Passion, Shmassion.

You remember that writing course I told you guys I was taking?

A quick glance at today’s assignment tells me it’s going to be a doozy. Why, you ask?

Because it’s all about finding your passions.

You see, I’m a person of very few passions, if any. Certainly not many I could fill a whole blog writing about. I care about plenty of things, sure — the environment, social welfare, common freakin’ decency — but I don’t think I know enough about or am passionate enough about any of them.

What does passion even really mean, any way?

People say that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That if you follow your passions, you’ll always be happy. But that assumes that you’re passionate about something you can make money doing!

True enough, I’ve followed what I guess you could call my passion for proper grammar (yes, I’m that weird) and I’m making a living as a writer, proofreader and copy editor. I often think I should spend more time writing about how to become a freelancer; to help other people with creative minds take the leap from corporate cog to sole proprietor. But if I’m being honest…

I have no idea how to do that.

I mean, I’m doing OK, don’t get me wrong. But I have a lot of cushions that many others don’t, and I haven’t felt the fear of missing rent because I was unable to secure enough work. I have a husband with a good job who values my happiness higher than any income, and a good network of former coworkers and friends who send work my way. How can I sit on my throne of lies telling people how to make it as a freelancer? I’m not making it on my own; I have a tremendous amount of help and support.

And the real truth is — I wouldn’t know how to pitch a publication or other service to save my life. I’m a terrible sales person, particularly when it comes to selling myself. It’s part of why I’m taking this class in the first place, to figure out what exactly I have to offer and how to offer it.

Maybe that’s how everyone figures out this freelance gig, who knows. Maybe I’m not the only person who has no idea what she’s doing 80 percent of the time.

But even if that’s the case, do we really need another case of the blind leading the blind?

So I turn away from freelance advice, and back to the drawing board. What else do I care about?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

I love dogs, but no one needs another person rambling about how dogs are awesome.

I love food, but I would never even attempt to enter the food blog arena. Talk about shouting into a void.

I love beer, but you can only write about that so many times before your family tries to stage an intervention.

I suppose you could say a growing interest of mine is female health education. Call it a symptom of what I’ve been going through for the last year, but it’s truly appalling the amount of misinformation out there about the female anatomy. Girls who are lucky get a quick gloss over it all during sex ed; girls who aren’t so lucky, who don’t even have sexual education in their schools, are often left clueless as to how their bodies actually work.

It’s embarrassing that we leave such important information out of our education. That because it has to do with a woman’s insides (EEK! GASP! CLUTCH PEARLS!) it’s best if we don’t talk about it at all and just hope for the best down the line.

So yeah, maybe I’m passionate about that. But I’m not a physician; writing blog after blog about female reproductive education isn’t going to boost my business in any way. Hell, depending on the person, it might even chase some clients off. That’s certainly not what I’m going for.

Back to the drawing board, again.

Most likely, this blog will always be a place for these random musings to come out, a place where you’ll just hear me blab (and therefore will never get many hits). But I’m working toward finding the right voice for my business blog, and it’s not been easy.

That’s freelancing for you. Too much time to think and not enough direction.

Heh. Maybe it should be a freelancer tips blog after all.


Fighting through the fog

Most mornings, I wake up feeling relatively chipper, bright and cheery and ready to start the day.

I know. You hate me.

But it’s true — I’m much more of a morning person than an night person. Even when I was in college, when I was staying out late every night, I’d still manage pretty easily to wake up by 8 or 9:00. It was both a blessing and a curse, really … I mean, if you’re going to bed at 4 a.m., you really should sleep past 10.

But this morning. Oh this morning. I’ve been awake now for about two hours and I still can’t seem to shake off the sleepy. I’m on my second cup of coffee and it’s still fog city over here.

So what am I going to do? Write through it anyway.

Why? Because James, my online writing course teacher, will yell at me if I don’t.

(OK, not really. She’s yet to yell at anyone.)

