Saturday, September 29, 2012

This, That and The Other Thing: Freelance Edition

You know what's cool? When they pay you to rant about stuff that you'd probably rant about anyway. At least, that's what I get to do over at one of my shopping blogs. As long as I can segue over to a coupon at the end, it's all good. Over there today, I tell the story of what happened last night when Middle Sister was getting ready for her friend's birthday party.

You know what's not cool? Learning a real-life lesson about intellectual property...the hard way. I was hired to write some articles for websites that focus on building a personal brand and developing an "online portfolio." I was asked to provide a biography and a photo. About two weeks after completing those articles, more were requested. I visited the websites to get an idea of other content on the topics I was assigned, and I found one of my articles from the first batch, attributed to someone else who (according to the person who hired me) is a fictional persona. Let it be known that in the future I will be a lot more protective of the copyright on any of my writing, because clearly I cannot claim authorship of those articles for my own online portfolio. Notice the irony there?

That led to a whole big dilemma for me last weekend, culminating in my decision not to do any more work for that group of websites. I was very afraid that I would burn a bridge, because I do have a very good working relationship with the person who hired me to do that and several other projects. Fortunately she was understanding (and as surprised as I was about what happened) and she asked me if I'd like to continue working on future projects with her (yay!)

It was a tough couple of days, but my husband and kids stood behind me and encouraged me not to work for someone who would put a different person's name on my articles even if it meant a loss of business. And once I sent out that email explaining why I would not do more work for that website group, I felt so good. I knew I had made the right decision and was so happy to learn that I have not burned a bridge when it comes to other projects.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book Review: WorkShift

It's a book that came along at just the right time for me: the beginning of a new school year is always a great time to put things into perspective and get a handle on a new routine. Add to that a HUGE increase in the writing projects I've got going, and there's potential for a just-as-huge increase in unscheduled craziness, fatigue and resentment.

(As background, because I don't talk about this here much: I do social-media work for a local video-production company, am a shopping content editor for Internet Brands, and do other freelance writing and SEO projects as well as my commitment to's Tech Talk column and 4 hours per week volunteer service in Little Brother's school library. The writing work is part-time, on my schedule, and the money's not huge but it works for my family's situation at this time.)

On the day I started reading WorkShift, I was elbow-deep in a to-do list with no energy (or motivation) to get any of it done. I figured that time spent with this book would be time well-spent. The many, many real-life examples inspired me. There were moms with infants, moms with kids in grade school, moms in many lines of work.

Of course, no situation completely matched mine, but that's not really the point. It's good to know that there are plenty of families out there who are making it work--finding ways to keep moms at home for their families yet enabling them to contribute to the family budget, stay active professionally, and work creatively.

Five years ago today I wouldn't have dreamed that I'd actually be earning money by writing--without even having to leave my own home to do it. Of course, there are some projects that are more fun than others, but as my husband always says, "They call it work for a reason."

What I need to remember is that no work project is worth resenting a twice-a-week soccer-practice schedule (though I do reserve the right to be exasperated when Coach keeps the kids on the field after it's too dark to see each other, the ball, the goal or the coach).

As I read this book, I found myself grabbing Post-It notes and index cards so I could scribble down ideas for how to set up a work schedule this year that leaves room for family, flexibility, and even a little fun. And then I reached the final chapter, where author Anne Bogel has listed plenty of resources (both print and online) to help do just that. The additional structure that I'm going to try to plug into my workday should benefit me, my family and my employers.

Are you interested in reading WorkShift? You can purchase it through ejunkie or Amazon. It's available in ebook format for Kindle or as a PDF you can read at your computer (or even print out). It sells for $8.

The fine print: I received an ebook copy of WorkShift and if you purchase the book through ejunkie I will receive a small commission. I did not receive any other compensation for this review, and the opinions are mine alone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Whole New Meaning

One thing I love about our church is the cross. A Franciscan parish from the time it was founded in 1913, our church has a huge San Damiano Cross on the wall behind the altar. It's more than a cross--it's an icon, and every little detail has meaning. Read all about it, then gaze upon a large San Damiano Cross if you can find one. It's a wonderful meditation.

It's such a wonderful road to prayer, in fact, that I hesitate a bit to share this story. But I thought it was funny, so I'm going to tell it anyway.

The altar servers at our parish often wear a little cross over their albs. But the crosses aren't all the same. Some have the words "Altar Server" inscribed on them. Others are San Damiano crosses. On Sunday, Little Brother got himself vested for altar serving, then came out to wait by me in the choir area. After I fixed his collar (an every-Sunday occurrence) I told him that I was glad he was wearing the San Damiano cross because it's my favorite one.

He wanted to know why, and I showed him that it matched the cross on the wall in the church. He'd never noticed it before (possibly because he usually sits with the musicians who don't have a good view of it) and I pointed out some of the figures on the cross.

Then I mentioned the "angels with halos" at the very top. Suddenly he got interested. "Halo people?" he asked. "I thought those were only in video games!"

Friday, September 14, 2012

Signs of Affection

Last night I entered into complicated negotiations with Little Brother. I'll be seeing him at school today (and every Friday) and there is that delicate matter of parental affection to be dealt with.

For the past year, he hasn't wanted me to wait for the bus with him in the mornings. I do miss that; he's the only kid at the bus stop at that time, and we used to have some nice little chats.

And while I used to get a hug (maybe two) from him on those school days when I volunteered in the library, last night it was made pretty clear that I'm not to expect that this year. At 10, Little Brother thinks he's too big to hug his mom in public. He grudgingly suggested that I could muss his hair a little bit.

Usually the librarian schedules me to volunteer on the day when Little Brother's class will be in the library. I appreciate this and so does he (and I think she does too, as this is a big and, well, loud group. They're good kids--but they are noisy.) When he was in second grade, she needed me on a different day, but when his class was on the way into the art room next to the library, his teacher would let him run into the library and give me a hug.

Those were the good old days.

I mourned this on Twitter last night: "Sign your "baby" is getting old: you have to negotiate an acceptable sign of affection in advance of seeing him at school tomorrow."

The prevailing opinion on Twitter was that I should tackle and hug (and/or kiss) the kid anyway; after all, "real men kiss their moms" and I am the one who pays his bills. The truth is, Twitter, I don't tend to be boisterous like that.

At least he still hugged me when he said goodnight, after all those negotiations.

At least he still wants me to help at his school--with his class.

And at least he has library in the mornings, before the hair that he is so graciously allowing me to touch gets too sweaty from the playground football game at recess.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Tiber River Review: The Truth About Therese

A saint who died when she was only about half my age? Who spent 1/3 of her life behind convent walls? How could such a saint possibly inspire anyone whose path in life had taken a very different turn?

While the title and subtitle of this book, The Truth about Therese: An Unflinching Look at Lisieux, the Little Flower, and the Little Way suggest a more "unauthorized biography" feel, that's not what author Henri Gheon achieves in this short biography of St. Therese of Lisieux. Instead, he writes of the many difficulties she endured, even after she achieved her dream of becoming a Carmelite at a very young age.

My favorite chapter of this book was the first one, "My Initial Resistance to St. Therese," because I have felt the same resistance. I was more captivated by this saint as a teenager; the older I have become, the more distant I have felt from her. But this book, especially in the later chapters, does much to bring out the spiritual battles that St. Therese fought throughout her life. While my battles are surely different, there is much that I can learn from St. Therese's actions and attitudes about how to endure such spiritual warfare.

Through this book, I learned that St. Therese was more than a spoiled child, more than a goody-goody; I learned of her Little Way and how it can be put into practice. Most importantly, I learned that sainthood doesn't come easy to anyone--but that's no reason to stop striving for it.

The foreward by Philippe Maxence is short but not to be missed.

Perhaps because it was translated from the French, and surely because it was originally written in 1934, this book is not an easy read. Vocabulary, sentence structure and turn of phrase are challenging to the reader.

The fine print:  I wrote this review of The Truth About Therese for the free Catholic book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.
Aquinas and More is the largest on-line Catholic bookstore.
I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Works in Progress

Things my kids have learned this summer: How to make Jambalaya. Algebra. Acting. Making tuna salad and muffin pizza.

Things my kids have not learned this summer: Turning lights and tv off when they leave a room. Closing drawers and doors to cabinets and closets. Eating with silverware (still to be mastered by one child)

So they can cook, compute and emote, but they still act like they were raised by wolves.

There is much work yet to be done.