As you may or may not know, I like to work out occassionally. I have even been known to work out multiple times in one week. Crazy, I know. Running was my go-to for a long time. But recently I committed more strength training and a little less cardio. I wanted to see if there would be any difference in the way I looked and/or felt.
I decided to keep it simple and go old school – no gym and no equipment; I was just going to use my body weight, which is more than enough resistence to guarentee a good work out. After two months of regular strength training, I did notice a big difference in my legs. AND I noticed that I was running faster and longer with much less effort. Will you mistake my legs for Carrie Underwoods? Ummm….no. But I’m pretty happy with my progress so far.
I turned to Pinterest to find a variety of different workouts. You can see them on my Strength Training and Cross Training boards. There are specific workouts for arms, legs, core, and full body. I also like to use Fitness Blender – which offers hundreds of free workout videos online.
For a quick go-to I can do in my office or at home, I also use this handy list from PopSugar. You’d be surprised how even short intervals can add up to big changes over time.
Here is an example of a quick and dirty workout I will do at my office or at home. If I have more time, I’ll add five or six more moves or repeat the whole set two or three times. Usually within 25 -30 minutes I’m done! Easy Peasy.
Do you have a favorite go-to exercise?
My obligatory disclaimer: I like working out (kinda) but don’t be fooled, I’m not a professional. Information provided here is for entertainment purposes only. Please consult a physician before starting any exercise regime.
One of my all time favorite Ted Talks is Brene Brown (no relation – I wish!) and her talk on vulnerability and its link to happiness. I know following the heels of my divorce and the subsequent Very Bad Year, it took me a long time to lay down my armor and be truly open to others. And being from Maine, I think that sometimes asking for help is the hardest thing of all, especially for those of us raised with a ‘pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps’ mentality.
What do you think? Do you allow yourself to be vulnerable?
In six months and 10 days I will be 40. I think that puts me into middle age, no? I keep hearing ‘40 is the new 20!’ and I cringe a little. I didn’t like 20. Like, at all. I was having babies and going to college and was really broke all of the time. Of course, now that I think on it, I am still in school and never seem to have much in my bank account. But I am definitely happier now than I was in my twenties.
There are things about my twenties that I do miss, like my girlish figure. At the time I was convinced I was horrifically fat and unattractive, when really I was just tired from babies and lacking any real fashion sense. My legs were great, my boobs were still where they started in life, my hair didn’t need any highlights to camouflage gray and I never had to bother with make-up. I mean, what’s not to love? Youth really is wasted on the young.
So now, I find myself taking stock of where I am at. I woke up one morning to discover cellulite on my thighs. When did this happen? Gray hair, once a novelty, is now just a nuisance. And my boobs – well, we won’t go there. But with the wisdom of mid-life, I am taking it all in stride. In fact, I feel more beautiful at almost-40 than I ever did when I was younger. Maybe I have a hefty dose of narcissism, but whatever, I’ll take it. 30 years of not liking your thighs is long enough.
41 days ago I started on a quest to cultivate a new habit: to eat a healthy diet that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Is that even possible, I wondered? I didn’t want to go on a ‘diet’ and count calories– it is so cliché to be an almost 40-mom trying to get in shape. But I was tired of my thick midsection, tired of my frumpy clothes, tired of feeling tired. More than anything I was tired of thinking about food. I was tired of thinking about my relationship with it. I was tired of thinking about being “bad’ with some Chinese food or being ‘good’ with some carrot sticks. I was tired of trying to fit myself into a Paleo box, or a cleaning eating box, or no-carb box. When did eating become so judgy? I am good at overthinking things that bother me; food is no exception.
This time however, it was more than a diet. It was more than just losing weight. It was more than just exercising regularly. But I knew that if I threw the term ‘lifestyle change’ out there one more time, I was going to start losing some Facebook friends. So in the rare spirit of not over-sharing, I’ve kept more or less mum on my diet/lifestyle change/ new habit. Now that I’ve reached 41 out of 66 days, I do want to do a check in.
