Oh Hi. Life goes on.

… as long as I stay as busy as humanly possible.

Busy summer!

I’m not going to lie, losing my job was up there as one of the most challenging things I’ve dealt with. In my life. I hate that it’s up there with losing a baby. Not *as* intense, but comparable. It’s in the ballpark.

Still dealing with it, really. But the interesting thing is that, because this grief feels similar to other things I’ve dealt with, I have a roadmap. There’s some solace in the knowledge that this hurt won’t last forever. It will keep hurting and there’s no quick fix, but I know for sure that at some point in the future I will look back on all this and be able to say “boy I’m glad it doesn’t hurt like that anymore.”

In the meantime, one of the best coping mechanisms for “waiting it out” has been to stay busy. SO.

Took a long and epic roadtrip to visit my family in the Northeast (I live in the Southwest). Both dogs came AND the cat came. On a road trip. For days.

Then I was able to spend some good solid quality time with my toddler niece and three of my four siblings. It was a trip to soothe my soul, just being around a big group that loved the heck out of me.

Now I’m back home and GUESS WHAT?! I’m going back to school for a DOCTORATE degree. This is still sinking in, especially because it was not even a twinkle in my eye back at the turn of the year (when I should have been working on an admissions packet).

Near the end of April I emailed the graduate advisor at a local university with (convenient) the exact program I wanted. I had emailed to see about starting an application for fall 2017. But then she emailed back and said, “we have one spot open for Fall 2016 – are you interested?”

WHAT?! So I spent the next month speed-compiling a writing sample and letters of recommendation and all the other stuff that I was expecting to have 6-8 months to get together. And I sent it in. And I got accepted. But not just accepted.

Some PhD programs are “funded,” meaning the students trade work (teaching or research) in exchange for their tuition fees. Funded positions are competitive positions because they’re limited. So normally students compete once to get into a program and then again to receive funding.

I got funding. I’m going to school for basically free.

To get a DOCTORATE DEGREE.

Cue busy times ahead. And I’m so looking forward to it.

Finish the Book

Or, as a million billion writers say by way of advice: “keep writing.”

Part of life lately has included delving into the world of freelance writing. I can (and still do) graphic design and website work, but although the last many years of my life have included those things, I’m not actually trained in either graphic design or web design. It’s all self-taught.

What I am trained (and educated, and experienced) in is writing. So it made sense to me to take what I’ve had a ton of experience in, working for private companies, and a ton of education in and make a go of it as a freelancer.

The most interesting thing thus far is dealing with the lack of external deadlines and direction. My preferred method of work is for someone to tell me what they want, when they want it, and then leave me alone until it’s done. Now I get to decide what I write, and I’m writing uninterrupted, but there’s no when decided for me!

Everything I’ve read/studied/heard about freelance writing says that it’s hard. Rejection comes often, and the work is a grind in every sense of the word. But then I’ve also heard that if you love writing (and I do) that it’s worth it.

So here I go! And if you know of any blogs or magazines or businesses who could use a good writer for some good content, let me know. 🙂

This is Hard.

I’m having a particularly rough week. It’s been a month since I stopped working and the reality of being forced back into a one-income household are staring me in the face.

There’s been a lot of laying awake at night, wondering what I did wrong. I’ve spent a huge amount of time pondering life’s questions between 1:30 and 5:00 in the morning.

Much of this situation is necessarily tied to family building. How will we have enough to adopt, now? And if I start a new full time job, we’ll probably have to wait at least another year before I’ll qualify for any kind of leave. If I don’t work, we don’t have the funds to adopt a baby. If I do work, we don’t have the time.

There’s not much else in my head right now. Just those thoughts, and a vague attempt at coming up with something that will fix what seems to be an impossible situation.

Rough week.

Do Your Job

Aka: How to shut up and keep a paycheck.

Work kicked my butt last week, figuratively and literally.

There was a giant event that was 100% my responsibility to plan, execute, and run. And, while I have done this kind of thing before, it was the first time with this group – as they continuously reminded me. Unlike previous experiences, this group is mostly a lot of type-A micro-managers.

by Evil Erin on Flickr
{image by Flickr user Evil Erin}

Challenging.

