Friday, August 30, 2013

The Crappy Parent Diaries: Meltdown Alley

A storm moved into our area today. One minute, the sky was overbearingly sunny and bright. The next, it was a dark blanket of rain, lightening, and whipping winds.

Pretty much indicative of my day.

When my big girl came home from school today the first words out of her mouth were, "Mama, I had a bad day." She was fighting a losing battle against her tears and was on the brink of a complete meltdown. I was concerned, but also trying to rationalize her abnormal behavior. She was up late last night. School just started, so she isn't accustomed to the new schedule yet. It's disgustingly hot and sticky outside and I could tell she was exhausted. This must be the culprit, I thought, as she sat down and started to talk.

"The kids at school were mean to me." Now my big girl is smart. Very smart, actually. I'm not one of those crazy moms who is uber-interested in benchmarks and development. You've gotta believe me, this kid is very, very smart. As she's saying these words to me, I'm thinking about my past reactions to comments like this. I was bullied as a child and overreact quite quickly when I hear things like, "kids...mean.....cry...."

So I thought, hmmm....maybe she's saying this to mask what really happened. She knows how Mommy will react and obviously wants Mommy's full attention and sympathy. So I let her tell her story, listening with a biased ear and trying to tune out the list of things I needed to get done. She was cut off by her little sister, though, and soon enough we were whipping around the house trying to get out to the store and back in time for dinner.

On our drive home the storm hit. It knocked the power out. I panicked....we have well water and a septic system, but no backup generator. Our basement flooded twice this past week and I couldn't stand the thought of more water rushing into our home. We'd just purchased lunch meat and I needed to blog. Did I mention the youngest one doesn't sleep without her noise machine? I was on edge.

At some point, for whatever reason, my big girl asked me if I was going to be home from work this coming Monday. I will be, for the holiday. I told her as such and her face fell, just slightly. Confused, I asked her what was the matter. She said, "Nothing, I've just had a really, really bad day. I thought maybe I was going to Grandma and Grandpa's on Monday." My heart broke, at that moment. You would've probably heard it, had you been there. Her face had fallen because I was going to be home...which meant that her normal day-off-of-school caretakers, my in-laws, would not be watching her. "She'd rather be with them" rang through my heart and my head and it took everything inside me not to burst into tears right then and there.

Working moms, or moms who have worked, or even moms who have taken a long weekend away from their kids, all share one thing in common: they understand the heartbreak and physical, gut-wrenching pain of leaving their kids. I think about my daughters all day, every day, wishing like hell I could have the best of every world and painstakingly agonizing as to how my absence will affect them. To have that time with your kids, even if it's just for a day, is something you look forward to for weeks. To say I am sensitive about working or staying home would be the biggest understatement of the century.

But instead of reflecting on this known part of myself, and fighting against unnecessary negativity, I gave in. Oh boy, did I ever give in to my insecurity.

"Is that why you're looking sad? Because you will be here with me instead of over there?" She shook her head no and started crying. "No, I'm crying because I had a hard day." I started to ask her questions again....what happened at school, why were the kids being mean, how did your day get so bad.....and she couldn't give me a straight answer.

Now at this point, I'm thinking she is either 1) hiding something or 2) afraid of hurting my feelings. I began to get frustrated and the situation quickly deteriorated. Within minutes I was yelling, "Why won't you just tell me what's the matter!" and she was hysterically crying, "I can't tell you! I'm crying too hard!"

Would be a great time for a break, yes? Oh yes, Jen, let's take a break! We'll feel better after everyone calms down.


Instead, this is when all my hurt, irritation, fear, and exhaustion of the day came catapulting through my brain. I reached out, grabbed her face, brought it directly in front of mine and shouted, "ENOUGH! STOP crying and TELL ME WHAT'S GOING ON!"

I wish this could be the point in this sad story where I tell you how awesome my maneuver was and how quickly she calmed down and opened up to me.

This is not that point.

My yelling frightened her and caused her to start crying even harder. Sobbing, she choked out the reason her classmates were mean to her. She had put her folder on someone else's desk. They tattled on her and her teacher had to speak to her. "All----d-d-d-day," my big girl said, "s-s-s-someone was yell-yell-y-yelling at m-m-mmm-me, either my fff-f-riends, or mm-mm-m-my teacher, and now y-yy-yyy-you."

