Cooler and Warmer…

Cooler & warmer. That’s the slogan, along with a new logo, that was unveiled Monday, as the result of a $5-million marketing campaign for RI Tourism.  Ok, you’ve finished the sentence but have you figured out what that heck that means? No, not yet? Ok, I’ll ask again later…

cooler & warmerWhen I first heard that my adopted home state (more on that later) would be devoting big money to promoting tourism, I was psyched. I’ve been a one-woman Rhody billboard since first landing here in 1999 and learning the Rhode Island fight song at URI. I managed to convince my now-husband to move back here with me, despite the fact that he’d never stepped foot in the state before. Oh, also my brother and sister-in-law now reside here and my lifelong NY/NJ raised parents are considering spending their golden years here too. Safe to say, I’ve been singing the praise of RI and reveling in showing visitors all that the state has to offer for years. After college and a few years spent living the good life as a single gal waitress/wannabe writer in Newport, I finally caved to the unspoken golden rule that if you want a successful career (especially in my chosen field of journalism/PR) you need to move to a big city – ideally THE big city.

In 2006 I headed back to my parents house on LI, purchased my first pant suit and began my first grownup job in PR. I stayed in NY for 6 more years, transitioning into social media, moving into Manhattan, climbing the proverbial ladder, handing out my business card like I was a rock star, riding the subway daily and spending way too much money on rent. In the back of my mind I always secretly hoped I’d land back in RI one day, but the job prospects seemed slim. No one goes from NYC to RI as a step UP do they? Depends what you’re looking for I guess. For me, I needed to find a place that my now-husband and I could agree on (he was living in Buffalo, NY the last two years I was in NYC), and I knew the beach, the people and the charm of RI would welcome me back with open arms… if only I could find a job.  On a whim I applied to a Craig’s List posting and was on an Amtrak to Kingston a few days later for the interview. Long story short, that job wasn’t what I’d hoped for, but it got me back to RI and led me to find that there ARE a lot of great companies, creative talent and brilliant minds here. There are also unlimited possibilities for creating your own opportunities and shaping your career into exactly what you want, especially in the age of remote work.

So where am I going with my long and rambling life story? My message is this. I find it disheartening that RI essentially chose to ignore all this local talent, all the people who may have come from elsewhere but CHOSE to live and work here. All the people who were raised here, educated here at some of the best universities in the country (not claiming my alma-mater URI is one of them, but I think we can all agree RISD & Brown are pretty damn impressive on a resume) and have stayed here to lend their talents to a place they are proud to call home. The designer behind the new logo is Milton Glaser, who’s responsible for the iconic “I Love NY” logo. I think we can all agree that’s a classic. Simple, and to the point. It’s the stuff T-shirts and mugs are made for. Heck, I own a cheesy Christmas tree ornament with this logo emblazoned on it. I think it’s safe to say I will NOT be hanging a “Cooler & Warmer” ornament anytime soon… Plus, THE GUY LIVES IN NY! You mean to tell me in a state brimming with artists and art students (Remember, RISD?) you couldn’t find one local “up and comer” to design something a bit more authentic?

Despite my initial reaction to the logo and slogan (and those of other well-respected locals) I still have high hopes for this campaign and hope to see it succeed and bring great things to our state. I won’t even get into the other well-publicized blunders so far, but you can read about some of them here, if you’re so inclined.

Hey Gina, Betsy and the rest of the team, I live here, I love RI (you can often find me tweeting and instagramming my #rhodylove) and I KNOW I’m not alone. One amazing thing I’ve seen come out of all this is the outpouring of ideas and passion from the creative community here.  Let’s work together, utilize local talent and showcase our great little state.

