Day 71: Focus

Ever have one of those days where you just completely lack focus?

If you’re an employee somewhere, drifting off into a day of Facebook, Pinterest and Buzzfeed can get you fired. When you’re freelancing, it means you made no money.

Oops. Today was one of those days.

Turns out, the disappointment I feel in letting myself down is worse than I ever felt for any employer (eek, I hope none of my former bosses are reading this). It’s an awful push and shove because while there’s no one here making me work, do I really want to get into the habit of disappointing myself?

I find that when I’m lacking focus in one area of my life  – and usually it’s the one that needs my attention most pressingly – I focus my energy and enthusiasm elsewhere. There are always a million things drawing on our resources, and until someone finally nails that whole space-time continuum thing, we’re all stuck with only 24 hours a day to do it in.

A typical day of needs & efforts goes something like this:

I need to write a blog post. What’s that dogs? You need to go for a walk? Fiiiiiiine, I can certainly take a quick 45 minute walk around the neighborhood… it will open up my creative side to get a little fresh air!

I need to cook dinner. Nothing sounds good though, so I should take a quick look at Pinterest to see what I can come up with … 2 hours later … “babe, wanna just order pizza?”

I need to work out. Let me just go put my glass in the dish- oh. Looks like it’s still full of clean dishes. I should probably empty that out and go ahead and reload it while I’m at it. This towel is dirty, though, so I should start a load of laundry. You know what they say, a cluttered house, cluttered mind!

I need to put together that invoice. But before I get to business, I should go hop on the treadmill. That will really wake me up and let me refocus on what’s important!

The list goes on and on, but you get the gist. It’s not always that I’m being completely lazy, but I’m certainly not always focused where I should be. Without the structure every day of being away from the home, it’s hard to let those other duties just slide by.

Do you have those problems? How do you maintain your focus if you’re not under someone’s watch? 

I know that it’s up to me to build and maintain my own schedule, which is one of the great catch-22s of freelancing. Just like a tree in the woods, if a freelancer gets off track, and there’s no one there to notice, does it matter?

Day 70: A perfect weekend

Hey look at that, I promised you’d see me today and here I am!

Granted, it’s already after my bedtime (because I’m an old lady), so this will probably be short and sweet, but still. Hi!

This weekend was what I like to call the perfect grown up weekend. What does that mean exactly?

Remember how when you were a kid, all you wanted to do was sleep in, eat pizza and do whatever you wanted all day? That. This weekend was full of that.

You see, Darrell and I have a tendency to over-schedule ourselves. We love our friends and our families and we fill nearly every weekend with running around town or across state lines to see them. This weekend, in fact, we’d planned on heading to King’s Island with Darrell’s parents, but when that fell through we found ourselves with a completely obligation free weekend.

And it was glorious.

We slept in (until like, 8:30!), went out for coffee & pastries for breakfast, grabbed pizza by the slice for lunch and had a simple and delicious dinner of hot ham sandwiches and tomato soup for dinner. It was so beautifully simple, I could barely believe we actually managed to just go with the flow for an entire day.

Today was much of the same, and I’m so happy that I was able to actually relax, recenter, and rediscover what it’s like to live without a plan, even if it was only for 48 hours.

Tomorrow starts off a new week and I’m more excited to get back to ‘work’ than ever. I think this whole, weekend of freedom, thing could really start becoming a habit.

Hope you had a great weekend!

Day 69: A kick in the pants

Hold onto your hats, folks; this might be a long one.

So as you’re probably aware by now, if you’ve read any of my posts, I’m a full-time work from home freelancer. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do; at least, in some far off capacity that I assumed would work itself out and be awesome when it did.

Funny how things work out, even if they don’t work out like you thought they would.

I was thrust into freelancing in a slightly less-than-expected way, but so far, it’s working out pretty well. The truth is, I’m a pretty solo person and I work best when I have time to think, focus and work uninterrupted. It’s why I love what I do – and simultaneously why I sometimes hate it.

Anyone who works for themselves will tell you it’s an incredibly liberating feeling. In my case, I’m lucky enough to have a supportive husband whose job allows me to explore this world even before really being ready. But the truth is, it can also be extremely lonely.

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, she’s one of those writers.”

But in all seriousness, the transition from being a needed and important member of a team to being a sole proprietor who has to prove their value on a daily basis to new and changing clients can be rough. It is rough. It will continue to be rough.

