Finding Balance

Things have really picked up with my travel advisor biz this past week. I made several bookings — all for the same trip — including hotel destinations and tours. I now qualify to level up to advanced status, though I have to take the training and pass the exam first. I’m considering it. Though I’m not in any rush. After all, this is supposed to be my side hustle.

By the way, Project Expedition and Get Your Guide offer some fantastic tours if you’re looking for a day trip or even just a fun excursion for a few hours. They have all sorts of stuff, from wine/beer/food tasting tours, to historic walking tours, to river cruises, etc. Check them out — they offer tours in destinations around the world. (Those are my affiliate links, by the way, so I earn commission if you book something.)

Meanwhile, I continue to work on my content creation business. I got approval on Friday for an article concept I pitched to Jumble & Flow, so I need to write it now.

And now, of course, it’s growing season. The fruit trees are in blossom — even the apple trees that are basically at the end of their lives and didn’t produce any good apples last year. And the strawberries are blossoming, too, in the raised bed that we’re tearing down. LOL. (They’re not great strawberries. Small and squishy and not very productive.)

I feel like I’m far behind — partly because I’ve been so busy with work. And partly because the weather doesn’t want to stay consistently warm.

I’m trying right now to clear the asparagus bed so the asparagus can actually grow. The bed is choked with weeds (at least they’re pollinator friendly), so I have yet to see a single spear. It’s slow going since the soil is clay and we’ve had quite a bit of rain. And the weeds don’t want to make things easy for me.

The flower beds desperately need weeding, too.

I wonder how I’m going to get it all done. But I probably wondered that last year, too. And somehow we made it work.

Last Sunday, we watched a Cooper’s hawk in the massive silver maple next to our driveway. It was eating its kill – a robin. Though it apparently killed two robins because we had two neatly decapitated robin heads in our driveway. Ah, nature.

Hardly a video worthy of a nature documentary. And the hawk helpfully moved further away before I started recording.

Happy anniversary, Words in Bloom

A year ago today, I registered my business name with the state of Ohio. Happy 1st anniversary, Words in Bloom!

I was ill-prepared to start my own business on March 30, 2022. It was a long-term goal that I hadn’t given much practical thought to. But circumstances moved up the timeline before I had a chance to make any plans or develop any strategies for success. I floundered. I flew by the seat of my pants.

A year later, I offer some important things I’ve learned:

– Get comfortable with discomfort. This is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, and my anxiety is often through the roof. This is normal when you’re growing a business. (Self-care is INCREDIBLY important because of this. As my business coach once told me, self-care should be part of your business plan.)

– It’s OK to say no. The inclination when you’re starting out is to say yes to everything. You need clients. You need money. But if you say yes to everything, you’re not leaving yourself available for the opportunities you actually want to say yes to. Learn to be OK with saying no to prospective clients and projects that don’t make sense for your business. (This is a lesson I’m still learning, by the way.)

– Ignore the “overnight success” stories and all the people out there who insist you’re not successful unless you’re making a six-figure income. YOU get to define what success looks like for you.

– You will need to spend money to make money. Make sure you’re budgeting for the software and other things you need to run your business.

– Make connections with other business owners. They understand all the highs and lows and can be great sources of support and advice.

– Most importantly, STAY THE COURSE. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about giving up. Especially when a recruiter would contact me about some corporate role that was a good fit. Remind yourself why you’re doing this. Lean on your support system. I’m finally at a point where I’m seeing growth and feeling optimistic about the future. But it took many sleepless nights and a lot of tears to get here.

In other news, I attended the ACES conference last week here in Columbus. It was a great way to meet a lot of editors and learn new things about my profession.

Highlights for me: hanging out with Ellen Jovin of Grammar Table and getting to speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and NYT Bestselling author, Connie Schultz. I met her five years ago, but I didn’t get a photo to document that occasion. I made sure to get a photo this time.

