Back on Track

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Alright – it’s whip-cracking time again! I’ve been ever so naughty in the past few weeks – being haphazard in my exercise regime. Even though my weight has stabilized – and I feel like I’m still (slowly but surely) losing weight – I know that the scant exercising is affecting my health. I can feel the chest pains creeping back in, the lethargy, aches and pains – all associated with not moving enough.

I could easily say that it was all “part of the plan” – like an experiment to prove how exercise is necessary for good health – but it was all due to me just letting go of the reins. I did the occasional set of planks here and there but I’ve been slack and it’s time to get back on track.

Leaving my day job to become a full time author and freelancer was the best thing that ever happened to me – in terms of my career, mental health and happiness. It also did what happens to most of us who finally step out of the rat-race: made me feel like I can do what I want when I want – without any structure. I planned and had good intentions, but they fell by the wayside when I “reasoned” with myself that I shouldn’t have to play by the rules anymore; that I was imposing restrictions on myself – in place of the restrictions that others had placed on me when I was working a 9 – 5 job.

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The result? Feeling like I’m wandering around the desert with no boundaries. At first – I was ecstatic about having the freedom to do what I wanted – when I wanted – but therein lies the rub. It’s not about needing boundaries and structure to feel “secure” or “safe” – it’s about keeping an even pace and maintaining a steady work ethic – just as I stated before I embarked on this leg of my journey.

It’s funny how one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing – in terms of knowing and doing what is right for you. I went on automatic pilot – believing that I would achieve my goals by meandering and just feeling my way around. When it comes to my freelance work and my writing – I’m on track – getting good jobs with great feedback and completing two novels so far!

I’ve had many ideas for future projects and I’m eternally grateful for having this opportunity – after having spent many years with my nose to the grindstone, working jobs I loathed and trying my best to write with the measly amount of time I had left. I hate griping about crap that only I can be blamed for – when there are many humans and animals living in war-torn countries and dealing with horrors I can only begin to try to fathom.

That’s why I have to remind myself that – on the one hand: I am not responsible for anyone but myself – but on the other hand: elevating myself to a position where I can help others (in whatever capacity) should be a part of my goals in terms of success.

That all starts with me feeling happy and healthy enough to ensure that I can give my best – which means that charity begins in the home, as they say. When I feel better about myself – I can give back to the world a level of “service” that is more satisfactory – rather than a sloppy, half-hearted attempt – like a broken door hanging on a rusty hinge.

Okay – back unto the breaches! Today I am getting back on the elliptical for my 25 minute stint – followed by 10 x 15 second planks. I will do so every morning and will continue eating healthy foods. Luckily – the “training” over the past year has settled into my consciousness, in regards to healthy food choices and mindfulness over what goes into my body.

Now – are you ready for a Kombucha horror story? I apologize if the following picture grosses you out – but my scobies had a field day (or week) – as you can see!

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This was my second batch and I nearly fell over when I “unveiled” it on the 10th day! I’m wondering if I need to cut it in half but I’m producing enough for myself and don’t know who to “gift” the other half to. (And I’m not sure who would want it!) The two scobies joined together in unholy matrimony – and I’m worried that my kombucha tea is too strong, as it was quite tart – even acidic. However – awesome for the stomach – with the probiotics and other goodies acting like drano!

Here’s a picture of the second batch – after sliding off the monster scoby for preparation of my current batch. (Which is half natural and half blueberry!)

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Here’s a picture of the blueberry Kombucha – after three days of carbonation:Kom 3

As I stated earlier, it was a little tart, which apparently happens when you leave it to ferment longer than 7 days. (I left it for 10 days.) The longer you leave it, the more sugar the scobies eat – so therefore it’s not as sweet and becomes more tart. I’d rather tart than sweet anyway – but today I’m going to bottle my third batch – which is one day less than 10 days. Also, as the monster scoby was double the size of the original one, I put a little more sugar in – for its “food” – so we’ll see how they pan out!