So you’re stuck with the foggy, disjointed, rambling Ally this morning. I hope you’ll be OK with that. Right then. On with the real post.

As you probably know, it’s been a dreadful couple of winter days around here. We even hit a record low overnight last night, something like -9? NEGATIVE NINE DEGREES, people. That’s unfair. That’s not right. That’s…


Remember how I told you that I hate February in the midwest, and that in particular, I hate snow?

I don’t think I fully explained why. You see, my birthday is in February. And every year when I was a kid, my parents would let me invite all my friends to spend the night for a birthday sleepover. It’s what every kid wants for their birthday, right? To get all hopped up on cake and punch and run around like an idiot with her best friends.

But it never happened. Every year, EVERY YEAR, my birthday plans would get canceled because of an impending storm. There was always snow, or ice, or sleet, bearing down on the tri-state and bringing down the fun.

You see, I grew up in the middle of nowhere. Getting to my house was a little more difficult than normal on a good day, so when there was snow in the forecast, it was a no brainer. It simply was not safe to drive to my house, so my friends’ parents had to call it off.

So I got used to it. My family started making a running joke of it. It never surprised me when I had to be holed up in my house on my birthday. In college it was a little better, because I had roommates and I was walking distance from nearly all my friends, so the annual snowstorm lost its edge. When I moved back home and then later into my own apartment, though, the distance was greater and the curse resumed.

But this year, this year was different! On my birthday weekend, it was sunny and almost 50°! We met up with my family, went bowling, had fun … I couldn’t believe it — the curse had been broken!

Then last Friday, I found out that my friends were planning to come visit. A belated birthday surprise, of sorts.

And guess when it started snowing.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! The birthday curse strikes again, even three weeks after my actual birthday.


Man I hate February.

But hey, look at that — my brain is finally starting to wake up.

Snow, miserable snow

February in the midwest.

I’m not sure there’s anything worse. The cold, the snow … the cold, the snow.

UGH. I hate the snow.

It’s been snowing and snowing like crazy here this week. I know it’s nothing compared to what most of the east coast has been dealing with*, but snow in the Indiana/Ohio/Kentucky tri-state can be a dreadful and dangerous thing.

Our roads aren’t flat. They aren’t straight. They wind up and over and around the foothills we live on; the same rolling hills that make this part of the country beautiful can make it downright treacherous when covered in snow and ice.

A lot of people maintain that all it takes is a bit of caution and a good attitude to get you from point A to point B on a snow day.

I call bullshit.

In high school, I was on my way home from my boyfriend’s house when an ice storm came in. It seemed like no big deal, really — just a bit of freezing rain — but I knew I needed to get home.

I was a good driver. A careful driver in the snow (though a bit of a lead-foot when the sun was shining) and I knew I needed to take it easy. I had a brand new car, after all … a shiny yellow cavalier. I didn’t want to take any risks, so I made sure to take the “safe” way home.

(The safe way home meant taking the route with fewer hills, fewer sharp curves and fewer places to drift off road.)

So I go, slowly, taking caution to never slam my brakes or accelerate too quickly. When I came to a big open intersection where I’d be turning left, I actually TRIED to spin my car out a little, to test the road. Nothing. Seemed like a good sign.

A few minutes later, I’m driving and I notice my car slipping. I’m heading down a hill with no other traffic, but I can’t control my car. Careful not to overcorrect (thanks for always teaching me that, Dad), I try to keep my car on the road.

Suddenly, I hit black ice and my car spins a quick 180-nope-360-still going-540° and I’m backwards, shooting across the road and coasting up on what I assumed was a hillside until my car came to a stop.

You may not believe me, but I was actually a rather calm 18-year-old in this situation.

I remembered then a guest speaker we had in school earlier that week, a firefighter who reminded us to always check for wires if you hit a telephone or power pole. Since I didn’t entirely know what had stopped my car, I looked around to see if there were any live wires. (Yes, this actually all went through my mind).

None. Good.