The Game’s Not Over

My writing and editing business, Words in Bloom, will be a year old at the end of this month. I registered the name with the state of Ohio on March 30, 2022.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the first anniversary.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come close to going back to corporate — even as recently as last week. I was a candidate for what was essentially my dream job and the only kind of role I’d consider going back to corporate for. Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it.

Owning and operating a business is hard. It’s overwhelming at times. I was exhausted and didn’t feel I had anything left in me to give to this venture. I’m constantly bombarded with advice about what to do and what not to do and what I should read and what podcasts I should listen to and, and, and…

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Not to mention, all the freelance writers I’m seeing on LinkedIn and elsewhere who apparently make $10K+ per month. And a lot of that income likely comes from classes, coaching, books, etc. that they are selling in addition to their writing. (Do I do any of those things? No, no, I do not. See: exhaustion and overwhelm.)

But everything started turning around for me this month.

  • I got a regular, part-time freelance gig as a copywriter and editor with an educational consultancy. I started this week. So far, I love the people and I love the work. I have had a lot of experience in education (as an educator, tutor, writer, test evaluator, etc.), so this gig is actually a great fit for me.
  • Jackie and Mimi, the wonderful ladies at Modern Gen X Women, asked me in January if I would contribute to their new digital magazine. (Mimi was my business coach — I worked with her last summer/fall.) I agreed, and the first issue came out yesterday. My article appears on pages 40-41, and it’s about how I went back to grad school in midlife and what the experience was like. I attended the virtual launch party last night, which was ’80s themed.
  • I got an email from a lovely person at Subkit last week, asking me if I would like to be interviewed for their Entrepreneur series. The aforementioned Mimi recommended me. I agreed, and my interview went live this morning. (I need to look into Subkit as a resource to continue growing my business.)

I am anticipating a good amount of work coming from another client in the near future.

So, things are starting to look up, which has given me a much-needed boost of energy to keep on going. Maybe I will eventually get around to the classes, and the coaching, and the books. We shall see. (Maybe I’ll start with a monthly newsletter?)

Busy, busy, busy

Despite the slower pace of living in the country, life has been pretty fast-paced lately. I meant to update this much sooner, but I’ve been so busy.

Winter seed sowing in gallon jugs is underway. It’s been 2 weeks since I sowed the first of the seeds — salad greens — and those are the only seeds that have sprouted so far. All except for the Swiss chard. Gardening is really about experimenting anyway, so if this particular experiment doesn’t work out, I still have plenty of seeds.

I have 13 jugs on the porch right now. I will be planting tomato seeds soon.

It’s mostly felt like spring with the occasional cold day. Perhaps the groundhog was wrong. Though I suspect we’ll pay for all these warm days in the spring.

You may have heard about the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, two weeks ago. It made the national news, though if you live outside of the U.S., you may not know about it. My husband, who works for the state government, had to deploy up there shortly after it happened. He sent me this chilling photo as he was sheltering in place at an elementary school during the controlled release of chemicals a few days after the accident.

He’s home now, but he wasn’t given any protective gear while he was there — no mask or anything. Time will tell how devastating this will be on the community, but it’s already taken a huge toll, and I really feel for the people and animals who live in the area.

In other news, we’ve had a deer carcass in our yard that’s been dragged around by coyotes, I am assuming. (Honestly, what else could it be? Bears aren’t that common in Ohio — not in this part of the state, anyway.) Until now, it’s just been dragged through the wooded parts of our yard, but now it looks like it exploded. Fur and body parts everywhere, including the open part of our yard where I walk Blitz almost daily. I asked L to get the SD card out of our trail cam. He set it up so it was aimed at the carcass, hoping we might capture something exciting. Stay tuned.

Work-wise, I finally got my first travel booking. So exciting! A Trafalgar tour for 2 to Great Britain this summer!

As for the writing and editing biz, I am working on a huge copyediting project at the moment and have some other irons in the fire. Things are starting to pick up. Next month, Words in Bloom will celebrate its first anniversary.

I have jury duty coming up on Thursday. I have never had jury duty before. I need to call a day ahead to find out if I still need to report to the courthouse.

