This is me...

This is me...
I'm having a mom moment....

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Truth Is, Change Sucks

I am procrastinating.

I just wanted to put that out there so that when you wonder what the point of this post is, you will know that the point is simply to postpone all of the crap I need to get done today -- going to the grocery store, getting on the treadmill, folding clothes, etc.  That and I need to vent about dieting so that I don't raid the candy aisle when I finally make it to the store.

Today I am seriously wishing that I could just be comfortable being fat so that I could get me a big ol' Route 44 Coke, a bag of Sweet Chili Doritos, and lay on the couch and stuff my face while I clear the DVR.  But all it takes to kill that inclination is for me to try to put on real clothes.  You know, clothes with buttons and zippers instead of elastic and stretch cotton.  I feel like I should convalesce until I am presentable to the world again.  I am doing well though, on the diet and exercise stuff.  I've forced myself to exercise, I am eating healthy, non-processed foods, and I tell myself that if I give up and give in now it will undo the torturous hell that I have endured up to this point and I will just get disgusted and want to get healthy again at some point and I'd have to start over.  I do NOT want to have to start over.  And standing next to skinny people on the beach in June keeps me motivated.

I think I will write a self-help book and call it "Change Sucks But You Are Fat."  It will be all about how to make healthy foods more palatable, how exercise won't kill you even if it feels like it will, and how awesome unhealthy food is but also how bad it is for you.  It will contain pictures of me on the treadmill looking like I am dying that have captions like "If I can do this, you can do this." or "Just remember that if you stop, you will be fat FOREVER."  I will reveal the truth about all of the lies people tell you about losing weight because the reality makes it all easier to bear. For example, all of my life I have been told that "once you get your body off of sugar, you will stop craving it and when you eat it it won't even taste good."  This is a lie.  Sugar is awesome no matter how bad it is for you.  Another big lie is "if you will get into the habit of working out, your body will crave exercise and you will feel worse when you don't do it."  Bull.  What they ought to tell you is that you will NEVER stop craving sugary stuff, but that it is a slippery slope.  Once you eat sugary foods, it is really easy to eat more sugary foods and then you are screwed because you can't stop.  And as for exercise, the truth is that you will loathe it unless you are naturally athletic (I am not).  You will have to make yourself do it so that you can occasionally have those fattening, sugary treats that you crave so very much.  I will also get real about "Healthy Weight Charts" because they are full of lies too.  I am 5" 8', I wear a size 11 shoe, I have a barrel chest and 7" wrists.  According to "the chart" I should weigh between 126 and 146 pounds.  I read that and I want to laugh, then cry, then go eat my weight in Oreos.  Those charts are crap and if you search the internet long enough, you can find one that says you are okay just the way you are.  I know because I found one that says that a large framed 40 year old woman could weigh up to 197 pounds and still not be overweight.  Ignore the charts.  Ignore the scale.  If you want to know if you are overweight, look in the mirror when you get out of the shower.  That is how I found out that I was slowly morphing into Jaba the Hutt.  

My weight loss journey began the day that I decided to take my measurements to see if what was reflected in that mirror was accurate.  Sadly, the mirror was being kind.  I measured my neck, chest, arms, torso, waist, hips, thighs, calves -- everything.  I wrote it all down and stared slack-jawed at what was before me.  With these measurements, I could probably shop successfully in the men's big and tall section.  That was the turning point.  That was the last day I had a Route 44 Coke and the first day I got on the treadmill.  

Writing all of this out has motivated me enough to get off of the couch and go get on the treadmill so that I can shower and go to the store (avoiding the candy aisle) and buy more lettuce.  No, avoiding unhealthy food isn't easy.  No, losing weight is not nearly as fun as gaining weight.  No, my body will never crave exercise and it will always prefer fatty, sugary, starchy foods.  Coke.  And bacon.  And buttered bread.  And THAT is why I must now go get on the treadmill.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mommy Confession

Yesterday, I wrote about my battle of the bulge.  Today I am writing a confession.

