The Cove in June

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The Cove is a small pocket of land and water carved out of a fishing lake north of town. Here the lake has forgotten to be sensible and somewhat symmetrical for a minute and ambled off river-like until it met a natural dam. To reach it you must take the first gravel road upon entering the lake’s boundaries and continue forward without fear as the rough, rutted gravel winds and curves left, foregoing other, smoother, more respectable roads branching off to the right.

Evidence of humans daring to travel away from the main body of water persists year-round, although I’ve met other beings only a handful of times in my semi-weekly excursions. (And oh how I groaned and hurled mental insults at the audacity of someone already ensconced; now I had to select another, less secluded location for my afternoon of mental rest.) Charred wood and ashes from camp fires, the occasional unhappy discovery of trash, and once, tangled in the brush attempting to encroach upon the clearing, a lone beach towel presumably blown away by the constant breeze are testaments to those who use the space when I am not there.

Kansas is a windy state – “Kansas” derives from the Kaw word for “land of the south wind” – and away from buildings the breeze is free to do what it wishes with the landscape. In The Cove in June, that means divesting the Cottonwood trees of their namesake downy seedlings. The air is alive with gossamer white puffs gaily swirling and dancing before inevitably ending their journey in the water, destined to be a fish’s supper.

Dragonflies compete with the cottony fluff for air space, zooming hither and yon, dipping and diving in their quest for a water bug feast. Birds snatch mulberries from a tree so laden with fruit that its branches brush the water.

An afternoon in The Cove is a chance to see the water sparkle in the sunlight, to smell the fresh scent of earth and tallgrass on the wind, to listen as frogs exchange the latest gossip in sonorous tones, to bask in the healing peace of being alone in nature, and to suddenly remember that you are 20 minutes from the nearest acceptable restroom facilities.

A List: What I’m Working On Right Now

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Yesterday I was enjoying a coffee klatsch with my friend Celeste, except neither of us drink coffee so it’s more like italian-soda-and-iced-tea klatsch but that doesn’t have the same ring.

Anyway.

We’re yakking away, covering 11,000 topics as per usual, when I suddenly remembered that I needed to watch and review the special features on the True Blood season 6 DVD set pronto because it hits shelves on June 3. I said that out loud, as a reminder to myself, and Celeste, who had been patiently listening to me describe some other project I was dealing with, looks and me and says, “Wow, you really do have a lot going on.”

And you know what? I do. I have a lot going on and in a lot of different areas of my life. Sometimes, when I my brain feels like it’s trying to keep track of too many different things and I’m approaching overwhelm – or already over the edge into overwhelm – a brain dump is the best way for me to get a grip. I’ve talked about brain dumping before, but I thought I’d give you a taste of what it looks like for me.

Herewith, a list of what I’m working on right now:

  • An article about a company’s outstanding growth in supplier diversity and mentoring small businesses in Latin America;
  • An article about the local high school’s lip dub project;
  • An article about an upcoming conference in Philadelphia;
  • An article about the new owners of an apartment building;
  • A summer TV preview;
  • Watching pilots of the new shows coming this Fall;
  • Building up my freelance clientele;
  • Setting up a new writing/working routine that doesn’t have to work around subbing;
  • A summer bucket list for myself;
  • A summer bucket list for the Munchkins;
  • Sorting the Munchkins’ clothes and pulling out summer clothes, setting aside back-to-school clothes, and finding clothes for the new baby who is due any minute;
  • Looking for a new large picture frame to convert into a white board to keep track freelance assignments;
  • Watching and reviewing the special features on the True Blood season 6 DVD;
  • Organizing a memorial service for my uncle (tentatively planned for the one year anniversary of his death) (it’s complicated);
  • Dealing with a stupid legal issue related to one of my websites;
  • Keeping the baby possum out of my house and away from the cat food (I’ll write about that separately soon);
  • Revamping several websites (including this one);
  • An article outlining how we went from 16,000 Facebook followers to 112,000 Facebook followers in 9 months on our True Blood fan page;
  • Pitching social media services to a local business;
  • Researching how to create a WordPress network for easier administration;
  • Filing;
  • Updating the business accounts;
  • Ordering business cards for some of my writers;
  • Preparing some items for eBay;
  • Helping LilBro with his house renovations;
  • Answering emails;
  • Writing and/or finishing articles for this site;
  • Making muffins and cinnamon rolls to put in the freezer;
  • Taking the Pink Carnation in for a tune-up;
  • Planning for Comic Con (yes, already);
  • Waiting for the mailman because I’m expecting a check for freelance work today and I’d like to get it deposited;
  • Paying bills (just as soon as the above item is accomplished).

