Thursday, September 29, 2016

Nerd Nest Media - Designed for Small Businesses

Nerd Nest Media
Photo courtesy Nerd Nest Media
Breanne Smith, owner of Nerd Nest Media, is one of those people with whom you just instantly connect. In fact, I just wanted to sit and chat with her all morning. Breanne Smith is a unique breed of web designer. She speaks our language, she's super responsive, and she's focused on serving and advocating for small businesses and solopreneurs. Nerd Nest Media offers affordable turnkey web design and branding as well as hourly consulting and training services. Whether you need a new web design, better SEO (Search Engine Optimization), or just some help in setting up your blog, Nerd Nest Media has you in mind.

To The Rescue

Breanne hasn't always been a web designer, but I think Nerd Nest Media is her true calling. Breanne shared the story about her parents that prompted her to start a web design business. Her parents had just opened a small business and needed a website. They contracted with a company to build the site, but the website never materialized, despite its high cost. Breanne came to the rescue. She fired the original company and contracted with someone else to build the site.

Breanne says she quickly realized that small businesses had few places to turn for good web design. Most designers charged more than a small business could justify.  Business owners' phone calls weren't returned by the designers. The websites arrived without functionality. Marketing companies offer websites, but "marketing is not web building," she says. Many marketing companies simply contract out the web build to subcontractors with sub par results. As a result, many small business owners opt for free or inexpensive, easy-to-build websites and templates that do not always speak well with Google.

So, Breanne enrolled in school to become a web designer. She wanted to build good, smart web sites with good SEO for small businesses at an affordable price. But she also wanted to serve the small business community with integrity, compassion and understanding. Breanne also wanted to bring a softer side to web design and branding. She says emotions matter - it's not just a technical business, but also a personal business.

Tailored Technology For You

I get the sense Nerd Nest Media wants to be your partner to manage your technology needs. Breanne offers a collaborative and responsive process for designing your website and maintaining it. She really listens when you talk, giving her the ability to capture what you want before she does what she calls the nerdy work. She'll call you back promptly and won't leave you hanging out there in a technological abyss. She says she wants not only to provide small businesses with access to good web design, but also to give them some power back. Plus, she's just a joy to work with.

After talking with Breanne I felt like I had a better understanding of the technicalities of my blog and its SEO. That's a huge part of what Nerd Nest Media is about. Not only will Breanne work with you to develop a web design and brand that fits you perfectly, she will also teach you how to do as much of the updating and maintenance to your site as you wish. She has a very special knack for explaining how the technology works.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Lisa is Sharing Portland One Story at a Time

Special Guest Post! I asked Cindy Hooker of Gold Dog Consulting to share my story.

When you first meet Lisa, you will be at ease with her genuine smile and sparkle in her eyes. She loves people and you can tell.  When we became acquainted a couple of years ago, I immediately felt as if I could trust her. That’s rare for a realtor—at least for me.  There’s something extraordinary about Lisa, and I think it’s her ability to focus solely on whomever she is interacting with at the time.

Lisa's Portland Story

One could mistake Lisa for a homegrown Oregonian. We pride ourselves in the number of generations that we have ticked off in our green state. Nevertheless, Lisa epitomizes the best of what Portland used to be, and what it can be: super friendly, helpful, green, shops local and loves dogs.

Lisa moved here in 2007 after a successful career as a paralegal in Sacramento. She says the reason she loves Portland so much is because, “It isn’t a franchise city.” Indeed Portland was listed in a Biz2credit study as “second-highest average revenue in the U.S. for businesses with fewer than 250 employees or under $10 million average revenue. (California’s Riverside–San Bernardino metro area was in first place.) The culture of the city supports and celebrates all things local, small, and handmade, and the economics and politics of the city have warded off cookie-cutter strip malls and big-box plazas.” (

Moving to Real Estate

A few years after her arrival here, she did a complete pivot and pursued a career in real estate, where she has thrived because her joy of the transaction. As she talks about her passion in helping her clients, she glows. “Buying a home can be a confusing, complicated transaction. I love giving them advice and helping them find their dream home.” Lisa counsels clients with wisdom and assurance, and says there is a moment in the transaction, where I hand them the keys to their new home, when they think, “This is really happening.” She beams as she says this.