A few weeks ago I met a mother who has 4 kids like me.  Her youngest will start kindergarten next fall and she asked me a question that sort of threw me for a loop -- "What do you do all day now that they are all in school? I just cannot imagine what it will be like to not have them at home, under foot, needing something every 5 minutes."  I stood there, looking like I had been caught in a lie.

What do I do all day?  The honest answer is "As little as possible."

I know that as a stay-at-home mom, I am supposed to argue that my job is just as hard as someone who works full-time.  I am supposed to talk about how I cook and clean and run errands and how incredibly busy my life is running a house full of 6 people -- and it is, sometimes.  But many days, I sit on my couch in my yoga pants and drink coffee and write or watch TV until noon.  I might put a load of laundry in to wash or dry, I might fold some clothes or load the dishwasher, but I relax a lot. At first, I felt incredibly guilty about this.  This woman was asking me a sincere question about how I occupy my time, and I stood there like a deer in headlights trying not to blurt out the only answer that popped into my head, which was "Nothing.  I'm really lazy."

I should feel ashamed or at least a little guilty, right?

But I don't really feel guilty.

I feel wonderful.

For 12 years, I wiped noses and butts, and breast fed, and fixed breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner for 4 kids.  I was an on-demand chef, driver, snuggler, referee, etc. every minute of every day and night until last fall when my youngest started kindergarten.  I was about to my breaking point.  I was seriously on the edge of losing it and not being a "good mom" because I was a little burnt out. The cracks in my armor were showing.  I would fly off the handle and yell about spilt cereal and I might start crying at the thought of a wet bed.  So for the past 6 months I have spent a lot of time doing whatever I want to do (which isn't much) while the kids are at school.

There have been moments of mayhem amid my new found oasis -- there was the dreaded lice and there have been numerous illnesses that required me to do extra cleaning and make extra runs to the doctor and pharmacist, but for the most part, I have been enjoying all of this downtime.  I still manage to accomplish everything that I did when the house was full of little mini-me's running around causing trouble, but instead of spending all of that time corralling the chaos, I spend it reveling in the quiet and enjoying the peace. I've read books, watched movies, napped, and I write whenever I want.

Sometimes the mood will hit me and I want to clean -- like, REALLY clean.  Scrub baseboards and such.  And if that is what I want to do, great!  But I don't want to very often.  And that is great too.

I love being a mom.  I love my kids more than anything in the world.  Our house is rarely spotless, but it isn't embarrassing (most of the time).  The kids' rooms are cluttered....okay, that's an understatement, they look like a tornado hit, but I try to get them to do their own cleaning of their own stuff, so I rarely feel like it's bad enough to intervene while they are away.  In fact, I tend to get more done when dad is home and the kids are here and we all work on an assigned task for a set time (like "We have 2 hours until company is coming, everybody 'panic clean!' Go!")  And it isn't like I NEVER do anything domestic.  Clothes get washed, but they may or may not get folded right away.  Bathrooms are clean, kitchen is sanitary, but we live here and the evidence of that is everywhere.

I think that years of being pulled in different directions while trying to maintain things has caused me to develop a sort of cleaning ADD. Years of being unable to finish a task uninterrupted has left me without the skills needed to stay focused.  before kids, I struggled with OCD, so the result is this weird hybrid where I cannot finish a task because I get distracted by the details of a much smaller, insignificant task.  When I DO try to get something done, it goes a lot like this:  I will go upstairs to collect laundry and notice that there is toothpaste on the counter, so I'll take one of the wet washcloths I just retrieved from the tub and wipe it up.  And end up cleaning the whole bathroom.  Then I will go downstairs and start the laundry.  On the way out of the laundry room, I will pick up a jacket, go to hang it up, and end up reorganizing the entire coat closet.  I will go to boil an egg and end up cleaning the kitchen when I only needed to wash the one pot to boil the egg in.  I'll walk out to the garage to grab a water bottle and start making a pile of stuff to take to the Goodwill.  On my way in from the garage, I'll stop in the laundry room and fold a load of clothes, and when I go to put away the clothes I folded I'll end up cleaning out a drawer...or two...or the entire dresser.  Then I have to go get a trash bag from the kitchen to put all of the stuff I pulled out of the dresser in and take it to the garage to add to the pile for Goodwill that I started earlier and when I do, I realize that all of the water has boiled away from my egg that I completely forgot about.  So I rescue the now very chewy egg and make a salad in my now clean kitchen and go sit down in front of the TV to eat.  (There is still a pile of clothes to be bagged upstairs, the clean laundry is sitting on top of the dresser, the wet clothes are in the washer, and the dryer is buzzing, but now I am sitting down...)

