real talk #3

We’re getting real this morning, friends, so let’s start with a real photo. Like, really real.

That’s what I looked like when I woke up today. My eyebrows look crazy. My forehead’s a little shiny. I’m wearing the same outfit I wore to work in the coffeeshop for all of yesterday afternoon (because even though I’m changing out of my pajamas the minute I wake up as part of my new-ish morning routine, there’s no rules yet about what happens when you’re so tired from a writing marathon that you just can’t bring yourself to change into a new athleisure look). My eyes are a little red and puffy because — and we’re getting real here — last night was an emotional one.

I said an official “see ya later!” to my sister Katie, who’s on her way to move in for her freshman year of college this morning. I’m so crazy proud of her. Look out, guys, because she’s really going to change lives as a music therapist one day.

Matt and I are dealing with a lot of change here in our home. He’s started studying for a few big tests for work, so our new nightly routine basically consists of having an hour together for dinner, then moving into separate rooms so he can stay totally focused while he works for the rest of the night. I’m so crazy proud of him, too. It’s not easy to become a student again. But since Matt’s not legally allowed to have his phone out at work (he works on the trading floor of a bank, so there are a lot of rules in place to prevent anything shady or illegal going on) and is out the door every morning at 6:30 when I am starting my workday, too, losing the precious time I usually have with him at night has been a rude awakening. Working from home is great, but it can feel isolating sometimes, which is just a little more difficult now that my nights are also more isolated.

Add all this to the fact that I’m experiencing what I can only believe are typical “I’ve-been-working-for-myself-for-almost-a-full-year-now-and-I’m-just-now-stopping-to-catch-my-breath” growing pains, and you wake up with a puffy face like the one you see above.

This week, I’ve been questioning myself more than I have in a long, long time. Not questioning the decision I made last year to take on this whole writing journey, but questioning the little decisions I make each and every day. As my fellow WFH-ers, freelancers, and other boss ladies know, there’s no rulebook for this. There’s no one here to tell me whether or not I’m doing things “right” or to tell me that I’m doing a good job. And as I transition out of the summer chaos into a calmer season that allows me a lot more time to work and grow my business, I’m finding myself feeling a lot more anxious about these things. Am I working at the right times? Am I working too much? Am I working enough? Am I spending the right amount of time developing new relationships versus writing for the clients I already have? Am I doing a good job with my book? Will I ever be able to get an agent? Am I giving myself the time I need to recharge? Do I even need that time? Do I deserve it? Am I where I should be? Are people taking what I do seriously? If not, why not?

Friends, was this my first self-employed meltdown? I don’t know. Maybe.

The good news is that I think I’m through the worst of it. All of these insecurities had been bubbling beneath the surface this week, and last night I finally got the chance to talk to Matt about it. He took the night off from studying (because he’s brilliant and the nicest), and listened to me ask myself all of those questions as I went through no less than nine soggy, disgusting tissues. He reminded me of how far I’ve come from when I started all of this last September. He told me it’s OK to take a step back every once in a while instead of always feeling like I have to hustle, hustle, hustle and move forward, forward, forward. The guy knows what he’s talking about, and he understands me so well that it scares me sometimes.

If you’re feeling insecure or anxious or just totally freaked out, remember that you’re not the only one. Life and work are not always easy, no matter how you choose to do them. Change and growth, in particular, are really. stinkin’. hard. So if you’ve had a week like mine (can we just blame it on mercury in retrograde?), you better go out and get yourself a glass of wine or an ice cream sundae (or both!) tonight. We’ll regroup after the weekend.

***AND FOR AN ADDED PICK-ME-UP…

…don’t forget to enter this months’ giveaway! The prize is a $25 gift card to BaubleBar! All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Wednesday 8/30, so get those entries in ASAP!

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tired + uninspired.

Yesterday was a weird one, guys.

It was also an exercise in flexibility and in being patient with myself when things don’t go to plan work-wise. So often, I share the positives of freelancing and being out on my own, so today, I thought I’d give you a peek into the days that are less straightforward, the kind of days that can make me play head games with myself if I’m not careful.