Lisa Biking at the Gorge
Lisa Riding in the Gorge
Lisa’s strength as a realtor is her value of placing people first. Her clients come first, not the sale. She sees the real estate transaction as a collaborative process in order to help her clients and make the transaction better so her clients can focus on their decision. Lisa will even go out of her way to get the other side’s work done.

This passion for people, and her love of all things Portland, inspired Lisa to write a blog, Faces From the Neighborhood.  Lisa describes it best herself, “Faces From the Neighborhood shares the stories of local people following their dreams in Portland and enriching the communities where we live. This blog is a personal journey and a joy. If we take the time to get to know the people we see every day, they have beautiful and inspiring stories to tell. These people prove to me every day that the community spirit is alive in Portland.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jen Coughlin is Paying It Forward

Photo source: Jen Coughlin
There's something amazing about the human spirit. It shines brightly in what might seem like unexpected places and shares its warmth and hope. Jen Coughlin is beaming with this spirit - it's just part of who she is. For the last several months, Jen has fought a personal battle with cancer and watched a good friend go through the same thing. Yet, Jen radiates a type of loving peace. She says she's been blessed with love and support throughout her battle, and now she wants to pay it forward.

When I first met Jen I admit my first thought was, "She's fighting cancer? She's glowing with beauty." After just speaking with her for a few moments I understood. She's just that way. We sat on her front porch while she shared her story, and I soaked it all in.

Jen's Story

Her journey began when a good friend was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of the year. This diagnosis prompted Jen to go in for her own mammogram. Three weeks later, Jen was diagnosed with the same type of cancer. Jen was told they caught the cancer in its early stages, but she still opted for surgery. The story quickly changed. The surgeons discovered that cancer had actually spread to her lymph nodes, and now Jen needed more radical treatment.

After recovering from major surgery, Jen endured chemotherapy. But she wasn't alone. Support was rolling in. Friends brought food. Handwritten cards arrived (she's got a whole bag full.) A friend made Jen a special quilt she took along to treatments. Her husband built her a recovery corner on their front porch so she could enjoy the outdoors while she recuperated. I could see the joy of gratitude in her eyes and hear it in her voice as she spoke about it. Now, she wants to give back.

Paying It Forward

Jen had a break between surgeries and chemotherapy and the upcoming radiation. She has used this time to give back, or pay it forward as she says. She started a team for the Susan G. Komen "Race for the Cure" and began to raise money. She's even going to walk the 5K course with her young son. Her team members will wear bands of peonies. Jen says that she wants to do everything in her power to help beat cancer.

Healing Corner. Source: Jen Coughlin
Jen has done an amazing thing. Her team has raised over $11,000. In fact, the Susan G. Komen organization noticed what she was up to, and Jen's team will have its own special tent at the race on September 18 in Portland. No other individual has ever raised this much money. This fundraising total is an incredible feat.

I asked Jen how she raised all this money. She smiled and said she harassed her friends. I think it's really more than that. Yes, she used email campaigns and social media, but I think her success also came from who and how she is. Jen is transparent about her story and what she's going through. She wants people to understand how serious cancer is and that it can happen to anyone at anytime. She is acting as a public service messenger so fewer women will have to go through what she has. I think this message resonated, and people started donating good chunks of money.

Jen's Spirit

Jen says she's very grateful for all the support and love she has received. She spoke fondly of all the nurses who have helped her and her entire medical team. Instead of focusing on the negative, she has chosen to focus on what is good and to help herself. Now ,she is also helping others. I think Jen will be back every year to raise money with "Race for the Cure." I also think her spirit will also help heal those who meet and know her.

There's still time to support Jen's team and help pay it forward. Donate Here. Or just simply share this story to share the message of hope and love.

Photo source: Jen Coughlin

Monday, September 5, 2016

Eastside Village PDX - A Community for Aging in Place

Photo Source: Eastside Village PDX
Eastside Village is a plan whose time has come. Eastside Village is a community, not a place. It describes itself as a group of like-minded people who live in the same geographic area and who have developed resources to help the community age in place. According to a recent survey by the American College of Financial Services, more and more people want to age in place. Eastside Village, and other Villages like it, are providing the community and the services that help make aging in place possible.