6 More Weeks

According to the Buckeye Chuck and Punxsutawney Phil, we have 6 more weeks of winter. If we’re talking about the actual season of winter, of course that’s true. If we’re talking about winter weather, I don’t rely on a groundhog for that information. It’s cold today, and that’s all that matters to me right now.

It’s a good day to stay indoors, make a batch of yogurt, and sow some seeds in anticipation of spring. I have 10 jugs to use for outdoor sowing. I want to try sowing lettuce, spinach, mustard, and chard to see if I can get some early baby greens for salad. And I will sow some native flowers as well. I will try tomatoes from seed next as I get more empty gallon jugs. (We go through a lot of distilled water, so I can accumulate them pretty quickly.)

Until spring actually arrives, I am enjoying the blooms on my amaryllis and paperwhites — post-holiday clearance purchases on a day I needed cheering up.

As far as work as been going lately — I have two travel articles completed that are in various stages of editing. Hopefully those will be published soon. I just joined the editorial team at ScribeConcepts as a freelance consultant. And I have a couple other projects in the pipeline.

I’m also very excited to be part of a new webzine launching next month for Gen X women. More on that later.

Also, I think I’m getting close to making my first booking as a travel advisor. (Fingers crossed!) I had no idea when I started this travel advisor journey that it would take so long to get my first booking.

Hoping February will be good to me, and I hope the same for all of you.

Busy, busy

It’s November, and yet it feels like September. Our temperatures for the foreseeable future are going to stay well above average. This gives us more time to get the work done outside that needs to be done before winter. And I’m still harvesting seeds from the zinnias and calendula.

Additionally, my writing/editing work is starting to ramp up. I have more opportunities and assignments, for which I am grateful. That said, I still have availability for new clients and projects!

And there’s something else…

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on

I’m now a travel advisor for Fora, and my training started on Monday. By the end of this month, I’ll be certified, though I can book travel right now. And I used to be a travel agent ages ago, so this isn’t new territory for me exactly. But Fora’s way of doing things is definitely non-traditional and quite different from how I learned the career in the mid-90s.

So, why am I doing this? Well, for several reasons:

  1. I like to research and book travel and create itineraries. I’ve been doing it for years. So why not get paid to do it?
  2. It complements my travel writing very nicely and gives me more credibility as a travel writer.
  3. We now live in a gig economy, so an additional income stream is never a bad thing.
  4. It’s flexible. So I can do it wherever and whenever, as much or as little as I want. (No sales quotas!)

I’m just itching to get my first booking so I’m off and running.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about my first attempt at being a travel agent… Well, I wasn’t long out of high school and hadn’t traveled much — I had never even been on an airplane! I got this idea in my head that I would lead this jet-setting life if I became a travel agent. And yes, high-performing travel agents do get to travel, often for free or at a deep discount. But I wasn’t high performing. In fact, I was barely allowed to do anything.

My first job out of travel agent school was at a Uniglobe office, and they made me pass the challenging trips to other travel agents. I was allowed to book non-stop domestic flights only. I lost interest in it pretty quickly and went back to college.

Anyway, fast forward to now. I’ve obviously seen a bit of the world. I’ve lived overseas. And experience and worldliness count for quite a lot in this business.

A change is in the air

I usually think of August as being one of the hottest months — not so much this year. The temperatures have been pretty mild and comfortable for most of the month. We’ve had a few warmer days here and there. And with the leaves starting to change, I can definitely tell that fall is just around the corner.

Enjoying the porch swing on a mild August afternoon

I’ve been busy with food preservation. My tomato crop may be sad this year (the Cherokee Purple, that is — not the cherry tomatoes), but my parents have had a prolific season. They’ve been giving me their tomatoes, so I’ve been making crushed tomatoes and tomato juice to freeze. I make a lot of vegetable soup in the colder months, so I like having a bunch of homegrown tomatoes in the freezer.

