Day 85: And here I was doing so well…

Turns out when there’s actual work to be done, the blogging just has to wait.

Feast or famine, folks, that’s the name of the game.

But I’m certainly not complaining. The fact that business has picked up and I now am struggling to find the time to focus on writing here is a good thing. Pair that up with a couple wonderful weekends spent with family and I’m one happy little camper.

This past weekend, my family got together at my parents’ house to sort of close out the good-weather seasons with a big camp out.

Or at least, that was the plan. Turns out only my husband and I actually camped out in a tent. Not sure whether I’m happy he talked me out of sleeping in a cozy bed in the house, but I digress…

Saturday was absolutely gorgeous, and the perfect weather for camping. It was bright and sunny all day long, warm enough to relax in shorts and a tee shirt, but cool enough at night to warrant the campfire, jeans and a hoodie that I believe define the true camping experience. My brother in law and a family friend busted out the guitars – totally normal – around the campfire and we all sang along.

No. None of us can sing. Pretty sure we scared off any and all wildlife within a 3-mile radius.

And it was fantastic.

On Sunday, we decided to stick around long enough to watch some football, flipping constantly between the Bengals vs. Buffalo and Green Bay vs. Baltimore games. With nail-biter wins from both the Bengals and a Packers, we headed home to enjoy the last few hours of the weekend.

Weird. Haven’t said that in a while.

Now, it’s back to work!

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Day 73: Social Media Blackout

I think it’s time for a social media blackout.

Well, maybe not for everyone, but definitely for me.

I also know I can’t stay off it for long; I use it to communicate, find leads, stalk keep up on my friends and family.

But the truth is, I know it’s impairing my creativity. I read somewhere once about how boredom is the key to creative inspiration. That you have to let your mind wander, scatter and sit around in silence for a while to really get the creative juices flowing.

Practically speaking, I know that means I need to allocate a dedicated time each day for engaging on social media. But just like any good habit, sometimes you need a kickstart to make it really stick.

Starting the minute I hit publish, I’m taking a self-imposed 24-hour break from social media. No forums, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Pinterest … I’ll be turning off all notifications before I go to sleep tonight. And heck, let’s throw the mind-numbing black hole that is television into the mix, too. I need to clear my mind, refocus and let myself get a little bored in order to get back into the swing of things.

So until tomorrow (I still intend to post here in the evening), it’s lights out.

Day 72: Dogs are weird

Anyone who knows me knows I love dogs. In particular, I love my dogs, Cooper and Lambeau, the dynamic beagle duo.

Cooper and Lambeau

A still moment like this means only one thing. I have food.

And in all seriousness, dynamic is the best way to describe them. Cooper (at left in the photo above) is super chill, sleeps most of the day and wants nothing to do with most forms of exercise. He’s never successfully played fetch and he’s a hunting dog to the core – you cannot stop his nose from working. He’s sort of a strong, silent type: he doesn’t bark much, but when he does, boy do you take notice.

Lambeau, on the other hand, is a bundle of energy and cries, well, a lot. He LOVES playing fetch and will chase a tennis ball like his life depends on it; he’s also quite good at leaping to catch them mid air. They both have their adorable – and not so adorable – quirks, but I love them both any way.

Which brings me to the next point. For those of you who don’t have beagles, I’d like to inform you of a little something known in the doggy world as, “the reverse sneeze.” While it’s mostly harmless and he’s been doing this for years, it’s a little bit ridiculous to watch. This isn’t a particularly bad episode, but he’s been doing this for about the last 30 minutes off and on. He’s more or less stopped now (I keep going out to check) but I feel so bad for the poor little fella!

Of course, you can find videos of other beagles similarly ‘sneezing’ online if you want to get a better picture. Lambeau has done this once or twice, but it’s almost always Cooper who has these fits. The only thing there is to do when this happens is try to calm them down, or what typically works for Cooper is to cover his nostrils like I do in this video. It forces him to swallow and sort of … reboot. Not sure what else to call it.

And just when I thought he was calm, I can hear the snorts coming from the living room.

Oh the joys of being a dog mom.

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!