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Sick

What brought me here today:

I’ve been sick for ten days. We were scheduled to get our third dose of the vaccine on the day my temperature spiked. My husband became sick about twenty-four hours after me. We had been isolating for almost two weeks because we didn’t want to get sick and miss our booster shots. It probably is covid. And it was more than likely brought into our building by someone our neighbour invited over. This kinda pisses me off. A lot.

We’ve consulted friends of ours that are licenced medical professionals. They’re pretty sure it’s covid. Again, this pisses me off. I’m glad we got the vaccine, because I wouldn’t want to be sicker than I was during the first 72 hours. I’m at the point now where I’m just annoyed at the persistant cough, fatigue, and lower-abdominal aspects. Working from home does give us a lot of time and space to deal with being sick. But it still sucks, just in a new way.

In the before times:

Being sick makes going to a job outside the home more of a really crummy challenge. As a public school teacher, I would dose myself up with cold medicine to the gills before teaching.  None of the medications did anything to make me actually recover more quickly. They just masked the symptoms so I could muddle through my day at about 40% my usual abilities. I hated taking cold medicines and having to teach. The medicine either make me fall asleep, or feel like I had bugs crawling under my skin.

But that’s one of the biggest differences between being sick in the US and being sick in Finland. In the US, you’re just expected to work while you’re ill. There were times as a teacher I went to school with a temperature of 102 because I had to. I can tell you that I made one class of students cry because of this. And the rest of my teaching that day wasn’t productive at all. I was a warm, sick body to watch the students while the classroom teacher got some prep-time.

I remember at the beginning of my teaching career, a principal told me to stay home if I had a fever. By the end of a decade of teaching, even emergency surgery wasn’t a good enough reason for me to take my alloted sick days. I knew that it was time to leave after that. If I was being expected to give everything to a job that was not going to support me when I needed it. It was time to leave.

Suomessa ollessan:

Berin and I were sick maybe twice while living in Finland. I caught something in February 2019 that knocked me down for almost three weeks. During that time, I took Bisolvon tablets for coughs, and Fexorin for congestion. Neither one of these made me sleep or gave me the creepy-crawlies. The Bisolvon let me cough up all the yucky crud in my lungs, and the Fexorin allowed to breathe more normally. In addition to the OTC remedies, I drank lots of tea with lemon and honey or tar syrup, took steamy showers, and rested.

Yeah. I rested. OTC’s like Day and Ni-quil aren’t a thing in Finland. There were plenty of other options at the Apteeki, like Bisolvon and Fexorin. But the idea that a person needs to ingest OTC’s so that they can go to school or work while they are still actively sick is not something the Finns do. If you’re sick. Stay home. Rest. And if you’re not getting better, go see your doctor. Get treatment or medication if you require it. Oh, and still take the time to rest too. Then come back to work or school.

Being sick now:

Getting sick right now is just pissing me off. The difference is that I’m the only person working on my business plans. Again, I’m fortunate to work from home like my husband. What stinks is that my being sick is dictating what I’m able to do during my regular work day. There have been several days where I’m fine in the morning. But need a long nap in the afternoon because I’m just exhausted. This may not seem like a big deal, but it just crushes my productivity. And when I’m not working on something creative, I’m not a contented person.

I’ve been plugging away at pieces and parts of my Patreon launch. It’s the one big thing I want up and functioning by the 4th of February. I’m itching to get this thing up and off the ground. Being sick is making me second guess myself. Part of me feels as though a launch that’s anything less than perfect will be doomed to failure. (Insert eye roll here.) The launch will not be perfect. That’s okay. There is plenty that I plan on building upon as my Patreon project progresses.

The elephant in the room:

I have to admit that being sick at 51 is way different than being sick at 31. Parts of getting older can suck more than others. Being sick is one of them.  Berin laughed at me when I made reference to this fact the other day. He’s older than I am, and in considerably more chronic pain than me.

In addition to having gotten the vaccine for covid, we also got flu shots a few months ago. That decision was made because of our age. We now have some medical coverage squared away too. Now I can look into getting the shingles vaccine. I promised my father I would get that jab when the time came. He had shingles and said it was some of the worst pain he’d ever felt. I inherited his dyshidrosis, and had a wicked-bad case of chicken pox as a child. It stands to reason that shingles are in my future.

Gee. So much to look forward to. I’ve already turned into one of those people who spends ages talking about their physical maladies to perfect strangers. (Insert another eye roll here.) Getting older just kinda snuck up on me.

So, now what?

