Once upon a time

Being a freelance writer kind of feels like being Goldilocks. First there is no work, then there is too much work, then the work is just right.

Or first the work is easy. One week the words are flowing from my fingers and I’m filing stories like a boss. The next week I’m in over my head. I get stuck on a piece and can’t work through it. The assignments start to pile up behind me and soon everything’s tied up. Panic sets in. I move on to something else and then yet something else grabs my attention. Suddenly I’m switching back and forth between three totally unrelated topics. A search for long lost family (not mine), the profile of a labour doula with an exciting business, and interior design tips from the excerpts all swirling around in my head together, a massive jumble, the pressure mounting until I have no choice but to summon my mental strength and turn down the noise. Take a deep breath and take control. Or else miss the deadlines and potentially the pay checks. No chance.

That’s what happened last week (smooth sailing) and this week (troubled waters).  So I spent a very late night working through the first problem. I was not letting myself go to bed until I sorted out the story. Outlines, bullet points, and 5 drafts later and it physically felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest. Then it was like the floodgates opened. The next story poured out naturally and I was soon on to the next. Back in business.

Finally the work feels just right... until I have to start filling up my cold empty plate again, until it’s too hot to handle and I’ll have to make things just right.

A few recent articles:

Stay tuned for articles on sea glass art, fitness 101, a long lost family found, interior design tips and the profile of a labour doula with a unique business.

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My top 5 tips to working from home

When your meeting gets cancelled & you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go! #wherearemyslippers

When your meeting gets cancelled & you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go! #wherearemyslippers

I have experience working from home. I spent a year working from my condo as Associate Editor of Lifestyle Nova Scotia magazine. Yes, there were lots of meetings and interviews but also long stretches of writing and editing, many times straight through the wee hours of the morning. I can remember my husband coming home from a long day at the office ready to netflix & chill (before netflix & chill was a thing) and me feeling ready to go out and do something - anything - beyond those four walls.

I worked full-time in a very casual office for 5 years, and was often the only one there since my only co-worker was part-time, so I basically treated it like working from home. Especially since for most of those years, the office was just a 10-minute down the street.

And I spent 5 years at home full-time with my kids, though I was the stay-at-home mom who never stayed home. That was the key to survival! I also did some freelance at the same time, and home was my full-time head quarters.

There are lots of pros and cons, so I thought it would be fun to share 5 quicks tips I use to make the most of my freelance life working from home.

1. Get ready

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I work from home but I still get up, shower, get dressed, style my hair and put on makeup. This energizes me, helps me feel professional and makes me a lot more productive. Like they say, dress for the job you want and I don’t want to be a yoga instructor or feel like a couch potato. Of course some days I take full advantage if it makes me feel more comfortable. Working from home allows me to take casual Friday to a whole new level!

2. Ten-second tidy

I’ve been working from the kitchen table, though sometimes I get really crazy and move to the bar at the counter. (Yes, I have a lovely home office space in the attic but it needs some TLC that I haven’t made time for, though now that I have more time to work and a steadier workload I am going to set myself up there so I don’t have put my “office” away every night, and I’m not living out of my kitchen 10 hours a day). But each morning once everyone is gone I do a ten-second tidy (ok it’s more like 5 minutes) to straighten up the space surrounding me. Breakfast dishes cleaned up, random junk shoved into the junk drawer and strewn toys back in their baskets. Sorry clutter, it’s not you, it’s me and I can’t work with you around.

The view in front of me. Nothing out of place.

The view in front of me. Nothing out of place.

The view behind me. Zen. but i think the table needs some tulips!

The view behind me. Zen. but i think the table needs some tulips!

3. Stay focused.

Yes, there are great perks to working from home like being able to switch over the laundry or get dinner going early, but I try not to get caught up in getting caught up on home life. That’s not what I’m home for. It’s hard when you can physically see the floor needs sweeping or the sun streaming in the windows showcases all.of.the.dust but it has to wait. Unless my procrastination game is feeling strong…  and I don’t turn the tv. on. Ever. That would be game over!


4. Get out

The best advice I received when I embarked on my first maternity leave was to “get out of the house at least once every single day, even if it’s just to check the mail.” It was my prenatal yoga instructor who said it and I took it very seriously.  Anyone with a baby, especially a new baby, knows just how long it takes to leave the house (like, I’m talking sometimes 2 hours in the beginning!) and whether it was to attend a class, go for a walk, grab a coffee or just check the mail, I got out every day. I pass this one piece of unsolicited advice on all the time because it was so good for the mind. The same applies to my work-at-home life. I do have to leave the house everyday on school runs, but I’ve also joined a networking group that meets regularly, schedule lunch dates and meetings out of the house and when I need a break or change of scene I’ll go check the mail, take a short walk or hit up a local coffee shop for a work session.

