june giveaway!

Usually, I run giveaways on the 23rd of the month, BUT since Matt and I are heading up to Maine early tomorrow morning to celebrate our first wedding anniversary (say what?), we’re a little ahead of schedule… and Giveaway Day is TODAY! It’s kind of like an early start to the weekend, no?

The prize for June comes from our friends at The Shine Project. For those who don’t know, this is one of my favorite companies — and it happens to also double as an amazing cause. I got involved as an ambassador for Shine last spring. You can read the whole story here, but essentially, Shine supports inner-city American students on track to be the first in their family to go to college by teaching them to make jewelry and offering them employment and mentorship. Student employees at the Shine centers have the opportunity to work hard to earn money for their higher education, so the purchase of Shine products supports their academic goals. A portion of the profits also goes toward a scholarship fund that benefits the Shine kids. I absolutely love this organization– and I’m obsessed with the jewelry, too! It’s easy-to-wear, affordable, trendy, and supports a really awesome cause.

I’ve been saving this particular bracelet for a summer giveaway because the color is so perfectly fresh and fun, and the sweet charm will look extra amazing with a little tan. I also think this shade of green can go with almost anything. It’s practically a neutral!

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All you have to do to enter to win this giveaway is to COMMENT on this post! As always, I’d love to see you share this link with friends so that more people have a chance to win (and to check out the blog!) — I run a giveaway every month, so you can count on another opportunity to win something in just a few weeks!

I’ll draw the winner randomly one week from today, Thursday 6/29. The winner will be announced right here on the blog. Good luck!

(Unfortunately, you’re not eligible to win this contest if you live outside of North America, due to shipping concerns. I’m sorry about that!)

gratitude diaries #7

If you’ve been following the blog recently, you already know that the start of summer has been a whirlwind for us over here in the Kosik household. We’ve been traveling every weekend for the past six weeks (except for the weekend I ran the Brooklyn Half in May), which has been a little exhausting, to say the least. It’s been hard to catch up on both my work and “life stuff” on the days between trips, and I’m generally feeling like I’m only doing a mediocre job at basically everything. Have you ever been there?

All of that being said, though, I think I’ve been doing a little too much whining here on the blog about all of the travel  — and there’s really no reason for it! As much as all of the miles and logistics have me feel a little nutty, making these trips back and forth to see family and spend time with friends has been crazy rewarding. I love having the opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones, and to be part of the many exciting moments happening in their lives this year. When you’re struggling to keep track of the celebrations going on around you, it’s a pretty good problem to have!

In honor of all of this (and to keep my attitude in check, of course), I’ve decided to put together a rapid fire-style edition of Gratitude Diaries for today. Here we go! Lately, I’ve been feeling especially grateful for these little things…

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Summer in the city, no filter necessary.

  • Summer weather, because even when the humidity gets me down, being in the sunshine makes me the happiest camper.
  • Dads everywhere, because we got to celebrate Father’s Day this weekend!
  • Welch’s fruit snacks, because there’s never been a better road trip food, and there never will be.
  • Metallic gold nail polish, because it makes typing and driving and cooking look a lot better.
  • Takeout nights with friends, because when you have people who are willing to crowd into your teeny tiny apartment to eat Thai food on the floor, you know you’re a lucky girl.
  • Running, because it feels a lot better after you’ve taken a few weeks off.
  • Costume jewelry, because why wouldn’t I treat myself to a colorful ring for $9?
  • Classic movies on Netflix, because I love falling asleep to them night after night.
  • Sisters, because mine are pretty awesome, and I’m so happy I’ve gotten to spend so much time with them lately.
  • Friends who get married and/or buy houses, because they give us all a reason to celebrate BIG!
  • Target, because it’s still the only place where I’ll buy a bathing suit — and even though I always spend roughly twice what I planned when I shop there, I’m never mad about it.
  • New stacks of magazines, because I always forget how much I love a fresh magazine until I have one in hand.
  • Trader Joe’s frozen Cauliflower Pizza Crust, because it helped me make a delish (and mostly healthy) dinner in less than 20 minutes the other night.
  • Instagram stories, because I think they’re really fun and I’m trying to get better at them.
  • Soft black raspberry ice cream with hot fudge and rainbow sprinkles, because it’s one of my favorite things about visiting my hometown in the summer.

And finally…

  • GIVEAWAY DAY, because it’s coming up on Thursday! Don’t forget to come back and check it out!

What are you feeling grateful for? Fill me in with a comment below!

nine month recap.

I’m back from my mini-getaway to the shore, and even though I’m already missing that sunshine and beachy air, it’s always refreshing to get back to my home base and get organized. (Do you get sick of hearing how much I love my little routine? Feel free to ask me to shut up about it at any time.) We have another road trip to PA this weekend, too, so even though I would have loved to stick around in Ocean City for another day or two, I know I’ll be grateful to have taken the time to reset before our next round of travel. (Do you get sick of hearing about our trips back and forth to Pennsylvania? Again, feel free to ask me to shut up about it at any time.)

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My typical weekend view

As of today, it’s been nine months since my last day in my corporate job. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been figuring out this new life for myself for as long as it takes to have a baby! As I inch closer and closer to the one-year mark, I feel increasingly humbled by this whole experience. How did all of this happen? Earlier today, I went back to the neighborhood near my old office to have lunch with my former cubicle buddy (yes, that’s the official term). To this day, every time I take that particular subway route, it’s hard for me to believe that it’s not my daily commute anymore.

Last week, I grabbed coffee with a fellow freelancer who started her own journey in full-time writing at about the same time I did. Back in September, when we caught up for the first time, we both had a few connections, a healthy dose of optimism, and an attitude of “Hope this works!” Now, nine months later, we both described our days in one word: SWAMPED. This wild discrepancy between those two conversations pretty much sums up how I’m feeling for this recap (you can check out my eight month recap here.)

I apologize if this is coming off as a humble brag — “I’m in such high demand!” — because I promise that’s not what I’m trying to do here! If anything, I’m finding that I need to do a better job of tempering my workload so that I’m not constantly telling people how busy I am (which, as you may remember from one of my earliest monthly recaps, is something I am desperately training myself to avoid). This feeling of being swamped is a shortcoming — not an accomplishment. My plate is filled with long-term projects these days, and while I’m focusing on creating systems that will make it easier for me to manage it all, it’s an ongoing process, and I’m anxious for these deadlines to pass so I can start thinking more creatively, trying new things with my writing, and not leading with busy-ness.

Since the shift in seasons, I’ve also been trying to remind myself that it’s still SUMMER! The pace of the working world changes at this time of year, and even though I want to keep hustling so I don’t miss out on any opportunities over these next few months, it’s OK for my pace to change a little, too. I want to be proactive about planning for July and August so that I can make mental space to feel some summer vibes once these major assignments are behind me. I’m dreaming of long writing sessions outside, lots of hours spent working on my book, and catching up on my long list of books to read, which I know will ultimately make me a better writer, too. It sounds like a pretty good light at the end of the tunnel to me!

How do you make it feel like summer, even when you’re hard at work? I’d love to peek your insights in the comments below!

 

more podcasts for summer.

This week, I’m back on the road! After spending the weekend in Pennsylvania celebrating one sister’s high school graduation and another sister’s Sweet Sixteen, I — along with my laptop and everything else I need to keep my writing business going — drove down to Ocean City, New Jersey. The festivities are rolling on for my newly graduated sister, and I didn’t want to miss the chance to hang with her and her besties for their beachy Senior Week! I’m heading back to New York tomorrow, but in the meantime, it’s been really nice to squeeze in a few hours in the sun between stretches of work. At heart, I’m a total Jersey shore girl, and this change of scenery has been good for me. Plus, I got to watch an old school Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM, anyone?) with the girls last night — and when else would I have an opportunity to do that?

With all of the driving I’ve been doing over the last few days (plus some beach time!), my podcast listening is at an all-time high, so I thought I’d round up some of the shows I’ve been loving lately as a sequel to my last post of podcast recommendations. Check these out!

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1. Young House Love Has A PodcastAbout two years ago, I become totally obsessed with HGTV. For a while, it was pretty much the only thing on TV that Matt and I could consistently agree on, so our television viewing was more or less limited to House HuntersProperty Brothers, and the occasional episode of Love It Or List It (Matt’s not a huge fan of that one). Young House Love Has A Podcast is basically the audio equivalent of all of my favorite HGTV shows — plus, it has the distinct advantage of being hosted by a couple that you can’t help but fall in love with. Because we rent a teeny apartment in New York City, a lot of the home improvement tips don’t directly apply to my life right now, but I still love the way John and Sherry talk about their space, and it’s definitely teaching me a lot about how to do things beautifully and on a budget someday when we do have a house! These two are super relatable, and the podcast has also been a good entry point for me into their blog (also called Young House Love), which is really awesome, too.

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2. The DailyI think I speak for many of us when I say that, with all of the crazy and intense things happening in our world lately, it’s easy to feel totally overwhelmed by the news. It’s really important to me to stay informed about current events, but if I’m being honest, I sometimes can’t bring myself to turn on the news or take a deep dive into my Twitter feed. So much of what’s out there feels sensationalized, and I really don’t think we need the extra drama. For me, The Daily (which is a podcast by The New York Times) has been a really great solution to those problems. They release a new episode every day, and each one highlights the most crucial developing stories in 25-35 minutes. My favorite part is that the journalists who run the show dig a little deeper beyond the headlines to get at the heart of what’s really going on, and to explain to listeners what things mean and how they may have started.

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3. Watch What CrappensAt the total opposite end of the spectrum from The Daily is Watch What Crappens — a Bravo recap show that (literally) had me doubled over with laughter the first time I listened to it on the subway last week. I didn’t even care that I was creating a bit of a scene in public! I was loving the podcast so much that I didn’t want to wait until I got home to listen. As many of you know, I am a huge (and only slightly embarrassed) fan of the whole Real Housewives franchise, and the hosts of this show recap every episode with absolutely hilarious impersonations of each cast member. If Bravo is one of your guilty pleasures (yes, I’m talking to YOU!), then I suggest you run — don’t walk — to your device of choice and start listening.

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4. How I Built This: NPRMy budding entrepreneurial spirit goes nuts for this show, which profiles the founders of various businesses and tracks the stories of their success. So far, I’ve listened to the episodes about the visionaries behind Whole Foods and TOMS, and both have been super interesting — but they’ve also been good reminders that anyone can have a good idea, and that even the entrepreneurs behind the biggest names in business had to start somewhere. How I Built This is an NPR podcast, which doesn’t hurt its credibility!

What podcasts have you been loving recently? I’d love your recommendations in the comments section below!

in it for the long haul.

Wow, what a week. If you could see me right now, I’d probably be doing a happy dance. Or sleeping. Either way, I would be celebrating the end of what feels like one of the craziest five-day stretches of the last few months. I have even more to celebrate today because we are heading home to Pennsylvania this afternoon for my sister’s high school graduation tonight… and I have another sister turning sixteen and getting her driving learner’s permit tomorrow. Life never stands still over here, and it couldn’t be more fun.

Lately, the whole rhythm of my work has been a little bit different, because I’ve been spending a lot of time on longer-term projects. Typically, I write a few articles on a shorter turnaround every week, with a handful of “bigger picture” pieces that I’m brainstorming, researching, and drafting simultaneously at any given time. I’m also always trying to grab time here and there to work on writing my book, which, as you all know, I accomplish to (seriously) varying levels of success.

These days, I’ve had to shift my focus a bit, because I’m also tackling a massive copyediting project. For a variety of reasons, the timeline went into overdrive a few weeks ago, and I’ve really had to pick up the pace so I can meet the deadline. In order to make that happen, I’ve had to shuffle my other priorities and put other things on the back burner. At the same time, I’m working hard at being more disciplined with my book writing process, which is a majorly long-term project in itself. Basically, the whole tone of my work has changed over the last few weeks, and it’s been an adjustment.

When I was working in corporate America, I worked almost entirely on a long-term project basis, so I’ve been trying to dust off some of those handy skills. One thing I’ve been missing as part of that process, though, is the teamwork element. When you’re working on the same thing day after day, only slowly chipping away at something that feels totally overwhelming, it’s nice to have a group of people around to help motivate you. Doing it on my own, I find that I’ve needed to put some systems in place that can keep me focused and visually remind me of the progress I’m making.

I’ve always loved the feeling of checking things off lists, and my experience working in sales has given me a forever fondness for what we used to lovingly refer to as “grids.” I’m bringing the grid concept into some of the long-term work I’ve been doing lately, and it’s been really helpful, especially since I’m more or less operating in a vacuum!

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I’ve been tracking my progress on the copyediting process chapter-by-chapter since the beginning, but it’s really been keeping me motivated in this last stretch. (For those of you who are fans of The Office and Parks and Rec, I also like to think that Michael Scott and Leslie Knope would be proud of this whiteboard action. Didn’t they both use “thermometer-style” drawings to keep track of things over the years?) I love the way it feels to fill in each block — so much that I think I may even be sad when it’s finished and there’s nothing left to fill in! (That might be an exaggeration, but, you know what I’m saying…)

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This week, I expanded this tool to help me stay on point with working on my book. As you may remember from my latest goals recap, I’m trying to work toward setting aside a few hours, two to three days week to do this (instead of a few minutes every day, which was sort of overwhelming me). I started creating these little time trackers and taping them into my Passion Planner, and I’ve already seen a major difference in just a week! (I know, I’m a total nerd. When I was in high school, I was the girl who carried a pad of graph paper and a pair of scissors to math class so that I could draw perfect graphs and tape them into my notebooks. Yeesh.)

Working on these bigger-scale projects all on my own has definitely been a challenge over the last few weeks, but I do feel like it’s been a good opportunity for me to figure out some new ways of managing this whole work-from-home thing. I’m definitely excited to keep up with my new time tracking habit when it comes to working on my book, and I have high hopes that it will help me pick up the momentum that I’ve so desperately needed.

How do you manage bigger-picture projects at work and home? I’d love to read your tips in the comments below!

love rules.

How was your weekend? Ours was pretty magical. As I mentioned in my last post, Matt and I road tripped up to Mystic, Connecticut to celebrate the wedding of two of our very best friends. Taryn was a college friend of Matt’s when he and I started dating in our sophomore year, and she and I quickly bonded — and not just because I was desperate to make some girl friends among his group!

Over the years, Taryn and I have become super close, and when she met Steve the summer after graduation, it was almost like a match had been made in heaven between the two couples. We’ve loved hanging out with these two over the past few years, and I was so excited to be a bridesmaid in their wedding!

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The setting couldn’t have been more beautiful (seriously, did someone order that gorgeous sunset?), the live band had all of the guests singing and dancing like crazy, and the whole weekend was an amazing reunion with friends who we love and don’t get to see nearly enough. As if the festivities couldn’t get any more perfect, Taryn and Steve got a quadruple rainbow during their rehearsal dinner. These two don’t need any luck, but if that’s not a good omen, then I don’t know what is. We’re sending the new Mr. + Mrs. so many good wishes for may years of health and happiness ahead. YAY! You did it!

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Recently, a reader responded to my latest blog survey (it’s not too late to share your input here!) with some questions about my family, and how I maintain positive relationships with them. First of all, thank you so much, wherever you are, for sharing your own story so openly, and for all of your kind words. In the interest of privacy, I don’t want to get too specific here about my amazing family and how me make all of our craziness work, but I am happy to share some general “love rules” for how I approach relationships with all of my loved ones — friends, family, and husband.

1. Take people from where they are. You know your loved ones better than anyone, so you should know that the ways in which they communicate and show love — as well as their capacity to openly do either of those things — is unique and specific to them. I try not to hold my friends and family members to equal standards, because each one of them is different! It’s unfair to expect everyone to build their relationship with you in the same way, and if you do, you’re in for a lot of disappointment. Take people for who they are and love them just like that.

2. Figure out your special “thing.” love having elements to each of my relationships that feel really specific and personal to “us” — an inside joke, a shared love for a certain type of food, a standing date to do the same thing together every month, or even just a weird facial expression that we flash to each other across the room if a situation gets weird. I think that finding this “thing” is really helpful, especially when you’re struggling to find common ground with someone you care about at any given time.

3. Communicate. Ohhhh, if Matt had a penny for every time I’ve dropped this word over the past eight years, we’d probably own this apartment (and maybe even a house in the suburbs, too) by now. I don’t communicate with all of my loved ones in the same way (see #1), but I do try to keep open lines of communication open with everyone as much as possible — and I’ve learned that the ways that I interact with people evolve, too. Maybe it’s time, or maybe I’m just getting wiser as I get older (yeesh!), but I find that — in most of my relationships — communication improves over the years. That brings me to my last suggestion…

4. Relationships evolve! You and your friends and family members probably don’t interact with each other now the same way you did five years ago, which means your relationship still probably has a lot of changing to do over the next five — or ten, or twenty! — years. If you’re not totally comfortable with how things are going with a specific person in your life, don’t be hard on yourself… and try not to be hard on them, either. Relationships aren’t static, and as long as you’re actively working to figure out how you and that person can treat each other more lovingly and respectfully in the future, you will get there — even if it’s a process.

I hope that’s helpful! I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below, too.

monthly goals recap -> may + june.

YAY — it’s Friday! Does anyone else feel like it’s the technically short weeks that always feel the longest?

In a few hours, Matt and I are getting on the road to Connecticut to celebrate two of our favorite people getting MARRIED! I’m a bridesmaid (you may remember when I went to the bachelorette party in Savannah back in February), and I feel super lucky and honored to be part of this special day. There are few things I love more than celebrating love!

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Before the festivities can begin, though, it’s time for me to update you on how I did with my goals for May (and to look ahead to June, of course). While I was reviewing my list yesterday, I was honestly a little surprised at how many items I checked off! You may have sensed a little frustration from me over these last few months — and if you did, you were right, so I’m really proud of myself for getting focused and back on track in May.

  • Reboot the book project and start a fresh outline. √ YES! I didn’t get as far into the outline and the specifics this month as I would have liked, but I have a main character in mind, and I’m starting to build the story around her. I feel so much more inspired by this new direction! It’s a topic that requires some research, and it feels great to really have something to sink my teeth into.
  • Break into a new outlet or start working with a new client. √ YES! It’s nothing that I’ve been able to share with you yet, but I submitted work to a new client mid-month.

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  • Break two hours in the Brooklyn Half. Yes and no. Officially, I finished just a few minutes over the two hour-mark… but, Matt has developed a “five minute rule” over his years of being a spectator of this particular race. Because there are so. many. people. running it (this year, there were about 30,000 participants!), he typically subtracts five minutes from my finish time to account for all of the extra seconds it takes me to wind my way through the crowds. By that logic, I met my goal — but either way, I’m happy with my race. I was much faster than last year, and had a great team here cheering me on!
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My favorite working spot is One Girl Cookies. It’s right around the corner from my apartment, and they have this awesome garage door-style thing going on that makes it really easy to enjoy the good weather.

  • Change up my work environment.√ YES! This might have been my favorite goal of the month! It’s been really good to get out of the home office more often. Even a few hours at a coffee shop one day a week does wonders.
  • Invest fresh energy in the blog.√ YES! 
  • Book a vacation with Matt.√ YES! We have a long weekend trip planned for our first wedding anniversary (which is just three weeks away!), and we started talking to my friend who works in the travel industry about a bigger vacation in the fall.
  • Read three books. √ YES! I read The Animators, Beyond the Bright Sea, and Tuesday Nights in 1980. I would really recommend The Animators and Tuesday Nights, especially.
  • Higher quality “me time.” I need to continue working on this, but I did make some progress this month. In May, I was a lot less likely to spend whatever free time I could grab in front of Hulu (although I’ll admit I did watch my fair share of the Kardashians). I’ve been trying to block off time to read while I eat lunch, or to take myself for little walks (even if it’s just to run errands, I make the walk feel more like down time by zoning out to a cool podcast and not making any phone calls).

And here are my goals for June! Just like last month, I have a few focus outlets and projects that I’m keeping to myself, too : )

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Getting our wedding album in the mail yesterday (finally!) was a great way to kick off our anniversary month. 

  • Celebrate an amazing first wedding anniversary! As I mentioned above, we have a long weekend trip on the calendar, and we’re planning on eating our cake (I’m a sucker for tradition!) and getting our vows printed and framed to hang in our apartment. I also want to come up with the most perfect, meaningful gift for Matt, preferably one that will be a total surprise. Generally speaking, I’m just really excited to go big with celebrations for this first year of marriage, and to set the tone for the way we approach our anniversaries in the future.
  • Successfully finish my big copyediting project. If you follow my Instagram stories, you may already know that I am copyediting a biology textbook. Who knew I would be learning so much about the skeletal and excretory systems (yup, excretory system) as a full-time writer? My deadline to finish the project is June 22, and I’m looking forward to finishing it strong.
  • Break into a new outlet. I’ve pitched to some new editors recently, and I have my fingers crossed that I’ll get good news back soon!
  • Continue research for rebooted book project and/or start outlining. I’ve always told myself that I need to set aside time to work on my book every single day. I wish I could make that happen, but honestly, I think the whole idea has felt overwhelming — and maybe even a little discouraging. This month, I’m going to try to block off time three days a week, instead. That seems more manageable, and I’m hoping it will help me pick up more momentum!
  • Research writing classes and possible graduate programs. In order for me to really get where I want to be with my creative writing (most importantly, of course, with writing my book), I think it’s time I start taking some classes. I haven’t decided yet if that looks like a full-blown degree (if anyone out there has experience with MFA programs, especially, I’d love to hear from you!) or just a few workshops here and there. In June, I want to spend some time looking into my options and weighing which one is best for me. More to come!
  • Read three books. I know this one is probably kind of boring by now, but I like having the chance to share with you what I’ve read at the end of each month (it’s the old publishing pro in me, I guess!).
  • Decide where we’re going for our fall vacation. As a couple, Matt and I are not always that quick to actually commit to the plans we’re talking about — and I want to make sure we don’t miss out on an amazing trip by waiting too long!

What are your goals for June? Fill me in with a comment below!