Thursday, September 27, 2012

You Know You Have Baby Fever When...

... you happily volunteer to babysit your friends' and family members' children.

... you start receiving catalogs from baby stores in the mail (after buying baby shower gifts) and actually look through them before tossing.

... you blurt out first names to your spouse and it's clear you are suggesting future baby names.

... you browse the baby section of stores for no reason except to look at the cute little things.

... you randomly Google questions about pregnancy and babies.

... you like to follow along with other people's pregnancies and keep track of due dates.

... you check out other people's strollers as you pass on the street.

... you actually like to look at people's iPhone pics and Facebook albums of baby photos.

... you somehow end up looking at the maternity section of clothing websites and thinking That's kinda cute.

... you come across various dressers, rugs, prints, etc. online and think That would be perfect for a nursery.

... you enjoy caffeine, booze, and all those things you'll have to give up when you're pregnant "while you still can."

... you think about the kind of father your husband will be someday.

Oh, the list could go on, but we'll stop now so my husband doesn't get too freaked out :)  Of course, I'm not saying that I do all these things (right? right!).

To be honest, I think I've had a touch of baby fever ever since we got married (ugh, this feels like such a confession), but for now, we're enjoying our time as a couple and will be very happy to start a family someday in the future.  And I know having a baby and raising a child isn't all cute and wonderful, rainbows and butterflies, but dang, I'm finding baby stuff absolutely adorable these days...

What other items would you add to this list?  Please don't tell me I'm alone in this "baby fever" thing!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Share Your Story: {av} of {long distance loving}

This is a guest post for the "Share Your Story" series (learn more about it here!).  And after ten inspirational weeks, this also marks the last post in the series... at least for the time being :)  Thank you to everyone who contributed!

Today, I'm excited to introduce you all to Alison a.k.a. {av} of {long distance loving}.  We met when she hosted the Blogger Blitz Chicago event this summer.  I love how she brings bloggers together and encourages a real sense of community.

Hello there! I'm Alison--otherwise known as {av}--and I blog at {long distance loving}. I'm thrilled to be a part of the Share Your Story series here on Inspiration and Rough Drafts! I am not a writer by trade, but it was fantastic to reflect on the last few years while writing this post...
We moved to Providence, Rhode Island at the end of June 2009. The move marked the end of our long distance years--and I couldn't have been happier to finally be in the same place as {cv}. Our first months in town were filled with job training and IKEA furniture assembly, so I didn't notice just how unhappy I was in Providence until the winter rolled around...

After I graduated from Georgetown, I managed to build a life in DC that kept my days filled and happy. {cv} and I developed an enjoyable and relaxing routine when I could visit him in Charlotte. When we moved to Providence, I loved the idea of finally being in the same ZIP code as {cv}. I had dreamed of it for so long. The problem was that I resented moving to a place where we knew no one and had to start from scratch. I struggled from the get-go to find my footing in New England and wondered if we'd made the wrong choice.

Being far from my friends and family began to take a serious toll on me. As a result, I traveled for weekends on end--some with {cv} and many without. I felt badly that I couldn't find happiness in our little loft in Providence. I didn't blame him, but I did blame myself for somehow being unable to find friends. I make friends on airplanes and elevators, but for some reason, finding them in New England was a different ballgame.

{cv} was a saint during all of this. He encouraged me to take classes at RISD and supported me in every random hobby I decided to take up. (There were a few, including but not limited to: sewing, interior design, and photobooking.) It wasn't until I started my blog (on a whim) that something finally stuck. I found a place to channel my creativity and meet new people, which made all the difference. When I look back on our years here, my attitude about Providence began to change soon after I started blogging. I know for certain that the daily practice of writing and challenging myself helped me overcome those early struggles.

It's a good thing too: {cv} and I are about to become permanent Rhode Islanders. (We'll break ground on our new home in the 'burbs in a few months!) Three years ago, I would have never expected this turn in our adventure, but now, I embrace it. Learning to love Rhode Island is one of the greatest obstacles I've overcome so far. I'm so grateful to be on this side of the mountain ;)

photo by Kate Headley

Alison lives in Providence, Rhode Island, with her husband {cv} and their two cats, Gus and Mr. Pinky. She will always call Indiana home and have a soft spot in her heart for Washington, DC, where she and {cv} met and got married. By day, she is in sales; by night, she blogs. When she isn't blogging, you'll find her running, pinning, volunteering, instagramming, traveling, tweeting, or polishing other blogs.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Becoming My Own Boss

Before starting my own business, I worked at a media agency.  In the corporate world, I had bosses "above" me in the org chart and associates working "under" me.  I was a part of a team, for better or worse.