5. Take advantage

Hey, I’m not silly. I didn’t set life up this way to be strict and rigid and all work and no play. The major perk to freelance life, in my opinion, is the flexibility. I determine my workload, my own schedule, my office hours and vacation time. This is not always easy. I need to find all my own work and am hustling all.the.time and there’s no chit chatting around the water cooler. But I’m chaperoning my daughter’s field trip tomorrow, I can book a few days mid-week to getaway to PEI this summer without requesting vacation time, and I can work all night if I want to take the day off instead. Plus, it’s wine o’clock when I say it’s wine o’clock!

Bonus: office dog!

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My daughter's potty mouth

Yes, yes she is a Rebel Girl!

Yes, yes she is a Rebel Girl!

Stick with me to the end, this is a good one.

Over March break, both girls were excited to head back to the library program we used to attend on a regular basis. I pulled into the parkade and parked in the same spot I always do. As I hopped out of the car I grabbed my parking ticket, thinking to myself, ‘don’t want to lose this again!’ I had misplaced my ticket once before and had to pay a $20 lost ticket fee to get out of the parking lot! I hadn’t had time that day to try and find the ticket because I was en route to pick up a kid from camp.

This time, I forgot that I actually started leaving the tickets safely in the car and paying at the exit with my credit card, as you can do, rather than the ticket machine at the door. Nonetheless, ticket safely tucked in my coat pocket, I got both girls out of the backseat, switching their rain boots to sneakers, arranging snacks back into the bags I had packed only 15 minutes earlier when leaving the house but of course they got into them, balancing my coffee mug and negotiating to “PLEASE leave the umbrellas in the car, we aren’t even going outside.”

Finally, as I went to walk away from the car with the girls, I patted my pocket for the ticket one last time and it wasn’t there. It wasn’t anywhere. I couldn’t find it. It had vanished into thin air. Not in my coat pockets, not in my bag, not in the kid backpack, not between the seats of the car, not on the ground, not anywhere.

The overhead announcement chimed in announcing the children’s program was about to start. We weren’t on time anymore, dammit. I dragged the kids over to the ticket machine at the entrance and buzzed for help. “Hi, yes, I JUST got here and have already lost my parking ticket. Can you issue me a new one so I can get out later?” The crackly voice on the line informed me to press the “lost ticket” button. “But that will cost me $20.” She informed me that was the only way to get out. “Seriously? But I JUST got here. I JUST parked. I need a ticket to get out in 45 minutes.” The lady claimed there was nothing she could do to help but kindly suggested I “take time and look for the ticket.” $#%^@. I kindly informed her that yes, I’d looked. Everywhere. That this was ridiculous and then I huffed away, not wanting to miss anymore time at the program I was now paying $20 for, rather than the $2 fee for parking for one hour.

While the girls played, sang and danced around under the guidance of the librarian, I sat crankily texting my husband about the ridiculousness of that system, which I was not trying to cheat. I wasn’t even trying to get out for free. I was willing to pay for my time parked. I knew it wasn’t the library’s fault, nor could they help me since the parkade is managed by an independent company called Indigo. Matt decided to call them and question the absurdity of the situation. After arguing their every point (they actually have no way of reviewing camera footage to see when cars come or go, and she even admitted they can’t see the license plates on the vehicles. So what’s the point of the cameras?), the woman finally gave in and said someone would call me to meet at the exit to let me out without my ticket. Hurrah! Finally some common sense.

Indeed, a parking attendant did meet me at the exit with a new ticket for a total of $2, as it should have been. Yes, it was a bit of a fuss but it was the principal of the matter and well, $20 is $20!  

Now for the best part of the story. Fast forward to about 5p.m. when we finally arrive home from a busy day about town. The girls run inside and as usual I’m left to carry in all the items accumulated and expanded over the backseat of the car throughout the day. I picked up a discarded rain boot, still left on the car floor from the morning, and there was the parking ticket! It was stuck to the bottom of the boot.

“You’ll never believe what I just found!” I exclaimed to Anna, the five-year-old, once I caught up inside. She stands there gaping at the ticket in my hand and replies, “Let me say it. Just let me say it. I need to say it!” I am perplexed and she continues with a big, booming, “Bullshit!”  

I can’t even get mad. I burst out laughing. She was absolutely right.

Building a brand

Back in January when I wrote my #bestnine post, it got me thinking, what do my followers like to see? Pictures of Matt and I together, apparently. What do (would) people like to read about on this blog?  More Gabby? Food? Travel? Parenting anecdotes? What is the point of this blog? The main focus? The crux? Uh-oh… existential blog crisis kicking in... what I’m trying to figure out is what would gather a stronger following? Kick up more momentum? Build a readership? I guess I won’t know until I try and that means posting more… about everything until I figure it out.

First and foremost this space is an online portfolio of my work, where I can share my published pieces. It’s an online CV where I can highlight my skills. It’s also a creative space where I can continue writing and telling stories. Maybe what I need is a personal brand, a focus. I don’t think I’m a typical mommy blogger (if there is a typical mommy blogger). I don’t want to focus on the mommy scene. I’m not documenting my total home renovation, I’m not DIY-crafting-handmaking my life. I’m not a foodie. I’m not a beauty addict. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of these things and read many blogs based around these very topics. Aspects of all of these topics play into my life and have been written about here, parenting, food, DIY and home decor. I’m just not strongly focused on any particular one. What I am is a storyteller. And I think my life and perspective and endeavors are interesting, if I do say so myself. That’s why it’s called The Heather Chronicles. And right there in my introduction:

Between myself, my rockstar-of-a-husband, two young vivacious girls, a puppy and all of our crazy antics, there’s always a story - I promise. Join me on our adventures at home, abroad and everywhere in between.