I tried canning for the first time ever in my life yesterday — blackberry jam. I almost set the kitchen on fire. (True story: I was pouring sugar into the saucepan and some of it got on the burner and burst info flames). And molten jam kept splattering on me. (Note to self: Use a bigger pot next time.) But I survived and have six (and a partial) jars of jam to show for it.

Fresh out of the canner

The partial jar is in my fridge and I’ve already been eating it. Not bad for my first attempt. Though it set maybe a little too well — it’s not as spreadable as jam should be.

I also discovered some lemon balm in a weedy area I recently cleared. So I’m planning different ways to use it. I stumbled on a recipe for rhubarb-lemon balm simple syrup, which also made great use of the rhubarb I had in the freezer that I had no idea what to do with. So I made half a batch to try with some club soda I had in the fridge. (Note: the recipe I linked to is for margaritas, but I just made the simple syrup and skipped the rest.) It’s very tasty and also pretty.

Rhubarb-lemon balm simple syrup

Concerning other changes in the air, I have been working with a business coach this month. We have a 3-month contract, and we’re already 1/3 of the way done. I’ve made so much progress in terms of narrowing my focus to a specific industry (travel & tourism); brainstorming what kind of packages I can put together to promote for new clients; and tweaking my unique selling proposition, elevator pitch, etc.

Because of these changes, I’ve made some more revisions to my website, including the design. I am by no means done. It will evolve as my business evolves.

I should add that I think I found the perfect coach. It’s ridiculous how much we have in common, and I feel she totally gets me because she used to be exactly where I am now. To use a travel metaphor, she is my compass to guide me to where I want to go. This journey is so hard. But she’s holding my hand along the way, metaphorically speaking.

Also, we’ve gotten a head start on some of our fall tasks around the farm. The to-do list is long, and time is short. So I’m happy for anything we can get done before the weather stops cooperating.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. I’ll now reward you with some recent photos.

The demise of Frankenshrub

My readership has been growing at a steady pace, so I want to thank everyone who recently followed me and those of you who have been following me for some time.

Flowers … just because

Last week was super frustrating. Between fireworks and thunderstorms, poor Blitz spent a lot of the week quaking in terror. We got over 5 inches of rain within 2 days — badly needed precipitation, but it was a bit excessive for such a short amount of time. Thankfully, the flooding in our yard didn’t last very long. And I haven’t had to water the garden in a few days, which has been nice.

Of course, the rain kept me out of the yard for a couple days, so I made up for lost time today. Paying for it now, though. I’m so sore and tired. I spent the morning cutting down what I call “Frankenshrub” which was a tangle of at least 4 different trees/shrubs: maple, chokeberry, honeysuckle, and white mulberry. It was obvious these were all growing by accident, but they were pretty much all growing in the same spot, so their branches were intermingled. All that’s left of it now are the stumps. But it’s already a vast improvement.

Of course, I couldn’t stop there. The larkspur is all dried up into brown stalks now — very unsightly in the flowerbed. So I started pulling all of that up, too. Didn’t finish it all, but I filled a wheelbarrow full.

My kingdom for a massage!

My dwarf sunflowers will be opening soon, which I’m very excited about. Those were planted from seed. I have some taller ones coming up, too, but it will be some time yet before those bloom.

I just love watching how the garden changes from week to week.

In other news, a cardinal pair started building a nest in the ornamental quince right outside one of the windows in our living room. I think they’re almost done. It’s been fun watching them build the nest, but it will be even more fun when mama lays her eggs and I can hopefully watch them hatch and the babies eventually fledge.

We have an excellent view of the nest. I just have to be careful not to disturb them too much when we move around the room. I’m sure they can see us, too. (We can always pull the window shade down if we need to, which I do now when I vacuum, water the plants right by that window, or work out.)

Looking forward to this coming week, as I have some networking opportunities that will hopefully help me grow my writing and editing business. I have spent so many unpaid hours already working on my business, so I’m hoping that time will soon start bearing fruit.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead, whatever you do!