Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday in the Bookstore

At the cafe table next to me, the young man is wearing cologne with such a strong "woodsy" note that it smells like someone's been chipping cedar trees into bags of shavings. Not at all unpleasant, sort of relaxing actually, but quite, quite pronounced.

We've driven all the way to this coastal city only to stall out at the mall and work in the B & N cafe. Kind of funny really. We could have done this in our own home, or nearby. But I'm typing and the girls are doing homework and S is browsing, so we are all quite content for now. So we won't swim in the ocean today. That's okay. We're here and we're now.

Hope you are as well. What about you? How's everything going with your time lately? Everything okay and good??

It's all stories, you know. It's almost all just the stories we choose to tell...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Happy Saturday

It's a nice day. We're taking it easy. We've been "going over the accounts", sorting through our expenses and incomes. Looks pretty good actually. We still have a huge deficit each month, but it's not going to stay that way.

We had a huge fight Thursday about nothing really. Just cumulative work stress. Now we're in the communication phase and looking clearly at the facts. Ha. It never hurts to present a clear picture of your accomplishments and worth, even to your life partner. (Actually, maybe especially to your life partner, as they are stuck with you so much of the time. :)  )

I feel recharged and more positive about the next three months. Must be the hint of autumn in the air.

I found a nice affirmation in the bookstore last night: I am abundance, I am wealth, I am joy.

I really like it. It immediately shifts your thinking. I realized that one most amazing abundance we enjoy is seemingly limitless clean, cool water. Even such a basic part of life, one so easily overlooked in our modern world, is amazingly rich. We are very blessed.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yeah Baby!!!

The guide is out! Looks like I'll be making a trip to the bookstore tomorrow!

Cannot wait to get more tips for my newest venture!


The other day in the mall, my daughters and I were paying for a t-shirt and the TVs mounted in the corners of the room were playing the new Taylor Swift video. You can't go into a store that caters to teens or the young, hip shopper without blaring music, videos, or both. The lyrics caught my attention. never...ever..ever...

"Wow," I said, "she REALLY doesn't ever want to date him again." We were all bemused by the strength of her feelings, and I found myself really liking the song. It's a simple little anthem of independence. Of just being OVER it.

Today, I jumped through a certain hoop, as I do every autumn. I walked out of the building and found myself thinking, I am NEVER ever ever ever coming back into this building. Ever. This is the end of this for me. EVER!"

EVER!!! :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Calm After the Storm

I walk through the front door and settle into the quiet peace of my house. Sunlight spills through the windows and there are only soft little sounds, the hum of the refrigerator, the clink of the guinea pigs' food dish, the calling of birds from the back yard. Aaahhh.

I love my family, I adore them, but getting the three of them off to school each morning is high drama. One or more of them is always running late, or looking for something, or dragging their feet. I feel like the support crew, prepping breakfasts, stuffing lunches into lunchbags, homework into backpacks, band instruments into the trunk. I find shoes, fill water bottles, sign paperwork. And drive. Even if I'm not entirely awake.

I love Garrison Keillor's spoken work. He's done a very funny rendition called the Family Hamlet, a six minute adaptation of the plot. In it, the pastor advises Hamlet to "Marry Ophelia. Settle down and raise a family." Oh, Hamlet protests, but I want drama. Swordfights and nobility and tragic passions. "Oh, that's okay then," the pastor reassures him. "You'll find all the dark passion you want just in getting your kids off to school." I laugh aloud every single time I hear that bit. It is SO true.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


In a lot of ways, this blog is an anti-blog. It's pretty much a textbook example of what NOT to do if you want to build a big, steady readership. I've known that for years now.

But that's okay.

I really don't need a big readership. While I do like this blog just exactly the way it is. It serves its purpose for me, and that's what counts.

Maybe someday I'll have one of those big blogs. Productive. Useful. Focused. I'll be on Twitter and I'll get liked on Facebook and all of that fireworky jazz. For now, these words are enough.

Being Productive

My day is well underway now. I'm getting oodles of little things done. Read a few useful blogs, prepped some business correspondence. Now I'm teaching myself how to make a brochure. I need to create promotional materials to accompany a new program I'm describing for a client.

I'm at CBTL. Although I'm a big fan of their gift card discount program, I don't usually come to the ones closest to my house. I'm not sure why. I just don't think of them as good places to hang out -- I think I've had some bad experiences with unpleasant secondhand smoke that biased my perceptions. But so far so good today, and it is handily close by.

Gosh. I am SUCH a shopper. I dropped by the post office to mail a letter. I needed to look for shipping options for my new business venture. So while I was there I bought on-sale folding boxes. Boxes!! Is there anything I will not buy if you put it at half price? But they were pre-printed like wrapping paper and they're really cute. If I don't need them to ship stuff, I can just stick Christmas presents in them with an instant wrapping effect. So they're worth it. Yeah.

I guess I can call that my extravagance of the day and go home now.

Parental Dedication

For a large block of my adult years, I have devoted myself to being the best mother I can possibly be. That means that I have spent great amounts of time with my daughters, more than most parents ever have the luxury to indulge in. At this point, that investment seems to be yielding great results. I have lovely, smart, thoughtful daughters who are usually pleasant to be around.

