When your home overwhelms you

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A pile of dishes in the sink. Papers strewn all over the sofa. A messy pile of laundry from last week in the hall. Unrecognizable sticky spots trailing the length of your living room.

Homes can get messy astonishingly fast, especially if you have kids. And sometimes, when you’re not tired, more like exhausted, or even more like totally and utterly depleted and sleep-deprived, it can get overwhelming.

Still, you must start tackling the mess somewhere. Here are my suggestions.

Something easy. There’s nothing like a quick, easy task to give you a sense of accomplishment. Empty the overflowing trash can, shove some paper clutter into the garbage, or water the plants.

Something hard. You’ll feel SO much better after you fold all the laundry from the last two weeks, give the bathtub a good scrub, or do whatever it is you’ve been postponing for a while.

Something inspiring. Homes aren’t just functional places where we eat and sleep. Something new and pretty, like hanging up a piece of art or planting some flowers, will give you motivation to keep working on your surroundings – even if the kitchen sink is still messy.

Something for someone else. Somehow, fluffing up my children’s pillows or sorting out their closet is easier for me to start with than my own room.

Something to eat. As you go into a whirlwind of trying to restore your home to a livable condition, it’s easy to forget you need to eat until lunchtime is long past, you’re faint with hunger, and your kids are complaining. Take the time to fix something simple to eat, even some pancakes or egg sandwiches and salad.

Need more encouragement? Check out these tips on cleaning a super messy house, super fast.

We’re safe

Following a deluge of messages from concerned friends, I’m just popping in to let everyone know we’re safe and haven’t been near the rocket attack areas in Israel.

We did, however, experience first-hand some of the violent disruptions by Israeli Arab “citizens” who are showing for the umpteenth time where their loyalties lie (hint: not with the country that feeds, protects, and ensures equal rights for them).

Our hearts are with the Israelis who have suffered from the unprovoked, vicious bombings.

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.

I’m still here

Rainy view from our balcony

Yes, I’m still here. Just bogged down with massive amounts of work – something I find hard to complain about, in the current economic climate.

I’m striving to find balance and have enough time for the kids, the house, and just to breathe.

Luckily, after weeks of enticing weather, we’re having some freezing cold, rain, hail, and a promise of snow. I’m a big fan of warm sunny weather, but hey, this is an opportunity to hole up in our cozy home and do relaxing things like reading and crafts.

Hope you’re all having a safe, warm February!

21 things I hope to do in 2021

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2020 was the sort of crazy ride few of us expected, with tosses and turns and deep dives. But now we’re waving goodbye to it, and I thought I’d share a brief list of 21 things I hope to accomplish in 2021. So here goes, in no particular order…

  1. Sleep more. 2020 was a year in which I failed to get enough rest. I overworked, overstressed, and binge watched escapist YouTube videos (New Zealand drone views were one of my favorites). So… let’s start with more than 5 hours of sleep at night.
  2. Read more. I mean for fun. I read for work all the time, but it’s not the same.
  3. Write more (not service pages for Australian plumbers!). I have so many book ideas and so little time.
  4. Eat better. Like sleep, much of healthy simple cooking had gone out of the window in 2020. I need more soup and homemade bread in my life.
  5. Work less. I got some fantastic clients in 2020 and appreciate the constant stream of work, but what I really need is more time off.
  6. Enjoy my children more. Time is so fleeting and I just want us all to have a good hike together, a game of monopoly, a cozy read-aloud, or simply some time to chill. And I want to be able to do that without constantly checking the time.
  7. Declutter. My home would be more manageable with less stuff.
  8. Get crafty. I did some great crochet projects in the past year, but I’d like to expand my horizons and try new things.
  9. Grow more stuff. We’re fast approaching the Sabbatical year in Israel, and I don’t want to miss my chance.
  10. Get into raising quail. We currently have one, after a tragic accident involving a sneaky stray cat. I’d really like to breed these fun little birds.
  11. Make soap again. Just because.
  12. Discover places I have never seen before. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy – a new walking path near town would be great.
  13. Appreciate myself more. This year, it has struck me numerous times that if I had someone in my life who does for me all I do for other people, I’d feel like I have a guardian angel who constantly pampers me!
  14. Stop fearing and roll with the punches. Yes, it’s a crazy world. No, there’s no security. But stressing all the time doesn’t help.
  15. Clean more effectively (so I can spend more time doing things I enjoy).
  16. Exercise.
  17. String a clothesline again (I’m currently using a folding rack).
  18. Hang up a couple of hammocks.
  19. Find ways to earn more money in less time (so I can do all the rest of the things on my list).
  20. Make my bedroom more inviting and cozy. I love my bed more than any other place in the world. 🙂
  21. Reconnect with old friends. Make time. Answer that phone. Return that message. Get together.

