Blood. Gore. Triumph.

Been awhile, hasn’t it?

I’ve been busy building a company while working full time, too busy to keep this blog at the level I need it to be.

But all that busy-ness will come to a crashing halt next Wednesday as I’m wheeled into the operating room for a total knee replacement. This time my left. My right follows suit after the first one heals.

First surgery. First experience of staying in the hospital. Then a longish three month (minimum!) recovery.

I’m excited about walking pain free and cane free. Eventually. I’m curious about the surgical procedure-the plan now is to avoid a general anesthetic and do it via a spinal block and a “cocktail.”  I told them to make it a double. And I can’t imagine what having an entire three months or more to focus on getting better is going to be like. I’m the woman who dictates emails to Siri from the shower. I’m writing this during my commute. I’m accustomed to doing at least three things at once.

Focus on me? Seriously?

Thing is I’ll need an outlet or two, for recording this journey, for thinking aloud, for pondering what comes next.

And while what I have to say may not always be joyful–or at times loud enough to be noise, you’re welcome to stick around to how the story goes.

 


I’m going under (between?) cover(s).

I’ve come to the conclusion that if timing is everything, then I’ve got nothing.

Which is to say I usually get the best ideas to start something new at the worst possible time. But I also believe that if you wait for the “right time” to do something, you’d never do anything at all.

So in the midst of working full time at a fairly demanding job, consulting some on the side, two physio appointments a week and beginning a run up to surgery—along with all the usual stuff like housework, dentist appointments, getting Team Z to various vet check-ups, making sure we eat, have clean clothes and prepping for tax time—I’ve decided it’s time to start working on a book.

Actually, it’s not my decision. The story won’t leave me alone. It interrupts my showers, my commute and my sleep. My handbag is stuffed with scribbled-on index cards. The main character keeps downloading strange books for me to read. She whispers to me when I think I’m alone in my head. She tells me jokes. Normal people would make immediately go see some sort of specialized healthcare professional to make these encounters stop. But if you’re a writer, this is what passes for normal. And it means you might be on to something good.

So for the next year or two, whenever I have a spare half hour, I’ll be crawling into the skin of my narrator, a “(wo)man in black” who works for a covert government agency that investigates conspiracies. She also happens to be psychic. And figures out that we’re all in big trouble. Yeah, she’s got a hard row to hoe and a lot of evil to tap down. But I like her a lot and I’m looking forward to spending time being her. Or at least being along for the ride.

Problem is, when you travel in my circles, “I working on a book” can be one of the most joyous lines you hear. It can also sound like one of the most pretentious, depending on tone. And intent.

I’m a big believer that you get more writing done when you actually write, instead of talk or write about writing.

Which means entries to this blog may get few and far between at times.

What I will do though, is once I’m far enough along that the story makes some sense if you’re not me, I may share a sneak preview chapter or two. Could happen. Might.

For those of you who know me personally, if, in the near future, I start a serious discussion about Area 51 or the Illuminati or our reptilian alien overlords, remember, it’s not me. It’s my character. But never forget, Fox Mulder said “the truth is out there.” Or I could just make it up for a good yarn.

And yes, for the skeptics among us, I do think I’d look quite fetching in a tin foil hat.


Wild child

Maybe it’s because it’s September and “back to school” time, but there seems to be a lot of news items lately about education and in particular, autism. There’s also the fact that one of my friend’s wives has a newly minted Masters degree in education and works with children with special needs.

What I find most interesting is the rate of growth in the number of kids diagnosed with various forms of the condition—about 150 times the number of cases when I was in grade school.

Either there’s something out there that’s causing this situation—or the criteria has become so broad, just about any kid who isn’t doing or being whatever someone—parents, school, coaches—expects them to do or be now has a condition—ADD, ADHD, autism or whatever syndrome is up and coming.

Full disclosure…I don’t have children. But I can relate to this situation from the child’s point of view. And I am certain I would have never got through grade school if I were a student today—not without an entire alphabet of diagnoses.

Quite honestly, I did well in school, but I never really enjoyed it. I didn’t “like” school, I saw it as a necessary evil to get on the business of my life. As early as grade one—they didn’t have a kindergarten at my grade school—I could see there were going to be issues. Within my first three months, I was sent to the school shrink because I could already read at a grade five level—but I hadn’t learned to read the right way. Phonics were all the rage in 1966, and here my restless and bored mother had taught me to read the old fashion way, by memorizing words, starting when I was three using her issues of Women’s Day and Good Housekeeping.