That about sums it up. (I didn’t include cleaning the house because that’s a given, right? And laundry and meal planning and all of that?) My brain is already quieter for having put all of that down on virtual paper.

See? Brain dumping totally works. Thanks for joining me.

I think I hear the mailman…

Weekly Wrap-Up + Links

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I need a pithier title for these link round ups. Suggestions?

Hello out there! How was your week? Spring finally arrived in my small town, and I spent as much time as I could either outdoors or with my windows open to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. I’ve also been working on an organization project for BigSIL, went to nephew Gideon’s first peewee soccer game of the season, stretched myself with some work projects that were slightly outside my comfort zone, had “coffee” (read: hot chocolate) with a new-ish friend, wrestled with some server issues, and upgraded my Internet to fiber.

And now, linkage.

You’re following Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls on Facebook, right? They post interesting, generally positive stories without the Upworthy-esque headlines or sensationalism several times every day.

21 clean lunch ideas that can be prepared in less than 10 minutes. I’m trying, you guys!

This New York restaurant Googles its patrons to provide extremely customized service. I can’t decide if that’s creepy or exceptional customer service. Bonus: a glimpse of what happens before the doors open to make the night run smoothly.

Walmart is reviving the Wild Oats brand to bring organic food to the masses.

“Natural and organic is past the fad stage,” Jim Hertel, managing partner at Willard Bishop grocery consulting firm, tells Ewoldt. “What used to be a lifestyle for the best educated and highest incomes is now skewing younger, although it’s still an educated, above-average-income consumer.”

That’s the type of customer Walmart would no doubt like to attract more of. Sinclair said during the call that customers should begin to “think of Walmart as a destination for organic foods.” And while they are there, why not just about anything else.

These fairy tale-esque photos with real, live animals are beautiful!

A coffee shop bans screens, and sees an uptick in sales.

I really liked Anne’s insights into why her house makes her cranky, and what she’s doing about it. I’m currently working on systematically decluttering and reorganizing so my house isn’t a source of crankiness.

I wanted to be happy to be home. We’d been on the road for 5 days, living out of suitcases in small, spare hotel rooms. I wanted to relax in my own space–but I found my own space surprisingly hard to relax in.

And that’s when it hit me. Those hotel rooms were small and sparsely furnished, but they were also impressively clean and–most importantly–clutter-free.

My own house–the one I was so happy to return to–was making me cranky.

Good news for Truebies – the premiere date for the final season of True Blood has been announced!

I’m not usually into wearing yellow, but this dress is calling to me. So are these shoes.

Bad Blogger: I Blame Candy Crush

CandyCrush

You guys…I had every intention of getting back to posting 3-4 times a week this month. For reals and trues. But clearly that didn’t happen.

I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been super busy/productive in other areas of my life, and while I have been keeping busy with my freelance writing and subbing and getting together with friends and celebrating birthdays and spring cleaning my house, the real reason I haven’t written is simple. And embarrassing.

Candy Crush.

I’ve reached level 500-and-something. Aren’t you impressed? Do you know how many hours of mindless game playing that is? I don’t think I want to know, to be honest.

Candy Crush + TV is a combination guaranteed to zap my motivation and productivity. I can’t just play one round. I can’t just watch one show and play until it’s over. Nope, before I know it, we’re into the fourth hour of Frasier/Property Brothers/SVU/Big Bang Theory/whatever’s on the DVR and my To Do list remains undone.

So Monday night, I deleted the app.

Which wasn’t easy because I just unlocked the next level.

*gulp*

But it has to be cold turkey. And I’d much rather achieve real, tangible accomplishments than get another digital pat on the back from that creepy girl in the train.

I don’t know how quickly I’ll get back to a frequent posting schedule here – there are other things demanding attention first like the 5 articles due next week and the 4 days of subbing at the middle school and my oldest niece’s birthday and bookkeeping and finishing my spring cleaning – but it should be sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, learn from me, kids: too much Candy Crush rots your brain.

Weekly Goals: February 24-March 2

 goals

I took a break from sharing my weekly goals here, not because I didn’t have any, but because there was so much to do! I felt like I needed to work out why some things weren’t getting done, do some big picture thinking and planning, and get myself sorted in a few areas. Also, it’s that time of year when I don’t want to talk to anyone (oh, hello SADD).

After a few weeks of introspection and testing of routines and working on self-discipline, I’m ready to get back to public accountability with a reduced list of goals. I’ve also reconnected with some friends who were my support system in the past when I had some major goals to accomplish, and they’re keeping me accountable in some non-public areas. Does that make sense?

With that in mind, here’s my (very trimmed down) list of goals for this week.

