Do you work too hard?

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Not long ago, I told a friend that saying I’m tired is like saying the Titanic experienced a minor snag. True enough, exhaustion has been part of my life as a mom, spiking during periods like new babies, moving house, holidays, and other types of overwhelm.

I’ve been told it’s normal. Normal to want some quiet time. Normal to dream of moving to New Zealand.

Maybe you’ve just had your first baby. Maybe you have children with special needs. Maybe, like me, you are trying to juggle the needs of several different-age kids and your freelance writing business.

Either way, I’m going to share five questions I’ve asked myself to help myself let go of unrealistic expectations (pffft) and put mental health first.

One, do you work too hard? No, wait. That’s not a question. Start over.

Do you iron? Ironing is seriously overrated. A few wrinkles on a shirt haven’t killed anyone yet. Besides, wrinkles straighten up, more or less, while you wear the item.

Do you do too much laundry? Around here, clothes get tossed into the hamper when they are dirty. I separate darks and lights, but otherwise, everything gets shoved in the wash together, including underwear, bedding, and towels.

Do you cook too complicated? It’s best to choose dishes that request not just little prep, but little cleanup as well. Soup is a perennial favorite.

Do you delegate? Do you let people do what they can for themselves? If a toddler can pick up her toys, great. If a tween can clean her room, fantastic. So what if it’s not perfect? It fosters healthy independence and helps lighten your load.

Do you take the time to recharge? Do you remember when you last watched a movie? Read a book just because? Called a friend? When I realized that my answer to these was “I’m not sure”, I acknowledged I was on the verge of burnout. I began making an effort to eat and sleep better and to do more things that refresh and rejuvenate me.

Finally, a predator-proof coop!

Last week, we had a sad incident, in which a fox got two of our chickens. I admit I have grown a little careless, as I wasn’t aware there were any foxes in the area.

From my previous experience with foxes, I knew they never give up until they’ve eaten all the chickens in a coop OR until they realize it’s impossible. I knew my old coop wasn’t fox-proof. And I knew I didn’t want to race outside with a hammering heart every time a hen started clucking.

So for a week, I overnighted my chickens in boxes inside the house, and meanwhile, I commissioned a secure and convenient stainless steel coop.

New home for the hens!

Although it isn’t as pretty as some of the rustic style coops I’ve admired on Pinterest, it’s by far the best coop I’ve ever had. I can’t believe how much I paid to have it made, but I’m happy 😊

A housewarming party 🎉

It has two handy shelves for nesting boxes, and a lower section for our quail that can also work as a secure space for a broody hen (of course I would put the quail elsewhere).

Now I’m just waiting for this fox to come again so I can laugh at it 😁

5 places to start decluttering

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As I was putting the house in order before Pesach, I was amazed, like I am every year, at the sheer amount of stuff that was going out for donation or recycling. The holiday is over, but I’m still decluttering, because I’ve started to overhaul the closets for summer.

I’ll tell you a dirty secret: the reason why I love decluttering so much is that I hate cleaning. Or, at least, I hate spending a lot of time on cleaning. The less stuff you have to take care of, the easier and more straightforward cleaning becomes.

So here are my suggestions on where to start freeing up valuable space.

  1. Closets. Most of us own stuff we’ve forgotten we have. Some of it can actually be put to good use. Other items go in the donation bag. Kids have things they have outgrown, socks with holes, and that shirt with paint stains I can never get completely clean.
  2. Kitchen cabinets. I’m a secret container addict and can never resist buying pickles in a pretty glass jar, then washing it and stashing it away for future use. While recycled glass is frugal and eco-friendly, at some point my jar collection threatens to take over my kitchen space.
  3. Toys and books. From my experience, only a handful of toys and games are worth keeping longterm. We get more gifts of toys and books than we can use, some of them double sets, and while I cherish every gesture of friendship, there’s only so much we can keep.
  4. Yard. For me, it’s extremely easy to forget everything that isn’t actually in the house. This includes cracked flower pots, broken tiles, and various odds and ends.
  5. Storage. It’s easy to forget about items that have been sitting in the depths of my storage shed for years. But storage isn’t supposed to be a “shove inside and forget” concept. It should be a convenient place for useful things that simply aren’t used regularly, or seasonal items like rubber boots and umbrellas.

With every trash bag that leaves my home, I feel like I can breathe a little easier. I hope I can stay in the momentum and keep gaining space, peace, and order.

A spring woodland hike

After we all worked our butts off in preparation for Pesach, here’s the reward.

Jezreel Valley is beautiful at this time of the year – especially after the earth has been soaked by some generous spring rains that washed away the aftermath of a horrible dust storm.

A super cool collection of beetles.
Flowers in a hidden nook.
A rock overgrown with moss.
A captivating view.
And a trail you just want to follow forever and ever.

The hard work is over. Woo-hoo! Time to relax and have fun.

Cropped crochet cardigan

Basic stitches, light and cozy cardi

I’ve been wanting a cropped cardigan for a while now, so decided to make this my last winter crochet project for this season. Basic top down raglan with a subtle puff stitch border.

I usually prefer working with natural fibers, but this time the metallic sheen of Surong yarn tempted me. I can’t say I was too excited about this yarn. It just didn’t feel as nice as merino, alpaca, or cotton, but I’m still pretty pleased with the result.

Now onwards to summer crochet! Cotton, bamboo, and linen yarns, here I come.

How I improved my income as a freelance writer

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When I first began seriously freelancing as an editor and content writer (as opposed to an occasional gig here and there), I was earning roughly $200-300 for editing a 100K-word novel, and about 1 cent per word of original content. If this sounds like total exploitation, it was. But I had been out of the workforce for 10 years, I had no confidence and no references, and I was desperate for money.

At times, I questioned whether it wasn’t crazy to give up so much of my time and energy for such low compensation. But I earned valuable experience and was soon able to move on to better things. It’s an ongoing process, and I would like to share a few things that have helped me along the way.

I keep looking for opportunities. Even though today I have as much work as I can handle, I give job listings a quick look-through every day. When I see something interesting, I apply, even if I don’t feel 100% confident. I’d rather risk hearing “no” than missing out on a potential opportunity.

I value my time. When I started doing this, I knew I wasn’t looking for a full-time position. I wanted to keep staying home for my children. I wanted to keep home educating. I wanted some spare time for creative writing, art, backyard homesteading, reading, and just breathing.

This means that I had to pay close attention to my hourly rate. I have about 3-4 hours of work split throughout my day (1 hour early in the morning, 1 during midday downtime, 1-2 hours after the kids are in bed), and I must make them count. I was never after pocket money. I need a real income for bills and groceries, so I can’t allow my time to go down the drain.

I play to my strengths. While I’ve written about topics like insurance and cryptocurrency on occasion, these aren’t my strong points. On the other hand, I have a degree in nutrition, which gives me a big leverage in projects that focus on diets, supplements, and wellness. Having expertise also means I need to spend less time on research.

I’m not quite making a full-time income yet, but I’m getting close. I know people who are doing this without breaking a sweat. Writing (whether you write fantasy novels or service pages for roof contractors in Michigan) isn’t a get rich quick scheme, but it can provide solid income, and there’s plenty of room to grow if you’re willing to put in the effort.