She started to breath very fast.

"She looks like what I look like when I'm having a panic attack," I thought. "Dear God in Heaven, I'm causing my baby to have a panic attack."

I reached for her, pulled her into my lap, and just started rocking her. My sweet baby. The beautiful girl who had a hard day and tried to tell her Mama about it. The good student who wanted to make her teacher happy. The socially-deprived sweetheart who wanted to please her peers. The adored baby who just wanted to be loved on by her grandparents.

I've done some serious self-loathing, but nothing comes close to the harsh, searing pain of realizing you've wrongfully put yourself before your kids.

My bad day, my inability to focus, my over-analytical brain, my sadness and hurt, my my my my my.....

My failure.

I've done it before. I'll do it again. And so will you. This is the most blessed part of life...learning.

All is not lost, contrary to that overwhelming feeling of "ALL IS LOST" when something like this happens.

Take your kid, wrap them up, and apologize. I took mine, snuggled her in my bed, and dabbed her with a cool cloth. I told her I was sorry for yelling at her and acknowledged how hard her day must have been. An awful day for my wee little angel.

She was giggling within minutes, slapping the wet washcloth over my eyes and getting a kick out my funny faces when I peeled it off. I could still see those red eyes, though, and my guilt cried tear after tear inside my heart. But this wasn't about me. This was about her, making her feel better, putting her first. I would find another outlet for my pain after she was tucked safe and happy in her bed.

Congratulations, you, and the six ounces of Moscato next to me, are my outlet. Merry Christmas.

After everything settled down, Aaron and I developed a plan to reduce her anxiety by really accentuating the good she does and taking time everyday to sit down with her and let her vent. We'll never be a meltdown-free home, but we can be a home of acceptance, compassion, and most of all, forgiveness.

Not too bad for a house full of crazies.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone :)

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Perfection of Imperfection

I'm guilty of consistently comparing myself to others. Frankly, I think everyone is guilty of this, but perhaps a lucky few of us take it one step further...

You see, I brutally compare myself against people I perceive as "perfect" and in areas I'm truly sensitive about. Success. Marriage. Parenting. Overall happiness. I look at pictures, read blogs, hear stories....and find myself drowning in "what ifs" and "why nots." Had I made one decision differently, had I chosen just one alternate path....where would I be today? Would I be the perfect wife? The perfect parent? The critically-acclaimed blogger who has nothing but incredible things to say each and every day and huge, clear pictures with perfect, catchy captions? 

No way. No way will I ever be perfect. Wanna know why? 

Because the perfection I see in others is designed by my imagination. It doesn't exist. 

The ideas are planted in my head with the flip of a magazine page:  hard-working, successful couple wants to escape the hustle-and-bustle of the city, so they pack up and move into a perfectly-situated country home with a wrap-around porch, and fix it up with vintage, re-purposed antiques from all over the country, and forever spend their days plucking peaches right out of their orchard and walking that invisible line between sober and tipsy while drinking handmade cocktails from Great Aunt Midge's glassware.

Or maybe the inspiration comes from a blog link: stay-at-home mom wants to help out with the household income, so she starts taking buttons and gluing them together, and then sells them on the internet, and people love them and buy them, and she works in her blue-and-white home office, and cooks dinner grown from her own backyard, and washes laundry with green, handmade soap, all while balancing a perfectly content baby on her size 4 hip. 

I even find imagination fodder on Facebook. Yep, I'm that chick: another stunning pose from the beautiful bride and her bridesmaids, at a tropical beach location made affordable by the couple's fantastic financial planning and the standard, responsible evolution of their relationship. New baby delivered by sweet, beautiful mom already fitting into her pre-pregnancy jeans. A fantastic trip to Europe, Asia, South America. 

Like a match, my mind ignites these things and turns them into smoke and mirrors. My perspective, warped, tells me these people have that thing I'm missing. That thing that makes me the best at everything I do. That thing that balances independence and connectivity. Freedom and restraint. Wild and grounded. 

