Why I Love Holiday Letters

Please send me your holiday letters

I’m very sad to report that I have received no holiday letters so far this year. Not a single one. Sure I’ve received some very nice holiday cards, but I really miss those letters.

Although I’ve heard that some people find holiday letters to be braggadocious—yes, that’s a word—I. LOVE. THEM.

Why? They’re a one-page vignette of what’s been happening in your life this year or over the past couple of years.

Sure, we all have Facebook and I guess I could scroll through pages and pages of what-you-had-for-breakfast posts to find the really juicy nuggets, but I won’t. Our lives are so busy that, even with social media, it’s hard to keep up.

One of my favorite holiday letters ever arrived when I was a teenager. I remember it fondly: A family friend shared that one of his daughter’s IQ was outstripped only by her ski length of 180.

Bragalicious—that one I made up—maybe, but also intriguing. You see, my family didn’t ski. I knew nothing of ski lengths and so the letter taught me a little something. And frankly, I see no harm in bragging about your children. All four of his kids were mentioned in the letter and we all know that children benefit from hearing positive messages about themselves. As far as bragging goes, have some fun with it.

If you haven’t sent out your holiday cards yet this year, feel free to send me a letter update. Even an email update! I’d love to hear how your work is going, how the kids are doing in school, what exciting trips you took or are planning. Teach me something. Share your truth. Entertain me!

If you need some tips on crafting a good holiday letter, here ya go. Or maybe just repurpose part of mine:

“Brian is in his third year as a senior software engineer at InsideVault. The company is doing so well that we’re thinking of buying a personal space station next year.

“Meanwhile, Kate is saving the world, one foster child at a time, as a board member for Child Advocates of Silicon Valley and is working on the next Great American Novel in her spare time.” (j/k)

What’s new with your family? Inquiring minds want to know!


Kate Watson

Photo Credit: DaPuglet via Compfight cc

inFocus: I am an Adoption Goddess

Today’s inFocus interview is with Elizabeth Hunter, also known as the Adoption Goddess and rightfully so. This amazing lady has adopted internationally four times, and she loved all of her experiences so much that she now helps other prospective parents create successful, happy adoption experiences. 

Adoption Goddess Elizabeth Hunter and her beautiful family, Christmas 2010

Elizabeth, when you and your husband decided to grow your family, what brought you to international adoption?

Through these adoptions, we had the privilege to create an awesome family with children who we are so deeply, cellularly, and on a soul level connected to, where there’s this meant-to-be certainty that we belong together. But even beyond that, and this is something I never counted on, is the woman I became in the process of these four adoptions. It took adoption for me to step up and be visible in the world, to develop courage, to find my voice, and to stand up for myself. It was an absolutely transformational experience.

Wow. There’s a lot of moving parts to this question, Kate! I don’t want to mislead people into thinking it’s a simple matter to decide where on the planet your future child resides, but here goes…

I always lead with my heart. My husband Tim and I both make decisions based on a ‘full body yes!’ type of intuition. If I can’t get inspired and excited about a particular course of action, I simply won’t do it, no matter how attractive it might seem.

On the other hand, if something EXCITES me—no matter how out in left field it may appear—I will go for it. The year we adopted Moses and Beatrice from Rwanda there were literally 17 families total in the U.S. who adopted from there. It didn’t matter. Everything went awesomely. Something about the history, the culture, the energy and the vibration of Rwanda stirred my soul. I saw a photo of children in Rwandan orphanages and I felt, my child (or children as it turned out) is there.

Most of my private clients are doing domestic or foster adoption. It’s the same thing. You’ve got to tune into the path you’re about to embark on and it’s got to grab you. Something about it needs to stir you up and make you want to jump out of bed in the morning.

I’ve learned from the school of hard knocks that doing something to beat the odds, play it “safe,” find a sure thing, or out of any sense of obligation is a surefire recipe for trouble.

What was the process like for you? What is your adoption story?

Our four adoptions were the four standalone most thrilling, empowering, wow experiences of my life to date. Through these adoptions, we had the privilege to create an awesome family with children who we are so deeply, cellularly, and on a soul level connected to, where there’s this meant-to-be certainty that we belong together.

But even beyond that, and this is something I never counted on, is the woman I became in the process of these four adoptions. It took adoption for me to step up and be visible in the world, to develop courage, to find my voice, and to stand up for myself. It was an absolutely transformational experience.

Anita Diamant, author of the book, The Red Tent, said, “Birth is the pinnacle where we find the courage to become mothers.” The same is true of adoption. Adoption is not meant to be a cut and dried business transaction. It’s MEANT to put you through some changes!

