Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Weight loss and the perpetually 10-year-old mind

I've come up with a new strategy to motivate myself to lose weight/train for the triathlon: I've made myself a star chart.  Star charts were commonplace in my household growing up; it was my mom's go-to technique for motivating my sister and I to do chores, save for things, or pretty much anything that she needed to force us to do in a really nice way.  I think that star charts resonate so well with me also because I inherited from my dad a compulsive need to log and chart progress and achievements.  My dad fulfills this compulsion through his geocaching habit; I prefer to break out the crayola and make myself an old-fashioned star chart.

So, my exercise star chart is color coded (naturally), and it includes a category for every possible method of exercise available to me: running, biking, swimming, walking, wii fit, biggest loser for wii, and all my various exercise DVDs.  I also included a category for when I stay within my daily point value (haven't gotten many stars in that category this week).  I'll be rewarding myself with triathlon gear (athletic swimsuit, road bike, babysitting $$ so I can train for the swim) and also indulgence rewards (can't wait to earn the MASSAGE!).  I'll just have to see how well it works: so far it's mostly been successful in making me feel more guilty about neglecting my exercise.  I do have seven stars so far though, and I gotta say it gives me great pleasure sticking those little sparkly stickers on my chart.

IF I had the ability to get my hands free of BABY for more than a few minutes of time, I'd love to make myself a star chart for all the other stuff that I need to do daily but dread.  At least with exercise, you eventually get the pay off of feeling better and looking better.  But what's my payoff for doing the stupid dishes?  Nothing, yet I still have to do them, over and over again, and still I find the sink full again the next morning.  I think I'd feel much more fulfilled if I got stars for doing the dishes and laundry, cooking dinner and fixing lunch, changing the baby, organizing the cabinets, scrubbing the floors, and all the other mind-numbingly tedious tasks of a SAHM.  It'd mean a lot more rewards earned, but the problem is, what can I really use as motivational awards at this point?  Indulgent food is a no-no right now, and being fiscally responsible is another current goal of mine that I can't neglect for the sake of staying motivated to clean the house.  So, what are my options for fun rewards that don't contain calories and don't cost money?  Suggestions appreciated!

Friday, January 8, 2010

I'm back! And, with a sidekick!

So, I haven't blogged in just over a year.  Oops.  But I'm back with good intentions, and I am sporting the cutest of accessories, a ridiculously cute 4 month-old named Evelyn Vera.  She's the reason (if you want the really simplified version) of why I haven't written here since last January.  Also, I gave birth to her!  Yup, she is my daughter and my greatest accomplishment.  She's also the 'news' I hinted at in my last post (a year ago) which I never got around to sharing here (but I'm fairly certain everyone who knows me outside the web has figured out by now).

Of course, things have changed dramatically for me since I last posted, and so the focus of my blog will have to change as well.  I've given up the freelancing- temporarily at least- as it wasn't working out and I had a lot of other things to do, like grow and deliver a baby and move across the country.  Now my main thrusts in life are being a mom and losing all the weight that I should have lost BEFORE I got pregnant.  I'm proud to say that I've lost 55 lbs since giving birth on September 1st, which puts me at 20 lbs lighter than I was when I got pregnant.  I've set a goal for myself to lose an additional 40 lbs, which would put me at the lower end of my 'healthy BMI' range, but I'd be happy with 30 lbs too.  25 even.  In fact, it's interesting how your perspective changes with age and experience:  Right now I am at the weight that I was the 1st time I joined weight watchers, my sophomore year of college.  At that time I felt terribly chubby and like I had failed myself.  This time around, 6 years older and wiser, I feel like I look fabulous at this weight and I'm proud of myself for having gotten (back) to it!  I wish I could have had this perspective in high school, so I could have really enjoyed my little waist and not-flabby thighs instead of comparing myself to the stick-figures on the cheerleading team and finding myself inferior.  Oh well.  I hope I can use my experiences and lessons to save my daughter from the body image agony that I've felt over the years, but I'm pretty sure she'll have to learn the hard way, as we all do. 