It's one of my flaws, you see. Do I really think everyone who portrays a perfect life actually has a perfect life? No. I know that's not true. But I get carried away with the what-ifs. 

I have to stop myself. I get so wrapped up in what I perceive to be perfection and happiness, I miss the happiness right in front of me. I have to force a reality check. 

Martha Stewart poops too. Right in that expensive, perfectly coordinated toilet. And I bet it stinks just like my poop, your poop, the Presidents poop, and Brad Pitt's poop.

Perfection is what you want it to be. 

I drink Coke Zero in the morning during my commute every single day sometimes. At some point last winter, while cruising in the dark, early hours of morning, I grabbed my can of Coke and cracked it open. Took a huge swig. Gagged. NOT COKE. Hops...lots of hops, rushing around my mouth. What.

So what did I do? I busted the heck up. I sat in my car, driving down the road at 5:45 in the morning, laughing my ass off, holding a full can of some weird, random beer in my hand, repeatedly saying, "what. what. WHAT," going about 55mph, not entirely sure what to do, my eyes scanning the road ahead for anything even slightly resembling law enforcement, wondering if beer froze at the same temperature as water, thinking the whole time I was dead meat and doomed to burn in hell for grabbing the wrong dark-colored can out of my fridge. It splashed on my clothes as I hit bumps and I cracked up all over again, thinking about how Jen the responsible administrative assistant was going to show up to work stinking like skunky beer.

At that moment, my happiness, my laughter, my racing heart and watering eyes and freezing cold hand...they might have been perfect. Jen's perfection. It didn't come from an award-winning display of perennials, or overnight financial success, or a lakeside vacation with all the bells and whistles. My real-life perfection came from being thrown into a completely unexpected, ironic, awkward situation I unknowingly brought upon myself. This is my trend, my historical timeline, my thing.

Take their idea of perfection and throw it out the window. 

Your imperfection, like mine, is perfect. 

A side note from me...
I am so lucky to have my readers. I treasure sharing my mistakes and tales of woe with you and hope you rest easy knowing you're never alone in craziness. I've decided to change things up a bit and post to my blog only once a week, on Friday nights. I am already looking forward to next week :) Happy Friday and weekend, all! :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Throwing a Garage Sale? Some Tips from Your Shoppers!

I thought I'd make tonight's post a bit lighthearted as my Grass-Fed Beef post has generated quite the stir! I love me some debate ;)

I took the day off from work and decided to hit some garage sales today with my oldest baby girl. She starts school again soon and ever since her sister came along, she's been getting the third-string version of my attention. She jumped at the chance to be with Mommy. Alone. In the car. Without a whiny baby sister (my words...she only refers to her baby sister as "oh-so-cute!").

We didn't do the whole "plan your route" thing. We didn't even check Craig's List first. No way, nope. We were rebels. We literally jumped in the car and headed out. Luckily, this method still works. We looked for signs on our way home from the ATM and ended up garage sale shopping for a little over two hours. We hit up six sales, each in different areas and each with a completely different feel.

I scored some sweet finds! More importantly, I came back with a list of things I would and would not do when I held my own garage sale. Now I'm no expert, but I've shopped around a bit and know without a doubt what will send me running to my car...... to either grab my wallet or drive far, far away.

Jen's Top Five Wallet-Grabbin' Tips

5. Make your signs super bright and plentiful!
House for Sale, House for Rent, and Garage Sale ...... they can all be white with red lettering! Live on the edge and get some bright, easy-to-spot paper. It may not be as "professional" as the standard printed sign, but it will attract my attention right away...especially when I'm going 50mph down a busy road. Also, put your signs all over! We followed a string of bright pink signs for miles just to see if the sale was "HUGE" as the sign indicated.

