When You're the Leader, Don't Allow Leadership to Gobble You Up

When You're the Leader, Don't Allow Leadership to Gobble You Up

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This is a difficult subject; one that I’m not entirely sure I have found the proper words for yet, but I’ll try. 

First, let me start by saying I understand the feelings I’m writing about. I have been there. I have attempted to sustain my life with bad coffee in styrofoam cups or deliciously overpriced coffees in artist-designed cups. I’ve skipped meals or convinced myself that “oh, I had a yogurt parfait an hour ago” will be enough. I’ve worked overtime and then come home and put in more overtime. I’ve woken up at 3:00 AM every night for 5 years, consumed with this super vague but unrelenting anxiety; I could never pin point its root cause because too much of me was spread in too many directions. 

Second, if you find yourself currently in the “busy, go-getter achievement, full-court-press” phase, please don’t think that I am encouraging you to stop: I am not. In fact, I say to you: keep going. But keep going in a way that is far healthier than the course I took, for your own health and happiness. 

Thirdly, I write this from an entire different place. One year ago today, I started the process of pulling myself from the hurriedness. 

I started being more choosey with whom and how I work. 

I started putting limits on my days (how many times I check my e-mail; when I have my cell phone in my reach and when I don’t; how quickly I respond to e-mails or texts). 

I changed the requirements I had set on myself or had been bullied into me. (I really used to require that I respond to a text within 5 minutes of its receipt; respond to an e-mail within 12 hours; return a call within 30 minutes). 

I changed my relationships with people: if they have previously expected X, Y and Z of me (including how they treat me), I respectfully discussed with them and showed them why X, Y and Z isn’t going to work for me anymore, but how and why A, B and C could work. 

The lesson revealed to me through this process was one that I didn’t expect, but has impacted my thoughts moving forward: You can, unknowingly, slide into a completely different person than who you are because you get swept up in the hurry, the charge of the rush, the power of decision-making over others, and the seduction of your perceived control over everything. The speed, the control, the management, the acronyms, the calendars, the hand shaking, the deal making, the negotiating and the walking away. Fill another cup of coffee. Set another calendar date. Decide where your money will flow. 

[Vent session: the use of acronyms in the corporate world make me quiver. While we’re told they are used for efficient space holders on paper, to me, they are used the same way chips are used as a casino: they don’t want you to realize the heart and humanity behind the world, the mission, the cause. I spent a lot of time living “SCJ CTC 1 HR ASAP CC LEH.”] 

Now, I thought I was doing it well under these conditions! I smiled, I laughed, I proceeded with kindness. I hit all of my deadlines. I tried to empower others through my feedback notes, and I tried (to my deficit) to make everyone happy. 

It isn’t in my professional relationships that I noticed the problem creep up. It was in my personal relationships where it reared its ugly head: Did I really think I could manage, control, schedule and incentivize them? 

The utter unfairness of this hit me the other day as I practically stood outside of my own body watching myself deploy bad leadership skills on my partner. A question smacked me right in the face: Had I embodied the poor leadership tactics that are exhibited for me by the leaders of this world?

I made myself sit down and think this through. I wanted bad habits to stop here, today, and not move forward with me any longer. 

I made some promises to myself. I want to be the kind of leader who: 

  • Embraces the flow of natural growth and personal understanding. I want anyone who works with me or for me to have their own journeys of learning new skills and coming to new conclusions. 
  • Provides opportunities for growth of new skills, new thought patterns, new connections.
  • Celebrates when a teammate decides to take a growth opportunity or a step in a new direction.
  • Opens space for them to create from their own ideas, heart and enthusiasm. 
  • Sets people up for feel-grand successes; ensuring they have what they need. 
  • Asks questions and listens. 
  • Doesn’t fall prey to “how it should be” or “how it has been done in the past.” 
  • Doesn’t follow the generally-accepted rules of the game, but respects the important character-revealing ones. 
  • Understands when its time for someone to move on to greater things for themselves.
  • Doesn’t fear other people’s success (individually or as a business). 
  • Doesn’t fear a “bad year, financially” because it was an incredible growth or living year (that’s a success!) 
  • Treasures people and talent over anything else. 
  • Doesn’t backstab or discount or dismiss anyone. 
  • Doesn’t gossip or harm. 
  • Gives to my team, my clients and my community. 
  • Validates what is authentic, genuine, researched, loved. 
  • Explores what is curious, courageous, unsolved, undetermined, left astray. 
  • Replenishes what is lost.
  • Accepts what is lost.
  • Cherishes what is gained. 
  • Spreads light over what is dark. 
  • Speaks with grace; says goodbye with grace; provides constructive criticism with candor but still with grace.