There’s always a story and I believe that to be true. I’m a writer, so I want to share them with you.  Hopefully you find them real and most importantly, relatable (trust me, our stuff and our travels should certainly be attainable). Hopefully the posts will make you smile, maybe laugh or even roll your eyes. I think the hook with this blog could be that I do have a chronic illness, and it affects ours lives and those close to us (much to my chagrin), but we just keep rolling. I’d like to have a goal to help myself, those around me and maybe a reader or two who just needs to know they are not alone -- and maybe this space is even just a little bit inspiring.

I truly want to dedicate more time to this space. It doesn’t pay the bills but it keeps me writing and is a creative outlet and you know what? It’s ok if it’s a project just. for. me. Life (and gigs that pay the bills) often get in the way but I owe it to myself to try and bring a vision to life. Crushing goals and achieving dreams and all that. It’s a pretty nice bonus that my hobby, a creative project, a passion, helps move me forward professionally at the same time.  

If you’ve made it this far, thank you! And please, tell me, what do you look for in a blog? Leave a comment and let me know what kind of posts you are interested in and enjoy reading. What will keep bringing you back here? Your feedback is truly appreciated!

Dogs of Instagram

Gabby Fegan, 17 months. “Why are you making me pose for this picture?”

Gabby Fegan, 17 months. “Why are you making me pose for this picture?”

Nacho Cilantro has 102k followers on Instagram. Don’t know who that is? Despite the over 100,000 followers? I’m not surprised. He’s a boxer pup - an extremely handsome gorgeous boxer pup (but aren’t they all?) - that belongs to Jillian Harris, former bachelorette star, host of HGTVs Love it or List it Vancouver edition, and social media darling with a beautifully curated Instagram feed of her beautiful life. I can’t figure it out if I love to hate her or hate to love her… she seems to have chilled out a bit and there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much drama from her feed as there used to be. There have definitely been some group chats with my squad that have been on fire over things she has said or done on her Instagram. I can’t even remember examples of said drama but it was definitely worthy of ½ a day of gossiping at least. Some of her followers judged what she was feeding her son or something, and she fought back, I think. It was good at the time and not memorable so there you have it. The life of an online celebrity.

Anyway. This post is not about Jillian Harris, it’s about her dog. I didn’t know he had an Instagram account of his own, though now that I think about it, I think I’ve seen her “@” the dog’s account before but paid it no attention. The other day though, Jillian posted an introduction to their NEW boxer puppy, Peaches, who also has her own Instagram account, with over 30k followers already! Wtf? She’s absolutely adorable and I’m really jealous. I would love to have another boxer puppy in my life but I will never have another boxer puppy in my life. Promise. More on that in another post.

So seeing all this gets me thinking. I never post photos of my own boxer on Instagram. My last picture of Gabby is from last June. That was seven months ago! Before that was February 2018 and the only other post is from the day we got her! What am I even doing? How am I even a dog lover?  I love Gabby! She’s awesome. She’s the boxer I always wanted. She’s sweet and smart and a part of our family. I don’t even really take that many pictures of her. Matt does, he has some great shots, but they spend a lot of time in the great outdoors together every morning without the kids so he actually has a moment to think of it.

So here I am, envious of all the gorgeous photos of Nacho Cilantro on Instagram and feel like I should be doing better.

I think this is how some of my friends feel about Jillian Harris. Her feed is too much, it’s not “real”, it feels fake and staged and way too much to try and live up to. Her stuff, her travels, her elaborate parties...this glam life she’s presenting as real life. It’s not relatable and unattainable for most of us. Sure, we can scroll her feed and feel inspired but it can also instill a lot of pressure on ourselves to do and be better and for most of us, we just don’t have time (or resources) at this point in our tired, messy lives to even try! It’s for this reason some of my friends won’t follow her feed anymore and that’s ok. If something’s making you feel anything less than good then unfollow that s*#t! But in this case, instead of feeling envious or less than, I am going to feel inspired. I’m going to share the puppy love going on in our house. I’m going to follow Nacho on Instagram and maybe his little sister Peaches. I’m going to like their photos for what they are- cute and funny and some of them make me laugh and some of them make me roll my eyes and most of them make me smile. They give me appreciation for my own dog.

And I kind of want to run a social experiment. How long would it take Gabby to get more followers than me on Instagram? Real true “dog people” are just bonkers for dogs, obviously. Boxer lovers go gaga for boxers, naturally. I bet with the right hashtags, Gabby will hit 500 followers in no time...

A pensive puppy gazing out the window, dreaming of her next romp in the snow.

A pensive puppy gazing out the window, dreaming of her next romp in the snow.