I barely slept on Wednesday night (as many of you know, sleeping — or not sleeping — is a recurring problem for me), so my day yesterday started on a very wrong, very tired foot. When Matt left for work at 6:30, I resisted the urge to try to fall back to sleep and instead started working right away. Since I was already up, I figured I would get an extra early start on my to-do list for the day, and then take a break later on if I needed it. Everything was going OK for a while. I knocked a lot of items off my list, and I was feeling pretty good — even if I was still super tired.

At the beginning of every week, I loosely plan out how I’m going to spend my time for the upcoming days, so I knew the plan for yesterday was to be as productive as possible on a few miscellaneous projects in the morning, leaving the afternoon open to work on writing the book. By the time I got to that afternoon portion, though, I was dragging.

When I opened up my work in progress and started trying to type out the next words, I was suddenly totally overwhelmed. My mind was entirely blank, which made me feel terrible about myself, only making me feel less inspired. I sat in front of my computer stuck in this vicious cycle for about 30 minutes.

When it became clear that staring at the screen was only making things worse, I considered my options. All of my other urgent work items had been taken care of, so I thought about parking myself on the couch, granting myself an official half day, and simply sleeping it off with some Hulu in the background. Then, I remembered that one of my goals for August is to avoid low quality “me time” — basically the textbook definition of binge watching.

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Instead, I gave myself permission to grab my book (I’m nearing the end of The Nix, which I would definitely recommend) and get comfy in my office chair. I left my laptop open in front of me so I could keep an eye on any urgent emails coming through, and started reading. If my problem was writer’s block and a lack of inspiration, getting lost in a good book seemed a totally worthy solution, even if it wasn’t part of my plan and even if it felt like a bit of an indulgence. I spent the rest of the afternoon that way, and it was (obviously) an infinitely more productive alternative to watching four episodes of the Kardashians.

Learning to give myself grace on days when I can’t simultaneously be the perfect boss and the perfect employee is an ongoing process, but I realize on days like yesterday that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I don’t need to be “on” or “off.” There are plenty of gray areas in between, and when I allow myself to exist in those areas, I make better use of my time than when I simply get discouraged and give up. And in my world — where words and creativity are the tools of the trade — spending the afternoon with a good book is the equivalent of spending an afternoon in meetings or workshops with upper-level management (and I know this because I spent five years in corporate America!), because it’s a dedicated period of learning and development. I’m a book lover, so I can’t pretend that it’s not also a treat, but remember — it doesn’t need to be all or nothing, one or the other. I’m working on figuring that out myself each and every day.

Happy weekending, friends. Wishing you lots of rest and inspiration!

vacation values.

Friends! I missed you! I can’t believe it’s been more than a week since the last time I posted! That’s a new record, and I’m not sure I ever want to try to beat it : ) As nice as it was to be away, this blog is super near and dear to my heart, and I don’t like the way it feels to get too far away from it (even if other projects are set aside temporarily).

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First of all, let me just tell you how hard it was to keep last week’s vacation to myself! As you already know if you follow me on Instagram, I spent the holiday at a resort in Turks + Caicos with family, but since my sisters didn’t know that Matt and I would be joining them until the morning of our flight, I had to keep it totally under wraps. I’m not always the best at keeping secrets (even though I love a good surprise), but since the vacation was planned about a year ago to celebrate my sister’s recent high school graduation, we thought it would be fun to create a whole story about how Matt and I couldn’t get away from work and would have to miss it (adulting, amirite?). Typically, we’re not able to go on big vacations like this, but since the dates fell around the Fourth of July, Matt only had to take three days away from the office, and I was able to plan my schedule around it, too. The whole thing fell into place perfectly and we were able to be part of it, which was really special. We surprised my sisters at 7 AM Saturday morning in the gate at Newark airport wearing crazy patterned visors and pineapple-shaped sunglasses (I wish I had a photo, but I was too excited. Bad blogger, bad blogger!). From there, it was seven days of sun (too much), drinks (also too much), reading, and relaxing. And that water!

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As I mentioned in my little out of office message, this trip was the first time since last September that I actually unplugged for more than a day with absolutely no work. I didn’t even bring my laptop with me! The WiFi at our resort ended up being really spotty, so I wouldn’t have been very productive even if I’d tried. Now that I’m back in the swing of things, though, I’m so happy that I decided to be proactive about setting that down time for myself. There’s so much value in taking a real vacation, and the past few days were an amazing reminder of that.

