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Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Resolution check

So, before I set new resolutions, I have to see whether or not I actually did anything I was supposed to in 2015. Probably not. That's usually how I roll.

Let's see.

10) Stop smoking
0 pts.

9) Stop biting my nails (for real, this is ridiculous)
0 pts

8) Go to the gym 3 times a week
Mehhh, no.
0 pts.

7) Eat three meals a day and drink at least 4 glasses of water a day (I need to start feeling better).
Nope. I mean, I kept this up for like 4 months, but not enough.
0 pts.

6) Publish 100 pieces.
0 pts.

5) Graduate grad school
1 pt.

4) Make $350 a week
Yes. ~$500
1 pt.

3) Get a book deal off proposal
Hmm, nah. But things happened and such. This isn't dead, just paused.
0 pts.

2) After school, get a job or increase earnings to $600 a week
Well, like, I just graduated, so...I mean, I got a teaching job? I'm going to give me this one.
1 pt.

1) Finish one of the many books I have floating around that are started and left for dead.
0 pts.

Three out of ten.
Let's do better next year, eh?


5) Keep them at being nice human beings 75 percent of the time (this is too new for me to trust it).
NO. We had like a major slide. They're just coming around again, but they dropped to like, 25 percent for MONTHS. It was bad. Like really hard.
0 pts.

4) Get them up and ready in the morning quickly and quietly.
Nope. But with my husband's help, this will be achievable this year.
0 pts.

3) Make them do chores every single day. Remember to pick chores back up after sickness
Hmm, yeah, I'll give me this one.
1 pt.

2) Have them read every day.
Yes. But not counting weekends.
1 pt.

1) Get them over this intense competition.
0 pts.

Two out of five.

So, like, not the best year for resolutions. But you know what? It was a really great year, so I don't know what these resolutions are talking about.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Freelancing Numbers - Year 1

At the end of my first year of freelancing, I thought some numbers and stats might help others.

This year, I made $23,833.19.

My lowest income month was April: $735
My highest income month was July: $4,566.81

On average I made $1,986 a month.
That's $496.52 a week.

Remember, though, I still have to do my taxes. So take-home is like two thirds of the total, right? Which leaves me at: $15,729.91.

Okay, so not great. Definitely not great. On the other hand, way better than ZERO. So, that's good. We'll say it's a good start.

To get to that amount, I published 80 pieces this year.

My highest number published in a month was October with 12 pieces published.
My lowest number in a months was February with 4 pieces published.

On average, I published 6.7 pieces a month.
That's 1.5 pieces a week.

In terms of publications, I published in 30 different places, including websites, newspapers and magazines.

The most pieces I published for one place? 17.

The lowest I wrote for was free. I wrote two piece for free this year. Not counting that, $50.
The highest check for one piece I received this year was for $1165.50.

On average, I made $297.91 a piece. (This number skews high because I counted a few reprints and some blogging revenue in my yearly total.) So, let's probably say I made about $250 a piece this year.

Let's talk pitches, rejections and acceptances. To publish my 80 pieces this year, I sent out 329 pitches. I was rejected outright 128 times. I was accepted 97 times (some are still in edits, and some were killed, which brings the published list to 80). I was ignored 104 times (which is a silent rejection, obviously).

So, my percentages work out like this:

Accepted: 29% of the time
Rejected: 39% of the time
Ignored: 32% of the time
Total Rejected: 71% of the time.

I was accepted 29 percent of the time. I was rejected 71 percent of the time.

Please, please, please know that of all the times I was rejected, I never gave up on those pitch ideas. I pitch until an idea is accepted or simply cannot be spun any further.

I've had pieces rejected 10-25 times this year which went on to be published in places like Time, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Vice and more.

Don't let rejections scare you. A piece can find a home. You can do it.