These hopes for myself as a leader are qualities that I challenge myself to carry with me and apply to everyone I share this life with. The path I want to forge in this world will be a path of joy, understanding, acceptance, goodness for these are the only things worth living for and the only projects worth leading. 

Sheena

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WELLwomen provides coaching for leadership. Fill out of questionnaire, and a WELL professionally-certified coach will be in touch with you soon! 

You are allowed to evolve

You are allowed to evolve

“It probably has to do with the ease of remembering versus the difficulty of imagining. Most of us can remember who we were 10 years ago, but we find it hard to imagine who we are going to be. And then we mistakingly think that because it’s hard to imagine, it’s not likely to happen.

The bottom line is, time is a powerful force. It transforms our preferences; it reshapes our values; it alters our personalities. We seem to appreciate this fact, but only in retrospect; only when we look backwards do we realize how much change happens in a decade. It’s as if the present is a magic time, it’s a watershed on the timeline. It’s the moment at which we finally become ourselves. Human beings are works in progress that mistakingly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been.”

– Dan Gilbert, TED talk, June 3, 2014.

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I finished graduate school in May 2014. One month before Dan Gilbert gave his TED talk and said these words that ended up profoundly impacting my life. 

For some unknown reason, I figured you had to be committed to something: a career, a personality type, a look, an ideology, a theology, a hair color, an attitude. I assumed that who I was, was set! I had spent a lot of money in education to be this person in this field in these clothes in this body! 

But then I heard Dan Gilbert's talk and I remembered: You are allowed to evolve. 

That posits the very important question of how do you evolve your life? Let's start simple and then move on from there. 

Idea No. 1: Change your look

Dye your hair that beautiful lavender color you've been dreaming about. Go for the bold hair cut or decide to grow your hair long. Wear the torn jeans or the 5-inch heels. Slip on the courageous red lipstick. Changing your look is an easy way to adjust your temporary mood, feelings, attitude or perspective. Our hair, our clothes, our jewelry have a tantalizing power in that way. Moving from one look to the next sends signals to our brains to adjust our feelings. For example, coming home from work and slipping into our pajamas and oversized sweatshirt says, "Relax... leave all of your stress: you're home, you're safe." The same voice you'll hear when the little black dress tells your brain, "You're stunning and elegant and can solve all problems." Changing your look is a temporary card on a large spectrum of opportunities to try on a new you for the day (or month, or year). 

Idea No. 2: Learn a new skill

Sign up for the cooking or watercolor class. Try Pilates. Ballroom dancing is nice. When you decide to learn a new skill, you'll find yourself in new situations: new classrooms full of new people who will become new friends. Your brain will be wrestling with new concepts and new vocabulary. Your body will be figuring out new fine motor skills (it took me forever to properly eat with chopsticks in Japan). Learning a new skill places you outside of your norm, and this will bring with it new opportunities. 

Idea No. 3: Seek out a new community of friends

Finding a new group of friends is a great way to alter your perspectives or schedule. New friends mean new thoughts and ideas and new events to attend! New friends also come with new jokes, new celebrations, new opportunities to grow in myriad directions. 

Idea No. 4: Adjust your surroundings

This one can be as large or as subtle as you'd like it. It could mean just painting a room in your house, or buying a plant for the dullest corner. Or it could mean buy a new house, rent a new condo, find a new roommate. On the grandest scale, it could mean move to a different city with different weather patterns. Adjusting your surroundings will change the day-to-day habits that we tend to auto-pilot ourselves through. It will force you to see, hear, feel, move, think, act differently.

Idea No. 5: Jump career fields

This is a huge one, and one that will most likely take a little more planning but it's possible! If you can see yourself working in a new field, then pursue it. Find out what you will need to do and start to seek out how to do it. No one requires you to stay in the same field your entire life. I'm 32 and I've already been in journalism, law, dance and education! Don't let people convince you to stay when your heart and mind are telling you to go. 