Rhody Love Forever,

Allie Zog

Life Updates, Etcetera…

Well to make a long story short…the summer of yes turned into the autumn of yes. As in, I said yes to THE question and am now engaged to my roomie/best friend/partner in all things for the last 6 + years. While this is old news by now to most of you (sorry I can’t seem to keep up with those darn “write more” promises…) I figured I’d mention it for any loyal Allie Zog enthusiasts who only read this blog and aren’t following me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other writing outlets

What else can I tell you? Summer turned into fall as it tends to do, I finally tried my hand at surfing in the actual ocean (in case you were wondering from my previous post) and wouldn’t you know it, I actually rode a wave. Yes just one, but still! My summer of yes also included a promise to explore one new place, however near or far, each weekend and FF and I stuck to it for the final few weeks of summer, mostly hitting up local vineyards, beaches and restaurants that we hadn’t yet discovered. We stumbled upon some cool new spots in the process, as well as a new favorite wine which I’ll share in another post because it may or may not be an embarrassing wine to admit to liking (but it tastes like heaven, I swear…).

So, back to wedding planning/being engaged/becoming a real adult (at the tender age of 33 no less!). I’ve been wearing the rock for a little over a month now and here’s my take so far, or at least the abridged version until I can put it all into more extended form:

– It doesn’t feel so different, yet somehow changes everything…

– The planning will consume your life, if you let it…so try not to!

– Venue hunting is eerily similar to apartment hunting, as FF so kindly pointed out upon our first outing to scope out places. At first I got mad at him for comparing our time of pre-wedded bliss to perhaps one of the most soul-crushing experiences I’ve had to date (possibly this is only true of NYC apartment hunting though?) but after a few rounds of it, I have to concede he has a point.  For one, it’s all about “locking it up,” before some other couple throws down their money first. And then there’s the whole “follow-up” process and the panic when you don’t hear back. The million dollar question (at least for us) is even the same!! “But does it have outdoor space??

So there you have it folks. I’ll be spending the next few months deep in wedding planning land which will hopefully quell my yearly dose of seasonal depression (daylight savings time + windy, cold, rainy, grey days = “blecccchhh, wake me up in May…”). Hopefully somewhere in-between I can also add some more “yeses,” new adventures and life lessons to this little blog o’ mine.

Thanks for reading as always!

P.S. To answer a question I’m sure you’re all just DYING to know – you can rest easy friends. The beloved Allie Zog Blog name will live on forever, even if my legal name one day changes…

When Not Writing Becomes An Art Form…

I’m a list-maker. I have lists everywhere. Scribbled on scraps of papers and post-its.  Written and neatly numbered in notebooks. Multiples notebooks. Typed in the notes section of my iPhone. And so on.  One of the items that is permanently on my to-do list, and appears as an almost daily line item in my planner is “write on Alliezog blog.” I have “blog post ideas” scattered everywhere in various stages of thought-vomit. Lists of potential titles, topics, open letters I wish to write to the world, top 5 lists and so on. But somehow I still manage to go days, weeks and sometimes months without publishing a new post.  My drafts folder is full, my notes are made, but I can’t get my sh*t together and hit publish.

Since I couldn’t decide which blog to complete today, I figured I’d take a closer look at all the excuses I’ve come up with as to why I don’t publish posts nearly as often as I want to. As a “writer” I figure I might as well make not-writing into a legitimate blog topic.

1) I have too much “work-related writing” to do and am mentally exhausted at the end of my days and unable to form comprehensive sentences.

2) I haven’t completely decided on my schtick yet. I constantly struggle with what I want my blog to be and whether I need to have more focused, category specific posts on here or whether I can ramble on about whatever strikes my mood one day, and the next day write about my favorite local hangs in Rhode Island. Who is my target audience? Who is my readership? How will I monetize this thing – and do I even want to – or do I want to keep this space all my own…? See the inner struggle alone is exhausting!

3) I tweet a lot. And post sometimes long, preachy messages on Facebook. And write all those aforementioned to-do lists. Sometimes I even type a cleverly worded text, Facebook message, or email or to a loved one. All that counts as writing right? See – I AM a writer!

4) I’m saving up all my creativity for when someone gives me a (rather large) cash-advance to write my novel…based on…the loosely crafted outline in my head, years of journals and occasionally typed and then re-typed outlines. Fingers crossed!