If you can stay open and available to be TRANSFORMED as a human being by the adoption process, you will find that it also PREPARES you with some sort of mystical synchronicity to be the exact mother that your adopted child needs you to be. It’s super miraculous.

Adoption Goddess Elizabeth Hunter and her daughter sport May Day crowns

Elizabeth and her daughter sport May Day crowns

On your website, you say that you were able to bring your children home in “four fast, smooth, life-changing adoptions that cost 35% less than the average U.S. domestic adoption.” That’s amazing! What’s your secret?

It took a bit of time, more than a few teary and sleepless nights, and a whole lot of self help and hard work for me to move from having this burning desire to get pregnant to coming to adoption as the #1 choice to start our family.

I took a pretty fierce stand with myself for getting to the point where I was full on ready to approach adoption from a super positive place of inspiration and excitement. I did not fill out a piece of paperwork until I got to that point (my husband on the other hand always wanted to adopt).

I feel strongly that the single biggest thing conscious adoptive parents can do to ensure that their future children will THRIVE is to do whatever it takes—whether it’s grieving or inner work or actively seeking out the right kind of support—to get yourself to a place where you are simply LIT UP about adoption and you feel THRILLED to do it. As Carl Jung said, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”

There is still a stigma and negative cultural association with adoption. People who jump into adoption out of any sense of desperation also leave themselves vulnerable to unscrupulous adoption professionals, because these prospective adoptive parents are not coming from a place of power. I don’t say this to scare people.

So much of the work I do with my private coaching clients is this deep inner energetic clearing and working with the hidden inner blocks, which I call “hot spots,” that most adoptive couples carry within them and which if unacknowledged can really trip them up later in the process.

Once you’ve cleared things up on the inside, when you begin to see adoption as a sacred journey which you are committed and wholeheartedly passionate about, then the rest is really a whole lot of strategy and research and being super smart about how you go about doing your adoption. For some reason, probably dating back to my pre-med years at Brown, I happen to be a complete GEEK about adoption research and I’ve found that I can save couples SO much time in this way as well.

What do you want other people to know about the adoption process or about growing their families through adoption?

So many of us at this point are longing for more meaning in our lives, we are looking to do things in a higher level way and to grow and transform and become more in the process of creating our families. If that is you, then the industry of adoption as it currently stands will most likely not inspire you.

You have to seek out the right kind of support to create a meaningful and sacred adoption experience, to regain a sense of power. It doesn’t necessarily come with the territory. You’ve got to think through your issues with birth/motherhood and work through any negativity around adoption you personally carry. You’ve got to create an intention around adoption for yourself, a purpose, a ‘why’ that is so exciting to you that it can sustain you for the ups and downs of the journey.

I want everyone to know how AMAZING adoptive children are. I believe these children are highly evolved beings who have chosen this adoption path to teach us lessons about unconditional love that sees no tribal or bloodline barriers. Love is love.

And we adoptive parents-to-be are called to do great work as well. The experience can be everything you may have desired in physical childbirth. And then some. But adoption can call you into a leadership role, and being high visible. You’ve got to be comfortable with that. You have to be willing to stand out from the crowd. Even if your adopted children look exactly like you. If it’s right for you, adoption is truly a labor of love.

I know you work with other prospective adoptive parents so that they, too, can adopt smoothly and quickly. How does that work? What offerings do you have, and do you work with couples who want to adopt domestically or from foster care as well as internationally?

Yes absolutely! Right now my clients are almost all couples (and singles) adopting domestically or through foster care. I work with people from all over the country. I am a trained transformational life coach specializing in creating conscious, fast track adoptions.

The focus of my work is with the adoptive mother-to-be (we bring in the partner at key points in the process to build a feeling of co-creating the experience as a couple). I have found that choosing to adopt rather than have children biologically is a major step in a woman’s life journey, whether she ever wanted biological children or not. This is a moment where she needs to be seen, heard and supported by like-minded women who have been where she is and have made the passage to motherhood safely. But of course that is rarely the case and women who are in the process of adopting are almost always isolated.

I think that’s why my Paper Pregnancy One Day Intensive seems to be striking a chord with women. In this program, a woman flies in (I also work by Skype) to a gorgeous mountain or oceanfront location outside NYC for the day to work privately with me. We meet in a beautiful hotel and have a gorgeous lunch together. We work in a collaborative, nurturing and supportive way which is really a great antidote to the sometimes cold and clinical world of the adoption industry.

But the One Day Intensive is also like bootcamp. We conceive and plan out the entire adoption, leaving no stone unturned, so you get out of any confusion and into total clarity. It creates momentum and excitement for the adoption. And you leave with a 30 day action plan you can implement to create a fast track conscious adoption.