Now, ironically, I think the best thing I can do for my family is spend a bit LESS time on them. This autumn I'll be simultaneously building up four separate business endeavors. By treating each one as an engaging part time job, I can split my time up between these independent businesses. Usually I put about 50 hours a week into working, and now I'll need to put 70 hours over 5 days each week. But my challenge is actually to reduce the amount of work hours that I devote to family tasks. In general, I easily spend 35 hours each work week in direct care of the group and the home. I need to whittle that down to 25. I think I can. Especially if I keep handing more tasks over to each of them, and I focus my afternoons a bit more to include more computer work in addition to playdates and homework help. It's very true - women often work a full time job and then put in a "second shift" at home. That's my plan too. If I can work 45 hours each week, I'll still have 25 to give to the things that matter to me most.

Because I love being the one who drives my kids around, and who is there for them with appointments and performances. And homework and laundry. And I really do enjoy cooking delicious meals every day. I take pride in accomplishing the task of creating healthy, wholesome food to enjoy together. And I'm not giving any of that up. But I need to pay for it just a bit better. And so it is. It's the job I signed on for, and I plan to do it to full completion.

But I see that in addition to time now, the girls will benefit from having savings to go to college, and from having unusual job opportunities from my home-based businesses. So that's just caring for them in a different way, and caring for S and myself as well. Hey, as long as I can shop and eat out, I'm a happy camper. : )

But blah, blah, enough about me. How are you, dear reader? Is everything going okay in your life? How does today look compared to the future, and how is your energy compared to your goals?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Reflection

The weekend was pretty good. We all started out stressed and tired. Both S and I have been worn down lately by work pressures, but overall, we're getting along well, and the girls are too.

Friday we cancelled the fair, and just stayed home for pizza - something we seem to be opting for more often these days. Saturday, same story. All of us just wanted to hang out and accomplish things at home. We cleaned a bit. I cleaned out the hall closet and was able to find storage space for my "gift corner" and also my growing purse collection. The biggest thrill of the day was a trip to Trader Joe's for the week's groceries. Ya - hoo! Sunday started tense but we all settled down and had a nice breakfast. Went to the mountains for a small hike and bought some apples. We wanted to see S's parents, but they weren't feeling up to visitors. Aging parents are sort of depressing, especially if the relationship is a bit strained. I told S, They used to be in the middle and your grandparents were old. Now they're the old ones and we're in the middle. It makes me feel older too.

My challenge this week is to embrace work enthusiastically and to feel confident that more work is headed my way. If I put in the hours and the effort, it will come. I made a new schedule this weekend that splits my time up, and I'm commiting 70 hours each week divided between my work here at home and the four different jobs I'm getting going this fall. It's pretty much how my time naturally divides anyway.

As long as I see the writing, the nonprofits and the shopping as fun, then it's a pretty satisfying way to spend my time.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Work Stress

My poor husband. We're into the second month of the school year, and the stress is beginning to build. Teaching 150 teens a day isn't exactly an easy job in the best of times -- it's tiring and demanding and requires lots of decisions, organization, and energy. This year is an evaluation year. That means my husband will be observed and measured by an administrator throughout the months.

S pretty much hates to be evaluated or critiqued. Ever. This is a fact about him I have slowly learned during our decades together. If you want S to freak out, make him feel judged. It goes back to his childhood and parenting and yada, yada, same as us all. This morning he was talking about needing to meet with his vice-principal and complete the pre-eval paperwork.

I hate to see him make it such a struggle. He fights the process and just makes things harder for himself. But the lesson I try to remember is to be supportive of him and his feelings, rather than try to give him advice. That's so hard for me because of course I feel like I have a better way of approaching the whole situation. But he has to have his way and I have my way. It makes it harder that I did the same job for so many years, and therefore do have strong opinions about it all.

I hope he can have a good day and feel a little less stressed than he was this morning. At least, I gave him a good breakfast and a nice lunch. Those supportive gestures are probably the best I can do.

At least things here at home are going very well. The girls are pretty happy and stable, and I'm doing well, so there's not a compounding of the stress. And he is lucky to have someone here to take care of so many of the life tasks so that he doesn't have to worry about them. All the shopping, most of the cleaning and laundry, most child transport and social life, all the financial matters, and three meals and two snacks a day comes out of my effort. Plus I work. I have a lot of single mom friends who have to handle all of that effectively on their own.

I think the best remedy for now is a good and relaxing weekend. The girls are home with me today due to teacher furloughs from reduced budget. Thanks, poor economy. At least I got to sleep in a bit! Tonight, we'll all go to the Fair, and try to have the cheapest fun we can. Tomorrow, I want to go pick apples and then visit S's parents. We haven't seen them since June, and relations with them are always a bit sketchy. We just don't fit together very well. I have to force us to call and visit to have any relationship with them at all. But it's usually amiable enough when we make the effort so I think that can tie in with the first day of autumn and a nice drive through the countryside. Then Sunday, just relax.

It helps a lot too when I am happy, balanced and not stressed. A pleasant weekend, and a new focus on my work schedule for next week sound great to me.

