Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's Funny How Things All Come Together

Recently I happened across a GREAT blog for freelance writers and editors, called Freelance Writing Jobs.

I've been wandering around lately, trying to figure out how to make my blog look as cool as the Freelance Writing Jobs blog. I want to put ads on my page. I want to offer relevant information to other freelance writers and start up some meaningful dialog. I also just want a place to do my creative writing and be silly.

The frustration has mounted as I've tried unsuccessfully to do all of this. Last night, in a fit of desperation, I posted a blog at Polk Voice, a local blog that is a product of our daily paper here in Lakeland, The Ledger.

I said I needed a blogging coach. And by this morning, one of the more dedicated bloggers, whose blog is Lakeland Local, had answered the call and offered to help me. He was just in time, too. I was ready to start pulling out my hair.

Then this afternoon, a friend of mine who works for the Polk County government told me about a FREE (no joke) conference on blogging that will be held in Orlando next month.

Yesterday, here I was, lost and helpless in blogland. Flash forward to this afternoon and now I have two awesome opportunities to get some questions answered.

Life is good!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Getting Started As A Freelance Writer

Lately, when I tell friends how I made the leap from PR/Journalism professional to becoming my own boss as a freelance writer, they want to know how I did it.

There are lots of technical issues to starting your own business that I will blog about later if it is requested. But today I want to share the basics on freelance writing.

First and foremost, if you want to be a freelance writer, I feel it is imperative that you purchase, use and learn like the back of your hand The Associated Press Stylebook. This is a writer's Bible.

If you're going to write for a printed publication, specifically a local newspaper or a magazine, particularly in the southeast, AP style is the default style for these publications.

Secondarily, I think it's not a bad idea to invest in a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style. This appears to be the style of choice with many Web content and promotional material writers.

Finding a Gig
How do you find a publication willing to let you write for them? This can seem a daunting task to those just getting started. But don't let fear hinder you.

My greatest success has come from starting locally and broadening my search from there. Call your local newspaper and ask them if they hire freelancers (commonly called "stringers" at newspapers). Offer to send them a writing sample. Once they see that you are a good writer, they will tend to call you each time they need a stringer.

If you don't have a lot of writing experience and you live in a big county with several smaller "hometown" papers, and one large daily, hit the hometown papers first. You may not get paid for these gigs, but you will get the all-important by-line. This helps you build your portfolio and translates to paying gigs down the road.

Contact local magazines. Let's face it. There are a million of them out there. From the local woman-to-woman magazine, to the free publications of local nightlife and music, these provide a great launching point. Again, the pay may not be great, but the by-lines are what you should go after as much as the paycheck.

I'll write more on this topic in the future, as there are many aspects of getting started. Send me your feedback and share the specific information you are seeking and we will get some good dialog started on the issue.

Monday, August 27, 2007

How People Who Work From Home Motivate Themselves

I'm a journalist/PR professional who recently started my own firm, where I work from home and write articles, press releases, Web content, promotional brochures, etc. I have a room dedicated to my work. The walls are my favorite color green and I have bright curtains that let in light from five windows. There's nothing gloomy about this space.

But lately, I find there are days when as bright and cheery as my office is, it's hard for me to focus on just work. I find myself longing to go into the back yard and water plants, or let my two dogs run around. I walk across the hardwood floors barefooted and step on dirt and suddenly I decide I should vacuum and mop before starting my next work project.

Sometimes, God forbid, I'd even prefer exercising to work.

It's not that I don't have enough work to keep me busy. I have plenty. I just have those days where I can't kick myself into gear to get work-related stuff accomplished.

How about you? I know there are many of you who also work from home. What's your trick to staying focused and motivated? What do you do to pull yourself out of a daydream and back into the task at hand?

I'm anxious for some feedback on this one!

Friday, August 24, 2007

German Shepherd Dog Shit

I'm laying out in the sun a lot lately. I know it's not good for you, but I am going to California to be in a beachfront wedding next month and I'm not having people whispering amongst themselves about how pale the girl from Florida is. Plus, I drown myself in Mary Kay skincare products morning and night, so a few weeks of sun shouldn't kill me.

Anyway, I'm headed to the backyard in a non-matching, ill-fitting two-piece that I have no business wearing, but my privacy fence keeps any neighbors from turning into pillars of salt if they see me.

So there I am, the latest issue of Rolling Stone in one hand, electric-blue Ipod in the other, a watch to let me know when to flip, my cell phone and the waterhose dialed to the mister setting. I know it's a lot of crap just for being in the back yard, but hey, I get bored easily.