I continue working. Albeit, while having to wrestle with fatigue and lower-intestinal matters as they arise. The vaccines and boosters are totally, completely 100% worth it. Berin and I will continue social distancing and wearing a face mask when we are out in public places with people too.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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Back-Up

What brought me here today:

My insane need to document every step in my creative process with photographs. Actually, I had intended to write something else entirely. But here I am, banging away on my laptop about my bizarre habits as a creative. Well, I’m doing that while periodically glancing at my phone and wondering why Instagram is not uploading the seven photos of my work in progress that I just took and created an Instagram post of.  All the while wishing that all of the above was not causing me as much agita as it is at this very second.

BREATHE.

Some recent history:

Long time followers of my Instagram account (katie_kinsman_artist) know that I take a lot of pictures. Until a year or so ago, I posted pictures of my artwork in process several times per day. Every day of the week. I decided to reduce this to posting once per day on my personal Instagram account. What I’d discovered was that I was losing a chunk of time during my working hours just creating posts for Instagram.

Reducing the amount of posts to Instagram was not the result of taking less photographs. I would still take a lot of photos, but only publish a few. Now that I have Twitter and Imgur accounts, some of those additional photos are published on those social media platforms. If a person from any of my social media accounts finds me on another one, they’ll more than likely see some new content.

History from further back:

As a graphic design student in the beginning of the 90’s, I learned the hard way to back-up everything I created on computer.  I lost an entire magazine layout for a design course once. And it wasn’t really an entire layout! I had to create the entire thing again. I had to use a very early back-up copy that was nowhere near finished. The whole thing just made me so mad at myself. It was all my own fault. Creating a back-up can be time consuming, but it can save your like (time) when you have it.

Everyone who works with a computer on a daily basis, or for whom the computer and its documents are of paramount importance can identify with the need for a back-up copy. When I worked as a secretary, I backed-up everything that I thought I would need in case of some kind of catastrophic computer crashing incident. I also kept paper copies of important things as well. Everyone needs a CYA file, right?

My peculiar idiosyncracy:

Even for a trained graphic designer, I take an un-godly amount of photos. I use my cell phone for much of this photography. My photography skills have never been stellar. And I know this. As I said, many of the photos I take aren’t posted or displayed anywhere digital or physical. About 70% of the photos I take are just for me. So why take them at all? It’s not like I’m documenting anything of historical importance.

One of the reasons I sometimes placate myself with is; so I remember how I created a certain piece. Or perhaps, a reminder of the specific technique I used. There are times in which I cannot, for the life of me, remember exactly how I created something. Or at least all the steps I use. Photos can make remembering those steps a little easier.

I also think that there’s a part of me that knows I might need proof that I was the creator of a specific piece of art. I’ve had artwork copied/stolen and no credit/money given to me. This kind of thing really sucks. Having the proof that it was me making the piece gives me a certain peace of mind I suppose.

Yeah, psychological reasons:

Part of my identity is being an artist. A creative person. The artwork that I make are the parts of my insides that I pull out and make real in the physical world. Therefore, my artwork is me. For someone to take my work without concent or compensation feels like a personal violation. Having the photographic proof that my work is “my work” seems to be a small thing I can do to give myself psychological peace of mind.

Physical ramifications:

Well, that’s great, until I end up in a digital avalanche of photo files. Honestly. I thought that creating some back-ups of my photo files from my phone and computer would be a cake-walk this morning. But here I am, writing a flippin’ blog post about it instead of finishing, proofing, and posting the other blog post I wanted to post today. (It’s okay. The other blog post wasn’t very good.)

This morning, I discovered that I had not just a few hundred photos to back-up, but around 59 megabytes of photos to deal with. OH! And not just photos, videos too! Okay. No problem. I’ll just get them sorted. Do a little file compressing and get them all backed-up to the 4 terabyte back-up drive.

Nope:

That was what I was thinking this morning as I got everything set-up. I grabbed a book to read while transfered the files around between my phone, laptop and external drive. Four hours later, I was still nohwere near completing this set of tasks. I did finish two chapters in a Neil Gaiman book though. My frustrations burbled-over at about the midway point. So I decided to write a blog post instead.

The thing that’s killing me right now is that I’d rather be working on the four Imp Dolls instead of farting around with backing-up my files and photos. Or even writing a blog post. Being a small business owner who can be an emotional bag of squirrels in a Katie-shaped suit is not all that it’s cracked-up to be today.

So now what?