Of course, one way I can help S even more is by working more myself. I realized that I essentially have five jobs right now: mom, yoga teacher, grant writer, writer, and personal shopper. It seems best if I commit to spending two hours each day on each job, doubling up on the momness. So I'd spend four hours cooking, homeworking, driving, playdating, and cleaning. I'd spend two hours teaching or on my own yoga practice. Two hours of grants, two hours of children's stories, and two hours of shopping. It's busy but it's pretty much what I do anyway. The grants can make $1000 per week, the shopping actually pays more per hour than the grantwriting!! crazy I know! so maybe another $200 as I start up, then yoga is an act of love and health not money, and the children's writing will pay off long term, maybe in the thousands or tens of thousands. And that's ALL good!

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I have this image on a magnet that sits on my desk.
It calms me and makes me feel hopeful whenever I look at it.

Aah, Aah, Aah, Aah...

Life is a funny business. I know I should be sitting here, working. I know it.

I just can't get myself started well.

I've compromised so far today. I'm not exactly working at grants, but I'm not really messing around either. I've been sorting bills and shopping for mortgages and sending emails and doing generally useful stuff that's not really just wasting time or just plain out having fun and lounging around with a book/tv show.

I've been off my game ever since my hours got cut. I really liked having someone to work with/for. I know I need to just pick myself up and dust myself off and get going. I can be independent, I can achieve, I can be successful and winning at my own business. And I'm going to be... Tomorrow.

Bleah. My motivation's not there. On the other hand, maybe I am diversifying. I have been educating myself about children's publishing and grant writing. And shopping. My sister in law loved the first batch of clothes, even the ones that don't fit perfectly. She enjoyed it so much that I am seriously wondering if I could start my own personal shopping business to compliment my writing. Sort of split my days between sitting and shopping. It's what I usually do anyway! And I have two born helpers for my work force. I might make up some flyers and let her hand them out to her friends and see if I get any results.

My future plan looks something like this:
Age 44 - 47 - Flourish and grow as a grant writer, saving enough income to pay off house and fund first years of college for kids. Write and publish series of children's books, ditto the money. Get both girls into high school.

Age 47-57 - Work full-time for a good income, devoting all of it to savings and college. Continue writing for fun/publication.

Age 57-70 - Kids out of college and successful in their own lives. Continue working in career started at 47. Save for retirement, but enjoy the benefits of a good life with travel and leisure time, visits with girls, etc.

70-95 - Retirement - Travel, devote time to family and grandchildren, write, volunteer, continue career on scaled down basis - writing? teaching?

After so many years of not having any sort of "Five Year Plan" it's really nice to see a flexible structure with certain goals opening up in front of me. Here's the challenge though. Life has a way of throwing twists into the path when you least expect them. Hmmmm...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wrapping It Up

A month ago we held a meeting where the majority vote, strongly supported by the organization staff, was to discontinue the annual fundraiser that I work with extensively each spring.

I've finally made myself type up the minutes of that meeting and distribute them to the key 30 people who have worked for this event year after year. Even though I'm not being paid for that time and effort, it felt important to me to communicate with everybody and effectively close the event off.

Obviously it's a bit hard. I truly enjoy working with these warm, wonderful people annually. But as I looked over my files and checked my facts and figures, I also am aware just how much work this event involves and what a hassle it is. I put in a lot of effort this last year - really gave it my very best - and I got paid well for that. So I'm at peace with it. I know I've worked hard, and I can accept that sometimes it is simply time for a change. The old fades away, and something new comes in to replace it.

I'm very curious to see what new possibilities will come up in the next six months. Maybe something even fresher and more vital.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Useful Gilbert Quote

I repeat those words back to myself whenever I start to feel resentful, entitled, competitive or unappreciated with regard to my writing: “It’s not the world’s fault that you want to be an artist…now get back to work.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Love, Pray

New Week, Mid-Month

I've been in a consolidation phase lately. After the energy I put out into the world in August, and the very good results from it, lately I've felt dormant, like I am regrouping on an inner level.

The shift in my work life triggered some anxiety and some heavy planning in my conscious and unconscious mind. While that's been brewing away, I spent last week mostly involved with a project for my sister-in-law. She had asked for some help with her wardrobe, and last week I shopped every single day.

She called me Tuesday and by Thursday, I had a box of new clothes on their way to her. By Saturday, I had assembled an entire new casual wardrobe of 41 pieces, everything from jeans to slacks to tops to scarves to hats to jewelry and shoes. I think I overwhelmed her!!

Now she owes me $600 but she can try things out at her own pace at home and decide what she wants to keep or return for a refund. All the stores will let her bring things back.

Sadly, I couldn't do all that time in stores without buying for me and the family too. So I also spent $600, money which we in no way have. Some things were truly great deals and needed, like the discounted pillows for our family room couch, and the awesome boyfriend jeans I picked up for a fraction of their price. But I put everything on the bed and went over it and over it, and I'll be spending my "errand time" for the next two weeks returning at least $500 worth of stuff to the stores. AND NOT BUYING ANYTHING ELSE WHILE I'M THERE! (Except for the awesome Mango Anthropologie Candles that I wanted to buy at Nordstrom Rack for $5 each, but I forgot to put in my cart.) But except for those, nothing. Shopping is good, Browsing is good, Looking is good. Buying is NOT ACCEPTABLE. We don't have enough income to buy our groceries, gas and utilities until my work life comes back together.

So that's where all my attention and time has gone lately. In my subconscious, I am churning around my next work and writing projects. With my conscious mind, I have been shopping and pulling together styles, textures and colors. At Nordstrom Rack, the employee asked me if I was a personal shopper stylist and said I had a great eye for outfits. My friends tell me all the time that I should shop for my job, since I love it and they mostly hate it. I'd be open to that for sure. Maybe when I'm a bit older, that would be fun.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rat Baths, Taxes, and Work

I've driven 30 miles today, to a charming village where I am working outside, sipping coffee and eating a mid-morning cheese croissant. Just because I could.

One of the things I adore most about my weeks are the amazing flexiblity I have day to day. It's ruining me for ever having a standard, "normal" job again, I'm afraid.

I'm using the setting and the drive just to clear my head, and focus my thoughts around my work life. Yesterday, I wrote my first ever business plan, putting into words ideas that I've had and concepts I've been using anyway. I sent it off to my former boss and I'm waiting to hear back to see if she's in on it with me. If she's not, then I'll take the plan and go it alone with my own special business.

I'm pretty happy because all my musing yesterday about savings and Roth IRAs and finances led me to a few insights. For one thing, I realized that our new rats are really not pets. I purchased them specifically for the writing I am currently doing, and that makes them a writing business expense. Especially since I am photographing them for future use with illustrations, as well as observing their mannerisms and behavior on a daily basis. That means that I can hire B to care for them, count her income as a business expense, and provide her with a small amount of annual income to get her started saving. Yay!

The rats are just adorable. I haven't said much else about Phoebe, but she and the babies are so cute. We get them out of their cage for at least an hour every day. For reasons of sanitation, we usually keep them confined to the top of a special card table that we have designated as their playground, and which can be cleaned and put away easily. Unless we are carrying them, and they love to be carried around. I'm still being very cautious taking them around the dogs.

Oh! and the other day I tried to introduce them to our guinea pigs. I held Phoebe down for Nutmeg to smell her and when I was picking her back up, she turned around towards me, and Nutmeg chomped a bite on her tail!! That was so mean! So I guess they're natural competitors more than potential friends. Good story idea there though. I'm collecting all the ideas I can.

This morning I let Phoebs run around on the counter next to the sink while I was washing the breakfast dishes. She thought that was kind of cool, although she seemed a bit concerned that I might be about to give her another bath.

(That was an experience. About two weeks ago, we bathed all three rats in the bathroom sinks. They were less than thrilled, and had a very desperate, drowned rat look about them as they clambered to climb away.)

I was supposed to go to Nordstom next today, but I'm running out of time and I don't feel like rushing. I have somthing to return, am still looking for silver bridesmaid shoes, and, now, I'm on special assignment for my sister-in-law. She has asked the girls and me to shop for her on her dime and provide her with a variety of updated looks in new styles!! Right up my alley as a fun hobby!

But I think I'll stay here til noon, and go shopping a different day. Then I can't accidentally spend any more money. I did put our $100 into savings again this morning, and next I have to work at earning it back.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Paths Online

So... my here and there reading online just turned into a most useful information session. I was led to ING's new offer - easy and cheap investments available through an automated account. We need to do something about our retirement planning!!

That led me on to double check the contribution limits -- $5000 per person for a Roth IRA this year, even for a minor as long as they have actual earned income. And on to Vanguard to see their Roth offerings. And then to a couple of useful articles about Roths for children in Kiplinger and Forbes. That has only increased my determination to get my girls working and contributing before this school year ends. It's the best gift I could give them for their future. (Yes, even better than Hollister shirts.) I didn't know that you can withdraw $10,000 from a Roth tax-free for a down payment on a home. That's just a great savings vehicle for them then!

From there, I started to wonder how much earning potential my writing could have. A check of average advances shows that I can expect about $5000 for adult fiction, maybe $20,000 advance for my nonfiction project, and children's books come in at around $3,000 to $8,000 split between the writer and the illustrator. I also discovered a very active, very close professional society of children's writers. So clearly my next step there is to join them and begin to learn from their expertise and publishing contacts.

I think if I spend even an hour a day on my children's stories, I can finish 6 - 10 per year, with a really well-written, revised and honed product. It seems like the potential return there is almost $1000 per month. Or in other words, my goal from here on out is to devote enough time to my children's works to fund our Roth IRAs for each calendar year. That lets me know that I have to focus on my grant writing business for the other investment/savings income we will need for the next few decades. Yeah. It's a lot, but it's very doable.

The start is something I'm not that good at - STOP doing something. STOP buying so much stuff and instead START saving in an active way. I probably need to make the saving more tangible somehow. I might even need to start transferring the money on a daily basis until I build the habit. Yeah, that's not a bad idea at all!!!