So I guess I'm a mommy blogger now, and a weight loss chronicler, and maybe some other stuff depending on what I feel like writing about.  My posts may be short or infrequent.  In order to get this written, I've had to wave various toys in front of Evie's face, shouting, "Look!  Birdie!  Ball!  Horsie!  Pretty colors!" in order to buy a few second to type a couple of words ... and then repeat the process all over again.  Of course there is always her naps, but I need those to accomplish other things, like taking a shower, eating food that can't be consumed using only one hand, keeping the household mess to a managable disaster, and of course catching my own naps.  Seriously, being the primary caregiver for an infant is a special brand of insanity that you cannot understand until you'v been there.  Prior to having Evie, I thought I knew.  I DID NOT!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I'm actually cooking. Seriously!

Once again I disappeared from my blog for a long chunk of time.  I have all the same excuses of travel and being busy and all that . . . and they are valid.  A big part of it, though, is that once you've stayed away for a while there's this feeling of pressure to write something really great, and with all that's been going on, I just haven't had the time or energy to sit down and think through a good, comprehensive blog post.  

So what you are getting is a mish-mash, much like several of my last posts- but I do promise this won't last forever.  Just bear with me a little longer.

I do have a few things that I'm aching to blog about, but I'm unable to at this time.  Some of it is family related, and I don't want to write anything that could stand as an indelible brand of hurt down the line, as mad or hurt or bewildered as I might feel by current family events.  Also, I know my mom would kill me!  I also have some good stuff to blog about, but I'm not quite ready to lay it down here.  It will come soon, don't worry.  I cannot keep a secret.

I didn't make New Year's Resolutions officially this year, but there are a number of things that I've been focused on for some time now, and will continue to work on through 2009.  One big change for me is that I have made an ACTUAL budget, instead of just guessing- and I plan on both J and I sticking to it.  To be more frugal, and to make sure I eat more healthy (more protein, Mom- I'm doing really good, I promise!) I am trying to plan meals out in advance and cook much, much more often (previously I was cooking maybe once in a blue moon, so this is pretty big for me).  In the past three days, I have cooked dinner twice (versus microwaving . . . my own food . . .  and leaving J up to his own devices).  Two nights ago it was tacos, and tonight it was pasta (with shrimp and alfredo sauce and mushrooms for J, and oil and salt and pepper for me- we have very different tastes).  

I even did the dishes after dinner.  Well most of them.  But I think it should count as all since I had already done an entire load and a half earlier in the day.  Listen, I know there are millions and millions of women out there who do this every day: they cook in ways not involving the microwave, they clean up, they make it seem effortless, and they don't expect or get a thank you.  But let me tell you: if I am going to keep this up, I will need a thank you.  I will probably need more then that:  I'll need some rewards.  Maybe an old-school sticker chart.  Possibly a trophy.  Being domestic is really tough.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A belated Merry Christmas

I've been neglecting my blog big time. I didn't even come on here to write a 'Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays" post at the appropriate time. So let me just say, now- Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year to everyone who happens to stumble across this page, for whatever reason.

I feel like I've had a good enough reason to for my benign neglect. I've been enjoying being at home in VA with my family, celebrating the holidays. I've been doing some very welcomed lazing about, had some very entertaining reunions with high school friends, and opened a whole bunch of presents. Oh, and of course I have been soaking up every second of time possible with my nephew. I thought it seemed kind of silly to be buying so many gifts for Landon and making such a big deal of his Christmas- after all, at 5 months old, there's no way he'll remember any of it! But I've actually been amazed at the inklings of greater comprehension I have been seeing in him, and the great enjoyment he's been displaying in many of his gifts. His development, even day to day, is just unbelievable. I know this does not come as news to anyone who has kids of their own, but for me the past five months of watching his growth have been awe-inspiring.

It's not all been fun and games- there's been some family drama here today that has been very hard on my family. I'm not going to elaborate any further as it's not my issues to share in the very public setting of the blogosphere.