SOME stuff gets done, but it may not have been the most important stuff and it may not be completely done.

So my mommy confession is this:  No, I do not utilize my time wisely.  Staying at home now that the kids are back in school is not as hard as a full time job.  It could be (I'll even go as far to say it probably should be) -- but I have made the fairly conscious decision to take it easy (at least for now and for most of the time).  Anyone who has pictured me as Donna Reed or June Cleaver running around in heels making beds and vacuuming has grossly misunderstood who I am.  I do not live in a 1950's television show nor do I reside in the pages of Southern Living magazine.

Our family is real and we are messy.  If you happen to drop by unannounced, you will most likely find toys on the floor, piles of sorted laundry waiting to be put washed, floors that need vacuuming, dust on the ceiling fans, and a well-caffeinated friend who has plenty of time to sit and talk for awhile.  

Just move that pile of miscellaneous stuff on the sofa over and have a seat.  I'll go get you a cup of coffee.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The 24 Diet

I have been seriously waging the battle of the bulge for the past 2 weeks.  Well, that isn't exactly true. I've actually been battling my bulge for about 39 years, but I have been putting forth some serious effort for the past 2 weeks.  I have tried many things that work short term, but I am looking to make a total lifestyle change, not drop 10 pounds for a special event.  I have discovered that if I put on a show on Netflix, then I will walk on my treadmill pretty much like a brain dead zombie until it is over.  I never watched the series 24 when it originally aired and I picked it because there were 192 episodes and because it is returning in May with all new episodes.  I am totally hooked.  Yesterday, I got on the treadmill and I walked for 80 minutes (2 episodes) because I was completely engrossed in the story.  I could not imagine trying to watch this with a week between episodes.
My weight has always been an issue for me.  I am turning 40 in 60 days.  I has wanted to lose 40 pounds before my 40th birthday, but that will not happen.  See, when I was 20 and I wanted to drop some weight, I would watch it for a few weeks and up my activity for a little bit and drop 25 pounds in a month like it was nothing.  Not anymore.  Now I amp up my activity, drink only water, cut calories, try to sleep more, and in general do everything that I know I should have been doing for the last 39 years, and I lose a pound a week if I am lucky.  Getting old sucks.
The reason that I am so very focussed on this now isn't just because I am about to turn 40.  In June I am going to the beach with my family.  My family, my sister's family and my parents are renting a beach house for a week.  My brother in law is a fireman and a mixed martial artist.  My sister does Crossfit. My parents are both slim.  The thought of standing next to them on the beach in a swimsuit has prompted my urgency, but my weight is something that I needed to work on anyway.  I love everything that I am not supposed to -- bread, pasta, potatoes, Coke, cookies, beef, sauces and gravy -- basically everything that I need to cut to lose weight and be healthy.  Those things are all fine in moderation, but it's the "moderation" that I struggle with more than anything.
I read somewhere that when you are trying to lose weight that you should make your intentions very public so that everyone will hold you accountable.  I have no problem letting everyone know that I need to lose weight -- it isn't like it is a secret.  Anyone who looks at me can tell that I need to lose some weight.  My friend Christy and I are attacking our problem together by bragging about our successes and complaining about our setbacks and sharing recipes and tips.  While Christy is my confidant on this journey, I have let everyone know that I am trying.  The problem is that when you tell people that you are trying to lose weight, they all have ADVICE.  Advice is awesome if it is helpful, but the problem is most of it isn't.  So here are some of the gems that I have received over the past couple of weeks:
"Just eat less." (Wow, I never thought of that. Thanks.)
"There's this soup that was developed by the Mayo Clinic that I found online -- I lost 10 pounds in a week eating it. It has cabbage and kale and all sorts of vegetables that force your body to drop weight fast.  I'll send you the recipe."  (Can't wait.)
"Have you ever done a colon cleanse?  It can cause you to lose tons of weight by eliminating the excess sludge in your digestive tract." (Yeah, I did one right before my colonoscopy 2 years ago.  It is not an experience that I wish to relive.)