Why 66 days? Science tells us that it takes 66 days to establish a new habit. This seems about right, since most my attempts at diets/lifestyle changes/exercise regimes/ writing schedules/you-name-it fizzle after about three weeks (the much touted 21 day mark). Committing to something for three months though – that kinda scared me – in a good way. I knew from past experience exactly what I was up against. I knew my initial enthusiasm would wane and old cravings would come back. I knew that I could exercise hard and feel great three days in a row, only to want to lie dormant on the couch (with a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos) on Day 4. My inner-self has no rhyme or reason when it comes to eating and exercising. I just had to accept it and figure out how to deal with it.
Enter Jack Canfield (who is not, sadly, paying me to endorse him) and his Successful Principles. I love a good a self-help book and JC is great. Being too cheap to buy the book, I listened to the Success Principles on YouTubeand signed up for JC’s 10 Day Transformation course.
The best take away from the course was an exercise called Transform Your Excuses into Action. You list the changes you want to make (Lose weight) with the excuses that have been holding you back: I have no self control/ I don’t have time to cook healthy meals that taste really good.
Next you have to assess the role that you have played in causing the undesirable situation: I don’t take the time to prep healthy meals, and I don’t budget enough money for healthy groceries each week, and I don’t try to learn many new healthy recipes, I get bored doing the same exercise over and over.
Finally you write out what you are going to do to change the situation: Increase my vegetable consumption to ½ too ¾ of each meal, add weight training for variety, make healthy foods a priority on the grocery list, try out at least four new recipes a month.
Taking ownership of why I wasn’t able to get the results I wanted was so incredibly liberating. It is much easier to wallow in self-pity, or even self-loathing, than to stand up and do something about it.
More than half way to my goal of 66 days, I feel like I am right where I should be. There have been some setbacks and some “bad” days (more on those in another post), but right now I am happy with my progress. I eat better than I ever have, I’ve lost some weight, my relationship with food is better, I am better at being mindful when I do eat. There are still 25 days to go and I am excited to see where I am at on April 23. More importantly I am excited to see where I will be, long after my 66 days are up.
This year has been a good reminder of how to remain calm when your best-laid plans go to sh!t. Case in point- Thanksgiving. I always host dinner on Thanksgiving and have anywhere between 8-14 guests. This year, the number had crept up to 20 people. Plus my Mom was flying in from the west coast. All good things. So, I started planning for Turkey Day back in September. I wrote detailed lists of groceries and other supplies I would need to pick up – extra chairs, napkins, plates, etc… I spent October finishing up my living room and sitting room redos. I planned a welcome basket for my mom – complete with family photos. I didn’t realize it, but I was chasing the elusive Perfect Holiday- something I thought I’d given up years ago.
By Sunday morning, I had most everything I needed to do, nearly finished. Turkeys (two of them) were thawing in the fridge. Groceries were all bought and organized. College Daughter’s room was picked up and ready to double as a guest room. I had finished all the last minute details of my living room redo – everything was perfect. I noticed that I was feeling just…off. I had a tickle in my throat and I just felt sluggish. By Monday afternoon, I knew that I was getting sick. I started doping on Emergence-C and drinking liquids by the gallons. I made garlicky tomato salsa for additional antioxidant properties and ate spoonfuls of honey to combat an increasingly sore throat. But it was all in vain. By Wednesday, I felt like the walking dead. After a few must-do tasks in the morning, I spent the better part of the day in bed.
Thanksgiving came and went and I managed to play the gracious (sort of) hostess, but there was no feasting on my part or wine – NO WINE. I just sipped my honey infused decaf earl gray and nibbled on a yeast roll. The whole thing was just tragic. I think everyone else had a good time and I enjoyed seeing my family, but I couldn’t help but think that God and his wicked sense of humor was playing a trick on me – all my careful planning more or less thrown out the window.
A few years ago this would have bummed me out, immensely. Not so much this year. It was a good reminder that while the holidays are meant to be about family and joy and togetherness – they do not have to be perfect.