It Takes A Village: I recently met with Cary Hixon, who sits on the board of directors for Eastside Village PDX. I immediately felt her warmth and her enthusiasm for this new community. I wanted to join the community and be part of it. She spoke of people making new friends, community members making lasting connections, and community members volunteering their time to assist other members. She spoke of a community that not only supported each other emotionally, but also in a more practical sense through its services. I left our meeting feeling some of that same enthusiasm for this village and others like it, believing that these communities are a wonderful and comprehensive plan for aging in place.

Photo Source: Eastside Village PDX
Age in Place: Eastside Village exists to help older adults and people with disabilities live at home safely as long as they choose. To accomplish this goal, the village manages a network of volunteer and vendor-provided services to help the members within the community. Volunteer services range from pet watching, running errands, grocery shopping and transportation to medical appointments. The village also maintains a list of vetted vendors to provide other services, such as home maintenance and yard care.

Volunteering for Community: Many of the community's volunteers are members of the community themselves. I think this practice is brilliant. I can think of no better way to sustain and enrich the community than having its members give back to it. You can also volunteer at the village without being a member. Cary reports the village always needs volunteer drivers. Because drivers are thoroughly vetted and trained and must have safe cars, not all volunteers want to take the time to complete this process.

The Village Movement: Eastside Village PDX is not the first Village in the country, but it is the first active Village in Portland. The Village Concept started in Boston in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. A group of people in the neighborhood realized they lacked the appropriate resources for aging in place. After a group of graduate students studied the problem and came up with the general idea, the Village in Beacon Hill was born. This first Village inspired a movement across the country to create Villages in other neighborhoods and communities.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mt. Tabor Park - Urban Sanctuary and Retreat

View looking west from car-free road above middle reservoir
Nature offers us a place for reflection, rejuvenation and relaxation. We each find our own special places in nature that speak to us and provide a space of peace and joy. Mt. Tabor Park is one of my special places. Fortunate enough to live at its doorstep, I head into the park frequently in all seasons and always leave in a better mental place than when I entered.

Be In Nature: Every time I enter the park I am amazed. I'm amazed that there's such a natural retreat in the heart of a bustling city. You can hear the birds. You can really feel the breeze. You can smell and almost taste nature. I know the park is teeming with wildlife, and on quiet days you can almost hear the animals going about their business.

There are few places like this within a city, where you can easily escape the urban and reach something more natural - a place where you feel almost outside the city within it.

Reservoirs of Beauty: I'm also amazed at the natural beauty within and outside the park. Of course, the park has those iconic reservoirs. Man made bodies of water that just seem like such a natural fit there. Created originally to hold drinking water and now being disconnected from Portland's water system, the reservoirs give the park a unique feel. The water is soothing. The structure and walls of the reservoir reflect the heritage of Portland and almost take me back in time. It's sad to see the reservoirs go out of use, but they also remind me how life changes and still retains its beauty.

Stairs in Mt. Tabor Park
Urban Volcano: Sometimes I forget Mt. Tabor is actually a dormant volcano. Most of the volcanoes we know  - and can see from the park - like Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens or Mt. Ranier, are larger and well-known peaks. Standing only 636 feet high, Mt. Tabor has been extinct for over 300,000 years. Yet, Mt. Tabor is still a visible peak within the city. Look out towards Southeast Portland from Terwilliger Boulevard, and you can see Mt. Tabor rising above SE Hawthorne. I wonder what life was like here when Mt. Tabor and other neighboring volcanoes were active?

Explore Tabor: Mt. Tabor Park is one of my favorite places to walk. The park is almost 191 acres, and hiking trails meander through the entire park. It's easy to walk for a few hours within the park along different trails. For variety, you can also climb stairs. I also like to take my bike into the park. The roads provide a great circuit for hill climbing and a quick work-out. In fact, there's even a local bike racing series in the park. A few roads are always closed to cars, and Wednesdays are car-free day in the park.

Fun in the Park: The park also offers other recreational activities. The park has a great play ground, a wonderful amphitheater, and plentiful picnic tables. On sunny days, picnickers dot the grassy fields surrounding the middle reservoirs along the soap box derby course. And yes, there is actually an annual soap box derby held every August. There's even a dog park on the south end of the park. Skateboarders flock to the park on car-free days.

