Keeping Company While Working from Home

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Working from home is great, particularly in the winter. I love not having to leave my warm house and drive in my frigid truck many miles to an office building somewhere. Even though I’m very much an “early bird” and still wake up most mornings before 6:30 to begin work (and sometimes to even hop on phone calls with fellow early-riser clients!), it’s great that my only foray to the outside world is a 30-second walk with my dog, Cosmo, who’s easily lured back into the cozy house with the promise of his breakfast kibble.

It’s great to not have to worry about packing meals and snacks each evening for the next day, as I always did when I worked on-site most days. It’s nice to have the flexibility to be able to throw in a load of laundry or run up to the bank to deposit a check at lunchtime–or even before or after to beat the lunchtime rush of those who work in an office and aren’t blessed with such a flexible schedule as I am.

Despite all these advantages to working from home, these are my three favorite reasons I get to stay home most days.

Cosmo (shih tzu) and Ezra (orange tabby)

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Ishmael (orange tabby), Age 12 weeks

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My husband and I adopted Cosmo, our large (24 lb.) shih tzu, first in September 2011, from the shelter where we were living in Bloomington, Indiana. He was about 1-1/2 years old; his shelter name was “Chewie,” as in Chewbacca because his fur was such a long, tangled mess. My husband and I have said, time and time again, that was the best $75 we ever spent. We mean it–especially at a time when $75 was a lot more money to us and our tight student budget.

Cosmo’s shelter photo

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After moving back to Cincinnati, Cosmo and I then “found” the tiny ten-week-old ginger kitty who was to become our Ezra in my mom’s garden crying in July 2012. It’s important to note that we didn’t seek out a kitten, and didn’t formerly think of ourselves as “cat people” in the least. My mom had cats when I was growing up, but I mostly ignored them, except when they chewed the fingers off all of my Barbie dolls. So in the case of Ezra, my husband declared that we would only be keeping the kitten if Cosmo wasn’t upset by him. As the most laid back dog ever who gets along with and loves everyone, that was not a problem. The unlikely fuzzy pair soon bonded, and the rest is history. Ezra irrevocably turned us all–Cosmo included–into cat people! Orange tabbies are particularly special to us.

Ezra, Age 10 weeks

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After purchasing our first home in April 2014, my husband and I started seriously considering adopting a second cat. We knew that it must be a kitten to be able to adjust to living with an older, dominant cat, it must be an orange tabby and it preferably should be a “he.” In the first days of May, I began scouring PetFinder.com and the local shelters and rescue agencies for male orange kittens. I was quickly informed that it was early in “kitten season.” I realized that made sense considering our vet approximated Ezra’s birthday to be May 5th, cinco de Mayo. I came to grips with the fact that we may have to wait another 6-8 weeks to find just the right little guy to come home with us.

As is tradition when I get something in my mind that I must have, I didn’t give up. On the second day of searching online and making phone calls, we located a kitten that fit the bill. He was located at the Boone County Animal Shelter in Burlington, Kentucky, about a 40-minute drive from our house. I called the shelter to ensure he was still available for adoption. The shelter employee informed me that this little guy (his shelter name was “Andrew”) was still available, but that his fellow ginger littermate brother was already reserved. Kittens are scooped up quickly in pre-kitten season, it seemed. And I know we aren’t the only people with a special affinity for the orange dudes.

We made the drive to Burlington and were led back to the kitten room. I scooped him up and knew he was ours! We paid the $90 adoption fee and the staff put him into a little cardboard kitten carrier complete with a homemade fleece blanket as a going-home present.

Ishmael, Age 7 weeks

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Well, the introduction of Ishmael to Ezra was nowhere near as smooth as Ezra to Cosmo. In fact, we had no idea the ordeal we were getting ourselves into. Ezra was mad. Jon and I did a lot of research online and with friends who have experience in the delicate art of cat introduction. We kept the kitty boys completed separated for about the first week. During this time, Ishmael bonded with Cosmo very well. Ishmael really loves his dog brother so much, it’s difficult to express! We are pretty sure it’s the fact that Cosmo has never been mean to him and he has always felt very safe with him, whereas this has not been the case with his fellow feline.

We then began introducing the cats and letting Ishmael have full run of the house when someone was home and during the day. After Ishmael was a few months old had put on some weight and Ezra seemed to be adjusting to the fact that he would be sharing his kingdom with a pip squeak, Ishmael had full run of the house all the time.

Ezra, Age 2.5 (foreground), and Ishmael, Age 10 months

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Cosmo with his gifts for daddy’s birthday, Age 2 (2012)

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All three boys relaxing together (December 2014)

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Yes, my husband and I are admittedly crazy pet parents, but we wouldn’t trade that for anything!

