I'm a MCT!

My certificate finally came in the mail!  I actually feel like a Microsoft Certified Trainer now.


This certification took several years, lots of exams and quite a bit of money.  I had to have the Master level Microsoft Office Specialist certification for versions 2007, 2010 and 2013.  Each certification level was made up of 4 or more exams and half of them being Expert level exams. The exams were around $100 each just for the voucher.  Each exam was almost an hour long and for the last version, I had to travel an hour and a half to Austin or Houston as our local Certiport testing center in College Station no longer proctors the exams.

I think any major goal takes a lot of effort to make you appreciate it all the more.  If it was easy, it wouldn't be special.

I have actually had the Master MOS since the 2003 version. Lots of buttons and functions have been added, or more than likely, moved around and renamed. I have always been "into" the Microsoft Office suite of products and considered the certification and investment and betterment of myself. I have been a member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) since 2008 and I have been fortunate enough to have my executives agree to send me to the Division and International conferences over the years. Many thanks to Gus and Bernie!

In 2013, I met Vickie Sokol Evans, MCT and owner of RedCape Company, at one of her sessions in our IAAP Texas-Louisiana Division conference. She was awesome! She taught us all so many things and had fun while doing it. I had found my role model. One of the things she said was that one of the best ways to remember how to do something is to teach others. It hit me that this is something I would like to do and so I have been working at it ever since. I signed up right then and there for one of her Boot Camps and I have taken many live sessions and online trainings from her since then and I always learn (or remember) something new every time.

I have been an Administrative Assistant at the City of Bryan for over 22 years now and, not to toot my own horn, I'm pretty good at what I do. I love taking long manual processes and coming up with spreadsheets or other methods of more efficiently accomplishing tasks. Is it possible to be "giddy" about spreadsheets, tables and OneNote? I have created and presented multiple training classes over the years, both live and webinar-style, to City personnel and even to some local groups in the Bryan/College Station area, including our previous IAAP chapters (I sure miss the local networking from the "chapters"). Teaching others is the favorite part of my job.

Almost all of the trainings have been as a volunteer or part of my job duties, but when I hear things like "Oooh" and "Aaah" or "OMG! I wish I had known that during my last project!", it just makes my day and confirms that I am on the right track. Of course, Starbucks and fuel gift cards have always been a favorite Thank You reward. At one of my presentations at Texas A&M University, one of the professors in the room semi-whispered to a colleague "<big sigh> Wow! She's magic!".  I think that has got to be one of my top favorite kudos so far. Thanks for the opportunity, Sharon Mena. At the most recent annual summit of the IAAP in New Orleans, I was thrilled to be able to assist Vickie in some of her sessions with the hand-on portions by moving about a room of over 100 participants and helping them one-on-one with their issues. It was an honor.

Now that my son is a college student and quite capable of taking care of himself, I would love to be able to take some time off and afford to be able to travel some and do classes elsewhere. See what I did there?  A new goal has been set.  This is not a destination, it's a journey and I'm so glad to be on it!

I know everyone has different personalities and various ways of accomplishing goals, but I have always thought that if you want to do something, you find those who are doing what you want to do and learn from them and try to incorporate what draws your attention into your own behaviors. Attend conferences, webinars, watch YouTube videos, follow your heroes on social media. Then, and here's the kicker, don't just follow from afar.
Go up and introduce yourself. Get to know them and don't just be a number in their "following" counts. They may be at the point where you want to be, but they didn't magically wake up one day on top of the pile. They had to work to get there. Let them know your goals and aspirations and they will most likely offer you encouragement and a few pointers and pitfalls to avoid.  (Photo bomb by the inspirational and entertaining Josh Sundquist.)

I have also enjoyed the training and support of some of the other greats in my area such as Bonnie Low-Kramen, former assistant to Olympia Dukakis, CEO of the Ultimate Assistant, speaker and consultant, and Melissa Esquibel, MCT and Office guru, and they were among the first to congratulate me on my accomplishment of attaining my MCT. God bless them all for being a part of this!

If you have also thought about becoming a MCT, click here for more info. I did the Microsoft Office certifications route.

Getting My House In Order

I'll be the first one to confess that I am NOT the world's best housekeeper. I have been a single mom of my 18-year old "baby" since he was just a couple of months old and it hasn't always been easy. As a matter of fact, I think the toddler was more tidy than the teenager. He has a habit of opening cabinets and not closing them, dropping things on the floor wherever he happens to be, leaving items on the counter and so on. After lots of arguments and not making much headway, I decided to pick my battles and let him do his thing in his own room. Then a few things made their way to the living room and little by little, you get used to things being out. And yes, I got lazy and didn't feel like messing with it.  Then one day I looked around and thought that if someone happened to pop in unannounced, I would be totally embarrassed. So, something had to give.

