Insights Blog

Dress for The Job That You Want…

By Mary Grace Musuneggi
Founder & Executive Director, Single Steps Strategies


As the world becomes more casual, dressing down has become more the code in the work world. The “uniform” of the office is now more likely to be slacks and t-shirts than skirts, jackets and high heels.

But the old adage of “you are what you wear” may still have some value in today’s causal world.

“You are what you wear” asks us to think about what we project to the world, what we think about who we are, and what we want from our professional lives.

When I was young and things were not quite going my way, when I was upset by circumstances or dealing with a difficult life issue, my mother would remind me that all things were possible if I just “got up, got dressed up, and got going.” The actions of moving and doing were a means of working through a problem and heading for a new life experience. But the central part of this theme was that I “got dressed up.” Not just dressed. Dressed up. Getting dressed up ensured I was putting my best foot forward and feeling good about who I was.

Just like the UPS driver and the McDonald’s employee, I have a “uniform” when I get up every day and go off to my work life. I believe that what I wear sets the tone for what I expect from myself, what I expect from my business, and what I expect from my day.

One of my mentors in my early career said more people would become who they wanted to be if they just “dressed for the job they want, and not the job they have.” Work at and look like who you want to be. Shakespeare wrote, “all the world is a stage and each must play a part.” What is the costume you should be wearing for the part you are playing?

In her book Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Breathnach tells us “most of us do not think we are carrying on a conversation with the outside world when we get dressed in the morning, but we are.”  She also reminds us that Alison Laurie, author of The Language of Clothes, says, “long before I am near enough to talk to you…you convey your sex, age, class to me through what you are wearing. To choose clothes, either in a store or at home, is to define and describe ourselves.”

As we enter a new season, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate our wardrobe—the “uniform” we wear when we go out into the world. What are you saying to the world? What do you really what the world to hear?

The Purple Boot

By Carole Kunkle-Miller, Ph.D

I love skiing. For five years, I owned a purple ski boots that were very stylish. They matched my purple skis, my ski jacket, and my hat. I looked great–the only problem was the boot never fit quite right. It pinched in one part, so I tried everything to make it fit. I adjusted the buckles, had extra padding put in, and bought a heated liner to change the inside shape of the boot; the ski shop stretched the outside of the boot; I tried thin socks, thick socks.

Regardless of how hard I tried, my feet would be in extreme pain at the end of every run. Finally, I gave in and bought a new pair of boots. And guess what? I had no pain, no pinching, and I could ski better. But what amazed me was why I had put up with those purple boots that were not right for me. As I looked at it, I had paid good money for the boots and they matched everything. They were supposed to be a good brand and I went through a lot of work to attempt to make them fit.

How often do we experience this same dynamic in our relationships? We put up with a friend or a lover who clearly hurts us and is not right for us. Why? Because we have invested so much; because we are sure we can make it work.

Most people say, “ I think I can make him/her change.” That is the biggest error any of us can make–thinking we can create or force change in others. We really only have control over our own thoughts and behaviors. If we are clear about what we want and continually clarify and refine what makes our hearts sing, we will experience a good fit between what we want and what we eventually have. We can make relationships work well for us if we don’t “put up” with relationships that will never be a good fit, no matter how hard we try.  Once we learn to love ourselves, making the choices that serve us best is so much easier.   


Dr. Carole Kunkle-Miller is a psychologist, health coach and collaborative divorce coach with over 35 years of experience in the human effectiveness field. She directs Carole Kunkle-Miller, PhD and Associates, a group of psychologists and social workers with many years of experience and education. Connect with Carole at her website,

Mary Grace Musuneggi Featured Speaker at Power of South Hills Women Event

On August 16, Mary Grace will be speaking to Power of South Hills (POSH) Women and signing copies of her new book, A Man is Not a Plan.

POSH Women is committed to fostering connections with local business women in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. Their goal is simple: to provide a networking opportunity for women without a high cost or commitment requirement.

The luncheon begins at 11:30 AM at Houlihan’s in the Galleria. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. To register, visit

Finding Peace Within–and Without–Nature

By Lisa Purk
Guest Contributor

At home, I have a serene backyard space that is quiet and private and includes a small pond with a waterfall. When I listen as the water splashes over the rocks, I experience a great sense of peace. It is my habit to retreat there in the early morning. Peace also finds me when I bike along a river trail, hike in the woods or walk the beach at sunrise.