Good luck this next year, freelancers. We're going to rock this.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Stay Active with the Family This Winter -- S Post

The winter season can make you feel unmotivated to keep active as a family. In addition to shorter amounts of daylight, the cooler temperatures can disrupt your desire to spend any time outdoors. However, if you’ve been cooped up indoors, your family may be feeling the claustrophobic effects of the season with bouts of crankiness and pent up energy. The following are simple ways you can stay active with the family during the winter.

Embrace the Season

It’s difficult to embrace the winter season, especially if you live in a cool climate. It can be even more of a challenge to motivate yourself to exercise and stay active. As a family, it can be easier to welcome the darkness, snow and cooler weather when you shift your attitude. While summer can be filled with swimming, camping, cookouts and longer days, try finding things that you enjoy most about the season and write them down. When you’ve become frustrated with shoveling snow for the umpteenth time, take out your list and do something fun together.

Get Out and Play

Structured activities are nice, but did you ever just free your mind and body to let go? If you live in a warmer climate, it’s easy to find things to do outdoors. A game of tag, racing to the candy store or playing in the park can burn pent up energy. For those buried under cold temperatures, snow and ice, a fun filled snowball fight or making snow angels can be a playful way to spend some time outdoors with the family.

Community Involvement

The winter can be especially hard on those less fortunate. Community involvement can offer up some positive ways to spend some time together as a family. Chris Havlicek has some interesting holiday suggestions on how you can give back to the community. If animals are near and dear to your heart, you can teach your children the importance of helping out by playing with abandoned kitties at a shelter that are looking to get adopted. You may also want to bake holiday treats and bring them to a senior facility. Children who are ill may not be able to leave the hospital for Christmas. You can have your kids pick out presents for those who are sick and deliver them to the hospital. The joy that you see on the faces are sure to warm your hearts.

Take a Stroll

The holiday season is the ideal time to gather your friends and family together and stroll the neighborhood. Here you can get in a healthy walk, burn energy and look at the brilliant holiday lights displays provided by your community. You can also host a holiday caroling party. Send a note to your surrounding neighbors ahead of time, so they’ll be home to enjoy the music. Offer your home as a place where friends can get together afterward and have hot chocolate and cookies for refreshments.

Try Something New

The winter season is the ideal time of the year to try something new as a family. Whether your interests are of the outdoor variety or you want to stimulate your brain, get your children involved in the selection process. Assign each family member a day where they can choose what they would like to do. From museums and ice skating to snow sledding and hiking, you’re sure to find a host of possibilities.

Learn to Cook

No matter the age of your children, teaching them to cook is an important skill set that they’ll be able to use throughout their lives. Because you may be making heartier foods during the winter, they’ll be able to help you in the kitchen no matter if it’s setting the table, stirring or adding ingredients. Some ideal winter foods can include making homemade bread, stews, soups and baking cookies.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Christmas Play

Once upon a time, about six weeks ago, my husband sent me an email about a cute community play that could use a few extra young girls. My kids love acting, and they rarely get to do it. This was a free experience, and not too time-consuming (just one practice a week, for two hours).

Enter the worst parenting decision of my life.

It's not that the play is bad, or that it's run badly or that anything, actually, is bad. It's just a horrible fit for us. As dramatic as my kids are, they are not trained in the way of acting, and they're still at an age where structure and order is very important for their sense of peace and well-being.

And you cannot expect a group of lovely volunteers who do this in their very limited downtime to be able to provide that kind of structure and order. With just two hours a week to practice, and a dozen kids trying to hammer down their lines and costumes and props and cues in that time, unexpected messes are bound to crop up.

It's been an excellent crash course in learning to go with the flow, but it's not a course my kids have been able to pass.

And it's my fault. I know that should a chair be moved two inches from where it is "supposed to be" my children may have a problem with that. I know that if someone accidentally skips their lines, they may have a problem with that. I know that they have trouble existing in the same small space together for any length of time (ask my womb), without starting to fight to the death because they are just so sick of sharing every damn thing.

