Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wagon Woes

There is a new blog in the works, but I’m hung up on – of all damn things – what to name it.  Suggestions?
Anyway, until then, here’s a long, long-overdue update:

I’m contemplating a career change.  For those unfamiliar with my CV, it’s been ten years since I emerged fresh-faced and hopeful from the full time undergraduate design program I’d entered four years prior.  I had already started freelancing and the summer after graduation had a sweet internship at Artvoice. I had hoped to fill an opening for a paid position when it became available, but someone else ended up with the gig.  It wasn’t the end of the world – I was heading to a full-time graduate program in the fall anyway – but it cemented my adoration for print and publication design. So I hitched my horse to that wagon and off I went.  
I freelanced through graduate school, in between shifts at the coffee shop. I continued picking up random jobs and teaching myself the ins and outs of contract work and self-employment at home (Spoiler Alert: it’s not all that great). After I finished my Master’s and let cool a half-cooked plan to expatriate to Thailand, I threw myself headlong into a search for a full-time job.  During my first year of grad school I had held a brief part-time job doing print collateral design and menu layout for a fledgling third-party food delivery service.  It was a brand-new concept at the time and I recognized the potential for the industry to grow, so I returned to work for them to handle their marketing in addition to managing their print stuff. But it was a franchise, which presented some limitations. Ultimately as a franchised operation with weak links all through the chain of command (myself included) and a general lack of technological and financial resources, it never took off.  I imagine someone from back in the early days of that company went on to play a part in the later boom of delivered dining.  
I left the delivery company after a couple of years to work for a small local community newspaper.  I spent most of my days building the paper and designing print collateral while dodging the drama inherent to working for a small family business. I loved the work.  I just didn’t like who I did it for.  I stayed on high alert for job openings elsewhere, but before I could find a new job I was forced out of the one I had when my office closed.  I couldn’t justify commuting to the other office at the rate they were paying me, and even if I’d wanted to, there was no position for me there. So I did what I do in these situations and I tightened my belt, bumped up my hours at Starbucks, put my feelers out for freelance work, and picked up as much extra contract work as I could.
Five months later I landed what I had hoped would be the end of the line – or at least a really long, comfortable stop – of my career.  For two years I enjoyed life as the Production Manager and Graphic Designer at The Public (which had been started by a small group of former employees at the paper where I did my internship). It was the perfect soup of a publication I believed in and respected, run by individuals I like and respected – and who showed me respect in return.  I had as much freedom as I wanted, the autonomy I desired, and the trust of my employer to do my job correctly.  Alas, as print publication continues to circle the drain, so does my career.
Imagine treading water in a whirlpool.  In April of this year, we pulled the (drain)plug on the print edition of the paper.  It’s still online, but with no print edition there was really no need for a Production Manager anymore.  And so I hopped back on the job search wagon.  But by that point it had become a rickety old thing with outdated functions and a tendency to get stuck.   I started to do some upgrades, but still six months later I’m just trying to keep the damn thing upright.
I’d gotten my graduate degree in hopes that it would give me a leg up in an industry where I was already at a disadvantage because of my age.  This is not a self-victimization; the truth is that the design field is flooded with young kids with far better frames of reference for what’s going on right now.  So it’s very tough to break in on an entry level when you’re competing with candidates literally half your age with the same or better credentials.  There is some serious talent out there.  And try as I might to remain youthfully relevant, I have reached that delicate stage in my life wherein I teeter on the peril of appearing like I’m trying too hard.  I can be interested in the same things younger people are interested in, but the fact of the matter is I'm not a younger person.  My view isn't the same from this spot on the hill.  Few people 20-30 years your junior care with any degree what someone their parents’ age has to say.  Not that their opinion matters to me so much, but it’s hard to convince a potential employer that you, as a middle-aged woman with established but not necessarily coveted skills, would be adaptable to their climate.  I’m not saying it can’t be done.  I’m saying I don’t have the confidence to put forth the extra effort required to do so.  Not anymore.  Or, not right now, anyway.
You see, as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized the importance of remaining comfortable in my own skin.  And if I’m not comfortable, it shows.  I could never play poker because I’m an involuntarily easy read most of the time.  I have so many unconscious external indicators that one only needs to look at the color of my complexion, the shape of my face, the size of my waistline, the state of my dwelling to know how something is affecting me.  These days it’s also the volume of my hair, which is falling out in alarmingly copious amounts.  I'm overwhelmed. 
I am also grossly overweight (mentionable, of course, because this is still "Sleeve it to Deedee"). I am lugging around a 50-pound regain that makes my clothes constrictive and my heart sad.  The stress of everything has sent me back to the minimal effort of tunics and leggings.  But more nefariously it has pushed me back into the comforting arms of food, which tells me it doesn't matter and with a firm embrace convinces me to take a nap with it on the sofa instead of going to the gym or yoga class. Then I wake up surrounded by the mess I never got around to cleaning up, feel like a fat failure, then rinse and repeat.  Does this sound like a healthy person to you?
When I am trying to convince someone they should give me a job and pay me lots of money to do it, it’s a hard sell when I’m not completely comfortable with myself or convinced I actually deserve it.  And I'm trying to break into an environment where I have very little tangibly measurable experience.  It's become apparent that my skills are outmoded, and now my motivation to learn new ones is waning as I struggle to manage and balance my life with my other passions and hobbies and obligations and responsibilities.
So I’m taking a break from my job search to think about what I want to do with my life.  I’ve resisted doing this for a long time because it’s kind of a punch in the gut to think about giving up on something I’d wanted for so long.  I was well into (and nearly out of) my 30s when I got my B.F.A.  I turned 40 the same month I finished graduate school.  But now I’m pushing 50 and I’m in this weathered wagon being pulled by a beaten half-dead horse, trying to navigate a muddy road that inevitably gets washed out in a whirlpool.   This is not pessimism; I’m being honest with myself.  I’m clearly unhappy driving this thing.  But why?  I love being a designer, but as is the case in many complicated relationships, sometimes love just isn’t enough.
I could sit back and say “wah wah wah, no one will hire me” as I get jostled along and try to stay the course. Or I could park this damn piece of shit and take a look underneath.  And when I look at myself, I see a person who needs some updates, some repairs, some care and cleaning.  So we’ll say my job search wagon is temporarily out of service while we perform necessary maintenance.  And in the meantime I’ll look at different wagons in case this one ends up in the junkyard.
And now I open it up to you, my dear readers and friends. Anyone have any ideas?  With the exception of call centers or running off to join the circus  (I can’t do anything with heavy phone work because of my hearing and circuses terrify me) I’m open to suggestions for potential career shifts. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Sorry, Not Sorry