Okay – here’s my menu for the week – followed by a recipe to try and make up for the shocking horror of the monster scoby!

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Swedish Meatballs

Ingredients
• 1 pound lean beef
• 1 sleeve of Crackers, crumbled
• 1 medium onion, minced
• 1/3 cup milk
• 1 tbsp butter
• 2 tbsp olive oil, divided.
• 1 egg
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1 pinch allspice
• 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup sour cream
• 1 cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth

Step 1
Place the crackers in a medium mixing bowl with the milk and combine. Set aside.
Step 2
Heat butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and saute until translucent. Remove from heat. Scoop the onions out of the skillet and add to the mixing bowl.
Step 3
Add the meat, egg, pepper, nutmeg, and allspice to the bowl with onions, milk, and crackers. Mix together until well-combined.
Step 4
Using a tablespoon, scoop out equal portions of the meat mixture. Roll each scoop into a ball by rolling in the palm of your hands. Place on a cookie sheet or other large pan until ready to cook.
Step 5
Return the skillet to medium heat. Place a batch of meatballs in the saute pan. Turn to brown on all sides and continue to saute until cooked all the way through. Remove each batch from the pan and set aside. Start another batch, continuing until all of the meatballs are cooked, and setting them aside once done.
Step 6
Add another tablespoon of olive oil to skillet pan. Once warm, add flour and stir for about 1 minute to cook.
Step 7
Slowly add chicken broth to saute pan. Stir constantly until sauce thickens. Add sour cream and stir until warm. Return meatballs to pan and stir to coat. Remove from heat. Serve immediately.

I’ll post the picture next week. Until then – stay happy and healthy!

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An Authentic Life

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People have been going on for ages talking about living the authentic life. As soon as you hear it, you either think of it in terms of spirituality or as a call to action – to shrug off your old skin and reveal your true purpose in life. Sometimes it’s both. Other times – you want to bitch-slap the easy/breezy mouth it comes out of – as you’re taking it as an indictment against your own “run-of-the-mill”, boring, “inauthentic” existence.

The first time I heard the phrase – a light bulb went off in my head. I can’t remember if it was Oprah, Dr Phil or some other self-styled Guru – but I felt it deep in my solar plexus. Having always felt like a traitor – working in jobs that sapped my energy and precious time (notwithstanding the fact that all jobs are vital when it comes to paying the bills and putting food on the table!) – the concept of living an authentic life appeared to me as the Holy Grail.

I do believe that in essence – even when working a job until we find the job – most of us are still striving to be as authentic as we can be, whether as honest individuals or being true to ourselves and our desires. For the most part, we spend a lot of our time living up to other’s expectations, like a mouse on a wheel – keeping things going for the sake of our families and to keep the “status quo.”

The idea of living the dream and making a crust doing what we love is foreign to most of us. There’s something solid about a “proper” job, where we can count on a steady income and not have to worry about where the next meal is coming from. (And that’s for those of us who aren’t living on the breadline!)

Some of us don’t even entertain the concept of making money outside of a traditional job – especially when it means going it alone and becoming self-employed – utilizing our skills and turning our hobbies and passions into a livelihood.

I’ve seen and heard many people react in a variety of ways when in the presence of someone talking about breaking free and making it on their own. They tend to huddle together and nearly hiss in protest, making statements such as:

“Oh, it’s nice for some, isn’t it?”

“The bills still need to be paid.”

“It’ll never work – too much competition.”

“I need a steady wage – I couldn’t possibly chuck it all in!”

“Well, it’s fine to be a dreamer, but who’s going to pick up the pieces when you fail?”

I could go on and on – as I’ve heard it many times before. I’ve worked in many industries – in factories, in corporate offices, in nursing homes and fast food. Every job I held was of course necessary at the time, but in my spare time I was writing and researching – honing my skills – as I knew that one day (even if it meant when I retired), I would be a full time author.