My director brought in new clients and steered the strategic direction of our group.  My direct boss managed client relations and higher-level projects and processes.  My associates produced media plans and reports.  I supervised the media planning process, communicated with strategy teams, and conducted negotiations.

I'm making our job descriptions fairly simplistic... but please stick with me.

Now that I run my own business, I'm in charge of all of that.  I have to bring in new clients and assignments, steer the strategic direction of my business, manage client relations and higher-level projects, supervise the whole research-interview-write-revise process, communicate with sources and other businesses, negotiate and set my fees... oh, and actually do the work.

I have to (get to!) write and edit and consult... because after all, that's the heart of why I'm doing this.

I'm not complaining though.  Becoming my own boss has benefits that contributed to my decision to take this leap.  I can set my own schedule, choose my own projects, work on what makes me inspired and happy, meet new people, learn about topics that interest me, help others become more confident writers.

But all that freedom can be overwhelming.  I have to deal with the uncertainty that comes with being the only person driving my business.  Any growth or movement is up to me.  I have to make decisions and trust that they will lead me in the right direction.

I don't have everything figured out, but I'm learning as I go, trying new things, and discovering all the amazing possibilities.

For those of you who run your own business, how do you deal with the responsibility of being the sole person in charge?  For those who work for a company, how do you balance working as a team and growing as an individual?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Create.Compose.Communicate Newsletter Launches Tomorrow!

It's been a busy week so far.  Last night, I led part two of my college application essay workshop at an area high school.  And tomorrow is the launch of the Create.Compose.Communicate newsletter.

That's right, the first e-newsletter will arrive in subscriber inboxes tomorrow!

Sarah and I are so excited for this project (we've nicknamed it our "inspiration collaboration"), and we can't wait to share our expertise and love of writing with you.

This week, we're talking about how to identify your personal writing style.  It's all about pinpointing the elements that allow your unique personality and voice to come alive in your writing.

Thanks to those who have already signed up... we have lots of inspiration and information coming your way!  And if you haven't joined yet, you can sign up here!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Share Your Story: Jill Tydell

This is a guest post for the "Share Your Story" series (learn more about it here!).

I'm excited to introduce you all to my sister-in-law, Jill. She recently asked if she could write a post for this series, and I happily welcomed her to contribute. Her story warmed my heart!


Is there room for one more?

Five months ago, I did something I never thought I would do.  Those of you who know me know what I’m talking about.  I became a mom, or mama, mommy, even mum if you'd like.  I have never had anything against being a mom, but I had always felt that we were already overpopulating our once ample planet and consuming its ever-shrinking resources. There were already so many tiny little souls in the world without parents, without homes and without regular access to food and water; it was hard for me to consciously choose to add another.

Now that our son is here, I find myself reflecting on this new experience with humility.  I feel deeply grateful, but almost ashamed at times, that we are able to offer our son so much that so many other moms around the world cannot. He has his own room with a clean, brand-new crib.  Actually, he has brand-new everything: clothes, furniture, blankets, and humidifier.  His possessions grow daily.  I contrast this with my experience of caring for young mothers in Nepal during a recent OB GYN mission trip there.  Whole families live in one small room with no bathroom, no sink and no electricity.  There are no Pottery Barn cribs, organic cotton baby clothes, BPA-free bottles or “sleep sheep.”  There certainly are not video baby monitors to watch your little one sleep while you are off in your own bed.

Those are just physical possessions.  For me, the most humbling aspect is being able to provide his most basic needs without stress or worry of whether I am able to.  I drink as much clean water as I want each day.  I am able to nurse him when he is hungry because I can eat enough and drink enough to provide him with his nutritional needs.  He has clean bath water, clean clothes and a clean place to sleep.  Worrying about providing these basics is commonplace in most of the developing world, where notably, the majority of the human population resides.

Finally, I welcome the addition of the new mundane mom activitiesbegrudgingly at times.  The car seat carrying, the bottle washing, the diaper bag organizing and the bum wiping.  These tasks and chores remind me I am one very fortunate mama.

Jill Tydell is a family medicine physician who practices in Racine, WI.  She regularly participates in medical service trips abroad and appreciates the perspective this provides.  She lives in Illinois with her wonderful family and is honored to practice primary care medicine.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The People Who Help Me Succeed

My freelance writing business is still pretty young.  But I'm pursuing this dream career of mine with everything I have.  The journey is full of excitement and joy, as well as disappointments and uncertainty.  And I can't go through it on my own.