I went to a bridal show this past weekend with my sister (who is my Matron of Honor).  It was a small one out in the boonies, in a lovely lodge overlooking an animal sanctuary. It was a beautiful day for a ride in the country, and I had been looking forward to spending some time with Colleen.  We don't get much opportunity to do that these days between our respective jobs, family obligations, and other commitments, in addition to living 90 miles apart.  So even though I have most of my wedding stuff in place already (seeing as I've been engaged for, like, years at this point), I thought it would be fun to walk around, get some ideas and inspiration, maybe enter a contest or two to try and win free stuff, and of course nibble on some free snacks.

As we maneuvered around the various tables hawking DJ services, limos, flowers, and cakes, we naturally discussed my wedding.  I held a vanilla mini-cupcake up and before I popped it in my mouth, I mentioned that I'm getting my cake from a local supermarket, and then ticked off my reasons why.  This vanilla mini-cupcake was one of them. It was not delicious.  But you know what IS delicious? Cake from Tops Market.  So there.

One of the vendors (I think it might have been the limo guy) asked how many guests would be at my wedding.  I wasn't sure if it was the not-so-delicious vanilla mini-cupcake or the question I'd just been asked, but my stomach flipped and I said, "I haven't really figured that out yet. It's kind of a sensitive topic right now; I'm trying to decide who I can get away with offending if I don't invite them."

As we passed the food table I plucked a frilly-toothpick-impaled meatball out of a chafing dish and said something about having only cheese and fruit for cocktail hour and a buffet for dinner.  I promptly followed this with some apologetic sentiment about potentially disappointing people who might prefer/expect passed hors d'oeuvres and/or a plated dinner.

Colleen turned to me and said, "Look. I'm only going to say this one time, so listen up.  STOP APOLOGIZING for your wedding, for your choices.  It's YOUR wedding, do it YOUR way. I understand you want people to have a good time. But stop worrying so much about what other people think, and do what YOU want. And besides, I like buffets better. Lots of people do. How many people know three months in advance if they'll be in the mood to eat fish or chicken on your wedding day? Not me!"

I was still too busy chewing my mouthful of meatball to say anything, but I nodded in acquiescence. Because she's right.

I wrote in an earlier post about doing our wedding our way and being pretty uninterested in what other people had to say.  But with the wedding being pushed out a year, we've incurred some extra expenses in the do-overs and have had to rethink a few things.  We lost our deposit on the initial venue and went with a different one, decided on a different direction with the food, decided against the trendy donut tower.  And while I'm not trying to "cheap out," our budget is squeaky tight - and more or less fixed - so a lost deposit translates into cuts elsewhere, because that money isn't coming back.  Ever.  (Fuck you, Beaver Island Clubhouse). And now we have the house renovation to contend with, so...yeah.  I've yet to find that magical money-tree, winning lottery ticket, pot of gold, or 6-figure job, so the budget is something that needs to be monitored closely.  We were already operating on a shoestring for favors, centerpieces, and decor, opting for a lot of DIY and a little help from our friends.  I'm notoriously thrifty, so I've found ways to save money on a lot of stuff that could be way more expensive (e.g. I found my dress - brand new with tags - on eBay.  I found Colleen's dress - nearly-new - at the Goodwill on Dollar Day. A floral designer friend is doing my bouquets, etc).  And I'm not ashamed to admit it.  In fact, I had thought about starting yet another blog, called "Bride on a Dime."  I still might.  There is an art to balancing class with frugality, and I like to think I'm able to pull it off to some degree.

