Category: Musings

My Guilty Pleasure Revealed

Life is stressful. If you’re me, you’ve got a kid, you’ve got a business, you’ve got appointments, and you’ve got to deal with people on a regular basis. It is critical that you take time to unwind. Take time for yourself. Get your head out of the real world. At least that’s what I have to do to get through each week.

Allow me to admit my guilty pleasure. Brace yourselves! I watch TV series in marathon sessions, thanks to instant video streaming. That’s right. I’m a Netflix junkie. And Amazon.com. And whatever else works.

I’ve watched Breaking Bad in a shockingly short period of time, Dexter, Melissa & Joey, and Star Trek. And I hate to admit it, but I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy, all the seasons, more than once. More than twice. Okay, okay. I have no idea how many times I’ve watched it. But living in these fantasy worlds, day in and day out, gives me something to do on a regular basis that has nothing to do with my life. It’s a relief, even when the subject matter is a bit…extreme.

Clearly I don’t work and watch my shows at the same time. That would obviously defeat the purpose. But I will break out my crochet hooks or knitting needles, and even sometimes my exercise bike, and settle down for mindless entertainment. And with Smartphone technology I can even take my shows with me wherever I go. Not necessarily a good thing, but if I’m waiting for my daughter to get out of a homeschool class that’s too short for me to get actual work done, I have something to pass the time.

I’m sure we all have our guilty pleasures. What’s yours?

Time for a change – What’s next?

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For the past seven years, ever since my daughter was an infant, I’ve lived in Tucson, Arizona. I can’t say that it was “home,” but I lived there for a chunk of time. I’d actually moved to Tucson from Atlanta, Georgia. Tucson made more sense at that time, when I was a new mother and I wanted to stay at home with my daughter.

Thank goodness Georgia didn’t mind me too much. Crayon Writer’s new home is back in Georgia. We drove across country and we’re starting over. How exciting and scary all at the same time!

What lessons did I learn in Arizona? I’m not afraid of spiders anymore, cactus can be beautiful (who knew that they have such wondrous flowers?), and the desert is nice year round…for the most part. I got to know the mother I became, and my daughter grew up in one of the most unique places in the country (nature-wise). I also learned that diversity isn’t just a good thing in nature. Tucson lacks racial and cultural diversity, so it was time to move back to a place that thrives on diversity.

On the horizon for Crayon Writer is pretty much what I’ve always said I wanted. I will homeschool or unschool my daughter, I will continue to work at home and grow my writing business, and I hope to hire an employee in the next 12 months. I’ve updated my business’ website, and I’ve created Facebook pages for this blog and Theda K. Communications. LinkedIn is also something I’m going to become best friends with.

Change is inevitable. Change is exciting. Change is renewing. So join me on my new adventures in a not-so-new locale.

What if the Internet went down?

Golden Gate crisis phone

Have you ever thought about what life will be like if we suffer some horrible calamity like a huge earthquake, meteor, or volcano? You’ve probably made lists of things you’d need in order to survive such a catastrophe.

But what about the unnatural disaster of the end of the Internet? Don’t ask me how it could happen. I’m not that well-informed when it comes to how the Internet actually works (though I have heard there is such a thing as a “kill-switch.” But I do know how much we depend on it.

So how would you survive if the Internet were to suddenly disappear? Here’s my top six list of things to do and things you might need. Just in case.

1. Telephone – If there were no Internet, we’d have to resort to using the telephone again. Luckily conference calls can still be arranged via telephone, so the Internet isn’t a total requirement for communicating. But then there’s keeping up with the stock market and local news. How would we know what’s going on on the east coast when we’re on the west? The telephone can convey a lot, but people sometimes talk without thinking. Email or Tweets can be written precisely, using the exact wording necessary. News dissemination would slow down to a crawl. People would have to call their brokers to make trades, and the stock market would have to go back to older methods to keep people up-to-date with the changes.

2. Telegraph - Maybe this won’t be necessary, but it can’t hurt. So go grab a telegraph machine from Ebay (before the Internet goes down, of course), and take an online class to learn how to send and interpret Morse Code.

3. Entertainment - Gone are online video games, watching online movies, and the like. So you’ve got to find some other source of entertainment. Maybe people-watching, or computer games on CDs, or charades with your friends, or even board games with your family. Be creative. Buy a real live deck of cards or chess set and have some fun.

4. Get out of the house – This may be a novel idea, but without the Internet, you may actually have to venture outside of your office or your house. You might consider going for a walk (or a drive) and visit friends you haven’t had to see in real life for a long time. Go see a movie in the theater, order pizza in-person and eat it in the restaurant. Go shopping in an actual store, and pay with actual cash (I think the credit card machines are connected to the Internet…I’m not sure, though…they do make that modem connection sound though).

