Fast and Fun Thanksgiving Craft with Your Kiddos!

If you’re like me, Thanksgiving snuck up on you this year. If you’re looking for a fun project, try Joann’s Turkey Napkin Rings!

They were quick and fun. I had to help with the fabric glue so my soon to be four year old didn’t have felt stuck to her dress, but she enjoyed cutting (with supervision), putting on the googly eyes, and of course, showcasing the finished project.

I will say, make sure you hold the felt carefully for multiple minutes (we had an eye pop early on!)

Overall, this was fun (fast) and will be perfect for any Thanksgiving table! (Also, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so it was hard to give up the reins and let her do her own cutting!)

If you have a crafty kid (or you’re a crafty kid at heart!) this is a perfect way to celebrate!

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Shop for Gifts and Support a Child in Need

If you’re like me, you’re hard at work making a list and shopping for holiday gifts for your friends and family. If you’re really like me, you’re selective about where you shop. My favorite places are small businesses and those companies that support an amazing cause.

Beyond Beanie is one such company. When you purchase from them, you’re not only supporting a an Artisan in Bolivia, but you’re also helping a child in need. The purchase of one beanie=5 meals, one bracelet=dental care, one bag=a set of school supplies and one poncho=one school uniform.

If this isn’t enough to help you make a purchase, how about a discount code? Use code JULIAKAY25 for 25% off your purchase.

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I've gone MIA...for a good reason!

If you’re a follower of this blog, I’m so grateful.

Though I set a goal to write at least every other week, I’ve gotten swamped, and it’s all very good—I hope to get back to my blog schedule soon, but in the meantime, I’ve been working on some amazingly meaningful articles for me personally at adoption.com, and having a blast with my other freelance work, which you can check out here.

Also, I work at a university and for the first time in a few years got back into teaching on top of my other position. Not to mention, my daughter started PRESCHOOL this August. It’s all been a whirlwind, but a great one (with a quick trip to Disney thrown in the mix!).

In the meantime, if there’s anything in particular your’e interested in me writing about, don’t hesitate to ask!

Patience is a Virtue...But It's Hard When You're Waiting to Reach Your Dreams!

Full disclosure: I'm 37 years old and it's only been in the past year that I've been in a job that doesn't feel like work: one that I'm passionate about. I also have the ability to do something else I've wanted to do for a long time: write! 

I've had the opportunity to chat with a lot of 20 somethings about what they hoped their life would be like and how they hope to get to a place of career and personal satisfaction. It isn't always easy.

This didn't come to me as quickly as I always wanted. 
My career is the product of 22 years of education (yup--12 years of school like everyone else, but then 4 years to earn my BS, 3 years to earn my MA while I was teaching HS full time, and then 3 years in a PhD program, while I was also working and adopting my daughter!) I've also worked in other positions that weren't necessarily my dream job, but that gave me the vital experience I needed to be where I am today. 

I've Been Realistic
I've spent most of my career in education. I know that "world" works and that you have to get certain credentials and degrees. I've also always wanted to write for various publications--again, you have to pay your dues, get experience writing, etc. A lot of people in my life have been a little "too" encouraging and maybe weren't always realistic, so it was important that I was!

I Didn't Give Up On My Dreams (And I'm not "waiting to retire" to do things!)
I have never given up on my dreams and goals. Ever. I just understood I had to do certain things to make my way to where I am today and I've always been writing on the side to build up my portfolio of published articles. It wasn't easy and going to graduate school while working wasn't easy either--but it's what got me to where I am. In talking to a 25 year old recently, she said she wanted to do other things too like travel, but her parents encouraged her that those were things she should wait to do until retirement. I don't prescribe to that notion. I am of the "work hard play hard" thought. I want to do things now, so I plan dream trips regularly with my family--time isn't promised to us and depending on your career path, retirement may not come when you expect it to. 

Everyone reaches their goals at different times--you can't base your life off of someone else's, but you also shouldn't be discouraged if you're not where you thought you'd be..you'll get there!
 

The Not So Glamourous Life of Freelance Writing (And Why It's Still Worth It)

So many people have a misconception of what it's like to be a freelance writer. Though I wish my life was like Carrie's in Sex and the City, writing in bed, enjoying luxurious lunches out with friends, and being widely recognized for my talents, that's not always the case. I love writing and I have another job, so this in essence is my side hustle, a way for me to fulfill my other passions and in some small way, make a difference or an impact in a way that's therapeutic for me. However, there are some things that people just don't get.

1. You Spend a Lot of Time Writing....and not all of those hours are billable! I spend a lot of time writing articles, editing them as various editors see fit, and ensuring that the people I interview are represented accurately. Sometime, it's all for naught. Recently, I did $200 of work for a publication only to find out they're folding. Hopefully I can place the articles elsewhere or that the media company will make it right, but more than likely, I spent time that could have been spent elsewhere on a project that no one will ever see.

2. No one gets "working from home." The reality is that when I'm working at home, I'm working. People often assume when you're working at home that you have loads of free time. On days that I'm writing, I'm often searching for sources, conducting interviews, doing research, and editing. I also contribute to Tasteofhome.com, so sometimes, I'm even cooking!

3. You are your own Advocate. If I want my writing to be seen, I have to get it out there. I share my articles on social media, talk to others about them, etc. Though the publications themselves often share the content on their social media, it's not a given. You also have to check in on pub dates to ensure that the people you've interviewed are notified, etc.

4. You can't control what goes viral. I've seen some of my articles picked up by social media and be on the front page of MSN and Yahoo and it's never what I expected. Some of what I think is my best work has the least amount of views! But, all press is good press!

