Monday, July 11, 2011

This mid-life crisis thing.


It's been almost five months since that fateful night at 3 AM, when -- while working as the overnight caregiver for a 91-year-old lady -- I decided it was time to quit my job, rent a studio space, and try to make a creative living before it was too late.

I have learned a lot in the last five months.  I have also learned that I'm on the edge of something -- a completely different Self.

When I was a teenager, I was pretty much the poster child for adolescent angst, and I would often joke that I was having a mid-life crisis.  Yes, even at 12!  Well, I'm pretty sure I've found the real deal at 41.  Or has it found me?  I'm not quite sure.

I've always been highly sensitive, often spending so much time trying to figure out the insides that I don't notice that there are outsides, and that's not something that has changed a great deal as I've gotten older.  (I hesitate to say "grown up," because I think I'm still waiting for that part.)  The only thing is that I've finally learned to recognize when I'm getting too "internally swirly;" I make myself go for a walk and interact with life outside my own head and heart.

I've learned a lot in the last five months.  I've learned that I'm a creative type who needs at least some structure and routine, or else I try to do so many things at once that I can't make any decisions and nothing really gets done.  I've learned that just because I can come up with really fantastic ideas, I'm not necessarily the one with the right skill set (or comfort level) to carry them out.  I've learned that I can get by on very little "spending money."  (I was never really one to shop for the sake of shopping anyway, unless you count books.  Ohhhhhh, books!)  And I've learned that , despite the fact that I have only had my driver's licence for not quite six years, I feel a bit stranded now that I no longer have a (working) car of my own.  (In truth, this last one is making me a little squirrely.)

The photograph was taken a few days ago, at Stevens Beach.  It was very close to high tide (which is a pretty big deal here on the Bay of Fundy), and I wanted to see if it was still coming in or had begun to ebb.  So I planted my toes just at the edge of where the waves seemed to reach and I waited a few minutes.  Hubby and Piper explored the beach and played fetch, and I just stood there essentially playing chicken with the highest tides in the world.  Shortly after I took this photo (and my feet got wet!), I decided it was time to concede defeat.

That's what I do, you see.  I have a tendency to stay put somewhere - whether it's due to complacency, inertia, or a fear of the unknown -- until I absolutely have no choice but to move.  This "flying leap off a cliff" and into a creative life hasn't been easy -- not in the least.  I'm still experiencing quite a number of growing pains.  But the happiness I'm discovering along the way  is outweighing the stress and doubts that bubble up (sometimes violently) from time to time.  Ultimately, I think it's all going to be okay.



Friday, July 08, 2011

The end of an era.

I am sitting in my studio/office and looking up at the wall facing my desk.  There they are, the tribute posters to the five space shuttles, right where I can look up at them and be inspired.  Joining them is my Kennedy Space Center ball cap, a "Mission Success is in Your Hands" Snoopy poster, my autographed picture from when I met Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, and a small Canadian Space Agency logo.

Nestled in the midst of this is a large picture of Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe, with her quotation, "I touch the future. I teach."  She was my hero when I was fifteen and she's still my hero at 41.

Almost two hours ago, Atlantis blasted off for Mission STS-135, the final space shuttle launch ever.  And I'm still processing it.

I wanted to be there.  I really wanted to be there.  I was eleven years old when the first space shuttle mission took place, when Columbia's SRBs ignited and that beautiful bird shot up into the heavens.  That day I promised myself that -- someday -- I was going to see a space shuttle launch.  But I never did.

This is where I'm supposed to reflect on the past thirty years of shuttle flights, saying something profound, as the talking heads have been doing for the last week.  Some of them have been declaring that this is the end, while others have been insisting it's a new beginning.  The truth is, it could go either way.

It costs approximately $400 million dollars to launch a space shuttle.  That's just one mission.  And the space shuttle has its limitations -- it is restricted to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).  So the decision was made to retire the fleet -- the entire space shuttle program -- so that the money could be freed up to do bigger and better things.  The problem is that the path ahead looks kind of foggy, with NASA's Constellation program scrapped, and resulting reliance on various commercial companies developing space vehicles (which is ultimately a good thing, but ...).  There's now a gap, with NASA forced to spend the foreseeable future sending North American astronauts to the space station on Russian spacecraft (at a rumoured $63 million a seat).