Let's see - $3000 per month is about $100 per day. So every day I should call the bank and put $100 from our checking account into savings. What? Not possible to do right now? Well then now I know that I have to earn enough for that money to be there in the first place!! Actually, we do have some emergency savings tucked away in one account. Maybe I'll just move them into the other savings. And designate it for the future. Yeah. That's a good plan isn't it? The money's still liquid, it's there for a true emergency, it's not taking away our daily needs funds from checking, and yet, it's making a small positive DAILY action to focus me on my goals.

Work Week

B stayed home sick yesterday, and I felt pretty bleah myself. Nothing really wrong, just both of us run down and tired. That made yesterday more of a lounging day than a work day.

We had a pleasant time. After we both fell back asleep til past 9 am, we went to my yoga class and then out for lunch. I made the mistake of letting her take me into the mall. I simply cannot NOT buy things. It's horrible. But what we got is so cute. I bought a birthday shirt for my sister-in-law, an Avengers comic book belt for S (ostensibly a Christmas present, but I gave it to him already and he's wearing it today. I knew he'd like it), and a Wonder Woman shirt for B. We're having a bit of a superheroes obsession at the moment.

Then Hollister was having a really good sale, and their shirts are cute and super-trendy so I got some of those for the girls. I did manage not to buy myself anything that I don't really need. Even though I found a few gorgeous necklaces and some nice perfume. I think I'm on the verge of vowing to stop shopping for myself until we straighten out our finances.

With this cut in income, we should really tighten our belts -- even the new ones! -- and cut our expenses. Boring! But maybe necessary. I'd like to spend the rest of this year and 2013 making a good effort to get ahead on everything.

In any case, I did a great job yesterday as a mom. I really enjoyed being with B and it's nice to spend some time together just the two of us. I made three meals yesterday, cleaned the house a bit, did three loads of laundry, and fed animals. I just didn't do any work at all. Hardly even touched my computer.

So today feels like the start of the week and a very slow one to me too. I have a lot to tackle and it's a bit overwhelming. But... soonest started soonest ended.

I'll work here a bit, then go to B&N and bribe myself with an apple tart, then yoga, then groceries, then pick up, then get dinner going, then back here for more work. Five hours today. At least, that's my plan.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wow - Humans are Awesome!

This just in from the Los Angeles Times!:

Taste buds and 'tude: The food and mood link

September 06, 2012
By Emily Sohn

Sweet tooth, sweet disposition? Research sheds light on how food affects mood and the flip side: how emotions impact taste.

All day, food metaphors weave their way into our thoughts about others. Watching someone cut in line may leave a bad taste in your mouth. Your current love may be the sweetest person you know.

A growing body of evidence is making clear the links between what we taste and how we feel: Repulsion is repulsion, whether caused by a shameful act or a rotten egg. "Your brain can't tell the difference between something that tastes bad and something that makes you feel morally violated," says Kendall Eskine, a cognitive psychologist at Loyola University in New Orleans.

Read the rest here

Friday, September 7, 2012


As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears.


Also, I found some lovely lines quoted here.

So, I'm Sitting Here...

...with my glass of red wine and a hunk of chocolate. It's a very nice, full cabernet and the chocolate is dark and crumbly. My daughter just wandered through and said, "Work wine? Do you need some cheese and crackers to go with that?"

Have I mentioned how much I adore having two sweet daughters live with me?? : )

I'm doing research that has been a long time coming. So far I've found several freelance grant writers' sites with their scope of useful articles and their prices. My boss and I are right in the range, both experientially and price-point wise, so that's encouraging. I've seen some interesting tips, but again, nothing new or groundbreaking, and that also makes me feel like we are right in the running with our experience.

I've also found at least 10 organizations in the area that are advertising positions for grant writers or development staff. The pay they offer isn't very good -- usually only about $20 per hour for full-time hours. My plan is to approach them with our materials and show them why hiring consultants is both cost-effective and program-effective. Why not? The worst they can say is no thanks.

In the long run, I do want to go back into a full-time job, something to keep me well-occupied when the girls are older. But for the next few years, I prefer to focus here. I love my flexible daily life, and the pay is good. Also I have two book projects to complete within the next three years. I want to at least give those a good shot before I commit all my hours to a single workplace again. I've asked myself whether I want to go back to teaching. I don't know. I loved that career and I excelled at it. I had a lot to offer. But I don't know if I would feel comfortable there in the future. It may be that I have been too changed. One possibility that feels more comfortable to me now is running workshops or trainings for adults in the nonprofit sector. My boss does that and now I'm ready to join in, I think.

All in all, it's not a bad day. I got laid off due to reduced work load and I already have an action plan, some research, some confidence and a list of clients to approach.

Action Plan's come to this.

Oh no, that's a punchline. Hold on. Let's be serious.

So... I have a tremendous opportunity to re-invigorate my work life. The parameters are flexible, and now is the time to pull in all the things I have learned about successful business practices over the last years. Life is inviting me to buckle down and create a thriving clientele.

And to do that, I need a plan.

I. Time
My ideal work week is about 25 hours. 20 hours is better, leaving me 5-10 hours for my own writing projects and this blog.