I lie down and get settled in, flip to the article on Zac Efron, hit shuffle on the Ipod and just as I fall into the sounds of Robin Trower, the neighbor behind me cranks up the lawn mower for the first time in two months.

Two laps around the yard and he's kicked up a dust cloud the size of a swarm of locusts. Then I smell the unmistakable odor of German Shepherd dog shit. Judging by the fact that the odor has reached my nose, the guy must've rolled over a sizeable pile, too.

Thus brought an abrupt end to today's sunbathing experience.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Laser Hair Removal- Part 5

My friend and I recently underwent our fourth laser hair removal treatment at Ideal Image. This time, we were looking forward to it because it was the first treatment we had while using the optional numbing cream.

We were told to apply the numbing cream to the treatment area 60 to 90 minutes prior to our appointments. I swore someone at Ideal Image said to put Saran Wrap over the area after applying the cream, but my friend doesn't recall that. But just to be safe, we try the Saran Wrap trick.

We arrive for our appointment and the nurse performing the treatment asks me if I applied the numbing cream, to which I replied, "That's a big hell yes."

She directs me to the bathroom to wash it off with those disposable facial cleansing cloths. I never knew a disposal cloth could generate so many suds. Anyway, after that, I step into the treatment room.

I'm so excited about undergoing this procedure with the numbing cream, until the nurse says, "you're still going to feel it. The cream just takes the edge off."


While she's guiding the laser over my armpits, I carry on a conversation, which helps me not to think about the discomfort, which isn't too bad, actually.

The nurse knows I wound up with a few blisters across the top of the pubic area last time and asks if I had been in the sun prior to treatment. I said no. She decides to decrease the laser intensity over that area. Even with the numbing cream, the process is uncomfortable, but I notice that it's definitely better with the cream than without.

My friend, on the other hand, disagrees. For her, this fourth treatment is the worst to date.

I notice when I get home that instead of any blisters, this time I just have a raised welt across the top of the pubic area. I think I must just be sensitive to the laser.

Regardless, the discomfort is manageable and I'm very pleased with my results thus far. I'm seeing a marked reduction in hair growth and when the hair does grow back, it's much finer than it was prior to treatment. I also continue to notice that I can go longer without shaving between each successive treatment.

Laser Hair Removal- Part 4

About 12 weeks pass before my friend and I go to our third treatment. Once again, the laser is intensified and the area of each zap is a bit smaller.

In 12 weeks, I completely forget the clothing routine and for some reason I strip for this treatment. As I'm lying naked on the paper-covered table, I begin to wonder to myself, "Am I supposed to be completely naked for this?"

I suddenly can't remember my routine from the past. When I finally decide I definitely shouldn't have all my clothes off, the nurse is knocking on the door to come in. Oh well, too late to re-dress now. And I decide I shouldn't even be embarassed, because this woman does Flare Do's on people (see last Laser Hair Removal- Part 1 for explanation). She's seen much more weirdness than me naked on the table.

Treatment three begins and...holy crap...does it hurt. The "discomfort" is almost unbearable. With each zap of the laser, my leg does this uncontrollable seizure-like jerk. I start sweating. And damn it, I'm naked, which means all this paper on the table is going to stick to me when I get up.

The laser zaps get so bad, I have to tell the nurse I need a break for a minute. I remember the consultant's words during that initial consultation: "it feels like a bee sting."

Uh, yeah. If that bee belongs to the Taser gun family.

As we're walking to my car, my friend and I agree that this treatment is the worst to date. We drive home and I start feeling some definite discomfort in the bikini line area. That night, I look in the mirror and I've got second degree burns right above my hoo-hah.

Now I'm pissed because I can hear my mother's overly-cautious banter in my head from when I told her I was going to start laser hair removal treatment. "That's fine...until you get second degree burns!"

I call my friend to see if she's got burns. She gasps, "You've got blisters where?!"

The next day I call Ideal Image. They say this certainly should not have happened. I decide there's nothing to do now but wait for them to heal, which they do. Very quickly, I might add.

I call my friend back and ask her what we're trying to prove by going "commando" to these painful treatments, when we could have gotten the numbing cream.

I call Ideal Image and demand the ointment prescription before the next visit.

The results are great, but the pain isn't fun.

Laser Hair Removal- Part 3

I'm blogging about the laser hair removal process my friend and I are undergoing through Ideal Image. If you would like to read my first two blogs about this, they are appropriately labeled "Laser Hair Removal- Part 1" and "Laser Hair Removal- Part 2."

When our second treatment comes, we are actually looking forward to it. One step closer to permanent bare skin in our armpits and bikini line.

We had good results from the first treatment. After several days, hair began falling out, leaving smooth skin in its place.

We find out once we arrive that on the second trip, the laser is intensified and the area in which it targets with each shot is smaller. Oh well, maybe the discomfort will be slightly greater this time. No problem.

I remove my panties for this treatment because although Fire Crotch is a nice enough nickname for Lindsey, I've been mulling it over in my head a few days and it really doesn't suit me. I'm wearing a short sleeve shirt that day, so I remove that, but leave the bra on.

The second treatment certainly has a level of discomfort to it. I tell my friend afterward that my treatment hurt a bit. She is shocked. Hers felt fine.

Hmmmm....I must need to toughen up.

Laser Hair Removal- Part 2

I had been informed during my initial consultation that the procedure was not painless; that the "discomfort" was "manageable," but if I preferred, I could have a prescription for a numbing topical ointment to put on prior to my treatment. They described this "discomfort" as being similar to a bee sting. Well, a bee sting doesn't feel good, but I've certainly never felt like I was going to die from one.

I'm like a guy when it comes to situations where my pain level might be called into question. I like to think that I'm tough. I've been through Army Basic Training, for crying out loud. In my mind, I'm a regular bad-ass.

I decide I don't need numbing ointment prior to my treatments. I'm going "commando."

The consultant also informs my friend, who's going through this with me, that we must shave our bikini lines the way we want them to look at the end of our laser treatment regimen.

Good Lord. I try not to look at that area very much. But the night before our appointment, I'm in the shower, doubled over, trying to keep all my lines straight. But heck, I can't tell if it's straight.

So I enlist my husband's help. I step out of the shower with legs bowed like I've been riding a horse and ask, "Honey, is this even?"

Boy, does he become concerned about this project all of the sudden. He even gets out his reading glasses.

My friend and I arrive for our first treatment. I'm told I can remove my panties, or they can just "work around them" when lasering my bikini line. I'm wearing a sleeveless shirt, so there's no need to remove any clothing to reach my armpits.

The armpits are a breeze. Very little "discomfort."

When we get to my bikini line, the nurse says in such a nice voice, "If you want to continue to wear your panties during future treatments, you want to avoid wearing black (I'm wearing black). The laser is attracted to pigment, and I would hate to catch your panties on fire."

And she laughs the friendliest little laugh after saying that. Meanwhile, I'm suddenly afraid I'm about to earn Lindsey Lohan's nickname, Fire Crotch.

My treatment ends peacefully- panties intact.

Laser hair Removal- Part 1

I'm sick of shaving. That, combined with Ideal Image's quest to flood every form of media with advertisements about being hair free for life, recently convinced me to do something about it.

First of all, let me say that I've tried myriad hair removal methods. I've shaved everything. I've plucked in places I can barely see without the aid of a handheld mirror. I've waxed until I've brought tears to my eyes. I've used creams.

But none of these is permanent. I'm looking for a permanent end to the 5 o'clock shadow that plagues my armpits. And fellas, don't whine to me about razor burn, because my bikini line could tell you stories that would make you cry.

So with armpits and bikini line clearly targeted as the guinea pigs of my experiment, I head off to the laser hair removal center. With a friend, of course.

For crying out loud, women can't go to a public restroom alone. Do you think I could fly solo on this excursion?

The first visit is all about the free consultation to tell you about the procedure, find out which area you're looking to de-hair, etc.

When I mention bikini line, the consultant's eyes light up and out come these drawings of a woman's nether regions. She starts telling me about "The Brazilian," and I immediately think, "You're gonna shoot a laser where?!"

I sooooooooo do not think so.

Then she starts talking about "The Flare 'Do." Apparently, some women like to reflect some personality in their pubic hair these days.

Rumor has it, lately the center gets a lot of Lucky Charms requests.

If I've not drawn a clear enough picture, here's the deal: you can have all of your pubic hair removed except for a shape of your choice. You could have a heart down there, if you wanted.

I decide that even though she's a woman, I could never look my gynecologist in the eye again if I showed up with question mark-shaped pubic hair and decide the Flare 'Do is definitely a Flare Don't for me.

I glance over at my friend and I can see that although she came along for moral support, she's fidgeting with her checkbook. I think I've found a partner in crime to endure these laser treatments over the next two years.

Yep, that's right. It takes two years to become completely hair-free.
Stay tuned.

Note: Lorrie is working on a stencil of a peace sign, should she change her mind about the Flare 'Do.

Homemade Baking Powder

Admit it. You've always wanted to know how to make homemade baking powder. Well, here you go:

2 parts cream of tartar
1 part baking soda

Mix together. There you have it- homemade, chemical-free baking powder.