The issue of blogging boundaries, in fact, is one that I've been thinking about a lot of late. Some of the blogs that I really enjoy reading lay it all on the line- and it's a guilty pleasure to read all the intimate details of another person's life, the workings of their mind, and the relationships they share. I often find myself wondering, however, where the line of appropriateness lies. It's tempting to use my blog as an outlet to vent my anger at people who hurt my loved ones or piss me off; to unload petty annoyances that are an unavoidable fact in marriage and friendship; or to make snarky comments about acquaintances that do unthinkable things. Always, however, I'm stopped by the thought of what it really means to be posting on my blog: this is publicly available to ANYONE with an internet connection. It's not anywhere close to anonymous. And I have associated my professional identity with this blog, so the way I represent myself here is, in a very real way, connected to my business persona.

When I'm reading and revelling in the juiciest of blog posts, a part of my brain stands back, wondering if the poster has considered the potential repercussions of their words made public, or if they've considered outlets through which their words could reach the person they reference. I've read posts, written by people that I don't know at all, that detail dates, fights, sexual activity, mental breakdowns, drug usage, binge drinking- you name it. I know that everyone has their own reasons for blogging, and some people actually want to promote a persona that is edgy, or controversial, or whatever random adjective they aim for. Don't get me wrong- I don't judge- it just makes me think, long and hard, about what I would call (for lack of a better term) the ethics of blog disclosure. Where is the line that delineates the appropriate from the not-so-appropriate? How much can you reveal about events which involve other people before you start impeding on their right to privacy? How do bloggers handle it when they post about an interaction with one person, and that person ends up reading the post and feels that it was a violation of trust?

I'd be interested in hearing other people's opinions on this matter. I have lots more questions and thoughts but this post has already gotten pretty lengthy. In other matters, I have some interesting news to share, but I'll be holding off for a while till it's a done deal- so stay tuned!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Not in the car anymore- finally!

I've arrived safely in Virginia.  Two days ago, Justin and I loaded the dogs up in the car, in Texas, and over the course of the last two days, we drove 26 hours, covering over 1600 miles, to get here for the holidays.  Towards the end, I was hard pressed to remember why we thought driving was a better idea than flying- but we made it. 

Actually, the drive wasn't a fraction of the pain that I thought it would be.  The dogs did great- no carsickness, didn't pee in the car, quiet and well behaved the whole time.  Justin was in a really good mood for nearly the entire ride.

**So, the rest of this post I have deleted, as my mom pointed out that it's probably not a good idea for me to be posting rants about the Air Force, as they are paying all my bills right now as I work on my freelancing career.  It felt good to get it out of my system, but now I'm deleting it so it doesn't come back to bite me, or more importantly, my husband.  Despite my complaints, the AF has been very good to us.  Yay Air Force.**

Anyhow, I'm very happy to be home.  Gotta go finish my Christmas shopping now!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gone to Georgia in my mind

Somehow I have managed to idealize our future life and home in Georgia to the point that it has become a utopia in my mind. Don't get me wrong, I am still enjoying San Antonio, and I'm very sad to be leaving behind the people I've gotten to know and love here. But I've somehow convinced myself that writing-wise, everything is going to be perfect once we finish the move.

I've done some research and discovered there are two independent coffee houses with 2 miles of our little Georgian townhome. I've now convinced myself that I will wake up each morning, sling my laptop into a backpack, and bike to the local coffee hole for several hours of productive, caffeine fueled writing and networking with the locals (what makes this strange is that I don't own a bike. Also, don't really drink coffee). I'm also all fired up about finding a local writer's group to join there, and finally being able to concentrate on marketing my services locally (time spent on marketing myself to San Antonio clients seems wasted when I'll be out of here in 2 months). And finally, I have huge, ambitious plans for the uber-awesome office I will create as my workspace once we've settled in (again, feels pointless to invest energy in perfecting my workspace here since I'll just have to pack it up soon).

I do realize, of course, that things won't be all gumdrops and rainbows after the move. Still, it's nice to have something to look forward to. This will be my fifth move since graduating from college three years ago (and the third major move), and I still love the feeling of promise and new beginnings that I get with each impending change. Since we're going to be in Warner Robins for a loooooong time, however, I have to start working on appreciating continuity!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I swear I'm not bipolar: I'm just a freelance writer

Trying to break into a difficult field like freelance writing is a rollercoaster. One minute you're up- over the moon excited over polishing off the perfect query letter, or having an article purchased- and the next you're down and someone is kicking you. Repeatedly. In spots that are already bruised.