5) I need to travel! When I travel, I’ll suddenly open the flood gates of creative genius. I’ll totally write my first masterpiece in a sidewalk cafe in France (or England! Or in a hut in Bali!). Isn’t that how all great writers do it? I’ll be just like them!

Hopefully my overenthusiastic exclamation point laden sentences reveal the sarcasm and absurdness of my lame excuses. (I’m apparently real good at that show don’t tell thing writers are supposed to do…)

Hopefully airing it all out (and actually hitting publish on something) will get the writing process going again. If not, at least I now know I can crank out some more excuses and call it a blog post…:)

 

The Summer of Yes…

This summer is all about trying new things and stepping out of my comfort zone.  To do that, I’ve adopted a “say yes to anything” mantra.  I figure if an opportunity presents itself, I’ve got to take it, right?

There’s been a couple of things I’ve been saying I want to do for a while now but as life happens, we often push these things, however big or small they may be, to the bottom of the list, putting work, family obligations and everyday “life” first and sometimes forgetting to embrace the extras.

Every since my childhood trips to Cali, one thing I’ve always wanted to do is learn to surf.  At (nearly) 33, I realize I may be a bit too late and gravity is probably not on my side. While I was once a gymnast (I swear!) I’m not sure I’ve retained much from my leotard days except for decent flexibility and nice calves (no modesty here…).

Especially after my ill-fated snowboarding debacle (I was truly one with the mountain – as in, I was face-down on the mountain for 95% of the time…), I’ve realized I may be getting too old for my whimsical, wishful list of hobbies I want to start. But I digress…

A few months ago, I wrote an article on SURFSET Fitness, a new workout program done entirely on a specially designed indoor surfboard and funded by Shark Tank – one of my favorite shows.  I took a class at Floortime Studios as part of my reporting and thought it was pretty darn cool. When I saw they were offering a summer bootcamp to both get in-shape and take a group surf-lesson at the end, I signed up and will finally be checking off the learn to surf (or at least “get up on a board”)  box on my never-ending life to-do list.

I’ve completed 11 classes so far and am hooked. I plan on signing up for the next session and really whipping my butt into shape. It’s an amazing total body workout including cardio and strength work and I am definitely working harder than I ever did before at the gym or on my casual jogs by the beach.   Stay tuned to hear about my actual ocean-time happening in a few weeks – hopefully I’ll live to tell the tale!

So what will I say yes to next? I don’t know…try me!:)

Lessons from a Coffee Shop Wanderer

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 10.56.39 AMI’ve become one of those people. I’m that girl with the headphones, the Macbook and the scattered papers taking up prime real estate at your coffee shop. I’ll totally ask you to switch tables if you’re near an outlet and I need one. You probably think I’m pretentious – sorry about that!

Coffee shop working is pretty acceptable and even common place these days, especially in big cities, but when you live in a destination tourist town and summer is right around the corner? Not so much…

Most of the winter I camped out at my favorite local coffee shop, Empire Tea & Coffee, with no problem. There were plenty of others just like me there. As the nice weather rolled around however, I started seeking out some outdoor spots. I tested out the local Panera which sits across the street from the harbor and has several outdoor tables with umbrellas, a new Empire location which also has outdoor seating, and a downtown joint with no outdoor tables but good people watching never-the-less. This is when my coffee shop wandering started to present a few problems. For one, parking meters downtown switched on for the summer meaning I’d have to trek by foot to the downtown spot, lugging my laptop the whole way. This walk also forced me to walk by fudge shops, throngs of “cruise shippers,” t-shirt shops and vacationers, which can really breakdown your motivation when it seems you’re the only person that actually has a destination and obligation tied to your afternoon stroll. Then there was the sudden crowdedness of my spots. People were actually there to sip coffee absent-mindedly and chat about the weather. How dare they, I’m trying to work!

Maybe I should just hole up in my home office for the summer and leave the coffee shops for the tourists…but what fun would that be? I find it harder to stay focused at home when the sun is shining out my window and if I’m at least out enjoying the ambiance while working, I feel infinitely more motivated.