4. Provide parking and some subtle traffic directions!
Now I realize some of you don't have the option of increasing curbside availability, but if at all possible, designate your preferred area with tape and/or signs! At one sale location, we saw at least four cars complete a three-point-turn just to get out...when lo and behold, the street ended in a comfortable cul-de-sac just three houses down. Had the sellers been so kind as to inform people of this marketable convenience, they would've likely had a lot less traffic and confusion around their sale. Now on the flipside, this really happened today:
Parking Pastures rule!
3. Don't set up your garage sale like a flea market!
Remember the pink sign we followed for miles? Well, it led to this:
No big deal, it was the garage sale of all garage sales! The signs weren't lying! It was like garage sale heaven....until I actually saw what they were selling. Piles Claire's jewelry, Avon items, Halloween costumes in the dozens (and multiple packages of the same costume), and fourteen containers of packaged all felt....well.....wrong. The prices were higher than what I was willing to pay and multiple quantities of the same item makes me feel like I'm in a dollar store. I don't go to garage sales to get dollar-store items, I go to garage sales to find those "hidden gems." At this place, I felt like I was getting a bit scammed...almost wondering how much they paid just to sell it back to me and make a profit? The only exceptions were the property owner's tables. He'd owned the farm for years and had an overwhelming amount of tools and farm-related equipment and trinkets for sale. I ended up purchasing something from his side of the sale...but the rest? No, thank you! Don't sacrifice quality for quantity, people!

2. No moody teens!
I drove up, saw a group of little kids and teenaged girl with her butt hangin' out, and left. If you aren't willing to stay at your own sale, why should I?

1. Be nice!
You would think this is a given...but shockingly, only half the sellers we visited today were kind, welcoming people. One woman wouldn't get off her phone long enough to even so much as look our way when we walked up. Another kept trying to push me into purchasing something I really didn't want. Guess who didn't get my money? :) I don't want to be sold, I want to be free to browse and enjoy without pressure and rudeness.

I'm sure my list will change the day I decide to hold my own sale, but I'm hoping I stay somewhat true to these simple, common-sense methods. Overall, it was a great day with my favorite big girl...and that's all we can ask for, is it not? :) HAPPY FRIDAY!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Grass-Fed Beef 101

Welcome to class, everyone. Today we'll be exploring the controversial topic of beef production! Why? Well, because Jen is craving a huge giant cheeseburger and beef is on the forefront of her mind!

Ok, let's get started!

Two primary groups of thought:

Sustainable Beef Producers:
Bio ~ This group favors the use of science and technology to meet the needs of a growing population.
How they feed ~ Corn/grain/growth hormones/recently accused of feeding candy
Primary Argument ~ Americans want their beef and they want it fast and at an affordable cost.

Grass-Fed Beef Producers:
Bio ~ This group favors the use of responsible farming practices to provide reasonable amounts of meat to an increasingly-aware population.
How they feed ~ Grass only, normally consumed in open pastures
Primary Argument ~ Grass-fed is proven to be better for the animal and for the environment, which ultimately leads to a healthier, more responsible product.

Can you tell whose side I'm on yet?

I studied at Iowa State University for a little while, one of the absolute best large-animal veterinary universities in the world. In one of my Animal Science courses, we were privileged to meet a group of cows participating in a nutritional/digestive study. Each of these cows had a tube surgically inserted into their rumen (one of four stomachs)...the tubes acted as a safe, functional method for collecting samples directly from the cow's first stomach. I remember the instructor putting on this huge glove and reaching deep into that tube....the cow just munched away, didn't even flinch. He pulled out a mass of her stomach contents (gross, I know, but bear with me), and explained what they've found.....

Wanna know the Secret Tube Revelation?

Cows can't digest corn. Nope. The rumen was designed to ferment and digest only grass. Corn makes cows sick, deathly sick as a matter of fact.

Hmmm, funny. So if they can't digest it, how do we get that Big Mac? Well, I'll tell you. But it ain't pretty, so don't read this while you eat...especially if you're eating a Big Mac.

So when cows eat corn, the rumen releases a gas that stimulated the production of E. Coli. Yep. Read that right. The same E. Coli that kills humans, kills the cows we devour with that huge side of fries. To make matters worse, most sustainable beef producers raise cattle in commercially-organized feedlots, meaning the animals are shoved in an outdoor paddock with hundreds of other animals, all wading around in their own poo-poo, all fighting against the deadly E. Coli growing in their tummies.

Another awesome corn by-product? Sludge. Cows can't break down corn, remember? So instead of naturally-fermenting grass and healthy burps, corn creates this disgusting sludge inside the rumen, making it nearly impossible for the gas to escape. This in turn causes bloat, which suffocates the cows to death. They will also suffer ulcers, liver damage, and an essential breakdown of the digestive system.