Urban Serenity: But mostly the attraction for me is the beauty and serenity I find there. No matter which walking loop I take, I spot great views of Mt. Hood or Portland. I wonder at the forest within the city and the life it hosts. I slow down and have time to just "be" and aware of my surroundings. I find refuge from a hectic life, recapture the joy of life, and feel gratitude for just being alive.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Personal Touch of Barb's Metal Magic

Photo Credit: Barbara Brosh
Every time I sit down to talk with someone for this blog, I'm never quite sure what story I'll hear or what story I'll share. Yet, I'm always entranced by everyone's story and amazed by all the fascinating people living here in Portland. It was the same with Barbara Brosh of Barb's Metal Magic. Barbara's got a pretty neat story. She makes stunning jewelry from metal, wire and stones, but she also embodies a spirit of warmth that brightens those it touches.

The Mettle of Determination: Barbara says she's always been interested in jewelry, so when she retired she set about learning how to make it. She enrolled in classes at Mt. Hood Community College to learn how to work with metal. At first she felt discouraged and wanted to drop the classes. But she stuck it out. She made friends, found mentors, and kept making jewelry.

Creative Fire: Barbara says some of her favorite pieces start as mistakes, which gives her work an organic look and feel. She also has a bit of a penchant for working with fire. She has fun melting things, and loves how the edges get weird. Perhaps she's attracted to the warmth and light of the flame and the enduring passion it represents. I think she has a certain determined creativity, as well as a deep connection with her art that grows over time. In fact, that's how she lives her life.

Photo Credit: Barbara Brosh
Deep Compassion: Barbara was a nurse for many years in many different settings. She worked in a hospital, she worked with the disabled, she worked in a nursing home, and she worked in a corrections facility. She started her medical career as an aide, but went back to school at age 40 to finish her nursing education. She talked of juggling school, work and family. As Barbara spoke fondly of working with her patients, her compassion spoke louder than her words.

Connections: I think compassion and connection are a huge part of what drives Barbara. As we chat, she tells me about her class reunions with her 8th grade class. Wow! I'm not even sure I remember but one or two people from my 8th grade class. She also meets up regularly with a roommate she had many years ago while living in San Jose. It's apparent Barbara values her connections with people and remains a loyal friend. How many of us take the time out of our busy lives to stay in touch like that? Barbara is really something special.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Jessica McCarthy and the Creativity Behind Jam On It

Photo courtesy of Jessica McCarthy
Jessica McCarthy is the creative genius behind Jam On It. Jam On It may be in its infancy, but it's about to take the Portland jam world by storm. Jessica is cooking up the most flavor-packed sweet and savory jams I've seen in awhile. She's got a jam for just about everyone. And everyone will be coming back for more.

Jam Envy: I first met Jessica at the pop-up market I hosted in June. Immediately entranced by her engaging personality, I quickly broke down and tried some of her jam. It was amazing. I used to make some pretty good jam myself, but Jessica's jams are unique, very tasty and better than just about any jam I had made or tasted. I got a bit of jam envy.

The Intimidating Jam: Jessica's journey into the world of jam started about three years ago. Jessica laughed and almost proudly proclaimed she was a little scared to make jam at first. Jessica was already an accomplished chef and personal caterer. She was not afraid of the kitchen. But there was just something about jam that made her hesitate.

Pepper Jelly: Jessica started her jam adventure with pepper jelly because it's one of her favorite things. She loves to eat pepper jelly on top of cream cheese sitting on a water cracker. In fact, pepper jelly is kind of her signature jam. Jessica made her first batch of pepper jelly using a food processor. It failed. She hadn't counted on all the extra water from mincing up the peppers in the food processor. So Jessica tried again, this time adding just a bit more sugar. It worked.

Experimental Jam: Jessica talked about the jam book she had at the very beginning. She would look in the book and see interesting recipes, and then she'd just experiment. She'd make up recipes. She'd open her pantry and look in her freezer and experiment. She still works this way. I've got a jar of the lovely Nectarine-Bourbon jam and Basil-Melon jam at home. Jessica says she's got at least 15 flavors of jam in her repertoire. I'm sure there will be more.