A lot of different kinds of people help me to move forward in my business.  In thinking about it, I could roughly bucket them into three groups (with a good amount of overlap, of course!).

People who believe in me.
This group supplies unwavering support and encouragement.  They believe I can do anything and know I'm doing what I'm meant to do.  They are my ultimate cheerleaders!

People who challenge me.
This group is made up of those who push me to think bigger.  They give suggestions, come up with ideas, and look at the big picture.  With their enthusiasm, they help me push past my fear.

People who inspire me.
This group includes some people I know personally and some I've never met.  I look to their amazing successes and stories for guidance, inspiration, and (sometimes) a reality check.

I'm so incredibly thankful.  I couldn't continue to grow my business and work towards success without ALL of these people--and all of you, my wonderful readers.  Thank you, thank you!

Now tell me, who helps you succeed?  Who believes in you, challenges you, inspires you?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Announcing... A Weekly Writing Newsletter

Back in July, I posted a survey to gather information on what you all want to know about writing.  I had plans to launch an e-newsletter with writing tips and information.

As the results of the survey started coming in, Sarah Koci Scheilz of Inspiration-Driven Life reached out to me.  She proposed that we join forces and collaborate on the newsletter project since two heads are often better than one... and together, we could share our knowledge and love of writing with more people.

Sarah is a freelance writer too and has her own business, Inspiration-Driven Communication.  (And she is currently in the midst of moving back to my hometown of Kansas City!)  We first connected via our blogs earlier this year and quickly became online friends, especially after discovering our common backgrounds and interests.  Over Labor Day weekend, we even had a chance to meet in-person for lunch while Sarah was visiting her family in Chicago.

Now, after countless emails, Skype dates, and phone calls, we are so excited to announce the project we've been working on over the past two months!

Create.Compose.Communicate is our weekly newslettera collaboration between Melrose Street Custom Content and Inspiration-Driven Communicationwhich will be full of inspiration and instruction on a variety of writing topics.  Whether you write for business or personal projects, we're confident that you'll find plenty of actionable information each weekideas that you can implement into your writing right away to make it better, stronger, and more compelling.

Maybe you think you're not a very good writer.  We want to challenge that mindset and break down the idea that writing is intimidating or only for certain people.

Or perhaps you think you're a pretty talented writer, thank you very much.  We would love to connect with you each week and share our mutual love of the written word.  And we're firm believers that writing is an area in which we can always improve, stretch, grow.

So please, I've love to invite you to sign up for the Create.Compose.Communicate weekly newsletter.  Join us in this writing adventure!  The first newsletter will arrive in inboxes on Thursday, September 20.

And if you ever have a writing-related question that you'd like us to address, shoot us a note at create.compose.communicate [at] gmail [dot] com.

So go ahead... sign up HERE.

Sarah and me, showing our school pride on game day (Missouri and Notre Dame, respectively!)

We'd also like to extend a big thank you to Megan Ibarra of Little Yellow Leaf for designing the create.compose.communicate logo!  She's also the designer behind the Melrose Street Custom Content logo and business cards, so it was amazing to work with her again on this project.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Share Your Story: Jillian of cornflake dreams

This is a guest post for the "Share Your Story" series (learn more about it here!).

I'm excited to introduce you all to Jillian of cornflake dreams. I connected with Jillian earlier this year when she hosted a Chicago blogger meet-up that I organized. And she recently got married... so be sure to check out the beautiful wedding and honeymoon pictures on her blog!


The summer after I graduated college I decided I wanted to move to Charleston, South Carolina. I fell in love with the city a few summers before, while I was on vacation. I was smitten with the palmetto palm trees, the laid-back beaches and charming historic downtown…not to mention the year-round warm weather. I grew up in Illinois and went to college in Wisconsin so I was very familiar with brutal winters, snow storms and huge down puffy coats. 

I was ready to ditch all of that and figure things out somewhere new. Alone. I didn’t know anyone in Charleston and the closest family I had in Orlando. Despite my parents (obvious) concerns – “You’ll be lonely, you don’t have a job! The South is a whole world!”  despite all of that, I was determined make my move happen. 
After I graduated in May and said goodbye to my best friends I moved back home. Ahhh yes... mom was right, it does take money to move. Dang. So that summer I worked two jobs—a 9-5 office position in the suburbs at a digital printing company, working as a customer service rep (HOLY awkward) and on the weekends i folded clothes at a jcrew factory store. Naturally, i ended up spending most my paychecks on clothes. Needless to say, that summer wasn’t very fun.
When I told people about my big plan to move they all asked me the same question—"WHY? Why would you want to leave Illinois? Why don’t you just move to Chicago?"  It was exhausting to explain my plan over and over again and to make matters worse my family bought a puppy the week before I was set to leave. really?!?