After a battery of tests, my teacher and principal discovered that my IQ was registering somewhere between 167 and 180—and they didn’t seem too happy about it.

So began a less than savory grade school career. I got bored, horribly bored and would stand up in the middle of a lesson, walk to the back room and start playing in the sink. I talked back. I asked too many questions. I called names and defied authority—all the while winning awards for high marks. I wasn’t like any of the other “smart” kids. And there was no special ed, no gifted classes, just random concessions to my abilities that made me feel like I had done something wrong. So I did things to get even. My grade eight teacher told me that I’d be lucky to make it through high school—to my face.

At about the same time puberty set in, I was diagnosed as hyperactive. Which I think they call ADHD now. I was on Ritalin a whole two weeks before my parents decided they didn’t care much for silent, staring into space Zombie Joy and preferred to deal with what they simply considered to be a rebellious personality. That went over big with my teachers.

High school was where I tried on different personas as if they were costumes; preppy intellectual (too conformist), tough girl (I looked like a raccoon in the prerequisite black eyeliner), sporty, dykey type (cut short by the fact that the only sport I was ever any good at was figure skating and wearing my jacket open all the time to look cool gave me the sniffles) and finally, the stage I call “innocently promiscuous,” because I realize now, eavesdropping on the conversations of 12-year-olds on the bus, I was the Mother Teresa of teenage sex. I was lucky—whatever urges in me to follow my own inner music also made me impervious to the opinions of others—so even if there had been bullying or peer pressure, as there likely would be now (and there wasn’t), I would have been impervious to it.

Thing is, I made it through high school, won scholarships, did an honors degree in Fine Arts at a fairly prestigious university, then did more than half a graduate degree before I tired of being student-poor, realized I didn’t have the political chops to make it in academia and quit. I wanted to write. I had been getting bits and pieces of my writing published since I was 15. I eventually figured out how to make a living doing it. I’ve never had a moment’s regret. I found my way. Took awhile, but I got there.

If was in school today, I would be diagnosed, tested, analyzed, special classed and no doubt eventually expelled for being incorrigible. I needed none of that, just parents who were smart enough to be strict on some things to keep me safe, but give me a long leash and a blind eye at times, a few outside interests, personal projects or personality changes to keep me from being bored, along with a handful of supportive friends who loved me without condition, not in spite of, but for my rebelliousness and individuality, my difference.

For interest’s sake, I took an adult autism test the other day—and scored as high as 80% of those diagnosed in the adult autism spectrum. Several of the questions made me laugh; many of them were about how I live in my head, creating imaginary scenarios and characters. That’s not a symptom of illness. It’s imagination, creativity. It’s how I make a living. Same things with ability to “zone out” when I’m working, my preference for quiet and solitude (I call it hearing my mind speak the words) and why I need a fairly strict adherence to routine–it grounds me physically and emotionally, so intellectually and creativity, I can soar. As for the social aspects of the test–I’ve never understood the one-way loyalty of giving oneself over wholly to a job or an organization, why confident people would put any stock in the opinions of others and of course I prefer old friends to new strangers. According to the test, these qualities are a warning sign. I guess I should be worried–but then not caring about how others perceive you is part and parcel of the deal.

Let me be clear on this point– I’m not saying there aren’t children out there with real problems and severe learning and development challenges; kids so locked inside themselves there’s a chance they’ll never get out. For them, I’m grateful there are people like my friend’s wife, with the patience and sense of a calling to try to reach them.

But by the same token, just because a kid isn’t just like everyone else, or acts out or comes across as a little odd, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have problems. Some of us just resist the mold. Fight the power. Go our own way.

We don’t need to be labeled. We don’t have a condition or a syndrome. And we sure as hell don’t need to be fixed.


That was then. This is now*

Full disclosure—Her Joyful Noise has been the target of several strong criticisms over the past few weeks, comments so belligerent and personal that I made the decision not to subject my readers to them. Apparently, they stem from the fact that I have “sold out” and am using this blog space for trivial things—the minutiae of my everyday life. I am not, so the condemnations allege, doing my part for the GLBT movement.

Yep, that’s exactly what I’m doing here. Unapologetically, Her Joyful Noise is all about me and whatever catches my fancy for the week. And that’s the way it’s going to stay.