I don't want to get into the whole "Do we go back to the Moon or do we go to Mars?" debate.  This blog post isn't big enough for that (although, just for the record, I'm a "moon first" kinda girl).  I think the bigger questions are "How are we going to go anywhere?" and "When?".

Tomorrow I will try to find reasons to be optimistic.  Tomorrow I will try to believe Chris Hadfield's assertions that the end of the shuttle program is not the end of the space age.  Tomorrow I will work on Googling developments to get excited about -- technology that will make human spaceflight beyond LEO possible, and will allow humans to explore outer space, not just skim around the edges of our own planet.

But today...

Today I am just sad.  And I think that's as profound as I'm gonna get.

Friday, July 01, 2011


You did it!  The studio rent is PAID!

Together, you raised exactly $200 (as of last count), which not only paid my rent but has gotten me started for next month.

The tremendous outpouring of support has left me speechless, misty-eyed, giddy, and about fifteen other emotions I haven't processed yet.

Sometimes it can get very discouraging, trying to make a creative living.  Sometimes one can feel really, really alone.  Perhaps the greatest gift from this experience (aside from keeping my beloved studio!) is that I can look at the notes of encouragement and the "This Space Brought To You By" wall in my office and have tangible proof that you are all out there, cheering me on.

From the bottom of my heart -- thank you. :)


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Become a Patron of the Arts for Just $5 (and Save My Studio!)

Ever want to be a Patron of the Arts, but figured you had to be in a bigger tax bracket?

Ever want to make a real difference in someone's life in one easy step?

You can.

This is the short version:  For four months now, I have been living the creative life -- writing, making art, et cetera.  It's going well, but things haven't taken off at the rate I need them to.  I've begun applying for full-time jobs, and I'm sure I'll find a job and get caught up soon, but here is the problem: it's the last day of June, and (thanks to the mail delay/back-log from the strike/lock-out by Canada Post) I don't have my studio rent for July.

I love my studio.  Not only do I write and create art here, but I also use the space to tutor kids who need extra help in reading and math.  It's a happy space, surrounded by energetic and creative people, and it would break my heart to lose it.  My landlord is a very jovial fellow with whom I have a great working relationship, and while I'm pretty sure he won't toss me out at the stroke of midnight tonight, nothing strains connections between people more than money owed.  I don't want to put either of us in that position.

So I could really use some help.  And since I don't believe in "something for nothing," this is what I'm offering:

Become a Patron of the Arts for Just $5:

For a minimum donation of $5 to my PayPal account, you will receive the following:

  • an electronic copy of my short story, "Castles," never before published or available anywhere but my hard drive!  It's 14 pages (double-spaced for readability) and 3612 words.  (That's more than seven words for every penny!  Talk about a bargain!)

  • a "Patron of the Arts" graphic like the one displayed here, personalized with your name, for display on your own blog/website.

  • your name on the "This Space Brought To You By" wall in my studio

  • bragging rights and my eternal, undying gratitude.

Once I receive the confirmation of your donation from PayPal, I will use the email address PayPal sends me to email you the story (PDF) and the personalized graphic file (PNG).  I would love to do a direct download instead, so you wouldn't have to wait, but then I wouldn't be able to personalize the graphic.  Time is also of the essence here and I don't know how to do a direct download yet.

Please know that if you can help, it will mean the world to me.  Once I get a job, keeping my studio is one of my top priorities.    Even if I can only be here a couple of hours a day while I'm working somewhere else, I can still create in a space and time dedicated to that purpose.  I didn't expect to find myself in this "will I be here tomorrow?" position, but the postal strike took me by surprise and hijacked some of my finances, as it did to many small businesses and artists out there.

Answers to questions you may have:

"How will we get the story and graphic?"

  • I will be checking my email frequently and will send the files to you as soon as I see the PayPal confirmation.

"How do we know you're not some con artist?"

  • This blog isn't just a fly-by-night operation.  I've been pouring my heart and soul into it for years now.  If you read the entries, you will know me.  Ripping people off isn't my style. :)

"How do we know you can actually write?"

  • I am the two-time winner of the Canadian Author and Bookman Short Fiction Award (in 1990 and 1992).  You can look me up under my maiden name (Kraglund) in the Canadian Periodical Index for those years.

"Can we donate more than $5?"

