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Memory & Motivation Board

Almost as soon as I moved into my new apartment back in March, I imagined having a big board above my desk with all my photos and post cards and trinkets from my life and travels. I finally had the opportunity to put together what I am calling my Memory & Motivation Board. Since it is a collection of so many fond travel memories, good friends, special moments, and also contains motivational phrases, I thought that was a more suitable name than what most call a vision board. Read More

Rise & Shine!

Whew! I finally landed on my personal theme for 2012.  It took me a little longer than normal to find the right slogan/phrase/theme. I suppose, that’s because this year, it has to align with both my personal and business goals, seeing that I am now an entrepreneur and business owner.

For those of you who have been following On The Bright Side since my days in Japan, you’ll know that this is something that I’ve done for awhile – choose a theme for the year in lieu of creating a list of resolutions.  What I like very much about this process is that a theme is more motivating than a list of promises, which can easily be broken. Who wants to start the year off a failure?  Instead, a theme of the year is something to strive for, live up to and ultimately, achieve.

My theme for 2012 is: RISE & SHINE!

I love this! While 2011 was THE REINVENTION OF SHANNA B, with the adjustment of being in the US after 8 years abroad, 2012 serves as a serious wake up call. Sort of a make or brake situation! In growing my business, I want to rise to the top. I want Beaming Bohemian to be a success. Not only do I want to feel accomplished, but I want my work to stand out from the rest and be a shining example for other to follow. So that’s why I feel RISE & SHINE well fits my goals for this year.

Previous personal themes have been:

2011 – The Reinvention of Shanna B.

2010 – Rise to the occasion

2009 – Knock it outta da park

2008 – Live the dream

2007 – Get Ready, Get Set, Go! (With the subtheme of “Graceful goodbyes and enthusiastic beginnings” – I was leaving Japan in July that year)

2006 – Better and Stronger

2005 – Step up the Pep


How about you?  Do you set New Year Resolutions or have you tried choosing a personal theme to keep you on track all year? What goals do you have for 2012?




When I grow up…

REMEMBER WHAT YOU WANTED TO BE – Never sell yourself short. Whatever the circumstances, however low you may feel, recall your hopes and plans. Use them as your benchmark: reassess your position and aim high again. – Patrick Lindsay, Now Is The Time

The neighbors on Alderson Street were families with boys.  The only other girl was Ellen Robinson, two doors down.  But Ellen really liked to play with Barbie. She had the mansion, the pool, the Jeep, and several of Barbie’s companions.  I had Barbie and Skipper and a few changes of clothes.  I was too much of a tomboy to get all fussy about what Barbie should wear.

With a street full of boys, I often played sports in the street. And yet there were many days I wasn’t allowed to hang with the guys.  On those occasions, I took to playing office at my desk. I loved office forms and carbon paper. I madly filled out forms, filed papers in some sensible fashion and enjoyed the sensation that I was “getting something done.”  My second favorite game was playing boutique.  I would hang my clothes up all over my room and then have to bounce between the roles of customer, shop girl and cashier (complete with a toy cash register but a real cash drawer in the desk drawer).  With my love of office forms, came also my love of receipts and price tag stickers and things I could use to make my imaginary adult life a little more real.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I began a lucrative little adventure called Hosting Helpers.  It began when I worked a few parties for a senior named Lisa who had her own little biz, Party Partners. (I so wanted to use that name for my business!) She showed me the ropes for hosting events, and how to let the real hosts of the party enjoy themselves.  The job entailed preparing the food tables, keeping the house free of empty glasses and thrown away napkins, making sure the chip bowl was full and doing all the dishes at the end of the night.  Lisa was graduating and wanted to turn over her business to someone else.  My dear friend, Rae Meadows essentially became my partner as we helped host parties all over San Diego.  We would wear black pants, tuxedo shirts, complete with red bow tie and cummerbund. We worked weddings, BBQs, office parties, progressive dinners, and any number of holiday parties.

We were a hit. And with every party we hosted, we usually gained another client, simply by displaying my business card.  I sent out reminders about the holiday season at the beginning of November, which helped us book up every weekend leading to Christmas. The minimum wage was $3.35 per hour, at the time. We pulled $6.00 per hour plus tips; I loved having the money to buy nice Christmas gifts for my family. Hosting Helpers got me a mention in the school newspaper and helped me develop a love for event planning, which has been at the core of most jobs in my long marketing career.