I’ve often said that I’ve never really worked a day in my life because I have always loved my career as a professional writer. But with the writing I do for pay, despite how interesting the topics may be—and they are—I am being told what to write. By clients, by creative directors, by project managers. And that’s OK, because that writing needs to serve a larger purpose. It’s not about me. It’s about the appealing to a target audience with a specific message. And I’m fine with that. But this blog is my comic relief, my cocktail after work, my hobby. Nothing more. It amuses me. If it amuses you, read it. If it doesn’t, don’t.

Much of the criticism levelled at me was because I used to be an “activist” and clearly I’ve turned my back on the “community” because I no longer write about gay and lesbian topics. Not true. I still do the occasional piece for women’s/lesbian publications—more because I’m friendly with the editor in question and they ask me nicely. But definitely not for the money, because frankly they don’t have any.  I wouldn’t ever say that I was an activist—I wrote a monthly literary column and the odd feature for the country’s national GLBT newsmagazine. I wrote cultural pieces for about 20 different literary and political magazines and newspapers. I went to the occasional protest or rally—if the weather was nice. I was in my 20s, living in the big city, fairly recently out and exploring. It was exciting. I felt like I was on the front line of what truly was then, a revolution. Thanks to my position at the magazine, I got to meet and know a lot of real activists—and some of the best minds in what actually was a community back then. Some of these women were amazing. Some were horribly disappointing once you really got to know them. Which pretty much sums up just about anyone you meet.

But that was then. This is now.

I have been accused of being a “married suburbanite” who has lost her soul. Yes, I’m married. My love and I discovered through our lawyer that it was the best way to protect each other financially so we did it. It changed nothing about our relationship other than we got really kick-ass rings out of the deal. I’m actually an “exurbanite,” since I live too far out of the city to be on municipal water and power grids. If you’re going to attack me, get your facts straight. I have a full time job, a nearly full-time business, an aging, sometimes ill mother, a rather large house and a pretty big garden to take care of. I don’t have time to worry about much else. And yes, I like the comfort, ease and security that my love’s and my hard worked has brought us—we’ve earned everything we have. No one is going to diminish that as mere materialism.

Frankly, I don’t feel like a victimized, oppressed person.  True, I am a lesbian, but I am also a wife, a daughter, an employee, a writer, a business person, an entrepreneur, an artist, a gardener, a baker. I vote, I pay my taxes, I’m active in my local neighbourhood association. And all those things that I am fight for equal time. That’s ok. Life is supposed to be busy and multifaceted and rich. I am the sum of all my parts.

I pondered long and hard whether or not it was worth wasting pixels responding to these criticisms. Was I trying too hard to justify how I live or think? But I realized that those words, aimed at me like to darts, with no other reason than to try to make me feel bad (and I repeat, “try”) relate to why I longer feel I need to fight what I consider other peoples’ battles.

The truth is—and one thing about this blog is that I will always be truthful in this space—the only source of oppression or discrimination I’ve ever felt in my life has been from other lesbians. I’ve never been “gay” enough. I never really fit in. I was too much the good girl coed. I wasn’t angry enough, I wasn’t snide and I didn’t get the inside jokes. I’ve been too trusting and not sufficiently self-protective. I have been hurt, abused, emotionally and physically, lied to, betrayed and generally hung out to dry by other lesbians. I’m not bitter about this, it’s all in the past and I have enough loving people, female and male, wonderful friends and the love of my life, who care about me enough to have washed all that away. But I’ve learned to keep a safe distance from the things that can take me down. I’ve also gained the maturity to realize that sex is only a very small part of the whole cornucopia that is genuine and lasting love. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s menopause, I don’t know. But my sexuality is only part of who I am and I refuse to let it define the whole of me.

So no, I don’t plan on waving any rainbow flags any time soon. I don’t go to Pride celebrations, it’s not necessary, I’m proud of myself for getting through every long, busy, crazy day of my life. I’m happy. I really am. And while it may sound like a self-help poster, I’ve found that the secret to that happiness really is being true to yourself and ignoring all those people who expect you to be someone else. It’s that simple.

Got to go. Breakfast is on the stove, Zoey’s got a grooming appointment, I’ve got laundry to do and groceries and a greenhouse to buy and a speech to write for a CEO—

It’s a typical Saturday, just being me.

 

 

*With apologies to S. E. Hinton and her wonderful young adult novel by the same title. 


The potentially lucrative business of being unemployed

According to a handful of psychics who made practical predictions for 2013 (not the ones who speak of asteroids the size of Texas, President Obama revealing his “real” agenda and what famous celebrities ought to guard their health) along with a slew of articles about the job-less recovery and some personal observations, I think it’s safe to agree that in the future, there will be far fewer jobs.