This is just one of those days in which some things have gone sideways in a way I hadn’t prepared myself for. I’m feeling rather crabby and I just need to put some things down and walk away for a while.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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Trade Off

What brought me here today:

I’ve been thinking a lot about employment lately. I’m a licensed visual art teacher (Ages 5-18) with ten years of experience teaching at the elementary school level. But I’m not teaching art at any school right now. I’m working for myself instead. My husband is my business partner. He runs his own small business Dancing Lights Press.

We both work from home. Each of us have our own work areas in the apartment. There are daily work hours. Sometimes these are extended for me. Because sometimes I just get on a roll and want/need to finish a piece. The same goes for my husband.

There are definite benefits to working for yourself. It’s not for everyone. There are trade-offs that sometimes need to be made. It’s important to know what these trade-offs are. And how to negotiate them. Being a small business is not something I ever thought I would do. Thanks to free programs like Tyobileet, my mind was changed.

First things first:

You’ve got to have some kind of business plan. My husband has a degree in business. With the help of Tyobileet, I discovered so much about myself and how I wanted to work. Tyobileet did so much to help me figure out all of the diverse ways I could take my art business. I felt as though I had within me so many different options to choose from. This also helped me feel as though I wouldn’t be narrowly defining what my art business would be.

Then the pandemic started. All my plans for teaching art workshops went completely sideways. I had to change around my business plan. A friend I made at Tyobileet suggested that I open up an online shop. Her advice was amazingly precise. She helped me to decide how I wanted to show myself and my work online with WooCommerce.

My husband’s first hand knowledge of running his own small business has been endlessly helpful to me. He might roll his eyes and say I don’t pay attention to him. But I do. Thanks to him, we each have long-form, fully fleshed-out business plans. The pandemic is still playing mary-hob with some of my plans. But that’s okay. I have plenty that I can do to work around it.

Road less traveled:

I thought that I would have more agita about this part of having my own small business. The path that my life and my art business have taken seem out of character for me as an individual. At least when they are compared to the trajectory my life was on prior to moving to Finland. That path was a well-trodden one. Teach art in the public schools. Do my “own art” during the summer. Sometimes sell my work at craft fairs. Retire from teaching when I’m 67-70. Then make art in my old age. And sometimes sell my work at a craft fair.

After living for seven years in FInland the aforementioned path just did not look inviting to me at all. The idea of going back to teaching art full time again in the US public school system was not something I wanted to do. I love teaching art. Being ground-down, mentally, emotionally and physically by the job of teaching is just not worth it to me. I have some borderline PTSD as a result of some of the things that happened to me as an art teacher. Things that I never want to go through ever again.

One of the trade-offs of having my own small art business instead of teaching art in the public schools is the regularity of a paycheck. For me, it’s the least easy of the trade-offs. There is security in knowing every two weeks there will be money in the bank. But when looked at from another angle, it’s trading off my mental, emotional, and physical well-being for a state-dictated amount of money.

Breathing room:

I’m an intrinsicly motivated person. Art has always been one of the central interests of my life. I need little prodding to begin my work day creating artwork. If it weren’t for my husband, I would work straight through meals and late into the night. This intrinsic motivation is great for being an artist. It tended to make my life as an art teacher complicated in a very bad way.

When working for myself, I keep to a daily work schedule. Much like I did as an art teacher. The biggest difference between the two (besides all of the children) is that I’m completely in charge of my own work schedule. My work schedule is flexible. I don’t have to teach three classes of art before I can walk across the hall and pee.

This morning, I had planned on finishing this blog post. My plan was to proof read it. Then finish writing a few additions. Then publish it. Instead, my husband and I walked to the grocery store for a few much needed items. While walking, I took some pictures for the Go Marielle Instagrm account I post to daily. The two of us talked about future plans and growing our businesses. We both enjoyed the walk, even though it did rain a little.

Adjustments:

I have the flexibility to adjust my work schedule like this as a small business owner. There are all kinds of small shifts and adjustments done to my work schedule throughout the week. I know what needs to be done. And by what time. The way in which I get to those points is up to me. As long as the tasks are completed well, and on time, I’m happy.

The other side of these kinds of adjustments are when I get a piece started and don’t want to stop. I have to stop and think about what tasks can be moved around so I can continue creating art. Some tasks like processing pictures, having to work on the not-so-fun parts of website and online shop maintenance, can be moved around.

Some tasks, like writing copy for items in the shop, or blog posts are done a little bit at a time. I’ll fill in time between other tasks by outlining a couple weeks of blog posts. Or setting up Instagram posts and Insta Story posts in Canva. The same can be said of designing and writing my Go Marielle posts. I have half an hour before my husband says lunch will be ready? Okay. I’ll drop in all the faces for a series of Go Marielle posts.