There was an entrepreneurial spirit in me, even as a young teenager.  I secretly believed I could run a multi-national business, just by employing staff to host a party. I had no desire to cater, just a desire to employ well-trained party planners and hosts. I envisioned myself with an executive office at the top of some high rise in an unidentified city (Come to think of it, I don’t remember feeling that it was San Diego – I can still picture the skyline from my vision).  Hosting Helpers International never came to be, but what a big, fun dream it was.

Here I am now, well into adulthood, back in my hometown, San Diego and dreaming once again of what my business will look like. With great enthusiasm and anticipation, I launched the Beaming Bohemian website on May 1, 2011. Since that time, I’ve picked up a few clients, continue to chase leads, but more significantly, continue to shape how I want my business to grow.  I am heavily in R&D and working to narrow my focus.  One aspect I have enjoyed the most is reconnecting with old friends and exploring a variety of options.

Admittedly, launching a new business is a struggle. It is frightening, quite frankly, and it is ridiculously hard work.  Beaming Bohemian is quickly becoming the toughest challenge I have ever faced in my life.  It turns out that re-establishment is WAY harder than settling into someplace foreign… even if that place is a Hanoi, Vietnam or a Shizuoka, Japan.  While abroad, I learned that I am completely comfortable with being in foreign places, adjusting to new ways of life, hearing foreign tongues, adopting strange cultural rituals, and simply soaking up life as it comes.

Feeling like a foreigner in the U.S., in California, in San Diego – which should feel like home, is a hilarious new game I am trying to master.  Fact of the matter is, I have never been more uncomfortable in my life. But I know, I really know that out of great discomfort comes great life lessons.  At heart, I am still full of adventure, still willing to take huge risks and still full of patience to understand what life is going to throw my way.  All the while, I have never forget that little girl inside me, the one with immeasurable creativity and imagination, such high aspirations and totally blind confidence.  My desk no longer contains a cash drawer and all those fancy office forms, but it is still the hub for crafting my dreams, working my plan and creating a very lovely life.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  It’s 2011!  How about that!  What did you do this year for the holiday? Where did you celebrate? I enjoyed O’Brien’s with Sarah, much like I did ringing in 2008, but this year I did NOT kiss the bartender at midnight! ;p

I think it’s safe to say that most of us are happy to put 2010 behind us.  For many of my friends, it seems, this past year was a struggle.  I think we are all welcoming a new year, a breath of fresh air in with open arms and lots of optimism.  I am definitely ready to start anew.

As many of you may remember, I’m not one to make a long list of resolutions each year.  Sometime while in Japan, I decided to just make a theme for the year.  2010, for example was “Rise to It” which was part of a movie quote “Life is an occasion. Rise to it.”  And that was how I was feeling at the beginning of 2010.

My theme for 2011 is – The Reinvention of Shanna B. – I think it’s perfect for what lies ahead of me this year. I’m in new surroundings (sort of), I am leaning towards starting my own business versus getting a job, I need to figure out where I will live (SD or LA) and have the greatest hope that love will be mine.  I think that all gets summed up nicely in “Reinvention.”

I’m excited for this year, excited for all that is to come and ready to move forward and toward great things.

What would your theme be this year?


Here’s another shot of Sarah, Jake and I – the terrible threesome for the evening:


Next Chapter

When I first moved to Vietnam, I anticipated staying for five years, as I felt I needed to give it as much of a go as I did my time in Japan.  If I look back at my Japan experience after year two, I think, “Wow, I would have never come back with the appreciation for Japan after year two as I did after five.”  Naturally, of course, but also because I hadn’t really fallen into my pace of life and routine which allowed me to flourish in year 3 – 5.  BIG difference in my work and lifestyle in those last three years than the first two.

As the end of my contract in Vietnam was approaching, and Kurt and I were having some discussions regarding the owners plans for the group, I sat down with myself and re-evaluated my situation.  Our discussions were sort of a wake-up call for me and I wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing by renewing my contract.

Vietnam is a much more intense city than Shizuoka, Japan or San Diego, California.  Everyday poses some challenge, whether in a taxi ride or with work or even establishing a social life in what turns out to be a small town, Hanoi.  I considered the direction of my career, having made a conscious decision to return to sales and marketing after a six year break with teaching and traveling. I have really missed teaching over the last two years, despite rising to the challenges of a much more demanding job.  There was something very special about walking into a classroom full of fifth graders and teaching them to connect via a language that was not their own.  There was something so utterly delightful about playing Simon Says and singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” with kids who never got tired of the program and who participated with a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm.  Dare I say that a classroom full of eleven year olds is much more my element than an office with a computer and a very long TO DO list.