I can decorate with inexpensive mums and pumpkins, make centerpieces from stuff I bought at the craft store for 80% off post-season, create cute eclectic favors out of repurposed stuff, and save hundreds by ordering a small tiered cake with a backup sheet cake from the supermarket.  I don't need matchy-matchy colored linens, or chair covers, or top-shelf liquor.  I don't need a Photobooth, a s'mores bar, a late-night hotdog station, or a $200 hairdo.

What I DO need is my dear friends and family present to witness Wade and I vow to love, honor, cherish, and amuse the hell out of each other for the rest of our lives. People who don't care if the cake is buttercream instead of fondant and lacks a fruit filling (because GROSS).  People who don't care if it's a buffet with pasta and chicken and roast beef instead of plated prime rib and salmon hollandaise. People who aren't offended by having to sit on a chair that isn't sporting a cover and a coordinating tulle sash and bow. People who like to have fun, people who like to dance, and people who can figure out how to get to and from the venue and wherever they're staying, because I'm not blocking hotel rooms or hiring shuttles - it's 2018 and I trust everyone's ability to navigate the Northtowns.

It's my first instinct to follow that last one up with, "sorry," but I have to stop apologizing, remember?

Coming up...negotiating the guest list and how I can possibly avoid apologizing in the process...

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Summer That Wasn't

I've heard this outgoing summer referred to as "The Summer That Wasn't," or some such variation on that theme, from several people.  I'm one of them.

Summer for me is usually a frenzy.  In addition to the normal chaos I endure of working multiple jobs, summer also involves yard work, gardening, cleaning out the closets and changing out the seasonal clothes, and throwing a party or two.  Then there's the preparation for, participation in, and recovery from the Infringement Festival, that 11-Day art and music insanity that happens every summer from the end of July to the beginning of August.  And then I try and throw at least one more gathering before fall settles in, and in between I can be found grilling and eating outside in my fantastic yard that has been groomed by the aforementioned yard work and gardening.  It's nonstop from May to September.

Somehow I usually make it work.  I plant my garden in late May or early June, right around the time I throw my annual Birthday/Memorial Day/Welcome Summer party. By the end of July I'm usually swimming in Roma tomatoes (which I use for my sauce), green beans, banana peppers, and jalapenos, all of which are my standards every year.  I'll also try my hand at something else, usually, like broccoli or squash, just to see if I have any luck with them. I always plant flowers in the front bed, and have perennials that pop up in the back perimeter beds.  A few years ago I planted a whole mess of stuff and have spent the last couple summers seeing what grows and assessing what I can pull and what I should plant more of.  Or at least that was the plan.

This year I planted everything way later than I should have.   It was after July 4th that I even got over to the nursery to buy my plants, and the selection wasn't great - although the prices were fantastic.  I was grabbing $5 flats like nobody's business.  I decided I'd do a variety of flowers in the bed in the front; impatiens, petunias, dahlias, gazanias, and coleus for filler around my hostas and shasta daisies that are already there and come up every year.  I planted a few containers with more petunias, dahlias, and red and green coleus.  And then I did my little pots on the front steps with my favorites - Gerbera daisies.  In the back I skipped planting the perimeter beds, since they were way too overgrown to deal with anyway.  The trumpet vines and columbine and morning glories had completely taken over, so I didn't even bother.  In the vegetable plot I planted mostly San Marzano and a few Roma tomatoes (because San Marzanos were the only sauce tomato the first nursery had, and the second one had only a few Romas), some green beans, banana peppers, green bell peppers, yellow squash, pumpkins, and some cauliflower and broccoli.  I ended up pulling all the peppers because they just died of rot before they even fruited.  The tomatoes have a blight and aren't producing.  The pumpkin seems to be dying even though there are lots of flowers on it.  The yellow squash is doing okay, and the green beans have produced a couple meals' worth of beans.  As for my flowers, despite a nasty neighbor making a comment to another about how I "shouldn't bother because they always die anyway," my garden is actually the prettiest and healthiest I've ever seen it.  So maybe planting later is the trick for the flowers but not the vegetables?  Or it could be that we've just been deluged with one of the wettest summers on record, which flowers tend to enjoy.

But getting back to the beginning of summer.  It started out with a strange juxtaposition of emotions.  I got a job offer at the end of May and I accepted.  I started in my position as the Production Manager and Graphic Designer at The Public (Western New York's finest alternative media source).  I was overjoyed to get the job, and three months later I still love it like a fat kid loves cake.  It's EXACTLY what I want to be doing, with a publication I can get behind, run by like-minded people who are close to my age and all-around awesome folks.

But right around the same time I started my new job, I started falling into depression and experiencing more frequent than normal anxiety attacks.  This made things pretty difficult, as anyone with GAD and depression can well relate.  But then the decision was made to postpone our wedding.  Many factors went into this decision, and it wasn't what I wanted.  HTG had actually been pushing to change the date for awhile, but I stood my ground and continued to plan as I had been.  And then one night in a spectacularly dramatic episode, I relented, but offered the caveat that this would not happen without a great cost to my emotional, mental, and physical health.  Not to mention the financial repercussions of breaking/altering a contract.  Sure enough, we lost money, but more that that - I lost my fucking mind.