From here, I need to commit 25 hours per week -- or five per day-- to making a hugely successful writing business.

II. Collaboration
If she's interested, I prefer to bring my boss along on this. She has the business set up and the website so it's just a question of working together with her business name. If she's not interested in getting busier, then I have to go it alone.

III. Goals
To help good nonprofits serve their causes more effectively
To serve four clients by the start of October
To serve six to ten steady clients by the end of 2012
To generate $10,000 per month in business income
To consistently grow, learn, and build new business possibilities
To win grants regularly for clients
To create regular marketing and promotional materials

IV. Research
Job Openings in the Area
Advertising options
Currently working grant writing firms
Nonprofit issues
SoCal nonprofits

V. Promotion
Resume and Letter for posted openings
Letter to send to targeted nonprofits
Article with returned postcard
Redesign website
Pre-write service value articles
Add updated service articles

VI. Action - Next Steps
Prep stuff for/call and get added to consultant list
Join grantwriting group
Write articles
Write letter
Send info to M
Online research
Network - Call/email current nonprofit contacts for leads

This looks fun. A woman sitting in the cafe just asked her husband: "What if Opportunity knocks and you can't find the door?" Indeed -- you don't want to miss the knock of possibility.

New Opportunity

Well... I finally talked with my boss. The news isn't good...  she had half of her client workload leave unexpectedly last month so she has no more work to channel to me. Eek.

That's income I count on just to make our basic expenses. I don't want to go without that for very long.

Still though, it sort of feels like the news IS good. It feels like a challenge. It feels like new possibilites. She said that she loves my work and our working arrangement, and if things pick up, we would resume. So I think it is only a matter of helping her to get more work for her business. It might even be an opportunity for me to take on a fuller role in the business. We definitely need more marketing and approach of clients. We can also diversify a bit into more types of nonprofit assistance if she likes.

I think it's just a matter of continuing to work hard at it, without the money for now, with the idea that the money will come later. It is already on its way to us.


It's interesting. I've already been re-evaluating my work life and what I want to do from here. I had actually started researching nonprofit positions and other options as well. So this may be a springboard into a slightly different worklife. Also I do have several writing projects on tap that could use more of my time; I don't mind devoting some months there.

This doesn't feel unexpected to me, and it doesn't feel devastating. It feels right, like it is the next thing that needs to happen in a line of good changes happening in my life.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wha Ha Ha Ha - My Ongoing Journal



Snarky, Snark Snark!!  : )


This is my funny new word.

Okay, it's not exactly new. You've probably heard it used before in a different context. And, apparently, Lewis Carroll actually coined it in 1876 for a poem.

But, it's new to me. To me, it's a sound of delighted surprise. SNARK!?!

The other way to say it is with the same assessing admiration that 30 Rock's Liz Lemon uses to say "Twist!"

Try it. It is a great word. It's my new motto. For some reason, I was lying in bed last night and it just sprang to mind. And it kept making me laugh. I could just hear it. I started saying it aloud and busting up. My husband just looked at me. My daughter wandered through, and once I explained what I was doing, she looked at me too and said, "I'm so sorry for you, Dad."

That reminded my husband of my recent unraveling of his metacognitive comic. He's a big fan of XKCD, and XKCD featured a strip about Douglas Hofstadter. Specifically his six word biography. I've looked at the strip tons of times, because it pops up on my husband's laptop a lot. And I always chuckle, yeah, yeah, it's about metacognition. That guy's so smart, he just starts a sentence. Then, we were eating in a restaurant the other day and I said, "Wait a minute! It's an Acronym! Oooohhhh!! I get it!! Ooh, that's even more funny!"

S and my daughters were like, What? You never got that before?

It reads: I'm so meta even this acronym...

I'm sure you readers get it right away, because you're very smart. So, S brought that up last night when I was rolling around giggling. He said, "You know, I used to have a friend smart enough to understand my favorite comic. He liked those metacognitive authors too. Yeah, he really liked what I liked." He sighed and tried to fall asleep.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chit Chat

It's a cool grey morning here. My whole family woke up slow-- sleepy and sluggish in our first-light preparations for the day. I think we're passing a mild virus around...

I really don't know what to say here, but I'm going to at least say something. I feel a bit tired and a bit empty. Not bad. Just don't feel that pressure of the spark of an idea yesterday or today.

What can I offer to make this day a little easier? (To paraphrase Bradbury). I don't know.

OMG. It has just this second started to rain!! Oh, that is just incredibly beautiful. I'm sitting at my large green desk, looking out on the view of trees and shrubs through the window and the sliding glass door. I can hear the thick drops falling, singing their song of autumn and change. Washing away any troubles or doubts. I find rain soothing and rejeuvenating, and I love to walk in it. See. I didn't know what to write and then the world gave me material.