Off time:

There isn’t any. Well, that’s not completely true. My husband and I both work an eight-hour plus day each week. But that includes most of the weekend, and well past 18;00 as well. That walk to the store earlier? I always have Marielle with me, so I can take pictures for Go Marielle. I got work done, even though it wasn’t the work I had planned on for this morning.

The flexibility to schedule my own pace for work production means that I’m working many more hours than I did as a public school art teacher. But I enjoy what I’m doing. I’m creating my own artwork and selling it to people who are willing to give me money for it. And I don’t have a principal attempting to convince me that my fellow teachers all hate my guts while doing it.

Stuff:

Some of the things that I don’t have, don’t bother me. We live in an apartment we can comfortably afford. There’s no car to fuss and worry about. Our wardrobes are probably much smaller that most of our friends. None of those things bother me. We’ve made the decision to live in a rather frugal, John Wesley kind of manner. The items we do buy must have a positive purpose in our lives.

It may look as though I don’t have a lot. And that fact must make me unhappy. Nope. Not at all. I have a studio to work in, art supplies, and a crap-tonne of ideas. Plus the time in which to bring those ideas into the physical world. Oh yeah, and a husband who loves me unconsitionally and is a true partner in all of our endeavours.  Life may not be perfect, but I’m content.

Cost benefit analysis:

What I gave up was making me miserable in exchange for a steady paycheck. Adding to that misery, was the fact that I love teaching art. And yes, working for yourself can be a lot of feast or famine. My husband does an amazing job making sure that the famine parts of this inevitable cycle don’t suck as much as they could. And yeah, we have to do more planning when we want to go to Target, or the grocery store. But for me, I don’t have to worry about a car. The walk is nice and the bus ride not incredibly long.

These are the trade offs I’m willing to make so that I can live a relatively simple life of being my own boss as a small business owner. Perhaps it’s the way that I’m looking at these “trade-offs”. Some people may think that part of a trade off is puttin up with going without the thing your want, until you can somehow attain it. As if it’s a temporary time of unhappiness until…you get or buy what you want? (Car? House? Job? Significant Other?)

I look at my life as a small art business owner more like, “What do I have and what can I do with it?” So, I suppose this could be interpreted as a glass half-full kind of outlook? Perhaps. I sometimes think I’m far too sarcastic for that.

So, now what?

It should be noted that our current living and working situations will inevitably change in the future. Neither one of us knows what may happen in the next few years. I do love teaching art. And would love to begin teaching workshops again. I’ve ruled nothing out and prefer to keep my options open.

My small art business isn’t where I want it to be. But I’m working every day to get it there. I’m building up a body of creative work, along with my dolls and Go Marielle. These things not only allow me to hone my creativity, but show people what I’m capable of. Even when there isn’t a guaranteed paycheck at the end of every two week pay period.

And now, back to work!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday!

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Jobs I’ve Had

All working artists have some parts of their individual creative processes that they don’t particularly like. This isn’t unique to artists alone. Everyone who works a job has parts of those jobs that they don’t like doing. What usually pulls a person through the bad parts of work, is the reward of the good parts work process. When the bad parts of job outweigh the good parts of a job, it can make a person completely miserable.

Good and bad are subjective terms though. How an individual navigates between the two in the realm of employment is a matter of personal wants, needs and motivations.

There are some jobs in my past that weren’t fantastic, but I managed to find the enjoyment in certain portions of the job. I don’t think of myself as a super-positive kind of person either. What got me to the point in which I could find those positive aspects of those previous jobs was more or less due to my individual personality, coupled with the job I was being asked to perform.

Public Library:

While I was in art school, I had quite a few work study jobs. My personal favorite was working within the public library system. I worked at several branches, including the big, beautiful main library in Indianapolis Indiana. While at the main library, I worked in the stacks and in the periodicals reading room. I also worked for the Visual Arts Devision where they loaned out art prints, video cassettes, music, films and projectors.

Organizing and shelving were the biggest parts of my jobs. These tasks weren’t exactly fun. They were very repetitive. These jobs allowed my creative mind to do as it pleased while I organized, shelved and stacked books and magazines. Quick sketches and notes could be made while I worked at the library. My job wasn’t exciting, but it was a stable paycheck. And the majority of the people I worked with were very nice.