Ten months of planning - meticulous, detailed, constant, obsessive planning while sticking to a budget so tight it squeaked - down the drain.  I had my dress, all our vendors were hired and contracted, the venue was booked and deposits had been paid on most.  We had our rings.  Save the Date cards were done and addressed and stamped.  My shower had been scheduled, booked, and invitations had been ordered.  My dining room was filled with bins of supplies for centerpieces and favors and decorations.  I'd spent one night into the wee hours making shower favors and messing up my kitchen in the process (because I, of course, have to make homemade candles with found objects instead of just going to Party City and buying a bunch of ready-made favors).  I was angry.  No, really.

I WAS ANGRY.  There really are not words for the level of anger I felt about this.

And I told HTG this.  I said, "Fine.  We can move the date, but you need to know this much: I will spend the next year POUNDING YOU with anger, resentment, and any other negative emotion that arises from this situation.  I'm not saying it's right.  I'm not justifying or making excuses; I'm just telling you how it is.  If you can't handle it, walk away, because I am not happy about this AT ALL." I told him that I would place the blame for ANYTHING that went wrong squarely on him.  If someone can't come to the wedding next year who would have been able to make it this year, it'll be his fault.  If it is beautiful on our original date but rains next year, it'll be his fault.  I'll be drafting divorce papers in my head as I'm speaking my vows.  If something goes wrong with my dress - his fault.  if someone dies between now and then who should have been at our wedding - his fault.  And on and on.

And for the entire summer I felt as it my soul had been crushed.  I couldn't get past it.  I literally SEETHED with anger, resentment, bitterness, and vitriol.  And when I wasn't seething, I was crying.  At one point I called the entire engagement off.  I just couldn't see the point.  "Hopeless" is not even the word.  It was more like I just saw zero point in any of it anymore.  I was completely drained.

So the whole summer went by with this shit hanging over my head.  I canceled my June party, never rescheduled,  and never even really did any grilling or spent any time in the backyard (although there is a yellow jacket infestation partly to blame for that as well). I made it through Infringement, thanks to my dear friend who was staying with me the entire time and kept me moving.  I might not have been as actively participatory otherwise.  But beyond that, the summer disappeared under a cloud of mess. My depression deepened, my anxiety flew off the chain.  My house, which has always been pretty untidy to begin with, fell into Hoarders-level messiness.  Just filthy.  The bins of fall and winter clothes that should have been taken down to the basement are still half-filled and scattered throughout the dining room and bedroom.  The summer clothes and shoes were never fully unpacked.  It became a vicious cycle.  Depression and anxiety fed the mess, the mess fed the anxiety and depression.  And then, because this is technically still a weight loss blog, it's important to mention something else that was being fed - me.  Badly.

The stress eating reached an all-time high.  Ice cream, cookies, fried food, pizza.  Anything I could stuff into my little stomach is what went down the gullet.  I ate until I could eat no more, until I was doubled over in pain from overeating (which is an altogether different type of pain when you've had WLS).  I didn't care, I just wanted something to do besides feel how I was feeling.  I spent the whole summer eating my pain.  Harkening back to that line about how WLS is a tool and that we don't have surgery on our brains, it's true.  The impulse to overeat, to medicate with food - it's still there.  I don't think it'll ever go away.  And here I am now, 40 pounds heavier than I was just a few years ago, and much of that is in direct correlation with this tangled mess in my head.

I'm coming out of the depression now.  Perhaps because it is fall, and fall is my favorite season.  Maybe it's because we got the show back on the road with the wedding and came up with a new date at a new venue that we like even better than the first one (who was screwing us big time, but that's another post for another time).  Our relationship, which suffered a great setback as a result of all of this, is stronger than it's ever been at this point.  I'm still resentful about the date change, but my anger has given way to annoyance, and maybe by the time our original date has passed, it will no longer faze me.

Summer 2017 is over, and it never even really happened.  At least not the way I'd hoped it would. But all I can do at this point is shrug my shoulders, shake it off, and venture forth into the next season, the next chapter, the next challenge.   What's done is done, what's gone is gone. Life seems to have forward motion once more, though I wouldn't call it a steady roll just yet.  It'll take me a long time to untangle this web, to clean up this mess. There are more things on the horizon that may prove challenging over the next few months, but I have to remember that eating badly is not going to fix, change, or alleviate any of that.

I'm thinking that since they're one of the few things that represent success from this summer, perhaps this next chapter should start by enjoying some of my home grown green beans.  :-)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

I lost my full time job a couple months ago.  It's a long story, but the nutshell version is that they closed my office, I didn't want to drive 40 miles round trip to the other office for what they were paying me, and they wouldn't entertain the notion of giving me even a small raise to offset the cost of the commute.  And in fact they'd never at any point entertained the idea of giving me a raise in all the three years I worked for them.  Even if I'd wanted to drive out to the other office, they couldn't guarantee there'd be work for me there and might have only been a part-time thing anyway.  So we discussed the option of keeping me on as an independent contractor, but of course it came as no surprise when they gave me the runaround on that. I'm quite happy to be rid of the whole nasty mess, to be honest.