To avoid massive product loss, sustainable beef producers will inject "science" into their cattle. Oh and by science, I meant antibiotics, those drugs we depend on, but are unfortunately rendering themselves useless against mutating bacterial cells...cells that are evolving quickly because of our abusive overuse of said antibiotics. So yes! Shoot 'em up! We wouldn't want to lose our money precious cattle. We care too much!

Don't worry, because in addition to injecting your cows to keep them healthy, some sustainable beef producers make sure your meat is squeaky-clean and ready for grillin by running it through a series of vats that spray massive amounts of ammonia all over it. That awtta do the trick. Science!

Other items I didn't touch on but you can read about anywhere: growth hormones, government bodies led by shady sustainable beef-producers, how humans don't need meat every single day, the fact that if you pick up a package of beef from the grocery store it will list five different countries as the "source," GMO corn feed, proven human risk and loss caused by E. Coli in beef....the list is endless, really. And sad.

I think it's important to mention these are not speculative views I'm presenting here. This is reality... all of it. And before you go thinking, "my grandma ate regular ol' beef and she lived 'till 108!" may I please remind you it often takes generations to realize the full consequences of a populations' poor choices. Smoking was once classy, people...even for pregnant chicks.

But all is not lost. Grass-fed, pasture-raised beef is becoming more readily available every single day. People are opening their eyes to the benefits of knowing where our food comes from and how it is processed. It does cost more for grass-fed beef, and rightfully so. We live in one of the most plentiful countries in the world. How is it we've created an economy that allows chemical-laden, addictive value meals to cost less than a bag of chemical-free carrots? As consumers, we have the power and responsibility to change what we demand from food producers.

Those of you living in Iowa or Northern Illinois can cash in on an incredible resource I've been using for just over a year now. Wallace Farms is a family owned and operated farm in Iowa. They raise animals the right way, are transparent in their practices, and deliver the food to a town near my home. Just tonight we had a batch of these bad boys:

In case you can't read it, let me please point out those are bacon and beef hot dogs. Yes.

They sell every meat product you could imagine, from well-fed pork to pastured cattle to turkey and chickens and ducks, oh my! Seriously just go check out their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed. I purchase in bulk during their frequent sales and get a huge amount of value for my money.

We're privileged enough to be witnessing a moment of true food revolution in our country. Educate yourself, your friends, and your family and then do something about it! Don't let another dollar of your money go to people who are more concerned with the dollar than the person behind it. Class dismissed!!

As a side note, Wallace farms did not endorse this post or pay me any money to write this. I love sharing good things with good people and let me tell you, this company is one incredibly good thing.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dear Pinterest: It's Not Fall Yet

The second week of August. We're right smack-dab in the middle of what I like to call the seasonal mind shift. The novelty of a sweaty, sunny beach has worn off and hot, sticky cars are becoming pretty obnoxious. We're ready for crisp air, local apples, and orange leaves. The only problem? Earth isn't there yet.

Mother Nature has thrown us a few bones; we have earlier sunsets, chillier mornings, and wilting cornflowers. It's a change, but it certainly isn't fall. It's sumall. Or falmer, whichever you choose. I'm going with Sumall because summer comes before fall and my simple mind can't ignore this logic.

From inside my house, Sumall looks perfect. The temperatures average in the mid-70s, the sun shines, and we get a nice, gentle amount of rain. The grass is still emerald green and the kids are still riding bikes in the middle of the day. Sounds pleasant, right? It is, until you go outside, and seven thousand mosquitos land on you in a matter of seconds, and you're sweating under a scorching sun one minute, shivering under gray clouds the next, and you head to the farmer's market and they still don't have local apples because the harvest hasn't happened yet, and you realize all those pretty thoughts of pumpkins and foiliage are just that....thoughts. I'm talking to you, Pinterest. Stop pushing your amazing Halloween and fall ideas in my face.