  • Take vitamins every day
  • Eat salad at least 4 days this week
  • Workout twice + yoga
  • Declutter spare room (toys, craft supplies, under bed storage)
  • Take donations to Goodwill and/or Shiloh House
  • Stick to cleaning schedule
  • Meet all writing deadlines & prep invoices
  • Create standard questions for writing assignments
  • File state taxes
  • Phone conference with PR client

Not quite as ambitious as what I’ve posted in the past, but more realistic, I think.

My First Cover Story!

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I’ve been neglecting the blog lately, mostly because I’ve been picking up a bunch of freelance writing assignments. Last week, I wrote 11 articles for one outlet! The realization that I could, in fact, earn a living writing is still a little mind-boggling, but it’s also my #1 goal for 2014. And this week I hit a milestone: my first cover story!

It’s a profile of a couple in my hometown who own a coffee shop and started roasting their own coffee beans, and it was so much fun to write. I’m not a coffee drinker, so I had lots of questions about the process and what makes a good cup of coffee and all that jazz. The subjects of the article, Nic and Angie Baker, are generous and interesting and community-minded. The story practically wrote itself – in fact, it came in about 1,000 words over what the editor asked for, and that’s after I trimmed out a couple of chunks! But they liked it, and coupled with stunning photos by Dustin Michelson, the issue is now in the hands of several thousand readers.

Exciting!

You can read the online version of the magazine here.

Cousins Reading

Cousins reading

A couple of weeks ago I had a mini cousins sleepover at my house. My nephews Xander and Warren came home with me after Sissy Night, and once Gideon and Amelia found out they were sleeping over, well, they wanted to stay, too. Normally they spend Saturday nights at my Mom’s (aka Nana), but she gracefully agreed to let them come to my house instead.

After a good night’s sleep, playing and breakfast the next morning, the kids were waiting for their respective rides to church and I was checking something online when I turned around and saw this precious scene: Warren (8) reading aloud to his little cousin Amelia (4 1/2).

He was reading Happily Ever After by Anna Quindlen, a book I’d read aloud to them the night before. Warren is becoming a more and more confident reader, and several parts of this book made him giggle. He got a kick out of reading those parts to Amelia, who is learning to read this year and loves getting attention from “the big kids”, and of course I was delighted to see him enjoying reading.

Proud Aunt, indeed.

Weekly Goals: January 13-19

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Last week’s massive list of goals got me going in the right direction, even if I didn’t complete even half of them. This new cleaning routine I’m testing is making a big difference in how I feel about my home. It’s even, believe it or not, got me itching to clean out the closets and declutter the house.

This week’s goals are a little late, but I already started on them. Here’s to a productive week!

Note: I’m single with no children, and I do a lot of work from home, and I’m a list maker/overachiever at heart. My goals for the week are always ambitious, but without them, I tend to fritter away my time.

Homemaking Goals

  • Freezer: cinnamon rolls (extra for church), burritos, cookie dough, pizza dough, 4 casseroles
  • Finish Sissy Night binder
  • Finish Mel’s binder
  • Stick with cleaning schedule
  • Create meal plan
  • New book to read to the Munchkins
  • Clean out car

Health Goals

  • Log food + exercise in My Fitness Pal daily
  • Workout at least 3 times (yoga at least once)
  • Take meds daily!
  • Prep car snack box
  • Cut back on eating out to less than 4 times

Work/Blogging Goals

  • Write 6 posts for Melifornia, including 2014 goals post
  • Prep and schedule birthday posts for 2014 on TB (April-June)
  • Write 6 posts for TB
  • Write 2 posts for TFTS
  • Write 1 post for BABFS
  • Write 3 posts for NGTV
  • Write 2 posts for SC
  • Write 2 posts for CTV
  • Brainstorm posts for all sites
  • Prep editorial calendars for all sites
  • Write feature for newspaper
  • Update professional site
  • Write FAQ for client
  • Submit panel proposal for client
  • Watch webinar for client
  • Prepare report for client
  • Complete 2 bootcamps for freelancers
  • Sub at least 3 days

Personal Goals

  • Finish reading The Interestings, Start
  • Reduce TV time
  • Increase music time
  • Spend 30 minutes scrapbooking
  • Journal/troubleshoot holidays, plan for 2014 holidays & birthdays, set calendar reminders
  • Early to bed, early to rise

Weekly Wrap Up + Linktastic Links

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Hello, friends! Happy Sunday! I hope you’ve had a lovely week. Mine was spent continuing to work on setting up systems and routines to succeed this year; writing a ton of articles; subbing a little bit; getting back to yoga; and a wee change in my hairdo for the New Year.