I knew all this. And I also knew that signing us up meant we couldn't pull out without putting the hard work of others in jeopardy, as they would be counting on us to be able to do our part. I knew this. And I signed us up anyway.

We've had some tantrums. We've had some rehearsals where I've had to drag one screaming twin outside, and some where we've left clothing behind because, dang it, it just got lost and we had to leave now or we risked tearing the whole theatre down with our seven-year-old angst. One of them had to go home wearing one sneaker this week. (The other has since been found, thankfully).

We've had arguments over the Christmas tree changing position, emergency wardrobe malfunctions, and line bumbling. We've had a dead pig thrown on our feet accidentally, causing panic and mayhem.

We've had hours-long rehearsals every day this week over the time when usually the girls would be eating dinner and after their long day at school. Exhausted and starving, how could I expect them to keep it together?

Tonight, however, is the big night. Opening night. The night where my kids will say their lines, and sing their songs, and hopefully go with the flow. Will it be the worst ever? Will we ruin Christmas?

I simply don't know.

But I do know that my girls have memorized the hell out of Carol of the Bells and Good King Wencheslas, so we've got to give it a go.

And no matter what happens, I'm proud of us all for trying.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Artificial Tree? Real Tree? -- S post

Guys, did you ever want to know everything about artificial Christmas trees?

I know I sure did!

So, here, without further ado, is a lovely infographic made by, um, hold on, I have to go look this up. OH! Tree Classics. I'm putting the pic they made up, though, because I actually tried some of their products, and they WORKED. So, like, I trust them a little.

This is probably our last year with a fake tree, so, better make the most of it, eh?

Hmm, maybe not that much of it. This is as large as it gets, so, like. GREAT.

I'll be back in a couple days with a real post though. I have had some thoughts recently.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The gun debate ended with Sandy Hook

Two months ago, exactly, on October 2, 2015, and lord knows how many shootings ago, I was particularly struck by one such shooting. The narrative surrounding it was that those of us sharing links and information and rallying against the rampant, inexcusable use of guns in this country were hard-hearted and hard-boiled for "not even letting the bodies cool." Because when people die via bullet, in a violent, sudden and excruciating way, we are to mourn their lives, not politicize the issue.

And I get that. I do. There's a point there. Well, there was a point there in 1996, anyway. But on Oct. 2, 2015, that point no longer stands. And so I wrote the following:

When a nation's people no longer mourn for those killed in mass shootings but jump straight to indignation and politics... 

What is wrong is that our human experience dictates we digest news with horror, shock and sadness when that news is shocking and against the grain of our narrative. It knocks the wind out of us with how far it strays from the normal. 
The reaction of the people to this story is the most compelling argument for change yet...IF YOU DON'T COUNT THE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS KILLED. 
It marks not a lack of morality and prudence of the public but the addition of gun violence to the daily normality in America. 
That is why we shout and share links. 
We are sad, too. But there is no decorum in a time of guns and bloodshed. In a time when I open my computer and in just a year, have gone from OH MY GOD to, fuck, another one. 
This needs to stop. 
When a nation's people no longer mourn but shout, there is nothing wrong with the people. There is something wrong with the nation.

Two months ago. SIXTY shootings ago.

Today, there were two more. Bringing the total number of shootings to 355, more than there have been days in this year. More than one shooting a day. Check it. Here are the stats.

We need to do more than share links and shout in outrage. We need to call our representatives. We need to let our leaders know that their jobs depend on their stance on the gun debate.

Because right now, we don't have a gun debate. We have a people living in a dystopian nightmare, eating cake and watching circuses to ease the national pain of thousands of deaths of our own.

I may have said something two months ago.

But Dan Hodges of The Telegraph said it best SEVEN months ago. He makes a point so poignant and true, it takes my breath away to think of it.

"In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over."

Just think about that for a moment. Really let it wash over you.

"In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over."


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