Idea No. 6: Change your look and learn a new skill and find new friends and adjust your surroundings and jump career fields! Heck, why not?!

Literally, that is the freedom of evolving. You can do a little of it or all of it. You can do some this year and some next year or you can do them all this week. The goal is to grant yourself the freedom to evolve. Treasure the different chapters of your life (no matter how different they are from each other) and keep going! 

This is how you evolve. This is how your write the story of your life. 

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WELLwomen, Inc. offers Life & Wellness Coaching. If you are interested in a coaching session to clarify your vision, unravel stress or learn how to evolve your current circumstances, fill out our questionnaire and a coach will be in touch with you very soon! 

Sheena

Are You Disrespecting Other Women?

Are You Disrespecting Other Women?

Stay tuned for WELLwomen's workshop on female bullying: coming soon! 

Stay tuned for WELLwomen's workshop on female bullying: coming soon! 

Disrespecting someone means showing lack of caring for the feelings, traditions, rights or wishes of someone else. It also means lack of courtesy. 

Recently, I was incredibly disrespected by two women who I genuinely cared for, routed for, and supported. These women knew they had the power to choose how to handle something. Instead of taking a graceful, respectful route they chose a different route. I knew I was on the receiving end of disrespect, because there were 100+ other ways to handle this situation that would have left both parties feeling uplifted. Now, they may have their reasons for choosing this approach as opposed to having a professional, intelligent conversation, but here is where I pause: Is there ever good reasons to be disrespectful or hurtful or discourteous? 

I personally don’t think so. I personally don’t think disrespecting women (well, humans for that matter) is ever the way to move forward. There are better, more elevated ways to approach life. 

Are you knowingly or unknowingly disrespecting the women in your life? 

You may be disrespecting another woman if… 

You’re dismissing her thoughts, feelings, ideas, wishes or opinions. Being dismissive sends the direct message of “Who you are and what you’re feeling simply does not matter here.” Dr. Jamie Long, psychologist, says, “Invalidation is one of the most damaging forms of emotional abuse.” Are you ready to invalidate another woman? 

You’re standing by and allowing another female to be dismissed, bullied or disrespected. Being a witness and allowing it to happen makes us just as guilty. Know that you can stand up and say, "This isn't the best way to approach this." Standing up for your fellow females and keeping everyone in check, including yourself, is important here. It matters. 

You’re choosing to emotionally attack her personal attributes. As women, we tend to have easy access to our emotions. As author Emily V. Gordon says, women tend “compete, compare, undermine and undercut one another.” If you are choosing to personally attack a fellow female instead of having a professional, fact-based conversation, then you are actively disrespecting another woman. You are sending the message that she is not capable of having an important, non-emotional conversation, as well as ending the message that you are not capable of having that conversation either. 

You’re failing to return a greeting from a fellow female. Deliberately choosing to ignore another female is hurtful and immature. It only reinforces hurtful thoughts, feelings or behaviors on both sides. 

You’re speaking to a select group of people and not making eye contact or speaking with select others. This passive-aggressive attempt to not acknowledge another woman’s existence reminds me of behaviors you see on an elementary-school playground. It’s petty and clearly reveals your intention: to hurt someone else’s feelings, by choice. 

You’re name calling and gossiping. Talking about another woman under your prescribed label is extremely disrespectful to her, but also reveals your character and intelligence. It doesn’t help either one of you to live life at that level. Also, sharing a personal story of a fellow female’s that isn’t your story to tell is an invasion of her privacy and trust, sending her the message that you do not respect her. 

Your body language is closed, shut off or aggressive. This includes eye rolling, shouldering out someone, keeping your back to them, never making eye contact, avoidance. This body language reveals your inner thoughts of disrespect, anger, revenge, or whatever may be fueling it. Does this behavior make you feel empowered? 

You’re choosing to ignore the relationship. You may be friends or co-workers or family members. Whatever the relationship may be, if you’re choosing to move forward with actions or behaviors completely ignoring the relationship you have, you are telling the other woman that relationship doesn’t matter. You are telling that woman the time you spent developing that relationship doesn’t matter. 