I know when I reach my limits – there is a lot of crying, naps, and wine involved. I reach my limits on a regular basis. About quarterly I need to stop, regroup, reassess, rearrange some part(s) of my life. This is just my nature. I like a mix of orderliness and newness (two things that don’t always jive with one another). When I was a kid I would tear my bedroom apart playing imaginary games. My bedroom served as a pirate ship, a haunted mansion, a prairie schooner wagon, a classroom, an office, a castle, and my future Grown Up Self’s fabulous mansion. My Barbie dolls, baby dolls, and Strawberry Shortcake dolls were my characters, and I spent hours telling myself stories about their adventures. All this play and creativity usually resulted in a horrific mess – clothes and toys strewn about in small mountains, my pink canopy bed draped with extra sheets and blankets. There was also a good deal pilfered household items pushed under my bed or hidden in my closet. Items I deemed necessary for my stories included dishes and towels for playing House, calculators and stacks of paper for playing Office or School, and the J.C. Penny catalog to use as a reference for planning my Future Fabulous Life.
I’d be okay with the mess for a while – until I wasn’t. And then I would clean my room (sometimes because mom told me to, sometimes because I just had too). Once clean, I would revel in the orderliness, the spaciousness, and my creative process would begin in earnest. A new imaginary game would commence and a new mess would ensue. I didn’t know it at the time, but the way I operated as a kid was the way I would operate as an adult. I make messes in order to be creative, nearly burn myself out, clean up, rest up, and start over.
“Owing our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” – Brene Brown
When my last graduate class ended in early July, I knew I had once again reached my limits and it was time for a mental nap. For my summer break I gave myself permission to not do any productive writing at all, beyond my regular freelance work. This broke the cardinal rule of blogging – not posting on a regular basis. But it was the best thing I could do for myself. Instead of forcing myself to be productive (the fastest route for me to be disengaged and spend the afternoon playing Sims Freeplay) I decided I could write whatever I wanted, however I wanted, whenever I wanted. I spent the muggy months of July and the golden light of August shunning my laptop and instead scribbling in an over-sized pink journal that soon gave way to a fictional story outline. Which then gave way to several scenes about a girl growing up on a farm during WWII. Which turned into not just her story, but her families story, and the story of Western Maine during the War effort. I hope to pick up the story in earnest again during National Write a Novel Month (NaNoWriMo) in November.
“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein
Now that summer is slowly giving way to Autumn in the Western Foothills, it’s time for another regroup/reassess/rearrangement. The boys are back in school and the girl is off for her second year of college. My next graduate class starts soon. I spend roughly six months a year taking classes, with two three-month breaks in between. Taking only three graduate classes doesn’t sound like much, but add with it a full time job and single parenthood, a lovely old farmhouse and my freelance work, and suddenly hours and minutes are precious commodities not to be idled away. I’ve made peace with the fact that I have big commitments – kids, work, school – and it isn’t unreasonable or lazy for me to write and not finish things right away. Or to work sporadically on “fun” stuff in between all the Serious stuff. I’ve decided it’s all part of my process. I own it and if I want to take nap every now and again, that’s okay.
Do you ever take time to reflect/rearrange/readjust?
Peruse any number of blogs on Bloglovin’ or Blogher and more often than not it seems like they are written by stay-at-home-moms. Which is fine. However, it can be frustrating as a working mom (or dad) to try and figure out how to carve out enough time for a full time (outside of the home) job, family and writing. We can’t all be mommy bloggers. For the past eight years I have worked an eight hour a day office, five days a week job, with four kids (though one is now 19 and in college, so I’m down to three). I should also mention I’m divorced, so no extra help nor second income – hence the need to maintain my freelance writing career on the side – it has paid my rent, and now my mortgage, all these years.
I am often asked how I started freelancing, so I thought it would be easier to put into a post than keep answering individual emails.