5. Laugh out loud, for real – How often do you type “LOL” when you’re not really doing it? So get to it! Watch a funny movie, hang out with your friends (the ones you haven’t seen in years though you talk to them all the time on Facebook), and experience the joy. Then be sure to tell everyone, “LOL! In fact, I’m ROTFLOL!” And everyone will be able to witness this miraculous event.

6. Sunglasses/umbrella – These kinds of weather accessories are for your protection when you venture outside.

All jokes aside, I got to thinking about all this because I sat down with my laptop in a place with no wireless Internet. I sat there in front of my open computer, staring at the screen, trying to figure out what in the world I could do with no Internet. I couldn’t update my blogs, check my email, check my Facebook, play an online video game, watch an online movie, surf the Net, check on my grades for my class, read articles, check the weather, or read the news. I realized I really couldn’t do anything. Except open up a word processing program (Notepad seemed like a safe option), and write this blog post to be posted later.

We really do depend on the Internet. People send emails, use social networks, and talk “face-to-face” with webinars and Skype. This is how many of us stay in touch with friends, family, colleagues, bosses, and clients.

But imagine the thousands of people (or more) who rely on the Internet to make a living. (I actually hope to be one of those people.) Without the Internet, a lot of people would be out of work. People wouldn’t be able to move money around in their bank accounts (unless they called the bank or actually (*gasp*) went into the branch. Internet marketers, those who make a living from blog posts, Adsense, and affiliate sales, would quickly lose their source of income . People who have Ebay stores would suffer a similar fate.

What would you do if there were no Internet? How would your life change?

Adventures in sourdough

bread

One of the perks of working at home is getting to do creative, fun projects. My latest project is bread baking. Years ago, before I had a daughter, I used to bake fresh loaves of bread at home. After a while, I decided to try to make my own sourdough. I followed some directions I found in a bread-baking book, and it turned out pretty bad.

The other day I realized that my daughter was old enough to start helping me in the kitchen. I don’t really care for cooking, but I’ve always loved baking. My daughter actually loves both, and she’ll sit still for long periods of time watching cooking shows. So we started baking white bread.

But the sourdough bug hit me again. If you’ve never heard of the process for making sourdough bread, you may think it’s very hard. I wanted to do it authentically, and correctly, this time. No using packaged yeast to get it going. I wanted to grow my own yeast.

Want to know my sourdough starter process? On September 13, I mixed 1 cup of water and 1 cup of bread flour in a bowl (of course I let my daughter help). The consistency was a little like mud or thick pancake batter. I covered the bowl with paper towel (held on by a rubber band), and let it sit on the counter. 24 hours later I scooped out half of the mixture and “fed” the starter with half a cup of water and half a cup of flour. I did this every day for several days.

Now, in the beginning, like 2 days into it, I started getting lots of bubbles and the consistency changed to more goopy, and it started smelling wonderfully yeasty. I thought to myself, “I’ve done it! I’ve grown yeast!” That’s what the websites I’d been reading told me to look for. But then everything went flat, and the smell changed to more musty.

I scoured the internet for information. I seriously think I’ve now read everything about sourdough that there is online (well, not really…maybe just the page 1 results on Google). Thank goodness I didn’t throw it out and give up. It turns out that what I thought was yeast in the beginning was actually a bacteria that causes gas bubbles and such. All I had to do, according to the new research, was continue to “feed” my mixture every day (preferably two times a day, just like any other pet).

About 8 days into it, maybe 9 or 10, I finally got the real desired result. My starter smells like beer, it’s sour, and it doubles itself after feedings. I’m so excited! I even named it Penelope!

My next step is to finally attempt to make a batch of sourdough bread. I’ve been experimenting with regular white bread to get the consistency and softness that I want, so hopefully my practicing will result in a nice loaf of sourdough. And the research I’ve done should help me get a nice sour taste as well. I’ll keep you posted!

Do you bake bread from scratch? Have you tried sourdough? Did you make your own sourdough starter or buy it from a company?

Jobs for Single Mothers – A Look Back

mum 3

Being a parent is hard work. Single parenting is harder in some ways, and is arguably one of the most difficult forms of parenting there is – for a number of reasons.

One major issue is childcare and its associated cost. For children attending daycare, the costs can be enormous, especially when the parent makes a low income. According to the department of labor, women generally earn less than men, so income matters.

While staying at home is often a wiser financial decision (saving money on childcare), it’s difficult to find jobs for single mothers that pay the necessary bills.

Another problem for single mothers is the much-needed time off from work during the end of pregnancy or immediately postpartum. Though it’s illegal for an employer to fire a woman for taking maternity leave, it can happen, especially at smaller companies or for women who don’t know their rights.

And what about breastfeeding? Mothers get so many strong messages that “breast is best,” but maternity leave is usually only about 12 weeks…nowhere near the 1 year of breastfeeding recommending by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a far cry from the 2-year recommendation of the World Health Organization.