"You should get one of those neoprene belts to help you shed the water weight." (Why not one of those with the electrodes from late night infomercials?)
"Have you tried the Paleo diet?  Basically you only eat things that the cavemen would have eaten." (Do I look like a caveman? I'm pretty sure that if I tried this diet I would ACT like a caveman...)
"You should do Atkins.  You eliminate all carbs until your body goes into ketosis and starts digesting itself." (This sounds...pleasant.)
"There's this clinic downtown that gives you B-12 injections and HGC or something like that.  You lose a pound a day." (And gain a pound a day when you stop...)
"Have you tried drinking apple cider vinegar?" (No, that sounds disgusting...)
"Have you considered the grapefruit diet? You eat a half of grapefruit before every meal." (I have tried the one where you eat 2 cookies before and after every meal...)
"You should come to Zumba with me!" (This one is hilarious -- I cannot dance at all).
"My cousin's best friend took this herb that made her lose weight no matter what she ate.  I can try to get the name of what she took if you want."  (Um, no thanks.  Herbs are great, but they act differently for each person. I can pretty much guarantee it will not work.)
"You should try green coffee bean extract." (Or Garcinia, or green tea, or raspberry ketones, or the tears of kangaroos....)
Look, it isn't that I don't appreciate advice, I do.  I wish there was a magic soup or an herb pill that would force my body to completely morph into Cindy Crawford, but there isn't.  If there was, it would be a well known solution and I probably would have already tried it.  I have done some things in the past few months that sound gimmicky but seem to help me feel better even if they don't aid in my weight loss.  I have started taking "detox baths" at least a couple of times a week.  I do not know how much detoxing is going on, but they make me feel better.  I have also started doing something called dry brushing -- using a stiff brush and using long sweeping strokes toward the heart, you brush your skin before your shower or bath.  The theory is that it stimulates your lymphatic system and allows your body to metabolize everything more efficiently.  I have no idea if that is true, but my skin looks amazing.
I have begun telling everyone that I am on "The 24 Diet."  I love explaining that all that means is that I cut calories, drink water, and hit the treadmill while watching 24.  By my estimation, I should be good on episodes for at least 12-13 weeks at 2 episodes a day.  Of course, when I get all caught up, I will have to find another show...too bad Downton Abbey isn't on Netflix.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I Am Writing So I Don't Have To Go To The Store

I woke up all achy today.  2 of my 4 kids have had walking pneumonia in the past 2 weeks and I am afraid that I may be getting it.  My right shoulder is especially sore feeling, and I am not real sure why.  I think I may have just slept wrong.

Did you ever think of the absurdity of that statement?  "I slept wrong."  That thing, where you close your eyes and you're unconscious and all you have to do is breathe?  Yeah, I did that wrong.  So wrong, in fact, that I will be in pain all day because of it.  Nothing makes you feel like a winner quite like screwing up a natural body function to the point that you injure yourself.

I have to go to the grocery store today because everyone in this house wants to eat and I am running out of possibilities.  Even at my most creative moments, I cannot think of a way to make dinner out of mini-marshmallows, croutons, and ravioli.  I think that moms who plan meals for the week and take detailed shopping lists to the grocery store with their binders of coupons are born with a gene that I do not have.  I make grocery lists with some sort of idea of what we will have over the week, but not specifics.  My plan is more like 2 days beef, 3 days chicken, 1 day pork, and 1 day pasta.  Then I shop and try to use up what I bought before it spoils.  I'll use coupons if I have them (and remember to bring them to the store), but only if they're for things that I already buy.  I tried to do serious couponing once, but I ended up buying a bunch of crap just because I had a coupon and then it goes bad before I use it.  Nothing aggravates me quite like having to throw food away.  Not only is it wasteful, but it means that I have to go to the store again.  And, it is another ridiculously easy life function that I somehow failed to perform adequately.  You know, you must eat to survive, but you failed to do that properly and now your food is ruined.

