Your choices are not the only right ones

A few months before I was able to quit my job, but after Andrew and I had started talking about that being the goal, I saw a long-time-friend-of-the-family who has 3 kids a bit younger than me… We talked about my hopes and L&R and what I was working on and all the reasons I needed to leave my day job.

And to all of this talk of career and goals, she replied, “And, of course, now is really the time you need to take care of your home, and take care of your husband and take care of your marriage.”

I am sure she would never deliberately be rude to me, nor do I think she was judging me …..  but the way she said this sounds like her choice of staying home with her kids and not working outside the home for 20+ years is the only “right” way to live and something I “should” be doing if I wanted my marriage to work.

Even though my marriage is awesome (waaaay better than some). Even though (aside from the day job) I was perfectly happy. My husband is proud of me and wants to support my work.

I’ve talked about this before – I don’t have it all together.

But neither do I regret my choices.

Choosing to live on one small income while Andrew went to school. Choosing to move to one of the most expensive cities in the country. Choosing to buy a house that needs a lot of work. Choosing to continue to work the day job until we could save a little bit of money.

And, now, choosing to NOT work the day job even though the choice drastically reduced our income. Now, I’m sure, we have friends who think we’re being crazy because now we don’t have money for vacations, or landscaping for the backyard or a new iPhone. While I sit at home all day and read history books or build little websites.

It doesn’t matter what you are choosing to do – someone else will be choosing the exact opposite for incredibly valid reasons.*

Having me working from home is not something Andrew and I feel we are supposed to do because of gender roles. Nor is it something we are doing to impress anyone. We are the first to admit that having me not work a full-time day job is the biggest luxury that we are choosing despite not having any extra cash.

So … Try not to make hasty judgements or unrealistic expectations because you will never know what someone else is dealing with….. And remember to “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.

*Caveat: Of course, there are always those heinous and destructive decisions that are never a good idea, but let’s all agree that’s not what we’re talking about here and that even the people who make those decisions THINK they have valid reasons.

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Take time off

Don’t forget – you need to set aside your to-do list for a few days. Take time off. Take a sabbatical. Here are some more resources and inspiration:

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What I learned on my sabbatical

2 weeks ago week I wasn’t here.

I mean I was ‘here’ in my house, but there were no blog posts going up here at Lemon and Raspberry. I gave myself a teeny tiny sabbatical. For a lot of reasons, but mostly because I am really working on NURTURing this year. Time off is totally part of that.

When I was in grad school I was fascinated by the idea of sabbaticals. One of my thesis advisers was on sabbatical the semester I graduated so I had to find someone to take her place on my thesis defense panel. She studied early American literature, material culture and women’s studies, primarily. If I remember correctly, she had gone to England for her sabbatical to do research for her next book Women and Things.

The idea of a sabbatical was totally new to me at that time. You’re telling me that you’re taking MONTHS off of your regular job to go do some side (work-related) project that interests you? And they’re paying you? I admit, I was definitely tempted to go into academia.

Unfortunately, working for yourself isn’t the same thing. I am slowly (slowly) building up my passive income so I can give myself mini-sabbaticals here and there, but for now just a week off has been so great! I was so ready to return and jump back in to the work I love.

So, what did I do when there weren’t posts going up on the blog? I … wrote blog posts for the following week. I finished brainstorming the BUILD virtual retreat. I wrote Andrew 33 love notes for his birthday present. I wrote an entire short story (in 1 afternoon). I read for fun. I chatted with my brother about self-publishing. I caught up on some (long-ish) videos I have been saving.

These are all things I would have done anyway, but not having to think about L&R posts gave me a little cushion of a few hours to focus on these other projects.

I feel so much more productive now that I’ve given myself that teeny tiny break!

It’s remarkable how much good a little bit of rest can do.

Coincidentally, that week happened to be the same time that all of Andrew’s work stress finally caught up with him and he spent hours in Urgent Care and a fancy schmancy chiropractor because he couldn’t move his shoulders or arms. I literally had to roll up his sleeves for him one of the days. He couldn’t shave because he hurt so bad. This isn’t a new phenomenon. 2 years ago he landed in the emergency room because of stress.

He was told to take time off to rest. Yea, like that is going to happen. He regularly works 90 hours each week and has some very stressful responsibilities. But! Saturday being his birthday, he actually got most of the day off work. He ….. well, he kind of rested. He spent a good portion of the day going through boxes of CDs deciding to get rid of some. But, for Andrew organizing like that IS relaxing.