Did you do anything to further your 2014 goals this week?

Enough with the goal talk. Let’s link!

Cool! Check out these secret locations in NYC, hidden behind real storefronts. (My favorite is the superhero store that fronts for a literacy program.)

Wait, so those “clinically proven magic diet pill” claims are deceptive? Who knew, she said sarcastically. And a bit sadly.

Making the best of freezing weather!

The world’s largest Amazon box is no laughing matter, Seinfeld.

This should make Super Bowl parties slightly less awkward for some of us: how to eat chicken wings like a lady.

Love this DIY fabric box idea! Except for the sewing part.

Living An Intentional Life: Reclaiming Sunday

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About 8 or 9 months ago, I started feeling convicted about how I use my Sundays. Like many people, I spent the day catching up on housework, trudging to the grocery store, and generally trying to do everything on my To Do list that hadn’t been done during the week.

This is not a restful way to spend the day.

I’d been feeling frustrated about always being tired, always being behind, never having the chance to truly relax. Then I started re-reading my collection of Grace Livingston Hill novels. I’ve loved that author since my teen years, but it had been a while since I’d read more than two or three books in a row. This time I decided to read as many as I could get my hands on (I lost count, but I just finished number 40-something), and quickly remembered one of the reasons Hill’s stories are such a favorite: they promote a sweet, purposeful life with an emphasis on homemaking and making Sunday a day of rest and peace.

When I returned from Japan in September, I decided it was time to reclaim my Sundays. I wrote out what I wanted the day to be, how I wanted it to feel, and started figuring out how to make it happen.

First, I joined a church. Although I grew up going to church, I haven’t had a home church since college. Over the years I’ve visited several churches in town, and out of town, but they weren’t quite the right fit. Ironically, I never visited either of the churches that share an alley with my house. After feeling prompted for several weeks, I finally decided to visit one, the Episcopalian Church, and instantly felt at home. Growing up in Evangelical churches, this was quite a surprise, but it’s been a few months now and I still feel such peace there.

My next challenge was restructuring my week so that I felt like I could take Sunday “off”. This requires some focus, and a little extra discipline, because it means all of my necessary work from the previous week, and to prepare for the coming week, needs to be completed by Saturday evening. This includes any writing assignments, website projects, business matters, workouts, food prep, and housework. I’m still working out the ideal cleaning schedule to accommodate this, but doing a few tasks during the week followed by cleaning the whole house and doing all the laundry on Saturdays seems to be the answer.

Now in addition to doing the bulk of my housework on Saturday – because I want it to be clean and restful on Sunday and in preparation for the next week – I also get to spend Saturday evenings with my 11 nieces and nephews. We’ve been having Sissy Nights (that’s what they call them) at BigBro’s house, so at least I don’t have to clean my house again at 10PM on Saturday after they leave. However, it does mean that I need to wrap up my work for the week by about 5PM on Saturday, and I need to prep supper for 12 (I gotta eat, too!) and whatever activities we’re going to do so I can take it all with me.

What I’m saying is that Saturday is busy! I feel like I can improve on this by finding ways to do some of this work throughout the week. For example, creating a menu and stocking the freezer with meals for Sissy Night so I’m not trying to come up with an idea for supper, get to the store, and prep it all on Saturday afternoon. Deciding on activities and putting everything we need into a bag earlier in the week would also help.

(Which reminds me, I need to go to the library today and choose our next book to read aloud after supper.)

A complication here is that every third weekend I’m on “newspaper duty”, meaning that I cover community events and breaking news for that weekend, with stories due Sunday night. I’m still figuring out how to best incorporate this into my plan to reclaim Sunday, but so far having everything else done means less stress when I sit down to write.

So what does my ideal Sunday look like? I’ll tell ya!

  • Sleep in a little bit – 8 o’clock or so
  • Enjoy a cup of tea while perusing a magazine or Pinterest (these are treats that I pretty much reserve for Sunday)
  • Go to church
  • Have a leisurely lunch
  • Listen to classical music
  • Read
  • Take a nap
  • Do some planning for the week (a rested mind is a creative mind)
  • Go for a walk
  • Visit my happy place
  • Go to bed with a sense of rejuvenation and and anticipation for the week to come

Notice what’s not on the list? TV, computer time (except Pinterest), strenuous activities, rushing around, etc.

My goal here is to have at least one day per week devoted to peace and rest. It’s a process, and there are still tweaks to be made, but so far, reclaiming Sunday is not only giving me a chance to relax once a week, it’s creating a more tranquil home, increased my productivity throughout the week, and is putting me on the path to a more intentional life.

It’s a win-win.