When Labor Day weekend finally arrived I packed up my stuff and my parents drove me across the country to my new home. I found a roommate online (my mom was terrified she’d turn out to be a crazy-cakes) but she was very normal and from the Midwest too (bonus!) I spent my first month scouring the web for an entry level marketing position but my search left me frustrated and nervous. most of the jobs were part-time or sales -- which i was NOT interested in. after another month of searching (and spending some quality time at the pool) i swallowed my pride and found a part-time position at the nearby banana republic outlet. 
i spent so much time (and money) getting to charleston and after just a few months i was running through my savings at record speeds. my roommate and her boyfriend were friendly and we made a few other friends but i desperately missed my best friends from college.  i was not prepared for post-college depression?! i use the word depression liberally but at the time it was a huge adjustment to be separated from all of your friends and get used to a whole new routine and environment. (whatt?! no wednesday happy hours? or sorority parties? or impromptu movie marathon dates?)
not all of my experience in charleston was negative -- i learned a LOT about myself and how to make myself happy. i explored the city and got into running and pilates. i realized that although i loved my family and friends and i missed them, i was capable of having a good time by myself. i was independent while i was in college but when was alone in a city i had to figure things out by myself. 
my search for a full-time job was not fruitful and after much debate i made the decision to move back to chicago. it turns out my best friend wanted to move from ohio and we decided it was the perfect opportunity to move to chicago together. i was BEYOND excited to return to the midwest where there were more full-time job prospects, friends and things to do. we moved into our vintage garden-view (ie: basement) apartment on one of the coldest days in january and weco couldn't have been happier. 
five years later, i still miss charleston - the weather, the quaint downtown and the southern cooking but i LOVE chicago. the city turned out to be a better fit for me --i'm sure it didn't hurt that i met my husband here, i have a job that i love and i've got all of my best friends in this city. in the end it means more to me to be surrounded by the people that i love rather than the climate and city i am smitten with. 

i really believe that things happen for a reason. i don't regret my decision to move to charleston...or to move back to chicago, things have a way of working themselves out. 

jillian of cornflake dreams 

Jillian is the voice behind cornflake dreams, a life and style blog about all the dreamy things in the city and travels abroad. You can connect with Jillian through her blog or via Twitter.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Off Switch Magazine - Volume Four

I don't know about you guys, but I'm ready for the weekend... though every weekend this month is BUSY.  Jam-packed with friends and family and fun.

As the work week winds down, I just want to share a quick announcement.  As you may remember, I contributed to Off Switch Magazine's Volume Two.  I was honored when editor Katie Michels reached out to me this summer to contribute again, this time for Volume Four.

My piece "Nature and Nurture" profiles three moms who have chosen to homeschool their children.  It was fantastic to get to know these women and have a glimpse into their lives while putting this piece together.  A big thank you for their openness, honesty, and passion on the topic of homeschooling. 

And I was thrilled to see that my article was one of five to be featured on the cover!

If you're interested in ordering a copy, you can pre-order Volume Four here.  Issues will start shipping next week.  Katie will also be at the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago this weekend.  Unfortunately, with a couple BBQs and a bridal shower on my weekend agenda, I don't think I'll be able to stop by... but it sounds like an incredible event!


Thursday, September 6, 2012

My 3 Secrets for Working Out Consistently

I've never been big into exercise.  During certain periods in my life, I've had success with working out on a regular basis, but those eventually end up being temporary phases.

Now that I'm working from home, I absolutely have to get moving more often.  Several steps back and forth through the condofrom the kitchen to the living room and from the dining room table to the couchsimply aren't enough.  Especially since I have full control of my schedule now, I have no excuse for not exercising.

And it's tough but I keep comparing my current weight with my wedding weight... which was a magical number that I somehow reached without really trying (and I wasn't even that stressed before the big day, so I can't attribute it to that).  I'm going to be totally honestmy current weight is almost 10 pounds more than my wedding weight.

Yes, weight is just a number, but remaining aware of that number keeps me on track.  And as I've stepped up the work-out routine in the past few weeks, I like to think the very slight decrease in those lbs. is a good sign... Even if the number is about the same, I believe I have more muscle and less fat.

I'm not saying I need to get back to my wedding weight.  What I am saying: getting in shape is a priority for me. (My diet definitely has some room for improvement, but one thing at a time, folks!).

Now, about those three secrets for working out consistently.  They aren't earth-shattering, but they work for me.