There are as many methods of cleaning and decluttering as there are ways to make a mess.  I have looked throuh the Fly Lady's method of tackling the house room (or zone) by room each week. Wow! It DOES make a huge difference to clean the dishes and start the day with a bright, shiny sink! Who'd a thunk it that just one thing could make you feel a glimmer of hope in a hopeless situation. And I was quite sure I could get my butt up off the couch to do the 15-minute declutter trash-a-thon.


Then I recently visited a cute, colorful little Airbnb casita in McKinney, Texas that was small, but neat, tidy and inviting and I was very impressed...and motivated. The homeowner told me about how she minimalized (is that a word?) everything after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I got the Kindle version when I got home and started reading it. Here's another tidying method by Marie Kondo called the KonMari (do you see what she did there?) where you declutter by category not by room.  So...starting with clothes, you get EVERY piece of clothing in the house. Yes, everything from the dirty hamper, dryer, thrown over the edge of the non-used athletic equipment, under the bed, on the shelves, hanging...well, you get the idea. The idea is that you will usually see how totally over-stocked you probably are and you go through handling each piece of clothing one-by-one and determine if it sparks joy. If you normally pass over it in your closet and doesn't fit well or you no longer need that shirt from that event back in 2008, you make a nice pile to donate or just toss it out after thanking it for its service.

I didn't think I could handle my stuff and my son's stuff all at the same time, so I started to focus on my piece of the house. I knew for a fact that I had WAY too many t-shirts, so I broke this task into manageable steps, or else I'd still be surrounded by the mound of clothes. I had several stacks of shirts on my closet shelf that were about 2' tall each and were toppling over on each other (and sometimes on me).  I pulled them all down and I pulled out the sweaters that I had in a few dresser drawers. After going through them all, pulling out lots of non-joy-sparking garments for donation and refolding the remaining shirts into small packages in  (mostly) KonMari style, I was able to store them vertically in the drawers. I can actually see and easily retrieve the ones I want to wear now. Because they are not pressing down on each other, there's less wrinkles, too. Win-win! The sweaters went into only a couple of boxes and went on the shelf, since in Texas, we only have winter for a couple of weeks each year. I got rid of about 30 pounds of shirts!

That gave me such a boost and it really did make my room feel lighter and more enjoyable to hang out out in. I enjoy listening to podcasts, so I searched around and found The Purposeful Home Podcast by Allie Casazza and Kelsey Van Kirk. Two Jesus-lovin' minimalist mamas that have a down-to-earth approach to decluttering and home care that seemed to click with me.
I started listening to them on Stitcher on my way to and from work and while I was here in my room sorting, tossing and folding items that brought me joy (or that I had to have for work). Did you know that if you don't have as many clothes to start with, you have less laundry to do? 😉

Of course, as I mentioned, my "baby" just started college, so there are a couple of episodes on dealing with homeschooling and young children that I skipped, but I'm already almost caught up to real-time of over 30 episodes. They also cover getting out of financial debt, time management and more, so it's not just a podcast about decluttering.  I am also working on the debt part and have been for a while now and I'm making big strides there.

They like Trello for blocking out their time and I love my Google Calendar. I'm still overwhelmed by putting a monumental task on my To Do list as I like to see things crossed out or checked off, so I really like using Google Keep to keep up with individual tasks.
Declutter t-shirts...check.
Sock drawer...check.
Night gowns and underwear...check.
Pile of boxes and papers for recycling...check.
Nightstand...check.
Hanging clothes...check.
That looks better to me than All clothes...one little check. Checked off items move to the bottom of the list in this app and my "Still To Do" list is getting shorter and shorter.  Now I find myself voluntarily picking up things around the house as I walk through and I actually enjoy walking in from a long day of work and driving for Lyft and Uber.

There are many different methods out there and I think everyone has to find what works for them, and if you're like me, you may need to take a combo of several styles and put your own spin on it to make it work for you in the season you are in.  The one thing that they all have in common is that it has to start with motivation. Find your why and kick it in gear. You'll get there and you might even enjoy the ride. Take a deep breath, say a prayer and get moving. Don't forget your pedometer, you'll be happily surprised.

I still haven't finished Marie Kondo's book, but I haven't wanted to sit still and read it because I am in declutter mode. I am a long way from being done and being in maintenance mode, but it's a LOT better than it was. This house didn't get in this condition overnight and it certainly won't be fixed in a day. If someone says they need to drop by, I don't have to do the flight of the bumblebee and pray to God no one looks in the closet. Actually, I was quite proud to show my Mom my closet recently. 😊

Learn OneNote Conference 2018 Kicks Off

The Learn OneNote Conference officially starts today. I'm so excited to be a part of this 3rd Annual event!  If you haven't signed u...