Clerical Temp Work:

The first time that I started working for a clerical temp agency was while I was in my early 20’s. I was still living in Indianapolis Indiana. There was something that I wanted to buy, and I needed some extra money I think. Anyway, I phoned a few temp agencies and settled on the one that offered its temps free computer training lab time. At that time, I was only familiar with Macintosh computers. I took full advantage of the free computer lab! The more proficient I was, the better-paying my job assignments were.

Temp work isn’t exciting. I answered a lot of phones. Filed millions on papers. Delivered tons of mail. Took hundreds of food orders. Organized millions of file systems. Entered trillions of data points into spreadsheets. Again, I could kind of let my creative mind wander, and quickly sketch or write things down that I wanted to remember.

I learned a lot during these clerical temp jobs. Not only skills that I could apply to future employment, but also things that eventually became part of my teaching practice. Some skills I continue using in my personal and professional life as a working entrepreneurial artist. Every item that I have for sale in my shop is in an Excel spread sheet, with all kinds of information that I might need for my business plans, taxes and such.

Plant Nursery Work:

For a summer between my first and second year in art school, I worked at plant nursery. I had a super-easy going supervisor who left me alone most of the time. The place that you see in the link looks so much different than when I was employed there so many years ago! For a time, I worked only on the watering and moving around of plants that were on a lot adjoining the main store. Sometimes I would be pulled in to help unload a truck too. I learned to hate junipers there. Especially those low-to-the-ground creeping ones. You wants rats? Plant a bunch of those. They’re rat starter homes.

At some point I was moved into the main store building and worked in the produce section. I didn’t like my supervisor in the produce section. We clashed a bit. I once saw him taking a bunch of boxes of Brach’s Candies out to refill the Pick-n-Mix display. He had a single razor blade to open the boxes. Not a box cutter like the rest of us had. I told him he should be careful or he’d cut himself. No attention was paid to me, other than some rolled eyes and some muttering about me being a girl I think. Two minutes later he came fast-walking back to the produce department holding his hand at a odd angle. Apparently, he’d slashed his palm open and needed to go to the hospital. I was told by him, “Not one word.”

With both of these different jobs within the same business, my creative brain could just wander off and do its own thing. Mostly while the bumblebees bonked into my head as I watered the plants and shrubs.

Secretary and Receptionist Work:

This kind of work was different than clerical temp work. For one, it was full-time employment. The clerical temp work I had done previously was training for being a full-time, benefits-getting secretary and receptionist. This kind of work was a bit more stable than a temp job. I was also good enough at my job to gain raises and have a department of higher-ups in a company that looked out for me.

One of these jobs was with a regional grocery store chain in the southwest. I started out as a secretary in the grocery merchandising department. I had around eight people who were “my guys” (even though there was one female manager) that I worked for. They were kind and generous to me. I always thought that I was spoiled rotten by them, as well as the food company reps that were always coming and going in the office.

Of all my secretarial jobs. I loved that one the most. I felt needed, wanted and totally appreciated by the entire department of people. Most of the secretaries within the company had one or two people that they “took care of”. I had more than double that number. There was a certain amount of pride I took in that too. It was hard to leave that job when the time came.

And guess what? Even though this secretarial job had a lot of moving parts, and could at time be so busy and complicated, my creative mind would still find time to slip away. This was especially true after I had been in the job for a few months. I knew when I could coast on auto pilot to complete a task.

What’s the Takeaway?

The aforementioned jobs I’ve had are not the totality of the jobs I’ve had in my life. There are so many more. I didn’t talk about food service, graphic design, illustration, teaching, freelance or photo jobs. Perhaps the reason I started talking about the jobs that I did is because they aren’t the kinds of jobs that most people see as “good” jobs.

In all of these jobs, I found a way to be creative and to learn new skills that would help me later on down the road. Not all the parts of these jobs were great, but I was able to find the bits that were good. I’m a maladaptive daydreamer. I’m an autotelic personality. I’m in my groove with repetitive motion. I’m pretty much self-contained and self-entertaining at any time of the day or night.

I’m not the type of person who wants to climb the corporate ladder. Making tons and tons of money isn’t my main goal either. As long as my basic needs are taken care of and I have money for more art supplies, I feel like I’m doing pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, bringing in more money would be nice. I don’t want to sound like, “Oh! I don’t NEED money! It makes everything HORRIBLE! I’m SO PURE and WHOLESOME!” What I mean is, “Why do I need a house with four bedrooms and three bathrooms? Why do I need two cars? Hell. Why do I need a car?

I think the word I’m looking for is lagom. A Swedish word meaning, ‘moderate’ or ‘just enough’.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday.