Tag: working at home

The day the beach didn’t have wi-fi

IMG_0296Those few of you who are regular readers know that I spend much of my summer working at the beach while my kids try to avoid and/or drown each other.

I’m able to do this because I’m a copywriter so my work is highly portable, and because our wonderful, local beach, which is the best value on the planet, has wi-fi. So not only can I work, I don’t even have to use my own data plan.

But I’ve gotten a bit lazy, I guess, because I failed to bring my hotspot along today and, woe is me, the beach wi-fi was inoperative.

It’s at about this time in a post where I mention beach wi-fi that readers far and wide begin to mock me. Sounds pretty cushy, huh? But in my defense, without wi-fi I don’t have much to do. I’m not the mom with the San Tropez tan. I’m the one in street clothes carrying a laptop and a file folder stuffed with edited drafts, and to-do lists. So no wi-fi means I run out of work about the time my kids have their sunscreen applied.

And there are really only a few other things to do:

  1. People watch. Wow, I really hate to people watch. I don’t find total strangers that interesting until I converse with them, at which point they lose total stranger status. As for just watching them? Yawn.
  2. Nap…………………Sorry, I dozed off for a few minutes until someone shrieked and woke me up.
  3. Eavesdrop on the nanny gossip. This is some juicy stuff, folks. Better screen those caregivers wisely.
  4. Swim. Except it’s June in Minnesota and the water is a cool 72 degrees today, which may sound warm in the middle of January, but not when the air temperature is only 80 and the wind’s blowing at about 30 mph. Would you take a 72 degree bath with a fan trained on you? No, you would not.
  5. Practice your stern lifeguard impression. Say it along with me, at top volume and/or through a megaphone:


All phrases that will come in handy at a later time, especially that ladder one.

Or you can just keep checking the wi-fi connection over and over until your thumbs fall off, or it comes back on. Which it never did today. So I have learned a valuable lesson in preparedness.

(Published at 0 plus 5 minutes after returning from the beach.)

What am I wearing? The black sweater, of course

Fashionable Moms Everywhere are asking, “Tell me, other mom, what are you wearing this award season?” Well, I can tell you without a doubt what I’m wearing – the black sweater.

The black sweater takes a selfie
The black sweater takes a selfie

What black sweater, you say? Why, the one I’ve been wearing for well over a decade that may, in fact, be older than my 9th grade daughter.

You know, the one from that retailer that no longer exists? With the barely discernible grease spot on the front?

Yes, that’s the one. The sweater that has gone to many high-profile locales and events such as:

  • Work about 100,000 times
  • Preschool “Moms and Muffins” day
  • The opera
  • The carwash
  • Several early-season baseball games
  • 10 or 12 dinners with the neighbors
  • Four adult birthday parties
  • At least one speaking engagement
  • The science museum virtually every time I’ve gone (we’re members)
  • Dance competitions
  • Happy hour
  • Lunch with my besties
  • Ten states and at least one other country

It’s been worn with jeans, yoga pants, a wool skirt, my favorite dress pants, and a cute, leather skirt that dresses it up bit. With tall boots, short boots, winter boots, hiking shoes, and heels.

Who's closer to retirement - me or the sweater?
Who’s closer to retirement – me or the sweater?

The black sweater is begging for retirement, but unfortunately, it has no replacement. Where else will I find a sweater that can hold up to hundreds of washings and still make another of its memorable appearances this evening – at a sixth grade band concert?

How could I have known when I bought it that it would offer the most value of any item of clothing I’d ever purchase, even better than the duo-fold, polypropylene long underwear I wore for over 20 years until it looked like a piece of swiss cheese? (That’s not 20 years straight, by the way. It is slightly too warm here in the summer for duo-fold underwear.)

No, the black sweater cannot be replaced. It is my longest lasting wardrobe love. There can be no other.

This is a blog hop – Click here to read what the rest of the glitterati is wearing this season and enter your link…

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18 reasons I can’t work on a snow day

My summer office
My summer office

Or a cold day to be more exact – air temperatures hovering around -20 with windchill around -40. This is the fourth cold-weather school closing this month, and we’re preparing for a fifth tomorrow. This in a school district where we haven’t had a single snow day in the ten years I’ve had kids in school, even when we had to traverse knee-deep snow or two inches of solid ice to reach the bus stop.

School closures are hard on all parents, and it’s no exception when you work from home. The kids are here all summer but it’s different. We have some space. I frequently head to our screened porch where I can get some distance and some fresh air while I work. The beach has wireless access so I can work there. Ditto for the bowling alley. But I’m at a complete loss when we’re all cooped up in the house.
In case you’re struggling with this issue, I’m offering up some justification you can provide to your clients.

I’m sorry, I can’t work right now because:

  1. I can’t hear over the three people in the next room arguing over the remote control.
  2. I’m still doing the breakfast dishes and it’s nearly time for the lunch dishes.
  3. I’m playing a 14th game of double Solitaire and we haven’t won one yet.
  4. I’m fruitlessly encouraging home study.
  5. I’m explaining for the 100th time that it’s too cold to drive anyone to the coffee shop/mall/bowling alley.
  6. I’m explaining for the 200th time why we won’t be inviting any friends over.
  7. My office is freezing cold and all the afghans are being used for the fort in the sunroom.
  8. There are so many people on the wireless we’ve brought it to its knees.
  9. I’m trying to sell fun family activities to an indifferent crowd.
  10. We’re drawing lots to see who goes down to the curb for the newspaper.
  11. I’m exercising my power by requiring everyone to clean out their closet.
  12. I’m confiscating all electronic devices – again.
  13. I’m trying to create dinner out of our remaining food – a can of tuna, a beer, half an acorn squash, and a lemon.
  14. I can’t get past the 4000 Legos in the hallway.
  15. We’re chipping the frost off the inside of the windows.
  16. I’m busy updating my calendar to reflect cancelled school-related events.
  17. I’m drawing up a list of possible activities with dreaded certainty that they will call off school again tomorrow.
  18. And finally..there isn’t enough coffee in the world to keep me going on a day like this.

I can’t help but think of the hardy souls who first populated this harsh country, huddling all day around a smoky fire, fingers stiff with cold, conserving their meager rations to keep the family fed through the winter. Makes us seem pretty wimpy when we’re arguing about what to watch on Netflix. But I’ll be more sympathetic to that line of thinking once I get all these people out of my office.

How can I keep them busy today – and tomorrow? Any ideas?

Good-bye 2013 – a tribute to the passing of the seasons

One of my favorite blogging goddesses suggested a 2013 retrospective. “What a good idea!” I thought. “Then I don’t have to come up with any original material today!” Anyway, here is my tribute to the passing of the seasons as we head into the new year.

One sad-looking inventory – a late-winter’s lament – in which I describe the horrendous state of my children’s outerwear and really offer no useful advice at all.

The work-at-home personnel manual – A few guidelines for the parent who works at home and is blessed with the presence of their children. All. Summer. Long.

Are you really in the weeds? An ode to my favorite season, Weeding. Is that a season?

…and the changing of the seasons – How do you measure change? I measure it by what is in my car.

And finally, a salute to the current season, and I’ll guess you can figure out just what I’m saluting with. 9 things to hate about winter

Happy New Year to all – and a sincere thanks to all who read and comment. You are truly a blessing to me. It keeps my cynicism (just barely) at bay.

9 things to hate about winter

Our first snowstorm is on the way and I have to say, I am dreading it. Yeah, I know, snow is beautiful. And winter sports are fun. And by April none of that matters to me anymore as I crawl out of my cave, exposing my pale limbs to the first rays of spring sun. Winter is just long here, and full of inconveniences, although I have to admit, some of those inconveniences are of my own making:

  1. IMG_0503I’m cold, a result of my insisting on topping out the thermostat at a balmy 65 degrees. Easy fix here, but the “put on a sweater” philosophy with which I was raised makes this a hard one.
  2. I have to leave earlier for appointments. I’m not usually late but I’m never early either. If I have an appointment at 9:00 I will be walking in the door at 8:59:59. Leaving earlier means I must forego my “I have just enough time to take care of one more thing” habit.
  3. I have to walk through a foot of snow to the compost heap. I could fix this if I weren’t so nuts about composting, or if I moved the compost heap in the winter so it’s closer to the door – but this would require my actually turning the compost.
  4. Our snowblower was bought for a man – namely, my husband who is considerably larger than I am. But he isn’t always here. My attempts to operate it typically end in tears, foul language or both. My hands aren’t even large enough to engage the darn controls, and to make matters worse…
  5. Our driveway is about 300 feet long and solid ice about 4 months of the year. And it slopes. Not unusual to end up on your backside as you head out for the mail (or are dragged down it by a large, runaway snowblower) and to make it even worse…
  6. It curves so you can’t easily drive down it either. It is really embarrassing to end up stuck in a snowbank off your own driveway. I have visions of myself in my later years confined to the house for months on end unable to reach civilization, like some homesteader on the prairie.
  7. Winter clothes are unflattering.  There is no proper way to sport a bulky sweater or parka. Yet, even among us who are meticulous about appearances (a percent that falls steadily throughout the winter months) have given it up by mid-February when the answer to “Have I already worn this sweater this week?”  becomes “Who cares, keep your eyes to yourself.”
  8. Snowpants. And wet mittens. And stinky boots. Can’t someone make a kids’ boot that doesn’t smell like a hamster cage after a few weeks of regular wear?
  9. It’s dark all the time. There’s been much talk in recent years about Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here in the northland there’s another name for it. It’s called the public mindset.

Of course, when you live in this part of the world you must accept that you do not control the weather, despite whatever wishful thinking or rituals you might perform. Sigh. Better go dust off that snowblower.

Love winter or hate it? Or are you somewhere in between?

Aaah, the weekend! Let’s relax with a little housework

I don’t care whether you work in or out of the home, if you’re managing a busy family the weekend is anything but relaxing. One of the most depressing moments of the week is that point on Saturday when I realize that I need to fill the seemingly endless stretch of hours before me with laundry and other yucky chores. I don’t know why, but it always seems like a surprise. After all these years of kids and working on my own, I still have that TGIF mentality that says on Friday the work week is over and I’m free to relax.

But that is no longer my reality, nor is it for most of the people I know. The days run one into another at breathless pace. Here’s what reality looks like to me these days:

  • My house is full of children who don’t belong to me. They come and go at a dizzying rate. And they eat my food.
  • I can do an entire load of red laundry and another that’s entirely yellow and green.
  • I run out of milk every half day or so, and when I go to buy more…
  • The checkout guy at Trader Joe’s says to me, “Do you realize you buy two of everything? Is that intentional?”
  • My neighbors comment on how often I drive up and down the street.
  • My schedule is more crammed than ever, but in addition to work meetings it’s full of items like “cats in for shots” and “orthodontist consult”.
  • (And by the way, I had to make a budgetary choice between a year of braces for my kid and having a cat’s tooth pulled – roughly the same cost. Guess what I chose.)
  • I have necessary household items, like wine, delivered to my home.
  • There’s always someone bleeding around here.
  • Sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth my time to take a shower. Or put on clean clothes. I just go to the grocery store, the library, the post office, etc. as is and hope no one I know is there.
  • I never, ever notice what I pay to put gas in my car. What’s the point? It’s not like I’m not going to fill up.
  • I’ve stopped keeping a to-do list because items on it age out.
  • I send my husband off with the CostCo list even though I know the trip will cost twice as much if he goes.

Of course, like everyone. I find many ways to procrastinate on a day like this. Blogging for instance.

What does reality look like to you today? Commiserate with me.

Free-floating dissatisfaction, or what’s bugging me today

What is it about autumn that makes me feel frustrated with my environment? Since I work primarily from home, it’s probably that I’m shut up in the house. I’m surrounded by things that bother me, yet I don’t feel any particular urge to fix any of them. I feel disoriented, restless yet unmotivated.

As a result, I have spent a great deal of time standing around today, feeling annoyed…and strangely that does not seem to tick off any of the items on the to-do list.

Things that are bugging me today:

  • My garage smells like a combination of new tires and mice.
  • It’s only 62 degrees in here but I haven’t had the furnace safety-checked yet so I don’t want to turn it on. I’m so sleepy I’m afraid I won’t notice if I’m being overcome by carbon monoxide fumes.
  • There’s nothing for lunch.
  • Our deck looks like a shipwreck that has been raised from submersion and plopped in our backyard, barnacles and all.
  • There are at least a million wet oak leaves on the lawn.
  • I need to make a trip to the compost heap, but I’d have to walk through the million wet oak leaves on the lawn. My obsession with re-using all things organic means I have a kitchen full of vegetable peelings and coffee grounds.
  • I am working on two different computers because I can’t seem to migrate everything over to the new one. It seems I have a problem with commitment.
  • I’ve done all the laundry except the socks and underwear but I don’t feel like gathering up socks and underwear.
  • We did sun salutations for the first 20 minutes of yoga class yesterday and I have sore muscles I have never been aware of before.
  • Did I mention there’s nothing for lunch?

If I applied myself I could take care of most of the things on this list pretty fast. But it’s so darn cold in here. Guess I’ll start by kicking that furnace on and taking my chances. At least then, if I’m disoriented, I’ll know it has an origin.

What’s bugging you today? And what are you going to do about it? I am badly in need of some inspiration.

Cleaning tips from a lazy, work-at-home housekeeper

If you frequently work at home, like I do, fall weather brings with it a type of claustrophobia. It’s nearly time to close everything up to keep out the winter gales, but after a summer of kids in and out of the house it’s grubby and cluttered. In my precious spare moments, I’m trying to get my house in order. Here are some of my shortcuts for tidying up – maybe you can use one or two:

  • When you’re cleaning the kitchen, fill the sink with warm water and the cleaner of your choice. Use it to wipe down the various surfaces around your kitchen. When you let the water out the sink will be clean.
  • Dust from the top of a room down. Start with the cobwebs in the corners and work your way down to the furniture and the baseboards. Then vacuum up whatever has settled on the floor.
  • Dust the lightbulbs in your fixtures. You won’t believe how much this lightens up a room.
  • Set the table while you’re emptying the dishwasher to save yourself a step, even if it’s early in the day.
  • If you have time for only one chore, vacuum. I don’t know why, but that’s what seems to “pick up” a room the fastest.
  • Fold laundry as it comes out of the dryer. Fold items in order according to their owner or storage location – the clothes that belong in the farthest location at the bottom of the basket, and those in the closest location at the top. Put them away as you walk to that farthest location. (And if your house is like mine, you can fill the basket up with dirty clothes on the way back.)
  • Take out a garbage bag. Walk around and fill it with either: 1)  items you can throw out; 2) items you can donate. Do this once a week until things are noticeably better.

And the best tip of all – if you can spare the money, outsource the cleaning – or at least get someone else to clean the carpets and windows. It’ll cast a whole new light on your work.

Any tips to add? I’d love to hear them – it’s still pretty dusty around here.

Time to get serious, I guess

The other day I dropped everything and took a swim. I was multi-tasking, working at the lake with my kids. It was blistering hot. I was sweating onto my papers. So I dropped my work in the beach bag and hit the water. It was a perfect day. I cruised around with my eyes half closed, enjoying the warmth of the sun, the cool of the water, and the shouts and splashes of kids as they jumped off the dock. A classic summer afternoon.

I’ve never been one to enforce a rigorous summer schedule. My kids have it pretty easy. I no longer even fake the intention to have them complete the summer math workbooks their school suggests. Since I have three kids, I’m probably responsible for a huge percentage of the drop in academic achievement the district sees in the fall. But I’m loathe to push schoolwork in the summer. Maybe it’s because I long for the carefree feeling of my own childhood summers, where the months stretched ahead full of endless opportunities and outdoor activities, not math facts and science camp. Or maybe it’s because I prefer they do something physical – golf, hiking, baseball, lacrosse, dance, swimming. Plenty of time to sit behind a desk the rest of the year.

Or maybe it’s because when you live in Minnesota you never quite lose the melancholy sense that we have so few of these perfect summer days, really.

When I worked in a “real” office I barely noticed summer. I spent my days in air conditioned isolation, so I’m grateful for the flexibility I have now to move my “office” to the beach or the porch. But there are days I have to fight the urge to set my work aside. I know I’m not the only one. Anyone who’s lived through a Minnesota summer knows there are days it seems no one is working.

Now fall is approaching and for me, it’s time to get serious. Get a schedule. Get to some networking events. Get dressed every once in a while in something other than a swimsuit or yoga pants. Put some structure behind all this work I somehow manage to finish despite our lax summer routine.

But I’m going to try to keep that summer urge to every once in a while, even in the midst of a stressful project, anxious day, or an endless to-do list, take a few moments to enjoy my surroundings. And soak up a little sun if there is some.

Do you take leisurely approach to summer or are you all business? Post your comments or send them to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – and have a great Labor Day if you celebrate it.

Relax and enjoy? How?

When I started my practice of yoga many asanas ago, the hardest thing for me to do was the end-of-class relaxation exercise. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should be doing something else. It’s clear I don’t have a restful mind. I’ve been known to craft limericks during meditation. I don’t think I could manage even a desktop zen-garden. You know, the ones with the tiny rakes? Too concerned one of the cats would use it as a litter box.

So here it is, July in Minnesota and six weeks into my experiment with the no-nanny summer and I just can’t seem to relax and enjoy it. Whether I’m working in my office, copywriting at the bowling alley (the kids bowl, not me) or taking a few hours off at the beach with a good read, I can’t shake the feeling I should be doing something else. Really, isn’t this what the self-employeds among us strive for – the flexibility to take life as it comes? So why doesn’t it seem like enough?

This is where I usually offer my take on ways to manage so I’ll attempt it again with this caveat – I’m still working on them myself:

  • Prioritize. Every task has its place in the hierarchy and honestly, some can wait until fall. If this is a struggle, see my nifty method for bouncing items off your to-do list.
  • Enjoy it while you can. As every parent knows, the endless soccer games, summer camp programs, and recorder concerts will be over before you know it, and you’ll miss them when they are. (OK, maybe not the recorder concerts.)
  • Relax your standards a little. Summer throws every parent off-base, regardless of how your work and life are structured. So what if the kids watch a little too much TV (there, I said it) or we don’t seem to have the laundry done? It’s not like that laundry is going anywhere.

So once again, I resolve to enjoy our fleeting summer. The alternative isn’t any fun, is it?

Happily, I’m now able to indulge myself in the end-of-yoga-class relaxation. Perhaps I’m aided by exhaustion. I sometimes fall asleep, so soundly I actually dream. Just hope someone nudges me if I start to snore.

How do you relax and recharge? Post your comments or send them to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use them I’ll feature your business.