Given the opportunity, I will always enthusiastically invest my time in these activities. Peace arrives in my heart naturally and unencumbered in these places.

As the sound of flowing water, the feel of a gentle breeze or the crunching of leaves and rocks beneath my feet enters my mind space, the stresses and worries of everyday life fall away. Nature becomes my tour guide, leading me on the path to my soul and to the deepest recesses of my heart. Peace is always one of her destinations.

But as enjoyable and rejuvenating as these escapes are, they are relatively brief in their duration. Relative, that is, to time spent in daily life activities.

I, like you, have a home and a family I love and desire to care for in meaningful ways. My business, as with your chosen career, takes time and attention to grow. My daily realities are like yours: laundry, meals, errands, bills, cleaning, landscaping…the list goes on.

No matter how well we attempt to plan and order our lives, we each also face larger stresses and worries. There are more tasks than time to complete them. Decisions are pending but clarity is lacking. Unexpected bills, relationship conflicts and health concerns all weave their way into our lives when we’re not looking. 

As much as we can all thrive from our rejuvenating escapes, we also benefit from bringing peace into our hearts in the midst of our everyday lives.  Nature is certainly a great tour guide. But she can’t always be there when stresses and worries invade our space.

Experiencing a flow of peace into your daily life requires you first be open to it. You must believe in the possibility. For many people, this belief must start with a mind shift. 

As you begin each day, affirm to yourself, “My heart and mind are open and receptive to peace.” As you do, think of an experience that easily brings you a sense of calm. In this way, you will be associating the feeling of peace with your words. The power of your affirmation is amped to new levels when you connect a feeling to your thought. This simple practice, done consistently, will bring you into a space that is receptive to peace. 

To continue to experience peace in the midst of your busy days, nothing will go further than mastering your thoughts and word choices. Here are a few of my favorites to help you get started:

  • Thank you: It’s not only a polite phrase. “Thank you” can go the distance for settling your spirit. Whether uttering the words for something specific or offering them as a general expression of gratitude for the good in your life, use them often. When you find yourself in a place of stress and worry, use them as a way of embracing peace, “Thank you; I welcome peace even as I wait for resolution to my concern.”

  • All is well: This isn’t just a phrase of Pollyanna avoidance. It is a way of finding strength in the thoughts “I’ve done everything I can at this time” and “I have trust for the future.” Some of the things that cause feelings of stress take time to resolve, and this phrase will keep you grounded as you go through the process.

  • I’m happy for her/him/them: Consider how often your stress is related to someone else having something you want for your own life. Maybe you sense a note of jealousy or envy, or you pretend it doesn’t matter to you. But inside the pit of your gut is a knot that cries, “I wish I had that!” and “Why can’t that be me?” accompanied by a worry that wonders, “Will it ever happen?” You will go far toward achieving your sense of peace AND opening yourself to receive what you desire when you make a shift to feeling joy for others. 

As much as I love nature, she’s not always with me. But my mind, my thoughts, my words—these are always my travelling companions. They’re yours, too. Be certain the ones you’re taking along on your journey get you to the destination you desire…including your place of peace.


Lisa Purk, owner of Inner Fire, is a Life Coach who works primarily with women. With a strong background in Speech-Pathology and Business, Lisa applies her knowledge and experience from both disciplines to her passion as a coach. She is a sought-after speaker for organizations and businesses.

The Power of Parents Who “Just Say No”

By Mary Grace Musuneggi

Having been a single mom from the time Christopher was 9 months old, I know what it means to be both mom and dad sometimes. Many times. With Father’s Day in June, I happened to wander into a blog about single dads who are struggling to be both dad and mom. I needed to learn how to throw a baseball; they need to learn how to braid hair. I needed to learn how to build a swing set; they need to learn how to iron a princess dress. No one to share the tasks? Got to be it all?

When Christopher was in middle school and began to play football, I needed to learn the game. You would have thought with being raised in Steeler Country, I would know all about football. But that was not the case. I also thought it was really important to attend all of his games. And so no matter what was going on, whether the game was home or away, I made an effort to get there.

One game day, I was in a business meeting that was going on and on. I kept looking at my watch, knowing I would be late. Although I kept jeans and a sweatshirt and tennis shoes in my car, once the meeting was over there was no time to change. I ran from the meeting, jumped in my car, and headed to the field. Business suit, high heels and all, I ran from the car, through the grass (heels sinking into dirt), and climbed the risers congratulating myself for making it there before the first quarter ended.