I have been procrastinating more than usual lately (case in point -- I am writing this here instead of getting dressed and going to the store).  I find myself with grand plans to do something super productive but then I sit and drink coffee and write or Facebook or watch TV (or all 3) and then I am surprised to look up and realize that it is nearly 3 in the afternoon. So to avoid that happening today and resulting in a very odd dinner, I am going to wrap this up and go to the grocery store.  I really don't wanna.  I want to go back to bed for a do-over and see if it would fix my shoulder.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Thoughts on Friendship

My daughter had a slumber party last weekend.  She was in hog-heaven as 10 girls came (6 who spent the night) and she was the center of attention.  I was pleased and proud to discover that at 10 years old, she had made what seemed to be excellent choices in the people that she surrounds herself with.  The girls were all friendly, polite, and respectful.  There was no drama, no cliquishness, everyone was included and no one left out.  It has me thinking about friendship and about all of the friends that I have and have had throughout my life.



Our friendships are so very important as we grow up.  They help us to become who we are ultimately meant to be.  I've had friends who have built me up, friends that challenged me, friends that make me think, and friends that comfort me -- the best friends do all of these things and more.

When I was a little kid, I remember having groups of friends -- no one any better or worse than the other, we were all just friends.  But at some point in our childhoods, our friends begin to take on classifications and we inevitably decide that we click with one or two more than the others, we decide that we don't really play as well with this one or that one, and then there is the whole boy/girl thing that changes the dynamics of our relationships.  I remember thinking of someone as my "Best Friend" for the first time when I was about 7.  She and I spent the night with one another, we passed notes folded into complex shapes and drawn on with big balloon letters, and we could communicate with a smirk, a raise of the eyebrows, or a wink in the middle of class.  We planned to grow up, get married, raise our kids on the same street, and do everything together.  We were "Best Friends Forever."



Except that we weren't.  About 5 years after we made those plans, there was a boy that she liked.  She asked me to talk to him to see how he felt about her, and I did.  The conversation happened at the skating rink.  When I asked him about her, he told me that he liked me.  I was shocked.  My best friend was prettier than me -- she was blond and petite and I...well, I wasn't.  I wasn't fat or anything (although I thought I was), but I was already 5' 7" and just "bigger" than nearly everyone.  I did not make the best choice that day at the skating rink.  I wanted to save her feelings, so I didn't tell her the truth.  I told her that he liked someone else, but I didn't specify that it was me.  It became this secret between us.  It grew like a cavity.  By the following school year, as we entered Jr. High, we were no longer close.  I had a new group of friends (all guys, incidentally) and she was a cheerleader.


My group of guy friends and I stayed close until I left and went to a new school.  We tried to stay in touch, but honestly, we were 14-15 years old and had limited say so in where we went and when.  Not to mention that the whole dating thing was starting.  While our friendships made perfect sense to us and we knew that there was nothing beyond friendship between us, the people that we dated were not so sure about that.

In high school, I had lots of friends -- but 2 who stand out as those I would consider best friends.  One who was easy and comfortable and one who constantly challenged me.  These two danced in and out of my life throughout all 4 years of high school.  They were both great friends for their own reasons, but they were like oil and water -- they did not mix.  Upon graduation, one friend and I had entered the "frienemy" stage while the other friend and I were still very close.  We made great plans about how we were going to be best friends for the rest of our lives.  We planned to take a trip together to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta -- we would be Seniors in college or out by then.  Our colleges were about an hour away from one another and we had plans to visit each other often.  However, life happened.  We went to our separate schools and we grew apart.  Our lives took totally different directions.  It wasn't until her wedding 6 years after high school that I realized we weren't really best friends anymore.  I was happy for her, but when I cried at her wedding it was not out of happiness for her, but because I realized that this friendship had morphed into something new and I was mourning the loss of my best friend.  Now, other than connecting on FaceBook, our lives never intersect.  But just the other day, someone asked me about her and a million memories flooded my head and my heart.  I smiled to myself and thought "I used to know her."