At the same time, I am a creative person at my core, and working in sales and marketing allows me to tap into these qualities on a much higher level.  And I’ve loved working with my sales teams to push their own boundaries of creativity, to help them to think  “outside the box.”  For these two years, I have very much been a teacher, but on a much more complex topic than getting my audience to understand the meaning of, “How old are you?”  I’ve had any number of a-ha moments with my staff, and when a certain point or message hits home with them, I am also deeply satisfied.

I’ve had to take another look at my personal life, which was the biggest factor in my deciding to return to the States for now.  At 40, I’m still an independent woman.  And while my spirit of independence will always remain, I do have the desire for a partner and family.  As I’ve said to some, “I really want to find my dude.”  And I don’t think that is really possible for a Western woman living in Asia.  Most definitely, the men who come to Asia are interested in Asian women or come to work with their families in tow.  Many of the single men I’ve met are a good decade younger than me.  And while a little rendezvous with a twenty-something can be a heck of a lot of fun once in awhile, I never can take the encounter seriously.

With my window of time to have a child closing, I need to put myself in a better and, shall we say, more productive environment.  And so my decision to move back to the US is largely a personal one. I’m not at all ashamed to say that…I believe a healthy personal life makes for a more enriching professional one.

There are a lot of huge question marks in front of me.  Kurt and I haven’t even decided the day I will return to San Diego, although it won’t be later than the 15th.  Once I land, I’m mostly interested in enjoying the heck out of the holidays, however I plan to squeeze in a bit of business before too much holiday cheer. I know I will insist to squeeze my niece to death as I have missed her so much and wish I could reach through the computer screen when she’s on skype with my folks.

And once I return, I’ll do a lot of thinking.  What do I really want out of my life.  Where do I really want to live and what kind of life do I envision for myself??? Those are pretty hefty questions and I’m at a point in my life where I need to find the answers.  A new chapter is about to begin…

Giving Alms

Today was such a special day.  We got up at 5am and met our friend Sith at 5:30am to give alms to the Monks.  This is a daily ritual in Luang Prabang, but today was special because it was the dawn of the day which was the end of the 3 month Buddhist Lent.  Most mornings, men and women line the streets and provide alms to the monks.  The offer mostly sticky rice, boiled eggs and some bags of veggies or other healthy items.  But because today was a celebration for all…wow…it was amazing!  I really honestly believe that everyone who lives in Luang Prabang was in the streets.  And it wasn’t just adults.  Kids were awake too and they were eager to participate.  And in addition to sticky rice, the monks received plenty of treats and snacks. The mood was festive and upbeat and Pete and I felt really lucky to be invited to participate as a local…not just take pictures like all the other tourists.

We did feel a little funny, though, as Sith and his girlfriend lead us from one street to the next so we could give out as much as possible.  At one point, we were actually running ahead of the monks so we could get in line and give out alms.  Important to note that women, like the nuns in this picture, must kneel.  Men can stand.

Alongside of the monks, young boys walked beside them with large baskets filled with all the treats the monks receive.  You see, the monks receive so much more than usual, they need to dump their bowls in order to receive more and finish their rounds in the neighborhood.


Once the monks have finished receiving their alms, they return to their temple, divide the food up among all of the monks, keeping just a meager amount for themselves, and then prepare offering to Buddha and many gifts for the poor.  All day families bring their tray of offerings to have blessed by the monks, which later they will eat at home.  It’s really a special time to be in Laos, and this Buddhist holiday is precisely why Pete and I chose this weekend to visit.  Just wait till I tell you about the festival!




Have a look at my photos from Luang Prabang – more than just morning alms!


On the Bright Side,



CAN-DO in Haiti

9/2010 – UPDATE

I’ve been following this organization since I found CAN-DO in July.  I continue to be impressed with how much CAN-DO can do with modest funding.  On Founder Eric Klein’s Facebook, he talks about hiring electricians, installing boxes and lights all through the building for $500. This was just one check on the TO DO list for the Orphanage Revitalization Project which kicked off at Patience Orphanage earlier in the month.  Local craftsmen built and installed kitchen cabinets for $625.  Bunk beds and mattresses were found for little more than $300. And that electricity? First time this orphanage has ever had lights!

It’s been terrific to see their work unfold and I was and am so moved by their efforts that I donated $100 to their organization.  I wanted to provide some help, and I have 100% confidence that my donation reached them and went into repairing that orphanage and putting a few smiles on some very special kids’ faces.

