Humble Hillsborough

If you are looking for a piece of charisma in these techno-filled days, I encourage you to play in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Established in 1754, this spot is a true destination for lovers of nostalgia, old beauty and remarkable history.

The town is brimming with pleasantries and just a short drive from the Raleigh / Durham area. It makes for a lovely day trip, with something to please everyone in your family. Take a drive through its Historic District, checkout the thriving art scene, shop small and spend time outdoors. Seriously, it can all be done in one precious North Carolina day!

Nothing shines brighter in Hillsborough than its longstanding history. It’s extremely tranquil to imagine our ancestors building this town. Native Tribes conducted business here, our forefathers had dreams of what America would look like here, families made memories here before, during and after the great wars.

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Many homes, like the one above, are still standing today. Not only are they upright, but locals call them home, residing in these well-kept colonial homes in the heart of downtown.The Historic District is proud and boasts its antiquity with profound beauty. On the journey through town, you’ll see homes that belonged to members who signed the Declaration of Independence and Generals from the Civil War. The grounds of a few select homes are open for tours, giving visitors the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors.

Perhaps the most acclaimed benchmark is the Eno Riverwalk. Hillsborough is home to a portion of the Mountain-to-Sea Trail, a pathway that spans from the Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. Building a 1.8 Mile route was an astute way to dignify and honor the trail that was once traveled by Native Americans. In fact, much of the Tribes business and trades were administered along this pathway.

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Today, residents and visitors alike can enjoy this trail by foot or bike. Situated right outside of downtown, it’s effortless to revel in this attraction after lunch, shopping and sight-seeing. Make it a point to checkout the many plaques along the walkway and gain an understanding of its charm.

In addition, Hillsborough has secured the reputation of being one of North Carolina’s most contemporary, modern and hippest towns. Artists and writers dwell here, giving this historical city a trendy overlook. Art studios have popped up on almost every corner. There’s even an organic grocery store at the trail head of the Eno Riverwalk. So, when I say there’s something for everyone here, I wasn’t misstating. Your history buff of a husband and hipster trend setting teenager will both be satisfied.

Related: Silent St. Elmo

Freelancers Mastering Time Management

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As a Project Manager turned Freelance Copywriter, I know a thing or two about time management (and its difficulties). When I left my laboring job at a reputable ad agency to be a stay at home mom, freelance copywriter and yoga instructor; I thought, “Oh man, life is going to be so effortless.” I get to sit on my porch and write as the sun comes up, make delectable dinners for my family and portray the beauty of a stepford housewife. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s a miracle if I relieve myself of yoga pants, meet my many deadlines and keep my active toddler occupied. Cue my project management skills.

Many full-time employed Designers, Art Directors and Copywriters have Project Managers as it is completely necessary for them to stay on track and deliver in a timely fashion. Without PMs, many projects would become a hot mess. When working for yourself, you must become your own PM, your own Boss, your own Accountant and the list flourishes from there. I’ve broken out a few key elements that have aided my work along the way, I’m positive they will relieve you of redundant stress.

Create An Office Space
Working from home is great, but doing so at your kitchen table, in front of TV or in your bed may not be encouraging. Creating an office space in a quiet corner of your house will promote hard work and diligence. It’s a place for you and your career, nothing else. It allows you to organize your belongings, spread out and store office supplies; I’d say this is vital for running a successful Freelance operation. Sure, heading to the library or coffee shop to work is superb, but for those moments when you’re working from home, this is important.

Create Timelines
Every project deserves a timeline. The moment you’re given a project, breakout the calendar. Create tasks within each project and give yourself the appropriate amount of days needed to accomplish each task. This includes research, rounds of work and reviews from the client. Share your timeline with your clients so they have a better understanding of how you work, and don’t agree to deadlines until the timeline has been shared. I like to create timelines in the “Calendar” template of Word, it’s much easier for you and your clients to understand and visualize the project this way.

Keep a Calendar
This falls in line with creating timelines, but calendars are all-encompassing. Give each project a different color and when creating your timelines, take into account your additional projects. Giving one day four different tasks isn’t advisable, this is a beautiful way to delegate without spreading yourself too thin. Include social events on this calendar as they are just as important as deadlines. If you have a busy weekend, don’t schedule any deadlines for the following Monday. If your spouse wants to spend the day rock climbing, clear that day of any tasks, delegations or deadlines. Here’s the order for scheduling your monthly calendar:

1) Social Obligations
2) Deadlines
3) Tasks within those deadlines.

If there’s one thing I learned from being over-worked, it’s this, social obligations are truly the most important task on your calendar. Keeping yourself lively and cheerful will counteract disgruntlement when working.

Online Project Management Software
There are gobs of trustworthy Project Management Software’s out there and some are free. These software programs act as filing systems, time managers and organization devices. I used many of them when I was a full-time PM and it was the only way I got through my days. You can manage multiple projects without burdening yourself with physical filing systems and hundreds of emails. In fact, many programs allow you to attach pertinent emails to the actual project, talk about persistence.  Below are a few of my favorites.

1) HiTask
2) Smartsheet
3) Asana

Hold Yourself Accountable
Last but not least, staying true to your word. If you say you will deliver something, deliver it without any hang-ups. Your client thought you were good enough to work with, so prove them right. Be proactive by staying on top of communication, sharing timelines and managing your workload. Over promise and make them want to hire you again and again and again.

 

Steps to Overcome Writers Block

pen_and_paperWriters block attacks the best of us and usually at the worst times, it seems to occur when you’re an hour out from deadline. Having been a part of the writing industry for seven years, I’ve had my fair share of writers block and consider it to be my greatest enemy. Through trial and error, I’ve mastered the following steps for overcoming this hault in progress and executing (in my eyes) excellent work.

Journal
Some people think of journaling as a device to bestow your deepest darkest secrets, these journals have locks and tiny little keys, that’s not what I’m talking about. At all times, I have a journal with me. In my purse, my car, my bedside table, etc. The amount of fascinating people and exotic places that cross our paths are stories waiting to be written. It could be a sign I passed while biking, an amusing statement from a conversation, an excerpt from a book or knowledge from a show. These items are encouraging and offer brilliance in times of need. If you’re ever reading through my work and notice a tinge of british slang, know that I’ve been watching Downton Abbey.

Exercise
When your mind is feeling lazy, your body is feeling lazy. Embarking on a jog around the neighborhood or calming yoga will restart your creative engines. An hour-long Bikram yoga class or 10 mile run isn’t necessary, even five minutes of simple movement will do. It’s proven that those who exercise while working have a higher productivity rate than others, a more cheerful outlook, and produce stronger products. This seems like a win / win to me. I’ve got a quick 5 minute yoga sequence that interferes beautifully with writer’s block, I encourage you to find your form of workout and incorporate it into your day. You’ll be amazed at how free your mind becomes after a bit of movement.

Read
It’s customary for me to read 3-4 books at one time. I have my beach side literature, industry related books (yoga and writing inspired) and self help readings. It’s paramount to remain educated; those who don’t learn, don’t succeed. It’s the books I’ve read that have influenced some of my greatest writings and it’s the moments I’ve experienced between the flaps that pull me out of heinous writer’s block. My friends from Deliverance Dane, will forever live in my yoga journal and the experiences those folks were challenged with, will be shared with my students. Take the time to respect your peers; you’re a writer, see what other writer’s are up to, allow them to strengthen your work.

Clean
Well this sounds fun, right? Tending to your surroundings leads to the purification of your atmosphere as well as your mind, it’s amazing how the two correlate. Stuck in that writers rut? Grab some cleaning products and gloves and pay some respect to your desk. Go ahead, take everything off of your desk and give it a good scrubbing, clear out the junk and start over with a fresh slate. It’s difficult to work in the presence of chaos, as physical turmoil causes personal turmoil. Writers tend to work in the midst of mess, and that’s ok, just not all the time.

Meditate
Are none of the above working for you? Maybe it’s time to practice meditation. My meditation sessions last no longer than 30 minutes and it’s a beautiful anti-venom to the little laptops that run our lives. Here’s what you do, find a tranquil spot in your house, one that’s preferably not tainted with kid toys, laundry and daunting to do lists. Sit in a comfortable position with eyes either open or closed and set an intention for your meditation. Often times, mine is to clear my head, be in the present and love myself. Take some deep and calming breaths and enjoy this moment you’ve given yourself. You’ll come out revived and in a completely different state of mind, which is what we need after a treacherous case of writers block.

 

Paternity Leave

As many of you are engrossing on your daily scan through Facebook, Reddit and popular news channels, you’re stumbling upon the same stories, over and over again. And this week, it’s that poor baby girl who was left in the hot and humid car for 4 hours (View the full story here). As many of you know, the outcome was tragic, leaving her parents and all of America in absolute heartache.

I’m watching as the father is being ridiculed and shamed, and most of me agrees with the out-lash that’s thrown his way. How dare he “forget” the most precious part of his life, whether it was a phone call, an email or a lapse in memory that swayed his judgement that day. There is, however, part of me that is deeply saddened for this man and the catastrophe he’s been faced with. We can all have our opinions, but none of us were there that day. Still, what a horrible event that could have been prevented.

This story has empowered me to perform a bit of research on the subject of paternity leave. And what I found was astonishing and, in my opinion, worth sharing. This event occurred 9 months after the baby was born, where most parents are finally catching up on sleep and feeling a bit more rested. However, we all know that having a child under the age of one is trying and laborious. And to top it all off, the pressure that’s put on us Americans to strive harder and harder at work is outrageous. I once worked a job (while I was pregnant in fact) where laboring a 10 hour day was the norm and an 18 hour day was nothing to gasp at. You become negligent and careless. Now, I’m not defending this man, but I’m sure he was under an amount of pressure that none of us are aware of, parents today are tired and exhausted and its nothing to be proud of. Why is it that pitching new business is more important than one on one time with your child? For all parents and soon-to-be parents in America, this is for you.

The average paternal leave in other parts of the world:

Slovakia: 28 Weeks Before Due Date & 2 – 3 Years After (80% Paid + Monthly Payment or The First 3 Years of Childs Life)
Bulgaria: 6 Weeks Before Due Date & 1 Year After (90% Paid the First Year / 50% Paid The Second)
Germany: 14 Weeks Before Due Date & 14 Months After (85% Paid)
Lithuania: 2 Years Total (100% Paid)
Croatia: 1 Year Total (100% Paid)
Norway: The Father’s Are FORCED to Take 12 Weeks Paid Leave (86% Paid)
Russia: 70 Days Before Birth & 18 Months After (60% Paid)

If you were to do research over the past few years, you’d find that the 9 month old who suffered a tragic death isn’t the first. There are a handful of occasions where babies were accidentally left in the car (each of these occurred while the parent was on their way to work). Maybe there’s a bigger issue here that needs to be front and center. And if the government isn’t willing to provide the accommodations needed for new parents, what are YOU going to change to provide a safer environment for your precious cargo?

The One-Year Party

We did it, we had a successful first birthday! It was wonderful, even more so than I could have imagined. Marshall’s biggest fans and littlest friends were all there to celebrate the not so little guy, and he had a blast.

Our party was held at the neighborhood park, easy for kids and parents to spread out without limits. We had a TON of kid friendly and adult related activities. All of which included kites, a bubble station, blankets, board games, sidewalk chalk and enough sweets to treat the neighborhood. No one was left with boredom on their face and laughter was abound.

We went with bright colors and simple decorations, if I had to do it all over again, I’d do it just the same! Enjoy the photos. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARSHALL!

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First Birthday Invitations: Karmie Designs
Photographer: Robin Cain Photography
Handmade Quilt: Katie Plavcan (Etsy Store Coming Soon)

The Outlandish First Birthdays and Why They Matter

Marshall Birthday

Here it is, the first birthday. It’s the day that’s over planned and under treasured by the guest of honor. I’m willing to admit that these outlandish shindigs are for the parents. The new toddler is speculative as to why people are singing to him, clapping at him and encouraging him to smear this gooey, yet intensely delicious, cake all over his face. It’s fine that he’s in the dark, mom and dad see the gratifying light.

Caring for this tiny little baby with itty bitty hands and toes, a little heart that beats, and a petite nose that breathes is frightening and extremely intimidating. That first night at home, you don’t sleep. You wonder where the little button is that makes the sweet nurse rush in, alas, it’s not there. All you have is your equally panicky husband and perplexed dogs. You get through that first night and realize, “Ok, we did it. Onward.”

Your baby then reaches one month and he’s able to lift his head and fully hear. He’s eating a little bit more and his newborn onesies are growing snug. You blink and it’s been 3 months, he’s smiling and making noises. He’s a master at tummy time and staying awake longer. You’re still greeting daily challenges, but it’s gotten easier and more manageable.

6 months, if you’re lucky, your baby is sleeping in his crib for 10 – 12 hour stretches. You’re getting your life back, you’re remembering what sleep is and you’re loving every minute. He’s laughing and he’s babbling, he’s sitting up and interacting with family members, he’s scooting and you’re starting to research baby gates and cabinet door latches. You and your husband look at each other and simply can’t believe the accomplishments that have been made by all of you. You may even cry.

10 months old and on the move. This is when I created a playroom, a vital space for this little guy to exhaust his forceful drive. While your baby is crawling, saying mama and pulling himself up; you’re still hitting challenges. Cue separation anxiety; a condition that every child faces at some point in his life. While I love being the light of his life, it can be tough. However, we’ve learned that this is an important phase and should be treated with diligence. (Tip: If you visit Marshall, don’t rush to pick him up or become overly roused at the site of him. He thrives when people simmer next to him and quietly play. Touch him and, well, you’re put on the long list of people he’s suspicious towards).

The stages of that first year are angelic and inspiring. You’ve had countless sleepless nights, tearful days, teeth ripping through gums, pacifier weaning and bottle weaning. You’ve enjoyed the firsts and you’ve patted yourself on the back, you understand what it means to breathe deeply. You as a person have changed. You’re a parent now, you don’t go out to dinner as much (come to think of it, I went out to dinner once in April and it was with my girlfriends), you don’t party on the town and going to the grocery store is quite the calamity.

We deserve a celebration. This is the largest milestone of all the milestones that we’ve hit, we survived the first year and look at our not-so-baby baby (I’m crying right now as I write this)… Marshall, Matt, Bo & Dexter, WE. DID. IT. This was the BEST year of my life and we couldn’t be stronger than we are today. And you better believe this party will be lavish and delectable.

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Marshall Keith Boeheim, One-Week Old

Ballerina Bar For Babies

Ballerina Bar

Babies are bewitched with their intense motor skills. The ability to roll, sit and now stand vastly amuses them. If there’s a creation that allows them to practice these skills on their own, I’m going to devise it.

The (what I call) mini ballerina bar has been the utopian addition to the playroom. It encourages him to pull himself up from a seated position and walk himself along the bar. I attached a few toys to the bar to keep him entertained and intrigued, and my how it works!

Items to create this devise can be found at Home Depot

What You’ll Need:
– Two Stairwell Wall Brackets
– Wood Dowel
– Level- Stud Finder
– “ring type” toys

1) Slide the toys of your choice onto the Wood Dowel
2) Attach the Wood Dowel to the Stairwell Wall Brackets
3) Use stud finder to locate the exact place to hang your bar. (This is important, remember your baby will be putting a lot of weight on the bar). I also used my baby as a reference to the height of the ballerina bar. You want him to be able to reach it while sitting.
4) Use your level to attach the wall brackets to the wall. Make sure you check the level on each end of the bar opposed to just the middle.
5) Tadda! Enjoy the show.

Baby Magic: The Nosefrida

nf-main-prodThe American based company, Fridababy, provides unique products for both parents and babies. Their merchandise solicits approvals by doctors and nurses, doulas and midwives as well as other medical professionals. The tried and tested device on the chopping block today is the remarkable Nosefrida The Snotsucker.

If you are a parent of a newborn or small baby, you know the difficulty of fighting off those tiny colds that pack punch. The sneezes, the coughs and stuffed noses that impair breathing. You may be found crib side, watching your little one like a hawk. Lucky for you, the Nosefrida eliminates stress and promotes sleep during illness.

Safe
Most hospitals will send you home with a bulb syringe and it just isn’t as effective as the Nosefrida. With the Nosefrida, you place one end in your babies nostril and you suck on the other end. Pleasant, huh? Despite the repugnant nature of this item, the safety is something you can stand behind. The strength of the bulb syringe has the possibility of bursting blood vessels in the nose.

Effective
You wouldn’t believe the amount of snot you produce with this product. It’s quite amazing, really. You would never procure the same results with the bulb syringe. Just two times on each side and your baby can breathe easy.

Inexpensive
At a cool $15, this device can be yours. While it’s a bit more expensive than the bulb syringes, as said before, it’s much safer.