Woven in and out of all of these relationships, was the relationship with my cousin.  She and I were close as kids, as teenagers, and as adults.  We were family.  When her first marriage ended, I was on the phone with her constantly -- listening and offering comfort and advice where I could.  During our financial difficulties, I would vent to her about our problems and I always felt better after talking to her.  I told her everything.  But at some point, she began to think that by venting to her about my problems, I was condemning her success.  She was remarried.  She had started a family.  Her career was skyrocketing.  And I was "complaining" about my problems.  She blew up at me one afternoon on the phone one afternoon, unfriended me on FaceBook, and I have not seen or heard from her since.  That was nearly five years ago.  I made some attempts to reconnect with her -- At first I called and left her messages, and now I send her a Christmas card every year, but she has made it clear that she wants nothing to do with me and I have accepted that.  Friendship cannot exist on only one side.  Sometimes, friends leave and we have to just let them go.



There have been many other friends in my life.  Some friendships were intensely close and ended extremely fast -- like shooting stars trough my life.  Others occur in waves -- appearing briefly at different intervals but never lasting more than a few weeks or months at a time.  There is an old saying "True friendship never ends," but I do not believe that is true at all.  Every single one of my friendships were true.  They were exactly what was needed in both of our lives at the time.  My friends have all helped me become who I am in one way or another, and I believe that I have done the same for them.



There are currently 3 women in my life that I would consider my very best friends.  One I left in Texas, and two are here in Alabama.  All three of these women are precious to me.  One of them lived with my family for a month this past Summer with her kids while she and her husband were going through some stuff. She and I text or talk everyday.  Another practically lived with us in Texas -- our kids became like siblings to each other and spent every weekend, every snow day, and every holiday piled up together in a sleep over and even our husbands became good friends.  It was not unusual to find all of us laughing and talking around my kitchen table at 2 or 3 am on a Friday or Saturday night.  They helped us pack our belongings into an 18-wheeler to move back to Alabama in a monsoon despite how badly they wished we weren't leaving.  We still talk and text all the time and when we do it is like we are back around that table again.  The third I have known since I was about 14, but our families have only become close in the past few years.  Our lives are very much alike and our families mesh well together (in fact, her girls were at the slumber party last weekend).  I could tell these three women anything.  I know that when I tell them something in confidence, it will stay that way.  I know that when I complain about my husband or my kids or my bank account or ANYTHING that they will listen, commiserate with me, and then remind me of how good I have it.  I know that if I needed them in the middle of the night, they'd be there (even if it was just to let me cry to them over the phone).  And I would do all of that and more for them.

Close friendships are a wonderful and beautiful thing.  Like almost all relationships, friendships have to be nurtured but cannot be forced.  And regardless of how badly we want them to last forever, no matter how hard we try, some friendships run their course and end.  I mourn the loss of past friendships and I celebrate them for what they were.  My friends have celebrated the best moments in my life, they've gotten me through things I never thought I'd survive, they've cried on my shoulder and I've cried on theirs.  As I changed and grew or as they did, these friendships changed too.  Sometimes the friendship ended with a chapter of our lives and sometimes it morphed into a different, more distant relationship.  People and circumstances change and they are supposed to.  We grow and we change and sometimes the paths of our lives no longer converge with the paths of those that we consider our closest friends.  And that is okay.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Thinking Out Loud

This will be a very boring post.  I wrote it for myself, and I'm only sharing it on the off chance that others are in the same predicament and might commiserate with me.  I'm in a financial funk again.  My freelance work has apparently ended thanks to Google and their revamping of their analytics several months ago.  The site that I had been writing for was consistently hitting page one after all of the writing I had done for the client and I was really proud of that.  Then Google changed the rules and my client is still trying to figure out what the heck she is supposed to do now to get back where we were.  The new year has brought new expenses and the little bit of extra income that was helping so much is gone (at least for now).  I am seriously considering writing a form letter and sending it out to every business that could possibly need a freelance writer on call in my area to try and drum up some more business, but the problem with that is an act of that sort of desperation makes me look, well, desperate.  And if I look desperate, then I run a sincere risk of being taken advantage of.  So, what's a snarky freelance writer to do?