You're knowingly manipulating her. If you have your own secret intentions and you’re using another woman, without her knowing, to achieve those intentions, that is manipulation. That is you using another woman’s feelings, energy, efforts, talents and time. Read that again: That is you using another woman. 

You’re withholding compliments she deserves. If another woman deserves a compliment but you’re choosing to withhold that, you are bullying her. For example, withholding deserved compliments such as, “Thank you for your efforts, time and energy here. You were an incredible asset” or “Your work here is wonderful. Your ideas really shined,” is a way of invalidating her efforts and time spent. Choosing to withhold a compliment is more about jealousy on the other end and less about what is fair and deserved. 

Nobody is perfect and sometimes we hurt our fellow females without intending to do so, but pausing before deciding to disrespect a fellow female will help our world. 

Instead of disrespecting her, show her the respect of a professional conversation. If she has asked for a response, provide her with a response. If she has asked for your assistance or feedback, and you are in a place to do so, uplift her with constructive feedback. 

Be the kind of woman you want to be and ask yourself: Do I want to be the kind of woman who chooses to disrespect other women? 

The goal is to encourage, uplift and support each other. Let us all move forward with that intention in this challenging but beautiful world. 

By: Sheena Jeffers, Chief Experience Officer, WELLwomen, Inc.

You are worthy. You can do this.

You are worthy. You can do this.

"I want to start running." This thought has never occurred to me before. It took me moving onto a sailboat where space is confined to first have this thought (at age 31). 

This morning, I got up, pulled on my stretchy gear, laced my shoes and started running? I have no idea what I'm doing, but I force myself to recall every running fact I could remember from elementary school: inhale three footstrikes, exhale for two; breathe through your nose and mouth continuously; run for one minute, walk for one minute. 

I ran through the small neighborhood that we have moved into. This is a quaint neighborhood and should definitely be used to film a movie one day. All of the neighbors know each other, so I'm "the new girl." I heard some whispers at the 4th of July parade: "That's the new girl. They live on a sailboat at the marina." They haven't asked me my name yet, but we're working on that. 

I said, "Good morning!" in the chirpiest tone I could muster while running and after only one cup of coffee. 

I ran all of the way to the bay then plopped myself down on the sand to catch my breath. 

That's when it occurred to me: I feel tremendously out of place

Who is this girl? Running? Living on a sailboat? Scheduled to crew in a race this evening? RUNNING?

When I start to self-doubt, I'm really great it. I immediately tell myself: You don't know what you're doing. You aren't strong enough (literally, muscular wise) but also, heck, while we're at it, you're not strong enough emotionally either. People know so much more than you. You're doing it wrong, for sure. You're making all of the mistakes. 

But as I sat there on the beach this morning I said to myself, "We aren't doing this. Not today. Not tomorrow. We're not doing this." And I reminded myself that I am worthy; I am strong; I am capable. 

So, just in case someone hasn't told you this today: 

  • You are worthy. Whatever you're hoping for lately, you are worthy of it. You are worthy of great love, of marriage (if you want it), of children (if you want them), of the promotion, of the life change, of weight loss or weight gain - whatever you're working on. You are worthy. 
  • You are strong. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Maybe you don't feel 100% strength every day, but the fact that you can ride the waves and remain yourself is strength. The fact that you recognize the give-and-take, the push-and-pull of it all, is strength. You carry your strength with you every morning and every minute of the day. 
  • You are capable. You can absolutely do this. There was ways to learn, people to guide, lessons to process. Whatever it is you're trying to achieve, know that you are capable. And if you're needing help figuring it out, do not be afraid of asking for help. 
  • You are powerful. Your energy is unique to you. Your thoughts are unique to you. Your approach, your desires, your skill set, your talents are unique to you. They are the patched quilt that makes up your visions, your decisions and who you are. That is powerful. That is a force. 
  • You will, you are making a difference. Throwing a small stone sends a ripple through the water for a long time. Everything you do, say, decide, choose, act upon sends a ripple. You are making a difference every moment of the day. 

I stood up from the beach feeling far stronger. And now when the taunting voices in my head say, "Who is this girl?" I have an answer: I am worthy. I am strong. I am capable. I am powerful. I will make a difference. 

I know you hear me, but are you listening?

I know you hear me, but are you listening?