I think in so many ways that’s why I struggle to post here; I don’t want to be a Negative Nancy when I’m having a rough day. But I’m starting to realize that if I’m going to do anyone who’s trying to strike out into freelancing any good, I have to share the ups as well as the downs. Truth be told, working for yourself ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, kids. (Yes, I’m a writer and I said ain’t. This is my blog and I’ll slang if I want to.) Sometimes it can be sad, lonely and downright hard, and you deserve to know that. But it can also be extremely rewarding, allowing you to focus your efforts where your talents lie and find happiness in what you do.

Last night, Darrell and I watched the first episode of Master Chef Junior. We sort of stumbled across it because we A) don’t have cable, B) left the TV on for the dogs when we went out to dinner and C) always leave it on Fox 19 because their morning news crew is awesome (although very weird without Sheila…but I digress).  If you missed it, let me sum it up for you: sit and watch as children half your age show you up in the kitchen … and every area of life.

Hi, my name is Ally and I have less direction, talent and sense of self than the pre-tweens on Master Chef Junior.

I couldn’t help it. I was completely in awe of these tiny little people who know exactly what they love to do and exactly what they want to do in the future. We’re not talking kids who want to be astronauts or princesses (although that may be their unmentioned back-up option); they have very realistic dreams and are very well on the path to achieving them!

Do you know what I was doing when I was 10? Playing soccer. Or chasing puppies. Or reading a book. Or playing school bus driver with my sister while mom mopped the floor. I wasn’t thinking about a future or a plan or a dream … and looking back I realize I’ve never really been a big dreamer. Call me a realist, call me what you will, but I never had big aspirations of being the best at anything, the first at anything or really even anything in particular, for that matter. I just knew I’d grow up, get a job, have a family, so on and so forth until death do us part, amen.

I realize there’s nothing really wrong with that, but I can’t help but be jealous of these driven little forces of nature. Did the judges take it a little easy on them? Maybe. But I know for a fact if I went in the kitchen and tried to whip up anything those kids did last night, it would fall a little short. So color me impressed.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. Well after Master Chef Junior … and an hour or so of other TV … Darrell and I got lost in about an hour of Jenna Marbles’ YouTube channel. This girl, who is (I think) almost exactly my age, is someone I used to think of as someone who hit the funny-on-the-internet jackpot. But recently, she posted a video (below) that makes me feel like we’re all sort of stumbling through this together. She also points out that while sometimes doing what you love can be hard, and lonely, and even sorta sad, it’s better than spending every day doing something you hate.

Kudos to you for sharing this Jenna.

Oh right – why is this post called “A kick in the pants?” Because someone I know on Facebook is starting their own 100-day challenge, and told me to get my lazy ass back to it. So here I am.

And here’s that video. Hope it brings you the same sort of odd inspiration it brought me. Sorry, not sorry, for making you lose an hour or two of your life to her channel. See you tomorrow (I promise).

Day 62: Oktoberfest Zinzinnati

Remember how I said I love fall?

One of the best parts of fall in Cincinnati is Oktoberfest. A few quick things to note before you think I’m crazy:

1) Yes, it’s September. It’s still Oktoberfest. Even Oktoberfest in Germany is in September. Get your learnin’ on, folks.

2) I’m (half)German. And while I hate sauerkraut and don’t speak the language, it’s fun to get out and shine a little bit and of course, enjoy the food. Plus, beer. Lots and lots of beer.

I will admit here, of course, that I’ve actually only been to Oktoberfest one other time, with a handful of German lasses I like to call some of my best friends.

Oktoberfest

Hooray, Oktoberfest!

I know what you’re thinking: my last name seems a little, well, not German. True, Manet is my husband’s last name, which of course is French, but even my maiden name of Covington is English. Did I mention my German heritage is on my mother’s side?

Anyway, where was I? Oh right, beer! Err, Oktoberfest!

Today I’m taking the Manet family downtown to get their first taste of Oktoberfest. Since it was a girls day the last time I went, Darrell hasn’t ever been, either. And even though it’s grey and rainy now, the weather is supposed to clear up and give us a gorgeous day to enjoy beer, bier cheese, schnecken, strudel and schnitzel!

I’ll do my best to actually take pictures this weekend while they’re here and get a post up about the festivities afterward.

Auf Wiedersehen!

 

Day 59: Rainy day for productivity

I don’t know about you, but when the sun is shining and the weather is perfect, it’s hard to sit still and be productive.

Good thing it looks like it’ll be a rainy one today, because deadlines are looming!

It’s funny. There’s a famous saying about deadlines by Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” But for me, deadlines are usually just the pressure I need to get the job done. Typically, I meet my deadlines, so here’s hoping that holds true today.

