Last night I attended one of my favorite local events in one of my favorite places in town, 5 Things February at Willow Creek Farm! This was my third 5 Things event and they continue to get better and better each time! I truly LOVE these get togethers, hearing from local women and leaving the event feeling more informed, empowered to handle life and also making a few new friends along the way!

I wrote a recap of October's event that you can also check out, but to reframe the intention of 5 Things, let me share. The concept pretty simple but the end result is so much more. 5 Things brings women together for an evening out, provides an opportunity to network and build connections with each other while listening to amazing speakers sharing five tips/advice/life hacks on whatever topic they have chosen in advance.

The speaker lineup and topics for last night's event was amazing as always!

Carrie Eisenmenger, Financial Advisor Northwestern Mutual
5 Financial Tips to Take Control in 2019
Mel Pridemore, Owner Six Dimensions Fitness Coaching & Personal Training
5 Ways to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind
Kari Smith, Owner Champaign Jewelers
5 Steps to Design Personalized Custom Jewelery
Dionne Smith, Pediatrician Carle Hospital
5 Sickness Symptoms, When to Worry & When to Wait
Kim Kidwell, Dean of College of ACES University of Illinois
5 Things To Stay Grounded in Your Purpose

One of the co-founders of 5 Things, Carrie Eisenmenger kicked off the night. Carrie is a financial advisor and discussed five ways that we can take control of our financial success in 2019. She provided quick, easily executable actions to help get our minds right around our finances in a way that didn't seem overwhelming or burdensome.

First things first, according to Carrie, we should perform an audit of our financial situation to help understand what money we have coming in and where that money is going. In particular, identifying fixed expenses that without a doubt will be coming into play month after month. The rule Carrie follows is 60/20/20 meaning 60% of your income falls into fixed expenses; all those things that we must spend our money on like mortgage, car payment, insurance. You know, all the super fun stuff. My favorite is the second 20% which should be more fun and money you spend on things you enjoy like a vacation or a new pair of shoes! Yay, permission to enjoy! And lastly, 20% going towards financial goals like savings, retirement plans that will set you up with successful financial future which actually is more fun stuff!

Once you've audited your financial situation, Carrie says, do something about it! There is never 'a perfect time' to save money. Something is bound to come up and there are always surprises like unplanned medical bills (#bummer) so Carrie suggests to work now to get yourself in a comfortable situation, be informed of what money you have and where it's going so you won't have to panic later. Automate the process especially for those items that are routine, recurring expenses like your mortgage and 401k.

Another key point Carrie made that I loved was to maximize free money. Yes!! Where might you have money left on the table? Are you maxing out your 401k? Does your work provide some way that you can save money like a fitness discount at local gyms?  I know my former employer had all kinds of benefits like gym and car rental discounts. Find that free money and put it to good use!

Lastly, protect your income. Your money is just that, your money, so keep a close eye on it, know what's going on with your finances and be cautious and aware of how you are spending and what you are spending on. It might be helpful to get a second pair of eyes on your financial situation to help put you on the right track to a successful financial future.

The second speaker of the evening was Mel Pridemore. Mel is the owner of 6 Dimensions Fitness Coaching & Personal Training. As a fitness enthusiast myself, my ears perked up when someone was talking in the space that I have a ton of interest. Mel discussed five ways that you can lose weight without losing your mind. Amen!

Mel's first point and one that I often talk about as well is finding your why. Why is it that you want to lose weight or get fit? How will you feel or change once you lose weight? The key to this point is finding the emotional connection to that why. It is not as simple as just wanting to look better aesthetically or hit a particular number on the scale but digging deep to discover the true reason behind any weight loss.

To set yourself up for success, avoid the quick fixes. There are countless diets, programs, pills, etc touting they will provide quick and easy weight loss strategies. They don't work. There is no quick and easy way to weight loss. It's much more of a total lifestyle and behavior change and that takes time. Though not what everyone wanted to hear, but Mel says that weight loss should be slow and sustainable. We've got to be patient friends!

Live in the gray area. Mel equated this to doing everything possible in our power to lose weight or doing nothing at all. Absolutely love that! You can do a lot of things to lose a few pounds but it does not have to be all or nothing. If you go out for pizza for lunch it doesn't mean that the rest of the day is a wash giving you an excuse to keep indulging on sweets, alcohol or whatever your food weakness might be. Enjoy the pizza and then get back to eating clean, healthy foods. You don't have to throw in the towel because of one indulgent meal. Similarly, it's okay to have those 'treats' every now and again if you are consistent with clean, healthy eating more often than not. Have the glass of wine, eat the chocolate, don't have regrets and then get back on course, #foodfreedom. You know I love that!

Speaking of meals, another key point for weight loss is to lose weight in the kitchen and get fit in the gym. You might have heard the saying 'abs are made in the kitchen'. It's so true and based off Mel's tips, she agrees! If you're solely relying on the gym to lose weight alone, you'll be on a continous uphill battle. Now the only uphill battle you should be on is a 10 incline on the treadmill so lose weight in the kitchen, use that clean eating food for fuel/energy for that treadmill work!

Lastly, and I allueded to it above, Mel says we must be patient. Slow and steady wins the race and the same goes for weight loss too. Change is hard. Weight doesn't add up overnight and it doesn't come off overnight either. It's not easy so we have got to be patient with our bodies. If you put in the work, you will see success. You have just got to give yourself a little time and grace.

Kari Smith, owner of Champaign Jewelers, had a fun and different approach and talked through five steps to design custom jewelry. I hadn't ever thought of making my own custom jewelry before Kari spoke but I definitely have an interest now! It totally makes sense though because our jewelry does say a lot about who we are as indviduals, what we represent and often can tell our story of a time in our life like a wedding ring, necklace received for a birthday or rings that have our children's names on them (I have these and LOVE them!). Having a custom piece of jewelry would be such a fun way to get something totally one of a kind and personal to you!