1) Use the buddy system.
When you make a date with a friend, you will show up.  It's a commitment.  It's scheduled.  And I love when exercise is social.  Walking + talking with a friend is especially awesome because it's efficientexercise and catch-up time all at once.  Virtual work-out buddies are great too.  Last year, my sisters and mom and I all logged our time spent exercising in a shared Google doc (at least for a few months!).

2) Set goals and/or follow a program.
My R.A. from college recently posted something about a couch-to-5k program on Facebook and I went out of my comfort zone and decided to join.  She and I, along with a few of her friendsall from different parts of her lifeare now keeping in touch via email to support each other and keep on track.  I'm also signed up for the Hot Chocolate 15k for the second year in a row and plan to train with a friend for the long walks, adapting this half-marathon program for our purposes.

In both cases, I'm setting goals (being able to run 5k, which is huge for a non-runner like me, and walking the 15k), I'm following a program (I don't wonder "what should I do to work out today?" because I have a plan), AND I'm doing it with buddies (tip #1).

3) Find classes you actually want to attend.
I look forward to yoga class at my gym.  The key was finding an instructor I liked and times that work with my schedule.  That way, I plan things around the class time and do everything I can to make it work.  There's no question of "should I go or should I skip?" because it's a routineand I truly enjoy it.

As a little incentive, I'd like to reward myself at the end of the 9-week couch-to-5k program with a Lululemon purchase or something along those lines.  A reward helps to motivate me, gives me a chance to recognize my accomplishment, and keeps me from buying things between now and then (ha!).

What tips and tricks do you have for sticking to an exercise routine?  I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Share Your Story: Katie Axelson

This is a guest post for the "Share Your Story" series (learn more about it here!).

I'm excited to introduce you all to Katie, one of my fellow contributors on The Write Practice. We've gotten to know each other over the past couple months via Twitter messages, email chains, the occasional Google+ Hangout session... and our writing.


A Girl Named Loser
I spent less than an hour with her almost eleven months ago. I don’t have a photo of her. Her facial features have become blurred in my head. Yet her words are forever etched on my heart.
“My name is Loser because I make mistakes,” she said.
My heart melted. For one hour, I was Loser’s English teacher. I was a guest speaker told to encourage, entertain, and teach Loser and the 35 other students in the Chinese high school English class. As a native English speaker, I was to convince them they could truly understand and speak English. We started with something simple: their names.
Individually, each student stood and told me his or her English name. I met students with some very creative English names: Snowflake, Bread, Kangaroo, Caterpillar, and Loser.
As a Christian, I wanted nothing more than to wrap my arms around the girl named Loser and tell her how much she means to her Heavenly Father. How much she means to me.
The communist government regulations prevented me from speaking openly about the Lord. Instead I told Loser it made me sad that she named herself after her mistakes.
Shortly after I met Loser, I met Hope. Hope said she believes in herself. I praised her healthy self-esteem and encouraged the other students to have a taste of it.
I continued my lesson, trying to engage with the quiet, rigid, militantly-dressed students of my very own Chinese class. We took a brief look at North American geography. I taught them HOMES—the acronym for the Great Lakes. We said the alphabet. They all paused simultaneously but not where native-speakers would pause. We sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” I taught them the difference between “mouse” and “mouth.”
To conclude the class, I invited them to ask me any questions they wanted. One student asked me to sing “My Heart Will Go On.” I sang the one line I know and acted out the rest. Another asked for my email address. I wrote it on the chalkboard and told the class they had to email me in English. I’ve never heard from them. One student asked if I wanted a Chinese name. Of course, I eagerly accepted; he wrote it down to help me remember it.
Loser’s hand went up. In that moment I had to decide between calling on her by name and calling a precious little girl a Loser.
I have come to realize that Loser has done something publicly that I’m only brave enough to do privately: she’s labeled herself by her shortcomings, her mistakes, and her failures. I’d much rather hide behind the fa├žade of having it all together.
I wish I would have concluded class by renaming Loser with a more appropriate English name. After all, that’s what Christ has done for me. When I see myself as “Unwanted,” He calls me “Beloved.” When I call myself, “Failure,” He calls me “Blameless.” When I say, “Outcast,” He says, “Daughter.”
Like my new Chinese name, it’s hard to remember but that doesn’t make it any less my name.
Katie Axelson is a daughter of the Lord who gets to serve as a professional writer and editor. She seeks to live a story worth telling, and you can often find her telling stories at, on Twitter (@KatieAxelson), and on Facebook (Katie Axelson Writer).


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