What are some things on your wish list for 2021?

Why I’m probably going to wait before getting a COVID vaccine

Warning: this might be a bit of a controversial post (something I don’t really do anymore these days!)

Like everyone else, I’ve been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. And like everyone else, I’d just love to get my life back.

I don’t think COVID is a hoax. I’m not really into conspiracy theories. I am a very run-of-the-mill person. I vaccinate my kids (with a slightly delayed schedule for newborns).

But I would still rather wait a while before lining up for a COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s why.

In the past months, the world has been pretty much obsessed with the upcoming vaccines and when oh when we can get them, and whether Pfizer’s or Moderna’s is more effective. There’s been a lot of indignation about knowing that there won’t be enough vaccine stock for everyone at once, and a whole lot of arguments about who gets first priority.

There’s been a lot of talk about “emergency approval” (fancy word for cutting corners with trials and testing) and doing it all fast, fast, and FASTER.

The comments from more cautious people saying, “but wait, maybe we need more trials” are pushed to the bottom of talkback lists and the people writing them are labeled as whackos.

The novel vaccines (actually labeled “revolutionary” by their makers) were judged as being “safe to use” with suspicious speed. And there has been talk about making them mandatory.

I doubt anyone will be coming to round us up and tie us to chairs to get us vaccinated. But people who would rather wait a bit before trying a new, only recently tested vaccine might find themselves facing serious limitations in travel, employment, and their children’s education.

When you Google “covid vaccine side effects” you get the typical list of vaccine side effects (swelling, redness, slight fever, etc) but nothing about longer-term possible implications. Why? Because there simply hasn’t been enough time to test them yet. COVID has been with us less than a year.

I’d like to wait at least a year to see some conclusive, nonbiased research on the effects of various COVID vaccines on pregnant women, children, and immunocompromised groups. We’re being told that governments and the WHO have given the green light. They claim it’s safe.

But the thing is, they really, really, REALLY WANT it to be safe.

Governments want to reopen the economy with no limitations. They want to make sure the hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. They want the unemployment rates to go down. They think in global terms.

As an individual, I would rather live another year or two with masks and social distancing than take the risk of an insufficiently tested vaccine. Why do I say “insufficiently”? Because there simply hasn’t been enough time.

Here is one of the few articles I’ve found with a safe, balanced approach towards the COVID vaccine. Neither an “avoid all vaccines like the devil” nor “let me be the first to get it”.

So I’m just going to do something very conservative. Wait and watch. And I know many people around the globe are thinking along the same lines, though we might be a bit of a silent group.

“This should be your time”

A kind commenter told me this (I can’t find the exact quote right now): I’m sorry you have to work, even from home. this should be your time with your children.

Let me tell you…. There are days when I miss the simplicity of getting up and not having to juggle work projects with taking care of children and endless household chores.

Theoretically, yeah, I’d probably say that all mothers should live peacefully, free from all financial constraints until their children are at least in their teens. However, as we all know, there is a big difference between should, can, and is.

  • I feel more financially secure working. After several periods of extreme financial duress and my inability to do anything about it as I virtually cut myself off from all paid employment options, I know that the stress of juggling work and home is nothing compared to the anguish of having no income for extended periods of time.
  • My self-esteem is higher as I make my own money. I have always said that this is a misleading term: when you are married, all money goes into the family pool. Theoretically, who earns the money shouldn’t make any difference. “Just” mothers shouldn’t feel in any way inferior. But this is another instance of should vs is – as we live in the money economy, those who generate value but not money are often invisible. In a marriage, one of the spouses being responsible for 100% of the income often leads to an imbalance – and misuse – of power.
  • Getting into the workforce is tough after an extended break. I had been out of paid employment for a decade, and finding paid work involved scrambling for ground-level, low-paying jobs, plus losing much of the advantages my degree and clinical training would have given me otherwise. For a woman who had been out of employment for two decades or more, the process would doubtless be more difficult.

I don’t work full-time, nor is it my goal. But I am doing something I can easily upscale as my children grow older and I am able to put in more hours.

Always looking for balance, I certainly wish I had more of “my time” but thankful for the opportunities that have allowed me to swim rather than sink.