Since my current work mostly consists of telecommuting from my home base in Newport, RI or posting up somewhere on the Cape, I’ve learned a few tricks for being a New England digital nomad:

1) Tip generously. Duh, I was a hostess/waitress/bartender/shot girl for a good portion of my first quarter century of life, so tipping well has always been my mantra but some people may not realize those baristas need a little love too. If you want them not to hate you as you return day after day for that $2 coffee and a wi-fi password, make sure they see you throw a couple bucks in their cleverly wordsmithed tip jar/bucket/mug.

2) Accept the fact that the majority of people drinking coffee outside on a gorgeous June day in Newport/Cape Cod/anywhere with salty air are probably not concerned with the fact that you’re on deadline. They probably wonder what the heck you’re doing, as they order another scone and debate what they’ll do for the day (beach? shopping? cocktails?) Yeah, their life is rough…

3) Which brings me to point 3. Headphones are key to avoid overhearing the mostly vacation-minded conversations happening all around you. If you let yourself get sucked into people watching *cough* eavesdropping, you will find it extremely hard to continue working and very much want to cut your day short to go sunbathe/sip cocktails/frolic, etc. DO NOT DO THIS – you have bills to pay!

More tips to come, as well as my ever-growing list of favorite coffee shops in little Rhody and beyond.  Happy sipping friends:)

 

On Establishing Routines…

Never have I ever…had a routine in life.  Is this bad?

I don’t wake up at the same time everday, I don’t eat the same thing for breakfast, and let’s not even discuss my bedtime.  Even when I had a traditional 9-5 job, I was never able fall into a comfortable morning routine. Some days I’d randomly be inspired to get up early, go for a run, make breakfast, etc, while other days I’d wake up at the latest possible second, counting off all the things I could skip in trade for a few more mins of sleep (if I don’t blowdry my hair I can snooze for 10 more minutes…and if I don’t shower at all, woohoo, another 30). When I worked for a relatively flexible company in NYC and the start time wasn’t set in stone, forget it. I didn’t even get my coffee at the same place each morning, always randomly stopping somewhere new and even switching up my subway line/walking route for no reason I can really explain.

I never really thought about it too much until recently, when I actually set out to give myself a more structured daily routine.  They say it takes 30 days for something to become habit and I honestly can’t think of too many things I’ve stuck with for that long, at least in terms of daily ritual. So now I’m curious, is this really bad? Is routine necessary for a productive life? Or on the flip side, is it better to not become too comfortable and “set in your ways?” Is being a creature of habit good, bad or indifferent?

As someone who works from home and juggles several clients and gigs, I’ve been grappling with how to best structure my days and also have time to fit in the things that are good for my soul. We’ve already established that getting up at the crack of dawn sadly didn’t work for me although I’m hoping to try again now that the weather’s getting warmer and the sun will be shining early and often.  I tried and tried to make the gym a routine but had the recent epiphany that my gym was actually a sad and terrible place for me. I’m not even being dramatic, there were just no good feelings that came from going there and so I’m ditching the membership in favor of outdoor workouts, yoga classes and maybe a little SURFSET Fitness in between.  All these things make me feel amazing, and I think that’s what working out should be about, not painfully sweating away the minutes in a grey, concrete, nearly windowless room. Sorry Newport YMCA, it’s not you, it’s me…ok, it’s a little bit you…

Recently I posted about writing everday and that’s something I’ve actually stuck to, for the most part, but I can do better! So here’s some things I’m hoping to turn into habits, and I’d love some input on how to best do it.

  • Personal Writing – Is there really a “best time” to write? I’ve read articles that say early morning is best, and even a study that stated we get our most creative ideas when we’re tired.  I think it’s about finding what works for you, but I’d like to carve out some writing time each day for blogging, journaling and ultimately for writing that damn best-seller already!
  • Fitness/Wellness – Notice I didn’t say “working out”  because I’m kind of over that word. I’d like to get into a nice routine however of yoga classes, outdoor runs and other happy activities that are good for my body and my mind. Oh yeah, and more clean eating and all that jazz.
  • Sleep schedule – A biggie for me. Seeking any tips and tricks on somehow keeping regular hours and shutting off my mind at night.