The biggest, most major problem with all of this, however, is that my income has been DRASTICALLY reduced.  Like, to the tune of creating a large deficit every month between what I bring home from my part-time job at Starbucks and what goes out in expenses every month.  And let's not forget that I'm, you know, getting married in November.  Thus my full-time job as of now has become looking for a full-time job and freelancing where I can in between shifts at the coffee shop.  I've been there for 13 years and get my health insurance and other benefits through them, so I'm not giving that up.  Or at least for another 9-ish years until I retire (another nice benny of working there).

I'm trying not to panic.  The novelty of the initial relief that accompanied being rid of a job that was bringing me down and causing much stress has worn off, and now I'm heading into the stress of being underemployed, particularly now that I've begun dipping into the savings that I had earmarked for other stuff. And yes, I applied for Unemployment, but my part-time job complicated things, and then my former employer actually contested, saying I quit my job (despite the very traceable evidence that I didn't; i.e. the gaping hole of an empty storefront that used to be my workplace).  Then they caught wind of my four-day trip to the Dominican Republic (a gift from my sister that had been planned and booked months ago) and put me through seven layers of hell proving that I hadn't fled the country...and after eight weeks of utter bullshit dealing with the department, I gave up - and in the process have gained a newfound understanding of why people just say "fuck it" and live off the system.  Truly hellacious. 

Now, speaking of hellacious, if you've never looked for a full time job, particularly one in the design field, let me enlighten you.  It's about as easy, fun, rewarding, and fruitful as online dating, if you've ever had the misfortune to try your hand at that.  In other words, it's soul-crushing to the highest possible degree.  And in fact it's only one step above the New York State Department of Labor's application for Unemployment Benefits in its ability to make you feel like you have completely lost. your. fucking. mind.

First, you sign up for job alerts.  You get job opening notifications based on your preferences, your experience, your education, and a number of other parameters you've set in the job search application process, which takes, like, forever.  But you do this and then you sit back and wait for the notices to pop up.  Pretty soon they start trickling in and few look okay but then you get a notice for a job that looks PERFECT for you.  In fact it's SO perfect, you're convinced that they looked at your resume and wrote the job description based on that.  So you apply.  You upload your resume, your cover letter, and your portfolio.  You answer their questions.  You sign off on the self-identification questionnaire.  You electronically sign your application.  And wait.  And then you wait some more.  And most of the time you never hear anything back.   You check back and see that you were one of 283 applicants.  And while I know I have a tendency to hyberbolize pretty much everything that happens to me (see what I did there?) this is not an exaggeration.  There are literally HUNDREDS of graphic designers looking for jobs right now.  The field of graphic design is saturated with job-seekers, and in another two months when the dozen or so institutions of higher learning in this area unleash yet another couple hundred fresh, eager, and young faces into the wild design yonder, the chances of a grizzled old print designer finding a decent job diminish even more.  And now that people have recognized that Buffalo is actually a pretty decent place to live, we're seeing the "brain drain" of past graduating classes slowing its roll.  No longer are graduates so hot to get the heck out of Dodge; they're sticking around and contributing to the upswing of Buffalo's urban appeal.  This is a wonderful thing, but not without its drawbacks, as I've explained.  So I'm competing for a handful of jobs with an applicant pool that is hundreds strong and mostly half my age.  I may have more hands-on experience, but they have the youth.  Don't think it doesn't come into play - legal or not, few firms are keen on bringing in a middle-aged woman who isn't completely up to snuff on the digital stuff like web design and app coding.  Companies used to be willing to hire a print designer for their print collateral and a web designer for their interactive stuff, but they've figured out that they can pay one person half as much to do twice the work.  And have NO problem finding one, because EVERYONE wants to work.  But occasionally you do hear back from the places you've applied and it is always some variation on this: "We have reviewed your application and considered your qualifications. As you can imagine, we received a large number of applications. I am sorry to inform you that you have not been selected for an interview for this position."  It's the equivalent of finding that 100% match on OKCupid and having them email you back with, "Sorry, I think you're ugly, we have nothing in common, and I don't even find you worthy of a date."  It's quite a blow.

So I'm frequently asked, "why not just be your own boss and start your own business?"  Okay, that's a great idea.  But I'll tell you why not.  As I said earlier, I do freelance work.  As much as I can, in fact.  I am always looking for work.  On occasion I find it. Sometimes I get paid properly to do it, but often I don't.  If everyone who said they wanted me to design something for them actually stuck around once I quoted them what it would cost, then maybe I could make a decent living.  I'm not complaining, necessarily - I know all too well that budgets are budgets and you have to stay within them.  So I can't completely blame someone for thinking, "why should I pay this girl $100 to design my business cards/flyers/invitations/direct mailpiece when I can just go to [insert favorite online print place here] and have them design and print for $50? Or save even more and have my nephew who knows Photoshop do it?"  I'm not saying I *like* the idea, but I understand it.  