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Ever since I went out on my own and started working for myself, I’ve been harboring this (totally unfounded) guilt about taking real time off. Honestly, I’ve felt kind of undeserving and insecure about the whole thing. This isn’t a cue for anyone to jump in and tell me that I do deserve it or that I have been working super hard. It’s just a little dose of real talk that I’m ready to share with you more openly now that I know how wrong I was.

Managing vacation time is always going to be a challenge for me. I felt guilty about using my vacation days even when I was working for a huge company (where taking advantage of that time was part of a great culture of work/life balance), so it should come as no surprise that I haven’t been jumping at the idea now that I feel this additional pressure to perform and prove myself — and, quite frankly, to earn money! Now, more than ever, my time equates to a dollar value, and since I’m pretty competitive, I don’t like the feeling of walking away from hours I could be spending developing my own business. Even more than that, I like to be present. In my corporate life, I hated the idea of missing out on things at the office, or of my team realizing they could function without me. I prefer to be engaged, to be knee-deep in a million different things.

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BUT, here’s the thing. It’s just as important for me to be present in my personal life. I need to be engaged with my relationships and with myself. I need to be knee-deep in a good book, a great meal, a hilarious conversation. And while it’s impossible to be on vacation all the time, taking some real time away from work reminded me how good it feels to do those things. I prioritize my family and friends year-round (sometimes to the point where I’m totally exhausted), but taking some time for myself this past week helped me restore a little balance and made me feel like I actually can handle the many moving pieces I’m working with. Doesn’t it feel good to remember that you can actually do it?

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Everyone deserves a vacation. Whether you work for someone else, or for yourself, or for your kids as a kick-butt stay-at-home mom, you’ve earned it. I want to be the kind of person who can learn to see the value in time spent outside of the usual routine, the kind of person who doesn’t feel guilt about doing it.

Who’s with me????

on blogging insecurities (+ doing it, anyway).

This week, I’ve been working on a really cool project. I don’t want to give too much away, because I can’t wait to share it with you in full, but essentially, I’ve been writing an article about this totally kick-butt style entrepreneur who got her start as a fashion blogger five years ago, when she was a freshman in college. This woman is super cool and so inspiring, and after getting the chance to interview her last week, I’ve been reading through her blog archives for research. She’s totally gorgeous and effortlessly fab, and while she got her start taking outfit photos in the dim lighting of her dorm room, the pictures on her site now are professional and stylized. There were moments during this process that I had to remind myself to keep my journalist hat on so that I didn’t swap in my blogger hat and start getting down on myself.

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About as fashion blog-y as it gets around here (for now)!

Here’s a Friday confession for you, friends (and you’ve probably heard it from plenty of other bloggers, but it’s my turn): this whole blogging thing feels really hard sometimes. No, I don’t mean solving-quadratic-equations hard or curing-cancer hard — the stakes aren’t that high, of course. It’s difficult in that I want to continuously put myself, my thoughts, and my experiences out there in new and fresh ways, and I don’t always know if my approach is the right one.

I’m not a fashion blogger, but I still wish I could fill this site with photos of me looking casually stylish, going about my daily life with a cool bag on my arm and the perfect looking-past-the-camera pose. I constantly wish I had more original images to use here, or that I had it in the budget right now to do an awesome layout redesign. Now that this amazing blogging journey has started, I want to be able to own my blogger status by doing things that other, apparently more fabulous bloggers do. With work and life and relationships and money, though, it’s not that simple! Building this blog — along with my writing career — is really about taking one step at a time, but if it seems that I’m taking those baby steps patiently, then I guess I’m just a really good actress : )

What I’ve learned over the last few months, though, is that launching new projects and chasing your dreams is largely about having insecurities, giving yourself just a little bit of time to sit with them and then basically saying to yourself, “Get over it. Do it, anyway.” Over the last year or so, I feel really lucky to have stumbled upon the stories of other women who have gone out on their own and risen above their insecurities. I love listening to them share their experiences, especially knowing how successful they’ve become! For anyone looking to make a major life change (whether or not you plan to share it so openly on social media!), I would say this is key. Find people who are out there in the world living the kind of life you want to live. Take comfort in the fact that they didn’t always feel like they were the best at what they do. Stalk their Instagram feed, because chances are, there’s a great story of highs and lows right there for you to see.

One of my personal inspirations has been Ashley Lemieux, the founder of The Shine Project (if you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know this organization well!). She’s honest and authentic and silly and creative and the ultimate jump-in-with-both-feet entrepreneur. She’s also a lipstick lover like me, which I dig.

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A post shared by Ashley Lemieux (@theshineproject) on

Luckily for all of us, Ashley recently wrote How to Start Anything: A Quick Guide to Jumpstarting Your Dreams. I’m super excited to be involved with sharing this eBook and all of the other awesome things Ashely is cooking up right now (wait ’til you see what comes next!). The book is available for FREE right now at this link, and I’d love for you to check it out so you can get a sense of the amazing “make it happen” philosophy that has inspired me so much over the last few months, especially when I’ve been feeling secure.

…and once you’ve fallen even further in love with Ashley and basically everything she does (you will, I promise), don’t forget to enter this month’s giveaway! The prize just happens to be a pair of earrings from The Shine Project. All you have to do to enter is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing the winner on Monday 5/1, so get those entries in ASAP!

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Happy weekending! xo

real talk #2

Last week, I wrote about a few of the things that I would call “keys to success” for work-from-homers. While I stand by those suggestions and credit them with the fact that I’m now almost six months into this journey and haven’t lost my mind (yet), my method is far from perfect, so I think it’s time for another round of Real Talk (you can check out the first one here!). You guys keep me honest, and as always, I want to be as transparent as possible about these transitions and experiences.

Matt and I spent this past weekend at the Jersey shore, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was feeling pretty burned out toward the end of last week, and even though I still had to work while we were away, the change of scenery couldn’t have come at a better time. Sometimes, all it takes to get back on track mentally is a day or two outside of your normal routine — and a walk on a cloudy beach or a few hours with a good book definitely doesn’t hurt, either.

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I’m so lucky to have this guy to help bring me back when I’m feeling down. 

I wish I could put my finger on exactly why I felt so stretched to my breaking point last week. After a weekend of traveling, I was trying to settle back into both my work and personal routines, and I just felt like I couldn’t keep up with what needed to get done. Then, as soon as I felt caught up, I realized that what I really wanted to be was ahead, and the frustration of not being ahead launched me into a whole other round of being annoyed with myself. And then, I would internally scold myself for not being more patient and not celebrating the strides that I was making. All of this ultimately led to me getting angry that I was scolding myself and not granting myself more grace… and you can totally see how this line of thought could drive a girl (especially a sleep-deprived one) crazy.

One thing you can really miss when you’re working from home is the voice of reason that often comes to you in the form of incredible office friends and co-workers. I hit plenty of low points back in my old job, too, but there was always someone in the next cubicle ready to talk me down and put a pin in the irrational cycle of thinking described above.

Most of the time, I enjoy being alone in my home office. I’ve always been inherently independent, and I find that I’m much more productive when I can be self-directed about my work. When things are status quo, this is all true, but when I’m talking myself into a pretty depressing corner (like I was last week), I really start to miss the tough love and listening ear of colleagues. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — working from home is not all easy, and it’s not all glamorous. The highs feel super high, but the lows are no fun. And that’s your Real Talk for the day : )

Luckily, as I start to rack up more projects, I’m able to surround myself with new contacts who are definitely feeling more like friends every day. I’m trying to learn to open up to these new people, and I’m also working harder at asking for help from my loved ones when I know I need their support to snap out of a freelance/work-from-home funk. Like I did this weekend, I need to allow myself to take a break from the daily routine so I can reset my attitude. A little self-care really does work wonders!

What do you do when you’re stuck in a cycle of negative self-talk? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

***Don’t forget to enter the February giveaway so you can win this beautiful blue necklace from The Shine Project!  All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post here. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Thursday! ***

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let’s talk lunch.

Happy Monday, everyone! I hit the ground running this morning, and I don’t know about you, but as of today, it feels like 2017 is officially in full motion.

It felt great getting back into my usual schedule last week, but on Friday, I realized that I’d been struggling with one aspect of my routine. By the time Matt got home from the office at the end of the week, ready to start our weekend together, I was feeling run-down, dizzy, and totally exhausted. As he is always such a rock star at doing, my husband immediately sat down with me on the couch to talk through things and try to figure out what was going on.

Real talk: As I’ve mentioned previously, body image has been a challenge for me for the better part of my life, and while I’ve managed to get to a pretty good place with all of it these days, every now and then, I realize that my eating habits have gotten a little weird. Working from home has been really beneficial and, generally speaking, I feel better than ever. Unfortunately, I realized last week that I had really not been taking good care of myself where daytime eating is concerned. After a good breakfast after the gym, I was mostly just grazing on small bites throughout the day. Because I tend to work out pretty intensely every morning, my body definitely needs better fuel than I was giving it. It should have come as no surprise that I wasn’t feeling so hot by Friday!

I’ve never been a big fan of lunch foods. As a kid, I didn’t like sandwiches or yogurts or any of the other things that the rest of my classmates packed regularly. On the weekends, I would pick at leftovers or other snacks. In the years since, I’ve gone through phases where I’ve been very unhealthy about lunch (in college, often eating nothing but an apple all day), very healthy about lunch (doing a full meal prep every Sunday while I was working and bringing in grilled chicken and veggies to eat), and everything in between. Because lunch isn’t my favorite meal, I just don’t usually crave a meal in the middle of the day, and since life got so busy around here before the holidays, I admittedly wasn’t paying very good attention to my body.

The way I felt this weekend was a good wake-up call, and with training for my next half marathon starting up in just a few weeks, I’m feeling extra motivated to get back on track. I was at Trader Joe’s this morning before it opened (in the freezing cold!), and I went out of my way to pick up a few extra things that looked good for lunch. Earlier today, I mixed up a big batch of this quinoa salad, and it was really delicious. I’m excited to have it on hand for the rest of the week.

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The ingredients to this salad are quinoa, sauteed baby spinach, edamame, cucumbers, chia seeds, salt, pepper, and a dash of parmesan cheese.

Do you have any other suggestions for healthy lunches? I’m willing to get back into the habit of setting time aside for weekly meal prep or daily cooking if it means I’ll feel better and more energized! I’d love to hear about some of your favorites.

As always, I appreciate your love and support! It’s not always easy talking about my challenges and stumbling blocks, and it feels great to know I have the support of this online community : )

stressed all over again.

I think that one of the biggest misconceptions about working from home or working for yourself is that it’s somehow luxurious.

Sure — I’ll own the fact that I’ll occasionally take a longer break for lunch to catch up on my TiVo, or that every once in a while, I’ll let myself stay in bed until 8:30 (for someone like me who has sleep issues and is used to a 5AM wake-up call, I assure you that this feels like cheating), but those occasions are absolutely the exception, and not the rule. To be successful in any endeavor when you’re both boss and employee, you have to be self-motivated and in a constant state of *hustle* (I say this with authority because my fellow freelance friends and I have talked about it at length).

Early on, I’ll confess that I did notice a decrease in that pesky word that we all use all the time: STRESS. I was still trying to lock down gigs and get my name out there, and to put it bluntly, there was absolutely zero demand for my work at that point. I was working hard, but I didn’t need to — I was getting things off the ground and wanted to prove (to myself, mostly) that I could make a full-time job out of writing.

Three months later, I can confidently say that stress is once again a factor in my life. I barely realized it was happening, but suddenly, in the middle of last week, it hit me: just like in my old job, I’m back to feeling the pull of what sometimes feels like a million demands and deadlines.

Just like in my “real talk” post, I promise I’m not taking this as an opportunity to complain. If anything, feeling stressed again felt a little like a blessing — a milestone to mark the fact that I’m now at the point in my (still very young, immature) writing career where my work has enough interest that I need to deliver.

What does this mean for all of you other stressed people out there? It’s a reminder that, while feeling stress can be well, stressful, it’s also a sign that you’re doing good work and that what you’re doing is valued and in demand. I know it can be hard to see that perspective when you’re in a constant rotation of projects and deadlines and meetings and family drama and relationships, but as someone who took a step out of that loop and gradually came back in, I’m here to tell you that what you’re doing is important, which is why you feel the pressure to do it at all. That being said, you deserve a break, and I hope you have a chance to take one over the upcoming holidays. You’ve definitely earned a chance to curl up with a good book and a plate of Christmas cookies, and to take a minute to reflect on all of the butt-kicking things you’ve been doing recently — because I’m sure you’re doing plenty. 

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I just wanted to let you know : )