Vent on her blog, of course.

I sometimes look at e-Lance or job boards to get an idea of what's out there and I am always shocked at what people think that ideas and written words are worth.  Presumably, you would hire a freelance writer to write for you because you either are not capable of writing in the style that you want, you cannot write in complete sentences, or you are too busy to write the content that you need.  Yet despite the fact that writing is a talent that you either do not possess or one that you lack the time to use, you think that it is acceptable to pay next to nothing for someone else to do this for you.  (Not my client -- she was awesome and I hope that she will need me again soon).  There are literally thousands of jobs out there for freelance writers, but they don't pay anything close to what they're worth.  Writing freelance requires more than the ability to write in the proper verb tense.  You have to be a researcher, a fact checker, an editor, and a proofreader.  Depending on what I am writing about, I may have to spend hours researching the subject matter.  While writing about it usually comes fairly easily for me, I cannot write about what I do not know.  Also, because I write conversationally, my writing has to be proofread (usually out loud) and then edited (usually extensively since I like to include everything that I found interesting even if it isn't necessary for the article).   The typical offered price for these writing jobs is somewhere between $0.01 and $0.07 cents per word, and the jobs are bid upon.  Clients will most likely take the lowest bid -- that's just the nature of the beast.  But here's the problem -- the lowest bidder may not actually be any better at writing than the client hiring them and the old adage is true that you get what you pay for.  My general bid is $0.05 per word because I have to weigh not just the time that it takes to write, edit, and proofread, but also the amount of research that is required.  A client may only want a 500 word article which requires me to be concise, or they may want multiple articles on the same subject which requires me to be creative so that they all contain the same information without sounding the same, or they want me to follow a certain template which requires me to adapt my writing style to fit their requirements.  All of these things are well within my abilities, but I won't do them for free (or close to free) so I don't win bids.  I won't spend 4 hours to research and write a 1,000 word article for $5 or $10.  

So why don't I go get a job as a writer where I get a salary and work 8-5, you may wonder?  Well, because I have 4 kids.  Just since Christmas, I have had at least one kid home sick on 3 separate occasions and if I'd had an office job, I would have had to call in for 4 days.  In a month.  In about 4 months, I'd have to quit because my kids would be home all day everyday for Summer and I could not earn enough to make paying thousands of dollars in childcare worth working at all.  My ideal job would be from home.  I would be available a few days a week to come into the office, but for the most part I need the flexibility of telecommuting to make any long-term employment worth mine or any potential employer's time.  I know that the "Look out for number one" attitude that is so prevalent in the world today says to get a job and milk it for all it's worth for the next 4 months and then quit in time to stay home with my kids for the Summer, but I just cannot do that with a clear conscious.  So I am left looking for a job where I can contribute to the company that I work for while still fitting the unique needs of my situation.  

While I have done some temp work in the past, I know what I lose going that route -- money.  The client pays the temp agency $20 per hour and I get $10-12.  I'd much rather work directly for an employer and they can split the difference and pay me $15 per hour.  I don't need benefits -- heck, I don't even need a desk as I would work from home whenever possible and only come into the office when absolutely necessary.

Maybe a mass email to area HR departments isn't a bad idea after all....

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from Our Home to Yours

Well, it's Christmas and I have been incredibly busy.  I'm always pretty busy but this year Christmas has kicked my butt.  Creating Christmas magic and keeping it alive for 4 kids is exhausting and I have failed more than once this season.  My daughters wrote letters to Santa and he never answered them, even though our Elf on the Shelf told them that he would.  My oldest wrote a very passive aggressive letter -- she asked for something that we can not afford and then said "...but since I know that it is really expensive, I guess I'll just take some books."  My youngest daughter didn't ask for anything -- she sent Santa a picture of puppies, kitties, rainbows, and unicorns and she enclosed $1.06, presumably to help cover the cost of what she wants for Christmas.