The Internet, for now, provides a way for single mothers to remain at home and have a more flexible lifestyle while raising children. Though I haven’t worked hard enough to make a living online, it is possible (according to the many “friends” I’ve met online…not all of whom were trying to sell me something).

People can work at home as virtual assistants, freelance writers/editors, bloggers, Internet marketers, call center representatives, medical billing workers, transcriptionists, and more. It’s all a matter of finding something you’re interested in, and having a financial cushion to help while establishing your business.

Here on Crayon Writer, I’ve sort of been spinning my wheels. I tend to try too many tactics at one time. I’m a wannabe blogger, freelance business writer, freelance magazine writer, and internet marketer. Some of that is simply my personality (I enjoy multitasking), but it’s also a sign of failing to make a decision.

If you work from home, whether as a parent (single or not), or not, did you make a decision to focus on one income stream? If you diversify, how do you give it your all with the various methods you choose?

Higher education

university life

A couple of months ago I finished my first semester in a teaching certification program at a local college. It was my first time taking online classes, and it was an experience. I found that I don’t really like online courses, or at least not the way these were taught. There was no classroom instruction. Rather, we were given a series of assignments to complete, based on our readings or classroom observations (if we were in a practicum course).

I think the program would be much better if instructors taught via webinars and video presentations. Students could then call in to the webinar with questions, we’d still have the opportunity to be lectured to, and we’d be able to interact with our fellow classmates.

Also, the work was incredibly easy. All we had to do was turn in assignments and we’d pass the course. Maybe I’m used to harder material and harder teaching methods, having gone to a “top” university for undergrad. Or maybe this program just isn’t that challenging (and maybe that’s the way they want it).

More recently I ran into problems enrolling in one of the courses. It was a week into the course and apparently once you’ve missed that much it’s too difficult to catch up. I pleaded my case – that I needed this course now in order to complete the program on time (and other reasons), that I was confident I could (easily) pass the course despite missing that week, and that it should be up to the student to take that (fairly low) risk. But it was a no go, which annoys me.

In order to help me reach my goals, I was offered a chance to take some classes if I signed a form promising to pay back any federal financial aid I received should I not fulfill a minor requirement (even if I completed, passed, and paid for said classes using that financial aid). Luckily, contracts class in law school (and the red flags popping up all around), made me refuse to sign the questionable document. I likened it to signing a blank check.

On the bright side, I think I’ve found a feasible way to make up for lost time by  taking a heavier courseload in the fall.

What’s interesting to me is how difficult it’s been to handle administrative things with this college, as opposed to undergrad and even law school. Perhaps it’s because it’s a small college. Or maybe times have changed since I’ve gone to school, and a college education is less about education and more about red tape. The last time I was in college was only about five years ago, though.

In any event, I‘ve learned a valuable lesson. If I want a higher education in this manner, I’ll have to take control of my own learning and anticipate the red tape ahead of time. Then I’ll be better prepared to argue my case when problems arise.

Have you taken classes at a small college? What about online classes? Has your experience been smooth sailing or rocky?


Print or online?

Walking on the papers

I read a lot of articles online, especially as a Twitter user, and it’s really interesting to learn so much. I even get most of my news online, I chat with my friends online, and more. I feel like the character in “The Net.”

But I am really getting tired of reading everything on-screen. I have multiple windows open so I can get back to an article later, I have tons of bookmarked pages (that I’ll probably never read), and it’s just too much.

I know that we’re supposedly headed toward a paperless world, but I sure do miss reading with actual paper in my hand. Pages to flip through. Ideas I can highlight with a pen. Eventual scrap paper for random thoughts that pop into my head.

It’s not feasible to print everything though. The sheer number of interesting things to read makes it impossible. But I sure do miss it.

Do you read mostly online or do you print things? What’s your system?


Back to school

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Going back to school while working on your freelance business may be a good idea. Your schedule is flexible, especially if you find an online program. And you can borrow money for your living expenses and tuition, so your work schedule can be eased a bit (assuming you were working in the first place).

About a month ago I took the plunge. Having been a substitute teacher for more than 8 years, I figured it was high time I got my teaching certification. I found an online program at a local small college, and things are moving along pretty smoothly. The only thing I didn’t count on was how much work an online program really requires. Because you don’t have to show up for class everyday, there are a lot of assignments to turn in.

But I think it’ll be worth it in the long run. If I need to have a “real job” at some point, teaching is a career that will allow me to mimic my daughter’s potential school schedule (vacations and such). At the same time, I’m more convinced than ever that I want to (somehow) homeschool her.

Time will tell. In the meantime, my days are filled with studying, taking care of my daughter, and servicing my clients.

Have you considered going back to school? Why or why not?