Thoughts, ideas and advice welcome, so fire away!

Write On…

Ok let me get this out of the way first, RE: my last blog. After a week (ok it was more like 2 days) of torturous early rising, I am admitting defeat. After telling a few (normal) people about my lofty goal (5:30am, ha what was I thinking?!), I was mostly met with this sentiment: Why would you willingly get up extra early for no reason? You are so lucky to be able to work from home and not have to be anywhere at an ungodly hour.

I tried explaining to my friends and family who don’t spend a large chunk of their time perusing Twitter and blogs for motivational/life improvement articles (I sometimes forget that I live in a very different world from my real life social circle) that getting up early was essentially the new trendy habit of highly effective people (or maybe it always was but there are just a lot more people writing about it now, thanks Medium…). My teacher friends/family who all get up somewhere in the 5-6 am region were pleased to hear that they are unknowingly on the path to surefire success, but after thinking about it I realized that I was being a little unrealistic. It almost seemed absurd to force myself to change my habits when my current lifestyle actually allows for me to flourish within the schedule that has always best suited me. I get a second wind at night dammit and I’m proud of it! Phew it feels good just to let it out…

Before you all go judging me and calling me lazy I should clarify. On average, I wake up around 7:30 am and start working somewhere around 8/8:30 am, which I think is totally respectable, especially since I technically could get up at 8:54 am, make a cup of coffee and “commute” down the hall to my office with time to spare before 9 am…not that I’ve ever done that…

Furthermore, I’ve realized that I should embrace my current nighttime energy bursts because obviously that’s when my brain is at its best and that’s when the universe wants me to do my thing.  Seeing as I don’t have children or any other evening obligations, I’ve decided it’s totally okay for me to use those hours as my extra time for personal writing, side projects, workday overflow, etc.

In terms of getting in a workout, I think I’ve found my ultimate workout sweet spot when my schedule allows it. This past week I’ve worked out everyday mid-afternoon as part of my lunch break. Whether it was an outdoor run, a quick gym session or a power yoga class, I’ve found that this is my peak performance time and provides the perfect break in my day and reboot of my creativity. Quick workout, shower, lunch and then back at it. I highly recommend fellow work-from-homers try this if/when they can.

You may remember that another reason behind my little experiment was for better compatibility with my boyfriend. While after only a few days of test runs and further contemplation, I realized that we both actually enjoy those quiet moments that are all our own, either early in the morning or late at night when the other is sleeping. On the first day that I did wake up early, I’m fairly sure I was interrupting his well-established routine of sipping coffee, watching ESPN and not speaking to ANYONE.

What can I say, maybe it stems from the fact that most of my jobs for the first 10 years of my working life were night jobs, or it’s just another thing to blame on my parents (kidding mom and dad!), who still stay up for the 11 o’clock news…and sometimes Leno…and usually scrabble on their computer (dad) or Pinterest on their Kindle (mom).  There’s also the whole little matter of my brain having a serious issue shutting itself off at night and thus makes falling asleep difficult, but I’ll save that for another blog post…

Whatever the reason, I’m declaring my first 2014 goal a wash, which brings me to my next fun little experiment for this year. Writing everyday. Obviously I technically already do this for work, but this time, it’s personal. I recently saw a few great blog posts (like this one from David Spinks) about challenging yourself to write everyday even if only for 15 minutes and even if (you think) you have nothing to say. Starting today, I plan to write everyday either in a personal journal, here on this blog, or as notes for future publication (for the best-selling novel I promise I’ll write someday). This won’t include freelance writing assignments or writing/blogging that I have to do for work, it will only count writing that is all my own.  To this end, I am looking to attend some creative writing workshops, writing retreats or other similar events in the coming months so if you know of any, please get in touch! There is coincidentally one this weekend right here in RI that sounds amazing but I sadly found out about it too late.

Any advice/feedback welcome. More to come!