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coming out of the cave

Posted: April 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: work | 1 Comment »

Over on the Girlfriendology group on LinkedIn, Donna of Pajama Paycheque shared a link to her post “Combating Loneliness When You Work from Home.” My response is a bit too long for a comment, so I decided to write about it here.

I have worked at home full time for a total of seven years. It can be somewhat isolating, and I do have times when I don’t leave the house for days at a stretch (especially when the weather is nasty — that’s one of the perks of working at home, actually). LIke Donna, I look for opportunties to get out among people during the week and find that just being near other people is enough to counteract the isolation of working solo.

This past year has been my busiest ever for both of my businesses, and it’s looking to maintain that trajectory for the next year. Here’s how I stay sane.

    • I go to the rec center twice a week to do the weight machines and walk — a total of an hour each time. It’s not really a social thing for me, but it does get me out into the world, and because I usually go in the middle of the morning, I can reap the benefits of it being less crowded. I listen to This American Life podcasts or music on my iPod, and it’s a great time to let my mind quietly work on things in the background.

    • I also attend a yoga class once a week. I’ve been going to this same class for almost three years now, as have a few others in the class, and we look forward to seeing each other and catching up on Fridays.

    • In nice weather, I add a walk in the neighborhood on days I’m not going to the rec or to yoga, anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how much I other stuff have going on. The weights/yoga/walking all help with keeping me in shape, too, since I work at a desk most of the time.

    • I make a point to head out to a local coffee shop for a couple of hours at least once every other week. Most of my work requires too much concentration to work there regularly — some people can focus well with lots of background noise, but I’m not one of them. If I have a bunch of rote work on my project shelves, I’ll gather it up and head out. The coffee shop is also a great place to spend brainstorming and planning time — it can help to be outside of your normal environment to do these things.

    • Probably the most important thing for avoiding isolation has been participating in e-mail discussion lists and forums. I have belonged to Copyediting-L, a discussion list for copyeditors and others in the publishing business, for seventeen years or so. My listmates are my colleagues, and the list is a fantastic resource for advice, reality checks, respectful discussion about points of grammar and style and just about every other topic under the sun, and even comic relief. I would be lost without this list; I learn something new from it every single day. I participate in several other lists and forums as well, across a variety of topics that interest me. As you can imagine, it can be quite easy sometimes to be drawn into a timesuck with such things, so I try to keep an eye on the time I spend on lists and forums and make sure it’s not getting in the way of getting things done.

    • Twitter. Hallelujah! When it first came out, I didn’t quite get the appeal of Twitter, but once I got it — wow. I love this low-key way of staying in touch with friends, family, colleagues, and random strangers throughout the day. (To a lesser degree, this applies to Facebook, too. But it seems like Twitter comes with less drama.) TweetDeck keeps it manageable for me, and I don’t sweat it if I don’t read everything.

    • I do my grocery shopping and other errands during the week when I need a break from work. This lets me take advantage of less busy times at the stores — it can take twice as long to shop on Saturday than on Tuesday — and also gets me out among people.

    • I try to schedule one or two weekday afternoons off each month to go do something fun — a museum, the zoo, exporing a new neighborhood, a long lunch with a friend, stuff like that.

I’m lucky in that I don’t have a set schedule; I tend to work in chunks of time spread throughout the day and week, rather than sitting at my desk from 8 to noon and then 1 to 5. This flexibility was one of the most important driving factors in my decision to work at home, and it’s one of the things that allows me to do what I do to stay connected to the outside world.

What about you? How do you battle isolation?


Posted: May 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: life, weather, work | Comments Off on storms!

Crazy, loud, crash-after-crash-of-lightning storms in the middle of the night last night. I woke up just long enough to notice and to remember that I had indeed unplugged my computer before I went to bed, then just rolled over and went back to mostly asleep with the occasional “oh yeah, there’s another lightning strike close by” tick in my brain. Yesterday I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep, and despite going back to bed in the middle of the morning and getting another couple of hours, I was soooooo tired last night. The acres of Mexican food on my plate at dinner with a friend probably didn’t help in that department. But I was able to get some fabulous, wonderful sleep last night with the windows cracked open, storms or no storms, and this morning feels like luxury for it.

The one good thing about being up so early yesterday morning is that I was able to finish up a project and get it ready to ship out even before my normal wake-up time, so I was able to spend the rest of the day cleaning up a few nagging loose ends and getting ahead on one of my other projects (the one that will continue to eat this afternoon, despite my being a little ahead of schedule on it now).

I’ve got two weeks of constant motion and progress and plans in front of me, but I don’t mind. I’ve been working a lot this past year on the concept of flow, and working with my projects and obligations and such to swim through them gracefully, rather than treating them as objects that have to be hurdled or bullied or broken down into submission, and it’s made a huge difference in my work and how I feel about it.

tidbits: snow day edition

Posted: February 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: critters, life, nature, weather, work | Comments Off on tidbits: snow day edition

I’m calling my own snow day today. The snow is blowing sideways and it looks just miserable out there, so I’m going to hibernate and not go anywhere. The author proofs I was expecting to receive yesterday didn’t arrive — not sure if UPS gave up after the snow started yesterday afternoon or if they were just delayed, so there’s no editing work that can’t wait until Monday. I’m still fighting the headache from yesterday, and I think I slept wrong, since my neck is really stiff. I’m declaring today a day for puttering and flitting from this to that as the whim strikes.