So far today, I've started some laundry and brought all the bills up to date for this month. Ugh. That wasn't that fun. I can't complain because somehow through earnings and gifts and credit, we always have enough cash flow to fund whatever we need. But I do wish I could become less extravagant in my spending. It doesn't seem sustainable over the long term. But then, somehow it has been sustainable for the last three decades, so maybe I'm wrong to worry? Having two kids is just expensive, and I know our costs will go down once they are out of college. At least, I hope they will! :)

So, it's been an hour of math and figuring at my desk, and now a bit of a break. I finished all my work for my main supplier yesterday and I'm waiting to hear when I will get more. I don't mind being done for a bit -- and I have stuff for my other clients, plus my writing project to get going. Hopefully, she and I are meeting this week. She's a busy mom too, so I think she gets overwhelmed like I do.

What else, friends, what else?

Today is my parents' 48th wedding anniversary. We've invited them over for a home-cooked meal. My dad's big plan to celebrate -- I am not making this up -- was to go to the grocery store and use their $10 coupon to buy stuff. Yay? My mom looked pretty doubtful about that and jumped at the chance to come over here. But, hey, that's their marriage and their deal. I'll make it nice for them. We have some light wine and I'll buy flowers. I might even have a couple of little gifts I can give them. I'm making Green Chicken in the crockpot, so I'll go get that going next.

The dinner menu is:
Bleu Cheese Apple Salad
Green Chicken
Orange Carrots with Honey-Butter Glaze
Red Potatoes
Crusty Brown Rolls

(Once I had a couple of colors, I thought I should just go for it. Oh gosh, do you see the theme there? Now that I wrote it out, I do. How about Your Rainbow of Love? And I'll buy rainbow flowers and put up some streamers... Maybe a cake with a rainbow on it? Party planning is SO easy. I asked my friend the bride about her wedding decor and she said she thought that the hotel coordinator and the florist would handle it. What?? She THOUGHT? She's not even sure? Isn't it great how the world is full of all different types of people for variety?)

And after cooking?

Then, I guess I'll go somewhere and write. Maybe get a nice croissant and a cup of coffee. That sounds yummy on a rainy morning. I've got proposals and research. Plus I'm starting to do character sketches for my new project of children's stories.

Til Later, alligators...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Slow Simmer

Morning, again. Another lovely patchwork of green and gold, light and song. My own words don't come to mind as much as this, the ending of a book I love, Fahrenheit 451. I ponder the inexplicable quality of life, of the work of being alive, and my unconscious brings this passage to the front of my memory. So I offer it here:

But now there was a long morning's walk until noon, and if the men were silent it was because there was everything to think about and much to remember. Perhaps later in the morning, when the sun was up and had warmed them, they would begin to talk, or just say the things they remembered, to be sure they were there, to be absolutely certain that things were safe in them. Montag felt the slow stir of words, the slow simmer. And when it came his turn, what could he say, what could he offer on  a day like this, to make the trip a little easier? To everything there is a season. Yes. A time to break down, and a time to build up. Yes. A time to keep silence, and a time to speak. Yes, all that. But what else. What else?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Like a Purple Dream

With the other areas of my life settling down...

...I finally got to go in and get fitted for my bridesmaid dress!! I wanted the girls to go with me -- thought they'd enjoy the bridal shop scene -- so I waited for a day off when we had some free time. My friend kind of freaked me out by telling me to make an appointment -- I kept putting it off because I really am not the best at tying myself down to being in one certain spot at one certain time, especially on leisure days. Then I had an a-ha moment where I realized that an appointment wasn't really necessary. I realized that the clerks were there anyway and that if I just showed up and said I was there to see my dress style and I had a credit card to pay them, that they were very likely to make some time for me.

And that's exactly the way it worked out. We had a nice lunch at Nordstrom*, then browsed around the mall in a leisurely fashion, then went to the bridal shop. Very relaxed and fun.

I don't exactly love the dress. I would have gone with something with even more style and detail, especially around the hem. But it is MY dress, and I GET TO BE A BRIDESMAID! Tra la la!!!

Also, it's not terrible. The fit is pretty flattering, and the color (eggplant, a deep, rich purple) is great for me. I think I was probably one of the happiest bridesmaids they have ever seen come through there.

I was a bit worried about having to order the size so far ahead. In general, my weight and shape is fairly stable. But I'm pretty sure that this wedding and the general upward trend in my life is going to encourage me to exercise a lot more in the next five months. Hopefully they can do alterations right up until the wedding. I might just have to pay more.

Now I need silver strappy shoes, and I have to find out what she wants with our hair. I'll see if I can hire my stylist to do it for me. And I need to go to some make-overs for photo make-up. Usually I just wear it the same way all the time, sort of simple-casual. AND I need to see if the bride wants help with theme or decor as the girls and I are practically experts at that kind of thing.

In the car, the girls were asking me, Mom, do we get dresses? What's her theme?

I replied, Um, I don't think she has a theme. Just "wedding."

They were horrified. No theme. You can't have a party without a theme. How will she pull the look together? Tell her to talk to us, Mom. We've been doing this since we were five.

And you know -- they have.

I wanted to cut and paste the dress photo here, but the best I can do is a link to the website. If you click on the Color tab, eggplant is the purple square on the bottom row. It's kinda fun to change the colors around. Well, I think it's kinda fun...