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I’m one of the lucky ones, who has a partner working a job that could back me up if I’m ever short. (Although I’ve planned my finances carefully so I don’t have to lean on him.) Some of us are single parents (I was for a long time), so the luxury of drifting into the sunset – following our hearts – seems like a frivolous pursuit, at best.

Some of us are struggling even with both partners working – sometimes two or more jobs – just to keep a roof over our heads and food in our children’s stomachs. Then there’s college fees, health insurance, gas, etc. The idea of living an authentic life seems like a slap to the face, when just breathing and keeping our heads above water is the main focus each and every day.

It all boils down to three things:

  1. Can you make money doing what you love?
  2. Can you plan and organize a strategy to cover all contingencies?
  3. Can you set realistic goals and recognize when it’s not working?

The best back-up plan is to have a job waiting in the wings – in case you need to crawl back. (I don’t have this – but I’m confident that I could find a job within a couple of weeks of realizing that my plan’s not working.)

The biggest fear for anyone breaking free and going it alone – is just that. In a traditional job we have structure – which is usually set for us – by business imperatives and operational requirements. We know when our paycheck’s are coming and we know that we can rely on the security and stability that comes with a “normal” job.

But if we really think about it – no job is ever 100% secure. The bottom could fall out from any market at any time. Even if the company is secure – our position within it might not be. At best – when the chips are down – there’s redeployment or reduced hours, to name a couple. At worst – we could be let go – even if there’s every likelihood that we’ll be called back at a later date.

For me, the bottom line was not wanting to continue dragging my feet every day to a job that meant nothing to me. Pretending to care about new initiatives and office politics – especially when coupled with unsavory people and work practices – was soul destroying, to say the least. I’ve known for a long time that I have what it takes to succeed – even as an author. It was the idea of letting go – venturing out of a self-imposed comfort zone that masqueraded as “security” – that kept me locked up and gritting my teeth.

It’s daunting – to finally make the decision to leave a traditional job. I kept thinking of the Tarot card “The Fool” – feeling very much like the boy about to step off a cliff.

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I’d like to report – however – that things are looking better and better, thanks to Outsource and Upwork (where I get my freelancing jobs from) as well as my dogged perseverance and some opportunities that may not have come along, had I still been working 9-5.

A previous employer has asked if I would be interested in doing some occasional writing on a contractual basis, for things such as bids for funding, ideas for programs, etc. (Thanks Linkedin!) Also, a couple of the freelance jobs have turned into ongoing work and future opportunities, as well as the sales of my books increasing.

I received a lovely review for my erotic novel, “The Ninth Window”.

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You can buy it here (if you’re so inclined!):

The Ninth Window by Kelly Proudfoot

 

Now, let me fill you in on how my “regime” has been going. (I promise I won’t use Gif images! I know I can be random sometimes!)

I’ve been freelancing for nearly two weeks now and I can safely say that I’ve been slack with the exercise. I haven’t been feeling too good, but that’s no excuse. It’s a two edged sword when you stop something that’s good for you – even if it’s due to being ill – as it compounds how bad you already feel. I am getting back on track this week and will forge ahead.

  • 25 minutes per day on the elliptical
  • 10 x 15 second reps of planking
  • Healthy Smoothies when I’m craving ice cream or sweets
  • Eggs as a morning snack
  • Kombucha tea (probiotic)
  • Zero carbs after 3pm
  • Only two slices of bread or six crackers per day
  • Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (preferably organic)
  • Lots of soups and healthy casseroles, etc
  • Homemade where possible – such as granola bars, etc
  • If eating out – healthier options

I’ve been steadily losing weight but with the last two weeks – I feel like I could easily slip back to my old ways. Being at home all day actually makes it easier for me – in terms of avoiding fast food and not being sucked into eating wonderful snacks and treats brought into work by colleagues! Also, I’m not the type of person who will go out and get a burger etc if I’m at home.

This weekend I am going to start making my own Kombucha tea! My poor scobie keeps looking at me through the package with its hands on its little hips! I will take pictures and post them over the next few weeks.

