the insightful conversations, powerful connections & crazy fun moments that would happen during this Carnival cruise work-cation.

There were moments when I thought I was crazy for leaving the boys for 5 days (and felt like a terrible mom because an hour or two before heading to the airport, our youngest Tristan spiked a fever of 104) , but then I remembered they survived my month-long hospital stay like champs while I battled Crohn’s, a chronic autoimmune disease. Mike and the boys have always been supportive of this journey and assured me they’d be fine but I felt awful about going solo knowing they all could use a break from the day to day routine too. 

I promised the hubby I'd stay focused, the goal of this trip was to shake things up a bit, step out on faith, shift my thinking and soak up all the knowledge shared by some badass women doing amazing things in this creative space. With my crazy fear of water, step one was literally to just get myself on the boat.


There’s been no shortage in the number of amazing creatives and entrepreneurs I’ve met over the years. I was looking forward to getting the chance to have some real hang time with favorites I knew personally as local, NYC bloggers and to connect with those that had worked within the industry for years and I admired their work and followed on social media.

Ending up on the same flight to Florida as my blog boo Natalie of Twiniversity was just the good ju-ju I needed at the start of my trip. Having each other to chat it up meant there'd be less focus on the mom-guilt we were feeling and the looming bad weather forecasted.

I’ve been really lucky to have an amazingly supportive tribe of people in our Blogger family & Nat is one of the most chill, no b.s, genuinely caring & inspiring business women I know. Over the years we’ve had some crazy laughs & she’s shared some great insight on how to navigate this industry while staying true to my voice & brand. As a thought leader & expert in the parenting of multiples, I knew her panel on niche marketing was going to be spot on.

It’s so important to surround yourself with people who have your back (and you theirs) cheer you on, pray for your family, give honest advice and bring positive energy to your life; which was why having my girl Karen of Chica In the City as my roomie was a no brainer. We’ve watched each other grow and push each other to put in the work.

When you have someone to bounce ideas of off and to discuss the ups and downs of business with, it's much easier to remind each other of how amazing you are.  We've realized that sometimes just as important as it is to network, you have to know when it's necessary to wear blinders or turn down the noise to avoid the distractions & insecurities that come along with blogging while juggling marriage, motherhood & careers. The Permission to Hustle retreat allowed for us to connect in a way that wasn't overwhelming. Building a community and having co-workers all over the country is a bonus to working as bloggers and influencers and conferences & retreats are a way for us to get together in real life. 

A safe space was created where we could be real about our business goals while offering advice & being supportive without judgment and side eye. Although we were free to spend our downtime however we chose, in between panel discussions & while exploring the ports we put intention into starting conversations and getting to know each other. What’s the point of going to conferences & retreats if you don’t take advantage of the time you have to step out of your zone to meet new people?

Photo credit: Lily Ashley 

I'm grateful for the lived in moments where we closed out all of the tabs running in our brains to jump on soul train lines, belt out cheesy Karaoke tunes & classic Mary J. Blije, battle it out in an intense, late-night game of taboo and eat authentic Mexican tacos off a random truck on the side of the road. Those tacos were so dang good!

Ya'll this trip even had me in the middle of a coral garden in Grand Cayman with a bunch of massage giving Stingrays. Do you know me? If you really know me, ya know I'm not a fan of water. Did you catch my nervously excited expression in the pic above? Ha! That's me, trying to play it cool when I was truly freaked out to my core. My feet could barely touch the ground.

We all know great food brings folks together, so it was pretty cool that during dinner we were encouraged to rotate seats to meet and chat it up with someone we hadn’t the previous evening. We were entertained by the amazing Carnival cruise team who serenaded us, lead macarena dance breaks and left us mind blown by magic tricks.

The Permission to Hustle retreat was the perfect balance of working hard and playing harder and there was no shortage of on board activities to keep us busy on the ship or while exploring the islands during our shore excursions.