Several times during the last two weeks I was reminded of an old family-favorite story of a certain blue-collar fella’ who spoke some truth during a post-event celebration at a local bar. This guy was way past the “work appropriate filter” stage, so when someone mentioned the reigning supervisor, we all got this gem in response:

Oh he is SO a boss-and-not-a-leader.

So-a-boss-and-not-a-leader has become a catchphrase in my family. It’s a way to communicate someone who is happy to be in charge, with the power and accolades that come with being the boss. At the same time, it describes someone who avoids getting their hands dirty, avoids the hard decisions, and generally fails to inspire.

For myself, I tried hard to be a leader. Worked my tail off, got down and dirty. Delegated appropriately without standing around watching others work. On more than one occasion in the last 24 hours I had to bite the crap out of my tongue to avoid verbal attacks. It’s tough to maintain a “respectful” presence when you’re tired, sick, and frustrated.

Doable, though. I know because I did it.

The event went well – smoothly and without any major hitch. All the bosses were pleased. I had some valuable learning experiences I can use going forward, including some humbling moments. Always tough to realize I’m not *quite* as incredible as I secretly believe myself to be.

All told, the event was a definite, solid WIN for me. I don’t celebrate those enough. So this post it an attempt to do that in some way: document the difficulty, document the win.

Today I’m sequestered in my living room with some serious respiratory issues, glad I didn’t mic drop and quit my job mid-week last week. A steady income is a glorious thing. Paid sick days are also wonderful.

It turned out okay. I didn’t die.

WIN.

by kitty.green66 on Flickr
{image by kitty.green66 on Flickr}

Back to Work Hardcore

I’ve been working my little buns off lately. It’s interesting to be in a place where I have close to ten years work experience under my belt and am a bit of a badass when it comes to my job. Definitely not the best but not the worst, either. And I’m pretty good at delivering.

Amazing how much a change in scenery can do for the ol’ self-confidence. It’s not a rainbow unicorn or anything, but it’s a good job for good people and I’m good at it.

That’s good.

Weekends are now my “creative” time, since the week is literally filled to the brim with work and life-around-work. At least a few hours every weekend I hole myself up in the “office,” which is really just a giant craft room, and make something. Usually doesn’t amount to much but it keeps me happy.

I’ve been trying to convert some of the sketches I did earlier this year into digital art to put on Etsy. A few have made it. Mostly I don’t have the patience to re-draw things in the computer. I already drew them once! ADHD! Moving on to new crafts! But I’m trying.

I’d also like to get back onto recording and posting regular podcasts. I was doing one with a friend and one where I read short stories. I’ve neglected that little corner of my universe and I miss it.

K, bye!

I Bought Some Tieks

After a few days at the new job, I started a meaningful hunt for comfortable flats. Heels have never been a good option for me. Even knowing this, I tried some short heels a few times last month.

Confirmed: heels are not a good option for me.

However, I only had two or three pairs of flats I could wear into work because I’ve been freelancing for over a year. I have cycled out a lot of my office-appropriate clothes. But I knew where to find affordable, cute flats.

At this point, Tieks were on my radar but too expensive to justify buying. The cheapest pair comes in right under $200. That’s a LOT for any shoes, especially flats.

first pair of tieks review | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

THEN I got a standing desk. And everything changed.

Standing in $10 flats for 6-8 hours is bad. It’s just bad. It’s a whole new level of discomfort and shoe-failure. So I began doing some in-depth research on Tieks.

I read a lot of blog reviews, scoured their site for information, and polled friends and family to see if any of them had input. What I read and heard was enough for me to take the plunge and buy the basic matte black to try. I figured if they weren’t as great as some folks said at least I could cycle them into the not-great flat rotation.

first pair of tieks review | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

Nutshell: I’ll be buying more.

First let me say that I was prepared for excellent packaging. In fact, this seems to be almost a cult delight, online. Just do a search for “Tieks packaging” and see how many hits come back.

first pair of tieks review | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

Bandwagon-jumper-on-er right here. The packaging was pretty, personal, and made it truly fun to unpack. It felt like a Christmas box that’s well-wrapped and has multiple little fun things buried inside.