Running one's own freelance outfit involves a lot of administrative hassles.  You look for work.  You bid on work.  Once you're awarded the work, you do the work.  You bill for the work.  You spend a lot of time chasing people down for money.  Sometimes you never see it.  So you change your policy: all jobs must be paid upfront.  Suddenly people aren't interested.  But what of the time you've spent corresponding and quoting and whatnot?  Sunk.  Gone.  Eaten.  Wasted.  

And then there is the whole "working from home" thing.  It's not all it's cracked up to be.  And in the interest of full disclosure, as I have mentioned in the past, I have ADD which can make being self-employed a bit of a challenge if I don't lay down some serious structure for myself. I mean, I've had this for most of my life and it's managed pretty well most of the time, but I spend a lot of time fighting disruptions nevertheless, like a couple of cats who think my desk is a playground and that the scanner is a great place to nap when they're tuckered out.  The kitchen full of yummy snacks is just a few doors down.  The backyard and all the fun critters who inhabit it are just outside my window, which is one of two reminding me that there is a warm, delicious season springing up on the other side of the walls, not to mention that I really ought to get out and whack that overgrowth down before it sprouts leaves.  The distractions are high, the discipline low.   I have a couple days a week designated as "office days."  On those days I do not work at Starbucks and try not to set any other appointments or obligations, though I might take off for a lunchtime yoga class to break up the day.  Regardless, I set an alarm and am up by 7:30 am.  I make myself a cup of coffee and a light breakfast, and I sit at my dining room table and enjoy it in the quiet solitude - unless HTG (my fiance) is there, in which case he joins me and we chat.  After that, I get dressed - to the shoes - and move into my office.  I make a list of all the stuff I need to do.

Let's see... I need to resize a couple ads for this magazine I've been doing work for... I need to pick up where I left off on that blogger's logo illustration... I have to apply for that job at Big Company ABC... I need to call Client Whatshisname about arranging payment for his cards... I have to update my portfolio... but wait!  I should clean the bathroom!  But no!  It's not a Bathroom Cleaning Day, it's Office Day!  Okay, so what else...oh, yeah, I need to squeeze a Lynda class in there so I feel more honest when I say I'm learning HTML and stuff. Now I'm hungry.  My coffee cup is empty.  I need to go make another cup.  I should buy an insulated carafe so I can make bigger batches to stay warm longer.  Did I remember to buy bacon?  Shit, I need to go grocery shopping.  I should make a list.  What should I make for dinner tonight?  I need to text HTG and find out if he wants me to cook tonight or if we're going out. I should create some kind of meal schedule so I know what to buy.  I waste too much food.  God, the kitchen is a mess.  I need to unload the dishwasher.  Shit, I have a gig this week and REALLY need to practice those trouble spots. Dry cleaning needs to be dropped off. Oh, wait, I did that already. Hey, sister, you forgot to take your meds this morning, didn't you?  Ugh.  I *knew* I was forgetting something!  

The problem is not that I don't love what I do.  I ADORE what I do.  I uprooted my whole life to go back to school and earn two degrees in pursuit of a career doing it. But there isn't ENOUGH of it to do as a freelancer to keep me fully engaged.  My most productive days are the ones when I have a big stack of stuff in my inbox and I can sit here and churn out logo after ad after business card after flyer after poster and feel motion and measure progress.  If I'm not actively working on something, I'm easily distracted by the dirty dishes, the piles of laundry, the cats, and my overgrown trumpet vines in the backyard.  As much as I attempt to detach it, my home office is still located in my home.  And while the commute is fantastic, the location has its drawbacks.  Being able to set my own schedule *seems* like a cool idea, especially when I find myself with inspiration and "a-ha" moments at odd hours, but it also lends itself to procrastination and wasting time.

When I have a job working for someone else, there is structure.  There is discipline.  There is the drive to perform.  There is accountability to someone other than myself.  Excuses don't fly. There are people to interact with. There is a separation of office and home.  There are no cats.  The landscaping is someone else's issue.  This is not to say I desire to be micro-managed or monitored and I'm not itching to punch a clock.  I do fine if I have to be accountable to someone other than myself, whether it's in a team setting or working independently and reporting to a colleague, but when it's just me, myself, and I and I'm not only in charge of doing the work but actually finding it in the first place, well...that's part of the problem.
 I just want to throw myself headlong into a project, bandy about my ideas, interact with other creative people, and make stuff.  The administrative headaches are someone else's responsibility.  The searching and bidding and pricing and the contracts and the accounting and all that stuff... I don't want to have to worry about it.  But that's not going to happen soon, it would seem.