I also have a Healthy Adoption First Trimester, Three Month Coaching package. This is weekly coaching sessions focused on core inner work and implementation and taking consistent action to create a fast track adoption. The first ‘trimester of adoption,’ just like the first trimester of pregnancy, is typically the riskiest time. It’s the time where people usually make the biggest mistakes. So this is a time women most often need support.

Adoption Goddess Elizabeth Hunter

Elizabeth’s children, Christmas 2012

What’s next for you?

I’ve recently added the option for women to book a complimentary Breakthrough Session with me.

We get on the phone and in 30 minutes the woman who is open to it gets the breakthrough she needs to get out of overwhelm and moving on her adoption dream. And then she is free to either do it with me as her coach or go out and do it herself. It’s all good.

I’d love to extend an invitation to any woman who is interested in exploring whether transformational adoption coaching could assist them to jump on over to the site and schedule a free session. Can’t wait to meet you!

Because this is self care month here at KateWatson.net, could you share your favorite self care practice or tip?

My number one self care tip, the one that sets me up for a really stellar day, is to create a customized morning ritual. It’s got to be totally unique to you, and it takes a bit of experimentation. There is no cookie cutter recipe to this. But once I hit on mine, I find it almost always leaves me feeling great and being at my best all day through.

Beginnings are everything.  For me, there’s this perfect combination of waking up before sunrise, having a few moments of stillness, sometimes lighting a candle, and then I’ll do some combination of meditation, journaling, reading something totally inspiring and some kind of movement. I don’t do all these things every day. But I usually do most of them. By the time I’m done I feel so taken care of and so “on” I’m ready to jump into my day.

On days where I don’t do this, there is a flatness to things that inspires me to make the time for my morning thing, no matter what, even if it means getting up at 5:00 am before my kids. The difference is THAT huge.

Thanks to Elizabeth for sharing her inspiring journey! To find out more about her or her work, please visit her website, The Adoptive Mother, at http://theadoptivemother.com.

If you know of a person or organization doing world-changing work—someone I simply must meet—please send me a message using the contact form above.


Kate Watson

50 Self-Care Practices for the Holidays + All Year Long

50 Self Care Practices

Last week, I talked about boundaries and how they’re integral to practicing self-care. This week, I’d like to share some self-care practices that will serve you now and throughout the entire year:

  1. Put your to-do list away and don’t think about it until tomorrow
  2. Turn off your phone
  3. Step away from your computer
  4. Take a bath (my favorite way is by candlelight)
  5. Read for pleasure
  6. Watch guilty-pleasure television
  7. Sing along to your favorite song
  8. Dance around your living room
  9. Watch comedy and laugh your ass off
  10. Treat yourself to a minute of decadence: suck on a peppermint, strawberry, or square of dark chocolate  and savor it from first bite until the last iota of flavor melts away
  11. Plan (and take) a “personal day” or artist date
  12. Go for a walk or a run—if it’s something you want to do versus feel you have to do
  13. Sit outside and soak up your environment
  14. Watch a sunset or sunrise
  15. Meditate, even for just 3 minutes
  16. Breathe deeply and consciously
  17. Take a nap
  18. Go to the beach, the mountains, or the park
  19. Take a hike
  20. Play with your pet
  21. Sleep in
  22. Snuggle with your partner
  23. Give and get hugs
  24. Get a massage
  25. Get a manicure or pedicure
  26. Schedule a spa day, at home or the spa
  27. Journal, particularly first thing in the morning
  28. Savor a cup of tea or coffee
  29. Sit at a coffee shop and people watch
  30. Stretch
  31. Practice yoga
  32. Get crafty
  33. Browse in your favorite store. No purchases necessary!
  34. Cuddle something small, like a kitten or a baby
  35. Clean out your closet
  36. Purge anything that stresses you more than uplifts you (e-mail newsletters, friend lists, social media accounts)
  37. Take yourself out to breakfast, lunch, or dinner
  38. Try something new
  39. Connect with a friend
  40. Cook or bake something
  41. Create a gratitude list or journal
  42. Go on an adventure. It’s more of a mindset than an activity.
  43. Do something you loved to do as a child
  44. Draw, doodle, or color
  45. Take a class
  46. Solve a puzzle
  47. Play a game
  48. Ease into your mornings, with a self-care morning ritual
  49. Buy yourself a little something that makes you smile, like fresh-cut flowers
  50. Ask for help if you need it

However you choose to practice self-care, make sure you’re doing something you want to do, something that makes you feel good while you’re doing it and after you’re done. Taking care of yourself works best when it feeds your soul, not when it’s another “should” on your to-do list.