It's not as easy as asking a genie in a bottle go grant you a custom piece of jewelry but Kari did make it seem fairly straightforward and fun. First, decide what you want, be it a ring, bracelet, necklace etc and how you are going to wear it. It's also important to consider your own lifestyle and how that might impact what you'd wear. Pinterest, pinterest, pinterest and see what speaks to you then save those items to share with the team at Champaign Jewelers. Bring in what you have currently. Like mentioned previously, jewelry is personal and tells a story so showing the team pieces you own currently can give them an idea of what you like.

Next is the fun part, the design! This is where your vision comes to life. Champaign Jewelers has three ways to design jewelry, sketch, CAD and wax. Who knew! Once you're piece has been created and designed to your liking, it's time to make the piece!

And, last but not least, when that piece of custom jewelry is in your hands, love it! Enjoy that one of a kind piece that you had a hand in making. Treasure it, tell the special story of the piece and then have a unique item that you can hand down generation after generation.

Being a mother of two small boys, I was eager to hear what Dionne Smith, a pediatrician at Carle Hospital had to share. Dionne gave us a glimpse into five common medical symptoms, when we should worry and when it is okay to wait. 100% yes! Any parent can need and appreciate this!

The first one that I myself can get hung up on sometimes is fever. When do you need to take them in and when can you ride it out? According to Dionne, it depends on the age, other symptoms and how they are generally acting. I know that fever is not something to cause panic but it's always good to hear that from an expert.

The second common symptom is cough and congestion. Being winter in central Illinois, I feel like my kids have some sort of cough, runny nose and congestion every other week! I surely can't be taking them in every time they have a sniffle so it was great to hear the signs to look for that might be reason to call the doc. Everyone in the room got a good laugh when Dionne mentioned the Nose Frida to help clear out congestion. If you've never heard of it, definitely look it up but I can personally vow that while it seems rather gross to literally suck snot from your kiddo's nose, it works wonders!

Rash is another frequent symptom that can be hard to know whether or not it is worth getting checked out. Dionne provided some insight to give us signs to look out for and things to watch like rash with a fever might mean strep and that definitely should be seen.

The fourth common symptom is headache and that can have a variety of causes. Most headaches in kids are tension headaches and can be often remedied at home by making sure they're drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, limiting screen time and making sure they have had a recent eye exam. If headaches are waking kids up from sleep and aren't going away, then it might be time to pay a visit to the doctor.

The last symptom to watch for is belly pain. It makes sense, but I was interested to hear that often belly pain in kids can be a symptom of anxiety. For example, if your kid has belly pain on Sunday evenings or the night before a big test, it's probably anxiety related.

The final speaker of the evening was Kim Kidwell. Kim is the Dean of the College of ACES at the University of Illinois and she provided five ways to stay grounded in our purpose in 2019. I think Kim was the perfect speaker to close out the night and perhaps for me it was my fondess of the topic, but all her points resonated with me and I loved it! Similar to what Mel said, first and foremost to land in our purpose, Kim says we need to land in our why. We have got to be clear about our purpose, where we want to go, what we want to do to transform not only our lives but the lives of others. It really is so important and I've found this more in the last two years than ever.

Be present to win. We often live in a state of fast forward and rewind, fast forward and rewind. Replaying what happened and jumping ahead to what's next. By staying present in the now, we can better take advantage of each moment we are given. One way to help stay in the moment is to connect to our breathe. To help her stay grounded, Kim takes six conscious breaths. As a fan of meditation myself, I totally agree with this. Focusing on your breathe calms your mind and your body. The great thing about this too is that you can do it literally anywhere and anytime you feel it necessary. By just breathing you can translate a reaction to a response and perhaps find yourself making less spontaneous choices.

Aim for excellence not perfection. If perfection is the end goal, it will be difficult to ever truly find success. Be okay with stumbling and navigating roadblocks. It's very similar to the gray area that Mel talked about. It doesn't need to be all or nothing. Do your best but don't aim for perfection each and every time. It's 100% okay to not be perfect always. One thing Kim said that I loved was it's okay to perform at C level every now and again. Thank you for permission to just be, maintain the status quo and be totally okay with it. If you are excelling on your A game 24/7, will you have the energy and stamina to handle every other situations or tasks that comes your way? Identify what's working and what's not working. Allow yourself to sit in that space to think through those things, evaluate and take action to change.

Kim's last point and perhaps my favorite is the idea of making assumptions. Our thoughts are so powerful and can sometimes be our downfall if we shine those thoughts in a negative light. If we think we can't do something, it's going to be pretty darn difficult to do it. Visualizations can be helpful in this situation. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line of a race rather than quitting midway through. All those thoughts and assumptions, they are just made up. Why do we put ourselves through negative thoughts and assumptions more than positive ones? Kim said and I quote "If you're going to make up shit, at least make up good shit." Yessss. Perception is everything and if we can change our perceptions to be more positive, our mood, attitude and mindset will inevitably change to match.

The evening closed with a little networking time to socialize and meet some of the other women in attendance and talk with the speakers themselves. I unfortunately had to skip out early to get back to my kiddos but I'm glad I was able to interact and network with others before the speakers began and during the mid-speaker break. It was once again a truly wonderful night of giving back to yourself, spending time with other women in the community that have the same sense of self-care and empowerment as you and coming together to all improve ourselves for the better.

Thank you Carrie and Brooke for your amazing work with 5 Things! This event and your initiative to bring it to fruition and absolutely a shining light in our community and something I look forward to every time!