I started out with catching up on the women’s figure skating from last night. The winner totally blew the others out of the water — just gorgeous! My husband will be thrilled that the skating is over, though, if only because it will stop me from yelling “Shut up, Scott Hamilton!” at the TV until 2014. (Seriously, someone get to work on the technology whereby one can turn off the inane and negative commentary and hear only the music. You’ve got four years: GO!)

The rest of the day, who knows?

Our little white friend over there walked right by my office window the other day. I grabbed the camera, opened the front door, and took that shot a split second after he started to take off. His coloring is called skewbald, and it is caused by a genetic variation. Originally, I thought we had three different skewbald deer, but in looking at earlier photos, this one, which I thought was a female, has the same exact pattern as a one-antlered male I photographed a few weeks ago. (I didn’t know until today that deer lose their antlers over the winter and grow new ones in the spring.) I can’t lay my hands on the photos we took of the one with the huge rack of antlers soon after we moved in, but now I’m curious if it’s the same one after all.


Posted: January 6th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: life, work | 1 Comment »

I’m a bit behind on making the obligatory post on resolutions, but that’s okay, because I didn’t really make any this year. I won’t go into a convoluted wrap-up of 2008, either, other than to say that the last quarter of the year was one of my busiest ever for both businesses, and that the busyness forced some reflection on how I was spending my time, which led to a realization that I was going to have to do some rearranging of my priorities and how I choose to spend the free time and energy I have.

The biggest change is that when my term as communications director on the board of the OSU Alumni Club of Greater Cleveland is up in February, I will not be seeking reelection. I’ve served as communications director for three years and as a rank-and-file board member for three years before that, and I’m a bit burned out. I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished: a good-looking, properly spelled newsletter and website; a discussion list for board members; an e-mail announcement list for members; some automation in event registration; getting to a place where we can accept credit card payments for our big event; shared master documents for our membership database; a much more streamlined and less labor-intensive way of sending out paper newsletters; and a bunch of other little things. As with most such things, there are always some things I had hoped to accomplish but didn’t get to, the biggest being some kind of self-serve membership web thingy where people can join or renew their memberships online and handle their own address and similar changes. C’est la vie. This change alone will give me a couple hundred hours of my life back over the course of 2009.

I returned to yoga in the fall, and find that I really look forward to it every week. It’s been helpful both physically and mentally. My instructor usually asks us to set an intention for class, and I find myself returning again and again to the concept of flow, not just for the hour on the mat, but in my life. And when she asked us in the first class of the new year to consider an intention for the new year, my mind instantly returned to flow. So, in lieu of a list of concrete new year’s resolutions, I’m dedicating 2009 to finding a state of flow, eliminating or working around the dams erected by myself or others, dealing with the here and now rather than slogging through outdated intentions I’ve set for myself or letting things pile up to the point they become inpenetrable.

I will continue to be scarce and in communications triage mode for the month of January. A plum, door-opening writing project landed in my lap, but with it came a crazy deadline, and it is sucking up most of my time lately. I’ll be in a better place to talk about the project once I’ve wrapped up my piece of it.

And with that, I’ve used up today’s allotment of “free time,” so back to the grindstone. Happy new year!

Cleveland Handmade featured artist: me!

Posted: December 19th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: art, books, Cleveland Handmade, Etsy, featured artist, holiday, joy, life, work | Comments Off on Cleveland Handmade featured artist: me!

I am this week’s celebrity, and you can read my answers to the off-the-wall questions posed by the lovely smashing, who also took the photo of me that accompanies the interview, on the Cleveland Handmade site.

December has been a whirlwind so far. I was expecting a quiet month, just a couple of little proofreading projects, then a plum writing project dropped into my lap. I’ll share more about the project when the details are more settled and I have something to link to rather than trying to explain it in all its quirkiness, but the jist is that I’m coauthoring a fun book about cats with two other writers. What this means in my universe is that those people who usually get a personal, handwritten note in the holiday card I usually mail on the first of December will get a form letter in their holiday card that might get mailed tomorrow. Or Saturday. And I’m going to continue to be really rotten about returning nonessential e-mails and phone calls into the beginning of 2009.

This weekend marks the last of my 2009 shows, the Cleveland Handmade Last Minute Market. We had such a great time at the last CH Market that we decided to do it again. This time it is in a warehouse space in Westlake, on Canterbury Road to the north of Detroit Road (that link will lead you to more details and a map). I hope to see a few friendly faces on Saturday evening — come on by and say “hi” and see some really nice stuff from 22 Cleveland Handmade artists.

PS: I’m using Twitter a lot to post little tidbits a couple of times a day when I don’t have time to write full blog posts. If you’re a tweeter, you can follow me there, or just check in under “What I’m Doing…” in the sidebar over there to the right —>


Posted: July 18th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: art, editing, jewelry, learning, wedding, WordPress, work | Comments Off on miscellany

The weekly entertainment update I get via e-mail from the New York Times featured Mamma Mia today. I am ambivalent about Abba — it’s pretty much just fifth-grade nostalgia background music for me — but now I have “Dancing Queen” stuck in my head. It’s not good.

I have been nose to the grindstone in an avalanche of freelance projects. A few were running late from the publishers, one was running early, and one was a peach of a rush project that I couldn’t turn down, so I started out the month with eight projects in various states of completion. I’m still trying to figure out if that was a good or a bad thing, but the paychecks will be nice once they start to come in. I slugged through it and managed to return everything on time, and even a couple of them a day or two early. It was a good feeling. I’m on the last one now, then I’ll have a bit of a breather before the next slate is due to arrive on my desk. The break will be welcome, since I have a couple of upcoming shows and classes to prepare for.

My biggest show of the year and my favorite to do is the Avon Lake Summer Market, which is coming up next Saturday, July 26. Erin and Kristen do a fabulous job of putting together a beautiful show with a wide variety of vendors. The setting couldn’t be more lovely, and they do a nice job of publicizing it. It’s a fundraiser for restoration of the Thomas Folger Home. I hope to see some of you there.

My August show will be the North Olmsted Juried Arts & Crafts Show on Sunday, August 10. This will be the second year for this show. They do a really terrible job of promoting it, but I stick with it because I think it has a lot of potential. I wrote a long feedback letter last year giving them some pointers for promotion, but so far they have not taken them to heart.

This year I started teaching some classes, too. I’m teaching bead classes at Grand River Beads. The May and June classes were bracelet variations on a kit design using large borosilicate beads. On July 31, I’ll be teaching a necklace version, then I’ll be retiring that class for a while. For August, I’m working on an original design using furnace glass and crystals. I’m also teaching etching classes at Bead Q in North Olmsted (8/17) and Chagrin Falls (8/4).

the joys of catching up

Posted: June 21st, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: editing, life, work | 2 Comments »

I wrapped up a slew of work projects right before the wedding, and I’m not expecting the next to arrive until next week. This lull has allowed me time to catch up on other projects, a few of which have been lingering too long.

(Of course, the minute I typed that, I got a lead on a rush work project and put aside this entry to send off an inquiry about it. Funny how these things work.)

I am almost never “between projects,” even when I have no actual paying work on my desk. I always have some kind of personal project or volunteer project on my plate, and oftentimes more than a few. This week I made progress on a lot of them, along with knocking out a ton of manini to-dos that make up the project I call “life in general.”

The alumni club is looking for an automated way to handle memberships to take the load off of volunteers and streamline the process. I did a lot of research earlier in the spring and found what seems to be a viable — and free — solution. After much back-and-forth, we decided to give it a try with a small test group, and I spent most of today setting up the community website and inviting our testers to sign up.

Yesterday I spent the day completely revamping my professional website and doing the first draft of a new prospecting letter. I’m still not happy with either, but it’s more progress than I’ve made on either in the past six months. I hope to attack them again on Monday, after they’ve had the chance to stew a while.

I’m about halfway done with creating the “just the highlights” wedding photo page for those who want a taste but don’t want to slog through all three hundred professional photos and umpteen amateur photos. With luck, I’ll finish that tomorrow before I take off for the weekend.

Earlier in the week I spent a few hours at the old house sorting and packing more stuff. Those who know me from the olden days might be shocked to learn that I ended up with more books in the giveaway pile than in the save-me boxes. While nowhere near as hoardalicious as some people I know who shall remain unnamed, I was at one time known for my vast accumulation of books. I have (mostly) gotten over that compulsion to acquire and hold everything remotely interesting that crosses my path, and I now try to limit myself to those books that are truly indispensible or that I truly love. What a concept!

catching up

Posted: January 30th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: life, wedding, work | 2 Comments »

[Exhale.] I’m back to full-time freelancing, and wow, does it feel good. Even though I was aware of the massive stress I was under at my recent staff job, it wasn’t until I left it that I realized just how much it was affecting every last fiber of my being. Freelancing has its own stresses, but they’re stresses I’m more willing to live with. The flexibility is allowing me to branch out and pursue some tech writing in addition to my established editorial services, and also to spend more time with my jewelry and other art.

Flexibility has also been a necessity in catching up on wedding plans. We’re just over four months away, and there’s still more left to do than I would like, but over the past two weeks I’ve been able to get a lot accomplished. Mom and I spent some time last Tuesday and again today doing the legwork on cakes and invitations so J and I could make our decisions. We settled on a photographer last week and figured out what we’re doing for favors. The next major obstacle is finalizing the guest list, probably the most difficult thing we have to do and something almost all couples struggle with.

My plate still overfloweth, but in a good way. It’s good to be back.