This year seems to be the year where I’m making good on some promises I made to myself early in the year. Some promises have come up empty when they don’t get fulfilled year after year, but for whatever reason, this one’s has been different. Maybe it’s some cosmic force at play that tries to balance the good with the bad – isn’t that a nice thought? Or maybe things come into your life only when it’s the right time.
The ironic thing about having a job is that I feel like I have more “free” time. Ok, scratch that because things are always busy around here no matter what, but what I mean is that I feel like I can schedule things without fear of every plan getting usurped by a last minute freelance assignment. What some people don’t realize about freelance is that even though you’re your own boss, you’re sort of a slave to your clients. It’s its own brand of “golden handcuffs”. You don’t want to say no because you don’t want to risk losing that client and you don’t want to say no because you might regret it when work dries up. What often happens is that you find yourself in an impossible schedule where you’re juggling too many things and working non-stop. It’s a perpetual cycle that breeds it own version of being on that hamster wheel.
So imagine my surprise when I realized that having a set schedule begets a different kind of freedom I haven’t had before (more or less – I’m still freelancing a bit on top of my job right now. What was that I just said about not being able to say “no”? Oy vey). I got rather excited when I realized that some of my time away from the office would be entirely mine again. That meant carving out regular time to work on our business, something that always seem to end up getting pushed to the back burner, and also making things with my hands.
I met my friend RJ in the early years of Etsy when the community seemed much smaller and we were all stumbling our way around twitter. I’ve been wanting to play in her studio, on her invitation, for quite a while now, but I was never able to find the time. I finally cleared my schedule this month for 2 sessions of studio time and it was the best time I’ve had in a while. Art therapy, I guess. There’s something really therapeutic about working clay in your hands and hand building objects. Can’t say whatever I made is good, but who cares. It wasn’t about making anything good and I suppose that’s the point of it all. Drawing and painting is still a bit too intimidating because these are things I studied for years, in a highly rigorous academic setting, no less. I *should* be able to do these things, right? Wrong. Insecurity, self doubt, and lack of practice does a number on anything that should make sense (hi, piano), no matter how many degrees you’ve earned. All of that goes out the window. But clay. It’s something I’m not familiar with aside from a wheel throwing class I took while in college (doesn’t everybody take a pottery class at one point?). So here’s another check mark on the list of positives this year. I’ll take what I can get, but it was a big one.
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The season is golden right now – the light, the trees, the leaves. It’s like the last bit of color before the winter grays sets in. Six more weeks left in the year and we’re all shaking our heads at how fast it all goes.
We’re still getting used to the rhythm of our days, but after a few months things have settled into something that I’d almost call routine. I get home around 7pm the days that I’m in the office, which gives me about an hour and a half with the kids before they turn in. I often find them finishing up dinner when I’m walking in the door, or sometimes practicing their instruments or reading a book. There isn’t much time left in the evenings for me to help with homework, and Mondays and Tuesday are the most hectic after school days because of lessons and activities, so Mark shoulders much of the parenting responsibilities those days. Somehow, we seem to be getting by. I wouldn’t say we’re knocking it out of the ball park, but we’re getting it done.
I think the biggest transition, at least on the home front, is that I have less time to be involved in their school work, and with these years being pretty critical in that grades are starting to really count, it’s been tough to admit. And this is where all those thoughts and questions about “doing it all” come in because really, it’s nearly impossible to do it all well, but damn if I’m not going to try. But all those random school holidays and half days and vacations throw us off, and each day that isn’t routine needs to be planned for. Well, what about when your kid feels sick in the morning and can’t go to school? Thankfully, we all seem to have freakish immune systems and we haven’t been sick in years, but these are the things that are taking up space in my mind now when they didn’t occupy it before. Welcome to every working parents’ dilemma. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman and a mom with a career. I’ve always thought about it, yes, but I’ve also always had the upper hand. Taking a job, even with lots of flexibility, comes with its own rules and the rules aren’t necessarily mine.
On the work front, the commute can suck the life out of you. 40 minutes door to door ain’t bad, but when you’re spending half of those minutes packed in a subway car like sardines in a can, it’s not the most pleasant way to start or end a day. This, coming from a person who sometimes went weeks without getting on a subway. But 5 months in and I can no longer remember what it was like to work at home every single day, all those hours spent alone. That’s the best part of working in an office, obviously – the social interactions, the sense that I belong somewhere. And the days that I do work at home now feel like a gift.
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This year’s calendar just be my favorite NYC calendar yet! I’ve used a different paper stock that is 100% post-consumer recycled paper and the weight of the paper is thicker than the stock used in years past. The calendars are available here and here.
The holiday season is already here as far as cookie production goes. Mark’s been super busy in the kitchen churning out massive amounts of cookies for our retailers and wholesale accounts who are stocking up for the holidays. We haven’t yet set our holiday ordering deadline since we’re still weighing production schedules, but it’ll most likely be around the 11th of December. You can always order anytime up until the deadline and specify that it’s a holiday order – we’ll ship it for you closer to Christmas. If you missed the news on our social account, West Elm is carrying our hot chocolate mixes in the marketplace section of select stores around the country.
It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only 2 weeks away, isn’t it? Here’s to another year of HolidayCookieMadness!
Posted by Jenna | 3 Comments
So this new job of mine officially became A JOB this month, and by all caps, I mean I went on payroll in November. Big stuff around here considering I haven’t been on payroll anywhere in 11 years. And the thing that clinched it? Health insurance.
Obamacare hasn’t worked out well for families like ours – middle class, freelancers, a family of four in NYC. When ACA rolled out this time last year, I largely ignored it because I quickly realized that the health insurance that I had through Freelancers Union, a plan that I had switched over to 4 years ago to save on skyrocketing premiums, was still a better deal than the plans that were on available on the health exchange. Our insurance was far from the best (high deductibles and a frightening out-of-pocket max), but it worked for our healthy family and our premiums were relatively low (“relative” being the key word here since most would still balk at the number). What I didn’t know, however, was that Freelancers Union negotiated a year extension to keep their plans while most of the other trade plans that existed were eliminated because they didn’t comply with ACA. I was blissfully unaware.
During the summer, however, I somehow caught on to the fact that our insurance would end this year and that we’d have to purchase a new plan through the marketplace. So I went and searched around and quickly became despondent at what I was facing; the plans weren’t affordable at all. A letter from our insurance company in October confirmed my fears: an end to our plan and a significant increase in premiums for worse coverage.
I always made a deal with myself that if freelance no longer worked for our family I would go get a job, but a freelance career did end up being the best option for us while the kids were little because we were able to save on nanny/daycare costs while juggling flexible schedules and tag teaming on childcare. If you’ve been reading here for the past 6 years, you know all this. It wasn’t always easy and I feel like we paved our own way in somewhat uncharted waters back then, but it was the best of both worlds in a lot of ways.
But getting back to the deal I made with myself…well, I never really had to make that decision because freelancing went great for so many years – 11 years, in fact. Sure, there were dry spells like every freelancer experiences and it was in these moments of sheer panic that I’d promise to look for a full time job if I couldn’t support the family anymore, but work always managed to come down the pipeline.
The truth is, I was also afraid of looking for a full time job. It was a terrifying thought in a lot of ways. How would I adjust to commuting and working in an office everyday? I LOVED working from home and was lucky as a freelancer to never have to work onsite. The flexibility and freedom meant everything and I fought so hard to build and protect it. Whenever I turned a job offer down in the past – even jobs that I would have considered “dream jobs” – freedom over my time would always win out. I couldn’t justify the huge change in lifestyle, not even for a steady paycheck and benefits.
But sometimes you have to see the writing on the wall and I recognized for the past few years that the industry that I was working in was changing. Technology, media, design – it all moves so fast. We’d be foolish to think that the jobs that we could rely on will always be there. While I did have one of the best years as a consultant this past year, the work that I was doing was shifting – less web and more print. The big web projects that used to be my bread and butter projects were less frequent and harder to come by. Parallel to all this is my complicated relationship with design. I think one of the hardest and truest things you can do in life is to recognize and acknowledge when something has run its course. Maybe that’s leaving on your own terms when you’re still on top. Maybe it’s about letting go when it’s time. Whatever it is, it’s not easy acknowledging when something is over.
So it’s true that The Job sort of just happened. I didn’t decide to look for a full time job, there wasn’t a formal interview and this all came down during one of the most difficult times in my life. But sometimes things just fall into place, you know? And then it all started happening really fast, and I found myself helping to set up health insurance for the company and deciding on a job title for myself. And this is why it feels right. I’m helping to build a company and a product from the ground up and it’s going to be wild ride. I’ll admit that I had a moment of panic when I signed papers the other week. It sort of felt like I was signing my freedom away (though part of the deal is I get to keep some flexibility and only go into the office 3 days a week so I can still run our business and work on some freelance on the side. Look, if you want something you have to ask). When I made a little announcement on Instagram about this new venture, it all felt too real. But I’m ready to step into this new role and I realized that the promise that I always made to myself about finding a job if I couldn’t support my family any longer as a freelancer was only half true. I’m not only doing this for them or the health insurance or a steady paycheck; I’m doing this for me.
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These transitional season months always go by the quickest, don’t they? We’re so busy cramming in all the seasonal activities that every weekend is always accounted for. And why do we feel so compelled to pack every weekend with stuff? Because October is the month to rival all months for events here in the city. I suppose it’s the last month where the weather is truly comfortable for any considerable time spent outdoors. We nearly ran ourselves silly last Saturday trekking through all the touristy spots. Let’s check them off shall we? So we started off in the Meatpacking District, followed by Chelsea Market, the High Line, Times Square and Bryant Park. The only spot missing in this crazy town list is Rockefeller Center, but it wasn’t all our doing. We had to drop one kid off at a birthday party in Times Square, and because we didn’t want the other kid to feel so left out, we took her anywhere she wanted to go and that ended up being the Japanese bookstore across from Bryant Park.
So Bryant Park has this open air holiday market which they’ve had for years, but one year it got something of a makeover and it rebranded itself (heavily sponsored, of course) as “Winter Village“, complete with a two story, glass encased restaurant that they build up and tear down every year, over a hundred outdoor shops and, of course, the ice skating rink. I thought the opening date of November 1st last year was really pushing it; I was therefore surprised…no, stunned really, that it was already open when we were in the neighborhood last weekend. Winter Village. In October. In the FALL. I know – why don’t we skip Fall altogether and jump right into Christmas after Labor Day? Who needs Fall?? I love imagining the suits who decide such things gathered in a conference room, debating on opening dates. “Can we get away with opening Winter Village in the middle of October? Will the people riot?” $$$$$
Today is November 1st. It’s cold and rainy and quiet, and such a different scene outside from last night’s Halloween festivities. Our Brooklyn neighborhood has become somewhat of a destination neighborhood for Halloween because of all the decorations, plentiful candy flowing from those brownstones, the party atmosphere and the Halloween Parade (I haven’t been to the Village Parade in Manhattan in years). All that’s gone now and I imagine lots of families are spending this rainy November 1st like us – indoors in pajamas, nibbling all day on food, kids reorganizing and negotiating candy trades, and playing games.
Not a thought in sight about the holidays at this house. As it should be.
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