And, what do you know? Just that Saturday afternoon and evening rest helped so much that Sunday morning he woke up and almost had full mobility of his shoulders again.

So, when are you going to take time off?

Take out your calendar. Block off a day. Or two. Or 7. Release yourself from your regular responsibilities. Just for a little while.

You’ll love it. And then you’ll be so energized to return.

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Book Review: Uncertainty

As part of my attempt to stay BRAVE, I read Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields

I enjoyed this book – but it is definitely ‘light’ reading for me. Kind of a feel good, encouraging, don’t really have to think that much self-help book. The subtitle – Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance – is promising, but I expected the actual content of the book to more clearly show how to do it.

I guess I just have a very picky editor with high standards inside me that is hard to please. I mean, how many times in a 195-page book do you need to tell me what we’re “going to” be discussing? Just get on with it!

That said, there were some great takeaways:

Like this quote about living with uncertainty:

“One of the single greatest determinants of high-level success as an innovator or creator in any realm is the ability to manage and at times even seek out sustained high levels of uncertainty, bundled lovingly with risk of loss and exposure to criticism” (10).

As last was my YEAR OF BRAVE I’m still really trying (trying) to be more comfortable with uncertainty. Some of my brave choices have been incredibly nerve-wracking. I’m a planner by nature so having any kind of unknowns in my future is totally new to me.

I’m working on it. I don’t know about “sustained high levels of uncertainty,” but I’m getting there.

Another great idea Fields suggests is the power of ‘certainty anchors’: “A certainty anchor is a practice or process that adds something known and reliable to your life when you may otherwise feel you’re spinning off in a million different directions” (46).

For example, I heard Judd Apatow say in an interview that he will go to Gap and just by 12 polo shirts in various colors so he doesn’t have to think about it. Or, Fields uses examples from novelist CJ Lyons or blogger Darren Rowse who both structure their work and daily routines to be anchors in their life.

In my own life, I realize that this is why my husband and I pretty much eat the same thing all the time. In the summer we almost only eat salad. I don’t have to think too much when I go to the store. I don’t have to find new recipes or plan time to experiment. I buy vegetables, wash them, throw them in a bowl with whatever protein is on sale that week and we’re done. (In the winter I have about 4 soup/stew/chili recipes that I make over and over and over).

I think the longest chapter is actually about meditation, which is a little too much for me. Personally. I know plenty of smart, successful people swear by it but I am just not ready and reading about it in the middle of a work/business/self-helpy kind of book just seemed out of place.

I still think you should read Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields. At least once. Especially if you have any intention of carving out a creative life for yourself.

P.S. A year ago today is when BUILD ecourse launched!

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1 year quit-iversary: An ode to support from a spouse

I quitRather quietly last week I celebrated the 1 year anniversary of quitting my day job. My last day in a cubicle was Friday, June 21, 2013.

There are a lot of things I could say in this post, like how to quit your day job yourself, or 3 things I wish someone had told me, or plans for my future non-cubicleness. …

But really, I just want to tell you how grateful I am to my husband because I 100% could not have done this without his support.

I suppose as a proper blogger, I should be focusing on a good takeaway for you the reader. I should be able to distill this into a couple good lessons or tips for you do use in your own journey. I shouldn’t make this all about me.

But I can’t do that. Because I could not have quit my day job at this point in my life without Andrew’s whole-hearted commitment to make me happy.

You see….  When I quit last year, I was *barely* making enough money through L&R, #30Lists and working for Maggie to cover what Andrew’s salary did not.

Since then, a year later, I have not really increased my income at all. We still have very little money. And what is Andrew’s response to that? “Read in the hammock. Watch a movie. Do whatever makes you happy.”

Yes, I have read a lot in the last year. 50+ books since the beginning of 2014. But I have done more than read in a hammock too. I’ve painted the garage and done more yardwork than I ever wanted to. I launched a minisite and a book club just for fun. I’ve written 2 novel rough drafts, and edited 2 more. I’ve completed my big ecourse and grown that community. I’ve shot a few weddings and shuttered that business. I spent a whole week taking care of my grandmother in Phoenix. I’ve dropped everything to drive to Andrew’s work for an impromptu date. I’ve thought and dreamed and planned and worked (and planned some more).

I may not be making any more money than I was a year ago, but I am approximately 17,000x happier than I was in the cubicle.

All because my husband supports me, supports my goals, and (most of all) believes that me being happy with zero expendable income is a much better way to spend life than me being miserable and having a bit more money to spend.

I’m super excited for my next year of cubicle-less-ness.

Feel free to go tell Andrew how awesome he is on his Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. It will embarrass the heck out of him.

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Are you prepared to be lucky?

“Your creative endeavors can never be thoroughly mapped out ahead of time. You have to allow for the suddenly altered landscape, the change in plan, the accidental spark – and you have to see it as a stroke of luck rather than a disturbance of your perfect scheme. Habitually creative people are, in E.B. White’s phrase, ‘prepared to be lucky.’” — Twyla Tharp; The Creative Habit

We have been reading The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp for the L&R Book Club this month and it is *so* fascinating to be thinking about creative work while I am testing the waters of writing fiction. This is a new-ish creative workspace for me, and figuring out what skills I need to work on and what methods work best for me and how I can more fully get the most out of my ideas … It’s all part of my everyday thinking.

I think a lot.

I plan a lot.

I feel like my planning is what allows me to be ‘lucky’. I create this structure, this scaffolding as a place to welcome ideas. So when a perfectly worded conversation between 2 characters pops into my head I’m ready. Or when some random topic rolls across my line of vision I know exactly how it can fit into to my next story idea.

Want to know how you can prepare to be lucky?

get luckyWrite down ideas every day

Be interested in a variety of topics

Always have SOMETHING with which to take notes.

Have a set working time (and be consistent)

Don’t judge the inspiration when it does come to you (there’s nothing wrong with getting an idea from a billboard or trashy reality show).

Don’t compare yourself to others. Or do anything else that can affect your confidence.

How do you prepare to be lucky?

It is worth noting that I did a few different online searches and could not find the original E.B. White quote she is referring to. Which I assume means that “prepared to be lucky” is a paraphrase.

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still taking BRAVE steps

Even though my “Year of BRAVE” is technically over, I still want to consciously make BRAVE steps. All the time.

Ali has talked about this with her own One Little Words – words from previous years stick with her. I am 100% finding that to be true. It’s hard to shake a whole year of developing a new habit and mindset. Especially when it has all worked out so brilliantly!

Making the brave choice is ALWAYS in the forefront of my mind. Always. Is it braver to say yes to an opportunity to expand my reach or to say no because of opportunity cost? Is it braver to attend a social function (because I’m an introvert) or to stay home and work on my novel (where I want to move my career)? These are the kind of questions I (repeatedly) filter through my BRAVE One Little Word AND now my NURTURE One Little Word.

For example … In the last couple months I:

  • filed the paperwork necessary to dissolved my photography business
  • filed the paperwork necessary to create my small online media business that will serve as the umbrella for several smaller sites.
  • spent money to join a group of writers (more on this later this month)
  • committed to writing a short story for an anthology (even though I haven’t written a short story since about… 2004).
  • registered a new URL for an author site (more on this and the above as I have news)
  • asked people to unsubscribe from an email list
  • braved Lowe’s by myself, looking like an idiot, trying to explain what I needed for a plumbing project even though I didn’t really know

…. and probably more little things here and there that I am not remembering because being BRAVE is so much more part of my life than it was a year ago.

Last year I spent a lot of time thinking and weighing options and really trying to figure out what works best for me. This year the decision-making is getting easier, but still scary as hell. I’m coming up on a year of being 95% self-employed and I still love it. Even though we have *far* less money than before. Even though I *still* only see Andrew an hour or 2 every other day.

Are you trying to take a BRAVE step? Trick your brain. Tell yourself it’s only temporary and you can always change things back.

Some of these ALSO fall under my NURTURE One Little Word. I’ll write about that soon!

What BRAVE steps have you taken lately?

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Make it happen: The Creative Habit

“Writing a book is like a long trek through unfamiliar wilderness. It doesn’t take long before you feel lost, disoriented, hungry, ready to give up, lie down, eat your hands, and let the book die on the ground next to you like a gut-shot coyote.”

– Chuck Wendig; 500 Ways To Write Harder

 I love the idea of having a creative routine. I’m just not very good at it.

It’s quite romantic to have a creative ritual that you do every day to call down the Muse to inspire you and show off how professional you are about the creative work that you do.

I love buying in to that idea.

That doesn’t work for my reality, though.

Instead, I just put in on my calendar and do my best to make it happen.

I’ve got WRITE scheduled for 2 hours every day. Some days I do it first thing in the morning, some days it gets pushed back and pushed back until I squeeze in 45 minutes before going to bed. On Friday, I actually wrote about 300 words by hand while I was hanging out with Andrew at his recording session.

But I really do try to write every day. Most days it’s crap. That’s the nature of first drafts if nothing else. A handful of magical days it just flows like I’m reading it instead of writing it. But either way, creating every single day makes the next day even easier. Writing three days in a row makes the fourth day easier. And every day I am that much closer to having a final and completed piece of creative work.

So … I may not have the whole regular ritual thing down, but just making it happen goes a long way to creating decent work on a regular basis.

I just have to remind myself EVERY DAY to make it happen.

We’ve been reading The Creative Habit for the L&R Book Club (in May and June). It’s a bit fluffier than I expected. Megan pointed out that it’s really just personal anecdotes, half of which don’t even have attribution.

The book is full of exercises (I think a couple at the end of each chapter), which I really appreciate. It lends a practical, useful point of view to the anecdotes, showing precisely how Tharp uses the info she is talking about.

If you’re interested in reading books on creativity, small business, and living your best life, and discussing these ideas with other readers, I’d love if you joined the L&R Book Club.

To join the L&R Book Club:

  • Get this month’s book. Amazon, library, local book store. Wherever.
  • Join the Facebook Group
  • Discuss

How to you maintain your creativity consistently?

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Nurture: One Little Word update

2014 is my year to NURTURE. I need to slow down, cut back, get to know my new life without a cubicle job and so much more.

It’s been lovely and relaxing. And (no surprise) makes me feel lazy. After years of working a full-time+ job AND running L&R AND launching new products on a regular basis, pulling WAY back like this has provided me so much more free time reading time than ever before.

This is my vision board for the year – although, can you really call it a vision board when it’s really just 8.5×11″? I wanted it to fit into my One Little Word binder AND I don’t have a ton of magazines that are cut-up-able so I went with the smaller size:

nurture

I think all of these images are from Sunset Magazine (I love that mag). You can see lots of images of green and the outdoors. I have been so excited about starting my garden this year! And getting out with Kam and plans to do some fun outdoorsy trips with Andrew later. It has been great making that a priority.

You can also see a lovely luxurious bed – unapologetic about naps this year. Also, an art museum and a reading bench. Because lord knows I want to just learn and absorb everything I can.

I have genuinely loved giving myself a break for the last 4.5 months, not feeling guilty about spending the afternoon reading or not setting aggressive deadlines.

This is totally the word I needed this year.

How is your 2014 One Little Word going?

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On letting go of a past dream

Wedding portraits at Terrenea ResortThis month has been about finalizing some big changes.

I have finally been BRAVE enough to do that thing that I’ve been thinking about for about 2 years.

I dissolved my photography business. Officially official. The state of CA has my paperwork and the bank has closed my account and the only think I have left to do is take down my site and close my email account.

My emotions have completely swung the whole gamut over the last couple years, fighting with myself, talking myself into it, admitting things about myself that I have only recently discovered. It would have been fascinating to watch if it wasn’t happening for me. As it is, I’m glad I’m through it all.

I think that I am a good (enough) photographer. I think that I am a good (enough) businessperson. I live in SoCal where there are plenty of people who have money to pay for wedding photographs. I genuinely love weddings. I genuinely love documentary-style photography and I think everyone should have fantastic wedding photos that they love. I am still proud of the work that I’ve done for couples since 2008.

All of that said – being a professional wedding photographer is not for me.

There are a lot of reasons. Big reasons and little reasons. Tiny preferences, practicalities and discoveries about my personality. Being a professional photographer is A LOT OF WORK …. so it had better be work you definitely want to do.

And it’s not for me. Not for the rest of my life.

It took me awhile to get here, but I am looking forward to ending this phase of my life and having more focus to move forward into the next one.

I’m really really excited about it!

If you are also letting go of a past dream….

  • Allow yourself time to mourn. I’ve been thinking about this decision for at least 2 years. At least.
  • Be realistic about why. Know if you could have done better. Know if you made poor decisions. Know if it is just that your goals have changed. You’re not a failure – you’re just a different person than you were when you formed that dream.
  • Jump into your next dream. Take as much time as you need, but be BRAVE and keep moving forward.

 Be BRAVE. Fail big. Fail often.

P.S. Thanks Maggie for these shots of me working!

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