I decided to ditch the gluten free bread – unless I find one that isn’t made from rice. (Rice shoots your sugar up considerably – whether brown, white or otherwise.) I really don’t want to eat gluten, as it’s one of the problems affecting my thyroid and it clogs my plumbing! Also – I found gluten-free bread quite unsatisfactory – being at least a third smaller than regular bread and quite dry (almost like a dried out sponge.)

I made Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk – quite delicious and tender. (Although I did mine in the crock pot – after browning it – for about 3.5 hours on high.)

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Click for recipe

I’m going to try this recipe – apparently it’s Chuy’s Salsa – which I love!

Salsa

Ingredients:

6 or 7 tomatoes
1/3 white onion
2 or 3 serrano peppers
Huge handful of cilantro
1 or 2 limes, squeezed
salt to taste
Optional: garlic powder to taste
Optional: 1 small mango, peeled and seeded

Method:

Start chopping or throw it in the food processor. If you have a food processor, give everything except the cilantro a rough chop before tossing into the processor. Use the pulse button, and watch closely. It takes just a few seconds, and if you let it go too long, it will be pureed. Taste, and adjust as needed.

Link to recipe

Here’s an interesting image re: Sugar content –

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I haven’t done my menu plan yet – I’ll try and post it tomorrow.

Until then – Stay healthy and Happy!

One Step Beyond! (On Leaving the Rat Race)

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(From Madness – “One Step Beyond” film clip)

I loved Madness when I was younger – especially the song “One Step Beyond” – which seems appropriate now that I’m free from the rut I found myself in, working in a lackluster job where I was slowly dying inside. Stress was the number one factor in my decision to leave, but it helped that our situation allows for it.

Seeing the Madness gif brought back memories, when I was younger and had such high hopes for the future. Ageing can be bittersweet – when you realize that most of your dreams got lost in the static of everyday life and trying to make a living. (For some – simply surviving  and putting one foot ahead of the other can be a daunting experience.)

Family life, responsibilities and trying to fit into a society where you already feel like a fringe-dweller can take most of your time – if not all of it. That’s why it was such a momentous occasion for me to shrug off the shackles of a 9-5 job and immerse myself in my writing and freelance gigs.

So – how did I spend my first week (well – four days) of “freedom”? For one thing, I completed an erotic novel (something I’d shelved) and am waiting for it to be approved on Amazon! (Don’t judge me – at least until you read it!)

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(This is my “tentative” cover!)

It’s called “The Ninth Window” – and it’s about nine women with one thing in common. (A secret until the end!) They share their intimate tales with Louise – a counselor who runs a writing workshop they’ve all attended. When it’s discovered that Louise “piked out” and did not contribute a story to the group – she is given two weeks to come up with one – and it’s a doozy! (Especially when her husband finds it!)

It should be available by 1/11/15 – in Kindle format – on Amazon for $2.99. If you plan to read it – I’d love it if you could leave a review on Amazon – even if it’s good, bad or ugly!

I’m about to start my ghostwriting job (found at Outsource) and finish my novel “The Willow Lake Group” – which is about a literary group in a mysterious town, where a young man falls in love with a woman’s handwriting – only to “lose” the woman to another new guy in town. (Hilarity ensues – along with heartache!) There are many fascinating characters, twists and turns – along with a magical cookbook!

It’s so strange being out of work – deliberately – or at least, to leave the “rat race” and be my own boss. If you saw last week’s post, you witnessed me at my best – in terms of planning and organizing. I’m an incessant (obsessive) “list-maker” and everything always looks great on paper until it’s time for execution. Even though I completed and polished a novel – I’ve spent a lot of time taking naps.

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Robert predicted that I would probably crash – and I did – in batches. It’s amazing how pent up stress, anguish, depression and anxiety (especially when related to your work) can take a huge toll on your physical and mental health. You don’t realize it when you’re in the thick of it – but once you step outside of it – the maelstrom appears like a menacing storm-cloud, which hovers over your head just waiting to absorb you and infect your life.

