When Life Lessons Slap You In The Face

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In case you missed it, I work from home. After I birthed the tornado commonly known as Bean, I painstakingly developed my writing/editing business that, while it certainly doesn’t produce a full-time income, it fills in the cracks and lessens some of the month-to-month budgetary pressures.

But here’s the thing about freelance work–if you can’t advocate for yourself, you’re SOL because no one else will. After four years, I’ve learned many good but also many harsh lessons, including that some clients will never be happy, I need to own up to mistakes and do everything in my power to correct them, and that working from home means that you actually have to, you know, work.

This past week, however, introduced me to a situation that I finally realized is all to common for many women, and I believed I was better than. It also helped me see that I have a long way to go before I can be the kind of role model that my daughter needs.

So, let’s set the stage: I have a great client. This was one of my first clients, and we’ve had an incredible, long-term business relationship. Great client merges with larger company and that’s when the trouble starts. Great client is still my boss and the work is still the same. But new company now handles billing/payments/taxes. Soon, payments become sporadic, and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get new company to pay me in a consistent manner. Now, a logical person would have put her foot down months ago, but my inner-need to be a people-pleaser prompted me to keep working and let months go by with no payments. In fact, I’ve never been paid without having to ask (as in “could you please pay that two-month old invoice…pretty please?”).

Finally, this week, I essentially went on strike. I told great client that we’ve reached the breaking point, and that I wasn’t working anymore until I received payment and my long overdue tax documents. Right now, you’re thinking “good”…but let’s back up and see what the heck is wrong with this picture:

  1. Why in the world did I let this situation drag on for 10…yes, 10 months?
  2. Even worse, when I did go on strike, why did I feel the need to send an apology-laden, meekly-composed email that was basically a sugar-coated crap fest?

It only took me a few days to wake up (as well as some strong words from the hubs), and to realize that I was playing into every stupid stereotype we have about women in the workplace. As I waited and agonized, he repeated the same phrase over and over, “It’s business! The only person that’s making this personal is YOU!” Why was I fretting over a perfectly reasonably request? Why was I shying away from standing up for myself? But most importantly, why did I feel the need to apologize for asking that my client fulfill the most basic element of a contract?

What’s really pathetic is that, even with all my fancy (and expensive) education, and a plethora of strong female role models, I still approach advocating for myself with apologies, disclaimers, and deep, inner panic. Hubs is right in that I need to eject the emotion and treat business like business, and I need some serious self-awareness when it comes to this issue. I can teach my daughter to have determination, but how can I teach her to be her own advocate if she sees me apologizing my way through life as I ask for fairness?

So, I’m still on strike, and while I don’t want to lose my best client, I’m reminding myself that you teach people how to treat you. If I teach them that this is acceptable by not standing up, then I am giving them my permission to continue.

 

Finished Knits–“Molly” Hat and “Exploration Station” Shawl

I finished up a couple of knits recently, just in time for the end of the pathetic winter we had. It’s already unseasonably warm here, which make me anticipate summer with abject fear, If it’s nearly 90 degrees in March, what the hell will July look like? Time to switch knitting gears and decide what’s next.

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Pattern: Molly (Available for free on Ravelry)

Yarn: Berroco  Comfort Worsted in Burgundy colorway

Needles: US 4 and US 6, both circulars and DPNs for the decreases

Notes: Molly is a great, well-written pattern for a slouchy-fit hat. This is the second time I’ve knit it, and I just used leftover yarn from the Antler Mittens I made in December. Great pattern for advanced beginners.

ES 1ES 2Pattern: Exploration Station by Stephen West (Available for purchase via Ravelry)

Yarn: MadelineTosh Tosh Merino Light in El Greco, Betty Draper’s Blues, Black Currant, and Moonstone colorways

Needles: US 6  circular

Notes: I’m not a big shawl person, but something about this pattern kept me coming back for a second look. Stephen’s patterns are always an interesting combination of techniques, and some are more like artwork than what I would consider wearable accessories. This shawl, however, had so many interesting components I finally just had to knit it. It combines short row shaping, brioche, slip stitch rows and more. I learned a lot during this project (including that brioche knitting is not for me), and I’m happy with the final results after blocking. Overall, this was a really well-written pattern, and Stephen even put up a couple of tutorials on YouTube, which made it well worth the 6 bucks I paid for it.

Tasty Tuesday–Mom’s Pound Cake, a Good Book, and a Reworking of Priorities

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After two straight months of working myself crazy, I decided last week that enough is enough. While I’m blessed that I’m able to earn extra money while working from home, I’ve always sucked at that whole balance thing. When you add the post-holiday budget strain, I felt this maddening need to cram as much work into my days as I feasibly could, which was in direct contrast to my pesky resolution to not do that anymore. It’s so easy to slip into survival mode, and let your days fall into a continuous series of necessary tasks. Where’s the joy in that? None, I can tell ya.

So, rather than let my clients’ needs become my life, I’m enforcing a daily limit on my worktime so I can also focus on my home, my kids, and things I actually enjoy doing. That includes getting back in the kitchen.

So, it’s Tasty Tuesday, and since I’ve been felled by a cold/allergies that are slowly sucking the life out of me, I decided to stick with classic comfort. My Mom’s Pound Cake is oh-so-easy, and also a simple staple that was almost always on hand when we were growing up. It’s a basic, effortless recipe that everyone should have in their back pockets, and it can be repurposed in so many ways. For example, it can serve as the base for strawberry shortcake in a pinch, or you can go all Bobby Flay and throw it on the grill.

ingredients

Remember that, unless a recipe specifies differently, you should shoot for room temperature butter and eggs when baking. It helps your batters mix up and bake evenly, and is one of those baking tricks that separate the boys from the men. (not really, but if you’re gonna dirty up some dishes, why not hedge your bets for the best outcome?)

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Mom's Pound Cake

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks butter (preferably room temperature)
  • 6 eggs (preferably room temperature)
  • 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract (seriously, dude)

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a standard Bundt pan and set aside.
  2. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, or until you’re sure it’s not going to fly all over the place. Increase speed to medium and mix for 10 minutes, stopping once halfway through to scrape down the sides.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until done.
  4. Remove pan from oven and place on cooling rack for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto cake plate and let cool completely.

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Finished Read

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Speaking of cake, I just finished reading The Cake Therapist, which is the debut novel from cookbook author Judith Fertig. I picked this one up because, not only was the cover attention-grabbing, but the summary reminded me of Sarah Addison Allen novels, which I love. I truly enjoyed this book, and was impressed by her descriptive prose. The plotline resolutions could have been a little more satisfying, but overall, I’d definitely recommend it. Unless you’re on a diet, that is.