There was a flowery elastic band around the box. If I had longer hair or kiddo girls I’d use it as a hair bow!

first pair of tieks review | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

There were two different printed things inside the box. One was a little brochure, with a diagram of the shoe’s composition. It highlighted the soft Italian leather, the two-part sole, and the stitching elements. I’d seen all this on their website so I set it aside in favor of the handwritten note that was also packed in the box.

first pair of tieks review | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

The handwritten note was unexpected. I have never ever received a product from a mass-production company that included a handwritten note. As someone who still tries to get out thank you notes after holidays and birthdays, this was a special (and super-positive) touch.

(Side note: Tieks plays up that blue-ish sole with use of the phrase “blue prints” as a stand-in for “footprints.”)

first pair of tieks review | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

Matte black flats folded into a teeny pile came next, followed by a tiny bag that expanded into two bigger bags. Tieks says these bags are for shoe switches. I imagine this is for folks who wear much more complex or heeled shoes to events and things. I will not be one of those ladies so I might find another use for those bags.

I love how small that big bag can get when smooshed up into its little carrying sack!

 

first pair of tieks review | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com first pair of tieks review | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

By the time I put the shoes on I’d spent 10 minutes with the box, being delighted by the packaging. Definitely a good set up because I was already happy by the time the shoes went on my feet.

first pair of tieks review | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

I walked around a bit, and was pleased. They stayed on my feet for an hour or so that evening and then I wore them to work the next day. This was the litmus test. I stand for most of the day, these days, and had been dealing with profound aches in my calves and hips by early afternoon every day (in my cheap flats).

first pair of tieks review | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

Guys, no major aches or pains in the Tieks. I was sold after the first day at work, but I wore them again the next day to be sure.

What it feels like is closer to bare feet than any other shoes I’ve worn. The leather is very soft so my feet can spread out when I’m standing. The soles are supportive – this pair of Tieks is a better walking experience than my Dr. Scholl’s flats. What I personally really appreciate is that the back heel is rigid – not elastic. Every pair of flats I’ve ever tried with an elastic back heel has resulted in blisters. For as bendy as the Tieks are, that back heel is not bendy and I so appreciate it.

first pair of tieks review | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

 

I wear a half size but I bought a size up (to the next full size) because Tieks only does full sizes. Tieks generally recommends going down if you are a half size unless you have a wide foot or you are kind of between a half size and the next size up. Because I knew I’d be standing, and my feet would need room to spread, I went up to the next full size.

 

Also, I have a bunion on one foot. It’s not too extreme but it gets in the way with narrow flats and can sometimes end up being painful, especially if it’s rubbing against a seam all day. I figured if I went with the next full size in the Tieks, the bunion would be a non-issue.

I haven’t noticed any extra pain or discomfort from that foot, which means the bunion is content.

first pair of tieks review | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

One thing I will note, that other reviews have commented on, is that I can see my big toenail through this leather. It does look kind of weird, mostly because that’s the kind of thing I see in light slippers or house shoes, not flats or work shoes. However, for me it’s not too noticeable or distracting.

The reason that big toe is visible is because the leather is soft and has a lot of give. This is the same characteristic that allows my feet room to spread out while I’m standing and walking, and for me that is a fair trade. I suppose if I was wearing these as fashion (rather than as work attire) it would bug me more. As is, it bugs me zero percent.

 

So, to recap: I’ll be cycling out my other flats and replacing them all with various colors and styles of Tieks. I’m convinced that, for me, they are worth the price tag.

Hope that’s helpful. And do share in the comments if you have tried these shoes before. I’m still curious about other folks’ experiences.

The Signs are There

I need caffeine at work. There’s quite a bit of stuff jumping around in my brain at any given time.

Coffee I cannot do a lot of. It moves me, if you catch my drift. So I’ve upped my intake of my all-time favorite drink. The limit is three per day. Usually I only drink two.

Here’s what my wastebin looked like at the end of my first week.

diet coke | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com