There are a few good things about Sumall, though. The kids head back to school in a week or two. My kid is going into second grade, so she still gets really pumped about the first day of school. Picking out a pencil case generates about as much excitement as if I were sending her into Disneyland on the back of a diamond-encrusted elephant. Don't even get me started on Lisa Frank. Of all the things I could potentially pass down to my kids, I never guessed it'd be the sheer, pee-yourself joy of receiving a shiny, new Markie the Galloping Unicorn folder. Winning.

We braved a Sumall walk tonight after dinner. I slathered the girls up in some smelly oil that doesn't work ultra-botanical, non-toxic bugspray and away we went. We dodged from bugs, we dove from bugs, it was real relaxing. While running from an especially ferocious cloud of blood-suckers, I noticed something that stopped me dead in my tracks and made me forget about flailing around like someone needing medical attention: flowers. Placing a mental check on the positive side of Sumall, I snapped a few pics...we have some gorgeous flowers in bloom right now:

Touché, Sumall. You may be buggy, but what you lack in comfort, you make up in beauty.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My Guilt-Inducing Backyard

I was blessed to find an adorable little house with a gorgeous backyard. Here comes Jen, trotting around like a fairy, admiring the beautiful plants and thinking, "Oh my, it's a little garden cottage! I absolutely must make this modest slice of heaven my home for years to come!" I could practically feel the flutter of butterfly wings as they landed on my shoulders. The birds sang for me each morning. A little deer fawn basked in the sun.

I was obviously delusional. I didn't give a single thought to the upkeep required for a yard half an acre long.
Mowing? There are friendly little neighborhood boys to do that!
Pulling weeds? Oh surely not, the flower roots will take up all the room in the soil!
Mosquitoes? Well that's what the precious birds are for!

It's all a part of the circle of life in NaiveandClueless Land.

The first year, I barely lifted a finger. The previous owners, a stay-at-home mom with a knack for all things green and a conservationist who designed protected wildlife parks in the area, had kept up with it for years. I let everything grow because that's what Snow White would do and frankly, I wasn't sure what was good and what was bad. I didn't touch the yard in the fall...just let things grow au-naturel. The snow will cover up and kill all the bad, I thought. Right, Jen, the snow will kill all the bad.

The second year was hot. Very, very hot. I was 7 months pregnant come springtime. The yard grew like a monster. Mosquitos were thick and the weeds were creeping out of the foundation like The Terminator in the end scene where he's stuck in that machine about to be super-crushed for good. I pulled weeds once and within hours they grew back. And then the baby came, so that's the end of that chapter.

The third year, this year, I hired a landscaper. It was expensive and I felt awful for the guys. They worked from sunup to sunset, just the two of them, raking and pulling and hauling three years worth of crap into our fire pit.
Side note: Snow does not kill the bad.

Here's a few shots of the landscaped yard in the spring and early summer:

And as the plants started growing in: 

After paying all that money in the spring, I was determined to keep up with the yard. My resolve lasted well into the month of June...and then the heat hit.

When I say I hate heat, what I mean is, I'd rather be dunked in an ice bath repeatedly for 24 straight hours while listening to RuPaul karaoke a Culture Club song than sit in the scorching sun when the temperature rises above 78 degrees. I am a huge wussy, can't handle it, try every year to suck it up, and always end up saying "a plague on both of your houses, I'm out."

Then, right around August, when the weather starts to cool down and the mosquitoes die off, I get the Backyard Guilt, or BG. The BG tells me I suck for letting my yard look like crap. It tells me I'm a fool for hiring someone and then not making the time to keep up on it. The BG is pretty nasty and it bites me right in the ass every time I look outside. Observe my current backyard view:

Care for some creeping vines of doom?

How about a nice place to raise your boa constrictor?

That's not cabbage, that's neglect!

Allow me to reiterate...


Worst part? I've weeded that bed, the one pictured right over this text, at least 50 times this year. That "special something" about my backyard? It needs to be cared for on a weekly, if not daily basis.

Unfortunately for me and my huge suitcase of BG, I can't get out there every weekend. I can barely get out there once a month. So what's a girl to do?

Make it magical, I guess.

Those giant, yellow, 12-foot-tall flowers? My neighbor is obsessed with them. She told me just the other day, "JEN! The yellow flowers bloomed! When I look out my window I see them peeking over the fence and it just makes my day!" They are called "cup" plants...and they are native to my area. The birds and bugs love them to death, and so does my neighbor.