* It was the first time we've been back to Nordstrom cafe since I wrote that nice note. The manager took our order personally. Then when we left after lunch, he followed us out into the store just to thank us again. He said that it went to all of his bosses and it made a huge impression! That's nice to hear. He's a good guy running a good business, and he deserves the recognition.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


While I mostly enjoyed my 29 consecutive days of giving, there were times when it felt like just another task to remember and take care of in a busy day.

So, now I'm in a non-giving phase. That's right. I don't have to give anything to anybody.

Except, I find, I still am.

As soon as my phase ended, I discovered that my attorney had gone to court for me on his birthday. I've mentioned how I feel about birthdays before, have I? Right, I think so. My deeply held beliefs about that combined with my excessive gratitude. The next thing I knew I was right out in a store, snapping up gift cards to his favorite restaurant (I saw him there once) and whisking them into the mail with a heartfelt note of appreciation.

That made 30 consecutive days.

And now, now, I find myself at my computer screen, with the luxury of "playing" instead of working, and I'm getting little tasks done. You know, making holiday travel reservations and finding out when the Lunar festival will be this year, that kind of thing. And I am remembering that my oldest aunt's 90th birthday will be this week. Groupon very kindly shot an FTD discount my way so I think I will go with flowers in addition to the specialty cookies she likes. She doesn't need more jewelry or other stuff to clutter her small space. But I think I'm the only one in her life who ever buys her flowers, as she never married, has no children, and the other family members are busy with their own families.

Do you like the flowers above? They were the cheapest... err... most colorful ones on the site, so I think I'll go with them. They are very cheerful aren't they? I buy flowers all the time for myself and the house. (I buy them at Trader Joe's for under $5, but they're still pretty.)

I'm not sure that I really have the hang of stopping my generosity. Oh well.

Goal Setting

I'm still using my space here to reflect on the recent past and the possible future.

Back in April, I had lunch with my boss and followed a path of open honesty. The energy of that prompted me to re-evaluate where I was in my life, and where I would like to go. On Friday, April 13th, I set some intentions for the year, and I put them out in writing, expecting 2012 to be miraculous.

And indeed, it has!!

Four days from that post, my attorney called me and said that it was time to move forward. I'd been waiting for that call for years. It was almost as if by setting my intention, I opened myself to a tremendous energy in life that was just waiting to express itself.

I had four major goals in April -
To gain total legal freedom - I am already halfway there and more. I truly believe that the October date will wrap this all up. Which still makes me so buzzy-excited I can hardly breathe!!

To get fit and in shape - I'm working on that one. I have done a good job of adding more yoga classes to my weeks, and I am getting more fit. I've reduced my claories per day somewhat and I am seeing slow - very slow- progress. Since July, I've managed to move about 2 pounds. I expect that to accelerate as more things in my life feel resolved. I've known for a while now that I'm not that fond of losing ANYTHING so I tend to resist. I have a much stronger energy of providing and keeping and over-abundance. My losses in life have hurt and so my body tries to protect me from that. But, really, I would be okay with being leaner. Really.

To have a lot of money - Work has been surprisingly steady this year. Now that I'm back in the flow with school, I plan to pick up more hours. I'm meeting with my boss this week, and I'm actively thinking of new occupation possibilities. Besides simply putting in more hours with the clients I already have, I plan to mail out solicitation letters to targeted nonprofits. (Giveback). I'm going to invest some time in writing the first drafts of the children's stories I've been shaping in my mind, so that they're ready for submission in 2013. I have three books stacked on the floor right now that could help me here- one on writing for children, and two on re-inventing your career after setbacks, so I can commit to read those this month. I'm making $2000 per month now, and I want to move that to $5000 per month, pay off those last few bills, and invest heavily towards college costs. I also thought of finding existing event planning/fundraising companies and approaching them about being an assistant. I'm really good at that kind of organizing/planning/special day work and I think it would still have a lot of flexibility suited to my lifestyle.

Reconnecting with old friends - Check and check! There is excellent progress on this one. Next to the legal resolution, this is an area of life where I feel the most growth. I've made a point since April of actively and regularly reaching out to friends and I do feel more connected in general. I'm pretty confidant that my flourishing friendships are one of the best features of my very good life. I used to approach friendship with much more need and desperation, but now I am very content. Also, friendship is an art that I much enjoy practicing -- giving the right amount of effort and time for healthy, balanced friendships to grow.

September's Here

Blackberry Eating

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry eating in late September.

Galway Kinnell


Note: I first read this poem in September when I was teaching my first high school English class. Blackberries were hanging ripe on the wild vines in the mountains near my home where my family would fall on them during our hikes. I brought blackberries to class and we ate them and read the poem and made a list of sensory details that could become part of our own writing about blackberries -- and language.

Interestingly, I found three different versions of this poem on common poetry sites, and they all handled the last line slightly differently. I found "blackberry -- eating in late September," "blackberry-eating", and "blackberry eating." I don't know which is correct, but the dash didn't seem right. I opted for the version that treated the phrase in the same way as the poem's title. But it was an interesting little foray into the importance of editing.

I found a few links to other Galway Kinnell poems that I liked as well, most notably "When one has lived a long time alone"  and "Oatmeal." He's a fabulous poet and I enjoy his work whenever I come across it.