So here I sit, another rejection letter in hand, trying to figure out my next move.  I spent most of the day applying for three new jobs that came over the wire, drawing a family caricature, and writing this.  It's 6:00.  HTG's on his way over with dinner and I haven't practiced music yet.  I think maybe I'll call it a day, time clock or not.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Designer, Design Thyself's Wedding

While taking a cursory browse through a bridal shop with a friend two days after my engagement,  we were talking about my wedding colors and whatnot and she said, "this is what happens when a designer gets married - your wedding is going to be amazing and gorgeous!"

Well.  While I certainly appreciated the vote of confidence, I'm discovering that designing for one's own wedding is a bit more problematic than one might expect.  First of all, there's this pesky thing about "theme."  People keep asking me, "What's your theme?"

Theme?  My wedding needs a theme?  I thought themes were for kids' birthday parties.  My bad.

See, I thought you just picked out a couple of colors, you know, based on what you like and what season it is and then built a palette around that.  Then you give a swatch to your bridesmaids and your florist and then maybe order linens and favor bags to match.  Or something. But apparently you need a theme.  I know more than one person who's had a Disney-themed wedding.  As everyone tries to "out-theme" each other, there are zombie-themed weddings, fairy tale-themed weddings,  Steampunk-themed weddings, themes based on cartoon characters, TV shows, and so on.

Now, look.  I'm not saying these aren't super neat and all, but why is everyone so hung up on theme?  So if I don't have a specific theme, people are going to say, "this wedding sucks!  All I see are a bunch of fall leaves and pumpkins and a Matron of Honor in a purple dress.  So what's the theme?"

Well, the "theme" of our wedding is this: Deedee and Wade met through a drive-through window at Starbucks.  She called him Hot Tea Guy.  He likes tea.  Fall is their favorite season.  They enjoy donuts.  Maybe a little too much. They like the outdoors.  They like to eat and drink and laugh. They like "Twin Peaks."  And so there will be elements of all of these things in our November wedding, all loosely coordinated in a pretty palette of aubergine, sage, brown, orange, and red with pumpkins, tea, food, drink, laughter, and perhaps a few Twin Peaks references (the donuts could be construed as part of this), in a theme that basically says "This is Us" (not to be confused with the TV show of the same name, wonderful as said show may be).

Now I'm at the point where I'm trying to design my own invitations and other printed materials, and while I have designed plenty of invitations and save-the-date cards and wedding programs and place cards and the like in my day, doing them for yourself is a whole other ball of wax.  I have gone through this with other self-designed things like my business cards and such for my freelance business.  Why is it SO difficult to design my own stuff?  Does anyone else have this problem, or is it just me?

I think some of it has to do with having a trillion different ideas flying around in my head and being unable to pin just one down.   When I'm designing for a client, it's easy to say, "here are three concepts that I believe represent the essence of your business" or "this color scheme will appeal to the demographic you're trying to attract," or "here's an invitation that includes pink and white roses and uses a pretty font, just as you'd requested," etc.  But for myself, I have so many ideas of what could work, what I think I want - and much of this includes old ideas that I've catalogued in my brain for the fall wedding I imagined having before the ring was even on my finger.  It's a little overwhelming. I like vintage-y stuff.  I like retro-y stuff.  I like Asian inspired designs.  I like mid-century designs.  I like Art Deco designs.  I like fall.  I like pumpkins. I like purple.  I like birds.  It's far easier to eliminate things I don't like, because the list is so much shorter.

I guess it may also have something to do with the fear of losing one's designer cred.  Like, if I don't come up with an absolutely PERFECT design that totally nails it,  I've failed as a designer.  Or if I just relent and let someone else design it for me or pick out a pre-fab design from a catalogue, then I might as well just turn in my Mac and my AIGA badge.  Maybe it's expectations.  I expect myself to come up with something great because I know I'm a capable designer.  And I expect others to expect me to do this as well.

So here I sit, with nothing to do but wait for the axe to fall at my day job (this is my last week here - I'm being laid off at the end of this week) and overthink all of this stuff.  But if I don't start moving on this, I'm going to end up sending out a Facebook event instead of paper invitations a week before the wedding.

That actually doesn't sound like such a bad idea right now.  Haha.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

You Do You, We Do Us

When I announced my engagement a few months back, the first things I heard after "congratulations" were bits and pieces of advice about wedding planning and a few warnings eschewing the "Wedding Industrial Complex."  And I agree - the W.I.C. is indeed, a ridiculous, over-priced, over-rated, predatory institution that plays on the myth that "every little girl dreams of her wedding day;" a guilt-tripping monster that beats you into submission until you're shaking and sweating and saying, "yes, yes, embossed napkins and a $5,000 designer dress are what I have to have!  Yes, my guests must have steak tartare and top-shelf liquor! And we HAVE to have a Photo Booth or my reputation is ruined!!" This is the girl who brings an entourage of 18 with her to the bridal salon and breaks down in tears because none of the 18 other people like the dress SHE picked out.  Fuck that.

Now, I get that these well-meaning folks who insist it's okay to not want a traditional wedding are doing so because they want me to feel okay with my choices and not feel pressured to conform.  It makes perfect sense, seeing as I am a creative and independent (and typically pretty thrifty) individual who hasn't ever really placed myself squarely in the middle of formal tradition.  I've never been one to follow trends or do something simply because it's what society at large tells me is acceptable.  I think people have come to expect me to do something totally different and possibly a little weird.  And I guess that's flattering.