I tried calling my parents. Thanks to good old fashioned dial-up internet, the line was busy. I was calling and calling when I heard someone outside.

“Hey! Hey! You OK in there?”

I looked up to see a Fire/EMS and a police officer looking down at my car. Turns out they were on their way back from another accident when they saw my car. I started to open the door to get out when…


Okay. Close door. Got it. Rolling down window now…

“Your car is just sort of hanging there. I’m afraid if you open the door it might tip over.”

Um. WHAT!? I looked down out of the window and realize my car is suspended above a small bridge. It was just a culvert, a small creek running under the highway, but still completely terrifying.

Talking with the officer, we decided I’d crawl out the window and slide over the back side of the car. When I got out, climbed up the hill and made it over to talk to the police officer and file my accident report, he asked for my drivers’ license.

*sarcastic glare*

“Still in the car?”

“Uh, yeah. I didn’t think to grab my purse as I was shimmying out of my car.”

Long story, um, long, the EMT (my uncle, what up small towns) checked me out to make sure I was OK, and my dad showed up to take me home. When the tow truck showed up (also my uncle … seriously, small towns), they pondered over the best way to get my car out of its precarious situation and realized salvaging it was pretty well hopeless. I still remember cringing as the whole thing came crashing down onto the hill; the car I’d had for only nine months, totaled.

The next day, it was sunny and nearly 70 degrees. No one believed me that I totaled my car in the ice because it all happened after most people were home for the night, safe inside having dinner. It wasn’t until I brought in pictures a few days later that they all could see I wasn’t kidding.

Just like I’m not kidding now when I say I hate the snow.




*Seriously. I know Bostonians have it hella rough right now. Be safe out there. 

Grief is weird

So, you guys remember how I applied for that Damn Fine Words scholarship?

Turns out, I won!

I’m excited about this opportunity to help develop my writing skills. You know, seeing as how I work as a writer from time to time. Classes started yesterday, which means precisely two things:
1. You’ll be hearing a lot more from me over the next 10 weeks.
2. I’m going to have to figure out something to say over the next 10 weeks.

So what should that be?

I’ve gotten quite a bit further into my personal life here than I ever thought I would, but it’s turned out to be a pretty good thing. I know that since I wrote about the struggles we’ve been having over the last year, I’ve had several people tell me that they’ve found solace in their own losses. That’s all I could have ever asked for, that maybe by being open about how absolutely awful this whole trying to start a family thing can be, that maybe someone else would feel a little less alone.

But of course, that also means that practically everyone knows what’s going on in my life, in my head, and that’s a bit trippy. Questions that were once polite conversation starters now take on such a somber tone, as if people are afraid I’m going to break down at any second.

“So, how ARE you?”

“Anything new?”

“How have you been doing, you know, with everything?”

I know that talking about this is difficult for people. They don’t want to say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing, or be insensitive. But here’s the thing: If I want to talk about it, I’ll talk about it. If I have news to share, I’ll share it. If I’m on the verge of some mental breakdown, you’ll sure as hell be able to tell.

More than anything, don’t pity me because my life went a little off-track this year. As low as the lows were, there were also some pretty great high points this year, too.

Grief is such a strange emotion. It isn’t something you carry around at the front of your mind, all day, every day. Sometimes it takes a back seat to the wonderful things going on around you. It lets you appreciate the good things, the sunny days or the goofball dog at your feet, and it gives you a break from feeling sad.

And on those good days, seeing pity in your eyes doesn’t do me any favors.

I don’t want this to come across as a list of dos and don’ts, because quite frankly, it’s not so simple as that. There are no hard and fast rules on how to get through this, not for me and certainly not that can be applied across the board.

So if you want to know how I’m doing, ask, but know that it might be a longer answer than “fine.” Trust that if there’s something I want to tell you, I will, and don’t assume there’s anything wrong unless I say so.

Who knows, I might even have good news one of these days.