Business Trips Continue to Be a Fun Novelty

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This week I had the pleasure of traveling out of town to visit a client and present at their office. I can count the number of business trips I’ve taken in my professional life on one hand, so it’s still a bit of a novelty for me. I’ve traveled quite a bit throughout my life, but traveling for business is still a bit of a new adventure. It’s always nice meeting clients and business partners face-to-face, often after weeks or months of interaction. Having that personal connection with the client certainly adds another positive dimension to the professional relationship.

This week I traveled to Jacksonville, Florida to visit the offices of an eye care division of Johnson & Johnson for which I’ve been doing a research project. The project has been very exciting to work on, and sharing an overview of the in-progress research with the stakeholders will be very helpful as we work through the end of this project, in order to ensure what we deliver is exactly what the folks at J&J need to make a difference in their business and in serving their customers. It was a long two days of travel–with more time spent in airplanes and airports than anywhere else, really–but receiving some very helpful, frank feedback from the client makes it all worth it. I’m excited to be back home in Cincinnati and ready to dig into the last part of this rewarding consumer research project!

What are some of your favorite business trips? Any exotic destinations that you had time to explore?

Remembering Grandma

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My maternal grandmother passed away this past July 1st, at the age of 90. Life has been busy for everyone, and dreary January days in Cincinnati have finally allowed us some time to go through her things. The recent holidays have brought her to our minds even more than day-to-day life, perhaps, in that we always gathered as a family on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and often New Year’s Day. Grandma never turned down a delicious, home-cooked meal made with love.

The items that we took from her house the day after she passed (also my birthday) include photographs (some as old as the early 1900s, many from the 1970s and more recent), many small purses and wallets containing lots of shoppers’ and senior discount cards, jewelry (mostly costume), vintage linens and other odds and ends. All of this fit in three large plastic storage tubs.

A young grandma on the family farm in Corbin, Kentucky

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Yesterday, my mom, aunt and I spent a few hours sorting through these items and laying them out in their respective categories. We will pick out items that we each like and/or have sentimental meaning for ourselves, as well as distribute items to other family members who live out of town.

Most of my time was spent sorting through dozens of photographs. Many of the faces I recognized; some I did not. In this process, I divided photographs up into piles for my cousins, particularly photos of them with grandma and grandpa. My own pile contained images from visiting my grandparents at their home in Seminole, Florida, a trip to Dollywood in Sevierville, Tennessee and other assorted family gatherings.

My Xavier graduation party, May 2008

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Looking through these photos certainly brought back memories. For most of childhood, my grandparents had two homes, in Cincinnati and in Florida. They were in Cincinnati most of the year, and I saw them fairly often. Their home in Cincinnati has been in our family for several generations; my parents owned the house when I was born.

Many of my memories of my grandma were simple memories…visiting with her after church with my mom, taking her shopping at Kenwood, playing the card game War in her tiny kitchen while she fixed me grilled cheese. I also remembered when she and my grandpa had a small motorhome that they would drive between Cincinnati and Florida, and would park in our driveway of the house in which we lived until I was in 3rd grade. Whenever I see peach gummy candy, I think of sitting on the couch in the back of that motorhome, riding down Beechmont Avenue–which seemed like quite a memorable outing for some reason as a six-year-old.

My wedding shower with my aunt and grandma, August 2010

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We are still in the process of sorting through grandma’s things, and hope to be able to send family members some small tokens by which to remember grandma very soon. Losing a loved one is never easy. I believe it’s most difficult in small moments, those that would seem inconsequential, but somehow seem to make the absence of that person even more stinging.

Feel free to share your experiences below. How do you honor and remember your passed loved ones?

Looking Ahead to 2015

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Happy New Year, blog readers! A new year is always full of such promise–of new beginnings, resolutions and another chance to get “it” right. Whatever “it” might mean for you.

When you’re in business for yourself and rely on clients (old and new) to offer you projects, a new year also often means the start of a new fiscal year (yay!). Companies are looking to dive into the new year, hopefully clear-minded and well-rested after holiday vacation and with some fresh, healthy budgets from clients. I’m certainly more than ready to kick back into gear after the slower weeks of the holiday season. I’m not happy if I’m not productive and busy.

2014 was a successful year for me personally and professionally, even though there were certainly some moments of uncertainty and “stepping out on faith” that come with choosing to remain independent. I wouldn’t trade the freedom, risk and reward that come with being in business for myself for anything.

I’m so excited to see what 2015 brings! Bring it on.

What are you looking forward to in the new year? Share your thoughts in the comments below.