BUT.  What if what I want IS something kind of traditional?  What if I want something classy but not over-the-top, semi-formal but not stuffy, traditional-ish with a few hints of personal flair and slightly unconventional details but nothing completely off the wall?  Is that bad?

I'm not interested in burlap or chalkboards, mason jars or mustache-themed props, food trucks or nacho bars.  We aren't getting married at a vineyard, an old sawmill, a pumpkin farm, or a converted grain silo. If that's your thing, then that's what you do.  And that's been the pervasive sentiment through all of this: "You do you!"

And I am doing me.  But more importantly, my fiance and I are doing US.  And THIS is what WE want.  While our well-meaning friends say, "You can just have a picnic!  You don't have to spend money on a fancy dinner!  Have pizza and hot dogs!" I am working on a budget to serve strip steak and salmon because THAT IS WHAT WE WANT.  We booked the venue that we did because it's a lovely space in a place that has special meaning to us.  We could have gone with any number of good venues that were within our established budget, but the sentiment is what sold us on this one.

I AM going to wear a pretty ivory dress.  It won't be super fancy or blind anyone with bling, because (a) I'm not a fancy blingy person and (b) my groom will be in a simple two-piece suit and we need to balance (note: this is not based on any societal parameters; it is MY taste). My dress won't have a train, and it may not even go past my ankles.  I might wear purple shoes. I'm likely not wearing a veil.  And it won't cost $5,000. It might not even cost $500.  Hell, I'd wear a $50 consignment shop dress if I found one I liked that looked good.  This is ME.  Doing ME.

We are following one "hot trend" in our decision to do away with wedding cake and serve Paula's donuts instead (for those of you not in Buffalo, believe me when I tell you that the best wedding cake in the world can't hold a candle to Paula's donuts).  Our musical selections might be a little different from what one is accustomed to hearing at a wedding.  I have a pretty specific "Do Not Play" list for my DJ (who is pretty cool and is looking really forward to working with our eclectic playlist).  But beyond that, things promise to be pretty traditional.

It is worth noting that neither my fiance nor I have ever been married before.  This is our first - and ONLY - wedding.  And while being of "advanced age" puts us within different budgetary parameters with different financial priorities, there are certain things WE want out of this wedding.  And among those things are a number of traditional practices and formalities.  I won't apologize for that.  I won't feel guilty about thinking "inside the box" on certain things, because perhaps the reason I'm choosing to be there is because that's where I feel comfortable and happy.  Comfortable and happy are two things I most certainly WANT to feel about my wedding day.  And in this day of everyone trying to outdo the last hot "different" thing, perhaps traditional is the new different.  Our day, our way.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Down with the Gown: Clearly Off-Balance

First in a new series (which I will attempt to update with some degree of regularity) about wedding dress shopping.


So, as you know by now, I'm getting married next year.  Planning is going along at a fairly decent clip; we've got our venue, our photographer, our DJ, our florist, and our officiant all lined up.  Right now we've put a moratorium on wedding planning until after the holidays, but I have been "window shopping" for a wedding dress for a little while. I'm still not physically shopping for one, since I've got a specific goal to reach before I'll do that.   In the meantime I'm just looking at what's out there, what I can realistically afford, and discovering a few things I never knew about wedding dresses in the process.

Like, not only are there some SERIOUSLY weird/ugly/perplexing wedding dresses for sale, but I'm also learning that posing in a wedding gown (even ones that aren't so weird or ugly or perplexing) forces one to contort one's body while standing in oddly decorated rooms.

I mean, look! Wearing a wedding gown is a dizzying experience that throws one's equilibrium off, and in many cases requires one to touch one's forehead, as evidenced by the following:

Someone's been nipping from the bubbly.  My guess is she's hiding it in those sleeves.

Whoops!  She evidently didn't notice that rug there. The look suggests she's REALLY hoping no one saw her do that and is just trying to look like she's casually leaning against the china cabinet - as one does on their wedding day -  but it looks like she tore out the back out of her gown in the process.

Oh, dear...she needs a cool washcloth and a chaise lounge, stat!  Good thing she changed into her nightgown first.
Perhaps if she fans the skirt  (which appears to be some sort of skirt-cape over the actual skirt) hard enough, she can pump herself upright and put her arm down.  Also? I'm just really glad they took the glass out of that mirror, in case she falls backward in her fervor.

And these babes here just have some serious "Mannequin Challenge" chops:

This is either some really bad photoshopping or some serious double-jointed action.  It hurts just to look at this.

And finally, this week's WTF Winner:

Is that a wooden talon?  Or an antenna?  Seriously, what IS that?  Whatever it is, she better make sure it's not going to succumb to whatever force is blowing her dress up, lest it fall and land on her. Splinters are painful.

Have you seen a really odd wedding dress photo?  Do tell!!  Send it to me and I might feature it in a future post!!

Next time: Why you should always pee before you try on your gown.