  • If you want to, sure!  (Like any struggling writer/artist will say no to that!)

"What if you raise more than just your studio rent money?"

  • I will first pay this month's studio rent, and any more than that will go towards next month's studio rent so that the intention for the donated money will remain the same.

Again, thanks for any help you may be able to provide, and even if you are not in a position to help, just spreading the word would mean a lot too.

Here's the button.  Thanks for your support. :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Words For Hire: Social Media Ghostwriting ServiceNo, not a space shuttle launch, but just as exciting!  Meet Words For Hire!

Words For Hire is a social media ghostwriting service for small businesses.  Here's the opening blurb on the website:

You're a small business owner. You know that it's not good enough to just concentrate on old-fashioned advertising anymore. Customers want to do business with people they feel they know!

Twitter, Facebook, blogs... You know that these are crucial tools in today's business world. You know you need to be part of the interactive online community in order to reach potential new customers and stay in touch with your regulars. It's the new reality.

Just one problem: there are still only 24 hours in a day. You're too busy actually running your business to tweet, update, or blog. (Or to learn how to do any of these things, for that matter.)

So what do you do?


Hire me to do it for you.

Although I'm enjoying doing my creative things, the reality is that I need some sort of income to pay the bills, and let's just say my faith in craft sales is a tad shaky at the moment.  So, seeing a need for this service in my community, I decided to put my writing skills to good use!  I'll keep my client list fairly small in order to keep things personal and to remain a part-time job (and not take over my life! :) )

I'm pretty excited.  Let's see how it goes.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

Some days, being a civilized human being is just too much.

Some days you just have to break free and wreak havoc on someone!

This is my preferred method.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Slaying the Dust-Demons.

Yesterday was not a good day.  Today is not a good day.  Tomorrow is not going to be a good day.  But hopefully by the end of the weekend, there will be a good day.

I am cleaning the house.

Oh, yes, you nod.  I hate doing that too.  Haven't touched mine all week.

Well, this is a little different.  Have you ever seen the show Hoarders?  Picture that, but without the dead cats or fecal matter, and you've pretty much got the situation happening over here.

For reasons I really don't want to get into here at this time, I get actual, text-book anxiety attacks when doing housework.  I know that sounds like a punchline, or that I'm being sarcastic, but I really couldn't be more serious.  My heart-rate spikes; I hyperventilate, shake, and occasionally pass out.  At the sound of a vacuum cleaner, I can suffer from horrific flashbacks, and will often burst into uncontrollable sobs.  You would never guess, to look at me, that all of this lies beneath the surface, but it's there and it's huge.  And -- because all of this is not nearly as much fun as it sounds --  I avoid it at all costs.

And we're talking basically fifteen years of avoidance here.  Think about that for a minute.  Fifteen years of chronic disorganization, of doing just the basics (laundry, dishes, taking out the garbage, messes that need prompt action) and moving piles and boxes and Rubbermaid containers of things into one room in order to try to clean up another.  Not letting anyone in the house.  The crippling shame and anxiety when someone has to come in.

There are reasons for this mess-in-my-head/mess-in-my-house, but I don't want to get into them here.  Intellectually, I understand it all perfectly.  But it's not my intellect that's flipping out right now.  You see, the FibreOp crew is coming on Monday to do Internet/cable installations in three rooms of the house and probably re-do the telephones throughout.  They have to come in and they have to see the whole house.  And it has to look normal.

Why am I telling you this?  Because this thing of mine is an issue that's holding me back -- and it's not something I want in my new life.  And I'm thinking that maybe if someone else sees this and they have the same problem, they might not feel so alone.  And I'll be honest: I'm hoping for some moral support, because this is one of the most difficult things I've ever done -- to try to meet this issue head-on and all by myself.  When terrible things happen to little children, they still grow up.  And suddenly they're 41 years old, with big dirty secrets that no one would ever guess.  I'm not looking for sympathy; it is what it is.  But an encouraging word or two would help drown out some of the crap I'm hearing in my own head.

Thanks for listening.  I have to get back to it.  And I have to hit "Publish" now before I chicken out.

*     *     *

PS -- No, the picture isn't me, and yes, I have the most patient, understanding husband ever.  He's the only reason I'm able to tackle this at all -- so he can begin living a normal life in a normal house.  With faster Internet.