When designing my perfect yard earlier this spring (or rather, daydreaming about what I would do when the landscapers left me a perfectly blank slate.....haha), I decided I had to have Bee Balm. I don't have a picture posted here, but in a bed closer to the house, I planted bright, red, beautiful bee balm. It took me days to find the perfect shade and plant, not to mention money and time. "A good start!" I thought. "Look at how resourceful I am!"

Hey, so, see those little purple flowers right there in the middle of the picture below? Guess what that is. Oh yes, it's Bee Balm. It's all over the place, growing on it's own, most likely planted by the previous owners years ago and forced into dormancy with my poor weed-clearing. The landscapers freed it this past spring and you should see the beautiful bees I get back there!

Below is a shot of the tulip bed from another angle. You can see the Hollyhock I planted on Mother's Day. I stood there this afternoon, just staring at the chaos, and after a minute I realized... the bed looks almost....well....pretty. I recognized a subtle undercurrent of when you stand next to an electrified fence....the air was humming. What you can't see is the bird's nest I found, or the flurry of lil bitty crickets that jumped up with every step I took, or the sounds of cicadas waving goodbye to the day, or the smell of those lush, incredibly green grasses.

Of course, this could all be a figment of my delusional imagination. Something I've concocted to embrace my lazy gardener and a thoughtful excuse to keep my hands out of the dirt. If that's what this feeling is....this feeling of acceptance.........I'll take it.

Hope you each get the chance to look past the weeds this week :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Will Work for Portfolio Material

Alright my lovely readers, you've probably noticed by now I've been a bit behind with posting (my Tuesday blog on Wednesday, last week my Friday blog was on Saturday.....CHAOS). Well, I have a bit of a secret. I've been busy. Real busy. Busy doing very exciting things..


I'm launching what I hope will be a very successful commercial and creative freelance writing career! Yep, Jennifer Ludwigsen, Writer Extraordinaire, at your service :) It's so exciting...webpage design, slogans, marketing, honing my skills, identifying my many incredible things to work on! It's like a dream come true!!





I'm terrified.

what am I doing what if I fail what if I become overloaded and can't make time to take vacations what if my passion for writing dies at the hand of a editor what if it isn't profitable what if I'm not as good as I think I am

BLAST INFERNO! (***confused? Read this bad boy.)

Fear is natural, but it can't stop me now. I love to write, truly I do. I love to help people by identifying and explaining a different perspective, one they haven't thought of before. I love small business owners and I take pride in my community. I believe in what I'm writing and I believe in the people I write it for.

Speaking of people I believe in....

Want some free stuff?? You see, I’m building an online portfolio, but aside from some **awesome** things I've created for my current job, I don't have a wide range of material to showcase my freelancing capabilities. I'm a newbie. And newbies gotta work to get to not-so-newbie.
So here's my offer:
One fully-executed project pro bono to the first ten clients who contact me.
In exchange for my work, I ask only for permission to post completed work on my website and include the business' name on my “Clients” page. That's it. Nothing else. Nada. You can have some incredible material (and your name on my website - free advertising is always good!) and I can have a diverse portfolio.
Great, Jen, but what does a commercial freelancer do??
For starters:
Website material and organization
Employee benefits documentation
Social media management
Instructional manuals
Radio and television advertisement scripts
Email, memo, and letter templates
Brochures, flyers, and marketing material
Training documents and presentations
Demonstration handouts
Special events flyers
Follow-up logs and sales tracking
Standard operating procedures
PowerPoint presentations
Employee handbooks
Project management logs
Meeting minutes and agendas
Speech material
Job descriptions

I also deal in editing and creative writing, including product reviews, business blogs, and both printed and online articles.
The possibilities are truly endless ~ written communication is one of the most powerful elements in human nature. With my help, we can demonstrate this historical truth throughout your business.
It's really a win-win for everyone involved. Except of course my pillow. If this works the way I hope it will, I won't be sleeping very much at all. Sounds terrible, right? .....for some strange reason the thought of it is making me just a little bit giddy :)
Thank you so much reading everyone!
Reach out to me at: