Thursday, May 30, 2013

5 Pitfalls of Working From Home (and How to Avoid Them)

Before I had kids, I had planned on going back into the workforce at least part-time after having my first son.  Yet after holding him in my arms, and with my maternity leave ending, I started praying for a way to stay home with him.  God opened the door through my brother offering me a job, and I have now worked from home for 7 years as a wedding photo editor.

From the outside looking in, working from home seems like a dream come true.   It is a dream come true in many ways, yet it is not easy and requires constant juggling and balancing to make things work. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to just get a job outside the home and be able to leave the work there at the end of the day.  I have tried that, too, however, and it is not easy at all.  Juggling work from home has been easier for me than juggling childcare outside the home.

The past 7 years have brought me through all the high's and low's of working from home, and I wanted to share with you 5 pitfalls of working from home (things I have experienced), so that it might help you to avoid them.


Pitfall #1 - Ineffective Income Management

If you work from home, chances are you are self-employed, and with that comes very irregular pay periods.  In the wedding business, we have "wedding season" and "off season," and I did not always plan well for those months with almost no income coming in.  It is important that you don't take on new bills (that your income alone is responsible for) which could default during the months you have no income.  It is also just as important to set money aside for the months that work is slower.  Receiving a big paycheck during the busy seasons can be exhilarating, and you can be easily tempted to go make a big purchase or spend it all; but be careful, because those choices may come back later (in the slow season) to haunt you.  Be wise with your money and save during the busy seasons.

Pitfall #2 - Lack of a Set Work Schedule

When you work at all hours of the day and night, constantly being interrupted by emails, phone calls, text messages and more, it can wreak havoc on your family and your personal well-being.  Set a work schedule, in some way or form.  I realize there are some jobs where you are "on call" and this would be hard.  But for the most part, many of us do have a choice in when we work.  I made this mistake for years as a work-from-home mom.  All day and night I was working, checking emails, responding to people - who could have waited until the next business day.  The world will not stop running if you take a break.  Make it very clear the days you work and the days you are off, as well as the times you work and the times you don't work. It is helpful to post it on your office door, or somewhere where your family can see it.  Don't just set a schedule, though - keep to it; otherwise your life will be run by your job, and you will become very stressed out and overwhelmed.

Pitfall #3- Blogger's Butt

It is called "Blogger's Butt" for a reason - it is a joke in the blogging community that sitting for prolonged periods of time writing at your computer can cause your butt to widen and the weight to pile on.  I have it myself, so take it from me.  The past few years of working from home have resulted in me gaining 20 extra pounds.  If you are working from home, especially at a computer, you need to exercise more than probably the average person.  Be sure to take a break in your day (I know it's hard!) to get up and walk, go to the gym, or do an exercise DVD.

It is also easier to snack all day when you work from home, because the kitchen is only steps away.  When you work outside the home, it is easier to be active and only eat on your lunch break.  Be sure to take extra care of your health when working from home, because it is so easy to overlook it.

Pitfall #4 - Little Personal Connection

Working from home also has a little-known side-effect: a lack of personal connection with the outside world.  I'm not talking about connecting with others through social media, because we do that all day long.  I'm talking about getting together with friends in person.  "But I'm too busy!" you say, "I have no time for that!"  I understand- trust me, I do. But you need to get out of your home office and interact with people outside of your home, in person, on a regular basis.  If that means taking your laptop to Starbucks or a public place, do it. But what is even better is to meet up with friends at a park for a playdate (if you have small children at home), go out with a friend during your "off time" (see pitfall #2), have a regular date night with your spouse - anything you can do that gets you out of the house.  Before I realized this pitfall, there were sometimes entire weeks where I would go with no contact with anyone other than my husband, my son, and saying hello quickly to people on Sunday mornings at church.  Be intentional about staying in real-life relationships with people and not just resorting to contact through social media.

Pitfall #5 - Your Family Feeling Left Out

Before my children were in school all day, I had to work many times during the day while they were home with me. I did not have the resources to pay for childcare while I was working, so many times I would get work done while they were playing.  This isn't bad per-say, but because I had set no boundaries with my work, they never knew when I was working and when I wasn't. They were confused, and there were many frustrating days where I couldn't get anything done because they were pulling my arms off the keyboard.  Instead of having a few set hours where I was working uninterrupted (even if it was while they were sleeping), I was trying to work all day long but getting constantly interrupted.  My kids were upset with me, I was upset with them, and we were all frustrated because there was no quality time being had.

Looking back I realize now that if I had just given them my undivided attention for periods throughout the day, things would have gone so much smoother. Instead, I was trying to mother and work while constantly getting pulled away from both.  How much nicer things could have been if I would have strived for doing one thing well at a time (even if it didn't always happen).

Now that my boys are in school, I try very hard to get all of my work done by the time they get home from school.  Yet it is still hard to turn off the computer and shut the office door during the rest of the day when they are home.  When you work from home, you feel like your work is never done and if you could just get ahead a little bit more, tomorrow would be so much easier.  But remember that your work is never more important than your family, and your children need you more.

The pitfall I struggle with the most right now is #2 - I'm still trying hard to set a work schedule for myself that allows me to get everything done while they are gone, yet still keep the house clean and run all of my weekly errands.

Working from home is rarely done perfectly, but I hope the things I shared can help you avoid some of the pifalls that I have fallen into.

If you work from home, what pitfall do you struggle with the most?  Are there any other pitfalls that you would add?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dear Jaden (Age 6)

Dear Jaden,

This past week you turned 6 years old.  I keep calling you "baby".... sorry about that.  You will, though, always be my baby.

You flew through Kindergarten this year, making a ton of friends along the way.  We are so thankful that you had an easy and fun year, and I cannot believe it's almost over.

You are still the cuddler in the family - you love to sit on laps, be hugged, be held, and climb into our bed - every. single. night.  But when you wrap your arms around my neck and lay between us, we smile and let you stay, because we know you are growing fast and you won't be there forever.

One of your favorite things to do is make people laugh (although it does get you in trouble sometimes). Whether you are sticking your booty out and dancing, singing "Hey, suxy lady" (that is how you say it), or singing funny songs - you are a silly boy.

You are also very sensitive and have a very soft heart. Words affect you deeply, as does a loud voice, and we have found that the best approach with you is to be gentle and patient.  When your feelings are hurt, it can affect you all day, and it takes a lot of hugs and reassurances to help you smile again.  That shows us that you are deep, and your love for others is just as deep, too.

We are proud of the boy you are becoming, and the life and joy you bring to our family.  Your innocence is inspiring, your wonder at the world makes us stop and breathe it all in.  When you find a roly-poly and yell, "Mom, I found another Jaden-poly!" or when you see a bird outside and say, "I named him Blackie!" or when you see a friend crying and go to comfort him, we see your heart.

When you are 16 or 36 and want to remember who you were at age 6, here are a few of your favorite things:

Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite sport: Basketball
Favorite thing to do at school:  Play
Favorite color: Green
Favorite toy: Beyblades
Favorite fruit: Strawberry
Favorite TV show/ cartoon: Lego Chima
Favorite thing to eat for lunch: sandwiches (peanut butter & jelly)
Favorite clothing item: My taco shirt
Favorite thing to fall asleep with:  My dolphin pillow pet
Favorite book: Chima
Favorite game:
Favorite animal: cheetah
Favorite song:  Gangnam Style (seriously??)
Favorite snack: Apples
Best friend: Austin
Favorite cereal:  Lucky Charms
Favorite thing to do outside: Play basketball
Favorite drink: Orange Juice
Favorite holiday: Christmas
Favorite place to visit: Legoland
Favorite Bible story: Moses & the Ten Commandments
What do you want to be when you grow up? Police man
What do you love about our family? They are nice to me
Favorite thing to do with mommy: Play basketball
Favorite thing to do with daddy: Going to 7-11 with him to get Slurpees
Favorite thing to do with Micah: Play Legos

We love you!

Read last year's post:  A letter to my 5 year old

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Blogger Interview: Renee Fisher

Earlier this year I had a desire to interview other writers and bloggers every month to learn more about them and highlight their books and ministries.  Even in the preparation for this series, I have been so encouraged by their stories.  I can't wait to continue sharing them with you.

In March I interviewed Christin Slade, a blogger and author who is in the process of adopting two girls in Kenya, in addition to raising and homeschooling her 5 children.

This month I'd like to introduce you to Renee Fisher, an author and speaker whom I met at the Re:Write Conference last October.

The first thing that struck me about Renee was her fun and loving spirit.  I had the pleasure of working with her at the conference, and she was constantly networking other people and encouraging them.  When she approached me a few months later to start guest posting regularly for her at, I was more than honored.

Let's meet Renee!

1) Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Renee Fisher and I am happily married to my best friend Marc. After being single for over a decade, I welcome the new challenges and comforts of marriage. While I was single, I completed my college education through Biola University and wrote a couple books.

2) How did you get started writing? 

I got my start in writing by working at Good News, Etc., Newspaper based in North San Diego County. I was their office clerk and eventually got promoted to their monthly Music Column. My first interview was with Switchfoot because I had recently taken a History of Rock and Roll class. Through that, God opened up my heart to see that all my years of journal writing were not just for Him and me, but to be shared with others. That's also around the time I started blogging. 

3) Can you tell us about the books you have written, and which one is your personal favorite?

My first book, Faithbook of Jesus: Connecting with Jesus Daily is a one year devotional book and is a compilation of all my devotionals that I blogged over six years. It was so fun to rewrite and edit them and realize that God didn't waste a single word--even when I thought it was just a hobby. The second book I wrote, Not Another Dating Book was written to encourage my friends and I. After feeling like I would be single forever is when God brought Marc into my life, and in the midst of dating I ended up re-writing most of the book because (shocker) I had become much more bitter than I thought. My next two books I finished after we got married.  Loves Me Not just released, and Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me releases in July. Both written about heartbreak and the process of learning how to forgive others including yourself. 

4) What are some of the life experiences that have shaped who you are today?

When I was a young girl I developed general anxiety disorder and that taught me how to pray through my thoughts and all the lies the enemy made me to believe. Then in high school I developed severe eczema out of the blue, which took the skin off the top of my feet and face. I ended up in San Diego Children's Hospital and through that ordeal took another six years for my skin and body to fully recover, not to mention the 100 pounds I gained from taking Prednisone for my eczema. THAT is when I began reading the Bible daily and journaling at the age of 15. If I were to show you all my journals, and stack them on top of each other--would probably be over four feet!!

5) What message are you most passionate about sharing with others?
I am most passionate about sharing Christ with others and how they can have a daily (devotional) relationship with Him. This is something I believe is not only very important but saved my life, and kept me from committing suicide when my health made me feel like things were hopeless. Secondly, I am passionate about sharing my love story and how God can redeem our stories through a closer relationship with Him.
6) Can you tell us about one of the best speaking experiences you've ever had?
The BEST speaking experience I ever had was in Dallas, TX for Bishop T.D. Jake's church Potters House. I spoke to the young adult group called Brick House and I shared my testimony of faith and healing and got a standing ovation. I think I was only one of three white people in the room and have never felt God's presence (and energy) more powerfully than I ever have on that day!


Renee has been a constant encouragement to me in my own writing and speaking career.  If you would like to connect with her, be sure to check out her webpage and Facebook page. You can be filled with encouragement at, and check out the articles she's written for Relevant Magazine, Start Marriage Right, FaithLifeWomen,, and more!

Renee also leads the QuarterLife Conference for twenty-and-thirty-somethings, which is a FREE online conference with a great lineup of speakers.

You can also contact her if you are interested in booking her to speak at your church, or click on any of the links above to purchase any of her books.

Thank you, Renee, for sharing your life and heart with us!!  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

5 Free Things To Do in the South Bay

I have been blessed to live in the South Bay area of Los Angeles county for the past 11 years. The South Bay area is comprised of Torrance, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes, San Pedro, and many of the other cities joined to ours.  We are about 15 minutes north of Long Beach, and but south of the city of Los Angeles.

As Wikipedia states, "The South Bay is one of the most culturally, economically, and ethnically diverse areas in the United States, with a largely even distribution of the population across African, Asian/Pacific Islander, European and Latino ancestry." You will never be at a loss to find many Japanese restaurants, Hawaiian food (the main factory for King's Hawaiian bread is here), and other ethnic cuisines.

If you already live in the South Bay area of Los Angeles or are visiting soon, I want to share with you 5 places that you can visit for FREE.  All of them are places that locals told me about, and I'm so glad we went.

1) Terranea Resort.  Although Terranea is a beautiful hotel & golf course, they have their own private beach that the public can visit.  Parking is free, and you can follow the path down to an area with nice bathrooms and picnic benches with an amazing view of the ocean.  We have seen dolphins and whales from that vantage point many times. Follow the path a little further down and you will find the private beach. Although it is rocky and not the best place to swim, it is a great spot for kids to explore, throw rocks in the ocean, or just play in the sandy area above the rocks.  There are also some great places to eat on the property, including Nelsons.

2)  South Coast Botanical Gardens.  On the third Tuesday of every month, you can bring your family to the gardens for free admission.  This place is HUGE with a giant lake, a children's garden, tons of nature and many places to explore.  Pack a lunch and bring a picnic blanket, and plan on spending a few hours here.  Right now there is a Groupon available with 50% off a family pass, making it only $25 for a years admission!

3) The Roundhouse Aquarium.  Located right at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier, this aquarium only takes donations for entrance. It is a small, two-story aquarium with a good selection of fish for kids to see and touch.


4) Hopkins Wilderness Park.  This is a beautiful campground and park nestled within the city of Redondo Beach.  You can see small wildlife and feed the ducks.  There are two ponds, and the pond at the far end of the park has a ton of turtles. Just be careful with your little ones; my son bent over to see the turtles and fell head-first into the pond when he was two!  (Note that they are closed on Wednesdays)


5) The Sea Lab in Redondo Beach.  This spot is almost free - only $4 requested donation per family.  Be sure to bring quarters for the metered parking outside, too.  The Sea Lab is an educational aquarium.  My son's class took a field trip here and they had so much fun.  There are a ton of tanks, both inside and outside, of fish local to our area.  Be sure to take one of the guided tours where you will be able to get up close and personal with many of the fish.  Make a day of it and bring a sack lunch to eat on the sand afterwards - the Sea Lab is located right next to the water.

I hope you get a chance to visit the South Bay someday; after all, we are only 20 minutes south of the LA Airport, and on your way to Disneyland!

If you are from this area, what other "hidden gems" in the South Bay would you recommend visiting?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things

Oprah did it, now Ellen's doing it, so I thought I should jump in too!  I always love watching the shows about their favorite things, wishing I was in the audience, and crying with joy for the people who get to receive all of those gifts!  (Can you tell that gift-giving is my love language?) :)

So, here are "A Few of My Favorite Things" right now:

TV Shows

If you have not yet seen Call the Midwife,  it is my favorite show on TV right now.  As Wikipedia states, "The plot follows newly qualified midwife Jenny Lee and the work of midwives and the nuns of Nonnatus House, a nursing convent, coping with the medical problems in the deprived Poplar district of East London in the 1950s."   Based on true stories, Call the Midwife is on Sunday nights on PBS (which is not a cable channel), but you can also find the episodes online at

I'm also a bit obsessed with American Idol right now. Aside from Nicki Minaj, who makes me want to throw stuff at my TV screen, I watch it solely for Angie Miller, the pastor's daughter from Massachusetts who is a worship leader and writes her own songs.  She is in the top 3 right now and I'm hoping she wins!  Check out this song she wrote and performed:

(I think Randy Jackson's "Wow" and "Really" comments are hilarious)


I have been listening to Meredith Andrew's new album Worth it All, which is worship-driven and amazing.  If you need some encouragement today, listen to this:


These days, I rarely finish a book I pick up to read.  Typically I read about 1/3 of my way through and find it in the bathroom 2 months later. But these two books are ones that I can hardly put down.

First, I found in my bookshelf the old classic Hinds Feet On High Placesby Hannah Hurnard. This book brings back a lot of memories for me since the last time I read it was probably in high school. It is such a powerful book, an allegory similar to Pilgrim's Progress, with a ton of life lessons.

Second, I'm reading Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids.  This book followed 400 youth group graduates to see what factors helped some of them stick with their faith, and what caused some of them to leave it behind (research has shown up to 80% of churched kids will leave their faith behind).  Their research is fascinating. They give a ton of tips for parents of young children to start developing sticky faith in their kids - it is a must read.


I can't do a "My Favorite Things" post without mentioning my current favorite food.  There are lots of them, but I'll narrow it down to just one for right now:

Trader Joe's Coffee Bean Blast Ice Cream

This contains just enough caffeine to keep you up all night if you eat it too late, so for me, this is a daytime treat!

Now it's your turn! Leave a comment and share with me one of your favorite things right now!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Week of Scarlet Fever

I knew something was wrong when Micah had a high fever of over 102 degrees for four days straight, and then he opened his mouth and I saw this:

In addition to "Strawberry Tongue" as it is called, he had white spots all over the roof and back of his mouth and complained "it feels like I'm swallowing nails."  Then the rash started - all over his chest and back, and it felt like sandpaper.  Google-mom that I am (which is not always a good thing), I soon realized that he had Scarlet Fever.

The first thing that came into my mind was Little Women, where Beth comes down with Scarlet Fever, and eventually...dies.  Then I thought of poor Mary Ingalls, whose blindness was blamed on Scarlet Fever (but new articles say that she actually did not go blind from Scarlet Fever at all, but rather viral meningoencephalis).  Well, that's good, I guess??  Anyway, I digress.

My mind did a few crazy things before realizing that we live in the 21st century, and I was reassured that antibiotics would surely do the trick and he'd be fine.  It is similar to strep throat, after all.

Anyway, after 3 days of missing school and still on 2 weeks of antibiotics, he is now completely recovered and doing great.

I wish that was the only thing that could explain my absence from blogging these past few weeks, but there have been a lot of other things going on around here too.

A girl I mentor just had a baby and I have been helping her with breastfeeding. It is so wonderful when new mothers start out with a great breastfeeding experience.  Usually the reason I am called is because things aren't going so well, so it is rare for me to get to work with a mom where everything is going perfectly.  I don't work in that field a lot anymore, but when I get to work with the ones I am closest to, it is a pure joy.  Here is the beauty named Willow who was just born:

I have been co-teaching two parenting classes at church, using Sacred Parenting and Sticky Faith as our curriculums. I will try to write more in depth about those, but highly recommend both of those books as reading for any parent.  Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids, in particular, has been life-changing for me personally and I can't recommend it enough.

This month I'm going to be catching up and posting on:

-My guest interview with Renee Fisher, author and speaker
-Mother's Day
-My visit to Dream Dinners
-A trip to the Legoland Hotel
and more... Thank you for your patience as I have been MIA!! :)