26 April 2015

On A Year And A Bit of Saying Sure, Why Not?

When we first moved back to Australia eighteen or so months ago I was feeling a bit lost. It was partly the standard dislocation and general weirdness that is a normal part of the repatriation process. But is was also partly something more.

Living in Seoul I legally wasn't allowed to work. So I dabbled in things here and there. I explored on foot and took lots of photos and wrote lots of words. I read and embroidered and did loads of paper craft. I always had projects on the go; I was never bored. And there was never any pressure to get a job, to go to work. My spouse visa wouldn't let me, but more than that people just accepted that as an expat wife my role was focussed on supporting the family and that was as it should be. But then we moved back home and suddenly everyone was always asking - sometimes tentatively, sometimes expectantly - Are you going back to work? 

Let's rewind a little. Before we moved overseas, I worked. Since my first 'proper' job in a bookstore at 16-ish I've worked. I've always wanted independence, I've always wanted to be self sufficient, I've always wanted to do well. Then we moved overseas and I stopped working and at first it was a bit scary, but after a year or so I adjusted and it was ace. It was fun to devote my time to my husband and step-sons, and to the house and the dogs. It was fun to have spare time for crafting and reading and blogging. And I appreciated it for the luxury it was.

But then we moved back home and it felt different. It felt like I should do something more with my time, with my life - and not just because people were telling me I should. I felt it too. I just didn't know what that something was. I knew what I didn't want to do - return to full time corporate work - but I didn't have a clear idea of what I did want to do. I was a bit confused about it all.

Within a few months of landing back in Australia, while all this was just starting to swirl about in my head, I found myself at ProBlogger. It was wonderful and fun and I met so many ace people. It was exciting and motivating, and completely utterly terrifying. I kept having these ridiculous circular conversations with myself that followed one of two themes:

Theme one: There's some things I think I'm pretty good at and I should totally dive in and just do those things, but - what if in reality I completely and utterly suck at those things? Let's face it, I have no f**king idea what I'm doing... 

Theme two: There's some things I think I'm pretty good at, but I'm in the ridiculously lucky position of not needing to make money so why should I feel the need to enter the marketplace, with all the pressure and stress and potential corruption of ideals that it may entail? Why can't I just enjoy life and employ my skills in non money making ways? Isn't ambition just thinly veiled vanity? A desperate need for outside approval? 

As you can imagine, neither were productive lines of thought.

And then Voices of 2014 happened. Some lovely person (I know who you are and I'm so very grateful!) nominated my little blog, and somehow I made it through to the top forty in the personal category. And because of that a few emails came my way - invitations to PR events and sponsor challenges. And I still had no idea what I wanted to do, and those circular arguments were still swirling about in my head, but I just started saying yes. I figured I'd see where things went, see what felt right. I figured I'd cross the river by feeling the stones beneath my feet (thanks for that one, Deng Xiaoping).

So I said yes to some fantastic freebies and to some things I put cold hard cash behind. I said yes to blogger brunches and photography workshops. I finally said yes to a Photoshop class, and a pretty intensive weekend learning all about freelance writing (both worth every penny). I said yes to Facebook groups and Instagram and real life meet-ups.

I thought that maybe saying yes would help me figure out what I wanted to do. And it has. After a year and a bit of saying sure, why not? I'm definitely more certain about a few things.

Firstly, I'm clearer about why I want to make some money. I know that in the grand scheme of things I'll never contribute to the family finances in a meaningful way (I contribute much more in other ways). But I want to have enough cash to pay for a camera lens, or a magazine subscription, or to buy that dress that I really don't need, or to cover the cost of upgrading my flight to Europe (that's what I'm working towards right now!). It might all sound frivolous and silly, but it gives me a strange peace of mind. It means something, to me.

Secondly I'm much clearer about how I want to make money. And it's not through my blog, at least not directly anyway. It's through freelance writing, and photography, and collaboration, and through saying yes to very select opportunities that do come my way thanks to Good Things*.

And I've realised just how much doing things leads to doing other things. I've realised how little actions that may not feel like much at the time can lead to opportunities down the track. Sometimes way down the track.

And all of this has lead to where I'm currently at. I'm writing six posts a month on this blog which was my intention at the start of the year (yay me!); I've been nominated for Voices of 2015 (thank you, whoever you are!); I'm writing for the Threadless blog (I'm working on a post or three for them this weekend, actually); I've hit 24 sales in my Etsy store; and I've just submitted a 4000-ish word article - with photos - for one of my favourite magazines (my first properly paid commission, and the editor loves it! Yippee!). I've also recently submitted a paid-in-kind interview with one of my favourite illustrators for a fabulous little magazine; plus I'm in the midst of organising a trial run as a contributing photographer (yes, a paid position!) for a website I've long enjoyed (really hope I can pull that one off...). Oh, and I'm a finalist in the mobile category at the Head On Photo Festival.

I know that not all of these things will work out (and yes part of me is scared to publish this post in case it all goes to s**t). I know that next month may not be quite as awesome and opportunity filled as this one. I know that I'll have to work hard and stay focussed and keep thinking and planning and pitching if I want to continue writing. But right now it feels like there are some pretty ace things afoot, some pretty ace things indeed!

I still don't really know what the f**k I'm doing (does anyone?), but I reckon I'll keep saying yes for a little while longer.



24 April 2015

Three Etsy Things : Soup Bowls


As much as I love the long sunny days of summer (and living in the sparkling harbour city of Sydney how could I not?), I do get a bit excited when the nights cool and the light softens. I adore autumn. Partly because of the gorgeously coloured leaves and that misty, filtered sunshine. And partly because it means a chance to wear boots and scarves and jackets, long socks and big wooly knits. And partly because cooking in the cooler months is so much fun! Throw everything in a big pot, simmer for a few hours, serve with comforting carb of your choice - yum! 

Summer did take a long time to say goodbye this year, but autumn has now arrived with a bang (see #sydneystorm...). We've wholeheartedly embraced the cold and rainy turn with two stews and a mince pie under our culinary belts already. 

Next on the kitchen hit list? Soup! I'm thinking a creamy leek and potato, and then something a little mistrone-ish, with loads of veg. Maybe later I'll tackle the mother-in-law's two day oxtail soup recipe. And what better way to celebrate soup season than with these gorgeous bowls? 


20 April 2015

Done! : Jabulani Challenge


On the Saturday just gone I participated in the Jabulani Challenge by walking 22 kilometres through Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Part of me wants to say it doesn't really mean anything because the 'real' participants ran the whole course, or because the 'real' participants did 45 kilometres, or because my time was pretty bloody slow. 

But I'm ignoring that voice in my brain because it does mean something, to me anyway. It means something because I wasn't at my best - having pretty much missed the last three weeks of training due to illness and life - but I did it anyway. It means something because I did it all completely solo. I drove there on my own, I walked on my own, I inhaled coffee and a toasted sandwich on my own, and I drove home on my own. I had so many excuses, so many chances to pull out, but I didn't. 

It means something because it was a hot and sweaty 22 kilometres up hills and down hills and up so many more ridiculously steep hills. It was 22 kilometres jumping over rocks and tree roots and streams, dealing with shoulder high vegetation, goat tracks and getting lost once (okay, twice). 

So I'm going to treasure my bling, and I'm going to treasure that sense of seeing yet another hill and just thinking 'yep, let's do this!'. And doing it. 

Here's some things I learnt: 
- Training plans are awesome, even when you aren't able to follow them to the letter. I'm certain that doing the training before I was sick and busy helped me out immensely on the day, especially all those hill intervals and trail walks. If I hadn't of done that work early on I reckon I really would have struggled on the day. 

- Preparation is key. See the note on training above. But it's also about making sure you've got all your gear sorted well in advance, and that you've thought through all the logistics for a stress free day (just the essentials like parking, food, hydration and coffee...). I even pre-programmed the car's GPS the night before; one less thing to think about at arse o'clock on the day of the event.

- Going to an event on your own can be a bit intimidating, especially for an introvert like me. But it's worth it. I like the feeling of training for something, and being set a clearly defined challenge. There's also a nice sense of camaraderie out on the trail, everyone was very friendly and helpful. 

- Although I was at the event on my own, I did have a virtual cheer squad which was so awesome. It really made a difference, especially in the first 7kms. So post on Facebook, tweet, text and 'gram. Just make sure you watch where you're walking when you do. 

- Trail walking / running is hard. Don't assume because you can do a certain distance on the footpath that you can do that same distance on a trail. It really doesn't translate. It's not just the hills - on a trail you have to think about every single step you take (unless you don't mind a rolled ankle!). The trail is constantly changing, which is mentally and physically challenging, but it's also kind of what makes it awesome. I was beyond impressed watching the 45km runners. Impressive stuff.  

- Apart from a bit of soreness in the knees yesterday, and a twinge (or three) in the ankles today I've actually pulled up pretty well. I'm putting it down to magnesium tablets daily (I've been taking them for a good few months now); good hydration before, during and after the event; wearing compression socks before and after; and a couple of nice long hot soaks in our pool.


Have you completed an event lately? Or just something that you're a bit proud of? Tell me!

17 April 2015

Death by Doxie : Ferdi's Birthday

It was Ferdi's birthday last month. He turned eight, which is younger than I thought he was so yay! We are may be crazy dog people but we don't go over the top for the dogs birthdays. There's no cake or party or singing. They do normally get a treat - a raw egg, some roast chook, a bit of bacon - but, let's be honest, they get treats most days... 

I do of course take the opportunity to dig out the party hats though. How could I not when Ferdi so clearly loves them? 

(And yes, that is Ferdi's snout in Elfi's mouth in the bottom shot. Fun times.)

06 April 2015

Jorpins365 : March Favourites

March. You started in Melbourne and finished in Hong Kong (hurrah!). You were a mixed bag of complete and utter exhaustion and really exciting fun times; lots of opportunities and things to say yes please! too (more on all that in another post, when I'm not tired and snotty and facing the post-holiday unpacking / washing blues). We said happy birthday to Ferdi, and Elfi, and congratulations to Chris and Karli. And I said hello to loads of fabulous vintage finds (still photographing, still listing, getting there...slowly). 

Keep up with my #jorpins365 daily adventures here, or just follow me on Instagram!