If you like this list, please like it or share it. If I missed anything, please share your favorite way to practice self care in the comments.


Kate Watson

Massage Photo Credit: whl.travel via Compfight cc

A Lesson in Setting Boundaries


A few years ago, I wrote a post about setting boundaries. The premise was that, as a small business owner, you have to decide your limits and enforce them because no one will do it for you.

This fall, I’ve been experiencing a new lesson in boundaries of the self-care variety. What I’m learning is that people’s wishes have no limits, and that—if you allow it—they will take all of your available time and energy (and then some!). Only you have the ability to control that.

Before we get too far, let me say that I’m a people pleaser. Despite having a generally ornery personality, I’m terrible at saying no. Doing so makes me anxious and uncomfortable, and I stress myself out far more than is necessary preparing to say no. However, trying to be and do what others wanted me to—and stressing myself out when I couldn’t—is what made me sick.

I pushed my adrenals to their limit and they abdicated their responsibility. I now have adrenal fatigue coupled with hypothyroidism on top of a lifelong tendency toward anemia. All fairly minor issues on their own, but when combined result in: Crushing fatigue. Can-barely-get-out-of-bed-some-days fatigue.

As a result, now I’m having to learn to honor my own needs and to set boundaries regardless of how uncomfortable it makes me.

When I realized that I had to start saying no to people, I was terrified. I thought that, if I disappointed my friends, they wouldn’t like me anymore. I also feared missing out on all the fun.

I had to start small, with emails and text messages. I had to write down ways to say no nicely, such as “I just can’t commit to anything new because of my energy level but, if things change, I’ll let you know,” so that I’d be prepared when the moment struck.

This is all a good lesson though because setting boundaries is a basic premise of self-care. We all have to come to terms with what we can do and how to say no when we can’t take on one more thing. I think this is a crucial lesson during the holidays, when personal obligations can combine with work obligations to create a perfect storm of external focus.

So, this month we’re covering all things self-care. Next week, I’ll provide a list of simple ways to care for yourself during the holidays and all year long but, for now, I’ll share some wisdom on setting personal boundaries from people further along in this process than I am:

Cheers, my lovelies,

Kate Watson

Photo Credit: Alberto Carrasco Casado via Compfight cc

Antarctica, A Year on Ice

Recently I was introduced to photographer and filmmaker Anthony Powell, whose first feature-length documentary is being released today, November 28th, 2014, in the United States. Antarctica, A Year on Ice is a visually stunning exploration of what it is like to live on the seventh continent for a full year, including the dark, harsh, never-before-captured winters.

Antarctica A Year on Ice movie poster

Having world-premiered in New Zealand last summer, the film made quite a splash at film festivals and garnered beaucoup awards, including 11 for “Best Documentary” and five for cinematography, among others. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited to see it. Here’s the trailer:

The film was primarily shot in the Ross Island area of Antarctica, home to the U.S. McMurdo research station and New Zealand’s Scott Base. At this latitude, the bases experience four months of continuous sunlight between October and February and four months of darkness from late April to late August. During the six-month-long winter, planes cannot come or go and the staff are cut off from the outside world.

Thirty countries operate seasonal and/or year-round research stations on Antarctica.

About the Filmmaker

Anthony Powell grew up in Taranaki, New Zealand. He began working in Antarctica in 1998, as a Communications Tech at Scott Base. He has spent more than 100 months in Antarctica over the years. He even got married there in 2003, to an American named Christine who was working at McMurdo Station.

Anthony had to design and build many of the camera systems utilized in the film due to the extreme conditions in which he worked. Although this is his first film, Anthony has contributed to numerous television shows, films, and magazines, including the BBC’s Frozen Planet series, which won an Emmy Award for photography. He also received the National Science Foundation Artists and Writers Award, which allowed him to spend a summer season filming full-time in Antarctica.

Filmmaker Anthony Powell

Q&A with Photographer/Director Anthony Powell

Due to Anthony’s busy travel schedule, he didn’t have time to do a 1:1 interview with me before the film’s U.S. release. He did, however, give me access to the film’s press materials, which included the following questions:

Antarctica is often called the coldest, windiest, driest place on the planet. We’ve heard about the cold – how does the wind and dryness affect you?

The wind is harder to get used to than the cold. You can dress for the cold easily enough, but when you add the wind, any slightest gap in your clothing becomes painfully apparent very fast. I failed to tuck my glove in properly one time, and in the time it took me to walk between buildings, I had frozen a patch of skin on my wrist that came up in a row of blisters.

The dryness was quite unexpected. Because the air temperature is almost always below freezing, there is no moisture in the air. This means most people need to use a moisturizer of some kind. The other side effect of being so dry is lots of static electricity. People are constantly getting shocked reaching for door handles or light switches, or shocking each other. It also means bad news for electronics that are constantly getting zapped by the static when people open their computer or pick up a phone. The static discharge will ruin computer chips.

What’s the hardest thing about living there?

I’d say just the isolation from friends and family back home; missing out on family events. Especially during the winter when we are isolated from the rest of the world for six months with no way out. If something goes wrong at home during the winter, you have no way of being with your family, you are stuck there.

Also, nutritionally it can be difficult. There are no fresh fruits or vegetables for nearly six months in winter. A small greenhouse can provide a very small green salad once a week if it is running, but even that is not guaranteed.

Conversely, in many ways one of the best things about being there is the isolation. You are suddenly free from media bombardment and advertising. You have all the noise of modern society removed, and you get to concentrate on the simple pleasures of life again.

Aurora Astralis over Black Island Station

Aurora Astralis over Black Island Station, the Antarctic communication center

How would you describe the feeling of being in Antarctica?

Once you are away from the noise of the base you can experience absolute silence, there is no noise other than your own breathing. The absolute emptiness, knowing there are no other people for hundreds of kilometers in any direction.

How do you think living on the ice has changed you?

In some ways it’s a bit like going and living in a monastery for a while. It gives you a very different perspective on your life back home. You go down there with just a couple of suitcases, and you really do have very few possessions, and it’s great. All the clutter, all the noise, all the expectations of modern society are removed. Less can be so much more.

You get to focus on the important things in life, which ultimately are other people. You also learn to have a great appreciation for the little things in life: a fresh piece of fruit, rain, playing with a pet, walking barefoot in the grass.

How did you come up with the idea of producing this documentary and why did it take you so long?

I initially started shooting time-lapse when digital cameras got to the point where you could take a still photo that would hold up on a big screen, and was amazed at how well it brought the landscape to life. You can normally sense the things going on around you, but not see them.

The first few years was just building up more and more footage, as well as inventing systems that could still work in the extreme cold of winter. Often what is on the screen for a few seconds took me days or sometimes even months to capture.

Once I felt I had enough material to show the changing seasons of nature, then I concentrated on filming the people more and telling the story to hold the rest of the visuals together. Of course the other reason it took so long to make is because I was filming in my spare time. By the time you get done with the normal busy work day, there is not a huge amount of time left over.

Ice Nacreous Clouds

Polar Stratospheric Clouds or Nacreous Clouds form at an altitude of about 16 km up in the sky when the thin layer of ozone depleting gasses freeze and form crystals when the air temperatures reach approx -80c or more. This creates the catalytic reaction that eats away at the ozone.

What makes Antarctica, A Year on Ice different?

Firstly, this film has very much an insider’s point of view, told from the perspective of the everyday workers: the mechanics, technicians, cargo handlers, carpenters, electricians, cleaners and cooks, the people who keep the bases running, everyday people that are very relatable. Because it is has been made by an insider, it also means unparalleled levels of access to places and people.

Secondly, the footage has been meticulously gathered for over 10 years, including 9 winters. Most visiting film crews only come down for a few weeks during the short summer season, which is only a tiny fraction of the full experience. Imagine if a film crew could only film in your home town for the summer holidays. They would only be getting a very limited view of what it is like to live there. For the first time, audiences get to experience the full year-round experience of life in Antarctica.

What’s next for you as a filmmaker?

I have a few projects I’m working on. First up is a series on online mini documentaries that will be both entertaining to the general public and provide a free teaching resource for schools, etc. I’m also gathering a lot of new cutting edge interactive material like full spherical 360 degree video.

I’m going to be filming a new Antarctic TV series at the same time as the mini documentaries.

For my next feature film I am collaborating with a group of handpicked photographers from around the world, to produce a film that covers all seven continents and tells more of a global story. We are still in the early stages, but have already got about 70% of the footage ready to go between us. The final film will utilize a variety of both traditional and new cutting-edge camera techniques.

Emperor Penguin

Emperor Penguin in Antarctica. “Often penguins will approach us because they are curious, and we will just sit still until they move on. We try to have as little impact as possible, to keep things as natural as possible,” Powell says.

If I get a chance to talk to Anthony in the future, do you have any questions you’d like me to ask him? Let me know in the comments.

For screening times and locations for Antarctica, A Year on Ice, please visit Music Box Film’s website. For more information, please visit the film’s official website, Facebook page, or Youtube channel. Also, to purchase photos from Anthony’s Antarctic gallery, see AntarcticImages.com.


Kate Watson