So often we get caught up thinking that we are doing an awesome job at the whole listening thing.  We assume that we are nodding enough, that we are providing the right verbal prompts to keep the conversation going, that we can mentally multitask because this story is just draaaggggiinnnnngg on, we have to-do lists to make, and our coffee has gotten cold. 


Here’s the thing, hearing is not the same as listening.  This huge disconnect can sneak into both our professional and personal relationships with detrimental effects.  Not listening well can lead to misunderstandings, arguments, poor client relations and more. Let’s break it down…. 


Hearing is the act of perceiving sound by using your ears, it’s one of our five senses. We hear street noise, we notice a dog barking. For most of us, hearing just happens. 


Listening is an active exercise in hearing. Listening requires us to make the conscious choice to process the messages we are receiving and concentrate on interpreting (or decoding) those messages. 


There are TONS of barriers to listening, though, like:
•    We don’t think we need put work into listening;
•    We aren’t interested in what’s being said;
•    We don’t like the speaker or they aren’t speaking well;
•    We are constantly comparing what’s being said to what we already think/believe/know; or
•    We are succumbing to internal or external distractions. 


If we remove the barriers, listening still takes work because many of us fall into the bad habit of listening for the wrong reason. This can make us ineffective listeners if they aren’t the desired response from the speaker. Things like: 

Listening to respond
This happens when a person is speaking and mentions something that we relate or connect strongly to and we think of an awesome story or a great fact that we want to respond with and then….we stop listening. We stop listening because we are focused on what we want to say, not what the person is saying to us. 

Listening to judge
It’s a natural tendency to evaluate what’s being said as a person is speaking.  This gets sticky when we stop listening to learn/experience/empathize and we start listening to assess. Things like, “well, that’s not the best idea” or “are you sure that is what you want?” are statements judging what you’ve just heard.  Why is this ineffective? Because we get to the assessment before fully understanding the situation. Once an evaluative response is thrown out, it’s hard as a speaker to pick back up. 


Listening to fix
Have you ever wanted to just vent to a friend, colleague, or significant other and all they do is try to fix it? While sometimes helpful, it can end with feeling unheard or put off by the whole interaction. As a listener, it’s not our job to interject with solutions at every pause - it’s our job to listen until we’ve been asked to fix it which may not happen. (My favorite example of this is this very tongue in cheek video, check it out!)


So what do we do with all of that information? We practice. Listening effectively is an active choice to not be distracted and care more about what’s being said than about when you get to speak next. It’s about being active and present with the goal of understanding. A good practice if you are unsure of how to listen is to ask: would you like to hear my advice/experience/etc.? 


Listening is vital to connection and to progress. It’s not easy, but you’ve got this! 
xxJess

 

p.s. We're hosting on interactive workshop on the Practice of Reflective Listening on July 31, join us to get some practice!

Learning to Nurture

Learning to Nurture

This was going to be a commitment to a continuous series of actions to preserve something or someone I love. 

The Seven Devils

The Seven Devils

Poet Marie Howe said, "I love Magdalene. And I think of her as someone who really struggled with her subjectivity too and came into it and found herself. I’m fascinated by her as a woman who has lived over centuries, why she had to be made into this person." 

Mary Magdalene is a mysterious character in the Bible. A woman turned, verbally and through writings, into a prostitute and known for her physically intimate relationship with Jesus, which suggests kissing. 

The Bible says, "Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out." Luke 8:2.

But Marie Howe was curious: "Why she had to be made into this person..." 

She wrote a riveting poem about Mary Magdalene, giving Mary her own voice, about these unknown Seven Devils that men wrote had been cast out. 

Note: Mary was not actually a prostitute. She was never described as a prostitute in the Bible or that she had a sexually intimate relationship with Jesus. It was just always said about her. Mary Howe gave her a voice.

The Seven Devils by Marie Howe

The first was that I was very busy.

The second—I was different from you: whatever happened to you could
not happen to me, not like that.

The third—I worried.

The fourth—envy, disguised as compassion.

The fifth was that I refused to consider the quality of life of the aphid,
The aphid disgusted me.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The mosquito too—its face.    And the ant—its bifurcated body.

Ok   the first was that I was so busy. 

The second that I might make the wrong choice,
because I had decided to take that plane that day,
that flight, before noon, so as to arrive early
and, I shouldn’t have wanted that.
The third was that if I walked past the certain place on the street
the house would blow up.   