While at sea for two days, our agenda focused on discussions of: pitching and making money, moving from blogging to broadcasting, SEO & Pinterest, time management, relationship building, apps to make life easier, affiliate sales and more.

“Lifestyle” is not a Niche! When I first started blogging I was inspired to create the site because the parents of my preschool students always wanted to stay in the loop on the cool things my boys and I kept busy with on the weekends.

My main focus was affordable, family-friendly things to see & do with Lil' Monsters in NYC and after a few years I started covering a little bit of everything as we started partnering with brands on content. Admittedly it left me feeling like there was less and less to set me apart from everyone else and I was in agreement with Natalie "You can't keep trying to be everything to everybody."

Photo credit: Lily Ashley 

 I’ve brainstormed and decided to niche down my platform to four pillars after Amiyrah Martin of 4 Hats and Frugal  highlighted the importance during her session. I’m so hyped to get back to storytelling with a focus on NYC & Travel, Entertainment, Lil Monsters and Health & Wellness.

 We have always loved this space for sharing our adventures in the city and now that the boys are older we hope to travel way more as a family and as a couple. I’ve got a crap load of photos and videos from trips to Atlanta, Philly, Houston, LA, Florida and South Carolina and can’t wait to finally get those up on the site.

If you follow me on Instagram you probably have a better idea of the ups and downs I’ve dealt with as someone persevering with Crohn’s disease. It’s not really something I’ve discussed in depth here on the blog and I’m hoping to share more on how we deal with my chronic illness as well as how we incorporate wellness into our daily lives as a family.

Through connections made over the last few years and my experience as an asst. wedding coordinator, I’ve been able to segue from blogging into directing and hosting events with well-known brands in the baby gear and tech space.

With my husband's expertise as a chef and in logistics, carpentry and set build; having him by my side has been such a natural partnership.  We've been fortunate to gain clients by word of mouth & have loved bringing their visions to life but most people don’t even know it’s something hubby and I do. That must change in 2019! Putting ourselves out there and letting potential clients know what services we provide is a clear must if our goal is to continuously grow business. The dream would be to launch our own catering and event planning company someday.


Photo credit: Trisha Haas

At the end of the 5 days, I felt renewed and ready to dive back into creating but my enthusiasm was completely derailed when I returned to the States. Imagine after a week of leisure & inspiration, coming home to discover my PayPal account was hacked by some jerk and nearly $2K was stolen from my bank account. Some kinda luck I tell ya.

 I shouldn't have let it get to me, but I quickly lost momentum and tried not to succumb to the pressure I knew was lurking. It was definitely frustrating finalizing my coordination of a six panel conference for 200 hundred new and expecting Mama's on behalf of Well Rounded , all from my dang iPhone. On the upside, the success of the event gave me a huge boost of confidence as it was my first time organizing one of it's caliber.

 The saying goes "When you plan, God laughs!" Maybe the universe thought I was too comfortable or maybe it's just the nature of the industry - but unexpectedly, VA & event work from every direction was drastically slowing down. With the conference behind me I had more time to focus on my plans to create more of our own opportunities for next year, but crap I still needed my regular checks to come in.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, I think the stress of everything was finally taking a toll on my mental. I was busy but not necessarily producing what I wanted. Thankfully Mike has been by my side to pull me out of my funk, and constantly reminds me to think to the future in order to move forward. No more dwelling on things out of my control.

Tired of feeling stagnant while trying to find all the right words and tasking myself to perfectly edit my photos, I figured I’d just dive right in with this post. Better late than never, right?

The greatest takeaway from the Permission to Hustle Retreat was leaving with an arsenal of knowledge and tools to put all the lessons learned into action and a new tribe of colleagues to keep each other uplifted and held accountable. Although my transition back to reality from Paradise was a bit bumpy, I'm so ready to embrace the positive shifts coming our way.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What an incredible trip full of personal and professional insight! I felt you when you said that you felt "Mom guilt" for leaving! You truly deserved this retreat and I'm so happy that you've finally had a moment to recharge. I'm taking notes! Love you!



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