As a side note, my manager tried to argue with me about my reasons for wanting to leave – rather than take me aside and openly discuss my concerns. I’d written a simple resignation letter – with a “Part B” as backup – in case they really wanted feedback. They asked – I gave it to them – all five pages. I was impressed with myself for not using any expletives!

She tried to tell me that “all jobs involve stress” and that I’d left my previous job due to stress – hinting that maybe I was the problem. I had to correct her (politely) by stating that I left my previous job due to the constant onslaught of face to face contact with marginalized welfare recipients. It can be a rewarding job, but also terribly and highly stressful – especially when you’re case managing 160+ people, most of whom are doing their best not to participate or even worse, who believe that yelling and threatening is the only form of communication.

Secondly (unlike my manager) I have worked across a variety of industries throughout my career – public and private – and have always worked well under stressful conditions. The everyday stress of trying to get work done is of no issue to me. Trying to do the same thing under management that is akin to either the Keystone Cops or the Three Stooges – coupled with the burden of performing the work of at least two to three people – makes the stress just a tad more unbearable. Throw in a snake in the grass sociopath who enjoys lording it over people, relentless phone calls and emails when everyone has been allowed to go on leave at the same time – with a panic-merchant of a manager who operates as a knee-jerk reactionary at the eleventh hour, well – you get the idea.

I had to keep reminding myself over the last few weeks that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m fast approaching fifty (gulp!) and it’s now time for me to finally take the reins and forge my own path. No more knuckle-headed dimwits to have to deal with. No more endless paper shoving and pen pushing in a sterile environment where punchy keywords and pseudo-intellectual catchphrases are used in place of realistic, concrete goals and actual outcomes.

No more pretentious backslapping or kowtowing to “leaders” who are only concerned with empire building and peacocking.

I know that it seems as though I’m “purging” or exorcising my demons – but I’ve had a whole lifetime’s worth of horseshit to deal with in my “career” – just like most of the rest of us. The funny thing is – I was the common denominator. I made those decisions to accept those jobs and it was my consciousness (or rather – my “self”) who dictated how I experienced them and the people I dealt with.

I’m just grateful that I was able to see the light and strike while the iron was hot – backed up by the support of my husband. When opportunity knocks – grab it by the hand and don’t let go. It would’ve been easy for me to freak out and opt for the tried and true path – which was the “stable” job in the conventional world. I would’ve ended up even more bitter if I had stayed!

So – now I’ll give you an update on my “healthy regime” – with a series of gifs to illustrate how my week went (like an 80’s montage or interpretive dance!):

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Okay – it’s 12:59am and I tired myself out!

I’ll post some recipes on Sunday. See you then!

A New Life Awaits

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Well, I promised that I’d share my great news this week – then I wondered if I should wait until the new year, but that would be cruel (if anyone cares!)

It’s something I’ve been wanting to do my whole adult life and due to a variety of factors – I am finally in a position where I can GIVE UP MY DAY JOB and FOCUS ON MY WRITING CAREER!

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That’s right – I’ve handed in my resignation and my last day worked will be 1/4/16. I know it’s a Monday, but I thought I might as well get my paid holidays. I have four more work days until then, which I know will drag – but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Two major things have paved the way for this momentous occasion: my husband getting a better paying job and my discovery of freelance work. I didn’t want to rely on him for my “pocket money” – not that we’re rich by any stretch of the imagination. (We keep joking that one day I will be earning enough as an author for him to be able to stay home, wear fluffy slippers and eat bon-bons all day!)

I have ten writing projects (my own) that I plan to complete by the end of 2016, which is a mix of fiction, non-fiction, articles, short-stories, poetry and even a cookbook (which is related to one of my projects: “The Willow Lake Group” – to be released early 2016.)

I currently have two freelance jobs I’m working on – found at:

https://outsource.com/

One is a Ghost writing gig and another is data entry. Together they total $700 in earnings for me – with many more to come. I have a lot to be grateful for and I’m going to make the most of it, by planning carefully and ensuring that I don’t have to beg my husband for money. (Even though he’d be more than happy to help – there’s a side to me that wants to make sure that I don’t become a “kept-woman”.)