I had the luxury of being a SAHM for a couple of years. I enjoyed it immensely – I had time to spend with my very young children and it was when I really started trying to write for a living. I was married at the time, but we really couldn’t get by one (rather sporadic) income. So I began researching how to publish magazine articles. Out of that search, I fell into online writing. This was around 2006-2007 just before social media and blogging burst onto the scene, so even though it has been less than a decade since I started freelancing, a lot has changed. But at the bare bones of it, being a writer, takes…writing. On a regular basis. Here are the things I did (and still do) to maintain and grow my freelance career:
Write About Your Passion. Make sure you enjoy what you write about it. It shouldn’t be a chore. At least not during the first draft. Publish your writing on your blog (even if no one reads it except your Mom and your Aunt Staci. (If you don’t have a blog see #2.) Having good quality pieces of work on your blog will give you some examples to share with potential freelance clients. Let your voice shine through. It’s pretty hard to find a topic that no one has written about. Your voice is what will set your content apart and make your writing stand out from the crowd.
Start a Blog. When I started writing online, blogging was not the professional writing gateway it is now. I had to take many, many crappy assignments to build up my resume, because I had no other way to show that I could write. Think of your blog as your calling card and resume, all in one. It is a place to showcase your work. It will also help you get comfortable sharing your writing with the whole world and help you hone your personal writing schedule.
Ask for feedback. Preferably from someone who will be honest. Ultimately your blog is your voice, but they might point out thing you don’t notice, like you start too many paragraphs with “Honestly” or “for example.”
Draft. Edit. Polish. Repeat.
Pick a schedule and stick to it.I know, I know – this can be challenging with kids and work and maybe even a social life of sorts. Be realistic about how many hours a week you can commit to writing and blogging. I was queen-bee of setting lofty goals like “I am going to get up every morning at 4:30 am and write for two hours, six days a week.” And then when I failed to do that, even once, I would berate myself endlessly. (I do the same thing with exercise). Over time and much trial and error, I have a found a rhythm of writing that works for me. I get up three – four mornings a week at 5:30 am and write for an hour-hour and half or work on social media stuff (usually just one morning a week). I spend another hour or two editing – usually on the weekend or during some downtown between sports games.
Find a time that works for you. Early mornings are my jam, to borrow an expression from my daughter. Some people like to work out in the morning. I like to write. I get more done in that first hour and half than I do the rest of the day.
Always carry a notebook. I jot down ideas whenever they occur to me. That could be at baseball practice, in the check out line at Wal-Mart, in my work office. Jotting them down in one place ensures they don’t get lost somewhere in my head.
Look for contributor writing positions.LovetoKnow, Freelance Writing Gigs, and FlexJobs are just a few places that regularly post writing jobs on a wide array of topics. If there is a blog that you love to read, contact the owner as and ask to be a guest contributor. I know that I would jump at the chance to have someone write a guest post about clean eating or historical cooking (hint, hint).
Update your resume. Many freelance companies ask general questions of applicants, such as what makes you qualified to write about a certain topic, and they often want examples of your work. Have all that stuff ready in one document and tweak it to fit each position you apply for. Plus, writing why you are qualified to write about a certain topic is a confidence booster. Solidify the idea that you are the best person for the job.
Figure out how much you are worth. There are loads of content mill websites that will pay writers as little as 1 cent / per word. Meaning a 500 word article pays $5.00. You can’t eat at McDonalds for $5. Don’t whore out your writing skills for a cheap buck. Your worth more than that. Personally, I’d rather work for free than for cheap. Writing for free means you can write about topics you are genuinely interested in. For cheap, you could be writing about carpet cleaning, male enhancement, or airport attractions in Sacramento (sadly, all true stories). My golden rule is if I wouldn’t be interested in reading it, I won’t write about it. Been there and done that. Even when boring assignments pay decent, I don’t think it’s worth it. If you write something awesome for free, you can always add it to your resume. Think of it as an investment. For me, writing about Renaissance Europe and the History of Christmas (for mostly free) – landed me my best freelance job at About.com.
If you’ve enjoyed this post or want to know more about how I started freelancing, leave me a comment!
My daughter gave a wonderful speech at her high school graduation last spring titled “Follow Your Bliss.” And its message of doing what makes you really, truly happy has stayed with me over the past year. Inspired by her speech, I started this blog last October and over the past nine months I have been trying to figure out what my niche is, exactly. I had thought it would be a cooking blog. But honestly, I am not much of a recipe developer. I love to cook, but I don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel, when so many other blogs do it so well. I had thought to blog about the happenings at my little farmhouse, but there’s not much is going on at Boxshop. We aren’t doing any big projects and I.Don’t.Do.Crafts. of any kind. Me writing about gardening would be a dramedy – just ask my tomato plants. So over the past couple of months I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out what is it, exactly, that I want to write? What do I love? What is my bliss? How do I follow it?
“We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there too.” – Random Pinterest Quote
In preparation for launching Far From Perfect I did lots of research about how to blog, how to gain a following, how to get sponsors. Instead of just writing, I spent time setting up social profiles, trying to understand Twitter (didn’t happen), finding out about link-up parties (FYI –not a real party – there is no wine), learning how to navigate BlogLovin’ (still not sure of its purpose). The whole endeavor was just disheartening.
I tried posting on a few other blogs I liked reading and a couple of the authors responded, but honestly, we just weren’t that into each other. Blogging is all about reciprocation is what I kept reading. But here’s the thing. I work in a busy office all day long. I encounter dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people each day. I didn’t want to spend my free time, my writing time, trying to be social online with a bunch of mommy-bloggers. It was like high school all over again. I’m still sitting alone at the lunch table. Luckily, as an adult I have a great in-person social circle. So, why would I have any interest in starting a whole new virtual group of friends just to get some page-views?
“Whatever, I’m getting cheese fries.” – Mean Girls
During this period of reflection I also remembered that I am already a published writer. [hand smacking forehead –duh] I already operate a significant website at About.com. [duh, duh] I already have a strong readership in other areas. [duh, duh, duh] Why am I getting so anxious and intimidated by a bunch of stay-at-home moms (yeah I just said it), many of whom describe themselves as “A momma, blessed wife, and lover of all things chocolate.” Or how about the newly married twenty-something’s who like to cook healthy meals, and take pictures of their food and themselves in a bikini and have, like, zero life experience. How come these two demographics get to set The Rules for what makes a successful blogger? Well, they don’t. Obviously. There are loads of blogs, written by moms and dads, which are a far cry from mommy blogging. I just got swooped up in the success stories of A Beautiful Mess and Six Sisters Stuff. I wanted my blog to be turned into a book. And then a TV show. I wanted to out-pioneer Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond.
“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we have only one.”
– Confucius (551-479 B.C.)
Besides the [obvious] jealously that I don’t have a second income that lets me be home with my kids, and the fact that I’m almost forty with lots of life experiences and a penchant for the occasional potato chip and Big Mac, being a mommy-blogger, food blogger, or lifestyle blogger just wasn’t my bliss. It wasn’t what I’m about. And I shouldn’t begrudge those who do have a passion for writing about their toddlers dressing up the family dog or their Paleo coconut banana ice cream. Good for them. Really. If I were 10-15 years younger, I’d be right there in the trenches with them, lamenting over pregnancy heartburn or the blue crayon marks on the new living room walls. I’d be all up in that Paleo/Clean Eating/Beach Body Junk. But the fact is, I’ve done my baby-time and I’ve done my ‘if I could just lose 20 pounds’-time.
For me, the beauty of being a divorced, single-parent, almost-40 something is the absolute freedom of being yourself. I have never ever been so happy as I am right now. If you had seen me 8 years ago, on the cusp of a divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure – you wouldn’t know I was the same person. Losing everything was the best thing to ever happen to me. Because I realized I didn’t lose anything of real value. What really mattered – my kids, my health, my friends, my family, my ambition, my desire, my intelligence – were all still with me. My bliss, as it turns out, is to write what I want to write, for myself first and foremost. If others like it, great! I’ve come too far to go back on myself now.