Of course, my deadlines are probably much different than those of a novelist. I often think about the kind of determination, focus and creativity it takes to become an author, and wonder if I’ll ever find that within myself. Reading has and always will be one of my favorite activities; I love losing myself in the characters of a book, turning page after page to see what happens next.

It gets ridiculous to the point where I’m usually sad after finishing a good book, knowing that my time with those characters is through. I can’t even imagine the dedication to those characters their author must have. To those of you out there writing or even just dreaming up your characters now, I applaud you.

And on that note, and until I join your ranks, I’d say it’s time I stop talking and start getting to work.

Day 57: Keeping secrets

Well that’s a pretty ominous sounding subject, isn’t it?

Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds. What it does mean, though, is that while it’s clearly no secret that I’m horrible at maintaining a constant flow of content here, it’s partially because I have a lot of things I just can’t talk about.

Some secrets we keep for others, some we keep for ourselves, and some we keep for sake of not jinxing something we’re looking forward to. The first two are easy for me – secrets are meant to be kept and I’m pretty good at doing so. But when it comes to keeping my excitement for something tempered … well … that part gets a little trickier.

How’s that for vague?

The truth is, when I’m looking forward to something, when there’s an event or an activity on the horizon, the excitement is all-consuming. Earlier this year, for example, when we were planning to sell our home and move, I could think of nothing but mortgage rates, showing appointments and which houses are on or off the market. I watched and waited impatiently, torturing myself as homes were snatched up before my eyes.

We also have a vacation coming up. Evidently I’m a masochist, because I booked this vacation so far in advance I’ve been counting down the days since they were in the two hundreds. Now that we’re getting closer, every hour of the 90 days we have left will drag on mercilessly.

I tell you this to point out that while I would love to have a lighthearted outlook at things poised in the future, I’m much more obsessively ridiculous than that. So in the meantime, I’ll simply try to focus my efforts elsewhere; namely, right here.

Whoever came up with this 100-day challenge business, anyway? That was me?

Figures.

 

Day 50: Ohh OH – we’re halfway there!

Be thankful you weren’t in the room for that one, folks. Nobody needs to hear this singing voice.

I’ll warn you up front, there’s not much to talk about today. Outside of running a few errands and finally sending off my passport renewal form (I got married almost three years ago people, it’s time I had the current name on my passport), I can’t say much happened. It was a pretty typical Monday, meaning it was hard to wake up, coffee had little effect and the lack of motivation was astounding.

But I did manage to paint a craft letter M I’d been hanging onto for almost a year, so there’s that.

Over the weekend, Darrell and I spent a little time shopping around at IKEA (where else?) to find a few things to spruce up the home office and make it feel more official. Since this is where I’ll be working from now on, it seemed only logical to invest in some storage space and decorations. Unfortunately, the room is currently in that in between stage of almost-looks-awesome-but-kind-of-stuck-in-tornado-zone phase, where everything is out of place. Why is it that even in redecorating, things have to get worse before they get better?

I also have a confession to make that won’t come as a shock to anyone that knows me personally: I hate shopping. Always have. Always will. I inherited my mother’s frugality, so that’s partly to blame, but more than anything I just simply don’t enjoy it. Clothes shopping? Forget it; nothing ever fits the way I want it to and when something does, it’s three times what I hoped to spend. Shoes? Since I more or less have the feet of Fred Flintstone, even that gets exhausting. And home furnishings are the worst. You expect me to pay HOW MUCH for something that’s sole purpose for existing is to be pretty?

I’ll keep my bare walls AND my money, please and thank you.

But when Darrell pointed out having a nice office to work in every day would be worth it, he convinced me. So I struggled through the few hours at IKEA and wound up with a few items I was able to justify buying. Not sure whether that’s an accomplishment or a sacrifice, but that’s neither here nor there.

And I guess all of that was to tell you that I survived Saturday and made it to Sunday, which was my Grandma’s 84th birthday party (technically, her birthday is today). Darrell and I headed out to join the family to celebrate and eat more than should be humanly possible in a span of just a few short hours. I spent the rest of the day drifting in and out of a food coma, woken only by shouts and curses during the afternoon Green Bay game. Darrell gets … let’s say, animated … when his team is on the tube, and unfortunately this week the Packers packed it in early. With a dismal display from both of our teams (the Bengals lost in the early game), Week 1 football left much to be desired in the Manet household.

But there’s always next week. That’s what they say, right?

Either way, there’s still fantasy football!