What’s also going to be better for me is ensuring that I do have the time for proper diet and exercise. No more excuses about lack of time or motivation, etc. Even though I’ve been mostly good – trying to cut out gluten, soy and anti-thyroid foods among the other no-no’s – I’ve been a bit slack with the exercise.

Funnily enough – the holiday period hasn’t affected my eating regime a bit. We had a simple Christmas dinner (just Robert and I) – with roast pork-loin and veggies – done in the slow-cooker. I’ve been able to stay away from ice-cream but have had some chocolate here and there.

Making my own granola bars, eating eggs when hungry in between breakfast and lunch as well as having Green smoothies and Kombucha tea, I feel a lot “cleaner”.

I’m going to be making my own Kombucha tea next week. I bought a Scobie – the starter for the Kombucha tea – and have saved my bottles, so I’m looking forward to making my own healthy, probiotic drinks – which will save money too. ($3.00 plus per 16 oz drink is becoming a bit much!)

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The following info about the Scoby is from this wonderful website:

http://www.thekitchn.com

(“SCOBY” is actually an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” It’s very close cousins to the mother used to make vinegar.

The scoby bacteria and yeast eat most of the sugar in the tea, transforming the tea into a refreshingly fizzy, slightly sour fermented (but mostly non-alcoholic) beverage that is relatively low in calories and sugar.)

I’m also hoping to be growing our own herbs and veggies next year – so we’ll see how that goes!

I made a nice dish with turkey balls – creating Shasliks/Gyro’s – along with peppers, zucchinis and onions:

Shasliks

I mixed the mince turkey with onion, garlic, parsley, an egg and some seasoning, then formed them into balls and carefully slid them onto the skewers – alternating with the veggies and grilling for about seven minutes each side. I didn’t put any breadcrumbs in the mince – which I usually do.

They were delicious and so easy! Also – looked a lot like Christmas!

I have already planned how my days will go once I leave my job, as I will continue to get up early and prepare for my days as though going to a full time job. Even though I won’t have to dress up or commute, I’m going to keep up a schedule and stick to it. My work day will start at 8am and I will “knock off” at 4pm – still allowing myself an hour for lunch.

I hope to be able to focus on my freelance work in the mornings and switch to my own writing projects in the afternoon. When 4pm hits, I will start preparing dinner and do a little housework. After dinner I will continue with my writing (which will also continue to include promoting and marketing) and will endeavor to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

I will treat the weekends as my free time – but won’t feel so stressed with having to get back into the daily grind on Monday morning, in terms of getting ready and travelling to work. I know that I’ll continue writing on the weekends as I love it and won’t be able to help myself anyway!

The first week will be dedicated to getting the house in order so I won’t have much to do on a daily basis the following week. I will also be going to the bank to open a separate account for my freelance earnings, as I’ll need to make sure I keep proper records for tax, etc. I will be putting back at least 20% each month – just in case.

I had to get smart and start a proper budget spreadsheet, making sure that every dollar is accounted for. With my final pay (which includes holiday pay and earnings from freelance work so far) I’m covered up until the end of February. I just need to make sure I keep the work lined up – which shouldn’t be a problem – as there’s plenty of work on Outsource – as well as:

https://www.upwork.com/

and:

https://www.fiverr.com/

This is a very exciting time for me and a milestone that’s been a long time coming. I’ll be posting some dreams I’ve been having on my Collective Unconscious blog soon – which all pointed to this momentous occasion!

As a side note, I don’t want you to think that I’m rubbing your noses in my happiness, as I wish the same if not better for you all. If I can do this – so can you – with or without a supportive partner. Of course, it makes a difference to have that kind of safety net, but the freelance work is out there just waiting to be picked up. I’m kicking myself for not getting into it sooner!

Here’s my menu plan for next week:

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Until then, stay happy and healthy!