But a whole lot of work. Someone’s got to do it.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been told this. Back in the late nineties, the term free agent was first applied to those other than professional athletes. Having been in an industry that was powered by freelancers, I didn’t see anything unusual about it. But then free agency was viewed as something performed by talented professionals with scads of work-life balance, who commanded huge fees from their chic modern home offices. I know. I was one of them. What wasn’t mentioned was that greedy corporations would take advantage of the situation, making freelance positions in areas of employment where they had never been before, mainly as a means of screwing people out of benefits and job security.

If there’s a will, there’s always a way for some businesses to turn a good thing into something exploitative.

But it’s true. The jobs are going away. And the reports that speak otherwise don’t mention that most of those added jobs are baristas or sweater folders at Old Navy.

In corporations and government departments across the country (and I presume in others) mature, experienced and skilled employees are disappearing as if it were the rapture. Despite the fact that the rationale is economic, they’re being fast replaced by a generation of newly minted grads who majored in Kool-Aid drinking and minored in hollow enthusiasm – which makes them perfect employees for these times. They’re cheap, too inexperienced to spot a bad idea and too gutless to point it out if they did.

The risk of such a fate befalling me was part of the motivation behind opening seed. It’s my hedge against surprise unemployment (That and I like to keep busy; some people knit and some people ski, I write). And in my case I’m grateful to have a good reputation, wonderful contacts and very little eyebrow raising at my hourly rate. My reach right now is limited, but in the last month, I’ve had a taste of how things would go if I fling the doors wide open.

More importantly, having that kind of employment insurance means one need not feel bitter or bring emotions into the current employment landscape. One can be a cool-headed observer. It is what it is and it’s widespread. It could happen to anyone. It’s numbers. In the end though, I truly believe it’s the corporations that lose—in continuity, in knowledge, in skill. Things in short supply that can’t be manufactured in a hurry. Corporations used to think in 5-year plans, but ever since the tech boom, everyone wants to be fast and lean. But short-term decisions tend to have long-term consequences. And apparently no one noticed that very few of these fast lean tech companies traditional businesses want to emulate managed to stay in business for five years.

Besides, once they get over their shock, these ghosts of cubicles past realize happily that they are now free to sell their well-honed skills on the open market—and many are. Wholly or in part. On their terms. Their ex-employers are weaker for the loss.

I’m not so naïve to believe that self-employment is all roses and chocolates. I did it for years and I was one of the lucky ones; I closed up when I realized that one my larger agency clients was the source of nearly 80% of my workload. They offered me a sweet retainer to keep it that way and then a staff position. I had no regrets; I worked with great people and I’m still benefiting from the experience I gained and the contacts I made while I was there.

But I remember the downside. Banks viewed you as unemployed. I was in business almost a year and a half on my own bootstrapping before I was offered a small line of credit. Things are probably easier on that front now. The lean times keep you up nights wondering if you’ll make enough to pay the bills. And then you lose sleep when the tsunami of work arrives, seeing no humanly possible way to get done on time. But you do it. And you invoice. And you have no one else to thank but yourself. And your clients.

Today there’s no need be hampered by a job in order to do interesting, valuable work. One admirable young woman I know decided she didn’t want to go back to the digital agency she had pretty much run prior to her maternity leave. She saw an opportunity, a problem that needed fixing and knew how to provide a solution. She now offers a range of virtual business services to other unemployed successful business people—and gets to raise her child at home.

So think. Think long and hard about your skills—what do you know, what can you do to make yourself viable in the unemployed economy. What’s your fall back, just in case? Whether it’s dog walking or cake decorating, tutoring or advising the nuclear industry, everyone is good and valuable at something. And you CAN take your destiny (and your paycheck) into your own hands.

And don’t ever let some corporation tell you that isn’t so.


Told you so

I like to think I’m a woman of my word. So back in the spring, when I started hinting at my desire to DO SOMETHING new–and noted that I’d be taking a hiatus from this blog, I didn’t expect  I’d be able to sum up 2012 with plenty to report. A lot of people talk about wanting to DO SOMETHING, but don’t. Might be because the wanting part is a lot easier and a whole lot less risky than the doing part. But I get too impatient with the wanting. I have to do.

One of my favourite movie quotes is from Star Wars. It’s when Yoda tells Luke,  “Do or do not; there is no try.”

If it’s a good enough for a Jedi Knight-in-training, it’s good enough for me.

So I DID SOMETHING. Or perhaps more accurately, I am DOING SOMETHING. I have opened a creative content company (that’s a nouveau fancy name for a writing services firm) that will become a formal business entity sometime in early January. I have a company name. A brand. I have a website. I have a business card. A Facebook page, a twitter account and a brand new “corporate” blog.  I have A-list contacts. Plus I already have some committed clients and assignments to come, plus a fair number of lunch date requests from people who could have the need for my services and want to hear more about my plans.

I think a lot of my excitement about this new venture is that it feels “real.” I’m no stranger to freelancing or selling my writing services–but this is the first time I’ve positioned what I do as something more than an individual freelancer for higher. It’s a wonderful of combination of being independent while feeling a part of something–even if it’s something I’ve created by myself in what used to be my dining room. I know there’s more and bigger/better to come.

Granted too, SEED is part-time (for now anyway) and if I’m lucky, will swallow whole many of my evenings and a good chunk of my weekends. I have a job I like, but no one’s future is ever guaranteed and I’m a firm believer that the only real job security any of us have is resting between our ears. I’m cruising into the new year in a “wait and see what happens” mode. No matter what comes, I feel prepared.

Beyond a demonstration that the six months since I posted here haven’t been in vain (and an inability to miss an opportunity to show off my latest creation!), my message for the new year is about DOING. It’s fine to want and plan and wish and dream. But if there’s something you want to do, something you need to do, make 2013 the year you start to make it happen. Go and do. Making something happen feels amazing.

Happy 2013!

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So universe… what have you done for me lately?

After a rather hellish week, with my love hitting the road each morning at 5 a.m. to work an early shift, a stifling heat wave that reached 42C with the humidity (that’s close to 112 F for my US readers) doctor and vet appointments and a dryer with mood swings and random labor stoppages, today—Saturday—was practically idyllic.

I slept until it was almost light outside, called my mom, then my love and I did a mad tango in our PJs in the backyard trying to hang queen size sheets on the compact but lifesaving umbrella clothesline we were forced to buy. See dryer situation above. I noticed how thickly the roses are climbing up the walls of the house. That is not a metaphor. I shared a whole-wheat blueberry bagel with Zoey—she’s a fan of grains and fruit. I love a dog that understands the importance of plenty of fiber and antioxidants. I got to town early before the crowds and after just five stores, confirmed that the new paint works with the new wallpaper, which works with the new curtains, which match the new furniture for our living room. (I failed to mention previously that we’re redecorating the entire house as well—at least plotting and preparing and buying what’s needed, holding off until Zoey is old enough to not want to help.)

It was a light at the end of the tunnel kind of morning.

Then I got thinking that while we may focus on all the things that go wrong, a lot of stuff goes right. Or at least right enough.

It was about two weeks ago that I announced in this blog that I was ready to at least begin to take my destiny into my own hands—and start the company I had been thinking about. At least part-time. Since that revelation, I’ve purchased a URL, registered a Facebook page and Twitter account and bartered with a designer friend to get my logo, business cards and website created. I’ve talked to three people who are quite convinced that they want to be clients. And last night, while I was at the supermarket, somewhere between the cereal aisle and the meat department, notice of an impending assignment—the perfect kind of gig for my new venture—sailed over the transom. Actually, it beeped in via my Blackberry, but my publishing background makes me love that old expression.

Whew. The irony is I have to put off writing the website I need to get good gigs—because the gig I got was so good.

Once I stopped grinning, which lasted several hours, it dawned me that everything about putting my plan into action got a lot easier—and much less “what the heck do I think I’m doing” scary—as soon as I made the decision to stop thinking about opening a business and actually do something about it. It’s like I told a friend last week—I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know for certain nothing will happen if I don’t at least try.

While I’m not much for new age stuff—I think crystals belong in earrings and antique radios, and I’ve really got too much on my plate in this life to worry about how I perished in my past ones—maybe there is something to this “putting it out to the universe.”  Or perhaps, it’s more like the famous quote from film producer Samuel Goldwyn, who said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

All I know is that I needed a good Saturday and I got one. I needed a sign that I was doing the right thing—and I got plenty.

Now if only I could do something about that dryer…

NOTE: Just a warning that due to my upcoming renovations, evidence of impending success and the fact that it is summer, time to take it a little easy, Her Joyful Noise may get a little more random in the next few months.