5. The Pay isn't What You Think. I recently met someone new to the freelancing world who expected to make $1000 per article. That's not realistic. Some publications pay $20 per article and some, pay in the hundreds. It depends on the need, etc. Of course, very well known authors pull in more for their pieces, but publications are paying staff writers a salary, so tend to rely on them as well for content.

6. People reach out to you a LOT to Promote their Products. I don't always mind this, particularly if I believe in the product. BUT, I have to try anything I promote. I wouldn't tell anyone about something that I didn't believe in and it can be frustrating to go through emails and answer phone calls from people who want you to pitch their new hotel or product without letting you try it first. (That's unethical in my book and I don't do it).

Though this may seem like a rant, it's not. At the end of the day, I love writing. I love sharing people's stories, and I love having the ability to earn a little extra money each month while still holding down the fort as a wife and mom and have another job I love. Freelance Writing is totally worth it, but you need to be realistic about your expectations!

Why I Knit...and why you should too!

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Pictured above: Me, wearing a winter shawl and my daughter enjoying the Faded Blanket I finished in early June.

I have been crafting for quite some time. First, I learned to crochet as it was a fun thing to do when I spent the night with my grandma to keep her company when my grandpa passed away, but I picked up knitting when I realized how beautiful garments looked knit.

For me, I prefer to knit beautiful things that are also functional. Knitting a few rows after a long day at the office or a trying day with my kid is the BEST stress reliever. I also love it because I can binge TV and work on a simple pattern without feeling like I'm wasting my time.

Sure, it can be expensive, like any hobby, but it doesn't have to be. I prefer hand dyed, superwash yarns that tend to cost a little more, but I enjoy texture and color, so aesthetics are important to me.

Many people think it's crazy when they see me knitting at a sporting event or at the park while my daughter plays, but there's real satisfaction in completing something that you made yourself or even giving a gift to someone that is unique, one of a kind, and that was custom made with them in mind.

The reason you should pick up knitting? You're more connected. I can focus better when my hands are busy, so I'm a better listener. When I'm knitting, I'm not on my phone and people around me have my attention. It's one of the few hobbies that is totally portable too, so again, when you are sitting in a waiting room, commuting, or even dining alone and waiting for your food, you always have something to do that doesn't require your phone!

Want to learn to knit? My favorite yarn stores are: Knitting off Broadway, Argyle Yarn Shop, Purl Soho, and Starstruck Cat Studio!

This Summer's Priority: Taking Care of Myself First

Summer is a fun time of the year, from time at the lake to road trips with the family and countless hours outdoors. However, with that comes with, in my opinion, stress thanks to: organizing food for get-togethers and events, packing bags, keeping everyone in swim gear, and of course, doing this while working and keeping up with kids' busy schedules.

This summer, I've made taking care of myself a priority as well since I can't take care of everyone else the way I feel I should, (I'm type A!) until I've taken care of myself.

Here is my self care plan:

Read books that nourish my brain and help me Manage my Life
I'm a reader. I carve out reading time nightly into my schedule because I like a good story, but I also like to be educated and read things that benefit my personal and professional development. Enter Your Oxygen Mask First by Kevin Lawrence. This book is amazing and so easy to read. With key points, and personal stories, and activities, this book offers input on not just how to make it through your life, but to thrive. Being a leader isn't easy, but it's more manageable when you have the right tools.

Taking Time to Hit the Gym
You, like me, may have a job and a family and may have to get a pretty early start to make a work out happen. I get up early to go to a 24/7 gym in my town at least three days a week. Lately, I've been wanting to do classes as my personal routine has felt mundane but it's just not possible with my early morning routine. I started to use Aaptiv. This is a great way to "take a class" without actually going to one. You can do these workouts at home or at the gym and with your choice of teacher and music, you, too, can take a class at your leisure!  Since I'm still recovering from a fairly serious ankle sprain, I've only been cleared to do the exercise bike, but I'm looking forward to trying the elliptical workouts soon!

Carving out Me Time
I am lucky to have an awesome spouse and amazing babysitters in my life that allow for me to take time at least once a month where I'm not at work and doing something I enjoy. Whether it's going to Board and Brush or seeing a movie with a friend, or just doing some solo shopping without a toddler, this gives me a chance to breathe!

Adding one thing I Enjoy into my Planner Daily
I realized that when I wake up and look at my to do in my planner, it's often filled with things I have to do. Some I want to do, but not all of them! I've made myself write one thing that pleases me in my planner each day, whether it is to squeeze in some knitting while my family watches tv at night or even do an activity with my daughter when I'm off of work, having one thing to look forward to makes the day more manageable.

What tips do you have for putting yourself first?
 

 

Just Because you Love Being a Mom, Doesn't Mean Women Who Aren't Are Less

We live in a world of constant sharing, GIFs and memes. Recently, I've noticed a trend on my Facebook feed of moms sharing memes about how the only life worth living is one where a women is married and has children.

Though I love being a mom, there was a time when I wasn't one not that long ago and wasn't sure if I was going to be one. Seeing posts like this was heart breaking. Why were my contributions to society less valid due to the fact that it might not be possible to have children?

I have a variety of friends--women who haven't met someone they want to marry yet, women who are choosing not to parent, stepmoms, foster moms, and women who haven't been able to conceive but are desperate to be mothers.

To me, sharing a post that the only worthwhile role for a woman in the world is to be a mother is worse than my other pet peeve (mom shaming). Not everyone is choosing the same life path, and that's ok. And for a lot of us, it has a lot less to do with choice.

#thinkbeforeyoupost