Once the game was over and the team came walking off the field, I walked towards Christopher to praise him on some good plays. Before I could even say “hi,” he looked at me and said in a quiet and somber voice, “Can’t you dress like the other moms? Can’t you be like the other moms?”

Oh, how I realized at that moment how important it is for kids to be the same, to not stand out, to not be “different.” And having a mom run through the field in high heels and a business suit was just way too different, way too weird.

But my answer to his question was “NO.”

Being a parent is such a joy, but it is also an awesome responsibility. I learned that day—and Christopher learned that day—that sometimes the answer is “no.” And I think whether we are a single mom, single dad, a mom and dad couple, a two-mom or two-dad couple, grandparents raising grandchildren, foster parents, adoptive parents or any combination of a family, one of the best things we can do for our kids is “just say no.” No, I couldn’t be like the other moms. My situation was not like a lot of the other moms. No, I couldn’t dress like them when I had no time to change.

Life is filled with “no’s,” and that is just fine. Think how that makes us appreciate the times we get a “yes.”

No, you can’t sleep until noon.

No, you can’t drink underage.

No, you can’t skip doing your homework.

No, you can’t go to a college we cannot afford.

No, you can’t call in sick to your job when there is nothing wrong with you.

No, you can’t do [insert here], just because your friends can do it.

No, No, No.

Being a parent is an awesome and joyful responsibility, and the no’s are how we help our children to learn responsibility themselves.

To all dads who are also moms and all moms who are also dads: You are not, and can’t be, like any other dad or mom. You are you, and that is exactly enough.

The Secret of Motherhood & More? Just Be!

by Mary Grace Musuneggi

Although my mother passed away over 17 years ago, I still think about her every day. And with Mother’s Day approaching I think about all the special things she used to do. She was Irish and a great story teller. She found a lesson to be learned in everything I would do.

I had not yet turned five when I started Kindergarten at Boggs Avenue Elementary School in Mt. Washington. Kindergarten in those days was more about socialization and constructive play than educational courses. So every day we sang and played and did art projects. I really liked to play; I liked to sing; but my talents waned when it came to art projects. 

One day the teacher gave us a mound of clay and asked us to mold it into an animal. I tried and tried and nothing seemed to happen. My clay continued to look like a lump to me. Then suddenly the teacher came over, picked it up, turned to the class and said, “Look! Isn’t this wonderful. Mary Grace made a cow.” Really? A cow? It didn’t look much like a cow to me. A cow was certainly not my plan. But young as I was I knew not to contradict my elders, especially when they were saying good things…and when those good things were about me. So I painted it and let it dry, and in a few days I took it home.

I gave it to my mother, and I related the story of how the cow came to be. With a smile on her face she said to me, “That’s life. Sometimes successes come by accident. The important thing is to just be; show up and keep trying. And you will find that sometimes you are in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.” My mother was so wise.

I look at my life sometimes and realize that a lot of it, a lot of the success, came from me just showing up, just being, just trying. And I ended up in the right place at the right time.    

So I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day. A day to celebrate all the times we have just shown up; delighting in being in the right place at the right time. Delighting in being the women that we are. To celebrate and be grateful for our moms who taught us to do just that.

Mary Grace Musuneggi to Speak at Chatham University Center for Women’s Entreprenuership

At Single Steps Strategies, our guiding principle is “empowering women through education.” We especially love to share opportunities for women to empower each other through education. This kind of empowerment is what the Chatham University Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship is all about, and Single Steps Strategies’ Founder and Executive Director Mary Grace Musuneggi is honored to be speaking at their May 12 Women Business Leaders Breakfast.

Mary Grace’s presentation will share strategies and stories from her new book, A Man is Not a Plan: Life Strategies for Independent WomenDid you know some studies say 90% of all women will spend part of their adult life as a single? With that in mind, it is amazing to think any women would leave her financial future in someone else’s hands. An expert on financial independence, Mary Grace wants every women to know “a man is not a plan.”  But this presentation is about more than money. It is about finding the courage to be CEO of your own life, whether a man is in it or not. Mary Grace wants to empower every woman to examine her dreams and goals and get on the path of achieving them one step at a time.

The Women Business Leaders Breakfast Series features prominent regional women business leaders speaking on a variety of progressive business topics. Casual networking and a continental breakfast precede engaging and interactive presentations on topics essential for women in business such as innovative entrepreneurship, strategic business growth, unique marketing strategies, and logistical business planning.


Breakfast and networking begin at 7:30 AM, and the event begins at 8:00. Tickets cost $25 (student and veteran discounts available) and are available through the CWE’s website

Feather Your Nest

By Mary Grace Musuneggi

When I moved into my house, I hung a wreath above the fireplace in my outdoor space. The wreath was made of vines and ribbons and baby’s breath. Within a month, I saw the robins in the area were picking away at it, taking pieces of the vine and ribbon and flying off to add to nests they were building elsewhere. On one particular evening, I noticed an industrious robin had chosen to use the wreath as the very foundation of his nest. He began by packing mud between the fireplace wall and the wreath. To discourage this building project, I removed the wreath, removed his structure and re-hung the wreath. I came home the next day to see that this determined robin had rebuilt the nest. After taking it down one more time, I came home the next evening to find he had built it again…and his female partner had moved in. I was amazed. Such determination should be rewarded, and so I left them alone. Within a few weeks eggs appeared, and within a couple of months baby birds were born, fed and taught to fly. Finally the entire family left the nest.

Even though I removed the old nest when the family moved out, for the next five springs, new robin families arrived, built their nest, raised their children and moved on. Somehow all felt very secure in my space; all were willing to share the space with me and my family. When we came out to sit, or watch TV, or grill, or just take in the evening air, the robin families did not fly away; instead, they watched our activities just like we watched theirs. They filled the mornings with their chirping and singing. On occasion, after the babies were born, the mothers sometimes squawked if we got too close, just to remind us that we were sharing their space, too, after all.

Then one year something new happened. After the robin family moved away, I forgot to take down the nest. I had been traveling a lot and upon returning from an extended trip, I was surprised to see a male and female dove had taken up residence in the old robin’s nest. Not only had they made it their home, but they had added more mud and twigs and leaves. It was big enough for the two of them to sit side by side. Upon further investigation, I discovered they were sitting on two eggs. For weeks they took over my deck, flew in and out, perched on the furniture and even sat on an outside ceiling fan as it went round and round. They were having a great time and really making themselves at home. When the babies hatched, the parents littered the area with seed pits and other food sources that they shared with their family. Unlike the robins, they were very unwilling to share the space. They squawked anytime I came out the door and frantically flew from side to side in the space when someone approached.

By the time they moved out the wreath that had been the foundation of all the nests and the source of building materials for so many robins had totally deteriorated. And so I took it down with nest attached and threw it away. It was the end of an era.

But in the process of clearing out the wreath and cleaning up the space I found myself meditating on what life lessons I had learned from this odyssey.

All of these birds do what comes naturally. They follow their instincts.

They are determined to accomplish their goal. They let nothing stand in the way of their progress.

They use natural elements to create a home and raise a family. And the doves recycled an existing structure, adapting it to their needs.

The priority for these birds is their family, and the parents work together to create a healthy, safe, and nurturing environment. They protect their nest from outside influences. They raise their children to ultimately become independent creatures, teaching them to fly, to search for food and to leave the nest. They teach them to become productive members of their society.

Their life is uncomplicated. It includes work and family, plus creativity and fun—the perfect example of simplicity, joy and abundance all rolled into one of God’s small creatures.

I am glad they shared their lives with me. I am glad I had the chance to share my space with them. And I am glad they reminded me of some basic rules for living well.

As we enter the Spring of this year, I am anxious to see who comes to live on my deck. A new wreath has been hung and robins are already flying by scoping it out.

And as you begin the Spring of your year take a lesson from my “friends.” Learn to live without stress; create and accomplish your goals; enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Build your personal “nest” with joy and abundance.

I Love My Dog…And Other Living Things

By Mary Grace Musuneggi

With Valentine’s Day approaching, we, of course, think of love. And no matter what is happening in our world, we love those little creatures that add unconditional love to our lives. We love our pets.

I love my dog. I know this, because I am one of those millions of Americans who have made going to the pet store a momentous event. I take my dog along…of course. I buy gourmet doggy biscuits and the best in collars and accessories. My beagle, Watson, has ceramic feeding dishes and a wagon filled with toys. He has a sweater for when it is chilly, and a coat for when it snows.

And although I am a little over the edge when it comes to Watson, I know that as much as I love him, I love others more…my family, my significant other, my friends. However, I have had “paws” to wonder if there are some people whose sole loving relationship exists between them and their pets.

On a recent trip to PETCO, Watson and I were followed into the store by a very large man in his late 50’s.  He was carrying a small terrier. In a quiet voice he whispered; “Daddy loves his little baby. And because you are a good puppy, we are going into the store to buy you dog food and a toy. Would you like a new ball? Yes, you would. And when we get home, we will play and play.”

As hysterically funny as I thought this was, I dared not to laugh, as how many times have I been guilty of having that same kind of conversation with Watson?  Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if this same man had little talks like that with his kids, his wife, or other humans in his life.

Then, because life has a way of teaching us through mere contrast of events, the next day I found myself walking into Giant Eagle, followed again by a rather large, but younger man. This one had a very fidgety, pouty-looking 5 year old boy in tow. And the dad’s conversation went something like this, “I am telling you right now, don’t ask for a thing. I just have to pick up a couple things; and then we are out of here. Your mother always does this to me. When I am tired and on my way home she thinks of something for me to do that she could have done herself. All I want to do is get in and out of here. Do you understand me?” Of course it was not necessary for the little boy to answer him. It was obvious that he understood very well.

So I wondered if this man had a dog. And what kind of conversations he had with his dog when he went to PETCO. And did he talk like this to his wife or other humans he knows. And I wondered…if he had talked to his son the way the man at PETCO talked to his dog, how differently the little boy may have reacted. “Come on, son, we need to get a few things in the store. And because you are such a good boy, how about while we are here, we find something you would like, too. And, although I am tired from working today, I missed you; and when we get home maybe we can play ball for a little while after dinner. I love you, son, and I am glad we can spend this little bit of time together.”

So why do we go to extremes for our dogs? Maybe it is because they love us unconditionally. Maybe because when we walk in the door, they jump up and down, wag their tails and treat us as though life was not worth living while we were away (even if that was 5 minutes or 5 hours).

They don’t care less for us if we are tired or having a bad hair day. They are ready to play when we want to play, and they will come to our defense against anything they perceive to be a threat. They instinctively know when we are sad, and they respond to the mere sound of our voice. Who else in our lives does all of this, all the time?

Maybe that’s because we don’t tell the humans in our lives all those little things we tell our pets. Should we say more often, “Daddy loves you and we are going to play and play”? Should we run to the door when our spouse walks in after 5 minutes or 5 hours? Should we defend our friends against anything we perceive to be a threat in their lives? And should we approach each person we meet with the love and affection we show our dogs?

I love my dog…and I have told him that and showed him that today. I must remember today to do the same for all the other living things in my life. And maybe in return they will do the same for me.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Up! Up! And Away!

arizona 1By Mary Grace Musuneggi

A few years ago on vacation with my family at the Arizona Biltmore, I had the opportunity to enjoy a private plane ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, go hot-air ballooning over the desert, and cheer on my daughter-in-law as she hiked up Camelback Mountain. Each one of these experiences gave me a totally different perspective on the area. I was still in Arizona, but I saw snow-capped mountains, gleaming canyon rocks, desert sand and cactus, and colorful spring-like foliage. Some up close, some from far away, some while floating in the sky…and each view was a picture of awesomeness.

On my flight back home, I couldn’t help but think that the next day I would return to my normal routine. Not a lot of difference each day. Awake. Go to Work. Go Home. Sleep. Awake. Go to Work. Go Home. Sleep. A little more like walking on a treadmill than soaring above the clouds. Even though I love my work and I love my home, the perspective each day is much the same. I also hear this theme echoing from many of my friends, family members, clients, and associates.

Now this is not to say routine can’t be good. For some of us, routine is the system for a well-organized and rewarding way of life. But what if each day we added a few moments of seeing life from a different perspective? What if we went to work a different route; started the day with an inspirational reading; went to the gym before work instead of after? Or dared to be even more adventurous…set time to go zip- lining, segwaying, snowboarding?

I read a story recently about a couple who decided to take a “honeymoon” every month for a year. Some were costly, but some were not. If you have never really explored Pittsburgh, there are so many things to do that cost nothing. View the city from the top of Mt. Washington. Walk along the river. Ride your bike on one of the city trails. Take your dog to a dog park. Sit by the Point State Park fountain. Walk around PNC Park on the North Side.

Change your perspective! Seize the day! Make 2017 all that you want it to be!