The smallest accomplishments are gigantic milestones. The highest visitor count ever on my blog (27 visitors in one day, woo hoo!), or getting a hit from some far off country (this blog has been read in Australia, China, Lebanon, Latvia, and numerous European countries!) get me excited. When I sell an article- even if it's for ten bucks and it took me two hours to write- I celebrate. It's a little sign of success, hopefully a harbinger of more to come.

The downs are nasty, though. An article, thoroughly researched and edited with a fine-tooth comb: rejected. Losing out on a gig that seemed like it was created for you- or never hearing back at all on proposals and queries and applications. It's tough to keep pulling yourself up, brushing yourself off, and starting all over again on another project: but I do it. I have to keep reminding myself that I knew what I was getting into when I chose to take this step. And I know that everyone else out there, trying to do the same thing I am, is meeting the same obstacles and pitfalls.

The latest round of blows are related to my recent, jubilant posts about two blogging gigs I had scored: or, to be more accurate, *thought* I had scored. Yup, I'm back to square one now, more or less. I blogged too soon.

Job #2 had sent me a writer's agreement which I reviewed and signed. I (incorrectly) assumed it meant I was getting the gig and would be helping this individual out with various writing tasks. The day after I triumphantly posted here about getting the job, I received another email, telling me that he'd chosen to go with another writer and that I was on "standby." Oops. However, he did assure me that he'd be needing a second writer in the coming weeks, and that he'd be in touch soon about work. So not a total loss, I guess. Just a small blow to the ego. At least I still had job #1, right?

Ah, Job #1. The NEXT day, I get an email from Job #1- the real estate blogging position. He informs me that he's found a company that can provide him with 700 blog posts and 200 SEO-rich articles for a very low price with very short turn around (in other words, a content mill). But, he assures me, they still want to work with me. The content I will produce for them must be top of the line, "must read" content, that will keep the readers coming back for more. Also, he has decided, I need to provide them with "my very best price" for the privilege of producing these masterpieces for his company. This of course is after he'd already suggested AND agreed to a very reasonable (reasonable FOR HIM- much less than an experienced, established writer would agree to work for) rate.

Basically, he wanted my best work for the lowest price I was willing to work for. He wanted me to lowball myself and work for third world wages to produce winning content to sell his site. To be honest, I felt insulted by this. There's a reason that freelance writers haven't been put out of business by content mills: you get what you pay for. He wanted professional quality with a cut-rate price tag. His reasoning for this was that "the site is not yet producing income," but this is undercut by the fact that he'd sent me a link to his company's press release which stated they would be investing ten million dollars over the course of three years in advertising. If this were true, then obviously they have the funds to pay me $100/week. Seriously. He could pay me, at the originally agreed upon rate, for 1,923 YEARS with ten million dollars. So whether the press release was accurate or not: it's an unethical company. Either they lied in their press release, or they are trying to take advantage of me. Either way, that's not a company I want to work for.

The other reason I was uneasy about this assignment was because my contact was unable to articulate his expectations for my writing clearly. He kept talking in circles in our several emails, ignoring the questions I asked in an attempt to clarify exactly what they were expecting from me. Like any person pursuing writing as a career, I'd like to think that given the right tools/information and very clear guidance on what's expected, I can write about anything. But without clear communication from a client, it becomes near impossible to do my job well.

I reread his email a thousand times. I stewed. I researched. I talked endlessly about it to my husband. I reached out on Twitter for advice. I forwarded the email to my mom and a blog friend for their reactions. In the end, I turned the job down. It feels terrible turning down paid work, even if the pay is dismal, when you're not getting paid much at all. However, I think I made the right choice.

So, my excitement from two posts ago has once again morphed into disappointment. But, in the freelance writing business, at least I know that there's probably another 'writing high' around the corner. Actually, I've had a few small victories in the intervening 24 hours since I first got Job #1's email- but this post is long enough already. I'll save those for another entry. : )