Stitch Fix Review: Fix #1

I suppose I need to join the cool kids and post a review about my experience with Stitch Fix, right? I’m a total newb in the Stitch Fix game and am terrible when it comes to fashion, but hey, why not write up an entire post about it?

Stitch Fix, for those who don’t know, is an online service where you set up a profile, pay $20 and have a personal stylist send you five curated items they think will suit your needs/wants. Once they arrive, you get three days to try things on, mix-and-match with items from your own closet, and decide what you want to keep. If you keep anything, your $20s up front goes toward your final total; if you keep everything, you get a 25% discount on the entire box. It’s super easy and, if you’re like me and hate to shop, easy is what you need when you need new clothes.

Make sense? Also, if you sign up through any of the links in this post, I’ll get a $25 credit without costing you anything extra, so that’s pretty awesome. OK — on to the fix.

First up: Ooh, how pretty!

Everything comes in a nice neat little package.

Such a nice, neat little package.

I had asked in my style profile for a big, oversized cardigan (hello, cold office), so seeing all the knits in this box was a good sign. Definitely off to a good start.

First up, this pink/mauve cable knit sweater.

Hmm... that's an interesting hem.

Hmm… that’s an interesting hem.

I was pretty skeptical about this one right away, considering I don’t typically look great in this style of sweater, and-plus-also, what was going on with that hem? But I tried it on anyway, and…

Nope. Big ol' nope.

Nope. Big ol’ nope.

Yeah, no. The fit on me was super frumpy, the little side flaps (I mean, what else would you call them?) we’re a little too weird for me. And since I decapitated myself in this pic you can’t tell, but the mauve doesn’t do much for my skin tone.

Cost: $68. Verdict: Sent back.

Next up, these super cute skinny jeans.

Ooh, fancy pocket zippers.

Ooh, fancy pocket zippers.

At first glance I really liked these jeans. They were super soft and I kinda liked the funky-ness of that zipper detail.

Look at me, following directions!

Look at me, following directions!

I took a cue from the style card and paired them up with a bold-colored top and some snakeskin flats. I liked the look a lot, but ultimately, the fit was a bit off.

Cost: $88. Verdict: Sent back.

Man, I really need some jeans though, and they sent me two pair. Next up, these wide-leg trouser jeans.

Gettin' fancy. Denim fancy.

Gettin’ fancy. Denim fancy.

In theory, I really liked these jeans. I like that they’re a little nicer than your average denim, and the creased front makes them more like a pair of trousers. Oh right, that’s why they’re called trouser jeans. Anywho.

Close, but no cigar.

Close, but no cigar.

For the most part, I really liked these jeans. I had a bit of an issue with how they fit around the waist (just a smidge too big). And for nicer jeans, I’d want them to be a bit longer so I could wear them with heels; these are just long enough on me for flats. Darn.

Cost: $78. Verdict: Sent back.

Now, before you go thinking I sent back everything, I saved the best two for last!

To infinity (scarf), and beyond!

To infinity (scarf), and beyond!

Let’s pretend I didn’t just caption it that.

This scarf was super cute, a bluish-green color that I don’t own much of, and so, so snuggly.

Fashion, yo.

Fashion, yo.

Paired with a simple tee and some jeans, we’re good to go!

Cost: $28. Verdict: Kept!

And finally, the cardigan I begged for requested!

Why hello, there.

Why hello, there.

I spent hours — nope, not exaggerating — trying to find this mystical cardigan. Something big, warm and soft I could wear to work. Our office is freezing, FREEZING, and I’m usually at my desk wearing gloves and a coat because none of my cardigans are heavy enough.

Boom. Nailed it.

Boom. Nailed it.

This scarf fits the bill. It’s super soft and warm enough to wear sans-coat, even now when it’s in the low 40s. There was no question, this one was a keeper.

Cost: $78. Verdict: Kept!

So there you have it, my very first Stitch Fix! I know I’ll definitely give it another go, as I loved the convenience of being able to try stuff on with what I already own, not to mention having someone else make the selection decisions for me.

Did I mention I hate shopping?