We are not rich -- well, we are by many standards.  We do not lack money for basic living expenses like food, shelter, medical care, etc.  But we drive older cars, rarely splurge on frivolous things like eating out, and budget our money carefully because (as I have mentioned before) we do not do credit.  See, years ago, before the 4 little Caballeros came along, we spent money like we were a couple of Rockafellers.  We weren't.  We did fine, able to make all of our payments every month without much difficulty, but we were still robbing Peter to pay Paul.  When we accepted the job in Texas and moved from Georgia, we thought it was a wonderful opportunity to finally get ahead, but then we couldn't sell our house in Georgia.  We were no longer treading water, we were beginning to sink.  We cancelled all of our credit cards and I spent hours on the phone negotiating lower rates and payments.  We wanted to pay our debts, but we also had to be able to pay for our living expenses.  We were certain that the house in Georgia would sell or rent eventually, and we just needed to manage until we could remove that expense and begin to make real headway on our debts.  It didn't sell or rent, and the end result, after more than 20 months of struggle was bankruptcy.  I was so very ashamed.  Our house in Georgia ultimately sold at auction for about $28K less than what we owed on it and nearly $95K less than the appraised value.  We had whittled down our consumer debt from an all-time high of nearly $40K (the result of using credit cards for over a year to make ends meet on top of the accrued debt and interest from before moving), to less than $18K.  All told, we had owed approximately $45K that the courts had "forgiven" and released us from liability for.  After the bankruptcy was discharged and we got back on our feet, I made payments anyway until the debts were satisfied.

During all of this, my kids were watching.

They learned that being irresponsible with your money has consequences.  They learned that credit is dangerous.  They learned that fixing your mistakes takes hard work and dedication.  And they learned that getting what you need always comes before getting what you want.  There were many lean Christmases and birthdays during all of this -- where gifts were much needed clothes or shoes and not toys.  One might think that after seven or so years of struggle, we might celebrate by going overboard.  And I admit, it is tempting to do just that, but what lesson would that teach my kids?  I want them to enjoy life and have nice things, but I also want them to place value on family, love, charity, and NOT on things.

We started the following tradition a few years ago, and we still try to do this every year:
Something you want, (A big present that is something they asked for)
Something you need, (An item like socks, underwear, or a new backpack)
Something to share, (Probably a game or a movie)
Something to read." (Obviously, a book)
Something to eat (Candy, popcorn, etc.)
And a group activity, (A craft set, a board game, etc.)
Something that's neat (This is literal -- something to help them organize their crap)
And something for charity. (We are giving each child a small amount of money to either donate or buy something to donate.)
It keeps us from going overboard and it impresses on our kids the importance of sharing, family, and charity, as well as covers some of their needs while still letting them have that magic of Christmas.  (And I STILL get to give them awesome presents -- my favorite thing ever.)

The kids still say things like "I wish we were rich so that we could..." or "When we have the money, can we..." but so do I (even if it is only to myself).  I know that they have learned the impact that money can have on your life.  We all have because we have lived through the worst of it.  Despite that, we have come out wiser, more thankful, and generally happier to be free of it.  My oldest girl has learned the joy of giving and being frugal -- she made all of her Christmas gifts herself by spending a bit of her own money to buy the materials.  My oldest son usually points out that the things he wants can be bought second hand and that he's okay with that.  And my 2 youngest often offer me money of their own (even though it is usually loose change) to help pay for things.  And they have also come to appreciate simpler things -- dinner together as a family (even when we are eating Ramen), the rare one on one time that we get to spend with them, and an evening sharing a DVRed television show or movie.  They rarely ask for outlandish things, and even when they do they have learned to justify their requests with how it would benefit not just them, but the family.

The hard lessons that I did not learn until my thirties, my kids have learned before puberty.

It makes me both happy and sad that my kids are conscious about how much things cost.  I want them to be realistic, but I want them to still hope and dream.  I hope that when they rip open their presents this Christmas morning that they will have some dreams fulfilled, and that they appreciate what it took to make it all happen.  And I will be grateful that their dad and I made their Christmas special without going into debt.