The fourth was that I was made of guts and blood with a thin layer
of skin lightly thrown over the whole thing.

The fifth was that the dead seemed more alive to me than the living

The sixth—if I touched my right arm I had to touch my left arm, and if I
touchedthe left arm a little harder than I’d first touched the right then I had
to retouch the left and then touch the right again so it would be even.  

The seventh—I knew I was breathing the expelled breath of everything that
was alive, and I couldn’t stand it.
I wanted a sieve, a mask, a, I hate this word—cheesecloth—
to breath through that would trap it—whatever was inside everyone else that
entered me when I breathed in.

No.  That was the first one.

The second was that I was so busy.  I had no time.   How had this happened?
How had our lives gotten like this?

The third was that I couldn’t eat food if I really saw it—distinct, separate
from me in a bowl or on a plate. 

Ok. The first was that. I could never get to the end of the list.
The second was that the laundry was never finally done.

The third was that no one knew me, although they thought they did.
And that if people thought of me as little as I thought of them then what was
love?  

The fourth was I didn’t belong to anyone. I wouldn’t allow myself to belong
to anyone.

The fifth was that I knew none of us could ever know what we didn’t know.

The sixth was that I projected onto others what I myself was feeling.

The seventh was the way my mother looked   when she was dying, 
the sound she made—her mouth wrenched to the right and cupped open
so as to take in as much air… the gurgling sound, so loud
we had to speak louder to hear each other over it.

And that I couldn’t stop hearing it—years later—grocery shopping, crossing the street—

No, not the sound—it was   her body’s hunger
finally evident—what our mother had hidden all her life.

For months I dreamt of knucklebones and roots,   
the slabs of sidewalk pushed up like crooked teeth by what grew underneath.

The underneath.  That was the first devil.   It was always with me
And that I didn’t think you—if I told you—would understand any of this—

Copyright © 2008 by Marie Howe. Originally published in American Poetry Review

Hi, from Sheena & Jess!

Hi, from Sheena & Jess!

Hello, lovely! 

We are so glad you're here! The About WELL page introduces both of us, but we want you to know us a little better. 

How Sheena & Jess became Sheena & Jess...

You know how your parents always said "don't talk to strangers!"? Well, we don't really believe in that mantra.

In 2012, Jess was ending her first year of grad school at ODU (Let's go Monarchs!) and needed a new apartment.  She researched beach-y places and ended up in Ocean View, moving in with a young professional woman she didn't know beyond the interview lunch...did we mention she found the place on CraigsList?

A few months later, Sheena made the huge decision to leave her corporate role of several years and return to Hampton Roads to pursue a grad degree in the arts. She signed an OV lease (again, off of CraigsList!! Sorry, moms!) after only meeting one of the two roommates, since Jess was never free at the same times.

Two months after sharing a residence, we finally met in person. It's been an amazing whirlwind of projects, growth, coffee, yoga, wine, and sand ever since. 

Five things Sheena wants you to know about Jess:

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1. You cannot speak to Jess before she's had coffee in the morning. If you decide to proceed and talk anyway, she will stare at you and walk right past you as if she heard nothing at all. 

2. She is the best person with which to test academic research at a bar. 

3. She will point out important key facts to you at important key times. For example: "Sheena, that is not a tropical beach bird. That's someone's pet.

4. She is an excellent friend: giving you a listening ear, when you need it; following up on you, when you need it; celebrating or crying with you, when you need it. 

5. She appreciates receiving selfies with her cat, mostly because he won't pose with her.

 

Five things Jess wants you to know about Sheena: 

1.  Sheena will stretch on anything, anywhere. She'll do a full yoga flow in the kitchen. 

2.  She will say your name as a statement while raising her eyebrows to emphasize a point.  Example: "JESS. Jess, There's a bird in the house."

3.  Sheena has tiny feet, which comes in handy since her shoes take up less room.  Like the 10 pairs that are always in her car. Along w/the tutu.

4.  She's incredibly patient with her dance students of all ages and abilities. Even when those kids just won't stand on their dot.

5. Sheena's a passionate advocate for everyone in her life.  She'll brainstorm and fight for your dreams as hard as you do.