I don’t often use my blog to promote or publicize, but I feel very strongly that CAN-DO is the David versus the Goliath of NGOs. The big NGOs have collected millions of dollars in donations, filled up over 50 warehouses of goods, but have done very little to ensure that the assistance falls into the hands who need it.  This is the biggest flaw in the system – accountability. And this is where CAN-DO comes in.  This is very much a grassroots organization which was on the ground in Haiti just 72 hours after the quake, and has made several trips to distribute medical supplies and food, provide water, build structures, and now revitalize orphanages and build sustainable shelter. They work with and employ the locals, pay local companies to rent trucks, cut through red tape and deliver the goods where needed.  As Founder, Eric Klein says in THIS VIDEO, “It’s not brain surgery.”  It is refreshing to watch this organization’s “no-nonsense” approach and see real results.

If you’d like to visit the CAN-DO website to learn more, please go to: www.can-do.org.

To watch the 9/2010 video of their work to date and a reality check of what’s happening in Haiti, you can view on You Tube or the home page.

I also enjoyed this video posted of a moment in the field.

If you’d like to learn more about their Haiti Domes Project (which is really cool) they have a dedicated site www.haitidomesproject.com

And finally, if you want to continue to follow CAN-DO’s projects in Haiti, you can Like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CanDo.Org or for tweeters follow @candoorg.

I’m really pleased to shine the spotlight on this organization.  And when you take a moment to learn more, I think you, too, will become a huge fan of CAN-DO.ORG.



I was sitting in my hotel room excited that I had most of the evening to myself.  Ms. Lan, who was with me in HCMC to conduct sales calls had plans for dinner with a travel agent who didn’t speak English and who claimed she already met me.  So much for me trying to build relations.

As I normally do when I’m in a hotel room, I turned on CNN to catch up with my news.  It was a brief segment on Haiti which caught my attention.  The situation is still dire after six months and much of the aide that was sent is caught up in red tape, sitting in warehouses, not being delivered to the people in need.  Good old Sanjay called on of his “contacts” who happened to be a guy who runs an organization which is actually bypassing all of the bureaucratic nonsense, putting donations to work by paying for trucks and labor,  filling up the trucks with supplies and delivering them to the people.  Sanjay happened to be at an orphanage which was desperate to feed hungry and malnourished children.

I sat back and thought to myself a bit.  I’m ashamed that I haven’t really thought of Haiti too much recently.  And yet here was a guy and an organization using personal and donated funds, risking personal safety and health and helping to clean up a complete and utter disaster.  I looked down at my notes from my appointments, “Discussed contract rate which is always an issue. Market still price conscious. Low season lower than last year. Eager for specials and discounts. Look to get the charter and reply on series booking.”  Wow. My “work” for the day seemed like blowing dust instead of moving mountains.

I did a bit more research on CAN-DO.ORG.  I discovered that they’ve been helping with recovery efforts in Sri Lanka after the tsunami in 2004, with Hurricane Katrina, the Iowa floods and now very much so with Haiti, among a host of other programs.  Impressive, to say the least.

I was compelled to write to the founder, Eric Klein, to lend moral support and congratulate him on his efforts and well as see how I might do some volunteer work, even from afar.  It’s a sound organization, remaining accountable for the donations it receives by filming all the drops and deliveries.  So in short turn around, you can see your name on a water or delivery truck which you helped pay for.  They do this through their www.virtualvolunteer.tv channel, also posting updates and any news they are featured in.

You know sometimes we meet someone, see something, read or hear news which lends us those ah-ha moments in life, the epiphany that allows us to envision a better version of ourselves, to look up and admire someone and hope that we can possess just an ounce of that compassion and drive which makes them a truly remarkable person. That was me in my hotel room in HCMC, wishing I could be as bold and brave as those folks helping the Haitians.

I hope you’ll take a moment to visit this website, learn more about the good work these people are doing and hopefully make a donation so they can remain on the ground helping where it matters and really getting it done.  If you’ve already made a donation to an NGO or NPO, I have to ask if you have followed up to ask where your money and contributions have gone?  It’s very clear that there is a huge lack of accountability with far too many and even very large organizations.  If you did already make a contribution, raise your voice and ask for a progress report. Because from what it appears on CNN and with reports from workers joining forces with CAN-DO.ORG, Haiti is off the radar, it’s been just six months since the earthquake and the people are still very much in need of help.



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